130. Chapter 130
Walm threw his limbs to the ground. The cold of the cobblestones softened the heat of the body.
As Walm exhaled, the exhaustion he had been holding back burst forth all at once. It was the second time he had reached the 35th floor, but he could tell that the path was steeper and harder than the first time when he encountered the dwarves and the beastman.
“I’ve completely run out of mana.”
In hindsight, the dwarves’ attracting and exterminating the monsters should have lessened Walm’s burden. Besides, the troublesome monsters had also been buried in the large room and this time there was nothing left. In a way, it could be said that they helped him behind the scenes.
After a few minutes of lethargy from exhaustion, Walm straightened his body.
As expected, Walm couldn’t sleep. At least not when his armor which had faced countless monsters along the way was dirty and damaged everywhere. If he didn’t take care of it, it would only accelerate the deterioration.
The dirt caused by monsters was carefully wiped off and a thin layer of rust-preventing oil was applied. If a mistake was made in this care, the oil would no longer fulfill its function as a protective film and would instead attract dust and dirt.
Walm continued to work diligently and was finished with one task. After completing it, he wanted to light a cigarette, but was reminded that his mana hadn’t yet recovered. He had taken magic for granted, but was reminded of how inconvenient it would be to be without magic.
“Seems, I’ve to use it after a long time.”
The presence of flint, which he had used often until his encounter with Willart, came to Walm’s mind. It was completely forgotten in the magic bag like a useless decoration. Sure it wouldn’t suddenly be able to make a bonfire, but a small fire was what Walm needed.
The cloth that absorbed the dirt and oil could be called a fuel, which also served as an appropriate ignition agent.
Walm cut the hemp cloth with a dagger and made a small hole in the center of the cut cloth. Then he covered one of the flints with the cloth and exposed the surface through the hole. Then he crossed the two flints to scrape them together.
With a dull sound, sparks scattered. Fortunately, after several repetitions, the flame spread to the oil-soaked hemp cloth.
Walm wrapped the feeble fire in both hands like a treasure, and blew on it to nurture the fire.
Cigarettes weren’t filled with much combustible material in this world, so they were difficult to burn, but the fire spread safely, so Walm brought it to his mouth. The purple smoke that was blown out floated and disappeared here and there in the air.
“Fuhh… ha, haha, that’s modest.”
Comparing its magnitude to that of blue flame, which normally manifests itself almost instantaneously, how small was it? Even such a fire was an indispensable light for Walm today. However, since it had served its purpose, it would only be a waste of cloth. And holding the burning hemp cloth was enough to extinguish the small flame.
As Walm scattered the ashes, he gave himself over to a feeling of emptiness.
Such a momentary rest should be enjoyed, but unfortunately, Walm had to throw away the cigarette in his hand, grab the halberd and stand up.
The cause was a soft sound of footsteps that Walm couldn’t escape. Moving into a defensive position, he listened carefully, but the footsteps were loud and artificial. The sound grew louder, as if it was about to enter the room. Some people made their footsteps on purpose because it was a good way to kill any sound.
And the fact that those who came into the room did so, knowing that it was the 35th floor, had to be a very disciplined party. Well, people had to show off sometimes.
The fatigue that enveloped Walm’s entire body protested and demanded a longer break, but he chose to ignore it.
The door opened slowly and the face peeking out didn’t match the Labyrinth. It was too bright.
“Hey, we meet again.”
After Merrill’s greeting, the rest of the party members appeared in the safe room.
“This time, it’s you guys huh?”
Following the dwarves and beastman, the next party Walm met on the floor deeper than the 30th floor was the Trimagitack. Why did he meet a lot of lively fellows lately? He didn’t know.
“If you keep talking like that, people will run away from you.”
Seeing the indignant Merrill, Walm honestly felt bad.
“I’m just, a little worn out. Really, I’m grateful for Faust’s case.”
“I wish you’d have told me that from the beginning.”
Merrill immediately walked happily toward Walm after hearing the mood-changing words.
Although they were different, the lack of sense of distance that Walm felt made him suspect that Merrill was the same type as the dwarves.
“So, what’s your business? Did you come to have a party to deepen our relationship?”
“Well, let’s just say, it’s not that far away.”
What a straightforward answer. As a reward, Walm gave an honest word.
“Thanks for the trouble you’re willing to go through, but…”
“It’s true. Just when I thought you were going to stay quiet for a while after being under house arrest at the guild, I heard that you immediately dived into the Labyrinth shortly after. Also, you managed to reach the 35th floor alone. People often tell me that I’m always “busy.” But apparently, you’re “busier” than me.”
“Well, a circumstance doesn’t let me stop for long.”
“In other words, you came to the labyrinth looking for something. And you haven’t obtained it yet. Could it be that you can’t even get it on the 35th floor?”
It was a one-step, no few steps deep question. Walm, who had no intention of answering, avoided giving an immediate answer.
“What do you think?”
“Seriously, you’re tiring to talk to.”
Merrill, laughing dryly, glared at Walm. But the really serious look on Merrill’s face then let Walm know. That he couldn’t avoid the question.
“People who dive into the Labyrinth have their own aims. Overflowing wealth, honor to be admired by all, power beyond one’s own limits… I’ve affirmed all of them. In the labyrinth, everyone struggles, stretching out their hands and risking their lives in order to obtain something. To think which one’s purpose is superior or inferior is pointless, boring…… So, Walm, what do you want from the Labyrinth? What do you wish for?”
“……What a strange fellow. What’s the point of asking me that?”
The tense atmosphere broke down in an instant. Merrill frowned seriously, and Walm also frowned bluntly. After all, a wild noise was heard.
“What the hell, were you guys fighting?”
“That’ll be a nice show.”
“Sure it will. Don’t worry, we’ll see to the end, so do it, do it now!! Ah, please no weapon.”
Without any consideration when entering the room, a group of dwarves sent by the Aleinard Forest Alliance entered the room and spoke in a distinctive way of talking. Would it be impossible for them to live humbly and quietly? Sure enough, it would be as difficult as teaching art and science to the goblins.
The only exception was the beastman who lowered the animal ears as if to apologize to Walm and Merrill.
“Seriously, can’t you all at least read the air better? We’re in the middle of a fun chat you know!?”
The angry Merrill resented the dwarves and glared at them.
“Hah, that’s it? How boring.”
“Can’t be helped. Guess it’s time for a meal.”
“Alcohol, quick, take them out.”
The dwarves, who had lost interest in Walm and Merrill, turned their attention to the food surprisingly quickly. One of them had even sat down and was eating the hard-baked bread.
“This is why the dwarves are… aahhh… you ruined the moods. Walm, let’s change the place. Don’t worry, I’ll treat you to a nice meal. I really want to know your answer after all.”
Back on the surface, they entered a store that was on a side street off the main road. Unlike the tavern Walm knew, this one used sturdy stone material. And as he looked at the interior of the store, he understood the significance of its features. The room, separated by a thick outer wall and an inner wall, was created with the intention of being an important place for secret talks and business negotiations.
Walm leaned his halberd against the wall and sat down.
Unlike Walm, who tried to keep his distance, Merrill leaned forward and began to speak.
“I’m glad you have agreed to come here. First of all, I’d like to deepen our friendship by making small talk and talking to everyone about their upbringing, but I guess, it would be quicker to speak frankly.”
After taking a deep breath, Merrill continued.
“I, was born in this walled city. I never had any problems with life, and I’ve nothing to do with poverty. However, I’ve no house to inherit, and my opportunities to make money here are limited. So I went to the labyrinth to earn a living. Yes. I’m such a boring person.”
It was a common story. Whether Merrill was half forced or not, people had their own circumstances, but the only difference was that Walm earned his living on the battlefield and Merrill in the Labyrinth.
“Even such a boring person managed to dive deeper and deeper, and when I met these current companions, my greed came out. Maybe it’s what you call the adventurer’s spirit. Or maybe it’s just my curiosity. Either way, we want to be a conqueror. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested in wealth or fame, but more than anything I really want to reach the bottom of the labyrinth, that’s my current dream…. laughable, isn’t it?”
Merrill smiled wryly. However, what a serious look. The same was true for the group members standing nearby.
“No, it’s not. Without dreams, hopes, and goals, it’s hard to say that people are alive. Really, it’ll be hard to tell if they’re dead, or alive.”
It would be too sad if people claimed that they were alive only by breathing. Walm, who had been drowning in alcohol and depressing days for a year, couldn’t laugh at people’s dreams. No matter how small or low they might be.
“That’s heavy…… We saw the recruitment and called you out. Many were hesitating and waiting for further developments. In time, I’m sure they won’t be able to avoid seeing your true value. It may be unconscionable to say this, but I was lucky to have met you then. Yes, Faust paid the price, but it convinced me of your abilities. I’d like to invite you to the party. But first I’d like to know what you really want. Walm, what are you looking for in the labyrinth, what do you wish for?”
It would take a long time to explain the situation. It would be quicker to show than to hear. With this in mind, Walm then said,
“…… Right… to see is to believe. I’ll use mana, but don’t worry, no bad meaning.”
The eyes from which mana flowed changed, and the world reflected in Walm’s eyes changed. It was weaker than when 《Demon Fire》 was used, but the piercing pain and heat came through.
“Those eyes… demon eyes?”
The warrior monk named Hari, who had kept his mouth shut until then, let the words seep out. Walm nodded in agreement.
“I’m a defeated soldier of Highserk who lost his homeland in an outbreak. I lost both eyes in a battle, but to stand in a fight once again, the eyes of a high-ranking monster were transplanted.”
Walm stopped the mana supply to the eyes, assuming that the confirmation was sufficiently complete. Still, even as the eyes returned to normal, the effects persisted. Slowly, he closed and opened his eyes until the waves of pain subsided.
“These eyes will rot in the not-too-distant future. As the mana flows, the eyes will heat up and feel like they’re melting. To heal them completely, I’m searching for what they call, the crimson grass on the deepest floor. That’s what I wish for.”
“I understand very well what Walm wants.”
“I put on a facade in many ways, but it’s all about self-protection.”
“Well, my dreams aren’t big either way. So, Walm, are you willing to join my party?”
For Walm, who had no personal connections and limited time, it would be best to join the Trimagitack, which had made a name in Belgana, the Labyrinth city.
“Sure, let’s conquer the Labyrinth together.”
“Great! That’s it. Let’s celebrate the joining.”
“Wait, Merrill! We, we haven’t talked about the details of the conditions yet. That goes for you too. As a mercenary, you should be stricter about the conditions.”
The adventurer named Marianthe reprimanded Merrill, who was busily preparing the alcohol. Things were quickly decided, but increasing the number of group members wasn’t so easy. That should be the case, but it was not what happened.
Walm, who felt that he didn’t think long enough and reacted immediately, had no words to say.
“Sometimes it’s all about momentum.”
“That attitude of being so easygoing, really, you’re not in a position to laugh at the dwarves.”
Even though Walm hadn’t exchanged a lot of words yet, it was faintly conveyed to him that Marianthe was a coordinator, the hard worker within the party.
“Marianthe, calm down. We can tell him the details from now on, but now, it’s important to welcome him first.”
Hari told Marianthe to calm down. His demeanor was unfazed and calm, perhaps due to his training as a warrior monk.
“… Hari, I know that you just like Walm’s eyes. Your overwhelming interest in eyes is truly like a pervert.”
“Even though you complimented me so much on how beautiful my eyes are, are you going to be distracted by someone else you’ve just met?”
Saying so, Merrill’s face contorted with sadness. The movement was like someone playing a role in an opera. So theatrical.
Walm was confused and couldn’t understand the situation.
“That’s not true. Merrill’s charming eyes are everlasting. But, but, that supposedly golden eyes, feel dark and muddy. Such eyes of Walm are just….. unbearably charming.”
――What did I just feel?
Hari didn’t even try to make an excuse anymore. His gaze, which was directed downward, definitely lingered on Walm’s eyes and didn’t seem to let him go. His rustic, unadorned and simple clothing and his well-toned body, which gave a hint of his training, left Walm in no doubt that he was a man of common sense. In reality, however, he was a weirdo who surpassed Merrill, in short, an eyes pervert.
“Stop it, Hari!!! What if he runs away?”
Walm, who had goosebumps and body hair standing up, tried to raise his hip, but was forced to sit by an arm that stretched out from the side. That was the hand of Merrill. Although young, Merrill was really quick-witted. A really suitable action by someone who held a title. Even more startling was, that the arm was placed in a position that would relax someone.
“Where will the main character go? Rest assured. Hari isn’t on “that side”… perhaps.”
With a glimmer of hope, Walm sought help from a remaining party member, an archer named Yuna. For some reason, she was staring into the void, but luckily, she heard Walm’s voiceless call and returned from her silent journey.
“…Walm seems hungry, so let’s get started.”
No, no, that’s not it…
Walm was crying inside. He was tormented by the fear if it was really the right decision to join this party. Where was the determined attitude when he faced Faust? Of course, it wasn’t visible on Walm’s face.
“You’re right. Walm, welcome to the Trimagitack!”
Said Merrill, whose hand was still digging into Walm’s shoulder with a broad smile.
Really, this is why adventurers are…
The sorrow Walm felt disappeared without reaching anyone.
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