Elemia, Donna, Miguel and Beck all gave half-hearted replies to my mutterings.
Only Beck’s response was unknown as to whether it was a reply or not.
“The firedrake from just now, it seems like it’s gone quite far away.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I can’t hear the voices of the fire spirits that surrounded the firedrake.”
I also concentrated and tried to listen to the voices of the spirits; it certainly seems like there aren’t any fire spirits nearby.
“If you’re able to do that, I wish you would have said something before we came across it.”
“I thought you were already doing it.
Besides, the spirits in the ground were in disorder because of its breath so I couldn’t immediately tell it was coming near.
Since having a lot of fire spirits around after the breath attack wasn’t strange either.”
“Also, I don’t know why but that firedrake also seems to possess [Stealth Steps].
Why the hell would a dragon know something like skills……”
“Oh, skills aren’t really exclusive to humans in particular, you know?
Fairies, dragons, and monsters will acquire skills if they’ve accumulated enough experience.
The firedrake having [Stealth Steps] might be a little unusual though.”
“Was that so…..”
“Putting that aside, if you’re leaving this place, now is the time to do it.”
“But, we’ll encounter it if it comes back, right?”
“Nevertheless, won’t it be dangerous even if you stay here indefinitely?
Having entered its lair means there’s the possibility of its breath being sent over here too.”
“We can defend against it if its breath comes flying, right?”
Just then, its breath deviating away from the entrance was also thanks to me making a request to the fire spirits.”
“Was it……. Wouldn’t we have died there if Melby wasn’t here then?”
“That’s right. Shouldn’t you be grateful?”
Melby puffs out her chest in pride.
Huh? But I’m sure Elemia said that it’s breath shouldn’t hit us, based on our position in relation to the lair?
Well, Elemia hadn’t seemed that confident though…….
Anyway, I’ve decided what we should do, now that it’s become like this.
“――Everyone, please listen.
It’s a little dangerous, but I’m going to use 《Tunnel》 and dig a passage to the surface from here.
There’s also a chance of it suddenly collapsing, but it’s better than coming across the firedrake.”
If I use the hardening magic 《Concrete》 in addition to 《Tunnel》 , there should hardly be any collapsing.
The other emissaries might inquire about it later, but between concealing the scope of my power and safely fleeing from the firedrake, I’ve decided which one takes priority.
I quickly set to work but,
“――Please wait, Fellow believer Orochi.
I object to that plan.”
Unexpectedly, Miguel declared that.
“Hey, you couldn’t be saying you want to try fighting that firedrake, could you?”
“No matter how I am, even I wouldn’t be saying that.
Not that, Since the firedrake has left its lair right now, I think we should scout out the inside of its lair.
From the start, our task this time was the investigation of the wyverns setting up their lairs near the Nest.
The firedrake being here was outside our expectations but ――no, it’s exactly for this reason; it’ll be bad if we don’t examine the scale of this lair.”
Miguel had a point.
The Crow’s Nest might face a great crisis in the distant future if we ignore the firedrake now.
Scouting out the scale of this lair to confirm whether the Nest’s underground establishment was in danger of being connected or not makes sense.
“Fellow believer Orochi, I’m also in agreement with Fellow believer Miguel.
I heard that firedrake lairs have multiple exits.
Hence, if we avoid the path the firedrake took just now and advance towards the interior, there’s also a chance of being able to come out to the surface from another exit.
In that case, there’s no need for Fellow believer Orochi to take the risk and dig a tunnel using [Earth Magic].”
This time, Elemia endorsed Miguel.
I can dig a tunnel without risk if I use 《Concrete》, but since I said “there’s the danger of collapsing” at the beginning, it’s hard to refute it.
“I-I am also in favour of the reconnaissance.
The residence where everyone lives would be in trouble if it became linked to the firedrake’s lair.
Even if there’s a little bit of danger, it’s better to check the situation.”
Donna also agreed with the reconnaissance.
It was quite unexpected, but I often see Donna taking care of the little kids in the children’s group.
“For everyone” were the magic keywords to move Donna.
“I think I’ll support Fellow believer Orochi.
It looks like the lair was just finished, but there might be other monsters like the wyverns around.
There was a large error in the information we first received so I think we should retreat first, then seek instructions from Fellow believer Nebil.”
Only Beck was in agreement with me.
It was a very Beck-like view, since he had the role of shield and was expected to protect the party members.
Now then, the majority is three against two.
Of course, it wasn’t as though I couldn’t claim the right as the leader and make returning the priority but, leaving Donna aside, it doesn’t seem like Miguel or Elemia would assent to that.
“……I got it.
The firedrake isn’t here for now, so let’s scout out the inside of its lair.
Then from there, search for another exit and escape.
At my words, the four gave small nods.
We decided on the actions to take in the emergency situation of being chased by the firedrake, then set about scouting out the firedrake’s lair.
I don’t think there would be any monsters in the newly-built lair, but the wyverns we encountered outside might be there.
Taking up a line formation with Elemia at the head, followed by Miguel, Donna, Beck, and finally me at the rear, we advanced to the lair.
The inside of the lair was pitch-black.
Everyone possessed the [Night Vision] skill but unlike my [Darkvision], they can’t see anything when there’s absolutely no light.
Thus, Elemia and I, the vanguard and tail, cast ∩ (Light) at our respective lowest intensities to maintain a minimal amount of illumination.
This was done smoothly, having been beaten into us from <Yatagarasu>’s special education for gifted children.
The sand-coloured cloaks stood out all the more within the darkness, so we took them off and left them in the first hole.
Also, the bulky items such as the wyvern-catching nets were discarded as well, prioritising agility.
Elemia being at the head was, of course, due to the value of her scouting ability.
Miguel, with his high combat ability, was positioned so he could jump out from behind Elemia at any time.
I was at the rear to be on the watch for the firedrake’s return, and I was to use all the magic I could to buy time if it did return.
Beck, who was in front of me, was assigned the role of covering for the combat-weak Donna at times of need with his characteristic defensive ability.
Melby, who was invisible to everyone, listened carefully to the voices of the spirits, to spy on the movements of the firedrake.
It wouldn’t be strange for the firedrake to return from behind us at any time.
That said, we weren’t in much of a haste, as there was also the risk of the monsters that may be inside taking us unawares.
We continued at a steady march.
I, who had [No Fatigue] was another thing, but Donna and Beck who still had little experience as emissaries seemed quite tired.
Elemia seemed unfatigued thanks to [Fatigue Transference], but the nearby Miguel probably had Elemia’s share of fatigue transferred to him.
I did tell Elemia to put some distance between us, but if she drifted too far away, we wouldn’t be able to provide support at the critical moment.
Then, Elemia stopped abruptly.
Using hand signs, she signaled to us who were following to erase our presences, then using [Espionage Techniques] and [Darkness Magic] together to completely extinguish her own presence, she peeked inside from a corner.
A few seconds later, with even more caution than at the start, Elemia returned to our side.
Naturally, she didn’t commit any mistakes like kicking a stone and making a noise or things like that.
Elemia’s words were direct.
“You say it’s there…… What is?”
Miguel asked quietly.
All of us couldn’t believe what she said next.
“A firedrake was there. Also, this firedrake is larger than the one from before……!”
Elemia said, her face pale.
“……Melby, can you sense them?”
“The fire spirits? Uh uh……It doesn’t seem like they’re there……”
Melby said with bewilderment.
“If it’s you, Melby, could you approach it without being noticed and use [Appraisal]?
Her skill level was lower than mine, but Melby also possessed [Appraisal].
It’s a firedrake without any fire spirits, right…..?
If it’s not a corpse, that would mean it spoke to the fire spirits and told them not to stay near it.
Perhaps it even rounded up the spirits to help with the construction of its lair?”
“H-hey….. Are you saying that firedrake can use [Spirit Magic]?”
If so, it should be a fairly old firedrake.
I can’t deny the possibility of a firedrake like that noticing my [Appraisal].
Rather, Elemia did a good job of not being discovered.”
“Then, it might be dangerous to even be talking here.”
“Yes. Let’s quickly leave this place.
Of course, take great care not to be noticed.”
Ending the mental conversation with Melby, I turned to face the four children.
“……Anyhow, let’s leave this place.
We found out that such a big thing is there.
That’s enough of a result for our reconnaissance.
After this, we should survive and bring this information back to the Nest alive.”
This time, no objection was voiced.
“But, which way do we go……?
Until here, the cavern was one straight path.
Even if we returned, wouldn’t we come across the first firedrake……?”
Elemia said worriedly.
“For the time being, we’ll return to the place we were at before we started descending.
We’ll dig a tunnel, hide the entrance, then dig a hole to the surface from there.
Until that point…… We can only pray that we don’t meet the firedrake.”
“In that case, I’ll be the vanguard and scout.
Once I confirm the firedrake’s position, I’ll return immediately.
If it’s nearby then we’ll bypass it with Fellow believer Orochi’s [Earth Magic].”
Scouting is probably necessary.
I think we’ll know about the firedrake’s approach because Melby is here, but there is the chance of the fire spirits separating like they did with the firedrake inside.
Elemia cautiously returned down the path we came.
Miguel, Donna, and Beck, the three children and I who were left behind exchanged hand signs and altered our formation, then followed after Elemia.
We were separated from Elemia, the scout, and the smaller firedrake was in front, so this time I stood at the vanguard, followed by Beck, Donna, and then Miguel in that order.
Whether it be the hand signs from just now, or the covert movements with no rustling of our clothes, <Yatagarasu> ‘s training was as expected.
As I advanced with caution, I address Melby.
“I thought it was somewhat strange, so the one building the lair was that larger firedrake.”
The breath flying towards where Elemia promised was safe had been because the firedrake Elemia identified before the landslide was the smaller one.
From the position of the smaller one, the breath wouldn’t reach that point, but the bigger one was in a deeper location so its breath reached that far.
Even though the firedrake should be inside its lair, suddenly coming across a firedrake (the smaller one) was also because a different dragon to the one building a lair―a smaller one―had come to inhabit the lair.
“Perhaps the smaller one is the child of the bigger one.
The fire spirits gathering at the smaller one may be because the bigger one asked the fire spirits to watch over the smaller one.”
“They could also be there to keep watch, but the firedrake could simply be marking it.
If the bigger one is a user of [Spirit Magic], then it could know the location of the child dragon by listening to the voices of the fire spirits.”
I solved the mystery, but the situation didn’t change.
After progressing for a short while, we returned to near where we encountered the first firedrake.
The passing of time felt longer than when we were leaving.
This was because we had been marching whilst holding our breaths.
We were able to see the back of Elemia, who had gone ahead, at the end of the cavern.
From inside the cavern, an anxiety-inducing thud thud sound resounded.
No doubt, it was just ahead.
I produced hand signs telling the three behind me to stop and had them wait there.
While doing that, Elemia noticed us and sent some hand signs.
They were―― Leader. Only. Come. Here.
I use [Espionage Techniques] to approach Elemia.
Elemia conveyed, only moving her lips.
I only sent half my face around the corner and looked at the other side.
There it is.
Just like Melby said, the (small) firedrake was in a rage.
The firedrake was in front of the hole we had hidden and let it go past in.
We purposely didn’t fill in the hole after we left it but ――it failed.
The firedrake thrust its head into the hole, dragged out the sand-coloured cloaks and wyvern-catching nets and such that we had discarded, and used its fangs and claws to tear them into pieces and trample on them.
It seemed very irritated at being deceived.
“……It might not pass a second time if we use the same method.”
Even if we retraced our steps and dug out a hole midway, the firedrake probably wouldn’t be tricked again.
Filling in the dug hole would be, of course, done from the interior so it wasn’t possible to confirm the completion of the exterior.
Perhaps, it would form a wall that seemed out-of-place and would be noticed immediately if the firedrake looked attentively.
And, the firedrake’s speed of detecting was probably faster than our rate of hole digging.
It might be too narrow for it to enter but it sending a breath at the hole was enough to fear.
In that case, we can preparing ourselves, exposing ourselves once, and slip past by the firedrake’s flank while heading towards the cave entrance ――wait, the entrance was buried by the bigger one’s lair-building breath, wasn’t it.
Could I have the others buy me time to dig through using 《Tunnel》?
Without losing someone as sacrifice to the firedrake?
I thought these guys might be able to manage, but it became a complete gamble.
If I went ahead to dig with 《Tunnel》, I wouldn’t be able to be there while the firedrake fought the four children.
I don’t want to hear about so-and-so dying or anything.
Isn’t there any good moves to make?
While taking care not to reveal my presence, I kept a sharp eye on the firedrake and frantically looked around.
――Alright, I can only do that.
I retracted my head from around the corner and asked Elemia to keep a lookout while I crouched and summoned the three trailing behind with hand signs.
Taking care not to let my voice leak to the firedrake’s side with [Wind Magic], I explain the strategy.
“Yet another absurd tactic.
But I suppose that’s all you can do.”
The four children also approved of the strategy, albeit surprised.
“――Alright, everyone must survive and return.”
At my words, the four gave tiny nods.