“I wonder if I’ve been forgotten. Probably, right? Ever since Lucia disappeared, no one’s even acknowledged my existence other than you guys.” And that’s only because I feed you. I’m so lonely. Why was I hired to take care of the predators? Actually…, I wasn’t even hired! Lucia kidnapped me and forced me to become their caretakers under the threat of being eaten! She told me to find food for them or else I’d become their food! “And these plant people just keep spreading and spreading. Look, they’ve even taken over Lucia’s palace since she’s gone. …You’re not listening to me, are you, Mrs. Wuffletush?”
Mrs. Wuffletush smacked my head with her tail.
…If my life were a story, I’m sure I’d be a side character that’s mentioned once or twice before being discarded and forgotten about. The poor Reena Flopsy, she went on an adventure to make a name for herself at the Godking’s Brawl. She was never heard from again. The end. Yes, that’d be the perfect autobiography. Hah…, at least I’m still alive; I suppose that’s something. Right, a year after Lucia disappeared, a lot of people have been dying. And it’s all due to that giant plant monster taking root inside Lucia’s palace.
“What do you want for dinner today, Mrs. Wuffletush? Roasted boar belly?”
Mrs. Wuffletush shook her head and pointed at the palace. We were on a nearby mountaintop since we were forced out by the plant people. For some reason, the predators didn’t attack the plant people. Knowing them, it’s probably because they hate their vegetables and the plant people taste too similar.
“You want something that can be found in the palace?”
Mrs. Wuffletush nodded. My life would be a lot easier if the predators could speak. But if they could speak, they’d give me hundreds of impossible orders to complete. It’d be like living with five Lucias.
“Um, let’s not go to the palace, okay? Those plant people will stick a seed up my nose, and I won’t be able to feed you anymore. How about roasted bird? Or roasted fish?” I can only roast food with a campfire. Well, I could boil it too, but it’d take too long to cook enough for the predators to eat. It’s much easier to cook a whole boar over a large fire than it is to cut it apart and boil bits of it at a time in a small pot.
Mrs. Wuffletush shook her head and pointed at the palace again.
Why? Why are squirrels so unreasonable? “If you want something, how about you go get it … yourself….”
Mrs. Wuffletush glared at me. She raised her front leg and pointed at me. Then she pointed at the palace. Her tail slapped the ground a few times as her eyes narrowed into slits.
“…Alright. What do you want?” I might not be the best fighter, but I’m very good at hiding and sneaking around. “The only thing inside the palace that can’t be obtained outside is acorn stew and hot chocolate. Do you want acorn stew?”
Mrs. Wuffletush shook her head.
“Then it’s hot chocolate.”
Mrs. Wuffletush nodded.
I can’t believe I’m risking my life by sneaking into a danger zone for the sake of a luxury drink. Lucia pampered these predators too much! “Are you going to come with me?”
Mrs. Wuffletush shook her head.
This predator! One day, I’ll be free from it. When Lucia comes back, I’m going to hand in my application to quit. This isn’t the kind of life I imagined for myself. I was supposed to accomplish great things, live out my dreams, not become an animal caretaker…. Okay. Well, this isn’t the first time I’ve snuck into the palace, and it’s not even the second time. But every time I enter the palace, the security keeps growing tighter and tighter, and the plant that took root keeps growing larger and larger. I hope it didn’t drink all the acorn stew and hot chocolate. If only Lucia had left behind a larger interspacial ring for me. Sure, I can take out ten barrels at a time, but the predators drink that much in one meal!
“Ugh, fine. I’ll be back soon.”
Mrs. Wuffletush snorted and dropped onto the ground, resting her chin on her front paws. This lazy predator! Just looking at it infuriates me! If it couldn’t kill me with a single swipe, I’d definitely hit its snout!
The walk to the palace doesn’t take that long. But that’s because I’m pretty fast. I’ve broken through to the realm of divine warrior after Lucia left. I’m the second divine warrior in the whole world after Lucia! …But I’m stuck taking care of animals. Yeah, yeah.
The security seems pretty lax this time around. That doesn’t make any sense. Is this a trap? But even if it is a trap, I have no choice but to enter. If I don’t get Mrs. Wuffletush her hot chocolate, she’ll go on a rampage and kill everyone in sight. I can’t be the one responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people. Only a monster would let that many people die in front of them!
Let’s see. I left behind a burrow the last time I came. I actually left behind many burrows just in case. This time, I’ll make a new burrow since I have a bad feeling. Ugh, I really want to leave, but I can’t. Alright, Reena, start digging. You’re really good at digging. If my sense of direction is correct, which it usually is, then the basement of the palace is that way. Yeah, when Lucia returns, I’m definitely quitting. I don’t even get paid in money. I’m paid in acorn stew and hot chocolate. But so is everyone else; I suppose that makes those two liquids a currency. You could even call them liquid assets. …I’m no good at telling jokes.
I should be approaching the basement by now. Just a few more meters and … what is this!? A-are these roots!? How the hell am I supposed to dig into the basement with this giant wall of roots in the way? If I cut it, then that plant will definitely notice…. Then I’ll dig deeper? Just how far down do these roots extend? Okay, I’ll dig down some more since I don’t have any other options. I should switch to a better shovel since the rocks are harder the further down I go, but the only higher quality metal I have is my sword…. Alright, I’ll soften up the ground with my sword first, then I’ll dig out the dirt with my shovel. Here we go.
Ah, crap. I just cut a root, didn’t I? The ground shook, but since I was inside the ground, everything was shaking. Am I going to die now? If the burrow collapses…, I’m screwed. The roots squirmed and wriggled and surged … upwards? They’re … gone? Sunlight shone into my eyes, and I nearly went blind from the sudden exposure. Why is there sunlight underground!?
“Whoa! Ilya, look at this giant plant! It’s as large as a mountain! A single one of its roots is thicker than a tree! But why was it growing on my palace? Reena probably planted it to feed my predators, didn’t she? But she’s kind of dumb, don’t you think? Everyone knows predators don’t eat vegetables.”
Oh, Lucia’s back. I’m supposed to feel relieved and glad that Lucia’s here to clear up the plant problem. I’m supposed to feel happy, ecstatic. …So why am I angry instead?