Leave the Monster alone Chapter 57
Now that they had a fast-moving companion with them who could carry Rika, the overall movement speed of the party had improved significantly. With that, the party could easily cover large distances in small amounts of time.
However, that still did not bring down the difficulty of getting out of the caves.
"It's supposed to be here but there is no light coming from above. Think it is nighttime already?" Alan asked, his footsteps light and airy.
The party had looked at the map for some time but had ultimately decided it would be best to backtrack to the hole they had arrived at. The main reason for this was the availability of their vehicle.
In fact, that was the only reason they knew that one of the exits was there at all. The whole underground map was far too complicated for them to be able to read accurately. Rika had the best read so far on it, her intelligence rearing its head.
Yet, it was still not solid enough to follow without any plan and so they had decided to get back here. It should have been easy to find, the hold allowing for the sunlight to spill inside the dark depths of the caves.
But even as the part neared those parts, no light could be found at all. And the time was running out.
"We have likely been down here long enough but we can't wait for the sun to rise either. We only have close to two hours left" Mark's observation served as a reminder that they were on a timer here.
"Can we even get out of that hole at all? The ceiling looks to be pretty high" Rika's voice sounded half-asleep. It was obvious that the adventure had worn her out a lot, even to the point where she found herself losing concentration.
That combined with her already fatigued metal condition was a bonus on top.
"I think it would be our best choice. I don't remember how high it exactly is, but Kuro should be able to make it up there with a little help" Mark was confident after the last display from her. The huge jaguar rumbled at his words which caused Rika to let out a startled yelp.
Mark just turned his attention back to the map, once again looking at the accurate place.
"I'll start looking around then. Should we separately look for the opening?" Even as he asked this, Alan had already started to walk a little away from the group. The teen was trying to be productive in his own helpful way.
"We have some flashlights left with us - use them for now. I'll look in the other direction and hopefully, we will find it soon" decision made, the perry separated.
This was only possible because of the downtime they had from the boss rush.
It took them an hour of running in circles and barely missing the hole several times before they ultimately found the opening. The dark star-filled sky blinked upon them from beyond the canopy of the forest.
The almost 15 feet distance was an impossible spread for any normal human alive but it should be possible for Kuro to make it up there easily.
"Kuro should be able to make it up there. Alan, give her the rope" Rika hopped down from the feline's back without any of her normal grace, her consciousness too lost to sleep to register much.
Kuro did make the jump without any further problem, her body arched and strong leg muscles aiding her efforts. Once there, she spared no effort in holding the rope taut for the three.
But it was once again apparent that Rika would prove to be a problem, her arms lacking enough strength to pull herself up. It was understandable, her civilian upbringing sheltering her up from the hardships.
But this required a change of plans now.
"Alan, you go up first. Kuro will pull her up but you will need to pull her up at the top. You know what I mean?" The teen had a confused expression at first but soon understood what he had to do.
"Got it. I'll hold onto her so that she doesn't slip at the top" the teen guaranteed before he used the last of his strength to pull himself up the rope. Kuro's assistance was an indispensable part of their success this time.
Once Rika was up, Mark made his way up too.
The forest floor was a relief to step on and their vehicle a god sent for the tired party. Mark had never been more thankful for his insight while buying the vehicle.
The back had enough space for Kuro who curled upon herself to fit in. She was exhausted and barely awake at this point. Mark was not sure if she would fit in it any longer but somehow she made herself fit.
The front seat was tight for three but they did somehow fit inside it and Mark sped out of the forest. As soon as they would get out of there, the safer they would be.
Mark was sure he broke all speed limit records ever set but they were out of the forest just as the time limit expired for their free period.
His body protested at this point, his muscles coming down with the day's exertion and begging him to rest and yet he pushed himself beyond his limits.
He needed to get the part to a safe spot before he could collapse. The mission was still not over since Rika was still not back on the base.
In the dead of night, Mark finally pulled up at the safe spot nearest to their position and his head dropped at the steering wheel in exhaustion. His eyes were hardly open at this point and it was a miracle that he had not crashed into anything yet.
He did give his surroundings a look over, just to make sure but in his exhausted state he was not able to register anything in his mind.
The morning brought sun's rays but that did nothing to wake up the exhausted fur inside the vehicle at all. It was only once the sun was far too high in the sky and their empty stomachs could handle no more did the party woke up.
The safe spot was in a land clearing without any water in sight so they had to make do with basic supplies Mark had which were tough but nowhere groundbreaking.
Breakfast was similarly bland without much provision at their parts. They were far too hungry to complain. After the night, Kuro had returned to her previous size which Mark was undeniably thankful for.
He was not sure how to procure supplies for a jaguar her size but this made things easier. He would go broke if he spent more on the pet section of the shop. This was also an eye-opener for him - he needed to collect more tokens for the shop.
They were about to leave when the party saw Rika hesitate, her gaze looking longingly toward the way they had just come from.
"Anything wrong?" Alan asked but his tone made it clear that it was more for the sake of formality than genuine concern.
"I just,..... They were good people who had bad things happen to them. Can we give them a proper burial here? I don't have their bodies to bury but maybe with their belongings?" Rika did not need to specify who she meant.
Mark was actually surprised at her choice of words and emotions.
And it was new, this compassion. Most people still acted like NPC most of the time, lacking empathy and emotions but something fundamental had changed inside this world on the day of the world update.
Mark was not even sure if it was that, he had not been able to see that at all but now he believed that things had somehow changed - evolved.
"We could but it will delay us further. Should we take the chance, Mark?" Alan asked and on the surface, his words might come off as cruel but Mark knew what the teen meant. He was conflicted in his choice and wanted Mark to make one for him.
"Let's put their souls to rest. Getting back is not that urgent now" they had saved Rika from the worst and the rest of the journey was a linear walk they had experienced with.
Mark was sure that taking a little time out for this would be a good thing. It would allow them closure with things.
"Ok, alright. Also, I have a request" Rika seemed to be tripping over her words, her voice still in a little disbelief at having her request accepted. "I want you to teach me how to shoot. I don't want to feel such helplessness again"
Mark looked at the female, really looked at her.
Despite the long sleep, she looked exhausted and pale. Her eyes had a certain lack of lustre but they looked to be toughened up with determination and Mark knew that he could work with it.
"Alright, get ready for it though" Mark would train her if that was what she wished for.