After that, Pochi and I managed to reach a river. We headed downstream from there, the decision made by Pochi, who had won a deciding round of Rock-Paper-Scissors.
As we went along, we eventually came across a wooden bridge to cross to the other side.
“Ohh, looks like we might be close to a town!”
“Eh-hem — All thanks to me winning the RPS, sir.”
…By the way, Pochi had played the RPS with her paw, of course. It was weird.
“Oh c’mon, I’m sure there would have been a town upstream as well.”
“Yes, yes, if you insist, sir. Oh, there’s the highway… So it’s a good choice as any to proceed this way, yes? There’s no dirt path on this side, too, so it’s more likely that there will be a settlement there.”
“Which means we’ve been living in undeveloped land all this time, huh? We did find a town nearby 80 years ago, so maybe that’s why it didn’t feel like that… Oh, I see, now I think I understand why I had the Hermit Candidate title.”
“You’ve received that sort of title as well? …With all due respect, it feels as if we do not have much in common, Master.”
Well, you’re a dog, so…
“What do you even mean?”
“Upon becoming a Familiar, I was supposed to have formed a personality suitable for the one who had made me so. But for you, Master, I feel it is not quite something to be called personality, so to speak? Hmm, this is quite difficult to explain well in words…”
“Now, personalities differ from person to person. And besides, do you even know humans other than me?”
“Of course I do. If I happened upon travelers, I would track them, observing their speech and actions, and in the rare occasion of going far out, I would always make sure to observe the people around me. Besides, I did gain a fair amount of knowledge from books. That is all more reason that your abnormalities are so clear in my eyes, Master.”
Her way of speaking that nitpicks every little thing is a tad bit annoying, but she wasn’t necessarily mistaken in what she had said.
While the superiority of my Familiar has dampened my spirits somewhat, I continued onward, in a journey that had just begun.
When it has started to become dark out, enough for me to start using the Light Source magic spell, we happened upon another light, a fire, burning intensely up ahead.
“I smell… decay, and… humans? Master, humans are under monster attack up ahead!”
“All right, we gotta bail while we can!”
“What the — that’s not how it’s supposed to go, sir!”
Gah, Pochi’s cold stare really hurts. Needless to say, I’m stuck with no other choice now.
Seems like I have to go help those people, what with all this pressure.
From what I can immediately confirm, there were 6 Zombie Lords, and maybe because we were near water, there were quite a lot of the aquatic monsters, the Marine Lizards… More than 10, I would estimate.
“Look, just… Please go help them!”
“All right, fine. Go secure an escape path, then.”
“As you command.”
“…Let’s see here — Rise, Rise, Rise, A-rise — there! Hey, you guys! This way! Run!”
As I shouted to them and sent a Spell Circle flying up, the ones under attack, one young man and two girls, ran to me through the opening that Pochi had created.
“Air Wall, coming right up! …Oh, crap! Pochi, two of them got through!”
I invoked the Spell Circle that I had sent up, erecting a defensive air perimeter. It succeeded in halting the monsters’ pursuit, but my timing was slightly off, so two of them had gotten through, just as I had said.
“What a crude Familiar Master you are! You, big guy! Take care of that one!”
“Ah — yeah, I got this!”
You’re one to talk about being crude, Pochi. And why’d she leave the Zombie for the warrior-looking man to dispatch?
Pochi is the one positioned closer to the Zombie Lord, isn’t she?
“Hey, Pochi, why’re you–“
“I don’t want to bite the Zombie, that’s why! It dirties my fangs more than necessary!”
“Ah, that’s reasonable.”
Since becoming Familiar, she sure has picked up quite a few human-like qualities.
“Concentrate on the task at hand, Master. Please take care of the ones inside the perimeter!”
What a crude Master-ordering Familiar you are.
“…Rise, Rise, A-rise! Ground Needle!”
The monsters, fallen into the pitfall I had created, screamed in deathly agony. The bottom of that pit was a floor full of spikes… I’m sure none of them is left alive.
And when the pitfall’s time limit expired, it turned right back to smooth, level ground. And at the same time, the level-up chime range within my brain.
Pochi made quick work of the Marine Lizard, and while slower, the warrior-looking man nicely cleaved the Zombie Lord in two.
“You have our gratitude for saving our lives. I’m Reid.”
“Oh, please do not think much of it. I am Pochi, and my Master here is called Asley.”
“Hey, shouldn’t I be the one talking here!?”
“And you two ladies, are you injured?”
She isn’t listing to me at all.
“I’m all right. But Lina here got hit…”
“This is just a scratch, sis…”
“Sorry to ask for another favor so soon, but could you use some recovery magic for Lina?”
“Master, if you please.”
“Wait, there’s no mage among you three? Ah, this isn’t the time and place to talk, is it? Mm-hm… looks like she’s hit with some poison.”
I could clearly see cold sweat running from the Lina girl’s forehead. Her right upper arm was bleeding pretty badly… She was obviously bluffing.
As she heard that it was poison, Lina’s older sister immediately tensed up.
“C-can you heal her?”
“Why, yes, I sure can… Um, and you are…?”
“Oh, I’m Mana.”
“All right then, Mana, hold Lina’s arm firmly and keep it still. And Reid, please hold Lina down from behind.”
The two did as I instructed. I dare say, they may even be more receptive to what I say than Pochi had ever been.
“Now, Lina, this will hurt only for a second. Be ready.”
“…Rise, Clockback & Stop.”
Lina’s body twitched convulsively. Lina’s wound quickly healed up, and right before it completely closed, a blob of green liquid sprung out.
All right, thanks to Mana and Reid holding her, I didn’t mess that up.
“Whoa… That closed up the wound, too…”
“Wait, isn’t the spell that removes poison supposed to be called Recover? Is Lina really healed?”
“A green liquid was extracted just now, wasn’t it? That was the poison. Please don’t worry.”
“A magic spell that combines the antidote and restoration effects… Wait, was that composite magic!? It’s said that only ten or so mages could use that stuff…”
“The Ground Needle that I’d used to kill the monsters just now was a composite spell, yes. But for this one, I just cast spells on top of each other.”
And composite spells aren’t supposed to be that rare of a thing… What’s going on here?
“Composite spells… and layered casting? By any chance, are you one of the reinforcements from the Magic University!?”
Reid’s expression really brightened up there. What did he even by reinforcements?
“Er, no, I’m not–“
“Right, of course! Since the spells you use are so high-level, you must be a graduate!”
“If you don’t mind me asking, how exactly did you heal my wound, sir?”
“Er, I just used a rewind spell that targets a specific body part, while also adding a control spell. Using Recover wouldn’t make up for the blood you’d lost, so I thought it’d be better to get the blood back with a rewinding spell, but that also meant the momentary pain is brought back as well.”
Hmm, doesn’t seem like they’re getting that? Everyone is just tilting their heads.
From what I’m seeing, Reid, Mana, and Lina were all warriors, so it’s reasonable that they’re not well-versed in magic… But from their talk about the Magic University and all that, it seems like magic has become more of a rare thing in the present time.
“I don’t really get the part about rewinding, but isn’t Control Magic a long lost ancient art!? Really, you… who are you?”
Ugh… this has become quite troublesome. In this kind of atmosphere, I have to make myself not stand out.
Do I have no choice but to rely on Pochi to do something? Hmm, I’ll just have to.
In seeking assistance from Pochi, I beamed a wink to her. Seeming to notice what I was up to, Pochi looked down and heaved a sigh.
“He is a traveling mage, and I am his Familiar. We are not affiliated with the University, but I ask that you refrain from asking about our journey.”
“But, you know–“
“C’mon, brother, they’re ones who saved our hides. Let’s just leave talking at that.”
“That’s right, big bro!”
These three are siblings, I see.
Reid gave me the impression of a reliable biggest brother. He was a big, muscular fellow, and he had quite the messy cut for his light brown hair.
Mana had a strong big-sister-like impression… like, no offense, but the well-endowed type to fool around with guys. Her long hair of mixed brown and red also made that impression stronger.
And for a combatant, Lina seemed too thin and delicate, and a bit too short. No matter how I looked, she did not seem to be of age, meaning she should be younger than 15. I recalled her wielding a long sword unfit for her body build. Her hair was the same color as her older sister, but her cut was short, going down only to the nape of her neck.
“All right, all right, I get it. I appreciate your help, really. Sorry for pestering, Asley.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, Sir Asley, what brings you here?”
Lina’s words tickled me in all the wrong places. No matter how I look at myself, I really am not one fit to be called a “Sir” by strangers.
“After living in seclusion for quite a long time, we have set out on a journey to broaden our horizons. It seemed we had gotten lost, but eventually, we had happened upon the highway, which had led us to encounter you.”
Nice going, Pochi. Explained things nicely while leaving out the sensitive details.
Everything she said was still true, though.
“And what about you? Seeing that you’re lightly equipped, I’d assume there’s a settlement nearby, and if so, I’d like to know about it…”
“Ah, well… We’re from Faltown. It’s not much of a town at this point, but… We won’t refuse a request from our saviors, of course. We’ll lead you there.”
“At this point…?”
The three cast their eyes down as a response to my question.
“Reinforcements”… “At this point”… From those words, I hypothesized that the living conditions of these three were quite harsh. And from that, Pochi and I refrained from asking further questions.
We’ll know soon enough, once we’re at Faltown itself.
We walked along the highway, with me keeping a Light Source spell up.
Leading the way was Reid, with Lina and Mana to both his sides; I was behind them, and Pochi, the most powerful combatant, was on rear guard.
Wanting to know our overall combat capabilities, I used the Appraisal Glasses with them unaware.
- NAME: Reid
- TITLES: The Strong, Eldest Brother, Swordsman
- LV: 39
- HP: 412
- MP: 39
- EXP: 101,502
- SPECIAL SKILLS:
- Fortify Strength
- Fortify Resilience
Is Smash-slash an original technique of his? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before.
And I’d used Heal on everyone present, so the HP value I’m reading now should be the maximum.
- NAME: Mana
- TITLES: Elder Sister, Sword Fighter
- LV: 27
- HP: 288
- MP: 54
- EXP: 49,230
- SPECIAL SKILLS:
- Fortify Strength
Her relevant statistics seem pretty close to mine. And her MP pool is larger the Reid, so I suppose that comes naturally.
It was usually the case that women have an advantage in MP, after all.
- NAME: Lina
- TITLES: Little Sister, Apprentice Swordsman
- LV: 18
- HP: 191
- MP: 126
- EXP: 17,397
- SPECIAL SKILLS: –
Bringing this girl out here in the first place was already overdoing it, I must say.
And considering her MP pool, it’s strange that she’d been designated as a warrior. She was naturally more suited to be a mage, so why did she not become one?
At her age, it’s not too late to start, either.
Pochi called out to me in a whisper.
“This is not a very good habit to have, sir. I understand your intention, but I think it would be better if you have the other party’s consent first.”
“Ah, sorry… I’ll be more careful.”
“Very good, sir.”
Indeed, it is not a good habit to have. I’ll need to ask for consent to look into others’ abilities… I guess.
“Hmm? Monster detected up ahead. Alone, but… it’s big!”
Boy, that was loud. It’s like he was asking for it to discover us. And here I am, layering an Invisibility spell onto the Light Source spell so that the monster wouldn’t see it…
But really, it sure is big. What in blazes?
I sent the Light Source spell flying forward, but Pochi in the back, operating as effectively in the dark as she was, was the first to realize its true form.
“Chimera! It’s already noticed us! Be cautious!”
What appeared before us was a giant monster, 8 meters tall, with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.
It seemed to be a B-ranked monster, so a level-40 party of two warriors and a mage should suffice.
And since we have Pochi, there shouldn’t be any issue.
“Ugh — I never thought it’d come out this far!”
“Reid, defend Mana and Lina! Pochi, take the front and buy me some time!”
“As you command!”
“We got this!”
Mana was doing fine, but Lina’s got her face all cramped up with fear. That’s to be expected, I suppose. In this kind of battle situation, the priority should be on protecting those with lower levels, if there is any.
Pochi activated her special technique, Gigantification. Now grown up to six meters, Pochi might even manage to take the enemy down before I finished invoking my spell.
Well, since I’ve ordered her, buying time is likely the only thing Pochi would do for this particular case, though. In part because she wanted me to gain some experience, too, I’m sure.
Met with a mysterious, giant dog-wolf, the Chimera seemed to be slightly hesitant. That’s my queue–
“Rise, A-rise, A-rise, A-rise! Hexa Boundary!”
A Spell Circle appeared at the Chimera’s feet; it formed a perfect hexagon perimeter that wrapped the monster in a stream of bluish-white lightning. As if in restraints, the Chimera’s limbs, tail, and mouth had their movements limited.
“All right, now! Finish it off!”
The Chimera is a monster with extremely high magical resistance. Which, of course, called for the existence of Magecraft, the countermeasure against such monsters.
Magecraft differed from Magic in that the invoking of their Specll Circles required the hexagram pattern.
“Hurry! It won’t hold for much longer!”
“Oh — oh!”
“We’re going in, brother!”
Reid and Mana raised a battle cry and bravely charged at the Chimera.
And as expected, Lina’s legs have given out. I stood in front of her and carefully watched the damage the Chimera did on the Boundary.
“Lina, there’s no need to be afraid. That monster can be destroyed by employing the right methods.”
“Ah… Um… Thank–“
The Chimera, repeatedly slashed at by Reid and Mana, screamed over Lina’s word of thanks. The Boundary is still in effect, but apparently not for much longer.
The stream of bluish-white lightning binding the Chimera began to fizzle out, like it was about to disperse.
“Now, Master! Layered cast!”
I can’t do layered magecraft! That’s way beyond my skill level, you idiot!
“Rise, A-rise, A-rise! Ice Horn!”
I drew a Craft Circle in the sky over the Chimera, enlarged and invoked it, creating a giant icicle.
With a terrific impact that shook the earth, the icicle impaled the Chimera’s body and staked it in place.
“All right, that worked! Now Go!!”
The two had been quite disturbed by the appearance of icicles, but as I shouted to them, they quickly got back to the next action.
Mana stabbed the lion head, deciding the fight.
And at the same time, the level-up chime rang within my head. It seems I’ve exerted quite a lot of unnecessary force, maybe because I’d been doing nothing but research for so long. Perhaps this was what Pochi meant by strength not tied to levels and numbers.
“Now, Lina, it’s over.”
I called out to Lina and patted my hands on her shoulders, so as to quell her fear.
“Y-yes… Thank you so much…”
The little girl, with tears welling up in her eyes, took my hand and steadily stood herself up.
Back when I was her age, I probably would have been in the same state. Well, even with this talk of emotionally moving nostalgia, the memories I now have of me from 5000 years ago were nothing but foggy.
“Check this out, brother! Chimera horns and fangs! We can use them to upgrade all our gear!”
“Mana, the ones that pulled the most weight in the fight were Asley and Pochi. We’ll give the rarer materials to them.”
Mana, still holding on to the Chimera’s horns and fangs, turned gloomy.
“Ahh, don’t mind me. You three will put them to better use, I’m sure. I’ll just take the Chimera’s eyes.”
“The eyes!? I’ve never heard about it being used as an ingredient!”
“Chimera eyes are actually essential for weapon enchantment, like… Well, I guess it’s too complicated to talk about now.”
“Master, you should be more… prudent when discussing such topics.”
I realized that right after saying what I’d said!
Seriously though, do I need to be warned about every single thing I do?
The three warriors stared blankly at us, but more because they had just witnessed Pochi shrinking to her original size, so that’s one worry out of the way.
“Really, you helped us out big time. I’m so happy that we finally got to avenge our old man.”
“…So you’ve got that kind of history with it?”
“The thing attacked Faltown a few years back, you see. Our old man was the town’s strongest fighter at the time. He drove it off but was gravely wounded during the fight…”
“Wait — hold up a minute! A Chimera attacking a town? What in the world was the Guild doing!? It shouldn’t be too hard for them to get rid of, right?”
“Master, that conversation can be left for another time. We should arrive at Faltown as soon as possible.”
Right. I dug up a habit I’d decided to try and stop just moments ago. It’s only natural that Pochi warns me about so many things I do.
I really am such an idiot, huh…
“Ah, sorry… Let’s hurry on our way…”
We formed the same formation as before and resumed our march to Faltown.
On the way, Lina momentarily slowed her pace and came to my side.
“Um… Please don’t worry too much about it, sir.”
Lina’s words of concern, as awkward as they were, helped me calm myself down a little, I feel.