Chapter 4-41 : Looking For An Exit Ⅴ (part 1)
According to Nord’s examination result, the underground hot spring water was not suitable for drinking but it was safe for bathing.
Because the water was so clear that you could see through it, it could also be used for washing clothes and other things.
After thoroughly patrolling the surrounding area and confirming that there was no danger nearby, Iris and Kate left Nord alone and went a bit deeper to wash their clothes and enjoy the hot spring bath.
「Aahh~… I feel alive again~…」(Iris)
Iris let out a big sigh as she soaked in the water as if she had just finished a hard day’s work.
Kate sat next to Iris, soaking her body in the water, and let out a big sigh as well as she relaxed her shoulders.
「Yeah~… It feels so good~… We were lucky to find this underground hot spring. We were finally able to wash our clothes and now we can enjoy a hot spring bath…」(Kate)
「Moreover, these rocks are hot. They will dry our clothes quickly.」(Iris)
The surrounding rocks were not hot enough to cause burns but they were hot enough to dry laundry.
Naturally, Iris and Kate took advantage of that. They did the laundry and put their clothes and Heat Proof Coats on the hot rocks before enjoying the bath.
「This is truly a paradise in the middle of hell.」(Iris)
They stretched their legs and soaked their body even deeper into the water, feeling the fatigue slowly disappear from their bodies.
Splash splash splashー
Meanwhile, Kurumi, who had been staying still to save magical power, was now swimming around next to Iris and Kate.
「Oh, look at her.」(Iris)
「Seems like she wants to join us.」(Kate)
「Ahh~ You’re so cute~」(Iris)
「Fufu. She looks like a bear-shaped bath toy.」(Kate)
After swimming around for a few minutes, Kurumi crawled up onto a rock and started scratching the rock while humming.
「Gau~ ga~~u gau gauu~♪」(Kurumi)
The rocks around there were quite hard but Kurumi was able to leave marks on the rock with her small claws.
Watching Kurumi, Iris and Kate tilted their heads curiously. They didn’t understand what she was doing.
「…What is she doing? Is she sharpening her claws?」(Iris)
「In the first place, do bears sharpen their claws?」(Kate)
「I don’t know but they sometimes put claw marks on tree trunks to secure their territory, right?」(Iris)
「You think Kurumi wants to claim this underground hot spring as her territory? I don’t think that’s the case. She’s a Homunculus.」(Kate)
「Then why is she scratching that rock?」(Iris)
「I’m not sure but she sometimes does that since we are trapped in this cave, you know?」(Kate)
「Eh? Really? Why I’ve never seen her do that?」(Iris)
「It’s because she always does that behind you.」(Kate)
Kurumi always clung to Iris’ backpack when she was not moving.
When Iris and the others took a break, Kurumi sometimes jumped off Iris’ backpack without Iris knowing and started scratching rocks nearby.
Kate often sat in front of Iris, so she noticed what Kurumi was doing behind her.
「I’m not sure why she scratches rocks but it probably has a meaning. We won’t know what it means unless we ask Store Owner-san when we get home though.」(Kate)
After nodding, Iris silently looked down at the water for a moment and whispered to Kate.
She looked a bit down for some reason.
「…Say, Kate… Do you think we’ll be able to find an exit and return home in one piece…?」(Iris)
「Hm? What’s wrong? Are you being pessimistic now?」(Kate)
「Kinda… Look. We’ve been trapped in this cave for twenty days. We had walked a very long distance but how far do you think we have traveled so far?」(Iris)
Exploring the cave wasn’t easy. Sometimes they had to crawl on their stomachs, walk sideways, and walk on all fours for hundreds of meters, and there were quite a lot of places where they had to climb and jump.
It was hard to say that their journey to look for an exit has been going smoothly, and they didn’t know for how much longer they would be trapped in that cave.
「Honestly, it’s been bothering my mind, but I try not to think about it…」(Kate)
「I really hope we’re getting closer to an exit, but… There’s the possibility that there’s no exit from here in the first place…」(Iris)
「Well, it’s a natural cave after all. We’ll never know unless we keep going. But, Iris, it’s too early to give up. You can give up when there’s nothing left for us to eat here, but we still have a lot of food to survive, right?」(Kate)
Listening to Kate, who tried her best to speak brightly, Iris smiled wryly.
「Food? You mean those small ration cubes? Haha. Right… We can still survive at least for a few months eating those cubes…」(Iris)
「I’m not just talking about the ration, but also the monster meat we can collect in this cave. Luckily there are monsters with edible meat here. Well, it’s hard to say that they are tasty though. And… Look. We don’t have to worry about water since we can produce it anytime with the Spring Water Bottle.」(Kate)
「Well, that’s true… You’re right. It’s too early to give up.」(Iris)
「We have to keep struggling until we’re on the verge of death. If Adelbert-sama and my mom knew we gave up in the middle even though we still had ways to survive, they would scold us for sure, and my mom would kill me after she was satisfied scolding me.」(Kate)
「Phu! Yeah, right. And after that, my father would kill me.」(Iris)
Although Iris and Kate thought of each other as friends, in reality, they were a daughter of a noble and her attendant.
As the eldest daughter of the Stavern Family, who was loyal to the Lotze Family for decades, Kate was responsible for Iris’ safety. She was strictly told by her parents to protect Iris.
「Well… I think they will kill us anyway if they found out what kind of situation we got ourselves into…」(Kate)
Iris, Kate, and Nord had been trapped in the cave for the same amount of time, but Kate might be the one who felt stressed out the most among the three.
「Don’t worry, Kate. I won’t leave you alone. I’ll defend you when we face our parents after we get out of here, and then we will be scolded and killed together.」(Iris)
Iris and Kate looked at each other and smiled.
They then burst out laughing, imagining themselves being scolded by their parents together.