After that, without saying a word, I disconnected my telepathic call with June, covered my face with my hands, and heaved an utterly pained sigh.
Chappie fanned that lukewarm breath of mine right back at me, while Pochi and young Bright turned to look at each other.
“Um, Instructor, what happened”
“Is something the matter, Master”
“Shut up… just shut up…”
“…That must have been quite bad.
Its been a long while since I last saw you in this much denial, sir,”
Bright forced out a laugh and proceeded to start changing Leons diaper.
At the same time, Chappie created a tremendous amount of wind and blew all the stinky smell away from him.
“Whuh- hey! Chappie!”
“What is it, mother!”
“This cave isnt exactly wide, so stop it! The dust youre kicking up is even worse than the smell in here!”
Id never known that the ecology of Shishichou, one of the Heavenly Beasts, included doing that as well.
“Ah- hey! How many times do I need to tell you again to stop!”
“Ive only heard that once!”
Looks like hes still not quite there when it comes to nuanced speech.
“Thats just how most humans talk to each other!”
Hes right on that.
Still not what Pochi had actually meant though.
Still, I remember seeing this kind of back-and-forth from… somewhere… oh, its just me and Pochi.
Right – Id never realized that because it was just so normal to us.
And from the looks of it, apparently its entertaining to watch us do that from an outside perspective.
Even young Bright is chuckling a bit, too.
But we have to be careful.
Although were not in immediate danger, were still in the dangerous Karam Mountain Range.
Thanks to Bright using Giving Magic for me, my body had healed up nicely; I got up and used a magic spell on the caves entrance.
“What is that, Instructor”
“Its the Swindle Sleight, one of the illusion magic spells.
This should make it much harder for the enemies on the outside to find us.
It wont take effect if they were to casually stroll in without deliberate thought, but the ones that are on active lookout wouldnt detect us.”
“Hmm, so this kind of spell exists as well…”
Bright expressed both admiration and curiosity with his remark.
Now that I think about it, its quite a wonder how were still not dead.
Im so glad that the first people wed met here were the Holy Warriors in the making.
Lylia had been super helpful… in her own way, and Giorno had taught us much about how to live in this world, and even introduced us to a job at the Fulbright household.
As one would expect of the Holy Warriors, theyve got good human nature.
Well, that might not necessarily be the case when considering Lylias character, but at least shes got her fundamentals in the right direction.
And speaking of which, those two… I wonder where they are and what theyre up to now
Since the town of Sodom was the front-front lines, where we are now is even further into enemy territory.
Now that I think about it, wasnt it odd that those two were over there at that time we had met
If I had to give a reason, I would say that it was because they were investigating the activities of monsters or the Apostles of Despair… Then again, wouldnt that be too dangerous, even for those two
As I racked my brain more and more over that topic, Pochi and Chappies quarrel grew more and more heated.
“I swear, you act so much like my Master sometimes!”
“Which means Im not like you, mother! And thats good!”
Mm-hm, so heated that they look like theyre about to start a fire, in fact.
Thinking it was about time for them to stop, I drew a Spell Circle to open up the Storeroom, then took out thepellet drum for dealing with these two…
Namely, a pot and a ladle.
All I have to do is bump these two things together, making an echo in this cave…
The effect was instantaneous.
Truly blinding speed.
If I were to be in their shoes, food wouldnt stop me from fighting, though.
While we ate, I explained to the three the information that June had given me.
At the moment, we were probably about a third of the way through the Karam Mountain Range.
We could turn back to the foot of the mountain and head to Toued through the cave there… Or we could keep on cutting our way through the Karam Mountain Range.
“This mountain is scary! I want to go home!”
Chappie was the first to make the vote; he chose the former option.
“I think Id like to keep going – this place seems to serve as a good training ground, after all.”
Bright smiled cheerfully… but his eyes made it come off to me as more of a smirk.
Well, not quite – its just that his behavior lately has made me see him that way.
I couldnt see himnormally as an adorable ten-year-old kid anymore.
“Hmm What about you, Shiro”
Although the rest of us were still eating, Pochi had already cleared her dish by now.
Yet she didnt answer my question… Strange, considering that shes usually the first to respond.
As she stared at the fire, her mouth was stuck shut in a triangle shape.
Whats wrong with her She seems to be more seriously worried than she usually would.
“…Id like to head downhill, too.”
Now thats a bit of a surprise.
In most cases like this, Pochi would ask for my opinion first, then use that information to make her decision on the matter.
“The first concern is Leole, sir.”
Pochis point was immediately apparent.
It was dangerous to take a child up to a high altitude.
There was no guarantee that he wouldnt get altitude sickness, and the air up here was thin.
Thats why Ive been using my arcane energy to protect them, but it would be quite an issue if I were to run out as I had earlier.
Bright seemed to have understood, too.
Now then, since shed saidfirst, there must be other reasons, too.
“And then there are Bright and Chappie.”
The two in question turned to look at each other, then waited for Pochi to continue.
“Im not confident that well be able to protect them both at once.”
Pochi explained to them frankly, without any concern to pointing out her own shortcomings and worries.
After being told all that so calmly, those two couldnt bring themselves to say anything.
And neither could I respond.
She was right.
With how things stood now, these two were supposed to fight behind me and Pochi.
However, under dangerous situations like the one we had just gone through, it would be extremely difficult to fight while protecting them.
Therefore, Pochi must have forced herself real hard to say what she had to.
I let out a subtle groan up my nose and leaned back against the wall.
I did want to hurry and get to our destination, but Pochis proposal was something I couldnt just ignore.
Everyone present, each of their eyes tinted orange by the fire, seemed to be waiting for my answer.
“…Lets go down.”
A blunder this may have been, but it was a good learning opportunity.
These kinds of failures on my journey would serve to form a good basis on which I judge things and make decisions.
Facing large armies of monsters, just like the Blazing Dragon swarm last year, was a normal occurrence at the frontlines in Sodom.
One day well have to return there, and by then, I reckon well be able to deal with any situation calmly.
Moreover, well also need to know how to fight alongside someone weaker than us.
We did have some experience doing that while traveling with Lina in the future, but this eras monsters were far more powerful and ferocious.
If we were, in crucial situations, to somehow perform worse than we had been up to now, we would really regret neglecting our preparations.
That was probably why Pochi had decided we should head back downhill.
Be it from my Familiar, my son, my student, or a baby, I have a myriad of things to learn.
Hmm, now that was a good one.
Lets write that down in the Principles of a Philosopher.
I nodded to myself and took out the book from my c.h.e.s.t pocket, at which point Pochi and Bright looked at me, seemingly exasperated.
Anyways, now that wed decided to turn back, we ought to be fast.
We started our descent in the early morning of the next day.
The corpses of yesterdays monsters still lingered on the way.
There werent that many monsters swarming around those corpses, either.
We traced our way down the mountain, so as to head back the way we came.
We werent chased by monsters like yesterday, so the trip took us a little longer, but we were able to reach the cave at the foot of the Karam Mountain Range within the day.
We werent too tired, so we took just a thirty-minute break before entering the cave.
The cave, illuminated by my light source magic, was large, and the treaded path showed us the shortest route to our destination.
And Im not sensing that many monsters here.
This must be the trade route connection between Radeata and Toued, too.
The path was quite wide – enough that carriages should be able to pass.
Leon was having fun listening to the echoes of his own voice in the cave.
Things were going so smoothly that what we had gone through on the surface felt like a lie… though this way was not without its dangers, either.
We should be fine if we keep our wits about ourselves, though.
Suddenly, Pochis ears perked up and Chappie turned to me.
Wait, no, not me.
He was looking past me – behind our whole group.
I put my index finger to Leons lips; he immediately went quiet.
Oh, what a clever kid.
Whoops – no time to be distracted now.
“Theyre not monsters, father.”
“People, then… Which would be fine and all, but I think theyre an unusually large group, sir.”
Id like to avoid unnecessary trouble.
Bright stiffened up; I told him what wed been doing, and then all of us proceeded to get into a hiding spot.
Then I got rid of the light source spell and used Swindle Sleight to conceal all of us.
And so we waited for about five minutes… That was the time it took for the group that must have been behind us to show up.
…Looks like we had made the right choice to hide.
The group Im seeing must be over thirty in number – skilled warriors, a lot of them… and also two mages and a monster.
It seems that Pochi and Bright have realized that now, too.
Why would those people head to Toued, though Wait, no – I think I know why.
Theyre after US.
Because those people are… Chiquiata and Myans.