“Let’s give it a shot. We don’t have any other leads anyway, so instead of dawdling here, we might as well try that hypothesis of yours.” [Sein]
“Good timing. Shin and the others came back.” [Peiron]
We rendezvoused with the other three members of the Wharf of Shikumu.
“Let’s go!” [Sein]
“What are you talking about?” [Kei]
“Sein? Can you give us an explanation?” [Shin]
“We’ll talk while we walk. For the mean time, let’s just go to the eastern part of the forest.” [Shin]
“I’m going too!” [Ryouma]
Although the three members didn’t know what was going on, we took them with us and went to the eastern part of the forest.
By the time we got there, the sun had completely set and the forest was completely dark.
“A secret place to catch okuta would have to be deeper in, I think.” [Kei]
“Agreed. Okutas tend to be timid, so they can usually be found in places away from people.” [Shin]
Kei-san and Shin-san narrowed down where the okutas could be found.
“I see. What about the rule that we can’t go any further than this?” [Sein]
“In that case, let’s go until the ‘Protruding Rock’.” [Shin]
“That’s the place where a part of the cliff facing toward the lake is overhanging a little.” [Peiron]
“We’ll go deep into the forest quickly. Ryouma, it’s hard to see here, so make sure you don’t get lost!” [Kai]
Sein-san and Peiron-san gave some new information, and then Kai-san led our charge into the forest.
We relied on light magic to light our path as we pushed our way through the forest.
“! Did you hear something?” [Ryouma]
“What? …Is that true?” [Kai]
“I heard it too. I don’t know if it’s Niki, though.” [Kei]
“It could be a monster. Let’s proceed cautiously.” [Shin]
We followed Shin-san’s warning and cautiously walked toward the source of that sound. We sharpened our ears as we proceeded, and before we long, we knew what it was.
“This voice… It definitely belongs to a goblin. There should be about 5 of them, but they seem really agitated for some reason.” [Ryouma]
The light should have stood out within this darkness, but they haven’t shown any signs of approaching us.
Instead it seems as if their attention is taken by something else.
“Agitated? Are you telling me that kid is in there?” [Kai]
“…I don’t hear a child’s voice though.” [Kei]
“Please don’t be there…” [Shin]
“…Either way, we can’t leave goblins near the village. We’re going, right?” [Sein]
“It’s a good thing that we equipped ourselves just in case.” [Peiron]
The five of them drew out their weapons, while I equipped my iron slime katana.
We proceeded further in until we could make out the goblins.
“GIGI!” [Goblin 1]
GIi! GIi!” [Goblin 2]
“They’re coming! Don’t let your guard down!” [Kai]
“Yeah!” [Everyone Else]
The goblins had surrounded a tree that was especially thick even in the forest. When the goblins noticed us, they turned around. But they were unarmed, and the Wharf of Shikumu wasn’t so weak that they would struggle against some goblins.
…Because of that the battle lasted for but a moment.
The goblins collapsed into a pool of blood and the forest became quiet again.
“…That appears to be all of them.” [Kei]
“Where’s Niki-kun?” [Shin]
“Hey! Niki! Are you here!?” [Sein]
Sein-san raised his voice.
“Hey, just now.” [Kei]
“Ahh! I definitely heard him just now!” [Shin]
“But from where?” [Sein]
“Come out! …Say something!” [Peiron]
We looked around us and at the trees above us, but there were no signs of a child hiding anywhere.
Still, we definitely heard a voice.
If they’re not around us or above, then maybe…
” ‘Earth Sonar’ …!!” [Ryouma]
I used the spell I invented before to search underground areas.
It might be because the ground isn’t purely earth but mud that the spell can’t get very far, but…
“Ryouma-kun, what’s the matter?” [Kei]
“I checked with my magic. There’s a big cave under the tree.” [Ryouma]
“What did you say!?” [Kai]
“A cave? in that case, there has to be an entrance somewhere.” [Kei]
“! There’s a hole here!” [Shin]
“It’s too tight. I can’t get in. I can’t see that far inside, but…” [Peiron]
“Switch with me. I should be able to fit.” [Ryouma]
What Peiron-san found was an opening in the roots of the mangrove-like tree.
Within the entangled roots protruding overground was a space where the mud had been scraped out.
I peeked into that hole that looked like an animal burrow, and inside I found that it led to a narrow cave.
Despite my child-sized body, I just barely fit through the hole.
There wasn’t any room for me to raise up my head, so I could just crawl forward.
“Come to think of it, there was a time when I had to undergo SDF training too, didn’t I?” [Ryouma]
There was a time when people suggested that companies in my previous life have new employees undergo SDF training as a part of their employee training regime.
In order to test that, I was ordered to participate in the training during my day off. The SDF didn’t really have anything to do with my original job, but to be honest, it was actually a lot easier than my original job.