Sophia casts her light magic, with Leo still next to her as the group enters the cave. Nothing was out of the ordinary until they stumbled upon some skeletal remains of hogs, signaling to them that someone or something was here. The group slowly and cautiously moves forward, walking through the small winding paths. Some parts of the cave are so narrow that they have to take turns moving through one by one. As they went through the small gap, what greeted them from the other side were multiple remains of beasts. They can only guess that some kind of battle broke out between the beasts and the old man.
“Wait! Look at that!”- Sophia said, pointing at the corner of the cave.
The group wasn’t able to make out what she was pointing at, but as they got closer, it was some kind of leather pouch. The quiet kid jumped in a panic, running straight to it.
“This is Gramps’ pouch! He always carries it with him everywhere when he goes on Adventures.”- The kid said, sobbing.
“There is no way he would leave something so important behind, Gramps has to be in real danger.”- He starts crying uncontrollably.
As Natalie comforts him, the group look at each other, and prepare for the bad news. It is most likely the old man has gotten into such a bad spot that he has to leave behind most of his gear to escape. The situation was dire, as Leo could only think of the worst case scenario. They didn't know when this occurred during the one week span.
“No time to waste. He might still be deep in the cave somewhere.”- Amber said.
Everyone agrees as they all continue deeper, still aware of their surroundings. The kid picked up the pouch, bringing it with him. He was hoping that he could return it to his grandfather. Suddenly, right as they made a right turn, something in the distance came into view. It's a minotaur holding a bloody axe, standing there menacingly. It doesn't seem friendly at all, dark energy leaks out of its body, seems like it has been corrupted by something .What’s even worse is that it spotted them. Without any hesitation, it immediately charges towards their direction.
“AHHH SHITT.”- Leo said as he braced himself.
“Bless me with your nurturing miracle, Earth Mother. Protect me from all danger, Ionus.”- Sophia casts.
A stone wall comes up from the ground, blocking up the pathway.
With a swift strike, the corrupted minotaur breaks the wall open with ease. Claudius moves up to the front, breaking his disguise and turning back into a void creature. The minotaur swings its axe, barely missing Claudius. He took the opportunity to tackle it, trying to hold it down.
“This cave is too small to be using projectile spells! It could collapse from anything!”- Amber said.
The minotaur is starting to over power Claudius as it reaches for its axe once more. It takes a swing down at Claudius.
“BARRIER”- Amber casts.
A barrier pops up, blocking the attack by the minotaur.
“Bless me with your nurturing miracle, Earth Mother. Grant me your skin, Rock Armor!”- Sophia casts.
Rocks from the ground start forming around her body, hardening and creating a set of armor.
“CLAUDIUS, MOVE OUT OF THE WAY!!!”- Sophia warns Claudius as she charges at the minotaur.
With the momentum of her charge, she lands a clean punch onto the minotaur, knocking it back. Both she and Claudius try to take advantage of the opportunity to get hits in, only for both to be knocked back by its deafening roar. The whole cave starts to shake and stone starts falling from the ceiling. Amber casts Barrier to protect Sophia and Claudius while Natalie also casts one to protect everyone else that’s in the back.
“Hey kid, do you know any Cleric spells to cleanse the beast?”- Leo asks as he turns around.
To his disappointment, the kid had already passed out. Terrified from when Claudius transformed back into his void form.
“Why is there a Demon Lord’s minion in this cave? I thought we were very far from the Abyss!?”- Amber wondered.
“Really? That’s a Demon Lord’s minion?!? Now I’m really concerned for the well being of the old man.”- Leo replies.
Claudius then casts Dark Restraint, attempting to chain down the minotaur. To his surprise, it broke out easily and charged at him.
“ARRRGGGHHH! It’s so frustrating that I can’t use any stronger spells in this cave!”- Claudius said as he also charged at the thing.
The two headbutt, sending Claudius flying. Leo and Natalie break his fall by catching him and using their bodies as cushions.
“OWW!OWW!OWW!”- Leo shouts in pain as he used his body to break Natalie and Claudius’s fall
“Um guys… What do we do now?”- Sophia asks.
The minotaur seemed to be angrier than before, its axe turning a bright red and emitting some kind of heat.
“I would love to say run, but this cave is too small to escape right now.”- Leo said.
“Go for its leg, that’s every Minotaur’s weak point.”- A voice from behind the minotaur said.
Everyone looks directly ahead, it came from an old injured man. One of his legs seems to be bandaged up, with blood soaking through it.
“GRAMPS!”- The kid yells in excitement.
Leo turns around and gives the kid the sketchiest look. He is suspicious that this stupid kid has been pretending to be passed out the whole thing.
“WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE ME?!!”- Sophia screams inside her thoughts, preparing to stop the minotaur’s attack.
The minotaur once again charges blindly at Sophia, who was still armored. As she braces herself, Sophia steps back. Right as the minotaur comes within grabbing distance, she waits. It took a swing once more at Sophia’s head.
“NOW!”- The old man shouts.
Sophia ducks down and in slow motion, grabs its front legs and flips it upwards with all her might. Just like a video game when that one angry guy flipped the table, the minotaur was forced to backflip. Falling on its back, it became even more furious, roaring even more loudly, which shook the cave even more. Claudius finally managed to stand back up, getting ready to rejoin Sophia again.
“Give me the knife in the pouch.”- The old man said, looking at Claudius.
He nods his head and grabs the bag, ready to run to the old man. He was stopped suddenly by the kid, who grabbed one of his arms.
“Take me to Gramps too, please.”- He requested.
Claudius had no time to think so he agreed, taking the kid and the pouch past the minotaur. With his mind made up, the kid casts the miracle spell Gentle Rain. It healed everyone within the room, along with his grandpa. The minotaur, now recovered, stood up again. His decision was a good one as the angered minotaur stopped roaring, which could have potentially caused the collapse of the cave and put them in an even stickier situation. His grandfather stood up again, pulling out an old rusty knife from his pouch.
“I’m going for it’s throat, buy me some time.”- The old man said, closing his eyes and concentrating.
At the same time, on the other side of the battlefield, Natalie also came up with a plan. She yells at Natalie to fall back and to create a small pit hole that can trap it. Sophia nods, dispelling her armor and jumps back towards Leo, Amber and Natalie.
“Grrrrr,” a growling noise can be heard by the boy as he turns around in pure shock. There are 5 tiger-like beasts further into the cave, it came to them due to all the comotions. With the old man still concentrated, Claudius has to take those beasts on in order to buy time. He tries his best to punch them away, using his body to block up the path. The beasts seem to have some kind of intuition, they determined that the old man would be a greater threat and try to rush through. Unfortunately for Claudius, one managed to slip by, charging quickly at the kid and the old man.
“Gramps is concentrating right now, he is our key to winning this battle! I have to stop this thing! COME ON VIZ, YOU GOTTA STOP THIS THING. COME ON.”- The kid told himself as he looked at the approaching beast.
“You can do it, I believe in you.”
Those words echo through his head as he remembers all the time he spent with his grandfather, how sad he felt when he believed his grandfather had died. He can no longer run away like he always does, it's now or never. This is his only chance.
Throwing his wand to the side and pulling out the sword that his grandfather had given him when he was young, the boy lunges at the beast. The sword misses its head, but stabbed right into its side, sending it onto the ground in pain.
The minotaur, seeing that Sophia has dispelled her armor, chases after her. Right as it got close enough, Natalie casts an earth spell, opening up the ground right under the minotaur. As the minotaur falls into the pit, it uses its hind legs to kick off the walls, launching itself upwards again. The four looked at it in shock, not expecting that at all. Giving up on swinging its axe, the minotaur chose to instead throw the axe in an arch towards where Leo, Natalie and Amber are standing.
“Oh no!”- Leo said.
He was too slow to dodge it, powerless in the situation in front of him. Just as the axe leaves the minotaur’s hand, the old man opens his eyes. Within seconds, he blinked from his position, jumping right to where the axe is and deflecting it in one hit. Everyone looked at him in shock, as no one expected an old man to be able to make those moves. He then changed direction mid air, jumping right at the minotaur and slitting its throat. The rusty knife wasn’t strong enough to decapitate the minotaur, but the cut was damaging enough to prevent it from roaring any more. With his momentum, the old man kicked the minotaur down the hole. Wasting no time after the opportunity was given, Natalie immediately casts her spell and floors the pit with water.
“EVERYONE KEEP YOUR DISTANCE FROM THE PIT, SHOCK IT!”- She shouts.
Leo and Amber immediately understood her intentions, as electrocuting it won’t cause the cave to collapse. They both cast thunderbolts into the water filled pit, electrocuting the minotaur. The old man quickly blinked over to where Claudius was, killing all of the beasts that he was fighting. The group had won the battle.
After breathing a sigh of relief, everyone sat down where they were standing. That battle against the minotaur took quite a toll on them. The old man took that chance to talk to them. He formally introduces himself along with his grandson, smiling and chatting with them.
“I recently just realized this whole time that Viz is his own person. Even though I love adventuring, I can’t force him to be one. I do see now that it was a selfish attempt by me maybe because I just can’t seem to stop adventuring.”- The old man explains, apologizing to the kid.
“That’s why I wanted to go here one last time before I officially retire, you know. It’s a place that my party used to always go to 50 years ago, that’s why even after retirement I decided to move and live near here. Even when I lost my daughter, his mom, to an adventuring accident, I still love going on adventures you know.”- He solemnly explains.
These words stayed with Leo as he is someone who loves adventuring just as much as the old man, that’s why he made that his profession after reincarnation. Maybe that’s just an attempt to make up for his lack of deeds in his past life, but all that matters now is that he is who he is. He has successfully formed a party, all from his passion for adventuring, just like this old man.
“If we had met 50 years earlier, I’m sure I would have invited you to join me.”- Leo thought to himself, looking at the old man.
As the group has finished their quest of finding the old man, everyone gets ready to head back outside. Leo can’t help but notice the old man’s longing look deeper into the cave. It seems like this is his last time adventuring, and that he is missing out on something.
“How about we explore the rest of the cave before we leave, you don’t want to leave so soon right?”- Leo asks.
The group turned around in confusion. The old man gave off the brightest smile, as if he was a kid again. They can’t say no after seeing that reaction, the group turns around to help the old man explore the rest of the cave. Even though they were all exhausted, the group spent the next 2 hours going even deeper. With the old man leading the way. Soon, they arrived at a wider part of the cave, the path leading up to somewhere.
“We are finally here.”- The old man said.
“Here?”- Everyone asked, looking up at the top of the path.
The view is obstructed by the path itself, adding a mysterious factor to what’s to come. The group followed the old man up through the small path inside the cave, leading up to some kind of open area. As they get closer, lights from their destination become brighter.
“WOAH!”- Everyone grasps at the marvelous view, the old man smiles.
It's a massive open area inside the cave, filled to the brim with wonderful flowers of many colors. Large field of grass stretching all across the entire area, adding a sense of serene. Small streams of water seeped out of the cracks in the wall, creating a mini river that flowed across the field. Aromas of flowers filled the air as petals floated all over the sky, carried by gentle winds. One wouldn’t be able to tell that they were inside a cave because of the weird blue plants on the ceiling. It's kind color replicates that of the sky, bringing the outside world into this cave. Light fogs float around on the ceiling, becoming similar to clouds that we all know and love. The sense of peace radiates from the place, making any passerby feel relaxed.
“This is what I wanted you to see this whole time.”- The old man said, turning over to the kid.
Filled with emotions, he bursts into tears, apologizing for being such a coward this whole time. The old man just smiles, giving him a hug. Leo and his party ran down to the flower field, immersing themselves in the great environment. As the old man looks at them playing around, he remembers the past. The same scenery from 50 years ago pops up around him, he sees his old party members running around the field. With him at the center of that group, smiling and laughing.
“I kept the promise this whole time, I’m finally home.”- The old man said with tears rolling down his eyes.
As Leo and his party walk up to the old man, he secretly hides his tears, wiping them away.
“Not a bad place for my last adventure isn’t it?”- The old man jokes.
“Not bad? THIS PLACE IS AMAZING!”- Leo said, still in awe of what he saw.
“Well, I got what I came here for, we shouldn’t stay too long.”- The old man said.
The group agrees and packs their stuff. The old man looks back one last time longingly. By the time they all had made it back out of the cave, it had turned morning. The early breeze cools them down, all laughing and talking on their way out. As they made it back to town, you can see some elders already awake, all looking surprised. Even though it was mean, no one can blame them for believing that the old man was dead. The old receptionist woman from the Adventurer Guild stood up and walked over. They all talked for a few hours about what happened, with the pair thanking Leo and his group for what they have done. They received the reward of a basket of apples and some food, but they were satisfied as they got to see something amazing. With no time to really waste, the group said their goodbyes and continued on with their journey. The old man and the kid walk back to their wooden cabin.
“Next time I’ll take you on an adventure there, so please hang on until then.”- He said, with confidence.
“HAHAHA. Well said, then it looks like this old man has to hang on just for a little bit longer.”- The old man laughs, patting the kid on the head.