I used Legs of the Forest Wolf as soon as I left the tent, searching for Ness as I moved through the air. For an instant, I thought I saw an orc in the forest below, but I couldn’t use Presence Detection below me. And I didn’t have time to go down and check.
I continued southeast from the place where the traces were found until I saw a river. It was not a very big river. The light of the sun reflected on the water in a beautiful and dazzling display.
But what was on the other side of the river, was a sight that was anything but beautiful.
There were several Adventurers lying on the ground by the banks. The water that surrounded them was red with blood.
I could count three of them from above. None of them were moving an inch. They just lay there by the river, completely still.
I could not contain my sense of panic and rushed down to where they were.
“Hey…hey! What happened?!”
I slapped the face covered in blood and dirt, but there was no reaction. Still, he seemed to be breathing. And I was relieved from the bottom of my heart. But his body temperature had fallen dramatically from being exposed to the rushing water. And so I had to drag him out by his arms and over to a nearby tree.
By the time I had finished moving the third man, the first Adventurer began to murmur as his eyes opened.
“Hey, how are you?”
“Yeah. No, forget about me. What happened here?”
He somehow managed to pull himself up and lean against the tree. Then he muttered,
“It was orcs? But you are scouts. How did they catch you unaware?”
“They…ambushed us from the trees…”
From the trees… Did they know that it was difficult to use Presence Detection from below…?
“Ness realized it before it happened…but we couldn’t react in time…”
“There were five of you. Where are the others?”
“Scattered…we fled to the river…I don’t know about Ness and…the other…”
“I see… But I’m glad that you’re alive. I’m going to call for help. Just wait a little longer.”
After hearing this, the Adventurer passed out as if in relief. I became frantic at first, thinking that he was dead, but he was still breathing…
And now, I was heading back to the river after taking some men from the camp. I was surprised to see the earthen wall that was now surrounding the place, but Virgil told me it was a measure put in place to protect them from an ambush, should the scout team fail. Seeing as that the surface team had been crushed now, his decision had been correct. In any case, while it was only a simple structure, it was important to bring the surface scouts back to this reinforced base.
The Adventurers were still lying on the ground near the river where I had left them.
However, there were swords stabbed into each of their chests.
Strength left my knees as I crumbled to the ground. If only I had tried to carry them back, as difficult as…no, that was not realistic. I could not carry three adult men and move.
But, still. I had told them that I would bring help…
“Asagi, we have to think quickly. This is now orc territory.”
One of the Adventurers forced me to my feet. He was right. There were casualties now. This was enemy territory. I used Presence Detection to scan our surroundings, but there was no one around. And while I was not adept at it, I tried scanning the area above as well, but there was nothing.
“Let’s go. We’ll take the bodies back to the camp. I’ll keep watch of our surroundings. They may attack us from above, so be wary of the space above you.”
I watched as the Adventurers picked up the bodies, then we made our way back.
On the way back, when we were nearing the campsite, Presence Detection snagged something. I gently raised an arm and signed for the others to halt. I slowly looked up and saw that orcs were hiding among the leaves of the tree branches. They looked just like the orcs I had encountered on my travels with Daniela, but this one carried a bow. Our eyes met.
“We’re under attack!”
I said, and the Adventurers put the bodies on the ground and unsheathed their swords. All around us, orcs fell from the trees, swords in hand.
“Damn it, they really were in the trees…!”
“I won’t die here, blast it!”
They Adventurers swore as they swung their swords. I launched an ice arrow at an orc in a tree. The orc managed to fire off an arrow at the same time, and so I blocked it by generating a shield of ice. I had thought of this as a method for blocking projectiles. I think…that no one else had thought of this yet… I would call this spell ‘Ice shield.’ I’m sure Daniela will mock me again and tell me what the magic school’s official name was.
As the orc was preparing a second arrow, I rushed forward and jumped into the air, slashing the orc and branch it was perched on. I was not so lucky as to kill him in one shot, but one leg did come flying off. The orc was unable to regain its balance and came plummeting down to the ground. It did not move after that.
Scanning the scene, I could see that the other Adventurers were struggling, and so I pulled back and joined them. I was used to fighting as a team with Daniela, but surprisingly, I was able to work with these people that I didn’t know. However, there were moments when we would bump into each other, and I learned to quickly move away when sensing movement from the back. It was a good lesson to learn here.
“Is that all of them…?”
“Hahhh, hhha…ahhh. Damn it. I twisted my ankle…”
“We’re almost there. Try to bear it.”
One of the Adventurers had to walk while using his sword as a cane, and so I picked up the dead scout in his place and continued to walk. It seemed so heavy for a body with no strength or life. I wondered if maybe living beings have some sort of balance with nature that makes them less of a burden to carry. These dead bodies swerved and leaned every time you moved. It was sweaty, back-breaking work to reposition them so they didn’t fall. But I felt that it was partly my fault that their lives had been lost. It was unthinkable to me to make a single complaint.
After another thirty minutes of walking, the dirt walls came into view. It was our base. We would have to circle it here on the valley side to find the one entrance.
“Just a little further…”