After persuading Gaadhir-san, Diana and the others arrived immediately after that, and we were ready for the search.
As expected, Diana was reluctant to allow me, a nobleman, to join the search, but she dropped her objection immediately, probably because of the urgency of the situation, and the four of us started to head south through the forest, but we noticed something strange as soon as we entered here.
"Hey, isn't it suddenly cold?"
"Yes, it seems like the temperature has suddenly dropped."
This had never been the case before we left the settlement, but now the temperature had dropped so low that we could feel our white breath coming out.
The sun had not even set yet, but I wondered what was causing this sudden drop in temperature, and then a terrible sight awaited us.
"Wh-What is that!?"
As if there was some kind of invisible border, a silver world spread out before our eyes beyond a certain line, unmistakably a snow-covered forest.
"Why is this happening outside the settlement? Did the labyrinthine core change the forest?"
"No, however this forest is under the control of the labyrinth nucleus. But I've never heard of a nucleus with the power to transform the environment on such a large scale."
"Just because it's unheard of doesn't mean it's not possible."
While I was making a judgment that such a sudden change in the natural environment could only be the work of a labyrinthine nucleus, Lewya was muttering with a look as if she had an idea about something.
"I wonder if this is..."
"Do you have any idea what's going on?"
"Yeah, this situation is very similar to our village."
"What do you mean, similar?"
"Our village has the spirits control the temperature so that it's comfortable all year round. That's why the area around the village is always warm and lush, but the scenery changes drastically when we go outside."
"Wait a minute, that can't be right."
Then I realize a fact that I never knew before.
Today is the ninth wind week of the Ice Star (Month), the second half of the Ice Star (Month), and in my previous world, it was December, which means that it was in the middle of winter.
But due to the climate of the settlement, which is always lush and pleasant, the sense of the seasons has been completely deranged.
Even though the establishment of the Harvest Hoe branch on the settlement had drastically reduced the opportunities to go outside, it was still too silly.
No one in the settlement noticed this because all but one of them had not been out of the settlement for a while, and the only exception was a person who could not speak.
"Before we left, I thought you were repeating a strange gesture, is this what you wanted to tell me?"
The criminal slave nods his head in agreement with my words.
As a matter of fact, as soon as he joined us, he had been trying to tell me something with his wriggling arms and legs, but I gave up trying to figure out what he was trying to tell me and left first, saying that we didn't have time to waste right now.
Of course, if someone tries to rush out into the silver world in such light clothes, he/she would desperately try to tell us what's going on outside.
"Should we go back to the settlement to get warm clothes?"
"No, we don't have time for that―Huh?"
Suddenly, the criminal slave grabbed my shoulders from behind, and then he held me in a tight embrace.
"Huh, what is this?"
"Perhaps he's trying to warm you up because Neil said he was cold?"
Thanks to his thick muscles, the body temperature of the criminal slave is high despite his thin clothes, and he is indeed very warm, but since he is curled up with me in his arms, both of us can't move and can't go to search for Neo.
"I have an idea on how to keep warm, so can I ask you to let me go?"
I said, and the criminal slave opened his arms and let me go.
After I am released, I warn the other three to stay away from me for a little while, and I concentrate my magic power on my arms.
As I exhale, flames light up in my right palm and wind blows from my left palm, and the hot wind blows around me.
"You are very skillful in wielding both fire and wind, aren't you?"
"But I'm only sending air heated by the flame through the wind."
What I do is simple and unassuming, but the amount of magic power consumed is not insignificant.
In this case, I use fire magic with my right arm and wind magic with my left arm, but because the path of active magic is divided into two parts by the right arm and the left arm, a fluctuation is generated in the magic power sent to the right and left arms.
If the energy of the fluctuation falls below the magic power required to maintain the magic, the magic will be cancelled and it must be recast again.
The quickest way to prevent this is to simply increase the amount of magic power sent into the body, but if all the magic power sent into the body is converted into magic, the control and power of the magic will be severely affected, so the surplus must be drained out of the body as magic power, and I was now draining magic power from both my hands together.
If I was good at manipulating magic, I would be able to split the pathways into three or four without any fluctuation in magic power, and I would be able to perform magic at the same time with a nonchalant face, but unfortunately, I am not that skilled, being a second-rate person.
"Anyway, let's move on, I'm sorry, but my arms are blocked by maintaining the magic, so I'll leave it to the two of you to deal with the monsters."
By "two" I mean Diana and the criminal slave, and Lewya is to focus on communicating with the spirits and finding Neo's location, so she will not participate in the battle until Neo is found.
Of course, Lewya and I would join in the battle if the situation became too much for the two of them to handle alone, but fortunately it was so cold that most of the animals and monsters were in their holes, or we would not have been attacked by any of them.
Although we were caught in the snow and could not advance as we expected, it meant that a child's feet could not go so far, so we focused our search around the settlement, and soon found Neo's location.
According to the spirit, Neo was apparently unharmed and safe, but he was standing there in a daze.
Probably he is in the same condition as Liana whom I saw this morning, and Neo must have been led into the forest by someone's call.
On the way to Neo's place, I asked Lewya if she had any idea about such a thing, but unfortunately she had no idea.
In the end, we still don't know what Liana's call was, but judging from the fact that only Liana and Neo were affected by it and the fact that they came to their senses when I tapped their shoulders, I guess that it is a weak hypnosis that only mentally unskilled people can be affected by, but I call on everyone to be careful.
"But I'm more concerned about the settlement than the call, and Lewya, your people didn't do anything to it, did they?"
"Of course, if they did, they would at least consult with me before doing so."
"If that's the case, what in the world is going on?"
According to Lewya's story, it is almost certain that the power of spirits is involved.
The problem is that Lewya is the only one who can communicate with spirits properly, and since Lewya says otherwise, we are left wondering who is behind it.
I am grateful to Lewya for making the settlements more comfortable, but I must confess that my sense of the seasons is uncontrollable.
"Neil, Neo should be behind those trees out front."
"All right, everyone keep your eyes on the surrounding area. We'll turn back to the settlement as soon as Neo is secured."
After confirming that each of them agreed with my words, we forced our way through the snow and hurried to Neo's place.
As we passed by the trees in front of us, we found Neo standing there stunned, just as Lewya had told me.
His face showed no sign of rationality, and it was obvious that he was in a hypnotic state.
"Neo, hey! Come on!"
I released the magic and rushed to Neo, grabbed his shoulders and shook his body back and forth, but unlike Liana, the hypnosis did not seem to be broken.
Perhaps because he is still young and has not fully grown mentally, he has been hypnotized more deeply than Liana.
It was when I decided that I had no choice but to take him back with me for the time being, leaving the breaking of the hypnosis for later.
Suddenly, a strange voice echoed through the forest, almost shattering my eardrums, and I reflexively covered both my ears.
The strange voice shakes the air, and the snow on the branches and leaves falls to the ground by the vibration.
After a while, the strange voice stops, and I let go of my hands that were covering my ears.
"Damn, what was that noise?"
It was a very loud voice, but Neo's hypnosis did not seem to be broken even though he heard it, as if he had been hypnotized very deeply.
No, perhaps that was the true nature of the call, but then, something appeared in my line of vision.
With its limbs and torso as thin as a dead branch, it looked like a stick figure, and its head shaped like a ginkgo leaf with a huge mouth that took up half of its face area and two gaping eyeballs, its too memorable appearance immediately made me realize the identity of the being before my eyes.
"Gipner"―it is a very wicked monster that uses its strange voice to control the minds of intelligent creatures, and eats the prey it lures with its huge mouth.
However, as it looks like a stickman, the main body of the monsters has almost no fighting ability, and its durability is about that of a dead branch, and it is said that it is not uncommon to see its limbs or torso broken at any moment and die on its own.
Gipner, realizing that I was not under hypnosis, hurriedly turned around and tried to run away to the back of the forest. I tried to aim at Gipner with my right arm, but Neo's small hand reached out from under me and grabbed my right hand, blocking my way.
"Damn it, Neo! Wake up!"
I shake off Neo's hand, knowing that if I continue to fire the magic, I will blow off Neo's hands as well.
Since his physical strength has not changed even though he is being controlled, I was able to release Neo's restraints easily, but Gipner escaped while I was still in control of him.
"Damn, why is there a monster like Gipner in this place?"
This was a problem.
A simple hypnosis can be broken by shocking the subject, but the hypnotic sound that Gipner had just made has taken deep root in the subject's soul.
A person who has been put into a hypnotic state by hypnotic sounds cannot be brought back to his/her senses by the slightest stimulation, and even if he/she is released from the hypnotic state, the roots that have taken root in his/her soul remain, and he/she will go back to the hypnotic state in a short while.
The only way to completely break the magic is to defeat Gipner or to ask a mage who can break the curse.
"It's no use, we'll have to go back to the settlement..."
I turn around to tell everyone that it is not a good idea to go after Gipner in this situation, and that it would be better to ask a mage to break Neo's curse.
But Diana approached me with a long sword, and her face had the same expression as Neo's.
"Diana!? She's in hypnosis."
Seeing Diana about to raise the sword in her right hand, I quickly jumped to the side to avoid her, but Neo hugged my leg, blocking my movement.
Just as I was ready to be cut to pieces by Diana's sword, an arm like a club was thrust out between me and Diana, catching Diana's sword for me.
In the nick of time, I was saved by the criminal slave, and I was stunned for a moment that I was protected, but I regained my senses immediately and pulled Neo off of me, and then I moved away from Diana and the other with the criminal slave.
"Are you okay!?"
"Well, Lewya is... no good there either..."
I looked at Lewya and saw her approaching me with a dagger in her hand and an emotionless look on her face.
"Damn, we got caught off guard."
I had been in my right mind and hadn't realized that the sound of hypnosis could have hypnotized my companions.
But how come this guy and I were the only ones not hypnotized?
I should have heard the hypnotic sound from the position where Gipner was hiding, and I was the closest to Gipner, but I remained sane while the two people who were supposed to be behind me were hypnotized.
I don't think that Gipner's hypnotic sound had anything to do with gender, but... I must get out of this situation before thinking about such a thing now.
"Good grief, it's going to be hard to bring the three of them home in this condition."
Aside from the powerless Neo, the armed Diana and Lewya will be hard to carry unless they are completely neutralized.
Even if they were to come to their senses, people who have been hypnotized by Gipner would not come to their senses so easily, and there is no time to take them back in this extremely cold world.
"If I can defeat Gipner, it will all be over in one fell swoop."
If I can defeat Gipner, the hypnosis will be broken, and once the hypnosis is broken, I won't have to do anything like carrying them back to their senses.
But I couldn't just leave the three of them there and go after Gipner, so I took a step forward with my foot.
A cudgel-like arm reaches out in front of me again and stops me from moving forward.
"What's going on?"
The criminal slave could not speak, but instead his gaze was frequently directed deeper into the forest.
"Don't tell me, you want me to follow Gipner and leave this place to you?"
As soon as I know that's the right answer, I immediately analyze the situation.
The fact that the two of them are being manipulated like this means that Gipner has not escaped very far, and is probably hiding somewhere, watching us.
The three of them are in a hypnotic state, and although they were caught off guard earlier, they are moving slowly and it is not difficult for the criminal slave to move around to avoid being attacked.
"Okay, I will take down Gipner. Can you take care of the three of them until then?"
We split into two groups in order to defeat Gipner and free the three who are in a trance.
Please bookmark this series and rate ☆☆☆☆☆ on the Novelupdates -> here!
Thanks for reading.
Thanks for reading.