112. Chapter 112 – First step into the Labyrinth
Crossing the cobblestones, Walm passed through the unlocked door. An atrium and a line of arches made of white marble welcomed him.
A light flickered in his field of vision, making him notice the brightness even though he was supposed to be indoors. Looking up, his muddy eyes found that the ceiling window was alternately fitted with colorless transparent glass and colorful stained glass. What a clever way of capturing the natural light from outside.
“Speaking of labyrinths, I’ve an image of a dirty place but..”
Looking at the pillars, at noon it seemed to be daylighting, and at night it seemed to switch to magic stones or luminous moss lanterns as the lighting. The lantern hanging had a design that didn’t impair the overall design.
Even though it was a splendid creation, Walm couldn’t keep admiring it forever and so he proceeded to the next step.
The wave of people who used to move in the same direction had scattered, and there were even small groups standing still with their backs leaning against the pillars. Walm also occupied one of them, observing the current.
According to the information that Walm obtained at the tavern, the owner of the Great Labyrinth of Belgana was the Marquis Borgia family, but most of the operation was entrusted to the adventurer’s guild, which was deemed to be good at managing labyrinths and had a lot of management know-how.
In fact, the door with the sign 「ADVENTURER’S GUILD BELGANA BRANCH」 attracted the most people.
Also, it seemed that there were multiple entrances to the labyrinth, and the exact number hadn’t been revealed. In order to avoid waiting in line, there were various entrances for nobles and respectable guests from other countries, and Walm was told with an envious tone that only high-ranking adventurers were allowed to use them.
Furthermore, it seemed that there was even a special salon set up for those in power and high-ranking adventurers, functioning as a meeting place to gain connections and employment.
The adventurers who’re dressing up like nobles must have been influenced by that special gathering…
After finishing his observation, Walm lifted his hips off the pillar he was leaning on and started walking. Although adventurers had some privileges, those who came to challenge the labyrinth weren’t all adventurers and powerful people. Commoners dreaming of getting rich quickly were also active on the low-rank floor. And, Walm was also going there to check it out. He already set that as his first aim.
Although the farm tools such as hatchets and hoes were wrapped in a cloth to avoid letting out the sharp part, Walm didn’t overlook those. The owners, who seemed to be commoners, walked forward with tense faces. Walm quietly followed after them, and stepped deeper and deeper into the building.
“…… I see.”
The destination seemed to be the entrance of the labyrinth, which was probably for the common people. The more getting deeper, the more the elegance was dropping down. Probably, it was the oldest area of this building that had undergone repeated extensions and renovations. Compared to the entrance, the damage progressed as getting deeper, scraping out the elegant design. Even so, compared to the fortress of the Highserk Empire where soldiers got food, clothing, and shelter, it was still in a much better condition.
As they keep walking, they finally arrived in a room that should be okay called a large square with a high ceiling. It was probably used for breaks and meetings.
There were shops for weapons and consumable items, and there were even vendors selling snacks. There were many desks and chairs with different designs, and there were even those that were originally of high quality. What a really easy thing to guess. Those must have been old items sold in another waiting area.
“Listen carefully, if you’re targeted, run away and lure it to the spear holder.”
“I’ve got a new backpack. Now I can stuff meat and whatever more.”
“Haha, even though you won’t even use half of it, you bought such a big one huh.”
“Oi, there’s sauce on your clothes.”
“I know. It’s on purpose. When I’m hungry, I’ll lick it.”
The waiting area was really full of “dignified and graceful” people. In this “elegant” atmosphere, Walm might be able to dance without any trouble.
At what seemed to be the reception area, the adventurer’s guild staff and the challengers to the labyrinth exchanged money for a badge of proof in form of a tally.
Walm went to the receptionist when it was about time the line of people was running out.
“I want to enter the labyrinth.”
Walm, who didn’t know what the correct thing was, made the first move in a straightforward manner without relying on poor tricks.
“Ummー, aren’t you in the wrong place?”
While hiding the turmoil in his heart caused by the unexpected response from the female receptionist, Walm answered the question with a question.
“Isn’t this, the entrance to the labyrinth?”
“Well, it’s the entrance, but this, is an entrance for novice adventurers and citizens, you know? You don’t seem just a novice……”
“But I’m not an adventurer.”
“Ah, are you a mercenary? I thought you were an adventurer who came here from another city. In that case, you should register as an adventurer onc――”
“No, I don’t need it”
“Eh, ummー, it’s easier to get information about diving into the labyrinth if you belong to the adventurer’s guild, and it’s also recommended for joining a party and gathering friends. If you don’t have a criminal record, you can use the bulletin board, and also ask the guild to introduce you to other adventurers. I’m sorry but, are you alone?”
“… Yes, I’m alone.”
Walm couldn’t object to the words of the receptionist which sounded like “You don’t have any friends, do you?”.
The female receptionist who took control of the conversation continued to admonish Walm.
“There are many people who have experience in fighting by being a mercenary, but this is a labyrinth, and common sense outside doesn’t work. To put it bluntly, diving alone is suicide.”
In the Myard territory, Walm trampled the adventurers he met, although, at Dandurg Castle, his lack of power eventually drove them to their deaths. For Walm, who had survived alone, how could he accept any weak rationale to become an adventurer?
Memories of the past come back to his mind, and heat could be felt burning his eyes. Walm lowered his gaze and clenched his jaw to catch his breath.
There was an unbelievable silence in the busy waiting area.
Feeling that there might be some reason that couldn’t be helped, the serious-looking receptionist loosened up.
“It seems, there’s some kind of reason or obsession. Hufff, I don’t recommend it, but I can’t forcefully stop you either. Also, it’s not that there are zero cases like this…… it’s one small silver coin, and five copper coins. When you give this tally back, five copper coins will be given back to you. What’s your name?”
The female receptionist who wrote Walm’s name in the management ledger then took a tally made of copper with a number engraved on it from under the counter, and presented it to him.
“This is a prohibited and important note. Can you read?”
“In the case of adventurers, there are also detailed seminars you know….. No, no, I’m not forcing you or anything, just saying.”
Walm looked through the stack of papers he received. The limit on the number of people and the structure within the hierarchy were written. He read it through, once again read carefully the points that interested him, and then returned it.
“Don’t push yourself too hard, and keep an eye on the overall situation on the low-rank floors. I think Walm-san, who seems to be used to fighting, will be able to come back safely. I sincerely wish for being able to meet with you again.”
With a troubled smile, the receptionist sent Walm off.
The professional receptionist must think of Walm as a nuisance. At least Walm thought so. Also, he felt guilty for spending her time and effort.
“Thank you, I’m sorry for being unreasonable.”
In response to Walm’s gratitude, the female receptionist opened her eyes wide. For looking so surprised, she must have thought of him as a rude person who couldn’t even say thank you.
“N-no, no, it’s my job, so don’t worry about it.”
Walm left the receptionist, who felt uncomfortable, and proceeded to the entrance of the labyrinth. Walm presented the tally he just received to the guard, and proceeded down a long hallway.
As going deeper, the footing material changed again. Stepping on it a few times to get the feel of it, Walm continued.
After a while, it turned into a downhill. The lanterns that stood extending from the floor were stuffed with luminous moss to illuminate the footing.
Walm felt a presence at the end of the passage that had become horizontal again. In the large room were guards, and a small group of familiar people. It was the adventurer party with the greenhorn adventurer he saw at the equipment shop. They seemed to exchange some kind of information in the center of the large room.
“Don’t let your guard down. Till when you wanna keep laughing?”
“Well, well, don’t get so worked up.”
“Today is the day. I will bring home, a whole orc.”
“Then, you can buy better armor.”
“Rather than that, it’s a weapon!”
“Bone is enough for you, right?”
The armor was the bare minimum and the weapon wasn’t so excellent. To put it bluntly, it was bad overall. Still, they looked so happy and had carefree smiles. Their eyes were shining with hope for the unseen tomorrow. The leader-like young man who noticed a gaze from behind nudged the young man in a good shape with his elbow.
“Anyway, let’s go faster, others are coming from behind.”
“Ah, right. Sorry.”
If I was born and raised in this land, I might have challenged the labyrinth with people from the same hometown, just like them…
Such thoughts crossed Walm’s mind, and he frowned as if just had eaten something bitter. He realized that it was nothing but a stupid delusion that would never happen. His eyes, also his hands were too muddy, stained and dirty to even have such a dream.
Walm, who had returned to reality, stared at the young adventurers’ backs.
“Hey, did you see? Isn’t he a mercenary from the shop? So scary.”
“Idiot, your voice is too loud.”
“Right. The bone should stay quiet.”
“Stop teasing him and let’s go.”
Thus, with one step they jumped into the labyrinth. And with that, the figure of the four disappeared.
A world of magic, a living mask, and even dragons. Walm didn’t mean to be surprised, but he just could never forget it. The “hole”, that appeared when his mouth and throat went dry.
“…Ha, haha, no way. More than anything, why it must be this unfunny joke? I thought I would go down to some sort of basement?”
Feigning composure, Walm stood on the edge and peered into the black hole.
There was pitch blackness where nothing could be seen through. It brought back memories of the world of the past. From the hole in front of him, he could feel a similarity to the hole that appeared on the last day as Takakura Raizou, a Japanese salaryman, and sucked him in.
“Who knows, perhaps after I jumped in, it’ll be that world……. Hah, stop that ridiculous delusion, can’t you?“
Walm didn’t have time to slowly organize his memories. Sensing the presence of a new group behind him, he made up his mind, kicked the ground with one of his legs up, and jumped in. The young adventurers jumped in without hesitation, and surely, he didn’t want to lose to them. Even though there might be some connection with his fate, he wasn’t that shameless of a man to be frightened here.
The world was dyed black and some touch could be felt. Really terrifying, as if being caressed by something invisible. Unfortunately, or not, Walm’s consciousness wasn’t cut, and the spreading darkness switched to dazzling light not long after.
Finally, Walm took the first step into the labyrinth.
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