I saw the hands coming at me from the wall, but it was too sudden for my body to react.
My body that had started to be overcome by intense languish and pain was one thing, but my mentality had relaxed, with the battle having ended.
(Why so suddenly…)
The female hands coming in to crush me.
But the one to appear in front was…
“What are you doing to my Chicken Dickwad!? Wait, what’s this!?”
She had taken her special hammer from her Skirt, but when she hit it against one of them, the hammer sunk in and stuck as if digging into soft clay.
And while sucking in the hammer, the palms continued closing in.
Up. Down. Left. Right.
When I turned to run, fingers began protruding from the ground.
The first thing to be taken was my legs.
“Wha! Even from the ground…”
“Ehyee! In that case…”
Monica was also sinking, and my surroundings were starting to leave my field of view.
Novem and the others were trying to use magic. I could hear them calling out to me. Monica continued to sink as she made her way towards me, and embraced me.
“Oy, what are you…!”
“Just shut it for now!”
She held me firmly, and tried to lift me out.
So she was trying to let me get away? While she attempted to raise me, the Third let his voice…
『What’s happening… they’re coming from above as well.』
A number of the hands contracted around us, and my consciousness gradueally faded.
… The scene was one Aria could do nothing but watch.
No, to be more precise, she couldn’t do anything at all.
All of a sudden, giant hands had sprouted from the walls and floor, swallowing up Lyle and Monica.
In order to save them, she had gotten in some spells and blows, but the clay-like hands merely regenerated as soon as they were attacked.
Having never heard of such a monster before, Aria looked at the wall Lyle had been taken into.
It was from where the hands appeared, and where they eventually returned.
Aria ran up, and put her hand on it, but all she found there was the craggy wall of the cavern.
“Wh… why… something like this…”
This wasn’t possible.
When she was about to mutter it, Miranda finished her preparations on magic to hit against the wall.
“Aria, move a bit… Fire Cannon!”
She shot out a powerful ball of fire, which scattered sparks as it hit against the wall. Charred black, and caved in, being a part of the Labyrinth, it soon began to restore itself.
Having jumped out of the way, Aria looked at the scene, and thought of the worst case.
“Lyle and Monica are…”
… Dead. She couldn’t bring herself to finish the line.
But Miranda held up her hands to prepare another magic attack against the wall.
Aria looked around to find the entranceway going on to the ninth floor was still stuck shut. And the sound of something crumbling came from the entrance they had come from.
She turned to see the ceiling above it collapse to seal them in.
“What is going…”
Aria was in a panic, and Miranda was the same. They’d never heard of something like being locked in after defeating the boss.
And they didn’t want to just write it off as something they simply didn’t know.
Slowly beginning to move, Novem walked towards the wall while lifting her staff overhead.
“Novem, what are you…”
A mere staff couldn’t level walls. Or so Aria wanted to say, but watching Novem’s staff, she opened her eyes wide.
The head of it began to change shape.
The black hilt also extended, and the whole thing took on a shape like that of a pickaxe.
Novem held what was once a staff up with both hands, but the pickaxe portion was the same size as her… no, it looked to even exceed her.
She raised that large body higher, and lowered it. With all her might.
But her movements were also something Aria couldn’t believe.
Again, and again, her speed rose higher and higher as she started chipping through the wall faster than it could regenerate. Looking at the silver pickaxe portion, Aria recalled the Jewel Lyle carried around.
“It’s the same as Lyle’s weapon.”
It could change to a giant sword, and a bow. The ornaments around his Jewel. Aria remembered how it had been silver as well.
Watching Novem expressionlessly, and silently trying to destroy the wall, Aria’s voice wouldn’t come out.
The usual Novem was a magician who served as the party’s firepower.
She never participated in close combat, and she didn’t look as if she had that much power.
But before her eyes, Novem was swinging such a large mining implement in all directions to shave away the wall.
But her movements suddenly came to a stop.
Catching the light of the boat’s lantern, she saw threads wrapping around her body to stop her movements.
Turning around, Novem expressionlessly addressed Miranda.
“… Let me go. I don’t have the time to pay mind to you.”
The wall she had worked so hard to wear away was visibly recovering.
When Aria looked at Miranda, it looked as if those threads were coming out the tips of her fingers. She was wearing the same gloves as usual, yet it seems the threads were coming through them.
“I feel the same. But in this situation, we can’t help but need your power.”
Miranda undid her stance, and the strings loosened, parting from Novem. Aria could barely see them.
It appeared that the strings were hanging down from Miranda’s fingertips. She lifted her hand, clenching and extending her fingers a number of times to confirm the feeling.
Novem returned the pickaxe to its staff form, and held it up.
“Oy, the two of you, cut it out alr…”
When Aria was about to stop them, a cow-like cry came from the water with the appearance of a boss.
And it wasn’t just one.
The boss they’d defeated was still floating belly-up in the water But appearing one after the other from the depths were the same sort of monster.
They numbered ten.
A number great enough to make the vast room feel small.
Miranda turned her body towards the waterfront, spreading out her left and right hand in front. And she immediately crossed them in front of her chest.
“… I wanted to save it as a trump card against you, mind you.”
A number of slices appeared above the nearest boss’s neck.
Novem chanted magic.
It was in a low voice; unlike usual, one colored with anger. The whip of fire came towards the entwined boss, and the flames burned it through.
It thrashed about, and fled into the water, but even then, the fire didn’t die out. And it began floating in the same way as the Boss they’d already defeated before the fire finally died down.
In that space, Miranda had shredded up a second one.
“Aria, my apologies, but you’ll have to protect yourself. I’m not used to using it, so I don’t know how many I can take down. And… I won’t be able to beat these numbers.”
On Miranda’s weak line after beating the second one, Aria held up her spear.
“Well don’t look at me. This number’s beyond me as well. But if it’s just one or two… 【Quick】.”
Using her own Skill, Aria jumped above the boss that had begun crawling onto land, and sent a number of shockwaves flying into it.
After several cuts opened up in its back, she came down, spear and all, to impale it.
When she leapt out of the defeated Boss monster, Aria was covered in blood.
“Good thing I asked Lyle where to find its heart. But it’s a fighting method I’d really like to avoid.”
Bloodstained Aria looked over at Novem.
For a while now, the lights had disappeared from her eyes.
(She’s more eerie than usual…)
Aria found Novem a bit eerie. She was kind, and dependable, but there were time when Aria couldn’t help but find her scary.
And her current scary level was increasing.
After Miranda butchered up a third, Novem walked up front, and dipped the tip of her staff into the water.
A voice colder than before.
“… Freeze in hell. And don’t get in my way again. Even if you’re my… I shan’t forgive it.”
In the next instant, all the water in the room had frozen over.
(What did she say just now…?)
Aria had missed the important words, but before Novem’s bloodcurdling expression, she fastened her mouth shut.
Novem pulled out her staff, changed its shape to a hammer, and lowered it.
The boss monsters fell apart along with the shattering ice…
I heard a voice.
It was a voice calling out to me.
That nostalgic tone was one belonging to my father, Maizel Walt.
『Lyle, what sort of lord will you grow up to be?』
But while I remembered those words, I found I couldn’t remember what it was I responded. Only, upon hearing my answer, my father gave a warm smile, and patted my head.
Slowly, the voices calling out to me began to multiply.
By the time I noticed it, the Fifth’s voice was clearly audible.
『Wake up already!』
The Fourth’s voice was also panicked.
『No~ this was definitely unexpected.』
『Kuh, what could have happened…』
The Sixth worried for me.
『Lyle, can you still fight? You’re not in a situation where you can take it easy yet.』
The Third spoke.
『Wake up, and look around. Hey, you’ll find a scene you’d never get to see elsewhere unfold.』
Hearing that, I slowly opened my eyes to see Monica standing before me.
She was standing in a position as if to protect me, and her figure was beat up.
Nearby, what was once her extra-large hammer was rolling around. Other than that, her mace was on the floor in a state as if it had been melted down.
(Just what could have…)
Moving my body was painful, and I felt the urge to shut my eyes, and go back to sleep.
But like hell I could do that.
I put power in my right arm to raise my body. Monica was standing in front. She was holding out her body as if to protect me from something.
The extra-large hammer was half-melted on the ground.
Her melted mace was red, letting off fumes, on the ground. It was giving off a characteristic scent.
When I tried to stand, Monica lent me a hand.
Her maid uniform was in tatters, and around…
“Why are these guys here… and why are there two Monicas?”
Helping me up, Monica spoke in irritation.
“I can’t agree with that one. That is the same as me, you say? How about taking a better look? I have breasts, while the enemy does not. Just because we’re of the same production line, I’d be troubled if you lumped us together!”
The eyes of an angered Monica were pointed at an automaton, with blond twin tails, white skin, and red eyes.
What differed was, as she said, probably the breasts. But there were other differences as well.
Over her back, she carried a tool with extensions like the white legs of an insect.
The Monica-like automaton raised both sides of her skirt a little, and gave a greeting. Just as with Monica, her gestures were perfect.
“It is a pleasure to be of your acquaintance. I deeply apologize for having to appear in this form, and beg your forgiveness on the matter. Of all else, I wasn’t in a position to be able to undergo maintenance.”
Both her legs were worn away, and from the tatters in her apron, I could see the silver color of machine.
The other automata around were the same.
They were broken, but standing with perfect form. Among them, some had lost both legs, and were standing with the support of their comrades.
And one even had half her face blasted off.
Observing the scene, I saw there was some damage to Monica’s appearance as well.
“You fought one another?”
I glared at the enemy, and she made a bit of a tired expression.
“We only wanted to see to what level she could perform. She’s the existence we may refer to as our ‘younger sister’ recreated by the Labyrinths after all. And considering how she wished to be of some service to humans, such a performance review was necessary. So we won’t part once more.”
(Part? What is she talking about…)
“That’s a lie! That is mere jealousy! You were all simply jealous because I have a damn Chicken Dickwad of my own, my self-proclaimed ‘elder sisters’!”
Being called elder sister, the automaton put her hand to her mouth, and laughed.
“Oh, what might you be speaking about? Now then, there’s little time to be had, so I shall convey it at once.”
The automaton curtsied again.
“We are unable to name ourselves. The information we can pass on is much too limited. But…”
“… Number eight has left a message with us. To us, it’s quite an unpleasant thing as well.”
Hearing number eight, I wasn’t able to grasp at anything.
(My head is still lurching.)
There, the Fourth.
『Lyle, it’s peridot! The birthstone of the eighth month! What’s more, number eight! There’s something going on with this Labyrinth!』
When I gripped the Jewel, Monica’s sister looked over at it.
“Those are some strange memories you keep on you. An item quite mismatched with this time. Oh right, the message. Very well…”
Monica’s sister continued on with a serious expression.
“From number eight, to you… a message to Lyle-sama… 『If you want to… know everything about Septem… come over to my place』 she says. And finally…”
(Septem… it’s about Celes!)
I wondered why number eight would know something about Celes, but I could imagine the sort of link they had from the numbers.
And the final message was…
“…『Please trust in Novem』. That is all.”
Hearing that, I noticed that some part in me found it only natural that Novem’s name had come up in such a place.
(So she really does know something… Novem.)