On the third day of Operation Redemption, we were graced with the dreary sight of an unending drizzle.
This was the first time I had experienced rain in this world, the willowy softness and lightness of those silvery threads, it was as if they would dissipate merely upon touch.
The rainwater quietly washed over the scene, covering this desolate world in an ocean of quiet.
Last night, our operation to burn down those dangerous plants on the borders of Starfall was cut short by the sudden arrival of the rain.
As for today, the dreariness of the sky seemed to indicate its intention not to let up. And so, we had no choice but to await further instructions in our tent in the second campsite.
Lee Sole’shot: Ah…
Lee Sole’shot: Ah ah ahhh…
One’day High: Stop groaning, it’s annoying.
Lee Sole’shot: I was fined…for taking apart those fire dragons…
Lee Sole’shot: Plus, I got too excited after having a chance to fight in a long while…now my entire body is aching…
Di Qi Ju: …then just shut up and lay there quietly, once the rain stops, there won’t be much chance to rest.
Lee Sole’shot: Ah ahh ahhh……
Mo Chuan: …what should I do, I feel like hitting him right now.
Di Qi Ju: You lose the moment you hit him.
Yesterday’s cleanup operation was probably the most dangerous mission carried out by the expedition so far.
Thankfully, there weren’t any reports of casualties.
But then, danger you could predict was never as scary was one you couldn’t predict, this was something I experienced first hand…
Halfmoon Leak’age: Putting that aside for now…
Halfmoon Leak’age: —Actually, the report on the past two day’s missions is out.
Di Qi Ju: Oh? Let’s hear about it.
Halfmoon Leak’age: During our aerial reconnaissance phase, one of the groups spotted a strip of land full of white minerals.
Halfmoon Leak’age: It’s hypothesized to be the same mineral as the one you brought back.
Halfmoon Leak’age pointed at me.
Halfmoon Leak’age: This means that there are open air mineral deposits in Starfall, this was probably one of the factors that attracted the expedition to this place 10 years ago.
Di Qi Ju: …you’re certain it’s open air?
Halfmoon Leak’age: Mhm.
It’s too unnatural…however, I’m probably the only one who realizes this.
But I can’t explain the reason for this phenomenon.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Another noteworthy development was that last night, the expedition performed an experiment at the cleared out areas of Starfall.
Halfmoon Leak’age: They sent in some trained animals to check out the situation. While they got out safely in the end, I heard that their wish points vanished.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Normally, animals are born with less than ten wish points so how did they know that their wish points had vanished?
Di Qi Ju: It’s Breman’s wish ability. He’s able to notice any changes in a person’s wish points. This ability probably applies to animals as well.
Halfmoon Leak’age: …so that’s how. I guess that’s what he meant when he said that he will work alongside us.
Mo Chuan: Either way, stealing or perhaps I should say, what’s causing our wish points to vanish isn’t those plants but the earth itself?
Halfmoon Leak’age: I guess so. Also, unnatural soil movements have also been observed by the other teams, you saw that as well didn’t you?
Di Qi Ju: Mhm, that’s right.
Halfmoon Leak’age: One of the scouts present had an ability to detect life forms but, according to him, he didn’t notice any wild beasts underneath the ground so those soil movements are still a mystery.
Halfmoon Leak’age: …I have a bad feeling about this, Starfall is simply too dangerous.
One’day High: Breman already talked about this didn’t he? That’s why we haven’t made any risky moves yet.
Di Qi Ju: That’s right, even though I was apprehensive at the start, I’m still able to cope with the exploration work.
Halfmoon Leak’age: …..
Halfmoon Leak’age: Truth be told, while I was hanging out around the veterans, I managed to overhear some inside stories about the expedition ten years ago.
Di Qi Ju:…oh?
Just as the conversation caught our interest, the clip clop of several animals rang out from the gate of the campsite as if an entire squad had just arrived in the campsite.
The tent flaps were immediately pulled apart. We turned around and saw Ethan and several of his bodyguards marching right into our tent.
Ethan: —Halfmoon Leak’age, Di Qi Ju.
Halfmoon Leak’age: …?
Di Qi Ju: Reporting.
I replied, recalling my brief stint in the military on Earth, even now I still wasn’t too familiar with the military etiquette here.
Ethan: The two of you follow me, there’s a special mission that requires your abilities. Breman has already approved of this arrangement.
Di Qi Ju: …huh?
The rain pelted us as we walked out of the tent, as unending as always.
Both of us were given a ride by each of the bodyguards on their horsewolf mount as we rode off to the west.
This direction…is it the Grand Ravine?
As expected, after a short ride on the wolf (?) horses (?), we came upon the familiar sight of the Grand Ravine.
I’ve gotta admit these…creatures are pretty impressive, they are even faster and easier to ride than a horse or a wolf…
As we approached the edge of the cliff, we started slowing down. It was then that I noticed that right at side of the cliff face was a one-person wide, two-person high slope that slowly extended downwards into the abyss.
This groove in the cliff face was the only visible way downwards.
Are we…heading down from here?
Before I even had time to register that fact, the team began their slow descent downwards.
As I looked down into the ravine, drizzling rain formed formed a moist veil over the lush canopy below as it continued its ceaseless descent.
In the distance, the sea of green abruptly stopped, revealing what looked like a beautiful sapphire to me. If I wasn’t wrong, that’s the lake we visited.
Which means to say, we are currently east of that lake.
A short while later, we made contact with the ravine’s floor and the rain drops pelted our bodies once more. I’m back again…to the site of that horrific incident…
We got off our mounts and followed Officer Ethan towards the north. A mere 10 meters later, the right side of the cliff face experienced a sudden change.
It was a giant and deep cave that tore right into the cliff face like a gory gash on the otherwise smooth, stony surface.
I stared in shock at the cave but despite how much I squinted, all I saw was darkness.
Another ten meters later, the entirety of the cave entrance was revealed to us.
The cave was at least several hundreds of meters wide and was several tens of meters tall. Right at the precipice between the ravine and the cave was a slope that extended further underground as if a giant monster had chewed a hole in the cliff and tunnelled underneath.
But…such a giant creature couldn’t possibly exist…
Ethan: Halfmoon Leak’age, Di Qi Ju, let me give you a rundown of the situation.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Go ahead.
Di Qi Ju: …mhm.
Ethan: This is the task I’m in charge of right now: investigating this cavern.
Ethan: Based on the direction it’s extending towards, this cave should lead right to Starfall, it might even reveal a viable route for our army.
Ethan: Up till now, the areas we’ve explored had no creatures larger than a thumb and the only plant life we’ve encountered were moss. There’s also no signs of a geological collapse.
Ethan: The only issue is that the cavern is too big and so our job has been progressing really slowly.
Ethan: Given the sheer size of this cavern, the illumination from our torches aren’t able to cover much ground. Furthermore, walking around in such a vast area with merely a torch as a guide might cause our men to lose their senses.
Ethan: We do have other light sources, but their energy source doesn’t last that long so their effectiveness were about the same as the torches.
I turned around and looked at the tent they had set up, next to it were the streetlights I saw in Honor. “Other light sources” must’ve referred to them.
Ethan: Halfmoon Leak’age, to our understanding, your night vision is really good so we would like to request for your services.
Halfmoon Leak’age: …oh, I understand.
Ethan: Di Qi Ju, one of Sir Breman’s principles is to minimize any casualties and so we would like you to be Halfmoon Leak’age’s escort.
Ethan: With your strong protective and regenerative abilities, no one else can accomplish this job as safely as you.
Di Qi Ju: Mhm…I got the rough idea.
Ethan: This mission will be carried out solely by the two of you, everyone else would merely be a burden.
So, Halfmoon Leak’age has to investigate this cavern while I keep him safe.
A seemingly simple matter but there’s no telling what we might encounter in this unexplored region.
Ethan: If that’s the case, we shouldn’t delay matters any further. Come have a look at the mission plan.
A mere ten steps after leaving the illumination of the lights, my vision was immediately engulfed in darkness.
In front of me was Halfmoon Leak’age who led our little team forward via a rope connecting the two of us. Because of the lack of light, I could only rely on the tug of the safety rope to guide my steps.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Stay there for a few minutes, I need to get used to the lightless environment.
Di Qi Ju: …alright.
Based on the information given to us, about 100 meters after travelling down the gentle slope leading from the cavern entrance, we will come upon a flatland. That was the point where the previous exploration ended.
Our mission is to continue exploring the area after that point, if possible, we were to continue up to the borders of Starfall.
—assuming of course that the tunnel actually led to Starfall.
In order to stop us from crossing the borders of Starfall accidentally, Halfmoon Leak’age had a signalling device which received signals from the markers above ground.
The moment the device starts beeping or if we discover signs of danger, we were to back off immediately.
As for me, I was given a communications device which was meant to be used to contact Officer Ethan.
Halfmoon Leak’age: —alright, let’s head out.
Di Qi Ju: Alright.
We gingerly began our descent down the gentle slope.
Within the pitch black darkness, all I could sense was the echo of our footsteps and the tug of the safety rope.
Despite the unevenness of the ground, I didn’t have much problem walking even with my lack of hiking experience.
Looks like Halfmoon Leak’age had taken special note of my inexperience as he plotted our route.
The fact that he was able to see anything at all meant that his previous statement about his night vision wasn’t mere bragging after all. Even after so long, I still wasn’t able to see anything, not even the fingernails on my hand.
It was truly terrifying walking in such darkness even with the safety rope guiding me.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Look to your right, is there some kind of luminescent moss over there?
I gave him a quick response before turning to look at my right. On the ground was some object emitting a slight greenish glow.
I seem to remember hearing about this kind of moss on Earth as well.
Having confirmed the location, Halfmoon Leak’age led us to that spot at which point he harvested some of the moss and smeared it on his own shoes.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Are you able to see my feet?
Di Qi Ju: Yup.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Make sure to follow them.
Di Qi Ju: Oh…thank you Mr. Leak’age.
Halfmoon Leak’age: It’s nothing. The geography here is pretty safe. There are no gullies or sudden drops; no air currents or underground bodies of water.
Halfmoon Leak’age: All you have to do is make sure you don’t slip and fall.
Di Qi Ju: Alright.
Halfmoon Leak’age…he’s younger than One’day High and Lee Sole’shot but he seems to give off a more mature vibe than the two of them.
Speaking of which, I seemed to be constantly looked after by them, up till now, I haven’t really done anything useful.
Halfmoon Leak’age: By the way, there was something I didn’t get the chance to say because of Ethan’s sudden visit.
Halfmoon Leak’age: …it’s about the inside story I heard from the veterans.
Di Qi Ju: Oh that…was there something bad about it?
Halfmoon Leak’age: If I had to make a choice between good or bad, then that story would’ve been a bad one.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Actually, the Starfall that the expedition encountered 10 years ago should be a lot further than where we are now.
Halfmoon Leak’age: According to some of the veterans, the location of Starfall seems to have shifted closer by at least 10 km.
Di Qi Ju: 10km…such a large discrepancy.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Exactly, there’s no significant geological changes or earthquakes in recent years so some of the veterans theorized that this place might actually be alive and was quietly shifting around.
A moving plot of earth…are they talking about plate tectonics?
Based on this world’s 400 days cycle, on average they should move about two to three meters a day.
If the plate tectonics had really moved 10 km, a mountain range should’ve been created as a result of it. However, the aerial view of the region suggested otherwise.
Halfmoon Leak’age: We’ve reached the base of the slope, it should be flatland up ahead.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Wait, this cave seems to have gotten bigger…
Di Qi Ju: Any sign of danger?
Halfmoon Leak’age: I’m not sure, other than this expansion, there’s no other visible changes.
Halfmoon Leak’age: A region of this size…it might even be able to fit an entire city.
It was still pitch black in front of me but I could still imagine the sight of such a city. Within the cavernous interior of this vast cave, a city sprouting out of the ground like a bamboo shoot.
Of course, that’s just my imagination…according to Halfmoon Leak’age, this cave is empty.
Di Qi Ju: Anyway, let me make a report first.
Di Qi Ju: Reporting in sir, we’ve reached the base of the slope and have found nothing unusual, proceeding forward as planned.
Ethan: Roger, is the cave proceeding in the direction of Starfall?
Di Qi Ju: Yes, so far we’ve been travelling west.
Ethan: Alright. According to that signalling device, there should be another 200 meters or so before you hit Starfall, make sure to remain vigilant when you close in on its borders. Over.
Di Qi Ju: Got it. Over.
We set off once more, our feet traversing the slightly undulating floor of the cave.
Up till now, there had been no sign of moisture or the smell of mildew. Surprisingly, breathing was fine as well. Given the depth we’ve reached, the supply of oxygen was surprisingly good.
Other than the change from a gentle slope to flat ground, there’s no been no other significant changes.
After several minutes, the safety rope tugging onto me suddenly went limp, Halfmoon Leak’age’s moss-covered feet stopped moving as well.
Halfmoon Leak’age: …I can see the end.
Di Qi Ju: The end?
Halfmoon Leak’age: That’s right. It’s a dead end up ahead, it seems to be a…convex stone wall.
Another twenty steps later, he came to a stop once more, the sounds of searching could be heard as he did so.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Since there’s been no warning from the signalling device, we shouldn’t have crossed the borders of Starfall yet.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Di Qi Ju, I’m going to light a match, I need you to check out the stone walls. I need to avoid the light or I will blinded by the darkness as well once the match goes out.
Di Qi Ju: Mhm, I got it.
A trail of sparks streaked across the darkness, a bright flame lit up an instant later, banishing the darkness and blinding me slightly.
I saw Halfmoon Leak’age turn around immediately, with his eyes tightly shut, he held onto the match with his right hand while holding onto the side wall for support with his other.
With the illumination from the matchstick, I managed to confirm that the stone wall was convex in shape but I didn’t manage to see the ends of it. The illumination simply didn’t reach out far enough for me to gauge how large the wall was.
A moment later, the fire consumed the last bit of the matchstick and the world was returned to darkness once more.
Di Qi Ju: I’ve checked it…don’t you think that we should return to the surface?
Halfmoon Leak’age: Hold on for a moment. This signalling device is able to measure the vertical and horizontal distance between us and Starfall.
Halfmoon Leak’age: According to the instruction manual…it will give out a warning signal once we are three meters away from the marker. This means that we are at least more than three meters away from the marker right now.
Di Qi Ju: Well, we’ve travelled quite a distance already, we are probably near it already.
Halfmoon Leak’age: Give me two minutes to measure the distance, after that we can return.
Di Qi Ju: Alright.
Based on the moss on his feet, he seemed to have bent down in order to use the device. I took a few steps forward towards the stone wall.
That window of illumination allowed me to catch a glimpse of some kind markings on the portion of the wall which jutted out. Based on my memory, it looked like a bunch of cracks.
Exactly what is that rock?
While I recalled that scene, I reached out with my hand, and touched the sunken portions of the wall out of curiosity.
Di Qi Ju: —!?
It was that knocking sound on my heart. I immediately lowered my hands.
Di Qi Ju: ……
That was a warning from my ability!
But this time, there was something markedly different about it…
In the past, it felt like someone had lightly knocked on the door and waited quietly there.
However, this time around, it felt like someone had rushed past my door. That person barely managed to knock at the door before being whisked away…
It was as if…something had left me completely.
What’s going on? Is my life in danger? Furthermore, it seems to be different than before…
Exactly what is going on???
Standing in the darkness, all I knew was that Halfmoon and I were standing in front of a stone wall, I couldn’t sense anything other than that.
Di Qi Ju: Exactly what is…?
Halfmoon Leak’age: ……?
At the side, Halfmoon Leak’age seemed to have finished his work. With my heightened state of alarm, I was even able to sense the slight movements of the wind as he stood up.
Then, I heard a sentence that shook me to the very core.
That sensation, it felt like the shock I experienced when I woke up in this world.
Halfmoon Leak’age: diqiju, pulonlihakuda?
Di Qi Ju:…
Di Qi Ju:……
No, it wasn’t just “like” it
It was…the exact same feeling.
—I couldn’t understand a word he was saying!
Roused from the depths of my memory was the scene where I had heard this exact same words.
Back then, I had just woken up for the first time in this world, at my side was Miss Poppy who said the exact same words… “pulonlihakuda”.
I don’t know what they meant but they should mean something along the lines of “Are you alright?” or “How are you doing?”.
My wish ability, “Ability to engage in verbal communications with the human inhabitants of this world” 10 points…
TL: Another 5000+ chapter finished…that took me 6 hours and is the second such chapter this week. The next chapter will roughly be as long as so expect even more delays. To be honest, this string of unusually long chapters are throwing the schedule off course…
Special thanks to Steve Granger, Ichitsuzen, and LaRue Martin!!