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Chapter 3 – Journey In The Sea of Trees
After a good rest in the village, Lusha and I went to the land that bridges to the Apricot continent ― the Sea of Trees.
「With all this fog, I couldn’t see it at all…! Even though I went to all the effort of buying a map, it’s still hard to find the landmark.」
「Man… no kidding.」
The travel expenses of the sea route were high, and the Undersea Dungeon was full of strong monsters, so people often went through the Sea of Trees to go back and forth between the Apricot and Loquat continents.
For that reason, maps were available to ease the journey, but as Lusha said, the fog so heavily restricted vision that even they were of little use.
The map showed many points of interest in the Sea of Trees ― large rocks, trees, signposts, etc., all created or utilized as landmarks when passing through the Sea of Trees. Even with that, landmarks were easy to miss.
The way was so difficult that if you missed even one landmark, it was better to head back and start over in order to make it through safely.
Even the atmosphere inside the dense forest had an uneasy feeling to it.
「It’s nice that monsters are less common here than in the dungeons.」
「Yeah, and most of them are so weak I only need one arrow to take them out. Even if a stronger one comes out, it’ll only take two arrows.」
For the time being, our priority was on not getting lost while proceeding slowly. We brought a lot of preserved food, so we should have been able to manage somehow even if it took a while to get through. However, it was preferable to reach the Apricot continent more quickly because we were constantly building up mental fatigue.
According to the map, there should be a big rock next, after which we should proceed to the right.
So far, things were going pretty well.
―Is what I wanted to say, but you can’t be negligent for even a second.
I’d always been watching my steps carefully, but I lost concentration for an instant. I had stopped one step away from a steep cliff, but then the path itself crumbled underfoot. It happened so suddenly I couldn’t even call out.
I reached to the side as I fell, trying to quickly grab something, but as my eyes met Lusha’s, she missed my hand. [ED: What did you expect?] Her face was pale and she desperately called my name.
My sense of danger kicked into high gear, and I immediately fired off a shield.
「Triple strength 【Shield】!」
I made the Shield three times stronger to ensure it wouldn’t break from hitting a small tree growing out of the cliff, and somehow it launched me away from the cliff.
I was screaming as much as humanly possible, curling up into a ball to ensure I didn’t move my body in the slightest. The Shield would protect me whether I did that or not, but I was operating on instinct.
In hindsight, there’s no way I wouldn’t be afraid if I fell off a cliff. I never thought I’d go bungee jumping at all, much less have my first experience with no bungee cord.
I hit the ground with a loud thud, and made a weird sound as the wind was knocked out of me. I was seriously surprised. It happened so fast, but my back was drenched in cold sweat. The human body is honest with its feelings, after all.
Thanks to the Shield, I wasn’t hurt, but I still had to catch my breath and calm down from the adrenaline rush. I sat there and just breathed for a minute, and soon I looked back at the cliff.
「…Oh man, really?」
Because of the fog, I couldn’t see the top of the cliff. Of course I couldn’t see Lusha, either, since she was still up there.
What am I gonna do now…
Then I heard Lusha’s voice calling my name. She seemed to be screaming desperately from the top of the cliff. I called back.
「Hiroki! Thank goodness! Are you okay? Did you get hurt?」
「I’m okay, what about you? There’s no way I can climb back up!」
「I’m fine up here! But I can’t come down to you, either!」
So… I wonder how we’re going to do this. We have to somehow find a path to rendezvous. I’m fine because I can avoid attacks, but Lusha could be in real danger if she gets targeted by monsters. We’d better hurry up and get moving.
「Lusha, let’s find a way to join back up!」
She agreed immediately.
「I’m already quite used to the monsters in this forest, so don’t worry!」
I remembered Lusha said she used to hunt a lot in the forest before she became an adventurer. I chose to believe in her strength and rejoin her as quickly as possible.
◆ ◆ ◆
I still had the map on hand and studied it for a way to get back to Lusha from where I was. Turned out it was better to head in the direction of the Apricot continent rather than the village.
I did just pass by a big rock, so that might have been this landmark.
「All right, it’s decided, let’s aim for ―」
「Uh, I didn’t plan to meet a monster this soon, though.」
The monster that attacked me was called a Mushrent*. Often found in large forests, it was a so-called Treant monster, with a small tree-like body about one meter in length. The reason it was called a Mushrent was actually because of the mushrooms growing on the trunk of its body.
According to the information Lusha had on it, those mushrooms were apparently delicious.
It was lashing out with its roots in order to hit me.
Sorry, but it’s no use, you’re just going to miss.
「Oh yeah, 【Shield】【Heal】.」
The Shield from before should be gone already because of the impact when I fell a little while ago. Using Heal was just a precaution ― if I was wounded somewhere without realizing it, I’d be better off taking care of it now.
As soon as I started walking again, the number of Mushrents increased to two.
Well, this is fine, because they can’t even touch my Shield. I can evade every single attack.
As I progressed, the fog was clearing up little by little. That was a relief, but the number of Mushrents that discovered and charged at me just kept going up.
The rate at which they keep showing up doesn’t bode well. Even if I can avoid one forever, if they show up in large numbers, I’ll eventually get hit because my evasion still isn’t high enough. After all, the more monsters attack me at once, the harder it gets to avoid everything.
Someday, I’d definitely show them perfect evasion.
「Hmm, if I go to the right of this big tree, I should hit the path Lusha’s on.」
Everything’s going fine now, except for the Mushrents that are following me.
「Hmm? One, two, three, four….. oh jeez, there’s ten of them!」
Those Mushrents were all lashing their roots at me constantly. If I didn’t join up with Lusha soon and take them out, I was going to have a bad time. I picked up the pace and passed a big tree ― along with another party that was taking a break. They were rather surprised to see the Mushrents I brought with me.
「Wow, what’s with those Mushrents! Are they your pets?」
The first one to speak was a girl that looked to be in her early teens. She had thin, braided yellow-green hair and a large hood. She was small, with bullish eyes, and potion bottles and other items were attached to her waist.
「What the… you’re evading all that, huh?」
The next who spoke was a man about the same height as the girl. I quickly realized he was a Dwarf, because his face didn’t look young at all. Judging by his massive hammer, he should be a vanguard.
「Oh my, that’s amazing…」
The last one was a girl in her late teens who looked calm ― huh, bunny ears!?
Sepia-colored bunny ears flopped down from the top of her head, with dark hair at the tips. The hair accessories with lots of florets at the base of her ears, and her silky waist-length hair, really accentuated her femininity.
「Woooww….. what are you going to do with all those Mushrents?」
「Well, isn’t it obvious? He’s bringing that many Mushrents with him alive so he can always eat them fresh! It’s pretty smart, isn’t it? What a breakthrough strategy!」
「No, no, no, no, it’s not like that!」
I clearly wasn’t bringing these Mushrents with me just to secure my food supplies!
TLN: *- The name of the monster is written in katakana as Kinokorento. Kinoko means Mushroom, and I’m pretty sure rento is an abbreviation from torento which means Treant.
I didn’t know what to use honestly, so that’s why I’m calling it a Mushrent. Feel free to give your thoughts about the best name for it.