“Aye, this cave was likely dug by hole moles. But that may not be who is using this cave. Just like it was the last time.”
“…You mean there’s some other abnormally evolved creature down here?”
“I am not sure yet…”
A chill ran down my spine. An advanced monster. There was another one down in this hole?
“We can only hope that it is not the case.”
But we had to continue on in order to find proof. I squinted and looked ahead. Daniela spread the effect of Presence Detection. We relied on each other’s strength as we kept moving.
The height of the tunnel remained the same, but it began to twist and wind just like in the mines. However, it was one single path. We would have to be careful of an ambush from both sides. It was difficult to fight when there was nowhere to run. But I left that to Daniela, as I used Nighteyes to search for objects or traces of movement.
Perhaps it was the tenseness or the darkness, but my perception of time was starting to get hazy. And so I don’t know how long it took when we finally found a hole in the side of the wall. Unlike the rest of the tunnel, it was around two meters high. When we looked inside, we could see that it slowly continued upwards.
“Do you think something went up there?”
“Yes, very likely.”
“It seems pretty big for a humanoid. Maybe an orc.”
“Wait, what did you say?”
“Huh? Maybe an orc?”
“…I see…no, wait…hmmm…:”
It seemed that something was bothering her, and she stopped to think. I wanted to ask her what was going through her mind, but was afraid to disperse any ideas as they came together. And so I used Presence Detection in her place and checked to see if anything was close by.
After around five minutes of thinking, Daniela raised her face. There was a ferocious look of triumph in her smile.
“Realize anything, Master Daniela?”
“Aye, young Asagi. Everything.”
“That’s my master.”
Daniela took my bag and pulled out the four barrier tools from it. She placed them behind us, in front of us and then put one in the side tunnel. Then she took the last one and placed it even deeper into the tunnel. Then she pulled out some of the cloth I had bought the other day and laid it on the floor.
“…Well, now that we’re relaxing, I would like to hear your thoughts.”
“In a moment. Let us drink some water. It will be even more relaxing if we drink while talking.”
I wanted to ask if we should really be letting our guard down like this, but I suppose she wouldn’t be doing this without a good reason. She had even taken the lantern out now and was telling me to light it. I did so with a magic igniting tool and she asked, ‘What? You aren’t going to use your magic?’ But I kind of hated using fire magic.
After that, I took out our cup and used magic to pull the moisture out of the air to collect inside of them. The concentration required for this was pretty much the opposite of relaxing…
“Alright, we’re all set up now. Let’s hear it.”
“Aye, very well then. First, about this cave.”
I tipped the cup into my mouth and took a sip; waiting for her to continue.
“This cave is connected to an orc nest.”
“…But is it really so surprising?”
“No, I just thought you’d enjoy a big reaction.”
“I do not require such consideration.”
Daniela took a sip, moistened her lips and continued.
“The handprint and footprint were from an orc. It goes down to the south because that is where its purpose lies.”
“And what is in the south?”
“Do you remember what we talked about at the south gate in Replant?”
I put my cup on the ground and folded my arms.
“About orcs? Ah, a village was attacked around five days ago. In the south…ah…”
“The orcs came through here to get close to this southern village. That way, they can hide from the eyes of Adventurers. I believe that this tunnel will lead to a place that is close to that village.”
“Right… They were seen one week ago, and then the village was attacked two days later. But weren’t there sightings after that as well?”
“They could be reinforcements…or they were on their way back after the assault.”
We weren’t sure which it was, but it would make sense if the sightings of them were during their return trip.
“Seems a little crafty for orcs, though?”
“Well, that could be where the abnormally evolved being comes in.”
This hole right here was a road for intelligent orcs then.
“So, what should we do?”
“Let us follow this tunnel to the village. There, we will join the party of Adventurers and together, annihilate the orcs along with their leader.”
Daniela was smiling so viciously because she had already thought of our next move and how it would play out… Well, it would definitely be great to fight alongside the Adventurers, rather than alone. And now that I understood it all, I could not help but have the same smile that Daniela was wearing.