Chapter 2 : Shia's Feelings and Haltina, Sea of Trees
One of 7 Great Dungeons, "Haltina Sea of Trees" where the country of demi-humans Faea Belgaen resided in. Thanks to the magic-driven two wheeler pulling two large carriages and dozens of horses, Hajime and his party able to advance forward with a rather fast pace.
On the two wheeler, Hajime sit behind Yue, while Shia is sit behind him. At first, Shia was told to ride on the carriage, but she insisted to get on the two wheeler. Even though Yue keep beating her, but she keep clinging just like a zombie and finally Yue give up. Shia who finally meet two people that "same" as her, seems wanted to talk about various things. She keep hugging Hajime. It seems Shia like to sit behind Hajime on the two wheeler... and sometime she flail her limbs around! that's what Yue think.
Hajime who was sandwiched between ill-humored Yue and good-humored Shia, only absentmindedly drive the two wheeler.
In that state, Hajime heard Yue's voice.
"... ... Hajime, why did you fight by yourself?"
Yue was talking about the fight with empire's Soldiers. At that time, after stopping her from using magic, Hajime fought them alone. Even though there'd be no much differences other than Yue "Instant Kill" the Soldiers, she thought Hajime was too eager to fight alone, and that made Yue anxious.
"N~,well, I just wanted to confirm..."
"... ... confirm?"
Yue asked him with doubtful face. Shia also start to feel intrigued over his shoulder.
"Aa, that was..."
What Hajime said basically this.
First, Hajime stopped Yue because he wanted to fight the empire's Soldiers as an "experiment". Even though it looks like he head-shot all of them, actually he also shot at their armors. Why he did that, because to fight humans using railgun is completely overkill, it'd be too dangerous to use it in town or wherever they are because of its penetrating power. Though there is no problem to turn thugs into dust, it'd penetrate into residence housing and killed whoever inside! something like that, like a complete scum. For Hajime, he didn't want to become someone who indiscriminately kill unrelated people. So, it was necessary to measure the proper amount of power. After looking at the result of this experiment, he'll be able to fine-tuning it.
The other reason was to confirm whether there'd hesitation for him to kill humans. Even though he was changedeborn, he have not experience in killing human yet. Therefore, he tried to see his reaction before and after killing those Soldiers. The result is, "he didn't feel anything about it". As expected, if they are enemies then he can kill them without mercy.
"And well, even though it was my first murder, when I think that I've changed because I didn't feel anything about it, it make me somewhat sentimental..."
"... ... that... Are you okay?"
"Aah, there is no problem. This is the current me, I am just glad that I'll be able to fight properly from now on."
Having heard Hajime's story, Shia was surprised that it was his first murder. At the same time, she admired Yue who was able to noticed the slight change on Hajime (probably only limited to Hajime). And once again, she felt a little lonely because she still doesn't know anything about them.
"Un, that! Can I hear more about Hajime-san and Yue-san?"
"? Aren't we talking about it now."
"Ah, what I want to know wasn't about your skill but something like why are you inside the Abyss? or what are your objectives? or what have you done until now? I want to know more about you two."
"... ... after you heard it, what then?"
"Even if you ask that, I just want to know. ... ... I, because of my circumstance, have brought a lot of trouble to my family. I disliked it so much when I was a child... ... but of course everyone told me to not mind it and now I don't hate myself anymore... ... even so, I still feel I was an oddball in this world... Therefore, I was happy. When I met the two of you, to find someone with similar existence as me and to know that I'm not alone, this overflowing feeling was... ... although it was selfish of me, t-to w-wanted becoming your companion... ... that's why, that, can you tell me more about the two of you... ... whatever you can tell me..."
It seems Shia was embarrassed by her own words, her voice became smaller and she tried to hide behind Hajime's back. When Hajime and Yue think of when they meet Shia for the first time, they remember how incredibly happy she was. At that time, Yue was having complex feelings, immediately they tried to save Haulia tribe from the attacking demonic beasts and she found out how they are capable of using magic inside the canyon. Surely, Shia must have been felt anxious since then.
Surely, in this world, those who have the same constitution as demonic beast won't be accepted. It was not impossible to have a sense of camaraderie. Though that was said, for Hajime and Yue, there exist no sense of camaraderie. But... because it'll take some time until they arrived at the Sea of Trees, also because there are nothing to hide and when they think it'll be good to kill some times, Hajime and Yue start to tell their story.
And the result is...
"Ue, sob... cruel, how cruel~, Hajime-san and Yue-san have it hard~. Co-compared to that, I was blessed... Uu~, I didn't lack anything at all~"
She cried. While crying sometime "I was too naive" or "I won't complain anymore" can be heard. Then, naturally, she wipe her face using Hajime's overcoat. Apparently, she thought her circumstance was worst but compared to Hajime and Yue's circumstances, it seems she felt miserable about herself to think that way.
After crying for a while, suddenly Shia clasp her fist and with resolute expression she declared.
"Hajime-san! Yue-san! I have decided! I'll join your travel! From now on, this Shia Haulia under this sun promised to help the two of you! There is no need to be reserved. The tree of us are comrades. Let's overcome the hardship and find the hope together!"
To Shia's sudden declaration, Hajime and Yue only give her a cold look.
"What were the weak and need to be protected rabbit just said? You'll only be a hindrance."
"... ... casually changing from "I want to be a comrade" into "comrade"... Shameless rabbit."
"Wh-why the cold look?... ... aren't you moved... now that you mention it, please properly call me by my name."
Shia was shaking because her eagerness resulted in their cold look. And additional blow was given.
"... ... you, aren't you simply want someone to become your travel companion?"
Shia was shocked by his words.
"Once your tribe safety is secured, you, you wanted to stay away from them, right? And come good situation that we who was the "same" showed up, have you decided to go with us? Well, of course having that unusual hair color for a RabbitMan would make it hard to travel alone."
"... ... umm, that, even if you say that... ... I only wanted to..."
Maybe because it hit the bull's eye, Shia stuttered her word. The truth was she already determined that once she gained Hajime's cooperation and her tribe safety was secured she will leave them. Because as long as she was there, her tribe will be always in dangers. Even now a lot of tribe members were lost. Who know next they will likely be annihilated. Shia was unable to endure it. Of course, her tribe didn't think so and it'll only look like she betrayed her tribe. But, "even with that" she already decided it.
At worst, she'll go alone, but that'd make her tribe even more worried. On the other hand, if she said it was to repay Hajime and Yue who have overwhelming strength, then it will be easier to convince her tribe to let her leave. "Desperation" can be seen in Shia's behavior and speech now.
Of course, it was true that Shia was interested in Hajime and Yue. As Hajime had said when Shia found out Hajime and Yue were "same" as her, she felt strong sense of camaraderie with them. Even when she thinks about her tribe circumstance, it was as if it was "fate" for Shia to met Hajime and Yue.
"Well, it's not like I can blame you to think so. Even so, don't expect anything. Our objective was the Seven Great Dungeons. Most likely the dungeon's interior infested with monster similar to Abyss. You'll be instantly killed and that's the end. Therefore, I won't allow you to go with us"
Hajime's relentless word make Shia fell silent. Hajime and Yue who were unconcerned about it, continue their attacks.
From then on, Shia was quietly sitting on the two wheeler with an expression that was difficult to read.
After several hours, their party finally arrived at the border of "Haltina Sea of Trees". From the outside of Sea of Trees, they don't only see the dense forest, but it seems as soon as they entered they'll be covered by fog.
"Well then, Hajime-dono, Yue-dono. Please don't ever part from us in here. Even though it was possible for you to advance by yourself, it'll be a problem if you get lost here. Also, our destination is in the depth of this forest, under the Great Tree right?"
"Aah, I have only heard about it, it seems there is a way to the real dungeon there."
Kam was confirming Hajime's destination in the Sea of Trees. What Kam called Great Tree was a huge tree that exist in the depth of "Haltina Sea of Trees", it also called "Great Tree Ua Alt" by demi-humans, and seems like it become a sacred place that no one dare to approached. It was a story they heard from Kam when they escaped from the canyon.
At first, Hajime thought "Haltina Sea of Trees" was one large dungeon, but when he think that if that was true then the wandering demonic beasts would be as strong as the one inside the Abyss, it would be impossible for demi-humans to live there. Even for "Orcus Great Dungeon", they are only able to guessed where is the true entrance. So, he became suspicious when heard about "Great Tree" from Kam.
Kam who nodding at Hajime's word, signaled to the other tribe members to make formation with Hajime in the center.
"Hajime-dono, if possible please erase your presence. Great Tree was a sacred place so there are no one and it was prohibited to approached it, but there is possibility to encounter someone from Faea Belgaen or other inhabitants(villagers). We are wanted person after all so it'd be a problem if they found us."
"Aah, I'll do that. Yue and me are, to some degree, able to do that so it's okay."
Hajime use the skill "Hide Presence". Yue also thinned her presence using the method she create in Abyss.
"-!? This is... ... Hajime-dono, if it's possible, can you adjust it to the same as Yue-dono?"
"N? ... ... something like this?"
"Yes, that is enough. If you hide it as much as a while ago, even we will lose sight of you. No, ah, as expected of you!"
In the first place, although their specs are lower, RabbitMan tribe excel in stealth operation and search operation using sound. And it seems, Yue's skill for hiding her presence that she create in the Abyss was quite excellence to use it on the surface. However, Hajime "Hide Presence" skill was more powerful. If it was at typical place, they'll be able to find him, but inside Sea of Trees, even with RabbitMan tribe's specialty they might be unable to find him.
Having her tribe's specialty surpassed by humans, Kam can only smile wryly. Beside him, Yue was proudly puffed up her chest. Shia was complexed. Probably because of the difference in ability that Hajime just show.
"Then, shall we go?"
Under Kam's words, their party start to advance, Kam and Shia head into Sea of Trees with complex feelings (deppressed).
After a while, they are unable to see the road anymore. Immediately thick fog surround them and their sight was cut off. However, there is no hesitation in Kam's steps. He seems to completely understand their location and direction to take. Although it was not known why, demi-humans and only demi-humans were able to understand their current location and accurately move around the Sea of Trees.
While advancing, suddenly Kam and his tribe stopped and began to look around their surrounding. There are demonic beasts' presences. Naturally, Hajime and Yue also can feel it. Apparently they are surrounded by demonic beasts. The RabbitMan tribe pick the knives that given by Hajime when they entered the Sea of Trees. If it was the normal, they'll just escape with their ability, but they can't do it now. Tense expression appear on all of the tribe members.
And, suddenly Hajime quickly shook his left hand. Faintly sound of something flew (PASHu) echoes in succession.
DOSA-, DOSA-, DOSA-
Scream can be heard along with the three sounds of collapsing. And, panic can be felt coming from the fog area, three monkey-like creatures with height around 60 cm and four arm each can be seen moving around.
Yue hold up her hand aiming at one of them then mutter in whisper-like voice.
Having said the name of her magic, wind of blade appear and rushed toward, without any resistance that monkey-look-a-like was slashed apart in the air. Without any chance to scream that monkey-look-a-like fall to the ground.
The other two was moving separately. One of them approached a child, while the other aimed its four arms equipped with sharp claw toward Shia. Shia and the child were instinctively stunned and unable to move. Meanwhile, the nearby adults were yelling... ... but that was just baseless worry.
Once again, Hajime shook his left arm and PASHuu! sound can be heard then the head of the monkey-look-a-like that tried to approach Shia and the child struck with countless number of 10 cm long needles.
What Hajime just used was Needlegun that's equipped on his artificial left arm. He got the hint from "Scorpion-look-a-like" that he fought before, then create the Needlegun. To fired it he used "Lightning-clad" though it was not at the level of Donner-Schlag but it has enough power. Even though it only have range of 10 m, it was silent, and added with poison it became convenient to use. It can be said it was one of dark-weapon series. Because they are inside the Sea of Trees and they didn't wanted to attract attention, Donner-Schlag can't be used.
"Th-thank you, Hajime-san"
Shia and the child (boy) thanked him. Hajime gesture them not to worry about it. The boy look at him with sparkling eyes, while Shia suddenly dropped her shoulders because she can do nothing but stunned in such times.
Kam only wryly smiled at her. They continued to guide him after being urged by Hajime.
Afterward, even though some demonic beasts come to attack them, Hajime and Yue quietly dealt them. The demonic beasts of the Sea of Trees, who were considered as troublesome by the mass, were not a problem for them.
However, after several hours passed since they enter the Sea of Trees, innumerable presences that can't be compared to before can be felt, Hajime and his party stopped their advance. Their killing intent and teamwork can't be compared to the demonic beasts they encounter before. Kam and his tribe start to restlessly search for their location.
And then, a worried and lose expression appear on their face while they gripped their hand. As for Shia, her face became pale.
Hajime and Yue who noticed the other party's identity, feel that it'll be troublesome.
The others was
"You are... ... why are you together with humans! Tell us from what tribe are you now!"
It was muscular demi-humans with ears and tails similar to a tiger.
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