18-21. Hidden Village of Midgets
※ This story takes place a bit before 13-17.
Satou here. If we're talking about flower viewing, the image of securing a spot, putting up a sheet early in the morning and enjoying food and drink together with your affable friends comes up.
But just quietly watching sakura trees during a stroll like your grandparents do sounds like a good time too once in a while.
"Okay then, cheers!"
At the royal capital's park where sakura trees are blooming profusely, Arisa raised her glass high leading the group to a toast.
Of course, besides me, every one of them is drinking sakura-colored fruit water and carbonated drink.
Zena Unit who's usually around as our bodyguards isn't present this time since they got called to Earl Seryuu's mansion in the capital this morning. And since Lady Karina was forced to take part in an etiquette training in anticipation for a large-scale party being held soon, only the usual members are here today.
"The sakura trees look so pretty."
"Apparently these sakura trees are grafted from the branches of the Giant Sakura Tree in the royal castle."
The Giant Sakura Tree in the castle hasn't fully bloomed yet seen from afar, but the sakura trees in this park are practically all in full bloom already.
Many groups of people are laying down mats and enjoying the views while singing and dancing.
"Pochi will go with Karaage-san nodesu!"
Tama swiftly stopped Pochi as she was about to squeeze lemon on top of the karaage pile.
"Pochi can't nanodesu?"
"Lemon makes it 『Nyu!』 so no no~?"
"But but, sprinkling lemon makes it fresh and tasty nodesuyo?"
Tama and Pochi sounded like they were reliving a conversation from [Karaage Oh Yeah] Tavern.
Tama, or rather Catkin in general, apparently don't take citrus type juice well.
"Pochi, we have a lot of lemon here. Squeeze them on your own karaage plate."
Lisa mediated the two, and Pochi proceeded to pile her own plate with karaage and squeezed a lemon on it.
Tama took shelter in the shadow the moment the lemon was squeezed.
"Karaage is nice and all, but onigiri's where it's at~"
Arisa grabbed an onigiri rolled in a big seaweed and plunged it into her mouth in one go.
We've got normal sized ones here, why'd she go for that one.
"Boiled dish, delish."
"Oh, I'm pretty confident with this shiitake here."
"Nn, I'll take it."
Mia extended her chopsticks toward the recommended boiled shiitake.
Lulu-made boiled dish are all good after all.
"Master, the sandwiches are yummy as well so I report."
"There's so many kinds, you just can't decide which to pick."
Nana is choosing her sandwich with a glass of fruit punch in one hand.
"Reed chilly meat roll is also tasty nodesuyo!"
"No, I can't give up on the depth of yakitori flavor."
"Wings and tulips are yummy too so I report."
This tulip Nana mentioned is not flower, but karaage's drumette.
"Young organism, let us dine together, so I tell."
I thought a kid lost their way here, but that wasn't it.
A green skinned little girl waved at us from on top of a sakura tree's branch.
It seems no other groups could see her.
"Welcome. Wanna eat with us?"
"Nn, I don't want human food."
Dryad jumped down the branch and put up an illusion around herself to make her look like an ordinary kid.
"Rather than that--."
Dryad clung on me and stuck out her mouth to look like an octopus's as she drew near my face while saying 'muchuu'.
"Arisa-chan, impregnable guard!"
The impregnable pair, Arisa and Mia came forward to impede Dryad's reckless charge.
"I got shot down~"
Dryad waved at Mia, 'Yahoo, lil' kiddie-chan.'
"Young organism, my lap is open right here so I report."
Nana peeled Dryad off me and put her on her own lap.
"So what's up today?"
"It must be because the party looked fun, so I confirm."
"Nn, that's not it~."
Dryad shook her head to Arisa's question and Nana's guess.
"Seems like I'm gonna need your help boy~."
Dryad spoke like it wasn't her problem.
We might gotta put a pause on the flower viewing depending on the content.
"Your hidden village is facing a huge crisis?"
"That's what they told me~."
Dryad sucked on my finger to absorb my mana.
I could have resisted her, but she's probably gonna need a lot of mana to open the [Alf Road] to the hidden village.
"Didn't get the detail since that Spirit World's got some thin mana~"
"Hee, Spirit World huh. Is it like a certain village of Youkai perhaps?"
Arisa turned around with a curious look. The later part seems to be intended at me.
"What should we do, master?"
I mean I can't count how many times dryad has saved us.
"Tama, Pochi, you've had enough of your fill, I take it."
"Yes, nanodesu. To live is to meat nanodesu!"
The beastkin girls stood up looking motivated.
Pochi said something weird halfway through, but it's same ever so I let it pass. I'll tell her the correct phrase later.
"Securing provisions is important so I report."
"Ufufu, leave it to me to pack our lunch boxes."
"Nn, will help."
Urged by Nana, Lulu and Mia put away the lunch boxes in their magic bags.
"So like, can I open it now?"
"No wait, not here."
We'd attract attentions here thus I asked dryad to open the Alf Road inside a grove of trees.
Mushrooms abundantly grew from the ground up like poof, poof as glittering particles of light converged.
"Just say the word to the me in the other side when you wanna go home okay~"
We got in the Alf Road toward the hidden village as dryad saw us off waving her hands.
<TLN: Catch the latest updates and edits at Sousetsuka .com >
"It's kind of chilly here."
The entrance to the hidden village was as cold as a late autumn morning.
Looks like we're in a basin, it's mountains everywhere your eyes can see.
"Pochi knows about it nodesu! You can eat the stalk nodesuyo!"
As Mia pointed at a clump of giant butterbur, Pochi showed off her gourmand knowledge.
"Ufufu, you can eat butterbur's leaves too, see."
Oh yeah, they're nice as salad dressed with miso or boiled.
Liza called out to me as she was in alert of the surroundings.
"It's okay, they're our welcoming party."
I stopped Liza who was about to ready her spear.
＞[Ancient Chapta Language] Skill Learned.
I got a skill just as a voice could be heard from behind the clump.
I allocated the skill points and found out the word meant, 'Where's our guests!'
What appeared from behind the clump of butterbur were a group of waist-sized midgets.
They're about as tall as Winged Fairies, but their build is a bit more stout.
Mia stopped Nana who was about to run out when she saw the owner of the voice.
『Welcome, guests! I'm a warrior of ChaptaKin, Chipitachopeta.』
『Nice to meet you, warrior Chipitachopeta. I am called Satou.』
As befitting of warrior, Chipitachopeta is wearing a leather armor and a spear made from some sort of thorn.
The soldiers standing behind him are wearing a simplified version of his equipment.
『We're going to the village. Come.』
Chipitachopeta seemed to be a hasty type, he walked off after saying that much even before I could introduce the girls.
Walking behind them feel weird, like you've been turned into giants.
"They kinda remind me of Koropokkuru."
Arisa uttered the name of a race of small people told in Hokkaido folklore.
I've seen a statue of them under a giant butterbur leaf used as umbrella.
I got into a heated discussion about Koropokkuru tales with Arisa for a bit afterward, but then I noticed the nervous glances of the soldiers and stopped myself.
Walking next to giants that could trample them down talking in unknown language would worry you for sure.
『I have been told that you're facing a crisis, what happened exactly?』
I asked Chipitachopeta since it seemed we were still far away from the village.
『[Lotus of Life] won't grow anymore.』
"Is it some sort of plant disease?"
Arisa who had an elven Translation Ring on spoke here.
『No. Diviner said it's a curse.』
I guess this Diviner is like their clan's shaman or something?
"What about Dryad?"
『Dryad? Who's that?』
Chipitachopeta looked back dubiously to hear Mia's question.
『We got called here by dryad, weren't you sent by someone to meet us too?』
『By Diviner. That's what the [Unchanging Maiden] in the Sacred Tree told her.』
Here goes some new terms.
That [Unchanging Maiden] must be the local dryad here.
『Is this [Unchanging Maiden] a girl with green skin?』
『No. [Unchanging Maiden] is a pattern of a girl that comes up on the Sacred Tree.』
『Maiden is a great person who watches over us.』
Some of the midget soldiers started protesting when Chipitachopeta said [Pattern].
The soldiers speak in broken words for some reason. Perhaps their everyday language is different from the [Ancient Chaputa Language] used only by leader class like Chipitachopeta.
As a proof, [Dechaputa Language] skill showed up on my Log.
『Yeah yeah, shut up. These deeply faithful folks and Diviner see [Unchanging Maiden] as our village's guardian deity.』
Can't blame anyone for not equaling that jesting dryad as a guardian deity.
Afterward, I asked a few more questions but Chipitachopeta seemed to loathe talking, he told me 'Go ask Diviner the rest.'
The village is located behind a giant tree where a group of knee-tall big mushrooms grow around the base of the tree. There are some bamboo shoot-looking objects too, but according to AR reading those are mushrooms too.
"Bamboo shoot persons won't lose nodesuyo!"
Mia brightened up when she saw the mushroom colony, while Tama and Pochi started some sort of proxy war, but there's something that's bothering me more.
"Master, aren't those windows and doors on those mushrooms?"
Lulu is right, there are windows on doors on the mushrooms.
Those must be children's dwellings.
"Master! Young organisms, there are so so many young organisms, so I report."
Nana flapped her arms in a direction where midget children were peeking at us from behind grass.
Then, one of them staggered their way to our spot.
It's an emaciated looking woman. She's got a plump figure though.
『Chipitachopeta-sama, have you seen my Toputo?』
Chipitachopeta brushed the woman aside as he walked away.
"No violence against the weak so I tell."
Chipitachopeta paid no heed to Nana's protest and just as we were about to help the woman, other midgets wearing servant-like clothing took the woman back into the crowd.
『Toputotapeta the coward.』
『One month ago.』
『Must have died in a ditch.』
My Attentive Ears skill picked up the soldiers' chatters.
Even these easygoing-looking village of midgets has its own dramas huh.
『Come. The shrine is over here.』
Chipitachopeta called us to start walking again.
I pulled Nana who was about to run off toward the midgets and followed him, then we arrived at a place with mushroom steps growing out of the giant tree trunk.
This seems to be the Diviner's Shrine.
I picked up and held Mia in my arm since she made a pick me up pose.
"Ah! That's unfair Mia, nodesu! Pochi too, Pochi too master, Pochi wants to be carried too nodesuyo!"
Pochi started jumping around, while Tama slid up and took position on the other shoulder Mia didn't take.
As Liza grabbed Pochi who was trying to climb up me and told her, 'Wait for your turn', Mia spoke to my ear.
I stared at it for a while before I started seeing a rough figure of a woman on the tree's bark.
"Is that dryad?"
Mia nodded with silver pupils.
I activated my Spirit Sight and saw a sleeping dryad more clearly than with naked eyes.
"Is she sleeping?"
Mia nodded to affirm Arisa.
I'd like to touch the trunk and give her mana, but I can't reach it with my height. The colony of mushrooms growing in front of it is in the way.
"Moles! Moles sighted."
"To arms, folks! It's time for a mole hunt!"
Chipitachopeta gave the command which was met with a vigorous roar from the soldiers.
Tama and Pochi are restlessly fidgeting around, looks like they want to participate in the hunt.
『I cannot believe they would leave our guests behind, those men are such children.』
I turned around and saw a midget woman wearing thin shaman-like clothing coming out of the shrine.
『Pleasure to make your acquaintances, big humans. I am Diviner Tsurirufururi. As well as one who delivers the voices of [Unchanging Maiden].』
The small beauty Tsurirufururi-san gracefully bowed. Due to her loose clothing her cleavage got emphasized as she did that.
『[Unchanging Maiden] had sent forward people who will undo the curse on [Lotus of Life]. We shall entrust the fate of our village to you.』
So they shall.
"That's fine and all, but an explanation is in order first."
Arisa came forward with the look of a negotiator.
She took a chin up pose at the shrine, trying to look like a tough negotiator.
"Is it really a curse?"
『Yes, that is what [Unchanging Maiden] refer it as.』
『We do not know.』
"What's the curse like?"
『[Lotus of Life] turned black and stopped growing.』
"Have you checked if it's not a plant disease?"
『What does that mean? Diseases come from curses too, do they not?』
Tsurirufururi-san asked back quizzically.
Looks like [Disease] and [Curses] are one and the same to them.
"Won't know until we see it."
"Let's go take a look at the real thing for now."
"Yup, but before that--when did this curse start?"
『The symptoms first showed in early summer, about a month ago. The [Lotus Officers] were worried when [Lotus of Life] wouldn't grow right, then black spots started appearing on the leaves.』
After getting all the information we needed, we followed the elderly [Lotus Officers] to the lotus pond.
"Yes Mia, pitch black so I say."
"Black Lotus huh. Gonna get a lot of black mana from these."
Arisa made a reference to a super famous rare card from a popular card game, but since this is no time to joke around, I ignored her.
"For now let's see if magic potion would work and then check if there's any abnormalities with space magic."
"No, Arisa. We must take a sample first before we start our investigation, so I insist."
Arisa and Nana started discussing with serious looks on their faces. Nana has her usual expressionless face though.
Mia pulled my sleeve.
With Miasma Seer on, I could see [Lotus of Life] engulfed black in miasma.
It seems this is really no disease. Or maybe it's diseased due to the miasma.
"It turned clean and pretty."
As requested by Mia, I opened my usually suppressed Spirit Light in full throttle.
"Tore bien nanodesu!"
The [Lotus of Life] returned to their original green form once the miasma thinned down from getting basked in Spirit Light.
What a fantastical reaction.
"Uwoo, are you for real!"
"That's a drastic transformation so I report."
Arisa and Nana were shocked.
『The lotus! Lotus of Life have been revived!』
『O maiden! O messengers of maiden! We are grateful, grateful.』
The elderly officials started kneeling around the pond while tearing up hard.
I get that you're getting emotional. But please take it easy considering your ages.
Well, I'm just glad it's over in a jiffy.
"As expected of master."
"Yes yes, so awesomesauce. That's some cheat as always."
Arisa, that's so cruel.
"Master, there's something weird going on."
Tama and Lulu surveyed the pond where the lotus float.
"Master, the farthest end lotus at one o'clock appears to be odd, so I report."
The green lotus turned back to black like ink dropped in water.
『No... the lotus...』
Pochi and Tama ran up and supported the falling officials.
"Looks like this won't end unless we take care the root of the problem."
It appears this [Lotus of Life] quest isn't quite over yet.