Infinite Mage (Novel) Chapter 70

 



C70

"Even so, if you don't become a magician, you'll be completely useless, right, Shirone?"

"Huh? Oh, of course."

"Relying on someone else's money to do something means you're entrusting your life to someone else. It's fine if you succeed, but if you fail, you'll be left with nothing. Shirone, you shouldn't do that either. You should find a way to make a living, even if it's for your parents' sake, and learn magic. Are you planning to live off your parents forever? It's not like you're strong enough to work either."

Even if he doesn't become a magician, he can still get a job with the knowledge he's acquired. There were plenty of places that would hire Shirone, as long as he swallowed his pride since he was a commoner. However, it was true that he had never considered what would happen if he failed.

How could that be? Was it overconfidence or arrogance? If he doesn't become a magician, what kind of life will he lead?

He felt nauseous. Failure. Everyone can fail, and Shirone was no exception. His heart turned cold at the realistic questions from the children of Hwajeonmin Village.

As the atmosphere grew heavy, Altor suggested a game. In part, it was also an attempt to regain his authority as a leader. (Shirone already live in a different world than them, why being obsessed with authority when the subject is out of the scope?)

"Come on, let's forget about the complicated stuff. Hey, Shirone, how about an arm-wrestling match with me after such a long time?"

"Uh? With me?"

"Yeah. You used to be surprisingly strong. Let's see if you still have that strength."

The children cheered on the competition, banging on the table.

"Oooh! A warrior versus a magician! It's the battle of the century!"

As the atmosphere at the drinking party heated up, Shirone put aside his gloomy thoughts and regained his smile. It was ridiculous to have an arm-wrestling match with someone who was bursting with strength. It had nothing to do with pride.

"How about it? Betting on drinks?"

As Altor placed his thick arm on the table, Shirone extended his hand without backing down. Whether he won or lost, accepting the challenge was a matter of a man’s pride, especially when there was a bet involved.

"Alright. Let's give it a shot. But no going easy on me."

"Of course."

The moment they gripped hands, Shirone felt like he was holding a lump of stone. It would be nice to cast a light magic spell and win the drinks for free, but that was just a fun thought.

Martin volunteered to be the referee.

"Alright, get ready... Start!"

Shirone squeezed out all his strength. However, Altor's full strength surged like a wave, causing Shirone's arm to topple to the opposite side regardless of his will. He rubbed his elbow as he fell under the table with a thud. It wasn't just full strength; it was brute force.

"Ouch, that really hurt. You're so strong."

"Wow! Altor is amazing. He knocked down Shirone, the magician, in just one go!"

Although magic and arm wrestling had nothing to do with each other, but to the children, the title of magician seemed to carry significant weight.

"Of course! Altor even hunted a bear before!"

Having regained his authority, Altor finally laughed heartily.

"Hahaha! Shirone, you've really gotten weak, huh? You weren't like this before. This has turned into a strange bet. I'll just buy the drinks, Shirone."

Lumina came over and supported Shirone. Her eyes were full of regret.

"Shirone, are you okay? It's Altor. How can he be so ignorant?”

She was a member of Hwajeonmin Village, so she couldn't help but know why Altor had done it so aggressively. However, she was familiar with the life of a huinter, and Shirone was the same, so she was not disappointed.

"I'm fine. But Altor has become really strong."

The moment Shirone stood up, the bag of gold coins fell. With his mouth wide open, the lovely gold coins rolled around. The children of Hwajeonmin village opened their eyes wide.

“Huh? These are gold coins, real gold coins!”

"What? Where? Wow! It's real! There are five of them?"

Even the children at the end of the table gathered and were mesmerized by the gold coins. It was rare even for adults to use gold coins in Hwajeonmin village. For the children who still made pocket money from odd jobs, the appearance of the golden coins seemed almost holy.

"You have a lot of money. Why do you carry around five gold coins?"

Shirone shyly picked up the gold coin and said.

"I brought a lot just in case. I really want to buy a book, and it would be difficult without money."

"True, books are expensive."

The children knew that Shirone loved books. When he came with Vincent in the past, he always had a book tucked under his arm. The illiterate Hwajeonmin villagers were not interested in books. Just by looking at the number of gold coins that fell, they could tell how great Shirone was living.

"Shirone, you can use this as I please? It's your money, so you can buy whatever you want, right?"

Shirone put on a puzzled expression. He's never had his money wasted. As Altor said, it is money received from others. However, the children seemed shocked just by the fact that he had a huge amount of money. He chose his words carefully, thinking that he  could hurt their lives if eh didn't.

"I hardly have any need to spend money. Most of the time, I skip meals because I have too many school classes.”

"Ei, but you can still pay for the drink, right? Since you lost the bet.”

"Bet? Ah, right.”

Shirone had clearly heard Altor's words about paying, but showing the gold coins and pretending not to know would only hurt his feelings more. Altor, though ignorant, was not stupid, so he went along with the flow.

"Fine. I'll pay. I lost the bet, after all."

At Shirone's words, the children cheered.

"Yay! So, we're using gold coins? Shirone, can you give me the money for the drinks in advance? I've never actually touched a gold coin before."

"I'll do the calculation. It's been my lifelong wish to pay with gold coins!"

"No! I'll do it!"

Shirone had become the leader of the children before they knew it. Lumina looked worriedly at Altor. As expected, his face showed his miserable feelings.

However, he didn't get angry for the same reason as Lumina. He had been watching Shirone since childhood and knew that he hadn't changed at all. He was a kind child who always thought of others first, whether in the past or now.

"Stop it, guys! As men, you're so cheap for being so excited over a gold coin! When will you grow up? Let's talk about something else now."

At Lumina's nagging, the children quietly returned to their seats. Shirone was grateful to her.

Quick-witted Martin changed the subject.

"By the way, did you hear? They say it showed up in the mountain behind us yesterday."

"Ah, I heard that too. At this rate, there won't be any mountain animals left. How long are they planning to keep eating?"

"It must be a cowbear with cubs. Their appetite is tremendous."

The cowbear is the largest gray bear among bears. In particular, a female with cubs can eat twice as much as usual, making it a headache for hunters.

Shirone, who had some experience hunting, showed interest.

"A cowbear came all the way here? Don't they usually live on the other side of the mountain range? That must be really troublesome."

“You can say that again. My dad is a hunter, but he's been having a hard time catching anything lately. There's not much we can do since the mountain animals are becoming scarce."

"Then why don't we all gather together and catch it? Cowbears aren't particularly aggressive, so five people should be enough, right?"

"Everyone's busy logging these days, so there aren't enough people. However, looking at its range of movement, it seems like it won't give birth here. They say it should return to normal in about a week."

"I see. Your father must be having a hard time too."

Altor's eyes sparkled as he snapped his fingers.

“Hey, Brad. That cow bear, what if we catch it?”

"What? Us? Won't that be dangerous?"

"How can you say that when you look at me? I've hunted more than enough aggressive red bears. A mere cowbear is nothing."

Altor intended to regain his lost honor through this hunt. It was strength and hunting skills that gave him an edge over Shirone, so in a way, it was like a godsend opportunity.

"Hey, what do you think? Let's all help Brad."

"Well, if you do that, I'll be grateful."

If they can't find prey, their families will have no choice but to starve. Knowing this fact, the children couldn't turn a blind eye to Brad's situation. Besides, wasn't Altor the one who caught the red bear, which was said to be the most vicious despite its small size?

"Great! Let's go catch a cowbear tomorrow!"

“Oooh! My blood is boiling! Brad, don't worry! I'll shoot an arrow right between the cowbear's eyes!"

"Idiot! You think you can do it? We just need to set traps and leave it to Altor."

"We're leaving tomorrow morning! Shirone, you're coming too, right?"

Altor asked with sparkling eyes. In order to regain his position as the leader, Shirone had to come along. Knowing this fact, Shirone nodded, thinking it was rather fortunate.

"Okay. I've learned a thing or two from my father, so I should be able to do my part."

"Great! Now, cheers!”

Foamy beer mugs clashed in mid-air.

----------------------

The next morning at dawn.

Shirone got up very early to prepare for the hunt.

Each child would take specialized tools, but individuals had to equip themselves with basic gear.

Shirone carefully rolled up a rope so it wouldn't get tangled and hung it on his backpack, then checked his bow and arrows.

He brought cloth and glue to make a torch, and also prepared nails and a hammer.

He put spare arrowheads in a leather pouch and meticulously packed dried food and a whistle in case of distress.

When he picked up the backpack, the familiar weight made him feel happy.

Thinking that he, Shirone the man, was not yet dead, he opened the door to find all the children with their gear gathered in front of it.

"Hey, Shirone. You're so late. We were just about to leave. Hehehe."

Shirone smiled awkwardly. Indeed, those who were actively working in the field seemed different in some way.

"Haha, sorry. It's been a while since I've done this, so I'm not used to it."

"Anyway, let's go. We need to return before the sun sets."

Altor took the lead, and Shirone followed in the middle group with Lumina. Martin guarded the rear.

When they arrived at the area where the cowbear had appeared, the sun had rise.

Lumina started a fire and began cooking. Breakfast was corn soup with melted sheep's milk cheese and bread. Shirone dipped the hard bread generously into the soup and swallowed it in one gulp.

"Delicious. Lumina's cooking skills are truly something to be recognized."

"Hehe."

Lumina smiled shyly. The children had changed a lot, considering they would have been fussy about meals in the past. It was a good change, and Shirone was relieved to see his friends doing well.

"If everyone's done eating, let's head out. It seems like the beast is up there."

Alto led the children up the mountain slope. As he suspected, the trees were marked as the bear's territory. Martin pointed to a tree with severe claw marks and said,

"Look at this. The tree is completely torn up. It must have incredible strength."

Altor approached and carefully examined the claw marks.

"Hmm. This shouldn't be a problem. Its paws don't seem that big either."

“But isn't it still dangerous?"

"Bears are known for their strength. They're faster than you'd think. But cowbears are slow movers. With this many people, we can hunt it down."

Shirone examined the claw marks belatedly and frowned slightly at the odd feeling. He couldn't imagine the scene of a bear marking its territory on the tree. The marks didn't seem to be made with strength, but rather by something very fast and sharp.

'It’s weird. I don't think it was done by force. Rather, it was as if something very fast and sharp struck it....'

At this point, Altor pulled out his bow. With an arrow loaded and his upper body bent, he looked back and said,

"Anyway, we should start from here, so be careful. Let's go up a bit more and set up traps."

The children who followed Altor climbed the mountain while silencing down their steps. Their agile movements were a result of this lifestyle being their daily routine.

Shirone entered the spirit zone to sense the surroundings. Although a 40-meter radius wasn't as good as an experienced hunter's vision, it didn't hurt to be cautious since he felt uneasy.

When they were nearing the summit, a very unpleasant energy was conveyed through his synesthesia. As Sirone stopped his steps and tried to figure out the source of the feeling, Altor looked back and asked,

"Shirone, what are you doing? We're not setting up traps here."

“Altor. Something is a little strange.”

"What's strange? I can't feel anything.”

Altor preemptively dismissed Shirone's opinion. No matter how smart Shirone was, Altor thought he was the expert in huntin. But Shirone didn't back down and walked off the path to somewhere. Altor chased after him with an angry expression. Arbitrary action in the mountains could endanger everyone.

"Shirone, if you keep doing this, just go back down... Ugh!"

Altor was appalled by the sight before them. Shirone was also at a loss for words. The smell of sheep's milk cheese he had eaten earlier came back up as nausea overwhelmed him.

"What... What is this?"


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