Deep inside the fog, Hajime and his party advanced toward the Great Tree. They left the fighting to Kam, while the other Haulia members scattered into their surroundings, looking for enemies as part of their training. Because the fact that unpreparedness is one’s greatest foe already is carved into their flesh, all members wore serious expressions. Most of all, the blue bruises on their bodies made it so it couldn’t be helped…
“Uu~, it’s still tingling~”
Shia was whining while rubbing her butt. Since before, she looked at Hajime with resentful eyes.
“Stop looking at me like that, it’s annoying.”
“To say that it’s annoying was too much. It’s not common sense to shoot at a girl’s butt. Moreover, using that useless high skill-”
“That can also be said to you. You seriously thought to hit my head and use another person as a shield to run away… … that was not something a normal person would do.”
Near them, a man from the Haulia tribe nodded his head.
“Uu, it was the result of education by Yue-san…”
“… … I was the one that raised Shia.”
“… … I can’t comment on that.”
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While boasting that, Yue looked at Hajime as if saying “Praise me.” Hajime was averting his gaze making good use of “Let it through skill”.
After they advanced for 15 minutes while chatting harmoniously, their party finally arrived at the Great Tree.
Hajime’s first opinion when he looked at the Great Tree was,
“… … the heck this is”
, while half-surprised and half-doubting. Yue also wore the slight expression of someone who had her expectations crumbling. The two of them were imagining it using the scale and a larger version of the trees in Faea Belgaen.
However, the real Great Tree was… … splendidly withered.
Its size was not that far off from their imagination. Its diameter alone could be estimated around 50 meters. There is also the bizarre difference from the surrounding trees. While the surrounding trees had the ever expanding green leaves, only the Great Tree was withered.
“The Great Tree was already withered even before the founding of Faea Belgaen. However, it didn’t rot. Ever the never changing withered tree. With the surrounding fog’s nature and the forever-withered-without-rotting Great Tree, this place became a sacred place. Well, even with that said, although it could be called a tourist spot…”
Kam explained to Hajime and Yue making inquiring faces. While hearing the explanation, Hajime looked around the Great Tree’s roots. Just as Alfrerick had said, there was a lithograph built.
“This is… … just like Orcus’ door’s…”
“… … Nn, the same crest”
On the lithograph there were seven system-like squares with seven crests engraved on top of it. It was completely the same as the one on Orcus’ room’s door. To prove it, Hajime took out Orcus’ ring. The pattern on the ring was completely the same as one of the patterns on the Lithograph after all.
“It was the entrance to the Great Dungeon after all… but… … what should we do about this?”
Hajime approached the Great Tree and started to ‘thud thud’ hit it and of course there was no change, when he tried to ask Kam and the others if they know something about this tree, they only had No as an answer. Although he already heard all of the traditions from Alfrerick, there wasn’t any concerning the entrance. There was a possibility that he hid it so Hajime started to think, “Should I collect the debt?”,
At that time, Yue who was observing the lithograph raised her voice.
“Hajime… … look at this.”
“Nn? Is something there?”
What Yue noticed was on the other side of the lithograph. There were empty dents that corresponded with the seven crests on the other side.
Hajime put the Orcus ring in his hand to the dent that he saw corresponded to Orcus’ crest.
Then… … the lithograph began to faintly shine.
Wondering what happened, the surrounding Haulia tribe that were on lookout began to gather. For a while, they looked at the shining lithograph which lights gradually faded and somehow characters appeared in its place. Something was written there.
Power of Rebirth.
Guidepost of Spun Bond.
A new trial will be opened to the one who has those proof.
“… … What does it mean?”
“… … Rhe four proofs… … maybe, wasn’t it referring to the other Dungeons’ proofs?”
“… … Then, what does the Power of Rebirth and Guidepost of Spun Bond mean?”
Shia answered to Hajime who puzzled over it.
“U~n, Guidepost of Spun Bond, wasn’t that it? Whether you got demi-human race as guides or not. Only demi-humans are able to move around easily in the Sea of Trees, and to gain the demi-humans as guides in the Sea of Tree was an exception among exception”
“… … I see. It was something like that”
“… … Next was regeneration… … Me?”
Yue pointed at herself who owns the special magic, “Auto Regeneration”. To test it, she thinly gave a cut to her finger to activate “Auto Regeneration” while moving to touch the Great Tree… … but there was no change at all.
“Muu… … it looks like that was wrong.”
“… … nn~, to the withered tree… … Power of Rebirth… … along with four proofs… … it’s possible that the four proofs meant we have to conquer half of the Seven Great Dungeons, then we might obtain the age of gods magic concerning rebirth, was it something like that?”
Hajime was wondering whether they must use that to restore the withered tree. Yue also gave a consenting face.
“Haa~, damn. So it was impossible to conquer it right now… … even though it was troublesome, there is nothing else we can do but to go to the other dungeons…”
Hajime could only grind his teeth having come this far. Yue also regretted it. However, because they couldn’t enter the Great Dungeon now, although it worried them, it couldn’t be helped. They switched their target to obtaining three more proofs for now.
Hajime then gathered the Haulia tribe.
“As you’ve heard, we are aiming to conquer the other Great Dungeons now. The promise that you kept to guide us to the Great Tree is over now. If it’s the current you, even without Faea Belgaen’s protection, you’ll be able to survive inside the Sea of Trees. That means, this is good bye”
Then, he took a peek at Shia. His eyes asked her if she wanted to leave behind some words, and Shia understood perfectly that now was the time to voice her intentions. Even though she’ll be back, conquering three of the Great Dungeons would take much time. She wouldn’t be able to meet her family during that time.
Shia nodded, then took a step forward to talk to Kam and the others”
“Fath- “Boss! I have something to say!” … … huuh, father? This is my turn…”Kam took a step forward while ignoring Shia. ‘Bishi’, then stood at attention. On his side, “Father? Wait, father?”, Shia’s words could be heard and as if he was a British guardsman he just looked ahead while standing upright.
“A~, what is it?”
For the time being Shia called out, father? father?, but was ignored, while Hajime asked Kam. Kam, while not looking at Shia and ignoring her, started to tell the consensus from the Haulia tribe.
“Boss, please take us along!”
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“Eh! Everyone also wanted to go with Hajime-san!?”
Shia was surprised at Kam’s words. In the discussion ten days ago, what happened with that mood when you were sending me off!?, were the words she said.
“We are Haulia but at the same time not Haulia! We are Boss’s subordinates! By all means, take us along! This is our tribe’s consensus!”
“Wait a sec, father! I’ve never heard of that! Rather, for what purpose did I have to go through those hardships…”
“I admit, we are jealous of Shia!”
“He admits that! He really said that! Really, what happened in those ten days!”
While Kam said the tribe’s consensus, he ignored Shia’s remark. What is this situation?, was what Hajime thought then frankly answered.
Kam tried to ask the reason for Hajime’s quick reply. The other Haulia tribe members also approached Hajime in impatience.
“Of course it’s because you will only be hindrances, you idiot-”
“Don’t get caught up in the moment. For our journey, even 180 days is too fast!”
“Is that true!?”
In addition to Kam and the others holding on to him, they started to think, “Even if it was not permitted, we will follow!” It seems because of the General Hartman-like( … )’s training, a strange sense of trust and reverence was born. If this keeps up, they’ll really follow Hajime into town. Because he didn’t want any to riot, he reluctantly gave them a condition.
“Then, that is. I want you to stay here to keep training. The next time I come to the Sea of Trees, if I can use you then I’ll make you my subordinates”
“… … Is there any falsehood in those words?”
“None at all.”
“If you lied, we’ll continue to call Boss’ name in the humans’ towns, as if we are creating a new religion, okay?”
“Y-you have quite the bad sense…”
“Well, that is because we have pride as Boss’ subordinates.”
What a bold subordinate that made Hajime’s cheeks twitch. Yue was ‘pon pom’ patting Hajime’s arm to comfort him. Hajime let out a sigh, next he looked up at the sky thinking the next time he came to the Sea of Trees will be troublesome.
“Sob, no one looked at me… … even though it’s the day I set off…”
Shia who was thrown to the side wrote the character ? on the ground, while no one minded her as expected.
* * *
Hajime, Yue, and Shia were escorted by Kam and the others to the boundary of the Sea of Trees, and once again they got on the magic-driven two-wheeler and dashed into the plain. The order of seating was Yue, Hajime, then Shia. Since he noticed Shia’s degree of clingy-ness had increased from the time in the Raisen Grand Canyon, Hajime tried ignoring that. Although, his reaction was immediately discovered by Yue who sat in front of him.
On his shoulder, Shia asked a question.
“Hajime-san. Now that I remember I’ve never heard about it, where was our next destination?”
“Ah? I never said it?”
“I never heard anything.”
“… … I already knew”
To the elated Yue, Shia let out a groan in protest.
“I-I am your comrade now, so please tell me something like that! Communication is important!”
“My bad. Our next destination is Raisen Grand Canyon”
“Raisen Grand Canyon?”
Having heard Hajime’s words, Shia put on a questioning expression. Currently, the Seven Great Dungeons that are already confirmed, excluding “Haltina Sea of Trees”, were “Guryuen Great Desert’s Volcanic Mountain” and “Shune Snowfield’s Ice Cave”. Because it was certainly there, doesn’t that make it the best destination?, was what she thought. Maybe because he guessed her question, Hajime started to say his intent.
“For now, I don’t even know if there was a Great Dungeon in Raisen Grand Canyon. Shune Snowfield is in the demon’s country so it’d be troublesome. Although it’s better to go to the Big Volcanic Mountain for now, if we go while passing Raisen that spreads from east to west, we’ll get there anyway. Maybe we’ll find a dungeon along the way, right?”
“T-to cross over the Raisen Grand Canyon…”
Instinctively, Shia’s cheeks twitched. Raisen Grand Canyon was popular as an execution ground. Recently, it was also the place where her family was almost annihilated. To have thought of that place as a highway shook her mind.
Hajime, who knew Shia was shaken because she was glued to him, revealed an amazed expression.
“You know, believe in your own power a little. For the current you, the demonic beasts inside the canyon aren’t that different from the demonic beasts in the boundary. Didn’t you know we can’t use magic inside Raisen? For you who specialized in body strengthening, it’s possible to move around without any hindrance. Rather, it’d be the stage for you”
“… … I am ashamed as your master”
“Uu~, I am ashamed~”
Yue looked at Shia with amazed eyes. Shia tried to change the topic.
“Th-then, because we are going to Raisen Grand Canyon, are we going to camp today? Or, are we going to the nearest village or town?”
“If possible, I wanted to arrange some seasoning for food, for the sake of the future it’d be great to get some material from the town. According to the map I’ve seen, there will be a town somewhere along here”
For extra measure, Hajime wanted to eat real food << … >>. Also, in the future, he needed money to buy things in town. He wanted to exchange the materials he had with money before it rotted. One more thing, he wanted to try to settle in a place before setting off to the Raisen Grand Canyon.
“Haa~ is that so… … thank god”
Having heard Hajime’s words, Shia somehow showed a relieved expression. Hajime who was dumbfounded by it, “What is it”, asked her.
“Well~, from Hajime-san’s story, I thought you’d be satisfied by eating Raisen Grand Canyon’s demonic beasts’ meat… … Yue-san only needs Hajime-san’s blood so she wouldn’t have any problem… … I was thinking how I should persuade you for my personal food~, I am glad it was just my imagination. So Hajime-san also eats normal food!”
“Of course! Who likes to eat demonic beasts! … you, what did you think I am…”
“A new kind of demonic beast called Predator?”
“OK, you, I’ll tie you up until we reach the town”
“Wa-, stop, from where did you pull that out, that collar! Really, stop~ don’t put that on me~, Yue-san don’t just look, help me!”
“… … you reap what you sow”
In a sense, the three who advanced on the plain made a commotion that showed their good relationship.
After driving for several hours, finally the day grew dark and the town was finally seen in front of them. Hajime was glad, ever since he saw the sky after getting out of the Abyss, he finally got the feeling that “I am back”. Yue also looked somewhat excited. Yue turned her head slightly then their eyes met, and smiles floated on their faces.
“Umm~, although it was such a good atmosphere, this collar, can you release it? For some reason I couldn’t remove it… … umm, did you hear? Hajime-san? Yue-san? Wait, please don’t ignore me~ I am going to cry now! I am going to cry so hard that you’ll be depressed by it!”
Hajime and Yue only replied with their smiles.
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