Lone's group had a relaxing night's rest in their tents and thankfully, nothing unexpected happened during the night. Lone was worried that something could have attacked them or the weather could have dramatically changed. After all, they had no idea which part of the continent they were on.
Eolande lazily flew out her tent that she had shared with Breena before taking a seat on the grass. "Morning," she yawned as she lay her torso on the sleeping Kyuubi.
"Good morning," Lone replied. He was sitting on a small camping stool while he was cooking a simple breakfast of eggs and bacon in a pan over the campfire.
Sophie's head poked out of her and Lone's tent. Her eyes locked onto their target, and without her consent, her body gravitated towards the pan in Lone's hand.
A gentle arm pulled her in towards Lone's lap where she was forced to sit. "Not yet. They haven't finished cooking," Lone said in a gentle voice.
"Muu... I'm hungry..." Sophie complained as she struggled in vain to attempt to remove Lone's arm from her waist before she finally gave up and quietly sat on his lap while her droopy eyes remained focused on the cooking food.
A minute later, Swind clambered out of his tent that he had slept in alone only for his face to immediately be covered in shock. "M-Mr Immortus-ss! If you had woken me up-ss, I would have been more than willing to prepare breakfast for everyone-ss!"
"Don't worry about it. I like cooking every now and then. I'll leave lunch and dinner to you today, okay?" Lone smiled in response.
Swind didn't look overly happy, but he retreated and allowed Lone to finish breakfast while saying, "As you wish, Mr Immortus-ss. But please-ss, in future, allow me to do all of the chores-ss, cooking included."
At some point, Breena had left Lone's shadow as it would seem that she had woken up before even he had, and the group enjoyed breakfast before they all got properly dressed in their travelling gear. They then continued onwards, following Lone's orb that led to the Crimson Foxkin Clan.
They travelled like that in peace for several days. Every day Lone would contact Gilbert and Grimsley and explain to them how to create a boat and to simply talk. Unfortunately, no matter how much he tried to, Lone couldn't break through the bottleneck he was at, regardless of how much he sat and meditated, leaving him as a D-Ranker.
Suddenly, Lone stopped walking as soon as a treeline appeared in his vision. "You sensed them too, right, Soph? In the forest a few hundred feet ahead of us," Lone said with a calm voice.
Sophie nodded her head before she closed her eyes and drew in the nearby magical energies to focus on her Mana Sensing. "Twenty people. All fairly strong. C-Rankers? They look like humans, but they have long horns, almost like antlers sticking out of their heads," Sophie said, shocking Breena and Swind.
"Ah, must be the Deerkin. We're in the Beastman's territories?" Eolande asked with a ponderous look on her face.
"Beastman territories? Hmm, that's about a week's travel from Milindo's capital. Lucky for us I guess that the Dungeon's exit teleported us towards our goal and not away from it," Lone said.
After a moment's silence, Lone stated his plan, "Here's what we're going to do. From what I can tell, they're observing us to see if we're hostile or not, so slowly raise both of your arms into the air and cancel any skills or spells you're using. Kyuubi, stay right next to me if you want to stay summoned, otherwise, just yip twice and I'll unsummon you."
'Peaceful option first, Lone. Only wipe them out if they attack us. Self-restraint. Reel in that arrogance, you can do it,' he told himself to boost his confidence with this unfamiliar approach.
The girls nodded and Kyuubi chose to stay summoned and glued herself to Lone with her large, furry body.
The group of five people and one animal slowly walked towards the nearby forest with their arms raised. It didn't take long for them to be right at the entrance of the forest, and suddenly, an arrow whizzed through the air and landed at Lone's feet, stopping his advance.
"Negotiation time now?" Lone mumbled as he felt his palms moisten with sweat. He was determined to try his best to be peaceful here and not antagonistic like he usually was.
Lone could hear shouting coming in his direction from the Deerkin. 'I have no idea what language that is. Breena also looks confused, so it's not a uniform Beastman language? Fuck. I hope they speak Milindonian,' Lone thought before he opened his mouth and replied to the shouts with, "I'm sorry! I don't understand you! Do you know Milindonian?!"
The group of Deerkin stopped shouting instantly and slowly approached Lone's group. When they were close enough, they stopped moving, but each of all pointed their expertly crafted bows in the direction of Lone's group.
"Foxkin! Why have you come to our lands with that... Lizard person and a Human?!" a tall man who was very lithe in appearance asked both Lone and Breena in perfect Milindonian.
The group of five couldn't help but stare and this man's large horns that were protruding from his head and pointing almost straight up into the air. They curved slightly, making them look elegant. Their most noticeable feature was their length. The horns were at least fifteen centimeters long.
"I'm sorry if we've angered you. I wasn't raised in this land, so forgive me and my friends if we've trespassed on your territory or something similar," Lone claimed with as much sincerity as he could muster. Thankfully, the Deerkin didn't seem to be angered and was listening attentively to Lone's explanation.
"We are currently following the mana traces in an orb I was personally given by the Elder of the Crimson Foxkin Clan to reach that very clan." When Lone had said this, the man's eyes opened wide in shock for a moment before he calmed himself and continued to listen.
"As you can see, my companion here is a variation of Crimson Foxkin, so we were hoping to find her family in the Clan since she was kidnapped at a very young age," Lone said as he gestured towards Breena. She lowered her head before Lone continued.
"I recently rescued her and I happened to have had a connection to the Elder of her clan, please allow us passage through your forest, or direct us to another path that might lead us to the Crimson Foxkin Clan more safely. Again, we mean you no harm," Lone finished.
A regretful look flashed across the Deerkin's facial features before he raised his hand and said a word in his unfamiliar language once more. Immediately after, the other twenty or so Deerman lowered their bows.
"Kidnappings are a very serious threat to us beastkin. I'm sorry for what happened to you, young one," he said to Breena who kept an emotionless expression on her face. He then turned to face Lone. "And I'm very pleased that you managed to rescue this young Foxkin. The Human," he said with a warm look before he gazed at Sophie sternly. "Can she be trusted?" he finished coldly.
"She is my lover and I trust no one more than her. Were she to ask for it, I'd give her my very life," Lone replied without any hesitation.
This forced a blush to creep up onto Sophie's face as her thoughts were swimming.
'I definitely need to improve! Lone deserves better than me... he's trying so hard to fix his flaws, but what am I doing? I... I'll became an unrivalled Master Mage! I'll become so strong that no one can hurt Lone, or me, or anyone I care about ever again! I swear!' Sophie reignited her earlier self-convictions with an even brighter passion.
The Deerman took a long hard look at Sophie before he slowly nodded his head. "Very well. Follow me, Foxkin. We Beastmen must look after our own, especially now that our alliance is weaker than ever, and the Humans are kidnapping more of our kind every day. If the Human tries anything, though, we will kill her," he said sternly, but with good reason.
"Thank you, she won't do anything, I promise," Lone said as he tried to hide his clenched fists.
'No, Lone! Don't get angry! He has every right to mistrust Humans! I just need to endure it until they're brought us to the Fox clan. Peaceful thoughts, peaceful thoughts... don't kill them... reel in the arrogance... ' Lone began chanting to cool himself down. It would be a long time before Lone gained perfect control of his emotions, but he was certainly on the right path.
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