A dark Labyrinth corridor.
From that space that resembled the inside of a cave, I could hear the sound of running water somewhere.
When Clara turned on the light from her staff to illuminate the area, I could see stalactites on the ceiling.
The ground was highly uneven, and the width of the passages couldn’t be more than five meters.
Because of those stalactites on the ceiling, it felt lower than it was.
Having entered the Labyrinth alongside us, Aria let out a whitened breath.
“It’s really cold in here.”
She wasn’t lightly dressed, but even so, she had chosen garments easier to move around with, and had neglected her protection against the cold.
I was also feeling it, and it was harsher than I had anticipated.
“There is water dripping down the stalactites. Based on the location, puddles form on the floor. The passage has curved a few times, but… Porter truly won’t fit throuth.”
At present, after being dispatched by the Guild, we were wandering around the first floor of the Labyrinth they had discovered.
Its cave-like entrance suddenly began with a stairway.
I, Aria, Miranda, and Clara had entered just to examine the place.
“All that comes out are creepy bat-like monsters, and the occasional frog? Please give me a break.”
I’m not sure who that was directed at.
But both Aria and Miranda didn’t raise a cry in battle, as they disinterestedly fought off the monsters. No, perhaps it’s best to say triumphed over.
I myself was using the Skills 【Map】 and 【Search】 to look over the map of the first floor as I observed the movements of the other adventurers.
“… Next take the right.”
We avoided the passage that would turn into a dead end a long ways down, and turned right.
Straight ahead was a party beside ours that had already gone and turned around.
It was just the first day.
Albano-san’s party was at the very front, and following them, all the other parties poured into the Labyrinth.
When I strained my ears, I could hear the sounds of battle around.
(It’s a narrow maze. That’s all good and well, but will the bosses revive?)
When we entered the Labyrinth, there was no reaction from the floors boss.
The space leading down to the second lower level was a wide room, but there wasn’t any reading coming from within it.
It seems Albano-san’s group had already descended down, and we were just walking around to find all we could about the first floor.
(While it’s true the lead gets to hog all the treasure chests… there are plenty they’ve missed.)
They prioritized moving on, and disarming the traps along the way. If that wasn’t possible, they put clear markers to indicate the danger.
Walking ahead, Aria stopped, and pulled a dagger she kept at her hip.
She determined the enemy coming wouldn’t even require her short spear, and she took a stance with her shielded left arm up front.
I also pulled a sabre. I could hear the beating of wings.
Miranda stuck her hand in her robe, and pulled it out with long needles held in the gaps between her fingers, she aimed at the ceiling, and threw them.
In a dim area ahead, I could hear the sound of several things dropping…
“Tsk, two of them got away. Lyle, Aria, they’re all yours.”
While she sounded annoyed, she had managed to take out three of them.
Aria took a large swing of her dagger, cutting down one of the giant Bat that came at us.
I used my sabre to impale the other one.
I pierced its torso, and the bat let off a high pitch cry before it ceased to draw breath.
Looking warily around the surroundings, Clara- who was leading Mini-Porter along- put down her staff, and began extracting materials and magic stones from the Bats.
Since she had taken her hand off her staff, the light went out.
I pointed my right palm at the ceiling, and prepared a light of my own. Clara…
Said that as she got to work.
Aria kept watch of the front, and Miranda of the rear.
I looked over the monsters.
“Those wings are over a meter each when spread out. There’re some differences among individuals, but… these guys have quite eerie faces, do they not?”
I wasn’t searching for cuteness in a monster, but the Jewel at my neck was different.
Once more, the Fifth…
『It’s just a monster… it’s just a monster… but if you look closely, I get the feeling it would make quite a cute…』
In regards to him, the Fourth.
『Just what part are you looking at?』
Let out an irritable voice.
And while I was lost in thought, Clara called over to me.
I turned to her, and she lifted up the monster to show its full size. When she spread out the wings, they were enough to hide her small build.
“This is the biggest one today.”
Hearing that, I examined it.
“It’s one Miranda took out? Let’s reclaim the needle… still, there’s quite a range here.”
Clara proceeded to dismantle the creature as she voiced her agreement.
“Yes. The small ones are reasonable sized. The size of their Magic Stones remains relatively constant, and the price of materials by size isn’t all that…”
It would be troublesome to have a price named on each and every one of them, but we should be able to place some expectations on the final profit.
I looked at the Mini-Porter Clara had inserted her staff into.
Its bottom was a deep box, and the only attachments it had were wheels and legs to descend stairs, but its head was the same sort of cylindrical column with two small glass balls embedded for eyes.
Monica persisted that such an attachment was necessary if we ever wanted to name it as a Porter.
And I agreed wholeheartedly.
“Come to think of it, Porter was also quite simple to begin with. He’s grown quite splendidly.”
Clara looked a little reluctant.
“Any more splendor and I will be troubled. It’s reaching the limit to what I can operate.”
And saying that, she tucked away the collected materials and stones into Mini-Porter.
She stowed them away organized by type, and once that was done, she picked up her staff to move again.
I extinguished my light, and confirmed the next place we would be headed on the Map.
A majority of the monsters had already been hunted out by other adventurers, so there really was no place for us but to proceed onwards.
(Should we go off and claim the treasures Albano-san’s group let slide?)
Even if you called them treasure chests, they didn’t take on the shape of wooden boxes.
They were containers embedded into the walls, and were quite often in places quite difficult to find.
However, with the Skills 【Map】 and 【Search】, I could easily determine the location of those hidden items.
As I started walking, I addressed everyone.
“We’ll be taking a break in the next large room we find.”
Aria was delighted.
“That’s a life saver. And wait, its much colder than I thought. We brought firewood anyways, so we’ll be lighting one up, right?”
We had a tin of moderate size with us, filled with wood we could light.
There were other tools we could use, but I also wanted to test how these would work out.
Of all else, while you could instantly achieve warmth if you used a magic tool, this method was much more cost-efficient.
We could collect fallen boughs along the way to restock, and you wouldn’t need to supply Magic Stones as you would for a Magic Tool.
“We’ll also have a meal. Though after we find the entrance to the second floor, we’ll be returning for the day.”
“Wouldn’t it be best we checked the state of the second level?”
I shook my head.
“We would probably fare fine, but I don’t want to push it. And I get the feeling all the parties today came just for a preliminary surveying.”
By the map in my head, a majority of the other parties didn’t try to push themselves, and turned back as soon as they found the stairs down.
A lot of them went into searching for treasure as we were momentarily.
And as planned, we entered the large room the treasure chest was supposed to be in.
When we returned from the Labyrinth, the sky was still blue.
I stretched as I walked out, and my skin informed me that the inside of it had been much colder than the outside air.
“Now then, about how much are our earnings for the day?”
When I looked into Mini-Porter, I found it stuffed quite full.
It was definitely more than what someone could be tasked with carrying.
“We defeated quite a number, but at this rate, our luggage will be full by the time we reach the second floor. Even if we avoid battle as much as possible, by the fourth or fifth… it’s at the point I’d like another Porter unit or two.”
As Clara expressed that opinion, Aria agreed.
“You’re quite right. I’d like to reduce the load on hand, but if it’s going to be that loaded, we won’t be able to put any spare equipment on it.”
“Can’t we just hang things on the side? It’s not like it’s got a usable shield there like Porter does or anything.”
“So there are still spots for improvement. I’ll discuss it with Monica, so let’s just bring everything back to the tent… huh?”
Near the Labyrinth’s entrance, a guild employee was helping out in raising a tent.
But for some reason, beyond that were a line of complete buildings.
Thinking I may be tired, I rubbed my eyes a few times, but that did not seem to help.
Looking around, the place was much more developed than it had been yesterday.
Aria was just as surprised as me.
“As expected of the Adventurers of Beim. They’re quite skillful at matters like these. I’m finally seeing what they meant when they said a town would be formed.”
Miranda alone sounded like she was having fun.
“Hmm, it sure has grown big. And wait, I never thought it would come this far. And is it just me, or has the population multiplied?”
In the Jewel, the Third spoke quietly.
『It’s just like the Magician’s Village… wait, huh? Wasn’t that a cautionary tale of what not to do?』
It’s nice and all to be lively, but I tilted my head at whether there was any meaning to all this.
We headed to the building managed by the guild, and went into selling our loot to the assembled merchants and personnel.
They didn’t mind if we sold the items besides Magic Stones to other merchants, so I started off by selling off our Magic Stones to the guild.
Not many adventurers had returned yet, so I was able to sell them immediately.
“Good work. Well them, I will proceed to confirm the Stones.”
Saying that, the receptionist looked over the Magic Stones, and began to measure their weight. I asked.
“This is quite- how should I put this… do they really plan to start up a new town here?”
She looked at my face.
“Oh, is this your first participation? And wait, rather than plan, they’re already in the process is more accurate. We’re not actually planning to use it as a town, but we’re thinking it will be fine as long as it can be usable in a foreseeable future.”
As I pondered over the matter, she displayed the sum for the Stones.
I nodded, accepted the money, and met up with the rest of my party, who’d gone to sell the materials.
Around the area, a number of different merchants were on standby to purchase them.
If I had to say, they were all young.
I to Aria.
“How did it go?”
“They’re buying things for less than in Beim. Since they helped in transporting adventurer supplies and guarding and other things that cost money for free, they said from the start they’d pay less, after all.”
But as we were near a Labyrinth of monsters, we’d still likely get earn much more than usual.
It was an exclusive space with almost nothing but monsters, and their encounter rate was sky high.
If you look at the sum as the earnings of four people over the course of one day, it was plenty.
“… Well, if we proceed at this rate, we won’t go into the red, at the very least.”
Looking at the day’s profits, I confirmed that, and nodded.
“Lyle, what shall we do about that?”
I started walking with everyone towards the place Porter was parked.
“Let’s put it on hold. There’s sure to be a way to use it, and there’s more than enough time to hear everyone’s opinion on the matter first.”
The ‘that’ Clara spoke of was the treasure.
Meaning the item we retrieved from the treasure chest.
It was a form a sort of precious stone, but not like an ore. It was a stone that looked like it had been in its refined state from the start.
If we sold it, would probably fetch several tens of gold.
That all depends on the quality of the stone, but a majority of items found in Labyrinths were imbued with Mana. That put them a few levels above your normal gemstone.
And usability-wise, it was often the case they were used as ingredients in Magic Tools in a similar way to Rare Metal.
Clara adjusted the positioning of her glasses.
“Even so, it’s only just been discovered, yet this Labyrinth must have been in service for a number of years. For such a precious treasure to be obtainable on only the first floor.”
Even if the place was only just discovered, I won’t say it’s a rare tale for it to have existed from times long passed.
It could even be the case that it was just on the verge of bursting and spitting up its contents when it was found by the guild.
“Those stalactites right? Aren’t those things that take several decades or centuries to form? Labyrinths sure do have their share of mysteries.”
My opinion, having entered it, was that it was quite cold, and you would often get wet, so it would be quite difficult to maintain your physical state in there.
Also, its passages were narrow, so even if you brought along a large number, there was a possibility most wouldn’t even be able to participate in battle.
On top of that, we’d have to confirm there were no other parties around the corner if we wanted to use magic.
“Tomorrow, I’ll put Aria and Miranda on rest, and bring along the remaining members. Novem, Eva and May… what should we do about Monica?”
Miranda gave a bitter smile.
“I see Shannon’s not even being counted from the get-go. As her sister, I’d like her to get a grasp on her situation already, so I recommend she be sent into the Labyrinth.”
Hearing that, I.
“Then perhaps the day after tomorrow? Ah, it’ll work out if I include Miranda there.”
We challenged it with a small number this time to see how it would be.
But from tomorrow onwards, there shouldn’t be a problem if we go with five or six.
And while we were having such a conversation, we walked through the lively town streets, and arrived at Porter’s station.
In a large pot… cauldron, Monica was making something.
Aria noticed it.
“Ah, just looking at it warms me up. I want to eat soon.”
She was making quite a peaceful expression, and it did smell delicious.
(Preparing these things after returning is a pain, so having comrates stay behind is something to be thankful for. I should probably plan this with those that can do housework in mind… this might get a little complicated.)
Being few in numbers came with its own share of troubles.
But if we increased them, I was beginning to realize those troubles would only begin to multiply.