An unmanned taxi was heading for the dance hall in the South District.
Inside was Aki Souya, glancing at the woman sitting next to her.
The woman’s lustrous black hair, which stretched down her back was beautiful as if it contained abundant nourishment.
She was also in good shape. As if she were a model.
On top of that, she had a graceful demeanor. Aki couldn’t help but feel that she was used to giving orders to people.
Also, the fabric of her clothes looked luxurious.
Just by sitting side by side, Aki could tell that they were born and raised differently.
Aki also heard her grandmother leak the word “noble”
The story of the nobility, the Kazoku, wasn’t taboo in the special ward, but it was hardly covered on TV, in magazines, or on the internet.
In a sense, they were a remnant of those who once ruled this country.
And even now, they were a peculiar existence that had great influence in the region.
Aki only knew this much. For not much was taught in school.
In fact, it was the first time that Aki met a noble.
Can’t believe that, I’m now sitting next to someone like her…
Even now, Aki was nervous.
“You, what’s your name?”
“My name? My name is Aki Souya.”
“Aki, is it? This I, is Mayo from the Beni family. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Y-yes…… But, Beni family?”
“Don’t you know?”
“I-I’m sorry. I didn’t study enough.”
“Well, that’s fine. You do know about the Satomi family taking charge of Chiba Province from the Yamana family, right?”
“I’m one of the people connected to it. My ancestor was the Genji clan (Minamoto clan).”
“I-is that so? I understand.”
Aki thought back to the history class.
If I remember correctly, the Kansai region was mostly ruled by the Mononobe clan together with the Fujiwara clan. And the Tokai region was ruled by the Taira clan. As for the Kanto region, it should have been dominated by the Genji clan at the time…… but Chiba province? Did she mean Chiba Prefecture?
The nobility had a tendency to stick to authority and lineage, and this was the same even if the “Clan” was changed to “Family”.
Aki still remembered the time when a Japanese history teacher told her about a commoner who made a careless remark and was forced to commit seppuku.
“…Aki… or whoever you are, are you a student?”
“Yes, that’s right. I’m a third-year high school student. Next year, I’ll be taking a university exam.”
“I see. Come to think of it, commoners go to school.”
“Are the people from the nobility… can’t attend… Am I wrong?”
“Although we’re registered as one, we usually invite the teacher.”
“I see….. Maybe that’s the case, when in university too?”
“Of course. Though some people go there, in general, we’re very busy.”
“Not studying… but busy?”
“We must learn customs, be educated, inherit traditional culture, be familiar with the classics, and participate in ceremonies. Yesterday, there was an event where you showed your skills in “tanka poetry”. And today is showing a traditional dance. Tomorrow, I must pray for a bountiful harvest for the sake of the commoners.”
“Uhh… that must be hard.”
Mayo then told that it was a national affair that had been continued for over a thousand years.
Although it wasn’t exactly a “National Affair” since it seemed to be limited to Chiba Prefecture, she expressed it that way because, in the past when a clan ruled over a province, it was like its own country.
Such ceremonies could increase over time, but were unlikely to decrease, she said.
Furthermore, each person had to write a diary to leave behind for future generations, which was more like a business diary than the general public common knowledge of writing “what happened that day”.
Diaries of ancestors were kept for hundreds of years, not just decades.
It seemed that the mission of the nobility was to refer to the past and leave the present to future generations.
Aki, hearing this, thought she could never be in Mayo’s position.
“Is university fun?”
“I don’t know. I’ve heard it’s fun, but I’m not there yet, so I don’t really know.”
“I see. Umm, that man. Seems like your brother, is that correct?”
“Yes. He’s my pride and joy…..”
“What? What was the sound just now?”
“It’s a kite messenger ringtone”
“I’ve heard of it. Right, my attendant is using it. Show me what it is.”
A stamp of a dancing cat was on the smartphone screen along with the text 「What are you doing now?」
“So, you’re having a conversation with this? Seems interesting… oh, right. I’ll use one too.”
“How do you use it? I can use it too, right?”
Mayo lifted the smartphone she took out from around her chest.
“Eh, umm… do you want me to help you?… Could I, borrow it then?”
As expected, the Kite Messenger app wasn’t installed, but anyone could download and install it from the app store to use it immediately.
“Since you will be registered with the email address on this smartphone, all you have to do is set up a password and two-factor authentication… Yes, I will help you with that.”
Mayo became displeased during the explanation, so Aki decided to do all the settings.
After thinking about the password for a while, Aki typed in the full name she heard earlier, thinking Mayo could change it later.
“Is it ready?”
“Yes. It’s ready.”
Aki returned the smartphone.
“Then, I shall try it.”
Mayo appealed to Aki, pressuring her to give her ID. Then, Aki reluctantly sent her ID.
“I just have to press this “authenticate” right…… oh, it’s done, it’s done.”
“Now that we have a room just for the two of us, we can have a conversation in this room without being seen by anyone else.”
“Uh-huh… let’s try it.”
Aki sent, 「Can you see it?」
“I can see it. Ah, the reply… Like this, right?”
After a while, Aki’s smartphone also displayed 「”I can see it”」
“With this, everything is done.”
“With this, I can have a conversation with him anytime.”
“As it happens, I’ve made a friend. Right, this outing is a fortunate one. What a good start.”
“Eh, umm… Yes. It’s an honor.”
The taxi arrived at its destination, despite the bewildered Aki.
“Thank you for your help. This is a gift. Also, Aki, or whoever you are, you’ve been granted permission to sit next to someone great. You should accept this honor with all your heart.”
“Ah, thank you.”
Aki was handed several 10,000 yen bills, and as she bowed her head, Mayo stepped out of the taxi. [TN: 10,000 yen = equivalent to about $100]
“… What did she mean by, permission to sit next to someone great?”
The door of the taxi closed with a bang as a question mark appeared in Aki’s mind.
Author’s Note :
Mayo is the young lady of the Beni family, which is a branch of the Satomi family. Among the Kazoku, she is on a low rank. Basically, a rookie. Her family’s influence extends to only one town. But since her family is basically the landlord of this one whole town. 100 million yen per month is possible.
The ceremony celebrating the birth of the conqueror was estimated to be on the scale of an entire city. Merchants from the surrounding cities gathered for the aristocrats and wealthy people who attended the ceremony. The merchants who had their stores in the city also livened up the streets every day, praising the Conqueror. The merchant mentioned their name just because one of the conquerors once visited the shop, what a strong merchant spirit they had.
The Trimagitack party members had less and less time to meet, as they were busy with the guests who came incessantly. But perhaps that was why they used their little free time to meet.
“That vice-guild leader said that Walm was a contract holder so he could only participate from the spectator seats. When I heard that, I thought of throwing him out the window.”
“That makes me happy, but there are also internal regulations within the guild. It would be unhealthy for such an organization to be so flexible, and keep making exceptions again and again.”
If exceptions were always made, discontent would build up within the organization. Walm, who used to belong to an organized society in his previous life, knew this firsthand. Bending the rules, as long as they produced results, could lead to disaster.
“Walm, why are you so cold about these things?”
Even if Merrill was angry at what appeared to be unfair treatment, after seeing that Walm, who was the concerned party, didn’t really mind, her anger withered away.
“Still, are you sure? It’s a great honor, you know?”
Said Hari, as if to remind Walm.
“It doesn’t suit me. The Adventurer’s Guild also wants to highlight the people of Belgana. Besides, I’ve got nice food and a bed for a while. So, no complaints.”
“You’re stubborn in a strange way.”
Marianthe, who was resting her cheeks on her hand as if to say she was already used to it, let out these words.
“Well, it’s not like he can’t attend at all. More than that, Walm’s armor, which has turned into “iron scraps”, seems like, will be ready in time for the ceremony.”
“Can’t believe there was a guy who received such a request to finish it in such a short period of time.”
“It’s the armor of one of the Conquerors. I’m sure anyone would be fired up. But well, thanks to those dwarves for their kindness I guess.”
Speaking of dwarves, there were few among Walm’s acquaintances. It was one of the few groups that came in and out beyond the 30th floor. It was a group of 4 dwarves and a beastman, sent by the Aleinard Forest Alliance, who were able to be true to themselves regardless of location.
“Since the material is, you know it. Apparently, they can’t leave it to others. The dwarves looked so enthusiastic about participating in the iron striking. Not only fighting, but they’re also good at blacksmithing work. Hard to believe that those insensitive dwarves are actually so dexterous.”
Said Merrill, while recalling a personal dissatisfaction. Behind the dynamism with which they split the monster’s head with a battle axe was the sensitivity and dedication inherent to craftsmen.
Nevertheless, Walm wasn’t dissatisfied. The armor that had gone out of shape in the battle with the Undead Dragon would be revived with a small amount of mithril and the ashes of the Undead Dragon. In addition, Walm’s intention to adopt the design of his old armor was accepted. So it would be finished without changing the basic design, but there would certainly be some differences.
“And Hari, how about it?”
Merrill asked Hari about his progress.
“Well, it’s an old acquaintance. So, it’s quite difficult.”
The two talked about the method of taking the crimson grass. Hari had gathered information from people he knew when he was in the church, but he was afraid that a strange rumor would spread, so he couldn’t proceed at will, and so progress wasn’t that great. After all, it was a treasure that was said to be able to cure all kinds of diseases. For those who didn’t have much time to live, it was an item they wanted so much that they would die for it.
“At first, I was going to look for it by myself. I’m saved.”
The only person who came to Walm’s mind was the healing mage on the border, Kopetsk City. However, even if the healing magician possessed a rare drug, it didn’t mean that the healing magician knew the solution. Moreover, Walm was told about the existence of the crimson grass, which was called the Hidden Treasures of Healing, so that he wouldn’t give up in despair, since the healing magician couldn’t give him a permanent cure.
“We aren’t strangers you know. We’re comrade-in-arms who’ve dived to the bottom. This much is nothing.”
Said Hari in a voice that sounded a little bland. But hearing that, Walm was at a loss for words. He couldn’t even bring himself to thank Hari sincerely after that, and ended up giving only a vague answer.
“It’s really troublesome. Only scandals continue.”
The Vice-Guild Leader of the Adventurer’s Guild Belgana Branch, Raffaele, struggled under pressure from the Marquis family because of the slump in iron production from the Labyrinth. In recent years, the export of meat resources from the low-rank floors had been doing well, but the production of iron materials from the mid-rank floors onward had been declining. This was because the guild wasn’t fostering enough mid-rank or higher adventurers for the job.
Groups of promising adventurers were blocked by the wall of “difficulty jump” in the mid-rank and high-rank floors, and often had to endure the grief of destruction. Of course, Raffaele hadn’t simply remained idle. He promoted the promising adventurers to the guild staff and asked their opinions. They were also tasked to give lectures on practical skills and theoretical lectures. In addition, even highly paid healing magicians were stationed nearby in an effort to improve survivability.
When a rumor about the Manhunt, which was frowned upon, was circulating, there was no evidence in the search, so the guild concluded that the adventurer’s skills were lacking in general.
That said, compared to several decades ago when the guild thought they had fulfilled their role by sending users into the black hole after having intensive appointments with the civil officials, the current management system had improved dramatically―― supposedly.
The unbelievable news was that there was a clear report of a manhunt appearing within the Labyrinth.
Who would have believed that the party, which had the oldest member of the guild and who also acted as an instructor, was actually a criminal? Although it was dismissed as a false alarm and Fausto managed to escape, two of his party members were dead and brought back to the guild. Moreover, the one who had reported it was the Trimagitack. Of course, Raffaele couldn’t just ignore it.
“Now and then, people have broken the taboo in the Labyrinth, but I’ve never thought that the oldest member has been hunting people.”
The exemplary rebellion of Fausto, who spared no effort in cooperating with the guild, was enough to shake the guild’s management system. Raffaele was also busy dealing with it, and he couldn’t even take a good rest.
“Even so, it’s convenient that his true identity has been exposed.”
Roggo, Raffaele’s assistant and guard, guessed the current situation. Originally an excellent scout in the Labyrinth, Roggo was favorable to the elimination of manhunts. Calling it pus discharge might sound good, but from the point of view of those who had taken the responsibility and had to do the hard work every day, it meant nothing but trouble.
“That bastard Fausto seems to have harvested parties that had reached a certain level. I mean, he hunts his own juniors, you know? As if he’s breeding livestock… Think about the manpower and cost for the aftermath! There’s even an accusation that we’ve been neglecting the manhunts for many years on purpose.”
It ended up with a silly conspiracy theory that the guild was using a manhunt to gather profits.
Still, Raffaele couldn’t help but hold strong anger at the adventurer’s excessive gossip.
“If only, that wanderer had died quietly, it wouldn’t have taken so much trouble. And Fausto is old. Being a Manhunt isn’t a good match for his age. Bet, he would soon wither and rot in the Labyrinth, or, we can just wait for his retirement…”
Raffaele pursued Roggo, who seemed to have something to say, as he was acting like a stranger.
“Hmph, stop pretending to be a good person. This Labyrinth city isn’t a clear stream. In the stream where the crowd has swelled up to the point where it’s difficult to manage, spies from other countries, criminals, and necromancers must be lurking around, and human desires and conspiracy are also swirling. This is such a city. A balance between pure and impurity should be maintained, or it won’t work.”
The Adventurer’s Guild had removed the impurity together with the Marquis’ guards. But there was no end to it. It was like clearing the fog with one’s hands.
“The same goes for the brothel district and the slums. The Marquis attempted to take full control, but even the investigations failed. That’s the result of dealing with an opponent you don’t know. Worsening the security of the city by the end. In the first place, is it possible to completely control such places from inside the wall? In the end, it would be easier to handle by selecting some of the ruffians and making them official workers. At worst, just treat them like a crowd who likes to cross the line.”
“Now, now, rather we should look forward to the next meeting.”
Roggo mentioned an upcoming event.
“It’s just an inspection. I wonder if their business is doing well… But really, what a profit… Hahaha, looks like you’re being humble with your face and mouth, but always honest with your needs.”
Raffaele, looking from Roggo’s face to his lower body, snorted.
“I thought that mercenary would cause more trouble, but conquering the Labyrinth with the Trimagitack? Even the world couldn’t understand why that happened. But, with this, even with that manhunt incident, the profit will still be great at last. Even the displeased Marquis-sama, would be pleased. Above all, besides the regular inspection, to think that those ruffians invited us to the brothel to celebrate the conquest of the Labyrinth. How touching.”
In order to benefit from the advantages that the conqueror brought, those who were quick, acted swiftly indeed. And it was Raphael’s way to give “sweets” to those who behaved obediently. Roggo, his protégé, was one of them.
“Well then, Vice-Guild Leader, have fun.”
In the course of their conversation, Raffaele arrived at his desired brothel. Thus, ending his complaints.
“Hah, you too. It’s going to be a good night.”
Raffaele parted ways with Roggo at the fork in the long passage.
Raffaele was led by a dull red-haired woman. Although she had a shadowy, unattractive face, she was by no means bad-looking. She clearly had a moderate amount of flesh in the right place, probably because she moved those parts on a daily basis.
“You look good.”
Raffaele’s vision was obstructed by the darkness and the wafting incense smell, but because of his profession, he had absolute confidence in his memory.
“It was specially prepared, only for Raffaele-sama, to enjoy this day to the fullest.”
The woman who had lured Raffaele into the room entwined her long limbs and whispered in his ear.
“Alraune’s incense, it brings a sense of happiness, and eases your mood. Please forget about your daily hard work, everything else, and, just relax.”
The woman was good at putting people at ease. There was nothing wrong with that, even if it was nothing more than blatant flattery.
The woman expressed that she would gladly put on a farce without a cooling-off period.
And so, Raffaele generously accepted the sweet invitation.
“Now, now, who should I entertain, I wonder?”
Along with the snuggling woman, Raffaele overlapped his shadows with hers on the bed. The sweet scent corroded and numbed Raffaele’s mind and body.
The next morning, I left home to do my daily training.
Today too, Grandma followed me in silent.
I passed through the residential area and continued on the promenade, but Grandma who silently followed me was the same as yesterday, eerie.
STEP!! STEP!! STEP!!
Only the sound of footsteps echoed in the early morning.
When I was doing calisthenics in the usual square, Grandma stared at me.
“Those shoes are rather worn.”
For some reason, Grandma was concerned with my shoes.
“These are the ones I bought quite some time ago.”
The athletic shoes I wore were the same ones I had used in middle school gym class.
I bought new training clothes, but I didn’t care much about the shoes.
They looked like they hadn’t been used much, so I thought they were still usable, but yeah, they were a little faded and looked bad.
“It can’t be helped. I’ll buy you a new one.”
“Giving my grandson a pair of new shoes, is nothing special.”
Favors, after all, should be received honestly.
“Then let’s go shopping today. Can you tell Aki?”
“I understand. But, Sis said she would go to the library in the morning.”
“I see. Well then, let’s go out in the afternoon. For her… right, she should have proper sports clothes.”
“Ah… that’s right.”
When buying shoes, you should choose them according to how they should be worn, right? I didn’t really care whom I was going with, but I felt like I had just done something bad to Sis. After all, Sis rarely went to the library, but she did. Probably because she knew that she would be forced to do special training at home.
“There is a big sports store ten minutes away by bus, should we go there?”
“Sure, I don’t mind. Is it in a shopping street with a supermarket?”
The place wasn’t big, but it was a pretty convenient place because almost anything was available there.
When I returned home after training and told Sis the details, she muttered “Eh!?” and her body trembled in instant.
I don’t think there’s an earthquake though?
……Well, I guess she can guess what would happen.
“Just think this as filial piety.”
For some reason, Sis seemed to want to go back to the library.
When I told Mom I would go shopping with Grandma, she asked me to buy a few other things. It was something we would need for tomorrow’s barbecue.
It seems that a Firestarter is a solid mixture of charcoal powder and fuel.
It seems that it catches fire easily, and if you put charcoal on it and leave it alone, it will be easier to start the fire.
But… Isn’t it best to start with flammable wood shavings, like twigs and branches, fire them up, and use them to fire the charcoal?
……Well, there’s nothing like that in the garden, so I guess, we’ve no choice.
After eating lunch, the three of us got ready to go shopping.
We were sent off by Mom and left home.
Sis’ complexion is… not good, but it’s probably better not to say anything about it.
“Come to think of it, grandmother, those are safety boots, right?”
“Oh, you know about it?”
“Yeah. Not just for the toes, but it supports the stepping, right?”
“Right, and it has shock absorption.”
“When I tried to hold it yesterday, it was really heavy.”
Did she jog with it? Crazy…
“Because of my work, I sometimes drop my luggage, and I don’t always walk on concrete. Plus, there’s also a toe puff inside. This has saved me many times you know.”
Normally, the luggage would be transported by a forklift, but Grandma’s destination wasn’t limited to places where such things could fit.
Mechanization was advancing in the special ward, but that couldn’t be said everywhere in Japan.
Parts were delivered directly to the construction site, and there must be places where the scaffolding was poor.
“So, it’s not just driving.”
“That’s right. Many places don’t have enough people after all. More than that, you knew about safety boots, huh? I thought you’d never seen one.”
“Well… I have a lot of interests.”
If I had stayed in my original body, maybe I would have worn it to work after graduating……
As we walked, I spotted a group of people arguing a little further ahead.
“Grandmother, look there.”
Looking closely, I could see several women surrounding one woman.
Even from afar, it was clear. The women surrounding were furious.
“What a disturbing atmosphere… ah.”
Normally, the passersby would pretend not to see it. Maybe because they didn’t have enough courage.
But, when I was watching, one of the people nearby rushed.
“I’m going to stop them.”
“I’m going too.”
The surrounding women were pushed.
Being caught off guard, they were slapped.
“You guys, what are you doing?!”
Grandma intervened, so I took the surrounded woman’s arm and pulled her away.
“Stay away, old hag!”
“Seeing one person bullied by many people. You think I will leave it alone, hah!!?”
They flinched for a moment at Grandma’s declaration, but maybe they were annoyed at the idea of losing to the old woman’s pressure, they took a step forward.
But Grandma was standing with her arms crossed, not moving.
The glaring contest continued.
As for the woman I was protecting… She looked ahead without batting an eyelash.
Do you really need our help…?
“…tch, let’s go.”
They glanced once in my direction before leaving the scene.
All that was left behind was the woman and us.
The woman didn’t look like a high school student. A little older than Sis… perhaps, in her early twenties.
“Are you okay?”
When I asked the woman if she was safe, she brushed her long hair down her back…
“Jeez, this is why commoners…… hmm? this is, quite rare for such a place”
The woman looked at me and muttered something like that.
“The more I look, the more I like your face. You, shall be allowed to serve this I.”
Serve…? What is this person talking about?
“That body, I can’t wait to tast… Ouch!?”
The woman had been hit on the head by Grandma.
“What are you saying in broad daylight…? Seriously.”
Slowly, I took three steps away from the cowering woman.
Why did the woman argue with them?
Without asking in detail, I could already guess the reason. Just by the way she spoke, normal people would surely get upset.
“What a bunch of unrefined people.”
“With that kind of attitude, normal people will get angry you know.”
I may have helped the wrong person.
“It’s just as my dear mother said. In here, there are many people who lack the spirit of service.”
“…..She’s a noble.” (low voice)
Grandma sighed and told me quietly.
Do nobles look down on people in such a natural way?
When I send a gaze, Grandma told me, “Some are like her.”, as if she knew what I wanted to ask.
“So, young lady, why are you here?”
Grandma stood in front of me, as if to hide me.
“Hmm… I wanted to take a taxi as soon as I came here, but it didn’t move.”
“Did you enter your destination?”
“Course of course.”
“What about the payment?”
“Payment shall be made when I reach the destination.”
Ah…… If I didn’t have this body knowledge, I would have done the same.
“The special ward only operates unmanned taxis, so you’ll need a credit card, a mobile phone linked to your bank account, or a transportation IC card, young lady.”
“I don’t have anything like that….. So, since I couldn’t take the taxi, I got on the bus, and now I am here.”
Grandma held her head.
Don’t you know the basic knowledge for living a life?
Or do you usually live on an uninhabited island?
“What about cash?”
“Of course, I have. My dear mother gave me some.”
“Then let’s do this. You can’t use cash for an unmanned taxi, but I’ll pay for you… But, give me the amount in cash. Of course, one of us will be riding with you in the taxi.”
“I see, what a wonderful idea.”
The woman clapped her hands.
“T-then, I’ll go with you!”
Sis, who had been silent until now, raised her voice. This desperation to run away from shopping was as clear as day.
“Hmm. Then, you there, come.”
The woman seemed to have no objections.
Grandma looked at Sis but said nothing.
For some reason, Sis was excited and called an unmanned taxi from her smartphone.
“This I, isn’t stingy, so don’t worry about money. I’ll pay you double the price, enough for you to go back.”
Even though the woman couldn’t take a taxi by himself, she seemed somehow bossy.
Soon, an unmanned taxi arrived.
“Then I’ll send this person. Grandmother, I’m sorry I couldn’t go shopping with you. Take-chan, take care of the rest.”
“Yeah, you don’t have to worry about me.”
“Then, I’ll go.”
The taxi left with the two of them inside.
I wonder if all nobles are like that…
For some reason, I felt so tired even though nothing in particular happened to me.
Satoko Souya walked through a quiet residential area and looked up at a certain apartment.
It was an apartment that seemed to have strict security, as wasn’t often seen in the countryside.
When Satoko typed in a room number into the auto-lock system at the entrance, the speaker responded,
「”Hey, I’ve been waiting for you.”」
Then, the glass door was unlocked, and Satoko walked to the entrance.
She took the elevator to the fifth floor and was welcomed with open arms by Rio Okae, the person whom she came to see.
“It’s been a while, Rio-chan.”
“Sato-chan, you’re just the same as always.”
After hugging each other, they clapped hands and rejoiced in their reunion.
The two grew up together in a rural town in Nagano.
Satoko remained in her hometown and became a truck driver.
Rio, on the other hand, worked as a lecturer there after graduating from a graduate course at a local university.
She then left her hometown to teach at the Souran University, which was located in the special ward.
“Let’s go inside first. Are you okay to stay late today?”
“Well, yeah. But, please no drink. Since I got this job, I haven’t drunk at all.”
“Can’t force you then. In that case, I’ll have coffee, too.”
Rio laughed and invited Satoko into the room.
“…… So, the local area is the same as always. Minimal infrastructure and, minimal number of people. Neither increase nor decrease.”
“Is the scenery still the same?”
“Yeah, I can say that at least, not much has changed.”
Rio looked up at the sky. She must have longed for the past.
Running through the mountains together… The two of them must be thinking of this same scenery now.
“I haven’t been there for over ten years. It’s not that far away, but feels like it’s getting farther and farther away.”
Satoko nodded slowly at Rio’s words.
“Well, you don’t need to come. The place hasn’t changed at all after all.”
“At least, I don’t think there will be anyone aiming for my life now.”
When Rio was young, her research focused on revitalizing the local economy.
In business transactions, the Kazoku’s wills were considered most important, and it was a problem that old customs and unique rules continued to interfere with people’s business.
The paper she published drew the ire of a certain noble, but the young Rio took the criticism head-on and stood up.
Then a fight broke out between the ignorant noble and Rio, a university lecturer. It was only natural that Rio would be the winner.
Unfortunately, the noble had a method of deciding the situation for himself.
Once the noble mobilized all the power in the family, it would be easy to swap white and black.
But that wasn’t the case. The noble had another way to put pressure on the university.
As a result, it became difficult for Rio to stay at the university, and around the same time, suspicious people began to appear frequently near the apartment where she was living at the time.
A small fire around the garbage dumb.
Tampered car’s brake.
A stone the size of a man’s fist was thrown through the window glass.
Feeling threatened for her life, Rio relied on a friend from her school days and came to the Special Ward Tokyo.
She then became an associate professor at a women’s university in the special ward, and after a while, she rose to become a professor.
At that time, Satoko, who was traveling all over Japan for work, learned about Rio’s situation late. Satoko only found out after Rio decided to go to the Special Ward Tokyo.
“If it had not been for that, would you still be in there?”
“That’s right. But it’s not so bad here either. Come to think of it, the students are happy when I talk bad about men in class. I wonder if that’s what they call the “sour grapes”.”
“Oi, oi… is it okay for you to say that in a special ward?”
Satoko opened her eyes big as if she had heard something unexpected.
“I say it in moderation, so don’t worry about it. Sometimes it’s quite convenient if you can keep some distance. Even if it causes some students to frown.”
“Fine then, just don’t go over the line.”
“I know. But, you know, I’m still continuing “that research”. So, it’s a perfect disguise, isn’t it?”
When Satoko heard those words, she was really surprised this time.
“Even if you’re in the special ward, if you stand out too much, you’ll get caught by those people.”
“Maybe? But well, relax, I won’t announce it.”
Said Rio with a wink.
“Well, that’s fine I guess, but…”
“In the end, the more I researched, the more I realized that it’s impossible to change the status quo.”
Rio changed her expression and looked down.
“Is the power of the Kazoku still that strong?”
“That’s part of it, but people don’t have enough energy to revitalize rural areas. Even if someone walks at the front, they won’t follow. Even if someone pushes their backs, they’re still slow. Living in rural areas, I’ve learned that unless someone with a certain charisma, enough to make women rush to the front, come to lead, it’s just an empty theory.”
“Someone with a charisma that makes women rush forward, huh…? In the rural areas, only those from the Kazoku can do that.”
“Right. Even if the Kazoku’s power is scraped away, normalizing the economy after that just… in the first place, those who are under their rule and believed in them aren’t aware of the fragile system. And that, made me realize again how unreasonable my hope was.”
“Having such a dream is okay. But, you don’t have to worry about it alone, you know?”
“Well… I wonder if there’s someone out there who has the charisma to pull the women…. no, to get them rush to the front willingly.”
Rio looked out the window.
A beautiful sunset was visible.
“Ara, mother, welcome home.”
When Satoko arrived home, she was greeted by Satomi. It was already after 10:00 pm.
“I thought you were going to stay over?”
“We’ve talked enough. What about the kids?”
“Aki-chan has been studying until a while ago. And Take-chan, he must have gone to bed already, I guess?…… That reminds me, I’ve got Minayo’s schedule. I’m planning to have a BBQ the day after tomorrow, is that okay?”
“I see. I’ll look forward to it then.”
“Also, Take-chan seems to be interested in where you live.”
“Hmm… Wait, Taketo has never been there?”
“Take-chan is a boy, so I don’t think it’ll be as easy as Aki-chan……”
“I guess it can’t be helped. But, he’s interested in the countryside huh?”
“……? What’s the matter?”
“Compared to when I first came here five years ago, he’s changed a lot.”
“For a while he distrusted women, but the people in the group he was in his third year of middle school were really nice. Maybe that’s why.”
“Is that so? It seems like he’s been working out his body lately, maybe his way of thinking has changed too?”
“Come to think of it, he started running early in the morning after he entered high school. Maybe he found a goal he wants to pursue?”
“On the other hand, Aki has become a weakling. She needs more “lessons”.”
“Well, she’ll have an exam soon.”
“All the more. If that’s all she does, her personality will change. And not for the better. It would be nice if she could experience a little more various things.”
“Come to think of it, I remember when mother told me that, it caused me to start a part-time job.”
“Was it useful?”
“In a way, yes. After all, I did it while studying for the exam. I was so busy back then.”
“Wasn’t it good? Tell Aki not to focus just on one thing, but to broaden her horizons.”
“Yes, I understand.”
“But… what kind of future will Taketo choose…”
“Well, I think a job as a civil servant is safe.”
“I wonder if that’s case. I don’t think such a small place can hold him down…”
At Satoko’s prophetic words, Satomi closed her eyes for a while and thought of Taketo.
Remembering how Takeko was today, Satomi felt that Satoko’s words were not wrong.
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. Thank you to the daily healing magic 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.
Breathed out the purple smoke inhaled. 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.”
When I got home, Sis was like a corpse on the sofa in the living room.
From the fact that she was wearing a jersey and her hair was wet with sweat, I could roughly imagine what had happened.
“……Ah, Take-kun. Welcome back.”
“I’m home, Sis. Did grandmother train you?”
“Yeah. “If you’re going to survive the exam, get the minimum physical strength”, was what she said…”
When Grandma came here five years ago, she didn’t pay much attention to Sis.
Since Mom also has an educational policy, perhaps she tried to respect that.
On the contrary, she showed no mercy towards me.
Perhaps she thought that she had to do what she had to do even if her grandson ended up hating her.
In the end, a lot was beaten up to this body in a short period of time.
“At that time, I was spoiled all the time, I guess she thought that she couldn’t keep it like this after seeing you.”
“Hmm? Take-kun, did you say something?”
Rather than complaining about my educational policy to Mom, Grandma directly trained me. And this time too. Well, it was so like her.
“No, it’s nothing. Sis, you should rest there.”
“You’re right. I feel like I’ve already done a year’s worth of exercise. I want to become one with the sofa, just like this…”
No matter how hard a person tried, no one could become one with a sofa, but looking from the side, Sis was like melted butter on top of the bread.
Five years ago, I was traumatized by Grandma.
This time, Sis was the target.
I placed my hands together before heading to my room.
At night, Mom was on the phone in the living room. The person she called was Minayo-san.
“Is that so…… I see. It must be hard.”
From what I heard, it seemed that Minayo-san’s place of work had changed.
She used to work in the Public Relations Bureau, but recently started working in the Central Office.
Speaking of the Central Office, it was like the ideal job in the Special Ward.
Even though her affiliation hadn’t changed, she could work there, in a way, it could be said that she had made it.
Instead, the workplace was far from home.
So, Minayo-san started leaving home earlier than usual.
In addition, it seemed that the people working on the same floor stayed until late at night. It was hard for her to be the only one going home early.
In other words, the time for work had increased more than before.
“Fine. See you the day after tomorrow. I’ll prepare the stuff.”
After finishing the call, Mom wrote down a new schedule on her smartphone.
“Mom, just now, was it Minayo-san?”
“Ara, Take-chan. That’s right, it looks like she’ll be able to go home early the day after tomorrow. That’s why I decided to have a BBQ in the garden.”
Said Mom happily.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a BBQ in the garden, she must be that happy.
“I see, that aside… Minayo-san, she’s working even in GW holidays?”
“It seems like she’s that busy with her new job. It must be hard.”
I thought she would be able to rest according to the calendar since she’s working at a government office, but it seems that this world is different.
Well, there are a lot of people who work at GW, so it’s not particularly strange, but still, I’ve never thought it was the same for government officials.
“What about you Mom?”
“Well. I can take it easy for the next couple of days… Ah, that’s right, I have to talk to Moe-chan and Saki-chan about the BBQ.”
Saying so, Mom left the living room.
I had dinner with Mom and Sis.
Apparently, after Grandma trained Sis, she went to meet an acquaintance.
“Hmm, Mom. So, grandmother has an acquaintance in the special ward?”
“It seems that her childhood friend is here.”
She’s soon to be 60 years old. If it’s her childhood friend, probably the same age?
“I wonder if that person will return outside after retirement.”
Hearing Sis and Mom talking, I thought,
…I see, the taxes are high to continue living here, and the qualifications are tough.
After having success in the special ward, it may be possible to live a leisurely life in the countryside, right?
Suddenly, I remembered the story of the Goddess.
You shouldn’t go to outside, because it’s not good to get involved with the Kazoku huh…
“That’s right, Mom. What kind of place is Grandmother living in?”
“Ara, are you interested?”
“Sis has been there before, right? But I’ve never left the special ward, so yeah, I’d like to know.”
Then Mom looked a little confused.
“Well… even if I say it’s typical countryside, Take-chan can’t imagine it, hmm…”
“I’ve seen on TV about the outside of the special ward, but that’s it.”
“In my opinion, it’s a little more desolate than that. It’s a small town, and there’s a main street, but it’s a few hundred meters away. Around there, there’s a concentration area of shops selling various things.”
“What about the supermarket?”
“There’s a small one over there. All the shops are densely packed in one area after all, and the rest, scattering around, are houses. When I lived there, houses were hundreds of meters away from the main street on both sides. And at night, it was always pitch black.”
Mom also said that buses run around town, and public transportation was kind of normal. But, to reach the neighboring town, one must cross a mountain.
“If that’s the case, it must be a pretty rural area.”
“I don’t know. I heard that the population is about 7,000, so I think it’s a town that could be found anywhere?”
Well, as long as there are companies and factories, you can live until the end of your life there…
“Are there no people from the Kazoku there?”
“You mean, Toki-sama? No way such a person could live in such a small town. But there are towns where people from the nobility live.”
Even among the peerage, there was a rank, and the Toki family, which had influence over the two prefectures, seemed to be in the upper ranks among the peerage.
There were also branch families of the Toki family and descendants of the warlords who once ruled the castle. Those people were scattered across the prefectures.
“Isn’t it scary to live with people from the nobility?”
“Why? It’s an honor you know.”
Apparently, Mom really thought so.
The Goddess said that the noble is acting like a king outside.
But, it seems that they’re able to maintain their power even now because they are loved and respected by the residents, not by fear or power…?
For some reason, I had a strange feeling hearing the fact that Mom thought it would be an honor.
In Belgana, there was a facility called the Guild House, which was managed directly by the Adventurer’s Guild. The Guild House, which was clearly separated from the general reception area, contained everything needed for long-term activities in the Labyrinth. Of course, there were costs associated with activities such as registration and usage fees, but the benefits were far-reaching. It was fully equipped with a variety of assistance from numerous staff members, materials processing area, excellent healing magicians available at all times, and more, from a nap room to a food shop.
Regular general lectures provided knowledge about the monsters that appeared on each floor, and for those who wanted to gain experience for actual battles, it was possible to dive into the Labyrinth by signing a contract with a high-rank adventurer who had been certified by the guild.
More than few wanted to save money, thus they went to the mid-rank floors of the Labyrinth and beyond via the general entrance. The results of that were clearly visible in the statistics published by the Adventurer’s Guild. There was a large gap between the casualty rates of the general entrance users and the Guild House users.
Peyrouse, who began coming in and out of the mid-rank floors, finally had a surplus of funds at his disposal and began to actively use the Guild House. Although he had been made leader of the party despite his reluctance, he accepted the role and thought of what was best for the party. And he realized that he lacked many things, so he began taking general lectures, first aid, crisis management, and also personal combat training from a Borgia soldier.
Peyrouse had heard from his mentor, the Borgia soldier, that adventurers were expected to be part of the defense force in times of need. After all, the Great Labyrinth of Belgana belonged to the family of Marquis Borgia, and the Adventurer’s Guild was only entrusted with its management and operation. In short, the adventurers were treated like a reserve force with no maintenance costs. Peyrouse didn’t remember becoming a soldier, but he wasn’t so ungrateful that he would only accept favors and not cooperate. Now that he had left the farming village, his home, Belgana was his second home. Of course, he hoped that everything would turn out well here.
Peyrouse’s party had a break from Labyrinth until yesterday. Naturally, everyone had enjoyed the rest they wanted. But as expected, after the break, the movement became heavy and stiff.
So today, Peyrouse received a morning lecture on priority actions in the Labyrinth. With the knowledge from the lecture, he wanted to get used to it slowly. Then in the afternoon he relieved his heavy eyelids in the nap room.
Outside, the sun had already set and the twin moons were about to make their presence felt. Fortunately, day and night didn’t matter for those who wanted to dive into the Labyrinth.
One by one, members gathered in front of the reception desk, which also served as a meeting room. Leake was the only one left, but he wouldn’t be on time. Besides having a habit of being late, he was busy with something.
Peyrouse, who had become accustomed to being kept waiting, changed the plan, for he was growing tired of waiting.
“Should we have a snack, or something to eat until the Leake arrives?”
“It’s two hours early. But well, you can’t even eat slowly when you’re in the Labyrinth, so let’s eat now.”
With Donna’s agreement, Peyrouse made his way to the store. He didn’t wait for a word from Matthio, because he was always hungry. Even if he was asked, the answer would be the same. As proof of this, Matthio immersed himself in the sea of thoughts and freed his mind from the real world. Nevertheless, perhaps lured by the smell of food, he stumbled after Peyrouse. Of course, it was the usual orc meat.
“…..Urgh, you can eat it even in the Labyrinth, why do I’ve to eat that here too?”
Donna reflexively rejected the word orc meat. Even Matthio blatantly frowned.
Peyrouse and his party member took the orc meats they had retrieved from the Labyrinth outside and used them in their daily diet. The taste was delicious. Still, eating the same food all the time would tire normal people out quickly. Sure, it could be toned down with different ways of preparing it, such as baking, boiling, frying, and other trial and error. Even so, it would be amazing if one didn’t get tired of orc meat after eating it three times a day.
As if ridiculing Peyrouse, a sweet smell drifted, entered his nose, and stimulated his brain.
“Kuh, sweets huh…?”
Belgana had a stable supply of orc meat from the Labyrinth, and along with salted fish, it was a cheap food representative. Confectionery made from wheat was more expensive than these foods. No wonder adventurers who usually eat only fatty and salty foods were hungry for sweets. But the prices displayed on the board weren’t coin bag friendly. In the first place, orc meat was cheap or even free. For those who wanted to save money, orc meat was a winner.
The fragrant smell of sugar invited the party. Matthio succumbed to the lure of sugar and approached with somnambulant steps. Peyrouse cursed that this was a sinful place to lure adventurers with an outrageous smell. But even he couldn’t resist the temptation. And Donna followed from behind.
Contrary to the lonely wallet, Peyrouse’s stomach was satisfied. Forced to make unnecessary expenses, the hatred was growing even bigger for Leake that had not yet been seen.
Fortunately, Leake soon appeared.
“It’s too late. Did he take a detour again huh?”
In contrast to the sweet smell clinging to the clothes, Peyrouse spread bitterness, but he then noticed that Leake was acting differently than usual.
While waving his arms, the approaching Leake opened his mouth and said,
“Sorry that I’m late, but that’s not the point. It seems that a conqueror has emerged from the labyrinth. The Conqueror suddenly came out of the restricted section of the Guild House, causing a big fuss!!”
“Huh!? Someone has conquered the Labyrinth?”
Peyrouse had reached the mid-rank floors, but even at the beginning of the mid-rank floors, which had been thinned out by those working in the same industry, he still selected his prey carefully, even now. When the depth increased, the number of people would decrease. Troublesome and strong monsters would rush in at regular intervals, and there was no time to properly rest. Even if Peyrouse and his comrades wanted to rest after doing their best, as soon as they saw a monster, they must be ready to fight again.
“So, who concurred the Labyrinth?”
Donna spoke quickly, as if hoping Leake would be quick to tell her. As an adventurer, it was only natural. Even Peyrouse who didn’t say it out loud, was deep down curious.
“It seems to be the Trimagitack. There’s a crowd over there. Let’s go see!”
Peyrouse followed Leake. They weaved through the crowds and were scolded by the other adventurers for pushing, but they kept pushing on, taking advantage of the small gaps. After passing through countless crowds, Peyrouse caught up with the figures. The Trimagitack members, accompanied by a guild staff, was on their way to the treatment center from the Guild House. Their worn equipment indicated that they had survived countless life and death battles. It was clear they were all injured by the fierce attacks that their armor couldn’t withstand. There was no glamor. Only one word: “exhausted” that accompanied them.
“Uh, what a terrible injury. As expected, coming out unharmed isn’t an option.”
“They’re exhausted, but… an adventurer who’s full of injuries, looks strangely cool.”
Replied Peyrouse to Donna’s words, but his eyes were still stolen by a man. To be exact, the mercenary who recently joined the Trimagitack. The armor worn by the man looked like as if it had been mercilessly crushed by something huge. His broken limbs were fixed with splints, and he was supported by the leader of the Trimagitack, Merrill.
The gaze of Peyrouse staring intently at the mercenary was noticed by the dark and muddy eyes. Such a cold look was directed to him. Still, he didn’t look away from the man. When he first met the man, he was just terrified and horribly confused, but now his curiosity outweighed his fear. To be more precise, there was also a sprinkle of envy.
“Even though it’s dark, it’s, dazzling.”
When Peryrouse saw the mercenary’s back, that figure became an unforgettable memory and imprinted itself on his mind. A movement that was difficult to detect, a flash could easily knock out even the Bone Collector. Peyrouse tracked the owner of this dazzling figure with his eyes. A ferocious man who could reach the 30th floor alone, even if there were ten Peyrouse now, such a feat couldn’t be imitated. A single blow from him and a pile of corpses would be left behind. Still, Peyrouse was determined. To get closer to where such a power lay.
Although Peyrouse threw nothing at the mercenary named Walm, he continued to send silent praise to those who conquered the Labyrinth with all his might.
Soon after going back to my room, I headed for the Goddess’ place.
A promise to the Goddess. As a result of worrying about what to do with offerings, I decided to bring the souvenir that Grandma brought, the Onsen Manju. The “hot spring mark” was branded on it, but I didn’t know where it was purchased. Perhaps she brought it on the way. [TN: Onsen Manju is a steamed bun stuffed with red bean paste]
“Huh? What is that?! Did you mean to press the doorbell? There is no doorbell in a big shrine of mine, you know?”
“Sure it’s a shrine, but I don’t think it’s that big…”
No matter where you look in Japan, there would be no place with a custom of summoning Gods with doorbells.
I put the steamed buns in front of the angry Goddess and a bottle of tea I had bought before coming here.
“Oh, today is Manju? And the drink is the perfect strong green tea? Aren’t you good at this?”
As I put my hands together to pray at the shrine, the Goddess’s mood immediately improved.
Never did I think world that the Goddess would be happy with the strong green tea.
The Goddess opened the individually-wrapped Manju and quickly bit into it.
Occasionally, She drank tea and said something like a middle-aged beer lover after having a cup of beer, saying, “I can’t get enough of this astringent.”
I brought two Onsen-Manjus. And now the Goddess was unwrapping the second one already.
“Hey, Goddess. I know that You’re still eating, but could you listen to my story?”
“What is it?… CHEW CHEW, please say anything… CHEW CHEW“
With a steamed bun in her right hand and a plastic bottle in her left hand, the Goddess said so.
“When You want to say something, please speak when there’s nothing in Your mouth.”
“……Well, anyway, I want to ask, the nobility, I mean the Kazoku is acting like a king outside the special ward. That’s too different from the world I was in.”
In the original world, the nobility system no longer existed.
Except for the imperial family, all Japanese people were commoners.
“I see, so it’s about that. To explain that, I have to ex〜plain the history, or rather, the history that happened in this world so far.”
“Please make it simple.”
“Then….. that’s right. During the Warring States period, there were Kuge (court noble) and Daimyo (feudal lord), you know that too, right? In this world, the Yamashina Family (one of the court nobles) ruled over a war-torn world and unified Japan, but at that time, the rank held by the Kuges and Daimyos… I mean the court rank, and that’s continued until now.”
“In other words, there are people in the Kazoku who used to be Kuge or Daimyo.”
“Yes. Many families who came from a Kuge lineage still live around Kyoto. There is no doubt that the noble families in each prefecture think their ancestors were Daimyos. Yamashina Family moved the capital to Edo and the one who started the Edo Shogunate.”
“That part hasn’t changed that much.”
“Yes. In the Edo period, the “Province” was changed into “Domain”. Same as you know. And during this long period of peace, the Kuges devoted themselves to gaining influence and Daimyos devoted themselves to gaining power. Then, in the Meiji Era, when Western culture entered Japan, at that time, the names of Kuges and Daimyos were unified into Kazoku.”
“So, they tried to imitate the western aristocracy, I guess?”
“That’s right. At that time, “Domain” changed its name to “Prefecture”. Actually, in the era of “Domain”, each domain was treated like an independent country.”
“Ah, I heard that. Some were at war with another foreign country, right?”
If I remember correctly, the Satsuma Domain went to war with England.
The Choushuu Domain was even crazier, they started a war with England and France, and another two more.
“In this world, things weren’t that bad. Since there wasn’t that much big event, such as overthrowing the shogunate. The shogunate normally returned power to the imperial court through modernization.”
“Hmmm, it’s quite different from the history I know.”
I guess, because… lack of men?
“That’s the history, but about your question of why the Kazoku can act like a king outside. Well, in the first place, it’s quite a big deal that the old custom has remained in there. The Kazoku has a large land, and there are many who have subordinates that still continue since that time. Well, The Kazoku has an obligation to feed them.”
“Feeding subordinates… is that an old custom?”
“Yes. In the modern world, they’re helped to work on various things with great people who have the authority to authorize them. But, they are pawns of the Kazoku, so if someone tries to reduce their power badly, there is no doubt that a painful counterattack will follow.”
Moving around your relatives to work around.
Also, if you try to take away acquired right, a backlash is inevitable huh…
“But, isn’t wealth eroding over generations?”
“The Kazoku is protected by law, and there are many ways to get around it, such as establishing a new branch family.”
I know that there’s a law that prevents them from having too much power, but it seems, they can avoid that by distributing their power huh…
Even though ordinary people scream in front of taxes, they’re up there accumulating more wealth…
“But the Zaibatsu (Conglomerates) are similar. It is because they are protected by law that they are still powerful. Well, if that’s not the case, they would have been eaten by foreign countries by now.”
If countries focused on reducing their domestic power, they would lose their competitiveness against foreign competitors.
The Goddess said that foreigners put their own interests and their own country’s interests first, so Japan, which wasn’t accustomed to international affairs, would be like a sucker.
“In other words, it’s precisely because the Kazoku and Zaibatsu continued to hold power that Japan exists today.”
“I can’t completely deny that.”
“I see… I’d like to go outside and look around.”
If I just stay in the special ward, there are many things that I won’t understand.
“Hmm… About that. I think it’s better to stop.”
“There are troublesome people among the Kazoku, so it’s best not to get involved with them.”
Well, they can act like a king there. So, in short, they’re born and raised as a king. I guess, they may not be that social…
“…But there are many things you don’t know unless you go and see yourself, right?”
“…In that case, I would recommend going to nearby prefectures first. Especially around Tokyo, there shouldn’t be any problems there.”
“I see…… I’ve quite a few high school classmates who come from outside the special ward. And I plan to ask them to give me a tour outside.”
“Hmm, you can go outside for the volunteer that’ll come soon. It should be safer that way.”
“I see, the volunteer huh… That’s a good idea.”
My birthday is May 20th. So, it’s soon.
Right, it might be good to think about volunteering outside the special ward.
“If I’m not mistaken, there is a Volunteer Bureau outside, right?”
“Yes. If a problem arises during the service, the person there will take responsibility, so I think they will be prepared to take all possible measures.”
TN: Well, been a while since I update this. So, for those who know, I’ve been busy these past two months. Planned to continue this around the middle of February, but RL didn’t allow me. For now, I plan to release this every 1-2 days for a while. (I’ve been stocking up some chs just need some edits)
And one more thing. This series has been confirmed to get an LN adaptation (4/26). Here is the cover
From left to right : Yuuko, Makoto, Rie
Although, most likely only 1 volume. So if you like this and want to support, in hope that the publisher will make more than 1 volume, and even into manga, please buy the LN (Only in Japanese) when it’s available.
Anyway, here it is.
53. Story of outside the special ward
When I came back after taking a shower, Mom was making breakfast. And Sis, was nowhere to be seen.
As for Grandma, she was quietly reading the newspaper in the living room.
“Take-chan, good morning. You must be hungry after finishing a long morning run, right? Wait for a while, soon it’ll be ready.”
“Okay. Mom, good morning.”
I looked in the kitchen, but Sis, was nowhere to be seen.
In the end, I sat in front of Grandma in the living room.
“Grandmother, I’ve something to ask.”
“…what is it?”
With legs crossed on the sofa and weight resting on the armrest, Grandma looked at me curiously.
“Tell me about things outside the special ward.”
That was the first thing that came to my mind when I found out Grandma was coming home.
Perhaps, “Taketo Souya” wasn’t interested in that, I couldn’t find much knowledge about it in the memories.
So, I thought that if it was Grandma, who must have gone to various places for work, would know a lot.
“Hmmm… you could’ve just watched the TV. Not enough?”
“What I want to hear are not things that have been filtered. I want to hear more from the actual person who lives there.”
“……I see. I guess, everyone is interested in the outside at least once.”
With a satisfied expression on her face, Grandma began to think.
For a while, she had a pondering look.
As I waited patiently for Grandma’s words, Mom said that breakfast was ready.
“Let’s talk after eating.”
When I sat down at the kitchen table, Mom asked, “What were you talking about?”
“Just about how you’ve raised him well.”
Mom looked happy.
After finishing breakfast in silence and waiting for Grandma, she told me to wait in the living room.
When I went to the living room as I was told, there were two newspapers on the table.
When I looked closely, one of them wasn’t the one our family subscribed to.
As I was tilting my head, Grandma appeared with a cup of tea.
“So, what do you want to know about the outside?”
“Various things… I guess?”
“Hmm…… Even though it’s outside the special ward, it varies. For example, from the highway, you can see splendid houses. But, if you walk to the inner of the place, you would find buildings as old as the old days.”
“Why is it only the nice house that can be seen from the highway?”
“It’s the same with the special ward, it’s all thanks to the land acquisition. It’s not just the site of houses. If the forests, fields, and rice fields get in the way, the country will buy them at a high price. Thanks to that, many can live a good life.”
“I see…… so if you want to know about an area well, you have to go deeper.”
“That’s right. Every well-organized place is neat and clean, but there are many places that aren’t. The road that isn’t paved, it’s fine if it’s covered with gravel, but if it’s bare soil, and raining here and there, cars will get stuck.”
In the original world, there were no unpaved roads….. at least as far as I know.
“Will the tires slip in the rain?”
“Right. Also, do you know this? The bare soil road, the area that isn’t passed by tires, will have grass growing.”
It’s a sight I’ve never seen before. But… Why not pave it in the first place?
“Is it the country that maintains the roads? Or the prefecture? Does the country not have enough money?”
“National highways are under the jurisdiction of the country, but the rest are prefectures, cities, and villages. And most places, lack of budget.”
“Lack of budget…”
Probably because the population is simply too small.
There’s also money to spend on maintaining the special ward. Special wards are made up of money poured in from all over Japan after all.
“Well, in the end, the budget of each prefecture, hangs on the decision of the Lord.”
A word that didn’t fit modern times was mentioned.
“Oh, you don’t know?”
“Hmm… we’re talking about each prefecture, right?… But, isn’t the top one called the prefectural governor?”
From the memory, “Taketo” desperately tried to memorize the prefectural capital. So, it can’t be wrong…
“The Lord of the “Kazoku”. After all, the people who rule this country are the nobility.”
I dig up the memory, but nothing like that came up.
I knew about the Kazoku. In short, something like the aristocrat in western countries.
In this world, modern history turned different because World War II never happened.
That was why the nobility system had not been completely lost.
“So, they’re led by a Lord of those in the “Kazoku”?”
“Well, that’s what they’ve decided. But, there are various families in the Kazoku. For example, Nagano Prefecture and Ishikawa Prefecture have been led by the Toki clan, you’ve learned about that in history class, right?”
“Right now, it’s called the Toki family, and they still rule over those two prefectures. It’s true that each has a governor, but if they ignore the intentions of the nobility, “this” will be their end.”
Saying so, Grandma imitated beheading.
In Nagano, the Toki family seemed to have power.
Asking more, like Western aristocrats, it seemed that there were high and low ranks among Japanese nobility too.
There were nobles who had power on a prefecture-by-prefecture basis, and there were others who only had power on a city-by-city basis.
What they had in common was that they live in the area and could only exercise power there.
But, within their area, they could act like a king of that said area.
“Because the nobility owns the land. They can always fill their stomach with no problem. What an enviable story, right?”
There used to be a castle and a castle town. Now it was just a town with a mansion of the nobility.
However, since the land in the town was still owned by the nobility, it was said that a huge amount of money came in every month just from the rent of houses, shops, buildings, factories, parking lots, etc.
“That’s why, Lord…… but, isn’t it the same as before?”
There was a time when Japan was divided into provinces like Suruga, Sagami, and Musashi. And in this world, the influence of that time continued to this day.
“It is what it is. So, back to the story outside the special ward, such a city is developing. After all, it’s a home of a Lord.”
“I understand. The more developed the place, the more profit they get, right?”
“Right. On the other hand, there are small towns and villages that aren’t under the influence of the nobility. Such places are, miserable. Even if they’ve worked hard and built their own infrastructure, it’s the nobility who have the authority to approve it. With the tip of their little finger, they can easily raise or lower your water bill.”
After that, Grandma told me many stories about things outside the special ward.
What I found out after hearing her stories was that, only the special ward and its surroundings, were quite blessed.
In rural areas, the areas around the nobility had developed considerably, but the areas between towns and places where the nobility didn’t take a breath in, were miserable.
In addition, the local rules, or in short, the intentions of the noble family were strongly reflected in the region.
Well, in the end, there were many things that you can’t understand unless you actually go there, but…
“…The scenery outside the special ward that you see on TV is the home of a noble family. I’m sure there are many special ward residents who think that’s the norm outside.”
I’m glad that I asked.
When I went to the second floor to return to my room, Sis looked so exhausted in the middle of the corridor.
And for some reason, “Gugigigigi”, such a weird noise came from her.
So I stepped over Sis and returned to my room, without looking back.
While Taketo was taking a shower……
“Buy me a newspaper, in five minutes! No “late” in my dictionary, understand?!” (Satoko, the Grandmother)
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.