045 Exploring the Demon Woods 2 p.2

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Indeed, it was foolish from the standpoint of profit. They were throwing away the rewards of fighting and yet, risking their lives. Both the leader and the party that followed him were extremely irrational.

(I don't care.)

However, it was none of Joel's business. It was the best thing to do. The party had agreed upon it. And the original purpose of their venture was to bring back even the smallest of information about the Trees of Darkness and to motivate the upper echelons of the guild and high-level adventurers to mobilise. They were thinking about the future of Marlan. It wasn’t something that somebody requested him to do, but Joel believed that it was the right thing to do.

There are several jinxes in the Adventurer's Guild, among them were people like Joel. (TN: I have no idea what jinx means in this context at all)

— Top adventurers were generally lunatics..

If lunacy was having a firm belief while ignoring the pros and cons, then Joel certainly met the criteria of being a first-class adventurer.

“I'm flattered by the compliment...... however.”

He spoke in a simple and honest tone.

“The fact that it pays well means that it has to be reliable. I know this isn’t something I have to say to a veteran, but keep that in mind, okay?

He didn’t sound particularly angry and sounded like he was just making small-talk. But when the adventurer looked directly into Joel's eyes, he unconsciously took a half-step backwards.

“He,hehehe…...Of course, since I’m more than twice your age, I’ll make sure to do it perfectly.”

He sounded as though he was making an excuse at first, but quickly mixed in a fawning smile.

The adventurer felt the pressure from Joel. A sweet-faced boy of medium build held a sparkle in his eyes. The light that attracted Rosalie, that made Mariano trust him, and made Sheeran open up to him, was far too bright for this man to bear. This realisation was presented in the form of a feeling of threat.

'What are you doing, Joel! Let's get out of here, or we won’t be back when the sun sets!”

“...... Mariano too. It's important to interact with others, but our time is limited. I think we should hurry.”

“Alright, alright, I'm coming!”

"And that’s that...... May God bless you all.”

Hastened by the women in their party, Joel and the others hurriedly left the camp.

The adventurer, who was not really being intimidated, looked dumbfoundedly at their backs.

The leader of the other D-ranked party, puzzledly tapped him on the shoulder with a questioning look on his face.

“'Hey, what's going on? Why are you zoning out man.”

"......Damn monster.”

“"Huh?”

“I've seen a guy with the same eyes a long time ago...... He had the same, well, even worse eyes than him. Damn, damn you...... monsters above monsters......”

He continued his complaints, without being completely aware of the other person.

The leader of the other party, who called out to him, frowned and called out to his companion instead.

"Hey, what’s with your leader? He won’t be able to work properly at this rate.”

“Ye, yes… But even we are entirely uns…. Ah, speaking of which.”

“You have some idea about it?”

“Something similar happened a long time ago. As far as I can recall, when we were at Broussonne, the leader went alone to pick up a request. Apparently he was involved in a quarrel between adventurers and ran back to the inn. It seemed like he met a monster with some crazy eyes. If I’m not wrong, that person was...”

Two hours had passed since they stepped foot into the unexplored region of the Trees of Darkness.

The Trees of Darkness was an undisturbed primary forest that was said to hide rich veins of ore. It was not a big deal if they were in a low area, but going higher and deeper into the forest, they would have to both circumvent the trees and shrub while climbing up the slopes. Not only was it easy to lose their direction, their stamina was also mercilessly sapped as they advanced.

Overhead, branches and leaves blocked out the sun, covering the forest in a darkness that made it easy to mistake daytime for nighttime. The surroundings were dead silent. There were no signs of monsters nor were there birds singing. In the painful silence, the only sounds were the footsteps of the party as they pushed through the vegetation.

"We're making good progress so far, but--"

“I know. There’s a sinister feeling, right?”

Joel nodded in agreement to Mariano's words.

It was too quiet for an area that was supposed to be the home of monsters. And not just any part of the dungeon, but this was also the inner regions of the Trees of Darkness. Given that D to C ranked monsters were common near the entrance, the silence in the inner region was disconcerting.

Quiet as it was, there was nothing peaceful about it. It was as though all things living had died.

“There's no sign of life, but the magic in the air is so thick...... My senses are going nuts. Sheeran, how about you? Do you hear anything?”

“......Nothing. ......200 meters around us, completely silent. Is this really a forest? I can’t even feel the presence of a bug.”

Both Rosalie, a mage who was skilled in magic detection, and Sheeran, with well-trained ears were puzzled by this environment.

“Let’s be careful. It is said that when there are strong monsters - especially the ones that act alone - the forest becomes still as death just like this one.”

“Because the other demons and animals were exterminated, is it? But it's odd that Sheeran couldn't detect anything.”

Rosalie was right. If the area was dominated by a powerful monster that had eradicated other creatures, there should be traces of that monster around. The fact that there wasn't even a sign of that was odd.

The four of them were baffled, but continued to move deeper and deeper while staying vigilant.

They maintained an orthodox formation, with two men at the front while the women took on the rear.

Joel was dressed in banded mail and wore a buckler strapped to his left arm for easy maneuverability. A swordsman's duty was to attack the enemy and to protect his allies in the rear.

As for Mariano, he wore a surcoat embroidered with a holy seal over his plate armour. It was not necessary for him to move as quickly as a swordsman. As a priest who could use recovery magic even on himself, he could act as a tank too.

Rosalie and Sheeran were relatively lighter armed compared to the men. It was a good thing that Sheeran was wearing leather armour, while Rosalie was carrying a staff and wearing a thick robe. The rest of their clothing were equivalent to plain clothes. The troublesome thing for mages was that unlike a priest who uses holy power, magic was incompatible with some metals and animal materials which were known to cause magic to disperse. That's why most of her gear was made of cloth. The metal armour for mages was very expensive due to the scarcity of the materials, and it was too much for a C-ranked person to purchase and maintain. Therefore, the crux for most low ranked parties was how to protect their mages effectively.

“......100.”

After walking the fixed number of steps, Sheeran took out a knife to carve a mark on a tree trunk. It was a method to adventure in a forest without a map. It was a strategy to not lose the way out and get lost.

Carving sounds were made as she dug the knife deep into the trunk.
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