117. Chapter 117
Returning to the surface, Walm was forced to bring back gifts from the ‘evil sanctuary’. Usually, the labyrinth challengers who returned from the 15th floor were covered with what was called a stench. Especially someone like Walm, who had spent a long time on the 11th to 15th floors, couldn’t quite escape from it.
The undead, even after being subjugated, didn’t want to separate from Walm easily, leaving a part of their vile dark brown, putrid, decaying flesh to cling to Walm like a curse. Of course, its smell wasn’t pleasant for any normal person.
The reactions of those who came in contact with Walm were varied.
Some blatantly changed their course, others grasped the situation and held their noses, and even among them, there were those who turned their eyes toward him pityingly.
In the first place, the labyrinth challengers had enough trouble keeping themselves clean, so they usually came back with a slightly unpleasant odor, but those who came back from the 15th floor were a special case.
“They, are treating me as if I’m a walking filth.”
Feeling uncomfortable, Walm intended to return the tally at the reception and purify himself in a cheap lodging somewhere.
Luckily, it was just about time for the sun to get replaced by the twin moon. The congestion time was over, so the reception was very quiet.
Although the waiting area had the aspect of an all-night area, as expected, human behavior wasn’t something that could be changed so easily. Even here, early morning and evening were as crowded as the sale days at a shop or government office on weekdays in the previous world. Outside those hours, not so much.
Along with a foul stench, Walm walked into the waiting area and made his way to the reception. There, a female receptionist, who had become one of the few acquaintances in the Labyrinth City, was doing her work in her usual manner.
Whether his presence was noticed, or whether the stench emanating from him was too strong, the female receptionist, staring at the ledger tied with a string, greeted Walm with her bland expression, but then gave him a faint smile before opening her mouth to say,
“Welcome back. It seems you’ve managed to return safely from the undead floors.”
It was as if someone was telling Walm of the unpleasant odor emanating from him in a roundabout way. Really, it felt like an ambush at the right time.
Being told directly to his face by a woman, Walm wasn’t an insensitive person who couldn’t care less, but he wasn’t shameless enough to raise his voice up to her.
“Well, as you can see.”
Suppressing his inner turmoil, Walm lowered his eyes to his arms and clothes. He was truly disgusted by the stench that had permeated him.
On the undead floors, Walm was careful enough to only bathe as little as possible in the putrid juice and smelly blood. Only in the fight against the Bone Collector, he couldn’t do that well. The blood and flesh of the undead wolves that came ferociously at him, fell on his arms.
“Please don’t worry about it. It’s not that unusual. Besides, Walm-san is one of those with less ‘damage’. Those with extreme ‘damage’, were covered with it not only on the head but all over the body.”
For Walm, who had experienced the labyrinth himself, the very idea of it made him nauseous. A foul odor strong enough to sting the eyes. Washing with water wouldn’t immediately eliminate the smell. At least he wasn’t like those poor victims.
“Guess, I’m a lucky guy. But well, after I return the tally, I’ll borrow a bucket from the inn and wash myself. As expected, I don’t feel like resting like this at all.”
“In this labyrinth management area, there’s also a facility where you can bathe. You’ve to pay to use it, but everyone uses it to clean the dirt they got in the labyrinth and also, to process orcs for meat.”
The first day after Walm returned from the labyrinth, he was concerned about the door near the transfer room, but he didn’t go so far as to look inside. Not even a little peek. Among the reproachful gazes that he felt in the waiting area, there was also some with the implication that he was an ignorant mercenary who spared no money to wash himself and shamelessly came into the waiting area, bringing the stench with him.
“… Seems I still have a lot to learn. Sorry, and thank you for always supporting me.”
“Even though I’m an employee of the guild who supports adventurers, I’m also part of the management of the labyrinth. Even if you aren’t an adventurer, I’ll help you as long as I don’t have to take my money out.”
“I’m grateful to you for that, really. If it’s you… I don’t mind buying you something.”
“My name is Lisi. Look, it’s written on my name tag, you know. Fufufu, but well, if you’re so grateful, it wouldn’t be bad to get some kind of ‘tribute’.”
Said Lisi in a joking tone.
However, Walm quickly shifted his eyes to his coin bag. There wasn’t enough to afford another medicine for his eyes, which were threatening to rot, but the recent hunt in the labyrinth was quite fruitful. Also, the information that he had received from Lisi was also valuable to him, as he only had a few sources to get information here.
… right, giving her some money as a reward won’t hurt. It’s the very least I can do.
With these thoughts, Walm moved his hand to his coin bag.
“Just kidding, don’t take the coin bag out. Do you think I would be happy to be handed over a coin? Look, I’m not that poor.”
Lisi shook her head in amazement.
Seeing her reaction, Walm deliberately frowned his face and replied,
“As you can see, I lead a simple life. Being fashionable has nothing to do with me, so…”
“I know, I can see it.”
Without any way to resist her quick reply, Walm was forced to surrender.
In Belgana, a city with a labyrinth, the walls that surrounded the city had a special meaning. The castle walls, repaired and strengthened with each change of the ruler, told everyone who visited how strong it was, because it was still standing after many battles. Of course, order and security were ensured by soldiers, corresponding to the size.
In the center of the city lay the greatest labyrinth of the Galmud Archipelago, which promised endless riches, albeit atop countless untold tragedies and joys of brave challengers.
Living within the walls meant a kind of social status. Nevertheless, not everyone who lived within the walls was a successful person. Many were living in a group in a small room while repairing worn-out equipment every now and then, and every day, they continued to venture into the labyrinths without any guarantees. That was the majority.
In a way, they were the products of this labyrinth city. Workers of sorts. So naturally, many spent their days, side by side with danger, and on the days when they were lucky enough to get results, they went to the tavern or bar, ate and drank something nice, and talked about their hopes for the unseen tomorrow.
And in the midst of these crowds, an adventurer party was having a serious discussion.
“After coming here, finally, we managed to dive so deep in one fell swoop. As expected, I must have woken up my hidden talent.”
“Hah? What kind of nonsense are you talking about? I’m sure it’s just because you were lucky to find a good thing that had not gotten swallowed up and equipped it. That must be it.”
“But… That means that if only I had better equipment, we could’ve gone deeper, right?”
“And you call that being cocky. I mean, you were so eager to fight and ended up covering your head with ghoul juice like an idiot, weren’t you?”
“But, because of that, we were able to reduce their number early. So, was I in the wrong? Even the old veteran and the scary mercenary also smeared themselves with that foul liquid.”
“That guy isn’t like you. Can’t you tell by how he moves? He’s definitely not a normal human. Someone normal like you, may split your head for being too cocky, got it?”
With a drink in one hand, the disagreement between the two people from the same hometown was tossed back and forth.
Peyrouse, the party leader, took on the role of coordinator as usual.
“Leake, you’ve got a point. There’s nothing wrong with reducing the number of enemies as fast as you can, but what Donna is saying is that you need to work out a plan before jumping to them. That’s to avoid unnecessary risk.”
The carefree Leake groaned, acknowledging what Peyrouse said.
On the other hand, Donna nodded triumphantly. Even though these two often clashed, they somehow got along well in battle. If that were the case every time, Peyrouse’s work would have been reduced many times over, but he had given up halfway through because such a hope was too great to fulfill.
Didn’t want to have a hard time alone, Peyrouse cast a sidelong glance at Matthio, who was sitting at the same table, but Matthio was busy stuffing his mouth with a wheat dish mixed with minced meat and sour fruit. He wrapped a fork around the flour dish formed into noodles and swallowed it, but perhaps it was too much, the noodles got stuck in his throat, so he hurried to get water.
“Matthio, the pasta won’t run away. Calm down.”
“Oi, Matthio, you’re being too greedy. Do you really plan to eat it all yourself, huh?”
“You, only when eating, it’s as if you got possessed by a wraith. Don’t you know some manner, huh?”
Leake and Donna put the argument on the back burner while blaming Matthio. According to Peyrouse, their behaviors weren’t much different.
“You can order more, you know. Matthio, you really are a glutton, aren’t you? But well, to make your body even bigger, I guess, you’ve to eat a lot.”
Despite his age, Matthio had a larger body than Peyrouse. He was blessed with physical strength, and along with his good ability to wield a spear, he proved to be a great help in conquering the undead floors.
“Two plates of minced orc pasta and additional broiled orc!”
When Peyrouse shouted out so, he received a hoarse reply from the kitchen.
It wasn’t long before the table was filled with new plates.
Peyrouse was four years older than the three. He actually wanted to run away from the rural area alone, but the three pleaded with him, so he ended up running away with them. Then, because of his age, he was unceremoniously appointed leader. That was also because he had always behaved excellently in the labyrinth. Thanks to him, the party functioned good enough, even though the number of alcohol and cigarettes increased. No, it could be said that the party had been doing well under his leadership.
“Get some water”
“tch, don’t take mine.”
“I wanna eat fish too sometimes.”
“Orc meat is cheap, so just put up with it.”
In the Galmud Archipelago, which could be called a maritime country, fishing was flourishing, so fish was cheap, but in Belgana, the inexhaustible supply of orc meat had caused a phenomenon.
In fact, Peyrouse had gotten sick of three meals of orc meat, but it was cheap and a good enough source of vitality, so he had to keep eating it to save some living expenses.
“Come to think of it, it’s not a fish, but some armed merchant ship killed a medium-sized Kraken.”
“Such a ship could kill a medium-sized Kraken? They must have excellent sea magicians on board.”
“Kraken? I wanna try it.”
“I can’t afford to buy something so damn expensive. If you want to eat that badly, the best I can do is to get you salted herring.”
Peyrouse brought Matthio, who’d almost sunk into the dream world full of unattainable ingredients, back to reality.
Matthio then tried to continue eating, but was stopped by the voice from the side.
“Oi oi, what happened? Haven’t seen you for a while, and now, your equipment has become so splendid.”
It was a man from a mid-rank adventurer party that had managed to conquer the 20th floor. The man’s party was one that Peyrouse’s party had been interacting with since they started diving into Belgana’s labyrinth.
“It’s because we’re now able to dive all the way to the 13th floor.”
Leake proudly showed the new equipment he had obtained on the thirteenth floor. According to Peyrouse, it was a shield and spear made of several disgusting bones mixed with dark slime. The black color, which came from dark slime, meant that it had the strength of steel, but the lightness of bone, making it an excellent weapon.
“No way, the shield and spear of the Bone Collector!?”
There was no doubt that even mid-rank adventurers were surprised by these items. The Bone Collector was a monster called an irregular that even Peyrouse knew about because of its danger. In terms of danger, it was comparable to monsters from the latter half of the 20th floor to the 30th floor. Even a mid-rank adventurer could die in front of such an opponent.
“So, where did you steal it from?”
The owner, Leake, raised his voice in protest against the mid-rank adventurer who jokingly said so.
“Your joke isn’t funny. I didn’t steal it. It was lying on the ground.”
“Hahaha, the Bone Collector fell by itself, you say? No way, it can’t be… Wait, if it’s now, well, I guess it’s not impossible.”
The mid-ranked adventurer, trying to laugh it off, lowered his voice as if he had an idea. In fact, he remembered something. Lately, the number of abandoned corpses on the low-rank to middle-rank floors had increased. Judging from the traces of the battle, no unknown monster was to blame either. Moreover, even monsters that were valuable as materials were left alone.
“It’s common for parties passing through the low-rank floors to leave the monsters unattended, and go straight to the hunting grounds. But lately, many corpses have been left in places other than hunting grounds. It’s as if there’s someone who came just looking for a battle.”
“Ah, there was a mercenary who dived into the labyrinth alone and passed by without even dismantling the orcs.”
“If I remember correctly, I never saw that person dismantle any monsters that he killed.”
Just as Leake and Donna said, the mercenary who’d recently appeared didn’t seem to bring any monster materials with him back. That was why Peyrouse suspected that the untouched Bone Collector’s remains were also the work of the mercenary.
Hearing rumors being talked by Peyrouse and the mid-rank adventurer, the rumor-loving adventurers who had been drinking at the tavern gathered around them one by one, and began exchanging information about this and that. It was as if they all felt, that it was time for shady stories and off-topic chats.
So, another adventurer joined the conversation.
“You guys are having an interesting conversation. Let me join. So, did you really see him diving alone?”
It was a man named Fausto. He was the leader of a rare party that managed to get beyond the 30th floor. Even after passing middle age, he was still active. In short, he was an expert who was still diving into labyrinths day by day, and also wouldn’t mind giving advice to mid-rank and low-rank parties.
“I watched his battles with orcs and ghouls, but with only a halberd on his hand, it took him less than five seconds to cut a group of orcs to pieces.”
Peyrouse recalled the battle he had seen in the labyrinth. The mercenary he had seen was unbelievably fast and accurate in every blow, and although he was using a halberd which wasn’t suited for close range, it didn’t matter. Any monster in sight would be sent lifeless to the ground.
“Only a halberd, huh? That’s amazing.”
Fausto let out words of admiration.
The mid-rank adventurer, hearing this then said in a teasing tone.
“Even Fausto-san, who can dive beyond the 30th floor, can do the same thing, right? Well, it’s a story from Peyrouse’s party, so isn’t it better to take it with a grain of salt?”
Leake and Donna puffed out their cheeks at the words of the mid-level adventurer and tried to complain. But, Peyrouse calmed down the two angry ones and listened to the conversation of the adventurers puzzling over the identity of the mercenary, who was said to have dived into the labyrinth alone.
“Someone from the Forest Alliance? Or a trainee from the Republic?”
“From the story, he doesn’t seem to be a warrior monk though? I mean, he’s using halberd, right?”
“Might be a soldier from somewhere then…”
“Either way, diving in alone means that he has a reason or he’s just a weirdo. Or maybe, he’s just a battle maniac?”
“Who knows? Wait… if I remember correctly, I think one of the northern countries has a similar type of armor that he wears.”
“Well, whoever he is. As long as he doesn’t disturb our work, it’s fine. Rather, he’s been helping us get rid of some riddance. Better hope that he stays alive for a long time. Let’s toast for it.“
CLANK!! CLANK!! CLANK!! CLANK!!
In the end, the gathered adventurers drank only a toast without getting an answer about the ‘mysterious’ mercenary.
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