Episode 21: Tracking.
After receiving the report on the suspicious footprints, Yamato rushed to the scene.
“Yamato-niichan, it’s here.”
From the direction on which the patrolling boy pointed at, traces of people could very well be seen.
Behind some bushes, the plants were trampled and the soil was filled with what appeared to be shoe footprints. This was obviously not a natural occurrence.
“Looks like five people.”
“Ehh, isn’t it four? Yamato-niichan.”
“Look closely. The walking pattern is different here even if those are the same shoes.”
“Ah, it’s true. Impressive! “
Pointing to a set of easily recognizable footprints, Yamato corrected the boy’s mistaken speculation.
Since he loved mountain climbing, Yamato was good at observing small details while in the forest.
It was a skill learned and developed originally from the influence of his self-called adventurer parents.
『I was suddenly left deep inside a forest. They said it was a game to see if I could follow their footsteps back to the camp, and if I won I could have dinner. 』……He remember how his parents told him it would be fun and suddenly forced him to play such a ‘game’.
It was a traumatizing experience that even now made his head hurt when he remembered it.
“Yamato-sama, are these the same people as last year? ”
“Certainly, the way of walking seems the same. They must be.”
With an anxious expression, the village chief granddaughter, Liscia answered.
In a place close to this, during last year’s autumn, similar footprints were found.
It happened two days after the ‘welcome party’. Having a sense of discomfort, Yamato wandered around the village and found that place.
Since then, he decided to strengthen the security by forming patrolling groups around the village. And today was the second time a trace of people was found.
“You can easily see the village from here. I think they were doing some reconnaissance.”
While staring at the peaceful village, Liscia’s face became gloomy as she repeated that word.
‘Reconnaissance’ was performed from here, aimed at the village. Her beloved village was the target.
“What should we do…”
She didn’t know how to react at such a shocking fact.
In the village there were nothing but elderly people and children. The dependable adults were forcibly taken away by the Lord.
She couldn’t help but to think, what would happen if such a malicious group aimed at this weak village?
With no wall or fence around the village to protect it, it was basically defenseless. A village such as Urd, with no adults in the way surely looked like a delicious prey.
“It’s alright, Liscia-san.”
“I’ll do something about it.”
Placing his hand over the shoulder of the pale-looking Liscia, Yamato tried to reassure her.
He told her he would protect Urd Village.
“Ok. We’ll also perform some scouting, guys.”
While staring at the trail of footprints, he then gave some instructions to the children. An eye for an eye, we will counter it with some reconnaissance of our own.
“Maybe you mean, we’ll be doing the usual ‘hide and seek tag’ game? Yamato-niichan.”
“Yeah. The first one to find the place where the footprints are leading without being noticed wins.”
“Alright, I’ll be the winner! ”
“I’ll also try my best.”
The children were suddenly motivated by his instructions.
As they hunted in the forest during last autumn and winter, everyone was very excited about the new ‘game’ he had taught them.
Using the word ‘game’ instead of ‘train’ was after all, more efficient for motivating children. This was something he had come to learn as he spent more time in the village.
“Yamato-sama… can I join you too?”
“Yeah. I leave my back in your care then, Liscia-san.”
“Yes, please leave it to me! “
And so, it was decided that they would follow back the suspicious intruders’ trail.
They went back to the village to arrange the necessary equipment, and to explain the circumstances to the village chief and other villagers before departing. This was because he wanted to pinpoint the opponent’s location while the footprints were still fresh.
“Ok then, we’re going. Take care of everything in my absence, Village Chief.”
“Be careful, Yamato-dono.”
“It’s only reconnaissance for now.”
“We’ll keep the village safe while you’re gone.”
Since he had already told the village chief about emergency procedures for self-defense, he wasn’t worried about something happening in the village while he was gone. All they had to do was to strengthen the patrols and retreat without fighting in the first place if enemies were spotted.
“Ok, let’s go. You guys ready?”
“Let’s go, Yamato-niichan! “
The current members were Liscia and Yamato. Three of the village children also came with them. Since this time they were surveying a potential enemy, only the best of the children, who were accustomed to the forest and didn’t stood out, were coming with them.
Alright then, there’s no telling what kind of trouble this might stir up. The result is certainly going to be something to see.
With such worries in his mind, they begun the tracking of the intruders.
The tracking of the footprints was progressing smoothly.
『Yamato-niichan, they keep going this way.』
While tracking, they signaled each other without speaking. Using hand gestures and bird whistling, they kept on contact with each other.
Because it was a convenient way to convey the presence of beasts or other opponents, this was something they had learn to do previously.
Even so, the trail is so easy to follow, they look like total amateurs…
The skills of the other party could be tell to some extent from the way the footsteps were laid and their movements.
Guessing from that, Yamato noticed that the intruders who came to scout the village were quite the amateurs. They moved blindly, without any caution, through the forest and mountainous area.
Thanks to that, the tracking was progressing smoothly. However, they kept being careful as they followed the trail.
Hmm… that is…
“Stop・Be on guard.”
As he was moving forwards, Yamato then sent a signal to Liscia and the children behind him. Everyone immediately responded to that signal by lowering their bodies and stopping.
So, that is the hideout of the intruders…
They had spent several hours advancing through the forest and mountains, since they first left Urd Village.
Is that an abandoned windmill…?
On an elevated little hill, stood a lonely old windmill. It didn’t appear that the windmill had been used in a long time.
Two people guarding…
While raising vulgar laughs, two men were hanging out in front of the mill. Additionally, there were signs of more people inside the building.
As I suspected, thieves… probably a bandit group…
It was an armed bandit group that used the old windmill as their hideout.
In other words, the ones targeting the Village of Urd were these people… this bandit group.
Well then… what should I do?…
Apart from himself and Liscia, the rest of the inhabitant of Urd were kids and old people.
Turning around while hiding, he began to consider possible countermeasures for the future.