The end floor of the second day.
In a wide space on the twenty ninth floor, we had performed a clean sweep of the monsters, and took a break.
By checking for responses below me, I found quite a large one.
The Boss had revived. I thought perhaps the adventurers acting in the labyrinth would have moved to subjugate it already, but it seems the numbers of adventurers simply increased, and nothing came of it.
Tired from battle, we put off fighting the boss to tomorrow.
I activated my Skills to find a portion of the labyrinth was moving.
A dull metallic sound could be heard a ways away, and a single passageway was shifting.
“To reach the path to the thirtieth floor on the second day… I really was right to have asked for you guys.”
Damien said that as he started drinking water he pulled out of the chest I manifested with the Seventh Generation’s 【Box.】
With our light equipment, our movement speed was greater than the other adventurers.
At the same time, I was using the Fourth’s Skill to expedite the process.
“Our movement speed was raised a few times along the way, but that’s also the work of your Skills, right? Make sure you tell me before you use it. It looks like it had an effect on my dolls too, and moving them around felt quite off.”
“Well I’m sorry about that.”
Occasionally, Damien was sharp.
Unlike when he was arguing with Aria, he seemed to be calmly analyzing my ability.
It’s just that even if he had interest, I was low on his priority list, so he didn’t ask me the specifics.
(So there was an effect on the dolls too. While I did increase our movement speed… if that’s the case, this is yet another extraordinary Skill.)
I’m not sure what theory it works by, but it’s true it will prove useful.
For now, the only one I haven’t used is the Third Generation’s 【Mind】.
In a sense, it was the one most removed from the others.
It was one that worked on the psych, and one that could become a large problem if abused.
(Could it be that he didn’t teach it to me because he was discerning what sort of person I was?)
It was dangerous as a Skill, but using it was relatively easy.
And about the use of its second stage, the Third hasn’t given out the permission. Even when he conceded I had high enough ability to use it.
Seeing me lost in thought, Damien called out.
“What could it be? If it’s about tomorrow’s plans, you already looked through the guild’s references, and put some thought into it, right?”
“Well, that’s true. It’s true that I’m nervous. It’s the first I’ll be fighting something like that. It’s not my specialty or anything.”
There are even some adventurers that specialize in taking down bosses after they revive.
They hold specialized equipment, and defeating the boss had become nothing more than a simple job to them at this point.
However, it’s often the case that such adventurers don’t prove useful in other work.
We’re an all-purpose party, and we have our troubles in times like these, but our forte was our ability to be able to fight through most circumstances.
『What are you getting timid here for? If it’s something on the level of the next floor’s boss, you’ll win with ease.』
The Second let out an amazed tone.
My current trumpcard, the First’s 【Full Burst】 Skill let me temporarily multiply my abilities.
It let me display explosive powers, but in order to use it, it constantly drained and stored a small amount of Mana from me.
With the current me, after one use, I would have to open up a period of two to three days. After waiting that long, I would be able to temporarily boost myself two to three times over.
I haven’t used it since coming here, so if it’s not, I think I can pull out three to five.
“The weakness of all-purpose types, was it? But as an all-purpose party that can overcome any circumstance, you guys are competent. It would even be fine to call you guys too competent.”
There was something that caught me up in Damien’s words.
But tomorrow, I’ll be getting up early. I wanted to rest in leisure.
“Is that so? I didn’t notice that myself. I’m sleepy, so I’ll sleep now. I’ll get food later, so don’t worry about that.”
“… Really? Then good night.”
I separated from Damien, wrapped myself in the sleeping bag I took out of the box, and told Novem to wake me up when the time came before falling asleep.
“… What is it, Third?”
When I thought I had fallen asleep, I found myself inside the Jewel’s conference room.
The one who called me seems to be the Third.
『Don’t make such a scary face. For our little boy who hasn’t had any progress, I thought I would teach you how to seduce Miranda-chan.』
I didn’t like his use of seduce, but I really was unable to find an occasion to win her over.
Looking with the Skills made it clear.
She was displayed in the yellow hue of neither an enemy nor ally, and as if she was unstable, she would occasionally flash red.
Shannon shouldn’t be here, but occasionally, Miranda-san spaced out.
『That Sixth can’t calm down, you see. I want to try doing something from my side, so I’ll tell you a special way to use my Skill. Don’t tell the others, kay?』
“Well, there are a few things I have against interfering with someone’s psyche.”
As I said that, the Third smiled.
『Is it wrong to corrupt people’s minds with Skills? Even when, without Skills, humans are organisms that manipulate others to their wills?』
I don’t think I’m wrong for thinking, ‘this man is dark!’ at that moment.
The Third continued with his explanation.
『To control a human, you don’t need something like Skills. All you need is art, and a bit of technique. If you think of it that way, people are always interfering with others’ psyche every day. So what’s the difference if you do it with a Skill? The problem lies in how you use it.』
“How you use it? If I implant that she was to become our ally, the Sixth would be furious. I’m pretty sure that Miranda-san and Milleia-san have overlapped in his mind.”
The Sixth’s attachment to Miranda-san was blatantly amazing.
Even if trouble was to befall me, he wanted to release her from Shannon’s hands.
That’s also proof that he thinks I’m capable of it.
『When people get worn out, their minds become unstable. Perhaps it means that in this unfamiliar environment, Miranda-chan can’t put up her usual resistance to her sister’s antics? That’s why… Shannon-chan’s influence might be coming out.』
Until recently, Miranda-san was much definitely more collected.
The more and more we tread through the labyrinth, the more unstable I felt she became, so perhaps the Third’s opinion was true.
After living in the same mansion for so long, it’s strange that she wasn’t interfered with at all.
“So Shannon is dangerous.”
『You think so?』
The Third’s words shocked me.
After she’s done this much, he didn’t seem to think of the girl as a danger.
『The current situation is that Miranda-san is becoming emotionally unstable due to constant exposure to an unfamiliar environment, right? Then what about in her normal life? Perhaps Miranda-chan would have been completely fine, you know?』
“… Um, does that mean we did something unnecessary…”
Because of the Fifth and Sixth’s bizarre level of vigilance, could it be that we’ve made a large mistake?
I started to think that.
『Well the Fifth and Sixth definitely see that one as Milleia-chan. It’s because Milleia-chan was so amazing that Shannon must be as well? It’s that sort of thing, isn’t it?』
I didn’t think her a wonder wither.
I’ve seen Celes up close a number of times, but I couldn’t feel anything of her level from Shannon.
Of all else…
『They said Miranda-chan supposedly resembled Milleia-chan, but… perhaps the truly scary one is Miranda-chan then.』
The cheerful Miranda-san, who minded her surroundings, gave off a greater feeling.
Something that drew people to her.
But it was something different than the fear I sensed from Celes.
『And that Miranda-chan is becoming unstable… I think that’s the greater danger here. So I’ll teach you how to use the Skill. If you put it to practical use, your harem will immediately explode in size, Lyle.』
He continued on with a smile, and my face stiffened.
I know he isn’t seriously thinking about that, but he sure knows how to talk.
I accompanied his jokes, as the Third taught me a way to use… to apply his Skill.
When I opened my eyes…
I immediately rolled away in the sleeping bag I was in.
Around me, Damien and Aria were sleeping soundly. Looking closely, Novem was also asleep.
Clara was collapsed on the ground, asleep as well.
Novem and Clara should have been the first ones on lookout.
The Second spoke.
『That woman sure did it!』
I hadn’t laid hands on the food prepared for me to eat after waking.
My luck was good. I’ll bet there was a sleeping drug mixed into it.
I heard the Sixth’s voice from the Jewel.
『So she was being controlled. But why, with this timing…』
The Fifth stopped the Sixth.
『Right now, Lyle’s life is priority. Put that aside.』
I leapt from the sleeping bag, and looked at the place I was at before.
The mace I had brought, was lowered onto the ground with all of Miranda-san’s strength.
That wasn’t the power she had shown since coming to the labyrinth.
“What is the meaning of doing something like this?”
I leisurely looked at the instigator of this.
Her usual bright smile was absent.
With eyes that had lost their highlights, she murmured as she looked at me.
“Shannon’s enemies are my enemies. I will eliminate all that get in Shannon’s way. Shannon’s enemies are…”
She’s probably taken my weapons too.
If I hadn’t been called into the Jewel by the Third, perhaps the situation would have been more drastic.
“Are you listening to me, Miranda-san?”
She leapt forward.
At her fighting style like that of a soldier that specialized in direct combat, I retreated back.
But she threw the mace at me.
When I dodged, the mace hit the wall, and a metallic sound reverberated through the room.
In her hand, her spare weapon, a dagger was clutched.
The light of the magic stone lamp we used for camping dimly lit the room.
“Lyle… you got in that child’s way, didn’t you…”
As she stepped in, she immediately moved to my side.
I immediately bent down to dodge the dagger thrust at me, but this time, her foot was coming at me.
For an instant.
The scene of Celes kicking into the air played back in my head.
I immediately grabbed her leg, and threw her off her feet, but the moment she collided with the wall, she had had corrected her stance. She kicked the wall, to make a tidy landing.
Seeing the scene, the Seventh spoke.
『Those aren’t the movements of a Rearguard. No, perhaps she’s competent at both positions.』
Seeing Miranda-san’s ability, I realized she had been concealing them up until now.
I don’t think she was hiding them on Shannon’s orders.
Perhaps she had hid her abilities of her own will.
The Fifth voiced Milleia-san’s name.
『It seems the Milleia-like troublesome entity was this girl. Good grief, my eyes aren’t what they used to be.』
The Fifth murmured that regretfully.
We defeated all the monsters around, so there was no danger of them interrupting.
But my comrades were asleep, so help wasn’t coming either.
Miranda-san immediately noticed the direction of my gaze, and inserted herself between me and Novem.
Taking a stance with the dagger, and lowering her hips, it didn’t look like she had remembered how to fight from just a day or two.
“Do kids these days get taught in things like that as well? Well, Novem is also like that, so I’m not complaining.”
As I gave a sarcastic smile, Miranda’s eyebrows twitched.
“… Oy, could it be you’re actually conscious right now?”
I can’t think that someone this strong was actually worn out by the battles up to here, and became unable to resist Shannon’s influence.
She lifted up her face, and her mouth had curved into the shape of a crescent moon.
The glint of her white teeth in the dim room looked ominous.
“… Each and every one of you needs to shut up. The sociable me has had enough, and she’s fast asleep. I have to be thankful to that brat. Because of her, I can finally come out on the surface.”
With her ominous laughter, her atmosphere was completely different from before.
She took out another dagger, and held it in her other hand.
A two-sword style.
“You see, this girl is way too good at playing the good girl part. I mean, she even began to deceive herself into thinking she was one.”
With her tongue sticking out to lick her daggers, her eyes filled with madness were fixated on me.
And they seemed to be delighted at that.
“She holed it all in, and cried alone. It was detestable… but then, you see, that brat had to do something unnecessary!”
I took out the knife hidden in my belt to receive her daggers as they came at me.
In case something happened, I started carrying it on me when her yellow signal came out.
“As I thought, you’re the same sort as me… It simply makes me want to carve up that, ‘I saw it coming’ face.”
As she said that with an entranced expression, I kicked her away.
But she matched my kick, and used the momentum to retreat back.
It was as if she was a cat.
“That brat laid hands on the openings in this girl’s heart, and freakin’ buried me! She didn’t even seem to know what she was doing, so it was just the best! Once she finished chipping away the outer me’s psyche, I was sure she would be the first one I would carve up.”
Running at me, she feinted left and right to confuse me.
But the Second’s Skill continued to relay her exact location to me, so I used the knife in my hand to stop her attack.
“But… it looks like the first one I’ll be mincing up is… You. My. Dear! It’s Lyle-kun!!”
Miranda-san… no, the girl continued slashing at me consecutively, and she initiated quite a varied attack pattern.
While thinking this would be so much easier if I had my sabre, I tried asking.
“And why is it me?”
“Why? Why, I wonder… like I know!!”
It felt like she was hiding her reasons.
And right now, this girl was enjoying the battle to its fullest.
While finding delight in killing me, she didn’t try to take Novem, or any of the ones behind her hostage.
It’s just that…
(She’s stronger than I thought!)
They said she resembled Milleia-san, but was Milleia-san this strong?
As I thought that, I kicked one of her daggers out of her hands.
“Aha! You’re the best! For you to not be pushed back by this girl’s physical abilities, you really are amazing.”
“Well thanks for that.”
While letting out some light quips, I lightly brushed the Jewel.
The Third spoke.
『Well why not?』
He seemed to understand what I was trying to say.
Personally, I was reluctant.
“Why was I the first one? What’s the reason you didn’t target Novem, or any of the others.”
Miranda-san twirled her dagger around her fingertips as she answered.
“It’s because I woke up to your voice. When you asked if she was conscious, this girl became flustered.”
With a broad grin, she began to divulge Miranda-san’s inner thoughts.
“Did ‘ya know? This girl freakin’ fell for you on first sight! If it’s this person, perhaps he’ll understand me, she had some faint expectations like that! Isn’t it laughable? Even when she’s never once laughed in her heart.”
While she looked to be a sociable girl anyone could rely on, it seems she was carrying her own worried.
“And, so, honey… I thought I would cut you up first, and destroy that girl’s heart. I mean, I’ve gotten fed up of being locked up like this.”
I continued to measure the distance between us as I slowly moved.
While she was laughing, if I showed an opening, she would surely jump at it.
She seem to understand that I couldn’t attack Miranda-san’s body.
“The first one who tried to kill you… was the outer me, though. I mean, isn’t it true? Before I came out, she tried to land the finishing blow of her own will. Though she was being manipulated by that brat. Still… that outer me was just a little serious. I mean, you kept showing it off.”
She turned her eyes to Novem.
As I strengthened my vigilance, she started laughing.
“Oh, don’t worry, I won’t cheat on you dear… but Lyle-kun, has Novem and Aria, and on top of that, he has his hands on that Clara over there. He’s quite an awful man, isn’t he?”
“I’m sorry, I’ve never even been kissed before. I’m a shy boy.”
“Well how unfortunate… before trying to kill you, the outer me should have taken a swing at you.”
As she said that, I denied it.
“I have Novem, so won’t you put that on hold? I’m serious about her.”
“… Right. As I thought, that’s how it is. Even when we’re the same, the outer me couldn’t understand that.”
I was curious about her statement, but I immediately jumped at her.
My preparations were complete.
“Oh my, for you to be so motivated all of a sudden…!!”
Her face warped. With a pained expression, she glared at me.
As I leapt at her, she thrust out her dagger.
I grabbed the fist clenched around it, and averted it.
In the space between my index and middle finger, the dagger’s blade had lightly cut into the skin.
“What did you do… what did you do!!?”
As my right hand gripped her left, she landed a kick on me.
It wasn’t the kick of a girl.
I stomached the pain, and went on in a leisurely expression.
“It’s a Skill that influences the mind… the Support Class has them too, you know. Did I ever say I couldn’t use something like that?”
The Jewel let off a blue light, and forcefully sealed her off before calling out to Miranda-san.
“How are you feeling?”
As I let go of her hands, she fell to her knees, and let the dagger drop to the ground.
A metallic sound rang out, but no one opened their eyes.
“… This is the worst.”
She was hanging her head, so I couldn’t see her face.
And like that, I started to use 【Mind】.
I called out to the depths of her heart, and forcefully dragged her out. I was even able to push down the girl fluently prattling on about Miranda-san’s feelings.
(It’s good that I was able to do that as soon as she came out. And wait, that one’s dangerous.)
“… So you knew. About Shannon.”
On my question, she opened her mouth.
“You heard, didn’t you? I know. I was aware of how she was influencing me, and I played the fool I mean… I’m Shannon’s older sister.”
I remember the words Aria said.
When she was at nothing but a loss, the one who worried for her was Aria.
“Everyone has a part of them they don’t want to show off.”
As I said that, Miranda-san started smiling.
“I hear that a lot. But the me you saw was nothing to laugh about. I showed you the abnormal me.”
I let out a sigh, and activated Mind.
The Sixth raised his voice.
『S-stop it, Lyle!』
But the Third restrained him.
『It’s fine, it’s fine. Have at it. Even if Shannon-chan had some influence in it, that’s her real self. Rather than having it pile up and explode, it’s better to have her accept it.』
The Third merely spoke in his usual light tone of voice.
(Don’t say it as if it’s someone else’s problem.)
“You may deny it, but that doesn’t change the truth. That was a single side of you. And now, I’m going to use my Skill to treat that part.”
The self she divided off, once more…
I’ll have her properly recognize the dark feelings she discarded.
“…… I’m unsightly, you know.”
“Don’t worry. There are worse ones out there (My sister, for one).”
She slowly lifted her head to look at me.
Her messed up hair was stuck to her face.
From the gaps in her hair, I saw those lightless eyes again.
“It’s not my problem what happens. She could have surely pushed me down forever.”
“You’d come to the surface soon enough. And when that happens, it’ll become a major incident. In that case, just let her accept you. It’s time for you to protect the other Miranda-san.”
The suppressed emotions were always treated as a malicious entity.
But if I had to say, that’s also human.
Regret and grief, the self that no one would ever look at… while it’s embarrassing, that’s also a part of me.
No, it was the larger portion.
But I was able to use those mortifying feelings as fuel to persevere.
… Not that I was rewarded for it or anything.
“If you’ve been nothing but rejected for so long, it can’t be helped that you’ve grown so twisted.”
I touched her shoulder with my right hand, and the Jewel started to shine.
“… I guess you’re right.”
“And I’ll accept you too.”
No matter what Miranda-san she may be, I’ll accept her as Miranda-san.
That’s what I meant when I said that.
“Eh? Was that…”
She let off a blue light, before collapsing.
She was probably quite expended mentally.
I was also quite tired from using my Skills.
“Even when we’ll be busy tomorrow… yeah, I’ll sleep.”
With this, I think we’ve proceeded a little in our Shannon countermeasures.
The Sixth whispered.
『So I… didn’t get it.』
… The time to change lookout shift.
Novem slowly rose from the space she had been sitting.
Around her, a drugged Damien, Clara and Aria…
Miranda and Lyle were also asleep.
“… I heard she had some knowledge on medicine, but the amount of chemicals were administered quite precisely. With this, everyone should wake by tomorrow.”
Clara was on the same shift as her, but Novem let her sleep.
She draped a blanket over her.
With her staff in hand, Novem headed over to Miranda.
Miranda’s hair was stuck to her face with sweat.
She seemed to be severely fatigued.
Novem gripped her staff tightly, but when she saw Lyle stir beside her, she loosened her hand.
She put down her staff, and stared at the palm of her hand.
“Why did it react like this? That aside, waking them up like this is a little…”
Perhaps Lyle was worn out, as he was sleeping quite soundly.
Looking at his expression, Novem smiled.
She tried stroking her hand against his face.
After tilting her head to the side, she decided to continue keeping watch.
“You seem to be tired from that battle, so I’ll take over your lookout shift.”
In that previous battle.
Novem hadn’t been asleep…
Everyone had woken up a little after our decided departure time.
“I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”
Novem made a bitter smile.
After seeing Clara continually apologizing to Novem after waking up, I couldn’t even caution her.
I mean, I had also fallen asleep, and missed my shift.
When I asked Novem why she didn’t wake me up, she responded that I looked tired.
Going after her any further on the matter was difficult, as I was the one who had slept through it anyways.
“Yeah~ that was a nice rest. It feels as if I’ve been drugged or something!”
Damien laughed in a loud voice, and it seems that was the first decent sleep he had received in a while, so he was happy.
I wanted to ask just what sort of lifestyle he was living, but I felt his explanation would be a pain, so I stopped myself.
Aria awkwardly finished her meal in silence.
“I’m sorry, Novem-chan!”
… Bright, and energetic.
It was as if the events of last night were a lie, but the Third spoke.
『It’s actually quite refreshing to open up and get serious once in a while.』
Hearing that, the Fifth seemed to be in doubt.
『… Only if that’s possible. No, perhaps I was a bit too serious myself…』
It seems he had thought of something.
『She’s more energetic than before. It’s fine. I mean, like this, she’ll probably help out with Shannon’s case.』
The Fourth was of the same opinion.
『That’s truly a nice smile. She looks like she’ll help, but… when you know what emotions are lurking under that face… as I thought, girls are scary.』
It seems those words were filled with his true feelings, so I couldn’t really return any words to him.
(In that regard, Novem is perfect.)
I was in a slight mood to brag to him.
The Seventh was the same as always.
『Well, with this, we’ll be able to concentrate solely on Damien’s request.』
The Sixth sounded unmotivated.
I knew it couldn’t end like this, so after eating, I started cleaning up.
“Clara, you should leave it at that.”
“It’s no good. For support like me, I have to properly do my work, or it’s no good.”
She said that more briskly than usual, so I’ll bet they were her feelings towards her work.
I responded with an, ‘o-okay’, before returning to cleaning up.
And when I passed by Miranda-sab’s side…
“Thanks for yesterday, and… please look after me, L. Y. L. E. Kun.”
For just a moment… that girl’s smile surfaced on Miranda’s face.
The Thirtieth floor’s boss room.
An ogre with a large hollow pipe over its shoulder was standing before me.
“It’s as if it’s a cannon. Even so, there are quite a few monsters with some troublesome things on them here.”
Having everyone else step back, I confronted the ogre alone.
“You’ll really be fine, right~?”
Even with his doubts, Damien waited on standby behind.
As if it were making light of me, the ogre raised the large pipe over its head.
I gripped the Jewel.
As I said that, the silver metal ornaments around the Jewel expanded out, and I was gripping a large sword in my right hand.
It resembled the sword the First used in his life, but it’s begun to take on a shape easier for me to use.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t have the time. I’ll be ending it in one hit.”
I held the sword in both hands against my waist as if to slash upwards with it.
As the ogre swung down its pipe on me, I also swung my own.
A shock wave rung out, and the ogre was flung all the way to the back wall of the boss chamber.
Its metal breastplate and gauntlets were torn up alongside the cannon, as it was sent barreling into the wall.
The pipe split into two, and fell to the ground.
I released the Skill.
“… Besides taking out a monster in one blow, this one’s actually quite harsh to handle.”
Returning the large sword to its former state, I started worrying about the Mana I lost.
If I don’t experience a Growth at least once more, I may never be able to skillfully handle the Jewel.
My comrades that watched my fight came over.
“As expected of Lyle-sama.”
Novem praised me as usual.
“You won’t use that one more frequently?”
“… I’ll use it when I must, right? It’s that sort of thing.”
To her cold attitude, I reacted in like.
Well, it was between comrades, so it wasn’t a bad exchange.
Clara started looking at my Jewel with a serious expression.
“That’s rare metal. And an expensive sort at that.”
Miranda-san applauded with a smile.
But she wasn’t simply cheerful as usual.
She seemed even friendlier than before.
“With this, we’ve completed the professor’s request. Now, please teach Lyle-kun your magic.”
Damien’s promise was that he would recognize we were seriously doing his request if we exceeded the thirtieth floor.
But he looked at me, and spoke.
“It’s a promise, so I’ll uphold it. Can I also throw something out there?”
“What is it”
Looking at me with a serious face, Damien spoke.
“You, at this rate, you’ll become no good. Well, not that it’s my business.”
Having been told that, I had no words to return.
I wonder why.
And the Second agreed.
『… I’ll bet.』
We were steadily proceeding towards clearing Damien’s request, but it seems I’m to confront yet another problem.