A Guiding Fetish
Do you have someone you hate?
A nail, a strand of hair, a drop of blood.
Pick whichever you like, bring it to me
and I’ll curse them.
— Shaman Sawari
Calling her name with a voice close to a shout, I blew out flames to melt the ice.
But far from melting under the heat of my breath, it even continued to enlarge as it engulfed Ai, turning into a large pillar-like crystal.
“Hoh, hoh, hoh.”
Jack Frost let out a happy-sounding noise and bounced upward.
Its round body floated buoyantly as it ran away, looking as though it was sliding through the air.
“Ah! Get back here!”
Darg chased off after him. Jack Frost had taken to the air in order to escape, so I, as someone who could fly the best of us all, should have been the one to do the chasing.
However, that’s something I simply couldn’t do.
“Ai, Ai! Dammit… what should I do!?”
No matter how much I breathed on it, the ice pillar didn’t melt.
“Mentor, move aside!”
His incantation complete, Ken blasted a large ball of fire against Ai.
I was about to say something about what he intended to do if he burned her, but when I saw the result, my worrying was unneeded.
Not even Ken’s magic had caused so much as a drop of water to melt.
“That which is more red than my scales…”
“Cut that out!”
Now that it’s come to this, all I can do it use an incantation. Just as I started putting that thought into action, Nina pulled on my tail with a jerk.
“You probably would manage to melt it, but you might end up doing the same to Ai along with it!”
“But if we don’t…!”
Her entire body was covered in ice, there’s no way she could be able to breath in it.
Suffocation causes damage to the brain if it doesn’t get oxygen within five minutes. We don’t have time to be slow here!
“I think she’ll be alright, even if we don’t rush. Mmm, like what happens to trees when they shed their leaves.”
However, starkly contrasting my impatience, Nina was odiously serene.
“… Like hibernation?”
“Yeah yeah, like that. Hibernation. At the very least, she isn’t about to die right away.”
Nina’s usual flippant wording and attitude managed to bring me back to my senses.
“But are you sure? How do you know that?”
“Eh? You can tell from looking though?”
… It looks like I’ll need to hear more about how from her later on.
“But it’s not like we can just wait for spring to come. Do you know how we could melt the ice?”
“It should melt on its own if we defeat that thing.”
I also felt like that’s how it’d be.
Though it might be better to say that I only barely thought of it, rather than truly knew it.
“But for us to defeat it… it didn’t even die when it was blasted to bits. How could we kill it…”
“Why not just burn it as many times as it takes?”
“… The answer was that simple…?”
Snow was, in short, frozen water. Water doesn’t disappear when it evaporates, it just turns into a gas. That should be the reason Jack Frost was able to revive himself like that.
If we assume that fire is just as useless as smashing or slicing him, what should we do?
“Shit! Sorry, Brother! I lost sight of the bastard!”
Darg came running back, panting.
“I could tell that it was heading outside the forest though…”
The village was surrounded by forest on all sides.
Rather, maybe it’d be better to say that we cut out a part of the forest in order to make the village?
What continued on after the edge of the forest was a vast grassland.
“… That’s troublesome.”
Between a forest or a grassland, it’d be easier to hide in the forest.
However, that kind of common sense didn’t apply to us.
Because we have the incarnation of the forest, the trees’ chosen child, Nina.
Whether he tried hiding in a bush, in the trees, or underground, so long as he was in the forest, finding him would be as easy as Nina flipping over her hand.
But when it comes to searching through those vast grasslands, Nina’s power is useless.
There’s almost no lighting in this primitive age to light the dark, so I wouldn’t even see anything from the sky.
“We’ll have to wait for morning. I’ll keep an eye on Ai, so you get some rest.”
Jack Frost might not be in the grasslands by the time morning comes around.
No, it wouldn’t be strange even if he’d already left it.
I didn’t feel like just laying down at a time like this would help anything.
“We know that it’s not in the forest. In that case, the only one capable of searching for it is you. I’ll wake you up just before the sun rises, so hurry up and get some rest to preserve your stamina.”
Nina’s argument was so sound that I had no room to rebut it.
But even so, my feelings weren’t so willing to bow to logic.
I gazed silently at Ai’s figure trapped within the pillar of ice.
Both of her arms were stretched out to he sides with her head down and eyes closed. She looked like a crucified Christ.
She’d protected me.
There’s no way I could ever just leave her like this.
But I don’t have any idea what to—
“… Wait a second.”
Unexpectedly, I realized something.
“That which is rock solid, yet as invisible as the wind. What is stale as a shadow, yet as dazzling as light, I call upon you! Heed my voice, show me your creator’s face…!”
I realized something about the ice that had trapped Ai.
Given that my flames couldn’t melt it, it couldn’t just be ordinary water. It was obviously magical in origin. In other words, it was closely connected to Jack Frost. One might even say that it was a part of him.
There’s a magical connection between items and what those items were once a part of, similar to how I transmitted my voice through a scale of mine a while back. I’ve decided to call objects like these fetishes.
Fundamentally, you aren’t able to use magic on things that are outside of your scope of vision. This is because magic needs you to perceive and realize what something is, so you can’t use it on what you can’t see.
However, so long as you have one of these charms, you can use magic even on things that you can’t see. Nina’s ability to monitor everything in the forest is because all of the forest’s trees are fetishes to her.
It was my first time using magic directly on a fetish itself, but I succeeded in tracing it back to him. The surface of the ice pillar displayed Jack Frost as he climbed a mountain. It was the mountain to the south beyond the grassland, but it was transmitting the video of him rather clearly.
“Nina, take this.”
I removed one of my scales and handed it to her.
“You know how to use it, right? Please, keep me updated on where he is.”
It’s not like Jack Frost would just stay still while I spent time catching up to him. I need someone here to keep track of where he goes. Nina should be able to do it as easily as I did.
Nodding, I spread my wings out wide.
It was Ken.
“Mentor, please take me too!”
Hearing his plea, I hesitated for a moment.
It’s not because I thought he was hostile toward me or anything like that.
It’s because although he definitely is a strong Magus, he hasn’t had much real battle experience at all.
Meanwhile, although Darg’s only able to use physical reinforcement, he is enormously powerful.
Above all, he’s accustomed to fighting.
Even if I’m a dragon, I’m still only around three meters long at the most.
I can only carry a single person.
I feel like taking Darg along would be better since we’ll be at the top of a mountain and I’ll be able to wield my power not having to worry about collateral damage.
“Ken, sorry, but…”
“Brother, take the kid!”
Surprisingly, Darg himself threw Ken a lifesaver.
“I’d only stop that thing from moving at best. The kid should be more useful than me against that thing!”
“I’m not that old, call me bro.”
The two of them knocked fists and grinned at each other.
I envied their relationship a little.
It wasn’t a good time for me to do that, though.
“Hold on tight, Ken!”
Ken on my back, I took off into the night sky.
I guess it was more of an exclamation than a scream.
Come to think of it, this is the first time I’ve flown with him.
Nina and Ai were the only two other Magus able to fly, so this is probably the first time he’s seen things from this high up.
“… So this is the scenery Mentor always looks at…”
“There’s all of it, but nothing we can see.”
To be frank, the night is pitch black.
The moon was out a little while ago, but it’s been hiding behind the clouds so I really can’t see anything at all. I can just barely make out black shapes on the ground below me.
Paying attention so that I wouldn’t crash into anything, I headed for the mountain.
And then I vaguely noticed something floating in the sky.
There weren’t many things that would fly around in a night as dark as this.
Thinking that I may have seen it wrong, I blinked twice and took another look.
Right there, in the dark night—
Was Darg’s. Burly. Butt.
Seeing something so ridiculous, I accidentally spat out fire.
[Nn. It looks like it worked?]
Following that, Nina’s voice came out of it.
“Nina, the heck? What happened?”
Darg’s butt kept floating near me as I flew through the sky.
I didn’t have the presence of mind to think about it much, but honestly, it was seriously unpleasant.
[Telling you in words would be annoying, so I’m showing you what I’m seeing.]
Darg’s butt vanished, but what followed was a close-up of Ai’s bust.
“What you’re seeing, huh… how?”
[Dunno. I just tried it out and it worked.]
[So yeah. That guy is…]
A finger appeared. Nina was probably looking at her finger.
[Around here on the mountain.]
“… Please don’t illustrate it with her chest.”
What Nina pointed to was the tip of Ai’s bulging chest.
[But it’s easier that way.]
Well, it’s true.
Rather, Nina, aren’t you staring at Ai’s chest too much?
Assuming that whatever appears in this illusion is what she’s looking at, she’s practically only staring at Ai’s chest…
“Either way, thanks. I get where I need to go.”
[It doesn’t look like he’s moving now, so you should be good heading straight for him. I’ll let you know if he starts moving again.]
Done talking, she cut off.
“Mentor, is that it?”
Unexpectedly, Ken spoke up after the illusion vanished.
It felt like he was pointing forward, but I couldn’t exactly see turn around to look at his finger. However, there was still quite a distance to the mountain.
The mountain was so far away that I could barely make out its outline. I’ve been to it before and know how far away it is, so I couldn’t believe he’d spotted something on it.
“What are you talking about?”
“I just said, that! Can’t you see it? It’s so close!”
“Close? Ken, we’re currently moving really fast. If it’s so close, we should’ve overtaken it a while ago.”
We’re going so fast that there’s nothing I can really compare it to. I’ve even had to protect him with magic so that he wouldn’t get blown off my back. He might’ve mistaken our speed because of that, but we’re actually moving five or six hundred kilometers per hour right now.
“But it’s been there this whole time—…”
“But there’s only—…”
We frowned simultaneously.
Because we finally realized.
We realized what we had been misunderstanding from each other.
And that Nina’s information was wrong.
Jack Frost wasn’t at the top of a mountain.
One of the two mountains in front of us was Jack Frost.