Book 2: Chapter 160
After about three days, the group was able to reach their first destination.
[Samis Great Forest.]
It was a place filled with trees over dozens of meters tall. By the time they were able to see the forest clearly, the sun had already begun to set.
Igaru’s eyes shone as he looked for a place to land near the dark forest. As he searched, he spotted a plume of smoke rising from a clearing near the forest’s entrance. That wasn’t all. If one looked closely enough, they would see an orange flame flickering beneath the smoke.
Igaru pointed in that direction.
“Land over there.”
Soon, the three carriages landed near the forest. Then, Igaru led the three flying dragons pulling their respective carriages and walked towards the clearing he’d spotted from the sky.
Sure enough, when they arrived, they saw ten people sitting around a large bonfire. This group also had a flying dragon and carriage.
That wasn’t all.
All of the members of this group were equipped with weapons and armor. Their equipment wasn’t extravagant, but just from looking at them, one could see that they were well used and well maintained.
Upon spotting them, a member of the group got up and headed over to them.
Igaru was able to see their silhouette from the light of the fire, and it was easy to tell from the shape of their body that it was a woman.
“Who are you?”
It was a cold voice.
The woman’s expression was as icy as her voice.
She had a scar across one of her eyes and she was taller than most men. If it wasn’t for her harsh expression, she could even be described as good-looking, but the dangerous aura surrounding this woman made it impossible for anyone to have any wayward thoughts.
Nevertheless, the thing that attracted the most attention was the giant saber she held in her right hand. This vicious weapon, which appeared too large and heavy for most men, was being held in one hand by this woman.
Igaru took a step forward and opened his mouth.
“The Herui Subjugation Team Branch 2nd Class Igaru Squad.”
The woman shook her head after a moment of thought.
“What brings you to the Samis Great Forest? I don’t think this area falls under your jurisdiction.”
“The Herui Branch received a request for help.”
When she heard those words, the woman’s eyebrows furrowed and she spoke in a harsh voice.
“Dammit. Those fools from the branch did something that embarrassing.”
The woman then looked at Igaru again and clicked her tongue before reluctantly introducing their group.
“…Hirup Branch 7th Class Ashstar Squad.”
Even though it was revealed that this group wasn’t her enemies, the woman’s voice remained cold. It seemed that she didn’t welcome Igaru’s squad at all.
Nevertheless, Igaru’s squad members didn’t get offended by the woman’s rude behaviour.
Instead, looks of surprise blossomed on their faces.
“The Butcher Ashstar…”
It seemed that she was quite the celebrity as even Bargan’s eyes lit up slightly. On the other hand, Igaru seemed like he was lamenting inwardly.
“I’d like to set up camp, can I use the empty here?”
“Do what you want.”
After saying that, Ashstar immediately turned around and walked back to her group. The members of her squad also retracted their gazes.
“That’s a rather unwelcome reaction to members of the same group.”
When Lukas said this, Guaba laughed bitterly.
“It’s natural for them to feel disgruntled. As she said, Samis Great Forest is not our jurisdiction. We wouldn’t have been here if not for the direct request from the Hirup Branch.”
Sending a request for backup meant that they didn’t think this group would be able to handle their mission alone…
In fact, in normal circumstances, there was nothing wrong with this kind of situation. The problem here was that someone in the Hirup Branch had acted on their own judgement.
Ashstar seemed offended by the fact that her superiors didn’t trust her team and instead requested reinforcements.
Dragonmen, especially those living on Combat Island, seemed to have a very strong sense of pride.
“It might seem a bit childish, but this is a pretty sensitive issue for the subjugation team. If it had been the other way around, I would have been pissed too.”
Guaba let out a sigh.
“I don’t think this will be a very comfortable rest.”
* * *
As Guaba expected, the presence of the Hirup Subjugation Squad made the atmosphere very uncomfortable. It was almost as though an invisible war was being waged between the two groups.
Lukas realised that the Ashstar squad was higher ranked than the Igaru squad. In addition, the Samis Great Forest was their territory, so they naturally held the initiative.
“It’s a good thing we have Bargan.”
When Lukas tilted his head and Guaba’s words, he explained with a smile.
“They must have heard the stories about ‘Headsmasher Bargan’. That’s why they’re not openly picking a fight.”
It was certainly obvious that several of the Ashstar squad members were eyeing Bargan.
It was at that moment that Lukas realised Bargan’s reputation might be greater than he initially expected. He also realised just why Igaru was so happy when Bargan joined them.
He was actively taking advantage of Bargan’s presence. This fact was clear even now. After all, as he was talking to Ashstar, he had Bargan at his side.
“How far have you gone?”
“We have only searched the area around the entrance.”
“Have you gotten any results?”
Several people had recently been reported missing near the Samis Great Forest. Including the most recent disappearance, a total of seven people had already gone missing, and it had only been about two months since the first reported disappearance.
Seven people had gone missing in just two months.
Ashstar looked around before muttering in a low voice.
“Several of our group have also gone missing.”
He could now understand Ashstar’s attitude to an extent. She must have been frustrated not only by the actions of her superiors but also at the fact that they had already suffered losses without making any progress.
“Tell us more about the situation.”
Ashstar glanced at Bargan before continuing.
“Our group has already lost three members. It’s been about a week since the first one disappeared. The second was three days ago, and the last one… was this afternoon. He went missing just a few hours ago.”
This meant that in addition to the original missing people, ten Dragonmen had gone missing in this forest.
Igaru’s expression became serious.
These series of events pointed to only one fact.
An unknown being was currently lurking in this forest.
“…this isn’t the best time to eat leisurely. Have you stopped searching?”
“No. We are just taking a break. We will begin searching again immediately after eating.”
“Then we’ll help you. Let’s split up and search two areas. My group will head west.”
“Then we’ll head east.”