An Army of Monsters
When I headed for the mansion’s storehouse to look over Damien’s work, old Letarta’s grandson came up to me.
He was carrying a wooden crate, and he had brought over a change of clothes for old Letarta, who had stayed night after night to work.
What old Letarta pulled out of the box was the weapon called a katana, apparently.
“So it’s finally complete!”
Monica looked delighted, but the old man’s grandson was making quite a tired expression.
“Ordering me to make a custom weapon I’ve never heard of in such a busy time… now listen here, you never told me how many steps it would take to make just a single one, did you? The hell’s with polishing?”
The reason for his fatigue was likely because of the army of monsters about to manifest. The blacksmiths had their share of things to prepare.
Even so, with an order to forge a brand new weapon, the young dwarven man had done his best to complete it… alone.
Feeling quite apologetic, I looked in the box to find five swords of slightly different shape. Letarta was looking over one of them.
“Can I see?”
“I mind it not. It’s your weapon. I’m sure it needs some adjustments, so use my grandson how you will.”
The young dwarf dropped his shoulders.
“How do you expect me to adjust an unknown weapon…”
Old Letarta returned the blade to its scabbard. Reaching his hand out to another one, he confirmed each katana one after the next.
“Quite considerate of you to use sabre handles for them, but… isn’t this a bit off?”
When he tilted his head, Monica alone was the only one who looked happy, as she turned just her head to look at us.
“That’s just how it is.”
“No, no matter how you look at it, this is…”
As old Letarta seemed confused, I took one in my hands, and drew it. It had a gentle curve, and there were pretty ripples along the edge.
Just looking at it made it feel I was getting sucked in, but it utilized an enclosed sabre hilt intended for one hand, and holding it alone made me feel its difficulty of use.
Cut, thrust, taking a stance, as a result of testing those actions, I… returned to the storehouse, and lowered a fist onto Monica’s head. Her golden twin tails swayed.
“It’s for a completely different use! Just what part of it is similar enough!? This is a completely different weapon! What’s more, it was definitely intended for two hands!”
Monica held her head with both hands.
“Don’t worry. It’s cool.”
I grabbed the twin tails, and pulled them in opposite directions.
“Wait! My precious twin tails will be plucked! My precious cuticles! Stop! But, if you want them that much, I can regrow them in an instant, so I wouldn’t mind giving them to you… not that I like you or anything.”
So is she mad, happy, or what?
I handed the ‘katana’ to the young dwarf.
“What should we do? Do you want me to shorten it a bit?”
“No, keep it as it is. Whichever the case, I have another request for you, so I’d like you to prioritize that.”
“… Eh? I never heard anything about that.”
The young dwarf looked at Letarta, as the old man finished looking over the final one of the blades.
“I’m busy, so you’re going to take the request. What, there are times where you can experience growth through work. I’m sure that son-in-law of mine is busy, so do your best.”
The youth dropped his shoulders once more.
On top of old Letarta’s work desk, there were a number of female arms, with the upper arms branching to mechanical contraptions. Some thigh-to-feet were hung on the storehouse’s wall.
They had feminine lines, and were earnestly being developed.
“Are things going favorably here?”
When I looked at the desk and confirmed it, old Letarta nodded.
“When that Damien boy finishes the main body, all we have to do is put them together. I finished the armor too, but I’m still pondering whether real bird wings, or mechanical wings would be best.”
I wanted to tell him not to fuss over something like that, but it looked like he was seriously thinking it over.
“As long as you can finish it in two weeks’ time, you can ponder all you want.”
There, old Letarta looked at me.
“Oh? The monsters are coming in two weeks? You sure you should be here then, bro?”
I scratched my head.
According to Rauno-san’s information, monsters were already streaming out of the Labyrinth. It had been unskillfully made deeper, so it couldn’t be helped that the estimations had the numbers reached a few hundred thousand.
Some adventurers of Beim had gone for recon, and a majority of monsters showed signs of heading in Beim’s direction over all else.
“I already have my transport in order. Work is going favorable on that side as well. In regards to manpower… not from Beim, I’m borrowing all the help from Zayin and Lorphys that I can get.”
This time, Clara was making considerable contributions to transportation, and adding onto the fort.
She proposed the optimum stronghold from her knowledge. With that as the base, I prepared funds, and got together the necessary materials and tools.
After that, I could only leave it to the craftsmen.
At that moment, from an isolated part of the storehouse, Damien emerged wearing a lab coat. Automaton maid No. 1 was by his side, and for some reason, she looked quite giddy.
“Huh? You’re back again?”
“I had some business here.”
Damien removed his glasses, and wiped their lenses.
“Things are moving favorably here. I think we’ll have to start them up at the fort, but we’ll just barely make it, I guess?”
“They’ll move properly, right?”
Unlike Monica’s race, it was something much more primitive, or so Damien said. But you could also call them basic automatons specialized for battle.
Old Letarta spoke.
“They’ll move for what it’s worth, but the problem is we don’t know what extent of abilities they can exhibit. A golem’s strength all depends on the human controlling them. Even if you make ones that move on their own, how are we supposed to know how high its performance will be?”
Damien put his glasses back on.
“We’ll make it, so fret not. I always wanted a performance test in real battle! So why did you return, this time?”
I let out a sigh.
“… To pick up the guns. I also need to get gunpowder and such at Vera’s place.”
Vera said she’s go to Fort Redant too, but as expected, that one was too much for Fidel-san to permit.
The valuable sailors couldn’t be lent out by the Trēs House either, so I’d have to teach up on guns over there.
I wanted to prepare as many bows and crossbows as possible, but Beim was also scraping those weapons up, so it was in a state where you couldn’t buy them, even if you had money.
“I heard you fired up that Fidel whelp quite a bit. Do you care not for your life? That whelp is a merchant of Beim. If he was in the mind for it, he could send those suited for strive.”
Letarta sounded worried, but I just shrugged my shoulders.
“I’m fanning his flames to the borderline, so it’s fine. And he isn’t the sort of person to attack at a time like this.”
Learning I was going to the fort, he was quite delighted at the start. Because he promised backing, a few other merchants sent aid simply because the Trēs House was doing it.
From the katanas left on the table, I took one in hand.
“… I’ll be borrowing one.”
Old Letarta laughed.
“It’s yours regardless.”
Monica had reset her twin tails, and seeing me take a katana, and hang it at my waist, she got quite worked up.
“Chicken Dickwad, how cool!”
She said with both hands in the air. It irritated me, so I pinched her cheeks.
Riding a quilin-form May, I looked at the ground from above.
The entrance of the cave that was once a Labyrinth had spread wide, and from it came one monster after the next. An uninterrupted stream of monsters. The nearby village had already been burned down.
I was watching from afar, so I couldn’t be certain, but that wasn’t the work of monsters.
It felt they had received retribution by human hands.
Behind me, Shannon held onto me with a rope wrapped around her body. She was shaking, and with how high up we were, she was properly wearing a coat.
“Are you cold?”
When I asked, she turned to me.
“I’m scared! Why are you so calm this high in the sky!? Don’t forget the current me can see from the line between us!”
A teary-eyes Shannon was sharing the visual input I took in.
The reason I took her along was that her eyes were necessary for this reconnaissance. My Skills… the Fifth’s Dimension created a three-dimensional map, and on top of that, the information from the Sixth’s Search covered the ground in pure red.
There was no point in counting numbers at this point, but no matter how you looked at it, it wasn’t on a ten thousands scale. Hundreds of thousands of monsters were coming out of the Labyrinth, their numbers still growing.
May was in quite high spirits, and her bearing was one that might go off to attack at any moment.
“… I don’t have any comrades in this area, but I sent a message, so they should gather after a while. Still, you sure you should just leave it like this?”
Monsters were crowding below my eyes. Their ominous voices reached the sky, and I confirmed the form of a Gryphon.
Not only Orcs and Ogres. I saw a Land Dragon as well.
They weren’t heading in our direction yet, but there were many monsters capable of flight.
One of the greatest fears of a Labyrinth out of control was the fact its army of monsters would never draw back. Its majority would move to attack major human cities, and after destroying them, they’d scatter into the area.
If it were a Labyrinth no one had ever set foot in before, even if it went on a rampage, the scale was kept small. But grown by human hands, a rampaging Labyrinth could produce massive legions upon legions.
And that scale of numbers headed for major settlements without ever stopping, and trampled them to the ground.
“This is a nightmare… May.”
I gripped the Jewel in my left hand, and turned it to the silver Bow. When I moved my body, Shannon clamped on unnecessarily strongly.
High in the sky, I pulled the bow, and produced an arrow of light. From a vague and hazy shape, when it took on the clear form of an arrow, I used a Skill.
With the Second’s Skill, I set my aim on the monsters below.
I wanted to take care of the troublesome monsters beforehand. The one I should crush isn’t the Land Dragon. It’s the Gryphon.
And the winged monsters.
The monsters they only looked like dots in the distance among them, I locked aim on the ones capable of flight, and fired the arrows.
I hit a foot against May’s stomach, and kept firing arrows as she ran.
When I had fired five arrows, the first hit the Gryphon head on. Right after that, the monster’s movements accelerated, and the winged monsters on the ground rose, and took to the skies.
A hundred, two, five…
The increasing hoard of flying monsters moved left and right to find us. With them on our tail, we moved right into running away.
I fired the arrows, shooting down around another five monsters, and watched a Gryphon and Hippogryph fall to the ground.
Shannon looked at the monsters, and cried out.
“What are you doing! Now they’re chasing us!”
May still found it insufficient.
“You should wipe them out more flashily.”
I continued firing at the monsters chasing us, and continued shooting them down. They weren’t able to keep up with May’s speed as she ran through the air.
But one monster alone…
“Uwah, a troublesome one came out.”
I turned to verify the foe May called troublesome.
A black body, with long and yellow wings, a bird-like monster was approaching us at a rapid pace.
Those spread out wings were adorned with red eye-like patterns. As I looked over those eyes drawing me in, Shannon pinched my face.
“What is it!?”
I held my cheek, and she let go of her right hand.
Shannon looked at me with teary eyes.
“It’s because you were getting sucked in, dammit!”
I didn’t understand why she sounded like she meant it literally, but May explained.
“That’s the sort of monster it is. I’ve forgotten what you humans have gotten to calling it, but before you notice it, you won’t be able to move.”
There, the Third gave me some advice.
『I don’t know it. Is it rare? Well, that aside… Lyle, it’s not like my Skill’s only redeeming feature is its effect on enemies, you know?』
The Third said that, so I recalled and used the Skill… Mind.
It was a Skill that brought about mental interference, so it could block these sorts of psychological attacks.
I got my breathing in order, pulled the bow with all my might, and sent an arrow off at the enemy closing the distance at a breakneck pace.
The enemy took a nose dive to evade, but without dropping speed, the arrow gave pursuit.
“That’s why they’re troubling. Even for quilins, it sometimes eats the little ones.”
As May said that, I tried another arrow. The monster continued avoiding the encroaching arrow, and spun to evade it in midair.
Without hitting its mark, the arrow of light disappeared.
“It dodged right before it hit? This one really is troublesome.”
I fired a third and fourth, and the monster raced around the sky chased from multiple sides. After shaking them off, it started back up in our direction.
Its body was larger than May’s, and the talons on its legs looked exceedingly sharp. Black, with purple at the tip, those claws gave off a poisonous feel.
“Those have a strong poison, so watch yourself. Humans can die just from touching that liquid, you know.”
Hearing May’s counsel, Shannon clung to me, and screamed.
“Why did you take me along!?”
I thought she could do her share of work on recon, but her teary outburst wasn’t doing us any good.
I heard Milleia-san’s sigh, sending a light chill down my spine.
『Good grief. How can she be so useless when she has the power of those eyes… She’s cute, I’ll give her that, but she’ll need a little… scratch that, a lot of training.』
Hearing that, the Fifth quietly…
『I think Shannon’s better as she is, you know.』
(How about you guys worry about me too!)
Mildly irritated, I took a deep breath, and drew the bow. With my breathing in order, I glared at the monster atop an accelerating May.
“… Up ‘n Down.”
When I used the Fourth’s Skill, May’s speed rose even further. In contrast, the monster’s movements suddenly grew dull.
But it used some sort of Skill to brush off that interference.
“This really is a strong one.”
Thinking I’d encountered quite a monster, I loaded my mana into the next shot.
The monster moved to dodge, but the arrow burst on the way, splitting into a few scores of projectiles.
Surrounded, without a place to run, the monster was pierced by dozens of arrows, and split.
It fell to the ground in pieces.
I wiped off my sweat, before probing around to see if there were any monsters of the same sort. There didn’t seem to be any, but that was quite a horrible foe to encounter.
And I looked at Shannon clinging to my back. The line had been severed sometime along the way, so I wondered what had happened…
“She lost consciousness with a grip on my clothes.”
Seeing the whites of her eyes, I let out a sigh.