“Captain, a messenger from yet another mercenary group has arrived.”
“It seems that several adventurer groups also want to join under you.” (as subordinates)
“Uhm… even a maid has come here seeking for employment.”
The news of the Evil God Corps moving towards the sealed institute had spread through the town like wildfire. Big mercenary groups immediately sent their messengers, with adventurer groups following them in a seemingly endless stream.
Yuusuke’s party also had a lot of preparations to make, they left the meetings for a later date and asked everyone to leave.
“Bluntly speaking, this feels like shunning off the parasites.”
“Ahh, that is… don’t they look like people that don’t have the capacity to handle the task at hand and are trying to join with an other, more capable, party instead?”
“Ah I get it. What a perfect way to describe them.”
Vermeer nodded with a strange expression, agreeing to the explained meaning of a somewhat derogatory word that Yuusuke often used when playing internet games in his world.
The next day, they met with the representative of every mercenary and adventurer group in the main room of the inn that the Darkness God Corps had rented, and screened for any potentially useful applicants.
It seemed that only big mercenary groups had enough capable people to be of any use as an advance party. Smaller groups tried to voice their complaints but they were quickly silenced with a shout.
“WE DID NOT COME HERE TO CARRY YOUR ASSES” (Orig: We did not come here to give charity to everyone here)
The one shouting, strangely, was not Yuusuke, whose voice did not have the necessary strength in it, but the usually silent Shaheed.
On the other hand, amongst the groups that satisfied the capability requirements, the groups which were not willing to share any vital information with their comrades, who were also risking their lives on this mission, were asked to leave, using the group that the former adventurer who informed the Darkness God Corps about this incident as an example.
Because the group that the guy belonged to was pretty skilled and was relatively well known, they were able to gain some trust from the parties that initially doubted the abilities of the Darkness God Corps.
After deciding on the route, the member election and discussions about how to divide the loot had started. Yuusuke entrusted the meeting and arguments to Vermeer. Having confirmed the parts of the plan that the others had decided on, and after listening for the explanations, he finally decided on the final course of action.
“So, it would be easier to advance under these conditions?”
“Yeah, I leave it to you. Also I leave you responsible for everything around this area.”
Yuusuke thought that it was better for him as a novice in these kind of things to keep his mouth shut and leave everything to his subordinates, who were much more skilled in this field than him. His subordinates, having received their boss’ trust, gave a vigorous shout and skillfully managed the negotiations.
Finally they settled on the contract which gave the Darkness God Corps priority over mercenary and adventurer groups on any valuable goods like evil beasts or research data, should they find any in the in the institution.
After sorting out some minute details, today’s meeting had come to a close and everyone was dismissed to prepare for tomorrow.
“Pheeew, can we take a break now?”
“Well, execution of all of this is coming up next.”
“I think there will be others that will tag along with us despite being told not to.”
“Is that alright? We have a lot of people this time.”
“Good job everyone.”
After the last of the representatives had left, everyone in the room started to relax – some of the party members stretched their bodies, while others heaved a sigh. At the same time, Sun and Isotta brought some tea to everyone. Aisha had left the room and went to the kitchen to arrange the supper for her friends.
“So, we’re going to exterminate the evil beasts tomorrow?”
“We have decided on a joint operation with other groups. With captain’s support we should avoid the fate of the advance group.”
“Ah, so then, Sun it would be best for you to not leave the Captain’s side.”
“Eh? Ah, yes I will do my best.”
By now, no one in the Darkness God Cops had viewed Sun as an “Artless girl” anymore – she had become a friend to all of them. However that did not mean that the people outside of the corps would share the save view. The same thing had actually happened while renting this very inn, as Sun was initially shown to the servant’s room instead of a guest’s room.
The following exchange took part between Yuusuke and the inn’s staff when he noticed this and immediately protested it, requesting a room for the girl at the same floor as everyone else.
“Eh, but she’s only an Artless servant, right?”
“Are you questioning the rules within our corps?”
The inn’s staff only followed what was common practice for every guest, visiting the inn. However that was quite shocking for Yuusuke, who still had not gotten completely accustomed to the values of this world where such treatment was commonplace.
Because of that Yuusuke had voiced his complaint in a belittling way that made the staff look very ashamed and also left a bad aftertaste to the captain as well.
“It seems that Sun’s clothes were also customized in some way.”
“Sun chaaan, let the Captain customize you as well tonight.”
[Bang bang bang … bang]
Fonke had gotten pretty drunk on the wine that the mercenaries and adventurers had brought along as a sign of friendship. His recent comment earned him a simultaneous hit on the head by Yuusuke, Aisha, and Vermeer to shut him up. Slightly late, Isotta also joined the punishment.
Sighing at the sight of the usual relaxed atmosphere of his friends, Shaheed caught himself thinking that he should also join into this banter from now on.
The next day Darkness God Corps party left Driadria, and headed towards the Evil Beast Research Institute along with the joint force of mercenaries and adventurers that had formed during the talks on the day before. Preparing for a fight once they got close to the institute, the group consisted mostly of the people skilled in using either close combat weapons or healing type divine arts.
As Shaheed had predicted, they could see a small group trailing behind them, but seeing no harm in the trailing group joining the main group, it was decided to overlook it.
According to the dead researcher, a hidden road leading to the institution could be found not far away from the city. The passage itself was hidden under the undergrowth, but once entered it spanned all the way to the institution.
The Darkness God Corps formed the core of the investigation party and led it towards the exit that was closest to the city.
The advance group had fought the evil beasts around here and sustained heavy casualties. It was expected that there would be many more evil beasts lurking around the road to the research facility.
~A little while after leaving the city.~
After lunch, they pressed on a barely noticeable road. Finally, around sunset, the research expedition had finally arrived at a neighboring forest that was their destination.
“It’s there! There was a response.”
“I can feel it this way too. They have gathered around the entrance after all.”
Scouts, responsible for seeking out the enemies with their wind arts, were immediately able to confirm several evil beasts. The group swiftly prepared for a battle, assuming a defensive formation with non-combatants being enclosed in the middle by the fighters.
“Call the group from behind us to also come here. I think it is better for us to act together right now.”
Yuusuke ordered to allow the smaller group, who was still moving independently, to join the exploration party.
There were some expressions from mercenaries and adventurers, as if to say “naïve,” but members of the Darkness God Corps understood that this was the way that Yuusuke acted towards others, and had immediately abided by the order and called out to the smaller group, beckoning them to come.
Even if they moved silently, both the beasts and the humans were able to detect one another through the divine arts aura. Hence, considering a huge battle, moving forward as one big group was a better choice than proceeding boldly.
Maybe because they had changed into a defensive formation, the evil beasts had kept their distance and did not show any signs of a counterattack.
“In the end, beasts are beasts. Modified beasts are probably mixed within, but the attitude of the advance party was probably the reason that they lost.”
“Ah, but even with the strongest corps of Fonclanc… it’s as you and your group members had said, they are definitely not just for show.”
Everyone’s initial expectations were much lower and such whispers stated to be exchanged between the mercenaries and the adventurers. Originally, forest beasts were cowardly beings. This display of strength was used to intimidate them and make them hesitate before attacking the humans.
Before long, the exploration party had arrived in front of the entrance of the hidden passage that was connected to the institute.
“Is this it?”
“This is really hard to see without looking for it.”
“This smell… It reeks of blood.”
A low, wide entrance to the underground had become visible below the entwined and twisted roots of the trees. It seemed that the doors had been destroyed and were scattered around the entrance like some bloodstained ruins. Aisha groaned, looking into the dark entrance that looked like a ghost was about to come out of it.
It was already late and the sun had already set. It was jet black around them save for the rinlamps and the fire arts that provided the remaining light.
“Do we proceed forward like that, or do we build a camp here?”
“We can still go on.”
“Even if we are planning to rest, I think it will be easier to ensure everyone’s safety inside.”
“All we did today was walking, we still have plenty of strength to go on.”
Representatives from the mercenaries and adventurers groups were in favor of continuing the march. If they went in like that, their objective was to make a camp within the tunnel after Yuusuke had ascertained its safety and eat there.
“This is somewhat…”
After descending down, the tunnel suddenly curved. Behind the corner they were met with hideous stench of decaying bodies and a spectacle of dead carcasses that likely belonged to the scientists, littered around the entire area. The women were the first to flee the scene, regardless if they were mercenaries or adventurers.
There was no way that they could simply advance through such a tunnel so wind arts users immediately began ventilating the underground structure. With Fonke acting as the leader for this task, endowment type wind arts users started clearing the putrid smell. There were a lot of capable wind users in this group so the task was proceeding smoothly.
“This is on an entirely different level.”
“Yeah, it was bad enough in Gearhawk fortress, but the climate of this area made them decay that much faster.”
Yuusuke and Vermeer were handing out the masks that were similar to those that they had used in the Gearhawk fortress while waiting for the wind users to complete their task. Shaheed had gathered offensive type water arts users and had been cleaning the entrance to the tunnel. Aisha, being a healing type water arts user, was walking around tending to the people that became sick from what was waiting for them down in the darkness.
“What is the status regarding the evil beasts?”
“Ah, Captain. Uhm, I they are mostly staying still… and they seem to be slowly leaving the area.”
Isotta, the person in charge for the scout’s group, slightly raised her voice and replied that the number of beasts in the vicinity had been gradually decreasing.
“There is a lot of us here, maybe they have fled?”
“It can be, I am not sure.”
Even if the beasts would flee from here, they would still be a threat to the travelers, who would be using the highway. However it seemed that there would be no problems if they left this problem to the regular army of Trent Rietta, responsible for blocking off the area.
“Yuusuke san, it seems that cleaning and ventilation of the entrance is complete.”
“Understood, I’ll be right there.”
Yuusuke answered Sun, who came to tell him of the completion of the assigned tasks, and went towards the tunnel entrance.
The hidden passage seemed to have had been a natural cave before it was adapted to its current purpose. Floor, walls, and ceiling were adjusted and fortified with the earth arts, but it seemed that the stones were left to lay all around the floor.
Because of that, the indoors type map shift customization, which Yuusuke thought to use to instantly reach the institute, became impossible to use after the first glance at the tunnel.
He tried looking at his customization menu, but it seemed that the range of his ability had remained unchanged when he went underground.
“So we can only advance normally, eh?”
“Wouldn’t this be a perfect chance to test the vehicle that Captain had created for princess Violet?”
“Ah, that’s right. A small scale vehicle would surely be useful here.”
With the exception of perpetual engine that was running n gimmick function, the remainder of the vehicle could be made anywhere, as long as the required resources were available. The engine itself was compact and easy to carry around.
Yuusuke completely agreed to Fonke’s offer to utilize the resources that they had available. Feelings of enjoyment and comfort sometimes are the best motivators for innovation.
The group lined up and proceeded through the corridor, filled with the scent of the beasts. Their excrements could also be seen littered here and there. As expected, they had not encountered any evil beasts within the tunnel.
“They might not dare to approach such a big group after all.”
“There seemed to be several other entrances along the way. They might have escaped through there.”
Being alert all the time started weighing on the people within the party, however this was a situation when proceeding safely was the best course of action. Just when Yuusuke was about to notify the representatives about a break —
“What was that?”
“Was that a roar of an evil beast?”
“I think I also heard a metallic like sound. Could there be someone fighting the evil beasts down here.”
A sound, resembling a beast’s roar echoed within the tunnel and it seemed that someone might have still been fighting deeper down. Immediately wind arts users used their arts to try and grasp what was happening ahead of the group.
“This is… Captain! It’s a modified evil beast!”
“There are humans fighting it … around four of them. They seem to be fighting three evil beasts. Ah one of the beasts just died.”
The detail that Isotta could analyze the situation ahead in was not only due to her natural senses, but also because of the various buffs, bestowed by her uniform, that had strengthened her abilities.
Because of the divine arts obstruction aura that the modified beasts created around themselves, Isotta aside no other transmission type wind arts user could obtain any useful information from the area ahead. Although they were able to detect a battle and its approximate location, they were unable to identify the fighting sides or estimate their numbers.
They now admired Isotta, saying things such as “So this is the Evil God Corps,” the girl that looked to be unreliable at first glance, wielding her arts with such accuracy and eyed the corps with envious glances. They would have never expected such skill from a girl that looked more like a child to them.
Leaving the main force in a defensive formation, a rescue/reinforcements squad was formed and rushed towards the fight. Yuusuke, Sun, Aisha, and Fonke had formed the core of this squad, while three capable mercenaries and two adventurers had formed the vanguard. The former adventurer were amongst the three mercenaries, selected for this mission.
Relying on Fonke’s movement speed buff, the rescue squad rushed down the tunnel. Before long, they spotted several burning torches lying on the floor. The flickering flames had illuminated the corner and shadows of people fighting the evil beasts were dancing on the walls. With a roar, a human swung his great sword and felled one of the beasts.
The very instant the thin obstruction aura that was covering the entire area had vanished. It seemed that the beast that was killed was a (can “of a” be used here?) modified type.
“These guys… aren’t they artless soldiers?”
“Gazettians? Why would they be in such a place?”
“Hmmm, you have managed to get here pretty quickly.”
The artless soldier, who turned his head at the mercenaries’ voice cleaned the blood of his huge silver sword and took a few practice swings as if admiring the weapon. Yuusuke’s group spontaneously met the eyes of the owner of the familiar voice from behind the vanguard, frozen in shock after unexpectedly meeting the artless soldiers.
At that time a high pitched shriek resounded in the tunnel.
“I’ve been too careless. There are still some beasts left.”
Yuusuke glanced towards the voice and saw a girl, dressed in seemingly traditional (ceremonial) clothes, standing beside the wall. An evil beast was attacking a girl that seemed to be of Elfiona’s age.
Yuusuke immediately passed the vanguard by using the shift map. Although he only gained few meters by doing that, he was now able to trap the beast with the customized walls while rushing towards the girl.
“…Yuusuke? I see, that’s how it is.”
Shinha’s eyes were wide from astonishment after noticing Yuusuke’s presence, but he silently muttered something as if everything had fallen into their places.