We led Solas back to surface by retracing the path we took on our way down. We had healed him, but he was still missing quite a bit of blood so I figured his pace would be a rather slow one. Contrary to my expectations, however, he was still moving along fairly steadily regardless.
I’d honestly just kinda ended up assuming that he was an F ranker because he said his party was comprised of D, E and F ranked adventurers, but he seemed to at least be as good as an E ranker.
「Hey Fran, are you using some sort of detection type skill? It sure seems like it. I’ve only got Presence Detection myself.」
Solas seemed to be the boisterous type. He more or less kept talking and wouldn’t shut up despite the fact that all Fran really ever did in response to his rambling was nod.
We were able to progress up through the dungeon fairly quickly due to the fact that the traps we disarmed had yet to be restored. I wasn’t sure if everything would stay disarmed long enough for us to break through the fifth and sixth floors, but I sure hoped that would end up being the case, as the traps therein were more difficult to deal with.
Two men appeared in front of us as we continued to make our way towards the exit.
「Huh…? Are you two by yourselves?」
「That’s impossible. They’re just kids. There’s no way two kids would be able to make it this deep by themselves.」
「R-Right, good point. So where’s your party at?」
Both men seemed rather surprised that Fran and Solas appeared to be travelling alone. I couldn’t really blame them. They were really quite justified if one was to take the norm into account. That said though, they soon regained their calm after asking us a few questions.
「So you two really are all by yourselves?」
「And you’re adventurers?」
「Is that wolf your familiar?」
「Feel free to stick with us for a bit if you got separated from the rest of your party members.」
「Hey, that’s not a bad idea!」
「Right? Come on, let’s go.」
They seemed like good guys that were concerned about Fran and Solas…
A quick appraisal immediately informed me that they were about as villainous as could be.
They not only had the theft, torture, threaten, and deceptions skills, but were also marked with titles claiming them to be murderers.
My immediate guess was that their strategy was to approach other adventurers in an amicable manner and attack them the moment they let their guards down. You would normally think that dungeon cards could totally be used to prove that one had killed another adventurer seeing as how it logged stuff, but that wasn’t the case. They only recorded monster kills and couldn’t be used to prove whether or not one was commiting crime within the dungeon’s confines.
I felt another person sneak up behind us as I contemplated whether these guys were the same group that attacked Solas’ party — not that it really mattered. In either case, they were enemies we had to defeat, and that was that.
『Be careful Fran, these guys are thieves.』
『What’s the matter, boy?』
Apparently, he was questioning why I’d used appraisal, given that Dias had literally just warned us to be more prudent in its use.
He had a point, but I quickly justified to him my actions. That is, Dias’ warnings more so pertained to cases involving royalty, namely in public situations. He also basically more or less explained that other people would also sometimes get mad when appraised because it was seen as a breach of etiquette in general. One of his other key points was that using it under certain circumstances could also get you caught up in some sort of ploy or conspiracy if you weren’t careful.
Dungeons, however, detailed a whole different scenario. You couldn’t really not use Appraisal in dungeon-based settings seeing as how it was pretty common for one to run into idiots like these guys. If anything, using it was more natural than not. You’d really need to be a special type of stupid to unconditionally trust someone you just met, especially if that someone happened to have a weapon.
The only thing you could get out of calling breach of etiquette under such a circumstance would honestly be suspicion. It is possible for something unfortunate to come out of indiscriminately using Appraisal even in a dungeon, but that’d only happen if the other party happened to have some super rare skill that happened to damage those that tried to appraise them. Even then, I’d honestly say that appraising them would probably still be worth the risk.
I wouldn’t mind being on the receiving end either. That is, I’d think it fair and not complain if someone wanted to appraise us in order to trust us if we happened to meet them in the middle of a dungeon.
『That’s just how it is, so don’t worry about it.』
I finished explaining my thoughts to Urushi right about when the men began getting impatient at the fact that Fran had remained silent.
「So? Where yo party at?」
One of the men began talking in a rougher tone, as if he couldn’t keep his act up any longer.
『Fran, try leaving one of them alive if you can. Preferably whichever one seems to be in charge.』
『It’d be too much of a pain in the ass to take them all back into the city with just us here, so you can just cut them up if you want.』
（Nn. Got it.）
『Their stats aren’t too low, so be careful. Urushi, you be in charge of guarding Solas.』
Though even with that said, I honestly couldn’t shirk off the possibility that these men weren’t the same group that had attacked Solas. They could’ve just been former villains that had already been rehabilitated into upstanding citizens. The chance of such a scenario was incredibly small, but there nonetheless, so I honestly hoped for them to make the first move, just in order to confirm that they really were villains.
Fortunately, their next actions almost seemed to function as a response to that hope of mine; one of the men lost his patience and began attacking us.
「Ugh, whatever, enough of this shit already.」
The person who spoke seemed to be a leader, and his words some sort of signal. The man that’d been sneaking up behind Fran immediately drew his a dagger and dashed towards her at an incredible speed.
Although the attacker was just a thief, I had to admit that he wasn’t all that bad at combat. Specifically, I felt that he deserved praise for remaining cautious. He didn’t let his guard down around Fran despite her being a young girl, he remained vigilant and tried to deliver a blow that would hinder any future actions as opposed to one that would slay her in one strike. In other words, he didn’t fully commit himself to the engagement and tried to make sure that he’d be able to withdraw if he wasn’t able to accomplish his objective.
『He’s a careful one, but not nearly careful enough.』
I stopped the man’s dagger in place, and sliced his neck open with wind magic before he was able to recover from the shock of his arm suddenly losing all its momentum and freezing in place.
Solas was left completely bamboozled as the situation continued to rapidly change.
Fran sliced one of the men into pieces, and sent the other flying by batting him with the flat of my blade.
The man that got sent flying had so much momentum that he ended up cracking the wall he was smashed against. His arms and ribs both looked like that’d immediately been broken. His spine looked like it’d seen much better days as well.
The man responded to Fran with a frustrated groan before finally losing consciousness.
（Master, what now?）
『Let’s head back into the city for now so we can hand the guy we just captured off to the guild. You get rewarded for turning him in, remember? We can probably get him to tell us who he’s working with while we’re at it.』
Solas approached the man while we were figuring what to do with him and immediately swung his sword without even the slightest shred of hesitation.
His action and Fran’s response to it caused a metallic clang to ring through the dungeon’s corridors.
The man we painstakingly refrained from killing would’ve ended up six feet under had Fran not used me to stop Solas’ strike.
「S-Sorry, seeing him again just made me want to…」
It turned out that these guys really were the ones that’d attacked Solas and his party. He ultimately ended up lowering his sword, but continued to fiercely glare at the scumbag we had just captured regardless.
Next chapter should be out as the new year comes to pass where I am. There is a small chance that I may actually end up being too drunk to finish the chapter in time, but that probably won’t happen.