Chapter 4-39 : Looking For An Exit Ⅲ
「Umm… I’m sorry if I sound rude but… Store Owner-dono, it looks like junk…」(Iris)
At first glance, the tool looked like a board with a drawing of a complicated magic pattern and other objects sticking to it in an awkward way.
『Well, unlike a proper artifact, it looks terrible, but it works.』(Kurumi)
Iris and the others were not alchemists, so it was natural that they thought that junk-like tool wouldn’t work, but they believe in Sarasa. If she says it works, then it works.
「So, Kurumi will use this juー I mean, this tool to determine the right path for us?」(Iris)
『Yup. It’s a bit fragile, so be careful not to break it.』(Kurumi)
「Since I have plenty of room in my bag now, I’ll carry it. I’ll be careful.」(Nord)
As he said that, Nord looked at the wreckage of his precious artifacts that had been disassembled.
Compared to the number of unused parts piled up in the wreckage, there were not many parts that were used to make the tool.
「Store Owner-dono, can we still use these artifacts?」(Iris)
『No. They’re garbage now.』(Kurumi)
「I see… That’s too bad.」(Iris)
「It’s okay. As long as we can get out of here, this sacrifice will be worth it.」(Nord)
Artifacts are the combination of alchemy materials and parts that form the base of the artifacts. If you take out any necessary parts, then the artifacts can no longer be used.
「If that’s the case, then we can just leave them here. Store Owner-san, thank you.」(Kate)
『No problem. I’m out now. I don’t want to waste the magic stones, so I won’t link with Kurumi fully from now on. Good luck.』(Kurumi)
Right after she hurriedly wrote that on the ground, Kurumi sat for a moment and looked up at Iris.
「It’s Kurumi, huh?」(Iris)
Kurumi stood up and nodded as if saying, “Yeah, it’s me!”, responding to Iris’ question.
After Iris confirmed that it was Kurumi, she gently grabbed her body and lifted her up.
「Aa-ahh, I didn’t get a chance to say thank you.」(Iris)
「Me neither. Somehow she looked like she was in a hurry when she wrote on the ground just now. Perhaps she almost reached her limit. She had been linking her mind with our little bear’s for almost an hour from her home, so she must have used a lot of magical power.」(Nord)
「That must be the case. She had been doing something that most alchemists can’t do for a long duration. It must have been tough for her…」(Kate)
「You’re right. In order to thank her and repay her kindness, we have to make it home no matter what!」(Iris)
After Iris said that, the three of them looked at each other and nodded.
「Ah, by the way, she said that she won’t link with Kurumi fully from now on, right? Does that mean that she will link with Kurumi but not entirely? What’s the difference?」(Iris)
「Not entirely linking with a Homunculus means that you can only share the same sight and hearing without being able to move the Homunculus’ body. It consumes less magical power but since our little bear will need magical power to use the tool, I think Sarasa-kun will only link to check on us from time to time.」(Nord)
「In other words, we can’t expect Store Owner-san’s help anymore…?」(Kate)
After Kate said that with a somewhat disappointed face, Iris shook her head.
「She has helped us enough. She gave us the emergency pack so that we can survive and a tool to help us find an exit. From here on, we need to do it ourselves. Right, Kurumi?」(Iris)
Kurumi cheerfully raised her hand at Iris who was smiling at her while holding her with both hands.
◇ ◇ ◇
Sarasa had made them a tool that imitated an artifact called Passage Exit Detector. She said that Kurumi would be the one to use it, but Iris and the others were somewhat worried about whether Kurumi would be able to do it or not.
However, the opportunity for Kurumi to prove that she could use the tool soon came.
After taking a break for about fifteen minutes while drinking sweet water produced with the orange Spring Water Bottle, Iris, Kate, and Nord continued their exploration, and a few minutes later, they found a three-way branched path.
One path was wide enough for them to pass through by crouching, another one was a bit narrow and they had to walk sideways to pass it through, and the last one was a hole that couldn’t be passed through without crawling.
「The last time we found a branched path like this, we went to the widest one first, but…」(Iris)
「I think it’s time to use the tool.」(Kate)
「Alright. Should I put it on the ground like this?」(Nord)
Nord took out the tool from his backpack and put it on the ground.
Iris then replied to him with a nod and slowly put Kurumi down.
「Kurumi, we’re counting on you!」(Iris)
Kurumi approached the tool and put her hands on it.
Along with her groan, the tool began to emit a faint light. After that, she took her hands off the tool and started running in a circle around the tool.
「Gauu, gau! Gauu, gau!」(Kurumi)
As Kurumi ran around the tool, the light emitted from it grew brighter and thenー
Kurumi stopped running, shouted, and raised her both hands.
Iris and the others, who were watching the ritual, noticed that Kurumi stopped moving.
「Is it… over?」(Iris)
Kurumi responded to Iris’ question with a nod and pointed her hand to one of the paths.
「Gau, gau. Gau.」(Kurumi)
She then shook her head and made an X sign with her hands.
「This one is a dead end?」(Iris)
After nodding to Iris, Kurumi pointed her hand to the path with a narrow gap and made the same gesture.
「I see. So these two paths are dead ends. How about the other one?」(Iris)
Answering Iris’ question, Kurumi made a circle sign with her hands, saying that the other path was not a dead end.
Because her hands were small, she looked funny when she made a circle sign.
「Phu! …Ahem. So that means we can pass through this path, right?」(Iris)
Seeing Kurumi’s funny gesture, Iris giggled a bit. She then asked Kurumi to confirm.
「I see. Thank you, Kurumi. But… We have to pass through this pathー No, this hole, huh…?」(Iris)
Iris thanked Kurumi with a smile and then turned her gaze to the hole that couldn’t be passed through without crawling.
It was very small. Too small if they crawled while carrying their backpacks on their backs. Moreover, they couldn’t see the end because it was long and dark.
「Well, we have no other choice. We can tie our backpacks with a rope and pull them as we crawl through.」(Kate)
「Yeah, you’re right…」(Iris)
「Iris-kun, if you don’t want to go first, I’ll go first then.」(Nord)
Nord said that to Iris who sighed as she put down her backpack, but Iris shook her head without hesitation.
「No, we’re your escorts, so we have to go first to confirm that it’s safe to pass.」(Iris)
After tying her right foot to her backpack with a rope, Iris took a deep breath and approached the hole.
「Alright. Here we goー」(Iris)
However, Kurumi suddenly stood in front of her and spread her hands, trying to stop Iris.
「Kurumi? What’s wrong?」(Iris)
「I think she says, “I’ll go first.”」(Kate)
Kurumi pointed her hand to Kate and nodded as if saying, “Exactly!”
After that, she waved her hand to Iris, turned around, and walked toward the hole.
「Now I think she says, “Follow me!”」(Kate)
「Alright then. Kurumi, lead the way!」(Iris)
After seeing Kurumi enter the hole, Iris crouched down and started crawling, following her.
「You’re small but you look reliable. Kurumi, you’re so cool!」(Iris)