A Red Flower and a White Cat
The next morning…I crawled out of the tent, feeling quite exhausted…
“That is no good Asagi. Go and wash up before this Snow Cat arrives.”
While I felt that she was responsible for my current state, I didn’t feel like arguing. And so I stretched my limbs and went back into the tent in order to wash up. We had magic tools that provided warm water, so I was able to wipe my body with a cloth. It wasn’t a full shower, but it was better than nothing.
By the time I was done, I felt clean and fully awake. I changed into my wind dragon equipment and attached the demon armor sword to my belt before throwing the Snow Arachne cape over my shoulders.
The others were just about to finish cleaning up the venue. I offered to give them a hand, but they refused. And since I didn’t want to get in their way, I had come out to the forest.
Our purpose was to find the ruins.
Once I saw that there was no one around, I activated Eyes of the God Wolf. I wanted to see towards the far depths, where the Asul lake was located.
My vision rose higher and higher until I had a bird’s eye view of the forest. To the far south of our current position, I could see a great blue lake. Judging by the fact that there was a small island in the center, it must be the Asul lake.
It really was beautiful to look at. The surrounding banks were covered in snow, and perhaps due to the light reflecting off the water, it all looked blue. Add to that the sparkles of the sunlight bouncing off of it, and you had something that was breathtaking.
Still, this was where the Blue Dragon lived. The thought sent a chill down my spine… It was like the thorns of a beautiful rose.
As I looked down at the lake, the surface began to ripple, and I could see a vague shadow moving below it. It was long and thin. It moved slowly around the island before disappearing to the bottom of the lake.
Daniela had once told me that water dragons had very long tails. I didn’t know how long this one was, but my estimate was that it exceeded twenty meters. While most of its body was its tail, it was still frightening…
After seeing the surface become calm again, I moved my gaze elsewhere.
As I moved towards the island, I was able to spot the building in the center. It was a small structure and mostly hidden by trees. It kind of looked like a church. It had a roof like a wizard’s hat.
“It’s held up quite well…”
There were parts that had crumbled, but the overall shape had been maintained. Perhaps the door had been made of wood, as nothing of it seemed to have survived. But the rest of the building might be some other special material. And just like the ruin that housed the Automata, it was likely just a disguise for something else.
I then moved away and searched the surrounding area, but was unable to find any monsters. It was not too surprising, as the Blue Dragon would prevent even animals from landing.
Just then, something entered my vision. I moved closer to it and had to chuckle.
“There it is… Heh. I’ll have to tell Ash and Mishka!”
It was the Ijilis flower. I had thought that it must be somewhere deeper in, since they were having trouble finding it, but I hadn’t expected it to be growing at our destination.
Besides, there was a good possibility that grew near the surrounding shore as well. This felt like fate. Mishka’s mother would surely be saved. If I stored the flower in the hollow bag, it could be preserved perfectly. That would be simple enough once we killed that Blue Dragon.
“Alright… I better tell them!”
I turned off Eyes of the God Wolf and headed back to the settlement.
□ □ □ □
When we returned, they had finished clearing the venue, and only our tent remained in the clearing. I saw that Daniela was about to start cleaning up, and so I jogged over to her.
“Where were you?”
She looked a little annoyed. But as I had found an Ijilis flower, I couldn’t help but smile at her, which made her narrow her eyebrows.
“I’ve been looking at the Asul lake. And the ruins there. And I just so happened to find the Ijilis flower too.”
She dropped the blanket that she was folding and stood up. I nodded, and she smiled back at me.
“I see… I see! That is good news. You must tell them.”
“Yeah. I’ll go as soon as we finish here.”
She nodded. And so I took down the tent and we finished packing everything in a few minutes. After that, we walked around the settlement and saw that the children were playing.
“Ah, it’s Mister Asagi!”
What. I think they needed to be disciplined…
“Look here. I’m not that old.”
“No. I’m not an old man.”
“You don’t look like a young man.”
“You’re kidding… I’m only twenty-two…”
Maybe when I was in elementary school, someone that age would look old…
“Well, nevermind… Do any of you know where Mishka’s house is?”
“I do. Over here!”
And so this old man was led by the hands by two young girls through the settlement. We moved through houses until we reached a small house that was a short distance from the others.
“Thanks. See you later then.”
Considering that is was secluded, it seemed like the mother was being isolated due to her illness. It seemed a little sad, but this was a small community, and they really had no choice. There wasn’t even a proper doctor nearby…
And so Daniela and I separated from the children and headed to the house. Ash must have heard us coming, because he poked his head out form the door.
“Ah, it’s you. What brings you here?”
“Ash. I have good news. I found the flower.”
His eyes widened.
“Yes. On the islet in the Asul lake. I saw it just blooming near the ancient elven ruin.”
“You already went there?! Oh. You did say something about a skill you had… I see. So it’s there…now…”
He clenched his fists and his eyes filled with tears. Seeing him like this made me more determined to acquire it. Yes, the Blue Dragon was intimidating. It was a high wall to climb. However, I had Legs of the God Wolf. With these legs, there was no barrier I couldn’t overcome.
“Thank you, Asagi. I now have hope for my wife.”
“Perhaps it’s too early to be happy. But I will kill this Blue Dragon no matter what.”
“Ah…I’m sure you will.”
“Is it not about time for this Lord Snow Cat to arrive?”
Daniela said. I looked up at the sky. Well, it was passed the morning. Maybe it had slept in. What was this Snow Cat like…?
“Alright. We should go to the chief then.”
As we walked with Ash, I felt someone’s eyes on us. Mishka was looking at us from the door of their house. I waved and she waved back happily but quietly. She was probably concerned about her mother.
“Don’t worry. We’ll bring it back…”
“Asagi. Hurry up.”
With a renewed resolve, I headed to the chief’s house.
□ □ □ □
He was waiting for us in front of the entrance. According to him, the Lord Snow Cat should have arrived by now, but had not.
“Well, the Lord Snow Cat does like to sleep.”
So I was right. Well, cats did as they pleased. There was no helping that.
As we chatted a little, the temperature suddenly started to drop. I was wearing winter clothes, but it was still cold.
“The weather must be bad today.”
“It is quite cold…”
“Ah, here it comes.”
‘Huh?’ I was just about to ask, but a freezing gust of wind assaulted us. As I raised my arm to cover my face, I widened the range of Presence Detection. In an instant, I detected a large presence, and nearly grabbed the hilt of my sword.
“I have not smelled that in a long time…a human.”
The low growl accompanying the wind seemed to reverberate through my being. I slowly lowered my arms and raised my head. There in front of us, was a white leopard.
“Is it you? The foolish bastard who wants to take on the Blue Dragon.”
“Uh, um… Yeah.”
“Can you do it? A mere human like you?”
Was this an interrogation? The leopard crouched to my level and stared into my face with its yellow eyes.
“…I will do it. I have no choice.”
“And you think such a nonsensical reason will make it happen?”
“I said that I would. And there’s no going forward until that’s done.”
I stared back. After a while, the Lord Snow Cat seemed to be satisfied, and it stood upright.
“Hmph. Very well. I will help you… That is what I was going to say, but no, I will not.”
The hell? I looked over to the chief, and he also looked like he was surprised.
“I wish that I could, I really do. But I cannot. You see, you’re already a thrall.”
Yes, of the God Wolf. Rachel. And I couldn’t change now.
“And from what I can sense, that woman over there has no intention of being one either.”
“I mean no offense.”
“Ah. It is a great pity for you, elf.”
“I will do as I please. That is all.”
“I see. Then I shall also do as I please. That Blue Dragon is a nuisance. It is in my territory.”
Apparently, it was finished asking questions. While it wasn’t the most polite, it was kind… I think?
In any case, I was just relieved that the mood didn’t turn into anything hostile.
The Lord Snow Cat scratched its head and then yawned.
“Ahh. Well, I didn’t think that I would be able to do it alone. So I will allow you to come, just as long as you don’t get in my way.”
“We’ll be careful.”
Maybe we would manage just fine after all. It sounded like we had help, at least. So, maybe a war council was in order…
“Now, let us go at once. Hey, Leonardo. I will expect food upon my return.”
“Certainly, Lord Snow Cat.”
“See you there!”
I tried to stop it, but the Snow Cat was gone with the freezing wind. The only thing that remained was us, frozen and speechless.
Would we really be alright? I was suddenly very worried as I looked up at the sky.
However, there wasn’t a single cloud. It was a beautiful day.