ASTKO 47

47

 

The forest becomes more quiet the deeper we advance. It’s as if no living creatures can be felt. I can hear the footsteps we make. The squishing wet sound of the soaked grass as we step on it. As well as the sound of the rain that slowly falls continuously.

Saine and Dole’s eyes were moving alertly. He’s expressionless, but I can tell that Saine is tense. His cheeks twitched.

With a *tap*, Saine thrusted me away and Dole caught me with a single hand. At the same time, he grabbed Olphynn’s clothes with his empty hand. It was at the same time that Dole pushed me and Olphynn down with all his strength and Saine drew his sword and slashed the sky.

 

[……ugh!]

 

Saine’s sword cuts the place where we were at. What, I wondered soon after Saine stepped in and swung his sword down in a flash. 

A *thud* sounded and a light brown object fell. The thing that appeared in the place where Saine slashed at fell on the wet grass.

 

[……What, is that?]

 

I was scared and my voice faltered. It was a shape I’ve never seen before.

 

Inside the widely open mouth are innumerable sharp teeth. On top of its mouth were small bean-like eyes, and five of those eyes are lined up side by side. Its body is small and thin, it looks like a mouth-like creature. The mouth that Saine cut down was facing towards us without getting closed.

 

[This is a monster. It’s just a weakling, though.]

 

This is a small fry, I look down in amazement. I was seriously looking forward while walking but I couldn’t see anything. I never noticed just where it came out from.

Saine swiftly swung it once and puts it in its scabbard as if nothing happened. As expected, even Olphynn’s face became stiff.

The forest is hopeless without the guards. If it were just Olphynn and me, this thing would have eaten us and we’re finished. Prompted by Dole, we start walking again. The spring that we’re aiming at is even deeper inside. There must be monsters that are even more dangerous beyond this point.

But I didn’t find it scary. Nor do I regret tagging along. If Saine is with me, I’m not afraid of anything. It hasn’t changed even now.

 

Saine is strong, but so was Dole. As far as I can remember, 12 monsters attacked us until we reached the spring water. 4 of those were defeated by Dole. Dole even cut down the long and thin monster that emerged from the water while Olphynn was drawing the water. 

Saine was k*lling a group of flying small birds while holding me with one arm. The beaks of the birds that Saine finished are very long. The beak that was as long as my arm was sharp and pointed, and I thought that getting stabbed by it won’t end with just a scratch.

 

[With this, the water is finished. What’s next?]

[Newborn fire, a stone on the bottom of the earth, armored bug’s scales, a yellow flower, red leaves, a white fruit, a cobble’s tears.]

 

Olphynn smoothly lists them down.

 

[A newborn fire, is it? It’s that, right? There’s an area that spews out fire further inside here.]

[It must be that. The stone in the bottom of the earth is probably referring to the hole on the mountain-side.]

[Aah, that? It’s too dark in there to see, it does feel like the bottom of the earth. Does “armored bug” refer to that red thing?]

[It’s black. The red one isn’t scaled.]

[You’re right. If it’s scaled then that’s the black one. The yellow flower is the one growing near the lake, the red leaves are close by the place where fire is spewing. As for the white fruit……]

[There’s a fruit that glows at night. That’s white.]

[Uh-huh…… The last one, what’s a cobble……?]

[A cobble…… I think I heard that before.]

 

Even though they kept naming out locations unreservedly, the two were stumped the last cobble. I look up attentively at the guards who are pondering  while crossing their arms. It was a dangerous place to blindly search around.

 

[If I’m collecting from animals that are nearby humans as well as water, fire, flower and leaf, fruit, and a part of a monster, what’s left is the monster itself.]

 

When Olphynn said so, Dole and Saine, the two raised their faces at the same time in enlightenment.

 

[That’s right. I was thinking that I heard it before, isn’t that the one Stell talked about before?]

[It is. I heard that, too.]

[Did you get it?]

 

When I looked up, Dole waved his hand lightly.

 

[The monster doesn’t have a name. Or maybe it does but we don’t know. But when morning comes, there’s a place where a small monster comes out. It’s as small as a fingertip, but we heard that it cries cobble, cobble while walking.] 

-[It’s probably that. We just have to catch it and make it cry.] (TN: The description makes it sound cute. I already feel sorry for it.)

 

Saine said that and started walking.

 

[Are we going to retrieve the fire?]

[No, if it’s from here then the yellow flower.]

[I agree. We’re closer to the lake. Let’s collect the armored bug while we’re at it.]

 

There are no paths in the forest. But Saine and Dole keep walking without getting lost.

 

[Do you know the way?]

[Naturally.]

[I’ve never heard of a guard who lost his way.]

 

Dole chuckles. After moving away from the location of the spring, I could feel the two’s tension melting. But their eyes remain sharp.

 

[It’s the same in the mountain and in the forest but you can’t use the trees and rocks as landmark as you move forward, okay? Since things like those move by themselves.]

 

Having said that, Dole struck the tree on the side.

 

[The trees move?]

[They do. Although they can’t be called monsters, they are also not ordinary trees like the ones in town. They’ll move whenever they feel like it. Look.]

 

When I look at where he’s pointing at, a tree was really walking. It felt like it’s walking in a yo~, to~, ho~ rhythm*. (TN: I don’t quite understand this part so I took some liberties.)

 

[…… Where is it going?]

-[Who knows? Since it’s on a whim.]

 

The walking tree looked so creepy that I subconsciously grabbed Saine’s arm. It’s not like he noticed my line of sight, but the walking tree stops and turns around.

 

[Uwaah! It’s looking this way!]

[It’s not. Besides, they don’t have eyes.]

 

Dole said with a laugh.

 

[But it looks creepy. Plus, it’s facing this way……]

 

The tree took a form that looks like it’s staring over intently. If it didn’t see us, what’s it doing?

 

[I’ll cut it off if you hate it.]

 

Saine smoothly draws his sword. The tree wasn’t that thick so it looked like Saine could instantly cut it in half.

 

[Wawawawah! Stop! You’re scaring it.] (TN: Woah x4)

 

I stopped Saine in a hurry. The moment Saine drew his sword, the tree twisted backwards as if it was shocked. It would be weird if it couldn’t see with that reaction. Its branches also look kind of like arms.

When I desperately stopped him, Saine sheathed back his sword. As I look in front while sighing in relief, the tree similarly looked relieved with its shoulders dropped. No, like I said, his branches look like arms.

 

After parting ways with the moving tree, we advance to out destination. We’re almost at the targeted river.

 

 

TN: Belated bday update for my brother and sister (July 13) and RIP to our beloved dog who passed the rainbow bridge on that same day.