Chapter 95: Nature will totally overtake human infrastructure in almost no time at all if you let it. Just take a look at the mini trees growing through my asphalt driveway.
…It really is eerie.
When we reached the former tree elf “city”, it feels like a ghost town.
Not that it feels like it’s absolutely abandoned. It almost feels like there’s a presence here.
But it’s not a presence strong enough to be from anything living.
So yeah, like a town full of ghosts.
Needless to say, this tree city didn’t look like what Hibiki-chan was expecting.
There was nothing nailed or built onto or into the trees.
Thick, woody vines ran, almost naturally unnatural, around the base of the trees, winding up as a ramp.
Boughs were lowered, as if steps that ran between tree to tree, and branches seemed to be knit together to make platforms.
Not like the trees were forced into their situations, but like they just happened to grow there… and yet, even though it looks so organic, it also looks orderly.
At least, you can tell it had at one point.
Lush moss, mistletoe, and other plants that parasite off of trees have grown all over. Almost taking over honestly, but it’s different from in the other world the trees suffer a lot from being overtaken. Here, the trees have really exploded.
You can see where the naturally unnatural “structure” has grown, but though the original structure has remained at the places they were initially put (I think), the trees have clearly flourished. The branches have continued to grow, running into each other.
It’s freaking eerie, and in more ways than the fact that everything is really tightly enclosed with low ceilings.
There’s like… um… you know how there’s that theory that robots that look too close to humans look eerier than robots that look closer to what they’re made from?
That’s what the magic here feels like.
It’s a false Light Magic. No… it’s like… a Light Magic that has been manipulated so that it’s initially unrecognizable.
I suddenly feel my lack of understanding about Light Magic.
So then what the heck is this Avatar of Light Magic supposed to be?
If I look at Status,
[AVATAR OF LIGHT MAGIC]:
[PASSIVE: (Selected) (Transcended)]
Yup. It’s very helpful. (Not.)
Nothing else has really changed, other than me feeling Light Magic and manipulating it raw.
I can’t really do anything about my non-understanding. Tree elves, apparently, can probably help me fill in the blanks, but apparently they’re the type of people who don’t like giving advice to other races. Even to other non-tree elves.
Well, I can’t do anything about that either.
“… I don’t get it. How do the trees… grow like that? What is this?”
Hibiki-chan craned her neck this way and that as she tried to take in all the sights.
“They’re manipulated into growing like that, I think.”
“Yeah, that’s about right. From what I hear. The magic just feels gross though.”
I glance at him.
“What do you mean gross? It feels a little oppressive, though. Ah, Hibiki-chan, it’s like they were manipulated with subliminal messages. If, you know, plants had thoughts like people.”
Hibiki-chan tilted her head, thinking, before she said,
“So … like brainwashing?”
“… A magic-plant version, I guess, yeah.”
“…That’s so mean to the trees.”
“No more than cutting them down and stuff.”
That’s the kind of pointless thing Hibiki-chan and I are talking about.
Meanwhile, Ragnall was poking around.
“… There’s no trace of anything entering into the clearing, so I think there isn’t anyone using this place as a base.”
He walked around the bases of some of the big trees, but the amount of naturally unnatural trees would be enough to be considered a small village, so I don’t know how he could make that assumption in such a short time.
Although there’s no disturbance in the trees’ magic auras except for the three of us, so I guess that’s how he knew?
Although I don’t know what kind of magic signature a demon would give.
Ah, up above… a bird’s Light Magic signature. More specifically, a bird-like monster
Come to think of it, it’s odd that the presence of animals died out the closer we got to this village.
This place really is eerie.
And I guess so is that bird, since it’s the only animal to brave its way in this direction.
“Ragnall. There’s a bird-monster coming this way. Should I be worried?”
Ragnall’s brow furrowed immediately.
“A monster? Even though the monster wards are still up in this place?”
Ah, as expected. Although it doesn’t bother people that much. I wonder how it determines… ah, I’m getting sidetracked.
I focus my vision and peer at it.
“It’s green and yellow; a bit like a hawk with long tail feathers. There’s a red cloth-thing tied to its leg.”
“Oh, it’s a tamed darte, then. People in this area and a bit further east use them as messengers a lot.”
“… It’s trailing red smoke. Is that… an intrinsic trait?”
I mean, it’s a monster. There are bullet-proof, magic-reflecting beetles. I can’t make too many assumptions.
At my report, Ragnall jumped to attention.
“That’s a flare, it’s an SOS! Call it over!”
“Birdie-san! Over here!”
Hibiki-chan’s sweet, clear voice rang out as she waved her arms.
… When did she get so high up on that natural(?) tree platform?
And how does she think the bird will … oh, no, it’s slow, but it’s starting to come over here. It could hear her from all the way over there?
“Right, let’s get going.”
Ragnall called up to Hibiki-chan.
She leaps down with that extraordinary agility, and we start to head towards the location of the bird. Well, more like, meet up with the bird.
Although we can only catch a glimpse of it here and there through the trees.
“… Ragnall, why didn’t they just shoot a flare straight up so we can find them easier?”
“Whoever sent it is following it. It’s a method to regroup with allies while retreating.”
“And what if we trick them and ambush them?”
“…Then I would say it’s very out of character for you.”
I ignore the quiet laughter from Hibiki-chan.
Ragnall flashes me a smirk while we’re darting through the trees before he seriously explains.
“It’s not an often-used method. That has to be a tree elf, so if a tree elf is asking for help it’s probably something serious. If they have to use this to run away while asking for help, it’s probably sheer desperation.”
“Shouldn’t we hurry up then?”
“That’s hard to say …”
“Well, with our group, even if we get to them too early, it probably won’t be a problem.”
Hibiki-chan looks confused.
“If they were trying to put distance between them and whatever might be chasing it, if mediocre people ran in before they could do that, the situation might worsen. But you’re right. Even if they don’t also turn to fight, the three of us would probably be fine.”
It’s not just arrogance. We’re strong enough to fight a mediocre army. Maybe an army each (doubtful though, since numbers can overwhelm strength).
We could probably all bench press a small army, each.
And so, we sped up.
“…Although if it’s a huge stampede it might be useless.”
“Jeez! We are discussing this way too casually!”
Hibiki-chan’s feet falter for a split second when I say that before she picks up the speed again and semi-scolds me.
It’s probably 5 minutes of running.
It doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but in a situation like this it felt longer than usual.
With that whistling cry the green bird-monster, about the size of a rabbit, swooshes downwards and lands on my head.
I have to slow my pace because of it, and Ragnall and Hibiki-chan dropped back a little as well.
Ahead, from the direction the bird flew in from, is the clear sound of people and battle.
“It’s not a monster stampede at least.”
“I’ll go scout.”
Hibiki-chan disappeared from sight into a shadow.
That’s so freaking unnatural every time I see it.
“It’s a group of 5 people, 2 animals.”
I tell Ragnall.
So why does Hibiki-chan have to scout?
Well she doesn’t have to, really, but it’s always more helpful to actually confirm a situation by sight, and then she’s right up by the action if anything needs to be done.
… We might be a(n unofficial) team, but we definitely work better without much organization.
Anyway, Hibiki-chan’s statement that she’s going to scout is just left over from her vrmmo gameplay, since she always said that in chat before she went into stealth.
Ah-, before that, we’re about to meet with the people in front of us.
“Hey, Ragnall, how should we do this? One goes in from the front and the other from behind?”
“Yeah. I’ll take the long way around, you go straight ahead.”
“… Why do I have to break in through the front?”
“They’re less likely to attack a girl with their darte on her head, right?”
But there might be someone who’s trigger happy.
Well, that’s fine.
There’s something that was bothering me anyway.
As Ragnall runs off to the side and disappears into the dense foliage, I take a few breaths at jogging pace.
Carefully, I put a barrier around me and then wrap the dense mana of this place around me.
There are a few presences that are worrying me, so I’d like to be cautious.
“We’re being sneaky, ok?”
I say to the large bird on my head.
Although it raises a cry enthusiastically, it keeps its volume low.
It must be a monster with high intelligence. Even if you say the bird can understand words because it was tamed, for it to understand my words it means that Translate is working on it.
Although I can’t understand it, so it’s not like my words are getting translated into “bird” or anything…
By the way, even though I say the people in question are just ahead, they’re still about half a kilometer away.
Although I can close that in a minute, so…
I put on a burst of speed in order to do so.
Owowow… Well, it doesn’t hurt that much, but the bird flattens itself against my head and digs its claws into my hair, and the pressure is definitely uncomfortable…
I had reduced Augment Body for my hearing and a little, but pretty soon I can clearly hear the yells from the party ahead.
“Keep it up! Just a few more minutes and we’ll find allies!”
“But we’ve lost Tet’s flare-!”
If they’re talking about the bird, that’s my fault. Sorry.
But I don’t really have time to worry about that.
The people just ahead are beginning to come into view, if you peer around the trees.
In the very front is a man in what you could consider a light, elvish version of halfplate, a woman with a breastplate and leather armor, and a man with studded armor. Behind them are the two other people I sensed and the animals, but they’re traveling in formation directly behind the forerunners, so I can’t see too much detail about them in one glance.
Although soon I’ll be able to.
There’s just 20 meters left. 10 meters. 5 –
Two presences suddenly appear right in front of the people who were running away.
Oooh, the man in the front, although he had been turning his head this way and that, heard the woman’s shout and instantly swung his sword upwards, deflecting the blades coming down at him.
He coolly stopped the attack from one of the presences, but the other is-
Coming from the left (his right), the other has darted behind him. The presence in front prepares his blades again for an attack, the presence behind readies his short spear –
Although the leather-clad man prepares his bow, it’s obvious that the man in front will be run through before he can shoot.
The man and woman behind watch in horror as he’s skewered through – of course not.
The one with the short spear was sent flying with a knee to the face, and as for the other;
I mistook the distance and cut a little too far.
I avert my eyes from the hand that just went flying.
It can’t be helped-! Speeding up so fast, launching a flying knee to the face, and then spinning behind to knock the daggers away; it’s impossible to be so precise!
The guy who lost his hand screams and flails in pain, but he also takes care to take his distance.
My stomach does a bit of a flip-flop at the sight of the blood, but over the past two and a half months I’ve gotten a little bit more used to gore, so I can recover myself quickly.
The bird sounds like its protesting as it flies back to me.
It got blown off in my last burst of speed.
“Hey, I’m the one who got my hair pulled out.”
Despite my complaint, the bird just nestled itself back on my head, oi.
The guy that I kneed in the face got up cursing.
Although it sounds a little different from normal. It’s not Lorwian, I think.
Well, Translate-sama makes it understandable either way.
“Where did this bitch come from? Dammit, my hand-!”
“I didn’t sense her at all – it might be better to pull back and regroup with Chedomir at once.”
“Like hell, it’s just one surface-dweller’s woman. We can hold her off until they catch up-!”
One-handed is pretty tough, huh? Insisting on fighting me when I just cut his hand off.
From behind, that is, from the direction that all these people were coming from, an extremely loud crashing sound and yells can be heard.
Sounds like Ragnall’s getting started. Hibiki-chan too, if that’s the sound of throwing daggers.
“Looks like your backup’s not coming though; since my friends are there.”
“You understand us…”
One-handed suddenly launches himself into the air, and shortly afterwards his partner does the same.
On alternating zig-zag routes, they leapt above me.
Their eyes are focused on the travelers behind me, as if eyeing their prey.
Their intentions are to forcefully break through by attacking the people behind me, huh?
How cocky –
Just when I thought that, they suddenly had an unnatural burst of speed.
What- a foothold in midair, huh?
Just like when they appeared in front of the people running away, the magic smells the same as Seimei-san’s magic.
If that’s all they had to be so confident, too bad!
The more clear-headed one, the one with both of his hands still, realized it first and somehow turned himself in mid-air to defend.
What happened? I just used a neighboring tree to achieve the same affect in propelling myself after them.
Although, with Augment Body, my leg strength is quite obviously stronger, so I’ve easily caught up.
Nice block, but it doesn’t really matter when my aim is to stop you!
I drop him easily with a heavy swing from my katana. If it was a sandier area, there would be plumes of dust, for sure.
Instead, there’s just a slight tremor as he hits the ground.
I haven’t thought this in a really long time, but Augment Body is totally cheating, being able to get this much strength from just swinging my arms in midair.
As for the other, the leading man with the halfplate swung his sword, catching One-Handed in the stomach as he went for the woman behind him. Though One-Handed managed to block with a dagger, he couldn’t resist the full force of someone who had his feet on the ground and was flung to the side.
One-Handed, though, managed to recover in midair and land on his feet, when suddenly the danger signal in his head goes off and he inelegantly rolled to the side in a panic.
“Hibiki-chan, weren’t you with Ragnall?”
“Un, well, he said he’d catch up…”
Hibiki readies her long daggers and prepares to go after One-Handed again.
“How many was Ragnall fighting?”
I ask casually as I swing my katana downwards.
I intended to stop it just before it reached the guy’s neck, but he lets out a frightened squeak, and then, with another poof of Dark Magic, teleports himself away.
Although it’s, like, half a meter to the side, so…
I see. He can’t move too far too often, huh?
“Um… 5- kyaa!“
Right when Hibiki-chan says that, a smoke bomb suddenly exploded around us.
I should be able to track everything that’s going on with mana, but somehow, everything’s hazy.
What is this, a chaff grenade?
Well, with my heightened senses I can generally understand what’s happening directly around me, but since our priority is the safety of the people who had been running away, I can’t go after the guy I had just downed even though he was right there and groggy.
Although there’s no need for me to chant it, I start to say,
A gust of wind blows the smoke and interference away.
Bird beat me to it.
I can’t help but click my tongue in annoyance when I can see that the attackers have clearly run off.
“*Cough cough* What happened-?”
Hibiki-chan rubbed her eyes and coughed from the dust. It seems to have affected her more since she was closer to the ground.
“They ran off.”
I say with a bitter smile.
Kinda pisses me off, but I have only myself to blame for not getting serious right away.
I mean, somehow, fighting people is completely different from a game or like if you were a light novel protagonist. There’s just this inclination to not really want to do it if you don’t have to.
Sure, initially it was the horror and natural disgust that most people would understand when you realize you can so easily take someone’s life, but over the few months, after you get used to killing monsters, it’s changed into a feeling like, well, if they aren’t really a threat to me, what’s the point, you know?
Do you go out of your way to kill every single ant you see no matter where you are?
Well, there are some people who would so it might just be my own philosophy.
Killing monsters and animals give me some benefits, at least. As expected, no matter what you’ll have some (a lot) of resistance to the idea of using people as materials… and personally, I think people who murder bandits just to strip them of everything useful are as crazy as the bandit murderers themselves.
Once again, there are people who would think differently, so that might just be my philosophy too.
After all, I and the other people I know can easily make a living because of the overwhelming power we possess, so I don’t think I can qualify to speak for the desperation of people who are normal.
Anyway, it’s a fact that the attackers have gotten away because I held back.
I scratch the back of my head with a scowl
I’m a little upset because, well,
“Oh thank god… to think we’d run into demons…”
The woman in the breastplate confirms what I thought.
Those two attackers were demons.
Their mana, like Ragnall’s, had a static-y, unclear feeling to it.
Well, it was many times stronger than Ragnall’s, so I thought they were most likely demons.
So yeah, I let the problem that Warden’s Post was dealing with run off…
But I mean, if you aren’t sure, you can’t just go cutting people’s heads off.
Although I did cut hands off…
Tapping his falchion (version who knows what, now) on his shoulder, Ragnall pushes through the bush with an annoyed look on his face.
They got away from him too, huh?
This forest isn’t so great for visibility and people who rely solely on physical power like Ragnall to fight in.
… Oh, that large crash back there might have been him taking down a tree or two.
“Oh god, there’s another one!”
In a panic one of the guys who was running, one of the ones I wasn’t able to see right away, gives a yell and hides behind the man in halfplate.
“…Man. First I get called a mutt, and now this. Tell me when this day is over.”
“Heeeh… the demons could tell?”
I ask. I assume that’s who called him that.
“I guess. I don’t really understand it myself?”
Ragnall scratched the back of his head.
Although he’s complaining, he doesn’t actually seem to care all that much, unlike when he was in Warden’s Post.
“Calm down, Eadan.”
The man in halfplate had a very authoritative voice. Like, even if you didn’t want to calm down, you did anyway.
The man in halfplate turned towards us with a smile.
Although he looked extremely tired, he stood perfectly straight with perfect posture.
“Thank you very much for coming to our aid. To be honest, even with reinforcements we were quite worried about what would happen. I’m Desmond, the leader of the escorts this time around.”
Hm. Now that I finally have time, I look around at the group we just rescued.
The two animals are…
There’s a donkey-like animal with luggage on its back, and normal-sized wolf (tame-ish).
I’m so used to seeing monster wolves that this wolf looks tiny.
The people in the party that were running away are, from the back;
The man who panicked when Ragnall walked up is an elf. Long amber hair was braided into one long, amber braid down his back. He wore half-moon spectacles, but not much armor. Over it all was an olive green robe, but all he wore for armor was a simple leather jerkin with a high collar.
It’s … un. His outfit kind of gives off the feel of a Chinese period drama costume, but a little different…
Next to him is a man, elf as well, who looks to be his personal guard. He’s fully armored, compared to the others.
Whoa. This is the first time I’ve seen mountain-patterned armor! Chainmail is more common around Nyl City… well, before that, straight up plate mail is more popular among adventurers there, with leather around the joints for maximum flexibility.
Man, I heard that mountain-patterned armor is still hard to reconstruct in the world I came from. I’m not really that into armor making myself, but I wonder if I can meet the person who made this… ahem.
Un. Even though he’s fully armored, it’s armor that’s clearly designed to be light and maneuverable. Although… it also has a Chinese feel to it, but he has a mouth guard that kind of looks like a Japanese oni menpo.
Anyway, both of these guys have an asian-but-not feel to their outfits. It’s a little strange seeing something so oriental in this world all of a sudden.
The three who had been in front are all wearing armor that’s more like what I recognize as adventurers’ armor, but there are slight Asian elements to them as well. By the way, all three of them are elves as well, making it 5 for 5.
The woman is black-haired, with it braided and half up, and the leather-wearing, bow-wielding man is as well. They look very similar… siblings?
As for the man wearing halfplate, the leader, yes, he’s an elf like I said, but there is something distinctly different about him. He has white hair tied loosely back and a face that would definitely have girls from a shoujo manga calling him “Prince-sama”. But with that overly ikemen face (even for an elf), his body is still able to give off the impression of muscles.
For me who couldn’t bulk up no matter what I did, it’s too envious. Keh.
Ah, I got derailed. What I meant to say is that his white hair seems to have a radiance all of its own. If I say it’s like the glow from snow, would you understand? In the dark it’s really ethereal looking.
This, is this the so-called deep elf?
Anyway, while I was distracted with the mountain-patterned armor, Ragnall carried on the conversation.
… I feel like I’m going colorblind, looking at Ragnall talking to that guy.
Ah, if I look more closely, the elf has a bit of a green sheen to his hair compared to Ragnall. Although it’s definitely only noticeable because he’s next to Ragnall.
“Desmond, is it? Can I ask whether this is the party escorting the surveyor from Inouria? They’ve been expecting you at Warden’s Post for a few days now.”
“Ah… yes, that’s right. They’ve already been making inquiries, then.”
“Something like that. Although I’d like to know what happened, it would be best to move the five of you to Warden’s Post right away.”
“Understood. … Where is the rest of your party?”
The deep elf looked around curiously.
“Ah… it’s just the three of us.”
“What?! Just the three of you drove the demons away?”
The black-haired, leather armor guy said that.
Both he and the woman are in shock.
Ragnall frowned, as if he just thought of something.
“Come to think of it, you let them get away, Jun.”
“…What do you expect? It was hard not to kill them, you know? Besides, it’s not like you brought any of them in, either.”
“… I didn’t even think of it…”
Hibiki-chan said, her head hanging down.
“-! No, you did good, Hibiki!”
“Right, right, our first priority was the others’ safety, Hibiki-chan!”
The fact that the other parties standing around us were shocked at how casually we were treating this entire situation is another story.
MP:【▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▉▍】2,432,000 / 2,500,000
[PASSIVE: (Secret Trait) (Resilient Body) (Magic Enrichment) (Otherworldly Knowledge) (Accelerated Learning) (Keen Instincts) (Translate)]
[SKILLS: (Inventory) (Friend Chat) (Status) (AnalyzeIV)]
[PASSIVE: (Secret Trait) (Boundless Magic) (Chantless Cast) (Well of Magic) (Magic Sense)]
[PASSIVE: (Steady Balance) (Perceptive Sense) (Light Foot)]
[SKILLS: (Augment Body) (Augment Mind) (Farsight) (Ground Shrink) (Accel)]
[PASSIVE: (Magic Sensitive) (Magic Intuition) (Magic Control)]
[SKILLS: (Magic Sensory) (Magic Channeling) (Magic Dispersion) (Sever) (Forced Analysis)]
[SKILLS: (Barrier Series)]
[PASSIVE: (Fire Sensitivity) (Fire Resistance) (Steady Hand)]
[SKILLS: (Metal Reinforcement) (Keen Edge) (Mana Imprint) (Craftman’s Trance) (Emblazon) (Material Manipulation) (Sever) (Forced Analysis) (Dragonfire Forge) (Interfusionary Dispersion)]
[PASSIVE: (Element Sensitivity)]
[SKILLS: (Fire Magic: <Flame>, <Flame Orb>) (Water Magic: <Create Water>) (Air Magic: <Static Discharge>, <Gust>, <Air Bullet>)]
[AVATAR OF LIGHT MAGIC]:
[PASSIVE: (Selected) (Transcended)]
<a/n: Enjoy the long chap? I have a trip coming up, but I’m going to try to get an axebear/vending machine update in before I leave… (cross fingers) I might try to type a little while away… like intros to one of the other stories I have in my head…>