People Call the Dungeon the Forest of Deception – Part 01
Prologue: It All Begins in a Remote Region Near a Dungeon
It’s always the ordinary people in the middle of nowhere who notice something unusual.
A villager harvesting tomatoes—red, but a little smaller in size—raised their head.
“Hmm? What’s that sound?”
It sounded like the ground sinking. There was no record of an earthquake ever occurring in this area. Although curious about the sound, nothing happened afterwards, so they continued harvesting their tomatoes.
In the evening, after finishing their work at the farm, the villager came to the village square, where the village chief’s house, the church, and the only store in the village all stood facing each other. It was the busiest place in Cotton-elka, a village with a population of a hundred and twenty.
“Working hard, I see.”
“Oh, Pastor. You have to harvest them now, or they’ll get too ripe. There’s no one in this kingdom who doesn’t know about Cotton-elka’s dried tomatoes. How can I not work hard?”
“So nothing unusual, huh? That’s good to know.”
The villager remembered what they heard at noon today. What was that sound? But before he could talk about it, another villager came and struck up a conversation with the pastor.
“We’re opening the drying area tomorrow and getting right to work,” the villager said.
“I see. Dried tomatoes are the lifeblood of the village,” the pastor replied. “I hope work goes smoothly.”
“Paula was so good at peeling tomatoes… Oh, sorry.”
“No, it’s fine. She certainly knew how to work efficiently.”
The pastor wore a grim look that was quickly replaced by a wistful smile. Everyone in the village knew Paula. The pastor’s only daughter, she took care of all the work that required precision, writing, and math, which the villagers were not very good at.
She was a good-natured, simple girl, whom everyone thought was going to marry a young man from the village. One day, however, she just disappeared together with her friend Pia, daughter of the village chief, and Priscilla, daughter of a hunter who lived on the outskirts of the village.
The letters they left in their respective homes said they became adventurers, but the villagers hadn’t heard from any of them in the past six months since they left. Though the pastor didn’t show it, it was clear that he was worried.
“You two must be tired,” the pastor said. “Go have dinner and get well-rested for work tomorrow.”
The two villagers went on their way. Smoke was rising from many houses—it was dinner time as usual in Cotton-elka.
The pastor looked to the west. The sun was setting. At the foot of the mountain lay the fortress city of Leather-elka. Unlike Cotton-elka, it was a place bustling with people.
What caught the pastor’s attention was the color of the sunset painting the mountains. It looked redder than usual, as though mixed with blood.
“I don’t like the look of that.”
The pastor’s fear turned into reality.
Cotton-elka would become a hot topic of conversation among adventurers due to a monster invasion.
The door to the Adventurers’ Guild opened, and a dark-haired, dark-eyed boy entered. Most of the people who hung out in the guild were adults, mostly rugged men, so he stood out a little.
A group of three girls spotted the boy—Hikaru. Although older than him, the girls were also among the younger members of the guild.
Hailing from a remote village, the girls—Paula, Pia, and Priscilla—were recently saved by Hikaru when they were attacked by a horde of Goblins. The veteran adventurers who tried to escape using Paula as bait after a falling-out were still missing—most likely lying low somewhere far away, waiting for things to cool down.
Hikaru walked towards the girls.
“You didn’t come by the guild yesterday, so I was wondering what happened,” Paula said.
“I dropped by in the evening after spending the whole day reading this.”
Hikaru showed a book from the guild’s library. It was torn apart in places from years of use, and barely anyone had touched it recently.
“I borrowed it from Mr. Unken so I could learn how to butcher monsters. Reading is knowledge, after all.”
As a matter of fact, Hikaru was very busy yesterday. He tricked a party of adventurers on an escort mission to the capital to rescue a prisoner, Lavia. After that, he intercepted Lawrence D. Falcon, the commander of the knights.
He managed to show up at the guild in the evening. He wanted to take on an easy commission, but the injury on his arm prevented him from doing so. Although the wound had healed, he still wasn’t in top shape.
He was using the book as an alibi.
“You mean that thick book?!” Paula exclaimed.
Hearing Paula’s remark, Freya slipped out of the counter and strode toward them. Adventurers gathered at the counter started cursing. She was still as popular as ever.
“Hello, Hikaru,” the receptionist greeted.
“Hello. Um, what about work?”
Adventurers who looked forward to hitting on the receptionist every day were staring daggers at him. Perhaps to them, the guild’s receptionists were like celebrities they could meet every day and talk to casually.
“I heard Sir Unken lent that book to you,” Freya said. “Returning it to him is part of my job.”
Unken was the guildmaster. He was proficient in Stealth, the same ability that Hikaru possessed, but no one knew what he was doing before being appointed as this guild’s manager. Hikaru speculated that he might have assassinated the king of the neighboring empire of Quinbrand.
“Are you sure? You must be busy,” Hikaru said.
The adventurers nodded.
Freya laughed dryly. “Not really. All I do is chat.”
I see. Do your jobs, adventurers! Can’t you see all those posts on the bulletin board?!
“But did you really read the whole thing?” Freya asked.
“Then how about a bit of a quiz?” Freya cheerfully flipped through the pages. “What’s the most effective way to kill a Muddy Rock that lives in swamps?”
“Use ice-type Spirit Magic. They’re easier to destroy once frozen.”
“What does a powdered yellow medicinal plant do?”
“Describe the closest dungeon to Pond.”
“There are two of them. The first one is called the Underground City of the Ancient Gods, and it’s a five-day trip by carriage up the northern highway. Jointly-controlled by the government and the Adventurers’ Guild, only adventurers ranked E and above may enter. Plenty of undead-type monsters have been spotted there. The other one is called—”
“The Forest of Deception!” Paula interrupted. “The dungeon was created by a monster, a Dungeon Master. The monsters you kill inside turn into Spirit Magic stones, turning it into an industry. Isn’t that right, Lord Hikaru?”
“Uh, yeah.” Hikaru nodded. Why are you asking me?
Paula was right. He was surprised she knew so much about it.
Freya chuckled. “So you really did read the book. I’ll return it to Sir Unken.” She closed the book. She looked the same as always.
“What’s wrong, Hikaru?” Freya asked.
It didn’t look like news about Lavia’s disappearance had reached here yet. But they would learn about it sooner or later. His alibi should prove useful then.
In reality, it wasn’t that old book that Hikaru read, but the latest edition. He had plenty of opportunities to read it in the library. He was a much faster reader than the average person, and he had a good memory. He actually already knew all that stuff before he even borrowed the book from Unken.
“But please read the latest edition in the future, okay?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Freya said, then left with the book.
“What was that about?” Hikaru wondered.
He had no idea what she meant by that, which was understandable. Only guild personnel knew that the latest edition of the book was a copy that Freya herself made when she took the receptionist’s exam. The copy was naturally newer and more neat, so it was currently the one being stored in the library.
“How do I look?”
Later that evening, in the hotel room.
Standing before Hikaru was Lavia. However, she looked completely different from before. She was wearing an outfit that Hikaru got her—a bright-green dress with a belt around the waist, high-cut boots, and knee-high socks.
Pants would’ve been better for adventuring, but Hikaru thought it was a waste for someone as pretty as Lavia to be wearing trousers, so he went with this. He found it in a thrift store he went to today.
Her beautiful silver hair was tied behind her back. Hikaru also bought a dark-red cap, which gave her the air of an active, young girl. There was no trace of the elegant daughter of a nobleman.
“You look perfect,” Hikaru remarked.
“What’s wrong? You actually look great.”
“I was just thinking how good you are at picking out clothes for girls. Like you’re used to it.”
“Th-That’s not it. I was thinking about you while looking for clothes, and it just happened to catch my eye.”
“You were thinking about me?”
“Yup. All day.”
Lavia pursed her lips, her cheeks flushed. Hikaru found it adorable.
“I’m still bothered by it, though. This costs a lot of money, doesn’t it?”
“Don’t worry. We’re good.”
Hikaru had to spend some money, but he had enough to support both of them for a while. Now that they were basically couples, he had to buy something necessary.
Lavia might only be fourteen, but according to Roland’s memories, fourteen was old enough to get pregnant in this world too. Interestingly, the contraceptives here were actually gems imbued with dark magic. Carrying it in your pocket reduced sperm activity in men and affected the ovaries in women. Since the effects on men were less severe and basically rendered them sterile, those who needed it carried it around. The effect on women, however, was much worse, such as causing irregular menstruation, so it was mostly men who carried one.
This looks like I’m expecting to do the deed frequently with her… Still, prevention is better than cure. Yes.
Regret always came last, so better prevent pregnancy now than later. They didn’t have the luxury to raise kids at the moment. The vendor poked fun at him when he bought the gem, but Hikaru believed it was a necessary expense. It cost a thousand gilans.
Including the money he had deposited with the guild, Hikaru had over 100,000 gilans left. A little over a million in Japanese yen. The cost of living here was low, so it was enough to live off of for a year.
“We’re going out tomorrow to buy some other stuff you need,” Hikaru said. “A couple more clothes, and some underwear, which I can’t buy myself.”
“Yeah. Are you sure, though?”
Lavia was concerned about people recognizing her in the streets. After all, she could change her attire, but not her face. She was still wanted for the murder of Count Morgstadt, her own father.
Fortunately, Hikaru had a way to hide her.
“You can go anywhere now,” he said. “You can decide where you want to go.”
“Anywhere…? Then I want to go adventuring.”
Hikaru nodded with a laugh. “I knew you’d say that. We’ll start preparing for adventures tomorrow.”
“Before that, how are you feeling? Does it hurt anywhere?”
“Hmm… It hurts a little, but I’m feeling a lot better.”
“All right. Take it easy, now.”
“B-But if you want to, we can also do it tonight—”
“Th-That’s not why I asked!”
“I see… I get it. I have the body of a child, so you don’t find me attractive.”
“N-No, that’s not it! I think you’re… very pretty and attractive…”
They moved closer, holding each other’s hands.
They ended up staying up late into the night. By the time they woke up the next day, the sun was already high up in the sky.
The gem that Hikaru purchased immediately came in handy on the first day.
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