139. Chapter 139
For the first time since the Unification War, a conqueror had been born from Belgana, and the Labyrinth City was bustling with activity as if at a harvest festival. In contrast to the relentless heat of the city, the air in one room remained cold and stagnant.
“A conqueror has appeared. Above all, it’s the party to which that mercenary belongs.”
The mercenary wasn’t only the enemy of Giesel’s younger brother, but this time he tried to get in the way by becoming the conqueror of the labyrinth.
Giesel was even impressed by the fact that the mercenary had been involved in his life as if it was destined.
“Though it’s a bit strange, he has 《Demon Fire》 and demon eyes. Add the Trimagitack, and it’s not something that they can’t reach, I guess.”
Unlike Giesel, who felt a growing sense of danger, the old man explained without showing the slightest wavering.
“It looks like they brought back fangs and claws, but I don’t think it’s a complete Undead Dragon.”
Said Fausto doubtfully.
The old man gave an answer.
“The firepower shouldn’t be insufficient to bury a complete Undead Dragon. A real dragon isn’t a cheap existence to the extent that it can easily fall. The fact that all five came back, means they didn’t make an offering. Did they find a way to deal without it? Even so, that doesn’t change what they’ve accomplished. A conqueror isn’t something that can be measured by power alone after all.”
Even if the Undead Dragon was imperfect, the Trimagitack managed to kill it. From this information alone, Giesel concluded that his subordinates would have a hard time putting the plan into action. Besides Merrill, the people from the Adventurer’s Guild and the Borgia soldiers would be on their way too.
“Giusto, why you must get killed by a troublesome guy.”
Even the loss of a large number of members entrusted to Giusto was already a pain.
Giesel couldn’t help but wonder about his younger brother, who continued to cause him trouble even after death.
“Stop lamenting, Giesel.”
Giesel grimaced and shook his head at the soothing words one normally said to a toddler. Only an old man from the slums could say such words to Giesel.
Fausto was the only one remaining silent in restraint, but such a serious man probably wouldn’t even be able to say something witty.
“Do you have a good idea, old man?”
“If more continue to dive deeper, an increase in the city’s overall strength inevitable. If more conquerors are born, our plan will be stuck. Just the fact that a conqueror is born, the city, no, the people within will get motivated. I think, it’s time.”
The dead tree-like old man, whose expression wasn’t easy to read, was certainly smiling. What kind of feeling spurred up within the old man? Giesel had no way of knowing completely. Even if Giesel relied on Fausto to decipher it, nothing good would come out as he still had his fake mask stuck to his face since his blunder in the Labyrinth.
The most important thing, however, was that the old man, who usually gave commands only with a wave of his hand, moved directly. Finally, he emerged from the darkness.
“No holding back huh? Well, whatever the means, it’s fine with me as long as the mercenary dies.”
Giesel was only a supporting character, as a “Monster” hiding in the darkness was about to appear on the main stage. For the Labyrinth City, this would certainly be a turning point.
Accompanied by “Death,” Giesel would also attend the feast. If he could take revenge in the process, that would be the best outcome. That would calm down any complaint that might come from his foolish brother in the netherworld.
In the sludge-like slum, the malice that had been nurtured and expanded over the years about quietly made its appearance.
After being injured in a battle with a group of manhunts, Walm was placed under house arrest in a guest room after being treated. He never thought he would end up back in the same place in such a short time. This time, however, it was much larger than the last room he was housed in. And not only were meals served, but snacks as well. The treatment was much better than when he was treated like a suspect. Of course, Walm wasn’t so childish as to be openly grumpy. After all, it was only natural that there should be a difference in treatment between the conqueror and the suspected suspect.
While Walm was being regularly treated by a healing magician, Merrill, who had the lightest injuries, went outside and responded to having a discussion with guild officials. After all, the long-awaited conqueror had finally been born. Expectations were high, and there was no end to the number of visitors, from the people of the Adventurer’s Guild to the army and nobles. Besides, information about the bottom of the Labyrinth was scarce, and everyone was desperately trying to extract even a small amount of it from them. Merrill, who belonged to the Adventurer’s Guild, used the Marquis’ family and the Guild as a shield, but still, she had no time to rest.
In order to take care of the exhausted Merrill, Walm provided a certain ingredient to the Adventurer’s Guild. It was the meat of the Kraken, which was now reborn as dinner and placed before their eyes. From simple salt-fried Kraken tentacles to flour-coated fried Kraken tentacles. The Guild’s cook was indeed excellent.
“…… C-can you really eat this tentacle?”
In the Labyrinth, Merrill, who was always calm at all times and even buried the Undead Dragon, had a trembling voice. Walm had also eaten octopus and squid in his previous world, but he had no experience of tasting something similar since he was born in this world. The appearance of Kraken tentacles was only slightly larger, and the shape itself wasn’t that much different. First off, Walm was sure he would’ve no problem eating them.
“It’s prized by sailors, you know.”
“Well, I know it’s a delicacy and a luxury ingredient, but the way it looks just…”
“You guys too. No need to hold back.”
Walm had no acquired dislike for tentacles that originated in the sea, but Merrill, who had no experience with these ingredients, had to gather much courage to eat them. He urged the others to eat too, but the others just continued to stare at the tentacles. Even Hari made some complaining noises. Strangely, or maybe not, from Walm’s point of view, it took more courage to eat the meat of the peculiar humanoid pig (orc).
Marianthe pushed back the plate as if to oppose Walm’s words and actions. And the hard sell that disguised as good intentions enveloped her.
“Walm and Hari are the most seriously injured, so you two have them first.”
“Nnnnnn, isn’t that a little cowardly, Marianthe?”
Hari was unusually agitated and tried to resist.
A sudden wait-and-see contest began, with no end in sight.
Thinking that nothing would happen at this rate, Walm suddenly thrust the tentacles into his mouth with a fork.
Merrill let out a voice, as if Walm had ingested poison. Walm, on the other hand, was busy savoring the flour-coated fried tentacles. The chunky, thick meat was really chewy. The texture of the sucker was like an accent, as if it were bursting in his mouth. The more he chewed, the more umami spread across his tongue.
“Is the taste, okay?”
Marianthe timidly asked.
Walm, who was chewing well and enjoying it, swallowed and answered.
“It’s delicious. In terms of texture, it’s closer to elastic meat than fish.”
Walm was no stranger to describing the taste of food, but he was no food expert. He couldn’t do a better job of describing it to get the message across, and decided the most effective way would be to eat one after another.
“It smells good, right?”
It was rare for Walm to be stared at while eating, but they all looked so serious.
Having finally given up, Merrill took the first bite.
“……I’ll take a bite.”
Merrill tentatively brought the food to her mouth and began tasting the tentacles. Everyone held their breath and watched.
“Umm, it’s delicious.”
Merrill, who had her shoulders stretched out, smiled.
After the vanguard took the first hit, the other party members jumped in as well. They all carried the tentacles to their mouths as if the restraining rope had been cut.
Even the meat of the Kraken, which they were so cautious about before eating, once it was in their mouth, they couldn’t help but sing praises.
After dinner, which consisted mainly of seafood, Walm walked out of the Guild House. Thanks to the daily healing magic he received and rest, his wounds had healed enough for him to walk by himself.
When Walm felt the heat in his stomach, burning from his abdomen to the top of his head, he thought that this must be the result of eating the Kraken meat. He could also feel that his heart beat faster than usual. Such immediacy. The Kraken meat was undoubtedly had excellent nutrients and good for restoring stamina. It was even said that Kraken meat was popular among aristocrats who longed for heirs. Because if they ate it, the dead vigor would be resurrected.
The bustle of activity still echoed from the nightless city. While exploring and walking around the less popular places, Walm arrived in front of an old stone monument. It was a memorial monument. Dated from the time of the Unification War, it was derelict and half-ruined.
Walm took two cigarettes from his waist bag, lit them, and took one to the base of the monument and the other to his own mouth. He did it knowing full well that this would never be a substitute for incense sticks.
Breathing out the purple smoke inhaled, and the smoke dispersed into the sky. Only a bitter taste was left on the tongue.
Walm knew this wasn’t good for his lungs. Still, it was necessary. He had learned that death was heavy. Even more, after he was put in a very different position than his first life. It was necessary for him.
It was said that over time, people’s deaths might fade, be forgotten, and eventually disappear. Deep down Walm wished that were true.
Smoke slowly rose from the base of the cenotaph. As Walm continued to stare dully ahead, he cooled himself with the night breeze. He drifted away with the smoke while thinking of nothing but something vague. However, he had to end his rambling walk soon, for footsteps were approaching.
“Are you done with your work?”
When Walm turned around, there stood Lisi, who had finished her work. She must have watched Walm walking around nearby.
“Yes, I’ve finished today’s work. Hmm, this may be a little late because I couldn’t make time, but congratulations on conquering the Labyrinth.”
It seemed the receptionist had dutifully come to deliver the words of congratulations.
Walm grabbed the cigarette and turned to Lisi to return her thanks.
“Thank you for taking the trouble to say that even outside of work hours. And thanks to Lisi’s advice, I could do that. If I’m still alone, perhaps, I may still be wandering inside the Labyrinth, or already dead. Really, thank you.”
Walm revealed his true intentions without deceit. He alone couldn’t have overcome the repeated difficulties after the 35th floor.
“Supporting challengers is, after all, part of my job. Besides, I’ve already received your thanks.”
Lisi slid her sleeves to reveal a silver bracelet with a crimson grass motif. She was wearing the item given by Walm.
“Considering the result, it turned out to be a very cheap gift huh…”
“That’s impolite, you know.”
Lisi, who got her mood soured, pouted slightly. Walm acknowledged his embarrassing gaffe and shrugged his shoulders as if to surrender.
“Sorry. I was born in the countryside and raised in the military, so I’m not familiar with the term “polite”.”
“Fufufu, I think I’ve heard a similar excuse before. But well, even if you say so, it seems like you don’t forget to respect the dead.”
Following Lisi’s line of sight was the cigarette Walm offered to the monument. The smoldering fire continued to spew purple smoke into the night sky.
“Not with good intentions. I reluctantly did it out of guilt. I’m just a coward.”
It was the same in the previous world. Walm left random offerings at a dilapidated shrine that no one visited, and even took calls from customers after hours. If he had had the strength to pretend not to see it, he could have lived differently.
The embarrassed Walm frowned. Seeing that expression on his face, Lisi asserted without hesitation.
“Still, it seems to me that you have a strong sense of duty. Compared to those who just talk and do nothing, you’re much more trustworthy.”
“Such kind words. Thanks.”
In the midst of the silence, Lisi raised a question.
“Walm-san, did you find what you were looking for at the bottom of the Labyrinth?”
“Somehow I found it.”
The treasure Walm was looking for, the crimson grass, was quietly staying in his magic bag. It also meant that there was no longer any reason to wander around the Labyrinth.
“What are you going to do about the party?”
“I’ve achieved my objective. Following the contract, I plan to leave.”
After all, in a sense, Walm’s role was nothing more than a temporary side guy. The Trimagitack with an even better reputation than before would have no problem finding a better companion than a bloody soldier.
“Have you talked about it to the party members?”
The problem was that Walm returned from the Labyrinth in a bad state and missed the moment to withdraw from the party. Still, he was reluctant to continue relying on the party’s good intentions and prolong the relationship.
“I don’t think they want Walm-san to leave.”
Walm didn’t interfere and continued to listen to Lisi’s words.
“Merrill-san must be very busy right now. After all, guests are constantly coming to visit. Even so, she cares about Walm-san, and the same is true for the others. So until the ceremony is over, you should think about the option of properly joining them. As the guild employee ―― and as an individual, I really hope that you will stay.”
Without giving an immediate answer, Walm pondered.
The gruesome battlefields, the crumbling homeland, and the memories of his dead comrades continued to bind Walm even after he left the land of Highserk. He was so drunk at the time that his thoughts felt as if they were stuck in the mud. But that feeling of rotting in the mud was fading now.
Had his earlier encounters and experiences in the Labyrinth City caused his bad memory to fade, or had he grown a little as a person? Walm didn’t know.
Next to the pondering Walm, Lisi waited without saying anything.
After a while, Walm opened his mouth.
“Honestly, I’ve always hated adventurers. Thought that I would despise being friends with them. Even so, I’ve gotten used to them… I’ve come to like them a little, better than before…… Right. Ever since I came here, Lisi, you’ve helped me a lot. So yeah, I won’t be stubborn, and will have a talk about the future after the ceremony is over, as you suggested.”
Lisi nodded with satisfaction at Walm’s answer.
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