I held the pea-green gemstone between my fingers, and looked at it through the light of the lantern.
“It’s quite big. What’s more, it’s been cut quite cleanly.”
The precious stone of about ten centimeters across was considerably beautiful.
At times, the treasures found in a Labyrinth could fetch a hefty sum even if they weren’t too deep inside.
But that was an extremely rare case.
The reason I hadn’t sold it yet was because the value of a gemstone imbued with magic wasn’t anything fixed. There’s no doubt it was something valuable, but even I couldn’t determine what a fair price for it would be.
I wasn’t the only one looking at it through the light.
Through the light of the lantern hung at the front portion of porter, Shannon watched it as well. She sat next to me, and examined the stone in my hands.
“That’s somehow really pretty. It’s collected a ton of magic; never seen something like that before. Hey, won’t you give it to me?”
“Ha ha ha, fat chance.”
I tucked it away into my breast pocket, and held back Shannon’s head as she flailed her arms at me.
There, Novem called over.
“… It’s Peridot, I believe.”
I turned around, and tilted my head as I wondered how long she’d been there.
Surprised at Novem’s presence nearby, Shannon quickly fled.
(Ah, so she was slacking off from work again.)
Sighing at Shannon’s usual disposition, I took the precious stone out once more.
“Want to see it?”
I handed it over to Novem.
She accepted it, and looked it over…
“… For the first floor, it’s quite a precious gemstone. I had heard it wasn’t that old a Labyrinth, though.”
The dormant treasure would constantly be soaked in the Labyrinth’s magic, increasing their value.
And since Shannon, who could see magic with her eyes, said it was something she’d never seen before, it must hold a considerable value.
(Shannon may have that career path available. As an appraiser, or such.)
Novem handed the stone back to me.
“What do you plan to do with it?”
Well I hadn’t really decided on that yet.
“I’m considering the options right now. As long as we have it, I get the feeling we’ll make a profit even if we don’t do a thing for the rest of the expedition. It may be useful for something, but it would stand out too much if we investigated that while we’re here.”
Novem spoke to me.
“… How about leaving it with someone?”
I shook my head.
“No, it’s worth a lot, so I’ll keep hold of it. It’d be on my mind if I left it behind, and it isn’t much a burden at all.”
Novem looked like she wanted to say something, but she immediately smile, and agreed with my opinion.
The second day of Labyrinth clearing.
This time I took along Novem, Clara, Eva and May.
Clara was doing consecutive runs, but as she was support, she wouldn’t be participating in battle.
I do think it rough, but she wasn’t one to complain over something of this level, so I ended up putting her on the job.
While we were heading to the Labyrinth, I called over to her.
“Sorry for having you on two days in a row.”
“No problem at all. One day rotations just means we’d be returning by the end of the day… in the first place, we’re at least going up to the fifth floor eventually, right? In that case, you should really choose the members you bring along with care.”
Inside the cave.
After descending to the second lower level, I got a general grasp of the Labyrinth’s structures.
We’d still be fighting in narrow passages.
Still a cold cave with dripping water.
It was a Labyrinth that’s width didn’t increase the further you went down.
The fact there was a boss a floor was troublesome, but other than that, it was of low difficulty, and comparatively an easy one to conquer.
On just the first day, the recons had already gone through the third floor. That was the present state of affairs.
The bosses had yet to respawn, and it may not be long before the main members of the gathered parties begin going off to try clearing it for real.
“It really depends on Alette-san. But there are some Labyrinths that undergo drastic changes at certain points, apparently, so we’ll have to proceed with care.”
There’s a lot of unknowns about Labyrinths.
Wearing a coat over her usual drafty-looking clothing, May walked leisurely with her hands behind her head.
“… Given a day, I’d be able to take this one out in no time.”
To a powerful lifeform such as a Quilin, it does appear a Labyrinth of this time is no problem at all.
But that would be bothersome, so I told her to endure the urge this time.
“Bear with it. It’ll be noisy if the Labyrinth is cleared all of a sudden. After floor five, it seems the forces here plan on proceeding leisurely, so we’ll do the same.”
Rather than not wanting to stand out, I wanted to use this job to see how the adventurers of Beim went about their work.
Eva had a short bow in a cylinder strapped to the back of her hip, and a dagger in her hands as she walked ahead.
Unlike her arrogance in the forest, she was constantly complaining.
“It’s dark, and hard to walk and cold and… I hate it here.”
(The forest was dark and hard to walk too, you know…)
Even so, she carried out her job as the advance guard.
With the Skills 【Map】 and 【Search】, I confirmed the surrounding situation as we proceeded, but a number of adventurer parties had descended further down.
But as expected, it doesn’t seem they were prepared to spend nights over in its depths yet.
“When the third day comes around, they’ll probably defeat the first remaining boss. With that momentum, the area up to the fifth floor’ll probably be cleared.”
Once floor five was cleared, Alette-san would allow the adventurers who tagged along to enter the Labyrinth.
If they had luck on their side, they may be able to obtain some treasure emitted by the walls.
Of course, from my point of view as I walked down the second floor, all the treasure had already been nabbed up
(So my luck from the first day won’t go on.)
I felt the monsters had gone down in numbers as well.
The adventurers must have gone around slaying them for money to play around.
“We’ll go down to the third floor today, and confirm the situation. When tomorrow comes, Alette-san and co will probably challenge the boss, so I want to do a preliminary examination.”
Alette-san herself had little interest in treasure, but there were some things she was fixated on.
One of them was fighting the bosses.
The other battles in the Labyrinth were the same, but it seems she wasn’t compromising when it came to battle.
If someone was going to be fighting a boss, it would be her own forces, ot so she asserted.
In exchange for that, all other fields were given a degree of freedom.
And as long as she wasn’t at a deficit, Alette-san didn’t feel there was a problem.
She wasn’t even originally an adventurer. That fact she was one for a limited time only was a large contributing factor.
Since I was walking with my mind on the Map, we were soon able to find the staircase leading down.
And so the five of us descended them…
“… Well this is…”
Apart from Albano-san’s party, there were some flashily running rampant in battle.
They were fighting monsters, of course.
If I strained my ears, I could hear the sounds of battle nearby.
Eva made a reluctant expression.
“… Hey, it’s dangerous if you use magic in such a confined place, right?”
She seemed worried as to whether we’d be dragged into the mess.
May didn’t mind it.
“Then just block it, why don’t you? More importantly, Won’t it all end if we just breezed through and took care of it? Today’s supper is meat, so I want to return quickly.”
Novem cautioned the two of them.
“They should pay a level of mind to us. And let’s not try to approach another party either. Also, even if you return, that doesn’t expedite the rate you’ll be getting dinner, May-san.”
Unable to go against her, they gave short answers, and continued down the passage.
Seeing that, Clara.
“Novem-san is quite loved by demi-human races.”
Those words caused me to recall.
(Come to think of it, during the Gryphon subjugation, I get the feeling the Dwarves and Gnomes were especially fond of her… no, is it just my imagination?)
While the automaton Monica directed open hostility towards her, demi-humans took a liking to her quite easily.
(Well, she’s a nice person… isn’t that all it is?)
We returned safely the second day, liquidized our assets, and were on the way to reunite with the rest of our comrades.
Watching the town grow day by day, I really wondered what they planned on doing with it.
The tents decreased, and the buildings increased.
More food stalls, rising vigor.
Having walked outside, I looked upon the scenery and muttered.
“This is the Magician’s Village itself, isn’t it.”
Clara nodded at my words.
“That it is.”
“Ah, I’ve heard of that one.”
Novem nodded along, but one person alone… May looked at me with wonder.
“What’s that Magician’s Village thing supposed to be?”
And from the Jewel, the Fifth let his voice.
『Lyle, how about you tell May? Kindly teach her.』
The Sixth spoke gaudily.
『You really are kind on animals.』
I was about to explain, but Novem and Eva had already moved in.
Novem gave a simple explanation.
“It’s a story of where a magician once made a town so hopeless it fell to ruin long ago.”
A little enthusiastic, Eva.
“Solving everything with magic, his good will went and destroyed the town.”
Hearing that, May seemed to get a general idea of it.
“Ah, so that’s how it is. People who can use magic, and those that can’t… that’s how humans are divided, right. From my point of view, you’re all using magic anyways.”
We continued walking down the lively townscape, as Clara went further into the details.
“It starts with a single magician stopping by a poor village. He used his magic to get the monsters to retreat, and received the thanks of the villagers. And so the magician settled down there to use his magic for the village’s sake.”
It was a cautionary tale.
“At first, the villagers rejoiced. The magician did all he could with his magic to help their land. But when he began producing farming tools for their sake, the craftsmen all left.”
The reason being that from production to repair, the magician could handle it all alone.
And so the craftsmen could no longer put food on the table.
“Next, he used his magic to make the village plentiful. An abundant harvest every year, and with his spells, he made iron and silver, and even money itself. The villagers lost the need to work.”
No matter how much effort they put in, or how dirty they got their hands, it was the same plentiful harvest every year. Their desire to exert themselves died down. And so the village was so prosperous it didn’t even need a tax.
“Eventually, the villagers multiplied, and the village grew. And so that became the start of a town. The larger it became, the more apparent it was, that the magician alone was not enough to manage it all anymore.”
It had grown beyond a manageable level, but having learned a life of luxury, the villagers could do nothing but continue to rely on that lone magician.
And the magician began to think it natural he took care of everything himself.
“So the magician ran himself ragged for the village every day, and the villagers would complain whenever they were needing. The magician collapsed under it all, and crossed to the other side. And everything after was problem after problem. The villagers who’d relied on the magician had become affluent and arrogant.”
May spoke amazed.
“They should’ve just returned to their original lifestyles.”
If that was possible, there wouldn’t be an issue.
Having a drop in the quality of life is quite a hard thing to face.
And wait, I went and troubled Novem quite a bit with that one.
Clara recited the end of the tale.
“No craftsmen. A massive drop in harvests, and barely a man left to put in any earnest work. Without a tax to pay, the village soon returned to the needy state it was in before. And…”
May looked to have gotten the grasp of it.
“… Within their despair, the villagers perished alongside their village. Without being razed by monster or thief, without crying out for help. All they did was accompany their village to the grave.”
If you think about it, there’s no way those around would lend aid to the village that’d gotten haughty off its abundance.
There’re various reasons, but anyways, the moral of the story is…
“To summarize, they couldn’t keep up with the rapid development, is how it is. The magic made them plentiful, and when that magic faded, they fell to ruin. It’s not like good intentions will always bring about something good, and you should put the proper thought into it when you plan on using magic.”
Though it’s not like you’ll find a magician willing to be so goody-goody all the time.
Eva had given those closing lines, and Clara looked a little unsatisfied.
(… Eva… she took off with the good parts.)
As if she herself was unaware of it, she was happily conversing with May.
From the Jewel, I heard the Fourth’s voice.
『Lyle, as a man, silently follow through.』
I called over to Clara.
“Hey Clara, what do you think the Magician’s Village was trying to say? From my point of view, it was about the important points of governing people.”
At this point, I’m not inheriting a territory, but I can’t help but think of it that way.
Clara listened quietly to my words.
“I think there’s something in that as well. If you want to look from the villagers’ perspective, then don’t rely too much on a convenient thing, or don’t forget to be thankful, or something along those lines. But…”
“… Personally, there are times when I think, perhaps in the end, magic is naught but a fleeting illusion.”
There are plenty of books out there where the impression received changes from reader to reader.
And of that, Clara felt that magic could all just be an illusion.
Walking beside us, Novem spoke.
“They’re the grace of the heavens. Magic and Skills were the last gift of the goddess. Though originally, I doubt such a thing would have been necessary.”
When I turned to her, Novem was smiling.
But she looked a little sad to my eyes.
… The fourth floor of the Labyrinth.
The ones who’d stepped into those lands were Albano’s party.
It was the Third day since the kickoff of Labyrinth clearing.
Having defeated the fourth floor’s boss, Alette appeared to meet up with Albano, who’d gone to scout ahead.
It was just after battle, and seeing the knights barely showing any fatigue, Albano let out a whistle.
“Wearing such heavy armor to take down a boss, you sure are a curious bunch.”
To his light tone of speech, Alette removed her helmet, and sent a jest back without changing her expression.
“To a knight, this armor is no different than standing naked. Find it arousing, Albano?”
Hearing that, Albano broke into a smile.
“Hey don’t go grouping me together with Creit, boss! Now then, need a guide to the Boss of the next floor?”
Alette looked around at the surrounding members.
“… Right. Go search out a room we can rest. If you’re to find the boss, inform us. If you’ve trouble dealing with monsters, use my men to deal with them if you will.”
While she ordered Albano’s party to find them a room, they were still smiling.
Because to both sides, it was more convenient that way.
If Alette’s party went along, then the monsters they defeated, and the treasures they found would go off fifty-fifty.
And where was the fun in that?
“Very well. As I thought, it seems we’ll get along just fine. It’s alright if the treasure go to finders keepers, right?”
Alette sounded a little fed-up.
“Leave some to the rest, won’t you? If you take them all, then you’re the ones who’ll be getting the complaints. Well, our goal isn’t treasures, but battle. Find something, and you can do with it what you will. But don’t go nabbing the treasure in the deepest chamber.”
Alette’s party planned to defeat the Boss of the innermost chamber themselves, and they did have the ability to do so.
Albano’s party had acted alongside Alette’s, so they weren’t particularly tired. He walked off, and waved his hand.
“Yeah, it ain’t possible for us, and we’re going to be raking it in by fishing out treasure chests. In that case, do you want us to lay traps outside the innermost chamber? So no hindrances get in?”
Alette smiled at his jest.
“No need. If there’s a party capable of stealing a march on us, then so be it. More so, I’d welcome it if they can beat the boss before us. Well then, I’ll leave it to you.”
“Yep, all me!”
Albano’s party ran off, and it wasn’t long before they could no longer be seen.
A single knight confirmed it with Alette.
“Was that alright, captain? There’re even rumors those guys are former bandits.”
Alette smiled, and looked at her subordinate.
“And what of it? They’re necessary for our goal of clearing this Labyrinth. Therefore, we shall use them. And isn’t it fine to leave it at that? Beim isn’t our homeland. We have no authority to crack down on criminals here.”
The knight looked unsatisfied. He surely disliked working alongside former thieves.
So to her subordinate, Alette…
“That purity is a good thing to have. But be a bit more flexible.”
The knight confirmed it with her.
“Captain Alette, do you plan on recruiting Albano?”
The knights’ goal.
It was also to recruit new personnel. Not for the knight brigade, but to take proficient people back with them to their fatherland.
“I only want to get along with him in Beim. In Beim, that is. Creit is too hard-headed to use. Marina is a lone wolf. It’s a pity we’ve yet to find anyone that fits the bill just yet, but Albano’s party is out of the question.”
They were surely proficient, but you’d have to stay mindful to make sure they didn’t raise a ruckus. And they were too greedy, prone to raising problems with their surroundings.
To train the brigade that would become the next main power of the country, they had come to Beim.
It was also a tradition of the fatherland.
They were surrounded by powerful enemies, and in a situation they could never drop their guard.
Their desire for power brought about a conclusion to train up their knights by giving them experience as adventurers. That was the verdict the country had reached.
Training up her noble subordinates and making them elites was Alette’s job.
(Now then, will any interesting people come out this time?)
As Alette raised her expectations, a single person did come to mind.