Clearly, she cut the cord in a familiar way, and as she said, the way she did it was like that of an experienced person.
However, things didn’t end so easily.
“… this is bad”
Egawa suddenly stopped her hand.
“Umm… you see, it’s only left the red and blue lines, but I don’t know which one to cut. Kuh, even though I knew all the other lines right away.”
While saying that, Egawa observed the wiring.
『”Red and blue… well, it’s like a movie, isn’t it?”』
Atsushi was of the same opinion, albeit reluctant to admit it. The last two lines, were red and blue. He never thought that a scene like this would be in real life.
If only it was in a movie… but he was in undeniable reality, so something had to be done.
『“Atsushi-san, don’t you think there’s a letter or something in the bag? Usually, in such a case, the culprit will think of ‘Let’s give a hint’, and a piece of paper with a hint written on can be found there……”』
“You’re not nervous at all huh? I mean, why do you think there’s such a thing….”
At that moment, a single card suddenly entered Atsushi’s field of vision. It stuck on the outside of the attache case, as if asking him to look at it.
“What’s it… an upside-down crow?”
“……hey, let me see.”
Kirishima looked at the card in the attaché case and widened her eyes in surprise.
Kirishima muttered in a low, really low voice as if understanding everything.
“Now, now, which cord should I cut…”
Kirishima gave straightforward instructions to the troubled Egawa.
“…cut the red cord. That will stop it.”
Rather than being full of confidence, Kirishima had an attitude that seemed to say that there was no other answer. Even though she knew that the time bomb would explode if she was wrong, she believed that her word was absolutely not wrong.
“……can I believe you?”
In response to Atsushi’s question, Kirishima still answered with dignified words.
Atsushi and Kirishima hadn’t been on friendly terms before. For Kirishima, Atsushi’s parents were enemies after all. And, he was troubled by her in the past.
But still, after considering them, Atsushi declared to Egawa,
“Egawa-san. Please cut the red code.”
“….. Are you sure?”
Atsushi strongly nodded at Egawa’s words.
Over the past two months, Atsushi thought he had a rough idea of what kind of person Kirishima was. And he couldn’t think she would lie under these circumstances. In the first place, there was no merit for her lying here.
As soon as the red cord was cut, the bomb’s timer stopped. At that moment, everyone was relieved and let out a big breath.
However, one question crosses everyone’s mind.
『”B-but, why? Why it’s the red cord……”』
Yuri’s questioned Kirishima by telepathy.
In response, Kirishima replied immediately.
“In that situation, the crow will cry “caw, caw”, right?
Walm pricked up his ears and kept an eye on the attacker, while he adjusted his violent breathing so as not to be distracted.
The footsteps of four people echoed, and there was no sign of restlessness in their steps.
Walm couldn’t properly assess whether or not the situation of the next attack not starting at the same time as the four people entered the room was due to them being an unrelated third party. Still, the possibility that they were a backup couldn’t be ruled out, and there was also a chance that they would only be observers. In any case, it would be best to expect the worst.
Fausto’s movements were simple, in contrast to Walm, whose thoughts were partly devoted to the new visitors.
“It’s you, Merrill of the “Trimagitack”. Be careful!!! That guy suddenly attacked.”
It sounded like an improvised play. After all, under the circumstances, the best option would be to make a false accusation
Walm had no social credibility. He knew that people thought he was a weirdo who arrived from a distant, foreign land and challenged labyrinths alone. So, he vomited the blood that had accumulated in his mouth and tried to apologize, but he was stopped by a member of the Trimagitack.
“Judging from the way Fausto spoke, you guys were suddenly attacked by that person…… Hmm, but that’s strange. Of the two victims, one had an arrow in the eye, and one had severe burns all over the body. Also, in a sudden five-on-one fight, all of you guys are fully armed. If that person is such a master of killing, it’s strange that not even one person was slaughtered by a surprise attack. I mean, I can’t see that halberd as just a mere decoration.”
Unexpectedly, it wasn’t Walm who got the suspicion, but Fausto and his party.
Walm, unable to grasp the situation, continued to listen.
“Are you out of your mind!? Merrill, you’d rather suspect us, who’ve long supported the guild, than him?”
“Umm, listen, I’ve no intention of taking either side. So let’s let the guild sort this out. If you’re right, I’ll cooperate to deal with him. Well, if you want to hear a little bit of my thoughts. Fausto, in the current situation where you couldn’t even properly raise adventurer to reach high-rank floors but still managed to stay alive for a long time, you’re rather suspicious, you know.”
As if to give the statement an unnecessary boost, Walm agreed in a slightly hoarse voice.
“If you can make sure those performers won’t attack me, I’ll obediently follow you.”
Merrill waited for Fausto’s words, but no reply came. On the contrary, Fausto’s menacing expression returned to its original lifeless expression. It was as if he no longer cared about making a facade.
“……Fausto, what to do now?”
“Aside from their appearances, their eyes are dead serious. Well, I’ve been acting suspiciously for a long time. Can’t fool them this time.”
“What about these two and their equipment?”
“I’m more than prepared. Throw them away.”
Fausto, who failed to make false accusations, openly exchanged a conspiracy after committing the crime.
While the strangely stiff atmosphere lingered, the movement of the archer, who overlapped with the shield-wielder, made the awkwardness waver for a moment.
Even if Walm entered into the conversation, there was no way he could take his eyes off the dangerous archer.
Therefore, Walm shrugged off the archer’s quick shot, which even felt like an acrobatic feat. With a silly rattling sound, the arrow slid across the ground and spun wildly before coming to a stop at the feet of the Trimagitack member.
“You sure, have bad manners.”
“Lilo, give up. It’s a failure.”
Paying no attention to Walm, who condemned the atrocities, Fausto admonished the archer not to use the arrows in vain.
Amid this strange tension, it was the Trimagitack who broke the silence.
“So, Fausto’s party is a party of “Manhunts”?”
“To be honest, because his career is too beautiful, it’s rather suspicious, so it’s not unexpected. That being said, look at him. He killed two people in a five-to-one fight. If we hadn’t come, I’m sure he’d have killed all five.”
It was said in a cheerful tone that didn’t fit the place where blood was spilled.
“Nah, you’re just thinking too much. I mean, no matter how, he looks like a dirty worn-out rag.”
The rod-wielding woman criticized Walm. Certainly not a big mistake. Walm was now in just slightly better health than an abandoned dog.
“So, do you wanna have a go with us, Fausto?”
“My business is only with him.”
“Nice joke. If only you said it without looking at us with such disgusting eyes. You’re targeting us too, aren’t you?”
From the side, it sounded like a lighthearted conversation, but the Trimagitack was actually trying to take advantage of the situation.
“Even if that’s the case, would you take the risk to attack us?”
“I don’t think we’ll lose so easily, but, what’s with those glaring eyes? Where did your usual gentle face go?”
“People are multifaceted. Judging only from one side is the bad thing about young people these days.”
“I’ve learned a lot. So, what’s the answer?”
“Well, I’m quite busy. Young people should deepen their friendships themselves. See you all.”
The probing for information ended, and Fausto’s party disappeared into the transport room, ending the strange triangle relationship. At last, there was only one side to which Walm could devote his attention.
“What should we do, Merrill?”
“I don’t think there’s an ambush waiting on the surface, since there are guards there, but let’s give a little time. That said, why’re you still looking so doubtful?”
With opened arms, Merrill said to Walm, who had kept a certain distance and was glaring at the Trimagitack members.
“You, really. We helped you, you know. Can’t you at least say “Thank you” first?”
Said the woman with a rod, furrowing her eyebrows in a bad mood.
“……Yeah, you’re right. You’ve saved me. But, after all, I’ve just had my throat literally slit, by someone who spoke to me in a friendly way. I can’t help but be doubtful.”
“Hmm… a backup when in a bad situation or failed, is that what we look like?”
“It’s not an impossible scenario.”
Said the warrior-monk, nodding obediently to the possibility that the party leader mentioned.
“Hari, which side are you on?!”
“Don’t be so angry, Marianthe.”
“I mean, even though he’s the oldest, he lacks any consideration. Instead of training in the labyrinth, you should train your head first.”
“Got it, I’ll do the best that I can.”
“Now, now… Look, we wouldn’t do such a tedious thing. And if we are Fausto’s companions, nine of us would’ve crushed you from the start.”
What a frank remark, but indeed quite refreshing to hear. Still, it was the truth. Walm had trouble even with five people. With two parties able to reach the 30th floor, Walm would probably be crushed if he didn’t use 《Demon Fire》.
“So, what should we do with him?”
“Do you need help?”
“……I’m suppressing the bleeding with a magical barrier. If I can return to the treatment center on the surface, there won’t be a problem.”
“Yeah right. Your character is twisted. For real.”
“I’m glad that you can still talk so much. And guess, you’re still doing fine on your own. Anyway, we’ll carry the corpses. If there’s no one in the safe room, the corpses and belongings will be swallowed after all. So, it’s better to drag them along.”
“Come on, Yuna. Hold the leg.”
“I’m not good with heavy things. Why not let Hari carries both?”
The archer, who had been watching from the sidelines, refused to lighten the load.
“If Hari carries them all, both will be in even worse condition before we can hand them over to the guild staff. Come on, don’t be lazy.”
One corpse was carried by a warrior monk named Hari, the other by an archer named Yuna and a rod-wielder named Marianthe.
“You won’t help?”
“I’m the escort”
“You mean the observer, right?”
Although they were having a light talk, Walm had been under observation since Merrill entered the room. The colorful eyes caught Walm and never let him go. In doing so, of course, Merrill maintained a position and distance that was enough to fend off Walm’s surprise attack.
The same was true of the other Trimagitack members carrying the bodies Walm had just created. They were alert and watching over him, even if it wasn’t so obvious.
“Oh, you’re aware of it? As expected of someone who could handle Fausto’s party. It’d be nice if I could see your battle with them.”
With a smile like that of a child whose mischief had been discovered, Merrill continued.
“The exit and entrance are paired. It looks like you came from the one used for those focused on the low-rank floors, so I don’t think you’ll run into Fausto, but still, I suggest you jump a little later. I’ll make arrangements with the guild staff to send you a healing magician.”
“I’m sorry. And, thank you.”
“Hm? Seems that when you’ve calmed down, you can say thank you properly. Well then, see you on the surface.”
The Trimagitack members carrying the corpses were swallowed by the black whirlpool and disappeared. As Walm watched their return to the surface, he heaved a sigh and lowered his tension by a notch.
“Those performers, sure did a terrible job.”
Even if two of them were killed, the price Walm paid for reaping skilled adventurers was by no means cheap.
Walm checked the condition of his neck, which had the deepest wound, and wrapped the bandages around it. If the attack had been off by only a few millimeters, his artery would have been severed.
Next would be the broken ribs. He didn’t feel it reach his lung, but still, he was really annoyed by the pain. Aside from these two, there were numerous lacerations and bruises all over his body.
Walm rested his body, but as time slowly devoured him, his heart felt heavy.
In any case, Walm must return to the surface first. The innumerable wounds were too deep and numerous for a short natural recovery.
Calmly Walm counted the numbers and when it reached three hundred, he jumped into the black whirlpool.
129. Sometimes movies have too many explosion scenes
A scream suddenly echoed.
If this was a horror story, most likely someone was killed, or a strange human invaded, or a ghost appeared, or something like that. In fact, the people who tried to attack them came in front of Atsushi and the others. So, it was no surprise if that kind of strange thing happened.
As expected, the development was too unexpected.
“Y-yes… I-I just got a strange phone call… seems a time bomb has been set up in this inn. I was told to check it if I thought it was a prank, so I checked it…”
“You found this. Is it?”
An attache case was found in the room of the people who attacked Atsushi and his friends. Inside, it was a typical time bomb.
『“……Eh? W-w-wait a minute. What is this hyper-unexpected-development? If it’s a murder case, or a murderer has come, or a ghost has appeared, I can still understand. It’s a remote inn after all. There may be such developments. It’s a development you usually see in horror or mystery novels after all. But… Huh? a time bomb? Really, wait a minute. When did this world become the movie of Detective Con〇〇?”』
“I know your feeling, but calm down. Your words start to go in a strange direction. Also, what’s with that specific example…”
Atsushi criticized Yuri’s telepathy.
Certainly, there was an explosion scene in the Detective Con〇〇 the movie every time, but it wasn’t the time to think that.
Looking at the bomb in the attache case, Atsushi suddenly said,
“The possibility that this is a fake…”
Atsushi’s words were interrupted by Egawa, who came in a yukata.
“Egawa-san. How can you be so sure?”
“Well, I’m a mystery manga artist, so I’ve thought about how to kill people with bombs several times. I’ve learned everything about how to dispose of bombs.”
“No, why did you need to be so detailed for a manga……”
“Hm? Because the picture would look better, wouldn’t it?”
A way of saying it as if it were a matter of course. But, sure the reason was exactly what a manga artist would say.
“For the time being, could you bring the owner of this attache case here?”
Egawa told Atsushi to immediately bring one of the masked men.
And when he explained the current situation.
The man looked surprised.
“Right, I mean look, what is this?”
“I-I don’t know, something like a time bomb can’t be…”
“Play dumb huh? How can you don’t know anything? I mean, this attache case is your luggage, right?”
“It’s true. That luggage can’t be ours. It must be that man’s.”
“The man who planned this. Like us, he seemed to be thinking of taking revenge on that woman, so he made various arrangements. I was instructed by him. I tried to get you involved together because of that person’s instructions.”
“The man who made the plan huh……”
Must be the same guy as the one who called last time.
“So, where is the man?”
“I-I don’t know. I didn’t actually meet him, we were always talking over the phone. Information exchanges and packages were all sent one-sidedly…”
Communication without meeting the person directly. The culprit sure had a cautious personality. If so, no way that kind of man would go all the way to a place like this. That meant, asking the culprit how to defuse the bomb would be out of the option.
Atsushi realized that, then said,
“Anyway, let’s get out of here quickly. I feel bad for the people at the inn, but we can’t deal with the bomb, and even if we try to ask them how to defuse it, they don’t know…”
“Ah, um, about that…”
Then, the owner awkwardly interrupted Atsushi’s words.
“Actually, during the phone call just now, the person said, “if even one person escapes from this inn, the bomb will explode immediately. It’s the same as getting the bomb out in some way. If you want to stop it, you can try to defuse it inside the inn.”……”
A quite unreasonable warning.
Certainly, even if you set a bomb in a place, if everyone evacuated from there, there would be no point in planting the bomb. Therefore, it wasn’t strange that the culprit gave such a warning.
The only question was whether it was true, or not.
“… Egawa-san. What do you think?”
“I want to say it’s just a bluff… but I can’t say with certainty that he’s a liar because he did something so elaborate.”
Most likely, the culprit wasn’t here. But it wasn’t zero chance. There was still a possibility that the culprit kept an eye on this place in some way, and that if someone escaped, the bomb would explode immediately.
In this kind of situation, poor judgment could be fatal.
What to do…
When Atsushi was pondering what to do,
“All right. Then, the method we should take is to defuse the bomb. Then, let’s get started.”
Egawa said that and sat down in front of the bomb.
“Ah, hey, Egawa-san, what are you…”
“As you can see, I’m going to defuse the bomb. It doesn’t look that complicated. Tweezers, a thin plastic plate, and a piece of gum will do just fine. Excuse me, owner-san, can you prepare them immediately?”
“A, y-yes. If it’s tweezers and gum… but what kind of thin plastic plate…?”
“Well, I will prepare it myself. For now, please bring those two here.”
Saying that, the owner went to get the tools she was told.
“You look so worried. Don’t worry. When I went to Hawaii, my father taught me how to disarm a bomb.”
“You know, that statement makes me want to question you even more…”
“Hahaha. Just kidding. Well, rest assured, I’m confident in my ability to dispose of bombs. Didn’t I tell you earlier? I said I knew a lot about bombs. I’ve even defused a bomb before, so leave it to me.”
Egawa spoke confidently.
It didn’t look like she was lying, but Atsushi couldn’t help but be stunned by her career which was too far from a normal manga artist.
“But, it’s a strange time bomb.”
“Yep. Usually, bombs these days are equipped with things like mercury levers and vibration detectors. Give them even a little bit of vibration, and they’ll explode. Bang. That’s why, usually you would freeze it, move it to another place without any people nearby, and detonate it. But, this time bomb doesn’t have anything like that. It’s so simple, rather, it’s safe to say it’s old-fashioned. Outdated.”
Based on what Egawa said, it sure was strange.
Why the culprit, who did such an elaborate thing, used such an old-fashioned bomb? If the culprit intended to kill them, a more advanced bomb should be the best. But Atsushi knew well, it wasn’t the time to think about it.
“Thank you very much, then let me introduce myself. My name is Nana Soga. After attending a co-ed elementary school in the special ward, I was transferred to a girls’ middle school.”
I’m sure, in both elementary and middle school classes, there are three girls and one boy.
Four people, including men and women, form a group. That means, the same female-male ratio. Shouldn’t be a problem for her to continue to co-ed middle school, right?
“…May I ask, why?”
“Yes. When I went to middle school, there is a re-examination… At that time, my family situation wasn’t very good. So, I wasn’t accepted to a co-ed middle school. Until then, I thought I was on the side of the chosen ones. But I found out that it wasn’t the case, and I finally understood how difficult it is to be chosen.”
Soga-san spoke briskly, but sometimes her face contorted with bitterness.
Perhaps those days flashed in her mind.
Yeah, right… re-examination is tough. But, it’s clear what’s the priority…
So, it’s all probably because of her parent’ situation…
“The fact that you are in this school means that you managed to overcome that?”
“That’s right. Three years of middle school… I was so depressed. In that desperation, I set this as one of my goals in life.”
Some of the other girls nodded at Soga-san’s words.
Even if entering co-ed high school wasn’t their goal in life like Soga-san, this must have been that important for them…
To the point where they would do their best to go back to the side of being chosen. Or in a sense, they re-evaluate the chosen sides.
Still, they didn’t rot and climbed the cliff once again… Good.
“Hearing the story. So, you learned for the first time how difficult it is to be chosen. But, instead of giving up, you used that as a source for keep trying.”
“Yes. When I was depressed, my friend told me that was the same for them. So, I realized that it wasn’t only me. With their encouragement, I slowly thought that everything wasn’t too late to be changed. So, I tried my best.”
“I see. That’s really amazing.”
Another girl then opened her mouth saying,
“It’s the same with the entrance exam for this school, the selection criteria weren’t made public at all.”
As if to answer, another girl spoke,
“If they announce it, it’ll only be used as countermeasures. Also, because of this, even the ones usually on the chosen side, feel uneasy.”
Come to think of it, Yuuko didn’t pass the exam either. I don’t think Yuuko is inferior to them in terms of intelligence.
If it wasn’t favoritism, it was a conclusion based on a calm judgment of Yuuko’s abilities, right?
So, what are exactly the selection criteria?
“By the way, Soga-san, if you have to give one reason why you weren’t selected for a co-ed middle school, what would you think of?”
I was curious and asked.
“Only one? Then… because my parent isn’t part of “Kazoku”?”
“My mother works at a bank.”
I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Do other people know what it means?
Ah, it seems that one person understood. I asked Soga-san a question.
“Hey, perhaps, are your parent working at a “Zaibatsu” bank?”
“That’s right. That’s why I wasn’t accepted.”
After the “Kazoku”, came the “Zaibatsu”.
…Judging from the flow of the story, is it a feud between factions?
“Sorry, but I’m not interested in that sort of thing, so I don’t know much about it. Are you at a disadvantage if you work for a Zaibatsu bank?”
“I don’t think there is any obvious disadvantage. However, people living in Special Ward Osaka and Tokyo tend to dislike government intervention. In the area around Central Station, a lot of people living there are part of the Kazoku. So, if you’re not part of it, it’s easy to get outcasted.”
“Kazoku”… it’s the nobility of Japan. In the original world, it was gone already. But here, the nobility system still remains huh?
Still, I’ve never heard of a nobleman living in the special ward. Has it become a mere formality?
As I delved deeper into my memory, it seemed that people of the “Kazoku” had a lot of land in the countryside and lived there.
…So, in short, they’re just a local landlord. But from Soga-san’s words, they seem to have some power even within the special ward.
In the original world, there were a lot of politicians and directors of NPOs who were former “Kazoku” there.
And, in this world, where they’re not completely gone, it wouldn’t be strange to have more power… right.
“The current government seems to have few parliamentarians from the Kazoku……”
“Lately, the central government and the local government of the central area are quite fussing over the Special Ward Ordinance, right?”
The talk between the girls was indeed quite informative.
They must be interested in it because it was related to their future and their parents’ progress.
Non-noble members of parliament were called the “General”.
And, members of the National Diet were elected evenly from each region.
The “Kazoku” living in the countryside must have sent their people as members.
Of course, the ones in the special ward too. And also called the “Noble”.
And the bank that Soga-san’s mother worked for was neither one of them, but belonged to the “Zaibatsu”. Basically, the businessmen who had businesses that managed to last for generations, in short, the “Conglomerate”. Although they had a long history, as a standing position, it was below the Noble, about the same as the General, but sometimes, seen as one step below the General.
“…It’s complicated, isn’t it?”
There were no more words I could say other than that.
My family moved from the countryside, and none of those.
Originally, the social standing should be at the bottom in the Special Ward, but thanks to me, that’s not the case.
Otherwise, Mom might be put in the do-nothing spot, bullied, dismissed, moved to a different Special Ward, and even kicked out of the Special Ward even though she hasn’t caused any problems. But, because of me, a boy in her family, the one who would get in trouble if that happens, will be the one who hired her.
Probably, if I make a fuss about my mother’s unfair dismissal on SNS, the higher-up in her company may get fired by the shareholders.
So, I don’t need to worry about Mom being mistreated. But, as expected, even one boy is so much different from having zero in the family.
For that reason, Mom may be burdened with hardships that I don’t know about.
That aside, I casually asked them about what they found “difficult”, only to get a very serious story… it’s quite unexpected, to be honest…
“So, has anyone else had a hard time?”
“Yes. I’m called, Yuna Okabe. This spring, I was finally able to move into a public housing in the special ward, but I’ve had a hard time with my shopping and moving my luggage…”
I don’t know what you’re talking about either.
Someone, give me more information.
“So, you’re living in a housing complex?”
“That’s how it is in housing complexes, isn’t it?”
“It’s hard, isn’t it?”
The girls were excited just by talking about a housing complex. How unexpected.
When I asked about it, I learned that the distribution network for transporting goods that ran underground covered a considerable part of the road, including the main roads and residential areas, but it seemed that it wasn’t all of them.
Okabe-san’s mother worked as a clerk in the Special Ward, and seemed to have been commuting from outside all the time.
As Okabe-san passed the exam to go into Itsuki High School, her family got permission to live in the Special Ward.
They had a financial problem, so they decided to move into a public housing complex where unspecialized workers usually lived, because it was cheap compared to other areas in the Special Ward. There was a reason why it was cheap. It was inconvenient.
“You lived outside the special ward until then, right? Compared to before, how is it?”
I was curious about that.
“The place where I used to live was pretty dirty. Trashes were everywhere, the road in front of my house was congested all year round, the exhaust gas was terrible, and it was noisy, so it wasn’t a good place.”
Is it like living in a place near the industrial area of Tokyo in the original world?
“So, a lot of traffic jams, huh? After all, everyone has a car.”
“Yes. I think everyone there has one, although mostly, it’s a small car.”
Now that I think about it, here, even if you don’t have a car, you won’t feel inconvenienced.
You can go shopping empty-handed if you want to. It’s really amazing.
You can use buses, trains, or unmanned taxis at a low cost.
In the first place, the special ward isn’t that large, so there’s no problem even if you do not have a car.
But, as expected, the outside is different huh.
Seems everyone has a car and travels by car most of the time. So, congested roads aren’t that strange.
And in a place with a high concentration of people, it must be difficult to socialize with neighbors, and also problems with bad odors and noise…
“Which is easier to live in, before or now?”
“Of course, it’s now. Shopping and transportation are inconvenient, but to be able to live in such a nice place, even if I sell my soul to the devil, I want to keep living here.”
Apparently, the outside of the Special Ward wasn’t such a good place for her.
And when I looked around, everyone was nodding, perhaps feeling the same way.
Anyway, through this exchange, I learned a lot about them.
Really, I was glad that I could hear about many things directly from their mouth.
In the end, I enjoyed talking with them until the last minute in the common room.
TN: Change for a skill name 《Iron Body》–>《Indestructible Body》
122. Chapter 122 – Resurface
Walm, having overcome the troublesome crowd of monsters and survived the greeting of the high-ranking floors, reached the vault. The room was so deserted that the birds chirped in his imagination, but still, it wasn’t reserved only for him.
A party of five people was there. Walm recognized them, after all, he’d spoken to one of them the other day.
Fausto, an experienced adventurer, was sitting against the wall with the other party members. It wasn’t that they had come to this floor only because they wanted to spend their free time like children in summer. Although they were all well dressed, the dirt and the naked wounds that testified to the battle caught the eye.
“I didn’t expect you to come to the 30th floor alone, much less so quickly. So let me welcome you.”
Fausto noticed the entrance, stood up, and walked toward Walm. This time he had brought his party members with him, and it seemed a social gathering was in store.
“As you can see, I’m exhausted.”
This wasn’t modesty, but Walm’s honest words. There was no way he could cut corners on the way here. In fact, he had generously consumed his mana.
“Well, look, even with five, it’s not much different. If there were four more Walm, it would be possible to conquer the labyrinth without breaking a sweat.”
It had been about five days since Walm had dived into the labyrinth. During that time, he hadn’t exchanged a word with anyone. Now that he had the opportunity, for some reason he became more relaxed than usual, which led to him making a lame joke.
“Unfortunately, my brothers weren’t born at the same time. So, no quintuplets.”
“I’m relieved to hear that”
Said Fausto with a carefree smile.
Immediately after, Walm’s five senses were alerted by the sounds and movements in the surroundings. The faint sound of the wind coming to his flank from the side and the signs of death fast approaching could be felt. Fortunately, his survival instinct made his hand move the halberd to receive the blow.
A numbing shock was felt in Walm’s hand. The longsword and the halberd’s handle rubbed against each other. It was one of Fausto’s party members, who was in Walm’s blind spot, slashing a sword at him.
“…But how unfortunate, really.”
Words that came out of Fausto’s mouth weren’t intentional, but unconsciously. The smile of a good man turned into the smile of a sinister man. As if he was wearing a Noh mask. [TN: Noh-mask, is the mask used by the Noh performer. Basically, Noh is a dance-drama where the performer expresses emotion by using a mask.]
It had been a long time since Walm had seen someone with that kind of expression. Even among the soldiers of the northern countries, who were good at killing each other, it was rare. No emotional fluctuations, as if the person standing in front of Fausto wasn’t human, as if Walm was nothing more than useless weeds.
Walm realized that countless sacrifices were needed to manifest this in someone. In fact, he felt that the attack was carefully planned and not accidental.
Why? What for? For what reason? Such questions weren’t necessary. After all, in this world, including Walm, people were generally raised thinking that a fight was normal, that war was normal.
Walm’s train of thought, given the signal to change the target to “battle mode,” quickly switched to the earlier thoughts and feelings he had while diving through the floors of the labyrinth.
The assailants began a full-scale assault after throwing away their deception. Fausto’s spear, aimed at Walm’s throat, approached from below. Walm dodged with his upper body and jumped back, but a mace approached from the side as he retreated backwards. He continued to dodge further behind, only to be greeted by a longsword.
Perhaps they felt that Walm had a solid defense, so as to limit his mobility, his legs were the target
The longsword tried to sweep Walm’s leg, but it was a failure and deflected off the shin guard.
Walm escaped the laceration, but he couldn’t prevent the dull pain that echoed in his bones and the uncertainty of his posture. He stood still, feeling stunned, but without giving him time to relax, the nearby shield-wielder charged at him.
There was no space left to escape safely, so Walm prepared to receive the blow. At the same time as the collision, however, he flew backward to cut off his momentum. After rolling on the ground, he jumped up, but a burning pain attacked his shoulder.
The archer, who was out of range, shot an arrow through the small gaps of the four vanguards at just the right moment.
Before another arrow was drawn, Walm used his mana and shot a fireball into the ground to break up the formation.
“Keep attacking! Lilo, Haunzen, don’t let him escape!”
The five people facing Walm at some distance set their next action in motion. They used water magic <Water bullet> and wind magic <Gust> to extinguish the flames.
After all, it was a party that could reach the 30th floor. Of course, it was expected that one or two magic users would be present.
Fausto with a spear and an adventurer with a mace approached Walm, who had lost his fire barrier, and another adventurer with a longsword aimed at his flank.
Walm instantly accelerated with wind attribute magic. Flank for flank, he targeted the longsword-wielder on the flank, but the damned shield-wielder and archer tried to stop him.
The shield-wielder could use wind magic, and used magic to give speed in the shield bash presented to Walm at close range.
At first glance, it looked like it would be easy to kill one or two. But a clever improvised move like this could happen many times in this fight to the death. If Walm ignored someone for just a second, that person would target his blind spot and deliver a killing blow for sure.
Walm could choose to run away, but that meant he had to find a way to break through one of the routes to the transfer room or the door to the precious place or the door to the deeper floor. But if he managed to break through, they would certainly do their best to pursue him.
To reach the 30th floor, Walm had repeatedly used up his mana, and if he used 《Demon Fire》, he would only deplete his soon-to-be-depleted mana even faster.
Above all, the adventurer’s equipment made Walm hesitate to use it. Apart from the fact that they all seemed to have above average mana due to their long training, they were also carefully prepared and even equipped with fire-resistant equipment.
And what would happen to Walm’s eyes if he used this? If Fausto’s group managed to block the attack or escape total annihilation, the intense pain in his eyes would obstruct his vision. In this case, Walm would be like a “Sahuagin on the cutting board.”
At least if one or two people weren’t incapacitated, Walm wouldn’t even be able to escape properly
In short, Walm was clearly cornered. Although he was in an awkward position, the demon mask at his waist was in a good mood. Obviously, it didn’t care about its owner and just wanted to see the bloodshed between the humans. Besides, Fausto was one of the people who made the mask tremble with interest. That was enough for Walm to think that Fausto couldn’t be a decent person.
Walm repelled the attack with his halberd while continuing to dodge, taking fine steps as if he were dancing. Using magic to find a way to counterattack would just be a waste of effort, it would be better to save as much as possible to extend the bankruptcy in mana. Gradually, his limbs were scraped and his clothes were stained with blood. To suppress the bleeding, the magical barrier that played the role of the second skin continued to hold the wound.
A shiver ran down Walm’s spine the whole time, and he began to feel uneasy. Not even a blink was allowed for the strong presence of death. Injured and exhausted, surrounded by powerful enemies. Walm was forced to stand in the line of death. Although there were no spectators, he had to continue dancing in the midst of the great performers.
“ah, hah, huh, hah”
Repeated shallow breaths and strained legs that appealed and screamed as they were reaching their limits. Walm thrust the halberd, turning deadly blows into only painful wounds. Yet the precision of the movement wasn’t lost.
Sure, the battles in the labyrinth he had experienced so far slowly evoked a sense of the past. But this predicament worked wonders. The dullness created by a lazy, alcohol-soaked year was scraped away. Ironically, drifting on the border between death and life was the best environment for Walm to force his past self to resurface.
Unconsciously, a smile appeared on Walm’s face.
Walm stomped on the longsword that came from a blind spot and was about to sweep his legs, forcing the blade to dig into the ground. He then twisted his body and slashed at the sword-wielder with his halberd when he saw an opening, but the sword-wielder immediately let go of the longsword and protected the neck with both hands.
The attack cut through the back of the hand, crushing bone and flesh, but it was stopped there before it reached the neck
As a token of gratitude for the kindness, the mace struck Walm’s flank, and Fausto’s sharp spear pierced his throat deeply. But he didn’t care. After all, they weren’t fatal injuries.
Fausto took a step back before attacking again, giving instructions to the swordsman, but he was a little late. At that moment, Walm, whose broken ribs were making violent sounds and who even had blood in his trachea, didn’t slow his movements. Instead, he pulled the sword-wielder to him like a beloved lover and exchanged bodies.
The sword-wielder had now turned into a meat shield. Nevertheless, the sword-wielder tried to hug Walm with broken arms.
From the weapon, which showed no signs of slowing down, Walm could read the attacker’s determination.
The meat shield was indeed a useless shield and unnecessary. So, Walm burned the sword wielder’s throat as he thrust this meat shield into the trajectory of the spear and mace.
The sound of boiling blood and the smell of burnt flesh spread through the large room. A soundless scream, burning the vocal cords indeed… delighted Walm.
“… Four left”
Even the tough attackers, who weren’t so easily swayed emotionally, would be more likely to think about the next move because of a loss in their number. There even would be some among them whose information processing would slow down when they saw a dying comrade turned into a meat shield
Walm pulled out the arrow, which passed through the crumbling corpse and stuck in his shoulder. But that wasn’t enough to stop him.
Walm spat the blood that had accumulated in his mouth into the air. The spreading blood mist distorted the field of vision and increased the amount of information the opponent had to process. Walm, who was well prepared, shot the arrow with compressed air.
” <Release> “
The ejected arrow slipped through their focus, penetrated the mace wielder’s eyeball, and reached the brain.
Walm pointed his halberd at the three.
Accumulated fatigue, spent mana, and injuries all over the body, Walm’s condition was the worst. Nevertheless, his thoughts gave clear instructions on what to do next.
“…….We’ve spent too much time. No, rather, we don’t have enough time to see the end. How unfortunate.”
For the first time since the killing began, Fausto threw words at Walm. The tightly closed door creaked open. That meant the arrival of a new party of spectators about to visit the stage called the safe room.
128. Everyone has their own reason for believing in something
“Yeah, that’s right. Our family is a victim of that strange religion that was founded by your father.”
It was a kind of expected development.
Atsushi knew that this series of disturbances were related to “Father’s Lake” after seeing the picture shown by Hiiragi. And if Kirishima was being targeted too, anyone could predict that the believers, or their family, were the culprit.
“Thanks to you deceiving our family, our lives have been ruined… if, if only you, if only you and your family weren’t in this world, we, everything would have been fine…!!”
The man was furious. And he wasn’t the only one. Everyone else with him must have the same thought.
They were robbed of their family. and their life was ruined. That anger and sadness created this situation.
At least, that was what Atsushi thought up until this point.
But, when he turned his gaze to Kirishima. He saw she had an amazed face.
“Haah? What are you talking about? You think you all have the right to say that?”
Involuntarily, Atsushi raised his voice in surprise along with the men.
The words that came out of Kirishima’s mouth were so unexpected.
“O-oi, Kirishima. That’s a bit too much…”
“Too much? That’s not true. These people’s lives have been messed up, is just them reaping what they sow.”
Kirishima’s words were so cold that Atsushi was at a loss for words, and of course, the men’s anger increased even more.
“How can you───!!”
“Say that? That line, let me return that to you. In the first place, do you even know why those people came to “Father’s Lake”. No? I guess so.”
Atsushi frowned at Kirishima’s statement.
On the other hand, the men who had been told this looked as if they have been caught off guard, and couldn’t utter any words of rebuttal
Seeing that, Atsushi’s doubts grew bigger and so he asked.
“What do you mean?”
“……People who believe in a religion are divided into several patterns. Well, most of time, they are deceived by the religious group……but unfortunately, we didn’t do that kind of thing. Sure, we used a little special medicine for help, and it’s true that some people were injured because of it… but that’s only after they entered our place and became a believer.”
What Kirishima wanted to say was, that her father didn’t deceive or trick people into becoming believers.
“If you look for another side, they’re people who have no choice but to rely on the religion. Am I right?”
“That’s right. In the end, all the people who came to our place had their own reasons and worries. For example, domestic violence and immorality like cheating. Anything that made them feel like the victim and mistreated. Those were a lot in our place. Well, there are many more. Everyone has their own reason. But mostly it’s not because of something good.”
In modern society, and indeed in Japan today, there was little sense of people being religious. Under such circumstances, it wasn’t strange that people who chose to enter religion were mostly the ones that had some kind of problem.
“So, you mean…”
“Yes. They are the reason why their family became followers of Father’s Lake.”
While saying that, Kirishima turned her cold gaze toward the men.
Her gaze was as if she was looking at the filth of this world.
“Don’t joke with me… You brainwashed someone’s family, and yet dare to say that we are the cause?!”
“It’s true, isn’t it? Right? Fumihiro Touyama.”
“Huh? W-why did you know my name…”
“Of course, I know. I know the faces and names of my followers, as well as all their personal information. I’ve researched all the people who may come to forcefully take back or harass the believer of our religion. More so, if it’s about the idiot who has been drowning in alcohol and beating his wife. How can I forget the name?”
The man seemed to want to say something back, but Kirishima ignored it and told another man.
“The person next to you is Youhei Sasaki, right? Seriously, even though he failed at his attempt in the past, I wonder if he still hasn’t learned his lessons…? Really, idiot. He made the girl who was his childhood friend works for him, even though he knew she had a feeling for him, he flirted with another woman, and even forced her into debt. Is it so frustrating that your childhood friend became a believer of our religion and stopped listening to you?”
The man tried to argue, but stopped. In the end, he didn’t say anything, just glared at Kirishima resentfully.
“And, this one here is… ara, isn’t it Houji Koike? You’re still alive? A person like you who chose to live a NEET life without working, who took your parents’ hard work for granted, and if they didn’t obey your orders, you would yell at them, is still alive? I thought you were lost in the streets after your parents didn’t care about you. You sure have the vitality of a cockroach.”
“N-n-noisy!! You’re damn noisy!! Noisy, noisy!!”
No matter how, it sounded like a child’s tantrum. Well, he had no choice but to raise his voice because he couldn’t deny it. What shameless behavior.
In both cases, what Kirishima said seemed to be true, so Atsushi’s way of thinking instantly changed.
“Well, it is what it is. So, everyone here beats other people, deceives them, and causes trouble for them. Well, I can’t say that all the believers’ families are like that, but at least, as far as I know, that’s the kind of people here… Huh? What’s with that face?”
“N-no, it’s nothing… I was just having a Deja Vu. Feels like I’ve seen this somewhere…”
While grasping the opponents’ information, cornering them… It was similar to the Chairman of Atsushi’s class.
“My father certainly did all sorts of things to get his followers to worship him. I won’t deny it. And now, I can’t say for certain that it was the right thing to do. So, anyone who was a believer, if they were to come at me, yelling I or my father was a liar, a scum… their anger, and retaliation… well, let’s say I’m prepared for it…”
After stopping for a while, Kirishima continued.
“But, at the very least, there’s no reason for you guys, who hurt their hearts and made them come to our place, to do this to me.”
Atsushi still didn’t think what Kirishima and her father were doing was right at all. They tricked people and even got them injured. Therefore, he still believed that his parents did nothing wrong to destroy their religious group.
Even so, it was also true that he changed his view about Kirishima a little, thinking that her being able to take such a dignified attitude, might be something worthy of respect.
“That being said, I’ve to ask you guys one thing… if your purpose was to lure me in, why was it necessary to bring him along?”
All of them muttered so.
Atsushi and Kirishima waited for an answer while frowning.
But, at that moment, a woman’s scream was suddenly heard.
Walm was unofficially baptized as a high-rank adventurer on the 26th floor, which separated the mid-rank and high-rank. As a commemoration, he released a fireball manifested by his mana. It continued to burn even after being released, as if saying it wanted to make the baptism merrier.
It was only a fireball, inferior to the 《Demon Fire》 in terms of range and durability, but it was better in terms of instant firepower. If the fireball hit directly without being affected by defenses or terrain, an ordinary monster would naturally be incapacitated. In fact, one of the monsters Walm had targeted in their encounter was also engulfed in fire and now lay smoldering on the ground.
Nevertheless, the remaining monsters made it through the waves of dancing flames and approached Walm.
The armor was worn without gaps, and the blade of the longsword took on a suspicious glow from the flames. The inside wasn’t human. After all, the head that should have been there was lost.
The name of the opponent this time was… “Dullahan”.
Three Dullahans were the first to greet Walm. Although one of them was destroyed, two of them were still alive and passionately trying to turn the living one, Walm, into their kind.
“No neck? That’s troublesome.”
There were no necks to cut off, which were the weak points of the humanoid monsters, and no skulls to smash. Walm, abandoning restraint, stopped his advance, lowered his arm wide and swung his halberd. The Dullahan’s instinct was sharp enough to judge the 《Strike》 as dangerous, so it quickly slowed and escaped just out of range. Meanwhile, the second Dullahan slid low and thrust its longsword into Walm.
Walm fought him off with his halberd and quickly stabbed with his halberd, but the first Dullahan was too far away to launch a deadly attack. Walm jumped away from the spot and charged toward him. He tried to chase it, but it had regained its balance and thwarted the attack. Really, even though it had no head, it was intelligent enough to make a team attack. Unwise was the right word for this case.
Walm tried to get around the Dullahans, but both kept a really disgusting sense of distance and their movements were mixed with feints.
However, more than anything, if the noise attracted monsters, it would become a dangerous situation. Of course, Walm didn’t want that to happen, and he would not hold back
The Dulahans clearly split into left and right as they closed the gap against Walm, who had kneaded mana and formed a fireball. The goal was probably to avoid the same blow and make Walm hesitate to use magic at close range, but that was a bad move since Walm had a high aptitude for fire attributes. Otherwise, if Walm used 《Demon Fire》, he would be consumed by the blue flames and his body would be burned to the ground. And if that were the case, he might not be here.
The fireball that struck the headless knight’s abdomen exploded, tearing open the sturdy armor and damaging everything inside with the heat. The fire worked wonders against the undead. The headless knight left the battle without even having time to fight back.
The remaining Dullahan, who had gained valuable time and distance from its compatriot’s sacrifice, threw its entire body to Walm. For a human, this would be a move without considering a counterattack to a vital point, but for a Dullahan with no clear vital point, this would be a troublesome move for its opponent.
The tip of the longsword touched the claw-shaped blade of the halberd, and with a high scraping sound of metal, the sword was deflected upward to the left. The crisis wasn’t over yet. A shoulder attack, using the weight of the armor, came at Walm.
Walm stuck out the underside of the halberd and thrust it against the Dullahan’s shoulder. With a dull crack, Walm held back the attack and suddenly lost his footing. The headless knight’s center of gravity hung forward as it approached, but now it leaned further forward and thus lost its balance.
Naturally, Walm, who wanted to break the Dullahan, did not miss this chance. He hooked the halberd’s claw-like blade into the Dullahan’s knee as he passed through the side, severing the knee as he shifted his center of gravity. The sensation of severing the human’s cruciate ligament and meniscus carried over to the hilt. It felt satisfying.
After losing the pillar of its mobility, the Dullahan turned and swung its longsword, but it was only a futile struggle.
Walm, spinning inexorably behind the Dullahan, swung the halberd he held at the tip. A mana-filled blow diagonally crossed the Dullahan’s shoulder and waist, as well as its armor.
“Still going to move again?”
The halves of the body bounced on the ground several times, and there was a slight resistance, but it did nothing meaningful.
After catching his breath, Walm used all six of his senses to search for the enemy. Fortunately, the enemy wasn’t approaching yet.
Just in case, Walm kicked the longsword out of Dullahan’s hand and knelt down. For a while, he hunted for loot.
After putting a few coins, including a silver coin, into the waist bag, Walm said,
“As expected, taking the armor is impossible. Guess the sword is the max, huh?”
The magic bag was packed with collectibles from the floors Walm passed. When he put the sword in, he felt a strange resistance and a sense of revulsion on his skin. Although he was primarily picking up precious metals, magic stones, and valuable items, the storage limit of the magic bag, which was for personal use only, was nearing the limit.
From now on, if Walm found a bulky, valuable item, he could no longer put it in his magic bag without throwing something away. Well, if it was jewelry or coins, it would be different. In any case, Walm couldn’t carry heavy things at his waist or on his back, or the weight would interfere with his movements after all.
The curfew came when Walm picked up the coins that were scattered when the Dullahan was burned. The sound of metal rubbing on the ground reached his ears. There must be a new group of headless knights wandering around the labyrinth.
“It’s a good time to move.”
Fortunately, there was no sign of an enemy nearby yet. But there was no reason for Walm to stay here long, so he quickly left.
As the receptionist had advised him, there were only monsters with annoying characteristics on the 26th floor and on the next floors as well.
Although Walm encountered only 2 monsters this time, they were annoying enough.
A “Poison Worm”, which surface was protected by venom and poisonous needles, and a “Killer Plant” that had tough tentacle-like parts and was said to have high vitality and regeneration power. If there were multiple of them, Walm would have focused on the casting magic that had been preserved until the 25th floor in this dive.
After carefully tasting the value of advance information, Walm was worried that the bracelet he gave as the information fee was too cheap.
“Huff, can’t you just die in silence? What a bad fella.”
The Poison Worm that had turned into a bonfire secreted poison and polluted the air. The concentration was not lethal, but if too much was inhaled into the lungs, symptoms such as vomiting and convulsions could occur. According to the owner of the equipment store, who was the main buyer of Walm’s loot, it could also be used as protective gear against deadly poison if collected and handled properly. Unfortunately, Walm did not have the equipment or skills to help him dissect the body of an insect contaminated with venom and poison needles.
The Killer Plant, on the other hand, was a monster with a troublesome regeneration ability and a tough ivy that would make the Vanguard suffer, but it was a plant-based monster, which meant it was vulnerable to fire. Walm stared spellbound at one of the burned tentacles. There were still numerous thorns on the burnt surface. They stuck in the armor of the humans, tore open the skin, and sucked out the blood. This was the attack method of the blood-sucking killer plant, which was also its way of eating.
Walm pulled out the knife at his hip. He cut the tentacles to a reasonable length while stepping on them with his half-boots and scraping the thorns off with the knife. Then he grabbed the tentacle, held it above his head, and drank the liquid that flowed from the cut surface.
“Just like she said, the sweetness is intense.”
It tasted like sugar cane juice, only a little sweeter and had a higher viscosity. It was one of the best sweets that were ever tasted by Walm, who had no opportunity to enjoy sweets at any time. Of course, there was a great demand for the killer plants, as they could be used as a spice and ingredient in foods that were highly sought after even by the wealthy.
The ferocious liquid on the tip of his tongue permeated Walm’s body and his brain rejoiced at the sweetness. Had he not been in a place where the air was poisoned, he would have savored it slowly.
Walm quickly peeled off another, squeezed as much sweet liquid as he could into the bottle, and tossed the remaining away. The Labyrinth would automatically clean it up after all. There was no need to worry about the after-rot.
After giving himself a sweet little break, Walm looked for a staircase to go lower. The next would be the 29th floor, and if he went down one more floor, he would find a safe room.
While Walm shook off the juices that stuck to his hands, he shifted his mind and paid attention to the surroundings.
As expected, the thought of the safe room, which wasn’t yet visible, would not do anyone any good.
Walm walked through passages and empty rooms for a while. As always, when he entered another small room, he carefully scanned the surroundings. Detecting the presence of wandering monsters was not that hard, as they would come at him, but the insidious killer plant sometimes hid under the rubble or on the ceiling.
Getting tangled in the tentacles would restrict movement and cause the blood to be squeezed out. Sure, Walm liked squeezing the sweetness out of the killer plant, but he wasn’t willing to be the one being squeezed.
Fortunately, the damage in the room was minimal, and there were no gaps to hide in. Walm tried to leave a small room with nothing to see, but he sensed an abnormality in the passage ahead.
“Dullahan……? No, it’s wearing a helmet.”
It was impossible for a headless knight to wear a helmet. Besides, the monster had four arms, two held swords and the other two held shields
After trying to remember the information, Walm spoke the monster’s name.
“Is it, “Doll Slime”?”
A slime that could penetrate armor and dolls and manipulate them at will. It was a monster Walm encountered for the first time, and as expected, firepower was the only effective solution against an unknown opponent.
Walm kneaded his mana and began to form a fireball. The reaction of the Doll Slime in front of the fire was dramatic. With a trembling, half-soft body, the slime screamed with his pseudo-vocal cords and spurted liquid from the holes in his armor.
Walm shot at the fireball anyway, but he soon realized his mistake. The liquid that looked like an attack was a part of the slime, and it moved as if it were gliding on the surface of the water. The liquid-like body reduced friction and allowed fast movements
The Doll Slime jumped into the Walm with an initial speed and angle that no normal human could do.
Walm greeted it by shaking off the halberd, only to be paired with two round shields. In the end, only one shield broke. The Doll Slime that had closed the gap simultaneously released short swords left and right. Walm saw through the first slash and dodged the second by turning his upper body, but the Doll Slime’s elbow changed its trajectory in exactly the opposite direction.
Although the Doll Slime was wearing armor, it was soft on the inside. It allowed the sword to approach Walm at an angle that should have been impossible. At least based on his experience.
Walm was struck by the hilt of the sword, but it was strong enough to cause blood to seep from his cheek. He quickly suppressed the bleeding with a magical barrier. And for some reason this fight amused him
The joints of the Doll Slime were incomparably flexible. But the exoskeleton, the so-called armor, stood in the way of this protean ability
And even if Walm couldn’t kill the Doll slime at first sight, his eyes would get used to its movements, even if he didn’t like them. When the sword and halberd crossed, he cut off its arm and let the short sword roll to the ground.
Even the round shield could be of no help in defending against the second 《Strike》. The only remaining short sword was also entwined with the claw-shaped blade of the halberd and sent to the ground.
The Doll Slime, having lost its countermeasures, spat its tentacles out of the cracks in the armor and grabbed Walm.
“Are you sure?”
The Doll Slime tried to suffocate Walm, but it was no more than a futile effort. The fireball that immediately formed was insufficiently kneaded and originally only a false threat, but it was an unbearable blow to the slime that oozed from the armor that was the outer shell.
The dying Doll Slime locked itself in the armor and tried to make a final resistance, but Walm, who was in close proximity, poured flames from the cross-section of its cut arm.
The vibration of the soft body and the metallic sound of the armor rubbing against each other became death throes, and the Doll Slime was finally unable to maintain its form. Its semi-soft body turned completely into liquid and formed new stains on the Labyrinth.
“That was another troublesome fella.”
Compared to the other three, the number was small. Although the chance of encountering the Doll Slime was small, it wasn’t a mutant or a rare species. But given the difficulty of dealing with it, even a complaint would be forgivable right? So Walm spat out a curse.
Then it was time to evaluate the spoils.
The value of the equipment damaged by 《Strike》wasn’t that high. So he just wanted to check if the Doll Slime had dropped something valuable.
When Walm examined the inside of the armor with his hand, which was supposed to be hollow, he felt a foreign substance inside. To be precise, it was when he examined the arm armor. When he shook it, a small magic stone came out of the gap.
Magic stone was said to have many uses, such as a catalyst and a lamp, and if it were sold, it would cost about five silver coins.
Without thinking further, Walm put the magic stone into the magic bag, which was soon full, and continued his exploration of the labyrinth.
At my raised voice, all the conversations in the class disappeared… not to mention, everyone looked at me in an instant.
This is a lot of attention…
But I can’t be scared here.
I was nervous, but I had an experience receiving this much attention in the original world.
It was when I appeared on the big stage at a judo tournament.
There should be more of this in the future. How can you be so nervous just by the size of the class?! Get a grip!
After scolding myself, I took a deep breath.
“Everyone, thank you for the self-introductions last time. It took me a while, but I’ve finally read them all.”
For a moment, the classroom was noisy.
I could faintly hear “He really read it?” here and there, so it wasn’t a bad reaction.
“I understand how everyone feels. And so, I thought that I would like to know more about all of you… not just by sentence in the paper, but by words from the mouth. A direct conversation.”
I couldn’t continue from there. My voice was drowned out as the classroom roared with “Woooo!”.
Somehow it reminded me of an idol concert.
I tried to raise my voice again, but gave up when I saw the girls slowly coming, without stopping.
The other classmates, who were outside the classroom, wondered what happened and joined them. Thus, the classroom was in an uproar.
Let’s wait for them to calm down first.
When I looked around, I found Atsushi in the corner of the classroom.
My bad. Really.
Anyway, I brought this up for a reason.
Going out to the central station shortened the distance between me and my group members.
As the friendship deepened, it became possible to speak naturally in the classroom.
I was relieved to have someone I could talk to normally in high school. So, my opinion about this group system was a good one.
In the original world, there was a time when I went to a festival. There, I played the scooping fish game. When I tried to scoop the goldfish in the tank, I was fascinated by the goldfish swimming inside, and couldn’t use the scoop well.
At that time, my brother told me, “Don’t look at the whole tank.”
And that was the thought I had about this group system. It was to narrow down the boy’s focus so that he wouldn’t be lost.
However, this system also had its drawbacks. This was especially noticeable in this high school where there were only a few boys.
The girls outside the group had to keep their fingers in their mouths when a boy talked with his group members happily.
In long term, this would increase their stress level.
The more friendly I talked to the group members, the more I got along with them, and the more the frustration of the other girls piled up.
And that was not my intention.
Then what should I do? I just needed to make the opportunity to talk to them. That was the answer that came to my mind.
But, I realized something after I went out with my group to the central station.
If a boy created an opportunity to get to know them, they would take advantage of it. No matter what the reason.
However, as expected, doing so all at once could lead to a negative result.
And even I wouldn’t be able to handle a severe effect, and it might cause trouble for Atsushi, my only male friend.
So, I was thinking of taking the time and going step by step.
I had plenty of time after all. I was vaguely thinking that it would be nice if I could get to know everyone before the summer vacation.
However, given the current state of affairs, it wouldn’t be a problem to advance the plan a little. At least that was what I thought.
Because I felt that the longer that I put this matter off, the deeper the riff between my group members and the other girls.
Thus, I started the plan to deepen friendships with my classmates.
Specifically, from today onwards, I decided to talk with each group in the common room that the student could use. To be honest, this wasn’t my idea.
Personally, I thought it would be nice to have a few people talk in the classroom after school, but after a girl came to me and said, “How about doing by group?”, and before I answered, another girl said, “I’m going to reserve a common room”, before running out. Really fast.
It reminded me of a ninja I saw in a movie.
After that, a fierce rock-paper-scissors game was about to begin, so I intervened, saying “Let’s start from group 1” and calmed them down.
“Even if it’s by group, it’s not compulsory. I don’t want you to misunderstand that. If you have any urgent things to do on the day, or if you don’t want to talk to me, you don’t have to join.”
I told them so, but to be honest, I thought that even people with plans would cancel them and force themselves to join. Well, that would be their problem.
After school, I went to the reserved common room.
There were a few of them and anyone could use this place if they applied.
It was a plain room with only one table inside. Each person would need to take a folding chair. When they were done, they would need to clean it before returning the key.
In front of me, a group of five people was sitting side by side.
Why does it feel as if I’m gonna do a group interview?
“Hmm, can you sit more relaxed? Like, let’s form a circle.”
When I told them so, they sat down around the table. And I was made to sit in the birthday seat.
Guess it’s time to show my skill, “blowing the fire out in one breath”?…Anyway, who will be the first?
“…I’m the leader, Akemi Yoshimura. T-thank you fow…”
Hearing that, I thought that I should take the lead and make them relax. Actually, I was nervous too.
“Well… the reason I created this opportunity was that… I wanted to deepen my friendship with everyone as soon as possible.”
After much thought. I tried to speak as friendly as possible.
For some reason, I felt calmer when I knew that there were people who were more nervous than I was. I could even see their faces, even their eyes if I wanted to.
The five of them seemed very nervous, but from what I knew, they all lived in a Special Ward. So, it was quite unexpected.
“Since I went to an all-girls school up till now, I actually don’t have a lot of experience talking to boys…”
Yoshimura-san muttered embarrassedly.
…Right, not all girls living in the special ward can attend the co-ed school.
Elementary and middle schools decide the number of female students according to the number of male students enrolled, so those who fail are inevitably sent to all-girls schools.
“…Well. you can talk about anything freely… Even if I said so, I don’t think you know what to talk about, right…? Hmm… is there anything you find difficult? Life, studies, exercise, hobbies. It doesn’t matter even if it’s about a relationship, or if it’s just about clearing a game. If you have one, you can say it.”
Perhaps my suggestion was surprising, they all tilted their heads. But, one of them quickly raised her hand.
“So, do, you, mind, to explain, what this is, all about, right now.”
Kirishima said while glaring at Atsushi and Yuri with an expression as if possessed by a vengeful spirit. Her face was clearly sullen, or rather, her anger meter was broken through, to the point it didn’t show on her face.
Atsushi spoke plainly to her.
“Explanation? It is what it is.”
“Hah? Let me ask. If someone was sleeping, and that singing voice suddenly reverberate in their heads, what would happen? Honestly, they might die of shock…”
In a sense, that statement was, true.
Yuri’s sudden attack in the brain was directed at everyone inside the room, regardless of enemy or ally. Probably because she was in a state of anger that she couldn’t make fine adjustments such as, whom she should attack. In short, it was what they called “friendly fire”.
“Hmm, calm down, don’t get so angry. I mean, I understand your feeling, like really. But, it’s because of her that we’re saved from these people.”
While saying that, Atsushi pointed at the masked people who were tied up.
Yuri’s “brain recital” was as powerful as ever, knocking out all of them within a few seconds.
……Well, from the point of view of Kirishima, who was forced to listen while she was sound asleep, it was brutal. So, it couldn’t be helped that she wanted to let out her anger.
“Still… I mean, how can you be so calm after hearing that?”
“Calm? Not really. My vision was shaky until just now, and I honestly felt nauseous. I’m still dizzy even now. But, that’s all. There’s no other dangerous problem.”
“Seriously? You’ve got no problem?”
Rather, the fact that Atsushi still remained conscious, also his strong mental strength made Kirishima both surprised and dumbfounded.
After Atsushi’s dizziness was completely gone, he realized something.
Come to think of it, this is the first time I’ve heard Shirasawa’s singing.
Until today, Atsushi had been helped in many ways by Yuri’s brain recital, but he didn’t really know its power. And with this experience, he was able to affirm how dangerous Yuri’s attacks were.
“So? Why is the brave person who defeated them holding her knees in the corner of the room?”
“Ah, where to start huh… the shock of having her precious game device destroyed, and the guilt of getting us involved in her attack, are mixed together, and thus, she’s in that state.”
“I see… well, at the very least, she’s reflecting on it…”
Reflecting… wasn’t exactly the right word. Right now, Yuri seemed to have lost her soul rather than reflecting on her action.
After all, what Yuri sent with her telepathy to Atsushi was only
An eerie laugh. And Atsushi fully understood that no matter what he said to her, would be meaningless for now.
“Well, let’s leave her alone for now. And shall we get to the real problem?”
“Right. Let’s hear what they have to say.”
While saying that, the two turned their gazes to the masked people.
“….. You think, we’ll just give you information?”
“Yes, of course. Listen, even though I look like this, I’m good at making people open their mouths you know. And luckily, I’ve brought along various tools just in case. Also, I just made a new drug recently. What a good timing to experiment with that, ufufufu.”
The fearless smile on Kirishima’s face reminded Atsushi, that she was a little crazy in her head.
“Oi, what did you just say? New drug? Don’t overdo it. what if something unexpected happens? Also, I report this to the Chairman.”
“…Hey you. Can’t you read the atmosphere? Why do you want to do it peacefully in this situation? Or rather, do you think you can do something about me if you tell the Chairman? I admit that I can’t stand against him in many ways, but that doesn’t mean I can’t go against him at all, you know?”
“Alright, I gotcha. Time to email him, “Kirishima made some new strange drug again, so please give her a sermon.”……”
“Stop. His sermon is long and tedious. Really, don’t do it. Stop.”
It was hard to believe that such a word came from someone who just threatened other. Although Kirishima tried to be strong, deep down, she knew that she would have a hard time dealing Hiiragi and that she wouldn’t want that to happen.
One of the masked people opened his mouth.
“Hah, as expected, she’s the daughter of that mad founder. Did she inherit her father’s method of making people talk?”
“… inherited from, my father?”
Kirishima approached the man who said that and removed the mask.
And, the moment she saw his face, she was convinced of something.
“……I see. It was you guys after all.”
“Do you know him?”
“Yes… Well, in short, he’s a family of a “Father’s Lake” believer… surely the others too.”
Indifferently, Kirishima muttered such a thing while narrowing her eyes.
TN : In Japan, from 29 April to 3 – 6 May (depending on the year), are national holidays, since it usually lasts about 1 week, it’s known as “Golden Week”
44. A visitor in the next Golden Week
Mom came home at night. As always.
I understood that she had a difficult job, but I would like her to come back a little earlier for her health.
“Aki-chan, Take-chan, could you both spare me time?”
Unusually, Mom called me.
Usually, unless there was something very special, we communicated with each other through messages.
This was because it took less time and putting words in messages was easier for both. So, it had been a long time since Mom called me like this.
“What is it, Mom?”
“It’s about the next GW. I got a message from your Grandma, that she would come over here.”
As I searched the memory, one person came to mind. In short, Grandma was an old lady with a pretty wild vibe.
“Oh, how rare. I wonder how long since I last saw her…”
“I’m sure it’s been five years. The last time she came was when Take-chan was ten years old.”
Mom and Sis were having fun.
On the other hand, I forcibly corrected my frowning face into a smile.
“Take-chan, you don’t have to be so cautious.”
Mom noticed my forced smile and said so.
Anyway, that wasn’t what bugged me.
What a wild person…
The image of Grandma in my memory was unlike any other woman I had seen in this world.
It seemed that I actually had met her in person when I was ten years old. And her appearance was firmly imprinted in my memory.
Then, Mom showed me some pictures of Grandma.
“Grandma… by any chance, is she doing a long-distance delivery?”
A tanned face with a gigantic truck in the background. The truck behind was the so-called “Decoration Truck”. [TN: Also called, “Dekotora”]
“That’s right. It looks like there will be a delivery nearby. Besides, the company is closed in Golden Week, so it looks like there won’t be any plans for a while. That’s why she contacted me saying that she would stop by. Well, it’s Golden Week after all.”
Mom said so carefreely.
This… what an ordeal…
I held my chest.
Memory… after all, could be said as a tricky thing.
This body had been planted with a sense of dislike towards Grandma, and naturally, my breathing became shallow and my heart beat faster.
Grandma, called “Satoko Souya”, lived in a rural area in Nagano Prefecture, and her job was truck driver, transporting goods all over Japan.
Mom started living in Special Ward Tokyo not long after she gave birth to me.
In short, only Sis had some memories of living in Nagano.
When a male baby was born, there would be a high risk of kidnapping. And if the child got taken abroad, it would be hard to track.
Therefore, the best option was to do everything to live in a Special Ward as soon as possible.
Also, rumors about the birth of a boy spread quickly in rural areas, so it would be hard to raise him secretly.
For safety reasons, I had never visited Grandma’s house in Nagano.
Sis went to visit there a few times during the summer vacation of elementary school, but I had always stayed at home during any holiday. Well, considering the rarity of boys, it just couldn’t be helped.
Then Mom brought her younger sister, Minayo Souya, to live together after she established a footing in the Special Ward Tokyo.
Since they would live together, it seemed that Mom and Aunt Minayo shared the rent of this house.
Yes, this mansion was still a rented house. This family would fall apart after I became an adult after all. There was no point in buying a house.
That aside, I was thinking about what to do…
“Mom, Take-kun is frightened… as expected.”
“I wonder if it’s a trauma from the last time.”
The owner of this body had an introverted personality. Even if this body had no problem with the motor nerves, it had no exercise experience.
On the other hand, Grandma was the type that put her hands before her mouth. Even her legs would move faster than her mouth. In short, the personalities just didn’t match.
Grandma began to train her ten-year-old grandson saying that it was a parent’s duty to make her child presentable in public.
So, while Grandma was training her grandson, the real “Taketo Souya”, while saying “This level should be easy for you”, he thought that “Hell is better than this!”, and thus it became a trauma.
According to my memory, even though Mom understood the situation, she didn’t say anything.
Did Mom do it on purpose?
Anyway, I was trying to come up with some excuses for now.
“Ah! That’s right! I’ve plans to go out with my friends for GW!”
“When Grandma arrives, let’s all go out somewhere together.”
Mom saw through my lies.
The next day, when I arrived at school, Toono-san and Hashigami-san were already in class.
Since there was still time, I stood by the window. As expected, both of them naturally came to my left and right.
Maybe the date last time was the reason, but in the past few days, their guard had also been refined.
“Souya-kun, have you done the homework?”
“The math…? Well, yeah, but I’m not all.”
I left the difficult question without an answer. So, I couldn’t say that I did all.
“Would you like me to show you mine?”
Hashigami-san suggested that, but I shook my head.
“No. Showing more than what your real ability is to the teacher, will only make your life difficult.”
I mean, I don’t want to be expected to be good at studying…
“Is that so? Anyway, if there’s anything you don’t understand, I don’t mind teaching you.”
“Thank you. I’ll be in your care when such a crisis comes.”
Yep, I’m glad that we went out together.
I can feel that we’re getting along pretty well since then.
“By the way, you can ask me too.”
I didn’t mean to be rude but Toono-san, who looked like a gyaru, was surprisingly good at studying.
“Then, what about studying together next time?”
“Good idea. Whose place will it be?”
When the two were excited, I heard something.
“…… What? Have a problem?”
Said Toono-san while raising her eyebrows.
Recently, even though the distance between me and the members of the group had narrowed, the atmosphere between them and the other girls in the class wasn’t good.
Especially the eyes of girls who came from Special Ward were painfully sharp. And Toono-san sensed it sensitively.
Well, I understood Toono-san’s feelings. Even if they didn’t say it was malicious, but the gaze was directed at her with negative emotions.
“Yeah, I know.”
Everyone in the class knew that we got along so well that we joked with each other.
Raising that many negative emotions at this time of year, wasn’t my intention.
In particular, I didn’t mean to create a rift between students living in the Special Ward and students living outside the Special Ward.
Well, I understood that some distance might be created, but for it to be this big already and happened at a fast pace, was unexpected.
I thought it would be better to do it after I get used to school a little more but, seems like it’s better to advance the plan…