The men around us were speaking unintelligible words while pointing their spears at us.
"Let's take them out!"
"Wait, we're the ones who wandered into their territory. If we find a way to explain ourselves, we'll probably get out of here without having to fight."
"But I don't know how to speak their language."
"We have the translation scrolls. Let's use it."
I slowly lowered my backpack to the ground and rummaged through my things.
I don't want to hurt them, so if we can avoid this conflict, it will be good for us.
"Where are they from? I've never seen them around here."
I stopped when I understood the words one of the men spoke.
"Do you speak our language?"
"If you don't respond to the code, then you're my enemy, and I'm going to kill all of you before you dare tell anyone about this place."
"Wait a minute. We're not hostile. I don't know what's going on, but I'm not going to tell anyone about this place. Trust me."
I held up my hands to show that I would not resist.
I have no reason to fight them.
"In that case, answer my questions. And depending on what you say, I will consider accepting you as friends."
"All right, I will."
"You sure? If you try anything, we'll kill you."
"I'm sorry, it's our fault for entering your territory without permission. I think we can settle this by talking, and if it's a misunderstanding, we should avoid any unnecessary fighting."
Besides, I was very interested in them.
It's not every day that someone asks you for proof to determine whether you live or die.
I figured these men are here for a reason, and whatever it is, it must be dangerous.
And if I can't make peace with them, we'll run away from here as fast as we can. I'm not confident I can persuade them because I'm rather foolish.
"Are you a spy for Rudra?"
"No, but... Do you have something to do with the Demon King?"
"Where do you come from?"
"From the west. We come from Galbaran."
"So you come from the great nation of the Beasts... You look like an adventurer in that attire."
I felt the men's guard lower, ever so slightly.
I reached into my pocket, "I have an adventurer's card."
"Don't move! I'll have one of my friends check the card."
One of the men reached into my pocket and pulled out the card.
He looks at it for a while and then runs to the man who seems to be the leader.
"Look, it says it's the Manyu Brigade."
"The Manyu Brigade?! Wait, I heard there are some frauds out there posing as them... I need proof. Prove to us that you are the Manyu Brigade."
The leader pointed at me.
Since you insist...
I already returned the Hero bracelet to King Armand, and I don't think the Birfrell family crest will help.
And the only proof of our identity is the adventurer's card.
When I hesitated, the leader demanded more from me.
"I've heard rumors that the Manyu Brigade is a party of incredibly strong people. The leader, in particular, has monstrous strength and can even bite through metal."
The men brought an iron plate. I have to bite into this to prove my identity.
I've never done anything like this... But I have no choice.
"It's okay, I can endure this."
I bit into the iron plate and started chewing a piece in my mouth.
The plate, now missing a piece, had my teeth marks on it.
You can imagine the taste, but it feels like chewing a piece of hard bread. I'm a little surprised at my strength, I never imagined I could do something like this.
"Are you satisfied yet?"
"I can't believe it. You really bit it. But this is not enough... I need another test. The leader is said to also be able to break a stone with just their finger. Do you think you can do it?"
One of the men stepped forward and spoke.
Hmm... Breaking a rock with my finger....
I approached one of the rocks on the wall, and with a tap, the stone cracked and fell apart.
"Okay, okay, all right. We acknowledge that you are the true Manyu Brigade."
Although they were the ones who asked for proof, their faces showed concern and fear.
Especially the face of the leader who was looking rather pale.
"This doesn't make sense. Is there any meaning in me proving that we're the real deal?"
"Of course there's meaning. There's a story behind this. Come into the village, I want to tell you all the details."
We were finally able to make peace and engage them in conversation. I was glad to have avoided unnecessary conflict.
But I wonder if I can gargle some water before entering?
I can't stand the taste of iron in my mouth anymore.
The valley was deep, and if you looked up, you could see the blue sky between the valley's red walls.
I often saw the bones of small animals on the dimly lit path.
I called out to the leader ahead.
"Is this area some kind of ruin?"
"Hm? We don't know the details. We only live here because it's a good place to hide, but it may have just been a small warehouse."
"These Russian stone pillars when melted, produce high purity iron. It's possible it was processed and stored like this to prevent corrosion. It has saved us a lot of trouble."
So the iron can be extracted?
There are a lot of hard minerals in the world, but in the end people rely on iron, which is easy to process and available in large quantities.
"This is our town."
As we stepped out into the open space, our voices filtered out in surprise.
Huge mushrooms were growing everywhere, covering the sky.
Beneath them, many dwarves lived their lives.
The sound of iron hammering, the smell of baking bread, the laughter of children.
There is so much peace here.
The leader led the way to a hole dug in the red wall.
The door to the hole was simply covered with a cloth, and if you stepped into it, you could see at a glance that it was crudely made by ripping out a rock.
However, the desks, chairs, and rugs that had been put in were surprisingly nice and of high quality.
Even an amateur like me could note their value at a glance.
In the room was a man sitting in a chair.
'"Your Majesty, I've brought the Manyu Brigade with me."
The man they called ''Your Majesty'' squinted hard in the firelight.
They were dressed differently from the four people we had met before.
They wore clothes that looked like royalty, if a bit dirty, and they watched us intently with sharp hawk eyes.
"I am the King of Big Gear. Let's ask again, are you guys really the Manyu Brigade?"
"I don't know how you guys know about us, but yes, we are the Manyu Brigade... You're not going to ask me to prove it or anything like that, are you?"
"Honestly, I'd love for you to prove it, but if Hansel has brought you here, it's because he's corroborated it. He's someone you can trust."
The dwarf named Hansel bowed to the king.
His bearing was strange, but his manners were as refined as those of a knight.
I had assumed he was a barbarian, but I wondered if he was really a man of rank.
"I'll be brief, I want to hire you."
"We need your help to get our land back.
Before I could respond, the king continued speaking.
"We have lost our country, and we have no forces or army left. This will be the only request I ask of you, please help us."
"Who has taken your country from you?"
"And the enemy is..."
"Rudra, the Demon King himself."
In other words, it's a request to defeat Rudra.
"It's not an easy thing to answer. I'd like to give it some thought."
"I'll allow you to stay for a while. I expect a positive response."
I bowed to His Majesty and went out.
I am somewhat surprised.
I never thought he would ask me to do something like this.
It's like asking me to leave the place where I was born and raised.
"What shall we do now, Master? We also have the unfinished business of Soara-San and Pionne-San."
"I don't know, I can't ignore a situation like this. Even though I want to find Soara and Pione, I feel the desire to do something about it."
"I've been thinking. The two of them are accompanied by a person named Isabella. And even if we don't rush to find them, they should be safe to some extent, right?"
From what I've heard, Isabella is quite strong in the Beast tribe.
If that person has knowledge of this area, it's very likely that she's still safe.
And Soara is someone cunning and ambitious. She is able to get out of any predicament quickly.
"In any case, we don't know where to look from this point. We need time and clues."
"I'm sure they're fine. I have a good feeling."
"I hope so."
"And knowing Soara-San, she must be making a lot of money and laughing her head off."
"I hope so...."
For some reason, Soara's laughter popped into my head.