Chapter 391 – …I Thought that Some is There
The sun had crossed its zenith.
It’s already evening, huh?
The western evening sun clad Eva in its madder red as she scouted from the sky. Meanwhile we keep advancing while staying in touch with her through blood messages.
Some patches under our feet were soft, others covered by hard roots, making the grounding erratic and unsafe.
“Still, for such an extensive primeval forest, no, orchard of apple trees to grow in a ravine…,” commented Dee-san with a sour look.
He’s right with his worries. This ravine definitely isn’t normal.
A great variety of trees other than apple trees were growing here as well. Moreover, the entire area was filled with the loud buzzing of all kinds of insects.
Such insects come in great quantities in the Sea of Trees and Whirlpool Forest, but somehow I feel like this place has especially many of them. It’s a deep ravine with a primeval forest, but…it seems to uphold such a unique ecosystem that I feel like giving it a special name.
For an instant I recalled my trip through Pelneet’s labyrinth. Even so, I gotta admit that a natural forest has more of an impact.
Well, I suppose that’s only normal.
As I thought all that, I said out loud, “…You’re right. I’m surprised as well. In a positive sense. I’m sure you’ll be able to make great dishes and sweets besides apple pie if you use the fresh fruits from this place.”
Hearing me say that, Dee-san’s cheeks loosened up visibly.
“I’m looking forward to them. Especially dishes that would please Eva,” I added.
“Of course. Please leave it to me.”
After casting a smile at Dee-san, I surveyed the trees around us. I could see wire-like branches looking like Euler spirals. Bundles of branches twisted away from their trees as if to keep other trees away. And even clusters of branches looking similar to brains. Some of the leaves had the shapes of blue, shining butterflies.
Don’t tell me those butterflies are… Is this the territory of Death Butterfly people?
At that point, I heard Catiza humming, “Lulu lalaa♪”
All of a sudden, she had become astoundingly busy, running and walking around. Currently she was swinging the foxtail stick in her hand left and right.
“Apples～ apples～ lovely appleees～♪ Over here we have banagon, cuelina～”
Each time she identified a fruit, she moved her stick.
Of course, her swinging the stick around triggered Rollo. She energetically chased after Catiza, closing the distance in an instant. She snapped at the stick in Catiza’s hand, and snatched it away by twisting her head with a jerk.
Catiza shouted, “Ahh! Rollo-sama, you’re too fast!”, but then continued with her song, “――Lady Sun, thank you for sending the winter’s cold away♪”, without minding her stick being stolen.
A soft wind rustled through the forest, carrying the bright red apples’ fragrant, sweet aroma.
The unknown enemies lurking deep inside were terrifying amidst the ravine’s darkness.
Woodpeckers are clacking away at the trunks.
While I was dancing, we headed towards the apple orchard. I’m a pure maiden. My nails are black, long, and sharp.
I’ll protect the children from the enemies lurking deep inside.
I’ll beat the enemy black and blue, black and blue.
I’ll beat the enemy black and blue, black and blue.
Lady Sun, thank you for sending the winter’s cold away.
The blue and violet chosen bloodkin envied by everyone.
Woodpeckers are clacking away at the trunks.
The sweet fragrance clinging to the golden-black hair.
The blue and violet chosen bloodkin beauties.
The sweet fragrance clinging to the golden-black hair.
The chosen bloodkin. All of them are strong――
Catiza stopped her singing in the middle of it, and looked at her feet. A plant with four leaves was growing right there. It was vigorously growing as if claiming that it wouldn’t even lose to the big umbrella of a mushroom.
“Foooound one! This is one of the four-leafed clovers you told us about, Emissary-sama!” Catiza yelled while reproducing an exclamation mark above her head with her hair.
“Catiza-chan, your singing is much better than that kind of herb!” Lily ran up to Catiza while applauding.
Following that, Rollo meowed cheerfully. She abandoned the foxtail stick by kicking it away, and charged towards Catiza’s feet, vigorously bumping against her legs.
Looks like that’s her way of praising Catiza.
“I was startled,” Rebecca cried out after glancing my way, “I wondered whether you liked singing after I heard from Shuuya that you made him listen to an embarrassing song, but it’s completely different from what I had imagined!”
She approached, trying to catch Rollo, but Rollo quickly dodged Rebecca’s hands.
“You have that silver hair which keeps changing its shape, and on top of that you have the makings of a street performer, don’t you Catiza-san?”
Lily appeared to be deeply moved as she highly praised Catiza with both her hands joined and pressed against her chest.
“I don’t～♪ When I was on lookout atop the gate, I learned the magic breath from Kisara-san over and over again, you see? The festival of Kisara-san’s paper dolls dancing and defeating enemies during moonlit nights was super fun～”
So Kisara had taught her that song, huh? Did they sing together while Kisara used her witch spear as guitar?
“Sounds like you’d make a great duo since she’d add a husky timbre,” chimed Rebecca in while lightly glaring at Rollo who kept giving her the slip.
Everyone nodded at her remark.
Either way, it is a song very typical of Catiza which also fits an apple forest.
“…Your singing was nice.”
“Yaaay♪ I got praised by Emissary-sama♪”
While looking at her rejoicing, I announced, “Okay, I’ll go check things out from the sky as well――”
After gently tapping Catiza’s shoulder, I leaped into the air. Kicking off the <Magic Hand guided by Thought> I had invoked under my feet, I jumped diagonally upwards once more, running up all the way to Eva’s location.
“――Did you spot anything, Eva?”
“Nn, tree wall deep inside. Close to that I saw mana silhouettes in the shape of butterflies.”
A wall and butterfly shapes, huh? So it’s the Death Butterfly people territory just as I suspected earlier?
I looked down at the ravine with all its apple trees. The scenery was unlike the Sea of Trees I had traversed some time ago. The quality of the trees from here on out was clearly different. The number of white aspen and orange trees had diminished.
On the left I could see a cliff with fist and conifer-shaped rocks protruding out of the rock wall. On the right was a cliff with a rugged, deteriorated rock wall. Or rather, it was a cliff with wave-like rocks resembling the famous color print The Great Wave of Kanagawa. Either way, the rocks, or what you could call rocks, formed overlapping vertical and horizontal wave patterns. And to top it off, you could even see several diverging bursts, as if the wall was depicting real waves with water spraying to all sides as the waves broke.
…A truly big valley.
Even over here, the wind tickling my skin carried moisture. And, countless trees extended from many fissures and ledges deep in the valley as if to hide the forest down at the bottom of the ravine.
Certainly, it’s just as Eva says. It looks like a wall of trees, or rather, a roof…
The myriad of leaves, carried by the moist wind, appeared like a flock of birds. I had already known since I rode Divine Beast Rollodeen, but once again I was struck in awe by the spectacular scenery.
Given that this was yet another part of the Sea of Trees, it made this whole woodland even more amazing.
Suddenly I saw something with the shape of a butterfly cross the ravine. It looked like a black, flying paper lantern, but…the mana silhouette vanished as if being sucked into the wall of trees.
The hue of the leaf canopy was black.
“Atop it’s a wall of trees, but the ground inclines, continuing into underground caves?”
“Probably…it looks like this is also the reason for the apples containing such an abundance of mana.”
Just as Eva pointed out, the mana became denser the deeper you went into the ravine.
“Even looking at it from here, we won’t be able to tell what’s beyond the tree wall. So, let’s stop the sky reconnaissance at this point?”
“Nn, it’d be different if we mowed down the trees like back in the evil domain, though.”
“That’s not very realistic, I think.” I looked at Eva while chuckling.
Eva pleasantly smiled back at me. And then she made her wheelchair fly forward, causing her black hair to flutter.
I think her hair has grown out a bit during the time I haven’t seen her. At any rate, I guess it’d be dangerous for Lily and Dee-san if we were to continue further into the ravine. I think it’s time to pull back.
But, even so, I’m curious. Maybe this is connected to the golden soul path leading to the sacred land in the underground or something like that…
While pondering about all that, I chased after Eva who had flown ahead.
“――Eva, deeper in it smell dangerous. Should we collect what we came for and go back soon?”
“Nn, just a bit deeper. There we collect.”
“Sure. The mana appears to be denser the deeper inside you proceed, so it should be possible to pick up some delicious apples.”
Eva and I nodded at each other. Then we descended to the rest of our party who had been resting under a tree.
“At the winding tree…this one is lovely,” muttered Rebecca while pointing at a tree.
It was a tree with such a dense, silver leafage that it covered the ground. Its bark exposed the fibers. It was visibly different from apple trees. Fruits similar to raspberries and pineapples also grew on it. It also featured fruits in the shape of PET bottles as I’ve never seen before.
“Oh, welcome back.”
“Aye. You found yet another weird tree, didn’t you?”
“Yep. Did many such peculiar trees grow within the range of what you could see from the sky?”
“Nn, yes. Not only apples. It looks like the forest becomes more abnormal as you head deeper inside.”
Rollo leaped upon Eva’s lap as she spoke.
“Hee, so it’s thriving with all kinds of trees, huh?”
“I don’t know their names, but they might be the special trees Professor Domidon and Mie-san wanted to collect. …But, they smell nice. It’s more an orchard of nature than just an apple orchard.”
It reminded me of the images I had of the Garden of Eden.
“Nn, huge numbers of herb trees are around as well. Their fragrance wafted over from deeper inside.”
Rollo extended a tentacle while meowing.
“Oh, a cute tentacle.”
“Rollo-chan’s tentacle pad is round♪”
Lily used a rhythm in her sweet voice as if imitating Catiza’s song. Rollo was everyone’s idol. And the extended tentacle was turned into a toy.
While everyone played around by competing over Rollo’s tentacle, we advanced deeper into the forest. Suddenly Catiza turned around, becoming cross-eyed.
“What’s up? Want to return being a finger or arm?”
“No～ There’s something I have to report!”
With her nails slightly extended, Catiza performed a snappy soldier’s salute.
“What is it?”
“I haven’t gone beyond this point up until now!”
“I see. So you judged it as dangerous for an exploration together with children, huh? That means…”
I waited for everyone to state their opinion while scanning our surroundings.
“Nn, it should be connected to the reason why no monsters are anywhere to be found.”
“Indeed…and yet, such an orchard?”
Eva and Rebecca mused while looking at everyone.
“I’m also bothered by the inclination gradually becoming steeper,” Lily flopped down on a root.
“Are you tired, Lily?”
“No. Rather than that, do you plan to fight with a kitchen knife?”
“Yep. I’m confident about my skill that allows me to retrieve a slime’s nucleus with this knife. It has also proven to be of good use when exterminating monsters.”
“Nn, Dee is surprisingly strong.”
So Dee-san has experience as a hunter, eh?
While asking myself, I checked Catiza’s state. She had transformed her hair and was now restlessly looking around.
“Catiza, are you chatting with Purin and Tsuan?”
“Yes♪ Purin is pestering me with, 『My sniping won’t be much use like this, so let’s jump from tree to tree』. Tsuan has said, 『I’m in charge of close combat, right?』. Moreover, since the forest ahead of us seems dangerous, I had them give me their opinions,” explained Catiza while spreading her arms in a hurrah-pose for some reason.
She had her hair adopt the shapes of rolls.
“I see. Well, not only is the mana thick here, but the veil is thin, too.”
“Right. So would it be okay for me to change with Tsuan?”
“Sure. You’re free to decide it among the three of you, unless I order you otherwise.”
Catiza nodded deeply with her eyes still crossed, and apparently went along with Tsuan’s request for a chance.
At once her body melted away, changing into its golden caterpillar form.
I felt like it’s been quite some time since I saw her like this last.
At that moment, the demonic marquis ring squirmed. Since the Red Moon Puppet Soldier had been following me all the time, it was always possible for Adombraly to possess it, but…
“Oh, that went lightning fast～”
“Nn, the small uneven parts have increased in comparison to before? The golden powder she’s blowing out has grown in quantity as well.”
Eva was right. The acorn barnacle-like feeler horns had increased in number. And the top part of the horns was covered by rugged layers.
…Somehow, it seemed like they were moving around in a lewd manner. They also looked like erect and inverted nipples. Fine golden powder spewed out of the center of those nipples with puffs.
“Nnn, nya, nya～” Rollodeen meowed.
She reacted strongly upon seeing Ca-chan moving its feeler horns, jumping off Eva’s lap. She then proceeded to briskly walk up to Ca-chan, and limited her interaction – probably owed to her past experience of the sneezing flash after breathing in the powder – to unleashing cat punches.
“…An adorable girl turns into a golden caterpillar… Milady, this creature is…”
“I hear the Royal Gourmet Association has a dish that uses golden dust.”
“Lili, Dee, no. Shuuya will get angry. Catiza is no food.”
Eva moved her wheelchair in front of the two and spread her arms, protecting Catiza from them.
“Understood. Still, a golden caterpillar sure is mysterious…”
“Haha, there’s no way I’d eat her, is there!? Unlike the orcs from before, I don’t eat caterpillars,” exclaimed Lily while laughing.
“Nn, during the Great Prairie hunt, you bought dried centipedes from peddlers.”
“Great Prairie hunt…” Lili pressed a finger against her chin, contemplating.
“They were elves with beautiful, light brown skin. You bought some delicacies after going along with the peddlers’ cajoling,” added Eva.
“…Oh, I remember. That was…because I was hungry back then!”
While they were chatting about this, Ca-chan finished her transformation into Tsuan.
“Boss～ I finally get a turn!”
“Long time no see. But, we won’t head deep into this forest, okay?”
“Eh? It’s a forest that looks like undead might pop out at any moment, so I was pretty sure…” Tsuan’s shoulders slumped in disappointment, but our objective for today was to collect some apples.
I looked at Dee-san, “Dee-san, is it okay for you to harvest the apples from around here?”
“Sure. I also want to pick up some herbs.”
“Nn, many various kinds!”
“We got permission from Quiche, so feel free to gather whatever you like.”
“Then――,” said Dee-san and grabbed a nearby apple.
Rollo extended a tentacle for an apple. I was on the verge of praising her for helping out, but I was wrong. She stabbed the apple with her tentacle bone sword, reeled back in, and bit into it.
“I’ll help out as well.”
“Nn, me too.”
Eva floated up on her wheelchair, and picked the green apples growing in high places. Meanwhile Tsuan put the magic cigarette I gave him into his mouth while asking, “Is it okay for us to not help?”
“Of course we’re gonna help as well. Should I have Ado chip in as well?”
“…The three-eyed puppet soldier, right? Could you give one of those to me as well?” Rebecca asked while chewing.
She apparently was snacking on an apple.
“Make up your mind, apple or magic cigarette.”
“Nn, Rebecca, are you a glutton like Rollo-chan?” Eva chided while making an apple float into her hand, just to store it away into her item box.
“Why do you care～? There’s plenty to go around anyway.”
In the meantime, I activated Adombraly by pouring mana into the ring.
Just like that we continued to gather apples while having some relaxed fun together.
—————- End of Part 1 —————-
Several hours later we finished up after having gathered a huge amount of apples and rare fruits.
“Ado, you’ve crushed too many apples.”
“Eva-sama, I just wanted to show my power to my lord～”
“It’s not my place to say anything, seeing how I’ve eaten many of the apples, but you’ve definitely crushed too many.”
The instant Adombraly apologized by bowing his head, Rollo transformed into her divine beast form. She apparently grasped that the atmosphere around here had changed.
As soon as they saw the now huge Rollodeen, Lily and Dee fell on their buttocks with shocked expressions.
I suppose that’s a natural reaction…
Rollodeen didn’t extend any tentacles from her collar, but she had clearly increased manifold in size.
“Lily, Dee, you okay? It’s just Rollo-chan.”
“Ah, Milord, please don’t bask me in flames…” The puppet soldier possessed by Adombraly was shivering in fright, too.
“As always, her divine beast form is quite imposing…” Tsuan was dumbstruck as well.
“…Very well, let’s go back.”
Should I jump on Rollodeen’s back?
Just as I considered the option, I sensed a fluctuation in the magic elements.
“――Wait. I can sense two magic sources from deeper into the forest,” I warned everyone while summoning Baldok into my right hand.
“Humanoids? They’re closing in. Moreover, at a fast rate. Rollo, please look after Lily and Dee-san.”
Rollodeen coiled her tentacles around the waists of Lily and Dee right away, and retreated into the sky.
“Milord, allow me to act as vanguard,” requested Adombraly.
“The one to strike first wins, huh? As I thought, you do resemble the Burning Knights. But, I’ll take the lead.”
“As you command.”
“…To be frank, I’m inferior to the chosen bloodkin-sama, but I cannot afford to lose to a puppet soldier as <Apostle of Light Evil>,” joked Tsuan.
He made the shining Kukri, which he held in a backhand grip, rotate in his hands. And immediately following, light threads were created at the edge of the Kukri blades.
“Boss, I’m gonna watch the situation from above.”
“<Armor Light Thread>,” muttered Tsuan, causing the light threads to spring forth from the Kukri blades.
Next, Tsuan crossed the blades in front of his face. The color of his blades had changed to steel blue. Just like last time, the blades rose up somewhat like the hood scoop of a car’s bonnet.
And then Tsuan glanced at Adombraly across the Kukri blades that had become broader and longer.
Does he regard him as a rival?
Given that he made the light threads, which hung down from the blades’ edge, flexible so that they could be used as whips, he extended them towards the upper part of a tree, and made the threads twine themselves around the trunk.
Then he reeled in the threads, causing his own body to be carried towards the tree. After approaching the tree in such a way, he planted his feet on the trunk, just to kick off again. Performing a triangle jump, he leaped even further , landed on a neighboring, thick branch, and got ready by whirling the Kukri around in his hands.
“Nn, attack with everyone at once in passing?”
Eva expanded her violet mana around herself while asking. Metals shot out of the wheels’ surface. She made all kinds of metallic blades float by manipulating them with her <Mind Force>. On top of that, she extended her tonfa from underneath her sleeves, making her look ready for battle, be it ranged or close combat.
“…I thought that something was there. So I got everything ready to launch my blue fireballs,” Rebecca explained while looking awkward.
“Let’s see what they do at the beginning. Well, it goes without saying that we’ll adapt ourselves to the situation. Basically, Ado and I will act as vanguards, and I leave the rear to the rest of you. Though I’m not really worried about it, make sure that none of them reach Rollo.”
“Boss, count on me.”
“Oki, it’ll be fine. Front and rear,” Rebecca readied a katar in one hand, and her Magic Wand Guphon in the other.
It was a unique alteration of the Kulbul Style. Just as I could feel some relief from looking at my comrades’ reliable movements, the ones appearing from within the forest were…Death Butterfly people. Or to be precise, Jody and Ciel.
The moth Jody had a hue close to silver. Her hood-like hat had changed its shape somewhat in comparison to last time I saw her.
Both of them still held big scythes in their hands, vividly reminding me of death goddesses.
Jody held something similar to scales on top of that. And countless lips were squirming in the trenches of her two arms that consisted of white moths. The abnormal lips, apparently having consciousnesses of their own, groaned faintly.
The purplish red butterfly Ciel also wore a hat. A part of the purplish red butterflies forming her body had changed its color to blue like morpho butterflies.
“Found a spearmaster～!”
“Geez, Ciel, it’s spearmaster-sama, right～?”
“Oh, you’re right.”
The two talked in a silly manner.
“…Yo, Death Butterfly women.”
I had informed Eva and Rebecca what kind of enemy they had been through blood messages.
“Different women from last time and a crimson-armored soldier?”
“The women and soldier are spearmaster-sama’s subordinates, no? Especially the women emit a scent very similar to his. They’re strong.”
“Looks like it. Kin-sama maybe?” Ciel asked while extending her hands towards Eva and Rebecca.
“So what? I feel like I told you last time that I would give you the key.”
I thrust out the point of Baldok while activating <Blood Path – Open Third Gate> at the same time. Then I invoked Bloody Accel. I also clad my whole body in Magic Combat Style.
…It’s because I’ve already seen Jody and Ciel fighting before. I won’t use <Demonic Brain Speed> yet, though.
“…Wait, it’s not like we came here to fight.”
“Yep, yep. If we wanted to fight, we’d have attacked from a distance.”
The two Death Butterfly women stated and erased their scythes. Jody also erased her scales, and raised her hands, now unarmed. A hurrah-pose?
The sight of small butterflies fluttering into the air from the fingertips of both her hands, just to vanish like a fleeting dream, looked beautiful, but…
“Shuuya, are you hesitating because they’re beauties? They’re dangerous enough that it’d be better to strike first, no?”
“Nn, shady butterfly people. I heard they produce weird monsters! Be careful!”
Rebecca and Eva cautioned me.
“Milord, my whip can attack them at a moment’s notice,” added Adombraly.
His puppet soldiers took a step forward with its left foot, crouched down a bit, and prepared its whip staff. A sharp glint dwelt in Ado’s eye located in the center of the puppet’s forehead…
Precisely because he looked like a joke until now, it now gave birth to a gap, making him seem rather cool.
“Boss, no monsters in our vicinity.”
Tsuan was apparently keeping an eye on our surroundings. It wasn’t as though I had been careless, but I looked at Tsuan. His light threads had extended to the surrounding trees. After nodding at Tsuan and Ado, I shifted my eyes back to the two Butterfly people.
I could immediately tell that they had no intention to fight against us. Of course, it was still possible that this was a ruse, though…
“…I guess we can have a little talk for the time being.”
“Okay. If it comes to battle, I’ll have my white imperial steel and green imperial steel blades charge at them. They’ll annihilate all butterflies in one go!”
Eva’s expression was totally opposite to its usual, angelic smile. It reminded me of a death goddess… Not only Sajiron’ globes which had been deployed around her, but also her violet mana, shaped after an ogre, carried quite the impact. The pressure I could fully feel with my body was fearsome.
“What should I do with this huge fireball, hmm?”, snarled Rebecca with such a low voice that it sent a chill down my spine.
A massive fireball floated above her head. Moreover, the weapons in her hands were both connected to that fireball. Blue flames, reminiscent of countless prominence fires, were tied to wand and katar. Over here I could also feel tremendous pressure…
It reminded me of my battle against the evil domain monk, however…she might have developed a new skill based on the Kulbul Style.
“…Spearmaster-sama’s kin-sama, huh? It looks very unlikely that we’d come out unscathed if we fought them.”
“Ciel…we’ll follow what we agreed upon.”
Ciel and Jody nodded at each other with serious expressions. And then they adopted postures, clearly showing their caution.
“Spearmaster-sama…you do not need to hand us Golgonshura-sama’s key.”
“Yes, indeed. It is fine for you to keep it, so please open the Door of Evil Sealing.”
Both addressed me politely. Then they knelt down and pressed their heads on the ground. The roots running across the soil were squashed down, and the butterflies forming their heads scattered.
“…Umm, Shuuya, what’s this about?”
While looking at the two butterfly women, I answered, “It seems so…”
“Please. We will be happy as long as you can open the door for us…”
Only open the door, huh? But you see…
“Death butterfly women, I’m sorry, but…”
When I muttered that, both suddenly jerked their heads up.
“――Please! If you open the sealed door for us…we will do anything for you!”
“If you cannot trust us, we will entrust our cherished weapons and the Bewitching Heavenly Scales of Hmkry to you…”
Thereupon, the two really put it into practice. Their scythes and scales suddenly manifested, and after carrying them in front of me, they dropped them on the ground.
After leaving their weapons and item in my care, they waited for my verdict.
“I’ve understood your resolve. But, if I open that sealed door for you, God Golgonshura is going to revive, right? The god will come outside, no?”
“I think Golgonshura-sama will come outside if she obtains mana, but…we don’t know since she has been sealed for a very long time.”
“Yep. To be honest, even for us it was beyond expectation to find the key. It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen…”
“And yet you wish for her revival? Please tell me why,” I asked while swinging Baldok left and right.
Its red ax blade gleamed. Seeing the skull patterns surfacing on its blade, the color in Jody’s eyes changed.
Did she activate something like Demonic Eyes?
At that moment, fear washed over her face, her lips trembling. Ciel also widened her eyes as if trying to enlarge them. Several small butterflies separated from their bodies as if fleeing as long as they could.
“…No…it’s nothing,” Ciel answered while shaking her head, despite her body shivering.
And then Jody spoke up, “…Of course we wish for her revival. I mean, it was Demigod Golgonshura-sama who created us. For this reason, we want to take revenge on the gods who sealed Golgonshura-sama away.”
Revenge, huh? I guess I’ll hear them out for a bit.