Chapter 52 – Descent into the Cavern


Using Fairy Sight, I could already tell how my three former companions had managed it. Two enormous impact sites still glowing with waste mana showed me where Graham and Ryuu landed.

Leaning out from the opening far enough to look at the wall, I could see Brigitte’s trail as I expected.

“Did your friends have a magic rope or something?” Ceria asked, as she had a similar look at the sheer wall surface. “That’s gotta be twenty paces down.”

“No,” I replied. “They jumped.”

Ceria’s eyes bugged. “What are they, ogres?”

There were actual civilized ogres in the world. Just like vampires, they had worked out ways to survive that didn’t require conflict with humans. But unlike vampires, they didn’t actually mix into human society, so I assume she had said it in sarcasm.

“Humans. Well, the two who jumped are human.”

“There’s no way humans could jump from that height!”

“There are at least two musclebound idiots who can. I’ve seen them do it.”

They had used that ridiculous [Ground Slap] skill that Graham had taught Ryuu. Basically, they just charged up mana in both hands and both feet and let it go the moment they hit the ground.

Right. It’s really [Magic Strike], only performed on the planet one is landing upon instead of an opponent. One would need both an insane constitution to attempt the maneuver and a mind with a genius for crazy stunts to figure out how to do it, but that combination describes Graham in a nutshell.

Ryuu had a strength cheat integrated into his summoning. And for all his other faults, he did have a knack for learning mana tricks and fighting techniques. So Graham had been able to teach him.

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“The fox girl climbed down the wall,” I added.

“You can’t climb this wall!” Ceria protested.

“Brigitte can. Trust me.”

Brigitte had used her [Wall Scamper] skill to get down. The faintly glowing (in fairy sight, anyway) trail where her hands had gripped the rock like a gecko led to the side and downward. I couldn’t see it all the way to the bottom, but that was due to the distance.

Her bag of tricks is truly frightening. [Wall Scamper] is not the only rare skill she’s somehow acquired in her mere twenty years of life. If she ever got serious as a thief, she would be a threat to steal anything she could carry. The world was fortunate that she mostly used it to play pranks.

None of us three were going to descend this drop by either method employed by my former party members. That meant I didn’t have much of a choice.

“We can’t overnight in this spot. If something big comes up behind us, we’re cornered just as good as if this were a wall instead of an opening. I would only be able to get one of you down in an emergency. Right now, with nothing attacking, it’s safe to leave one of you alone for a minute while I fly the other down.”

Bruna and Ceria both stared at me, unsure of my meaning.

I rolled my eyes and said, “You guys do know fairies can fly, right?”

There was enough clearance, and I was standing with my back to one of the tunnel walls. I slipped off my pack and materialized my wings. They came out spread, one wing reaching out the opening and the other back down the hall. Folding them, I found I had just barely enough room.

“Those are kind of unusual, right?” Bruna said, frowning at them. “Don’t fairies usually have insect wings?”

I frowned at her. “We don’t get to choose what we get, you know? And bird wings are rare, but they aren’t unheard of.”

Although black wings are unique. Hopefully you don’t know that.

Bruna didn’t need to know that part. I held my pack out to Ceria, “Hold this.”

She looked wary. “Are you seriously going to carry me?”

“Do you want to try jumping down?”

She let out a long breath and then shifted her staff to the crook of her arm. After accepting my pack, she began turning around. I suppose she expected me to hug her from behind, but since she was also wearing a pack, that was going to be unwieldy.  I scooped her up into my arms instead.

“What?” she yipped.

“Pfft…” was Bruna’s reaction. “Ceria’s getting a princess carry…”

“Bruna!” she protested, her cheeks turning red. I faced the opening.

“Wait!” Ceria begged. “I’m not read…”

I jumped out into open air as the ‘y’ turned into a very high-pitched ‘eeeeeeeeeeee!’ She didn’t quit until she was at last convinced we were flying, not falling. In fact, I was circling, inspecting the ground and looking for dangers and for a safe place to leave Ceria while I flew back to get her sister. I finally deposited her on a small outcrop that the two could climb down from.

“You aren’t good with heights?” I wondered as I let her down onto her feet. Her face was dead white. She just looked away from me, clutching my bag and her staff like a teddy bear. I took the bag from her and set it on the rock surface.

“Cast [Detect Presence],” I told her.

“Huh? But before, you said…” she started, then said, “Oh.”

She had been about to say that I had told her not to waste her magic on that spell, because my fairy sense had the same effect and was stealthier. But of course, before she could say it, she realized I was about to leave her alone and head back up to get her sister. She held her staff out and began chanting the spell as I took off again.

[Detect Presence] is second level magic. Second level spells require either a chant or a magic formation in addition to the visualization of first level spells. Higher level add more requirements, like catalysts or combinations of spellcasting aids.

Ceria was fast. With fairy sight, I could see the faint signature of energies expanding outward to take in the region around the outcrop while my feet were still hardly ten paces above her head.

I circled around, lined up on the opening in the middle of the cavern wall, and flared just before reaching, drastically slowing down. I folded my wings at the last moment and cannonballed into the tunnel on momentum.

Bruna grinned and shook her head. “That’s actually kinda impressive, Lady.”

“You want a princess carry too, or do we do this some other way?”

She looked down at me– she’s probably a half foot taller than me– and wondered, “Can you even carry me?”

Whether it was my fairy blood or my vampire blood, I was genetically disposed to be much stronger than I look, so I found the question a little annoying. “Right. Princess carry it is.”

I made to grab her up the same way I had done her sister, but she dodged and yelped, “Wait, not like that!”

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“How?”

She looked a bit embarrassed when she answered. “I’d feel helpless that way. I want to be able to hang on.”

“I can’t put you on my back. My wings are in the way.”

“Can you fly if I’m hugging you from the front?”

I pictured it and blushed slightly, but I nodded. “Just make sure you aren’t preventing me from seeing where I’m going.”

Moving over to the edge, I beckoned her over. “Come here.”

She stood facing me. Her eyes stayed away from the drop next to her.  She had a little of her sister’s fear of heights too. As I hugged her, I said, “Also, make sure your grip doesn’t interfere with my wings.”

Nodding, she cinched her arms around my waist. Then she gave me a smile and said, “Hey, you’re a nice size for me, Lady.”

A little more heat rose to my face. “Let’s keep our minds on business, please?”

She laughed at my reaction, but the laughter chopped off when I lifted her and stepped off. It took a long moment for me to flip into a stable attitude, but we were flying safely before reaching bottom.

It’s a good thing fairy bodies are tough. Despite the protection of sea-serpent hide, I could feel her arms tighten with unnecessary force. Bruna had a problem with heights, too.

- my thoughts:

I was able to sneak in a little glimpse of the members of the Hero's Party with this chapter. I almost regret going with the 'thrown out of the hero's party' trope back at the beginning. These guys are fun to write about. Maybe some side stories are in order.

Check out my other novel: Tales of the ESDF

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