137. Chapter 137
At the bottom of the Labyrinth, where the aftermath of the battle could still be felt, Walm gazed into the everlasting darkness. In the void where the summoning formation of the hexagram had appeared, there was no longer a trace. With the flickering of the embers, the darkness that enveloped the surrounding area spread and narrowed, repeating the advance and retreat of the visible area.
“Walm, is it okay now?”
“Yeah, it has calmed down.”
“Glad to hear that. Hari, do you want water?”
“For now, I don’t, need it.”
Hari and Marianthe, who were seriously injured, were staying by Walm’s side. Unlike Walm and Hari, who were unable to move, Marianthe had only a dislocated shoulder and damaged ligaments in her knee and could still walk, dragging her feet.
While Merrill and Yuna were scouting the surroundings, Marianthe was assigned the role of caregiver.
Emergency thoracentesis had restored calm to Walm’s breathing, and the holes in his lungs were blocked by the magic that had been squeezed out of Hari’s leftover mana. Of course, Hari ran out of fuel soon after, and the wounds carved in various places were only given first aid. [TN: Thoracentesis is a procedure performed to remove fluid or air from the thoracic cavity]
Walm and Marianthe got their broken bones bandaged with splints, and Hari, who had lacerations all over his body, was wrapped in bandages soaked in medicinal herbs. If someone, who didn’t know what was going on here, came to see, they would be mistaken for a new kind of monster or a mummy that had been buried by some evil method.
The influential party was nowhere to be seen, just a bunch of people moving awkwardly and sluggishly, which was like a group of old people having their daily gatherings.
“Hey, Marianthe. Cigaret—”
“Even if it’s a joke, the answer is no. You had a hole in your chest just a little while ago. I can’t even laugh if smoke comes out of your chest, you know.”
“I don’t even have any… just said out loud what came to my mind, to pass time.”
“Huff, I thought you were serious, but as expected you too, what a strange guy.”
Marianthe sighed because Walm was hard to understand.
Walm lamented at the unexpected treatment, but Hari, who was also seriously injured, defended Walm in a voice that sounded like an insect trying to communicate.
“Don’t say that, Marianthe. It’s human nature to want to smoke after a big job.”
“Hari, don’t suddenly say something like that… you sure you’re okay?… You didn’t hit your head hard, did you?”
Marianthe feared that there was something else behind the external damage to Hari’s head. But whether she was serious or joking, even Walm couldn’t tell.
They let their bodies rest while they weaved insane conversations. After the party advanced into the deep floors, they didn’t have much time to rest or sleep. So, at the moment, Walm could tell that the time when he had nothing to do was the best.
About half an hour later, familiar footsteps reached Walm’s ears. Of course, Walm wasn’t the only one waiting for their return after exploring the surroundings.
“How was it, Merrill?”
Merrill, carrying a familiar halberd on her shoulder, answered Marianthe’s question.
“There was a familiar black hole in the center of that. It’s not certain, but if we jump into that, guess we can go back to the surface.”
“First of all, we can relax I think.”
During the fight with the Undead Dragon, Walm suggested a strange method. If the Labyrinth got upset and the way back to the surface wasn’t opened for them, they could rot here.
Walm stroked his chest in relief, knowing that the situation he feared didn’t come true.
“It took me a while to find it, but I also recovered Walm’s halberd.”
As if to show off, Merrill tapped her shoulder with the handle. The halberd was blown away flashily in the fight, but no noticeable damage was seen.
Walm had a long relationship with the halberd he picked as a battle trophy during the Battle in the Myard Border. Walm didn’t claim that there was no substitute for it in this world, but the familiar halberd had become like his own limbs. For Walm, the value of the halberd exceeded even a large gold coin.
Walm tried to hold the halberd, but his arm, trembling with pain, didn’t move as he wanted.
“I’ll put it here.”
Merrill, not seeing it, quietly placed the halberd on the stone pavement next to the one Walm was using as a pillow.
Merrill and Yuna, who surrendered themselves to fatigue, lowered their waists and joined the gathering.
Now, no one stood at the bottom of the Labyrinth.
“First of all, there seems to be no further danger. So, it’s a little early to be happy, but it seems we’ve conquered the Labyrinth.”
There was probably no other way to conquer the Labyrinth that was so unbelievable than what they did. Contrary to the lofty title of Conqueror, Walm couldn’t even stand up straight, let alone walk on his own. Right now, he was nothing more than a wounded man sleeping in a temporary treatment center on a battlefield.
“……I don’t mind some more noise you know.”
Merrill must have expected applause and joyful voices, but Walm, who had failed to die, didn’t even have the strength to rejoice. Yuna was taciturn, and Marianthe wasn’t the type to show her emotions willingly. If it was the normal Hari, he might have spoken the maximum amount of flattery on top of the applause, but now he was on good terms with Walm, since he was seriously injured. The only thing he could do was to move his mouth and mumble through the bandages.
“If Hari and I suddenly jumped up and started singing and dancing, that would be unpleasant, right?”
“Not that it’s unpleasant, but… more likely, I’d be terrified.”
Merrill, who imagined the scene Walm had spoken of, clouded her expression.
“Briefly, do it.”
At Yuna’s urging, Merrill sent a grudge with her gaze.
In Walm’s eyes, Merrill seemed to be sulking for some reason.
“Everyone’s cold… Well, if possible, I want to throw my limbs out and go to sleep now. Anyway, let me talk about something important. Once we get back to the surface, for a while, seems like we can’t have a nice calm talk like this.”
Merrill took out two magic bags. One belonged to the party, the other was an item Walm had received from Gerard Berger, the War God of Highserk, during his time in Highserk’s army.
“I’ve collected as many Undead Dragon’s fangs and claws as I could. As catalysts and materials, they are said excellent. No doubt the Guild and Marquis Borgia will ask to sell a considerable amount to them. That said, some will remain in our hands.”
Even Walm, who was ignorant of geography and history, had heard of the family name while spending time in the Labyrinth City. The Borgia family was one of the great noble families of the Galmud Archipelago, ruling over the Labyrinth City and also the coordinator of the continental side, except for the main central island and the surrounding islands. Their rise dated back to the Unification War 100 years ago. At least that was what Walm had heard.
“If you don’t bring a souvenir, the guild will be troublesome. Is there anything I can do to avoid endless long talk?”
Perhaps there had been a similar case in the past. Marianthe, who looked like she was remembering the past, shook her head slightly.
“Seems, you’ve got it rough.”
“There’s no danger. But Walm. You’re not an exception, you know? A person has conquered the labyrinth despite temporarily joining the party in a contract system. If it spreads that you don’t belong to any organization, you’ll definitely be followed. So, be careful, okay?”
“That’s troublesome…… I’ll keep that in mind.”
Receiving Walm’s reply, Merrill continued.
“Back to the main topic. Next is, this.”
A decaying wooden box was taken out of the magic bag. Something inside swayed, making a faint metallic sound. Walm guessed its identity.
“Gold coins, huh?”
“Close, but it’s better.”
Inside the open box was a bar. Even at the bottom of the Labyrinth with a scarce light source, the metal shone with a characteristic luster when it received a faint light. Walm narrowed his eyes and said the name.
“Yes. Moreover, nothing else mixed in.”
The mithril with no “poison” and no signs of rust, was light as a feather. Moreover, it had the property of channeling mana easily. Due to excessive demand, there were always supply shortages. As far as Walm knew, there were a variety of uses for it, such as tableware, decoration, weapon, and catalyst for many. Of course, it was highly sought after by the wealthy. Most weapons that were made of mithril, because of its high price had only a small amount of it added to them. And that alone, was enough to distinguish them from iron weapons.
“Nnnn, even if you split it for five people, everyone would get more than enough.”
It was no wonder Hari let out a voice while lying down staring at the mithril. Walm’s sense of money was about to collapse in front of a lump of it. After all, even after splitting the mithril bar by five, the amount he got would be more than enough to buy several eye medicines.
“W-well, we should be happy that it’s mithril. I mean, what if the box was filled with iron scraps…”
Even Marianthe couldn’t hide her dismay. Speaking of exceptions would have been the first to get over the shock, Yuna and Merrill.
Merrill hit Walm on the back of the head, while others were dazzled by the magical silver.
“Do you know what this is?”
A colorless and transparent bottle spread into Walm’s field of vision. He gasped as he looked at the thing inside. It was a plant, blood-red crimson in color from stem to leaves. The fluted, upturned petals and stamens looked like fingertips reaching into the sky in a pool of blood.
A healing treasure, a crimson-colored herb that was said to bloom forever, was hung in front of Walm through a bottle. The gazes of the party members, glued to the mithril, finally moved away at Walm’s words, which were squeezed out in surprise.
“Is this crimson grass, so strange.”
“Well, beautiful or not… it’s beautiful, but…”
Contrary to the dusty bottle, the crimson grass retained its freshness, giving off a bewitching beauty. If one said that it was a high-quality artificial flower, Walm would believe it. Looking at it with his own eyes, he couldn’t help but feel why it was said to be immutable.
“It, doesn’t seem like it grew out of the ground.”
“It was stored next to mithril. Well, I wanted to surprise you a little.”
“You sure only a little?”
While Walm complained, Merrill was happy the little mischief had succeeded.
After leaning forward for a while, the people who had been so focused on the flower viewing regained their composure.
Then, while pointing at the crimson grass, Marianthe asked.
“So Walm, “that thing”, do you plan to swallow it whole here?”
“S-swallow it whole? I mean, isn’t it better to chew it first?”
Walm didn’t know how to answer Marianthe. Was it really okay to just eat it like a vegetable side dish or a meat dish? After all the hardships he had gone through, he had managed to get his hands on the crimson grass. But right, he didn’t know the proper dosage or how to use it properly.
“……it, doesn’t look delicious though?”
“Wait, will it work just by eating it?”
“Use it like ointment?”
Question after question surfaced without a clue about the solution. When the situation got out of control, Hari, who was lost in his thoughts, slowly opened his mouth.
“You should take the crimson grass through your mouth. And instead of swallowing it whole, chewing it is the correct way. That said, it would be best to consult with, an alchemist or healing magician. But it is what it is. So, you should choose the person carefully.”
The party’s only healing magic user came up with the right answer even in a chaotic situation. The warrior monks who served as guardians of the church were as good at showing people the way to salvation, no less than the high-ranking priests.
The respect for Hari increased inside Walm once again.
Soon Walm noticed the sound of escaping air. The source was the long breath escaping violently through the bandage.
Right, it was Hari.
“Such passionate eyes――”
“Don’t. Don’t say anything more.”
Doubt turned into certainty.
Gratitude was blown away in an instant.
Simultaneously with the voice of restraint, Walm threw shreds of the bandage. He breathed a sigh of relief when he successfully covered Hari’s eyes.
Merrill resumed the conversation as if such a series of events had never happened in the first place.
“For now, it’s decided how to handle the crimson grass. Walm, you should keep it in a magic bag until you decided to use it.”
“If you lose it, you’ll have to go around in the labyrinth one more time.”
As soon as Merrill said that, Walm put the crimson grass into the magic bag. The Undead Dragon’s material was filled to the limit until a repulsive feeling was transferred to his hand, as if to reject any more of the magic bag. With a sideways glance, Merrill was about to put the mithril bar in the magic bag as well.
With that and now that the items and equipment of the party member had been gathered, there was no longer any reason to stay at the bottom of the Labyrinth. Unfortunately, Walm and Hari couldn’t even walk. And the result of the short discussion was a voice of agony coming out of Yuna’s mouth.
Yuna, who had Hari shouldered on her back, lurched forward. Even though Marianthe and Merrill had the item and equipment, carrying a rock-like warrior monk was hard work. Even so, Yuna’s physical strength, which continued to develop as she strung the bow on a regular basis, had fulfilled its role splendidly.
Followed right behind with pitying eyes was Marianthe, who used her favorite mace as a cane to help her walk.
Last in line were Walm and Merrill. Walm wanted to be as tough as the halberd, but his left arm and ankle were broken and his lungs were anything but normal. Merrill silently held his shoulder out to him, even though she was carrying something already.
Merrill supported Walm’s arm with her right hand to keep it from coming loose. Without saying it, the distance between them shrank naturally and their bodies came into close contact. When Walm hopped around awkwardly and lowered his gaze to his feet, Merrill silently kept pace with him.
Overlapping shadows simply swayed as they walked.
A sigh hit the skin. Small, yet certainly Merrill’s warm voice shook Walm’s ears.
“Nothing, just that… Well, I’m so glad I could form a party, with you.”
“What is it…? Why so suddenly?”
As Walm lifted his face, light green hair and eyes with a different iris color spread out in his field of vision. Two people with contrasting eyes stood a very short distance away. Strangely enough, the colors that had seemed so flashy when they first met now felt comforting.
“Thank you, Walm.”
At a distance where their cheeks touched, Walm responded with an embarrassed look.
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