To Drakenstead — Part 8
Editor(s): Joker, Speedphoenix
It was night time. The sun had already sunk beneath the horizon and all the day-dwelling animals had returned to their nests and burrows. Little had happened since we encountered the airship earlier in the day, so we managed to cover quite the amount of ground. We were deep in uncharted territory, and Drakenstead was less than a day away. The only downside that came with almost but not quite making it to our destination was that the lack of settlements nearby made it so we actually had to spend the night outdoors, for once. Well, “outdoors.”
“Alright, that should be it.” I nodded to myself as I finished magically crafting the makeshift house we would be using in place of a tent.
It wasn’t anything too complicated. The building was made up of four walls and a roof, and in fact closely resembled the sort of temporary structure one would build right before nightfall in Minecraft. You know, to keep the creepers away and whatnot.
That said, it was a bit more furnished than the sort of stopgap you’d see in a game, as unlike everyone’s good friend Steve, we happened to be real people with real needs. As such, I’d thrown in all the essentials, namely a living room, a bedroom, a squat toilet, a fireplace, and a dining room complete with a table and a set of chairs.
Magically constructing the whole thing in one go had a plethora of benefits, with the least obvious but most important being a lack of seams. The walls were airtight, which meant we’d be able to avoid drafts and other sorts of undesired changes in the indoor climate. Honestly, this place could probably hold up pretty well even if it gets really chilly.
There were even several places on the ceilings where one could install lights, which was exactly what I did. I’d purchased a bunch of lanterns with DP ahead of time, alongside a nice, comfy, portable bed. Damn, those lanterns were a great choice. Their soft glow really adds to the atmosphere. Good job, me. You deserve a pat on the back. Like, seriously. This place is as nice as, if not better than the average bed and breakfast. Heh. I didn’t make all those miniature houses for the girls to play in for nothing. Shit like this is so easy for me that I can do it with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back.
The only essential feature that I had yet to mention, the bath, wasn’t actually situated inside the building. I’d instead set it up outside, open air style, so that we could gaze at the scenery while we let ourselves soak. One might normally deem such a move risky, but there was nothing to worry about. No one was going to be able to sneak a peek because we were quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Likewise, no monsters were going to be even trying to catch us with our pants down, as they were far too scared of Lefi to violate their self-imposed restraining orders.
“Your magical abilities have grown to be quite precise,” commented Lefi, who had watched the whole process. “Even I am incapable of matching you in the creation of highly detailed structures.”
“Mwahahahaha! Behold, for this is a long lost art known only to demon lords!”
“I have been meaning to ask you this, Yuki. You often claim, when creating various objects for the children, that your ability to do stems from your identity as a demon lord. Do you not find the association… bizarre?”
“What do you mean? Enhancing the girls’ play sessions is totally a part of being a demon lord.”
“…If you do not mind it, then I will say no more.”
It looked like Lefi still had more to say, but ended up coming to the conclusion that there was no point in arguing.
“But you do the same thing,” said Enne.
“I-I do?” Lefi was genuinely taken aback.
“Mhm. All the time.” She nodded. “You always do something. Then say you can. Because you’re the Supreme Dragon. Just like Master. And his Demon Lord title.”
Enne had been growing more expressive as of late; more and more of her emotions were coming up to the surface. Which is a good thing, if you ask me. Shouldn’t be too long before she can be as expressive as she wants.
“Let’s worry about that later. What do you girls say we get something to eat before it gets too late for dinner?” I asked. “Either of you want anything specific?”
I led them inside the house, whose lights were already on, and over to the table as I took their orders.
“I desire dumplings,” said Lefi.
“Ramen,” said Enne.
“Three bowls of ramen with a side of dumplings, gotcha. What kind of broth would you fine ladies like?”
“I shall have… the tonkotsu.”
Each responded to my question with a traditional Japanese flavour. Hmmm… tonkotsu sounds pretty good right about now, actually. Pork-based broths are great…
“Alright, sounds good. I’ll go for the tonkotsu too.”
I grabbed three piping-hot bowls of the delicious noodle dish from my inventory and set them on the table. They’d been placed inside as soon as they were made, so the noodles were still nice, firm, and in what was more or less perfect condition. The scent wafting off them was so mouth-watering that I could feel my stomach start to rumble.
Next, I grabbed a plate of dumplings, as per Lefi’s request, alongside three pairs of chopsticks and a wide variety of condiments. Both girls helped me move things around and set the table. Once they were done and seated, we were ready to eat.
We put our hands together and said grace in the traditional Japanese fashion introduced into our daily lives by yours truly, then dug right in.
“Man, this is so good… Leila’s cooking skills are through the roof,” I said, after my first sip of the soup. “She could totally pass for a pro master chef.”
Every single part of tonight’s meal was made from scratch by the supercompetent maid. She had somehow managed to not only deduce but also improve upon all parts of the recipe for ramen after trying it on a few separate occasions. How the hell did she even do that!? I mean… I know it’s not technically impossible since the catalog gives me access to all the ingredients, but that doesn’t exactly mean it’s what the average person would call feasible either… I guess this is just what you get when you put a sharp tongue together with an even sharper mind. Not that I’m complaining. This is tasty as hell.
Leila’s abnormally defined senses allowed her to magically transform even Lyuu’s greatest failures into delicious, edible dishes. And she pinpoints the problem every time too. She’ll have like the tiniest taste and be like “oh my, this dish is slightly lacking in acidity,” or “this would be much better with another teaspoon of salt,” and fix it right up in just one simple step. Actual master chef/10. Cannot compete. She could probably make mad bank if she opened up a restaurant.
“She is the essence that allows our household to function,” said Lefi.
“Mhm. Leila is… amazing,” said Enne.
“She certainly is quite incredible, powerful even, in a sense,” agreed the dragon.
“I know, right?” I said.
While I was technically the master of the house, Leila was undoubtedly the individual that held the most authority; she sat at the apex of our local social ecosystem. You know, I’ve actually got this theory I’ve been sitting on for a while. So like, you know how in JRPGs, there are always these secret, hidden bosses that you unlock after you beat everyone else? And they’re like absurdly overpowered and totally shit on you unless you either have the perfect strategy, or grind up super hard because they’re the ones that actually run the show behind the scenes? Yeah, for us, that’s totally Leila.
“The chashu is toasty. And tasty.”
“As I am well aware of your love for meat, Enne, I shall give you a dumpling. They are as meaty and delicious as the chashu.”
“Mhm… Super tasty.”
She immediately began huffing and puffing on the dumpling in order to cool it down enough to eat. You could tell at a glance that she was totally delighted. Watching her puts a smile on my face too.
“Here, you can have a slice of my chashu.”
“Then I suppose I have little choice but to do the same.” said Lefi. “Do not rush to consume it. Taste and enjoy it thoroughly in my stead.”
“Wow… so much meat. Thanks Master. And Lefi.”
Enne put on a rare display of excitement and raised both arms into the air in cheer—which immediately prompted Lefi to admonish her for bad manners given that we were at the dinner table. Hahaha… how heartwarming indeed.
That was how we spent our night in the woods far more comfortably than would any other trio of travelers.
“Brrrrr…” I shivered in an over exaggerated manner as I found myself blasted by a powerful, freezing gust each time I flapped my wings. “Is it just me, or did it suddenly get a lot colder?”
Today was the first day I started to feel unappreciative of the weather. It had been slowly getting cooler as we got further and further away from the Wicked Forest, but it hadn’t actually been uncomfortable. Now though… man, it’s chilly.
It was a bit hard to tell because of how far away it was, but I felt as if I could even see it snowing off in the distance. I’m pretty sure it’s not just me, and that it really is kinda cold.
Unfortunately, I’d been spoiled by the Wicked Forest’s ever temperate climate. I wasn’t anywhere as used to the cold as I was in my past life, but I did at least somewhat make up for it by being more tolerant of the heat.
“It is,” agreed Lefi. “Drakenstead is a rather cold place in which it often snows, and we are not far now.”
“Huh. I didn’t know you came from somewhere so cold.”
“If it is too much to bear, then you need only warm yourself with magic. Use the spell that you often employ to dry our hair, but do not fire it off in a direction. Wrap it around your body,” she instructed. “I have already done the very same.”
“Oh, good idea. I didn’t think to use it like that.”
Wait, she was cheating with magic this whole time? Here I thought she was just resistant to the cold… I did as she said and cast a modified version of Blowdry, one of the first spells I came up with after learning to use magic. There. Nice and toasty.
The difference was like night and day. It was almost like spring had suddenly popped up from its spot around the corner. You know what this is like? This is like having a space heater. And you know what? Spaceheater is exactly what I’m going to call this slightly modified spell. Blowdry doesn’t exactly fit anymore, since I’m not drying anything or blowing anything anywhere. I should probably be careful not to make myself sick with this though.
“Remaining in this form for so long has taught me that the bodies of the races are riddled with inconveniences.”
“Does that mean you don’t get as cold in dragon form?”
“Indeed. I am capable of sensing changes in temperature, but I will not find myself frozen or burned,” she explained. “However, I have had a rather uncomfortable experience. It occurred when a volcano erupted and bathed me in its lava.”
“Uh… just saying, most people die when they’re bathed in lava.”
“It is likely fatal for the average dragon as well. The other ancients were the only individuals who did not panic, scream, and flee upon discovering the eruption.”
Oh whew. I guess that means not all dragons are weird. Just the ancient ones.
“For fuck’s sake… You’re so overpowered and reliable that I think I’m going to cry.”
“I will duly note and appreciate any tears of joy,” she chuckled. “But enough banter, Yuki. We have arrived.”
I followed her fingertip off into the distance. There, I saw a pair of mountain ranges, each featuring countless spires tall enough to shoot into the clouds. Between them was a hellishly deep gorge, a canyon that almost seemed to resemble a pair of jaws turned on its side.
“Is that it?”
“It is. It is the land in which I was born, the village in which the dragons have long resided, and the nest I once called home. It is… Drakenstead.”