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The next day, the five of us departed for the Sacred Tree.
Hugging Bear came along with me today. I had been with Swaying Bear for a long time yesterday while Hugging Bear returned to the village with Mumuroot-san, so Hugging Bear ended up pouting. After I had realized that was the case, I quickly summoned Hugging Bear and it happily snuggled against me. After spending the last night with it, its overall mood had gotten much better.
I gently patted it, asking it to stay on guard for anything dangerous. We could no longer rely on the barrier, after all.
I had somehow managed to get permission to accompany the group to the Sacred Tree, but since it was deep in a mountain range and protected by a barrier, I wouldn’t be able to see it.
I had been mulling over ways to catch a glimpse of the tree since yesterday, but I didn’t come up with many good ideas. Maybe, I could leap high enough to get on top of a mountain or use earth magic to raise the ground under me so that I could see the tree from higher up, how the plans would work depended on how tall the mountains were.
If only I could summon a bird like Sanya-san’s, then I could see the tree from the bird’s perspective instead…
Sadly, my summons didn’t have such powers, and Hugging Bear couldn’t simply fly me up there To begin with, it made no sense for bears to be able to fly, so there was nothing that could be done about that.
Hugging Bear let out an apologetic whimper, interrupting my thoughts. Did it notice what I was thinking?
「I’m sorry, Hugging Bear. I didn’t mean to put it like that. Please don’t look so sad.」
I gave Hugging Bear a hug and patted it.
「Why did you apologize to Hugging Bear out of nowhere?」
Sanya-san, who was walking beside me, gave me a strange look.
「I kind of said something terrible to Hugging Bear, but it began apologizing to me instead.」
「What did you say to Hugging Bear-chan?」
「I was a bit disappointed that Hugging Bear couldn’t fly so that I could see the tree from above…」
「Huhu, that’s what you were thinking about? It’s already amazing enough that Hugging Bear lets people ride on it. Not to mention how fast it can run.」
Sanya-san laughed and patted Hugging Bear as we walked.
「That’s right. Even though you can’t fly in the sky, I’m very grateful for everything you do for me.」
I was in the wrong here. I always depended on Swaying Bear and Hugging Bear when I needed to go somewhere. Even if I took a nap while riding on them, they always kept running onwards. When I slept in my room, they stood on guard for me.
The moment I told Hugging Bear how grateful I was, it cheered up quite a bit.
「I’m sorry for making you sad.」
I rubbed Hugging Bear’s head and began thinking of another way to see the Sacred Tree since flying really wasn’t an option.
Currently, we were heading to our destination smoothly, not encountering any monsters.
Though we had subjugated all the monsters in the area yesterday, we still shouldn’t let down our guard.
I had Hugging Bear on the lookout for monsters, so it should let us know if we were to come across one.
After traveling for a while longer, we left the forest and saw the mountain range.
This must be the mountain I had heard about yesterday: the Sacred Tree must be just beyond it. Looking at it from up close, the mountain was quite high, so jumping wouldn’t be enough. Hmm, maybe I would be able to climb it instead?
「Looks like there aren’t any monsters around.」
「We still can’t let our guards down.」
Mumuroot-san immediately warned Sanya-san after her carefree comment. Hugging Bear didn’t detect any monsters, but just in case, I used detection magic myself. With it, I might be able to detect the Parasitic Tree and figure out its exact location as well.
Sadly, there was no reaction. Apparently my magic didn’t classify the Parasitic Tree as a monster. Maybe because it detected it as a plant? Or, was it because the barrier concealed it, and my magic couldn’t penetrate through? Either way, I didn’t detect any monsters.
「Is the Sacred Tree up ahead?」
I asked, since my detection magic wasn’t telling me much.
「That’s right. The entrance is right over there.」
So, it really was past this mountain range after all.
I walked closer and spotted a cave entrance, big enough for Hugging Bear to barely squeeze through. In front of it also stood three stone monuments. Yup, this was definitely the entrance.
「Labilata, Young Lady, please wait for us out here.」
So neither of us could enter no matter what? I really wanted to go in, though…
I peeked into the cave, but I couldn’t see anything inside as it was pitch dark.
「Yuna-chan, you can’t go inside.」
I was scolded just for looking inside.
Ugh, I already knew that. I just hoped I could at least see something inside.
「Okay, Arthur, Sanya, let’s go.」
They approached the stone monuments and each placed a hand on one of the stones.
Was this how they entered the cave?
I could sense magical power flowing into the stone monuments.
So, this must be why three people were necessary to get to the tree.
I kept a close eye on them to see what they would do next, but the three of them simply remained still.
「What’s going on?」
Mumuroot-san asked after a while.
「Sanya-san, is something wrong?」
「After transferring magical power to the stone monuments, they should start glowing, enabling us to pass through the barrier.」
「Yet, there is not a speck of light at all.」
Mumuroot-san stepped away from his monument and tried to enter the cave but seemed like he hit an invisible wall.
Arthur-san and Sanya-san also tried to do the same, but to no avail.
From my point of view, they almost looked like they were acting out a pantomime. It was a very strange sight indeed.
「Why isn’t it letting us through? Arthur, Sanya, let’s try again.」
The three channeled magical power into the stone monuments again, but they remained inactive.
「We entered just fine yesterday. I don’t get why today’s different.」
「Perhaps the Parasitic Tree has completely taken over the Sacred Tree… That, or the Sacred Tree won’t let us in because of the Parasitic Tree’s presence.」
「You must be kidding me.」
The three of them looked restless.
The barrier barred them from passing through, even though it worked just fine yesterday, so it made sense for them to start to panic.
The plan to destroy the mountain crossed my mind again. Using Bear magic, I should be able to break through.
The three of them tried activating the stone monuments over and over again, but nothing happened. If they attempted to enter the cave, they were always blocked by an invisible wall.
「Sanya, check on the status of the Sacred Tree.」
Under Mumuroot-san’s instructions, Sanya-san summoned her bird, and flew it towards the top of the mountain.
So, it really was possible to see the tree from above?
The bird soon disappeared over the mountain. Hmm, how would the barrier work on summons? If Sanya-san’s summon could get past the barrier, maybe Swaying Bear and Hugging Bear could, too? Maybe any kind of animal, summoned or not, was fine, and the barrier didn’t distinguish between the two?
Sanya-san closed her eyes to see the bird’s view.
Looking at her, while I do admit how very useful the summon bird’s abilities were, Sanya-san was left completely defenseless in this state.
「It’s even worse than before.」
「Father, what should we do?」
Arthur-san asked the now even more worried Mumuroot-san. Mumuroot-san stayed quiet, however, most likely not being able to think of an answer. Including Labilata, the four of them began brainstorming for any solutions.
I was curious about how the barrier’s wall felt like, so I got close to the cave’s entrance to take a look.
It should be around here. I slowly reached out with my hand to touch it.
Wait, this is weird. I thought the barrier was around here, but I couldn’t feel anything with my hand. I stretched out further with my Bear-san Puppet, but my hand kept going.
Because I expected to be stopped by the barrier, I ended up reaching too far, losing my balance, and tumbling forward.
Sanya-san noticed my fall and called out to me.
Thanks to the Bear Outfit, I was unharmed, but it was still very embarrassing, falling over nothing.
「Yuna-chan, are you okay?」
Sanya-san tried to approach me but then was stopped by an invisible wall.
「Yuna-chan? How are you inside?!」
I got up and looked around. Oh, I actually reached the cave entrance.
Mumuroot-san looked at me with a perplexed expression.
For now, I decided to step away from the cave and out of the barrier.
「Young lady, how did you manage to get past the barrier…?」
I probably should be the one asking him that.
「Um, I just went in normally.」
Testing it, I went to the entrance again. The barrier did not stop me whatsoever, but as Mumuroot-san tried to follow me, he was blocked just like before.
「What’s going on?」
I wanted to ask him the same thing…
If I had to guess as to why I could enter, it would probably be because of my Bear Suit. Actually, that was the only reason I could think of.
However, as I couldn’t explain to them the functions of the Bear Suit, I could only answer with:「I don’t know.」
「Umm, can I go and take a look at the Sacred Tree, then?」
Since I made it past the barrier, there should be no reason I shouldn’t, right?
Mumuroot-san looked troubled but didn’t object.
「Yuna-chan, be careful.」
The four of them all sent me off, and I headed deeper into the cave.
Only after taking a few steps, Hugging Bear followed me and passed the barrier just as naturally as I did.
It looked like Hugging Bear had no problems entering, either. Still, with its big body, it almost scraped along the cave’s walls. It might be better to unsummon it and only bring it out again once we were in a bigger area, but Hugging Bear ignored the narrowness of the path and continued following me.
Well, it seemed like it was fine for now. Only if the path constricted any more, I would have to ask it to return.
Since the cave was very dark, I created a Bear Light to light up our surroundings.
As we delved deeper, the path kept twisting and turning, but eventually, we saw a glimpse of light ahead. That must be the exit.
All this time I feared the path getting narrower, but it seemed like we could make it all the way to the exit. Excitedly, I rushed forward towards the light.
Soon, we were back out in the open, in a wide clearing surrounded by mountains.
The place almost reminded me of a baseball stadium, the rocky mountain surrounding what could have been a playing field.
I glanced up and saw the sun brightly shining down. I could also see a flying bird, but from this distance I couldn’t tell if it was Sanya-san’s summon or some other bird.
Bringing my gaze back to the ground, I noticed a large tree in the center of the area.
That must be the Sacred Tree.
The tree’s trunk was so large that it would take a dozen people hand-in-hand to wrap around it completely. The leaves were very lush as well. The tree looked so grand that if someone called it a legendary tree, I would have to agree with them.
Still, with the Parasitic Tree coiled around it, the Sacred Tree didn’t have much of its majestic air left around it anymore. There were many vines curled all around it, moving around slightly in a rather disgusting way. The parasite looked like it knew I wanted to distance myself away from it, so its vines moved closer to me. It must think of me as food.
I casted some wind magic to slice off a few vines, but while they fell off easily, they also regenerated just as quickly.
The vines must be leeching off the Sacred Tree’s magical power. This was certainly a troublesome situation. If we wanted to take it down, we would have to cut down the Sacred Tree, which served as its source of energy. However, doing so would cause trouble for all the elves. On the other hand, if we left it alone, it would slowly continue turning into a tree that attracted all sorts of monsters.
I had to discuss the situation with Mumuroot-san first, so I left the tree and went back through the cave.
Everybody came up to me anxiously, once I left the barrier.
I briefly explained the situation and asked how we should deal with the tree.
「I’m sure that you are aware that this is our, the elves’ problem. Please understand that this is something we wouldn’t ask you to do if there was no other way, young lady. As we cannot enter the cave, but for some reason, you can, I have no other choice but to ask it of you. Can you please cut down the Sacred Tree?」
Mumuroot-san said and bowed deeply.
「I know. I understand how you three feel, but at this rate, monsters will continue surging through the barrier. If we delay this any longer, maybe even the young lady won’t be able to pass through the barrier anymore… I will take full responsibility for this.」
「Young lady, I beg you. Please cut down the Sacred Tree and the Parasitic Tree with it.」
「Are you sure you want me to do to this?」
「Yes. As I said, I will take responsibility for your actions.」
It seemed like Mumuroot-san had been driven into a corner. The Sacred Tree had been taken over by the Parasitic Tree, and it was now calling monsters towards it. Moreover, the stone monuments wouldn’t let the elves in any more. Now, the only one who could subjugate the tree was me.
「Yuna-chan, I’m begging you, too.」
「In that case, I will return to protect the village. It’s easy if it’s just Volcrows and wolves.」
「Yeah, we’ll be fine even if Tiger Wolves appear.」
「Well, as long as no more Cockatrices show up, right?」
Everybody agreed with the plan of me taking down the Sacred Tree.
They were acting like they were fine with it, but did they really want me to cut it down?
I could hear a tinge of sadness in their words. They were probably forcing themselves so that I wouldn’t feel burdened by the severity of cutting down the tree.
「Are you really, completely sure?」
「Yes, we are. We won’t let you be blamed in any way. We’ll make it look like I was the one who cut it down.」
「No, let’s make it so that the three of us did it.」
Sanya-san said, and Arthur-san nodded in agreement too.
「Still, if it’s possible, please take it down without burning it. We would like to enshrine the wood from the Sacred Tree for protecting our village all the way until now. I know I’m being selfish here, but if you end up in danger and have to use fire, then don’t hesitate.」
It would definitely be a waste to burn down the Sacred Tree. With a tree as big as the Sacred Tree, many useful things could be made out of it. It could still serve a purpose.
「Okay, I understand. I will go cut it down immediately, then.」
I headed back into the cave once again, straight towards the Sacred Tree.
Oh, we’re not done yet.
Thought I could write until Yuna subjugates it in this chapter, but I somehow couldn’t make it that far.
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