We met as planned, and challenged the labyrinth for the first time in a while.
Our members were me, Novem, Aria, Miranda, Clara, Poyopoyo, and Porter.
I stationed Porter at the center of our formation, and Aria at the front.
Having gone through several modifications, Porter now had a roof attached by thin pillars extending from the loading area.
Weather is irrelevant in the Labyrinth.
But it was attached in order to prevent the luggage from taking damage during battle.
“Should I have just made it a box?”
Rather than light weight, perhaps I should have focused on making it sturdy. As I said that, Poyopoyo put her hand to her chin.
“More than that, instead of deploying a Shield out front, something more offensive… how about sticking a spike to make Porter an attack type? Destroy enemies and traps in your way as you push forward!”
Hearing that, I thought that perhaps that would have been fine, for a moment, but I soon started shaking my head.
We can’t have the machine carrying our precious baggage going on the attack, and possibly being destroyed.
Clara put her hand to her forehead, and spoke.
“… What would you do if you dragged other adventurers into it? That’s definitely no good.”
But the large lantern attached to Porter felt like a good addition.
It kept down Clara’s Mana cost.
In exchange, it took money to light.
It lighted the passageways, but the fact that it couldn’t be extinguished and relit frequently was a problem.
Aria stopped ahead, and signaled that there were enemies around the turn ahead.
“Quiet down a little. I have to listen carefully here.”
Novem was to Porter’s side, and Miranda was across from her.
Clara was walking ahead.
Its rear was open, but when it came to it, that space was one to hide and take cover in.
In that case, building it sturdy would have been preferred.
Within the passageways made of metal sheets irresponsibly layered over one another, as Aria said, I definitely did hear footsteps.
I gave out orders.
But it was different than before.
“Novem, prepare your magic. Once you’ve fired off a round, me and Aria will finish off the rest. If they get through, Miranda, protect those two. Poyopoyo keep watch of the rear.”
In a tone indicating her reluctance to be assigned to the rear alone, Poypoyo…
“Even when I can clearly see them in darkness… even when I can take out those numbers immediately…”
I know she could do it, but this time’s expedition was to see how far we could go with these members.
Throwing Poyopoyo into battle between the first and third floors would be contradictory to that objective. At the same time…
“It takes money to have you fight.”
A voice from the Jewel affirmed that. It was the money grubbing fourth.
『Yeah, that’s important. When the expedition itself costs money, having the automaton get damaged in the slightest will cut our income… hah, the efficiency would be better if you were still earning normally from carrying baggage.』
He was referring to when I used Porter to carry adventurers to their destinations, or recovering them when they were headed back.
That one gave out quite some good payout.
Adventurers headed further down were able to travel with ease.
Returning adventurers wouldn’t have to carry their heavy luggage in their tired states. Depending on the case, they were exceedingly happy at having found a ride.
Both cases didn’t take up too much time, and with the round trip I was able to earn sums equal to whole gold coins.
(… But I think the Fourth’s normal is a little bit off.)
He isn’t wrong, but it’s far removed from the type of adventurers I imagine.
It’s true that Porter brought in money, but that was merely the means, and not the goal.
The Fifth cautioned him.
『… It’s not your money, you know, damn miser.』
The Fourth responded.
『Earnings are important, right!? In order to live, it’s no good if you don’t bring in money!』
He wasn’t wrong.
But on that opinion, the Sixth…
『That’s only if you actually use the money. Needlessly stocking it up, it’s not like you’ll take it to the other world with you when you’re dead.』
Even if you had a treasure hoard, there was no meaning if you couldn’t use it skillfully.
In that sense, I think I want to become a person who can use money well.
The Fourth was just good at bringing it in.
He ascertained the limit the adventurers we met would willingly pay, and negotiated to lower prices. By stepping back here, we were able to take in money in the end.
As I was thinking that, monsters appeared from the passage.
Goblins armed with metallic weapons came out with the numbers Aria specified.
Finishing her preparations, Novem…
Fired off multiple orbs of fire, causing the enemies to falter. Even if they blocked with their armaments, they would still receive burns.
Aria stepped out front alongside me.
She was carrying along a spear shorter than before, and held out a small shield upfront as she parried enemy attacks, and destroyed their footing.
Like that, she thrust out her spear wherever there wasn’t any metal.
It was different than her style up to now, and she stopped swinging in wide arcs.
(That makes things easier.)
With not the mace, but a sabre in hand, I turned half my body to dodge a goblin’s attacks, before cutting at its throat.
With blood rushing from its neck, the goblin fell to the ground with a dull metallic sound. The other goblin that tried to get away from the two of us was dealt with the other sabre I drew with my left hand.
Letting out a careless voice, the goblin’s head fell to the ground as blood continued to spill from its neck.
The surroundings were died red.
Luckily, the only ones who were dirty were me and Aria.
“… Hey, if you get blood everywhere like that, I’m going to slip.”
She sure has gotten sturdy.
Before quite a brutal scene, she seemed quite used to it, and her only thoughts were that she would slip… I find it a little sad she’s nothing like a noble Lady anymore.
“Sorry about that. No, really…”
Seeing my questioning expression, Aria seemed confused.
“Why are you making a face like that?”
When the battle ended, Clara approached to pick off anything that could be turned to money. The tools to pick them off were also loaded on Porter, so she was only carrying a small portion of equipment herself.
The metal was also tossed onto its loading cart.
Aria kept watch of the front, and Miranda-san the back.
I assisted Clara, and confirmed with Novem.
“Novem, are you tired at all?”
If a magician expended physical strength, they would also lose mental power. Controlling Mana brought way to mental fatigue.
When magicians were acting as the offense of a party, it was correct to constantly confirm their statuses.
The conditions change by the day, so it’s essential for a leader to communicate with their party, apparently.
I doubted she would be tired after just one use, a she directed a smile at me.
“I’m alright, Lyle-sama.”
“I see… then once we’re done collecting, we’ll continue moving.”
I held Novem back from helping, and me and Clara alone finished, after which we resumed moving.
Just as before, I left battle to aria.
(She’s keeping a lookout without being told anything, so I can talk normally.)
In the past, I relied on Skills, and was able to somehow get an understanding of my comrades’ states.
Because of that, there was little to talk about between us.
(Conversation… I can’t remain poor at them.)
I called out to Clara.
“Clara, are you fine with controlling Porter?”
“Yes. As long as the movement speed is kept to a certain level… but stairs are enervating. I don’t have to keep up the light, so it is a good tradeoff, though.”
It seems that the individual herself was mildly discontent that she couldn’t regulate the lighting herself.
(I’ll leave that as next time’s challenge.)
As I also struck up conversation with Miranda-san.
“Your movements sure are getting better, Miranda-san.”
As I said that, she spoke with a smile.
“Thank you. If only you weren’t so sarcastic, I might have actually been happy here.”
I let out some dry laughter, and confirmed she was doing fine, before going to Poyopoyo last.
For some reason, she seemed annoyed.
The Second spoke.
『For an automaton, this one sure is a pain in the ass.』
She’s probably unsatisfied with how she’s not being of use.
Her facial expressions were more plentiful than a normal human.
“Hah… I’ll put you to work during our break, so endure it until then.”
She produced a frypan, and some other cookware as she spoke.
“Leave it to me. From cooking to rest, I’ll do it all to perfection!”
… I’m not actually expecting anything too extravagant within the labyrinth.
But Poyopoyo seemed overly motivated.
“No, we don’t need anything all too refined…”
And after finishing my conversations, I continued to pay mind to our surroundings.
The spot we chose for our break was of a moderate size to spend a night.
Without monsters around, we unloaded some supplies off of Porter, and began making food.
Motivated all by herself, Poyopoyo prepared soup.
She baked bread, and put something like ham atop it.
For food found in a labyrinth, it was of a higher-class variety. It was usually just some thick soup, and whatever bread one had brought on hand. In order to reduce unnecessary baggage, we wouldn’t bring the tools necessary to make anything too extravagant.
But we could just load cookware onto Porter, so as long as we kept our numbers low, then luxuries like these were possible.
Currently, Miranda-san was keeping watch.
Having finished eating, Novem and Clara went to sleep.
Poyopoyo divided out Miranda’s portion, and stayed by it, as if she was waiting to serve it fresh.
As Aria ate alongside me, I spoke.
“What is it?”
“After coming this far, you’ve only made a single mistake”
She hurriedly started to make an excuse.
“I-I made sure to reunite with the group after that! And wait, you remembered? You sure are an incessant man.”
Seeing her fly into a rage, I responded.
“No, I’m saying that’s the only time you’ve made any sort of error. If you think back to how we were a few months ago, your movements are completely different… Even when we’re moving together, it’s become much easier to fight.”
“… I see. I’m sorry about that.”
Resuming her meal, Aria seemed a little happier. After that, we continued talking together now and again, before I let Aria go to sleep first.
The one who had to use her senses most when we were on the move was Aria. During breaks, I wanted to take her off lookout duty to prepare for tomorrow.
After she had fallen asleep, I muttered.
“It’s worlds away from how it was before. Though our numbers are higher now, I guess.”
Hearing that, Poyopoyo…
“Are you talking to yourself? You sure are a lonesome master. I’ll hear you out. Please unload any worry you have onto me. I’ll be sure to turn it into a joke to tease you later.”
“That doesn’t make me happy at all, you know?”
I sat atop one of our wooden crates, and talked with her. Rather than consultation, it was closer to affirmation.
Affirming my own thoughts.
“The last time we challenged this place together was the worst. Aria was always close to tears, and we could only bring trouble to Clara. Even when Novem would be better off making her own decisions, I tried ordering everything down to the finer details… but it didn’t get us anywhere.”
“You’ve grown, chicken dickwad. From today onwards, I’ll promote you to a useless chick.”
“Oy, that isn’t growing at all. The hells with the chick part?”
I turned my eyes towards the sleeping three, and Miranda-san.
“After coming this far… good grief, this is why gentlemen are…”
“Don’t misunderstand or anything. Also, why are you trying to remove your clothing? If you want to sleep, then go ahead and do so, I’ll slap you awake later.”
“Tsk, so you’re still just a chicken dickhead, are you? From my light exhibitionism, that weak attitude and manner… I’ll definitely have you wrapped around me one day.”
“Oh, so wanted to be strangled? Go to sleep already.”
As I said that, Poyopoyo let her twin tails sway, as she said something like, ‘No, no, I want to hear the rest.’
… I wonder what it is. While her outer appearance held some charm, her insides didn’t match at all.
“Today went quite well. While there were some problematic points, we were all generally proficient. It’s just as Clara said.”
Poyopoyo seemed satisfied with that.
“When you were marketing out Porter, I did take a look at the other adventurers… truly, everyone’s movements were good when looked at individually. However, party, was it? When assigned to a platoon, your movements suddenly become worse.”
It’s because for now, everyone’s only focusing on their own roles.
A party’s coordination isn’t something that polishes itself immediately. Individual movements and decisions are different.
We have to confirm our coordination time and again, and match our movements to complete our party.
“Right. I’ve talked to many a leader, but rather than stressing on abilities, they all valued whether people could work together.”
Through talking to people atop Porter, my relations to the adventurers of Arumsaas increased in an instant.
We talked on the way, and it’s nice that I was able to see other parties’ movements.
Methods varied widely by the party, but those that honored the basics felt more successful.
I did it to learn Porter’s applications, and controls, but I was surprisingly able to acquaint myself with quite a few people of Arumsaas.
A majority of them called me something like 『Lyle, the Burden』, and I gave them a bitter smile, but that was also the envy of an adventurer.
Usually, for one to get a decent moniker, means that you’re the admiration and fear of others.
I’m much too young, so it isn’t something too great.
But it turned into a topic of conversation, so it was actually a help to me to stick it into idle banter. I’m not the best at talking to others, but with just one topic like that, communication became much easier.
(If you think of it like that, it doesn’t sound too bad… being called a burden.)
Apparently, seeing me surrounded by beauties, and having them treat me dearly caused some discontentment among male adventurers.
There were even some that thought the fact we were able to breach the fortieth floor was solely due to Damien’s dolls.
But I can’t say that’s wrong.
We did stand firm in the boss battles, but in places apart from that, Damien’s dolls standing as moving shields was really a help.
I looked at Porter.
“… Porter sure is a good comrade.”
I whispered that, and Poyopoyo…
“Of course. He’s the fruit of mine and your love. But in the near future, my name… not a temporary one, please decide on a true name for me. I’m seriously frustrated at losing to Porter. Those mass produced scraps are mocking me to high heavens!”
I looked at her with my head tilted.
“Did they really say that much? Why not just talk back? That you’re different from them, on a higher level?”
“This is why men who are fooled by docile exteriors are… those ones truly have terrible mouths, you know. I don’t even come close! I, the chicken dickwad’s angel have been brought to tears! Please do a better job of protecting me!”
“Crying and all… don’t you just complain?”
With a sorrowful expression on her face, she bend her knees, and sat down on the spot.
She started quietly singing a mournful song, but I was shocked at her vocal skill level.
(This one really can do a lot of things… is there any reason she’s so obsessed on being a maid?)
For what purpose did those ancients make Poyopoyo… I simply couldn’t comprehend.