This was the matter that Saifo had brought up to me.
It was the village that was the third closest to ours.
This place was rich with water, and they had a number of sources nearby.
As there were wells, the residents rarely went out to any of these lakes. However, a hunter who had been chasing prey, had spotted it. A creature that hid in the shadows of the water grass.
The hunter was wise enough to stay away from it.
He did not know what it was, but it was clear that it was not under Lesser Demon King Melvis’s control. And that was something to be wary of.
As for this connection that had recently been severed by Nehyor, it had functions other than efficiently gathering mana for those above.
It allowed people to differentiate between people from your country and those who were not.
And so people who were free could be discovered immediately.
They stuck out.
That was why the hunter stared fixedly at it.
The creature he saw then disappeared into the water grass. The hunter did not follow any farther.
It was the right thing to do.
“And so now they want me to investigate these mysterious people.”
Unless it was incredibly strong, it was hard to believe someone would be out there alone.
And so it was likely part of a large tribe, just like the Reapers.
“That might make things very dangerous.”
Of course, it didn’t mean they were necessarily aggressive. If anything, perhaps they had been persecuted in another country, and had to flee to this one. It was certainly possible.
And so I would have to go and negotiate with them.
After all, I was the only one here who had the power to make decisions.
That was the reason that I took the two day journey to the place they had been sighted.
I was able to find the place with the water grass fairly easily.
However, as it was a swampland, it was difficult to move once you stepped inside.
And so I went around it and came out near a lake.
After some searching in the area, I found this cave.
“The cave’s entrance is narrow but tall. Quite large overall. And since it’s close to the water, this is the most likely place…”
But I didn’t like the idea at all.
The cave was dark and cramped.
And there would be many places to hide. I would have to move carefully.
If the people inside were especially cautious, they might let fear get the best of them, and attack me all at once.
“But none of the nearby villages have been attacked. So perhaps they are not hostile…”
They hadn’t made any villages in the mountains or any other visible base. So this cave would have been perfect for them. If they were indeed here, they had to be inside of this cave.
“I’ll just go with the flow!”
There was no point in standing here and hesitating. I had to move.
I took out a lamp from my rucksack and lit it before stepping foot into the cave.
“Is anyone here?”
Sneaking in might lead to being attacked.
And so I raised my voice and listened for a reaction.
My shadow swayed on the cave walls.
I perked up my ears for a moment.
“Is anyone there?”
My voice echoed in the silent cave. There was no response.
There was no one nearby, at least.
Natural caves were not a single, straight path.
And most of the ground wasn’t flat. I had to climb up and down many times.
After I felt that I had descended a great deal, I suddenly heard the sounds of water.
“There’s water…perhaps it’s a puddle?”
But it was rather loud for just drops of water.
I listened carefully again. This time there was a much louder splash.
“Is someone there?”
I raised my voice. And then…
–Splash, splash, slosh.
The sounds continued.
“Did someone jump? Is there an underground lake?”
I raised my lamp and moved slowly. Eventually, I felt water around my feet that reached my ankles.
I ignored it and kept walking.
“So it is a lake. …And…”
I saw faces half raised from the surface of the water. There were about forty or fifty of them.
Perhaps there were many more where my light didn’t reach.
I could see the light reflecting off their eyes as they stared back at me.
“Damn, this is creepy.”
I had once heard that the eyes of nocturnal animals glowed because the light that is diffusely reflected in their eyes.
As the light hits the retina multiple times, they are able to see in the dark.
“I take care of these lands. My name is Golan. I am not here to fight.”
There was no reaction. They must be very cautious.
“I will say it again. I am not here to fight. I need to speak to your representative.”
As all of them had half of their faces in the water, I could not read their expressions.
Still, it seemed like they were looking at each other and discussing the matter.
“I have come here alone. There is no one else. I just want to talk.”
Finally, one of them moved forward.
The creature moved through the water. They must be a species that live in the water. As I thought about this, its upper half became visible.
And what appeared in front of me… No, what towered over me…
“…So you’re Lamias.”
Half snake and half human. Their upper body was that of a human, and their lower half was a scaled snake.
And not just any snake. They were thick and long, like a great serpent.
“I would like to talk. Are you willing?”
The Lamia nodded silently.
When they were this close, they were quite scary.