Chapter 05 – Spirit of Time
Morning arrived, sunlight pouring through the leaves and branches of the trees. The magic beast, unexpectedly dog-like in its loyalty and now known as “Kotaro” (named by Ruri), traveled with Ruri as she searched the forest for medicinal plants and food. She didn’t know which plants of this world were edible, but the spirits followed her like ducklings and took turns relaying information to her, so she wasn’t worried about plucking anything poisonous by mistake.
“How about this one?”
“That one is safe.”
“It has a funny texture when you eat it!”
Apparently, spirits themselves didn’t eat or drink, but they existed in every corner of this world, so information was often shared between them. Be it knowledge from spirits who lived somewhere devoid of humans or spirits who lived surrounded by humans, information on what was what would reach them.
In addition, while there were many magic beasts in the forest, Kotaro was apparently so strong that he stood at the top of the food chain in these woods. When she had praised him for this, he’d cried with pride. At first, Ruri was so afraid of him that she could barely come near without trembling, but once she finally got used to him, she realized that she could read Kotaro like a book—when he was scared, his tail would slump down; when he was praised, he would wag his tail like a dog. Ruri thought he was adorable.
Once she filled up the basket which Kotaro was holding diligently in his mouth, they all headed back to Chelsie’s place. Chelsie had refitted the barrier so that Kotaro could come inside as well. In front of the house, she was waiting with a big sheet spread out.
“Well, I’ll be. You brought back quite the haul.”
Ruri placed the contents of the basket atop the sheet and began sorting them by type. These were items they were going to sell later at the marketplace in the city. The medicinal plants and fruits that could be picked around Chelsie’s house, which stood in this dense forest that no sane person visited, would fetch a hefty price in the city. The city had a large demi-human population, so the prospect of her first interaction with demi-humans shot Ruri’s excitement through the roof despite the early hour. Seeing as how she would get to see people with cat and dog ears in real life, her enthusiasm was only natural.
As Ruri sorted the items while humming a tune, Chelsie stood beside her with a perturbed look on her face inspecting the medicinal grasses and fruits that Ruri had brought back.
“I need to teach this girl the value of things around here or it could spell trouble…” “Hm? Did you say something?”
“Ruri, come here for a second,” Chelsie said, calling Ruri over to her and proceeding to explain the medicinal grasses and fruits she’d picked out of the forest.
Ruri’d had no idea, but it seemed that the majority of what she picked as instructed by the spirits were either highly-effective medicinal plants or fruits that rarely appeared on the market in large quantities. These were rarities that you wouldn’t normally find even in these parts. Ruri hadn’t traveled too far out, so she assumed that these plants normally grew around here, but Chelsie informed her that was not the case.
Running a rough calculation on the price of these things made Chelsie pinch her temples, but seeing as how she’d never taught Ruri about currency in this world, the girl had no idea how much what she quoted actually was. All Ruri did know was that it was enough to make Chelsie rack her brain. Maybe it was the spirits’ way of trying to please Ruri, but there were even some medicinal plants that were definitely out of season in the mix.
If they went out to sell this many rare items all at once, not only would it destroy their market value, but it was bound to draw unneeded attention. The last thing they needed was somebody with nefarious ideas putting targets on their backs. The city they were going to was a smaller one far away from the royal capital and filled with demi-humans. Outsiders rarely visited, but nothing is ever certain.
Chelsie explained that if they were marked out by shady customers from out of town who couldn’t see spirits, then it would mean trouble. And in this case, the trouble Chelsie was worried about didn’t stem from Ruri herself but the spirits who would act to protect her and their effect on the area as a whole. So Chelsie decided against selling everything and brought only about half of what they had.
She took the remaining half in hand and chucked it in front of her. There, a rift of light suddenly appeared in mid-air and the plants that Chelsie threw disappeared into it. Chelsie continued to chuck fruits and plants into the rift, oblivious to Ruri looking on awe-struck, and within a matter of seconds, the pile of grass and fruits had vanished.
“Chelsie-san, what is that?! That thing there!” “What? I just opened a pocket in space.” “How? A pocket in what?!”
Chelsie looked at a clearly agitated Ruri with a raised brow and after a second of thinking, it dawned on her. “Aah, you didn’t know about this part of our world. Right.” She then went on to explain, “You see, there is a ‘Spirit of Time’ who lives in a world of their own. So by opening
this pocket in space, I access a passage to their dimension. Anything that enters this pocket will be frozen in time. That’s why I threw those medicinal plants and fruits in there just now; so I can preserve them. It’s one person per pocket and the size depends on the wavelength compatibility you have with the spirit and how much mana you possess. It’s a relatively simple piece of magic that even a child with mana could cast.”
“Then even I could do it?” “Give it a try.”
Probably due to all the video games she’d played in the past, she was able to effortlessly picture in her mind and manifest a shining round rift in the air. It felt like it took more of her mana than usual, but faced with this astonishing pocket in space before her, that thought left her mind quickly.
“Ooh~!” She’d made one without any real effort, just as Chelsie said, which really made her stop and think on how magic truly could do just about anything in this world. So long as she had this, she’d never again have to struggle to carry heavy loads or worry about food going past the expiration date. This magic was simply incredible—a housewife’s best friend.
It wasn’t clear what had gotten into her as she stared at the floating pocket, but it compelled Ruri to stick her head into the rift of light. Chelsie’s eyes widened in shock. From the side, it looked like something out of a horror show—a headless torso just sitting there on the ground. Chelsie panicked, grabbing the nape of Ruri’s neck and pulling her out.
“Woah! What are you doing? You’re going to give me whiplash!” Ruri complained, rubbing her neck which was sore from being abruptly yanked.
“I’m the one who should be asking you that! What the hell are you doing?!” “I was curious about what it looked like inside.”
“No one else would be dumb enough to stick their head inside a pocket!”
“Really?” Ignorance could be a terrifying thing. Unlike Chelsie, who was quaking in fear, Ruri simply looked blank before continuing, “But, you know… it’s pretty wide and bright in there.”
“Take a look for yourself, Chelsie-san.”
Ruri nudged the bewildered Chelsie, bringing her in front of the glowing rift in space. Although Chelsie protested vehemently, curiosity got the better of her and she gingerly put her hands on the surface of the pocket. Breathing in and holding her breath, she quickly plunged her head into the unknown.
“This is downright surreal…” Now that Ruri was looking at a woman without a head, she was speechless, realizing that this is what she must have looked like. Chelsie then pulled her head out, her mind blown.
“Chelsie-san?” asked Ruri, waving her hand in front of Chelsie’s face. Chelsie jolted and snapped back to her senses. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little shocked. I never thought that’s what the inside of a pocket would look like.”
“You’ve really never been inside one before?”
“There’s a widespread belief that going inside one is impossible. Plus, the pocket that I’m able to make isn’t that big, so I couldn’t have gone inside it either way.”
Ruri thought for a bit. She wanted to stick her entire body inside, but she didn’t have any confidence that she would be okay judging from how stunned Chelsie looked. While she didn’t want to needlessly endanger herself, from what she’d observed when she’d poked her head inside, she knew that she could at least breathe in there.
“Ungh~ I want to go in, but what should I do?”
What would happen if the entrance closed or she couldn’t get out from the inside? Her curiosity and her anxiety were at odds with one another, and she racked her brain. Then, the spirits spoke to Ruri, giggling.
“They’re telling you to come in.” “‘Telling me to come in’…? Who is?” “You’ll know once you go inside.”
Ruri locked eyes with Chelsie before coming to the conclusion that it had to be safe if the spirits said so. She made the rift big enough to fit her whole body through, and took the plunge.
Just as she’d seen a moment prior, the interior was a vast expanse of space. The walls, the floor, and the ceiling were all pure white. With its high ceiling, the space resembled a giant storehouse. It didn’t have any clear sources of light like lamps or sconces, but it was bright enough to see everything around her clearly.
Chelsie followed her inside and took in her surroundings with great interest. “So this is what it looks like in here.”
“They said someone was calling me, but who?” “Me.”
The unexpected third voice reverberated in Ruri and Chelsie’s heads, causing them both to jump in surprise and look around frantically for where it had come from. That was when, out of literally nowhere, a beautiful girl with a transparent body appeared, floating in mid-air.
“Gaaaaaaaah! A ghoooost!” Ruri exclaimed, belting out a loud, unladylike scream before hiding behind Chelsie, quaking in fear.
There were two things Ruri absolutely hated: bugs and ghosts. She knew that living in the forest without seeing a bug was a tall order, but she wanted to be at ease in the sphere of her daily activities, so she cast a barrier similar to Chelsie’s which prevented insects from coming near her. She was just as bad with ghosts and paranormal phenomena as she was with bugs. It made her forget that this newcomer looked like a very young maiden.
“Hey, settle down! This isn’t a ghost, it’s a spirit.”
“A spirit…?” Ruri timidly peeked out from behind Chelsie, halfway to tears, to see a young girl with long, pure white hair and golden eyes. She looked around Ruri’s age and stared back with an awkward expression on her face. She had a gentle demeanor, the aforementioned transparent body, and sprouting from her back were the same wings that the spirits around Ruri possessed. “But her size is on a different level…”
The spirits Ruri was familiar with were all palm-sized little runts, but the girl before her was regular human-sized, comparable to Chelsie and Ruri herself.
“This is because I am a higher level spirit than they. A spirit’s appearance will change according to the power they possess.”
Now realizing that she wasn’t a ghost, Ruri regained her composure and apologized for throwing such a huge fit. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry. You possess a large supply of mana, just as I’d heard. There truly aren’t very many people capable of creating a space this big… But after hearing about you from the spirits on the outside, I had to see you for myself. I can’t go out into the place you reside in, you see,” said the spirit with a somewhat lonely expression.
“Why not? The pocket is still connected to the outside, we can go out together if you want.” “… Thank you. But I am the Spirit of Time, so I cannot leave this dimension.”
“You’re the Spirit of Time?!” Chelsie abruptly screamed, startling Ruri.
“Chelsie-san, you’re going to give me a heart attack if you just up and yell like that again.”
“How do you expect me not to yell?! This is the Spirit of Time, child. A legendary spirit purported to never reveal itself to humans!”
“Huh, you don’t say…”
Upon seeing Ruri’s clueless reaction to her news, Chelsie slumped her shoulders in disappointment, saying, “Figured that would mean nothing to you…”
“Uh-huh, yeah, I just learned what a ‘Spirit of Time’ was a few moments ago. …By the way, can a Spirit of Time fast forward and rewind time? Like looking at the world ten years into the future?” Ruri asked, the name “Spirit of Time” making the word “time slip” pop into her head, causing her imagination to run wild.
“Since controlling time requires a large amount of mana, moving time for the entire world would take more mana than the world has to offer.”
“But, time here is stopped, right?”
“This is my domain; I govern its time and space. This space is not the same as the outside
world, so it is not bound by the flow of its time. Hence why that which crosses into this realm will retain the form it came in with.”
“So does that mean that as long as we’re in here, we’ll never age?”
“In a sense, yes. But if a living being were to stay here for a long duration, it would have negative effects on their psyche, so I do not recommend it. They might go mad or become unable to function, for instance…”
Her unsettling wording made Ruri and Chelsie both go pale. “Then we should definitely get out of here!”
“Yes, let’s not dawdle.”
The two were about to make a break for the outside, but Ruri suddenly turned around to see the spirit smiling sadly back at them, all by her lonesome—a sight that hurt Ruri’s heart. “Say, are you here by yourself? Where are the other spirits?”
“I am the only one. The spirits outside will sometimes tell me of the goings-on of the outside world, but I cannot meet with them.”
“How long does it take? Being in this world before it affects you, I mean? A few hours?”
“Huh? Oh, well, I believe as long as you’re not here every day, it should be safe. And I believe that with your strong mana it would be harder for you to be affected than it would others.”
That was all that Ruri needed to hear, and she made up her mind. “Then I’ll stop by to keep you company every now and then.”
The spirit’s eyes opened wide as she uttered, “Huh…?”
“We’re planning on going to the city. I’ll buy you something interesting to play with, so you can look forward to that.”
“You’re going to come back to see me…?” “Yes, I will.”
The spirit covered her face with her hands as her emotions proved too much to contain. A stream of tears began to roll down her face.
“Hic… Thank… you…” the spirit said, her words of appreciation disjointed from crying.
Then, Ruri wished her farewell and exited the dimension with Chelsie, who looked at Ruri with a reprimanding glare. The spirit told her that a small amount of time inside would be fine, but there was no way to ensure that it would be completely safe. Concerning news, but it still didn’t change Ruri’s mind.
“Are you sure about this?”
“Well, I couldn’t just leave her there…”
She was certainly afraid, knowing that she could go mad in there, but seeing the spirit’s forlorn expression had tugged at Ruri’s heartstrings. Ruri had always been lonely. She wasn’t able to make friends or pursue romantic interests without them going head over heels for Asahi immediately, so she’d basically had no one to open up to.
This situation was different, and while she hadn’t been completely isolated, seeing as how she was allowed to roam outside freely and see whomever she pleased, she understood loneliness and the yearning for companionship. Chelsie conceded, realizing nothing she could say would change Ruri’s mind.
First a pet and now a new friend. It made her recall being dumped into this forest to die, entirely alone, and she reflected in unexpected pleasure at how her life had taken such a happy turn.