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There were no attacks from monsters on the way, and it was peace itself. Still, it only felt like the calm before the storm to me, and I felt tense all the way through. It was the same with the others as well, with them constantly looking around and staying cautious.
And it was in that tense atmosphere that we arrived at the end of the valley. It cut into a forest part way in, and by the time we reached the end, the area was thick with trees.
This was where the two squads would separate and search. But first, we would set up a camp that would become our base, and so we found an open area to pitch our tent. There would be no bonfires. With fires, there was a risk of the smoke alerting enemies of our position, which could result in an ambush. So those who could use fire magic would be prepared if it was needed, but otherwise, we would go without it.
After the tents were pitched, we ate a light meal. Well, it was really just the passing out of dried meat. This was my first time eating preserved food while out… We always tried to make warm meals. We even dank warm soup in the mines. But this was what Adventurers did normally.
As I chewed into the dried meat, Virgil stood up to address everyone.
“We have finally arrived. And this is where our mission truly begins. The scouting squads will search the surface and valley floor first. In the meantime, the rest of you will keep watch here.”
Everyone listened intently, dried meat in hand.
“We will search for their settlement for the next two days, but will have to return if we cannot find it. Our food supplies are limited as this expedition was only supposed to last four to five days. We did bring more than we needed, but it is barely enough for the next two days and the two days it will take to return. And so, we will do everything we can to find it in the time we are given!”
Aye! They all answered. Even my own dark mood was lightened, and I felt my determination return. I had an important role here. Contact would have to be made stealthily. I would have to find the scouts and deliver messages back to Virgil at the base. I would be quite busy. Forest, valley, forest, back again…
“Daniela, I think I’ll take the magic potions.”
“Aye, I will take some from the other Adventurer’s if I happen to need them.”
“Don’t get greedy, alright.”
I took out all of the magic recovery potions from the hollow bag and attached them to my belt. I had prepared this belt, anticipating the need for it. It was kind of cool, like a fighting alchemist’s belt. The small blue potions seemed to glow faintly in the light. …I think. There were six in all. I would have to use them carefully…
“Asagi, are you ready?”
Ness said as he led the other scouts. There were five for the surface squad and four for the valley floor. As leader, Ness suppressed his typical giddy expression and looked at me seriously.
“Yeah, ready when you are. Ness, I think this will be the first time we’ll get to fight together.”
“…That’s true. I still remember that time when you rolled through the gates of Fhiraldo. I never would have guessed that we’d fighting shoulder to shoulder like this.”
“Haha. Well, that’s life for you. But this won’t be the last time. Let’s do this, so we can continue adventuring.”
I raise my fist towards him.
“Aye! We’ll have a feast when we return!”
He says and hits his fist against mine. Yes, this wasn’t the end. This was just the beginning.
“From here, we are going southeast. From what I have heard, there is a river down there. If you are going to make a settlement on the surface…”
“You would stay near a river.”
Ness was going southeast then. As long as I had a grasp on my own position, I should be able to find them without too much confusion. The problem was which direction I was facing now.
“That direction would be the south.”
“Thanks, Daniela. You can always read my mind.”
“Well, you tend to forget.”
It was like we were married…
Ness and the others were smirking. I was a little annoyed, but there was no time for that.
“We will be leaving now.”
“You too, Asagi.”
So saying, Ness and the others went deep into the forest. Now, it was time for my first job. I needed to get Angelica’s squad to the bottom of the valley. I looked around and found them discussing their plans.
“Angelica. Are you guys ready?”
“Yes, Mister Asagi. We are quite ready!”
Plucky. On further inspection, the other three Adventurers in Angelica’s squad were also women. …Hmm?
“Ah, um. Yes… Hello, again?”
It was fan number one! I did not expect to see her here.
“I didn’t realize you were here.”
“But I realized that you were…”
“Ah, is that why you seem upset?”
“Indeed it is! Am I in the wrong!?”
“Uh, it’s my fault. Sorry, sorry.”
“Tsk… I cannot stay mad at someone I look up to…”
It seemed that not much had changed after all, but at least she was doing well. Still, a scout who could use void magic, huh? She was wearing the same light armor as before, and she could likely fight in close quarters as well. Was there anything she couldn’t do?
“Are you two acquainted then?”
“Yes, while I was waiting in line to enter Replant… He was there and covered in blood. Can you imagine? I had to frantically douse him with magic.”
“It was a great help too. I heard about this later, but it’s actually quite rare to be able to do that.”
“Is it really? I do not know many sorcerers, so perhaps you are right…”
“Hmm, I am not very fond of being ignored…”
Ah, the conversation was getting sidetracked. Come to think of it, I didn’t even know her name.
“I don’t think I’ve asked for your name yet.”
“Oh, that is right. I am Lauria. A pleasure.”
“The pleasure is mine. Well, since Ness has already left, the valley squad should start moving too.”
“Um, I do not like this at all. Will someone please answer me?”
Angelica was saying something, but to who? It was probably to Lauria. Well, they could figure it out.
“I’ll take you all down one at a time. I will have to carry you, but please do not take it the wrong way. Or they might arrest me when we return to Replant.”
I said jokingly, and the others chuckled. Yes, there was no awkward nervousness, at least.
“Okay, we’ll start with Angelica.”
“Yes, thank you…”
“Is something wrong? Well, let’s go then.”
Starting with the despondent Angelica, I made several trips to take all of them to the valley floor. While Angelica was silent, Lauria held onto me tightly and blushed. I’ll allow it. We’ll call it fan service. The others were not crazy about heights, but I was able to bring them all down safely.
From here, they would search all of the caves and shadowed areas that could not be seen from above. Ness and the others would search for a hidden settlement in the forest or other caves that led into the ground.
Now, this is where things would get difficult. I placed a hand on the hilt of my armored demon sword and headed towards Ness and the others.