Having been asked a rare favor by Miranda-san, we ended up confronting someone she wanted us to meet by all means at the guild.
She put her hands together, and desperately pleaded, so we agreed, if it was just meeting them, and the result was…
“So you’re the adventurer party she was talking about? My name’s Damien Valle. Ah, you don’t have to introduce yourselves. It’s a pain to remember names, no… I’m not interested at all, so I forget them soon enough.”
Ruffled hair, the color of foliage, which was kept at a length I could neither call long nor short.
He was wearing glasses, and perhaps they were magic tools, as they looked strangely heavy.
Compared to the Fourth’s glasses, that completed his tidy appearance, these ones gave the young man a sloppy impression.
He looked to be in the first half of his twenties, Despite his relatively short build, he wore a large robe, giving him a peculiar atmosphere about him. The young man had a staff taller than his own height hanging from his back.
Looking at his equipment, I could tell he was wearing an assortment of Magic Items.
But why have I been introduced to this man I didn’t want to meet?
“I’m sorry! I’m truly sorry, Lyle. It’s just that the professor said he couldn’t wait anymore… if he enters the labyrinth and sees what it’s really like, he’ll probably give up.”
Novem seemed a little troubled.
“So the request is to be Damien-san’s guard, and to defeat the fortieth underground floor’s boss? But I never said we possessed skill of that level.”
Aria looked at Damien, and perhaps because he was removed from her image of a researcher, she had received a light shock.
She likely imagined an intellectual-esque male.
“I understand that much. While you each seem to possess considerable skill individually, the very fact that there are only three of you limits that, I’ll bet. Still, no one wanted to take up my guard request. It’s irritating, isn’t it? Do you know just how much trouble it was to get that money from those higher up old farts…”
While he was talking to us, the fact that he wouldn’t look any of us in the eye looked quite rude.
I ignore the man spilling out complaint after complaint, and confirmed the situation with Miranda-san.
The reason we were called out.
“Miranda-san, is this a guild request?”
“It’s a personal request. I want you to guard the professor, and challenge the labyrinth. It seems the adventurers who took up his requests are just rushing into the labyrinth, without even trying to fulfill it…”
To a troubled Miranda-san, Damien spoke.
He seemed fed up as he spilled some complaints about the guild.
“They take money just to put out a request, and they let adventurers with no intention of fulfilling it enter the labyrinth. How detestable. This is why you can’t trust the guild. They should just prepare whatever they’re told.”
Does he even understand how hard that is?
But that isn’t this man’s field of expertise, so there’s a possibility he doesn’t know about such troubles.
I put some consideration into whether we should take on the request.
(What should we do? Taking it on is fine, but clearing it is impossible for us. I mean, we’ve three people. What’s more, taking Damien of the seven great with us to clear it? I’ve got nothing but bad feelings about this one.)
Even when it would be hard for us alone, dragging along someone who looks like nothing but trouble could prove fatal.
Without consulting either Novem or Aria, I was going to refuse.
But there, the Sixth spoke.
『… Lyle. This is a chance. Take the request. With some conditions, of course.』
With a voice no less serious than usual, he started on, and I inclined my ears to his words.
『It’s a good opportunity to separate Miranda from Shannon. They’re demon eyes that can influence even the soul. It wouldn’t be strange if Miranda was already under her control, or was in the process of being put under it.』
The Sixth seemed to be quite cautious with Shannon, and the Fifth agreed.
『If the possibility exists, this is a good time to crush it. When trying to reform her, Miranda’s aid may prove essential. Invite Miranda along here. Then start into full-blown preparations. Tell Damien that as well. That if Miranda participates, you’ll seriously take on the request.』
The Fifth seemed motivated, but it was nothing but danger to me, so I wanted to avoid it.
For our current party, I don’t think we can accomplish that much.
To signal my refusal, I tapped the Jewel with the tip of my finger, and the Second seemed amused.
『So you’ve got no motivation. Still, Lyle… the Fifth and Sixth told you to make preparations. It’s not like it has to be only you guys guarding Damien.』
The Third offered some advice.
Both of them seemed to be having fun here.
『It sounds interesting, so why not just take it up? This will be a good experience for you, Lyle. From my point of view, I think you should take Clara. That girl is a specialized support. It isn’t a bad option to try calling out to her.』
(Don’t make a game of my trials!)
While I was thinking that, the Seventh spoke to me.
『… Lyle, take on this request. In exchange, make a demand. For the Doll User Damien’s 【Golem】 magic.』
The Seventh held quite an interest in his original golem magic.
The reason made me draw back.
『It’s the magic of a man who’s even included in the seven great… the information will sell for a pretty penny!』
In the end, the Fourth put all their opinions together.
『Well then, our advice is that you take it on. Your decision, Lyle?』
As I was lost in thought, Aria called out to me.
“Wait, why are you thinking so seriously on it? It’s a request that’s impossible for us. Why not just reject…”
“We’ll take it on. But with conditions attached.”
When I said I would accept it, Novem’s expression didn’t change. It was as if she was under the impression that I would take it up from the beginning.
Aria looked at me in shock.
“W-wait! Didn’t you say we weren’t going to push ourselves here!? With this professor tagging along, there’s no way we can reach the fortieth level!”
Miranda told Aria.
“Aria, you don’t have to think about it that hard. WE just have to make the professor understand how hard the labyrinth is, and…”
Miranda-san’s words were cut off, as Damien looked at me, and called out.
Up to how, his eyes were focused on the area around me, and he wasn’t ever looking at me myself.
I’m not sure what change came about in his psyche, but he was grinning widely.
“Hmm, I was sure you were going to decline, but you’ve got some backbone, kid. Fine. I’ll make the request to you lot. And… the conditions are?”
I recited the conditions the ancestor gave from the Jewel.
“First, I’d like some time. We’ll have to stay over nights in the labyrinth, so I’d like three days of preparation. You should also make some time for that. How about we set the journey’s duration at around a week?”
On my conditions, he nodded.
“That’s fine. But isn’t that a little short? If you’re just taking me along, I won’t pay the reward. At the very least, you have to get to the thirtieth floor for me to recognize you’re earnestly doing your job.”
To me, that wasn’t really a problem.
“I don’t mind. The second is manpower. I’ll look for some on my side, but please convince Miranda-san to come along. If she refuses, we won’t take up the job.”
It’s natural to want manpower, but hearing that, Damien tilted his head.
“You want this child? I’d like it if you didn’t bring love affairs into work, but… well, it doesn’t look like that’s your intention. Fine. You, you’re coming along. By force.”
Damien said that while looking at Miranda-san.
Miranda-san looked at me for a moment, before telling Damien it was impossible.
“Professor, it’s impossible for me! I have to look after my sister… she can’t see, you know. And we don’t even have any servants at the moment.”
But as I thought, Damien started wielding the authority of the academy.
“If you come along, I’ll give you credit. I’ll tell the academy’s brass of your contributions as well. If you don’t want to… right. I won’t do anything. Yep, I won’t do anything to you.”
As Damien said that with a smile, Miranda-san hung her head.
‘Won’t do anything’ was likely Damien’s special sort of threat.
I added on.
“… The final condition is to leave her sister to a hospital. I want to have a doctor specializing in eyes look at her. We’ll prepare the money for that one.”
As I said it was for Shannon’s treatment, Miranda-san raised her head.
But her expression was perplexed.
That’s because if it could be treated, the Circry House would have already done something about it.
“I get the feeling this girl is a bit affluent, though? Perhaps it can’t be treated? I don’t really care, so I don’t know. It’s just that, if it’s just introducing a doctor, I don’t mind.”
And I went on.
“Can you put out your specialized magic as the reward for this one? The ability to use golem magic. That’s what I request as my reward.”
I thought he would refuse, but Damien nodded quite easily.
Perhaps he had no attachment to his specialized magic, or he thought I was incapable of using it.
“Do you really want it that much? If that’s enough, then I won’t have to prepare funds, so I’m actually thankful. But please don’t complain about it later.”
There, Novem cut in.
“That was surprisingly quick. Do you think Lyle-sama cannot use it?”
Damien shook his head.
“I don’t see why not? All the guys I taught definitely succeeded in using it. It’s just that in the end, everyone starts complaining to me.”
It was his magic that even became his Skill.
Perhaps if others used it, they wouldn’t achieve as great of a result.
But it’s the ability that even earned him his moniker.
The simple knowledge of it had worth as a piece of information, as the Seventh said.
“I’ll also call out to some acquaintances, but it hasn’t been long since I came to Arumsaas, so even if they agreed, I’d likely only be bringing along one. Will your side have no one but Miranda-san?”
When I asked him if he was bringing anyone along, Damien looked up, and started thinking.
“… There are some who want credit, but the usable ones are this kid, and a few, perhaps. I mean, the useful ones are all capable of getting the credits themselves, so they won’t yield to my threats.”
It seems he won’t be of any help.
While he gave off quite a damaged impression as a human being, he was one of the city of scholars’ greatest oddballs, one of the seven great.
There’s no doubt he should be skilled.
“Then three days from how, we’ll meet here. We’ll be making the necessary preparations up to then…”
As I signaled we would be discussing things as a party, Damien departed from the guild.
While waving his hand, he spoke.
“I’ve stayed out for nights in order to carry out examinations for my research, you know? I can prepare for myself, so don’t worry about that. More importantly, make sure you guys are properly prepared.”
He truly seemed to be a selfish one, but rather than him, I looked over to Miranda-san, who was our true intent this time around.
She was looking in my direction, and it seems she wanted to say something.
“Is there something on your mind?”
“… Why did you put my name out? You should know I have Shannon. While it’s true I’m the one who set up this meeting, all you had to do was take the professor along into the labyrinth.”
She’s probably worried about leaving Shannon.
I, for one, can’t see this one as a person under mind control. No, could it be that her current state is as such?
(She was kind from the start, so I can’t really determine anything.)
Novem consoled her.
“Don’t worry, Miranda-san. Shannon-chan is a level-headed girl, and it’s a good opportunity to have her see the world outside the mansion. If she stays locked up forever, her world will never expand.
Aria drew closer to me.
Unlike Novem, she seemed to be against my opinion.
“Why did you take the request? Even the magic you want, from that previous talk, it was clear that it was useless to all but the professor!”
I didn’t really want to take it on either, but thinking of Shannon’s case, I wanted to have her separated from Miranda-san for a while.
On top of that, it was a good time to ask for her cooperation.
The Sixth spoke.
『If you try to move to reform the girl while by her side, there’s no doubt she’ll notice. This was for the better. If it’s in the labyrinth, Shannon cannot interfere.』
The Fifth was of the same opinion.
But Shannon’s reformation wasn’t her only goal here.
『Also, it’s about time we have Lyle experience Growth again. Even if you’re to face Shannon now, your Mana restrictions are a bit tight.』
While considering the step where I exited the labyrinth, and experienced a growth, he started saying how it would be bad if Shannon was returned to the mansion, and he started thinking of an excuse to keep the girl away.
The Second didn’t seem to be giving Shannon much serious thought.
『I personally would like Lyle to use this opportunity for Growth as well. Thinking about what’s to come, it will be difficult if he doesn’t become stronger around this point in time.』
The Fourth was of the same opinion.
He seemed to be speaking as if he wanted me to experience a Growth in the labyrinth, but he had some doubts regarding Shannon.
『There have always been those that train in the labyrinths. And wait, is Shannon really as much of a monster as the Fifth and Sixth make her out as? I personally can’t see her as anything like that. Perhaps Celes is special? 』
I let out a sigh, and addressed Aria.
“… It’s for Miranda-san’s sake.”
After leaving it at that, we had preparations to make, so we began acting on that.
Three days later…
Having arrived at the guild, I saw Clara with baggage on her, so I waved my hand.
She was carrying bags quite large compared to her body, but she was walking as she usually did.
That scene was looked onto by the newbie adventurers with wonder.
“Right on time.”
This time, I put a support request in for Clara.
I thought she would be reluctant, but she immediately complied.
Her reward was something we would be providing.
She was looking at us.
No, she was looking at our attire.
Me, and Novem, and Aria as well had only a little more baggage than usual.
If we planned to challenge the labyrinth, it probably looked to be much too less.
“I think you have too little supplies on you. I told you the required items in advance, did I not?”
She looked a little dissatisfied, and perhaps she was under the impression that we were underestimating the Labyrinth.
I told her it was a misunderstanding, and showed her a wooden box I had placed close by.
“A wooden crate? You plan on carrying that?”
She stared at me with eyes that implied how inefficient it was.
I replied with a bitter smile.
“No, after everyone’s gathered, I’ll show you in a place without wary eyes…”
After I said that much, the adventurers coming towards the guild started growing noisy.
“Oy, Damien’s coming!”
“It’s a parade of dolls.”
“Challenging the labyrinth, is he? Then he should have just gone himself from the start.”
As I stared in the direction of the uproar with wonder, Clara gave an explanation.
Novem and Aria also looked in the direction of the adventurers clearing the way as if they were witnessing something unbelievable.
No, Novem was the same as usual.
“It’s Damien the Doll User’s parade. You’ve let me see quite a rare sight. This much may have been enough to give worth in participating. Damien can control the dolls he’s created, so this sort of thing is possible.”
I opened my eyes wide, and the ancestors were also surprised.
The Second spoke.
『Oy, oy, so this is that Damien guy’s magic!?』
The Third muttered quietly.
『I see. It truly is something that everyone would desire.』
The Fourth as well.
『Looking at this, you can definitely understand its worth. Since it doesn’t look widespread, there must be some problem with it, though.』
The Fifth was mildly excited.
『Dolls of steel. If you tried to launch an assault with these as your army, the enemy would be helpless.』
The Sixth looked at Miranda-san, who was walking beside them.
『… So unlike usual, she’s wearing clothing easy to move around in. How Milleia-like, and beautiful.』
Just how much did this guy treasure Milleia-san?
He was the only one of them was looking elsewhere.
The Seventh sounded tired.
『That’s your problem? I thought your eyes would go to those moving works of armor.』
It was just as the Seventh said.
Full body armor was carrying baggage, and following on behind Damien.
From a glance, it was as if Damien was leading a knight brigade. But that armor wasn’t what a human would wear.
The arms and legs were thick, while the body and head were made slender.
The bodies’ proportions were quite off.
“… So he can move the dolls he made from scratch to his will. Therefore he’s the doll user.”
As I muttered that, Novem nodded.
“He’s an amazing person. Is he controlling all of them himself?”
Damien had brought along four bodies.
One of them was carrying a large piece of luggage, and the others had bags on them as well, but their hands were gripping weapons.
Miranda-san, who had been walking beside them, seemed a little embarrassed.
(I told her we would take Shannon to the hospital, so she could go and meet with the professor, but… it looks like I shouldn’t have told her to go with him.)
Perhaps finding challenging a labyrinth to be fun, compared to when I last saw him, Damien seemed much more motivated.
“Greetings, gentlemen! What nice weather it is for us to take on a labyrinth!”
Hearing Damien’s words of high spirits, I looked up at the sky.
It was cloudy.
Aria seemed fed up.
“Weather is irrelevant in the labyrinth, isn’t it?”
Hearing that, Damien corrected the position of his glasses with a finger.
That gesture is one I often see from the Fourth… is what I ended up thinking.
“Irrelevant, you say? How can you be so certain? If the weather was bad, then perhaps there are adventurers who would decide not to dive into it today. The adventurers who often hunt outside the city are often at the beck and call of the skies. And there may be those that frequent the bars with those types. If you want me to go on, if it rains, there may be some who decide to go into the labyrinth for shelter. See, the weather is vital for challenging it.”
While he did have some sense to him, it’s troublesome if he goes that far into it.
And to put it bluntly, it’s a pain.
That Damien, just like Clara, looked at us with a bit of a serious expression on his face.
“Have you ever challenged a dungeon before, is what I ask?”
Does he think our motivation level is low due to our lack of baggage?
He’s probably thinking something like that.
I let out a sigh, and pointed to the wooden box.
“This is all of our stuff.”
As I said that, Damien nodded.
“I see… how inefficient. I could have a doll carry it, but that would decrease our fighting force, you know?”
Having been told that, I requested that he move it to a room without people.
If we entered the labyrinth, and moved to an empty, room, I could use the Seventh’s 【Box】 to store it.
“Putting that explanation aside, is this all of us? Okay, then let’s go to the labyrinth with all due haste. The first through third floors are crowded with adventurers. It seems there won’t be many battles until past the fifth floor, so once we get that far, let’s take a break.”
On my opinion, Damien nodded, as he smiled.
“Nice. So they’ll clear the way for us. It seems that even the guild adventurers can prove themselves useful on occasion.”
To be precise, Damien was also an adventurer.
He had a guild card.
I ignored the man who looked like he was having fun, and went over to Miranda-san.
Perhaps worrying about Shannon, she seemed to be unable to settle down.
“Eh? Ah, well, it’s just Shannon, you know. I remembered the last time we had her hospitalized, and those weren’t the best memories, so…”
We explained the situation three days ago.
At that time, Shannon seemed to have been satisfied with it, but perhaps she had offered some resistance when alone with Miranda-san.
If that was the case, then perhaps Miranda-san wasn’t actually under her control.
The Sixth seemed relieved.
『Good! With this, the first stage is cleared!』
We succeeded in separating the siblings, but my request remained as taking Damien to the fortieth floor, and defeating the boss.
From the Sixth’s point of view, Miranda-san’s safety was probably more important, though.
(Milleia-san… could it be that the Sixth caused you quite some trouble?)
After seeing him this attached, I’m beginning to worry.
Though it’s already something in the past.
“It’s a good opportunity. For Shannon, and for you.”
“I as well?”
She looked at me in wonder, and I presented the excuse I had confidently prepared beforehand.
“You’re both too dependent on one another, or even if that’s not the case, how about you place a little more trust in her? Shannon-chan is a reliable person… more so than her appearance would imply.”
She had a weak image, but her inner thoughts are pitch black. I didn’t go as far as to say that.
Aria approached me, and assured Miranda there was nothing to worry about.
“That’s right, Miranda. Put a little faith in her. Also, it’s a hospital, so they’ll look after her well.”
It would be troublesome if they didn’t.
That’s why we put out the gold coins.
As it was Damien’s acquaintance, perhaps they were also mindful of us, so they even prepared a private room for her.
Because of that, the expenses were greater than I anticipated.
(It’s the greatest expense we’ve had in a while. I’ve even bought some spare weapons for myself.)
Damien’s dolls hoisted up the wooden box.
Inside was water, and food, and even spare weapons as well.
(Well then, Our real intention is just to persuade Miranda-san, but I want to somehow fulfill Damien’s request as well.)
Damien urged us on.
“Let’s go already. Time is limited, and precious. We can’t be wasting it in a place like this.”
Novem came to console me.
“Let’s go, Lyle-sama. Don’t worry. We’ve prepared enough for this day.”
I nodded, and started tagging behind Dalien as he broke out into humming.
Next to me was Novem.
Behind us was Miranda-san and Nove, and Clara took up the rear.
In order to take on Arumsaas’ labyrinth, we must look like quite an unreliable bunch from those around us.
But the ancestors were different.
With a light air, the Second…
『Do you even need a week? Five days is more than enough.』
『Persuading Miranda-chan may be the harder part.』
The Fourth too.
『I’ll bet. In the past case, Lyle built up a bit of distance, and… he could have conducted himself better… che!』
He clicked his tongue.
The Fifth spoke.
『You’ve got an entire week to go forty floors, beat the boss, and persuade Miranda, right? The persuading part seems difficult, but you’ve plenty of time, do you not?』
As the fourth said, she wouldn’t come up and talk to me as she did before.
It’s because I ended up forcefully pushing Shannon onto the hospital.
(I could have handled it better.)
It’s too late for regrets, but the Sixth spoke.
『Lyle. I care not for Damien’s magic, but just persuade Miranda some way or another. You got it, right?』
An image of him making an intimidating face at me popped up in my mind.
I shook my head.
Novem, who was walking beside me, asked whether something was wrong, so I smiled, and told her there were no problems.
Finally, the Seventh.
『If you had Damien’s magic, you could conduct warfare with nothing but armors. Based on the situation, a small amount of troops could take down a force many times their size… oh my~ how fun it is!』
Damien’s requests, and the ancestors’ request it overlapped with.
I was worried over whether or not I would be able to take care of both of them.