Here’s another Kuma. TLed by Aikawa and Aki, as always.
I should find impossible countdown puzzles so that it becomes an optimization problem of getting as close as possible instead of a brute force problem, but that seems like a pain to do (too lazy to code out the solution). Let’s change the number of big’uns you get to 1. Maybe the first one to solve it gets to choose how many big’uns you get (up to four).
Numbers: 25, 4, 9, 8, 6, 9
Clarification: Parentheses allowed, according to the rules.
Now that she had gotten her bracelet back, Ruimin was smiling a lot more often. She had often looked quite depressed before, like as if she was feeling sorry. It was good to see her laugh and smile more now.
Well, I only noticed how drastic the change was now that she was showing her natural smile; she must have been forcing herself before.
「We’ll reach the village soon.」
Ruimin said from atop Swaying Bear.
「Yeah. I never would have thought we would get here this quickly.」
Based on what they had told me before, we should reach the village today as the Bears were already running towards a large forested area.
I wasn’t sure if forest was the right word to describe the area; it almost seemed like a jungle.
Anyway, the Elf Village should be inside this forest, and it it weren’t for my Bear Map recording anywhere I went, I would surely get lost in this dense forest immediately. Even from here, all I could see was a whole lot of trees and nothing else.
In no time, the Bears reached the edge of the forest.
The road practically disappeared here. Would we have to stride right through the forest, with no path to follow at all? That made me a bit worried.
「From here, the road gets narrower, but still wide enough for things like horses to pass through.」
So, a carriage wouldn’t be able to pass through, but there was enough space for someone riding a horse.
Because of this, I could no longer have the Bears run on blindly, and had Sanya-san and Ruimin lead the way from atop Swaying Bear.
As we entered, I noticed that the whole forest was completely overgrown with all sorts of plants and vines, and only a bit of light managed to pass through the leaves.
I was looking forward to seeing the village, hoping there would be interesting things to be found there, or maybe some unique foods.
Maybe someone could even teach me how to make a protective bracelet, just like the ones Ruimin and Sanya-san wore.
First, I would have to figure out how to get a gemstone like theirs. They seemed quite precious so it might end up being an issue.
Still, if I actually managed to make one, I would definitely give it to Fina as a souvenir when I got back.
「This feels really nostalgic.」
「It has been ten years, right?」
「I’m not sure. We elves don’t really keep track of time. For me, it doesn’t feel like much time has passed.」
「It’s definitely been ten years, Onee-chan.」
「You sound like you know for sure.」
「Yeah, I do. You will understand once we get to the village.」
Ruimin didn’t explain any further, so we rode in silence for a while, eventually reaching a small river. We could easily cross it by just walking on it, but there was no need for that as there was a bridge we could take.
As soon as we crossed the bridge, however, something felt off to me.
It felt like my entire body passed through something. It felt like like going through a thin membrane of magical power.
As I looked around restlessly, trying to find the source of the feeling, Sanya-san noticed and spoke up.
「Could it be that you felt something?」
「As soon as we crossed the bridge, I felt some weird magic-like thing pass through me.」
I answered her, telling her what it felt like. It was difficult to explain it otherwise.
I wasn’t exactly sure what a magical membrane would feel like, but this sure seemed to come close to it.
「Yuna-chan, your magic is really sensitive. What you felt was most likely our barrier. Most people can’t feel it when they pass through it, though.」
「Yeah. From what I gathered, members of our family had been the only ones who could sense the barrier. Our magical power is very similar to that of the barrier as we were the ones to make it, so it makes sense for us to feel it. But, in your case… it’s quite weird for you too feel it, too.」
Well, that didn’t really help explain much…
「Does that mean Ruimin also felt it?」
「Yes, but only a little.」
Well, I only felt it slightly, too. It was most likely due to the Bear Suit; if I walked through without it, I surely would have not felt a thing.
「Still, this means that the barrier is working like it should be.」
「That’s true, but monsters can still pass through from time to time. Grandpa said that its because the barrier must have gotten weaker.」
「I don’t really understand how it would get weaker so soon, but if grandpa says so, then he’s most likely right.」
「By grandpa, you mean the village elder, right?」
「Yes. He’s really kind, so I’m sure he will give you a warm welcome, Yuna-chan.」
We continued to trod along the narrow path, which was just wide enough for the Bears to pass.
We traveled for quite a while longer, but the village still wasn’t in sight. Well, the Bears were forced to walk slowly because of the path, so it made sense for it to take some time.
I decided to use detection magic to see if we were getting close enough for it to be in my range. Eh, what the…? There were four people quite close to us, two on each side.
Not only that, they were even matching our speed. Were we being followed per chance?
I looked over to where they were supposed to be but couldn’t see anything.
They were most likely elves, but why would they be hiding from us?
It would have been understandable if I was traveling by myself, but both Sanya-san and Ruimin were with me.
Yeah, there should be no need for them to hide themselves. It didn’t look like they would attack us, either, as they were following us at a set distance.
Whatever their reason was, I couldn’t calm down knowing they were this close, especially once one of them moved a bit ahead and another one a bit behind, making us completely surrounded.
This could turn out to be problematic if they were actually enemies.
「Just wanting to let you know we are being followed or better surrounded by what I believe to most likely be elves.」
Sanya-san’s eyes widened when she heard me say that.
「Yuna-chan, you noticed?!」
It seemed that Sanya-san had noticed as well while Ruimin most certainly hadn’t as she started to look around restlessly.
「You really are simply amazing, Yuna-chan. They are skilled enough to be able to conceal their presence from normal people, but it seems these ones aren’t on the level to fool you yet.」
It was actually thanks to my detection magic, but I didn’t really want to explain about that.
Still, I had noticed nothing with my naked eye, so they really were very good at hiding.
「Even I only noticed them once I focused on it.」
「Are we going to be fine?」
「Yes, since we are here with you.」
After she said that, Sanya-san looked towards the forest, and then,
She called out what was most likely a name.
It seemed like I was right, and it really was somebody’s name.
After a few moments, I noticed that the tree in front of us began to sway with a few leaves even falling off. Looking up, I saw a male elf standing on top of a branch.
「You noticed us?」
The man asked, and I noticed he had quite the handsome face.
Was he an elf?
He sure seemed to be, as elves were said to be beautiful, whether they were male or female. That information was most likely true as Sanya-san was quite beautiful, Ruimin very cute, and this man clearly seemed to be on the better-looking side of people.
「It’s been a while, Labrat.」
「Yeah, it has. Still, I’m quite surprised you managed to notice us.」
「It’s your job to watch the forest, isn’t it?」
「You don’t have to worry about these bears. I can guarantee that they are quite harmless as long as you don’t attack them.」
「Does that include the bear on top of them?」
He said, looking at me.
「Does she seem dangerous to you?」
「… No, she doesn’t.」
「In that case, could you stop following us around? It’s a bit uncomfortable.」
「… I understand. I will head to the village to make a report in advance, then.」
「In the meantime, I guess we’ll camp out here to wait for the village’s approval.」