“Finally, we made it out!”
After a long dungeon life, we reached the outside world again. Needless to say, that last staircase was several times harder than fighting any monster.
We came out on the side of the mountain. When I looked up, the peak was obscured by a cloud. Looking down, I could faintly see the roofs of the city buildings. It’s like an overgrown mountain with lush vegetation and wild animals.
“Even so, it’s a little… hard to breath up here.”
“Even if we’re only partway up, we’re still fairly high in the atmosphere. It’s already chilly, and I think it’ll gets really cold at night.”
Lusha stretched and looked around.
“We should try to find the alchemist quickly, but if we can’t, we might need a good camping spot. Hopefully there will be a cave or something like that.”
“You’re right, we need to find it soon… hey, wait, is that smoke?”
Just as we were discussing our next course of action, I saw smoke rising in the distance. A wildfire would have a large amount of black smoke, but this was a thin gray strand.
Ren and Ruri also saw it and commented that it didn’t seem like a wildfire. Lusha clapped her hands as if knowing something and looked at us.
“Hey, do you think maybe that’s the alchemist’s house? That smoke looks like it’s coming out of a chimney.”
“Oh, that’s smoke from a fireplace, of course!”
“In that case, we know exactly where we’re going.”
Lusha immediately rushed onward, she seemed happy at the thought of finding our destination. She was practically skipping along joyfully, and it’s somewhat cute, like how a slime hops around.
However, this is a mountain, and no doubt monsters will be living here as well. It’s better to take a short break first and then head there carefully.
…Or so I originally thought.
“What’s with this mountain? There don’t seem to be any monsters at all,” I commented.
Lusha pondered it as well. “There’s wild animals, but I wonder why there’s nothing else. Even in small forests and meadows, you’ll at least run into a few slimes.”
There were no monsters. Despite our wariness of the surroundings, not a single monster came out.
“I can’t even detect them with Search, so it seems there really aren’t any monsters here,” said Ruri.
“Could the whole mountain really be like this? I mean, there were plenty of monsters in the dungeon.”
“Indeed, that dungeon was packed with monsters.”
I thought there might be something wrong, but Ren was just amused at how serious I was treating this good fortune. I wouldn’t be able to figure out why no matter how much I thought about it, and we’d finally reached the origin of the smoke anyway.
A pale green plant with colorful flowers. The house had a small red roof and was covered with a rose-flowered ivy. It reminded me of those fake plants with too many flowers, even as butterflies flew around them in search of nectar.
“It’s like we walked right into a picture book.”
“Right? And like Lusha said, the smoke is coming from the chimney.”
Ruri seems to like the house in front of her, and she looks at the flowers happily.
Speaking of me, I can’t help but wonder if there is the alchemist in this house. Because whether we can lift the Ren’s curse is depends on the alchemist’s hands here.
“For now, let’s talk to them about it first since it seems there are people inside.”
It was a wooden house with a lamp hanging at the entrance. There was a small window right next to it, but the glass was too cloudy to see inside. When I knocked, I heard a high voice from inside, and the door opened almost instantly.
“Who is it~ …oh, Hiroki!”
“Pino! Fancy meeting you here!”
It was Pino, the elf alchemist I met in the Sea of Trees on the way to Apricot.
“Wait, was Pino the skilled alchemist living on this mountain!?”
“So you wanted to meet my master? Unfortunately my master is out right now… well, come in.”
Apparently, Pino was a disciple of the alchemist we were looking for. When we went inside, I saw Hassan and Liliana relaxing in chairs.
“Hey, ain’t that Hiroki?”
“Hello, we meet again.”
They seemed welcoming as usual, and gestured for us all to have a seat. Ren secretly got my attention and quietly asked, “What’s going on? Did you already know each other?”
I explained how we got to know each other at a normal volume so that Ruri would also hear me. “Oh, they helped us a bit when we were going through the Sea of Trees. They’re good people.”
“Oh, how nice of them. Thank you for helping him out.” Ren just greeted them spontaneously, and all I could think about was how much he was acting like my mother.
“It’s fine! I’m Hassan, a hammer wielding vanguard, who is also a dwarf.”
“I’m Liliana. We’re Pino’s guards.”
“I’m Pino, an alchemist. I was just about to make dinner, so you came at the right time! I got some unusual meat today, so be sure to eat up!”
It was an easygoing introduction from the three of them, and I’m glad it went well, but Pino’s invitation to dinner was a bit disturbing. She’s a little scary because she treats eating monsters like it’s something normal.
“My name is Ren. I come from the same hometown as Hiroki.”
“My name is Ruri. This is a very nice house, isn’t it?”
After Ren and Ruri introduced themselves too, Pino had served us tea and I decided to explain why I’ve come here to see the alchemist.
“I see… so you wanted to make a curse-cleansing potion from the Apricot grass, huh?”
She said it was certainly impossible for just any alchemist to make it.
“I want to get it as soon as possible, but when will your master return? Do you know if they can make that potion for us?”
“Of course my master can make it. That would be easy for him. But master said he won’t be back for a while… maybe six months at the earliest.”
“That’s a long time…”
We felt despair at the time Pino told us that when her master will be back. Ren wouldn’t last another six months. When I bit my lip, Pino, who seemed to have sensed our circumstances, said seriously, “It looks like an urgent need… and there’s only one reason you’d need a curse-cleansing potion so quickly.”
To lift Ren’s curse. There could be no other reason I needed it in a hurry. I nodded quietly, telling her a curse needed lifted.
“If you have any idea where your master went, please tell me.”
“…It’s not an easy place to go, like in the depths of the forest or a steep valley, you know?”
If he’s not here, I just have to find him. When she heard that, Pino laughed and said, “I think it’s impossible.”
Liliana spoke up. “Hey, Pino. If you already knew that, you don’t have to be so mean, do you?”
“Huh? What are you saying, Liliana?”
“Pino can make that potion herself, you know?”
“What!?” The four of us exclaimed all at once. After all, we were under the impression that only a master in the field could make a curse-cleansing potion! Pino puffed her cheeks out indignantly. “That’s because Hiroki said it’s impossible to make except for a master!”
“That’s not something to worry about, stop sulking.”
“If you could just make it yourself, please tell me that from the start…”
I sat in my chair, feeling drained from the sudden release of stress, then looked at Pino and asked, “Can you make it for me?”
“Well, I have to admit, even though I look like this, I’m a pretty good alchemist!”
I sighed grandly at Pino who is looking triumphantly while patted her chest.
“Seriously, why didn’t you tell me from the start?”
“Well, now. I’d like to say I’ll go ahead and make it if you want, but I don’t actually have the ingredients.”
In response to Pino’s apologetic expression, I immediately took the apricot grass out of my bag and showed it to her. “If it’s apricot grass, we’ve already collected it!”
“Wow, that’s great! You sure found a lot, even though it’s quite rare. But we still lack one ingredient.”
“One more, you said?”
“Yeah, but it’s a material that can be collected from this mountain, so if you have the ability to come this far, it’s not that difficult to find.”
Pino grabbed a book from the bookshelf by the wall and opened to a page in the middle. What was written there was ― this world’s characters that I couldn’t read. I had completely forgotten about it, since Lusha always read things for me. Not being able to read is kind of embarrassing… Ruri sat next to me and started reading aloud.
“[Drops of The Great Tree]. The blessing of the mountain brought by the great tree that grows on the summit, it’s said to only exist at a certain level of the sacred mountain. It’s extremely rare and valuable water.”
Did she learn this world’s language? While impressed by Ruri, I asked Pino, “Is it easy to collect?”
“Yes. The spring is just below the Great Tree at the top of the mountain, and if you dive under it, you can find the area to collect the drops.”
“I see, so our destination is the spring, huh.”
In that case, we should be able to collect it. Looking at Lusha and others, we immediately decided to aim for the Drops of the Great Tree at the top of the mountain.