The Strange Adventure of a Broke Mercenary - Chapter 189

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“Hey, come here guys.”

At Jack’s call, everyone came over to where he was hiding. The place was right in front of the exit, where sunlight from the outside did reach. The lantern was put out, and they looked into the direction Jack was pointing. 

If the tunnel exit on the demons’ side was the same as the exit on human’s side, there should be a dwarven village here. And yes, there surely was a village, where someone had lived. But Jack wouldn’t call out to them if that was all, and the reason for his call soon became apparent. 

“There’s no one here.”

Ritz muttered. There were no signs of humans or dwarves in this village. 

But this was something within their expectation. They had thought that the spiders infesting the tunnel had increased their numbers by attacking this village. If that was really the case, there should have been spiders and spiderwebs here. But in front of their eyes was nothing but the emptiness of the place. 

“The spiders have completely destroyed the place… then went somewhere else?”

Ritz made a guess, but Lapis immediately shook her head.

“Even so, there should have been spider threads remaining here.”

If the spiders occupied a place, then no matter how temporarily, there should have been web-nets remaining. But from what they could see, in this quiet village, there was nothing like that.

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“The spiders actually didn’t come here?”

Jack asked cautiously – it sounded like he couldn’t even believe his own words. But everyone turned their cold gazes on him, and he shrank into himself.

“No matter how you think about it, the spiders in the tunnel should have come by here, right? Why is it this quiet, then?”

Ignoring Jack’s words, Gula asked. Of course, no one here had a clear answer to her question. 

“It won’t help to loiter here and chit-chat. Let’s go look around.”

Ritz said after a while. In the current situation, where no one had any guess about what had happened, it was no use to keep hanging out at the entrance.

“If no one is here, we’ll go on. If there’s somebody around, we just have to catch them and ask what happened.”

“It would be nice if this ‘someone’ can speak.”

Loren interjected in a whisper, and everyone exchanged powerless smiles. Anyway, everyone agreed that they wouldn’t know what happened if they didn’t go investigate. And so, they got out of the tunnel and stepped into the dwarven village. 

But their investigation abruptly came to an end.

“There’s nothing left.”

Loren muttered. There really was nothing left in the village. They found traces of fighting and several bloodstains, but no corpses or signs of spiders. Goods and food were also completely absent. There wasn’t a single clue left here. 

Speaking of things, they found, there were traces of something like a bonfire and footprints that even Jack couldn’t recognize, partly because dwarven villages were nicely paved with stones. 

They could have made some guesses about what had happened if there was something comprehensible left behind, but as things were now, they weren’t able to think about anything even if asked. So, after a short investigation, they came to the conclusion that nothing could be done here. 

“It’s better to wrap up early. We can’t hang around here forever.”

Ritz looked up at the sky and said. By the time everyone finished their investigation and gathered, the sky had already been dyed red, telling them that it would soon turn dark. If too much time was spent on investigating the village, the time intended for their original purposes would decrease. And that was another reason why Ritz decided to end their investigation early.

“We’re sorry, Dig, but we didn’t come here to investigate why the residents of this village disappeared.”

“It can’t be helped…”

Dig didn’t look like he agreed, but he understood very well that he couldn’t force Ritz’ and Loren’s parties to do a job they weren’t commissioned to, and didn’t try to object to Ritz’ plan.

“If we don’t investigate further, it’s best to quickly leave this creepy place behind.”

“I have no objection to that.”

Considering that it would be night soon, there actually were places that could serve as camping grounds here even without any preparation. But since the residents of this village had vanished, by no means they felt like spending the night here. 

“Well, let’s say goodbye here. Three days after tomorrow, we’ll wait for you until around noon. If you come back to this area by then, you can return with us. Is that alright?”

“Yes. It’s impossible for us to go in deeper anyway. We’ll hang around here.”

“That’s fine then. Just a heads-up, but if you camp around here, don’t worry about the fire. The demons don’t come all the way here. Even if they notice the fire, they won’t come to check. They’re actually quite laid back.”

If that was true, it would be really nice. Loren looked at Lapis.

“Demons don’t have that much free time.”

Lapis said, seemingly not noticing Loren’s eyes. Still, Loren believed she was answering his question. Even though it was a secret, that Lapis was a demon. If that was her opinion, then it must be true.

“Well then, we’re going. We don’t have that much time, either.”

“Be careful. Don’t overdo it.”

“See you later, Loren.”

“It’ll be great for us if we meet again.”

Each member of Ritz’ party said goodbye, then headed for the center of the demons’ territory. Just like they had said, they were probably going deeper into the demons’ territory to collect intel. Loren saw them disappear into the forest outside the village. 

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“So, what do we do now?”

After he was sure that Ritz’ party had disappeared from sight, Loren turned towards Lapis and asked. Loren had told Ritz that they would wander around the outer edge of the demons’ territory, but their true purpose was going to Lapis’ home to ask about the true identity of his greatsword. No one but Lapis knew the path. 

“Right. Sorry everyone, I’d really like to say ‘Let’s go to my house’ now, but I have some minor business to attend to.”

Lapis said apologetically. Loren expected her to elaborate, but he asked just in case:

“What business?”

“Checking what happened here. I told Ritz earlier that there are no demons that are free enough to check out this outer region, but the truth is there are no demons that won’t come investigating once they notice something strange.”

From Loren’s and Ritz’ point of view, this was the land of another race, whatever happened here had nothing to do with them, and it was okay to not care. But from Lapis-the-demon’s point of view, this was her people’s land, and she couldn’t overlook some unexplained anomaly happening here.

“I was under the dwarves’ care when I left the country. I believe I should find out what happened to them.”

“That’s fair. Well, if that’s the case, we’ll have to go with you.”

Without Lapis, no one knew the way to Lapis’ house. So, Loren believed that they had no other choices but to go with Lapis on her investigation. Lapis suddenly understood that and nodded grimly. It was natural for a demon to perform this investigation, but Loren and Gula would have to accompany her whether they wanted to or not.

“I’m sorry, both of you. I proposed it myself, but I didn’t see it coming this time…”

She was about to withdraw her proposal, probably worrying about needlessly involving the other two in a dangerous situation. But Gula pointed to the sky and interrupt her:

“Whatever, but…”

The red sky indicated that night was just around the corner. Following Gula’s finger, Loren and Lapis looked at the sky, then looked back at her to see what she wanted to say.

“The sun will set anytime now, I think. We’ll have to camp anyway, so this village will do, right? If something happens, it’ll happen at night. If nothing happens during the night, then we can say that this place is safe for now.”

“That… You could say so. I don’t want to get you two into danger though.”

Lapis sounded reluctant, but Gula just smiled broadly. Her smile was so evil that Loren reflexively put himself on guard while Lapis put some distance between her and Gula. But Gula immediately retracted the evilness and waved her hands:

“Just a joke, just a joke. It’s because Lapis-chan hardly ever says something so cute. Anyway, what danger were you talking about?”

After that smile, Lapis just couldn’t say the same thing anymore. But even if it was alright for Gula, there was still another person Lapis worried about.

“But… There’s Loren too.”

“He’ll be fine if he follows us, right? Also, he can manage the usual stuff, right?”

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Gula told Lapis, and she looked at Loren. Of course, from their point of view, he was the weakest one, that was indeed the truth, and Loren had no objection.

“I’ll try to not be a burden.”

That much was all he could say. Lapis thought about it for a while, then looked up at the other two and said:

“Alright then. I’m sorry, but please accompany me and spend the night here.”

At Lapis’ rephrased request, Loren and Lapis nodded deeply at almost the same time.

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