Nainiae nodded and explained.
“You can think of him as a gate keeper… who protects the teacher’s cave. He is one of the many who helped me train.”
It seemed Nainiae was glad to see the guardian. She had not seen him ever since she left the cave last autumn. Nainiae was about to start walking towards the bear that was coming toward her. However, she suddenly stopped walking.
Nainiae hardened her face.
She felt that the bear was exuding animosity.
“Mister, can you hear me?”
To the red-haired bear that was slowly approaching them, Nainiae asked if he could hear her.
The bear sounded as if he was scratching his neck. Nainiae looked at the bear and crumpled her face.
“Do you guys really know each other?”
It seemed that the bear was not happy to see Nainiae. Riley asked what this was about. Nainiae didn’t look confident as she nodded.
“Yes, I am certain. That scar… I definitely remember.”
The bear was sauntering toward them. Nainiae pointed at the area around the bear’s eye. She touched her own face for no reason as she mumbled,
“Can it be that he cannot recognize me because my face changed too much?”
“Wait, since he is an animal, shouldn’t he have recognized you by your scent somehow?”
While they were talking, the red-haired bear had come quite close to them. The bear roared loudly and quickly stood up tall.
“As I thought, I don’t think he is recognizing you?”
“Mister, it is me!”
The bear was exuding dangerous glare as he stood on his two feet. The bear looked down toward Nainiae and Riley and bared his teeth. He then raised up his arm, which were sharp like a weapon.
“It’s me! I’m Nainiae!”
It looked like the claws would strike down Nainiae anytime. The claws were engulfed in red hot flames. Riley thought he couldn’t just let things be. He poked at Nainiae’s arm.
“This can’t be. There certainly are many violent guardians on teacher’s mountain, but… He is not the kind who would do this.”
Thinking this could not be helped, Nainiae moved mana with a disappointed face.
It was to dodge the bear’s claw attack. The bear was coming at them for no apparent reason.
“I am sorry.”
Nainiae used magic to blow off the red flames on the bear’s claws. She then used a close-range teleportation.
Along with what sounded like wind, Riley and Nainiae’s bodies were instantly teleported to behind the red bear.
Having moved smoothly to the back, she used two ground type magic spells to make the bear fall. She also used the swamp magic to make the bear fall into a mud bath.
“… As I thought… Is this not enough?”
The bear fell on his back first on the mud. After plummeting to the mud, the red bear engulfed his entire fur in flames and started to burn the mud to black crisp. Having noticed this, Riley muttered in quiet voice,
“He really is a red bear.”
The red bear burned the mud in flames and roared. The ground was now stained black from the flame. The bear stepped on it and started to charge at the two people again.
“It doesn’t smell like booze in particular. If he is not drunk, maybe he just lost his grip on his sanity?”
“I am not sure. For now…”
With piercing gaze, Nainiae glared at the red bear. She used magic again.
A water type magic.
A wind type magic.
Nainiae used two magic of elements that were opposite of fire. She used water to trap the bear’s mouth and four limbs and used the wind to blow away the flame on his fur.
“I think I should talk to him.”
Unlike the usual, the bear’s eyes were saturated in red color. Having noticed this, Nainiae had a rough idea of the cause. She swung her hand once again.
Along with the sound, the wind that was blowing around the bear slowly froze. Soon, rectangular shaped walls started to form.
She looked at the tightly packed ice walls that she created. Nainiae dusted off her hands and looked at the trapped bear inside. She mumbled,
“Is it done?”
Between the walls, the flame was gushing out. However, the ice was not melting despite the flame. Nainiae concluded that she successfully trapped the bear inside. She approached the ice prison that she created.
It seemed the bear was still full of energy. The bear was running wild inside. Nainiae observed the bear for a moment. She asked Riley to please wait for a while and looked inside.
“Uuu, uu uu….”
The bear was struggling inside the prison in an attempt to get out of it. Eventually, it seemed the bear was exhausted at last. He stopped struggling. Instead, he just plummeted and lay down on the spot.
“Mister, can you hear me?”
Nainiae confirmed that the bear’s eyes had turned back to their normal color. She tried talking to the bear, and the bear slowly moved his eyes to look outside the ice prison.
Wiggling his nose, the red bear smelled Nainiae. The bear looked at Nainiae and asked in human tongue,
“He can talk?”
Riley came next to Nainiae and was staring at the bear trapped inside the ice prison. It seemed Riley was surprised that the bear had talked. The bear glanced at Riley and looked at Nainiae again.
“Nainiae, how did you get here?”
“I’m so relieved. It seems like you have regained your senses. I’m here to see the teacher. What happened?”
“Uuuu. Cold. First… can you please remove these?”
Nainiae removed the water shackles and ice prison walls and gave back the bear’s flame that she blew away earlier with wind magic. Nainiae asked again,
“What happened? I never thought you would show such a violent side.”
Nainiae tilted her head to the side and asked, and the bear apologized and answered,
“That is… It’s because of the order from my master. I was ordered to be weary of anyone who approaches the cave.”
“That Andal said that?”
Riley, who was listening to the conversation, crossed his arms and furrowed his brows.
“That’s right. I didn’t get full details about what happened from my master, but anyway, he said that, instead of taking it easy… I should stop anything that comes this way.”
After saying all that, the bear scratched his stomach and explained why he lost his mind.
“Because of that, unlike the usual, I was on high alert, and… some human bastards came by.”
“For some reason, although I tried to scare them, they kept looking for opportunities to get in. So, I tried to end it by just chasing them away, but… They were surprisingly good at running. In the process, I eventually…”
“I didn’t realize it. I am so ashamed to face my master.”
The bear explained that he ran into Nainiae and Riley while he had gone berserk and was chasing the humans. Riley casually widened his senses and checked the forest.
“One, two, three, four… about four of them?”
Riley counted the number of people who were not so far from here. As if he was disappointed, he shrugged his shoulder and asked,
“What about Andal?”
“Just who the hell are you? Why are you so disrespectful and terse with your words?”
The red bear was about to crumple his face while staring at Riley. Nainiae tumbled and stepped forward to explain.
“He is the Young Master! The one I told you about!”
“Ah, that one?”
It seemed her explanation was effective. The bear changed the look on his face immediately. Unlike a moment ago, the bear lowered his stance. With his head lowered as well, the bear started to walk toward him slowly in light steps.
“Kum. Hm. It’s a pleasure meeting you.”
“So, how’s Andal?”
Riley decided not to care about the change in the mood. Instead, he just asked about Andal. The red bear licked his front paw and said,
“I am not sure. Ever since his last order, I have not seen him come out of the cave, so… He even cast an isolation barrier.”
“Ah, so that’s why…”
The look on Nainiae’s face seemed like she noticed something. Looking at Nainiae’s face, Riley tilted his head to the side.
“It was because of the isolation barrier. That’s why we were teleported to the outside of the cave instead.”
Nainiae looked at the top of the mountain that they could see above them.
“Still, it is weird. I believe he has never cast an isolation barrier before.”
It seemed she could not figure out why Andal would have cast the isolation barrier. Nainiae tilted her head to the side. The red bear mumbled as if he was feeling the same.
“It is not easy for me to imagine what the situation is, but it looks like it would be best to check what’s going on. You are here to see my master, right?”
“Yes. Will you come with us?”
“No. I have my orders, so I can’t. I’ll stay here, you go on.”
“Yes, well then…”
Nainiae watched the red bear turning around and heading back to his original post. She turned to look at Riley and said,
“Yes, we must climb.”
Although Nainiae led the way and started to walk, Riley vacantly stood there and maintained a frozen stance. Dumbfounded, he asked Nainiae,
“Are you saying I have to do mountain climbing now?”
At the top of the mountain, there was a cave. Riley looked at the cave and pouted, thinking it was such a bother. Nainiae, who was leading the way, had already started to walk, said to Riley,
“Please don’t worry, Young Master. I’m good friends with all guardians here, so we won’t have to overcome things like trials. We will probably just have to go up the mountain.”
It didn’t matter if they could just go up the mountain or had to wrestle with Andal’s guardians along the way to climb the mountain. Riley was cringing just from the idea of climbing a mountain. He sighed big and went off on a tangent.
“What about that bear earlier?”
“He is an exception. He is usually very kind, but he can’t tell friends from foes once he goes berserk. It’s a special characteristic of his, so… Young Master? Aren’t you going to climb?”
Having noticed Riley frozen solid and not moving at all, she wondered what this was about.
“I don’t want to do a heavy labor for no reason… Is there a way to get to the top comfortably?”
Nainiae realized late what Riley was trying to ask. With awkward face, she said,
“As explained earlier, the teacher has cast an isolation barrier on this entire mountain area, so… carelessly attempting long distance teleportation is actually dangerous. If something goes wrong, just legs or arms could be teleported, so…”
In the end, Nainiae was saying there was no way to avoid climbing. Riley sighed again. He hesitated for a long time, pondering if he should stay here or follow Nainiae. In the end, he followed after Nainiae.
“How long will it take?”
“About an hour? I’m overestimating it, so it probably won’t take that long.”
* * *
“… I think it’s been about two hours.”
“It’s only been one hour?”
“What? You said it won’t take that long, didn’t you?”
“That is… Yes, I did say that.”
Nainiae, who was leading the way and walking the mountain path, said in small voice. Riley, who was following her, pouted with just his lower lips and blew air out to blow his bangs.
“Andal, you little bastard. As soon as I see his face, the first thing I’m going to do is tell him to go swap the eyeballs of all guardian bastards, ugh… Why is every single one we run into not able to recognize you? They are wasting our time.”
Riley was thinking about the reason why climbing the mountain was taking so long. He counted the number of Andal’s guardians they had run into so far and grounded his teeth.
“Uu… As I thought, are they not able to recognize me because my face changed so much?”
All guardians they ran into were hostile toward them. Because of this, Nainiae was conscious about her face which had changed. She lowered her head in disappointment. In complaining tone, Riley said,
“No, I’m telling you, you have not changed that much.”
It seemed what the bear said about Andal’s order was true. All guardians on this mountain were on high alert. They all appeared to be on the edge.
Riley thought her changed face may have played a role in the guardians’ hostile responses, but he also thought it was more likely that Andal’s order was the real cause.
“Anyway, why is that lizard making all his subordinates feel on the edge like this?”
Wondering if something really big happened, Riley looked at the top of the mountain again. He thought being stuck at snail pace was more bothersome. He got past Nainiae and said,
“I can’t take this.”
“If we climbed as if we were on a walk, I think it will take a lifetime. I’m just going to run there.”
Riley was saying that he was going to send mana to his legs and run up the pathway in a single breath. Nainiae proposed a method that she just thought of. She had forgotten about it until now.
“Young Master, we might as well…”
Riley was about to move his mana and charge forward, but he casually turned his head to the back.
“… Uh? People?”
It wasn’t just because of Nainiae’s voice.
“There really are?”
It was because four people had revealed themselves from the bushes.