After walking for a while, we came across some cattle bones.
It’s most probably the goblins’ leftovers.
「The villagers’ precious fortune……」
Said Ario, frustrated.
There’s no way the livestock would return safely the moment they are kidnapped. We know this fact all too well.
However, Ario couldn’t seem to keep his calm when the evidence was presented in front of his eyes.
「Josh and I lived our whole lives in a farming village ourselves」
「I see. So you understand what they’re going through」
While Ario and I were conversing, Josh examined the bones.
Looks like he understands the role of a scout well. That’s good.
It’s the scout’s duty to find traces of the goblins and locate their nest.
I took a look at Josh’s work.
I’m not a complete newbie when it comes to scouting.
When I was in the Hero’s party, there were only three people. The Hero, the warrior, and then there’s the mage, me.
Neither Eric nor Gran have even the slightest potential in being a scout.
Because of that, the role fell onto me.
Magic can be used to pick locks, look for traces, disarming traps, et cetera.
Similar to archery-using scouts, a mage also uses long range attacks.
Therefore, you could even say that mages and scouts aren’t that different.
From my perspective as an experienced ‘scout’, Josh’s skill isn’t too bad.
He has a good grasp of the basics.
「Josh, are you really F-rank?」
「Yeah, I am. What makes you think otherwise?」
「Well, you’re looking at all the right spots」
The tooth-marks on the bones, the leftover meat, the age and number of footprints.
These are the things that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Since he’s accurately investigating all of these, he seems to be quite experienced.
「Thanks for the compliment」
Josh looked a little embarrassed by the praise.
Digging a little deeper, I learnt that he was once a hunter back in his hometown.
「No wonder. I thought you looked experienced」
Ario beamed up at my words.
「Josh’s a quick-witted scout, you know」
「Shush, it’s embarrassing」
As he said that, Josh finished his investigation.
He managed to locate the direction of the goblins’ nest.
「It’s this way. We’re actually quite close」
We started walking with Josh leading the way.
Josh was right. The nest is indeed in this direction.
However, it seems that he failed to notice their numbers, and the fact that there are monsters other than the goblins.
「Uhh, forget I said anything」
I decided to keep my mouth shut. They should learn from experience.
However, since I chose to say nothing, I will take responsibility for anything that happens.
As their senior, I have a duty to protect their lives.
There’s no way I will let them die.
I fired myself up once more.
After a while, we arrived at what seems to be the goblins’ den.
More precisely, a cavern. It’s likely that it was once a tunnel.
There are two goblins standing guard at the entrance.
「This is troublesome」
「Doesn’t seem that way though」
Ario and Josh both disagreed with me.
The tunnel is very long. There are also numerous dead ends due to excavation.
That makes it easy for the goblins to leverage on their only strength: their numbers.
Ario and Josh hasn’t noticed this point yet.
If the two of them came alone, what awaits them is certain death.
Ario started speaking with a serious expression.
「Goblins are nocturnal monsters. It’s better for us to strike while the sun’s still up」
「Yeah, I agree」
「In that case, I as the warrior will be the vanguard. I think it might be best Josh goes last」
Ario and Josh both nodded.
There’s no doubt we will be attacked from the back in the tunnel.
「Josh. Please watch our backs」
「Alright. Leave it to me」
I drew the Devil King’s sword.
No matter how many times I look at it, this sword really is huge.
It’s really hard to use in narrow places such as tunnels.
Before rushing in, I pondered for a while. If I was alone, I would just charge in and cut them all up.
This job would be way easier with magic though. With a slightly larger spell, I can exterminate them from the entrance.
However right now, I’m with Ario and Josh.
I have to ensure their safety while letting them gain experience.
It’s quite the difficult task.
While I was pondering on what to do, Ario spoke up.
「Let’s take our time and kill them one by one」
Josh agreed with Ario.
Ario gave a suggestion just when I needed one. Not a bad idea at that.
I should take it.
「Let’s go with that. I’ll charge in. Back me up with your arrows, and restrain them using magic」
I ran towards the lookouts.
By the time the goblins noticed me, it was all too late. I sliced one of them in half.
At that moment, the other goblin had its head pierced by Josh’s arrow.
「As I expected, you’re really good Josh」
「You too, Rock. You’re pretty fast」
After defeating the guards, it was a race against time.
We have to kill the goblins before they notice us.
Of course, I wouldn’t have to worry about my methods if I was alone.
However, today I’m with two newbies. I have to act like a role model.
As we entered the first room, we silently finished off the sleeping goblins.
It would have been easier if I defeated them all by myself. Though if I did that, there wouldn’t be any meaning in doing this.
We then advanced deeper with Ario and Josh taking their time defeating the goblins.
There had been two surprise attacks from our back.
Josh dealt with it perfectly the first time, but I had to back him up in the second one.
「Isn’t there too many of them?」
「This is already the 30th」
「I thought we only had around 10 goblins to deal with, but……」
It seems that they finally realised their estimation of the goblins’ numbers fell short.
「There is indeed a lot of them. Furthermore, with this large a group, the one leading them is usually not just an ordinary goblin」
「What do you mean?」
Ario asked me in a trembling voice.
I did not answer him, and let them understand the gravity of the situation we are in.
「Ario. Can you still use fireball?」
「If I push myself……. I am at my limit, though」
「Josh. Do you still have plenty of arrows?」
「I only have three left」
Pondering briefly, Ario suggested,
「Let’s fall back」
Josh was a little frustrated, but Ario only shook his head.
「There are too many goblins. There’s a chance that a hobgoblin or a goblin magician is leading them. We’d be mad to push with insufficient magic and arrows」
Josh also agreed. They’re quite the clever party.
They don’t have the impulsiveness characteristic of newbies. I’m sure they’ll make a fine party one day.
At that very moment.
A repulsive screech came from the furthest depths of the cavern. Whatever it was, it was steadily coming towards us.
「This is bad!」
Ario and Josh made quick judgments. We hid ourselves in a narrow side road.
Immediately after that, the owner of the voice showed itself.
「……A goblin lord」
As I whispered that,
Ario and Josh both drew in sharp breaths.