Oukoku e Tsuzuku Michi

Ofuro Ashitsubo

Chapter 453

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Chapter 453: 453

Aegir POV–

Footsteps converge on us, possibly having heard our voices .

As Celia readies a throwing knife, I put my hand on her shoulder to stop her .

Unlike where it’s dark outside, the light here will make it difficult to hide bodies and blood stains if we have to fight .

With that said, this place is wide and flat, so there’s almost nowhere to hide .

「Over here!」

Natia finds a half-cylindrical shape stuck out of the wall with a radius of about one meter, a tight fit for seven people……and realistically, the only place to hide .

「Everyone, squeeze in! Natia, get on my shoulders and Celia, get on Natia’s shoulders! Attendant, crawl between my legs! Agor will get on top of Mack and Tristan will climb on top!」

「……you’re absurd . 」

Mack mutters something, but if he doesn’t hurry up, we’ll be discovered .

There’s enough s.p.a.ce for two people .

「Got it! Celia, you too…… nn!」

Fufufu, I can feel Natia’s precious place rubbing against my neck .

With Celia’s weight, Natia presses down on me harder .

「Huh? Did you hear something?」

「Maybe something weird happened?」

「Nah, no way . ……I mean, this place was weird to begin with . 」

The enemy soldiers don’t suspect a thing .

I think we’ll make it .

「Right? I was only a.s.signed here yesterday and I’m honestly still s.h.i.+vering…… it makes me feel like I can’t escape . 」

There appears to be three of them . However, as long as we don’t know what’s going on in our surroundings, it’s not wise to eliminate them .

「But man, isn’t this place emptied out? Do we really need guards here?」

「Who knows . Maybe the higher ups think they will find something incredible again . 」

「Because of that, we don’t have to fight against Aless . If we have the weapon from here, there’s no chance we will lose, though that doesn’t mean I want to eat a stray bullet and die . 」

The trio talk amongst themselves in the middle of the pa.s.sageway .

They aren’t paying much attention, meaning it’s that much easier to go undetected .

「Right, that completes our rounds . Let’s hurry back to the waiting room and continue the game . 」

「d.a.m.n, this guy’s desperate just because he won two silver coins . Well, it’s pointless to search an empty s.p.a.ce anyways, so let’s go back . 」

Two of them sound like they’re going back on the path they came from, but the last guy is inspecting deeper in the pa.s.sage, directly opposite to where we are and further into the ruins .

「Hey, you guys . We were told to explore the ruins and retrieve any weapons or strange oils, right?」

「What are you on about now? It’s precisely because of these weapons that we can beat Aless…… geez, I was really sweating when the tables were turned on South Yuguria……」

「It’s because the floor of the castle happened to cave in during the repairs that we found these things in the first place . It’s all thanks to G.o.d Ifis」

Tristan murmurs quietly with a serious face on top of Mack, who is starting to shake from having to support two guys .

「And recently, the weapons and oil have depleted, leaving only an extremely small number of them, including the ones we have . 」

「Who’d have thought the contents would run out . You probably don’t know, but it was amazingly full at one point . The whole army collected everything . 」

Hearing that nothing was left, Natia slumps over in disappointment .

「It was there . We dug up the area from here to―― over here, right?」

The enemy soldier points to each of the paths branching off to the left and right of the wide pa.s.sageway extending from the entrance, then turns his body toward the end of the corridor .

「Using a city as an example, what we searched was only an alley and the point beyond that continues to the main road . So why didn’t we go deeper? Isn’t it obviously because we’d get more than our usual haul?」

He tries to convince the other two soldiers, but doesn’t get a response .

「……w-what? Did I say something wrong?」

「You…… you didn’t hear the initial explanation when you got here?」

「I get the reason why you were a.s.signed to this place with a decreased priority now…… listen carefully . 」

The other man walks up to a certain point towards the depths of the ruin and stops .

「Here . This is the limit of our patrol . Under no circ.u.mstances are we to pa.s.s this point . It doesn’t matter if you hear a gold coin drop or the moan of a s.e.xy woman or the scream of a friend……」

「W-what the heck? There’s nothing over there . It’s not like a demon will appear……」

The third man puts a hand on the baffled man’s shoulder .

「I was a.s.signed to guard these ruins as soon as they were found . At first, we certainly searched every nook and cranny . Then, one day a group of a thousand soldiers was sent deep into the ruins to explore further…… and not a single one returned . Thinking something went wrong, a specialized expedition unit was sent later to find out what happened…… and again, n.o.body came back . 」

Natia’s eyes sparkle at the danger, while Tristan’s face darkens .

「Next, they sent in twenty people with ropes tied around their waist so they can be pulled back if anything happened . Moments later, a scream was heard and when the rope was pulled back, only the torsos with the rope attached came back . That’s that . Now, let’s get out of here . 」

「Y-yeah . 」

The newcomer stepped backwards fearfully and then quickly caught up with the other two .

When they were gone, we peeked our heads out of the shadow .

Mack was at his limit and collapsed face down .

「Then, shall we head back too?」

As Tristan nonchalantly tries to escape, Natia and I grab him by the collar .

「You heard them . This place was emptied out . Even if there’s a clue, it’s deep inside . 」

「Yep!」

Natia’s ears flap about energetically .

When I reach a hand out towards them, they fold backward and avoid me . Dang, she learned a clever trick, huh?

I shrug my shoulders and turn to everyone with a serious look .

「We can’t let our guards down . Stay alert . 」

Besides Tristan, who holds his head in agony, the rest nod silently .

And so, we crossed the line which should not be crossed .

「Well, I was wondering what kind of horrors awaited us, but nothing happened . 」

Our group, centered around me, with Natia in front, Mack and Agor to either side of me, Tristan and the attendant girl in the back, and Celia right next to me, held our breaths as the tension in the air was almost suffocating, but not even an arrow, let alone a monster came out .

Realizing they were not in any immediate danger, everyone gradually calmed down .

「Speaking of ruins, they should have them, right? Traps that shoot poison arrows if you pull a lever or that send boulders rolling at you if you go down the wrong corridor . And lastly, there has to be a giant golem protecting the treasure that we have to fight . 」

「Ah, I know about that . It was in one of my favorite adventure action drama books . 」

Celia joins the conversation .

「If I recall, a famous troupe acted it out in the capital and received rave reviews . 」

Agor is also informed .

「Actually, that book is an homage . It is the compilation of the diary written by a Federation explorer . If you want, I can let you borrow my copy . 」

Tristan also partic.i.p.ates in the discussion about books .

It was when the mood became happy-go-lucky .

「……I smell blood . 」

Natia mutters in a hushed voice .

We stop in place, while Natia and the light-footed Celia step forward, advancing with the highest level of caution .

「Uwah!?」

Natia and Celia both let out groans and run back to us .

「That’s quite nasty . 」

My face also scrunches up as I walk forward .

What we found were dozens of corpses of most likely Meldora soldiers……no, it’s probably more accurate to describe it as the fragmented parts of dozens of human bodies .

「They’re all dismembered badly . 」

You couldn’t clearly distinguish a head here or an arm there .

It’s comparable to roughly chopped vegetables in a stew .

「This couldn’t have been done by normal methods……」

Agor comments, wary of his surroundings, but he only sees the same ceiling, wall and floor continuing on endlessly .

「We should turn back before the same thing happens to――」

I grab Tristan’s collar and pull him back .

「Natia, can you figure anything out?」

「……normally, I can learn more of a strange place like a cave by looking at the moss or gra.s.s…… I’ve never been to a place like this, so I don’t know anything . 」

Then it can’t be helped .

「Let’s go towards the center . 」

「Eeh!? It’s obvious there’s some sort of trap!」

Celia shouts .

「I don’t know if it’s a good idea to stupidly go forward either……」

Agor also opposes .

But I’m not blindly charging in .

「Put yourself in the position of the guy who set the trap . This trap leaves behind a bunch of messed up corpses . The next guy who comes and sees this will naturally be cautious . The trap maker wants us to tiptoe gingerly on the edge of the path . n.o.body will expect us to walk down the middle . It’ll actually be safer . 」

「I see……as expected of Aegir-sama!」

Celia praises me .

「There’s a possibility . 」

Natia nods .

I’m a man who is called a resourceful general . This is easy enough to see through .

I grab the mumbling Tristan by the collar and take one step in the middle of the path .

「If it were me, I would set traps on both areas to crush the ones who come first and the ones who come second……」

A heavy thunk sound was made when my foot pressed down on the floor .

「……my bad . 」

As everyone screamed, a set of bars dropped down in front and behind us .

「We’re trapped!」

「It was a cage trap!?」

Celia and Agor yell .

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case .

Along with a grating metallic sound, something protrudes from the wall .

「That’s―― a-a saw!?」

「……it’s coming closer!」

The steady grinding of the giant saw that fills the pa.s.sageway gets louder as it encroaches on us .

It’s almost as if someone invisible is pulling the jagged blade toward us rapidly .

If we touch it, we’ll certainly be torn apart .

I guess this is what sliced the Meldora soldiers .

「Duck!」

The saw blade thrusts out at the height of my chest, which is also approximately where Celia’s head is .

It’s about as fast as a galloping horse, but can be avoided by crouching .

Everyone immediately complies, though Tristan had to be pushed down by Mack in order to evade .

This should be it…… or it would have been nice if that was the case .

A single saw wouldn’t have wiped out all the Meldora soldiers even if they let their guards down .

「It’s coming back!」

「I knew it . 」

It came back at waist level this time .

Its speed was faster than before . About as fast as Schwartz .

「Hup . 」

Agor, Mack and I preface a jump with a run-up, Natia jumps off the wall and over it, and Celia leaps vertically to clear the blade with both feet . The attendant girl and Tristan hold their heads and press their bodies tightly to the floor .

It seems I don’t have to worry about anyone other than Tristan .

「It’s coming again!!」

Next, it was three consecutive blades at knee, waist and chest level .

Their speeds were more similar to arrows than horses .

「Everyone, get ready! Tristan, just close your eyes . 」

Agor covers for his attendant, leaving me no choice but to grab Tristan .

「Now!!」

At my signal, we all jump to dodge the saw aiming for our knees .

Then, we lower our bodies to store power before launching up to avoid the saw at waist level .

Lastly, we smoothly arch our bodies backwards as we land, narrowly letting the chest level saw to pa.s.s by .

Thankfully, n.o.body screws up .

「……mumumu . 」

Celia stares enviously at Tristan .

I want to let him go and hug her, but if I do, this sluggish guy will become a stew ingredient .

「Piece of cake . Is it going to be five consecutively next? This is a good warm-up exercise . 」

Everyone smiles . We’re still relatively relaxed .

「Hey……the Meldora soldiers were cut into many pieces, right? We only encountered round saws so far . 」

「There’s more coming!!」

Additional saws emerge .

One aims for our ankles, slower than the first one we faced .

Just when I was about to be disappointed, dozens of saws appeared……no, hundreds of them, vertically and horizontally, forming a net pattern .

「Hey, that’s not fair!!」

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I cry out .

At that moment, there was a clunk and the part where I placed my hand sunk about 20 cm into the wall .

「……hey, Natia . 」

「What!? I’m concentrating here!」

The angry Natia turns back at me and instantly turns pale .

「Sorry . I think I did something again . 」

「Goshーー!!」「Again, Lord Hardlett!?」「……guoh . 」「Hiiiiiih!」「I knew this was going to happen!」「Aegir-sama, you dummy!」

As everyone complained, the floor behind us――the part where Natia found unusual――lowered with loud rumbles and the place we were standing on transformed into a steep slope .

The ceiling in front of us opened up and down dropped multiple metal b.a.l.l.s about 1 m in diameter .

Those b.a.l.l.s bounced once when they hit the floor and naturally rolled down the incline towards us .

「Oh no! Get out of the way!」「……it’s slanted, I can’t stand straight!」「It’s taking everything I have not to fall over!」

I glance behind me .

The end of the descended floor is dark, meaning we’ll likely lose our lives if we drop down there .

But, even if we want to deal with the iron b.a.l.l.s, our footing is too poor .

While mulling over what to do, the b.a.l.l.s encroach upon us .

「Hold onto this! It’s my seven adventurer’s tools!」

I look up and see Natia hanging onto her tool which has a stick attached to the wall with birdlime .

I grab the stick and stand up, then shout at everyone else to get back .

「Natia, how strong is this?」

「Torimo-kun’s special adhesive absolutely won’t come loose!」

Good, then I’ll do something .

「It’s on line to hit us directly!」

Celia’s right, the iron ball is rolling at us .

With my left hand still holding Torimo-kun, I throw a punch with my gauntlet-protected right hand at the ball .

「Woah!」

It made a dull sound on contact and the impact sent shocks from my arm through to my body . My bones creak and my right arm tingles .

Nevertheless, I successfully knocked the ball away .

I don’t have time to be proud of what I did .

「The next one is coming!」

I grab Torimo-kun with both hands, lift my body up and kick the iron ball away .

「More…… lots of them are coming!!」

Around six of them are on course to hit us .

We’ll be crushed if we try to repel them one at a time .

「Please don’t break . 」

I remove my gauntlet and toss it at Natia .

Then, I thrust my now bare right arm at the iron ball .

「If you punch it without protection, your arm will break!」

Agor warns me, but even I won’t do something like that .

「This is what I’ll do!」

I catch the iron ball with my hand .

Instead of punching it or kicking it, I accept the full brunt of the weight, and I feel myself slide back .

I can almost hear my left hand ripping as well .

But I can’t collapse here .

I have Celia, Natia, and the little attendant girl behind me .

I grit my teeth and transfer all my strength to my right arm .

Finally, the iron ball comes to a halt .

「It stopped!」

「Amazing……」

「More importantly, someone help me! I’m falling! I’m falling over here!」

There’s more though .

5 more b.a.l.l.s are behind the one I stopped .

「Hnngrrah!!」

I hurl the iron ball using the force of my entire body .

The iron ball rolls up the slope and collides with the other 5 b.a.l.l.s .

「No way . 」

Along with Natia’s voice of disbelief, the ceiling closed up like it ran out of stock of the b.a.l.l.s and the floor also returned to normal .

「Whew, took care of that somehow . 」

I turn around and check on everyone .

「Ah, Tristan isn’t here . 」

Tristan’s arm can be seen in the closing hole .

Agor barely pulled him up in time and everything ended without incident .

「By the way……when I got caught in the trap, it wasn’t Celia who shouted last, right?」

「I don’t remember . 」

Good . If it was Celia who called me dumb, I wouldn’t be able to recover from the shock .

「Let’s get going then . 」

When I was about to walk off, Mack grabbed my arm .

「I’m leading the way . 」

Natia goes ahead of us .

「I’m next . 」

Celia follows .

「And then it’s me . 」

Agor steps forth .

「……then me . 」

Mack trails behind .

「I-I guess I’m next . 」

The attendant bows slightly before walking ahead .

「Why……?」

「Ah, why don’t we talk about some interesting books?」

I stand side by side with Tristan at the very end and walk along, feeling disgruntled .

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