After seeing Gard off, I made my way through the rocks to the open area in front of the cave that we had agreed on.
The area was about the size of a sports field, and beyond that was a dimly lit cave filled with dark rocks, unlike the rocky arid-colored regions, which were restlessly overgrown with dead grass-colored plants.
I gathered the dead branches scattered around in one place while keeping in mind the best size for firewood. At the same time, I picked up some large leaves that could serve as plates.
I also found some spice grains that tasted a bit like pepper, which I had also seen back in the human realm, so I took two whole grains.
Then, with a little bit of effort, I carried two rocks that seemed suitable for people to sit on and laid them out near the firewood.
I even tried to look around the rocky areas while preparing, but I still couldn’t find a single Aryma.
I knew it wouldn’t go as easily as conveniently finding it right away just because I set my mind into it, but… even so, I couldn’t help but drop my shoulders.
I pulled myself together and decided to look for something else I could add.
I cautiously peeked into the cave I had been putting off exploring. There was no danger nearby.
I decided to go in a little further. Without lowering my guard, I followed the walls and advanced through.
The light from the entrance had become much dimmer, but fortunately, the cave was glowing blue inside, so I didn’t have to worry about the light source. Well, I wouldn’t really have dived in deeper if not for that.
After walking to a certain extent, I suddenly saw an open area with a few small sources of water scattered around like puddles.
They looked like holes of a lotus root. The accumulated spring water seemed to have flowed down from the stalactites as if a small faucet had been turned on.
Walking slowly, I approached the puddle.
Several golden brown porcupines with a sharp horn growing from their foreheads were drinking water in a nearby puddle.
I guess it’s safe for drinking. No, more importantly, why are there porcupines?
Their bodies that mimicked the color of the rocky areas completely stood out from that of this dark, blue cave.
I thought it might be a waste not to, so I washed my sweaty hands in the puddle, then my face.
It felt so comfortable to have my body cooled down after being exposed and burnt under the sun for so long.
I scooped the flowing spring water into my clean hands and drank it down. The cold, delicious water seeped into my parched throat. It didn’t taste particularly bad.
I see. This might’ve been a resting place for the monsters in the valley.
This was a fortunate thing for me since this forced exploration of the wasteland had been unexpectedly difficult.
If I hadn’t been able to rest, I would’ve had to return to the castle immediately, not because I couldn’t find the flower, but because I was tired and hungry.
As I took a sigh in relief, something poked me in my crouched thigh, and I turned to look at it. It felt ticklish. But I was supposed to be the only one in here.
A porcupine was sniffing me with curiosity, its nose twitching, and squeaked mokyu mokyu.
It was one of the porcupines that had been drinking water from a different puddle than this one.
When I turned around to face them, they were staring at me with their round and cute eyes.
…How cute. I couldn’t touch them because of their dangerous needles blocking me, but they were cute enough.
I wanted to pet them around, but that didn’t seem possible. So, I gently held out my hand to the porcupine sniffing me, and gave them a little bit of my attention.
“There, there. What’s the matter? Is it unusual to see a human?”
“Yeah. They’re soft under the chin.”
Perhaps it thought of my existence as weak as a monster since my magic was sealed, that the porcupine rubbed its face against my outstretched hand without caution.
The needles on its back were threatening, and its horn was also sharp, dangerous, and such. But its small, mouse-like face was adorable, and its fur was rather stiff, though soft like an animal’s. It was bouncy.
“Mm, you’re so adorable.”
As I was petting the porcupine, it suddenly bit into the flesh around the base of my index finger.
It didn’t hurt so much when it nibbled me with its tiny jaws, but I was frozen in surprise.
The porcupine was sucking the blood flowing from my bitten finger.
…Were they the type that drinks blood?!
A big shock came through me. I had never heard of such a thing. Who would ever look at a porcupine and think of them as the blood-sucking type?
I tried to pull my hand away from the porcupine in a panic when another cried out mokyu mokyu and bit me around my wrist.
“Ngh! H-Hey… Ah, ow… Stop… That hurts…”
I managed to pull my hand away after I was bitten, but another porcupine was a step ahead and nibbled me. It was a chain of nibbling.
Their fangs were small enough to scratch my skin a bit, but they did it a lot and left a lot of bite marks. Even though they were just minor scratches, the blood that trickled down was quite a disaster.
“I… I can’t do this anymore. I’m out…”
“Ah… That’s not fair…”
When I tried to get up and run away, the porcupines all made a pitiful squeak, as if to say, “Don’t be so cruel! Just a little bit more!” so I sat down again in distress.
I allowed each one of them to take a single nibble for the time being. Then, I washed my wounds and left the cave, trying to shake off my feelings of reluctance.