It is October 15, 316 in the Tria calendar.
This time of year, the weather is good and we often go hunting for demons in the Caeum Mountains.
Since the days with 5 and 0 are holidays for the academy, we often go hunting for four days and three nights, including holidays.
Normally, it would have been better to take a day trip because of the classes at the Academy, but the nearby forests were not enough for our level, and we had to go into the mountains to hunt the monsters that suited us.
In that case, we would have to travel at least 50 km along the mountain paths, which would be inefficient for a day trip or overnight stay. Therefore, I try to go hunting for a long period of time when the weather is stable.
This time, however, was a little different. Instead of hunting demons, I was heading to a place in the Caeum Mountains as a nomination request.
The client this time was an old friend of Liddy’s, Professor Kitley Elvine. She had obtained information about ancient ruins from her informant, Sai Furman, and had asked us, the Zack Sextet, to take a look.
The site is located near a village called Hallockwood, about five km north of a small post town called Holywell, about fifty km west of Ars Road.
According to Sai’s information, there was a rumor that a metal golem had appeared near the village of Hallockwood, and upon hearing this, Ms. Kitley decided to hire us as guards and guides, thinking that there might be ruins there.
Holywell is a small town with a population of about 1,000, and it is a former imperial supply base with stone walls, not as strong as a fortress, but strong enough. We planned to spend the night in Holywell and then take a side road to the Caeum Mountains side.
As a side note, this side road used to be a road through the Caeum Mountains. However, the invasion of the Caelum Empire more than ten years ago wiped out all the villages on the Lacus Kingdom side of the road, and Caelum also abandoned its occupied lands, so now there is no one coming and going, and the road is completely abandoned.
The village of Hallockwood is a small village in the dangerous Caeum Mountains. However, according to the map, there is a deep valley to the west of the village, a sheer cliff to the north, and the road from the south to the northeast is like a foot bridge along the river flowing from the mountains, which is truly a natural strategic point. It seems to have been used as an imperial outpost in the past, and there is a gently sloping meadow to the south that can be used as a garrison, protected by a high fence on the border with the forest.
On the west side of that Hallockwood, on the other side of the valley, a silvery golem appeared.
This time, we were chosen because our party was quicker footed than other parties. A normal party would have a heavily armed vanguard, but our party’s vanguard, Beatrice, and Mel, are both speed-types and do not use heavy metal armor or shields.
Ms. Kitley said that he picked us because she was thinking of traversing steep mountain paths and cliffs. Of course, our high fighting ability and being old acquaintances were also reasons for the nomination.
The request was for five days, including round-trip transportation, and the remuneration was an unbelievable 100 C Crona per person per day, or 100,000 yen per day. In addition, a bonus would be paid depending on what was found at the ruins. This is another effect of the reform of the academy, which has greatly increased the expenses available to excellent researchers such as Ms. Kitley.
In order to gain time for research, we drove the fifty kilometers from Doctus all the way to Holywell and headed for Hallockwood in the early morning of the second day.
The west side of the Ars Road is full of dangers, but we, who were not working with the merchant team, were not in any particular danger. From Holywell to Hallockwood is a narrow road in a deep forest, but we entered the village at 8:00 a.m. without encountering any battle, except for one encounter with a Giant Spider.
“Well, let’s go and get some information from the witnesses.” (Kitley)
Ms. Kitley is not dressed in a skirt and tunic as she is at the academy but is wearing leather armor and has a short sword hanging from her waist. Although she has a strong image of being buried in books in a library or laboratory, surprisingly, she used to often go into the forest to search for ruins and was also a high-level magician with a level of sixty.
When we searched for witnesses in the village, we quickly gathered information.
One month ago, a silver golem-like object, glistening in the sunlight, was seen walking along the opposite bank of the valley to the west. Several times since then, the figure was seen walking from south to north. No movement was observed that indicated any interest in the village.
Furthermore, this village has been in existence for more than a hundred years, but the village elders did not know about the silver golem.
Ms. Kitley hypothesized that there were ancient ruins on the west side of the village and that the golem, the guardian of the ruins, had come to roam outside the ruins for some reason.
The valley to the west of the village is about thirty meters deep and fifty meters wide at its narrowest point. There is no bridge nearby, and the only way to cross it is to go down to the bottom of the valley and then up, or to return to the Ars Road, cross the river, and go north through the forest.
This time, the plan was for someone to cross the valley with a rope, and then pass the rope across the valley.
The two people crossing down the valley would be me and Dan. Both of us are light, and both of us are good at detecting dangerous presences. Considering the precautions on the other side of the river and the possibility of a battle, Dan and I were chosen because we could play both the vanguard and the rear guard.
The valley on the village side was designed for descent to catch fish in the river flowing below. Of course, there were no paths, but only a few footholds along the rocks to make it easier to descend.
When we descended to the bottom of the valley, we found a beautiful mountain stream.
The river was about five meters wide at its narrowest point, and there were rocks sticking out of the river, which we could easily cross to the other side by jumping over.
From there, we climbed up the cliff, but the moss-covered rocks were slippery, and we climbed slowly, getting caught on our feet many times.
After about 30 minutes of climbing, we found ourselves in a deep forest that had been completely untouched by human hands.
I left Dan in charge of handing over the rope, while I kept a watchful eye on the surroundings. He was better at detecting signs than I was, but I decided it would be less dangerous if I could move freely.
After passing the rope, Beatrice, Sharon, Ms. Kitley, Mel, and Liddy come across the river in that order. Mel, as well as Sharon, are well-trained from hiking in the mountains, and this level of tightrope walking is no bother at all.
When Beatrice comes to our side, we look for the footprints of the golem in question. We heard that it had not been seen for the past few days, but since the forest was empty, we were able to find its footprints right away.
The footprints were rectangular, about fifty cm long and thirty cm wide, and the ground had sunk a few centimeters, as if the footprints were very heavy.
“With this, we can quickly follow the footprints. Now we just need to see how many monsters are out there.” (Beatrice)
Beatrice said and looked around with her eyes narrowed in alarm. In her experience, there are sometimes unexpectedly large monsters near ancient ruins, so she has to be even more vigilant than usual.
Normally, she would not have wanted to accept this kind of request, but since it was from an acquaintance and our party’s attack power was unusually high, she reluctantly agreed to accept the request.
As soon as everyone, Liddy the last, crossed over we set off. Today’s investigation was scheduled to last until we found the location of the ruins, and we planned to return to the village at night.
Dan, walking in the lead, is vigilant about his surroundings and traces the golem’s footprints in pursuit. We are alert to our surroundings, but something is not quite right.
The forest looked lush, but there were very few signs of life. There are small creatures, such as insects. However, there were no birdsongs, which we would normally hear, and the only sound we could hear was the strange, loud rustling of the wind as it passed between the large trees, some two meters in diameter.
That is not to say that I was feeling a killing intent. And it’s not so much that there are no creatures as that it’s a dead forest, and there’s no sense of the undead coming out. But the eerie feeling is not going away.