We are currently heading to the capital through the Dark Passage.
We are accompanied by Ultina and General Gio.
It seems they both have business in the capital, so they offered to accompany us as we were about to leave.
"Ultina, are you sure you want to do this? You'll get a lot of credit for being the one who solved the mystery of the Dark Passage."
"I don't mind. If it weren't for the Manyu Brigade, I wouldn't have been able to fulfill this request. I would like you to appear before Her Majesty on their behalf."
"If you say so, then let's do it. But the name 'Manyu Brigade' sounds familiar. I think I heard it somewhere recently."
The general, who was leading with the lamp in hand, seemed to be thinking as he scratched his chin.
Frau and Panda passed through the Dark Passage's exit and flew away at high speed.
After a while, we also left the Dark Passage.
The general, who turned off the lamp's light, turned towards us.
"Well, it's time for us to part ways. From here on out, you guys continue on your own."
I shook the general's hand, and with a flip of his cloak, he headed for the capital.
I made a deal with General Gio to help me find the girls in exchange for him having the lamp for free, and he agreed to do so.
I was very lucky to meet General Gio here.
"It's been a pleasure working with you, be very careful."
"You too, Ultina."
I shook Ultina's hand.
She was a really reliable guide.
I had proposed that she accompany us on our trip as a party member, but she refused, saying she likes to travel and work alone.
After parting with Ultina, we continued heading west.
We arrived at a village near the border.
A high mountain range separates us from the rest of the country, and we are told that it is impossible to go west without crossing that mountain range.
"There are no houses in sight."
"Hey, maybe that's the town."
We looked up into the large trees and saw lights coming from some houses.
A suspension bridge stretches from house to house, and we could see residents walking nonchalantly up in the air. I wonder if they aren't afraid of falling.
"I've heard that this is a village where people live the old-fashioned way, but it's interesting to see that they live in trees."
"It's cozy and pretty, and it's nice to see the lights shining like stars."
We stopped and looked toward the dark elf village.
"My lord, quickly."
Frau seemed somewhat excited.
We climbed the creaky wooden stairs, walked past the inhabitants in the narrow pathway, then went over a suspension bridge made of vines, and finally came to a place like a square.
"It's bigger than it looks from down here. There are lots of tents."
"What are those shiny things? From below, they look like sails, but looking close, they aren't."
"Actually, they're a bunch of shiny, round leaves."
I asked a dark elf who seemed to be a resident of this place.
"That's a Morifosi mistletoe. It collects light during the day and emits it at night. It's the only plant in this area and it's the only tourist resource we have."
Morifosi mistletoe is an unusual plant.
The round clumps of mistletoe attached to the branches of large trees glow a vague orange color.
It's easy to lose track of time when looking at these natural ornaments.
"It looks like it's your first time around here. If you walk with me to the bar, I'll show you around."
The man invited me to follow him so I could get to know the place, so I decided to do so.
"I love drinking alcohol! It's a good way to lighten up the trip!"
"Last time? I don't remember anything, did something happen?"
Panda was complaining to Frau about her hangover, but she doesn't seem to remember anything.
On the other hand, Kaede refuses to drink while smiling bitterly.
"I think I'd rather just drink water this time... I won't be drinking for a while."
"I'm glad to hear that. I'll just have one drink."
A tavern is a great place to gather information. I want to ask about the white wolf beastkin and the other girls.
When I opened the tavern door, I heard a beautiful sound.
"The minstrel is here."
The man and I parted at the entrance.
As I took a seat, I took a moment to look around.
I saw a man who caught my attention. He was playing a stringed instrument in the corner of the tavern.
With those ears and tail, he must be of the wolf tribe.
He notices me looking and stops playing.
"Is something wrong?"
"No, you simply look like a type of beastkin I'm looking for."
"The wolf race is a very common thing."
"Yes, but the tribe I'm looking for is called White Wolves."
He was about to resume playing his instrument when he stopped.
"The White Wolves?"
"I know I'm a human, but..."
"...Even if you were to ask me..."
"I'm looking for my mother's house. Elohim, the Spirit Queen, told me they know where it is."
"The Spirit Queen... So you are friends with someone very powerful."
The man took a seat next to me.
Then he taps his finger on the table.
He tapped his finger on the table, as if to say, "Bring out the liquor."
The waiter put a glass in front of him.
"I'll sell the information. What do you want to hear?"
"I want to know where they are."
"Hmm, if you go west from here, there is a mountain range. In the middle of it, there is a small wolf tribe village, and there is a custom to worship the white wolf tribe as a god. However, only a limited number of people can directly meet the white wolves."
I handed him a gold coin.
The man took it and slightly lifted the corner of his mouth.
“Nei, Soara, Alusha, Lynn, Pionne, Marianne, have you heard those names?”
I am disappointed.
We will have to continue our search steadily.
"I'll head to that town, then. Thanks for the information."
"Wait a minute. How are you going to get there?"
"Getting to the village will be difficult at the moment. The demons have completely blocked the road with their fortress. I hear the army is working to get rid of them, but the situation doesn't look good."
Fortress, you say...
Moreover, one belonging to the demons.
"You mean the Demon King Rudra's army?"
"I don't know much about it. But we've been stranded here for over two weeks now thanks to them. It's very cold in those mountains, and I want to avoid the long way at all costs, but I guess you guys can't afford to wait."
Then he said; "I hope you can make it."
The next day, early in the morning, we left the village.
We headed for the mountain range where the white wolf tribe is said to be.
I put on more clothes than usual to protect me from the cold, but....
A few hours after starting to climb the mountain. It was so cold that Frau began shivering on top of Panda.
We only made it a few meters since we started climbing the mountain and the cold was already embracing us.
Scrolling through the map, we could see that the mountain range was deep and would take us a long time to cross.
In addition, it looked like snow was falling on the summit, and it was expected to get even colder.
Something gently wrapped around my neck.
"Here you go, Master."
"Did you make me a scarf?"
"Yes. I still don't know how to do it very well, but I made it to keep you warm, Master, if only a little."
The scarf was very long. Well, it's the first time she's made one, so I can't really blame her.
I don't care if it has imperfections, I'm so happy that Kaede cares so much about me that I can't describe it.
"No fair, Frau wants one too."
"Here you go."
Kaede wraps a scarf around Frau's neck as well.
"Thank you so much, Kaede!"
"Fufu, I'm glad you like it."
Kaede was smiling, but I guess she didn't have her own scarf, since she wasn't wearing one.
But then I remembered something.
"Now that I remember, I had this cold resistant cloak."
"Oh, is it one of the relics we found in Einark?"
I pulled out a hooded cloak from my backpack and put it on Kaede.
Then I lightly unrolled the scarf I had and wrapped it around her neck as well.
It's long enough to protect us both from the cold.
"Master, don't worry about me! What matters is that you're warm!"
"Don't be shy."
Next, I grabbed her hand.
I tried to hold her as close to me as possible so that the scarf wouldn't come loose.
"Master's hands are warm..."