Unintended Cultivator

Book 6: Chapter 43: I Believe in You

Book 6: Chapter 43: I Believe in You

Why is that monster just sitting around out there? demanded Misty Peak.

Sen steadfastly refused to engage in anything like conversation or banter with either her or Laughing River until hed had at least one cup of tea. The fight with the fire eagle had been brief but not without consequence. Healing taxed even cultivator bodies, and Sen had taken a lot more damage than he thought bringing that bird down. No single injury had been particularly dangerous, but hed accumulated a lot of them in that handful of seconds. Cuts, burns, bruises, and even puncture wounds from his own technique exploding in his face. He revised that thought. It had exploded inside the bird. His face had just been very close and growing closer when it happened to do that. Sen pushed the thought aside. He had won. Thats what mattered.

Hed even managed to save the big spider. He saw that as a mixed blessing since it had followed him home and taken up residence outside. Sen was almost certain that the one that had stayed outside the galehouse was the one hed saved. He hadnt gotten the best look at it as he hurtled past the dreadful thing on his way to crashing into the fire eagle, but what other reason would it have to stay? Sen found himself pondering the nature of spiders. Do they feel gratitude? He suspected that the spider queen might, but he was far less certain about how independent or independently-minded the members of her brood were. Sen dropped that thought into a mental pile of things for later and focused on enjoying his tea. A task made more difficult by the increasingly annoyed look that the fox woman was giving him. He put down his tea with a disgruntled noise and turned to regard Misty Peak.

Do I look like a spider to you? he asked.

The fox womans eyes narrowed in suspicion. No. Why?Gêtt the latest ch𝒂pters on n𝒐/velbin(.)com

Then why do you think I would have an answer to that question? Its not like I could ask it. The thing followed me back here and took up station out there.

It just randomly followed you back here? asked Laughing River, raising an eyebrow.

It may not have been entirely random, admitted Sen. I might have saved it from a fire eagle.

The two foxes both gave him blank stares for an uncomfortably long moment. He picked up his tea and took a sip in the temporary silence. Misty Peak recovered her equilibrium or at least her ability to speak first.

I dont know which question to start with, she said, shaking her head back and forth like all of the questions inside her head were causing her physical pain. Why did you save it?

Seems like you figured out where to start, murmured Sen. I thought it might win me a bit of goodwill with the spider queen.

Thats it? demanded Misty Peak.

What were you expecting? asked Sen. I made the decision in under a second. Its not like I had the time to put a lot of thought into it. What difference does it make? Did the spider do something to you?

Well, no. But it watched me with its disgusting spider eyes.

Sen thought about that and then shrugged. They were already watching us. You can put up with it for another day or two.

Laughing River perked up at those words. Youre that close to finishing?

Sen gave Misty Peak a pointed look. I would have been done yesterday if someone hadnt been working so hard to distract me.

The fox woman gave Sen a hurt look. Maybe you shouldnt be so easy to distract.

Admittedly, it wasnt all her fault. The fire eagle didnt help. But, yeah, I should be done with it today. Ill test it as much as I can, but there just isnt a way to know for sure that itll work without activating it completely. Tomorrow, Ill either get into the ruins, or were all going to have a very hard day.

Thats excellent news, said Laughing River, getting up from his chair and pacing around.

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Sen glanced between the elder fox and Misty Peak.

What about her? Sen asked. Is she tagging along?

Laughing River gave Misty Peak a considering look before he turned that gaze on Sen. What do you think?

I think that youre a fully grown fox who can make his own decisions. I believe in you, said Sen before he added. If she does come along, though, the outcome is entirely on you. I wont be responsible for it if she steals the relic or does some other very fox-like thing in there.

You could at least pretend that you trust me a little bit, complained Misty Peak.

Oh, I just figured that youve probably been lying enough for both of us. We didnt need my amateur efforts in the mix, as well, offered Sen.

The fox woman glared at him. You have an uncanny ability to insult and compliment at the same time.

Do I? asked Sen with feigned innocence. I have no idea what you mean.

Im sure you dont, said Misty Peak. Well, Grandfather? Are you going to let me go along?

The old fox looked at his granddaughter with a completely neutral expression before a gleam appeared in his eyes that made Sen a little nervous. Laughing River gave Misty Peak a big, toothy, predatory grin that raised Sens hackles. He didnt want the old fox to ever smile at him that way. The color drained from Misty Peaks face as she beheld that grin.

Of course, said Laughing River. After all, what kind of grandfather would I be if I didnt give you enough rope?

The two foxes locked gazes until Sen interrupted the incredibly awkward staring contest.

It doesnt happen often, observed Sen, but I am occasionally relieved that I dont have any family.

Nephew, said Laughing River as he directed an aghast look at Sen, what a terrible thing to say to your uncle.

Sen refilled his cup and raised it in salute to the two foxes. Im going to go drink my tea with the spider. I have a feeling that it might actually be better company right now.

Suiting actions to words, Sen took his tea and went outside. He found the spider where hed left it. The boar hed given the thing was nowhere in sight. Sen hoped the spider had eaten it and not just dragged it off somewhere to rot, afraid that Sen had poisoned it. The spider shifted slightly to keep him in sight as Sen approached and then sat down on the ground next to it. He wondered what the spider was thinking at that moment. He knew some spirit beasts could communicate mind to mind, but the spider hadnt shown any signs that it could do such things. Then again, Sen wasnt sure he would want the spiders mind to touch his. It seemed all too likely that the spiders thinking would be utterly alien.

Im not sure how much of what I say that you understand, said Sen, but I think you get the gist of it. So, heres whats going to happen today. Im going to go out into the forest again and finish making that formation. I should be able to finish it this morning. This afternoon, Ill make sure that its working correctly. Tomorrow, Ill make my run at the ruins. After that, I shouldnt be your problem for a while. If I make it back out, I expect well leave here as fast as possible.

Sen sipped at his tea while he tried to think if there was anything else he thought the spider, and by extension the spider queen, needed to know. He supposed he was running a risk by even telling them as much as he had. Then again, not telling them that much might prove even more of a risk. He thought of one last thing that he could tell them. He went back and forth on it. If he didnt tell them, it might provoke a bad reaction. If he did tell them, it might provoke a different bad reaction. No matter which way he looked at it, it could be either a benefit or a problem to reveal or conceal the matter. In the end, Sen decided that he was the one at the most risk, so hed go with his instincts about it. Hed been inclined to be straightforward with the spider queen, so hed stick with that.

You should inform your queen that the formation Im building will cast fire, said Sen.

The spider hunched at that information, as though it feared Sen would conjure fire then and there. He lifted a hand to try to calm the huge thing before it did something rash.

Sen quickly continued. If the formation works as intended, the only things that will suffer will be the horde by the ruins. Ill ask the others to make sure that fire doesnt spread into the rest of the forest.

Sen studied the spider intently, trying to gauge its level of understanding. The thing was simply too unfamiliar to him. He had no doubt that it was giving off a dozen signs that another spider would understand immediately, but he lacked the knowledge to even venture a guess.

If you understand, just give me some sign, said Sen.

The spider sat there with its inscrutable eyes on him for an interminable moment. Then, very slowly, the spider lifted one of its big legs and extended it toward him. Even though the spider wasnt moving aggressively at all, Sen had to exert an enormous amount of self-control not to flinch away as that leg approached him. The leg gently bumped against his chest, and then quickly withdrew, as though the spider was as afraid of what Sen might do as he had been of what it might do. Even so, Sen had to down the rest of his tea to wash away the dryness in his throat.

Good, he said and rose. Ill be leaving shortly.

He went back inside and the foxes abruptly stopped talking. Sen sighed. That probably meant that theyd been talking about him. He considered whether it was worth digging into, and almost immediately recognized that his life wouldnt be improved by that course of action. Instead, he looked straight at Misty Peak.

You got your way. Shouldnt you be off retrieving someone for me?

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