Mana was made by the creator of the dungeon? Does that mean that she is a monster? She looks just like a human child though.
“How old are you Mana?” I ask trying not to seem too surprised
I can see why she would think that people were after her. If someone captured her, they would be able to sell the information about the dungeon that she has to others. They would make a fortune overnight and likely be awarded at least a minor status of nobility. Even worse, if her captor thought to monopolize on her knowledge and attempt to use her to find magical items. One could possibly rule the world if they monopolized that kind of information.
“How old?” She asks, tilting her head
“How many years have passed since you were made?” I clarify
“Mano says funny things. What’s a year?” She says with a giggle
sigh “…Never mind. I don’t think we will get anywhere like this” I say somewhat exasperated
I’m honestly still trying to grasp the scope of the danger that simply standing beside this kid is putting me in.
“Hey, does Mano know what happened to Teko? Is Teko mad at Mana?” Mana asks as she says tugging on my sleeve
On her face is the look of a genuine worried and sad child.
“Why would you think he was angry at you? Did you do something you weren’t supposed to?” I ask
“Teko told Mana that she couldn’t go this high today, but Mana wanted to play a game with Teko. Mana was supposed to hide, and Teko was supposed to find her… but Teko hasn’t found Mana yet, and he won’t answer me when I call for him.” She says looking down at the ground
Crap… That was my fault, wasn’t it? I told that annoying clown not to watch me, which means that since she got too close to me he can’t watch her either.
“I’m sure he has a good reason for keeping silent,” I say trying not to look guilty
“Will Mano go with me to apologize?” Mana asks looking up at me with tears in her eyes
“Wha?! Well… that is… sure.” I let out as I try to find the words
“Yay! Mano is super nice!” She yells out happily
How can I tell her that if she stays near me that she won’t get the chance when she looks at me like that? I regret telling him not to watch me now. The only way that I can think of for her to do so would be for me to return to the beginning.
“Are you registered with the return stone?” I ask as I think of possible solutions
“Hmm? What’s that?” She asks cocking her head
Of course not.
“For now, why don’t we focus on finding my friends?” I ask
Maybe one of them could help. If I had one return to the first floor of the dungeon and tell the stupid clown that it’s okay for him to watch us again then I should be able to keep my promise.
“Okay, I don’t mind. Are your friends nice?” She asks grabbing my hand and beginning to walk again
She clearly knows where she is going. I don’t know how long I was going to be wandering around down here without her.
“They are all a little weird, but they are all nice,” I say back with a smile
To tell the truth, it feels a little weird to be vouching for people that I’ve met so recently, but I already trust each of them implicitly. Am I just too trusting? Considering the vast amount of people who want me dead, I could probably due to be a little bit more cynical when meeting new people.
“Hey, Mano?” Mana asks looking back at me
“Yes?” I respond
“What’s that thing?” She asks, pointing her finger at my shoulder
“You mean Kiri?” I ask looking at the perched bird
“Yup! It’s kinda cute… Is it dangerous?” Mana asks shyly
“Kiri is my… pet?” I say looking inquisitively at Kiri
“KII!” Kiri chirps back angrily
“KII!” Kiri chirps again with an even further annoyed look
“Kiki! Kiri!” Kiri chirps happily flying around my head
“There you have it; Kiri is one of my friends. He is perfectly safe, no need to worry about him.” I say with a smile
I’m glad Kiri doesn’t hold any kind of grudge against me for using magic to tame him.
“Can I pet it?” Mana asks with a sheepish and cute look
“Gah!… Yes.” I say unable to deny her
If she turned that look at a world leader she could easily bring ruin to a country.
“Kiikii!” Kiri chirps out shaking his head furiously
“Kiri?” I say in a bit of a demanding voice as I turn to look at him
“Kii!” Kiri lets out before quickly rushing to Mana
“Mano… Is a little scary. That’s okay though! I know that Mano is nice!” Mana says as she fawns over Kiri
Mana continued to guide me from that point on until we reached the staircase to the next floor. Needless to say, we were the first to arrive. Mana continued to play with Kiri as we waited for the others.
“Ribbit.” I hear echo in a familiar voice from one of the nearby tunnels
I draw my sword and point it towards the sound.
“Woah Woah! It’s just me!” Kera says as she comes into view
“I know,” I say with an increasingly annoyed look
“Wah! Save me lover boy~” She says hiding behind Kiel who arrived at the same time.
Kurobe is also with them. I’m glad they found Kurobe, but where in the world did the imps and Gero go?
“Um, Mano-san?” Kiel asks with a worried look
“Yes?” I ask sheathing my sword again
“Who is that?” He asks pointing at Mana
As he does the color begins to drain from his face.
“Hmm? Oh, that’s Mana. She was wandering around the dungeon so we decided to stick together.” I say as I pet her on the head.
She looks a bit nervous meeting these three.
“Wait, did she get lost down here?” Kiel ask
“No, she says that she lives in here,” I say as I try to think of ways to explain the situation
I only just got a grasp on the situation myself. As Mana played with Kiri, I attempted to explain the situation to everybody.
“So that would make her a magical item right?” I ask a stunned Kera and Kiel
Kurobe has completely lost interest and started taking a nap.
“I… don’t know. She could be an extremely complex automaton, but I can’t imagine one that could imitate a young child so well. So, what are we going to do?” Kera says with a puzzled look
“What do you mean?” I ask unsure what she was asking
“Are we going to take her with us?” Kiel chimes in
“Hmm, I don’t know… The dungeon seems to protect her, so I imagine she would be safer down here. On the other hand if a situation like this happens again and the person she meets is some kind of creep she could be in some serious danger.” I say as I watch her play with Kiri
Kiel looks at me for a moment with a stunned look on his face, before it shifts into a soft smile.
Sigh “I almost forgot that that was the kind of person you are.” He says as his smile grows wider
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I ask
Is he making fun of me? Does he think I’m being overconfident by thinking that I could protect her better than a dungeon could?
“Well, let’s forget that for now. Should we continue further into the dungeon? I imagine with her helping us it should be quite a bit easier.” Kera ask with a similarly wide smile
“No, I’ve gotten my fill of exploring this dungeon for now. As soon as I fulfill a promise I made with Mana then I plan to leave” I answer
“A promise?” Kera ask
“Yes, she seems to think that the reason that the clown isn’t talking to her is that he is angry at her. I’ve yet to tell her otherwise, but she made me agree to apologize with her.” I explain
“She made you?” Kera ask with a snarky look
“I’ve found another weakness of hers! Yay!” Is written all over her face
“In that case should I go tell the guardian that you’ve changed your mind about your deal?” She says in a mocking tone
“Please do so” I say
“Why did you hit me first?!” She yells out nursing her head
“You just annoyed me, that’s all.” I say walking over to Mana
“Hmph! Return!” Kera says as a bright light embodies her leaving nothing in her place moments later
“Mana, are you ready to apologize?” I ask after walking over to her
She stops her playing and dons a guilt-ridden and worried look before nodding and grabbing my sleeve.
Barely enough time passes for one to believe that Kera actually explained anything to that annoying clown before-
“Mana?! Are you alright? Did they hurt you?!” He excitedly starts doting over Mana
“Mm-mm Mana’s fine,” She says meekly shaking her head
Despite the fact that the voice is seemly coming from every direction, Mana still hides behind me as she answers.
“Wait a second! I’m going to bring you to your room!” The doting clown spouts
“No!” Mana yells and she hugs me tightly
Sparks of light quickly start flying all around me. If it wasn’t so surprising and sudden I might even think it was beautiful.
“Mano-san!” Kiel yells as the entire world turns to a bright white light.