Chapter 4-15 : Survey Expedition Ⅰ
While talking with Iris, Nord noticed something clinging to her backpack.
It was Kurumi.
When the two left home, Iris was so happy, saying, “It’s finally my turn to hug her!”. She was planning to hug Kurumi while walking, but then Kate persuaded her to release Kurumi because Sarasa wouldn’t be able to control her when they were in danger. Then, Iris reluctantly put Kurumi on top of her backpack.
「Is that a Homunculus?」(Nord)
「Yup. Store Owner-dono was worried about us so she created her. How did you know that she’s a Homunculus?」(Iris)
「As a monster researcher, I was once interested in them, but I’ve never seen a Homunculus with the appearance of a little bear. The most popular ones are cats and birds because alchemists normally use Homunculi to survey some places before they go to collect materials. However, they usually use wolves for combat. Also, as far as I know, alchemists don’t usually make big Homunculi because you need more effort, time, and materials.」(Nord)
To make a big Homunculus, first of all, you will need a big culture vessel.
For example, if Sarasa wanted to make Kurumi the size of an actual bear, she would need at least a two-meter tall culture vessel.
She would also have to prepare much more materials, and it would take several months, even a few years to complete. Moreover, she would have to keep injecting her magical power regularly until it was completed.
Because making a big Homunculus is very troublesome, alchemists prefer to make small ones like birds, cats, hamsters, dogs, etc.
「Hmm… Apart from its size, there’s something strange about this Homunculus…」(Nord)
Nord put his index finger and thumb on his chin and stared at Kurumi.
「What are you talking about? Look at her! She’s cute! There’s nothing wrong with her!」(Iris)
Iris then gently grabbed Kurumi with both hands and stretched her arms toward Nord, showing him how cute she was.
Kurumi then looked at Nord and tilted her head cutely.
「Well, I won’t deny that, but that’s not what I mean. Sarasa-kun is not controlling it right now, right? Normally, you won’t let your Homunculus move by itself when they’re far away from you.」(Nord)
The more distance between you and your Homunculus, the more magical powers required to maintain them and the more difficult for you to control them.
If you are far away from your Homunculus and reach the point where you can no longer supply it with your magical power, the Homunculus will automatically consume the magical power stored in its body.
Sadly, your Homunculus will crumble and die when it uses up all the magical power in its body.
That’s why you normally turn your Homunculus into sleep mode when you are away from them.
Nord was confused. He didn’t know what Sarasa was thinking. She let her Homunculus move by itself when she knew that it would be far away from her for several weeks.
Nord then began to think that perhaps there was something special about Sarasa’s Homunculus knowing that she was a skilled alchemist.
「Hmm… I’m curious~ Can I borrow this little bear for a moment?」(Nord)
「Eh!? No way! I won’t let you touch Kurumi!」(Iris)
Seeing Nord who was smiling like a mad scientist, Iris reflexively stepped back, pulled her arms, and hugged Kurumi tightly.
Kate then immediately stepped in between the two and stretched her arms sideways.
「Nord-san, Store Owner-san entrusted Kurumi to us. We can’t let you use her as your research subject!」(Kate)
「Ahaha… Okay, I understand. I’m sorry.」(Nord)
Being glared at by Kate, Nord nodded and smiled.
「Well, I will ask Sarasa-kun about this little bear when we get home. Alright then, shall we get going?」(Nord)
「…Yeah, let’s get going. We will lead the way, so please stay close to us.」(Kate)
The three of them then entered the forest and went deeper into the Great Sea of Trees.
While they were walking, Nord occasionally glanced curiously at Kurumi who was clinging to Iris’ backpack.
◇ ◇ ◇
On the first day, they didn’t encounter any danger at all.
It was the third time Iris and Kate had passed the same path. They were quite familiar with the path to the volcano, so everything went smoothly so far.
However, on the third day, their pace became much slower.
The reason was…
「Oh! Isn’t this a Cracked Mushroom!? It’s one of the rarest mushrooms in the world! Let’s see… The width of the crack is three centimeters… The tree where it grows is a New Crite Tree… the humidity level is high, and there’s moss growing around it…」(Nord)
While observing the mushroom, Nord wrote any information he got on his note.
「Hm!? Is that a subterranean plant called Blef Cario? Awesome! …The stem is quite thick. Is it because of the influence of the soil…? Ooh!? There’s a colony of Meonidy plants on that riverside! I wonder why their underwater flowers haven’t grown yet. Is it because the location is kinda weird?」(Nord)
As you can tell, the reason why they rarely made any progress was that Nord frequently stopped to observe rare plants on the way.
Once he stopped, it would take him an hour to start walking again.
「Somehow, he reminds me of Store Owner-dono…」(Iris)
Nord would pay Iris and Kate based on the number of days they escorted him, so the longer it took, the more money they would get.
At first, they didn’t complain and had been silently watching Nord observing weird plants along the way, but while the first day was uneventful, monsters started appearing on the third day.
Iris and Kate could defeat them no problem, but they eventually got annoyed because Nord kept stopping.
「Nord-san, we need to keep moving! This area is full of monsters!」(Iris)
「Hold on! I’ll be done in one minute! No, five minutes!」(Nord)
「Oh, come on! You had already studied plants in this forest for five days while waiting for your Floating Tent, right?」(Kate)
「Yeah, but I didn’t go this far into the forest. The vegetation in this area is totally different from the area around the village. As a researcher, I can’t miss the chance to study it!」(Nord)
「Khh…! I don’t know anything about your research, and I don’t want to scold you too much because you’re our hirer, but our food supplies won’t last until we return if we rarely make progress!」(Iris)
「She’s right. You don’t want to die starving, do you?」(Kate)
「Uhh… Alright then…」(Nord)
Not being able to argue back, Nord stood up and left the rare plant he was observing.
The amount of food they brought was limited, and they couldn’t rely on the food in the forest either.
After all, most of the fruits and animals in the Great Sea of Trees are still unknown, and they shouldn’t carelessly eat them because they might be poisonous like the honey from Rotten Fruit Bees they ate a while ago.