During the short break they took after the spider was defeated, Loren went to examine its corpse. Others kept a distance from the carca.s.s, and Loren was the only one who approached it. He had a reason to though.
Loren stabbed the spider carca.s.s with the tip of his sword multiple times to make sure it had really died before coming closer. The first thing he examined was the spot where Gula’s <> hit. The exoskeleton was quite hard, and even though the surface was scorched, there weren’t many signs of damages. There was only one spot where the exoskeleton had been torn apart, allowing the magical fire and explosion’s to spread inside.
“It’s definitely a bite mark…”
The marks left on the exoskeleton were, very obviously, tooth-shaped. Since Gula was the caster, it was obvious what happened. The others didn’t notice, simply because they hadn’t really inspected the spider. Even if they did and wondered what the h.e.l.l had happened, they wouldn’t be able to come up with an answer anyway. It should be alright to just leave things as they were, but Loren still used his greatsword to sc.r.a.pe off some exoskeleton just to be sure.
When he was doing that, Loren suddenly felt the loss of a weight on his right shoulder. Looking over, he noticed that the black spider that had been clinging to his shoulder had disappeared. In its place was a piece of thread, and the spider was at the other end of the thread, clinging onto the dead spider carca.s.s and thrusting its head into the hole Loren had made with his sword. Loren wondered what it was doing, but immediately noticed that it was somehow eating the dead spider, which made him feel a bit weary. He actually thought that it would be nice if the spider just went away like this, but the thread coming from its bottom was still attached to his shoulder, letting him know that it had every intention to return. Wondering if the thread could be removed, Loren pulled at the thread with a little of strength, but it seemed to be very securely attached – there was no sign of it coming off at all. He wondered if it would come off later, but for now he had to continue his examination.
“That being done…”
Loren spoke aloud while properly dissecting a spider leg. The exoskeleton was so firm that Ritz’ sword couldn’t make a dent in it, but it was no match for Loren’s greatsword. The leg easily came off with just one light swing of the blade. Loren looked into the freshly cut flesh and sighed at the expected scene.
There was nothing inside the exoskeleton of the leg, just a hollowness. Loren stared at that hollowness for a while, then turned his glance towards Gula, who was resting in a pa.s.sageway on the other side of the hall. She looked to be in a world of her own, but she stiffened her face and looked away in a fl.u.s.ter once she noticed Loren’s eyes on her. That behavior let Loren know exactly what had happened to the flesh of the spider inside the exoskeleton.
“That girl… She ate up all the insides.”
He wasn’t sure if it had happened during or after the battle, but after taking a bite off the spider’s exoskeleton to allow her magic to take effects, Gula had sent <> into the open wound and cleanly ate off the spider inside out. Why did she have to go through so much troubles though? More or less, Gula also wanted to avoid attracting Ritz’ party’s attention, but a corpse cleanly devoid of its inside was undeniably suspicious. She didn’t seem to do this to avoid their attention.
“What do we do with this?”
If Ritz’ party came to examine the carca.s.s, they would immediately notice the abnormality. Yet, cleaning up the exoskeleton would take a lot of time and labor as it was too big and hard. They just had to leave this place before the others took an interest in the spider remains.
Loren ended his examination and returned to the party. The black spider, which had been rummaging around in the dead spider’s head, followed the thread and smoothly returned to his shoulder. It peeled the thread off Loren’s jacket, wound it up and ate it clean. Loren looked down at the spider for a while: it seemed a bit heavier than before. It seemed like this spider had no intention to part ways with him for a while.
“It’s not a pet, but… I should give it a name or something…”
Loren unintentionally uttered, and the spider on his shoulder vibrated. With such a reaction, Loren wondered if it could understand human speech, but he immediately dismissed the idea. Big or small, spiders were spiders – it would be too much if they could understand human speed and react to it.
Loren felt the spider stopped vibrating just then. He looked at it once more and nervously asked:
“Do you want a name?”
Loren thought he wouldn’t get a reaction, but he did. The spider vibrated once again. Trying to not let his jaw drop unintentionally, Loren changed his mind. Apparently, spiders that could understand humans did exist. He had never once thought about it during his mercenary days, but such things did exist in the world…
When Loren was musing, the spider on his shoulder began vibrating even harder, as if to urge him. He had believed that naming should be done with great consideration, but he just blurted out the first word that came to his mind:
“Nigreto. Nig if it’s too long. How about it?”
The spider stopped rocking its body at Loren’s words. He wondered if it didn’t like the name, but as he began to think of another one to propose, the spider suddenly shook its body once. Loren considered that an acceptance and said in confirmation while stroking the spider’s smooth body with his left hand:
“So, it’s Nig. I don’t know for how long you want to stick with me, but well, please take care of me.”
The spider named Nig shook its body again.
“Are you done talking?”
Lapis said, as if she had been waiting for the right timing. Somehow, feeling like her eyes were on him as well as the spider on his shoulder, Loren asked:
“Could this spider be intelligent?”
“This one? Of course it is, isn’t it?”
Lapis said this as if it was something obvious, and that confused Loren.
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“These spiders are intelligent enough to understand humans to some extent. They’re famous for it… Even the dwarves know.”
“Don’t you have any other countermeasures?”
Ritz complained, and Loren asked with just a little bit of surprise. It was partly because a silver rank adventurer was admitting his weapon’s ineffectiveness to him, but it was also because entering the demons’ territory without any counter-plan was way too reckless.
“Not that we don’t. We do, and we still have our trump card too.”
“It’ll be in bad taste to ask you what it is, right?”
“Yeah. I can’t tell you, cause that’s how a trump card works.”
Ritz answered while walking, and Loren nodded in agreement.
“If you’re aiming for something higher than iron rank, you should have one hidden trump card too.”
According to Ritz, it was normal for adventurers above silver ranks to have one or two trump cards or hidden tricks. Of course, information about such things were a matter of life and death, so they would keep them hidden until the very last minute.
“It’s the same as showing your hands. You’ll have to keep it hidden to the last minute, and once you use it, you’ll have to dispose of your opponents. There’s no harm in keeping this in mind, you know?”
“Thanks for the advice. I’ll think about it.”
Loren replied in a light tone, but he knew he really should have at least one of those things. Right now, their party largely depended on Lapis the demon, Gula the Evil G.o.d, and Shayna the King of Death. From Loren’s point of view, he was the weakest in terms of fighting power in their party. Maybe he should have something that didn’t depend on them up his sleeve, even just one.
[‘Onii-san, if you want even more power, do you want to become inhuman? As a human who has become inhuman, I don’t recommend it.’]
Shayna’s words made Loren’s heart jump. Loren wondered if she could read his mind, but Shayna immediately dismissed the notion:
[‘You’re just easy to read.’]
Loren tilted his head in puzzlement – was he really that easy to read? But then, Jack’s voice came, bringing him back to reality and pus.h.i.+ng such thoughts to the back.
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