Volume 4, Chapter 22: Assailant….

I returned to the campsite with Remy. Although it was just a simple clearing minutes ago, it was now surrounded by earth walls and had a hut built in the centre.

The area within the walls was around ten metres squared and the wooden hut in the middle could fit four people comfortably.

Is this Alice’s doing? As usual, she shows no self-restraint. As soon as we got near the wall, it sunk into the ground and allowed us to enter. And right behind the wall, Alice stood, smiling.

“Welcome home, Leon. You’re back early.”

“I’m home…. Rather, what is all this?”

“Isn’t it obvious. This is our house where we sleep.”

“…did you build it?”

“I just used a little bit of spirit magic.”

“A little bit….”

“Just a little.”

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“I see….”

Well, she is Alice — even so, I’m impressed by how fast she works.

The hut consisted of four pillars with thin boards making up the walls and boards set up diagonally across the pillars to make the roof.

It’s a pretty basic hut, but it’s something that shouldn’t be possible to make in just fifteen minutes.

When I looked inside the hut, there was even a hole dug to be used as a toilet.

“Don’t you think you’re overdoing it? Look, Remy’s still stunned.”

Remy was still standing outside the gate. She hadn’t moved since the wall opened up. I feel that that’s a reasonable response given she came back to see an empty clearing had transformed into a small plaza in a matter of minutes.

“Eh, I thought I was showing self-restraint? Did I do too much?”

“It definitely exceeds any normal person’s expectations of a campsite….”

“I’m really bad at restraining myself. But if you say so, Leon, I’ll stop here. My legs are tired after walking for so long, so I was thinking about making a footbath, but I guess that would be bad.”

She said this and turned away from me. I quickly grabbed onto her arm.

“…Leon?”

“We really shouldn’t follow other people’s standards. We should just do what feels right.”

“…in other words?”

“Please, make a footbath.”

I can’t possibly say no to a footbath.

“Then, I can make a tub, but…there’s something I’d like to try.”

“What do you mean?”

I was wondering what else she was planning to do.

“I’ll form a bathtub out of clay using spirit magic. I want you, Leon, to heat the clay so it hardens.”

“Hmm? Ah…this could work as an alternative to an oven. Couldn’t we just make a furnace?”

“Like I said, this is an experiment.”

“An experiment…that sounds fine I guess, but won’t the magics interfere with each other?”

Magic doesn’t follow the normal laws of physics, but that’s not to say it doesn’t follow any rules.

For example, it’s incredibly difficult for magic to directly affect a living organism. This is due to the passive mana that lies within living creatures causing an interference.

And the mana within a living creature isn’t the only thing that can interfere with magic.

For example, if fire and water magic were cast at the same spot, either the fire would be put out or the water would evaporate.

“It would be impossible if we did it separately. However — like this, we should be fine.”

The moment Alice said this, her senses merged with my own. The amount of information I was taking in suddenly swelled and I grimaced.

“Oi, oi, don’t suddenly turn on sensory sharing.”

Another one of Alice’s abilities is for her to share her senses with her partner.

“I’m only sending you the information you’ll need; you should be able to handle it. I’m going to start using spirit magic. Please, avoid interfering with it.”

“Don’t make such an unreasonable request so casually.”

In theory, it may be possible.

But she’s asking me to look through her eyes and do precision work. I don’t think that’s something any normal person could do so suddenly.

“Leon, please…hurry….”

“Ah, mou~, I get it!”

I focused on Alice’s sense and activated my spirit magic. The spirit of heat I was controlling interfered with the spirit Alice controlled and the clay bathtub shattered.

“….Leon.”

“….what? If you have something to say, say it.”

“Fine…. You’re clumsy, Leon.”

“You’re just too skillful! Let’s just do it again!”

After making the same mistake about ten times, I finally managed to complete the clay bath. It took a while and it doesn’t look the best, but it’s good enough.

However, if we can improve our technique, it may be possible for us to make steel. I’ll have to practice with Alice some more.

Anyway, since the footbath was now complete, Alice’s experiment is now over. I decided to make some simple cookware for Sophia to use.

“Remy, I’ll be making a furnace here so can you put the firewood nearby?”

“…eh? Ah, s-sure. I’ll do it right away!”

Remy, who was still frozen at the gate, finally returned to her senses and put her firewood by me.

“Actually, who exactly are you people? There wasn’t anything here just a few minutes ago. Is it possible to do stuff like this with magic?”

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“This isn’t just magic…. This is what I call the ‘Alice Cheat.’ It’s best if we just leave it at that. It’ll just be bothersome if you try to think about it too much.”

“Haa~…I don’t think I understand, but I can see that you’re all capable of amazing things. I know why Sarah onee-chan made you rank A.”

With Remy watching on in amazement, I created a simple furnace using spirit magic. Remy looked surprised for a moment but then just let out a deep sigh.

“I’m home~”

When I finished creating the furnace, Sophia returned. Now that I think about it, she wasn’t here when we got back. I wonder where she went.

“Welcome back. Where did you go?”

“I went out to get dinner.”

I turned around to see Sophia walking through the gate with a bird in her hands.

“S-Sophia? What are you doing with that bird?”

“I just caught it. Onii-chan, can you dig a hole for me?”

“I can, but what are you going to do…?”

With an unpleasant feeling forming in my gut, I dug out a small hole for her. Sophia stood next to the hole before putting her hand beneath her skirt, pulling out her dagger, and swiftly cut off the bird’s head.

She held the bird over the whole and allowed the blood to pour into it.

“S-S-S-S-So-Sophia, wh-what are you doing!?”

“What do you mean…? I’m draining its blood. If I don’t do this, the meat will be bloody.”

“N-No, I know that, but…isn’t that cruel?”

Eh, what are you saying, onii-chan? You eat meat all the time.”

“That’s, well…umm….”

If I think about it calmly, what Sophia said isn’t wrong. The meat we eat every day comes from animals that have been killed in a similar manner.

I can’t call it cruel if I eat meat.

Still….

Wearing a gothic dress with a dagger in hand and a bleeding headless bird in the other…. It’s so surreal.

Sophia is smiling while watching the blood drain from the bird. Is she just happy about the dinner we’ll be eating…?

“Hey, Leon onii-chan?”

“Yesh!?”

I couldn’t help but yell out in surprise.

“What sounds better: steamed or grilled?”

“Ah…umm, grilled.”

“All right. I’ll get everything ready.”

Sophia put some water in a pan over the furnace and quickly got a fire going. She began warming the bird she had drained of its blood…. At no point did she seem unsure of what to do.

Well, she has been studying cooking at the academy. It’s no wonder she’s so capable.

I guess she was just doing what was necessary. I should make myself useful as well.

“Sophia, is there anything I can do to help?”

“Umm, after I’m done steaming this, can you remove its feathers?”

“…Uku, i-is there a smaller hurdle I could attempt first?”

“After the feathers have been plucked…we need to cut it open and remove its organs.”

“Please, allow me to remove its feathers!”

The cooking was soon completed, but my spirit was exhausted. When I thought about the fact that we’ll have to do this every day…I realized how serious survival is.

Well, it was delicious. Grilled skewers made from fatty bird meat.

We searched through the forest over the next few days with little luck. However, on this day, Alice grabbed Remy’s arm and told her to stop.

“There are two Garu Bears up ahead. One of them seems like a child.”

“– Eh? Where?”

Remy’s expression hardened when she heard this. We have encountered several Garu Bears over the last few days, but this is the first one with a child.

Bears are said to be ferocious when they’re protecting their babies.

“One of them…is on the other side of that tree.”

Alice pointed to a tree straight ahead of us. I looked in that direction but couldn’t see any sign of a bear. However, Remy held her breath.

“This is bad. We should head back and move around them.”

Remy tried to turn around, but Alice grabbed her arm again.

“Don’t worry about it. I can get them to move away.”

“I don’t doubt it, but we should avoid doing anything that would lead to a fight.”

“That’s true…but even so….”

Alice was being evasive. She only gets like this when she has a good reason. I asked her, “Is there a reason we shouldn’t go back?”

“I was staying silent so you wouldn’t get worried, but three people have been following us for the past few days.”

Eeeeehhh!? W-W-What should we do? Do you think they’re bandits!?”

Remy yelled out in surprise.

Her voice was loud, so I was afraid anyone following us may have heard her, but when I turned around I couldn’t see any signs of movement.

“I think they’re a good distance back. At first, I thought it was a coincidence, but they’ll occasionally come within thirty metres. They seem to be following the path we make through the forest.”

“I see….”

We’re steadily making our way through the forest and our path is easy to follow.

However…if that’s the case, it’s no coincidence.

Are they just ordinary bandits…? I couldn’t help but remember what Crane told me earlier. There’s a chance Patrick is after me himself or he’s hired someone….

If so, they’ll be looking for any opportunity to kill us. And if we’re constantly worried about them, we may accidentally walk into a Garu Bear.

Just as I thought this, a bestial roar rang out from in front of us.

“The Garu Bear has detected us and the people behind us seem to be running towards us.”

What terrible timing. No…the people behind us are probably attacking now that the Garu Bear has noticed us.

“All right…. Alice, can you repel the Garu Bear without killing it?”

“Yep. Leave it to me.”

“Then, Alice will handle the bear while I focus on the people behind us.”

“Roger.”

Alice ran out toward the bear as I turned to Sophia.

“Sophia, can you protect Remy?”

“Yeah, leave it to me. Leon onii-chan, be careful.”

“Thanks, I will.”

I smiled to reassure Sophia then turned to Remy.

“Stay quiet and listen to whatever Sophia says.”

“No, umm…what are you all doing? We’re caught between a Garu Bear and bandits. We need to leave immediately!”

Sophia grabbed Remy’s arm as she started to panic.

“Don’t worry. Alice onee-chan will drive off the bear and Leon onii-chan can handle those three.”

“But….”

Sophia gently reassured Remy.

When I confirmed they were in a safe place, I hid as best I could behind a tree. I then waited for the perfect time to launch a surprise against the people following us.

A few tense moments passed before I could hear the sound of someone running through the bushes. Just before he reached the tree I was hiding behind, I jumped out and landed a punch square on his jaw.

…that’s one down.

“You…. What are you doing!?”

Another man noticed me and yelled before running towards me. But these people were planning on attacking us while we fought with the Garu Bear.

In other words, I have nothing to say to them.

“O-Oi!? Stay back — damn it!”

The man panicked before taking up a fighting stance — he’s slow. I stepped forward and easily dodged his attack before sweeping his legs out from under him and kicking him under the jaw. Two down.

The last one left turned to run — but he was soon sent flying through the air. It looks like Sophia took care of him.

“Are you both okay?”

“Remy and I are fine. Alice onee-chan is….”

Sophia said this and looked in the direction of the Garu Bear just as Alice was returning.

“I’m fine too. I drove off the Garu Bear without injuring it.”

“As expected of you.”

I can’t imagine it’s easy to drive off a monster like a Garu Bear without injuring it.

“– Eeeeh!?”

Remy let out another unexpected scream. When I looked over at her she was staring down at the body of the man Sophia had thrown.

What’s wrong…eh? Isn’t that old man Daniel?”

…what’s he doing here? I was sure it was someone hired by Patrick, but Daniel isn’t working for him, is he?

Or is this entirely unrelated to Patrick? Is he still jealous I was made a rank A adventurer?

…well, I guess we’ll find out once we interrogate them. We tied all of them up together.

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