A Woman’s Back
After breaking through the thirtieth floor’s boss room, we proceeded quickly.
With the Skills in my possession, we would always enter battles with the advantage.
We were able to take the shortest possible routes, with the smallest amount of battles to reach our destination.
The types of enemies moving around, their numbers.
Once we confirmed that before initiating battle, it became exceedingly easy.
We only carried the minimum amount of baggage, and we changed equipment based on the enemies.
When we found an unmoving group of enemies around the floor’s exit, I issued orders to everyone.
“Clara, extinguish the light. Novem, please prepare magic. Fire attribute. I’ll leave the finishing blows to Aria and Miranda-san. Damien-san, please use your dolls as a shield to halt the enemy’s advance. After we take a left turn at the next crossroads, we’ll find monsters, so we’re going through with our usual pattern.”
The usual pattern was to have me let loose an exploding arrow, and commence battle after that.
We would get in a surprise attack, and when the monsters were panicking, we would be able to get in magic attacks as well.
Once they started off towards us, the dolls would hold up their movements, and in that space, Aria and Miranda-san would personally land the finishing blows.
“… I never knew Miranda could fight that well.”
Aria was making a complicated expression as she looked at Miranda-san.
“Really? I didn’t intend to hide it or anything, but there wasn’t a chance to say it.”
Seeing Miranda-san respond with a smile, Aria spoke.
“Have you changed a little? Could it be you’re in an elevated mood from a Growth? Be careful.”
The experience of Growth varies by the person.
I’ve heard that experiencing battles in labyrinths can lead to a greater number of them. At times like that, it’s best to remove one’s self from battle from a while, and see what happens.
(If I didn’t have to conserve energy, I would have her stay back, though)
Considering how I would have to fight the next boss, I wanted to preserve my stamina, and save up my Mana as much as possible.
When I confirmed my number of arrows, I found that with the length we had left to travel, we had a little bit of leeway.
(It’s about time the mace will become ineffective. If we’re going to challenge the fortieth floor tomorrow, then…)
While I considered changing my weapon, I readied the bow, and told Clara to put out the light.
I leisurely went up to the corner, and when they entered my range, I fired.
When the explosion rang out, Clara deployed the light again.
The Second spoke.
『It’s already over.』
If we weren’t negligent, we were able to end battle without ever taking attacks.
By the end of the third day, we were able to reach all the way to the thirty ninth floor, and while it was a little early, we decided to rest in preparation for tomorrow.
It’s not like all the foodstuff we brought were preserved foods.
We brought normally usable ingredients as well, and the Seventh’s Skill 【Box】 kept them preserved in a fresh state.
Even in regards to food, we were able to eat what would be unthinkable to find in a labyrinth.
In the room that led down to the fortieth floor, we defeated all the surrounding monsters before setting up camp.
“To be honest here, I had underestimated you guys.”
Damien called out to me as I was resting.
“It’s because I have the Skills. Ah, please keep quiet about them.”
As I silenced him, Damien pushed his glasses up with his index finger.
“I don’t make it a habit of spreading rumors. And it feels like it would be a pain to make an enemy out of you, so I won’t.
The fact that he considered me a pain may mean he’s actually interested in me enough to evaluate me.
(But even if I’m assessed by this sort of person…)”
As I thought that, Damien started talking about the reward.
“Well then it’s about time I talked about the magic. Is it fine if that matter’s left for after we exit the labyrinth? I want to preserve my Mana here.”
Hearing that, Damien went into the real request.
“At this rate, it seems we’ll actually be able to fulfill the original, so I’ll say it, but the reward for this one isn’t money. However, it’s got a value much greater than that.”
A considerable sum of one thousand gold coins had been written on the request form.
He needed materials stripped off the fortieth floor’s boss no matter what.
(As I thought. I mean, the wording was quite questionable. In that case, just what is the reward? A Magic Tool? Or perhaps something of the sort?)
I tried predicting the reward, and Damien spoke.
“Oh, so seeing as you’re not flustered, I guess you saw it coming. Well, that makes things easier… how about an automaton for a reward?”
“Automaton? Eh? That means…”
Isn’t that something quite precious?
I was about to ask that, but Damien explained.
“I’ve assembled the parts for an automaton in itself. And I’ve piled up quite a lot of parts here. All I have to do next is model it out, and start it up, but… I didn’t have a high quality magic stone to store enough Mana for its operation. That’s why I put this request out. I also need some of the materials, but you guys can do what you please with whatever’s left. I’ll even carry them back for you.”
According to the references at the guild, the fortieth floor’s boss was a giant with armor covering its entire body. It carried a barrel gun, and it was a troublesome existence that fired off attack magic from that.
The armor it wore could sell for quite a bit, or so I’ve heard.
“Will the academy approve of the automaton matter?”
“Accept or not, we have more than enough parts, so giving away one or two is fine, is it not? It’s not my hobby, so you guys can carry it off. Its operations depends on a master-servant pact, apparently, so I think it needs some blood.”
For a doll made with an ancient civilization’s technology, I think it’s a bit of a wonder that it can run on magic.
If they had technology to that extent, I can’t see why that society was lost to time.
(The reason is unknown, I believe.)
“Ah, right. If you’re going to be staying in the city, I’ll drop by for your customer evaluation on it. I’ll pay the fee for the information, mind you. For now, they’ve cut my budget, so it’s quite harsh, you know?”
While thinking he was too free of a person, I nodded.
I looked at the dolls Damien created. They were a group of iron armor.
They looked like they would be useful in battle.
(If I use the automaton alongside golem magic, our forces will multiply instantly.)
As I thought something quite carefree, I decided to try asking something that was on my mind.
“Damien-san, it’s about the words you said in the boss room before.”
Damien thought for a while, and even mumbled, ‘… those words?’ a few times, so it didn’t seem he remembered.
“I see. Well, I’m counting on you tomorrow too. With this pace, it looks like we’ll return even faster than planned, so I can be nothing but happy.”
Watching Damien return to his spot, I thought.
(… At this rate, I’ll become no good. Just what did he mean by that?)
The morning of the fourth day.
After we woke up, we started preparations to take on the boss.
I took out the supplies I prepared for today from the Box.
Looking at them, the Third spoke.
『Lyle, you sure play dirty. To use those wooden balls stuffed with gunpowder.』
The Fourth seemed amazed.
『With the Seventh’s Skill, it becomes possible to safely carry them. I mean, there’s no risk of them exploding along the way.』
『But it’s nice that you arrived at the boss on the fourth day and all, but if we’re considering return, it looks like you really will need a week. How thoughtless of me.』
An important thing in the labyrinth was that diving in and defeating the boss wasn’t the end of it.
The return was just as important.
Baggage increases, supplies decrease, and movement speed drops. It can be said that the danger level of the return trip was the higher one.
But I was an exception.
Using Box, our baggage was kept at a minimum, and we were able to take the shortest route to go back.
To go even further, we’d already defeated all the monsters on the route we would use for our return.
Even if some of them revived, we wouldn’t be going through more battles than on the way there. Avoiding them and passing by was also possible.
(The bosses won’t be there either, so on the return, we can rest around the highly-adventurer populate twentieth floor.)
Since there were bosses, we had to take breaks like this before challenging them.
If they weren’t there, we would likely have been able to reach this point faster.
The problem was the boss on the thirtieth floor.
(I did end up using one of my trumpcards on it, but well, there’s no real problem.)
I took one of the gunpowder stuffed items out of the Box, and looked at it. The item I had prepared in considerable numbers was one of an adventurer’s toolset.
They were to be used when a troublesome monster was closing in.
But managing them was difficult, and if you used magic, or had magic used on you, there was a risk of them exploding. No decent adventurer would ever bring them into a labyrinth.
I finished my final preparations, and closed the box. Before we descended, I handed everyone one of the gunpowder balls.
“When we arrive at the boss’s room, throw those. It seems they don’t do much to its outer surface, but I’ve heard they’re effective on its insides.”
I heard it from the adventurer who reached the fiftieth floor.
When asked whether they would do anything or not, he responded they would probably be effective.
When Damien received it, he said something like, ‘can the doll do it? It’s impossible for me.’
“Novem, Clara, hand them over to Aria to throw. Once Aria throws one, hand her another. Miranda-san, please attack the monster with fire attribute magic.”
As I went into how they should move once we entered, everyone nodded.
They all looked quite stiff.
Normally, to take on a beast like this, you would need a squadron of heavily prepared veterans, or it wasn’t happening.
Just why is it that bosses manifest in labyrinths?
I ended up wondering something like that.
“Generally aim at the barrel in its hand to start with. It’s apparently something like a cannon, but the other hand carries a shield, so be careful. It also has an axe-like weapon on it, so when it drops its artillery…”
We confirmed our final strategy, and proceeded onwards to challenge the fortieth floor boss.
The fortieth basement floor.
It was the same as all the other bosses’ chambers.
The difference was its size… its width, and the surrounding walls.
Instead of the metal plates irresponsibly stuck together to make the passageways, the metal was now prettily interlocking.
The atmosphere was completely different.
“This passage sure is long.”
Miranda-san whispered that, and the others agreed.
To the others who couldn’t view the map, they were probably curious as to when we would be seeing our enemy.
I knew the distance in my head, so I didn’t feel any tension about that fact.
“We’re almost there. It’s not in the center of the room, but the further part of it, so when we enter its room, I’ll launch the first attack.”
I was bait.
It’s not like magic could be used immediately on the move, so a role like that was necessary.
Using Skills to raise my movement speed made me good at running around.
“Lyle-sama, please take care.”
While Novem worried for me, I simulated again and again in my head. I could pretty much sense the enemy’s strength with the Second’s Skill, and it was telling me I was in danger.
However, at the same time, I was able to determine it wouldn’t be too difficult to defeat it with these numbers.
That’s why we’ve preserved our strength as much as we could.
(But I guess I won’t be able to beat it alone.)
Even if I used magic, its armor was apparently able to block that, apparently.
The previous adventurer squadron that challenged it tried hitting it with their magic all at once.
But it barely took any damage from it.
The main members somehow managed to stand firm, and continued attacks on it until it collapsed, apparently.
AS we walked, the room’s entrance came into sight.
The inside of it was dark, and it gave off an ominous feeling.
Of all else, we could hear the uncanny sound of a living organism’s breath.
“I heard about it, but still, it makes my heart race. It seems that from this point onwards the strength of the monsters is on another level entirely.”
Damien said that, and Aria collected her breath.
“Good grief, just why did we take on this request anyways? We should have raised our forces and trained ourselves more first.”
Miranda-san grinned, as she responded.
“Aria- you’re too high-strung. We did prepare for it, and there’s isn’t that much of a need to panic.”
“How can you act so lighthearted!? Yesterday, you were so…”
“Both of you, please be quiet.”
Clara cautioned the two of them, and the area became quiet.
I slowly opened my mouth.
At the same time, I used the Second’s【All】’s original intended purpose…
And raised the entire party’s abilities with the First’s 【Full Over】 Skill.
Saying that, I rushed into the room, and made noise to make sure my existence was known to it.
A large something began moving, and I threw the wooden ball in my hand.
The monster stopped it with its shield, but after nothing happened, it started coming at me.
It held a large cylinder in its right hand, and it started pointing it in my direction.
I immediately reached into the bag hanging at my waist, and threw the balls one after another.
By the time I had thrown all five of my balls as I ran along the edge of the circular room, I was able to confirm a strong light pointed straight at me.
『That’s quite bad. If he took that head on, the current Lyle would be finished in one hit.』
The Seventh too.
『Don’t even think of blocking it. Dodge at all costs.』
I was full on board with the two’s opinion.
“That’s quite a troublesome one.”
I was breaking into a cold sweat.
Determining taking a direct hit was no good, I immediately dashed off, but the fired blast started coming towards me.
What’s more, at an amazing speed.
The mass of magic that collided with the wall exploded, and lit up the room for an instant.
What I was, unlike the enemies I faced before, the form of a monster tidily wearing overly ceremonious armor.
Something like tree branches were protruding from its joints.
“A plant-type monster is wearing metal armor? What sort of joke is this!?”
I used magic.
Not directed at the enemy, but at the wooden balls below it.
An orb of fire shot out of my fingertip, and landed a direct hit on one of the wooden ball.
As it exploded, the other ones went off in a chain reaction.
Smoke wrapped around the room.
The Fifth spoke.
『The others can’t target the enemy in the smoke. Lyle, blow it away.』
As ordered, I brushed away nothing but the smoke.
It seems that from the explosion below, the monster was forced to part with its shield.
“Why not drop the pipe, too! Storm!”
I blew away the smoke.
But I still wasn’t able to see the surroundings well.
As I thought, there’s a problem with this method.
『You should have stuffed gunpowder into a crate. Then you would just have to lead it to it, and bang.』
It’s a bit too late, but that was a plausible method.
But it’s not that easy to get your hands on gunpowder. I would only be able to prepare one crate.
On top of being unsure whether or not I could lead him to it, if he attacked while I was transporting it, I would be the one in danger of incineration.
The Third looked around…
『Look, Novem-chan and the others have come.』
Round objects came down on the monster one after another, and in a space separated from the group, Miranda-san used her magic.
They probably determined it was dangerous to stick together.
At the same time, the possibility of Miranda-san’s magic setting off the nearby gunpowder was scary.
Fire and wood balls collide with the boss, exploding.
The ceremonial armor doesn’t twitch in the slightest, but its right arm joint was blown away by the impact.
The pipe fell to the ground.
The Fourth issued out orders.
『Lyle, manipulate the wind to send the smoke into the deeper parts of the chamber. At this rate, the visibility will get too low to follow its movements.』
I used magic to cleanse the air, and the monster that had fallen to its knees raised a roar.
As its helmet fell off, what was visible was a monstrous insect-like head.
What an ominous fellow.
『Oy, Aria is…』
Aria used her Skills to throw the balls with all her might.
The moment the monster screamed, she tossed one into its mouth, and it was swallowed.
The next moment, Novem used magic.
The surrounding air started wwrapping around the monster.
The high level magic was the one Celes once used.
“She’s using… Fire Storm.”
The wind is set ablaze, and within that tempest of flame, the monster squirmed.
The room’s temperature instantly rose, and the beast’s behavior started to become strange.
Its head was blown off.
The Fifth offered some conjecture.
『Was the one that Aria threw what finished it off? I guess you have to hand this battle to her, then.』
I stared at the flaming monster, and after confirming it had died, I took a deep breath.
I didn’t know Novem could use magic of that level, but in the end, we emerged victorious, so there’s no problem.
The first one to run over to me wasn’t Novem, but Miranda-san.
“It looks like it all went well.”
As I said that to her, she nodded with a smile.
“Really. I thought it was a plant-based monster, but the head was an insect parasite. If Shannon was here, she would have fainted.”
It appears that Shannon dislikes bugs.
Seeing the unmoving monster, Damien happily extinguished the flames with magic.
While its contents were burning up, the armor itself was only dirty, and it hadn’t melted.
It’s too sturdy.
I’m not sure if she used an unfamiliar Skill, but Aria seemed tired.
Novem and Clara were attending to her.
Miranda stared at Novem as she muttered.
“… That girl’s something incredible. She’s over me.”
I thought she was praising her.
“She’s quite a dependable one. In… various ways.”
I muddled my words, as I headed back towards the rest of the group. I thought of having Damien’s dolls carry the scattered armor pieces, barrel and shield.
“… I’m really tired. I want to go home.”
After having defeated the fortieth floor’s boss, we didn’t proceed any further, and returned to the previous floor.
If possible, within the day, we would get to around the twentieth, and rest the night, but… a change came about in me.
It wasn’t to the same extent as before, but my body was extremely fatigued.
I didn’t want to move my limbs, and even walking was a pain.
With a large magic stone in hand, Damien exclaimed something like, ‘with this, I can finally finish the device to convert Mana to electricity!’
(It’s as if he’s a child who bought a new toy.)
We collected all the necessary monster materials, but it looks like our main objective was the stone.
He’s probably happy at having his devices completed.
Damien was innocently delighted, but his dolls were carrying the heavy-looking armor the boss was wearing.
Our reward this time would be an automaton, and Damien teaching his magic.
However, like that, we would have no income.
Since I paid quite a sum to prepare for this voyage, it was natural for me to want to collect a few valuables.
“That armor sure is cool. Its rustic parts are quite nice. Quite nice.”
As I hobbled forwards, Aria looked at me with irritated eyes, and shouted.
“Can’t you walk properly already!?”
“… I don’t feel like it.”
If there were a man here, I would even like to be carried.
But if you’re looking for one in the area, there was only Damien, who was shorter than me.
The individual himself had quite a large magic stone on hand, and the corner of his lips were raised.
I doubt he’s actually looking at anything else.
(I’m surprised he can make his dolls move around in that state.)
While finding it a wonder, I wrung out my strength to tread down the labyrinth.
The fifth day.
In a worse state than before, I borrowed Novem’s shoulder to walk through the maze.
Clara looked at me with worry on her face.
“Your complexion is pale, Lyle-sam.”
“… No more… I can’t go on… ah, turn right there.”
I use my Skills, and somehow relay orders to the rest of them.
I can still use the Skills, but the fatigue is starting to become something awful. The amount of Mana my body is recovering is low, and my body is hurting too much to help it.
“Lyle-kun, could it be you pushed yourself too far?”
As Miranda-san said that, Aria…
“It was like this before as well. What comes next is just as bad.”
Even cautioning my comrades, who were spreading my personal information, felt like a pain, so I didn’t open my mouth.
Novem called out to me.
“Lyle-sama, we’ve already reached the tenth floor, so hold on for a little longer.”
Because of the large number of adventurers that dived in, the higher and higher we went, the less and less monsters appeared. We were able to move with some peace of mind.
When I checked the Skills, I saw yellow signals scattered around here and there.
“… No more…”
Complaints escaped from my mouth.
Hearing that, the Sixth let out a sigh.
『Lyle, endure it a little longer. And wait, you’re that, aren’t you… the type where your physical condition is ravaged right before a Growth.』
The Fifth was level-headed.
『But he grows enough to compensate, right? Just think of it as recoil, and deal with it. And wait… the others seem pained as well.』
When I looked around, I saw that Novem was enduring some pain.
Damien was opening his mouth less.
Aria was constantly irritated.
Miranda-san had lost the sharpness of her movements.
Clara’s light wasn’t kept at a stable brightness.
Even when Novem was enduring her own troubles, she was lending me her shoulder.
『When everyone fights and receives a mass of experience, it becomes like this, I guess. Things will really go to hell if you don’t increase your number. This is definitely related to Lyle’s Skill, isn’t it?』
The Third held the same opinion.
『Rather, for him to have to get this much experience to experience Growth… the others here have probably gone through it time and again, but this is just Lyle’s second time, isn’t it?』
Right, I was about to go through my second growth.
It’s just that… I was only getting one after fighting numerous battles in the Labyrinth’s lower floors, and defeating both the thirtieth and fortieth floor bosses.
What’s more, with the fatigue that came from it, I was left in a state where I couldn’t even move myself properly.
The Seventh chose his words with care.
『… Lyle is that, you know. Umm… as long as he times things well, he’s a valuable fighting force. These small demerits here and there aren’t a problem.』
『Well, after one Growth, he should be fine for quite a while. But still…』
Even taking a single step required quite a bit of willpower.
In the end, with the relief I felt from reaching around the fifth floor, I lost consciousness.
I heard this later, but apparently Novem and Miranda-san carried me.
Damien’s dolls were tasked with heavy baggage, Damien himself refused, Aria was our fighting force just in case, and Clara was our support, providing us with light.
Miranda-san volunteered, so she assisted Novem in carrying me, it seems.
In the fifth floor brimming with adventurers, I showed off the sorry sight of myself being carried home by two women.
The ancestors’ evaluation of this expedition as a whole was as follows.
『Having girls carry you, not happenin’ man. What a turn off.』
… It seems.
I thought so as well.