Hazure Skill “Kage ga Usui” o Motsu Guild Shokuin ga, Jitsuha Densetsu no Ansatsusha - Chapter 166

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Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama

I headed towards the forest with Lyla’s ‘Shadow’ messenger clinging to my waist.

『The lizard-like monster isn’t as big as what you claimed that armored tortoise to be. In fact, it’s only about the size of a dog. It could’ve come to find out what happened to its testudinate friend.』

It’s plausible — assuming they belonged to the same owner, they could’ve been released into the forest for some sinister purpose. With the ‘Shadow’ indicating where to go, I quickly arrived at the spot. The ‘Shadow’ lookout was sitting in a tree hollow.

The ‘Shadow’ messenger then pointed in a different direction. Soon enough, a rustling of leaves ensued and a lizard-like monster appeared from the underbrush. Its entire body was covered in spikes, and it looked like a hedgehog to some extent. The way it walked and moved its tail, however, was identical to a lizard.

Guess I’ll call it a Spiky Saurian for now.

[T/N Note: The original word is formed from 棘 (toge) meaning ‘spike(s)’ and トカゲ (tokage) meaning ‘lizard’. Toge-tokage.]

I stood still and watched the monster prowl the area. With each step making a crunch against the leaf litter, it stopped every now and then to sniff at the ground. It was also the spot where I had killed the Armored Tortoise. Lyla might be right, I thought.

The Spiky Saurian then climbed a tree and scanned the surroundings, and I noticed that the spikes only covered its back and not its belly. Moving around would probably be a pain if they did. Jumping off the tree, it landed smoothly and headed off in another direction swinging its tail.

Wait, what’s that around its stomach…?

「Did you see that, Lyla?」, I whispered to the adjacent ‘Shadow’.

『Mhm. It was only visible for a split second, but I think that was the same script as written on my collar.』

「And on the Armored Tortoise.」

『Then they must be pets belonging to the same owner.』

The Spiky Saurian continued prowling the area. I made my presence blend in with the surroundings and gave chase, Lyla’s ‘Shadow’ messenger clinging to me once again. After a while, it seemed satisfied and left the forest.

『Returning to its master?』

「Probably.」

It puzzled us quite a bit to see that both monsters had been entirely foreign to us. We also found it of note that they seemed to be owned by the same person. We tailed the Spiky Saurian to a small lake some distance away from the forest. The lake, fed by a stream coming from the same woods, wasn’t that far away from Lahati either.

It looked around before disappearing into the lake.

『Well, there it goes. And the trail goes cold…』

「That thing isn’t biologically suited for living underwater. It’s probably swimming to reach some hidden area.」

『But we still need to prepare –』

「We don’t」, I said, taking a deep breath and diving into the placid water.

『Are you sure? We’re underwater, you know?』

I ignored her and instead focused on finding the Spiky Saurian. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen Lyla swim before. Perhaps the demons have no concept of entering a natural body of water.

We quickly spotted the lizard slowly making its way to a dark hole in the lake. The ‘Shadow’ clinging to me tugged at my sleeve.

『You can’t breathe, can you?』

She’s right. Not even I can breathe underwater, for I don’t have gills.

『You’re gonna die! We should get out of here as soon as possible!』

Lyla continued talking, but I didn’t respond. I wondered if she knew that I can’t actually talk underwater. Anyway, I activated ‘Faint Shadow’. Sound travels more easily underwater, and I had to take more precautions against being noticed.

The Spiky Saurian seemed unaware that it was being stalked and swam into the cave. I followed behind it and as expected, it climbed out of the water. This must just be the entrance, I thought. I quietly stuck my head above the surface and confirmed that the coast was clear, then lifted myself onto dry land.

『Are you immortal or what!?』

Though I could talk now, I continued ignoring the shocked Lyla and followed after the Spiky Saurian. I got my breathing back on track and went deeper into the cave. If the monsters’ owner is really here, then it’s a pretty good place to live in.

But how did he get the Armored Tortoise in and out, I wondered. The entrance is way too small to fit something that large. The deeper I went, the stronger the presence of monsters became as the passage opened up into a large cavern.

It may have been gloomy, but I knew what was there instantly. A cacophony of growls and roars could be heard, so I seem to have arrived in their enclosure.

Monsters.

『Just what… is this place…』

「He might be doing something with these creatures.」

Thinking back to how the incantation inscribed on the collar acted proportionally to its target’s magicka, the words on these creatures could very well be controlling them and allowing the caster to manipulate their magicka at will.

Just then, I felt a human presence behind us.

‘Faint Shadow’ —

It should be hard to notice me, given my skill and the dim lighting. But that’s the best I can do, since there isn’t anything else I can use to conceal myself. Could the person approaching be affiliated with this zoo…? Well, whoever he is, I have a few questions for him anyway.

「Guuu…!?」

I darted behind the person’s back and stuck my thumb where I could pierce his throat at a moment’s notice.

「W-What…!? Who…!?」

Oh? This voice…

「I, uh… j-just got lost…」, she tried to explain.

「Ara-ara. If only a lie like that worked.」

That’s Dee’s voice.

I turned around to see the vampire in her full glory and looked back to see that I had, in fact, attacked Rodje. I released my shoulder grip on her and she sunk to the ground helplessly.

「What are you doing here?」

「Y-You…! Did you just try to pierce my throat!? You did, didn’t you!?」

「Pipe down, idiot elf.」

「We got wind of this underground cavern while on the hunt for Warwick」, explained Dee on her behalf. 「So we came to have a look-see. In and out. Twenty-minute adventure.」

This place certainly has something to do with Warwick, all right.

「Hey, Commander Rodje.」

The elf in question was shaking and crying.

「I-I t-thought you were g-gonna kill me… that bloodlust… scary…」

「Then don’t sneak up on me like that.」

「Oh, Roland-sama’s so sadistic♡」

Dee stroked my body with a finger.

『As long as both of you are safe and sound』, said Lyla through the ‘Shadow’, to which Rodje immediately sat up straight.

「It’s the perfect Lylael-sama! Looking at the ‘Shadow’ brings back memories…」

『Save the nostalgia for later.』

「Aye」, nodded the elf, hugging the ‘Shadow’ tightly as if it were a clone of her master.

「What have you found out, Dee?」

「We haven’t explicitly heard that it’s Warwick, but we have heard that someone is doing some kind of research in an underground place untouched by the sun.」

Rodje cleared her throat.

「We heard it in a bar frequented by adventurers」, added the elf. 「That someone was researching ways to design and upgrade monsters.」

「It must be valuable research to people with monster-controlling skills.」

『That explains why we’ve never seen them before.』

The way I see it, it’s a good thing for beastmasters to gain access to stronger creatures. Given the myriad applications and benefits of Warwick(?)’s research, I could just let it slide in the name of technological advancement.

From a guild employee’s perspective, however, it would be disastrous if the genetically modified monsters are perfected to a point where they get out of hand. We’re already beginning to see the effects — that forest where nobody dares to enter, for example.

Failing to nip the problem in the bud now will only create more work for us down the line.

「Let’s smash some monsters.」

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