… The dungeons of Cartaffs’ castle.
Within its torture chamber, bound in an indecent pose, the Queen of Cartaffs Ludmila wore black restraining garments stuck fast to her body as she bit into a gag.
To her side stood two female attendants to look after her. The room was littered around with torture implements, but Ludmilla herself was uninjured.
Simply to stir up her fear, and tear up her pride, she had been sealed in the dungeons as she was.
Hearing footsteps in the room, she opened her eyelids, and glared at the door. Her long aubergine hair clung to her skin, the dark dungeons illuminated by the dim, wavering light of a candle.
The very individual who had bound her.
Larc Mallard, taking along her own companions… her subordinates, dropped by the dungeon.
Confirming Larc’s face, Ludmilla bit down strongly on the gag.
His ashen hair was swept back, and unlike his usual wave-cut adventurer style, he wore a noble’s dress and style.
His collar was loosened, and showing off his chest, Larc turned a vulgar smile as he looked at Ludmilla.
“Yo, Ludmilla-sama. How are you doing? Tied up like that, you’re showing off your embarrassing side. It seems you were taking me lightly… now then, isn’t it about time you gave me that favorable reply thing?”
Knowing his Skill displayed a high effect towards women alone, Larc’s surroundings were fortified with females.
The attendants removed Ludmilla’s gag, and after spitting out some saliva, Ludmilla glared at the man.
“You sure say some stuck-up things. Did you think I was unaware of how you made it seem I was immobile from illness? It seems you’ve gotten the castle’s folks to take after you, and gotten some status, but that status is too brittle to do anything with it, right?”
Larc returned the glare. Perhaps he was to use his Skill to try and make her fall for him, as he forcibly turned her face towards his.
And by his Skill, in her eyes, the man of her ideals… or at least his figure overlapped with Larc’s, but she sealed it away with willpower, and averted her eyes.
Larc sounded irritated.
“After having made light of me, and gotten bound in such a state, don’t act so high and mighty!”
It was just as he said. Ludmilla had no words to return on that matter. On top of that, she had come to hate the movements of Cartaffs that even now had yet to rescue her.
(Good grief, the lengths they go to preserve order. How troublesome.)
Ludmilla had her surroundings charmed, and having attained some status, Larc had come to charm her this time, in a scheme to become king of Cartaffs. She had already seen through the plan.
And at the same time, she understood that for that sake, the man was unable to harm Ludmilla herself. She understood she couldn’t be killed, and she made use of that fact.
“Yet the man too scared to lay a hand on that single bound woman sure sounds high and mighty himself. What’s wrong, you’ve no shaming greater than this? You… you’re quite the small man.”
When Ludmilla said that, a vein popped up on Larc’s forehead. He took a nearby whip in hand, going right into whacking her with it.
She was assailed by a sharp pain, but Ludmilla didn’t let out her voice. And grinning and laughing as she looked at Larc, she riled him up. Seeing her like that, Larc stood out of breath, and gave an order to the attendants.
“Use the best medicine to treat her!”
With those words, Larc took his subordinates, and left the room. The female attendants lowered their heads to see them off, and closing the door behind them, one of them stood as guard.
Another approached Ludmilla, took off her restraints, and began treating her injury. She spoke to her in worry.
“Your majesty, should we not put a stop to this yet…”
To the worried attendant, Ludmilla smiled.
“Oh, isn’t it fine? And I can only laugh at those useless subordinates who let Larc converse with the castle’s maids because it was a set custom. When they’ve come to be this bad, they won’t understand a thing unless they go through a spot of pain.”
Taking a stretch, Ludmilla lowered herself into the chair she’d been bound, and folded her legs.
It’s true she told them to interact with Larc, but she had never even imagined they could only move according to set practice.
So Ludmilla let herself be captured on purpose. The two attendants were her trusted maids, and she had them act as if they were charmed.
But it seems those attendants couldn’t take it anymore.
“But at this rate, the country shall begin to slant his way.”
On that statement, Ludmilla spoke.
“Even without the matter of Larc, this country would eventually perish from its nature taken too far. There are plenty who prioritize law to run away from responsibility, after all. Up to now, they could be called our strength, but taken too far, it is a fatal flaw.”
Cartaffs’ national colors involved a heavy inclination towards stressing the rule. At times, that had birthed about a splendid result, but come this far it had gone in a bad direction. Preserving that incline, those that took action held no responsibility.
They were rules, so there was no helping it. That matter was becoming conspicuous. Even if you added more laws, just how many people out there would there be to actually understand them?
She was called the queen, but Ludmilla had simply taken over from the previous king by those rules, and was practically a proxy.
Cartaffs was a male line, and eventually her groom would be the king of the country. So Larc had aimed for that seat on the throne.
“Good grief. Not me, they should’ve just chosen a male from the royal branch families. Father was making moves with that intent, but talks went forward before it could be decided.”
Maybe because of the national character, the branch families didn’t object to her enthronement as queen. Ludmilla’s groom would in essence be the next king, so it wasn’t considered a problem.
But to Ludmilla herself, it was quite a troublesome tale.
“Is there anyone suspicious of my absence?”
As she confirmed with the attendants, one nodded and reported.
“Almost all of them have noticed something fishy. But whether they’ll move by it or not is the question.”
On that answer, Ludmilla looked fed-up.
“Very well, then the one who saves my from this cell is the next king. Spread that rumor. If even that doesn’t get them to move, then I’ll make do with Larc or whatever. How pitiful.”
While the maid was bewildered by her decision, Ludmilla looked up at the ceiling.
“Hmm, not bad. I’m no longer a princess, but… the prince or hero who saves me, eh? Marrying someone like that is the desire of any woman of the royal line. While we’re at it, how about we invite participants from outside the country as well? I’ve got to make our own men feel a little panicked, or we won’t be getting anywhere.”
As Ludmilla declared and enjoyed herself, the two attendants abided as if they had given up…
Over the Katana in my right hand, I poured a liquid known as Holy Water.
It was a transparent fluid, but it let off a faint light, and once poured on the Katana, it looked as if the blade was shining in the dark Labyrinth passageways.
Grasping the sword in both hands, I tossed the bottle of Holy Water aside, and Shannon- who was holding a basket- caught it.
Standing behind all of us as a baggage carrier, Shannon caught the bottles tossed by our companions one after the next, and put them away in the basket.
The innermost chamber of the Labyrinth that had manifested in the fort was a large hall on the fifth lower level. It was a vast room, but the ceiling wasn’t very high, and it felt as if the many irregularly placed pillars were barely holding it up.
The Undead before our eyes was a skeletal knight wearing full-body armor. Size-wise, perhaps he was around three meters tall?
Sinister armor and shield, its sword was of an absurd, haphazardous make I had no words for. More than a blade, it looked like a mass of iron.
Miranda, Aria and Monica were the vanguard, with me, Valkyrie Units One, Two and Three behind them, and Shannon at the very back.
With a spear in hand, Aria took a large lurch forward, before bursting towards the enemy before us.
As that skeletal knight wielding its giant sword in one hand took a horizontal swipe, it let out sparks as it rubbed against the floor.
While Aria jumped to avoid it, it looked as if the enemy’s shield was to send her flying. However, Miranda threw her dagger, forcing it to use its shield to hit it aside, and from there, its movements grew strange.
Miranda was extending thread from the fingertips of her left hand, and using a pillar as a pulley, she yanked off the knight’s shield.
As Miranda cried out, Aria lowered her spear down on the now-open left arm of the skeletal knight. At lighting speed… putting several Skills into a single strike, Aria’s attack was truly worthy of the description.
Aria wasn’t skilled at magic, but as a result of polishing her Skills and martial arts… at this point, she was a pivotal vanguard of the party.
Its left arm cut off and flying through the air, the knight opened its mouth, and let out an ear-rending cry.
Shannon was holding her ears with both hands…
“Just where is that thing’s voice even coming from! It’s just bones and armor, isn’t it!”
… As she looked at the monster, and cried BS. I was also of that opinion. And as it tried to swing its large sword towards Aria, Monica smashed into its side with her hammer.
From the other side of the hammer, fire was spouting out to increase its output, it seems.
“This is a truly a weapon of romance! A strike of the strongest maid Monica, who understands true fantasy… take it!”
With its sword, right shoulder, and right side in general taken out by the blow, the unarmed skeletal knight raised a low groan. A portion of the crumbled white bone and armor gathered towards it, but…
I looked upon the scene.
“As I thought, the holy water is slowing down it’s regeneration. My apologies, but I’ll be ending you at once.”
As I raced forward, the Valkyries offered support with guns. While the knight was struggling with its regeneration not going as it wished, it tried headbutting me as I came before it.
And as it did so, helmet and all…
“… I’ll cut it off.”
… A single vertical flash. As the line raced through it, the skeletal knight reeled back, before crumbling into white flour.
Holy Water effective against Undeads had been applied to the blade, and it was a huge help on how effective it was. If that weren’t the case, we’d have to continue attacking until it collapsed, or blow its everything away with magic.
But this time was a fort’s passages, and many narrow rooms, so it was quite a trial how we couldn’t get the conditions together to use magic.
Even in a wide room, using Holy Water like this was effective.
Seeing the Boss leave a Magic Stone behind as it disappeared, Aria spoke.
“If you don’t care about materials, Undead sure are convenient. Makes collection nice and easy.”
It really was helpful how we didn’t have to put on gloves, and rip open a monster to collect valuables. It was a plainly dreadful task, so there were many adventurers who’d just leave it to support.
I wiped the Katana’s blade with a cloth.
“It really was rough when I was a beginner. I would always fail, and Zelphy-san would shout at me not to be wasteful.”
When I told such a story, Aria also recalled.
“Yeah, at the start I couldn’t bring myself to touch blood. Zelphy held her head when she saw that, but… now I think I can understand her sentiment a little.”
As Aria told a tale of our recent newbie days, Miranda approached. While we were talking, it seems she claimed the treasure of the innermost chamber.
“Reminiscing is fine and all, but could you confirm this over here? Lyle, it’s this time’s reward. I don’t think it’s bad.”
In her hands was Rare Metal… metal bathed in the power of Mana… silver at that. It was a considerable amount, and if you sold it, it would surely net one to two hundred gold coins.
But we had purchased Holy Water for this venture, so we had quite some expenses as well.
If time was turned back a bit, this would be plenty to maintain the party. But at this point, putting labor for so much time, earnings of this level weren’t enough, or so was my honest impression.
“It’s not bad, but with that, we’ll only have scarce earnings. As expected, continuing on like this will be rough. Even when Alette-san’s party are favorably being directed to profitable labyrinths.”
Comparing with others wouldn’t get anywhere, but I could clearly feel the Guild’s intent.
Monica confirmed the surrounding affairs, and reported to me.
“Chicken Dickhead, preparations to withdraw are complete. Monsters have already stopped spawning.”
Within the Labyrinth. I had stationed Valkyries, and had them collect Magic Stones. Those girls’ external battery, or rather energy source ran on Magic Stones, after all.
They melted them down and used them as fuel.
The Labyrinth’s atmosphere grew quiet. As I confirmed the subjugation was complete, I decided to get out.
Unit One carried up the Magic Stone of the large skeletal boss monster. Miranda handed the silver we received to Unit Two.
Shannon verified the contents of her own luggage.
“There are quite a few bottles that still have some in them. Aren’t these quite expensive? What’s more, they have an expiration date. An expiration date that comes quite soon, no less… I can’t forgive that they’re worth more than my allowance.
Shannon had a lot of pointless expenditures. Rather, she poured a majority of it into elven songs and recitations.
If you took her out to play, she’d mainly just listen to songs, and for meals, she preferred places where you could hear music or tales.
Miranda smiled, and roughly pat(?) Shannon’s head.
“If you learn to use it a little more systematically, I’ll increase it. So start by not blowing it all the very same day I give it to you.”
Shannon was as hopeless as always, but after meeting Milleia-san, she had grown just a bit… or that was the feeling I got. Even if you just call it assistance, she did agree to participate in the boss battle.
I thought as I left the vast hall.
(Now then, I’ll have to return to Beim once first. The Labyrinth’s subjugation report… that can come after I observe the situation a bit.)