CHAPTER 185 – TRACKING THE CHILDREN IN THE UNDERGROUND PASSAGE
Rashiok ran at full speed through the fort’s narrow passages. On our way, we happened to encounter Claudia, and I picked her up. ……Or rather, as always, Claudia did something incomprehensible like managing to jump onto Rashiok’s back on her own while Rashiok was at his top speed.
“What are you looking for, Eliza-dono?”
“……The captured children.”
“Did they escape!? So, that means the ground shaking earlier was caused by them.”
“It seems that way.”
“Man…… Even though they’re enemy soldiers, I don’t really like cutting down children. Normally I would use a spear to knock them unconscious, but in the narrow spaces of the fortress, there’s not enough space to wield a spear. What should I do? If I knew this would happen, I would have made the edge of my sword blade duller.”
……The Kaldia army has encountered child soldiers on the battlefield several times now. I always thought that there were quite a lot of them that ended up as prisoners of war before, was it Claudia’s handiwork
Even if they’re child soldiers, no, even if they are, anyone that attacks my troops will be treated mercilessly by me. People getting injured or killed in the process of fighting is just standard in the course of war.
I wonder if Claudia has only been knocking people unconscious so far, after all this fighting. I thought about it in surprised silence as my shoulders drooped, while Claudia who had no idea what I was thinking but sensed my mood asked me “Eliza-dono, are you feeling alright?”
While she kept chatting on and on, I bit my tongue, and just as she finished, I accidentally bit my tongue too hard by accident. Indeed, I’ve never personally witnessed Claudia ever killing anyone.
The escaped child prisoners seemed to be heading down an underground passage that I wasn’t familiar with. It’s an intricate underground passage system that spread out like a labyrinth below the barracks and training grounds here.
Usually, the soldiers at Fort Jugfena don’t use these passages. Some of the passages have been crushed by falling rocks or disrepair, and it was forbidden to enter them due to the danger.
The underground passages weren’t very high, the height wasn’t enough for me to ride on Rashiok anymore. While having Rashiok follow behind me, we hurried as much as possible while muffling the sound of our footsteps.
“Are they really down in here? Aren’t some of the passageways blocked off?”
“The children seem to possess some sort of explosives.”
“What are explosives?”
“……Weapons similar to the ‘big tube’ (cannons) and the ‘short-tubed fire-arrows.’”
“Ohh, those! I see, short tubes aside, the big tubes are capable of firing huge rocks that can easily blow apart any stone walls or debris. ……However, how are they using such a weapon?”
Well, if only I knew, I’d feel less stressed. As I talked to Claudia while continuing to progress down the passageways, boom, there was another impact as the ground shook again. From the ceiling, some stone flakes fell.
“……Isn’t this a bit dangerous?”
“Considering that this could easily trigger a full collapse of the tunnels, and that we don’t know when it could happen, yes, this is probably quite dangerous.”
“……We need to hurry up and capture them. I’d rather not be buried under tons of rock.”
I thought privately to myself that Claudia would probably be alright even if she was buried under tons of rocks, but I kept that thought a secret.
As we progressed forward, the deterioration of the passageway became more apparent.
In the dim passageway, we could see the light shining off torches reflected by the children’s silver hair. It’s the escaped prisoners. They seemed to be hiding in the collapsed debris and looking around to watch the situation.
“Tsk, this is a dead end.”
I heard the clicking of someone’s tongue as someone spoke forcefully and irritatedly in the Rindarl language. The voice belonged to a young girl. Because of how quiet the tunnels were, it was easy to hear her voice clearly.
“Well then, what should we do?”
When the girl turned around and talked to the other children, the slave children all began whimpering. If Ratoka’s report was correct, is this young girl the one that threatened all the other prisoners and brought them out? She was probably the one that caused the explosion somehow, but how does she keep several tens of prisoners obedient to her with that tiny body of hers? Does she have a collaborator?”
“……Hmm, Sharma. You’ll do just fine. Weren’t you complaining to Vanita just earlier how tired you were?”
You’ll do just fine, what does that mean? We didn’t understand what she meant even though we understood the Rindarl language, so Claudia and I tilted our heads.
However, it seems that those children understood perfectly well what that girl meant. In the flickering torchlight, it was clear to see that those words caused them to move about uneasily. Simultaneously, the piercing sound of children wailing echoed throughout the passageway. The crying girl named Sharma who was singled out by the petite girl was suddenly knocked against the wall somehow, and just as I was furrowing my eyebrows, wondering what occurred, that’s when it happened.
The other children rushed out back in our direction. They abandoned the crying girl named Sharma that was pinned against the wall.
“No!! No!!! Vanita, help, me!”
Was she made unable to move anymore, the girl that had been screaming all this time suddenly fell strangely silent.
Then, in the next instant – pop, I heard an eerie sound of something liquid flowing. And then boom, an explosion occurred for the third time today.
As Claudia and I remained crouching against the ground, we were still quite stunned at what just happened. It was dim and vision was poor. I wasn’t absolutely certain. However – however, what just happened, was most likely.
“……Using a shorty like Sharma, even if I blow her up, the explosion’s power seems to have decreased, I guess I should have expected it.”
As the debris started settling down after the explosion, the petite girl started talking to herself, and my suspicions were confirmed.
That girl was using the other children themselves, as explosives.