There were 20 Goblins pushing through the forest that night.
They were the remnants of a tribe of over 300.
They were running for their lives.
The Goblin chief Prukk cursed over and over again while running.
“Dammit! How did this…”
It was one of the human raids, under the name of a barbarian hunt or monster hunt.
The hunt didn’t come for a while so they were caught unprepared.
They don’t even have time to regret.
“At least get more of the females away! Even if just one!”
There were only five of them who could fight, including himself.
He didn’t know how far the pursuers had come, but he felt very uneasy.
But it was absolutely necessary for him to do everything to make sure the females survive.
They were a small people with ugly faces, they had low intelligence, their males and females are similarly green-skinned, and they carry out their primitive living in somewhat large groups in forests or mountains or likewise remote areas. They had a cowardly and servile character, but they can be high-handed against weak foes
If one were to speak of their most distinguishing feature, it has to be their high reproductive rate. The Goblins’ reproductive rate stand out from every other creature in this world. So long as they had a male and a female, they could recover their numbers in just half a year. Goblins possess not only the skill [Overwhelming Fertility], but also [Precocity] and [Quick Birth], and because of those they could quickly increase their numbers. In exchange, their lifespan is only several years, many of them having disadvantageous skills starting with [Short-Lived], then [Inferiority], [Scanty], and [Trifling]. Then again, few Goblins reach the end of their lifespans. Most of them die off in barbarian hunts and monster hunts spearheaded by the Holy Kingdom.
One could not call the Goblins possessing the skill [Scanty] strong even as a compliment.
Under normal circumstances, they compensated for their lack of strength by requesting the protection of stronger races like Ogres in exchange for an offering of sacrifices.
Of course, there were Ogres in Prukk’s village, too.
The sight of 10 Ogres lined up was quite a spectacle, if one Ogre possesses the power to take down 5 or 6 human soldiers, then they must have had quiet enough fighting power.
In truth, they successfully repelled several hunts before.
However, this time was different.
Scores of human adventurers suddenly came and made short work of the Ogres, and Knights and Mages precisely took down the fighting Goblins. Then, armored soldiers pierced through and landed the killing blow on the escaping goblins.
The humans called adventurers come in all kinds, but the bastards that came to attack them this time must be the stronger ones. They could almost do nothing but run away.
“Prukk! Flames! The enemy’s coming!!”
Hearing one of his goblins, Prukk came to his senses.
They were certainly coming in on them.
(Can we hold them off here?)
The number of flames weren’t many.
However, it was still more than their own numbers.
If it came to a fight, then they will undoubtedly die.
Shouldn’t they be running away then?
However, the females don’t have physical strength. Then there were the children, albeit few. If they held the pursuers back here the females and children might live, but once their defenders perish the pursuers would catch up to them and kill them in the end.
“That said, I got no better ideas other than stall for time.”
He looked at his weapons.
His familiar scimitar was smeared with blood from the fight when they made their escape. His armor had become tattered, only now did he realized that the flank had come off. He looked at the other goblins, but they too were in similar situations.
“Hold them ba…”
Just as he was about to give the order to his underlings, a bat flew into Prukk’s face.
“Prukk, the flock of bats are…”
Possibly taking off from their roosting hole, a flock of bats numbering in the hundreds flew out of a cave.
“A cave? If all goes well we could hide there and let them past us!”
They know of no caves around these parts, but looking at the number of bats it shouldn’t be a small one. Even if they fled the forest as they are now the pursuers will catch up with them. Therefore, they had to consider the option of taking refuge in the cave, dangerous as it may be.
Prukk immediately signalled his goblins to hide in the cave and hurried there himself.
“Th, this is…”
They expected a small crevasse as the entrance.
What they found, however, was anything but small.
The gigantic entrance gave off the impression of a castle gate of old, decorated with ornaments, ominous but with a mysterious air to it. It might have been the grave of some hero, or an ancient ruin. In any case, it was wide enough for the 20 goblins to walk through lined up side by side. What’s more, there were stairs leading down, though they were old.
“What the hell is…, no! You lot hurry up inside!”
As he was thinking that they ought to have known if there were something like this nearby, he remembered that they had pursuers after them and gave orders to his goblins. He couldn’t go back after having gone as far as here.
Anyhow, they need to hurry!
They descended the stairs in one go.
They thought the place would be dark, but it was lit with fires and didn’t feel dark at all.
They realised as they descended, it was a spiral staircase.
It was considerably long, taking them over 10 minutes to run down.
“*huff* *huff*, oi! Is everybody here!?”
Out of breath, he called out to his companions.
They answered immediately.
“We’re here. All of us, we’re alright!”
“That’s good…, anyhow, looks like this place is more roomy than I thought.”
“Yeah, we won’t be short on hiding places here.”
Being grateful for the unexpected stroke of luck, Prukk spontaneously broke into a smile.
It was because there’s such a splendid hiding place nearby. With this place as their base they could suitably deal with layered attacks like this time. The throbbing of his heart didn’t stop, but the next instant, they froze in fear.
“Welcome to our underground labyrinth. It is nice to meet you, right, Nii-sama?”
Not only Prukk, all the goblins’ sense of relief up to now instantly went away.
A boy and a girl appeared from the darkness.
The boy was wearing a robe like one a magician would wear, it was white in color and embroidered with gold here and there.
The girl was wearing a black dress. Her dress was embroidered in silver, both of them seemed to be clothes made by a first-class tailor.
They were human, both of them.
Or at least they looked human.
However the goblins instinctively knew. These two weren’t human. They were [something else] in the shape of humans, or so Prukk’s [Strength Perception] warns him.
“W, we are…”
Prukk was about to say something, but he was unable to speak a word due to the two’s intimidating air. The boy was looking at Prukk as if evaluating him, and the girl was smiling as she started to talk.
“I wonder what’s wrong? Your tongue isn’t moving Goblin-san.”
“Chased, we ran…”
He tried to explain their situation, but the words don’t come out well.
Looking at them like that, the boy opened his mouth.
He spoke in a brusque manner.
It didn’t feel like he was angry or irritated, but he wasn’t friendly either.
Humans and Goblins are enemies. In the time of the Empire they were able to maintain cordial relations but at least within Prukk’s lifetime they’ve been at each other’s throats.
“H, help us.”
He begged for his life with a quivering voice.
He wanted that at least one male and one female be spared.
That way, their tribe may yet be restored.
Prukk kneeled and bowed his head like he was praying.
Prukk’s underlings and the females and also the children did the same, prostrating themselves seeking help.
However, the girl spoke to their words as if ridiculing them.
*giggle* “Do you Goblins really think that there’s any use for us to be helping you out?”
Honestly, there isn’t.
All they had right now were crude weapons and a little food.
Of course, there’s no use in killing them, either, but since these ruins were their territory there’s no reason not to to kill them as intruders.
“What is it, Nii-sama?”
With short, heavy words he told the girl called Halva.
The boy’s facial expression didn’t change. Only a sliver of what could have been pity was lodged in his deep blue eyes.
Hearing that, Halva tilted her head in a lovely manner, but she gave a first-class smile and elegantly bowed her head.
“All right, Alarc-oniisama.”
“Goblins…, that’s how it is. Speak your name.”
“A, aye, I’m called Prukk.”
“I want the details. What help?”
Unintentionally, Prukk raised his head and looked up at them.
There the boy with a mysterious expression, Alarc, and the girl looking at Alarc with a surprised face, Halva.
The conversation didn’t match.
In order to get the conversation straight Halva asked her older brother.
“Nii-sama, didn’t we come to kill the goblins trespassing on our underground labyrinth?”
“No, that was not my plan.”
“Oh? Is that so?”
“Yeah, we finally get visitors to our underground labyrinth. I thought we should show our faces.”
“I see.” “Right, it doesn’t look like we’re on the same page right now.”
“So it seems.”
Listening to the conversation between the pair, Prukk breathed a silent sigh of relief.
There were a few things worrying him but it seems he doesn’t need to worry about suddenly getting killed.
“Yeah, my apologies. We didn’t intend to harm you.”
“Well, if you get carried away and wreck the labyrinth I’ll kill you even if Nii-sama tries to stop me.”
Alarc spoke gently and with dignity, Halva spoke lightly out of her own pleasure.
“Well then, let’s return to the conversation, Prukk.”
“So long as you don’t harm this underground labyrinth you won’t be in danger. I wanted you to get out of here as you can, though?”
“A, anything but that!”
“Hm…, it seems you have your circumstances.”
Prukk told them of today’s happenings.
About the sudden attack and their village’s destruction, about their and their friends’ frantic escape, and how while trying to escape, they stumbled upon the underground labyrinth.
To gain the two’s sympathy, he dramatized the small details, but Alarc looked at them with expressionless, cold eyes. Halva was smiling an evil smile.
After the story is told, Alarc asked.
“I understand your situation. What do you want to do then?”
“W, we want to get away somewhere else safely…”
“Is that what you really want?”
“Halva, don’t tease them too much.”
“But Nii-sama, it’s their chance to ask help from us is it not? Now that they finally get the chance it’s too pitiful to cast it away~”
Even as she said pitiful, Halva talked like she was a cat playing with a mouse.
“Hey hey, Prukk? Tell us what you really wish.”
“That’s as I said just now…”
“Really? Really? You lost everything so suddenly and ran away in sorrow, is that what you really want? Do the others think so too?”
Her smile turned even deeper.
She had somehow come closer, looking down at Prukk while playing with her long black hair that goes down to her ankles. Looking at them with eyes blue as the ocean’s depths.
“… Tell us, what your true wish is.”
In response to Halva’s question, Prukk let out the words he’s been keeping inside his heart.
“Unforgivable, I won’t forgive any of them!”
“We want to take back the land we lost!”
“We want to grieve for the friends who died!”
“We want revenge!”
The other goblins besides Prukk also realized and shouted.
They don’t want to be crushed like insects.
They don’t want the village destroyed.
They want the power to start over!
Halva nodded to their enthusiastic shouting, satisfied.
Then, she put on a bright smile and bowed to her brother in petition.
“Onii-sama, I shall ask this of you, as well.”
After considering it for a short while, Alarc turned to Prukk and the goblins.
“I’ll take you in as our retainers. You will do as we command, you will work for our sake, you will fight for our sake…, in return, we promise you and your tribe protection. We will also lend you a hand in your revenge against those who burned down your village.”
“Come, if you accept Nii-sama’s compassion then take his hand.”
Alarc held out his hand and Halva told Prukk.
Then, without a moment’s hesitation, the goblin Chief took that hand.