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And just like that, there’s no more heaven-defying, giant puppet of a treasure. The ruler slapped it out of embarrassment—

“I’m not embarrassed.”

—and claimed it for herself. Mm, she claims she isn’t embarrassed, but she’s definitely hiding something out of shame. Why else would she interrupt a moving image set about herself? If it’s not out of shame, then maybe she’s hiding a big secret from me, but then again, I doubt it! I’m just a puny little immortal; she doesn’t have to hide anything from me because she can conveniently wipe my mind whenever she wants. Why didn’t she let me watch the images move if that’s the case? Ah? Maybe she did, and I made fun of her, so she wiped my memories and replaced them with her destroying the puppet!

“You’re thinking too hard again. What did I tell you about doing that?”

Well, I’m not trying to destroy an impossible to destroy puppet, so it doesn’t matter whether I think hard or not, right? Unless I’m still fighting it and happened to fall under an illusion! If that’s the case…, then…. Teacher! You promised you’d help deal with attacks targeting my soul!

“You’re as dumb as your ancestor.”

Mm? The ruler thinks I’m as intelligent as my ancestor? She might’ve used the word dumb, but she’s allowed to call him that because she was in love with him. Not only that, but my ancestor was smart enough to escape from the prison she had trapped him in and found true happiness elsewhere! Not that he wouldn’t have been happy if he married the ruler, that’s not what I’m saying. It’s just that, uh, he’d…, you know what? I’m going to stop thinking now before the ruler changes her mind about not punishing me for the thoughts my brain comes up with. It’s really easy to not think; all I have to do is meditate and focus on my breathing!

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

…Alright, what’s this burning smell? It’s making me anxious. Did I leave something cooking in Sir Pot for too long? I know he can self-regulate his temperature to not burn things, but what if he fell asleep? Then again, spirits don’t really sleep, so … what if he got distracted by a pretty female pot? Never mind. I found out the source of the burnt smell.

“Big Elder Fluffytail, what happened to the puppet?”

The smell’s coming from these beasts who were in the other room when the puppet absorbed and fired out my squirrel flames due to the ruler’s prank. “Well, I’m not sure. It must’ve used an illusionary technique to trick us before teleporting away.” Right. There’s no way I can admit the ruler took the puppet; she’s currently acting like my bodyguard, and if these people find out my bodyguard took the treasure, they’ll demand for their fair share because I promised I’d give them something if they helped me get it. Of course, I don’t want these guys to get a bad impression of me, so I’ll give them participation rewards! Every loser loves participation awards. “Although it’s a shame, I’ll still compensate you guys for your time and effort. How about I cook for everyone?”

Like I thought earlier, fighting against the giant puppet made me super hungry, and what better a time to eat than the present? But first, let’s get out of here. This place is rigged to collapse, and I’m not going to cook a giant meal just to have it all blown away! I’ll reach inside my life pouch and grab my … ow! What the heck!? Something just burned me. “Hang on a second; I need to check something. Mrs. Mu, grab my life pouch and get us out of here.”

I’ll pass my life pouch to Mrs. Mu, and I’ll crawl inside of it! Alright, what’s going on in here? It’s so damn hot! “Durandal!? Is that you!?”

What the heck? Durandal’s hanging out with Mrs. Feathers’ Future Husband inside of my life pouch! And it’s not just the vermillion bird, the mouse-person is here too! They’re … doing something really weird. Mrs. Feathers’ Future Husband is using his vermillion flames to melt the treasures that the mouse-person had collected, and Durandal’s drinking the resulting molten liquid straight from the crucible! Mm? How do I know what’s a crucible? I’m a master blacksmith, remember? Anyway, that’s not important right now! What’s important is Durandal dropped the crucible and disappeared!

“Laoshu Aidami greets Big Elder Fluffytail,” the mouse-person said and cupped his hands at me. There was a half-melted weapon in his grasp. “I’ve done as you’ve requested and gave your portion of the treasures to your weapon spirit for his consumption.”

Done as I’ve asked? I didn’t ask him to do that! “What do you mean? You said you gave away my treasures?”

“Didn’t….” The mouse-person gulped as his face paled. “Didn’t you need a stronger weapon to destroy the giant puppet’s armor? Your weapon spirit, Durandal, passed along your message. He said the only way for you to defeat the puppet was to improve his strength by feeding him the treasures I took from the armory earlier. Those were your orders, right?”

“No…?”

“But you recognized that weapon spirit, Durandal,” the mouse-person said. “Is he your weapon spirit? I notice the same aura he gave off is coming from the sword on your waist at this very moment.”

“Durandal is my weapon spirit, yes, but he’s a huge troublemaker.”

“And I gave away your portion of the weapons to him,” the mouse-person said and hung his head. “Alright, since it was my mistake for letting him deceive me, I’ll give you my portion of the weapons to make up for what I’ve lost. A treasure-sniffing mouse might be sneaky by design, but we’re honorable when it comes to handling treasure.”

This mouse-person looks so defeated. I can’t let him be punished because of Durandal’s actions! But I also don’t want to lose my portion of the treasures. “How about this? We pretend like Durandal never got any of the treasures, and we split the portions again with the remaining amount.”

“I can’t!” the mouse-person said and shook his head, his face looking similar to Sophia’s when she rejects my pie because she’s too full. “If anyone finds out, my position as the heir of my clan will be removed. This tiny amount of profit isn’t enough for me to risk everything.”

Mm, well, I tried. “Suit yourself!” Ah? What about me taking responsibility for Durandal’s actions and not taking the mouse-person’s treasure? Why would I do that? It’s Durandal’s fault, not mine!

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Virlyce

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