“You’re too good at cooking…”
“It’s strange to be eating a warm meal in a place like this.”
Nick smiled proudly as he heard Willy and Marcus’ compliments.
“Really? I guess it’s because my former party ate so much.”
“Look at the two sisters that can’t take their eyes off their food.”
Marcus pointed to Suisen and Karan, who silently ate Nick’s labyrinth chicken.
“It’s good, so what? You didn’t use tomatoes this time, did you?”
Both Karan and Suisen looked at Marcus like they had something more to say, but did not want to stop eating.
This time, Nick made labyrinth chicken with green pheasant, so he used ginger and spices instead of dried tomatoes.
“The higher we go, the colder it gets. It’s not very chilly yet, but eating something like this is better than something that cools the body.”
As they let out voices of admiration, everyone enjoyed Nick’s cooking.
“Ah, wait! Why are you eating lunch!?”
“It’s not lunch. It’s not noon yet, so it’s brunch.”
“Now, now, Tianna. Do not raise your voice like that.”
Tianna and Bellocchio joined in.
“Brunch is something that combines breakfast and lunch… Didn’t you have a good breakfast?”
“When climbing a mountain, it’s important to take frequent breaks. You might not realize it, but it drains your energy. Sit down and eat too. We have enough for you, Bellocchio.”
“Thank you. I will have some then.”
Both were probably hungry, because the meals that Nick handed them disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Bellocchio often joked about being an old man, but it certainly did not show in the way he ate.
“…So, I’ll ask again. Are you done?”
Tianna said with a full smile.
“I apologize for getting so worked up.”
“Well, it will be good for us too.”
“So Nick. Which route will you choose?”
“Are you sure?”
Asked a surprised Nick.
Tianna did deliver the finishing blow to the Dagger Wolf, but only because she suddenly inserted herself into the battle. The other party had every right to complain if they so choose.
“I am fine with it. What do you three think?”
“I don’t mind either. We really were taking too long.”
“It can’t be helped.”
Willy and Marcus seemed indifferent.
“What about you Suisen?”
“Well, if mister Bellocchio says so, I won’t complain.”
Said Suisen with a certain sharpness in her eyes.
“Well then, go ahead. Although I think I know what you will choose.”
“Nick stood up and pointed to one of the three paths.
“We pick the battle ring route.”
Said Bellocchio with a smile.
“It seems like the perfect ammunition for that magic bow. That way you can advance while picking as many arrows as you can. Good plan.”
“Thanks. What about you?”
Nick responded to the compliment with slight sarcasm.
“You are not the only ones with a trick up your sleeve. I think it is about time for me to get serious. I was planning to rest until the next route, but it seems I cannot afford to do so.”
As Bellocchio spoke, his partners smiled.
Tianna had previously heard her master say this labyrinth was like his garden. The Survivors were nervous, as they were about to know what he meant by that; Bellocchio’s true strength.
“Let us begin the match proper, shall we?”
The strange sight continued.
Survivors walked through a path that was wide enough for a carriage to pass beside them. Just outside the path, on both sides, was a thick forest, where silver shining blades grew below trees like grass and mushrooms.
“That smile is scary.”
Tianna picked one of them and set it on her prized magic bow. The complex, mechanical sound it made sounded powerful.
Bowguns and crossbows used things like pulley systems, so even weak people could use them to fire powerful arrows and bullets. They were very important long range weapons for people who could not cast spells, as weapons that used oil and gunpowder were strictly forbidden in this country. It was also easier to learn how to use than a bow and arrow.
“It is a reassuring thing to have, in this continent where we cannot use guns.”
“Guns? Ah, those old weapons, right?”
“Yes. They are weapons that shoot lead bullets by means of an explosion caused by gunpowder, and not fire brought about by magic.”
“That sounds scary.”
“It does because natural fire is hard to put out. Magic fire will go out once it runs out of magic energy to consume, or it can be easily put out by creating water. But natural fire is dangerous, and it can easily spread.”
Fire that did not stem from magic was called nature’s fire or natural fire. It would be alright to start a small fire to warm oneself, but leaving it burning for a full twenty four hours by consuming firewood was not recommended.
In nobles’ mansions and castles, it was recommended that they used magic items in the kitchen or as heating during the cold season.
“Stop chatting, they’re coming!”
Lesser Ogres came rushing from behind the bushes. They were holding battle rings, but were still too far away to throw them.
But even though they could not throw them that far, that was not a problem for Tianna.
Yelled Nick, before Tianna stepped forward and pulled the trigger.
And then, with an ominous sound of wind being cut, a battle ring was shot, spinning rapidly.
The battle ring that was shot flew in a straight line at first, but curved at a certain point, due to its spinning. This added to the speed at which it traveled making it very difficult to read its trajectory.
The Lesser Ogre that was on the receiving end of this attack had no time to defend itself, and fell dead on the spot. Two more were injured by the ricochet.
However, there was something else that proved to be even more disadvantageous for the Lesser Ogres. Fear.
“Let’s go Karan! Bond!”
“Leave it to me!”
Nick, Karan, and Bond rushed forward and slashed at the panicking Lesser Ogres. The battle was decided after the first shot was fired.
With nimble moves, Nick used the battle ring like a knife to cut his enemies, while Karan hit them as though she was punching them, and Bond finished them off.
“Oh my. I didn’t even have time to fire again.”
“That will be your homework. How to reduce the time it takes to fire again.”
“If there were two slots, I could help reload.”
Said Sem as he checked to see if anyone was hurt, and Tianna shrugged.
“I had to make this in a hurry… That’s asking for too much.”
“But just having a long range attack changes everything. Our pace will be faster now.”
Nick said while smiling broadly, but Tianna seemed pensive.
“I sure hope so.”
“We don’t know what my master is planning… We have to hurry.”
“I guess… But no matter what they’re doing, there’s nothing we can do about it. Actually, we are almost at the half-way point, so we should take more breaks.”
“Yes. It will be bad if we do not take a break, considering the altitude.”
Said Bond, in agreement with Nick’s words.