107. The Cage of the Crystal Tree
The date was March 31st; the Lunar Banquet was less than a day away.
We left for the haunt at sunrise. Luckily, our journey over its entrance proceeded rather smoothly, we didn’t encounter any sort of trouble during our travels. The city was going to swing into full on festival mode when night hit, so I wanted to finish up all our business and get back as soon as possible. A few basic calculations determined that we should be able to make it back before the festival began, as it only took us three hours to fly on over to the haunt.
「Gya gya gya!」
The haunt could only be described as a deep, dark forest, filled with immense, high standing trees. Its interior contained magic beasts of all shapes and sizes. We could feel their presence and hear the noises they made even from the forest’s entrance.
『So this is the so called B ranked haunt, The Cage of the Crystal Tree, huh? 』
「Can sense many magic beasts.」
『Alright, I’m going to go over our plans one more time, just in case. We’re going to try and gun for the center-ish area and hunt for edible magic beasts.』
「Nn. Hunting for meat.」
Not all magic beasts were entirely edible, even if their bodies were filled to the brim with magical energy. We really didn’t have all that much time on our hands, so it was in our best interest to only go after stuff we could actually use. Luckily, the research we did at the Adventurer’s Guild saved us quite a bit of trouble. There, we learned that most edible magic beasts were found somewhere around the forest’s center area.
We immediately took the fastest route over. That is, Urushi carried Fran on his back whilst leaping through the air; it was far more efficient to navigate the overly dense woodland from above.
I wanted to try hunting a bit around the entrance as well, but we really didn’t have the time for it, so I reluctantly refrained.
「Crystal Tree over there?」
『Yeah. Apparently it’s well over three thousand years old.』
The Crystal Tree was one of many magical plants that had the ability to emit a sort of magical energy that drew in all sorts of herbivorous magic beasts. The plant’s potency would scale with its size, and hence, it would draw in more and more powerful magic beasts as it grew. The tree’s leaves were considered by magic beasts to be a sort of delicacy, and thus, they would fight for the right to the territory in its immediate vicinity. It was of such value to them that they’d even protect it from harm.
The herbivorous magic beasts that took residence around the tree would then function to draw in carnivorous ones. This process would ultimately continue to repeat itself over and over, and thus, all sorts of magic beasts ended up making its surroundings into their habitats. It could be said that this whole haunt was only here because The Crystal Tree had sprouted here, especially seeing as how The Crystal Tree located here was classified as both the world’s oldest and largest magic tree.
Riding on Urushi’s back as he traversed a path atop the sea of trees allowed us to observe The Crystal Tree in all its majesty.
It really did live up to its reputation. The tree’s height surpassed three hundred meters, and its leaves shone with a brilliance that made them seem as if they really were made out of crystal.
And so, I burned it in my eyes.
A sight that would have outright been impossible in the world from which I came.
Creatures that resembled birds flew around the tree’s branches. They looked but like fledglings in comparison to the plant’s grand stature, but in reality, each had a wingspan of at least three meters. I didn’t particularly wish to deal with them, they looked like a huge pain in the ass to fight.
『Be careful. We might start running into B leveled threats if we end up getting too close to the tree.』
『Anyway, we should be somewhere around the center area now. Let’s find ourselves some magic beasts and descend.』
『It’s finally time to go hunting.』
Twenty minutes passed.
「Urushi. Over there.」
We found a group of five Swamp Pigs and took them down. In short, they could be described as pigs with shells that basically lived in the mud.
I wasn’t really satisfied. We did actually end up hunting them down and all that, but honestly, it was far less a hit than it was a miss.
I mean, they were pig-type magic beasts, and they did taste pretty good. In fact, one could say that they really were quite delicious. However, they weren’t good enough. They carried with them an ever so slight stench of mud and filth even when cooked, and as a result, they actually didn’t even taste as good as well fed, brand name, non-magic pork. The only adventurers that really bothered hunting them were newbies in need of some quick cash. That said, they were kind of amazing in their own way if you thought about it. They weren’t well raised, nor selectively bred, yet, they still almost managed to taste as good as genuine branded pork.
Oh well, I guess we can treat them as insurance just in case we don’t manage to find ourselves anything better.
『Alright Urushi, it’ll be up to you to find some more magic beasts.』
『Yeah, that’s not a bad suggestion. Let’s try getting a bit closer to The Crystal Tree. We might not actually be in the center area yet.』
Swamp Pigs were supposed to be from the outermost layer anyways, so yeah.
An hour passed.
I could only conclude that hunting for a specific monster was none other than a huge pain in the ass. We’d only just managed to find a single wild boar. We kept running into all sorts of inedible magic beasts instead of actually coming across what we wanted.
「This magic beast. What captain was talking about?」
『Yup. It’s a Golden Boar, and it looks exactly as he described it to be.』
Magic Beast (Magic Boar)
Intimidate: Lv 4
Flame Resistance: Lv 3
Piercing Tusk Techniques: Lv 3
Piercing Tusk Arts: Lv 4
Cold Resistance: Lv 4
Charge: Lv 6
Thunder Resistance: Lv 3
Description: A magic beast that resembles a wild boar. Its golden fur is extremely tough and can even has the ability to repel some degree of magic. Its tusks are powerful enough for it to crush large trees, and it has been observed taking down assailants twice its size. It knows not of the concept of retreat, and will continue to rush down its enemies with Charge regardless of the situation. Thus, it is nicknamed the Boar of Insanity. Threat level D. Its magic stone is located within its heart.
I’m pretty happy we finally managed to run into something we could turn into meat. Better yet was the fact that it was rather large. Its height was over five meters, and I’d say that its mass was probably at least twice Urushi’s.
『We’re after its meat, so try not to rough it up too much if you can help it.』
『Urushi, you focus on distracting it and restricting its movements.』
It’ll probably end up bleeding a lot if we give it too many injuries, which in turn would lead to a reduction in its flavour. Hitting it in the wrong place will also end up reducing the amount of edible meat we can harvest from it.
The most ideal situation would be taking it out by destroying its magic stone in one blow.
That said, I can’t actually use my telekinetic catapult to get at it. I mean, I could. I would end up being able to take it out with ease, but I’d probably also end up pulverizing a good chunk of what would otherwise be edible flesh.
『Tsk! Dodge it, Fran!』
The golden boar began charging at us as I contemplated our strategies.
It was much faster than I expected.
I tried slowing it down with Telekinesis, but it was charging with such force that it basically had no effect at all.
Fran managed to avoid a direct hit; the boar had only scraped her. But despite that, she ended up flying a whole ten meters. In other words, the boat was incredibly powerful. A single one of its strikes had managed to destroy several trees, each large enough to have been classified as sacred in Japan. 
Yeah no. We’re going to have to put in a bit more than just a bit of effort.
Fran immediately used her Sky Jump to leap into the air and whilst brandishing me with a resolute look on her face.
『I’m going to use magic and dig up a pitfall. Urushi, try luring the boar over to it. We should be able to get ourselves a good window of a few seconds if it falls inside. Fran, make sure you take advantage of any openings so you can finish it off in one go.』
I did exactly as described and created a bunch of large holes in the ground. Urushi also managed to perform pretty well. He stood in front of the boar and taunted it by moving around in an overly provocative manner. That is he shrank and then jumped up and down in order to annoy the boar as much as possible.
And surely enough, he succeeded. The boar was irked by the now tiny wolf’s mannerisms and began charging at it in a straight line as if to crush it.
The boar’s charge contained all the force of an eighteen wheel truck, and again destroyed every tree that happened to be in its path. This time, however, its ability and lack of a will to retreat ended up doing it more harm than good.
『It fell for it! Fran, you turn!』
Fran leapt through the air as she approached the pitfall the pig had fallen into whilst thrusting me towards its heart. I quickly followed up and thinned my shape in order to accommodate her actions.
Fran suddenly switched over to using a reverse grip and activated Pinpoint Stab, a level eight sword technique. She thrusted me straight through the boar’s spine and pierced its magic stone whilst destroying as little of its flesh as possible, a textbook worthy killing blow.
I stored the golden boar away for the time being. We wanted to dismantle it immediately, but this wasn’t the place for that. Disassembling the boar’s body in the middle of a haunt would likely attract more magic beasts. We’ll probably have to just borrow the Adventurer’s Guild’s facilities later.
Either way, we’d managed to get all the pork substitute we needed. The boar literally had an entire tonne of useable meat on it, so we were well within the safe zone.
『Alright, that’s one down, just a few more to go!』
We hunted for another two or so hours and found ourselves a pair of cow-like magic beasts and five chicken-like ones. Their species names were Apis and Gullinkambi respectively. The Gullinkambis we happened across were actually guarding a nest, so we managed to pick up eight of their eggs as a bit of an extra bonus. I really had to say, we scored pretty big despite only going out on a relatively short hunt.
The magic beasts we happened across had actually all been decently strong. I mean, they were weaker than the kind of stuff you’d see in a dungeon, but they popped up way more often. Luckily, we didn’t have to stay overnight as a result of the super high encounter rates, so we quickly began to head back in Barbra’s direction the moment we achieved our objectives.
That said, I couldn’t help but feel as if something was a bit off, it still seemed that the forest itself had been thrown into a state of restlessness. At first, I’d thought that the unnatural sensation stemmed from the fact that I was new to the place and didn’t know much about it, Urushi and Fran felt the same as well, which was weird. None of us were able to really calm down.
It didn’t take long for us to come to understand the reason behind the odd sensation we felt.
A thundering roar suddenly exploded from within the forest and assaulted our eardrums.
『Woah! What’s with this sudden influx of magical energy?』
The loud roaring was accompanied by an immense wave of magical energy.
「Master. Over there.」
『Yeah, I see it.』
I noticed a massive bird-like thing flying around The Crystal Tree. It was a bit too far for me to appraise, but I immediately recognized it, partially because of the way it would shoot off waves of light from time to time.
『Looks like a Thunderbird and two Storm Eagles.』
Thunderbirds were B level threats, and Storm Eagles D level threats. The Adventurer’s Guild had informed us that the former was one of the area’s most dangerous magic beasts, and that we should be cautious of it in any given situation.
The Thunderbird’s rank was the same as the demon we defeated back when we were still in Alessa, but I honestly couldn’t say for sure if we could actually beat it in a fight. Unlike the demon, it wasn’t being held back in any which way. Moreover, it even had a pair of subordinates with it. We wouldn’t be able to get out unscathed even if we did win.
That said, the sudden intense magical influx we felt wasn’t something that originated from the Thunderbird.
「Person there. About to fight?」
I could vaguely make out the shape of person floating around the Thunderbird. Said person had so much magical energy that we could feel it from where we were now.
It didn’t look like he had any companions; he was fighting alone. I almost wanted to call him out for being reckless, but for some odd reason, I couldn’t help but feel as if he’d win. It seemed that he was why we had felt so unsettled; crisis detection and presence detection had been picking up his trail.
The Thunderbird had started to shoot lighting from its beak, but, the person dodged the sky-illuminating electric strikes with ease.
It seemed that the Thunderbird had only been scoping his abilities out at first, as it immediately charged at him with a motion several times faster than what it’d been displaying thus far. It was easy for us to tell what it was doing since we were observing from a relatively safe distance, but the person in battle likely didn’t have nearly as good a grasp on its actions due to the chaotic nature of combat. That said, the person was still able to dodge every attack aimed at him with ease. What terrifying reflexes.
The three birds flew back into formation whilst backing off, as if to regroup.
Only an ever so slight opening had been created by the action, but the person had managed to take advantage of it regardless. And thus, he began to counterattack.
And through said counter, he ended the battle in a single blow.
『Hmm.. is that magic? No, it looks more like a skill…』
An incredible number of swords instantly appeared around the person as he raised an arm. I couldn’t tell if he summoned them or created them. He might’ve done something else altogether. Either way, I had no idea what he did. What I did know, however, was that every single one of the swords he summoned was at least as powerful as the average magic sword. Every single one was brimming with mana.
Every single one of his blades immediately accelerated towards the birds at high speed. They didn’t move nearly as quickly as I did with my telekinetic catapult, but they more than made up for it with numbers; there were about a hundred in total. Seeing him in action reminded me of a certain gold-covered Heroic Spirit and the gate that lead to his treasury.
The magic beasts were overwhelmed; they were trapped by a cage of sword and assaulted by a bombardment of blades until they plummeted from the sky.
『Yeah, but I’d prefer not to get involved with him if possible.』
We didn’t really know anything of the person’s nature. There was always the chance that coming into contact with him would to trouble and nothing else.
The person in question was currently making their way over to the magic beasts that they defeated. It was a pretty good time to leave, so we once again began heading back in Barbra’s direction.
 These things can be pretty big. Like this!
Also, in the raws, they had this whole shallow/deep thing with the regions because they kept referring to it as a sea of trees. I got rid of it because it didn’t sound right in English, I don’t know what the word for the intermediate point between shallow and deep is. This choice has a chance of biting me in the ass later. Just calling it out ahead of time.
Another thing is that this was supposed to be released three hours ago, but I passed out in the bath while watching porn. Whoops.