|Author: Kaburagi Haruka||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 2579 characters|
|Translator: Mui||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1119 words|
We managed to get to the cavern, but we didn’t come across the Adventurers or Mikey. If there was something fortunate, it was the fact that we couldn’t find the Carbuncle’s corpse or bloodstains anywhere, which meant they should’ve been safe for the time being.
“Looks like he’s still alive.”
“Yeah, the Carbuncle too. The footprints continue to the inside, but there are none that lead outside.”
“Which means, Mikey should still be inside, huh.”
After some more investigation, we concluded that there were no other footprints, meaning the Adventurers haven’t reached this place yet. The place where the Dragon stopped for baths wasn’t anywhere nearby. If it was, it would end up stopping the customer traffic.
This Dragon seemed to have a high intellect, so it settled to a place separated from the town out of consideration. The Adventurers not being here meant they were searching for it.
“But I don’t understand why he isn’t coming out. Assuming he didn’t come across the Adventurers… It could only mean that he got into some trouble inside.”
“We can only go in to find out.”
“There might be some gases inside the cave. Did you bring your purifying magic item with you?”
The reason they built the hot spring town here was because of the hot water they discovered inside this cave. We couldn’t scratch out the possibility of gases accumulating inside of it. I always carried my magic item, the scarf, with me since it was convenient for hiding my face.
Thus, we wrapped the scarves around and stepped inside. The inside was dark, obstructing even my vision.
“Can you still discern the footprints?”
“Yeah. One of them belongs to a child, and the other to a… Beast? It has claws, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Then it could only be the rumored Carbuncle.”
“Hmm, there are traces suggesting that those two come and go quite often.”
One time could be written off as a coincidence, but that wasn’t so when it happened many times. Given how often he visited this cave, there was no way he didn’t come across the Carbuncle.
“I suppose Mikey was coming here specifically to meet the Carbuncle.”
“The Carbuncles are designated as protected monsters.”
“And that’s exactly why he was doing it in secret.”
Getting overly involved with the protected Mythical Beast wasn’t something commendable. The beast’s intellect wasn’t low, but it was still dangerous to carelessly approach it. Because of that, he came during the nighttime, keeping it a secret from his parents.
“So, something did happen inside that prevented him from returning, I suppose?”
“Well, if there’s indeed gas inside… That could be dangerous.”
“Right, we have to be ready for the worst…”
We continued following the footsteps. The cave was in quite a bad shape, there was no knowing when it would collapse. And as expected, there was some gas inside. Staying in for too long could be quite dangerous.
After walking for some more, we came across a crumbled wall. The child’s footsteps led to there and continued beyond the broken bedrock.
“Cortina, look here.”
“Oh, are the footsteps continuing beyond this wall?”
“Yeah. Maybe his way out got caved in.”
“That’s possible. Back off for a bit. Crimson Five, Ultramarine Six, Gold Nine—Tunnel.”
In accordance with her chant, a hole started forming through the cave-in rubble. That magic could dig a hole two meters wide and six meters deep. It reached the other side on the three meters point, though.
After signaling each other with eyes, I headed in first. Cortina judged that another cave-in could follow, so she fortified the wall with Toughness magic.
I pulled out my dagger and proceeded further in while keeping up my guard. Then, I heard a sigh… no, a threatening hiss. Looking towards the source, a giant hamster with a gem on its forehead… The Carbuncle was baring its fangs at me with its fur standing on ends.
“The Carbuncle’s there…”
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I spoke quietly so as to not provoke it and let Cortina know. She finished reinforcing the wall and was already right behind me. Following that, I saw a child flopped onto the floor while holding his legs.
I put away my dagger to ease the monster’s vigilance and slowly approached the boy. I went around the Carbuncle—still hissing at me—and checked the boy’s, Mikey’s condition. His leg was injured and didn’t seem like he could move it, but his breaths were stable and his life wasn’t in danger.
The gas was stagnated throughout the cave, but it couldn’t be found around him. It would be far too opportunistic for him to collapse in such a perfect spot filled with clean air.
“Did you purify the air around him?”
It tilted its head and observed me, having realized that I held no malicious intent. My magic couldn’t handle his injury, so I switched places with Cortina and let her handle it.
“Can you heal it?”
“I can handle this much, don’t worry. Still, it’s a wonder he is safe…”
While Cortina was concentrating on healing him, I inspected our surroundings. I noticed the leftovers of preserved foods such as bread and jerky.
“Looks like he was feeding the Carbuncle here.”
“Maybe it purified the air to thank him for it.”
Light covered Mikey’s leg and the injury started disappearing before my eyes. After his breaths relaxed, Cortina put him on his back and we headed for the exit.
“Are you coming with us too?”
Albeit it couldn’t speak words, it seemed to have guessed our intention and gave a decisive squeak. It toddled after us as we left the cave.
“Looking at it like this, it’s quite cute.”
“But it’s a Mythical Beast, so the danger is still there. And it’s illegal from the juristical perspective too.”
“But doesn’t it seem like it would feel really good to the touch?”
“Okay, even I’m not going to let you do that, okay?”
I may have been a guy in my previous life, but I still found it hard to go against that fluffy fur. I understood how Mikey felt a little bit. But if it’s wrong, it’s wrong. We have to properly admonish him later. Besides, this Carbuncle already has someone to safeguard it.
“Don’t tell me that white thing just wants it for its fluffiness.”
“Hm? Which white thing?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Either way, we managed to find the Carbuncle, so she would probably show her face before me sooner or later.
As we left the cave while I was thinking about such things, we came across three Adventurers in the middle of a rest.