While Dippo was helping hunter Nowa move to another hideout far from the capital, Orisa had been exchanging numerous letters with Rita. The last one hit close to home, and Orisa decided to move:
"I too think this is as best as it could get if you are aiming to discover the contents of this cave, Orisa. You have a free reign for now, and another, more experienced team is there to assist you. It might be the best deal you would ever get. Even knowing how dangerous it is, I agree that the cave looks too important and too suspicious to ignore.
But you need to go prepared. I am sure you were not neglecting your training, and your new spells look fine, yet I would recommend and even insist on learning some skills from my own repertoire. You will find a detailed manual below.
I wish you luck, Orisa, dear. Stay safe."
Dippo was away, and Sean favored Orisa and accepted her as a worthy leader of her squad. The stars aligned.
"Excuse me, Sean I need to talk to you. Is this a good time?" Orisa said upon knocking on the door to his room. Together with Jando, Sean recently moved to a vacant room which the two of them were occupying now.
"Oh, yes, come in, please," the answer immediately followed. Orisa stepped inside and found Sean alone, reading some papers behind a neat brown desk. Orisa was so nervous and focused on her mission that she skipped the room's interior altogether and swiftly moved towards the table. "How can I help you? If I'm not wrong, you look quite stressed. Is there something that bothers you?"
"Um, yes, I mean no. Well, maybe?" She took a chair and seated herself on the other side of the table. "When the captain left, he said that he wanted me to organize another raid. He also suggested us to work together and create a combined group if needed."
Orisa threaded a thin line. She didn't lie, but her interpretation of Dippo's orders wasn't as straightforward as one would expect.
"Strange that it is the first time I hear about it, yet sounds interesting, indeed. A welcoming learning experience for you, and a pleasant company for us."
"My thoughts exactly!" Orisa tried to sound both naive and surprised.
"I see that leading minds think alike. If you would like to, I can come up with a route that would provide as varied an experience as possible. That is, unless you already have something in mind?"
"Oh, I'm not sure about the idea, but I have something on my mind, yes. I thought about returning to that cave where we found you. You know, for obvious reasons."
"I like your way of thinking, Orisa. An interesting idea, that's for sure. We have an unfinished task at hand. The danger level is rather high, but not unmanageable, especially for a combined taskforce. And the location is familiar and not far away. Three Beasts with one Firebird, I like it."
"Great! Awesome, brilliant, perfect. Would it be okay for you to give us four days to prepare? I'd like to do some more training and learning before the departure. Plus, I think it would be better to let everyone rest mentally. You know, after Clemen and everything."
"I can't stop admiring your attitude, Orisa. You think about your team and their well-being and plan ahead accordingly. What a promising leader you are."
"Please, you are exaggerating. There is nothing great about me or the way I do things. Even more so after the last raid. It's mere common sense."
"I wish more people possessed such common sense."
Half an hour later, Orisa gathered her squad and made an announcement with the assistance of Sean:
"Guys, upon Dippo's orders we've decided on another raid. We are going to the same cave where we found Sean. I know it sounds scary, but Sean's group will be there with us, so things should work out quite well."
"Indeed, what Orisa said is true. We still have an unfinished job of clearing the snakes, and it will be a convenient learning opportunity for you all."
"What's the goal of the expedition?" Iten raised his hand, eyeing Orisa suspiciously. However, it was Sean who answered the question:
"As I said, our primary goal is to eradicate evolved snakes. The combined power of our two squads will be enough to cover the situation. And the secondary goal is to provide your squad with more combat experience."
Iten still looked skeptical, but Orisa eyed him frantically, signaling to shut up.
"If you don't have any more questions, let's start with the preparations. We have four days counting today, and I hope to get some more training done by all of you in the meantime."
"I don't like this..." Iten muttered but refrained from other questions. He was vary of Orisa’s obsession but had some faith in Sean’s support.
In the following days, Orisa not only learned and practiced the Sealcasting that Rita provided, but also asked Marina to teach her the Source Heal.
"Oh, you want to know, sis? Well, I guess it might be a good idea. Just remember that it relies not on your stats but on your target instead, so no point in using it for yourself."
"Yes, I understand. Just thought it would be better to have something alongside the Regeneration Seal."
"Te-he, let's hope you won't need to save me again. Anyway, I'll now explain how it works, so you can-," Marina began but was immediately stopped by Orisa.
"No need for explanations, just cast it a few times, I'll scan your Mana flow."
"Wow, you can do that? But yeah, I think I saw you do this once already. Yahho, sis is super cool! Okay, here I go!"
They went for several repetitions before Orisa got the hang of the spell, and she proceeded to practice it by herself to let her body memorize it. The day went on, full of training and exercises. Orisa was glad to see Sean's squad on the training field as well. They were going through various formations and techniques to counter the acid attacks of the snakes, which made Orisa think about her squad's protection as well.
It was their last day before the raid when she tiredly slumped into Dippo's favorite chaise lounge on the terrace. The late evening breeze pleasantly cooled her skin, red and hot after the shower. Back in her old days, Orisa would have never dared to go out like that, fearing to catch a cold and go down with a fever. But a young, healthy, and a reasonably trained body was bliss in this regard. Orisa was dead tired from all the learning and practicing, she even asked Onuki to help her pack the luggage. Deep in thought, Orisa was startled by a familiar voice:
"How is your Super Saiyan form doing?"
Kanai walked towards the closest seat and slumped there. Just like Orisa, he was giving the training his everything and now was exhausted.
"I prefer to focus on my midichlorians, you know me," she chuckled and looked at Kanai.
"Actually, I don't. And I'm not even sure anybody here does," Kanai blurted out and looked at Orisa. "You are the one asking questions but hesitant to answer them."
"Fancy of you to say that, my dude. I know nothing about you as well."
"There is nothing interesting to know here, so no point in telling."
"Oh well, same here."
They glared at each other for a few moments and then simultaneously began to laugh.
"Honestly, there is nothing to know about me, bro," Orisa wiped a lone tear, still chuckling. "I was in the middle of my thirties, normal salary, well, person. No family, no kids, few friends. That's more or less it."
"You are not on a job interview, so don't give me that pointless summary. Hobbies, interests, love affairs?"
Orisa stared at Kanai suspiciously. She never thought of him as the kind of person who would want to know details like that. In the end, she saw no harm in talking about her life. Besides, Orisa wanted to chat with Kanai for quite some time, and this was an ideal opportunity.
"Okay, okay, don't be so pushy, gosh. Well, it's quite obvious that I'm a weeb like you," both let out a laugh again. "That aside, I was a gamer, of course. A tough choice between three hours of sleep or three hours of gaming, heh. That pretty much sums up my hobbies, you know?"
"Not sure if I should pity or envy you," Kanai shook his head in amusement. "What about the last question, then? Were you a lonely girl hugging a body pillow of some random husbando all night long?"
"Hey, that's unfair! Body pillows are sacred, you shouldn't lump them together with something as disgusting as relationships and handholding."
"I agree, handholding is too lewd to do, especially with body pillows. But seriously?"
"Oh, I'm telling you there was nothing special as well," Orisa grumbled and waved Kanai away. "I had several tries, but it didn't work out well."
"And? I feel there is more to it."
"Would you stop already? Damn. Yes, there was another person I admired for years, but when I finally decided to advance, I was already looking at a fancy green magic circle casting the Translation spell. Happy now?"
"Stop pouting like a little kid," Kanai laughed and patter Orisa's head. "There, there, good girl. What about now? Any plans or maybe someone on your mind already?"
"Oi-oi, are you hitting on me or something, bro?"
"Not interested, and you know it!"
"Yeah, that's what I like about you, Kanai. To tell the truth, I'm not into men that much, so I was hesitant about getting closer to you and Iten at first. You know, because it would have become awkward were you to fall for me or something. But then Iten found Nene, and you... Ahem, I believe you, anyway. Knowing all that, I can relax around you and be myself without any reservations. Honestly, you can't even imagine how I glad I am to have you here, bro. It's so nice to be around you, to spew nerd shit and everything."
"Same here," he mumbled while blushing slightly. "It was hard. Well, coming to this world, I mean. And it still is, but at least I can manage when I'm around you..."
He turned to face Orisa, all flustered after saying everything, and immediately smacked her forehead:
"Could you, I don't know, behave normally for a few seconds?! I can totally see it in your eyes, this burning desire to spit another stupid anime quote. Damn, and here I was opening my heart to you, a cruel and soulless weeb demon!"
"Te-he-he, you two are so cute together!" A hurricane named Marina exploded on the balcony and proceeded to wreck chaos amidst the pair. "I so wish you would end up with each other, ohmigod!"
"And here is our Fujiwara," Orisa began laughing, and Kanai followed shortly after.
The combined raid was standing in front of the entrance to the cave, their destination. It was long past midday when they made it here, drenched in rain and being constantly distracted by the Beasts that were plentiful due to a recent Wave. Despite having to fight constantly, the group suffered almost no damage and safely made it to their goal, pockets full of freshly salvaged Mana cores. They even managed to get several evolved cores, so Sean was humming happily; by his standards, the raid was already a huge success.
"We should enter the cave and split into two groups. The first will block the entrance for thirty minutes while the second one is resting, then we swap to let the first group rest."
Sean led the raid, and everyone trusted his experience, so there were no objections to his plan. To Orisa's pleasant surprise, he often asked her opinion on the matters, sharing his thoughts as well. Orisa took a great liking to the man who tried his best to teach her various things related to raiding and squad management.
"Orisa, you should pick members for both groups," he said with the usual encouraging smile.
"Thank you for your trust, Sean," she nodded and turned to look at the group.
While Orisa was splitting the team in her head, counting defenders, healers, and attackers, the group kept fighting against the coming Beasts. The assault never stopped and only grew in intensity over time as more and more monsters rushed at the group.
The party slowly entered the cave, with Orisa telling each member what side they belonged to, either resting or defending group. When they were done with the selection, the first half blocked the entrance, letting the resting party relax a little and try to dry their clothes.
It was five minutes into their break when everyone heard a loud hissing.