“Hey everyone!! Guess what I found! It’s a useless hero who can’t even beat a sliiimmmeee!!”
Thanks to the vast space above them, Makoto’s voice resounded far and wide through the fourth basement floor.
“Kuh…! Makoto, one of these days…!”
But it was true, so it seemed Shouki couldn’t say much back. As he grit his teeth, beside him, Suzuran who seemed terrified of drowning in a sea of slimes desperately kept in her tears.
“Uguh… egu… jiggle… squish… hic…”
“Ah, god, Suzuran’s supposed to be a demon lord, yet she was upstaged by slimes, Hasebe’s a no-good hero, Iori Takase’s… I don’t really care, but what am I supposed to do?”
“I’m not a demon lord! I’m just a candidate… hic.”
It likely wasn’t because he saw Suzuran’s tears, but Takase gave Makoto a firm glare.
“Then let me ask, little girl. You keep going on about us, but what exactly can you do?”
“I’m relying on you lot because I can’t do anything, right!?”
She snapped back. And a long silence followed.
Only Ripple-Rapple gave a nod.
“Look, as expected of my slime friend. You get it.”
“Ripple-Rapple can tell the… difference.”
“By the way, this floor has a mountain of… traps. Take care.”
“Traps… do you mean pitfalls and those ones that shoot needles?”
Suzuran restlessly surveyed the walls and floor in fearful surprise. Ripple-Rapple nodded again.
“On that note, the trap has already… been tripped.”
She nonchalantly looked up. The other mimicked her in unison.
A hanging ceiling. A ceiling furnished with spears like a pincushion was soundlessly, yet reliably descending towards them. By the time you notice, it’s too late… seemed to be the ploy.
Suzuran raised a scream and ran off.
“I was wondering why this floor had such a high ceiling!”
Makoto hurled abuse as she dashed.
“As expected of my basement! Ingenius!”
Takase ran, quite impressed. And,
“Isn’t this your house!? You didn’t know?”
Shouki took off with a complaint on his breath. The ceiling gradually grew closer, and half bent over, the group managed to make it through. A dull vibration sounded behind them.
“Hah, hah… and I told you! I don’t have a complete grasp of this basement either!”
“Wait a second! Ripple-Rapple isn’t here!”
Turning in a haste, what Makoto saw—under the spikes that had stopped just around her height, Ripple-Rapple leisurely waddling her way out.
“You should listen to the end. This trap is… just to surprise intruders… a little joke.”
Noticing the wrath sticking in her from all directions, Ripple-Rapple gave a blank look. She slowly raised her hands. Calm down, she gestured to the right. Calm down, she gestured to the left.
“It’s good… you’re all safe.”
To the right, nod, nod.
“That should be… celebrated.”
To the left, nod, nod.
Perceiving the lingering anger wasn’t cooling off, good grief, she shook her shoulders.
She took off at an incredible pace. Like an old American comedy cartoon.
“Wha… just what sorta legs does that kid have!?”
“If it’s speed, I’m not losing!!”
Was her track team blood acting up, or did she possess the cat-like genes to pounce on whatever moved… Suzuran ran.
Right after, in the distance, Ripple-Rapple’s form vanished.
And Suzuran also disappeared, leaving a merry echo. It all happened so fast, and Shouki was left in half a cold sweat.
“Now… what do we do, Makoto?”
“… Yes, what shall we do.”
Beside him, Takase was also looking rather fed up.
“… Harsh world… we live in.”
Expressionless as ever, Ripple-Rapple lamented her choices in life. Suzuran touched a hand to her hip, pointing a finger in anger. No, she was scolding. All while containing the pain from when her head hit on impact.
“Why did you run!?”
“It’s all society’s… fault. The child is always sacrifice to the adults.”
Ripple-Rapple despondently turned away.
“You can’t always just make it someone else’s fault.”
“I beg to… differ.”
Just what was this girl saying? Seriously.
The room interior was ridden with monsters. There were some like lions that had sprouted bat wings, medieval European armors without heads, and what looked like the silly devils the kids’ books used to depict tooth decay…
“Leave it to… me.”
Nod, nod. Ripple-Rapple stuck out her chest and nodded. Just how reassuring was her miniscule silhouette projected in Suuran’s eyes?
“I-is there anything I can do? You do seem to be the most knowledgeable about this place, after all!”
“Out of ammo!!”
Out of means.
The low, clearly threatening voices of monsters rumbled from every direction. Bit by bit, the encirclement was completed and enclosing.
Losing to the rumbles, the shaking from her fear seasoned Suzuran with a vibrato. The only one she could cling to while it all happened was a small girl with absolutely no sense of danger.
“In the first place, what floor is this? How far did we fall…?”
“This is probably… seventh floor. This is where.”
The moment she heard the sound, the monster voices ceased. At the same time, the small body Suzuran clung to suddenly tensed up.
“W-w-what was that? Is there something here…”
“Too late. He is… here…”
She slowly turned her head, this time with emotion for once… Ripple-Rapple let out a repentant voice. For some reason, even her face that was supposed to be an unshaken expressionlessness gave off nervous hues. The girl whose eyebrow didn’t twitch when surrounded by so many monsters.
“He…? Who is he…”
“It’s an old… a very old tale.”
Clip, clop, clip…
“Far, far away, it was in the south sea that he was born… so they say. Their eyes taken in by his power, the demon lord at the time let him climb all the way up to his closest associate. He ruled an entire continent with his might… eventually, he went as far as to form the notorious Lhosya Empire.”
“N-no way! H-he’s that strong…!?”
“Indeed… he was a demon stipulated to be a greater tyrant than… a demon lord…”
Clip, clop, clip…
The sound reverberated across the dungeon’s solid stone walls, making it impossible to pin down what direction it came from. But it was definitely growing louder. It was definitely approaching.
“And his name is the great Emperor… Ewan Tobinovski…”
Clop, clip, clop.
“Or Emperor Iwatobi for short.”
Suzuran and Ripple-Rapple fearfully turned.
“… That’s big!!”
Suzuran instantly found herself retreating. At the sheer size. In height alone, it easily surpassed Ripple-Rapple. A golden crest that shot out like lightning. Swinging its thick and heavy monochrome physique left and right, its aquatic webbed feet slapping against stone…
“Umm… hey, Ripple-Rapple. When you said continent, did you perhaps mean Antarctica.”
Hmhmm, Ripple-Rapple nodded, genuinely impressed.
“As expected of a… demon lord candidate. You’re sharp.”
“No… I mean… that’s a penguin.”
“I was just as surprised… to find out he was here.”
Well, well it was definitely a surprise.
“An emperor penguin?”
“But it’s Iwatobi.” (TL: Iwatobi means rockhopper.)
I’m so done with the world of darkness I want to go home. Suzuran thought.
That’s something, didn’t know penguins sounded so dirty… by the time she thought that, Suzuran was rammed down by Ripple-Rapple. If she had been a second too slow, Emperor Iwatobi’s acute-angled wings would have surely slapped against her.
“Oww… what? If he’s a penguin, you really don’t have to dodge… wait, sweet lord!?”
Suzuran was at a loss for words. The metal bat Ripple-Rapple had pulled out at some point had been diagonally severed at the tip.
“Heh? Heeeh!? W-what!? What just happened…!?”
“I told you. This Emperor Iwatobi is… a demon who climbed all the way up to a demon lord’s vassal.”
“No, isn’t a demon supposed to be a human with powers… that’s a penguin…”
“Now’s not the time to… argue specifics.”
Perhaps thanks to its crazy cool V-crest, she got the feeling Emperor Iwatobi’s glare was sharp. And after a short interval, ClipClopClipClop! Iwatobi used his short legs to the fullest in a mad dash, transitioning into a stomach slide to charge straight into them.
Ripple-Rapple’s tackle assailed her again.
Still lying on his stomach, taking off like a rocket along the dungeon’s stone floor, Iwatobi… use his wings to cut, carve up and slay monsters several times his size, that looked several dozen times more sturdy than he.
“Pe- pepepe, that’s a penguin…!?”
“That’s why I… told you. When you’re a demon lord’s vassal… you’re different from those other monsters.”
Ripple-Rapple yanked Suzuran’s hand and pulled her out of the attack… and at the same time, she grabbed Emperor Iwatobi’s tail.
The totem pole of Iwatobi, Ripple-Rapple Suzuran burst off in a straight line for the door… before the emperor had a chance to change his direction, Ripple-Rapple parted her hand, slamming the two hominids smack dab into the metal face. They slid, they tumbled, they scraped… and with all their momentum, they had made it all the way to the stairs down.
“… Egu… hic… I’m going home to mommy…”
With a room full of monsters behind her, Suzuran wept. Calm down, Ripple-Rapple soothed her.
“Don’t worry. Come this far, they won’t chase.”
While Iwatobi glared at them somewhat resentfully through the smashed door, as Ripple-Rapple said, it didn’t seem he was coming out of the room. A while later, he turned on his heels in resignation before clopping his way off.
“Surprisingly… anticlimactic. What an empty threat.”
“Yeaaah… though we’re the ones who ran…”
“Rare chance… want to try a throwaway line…”
Iwatobi’s back that had swayed left and right to walk came to a sudden stop. Right after.
“Waaaah!? He’s here!? Stupid Ripple-Rapple!!”
The two of them frantically ran off towards the stairs down.
Meanwhile, by that time. Makoto’s group had descended to the fifth basement floor. The variety of monsters changed to skeletons and goblin-like hominids, abstract energy bodies called wisps, and tree-type treants, among others… there was no time to count them all. If this matter were to be reported to a Sacred Assembly taxonomist, the whole shebang would undoubtedly be settled with one word, ‘bullshit’.
Skeletons and wisps were graveyard monsters, treants and giant spiders lived in the forest, while lizardmen could be found at the waterfront or wetlands… each variant of monster, by general species, had a mostly predetermined biosphere where it might show up.
Yet this dungeon was a complete mulligan stew. From how there was no telling what might show up next, a mystery pot, even.
“This really is amazing… to think a place with such a high encounter rate still existed in the modern era.”
Shouki mused as he swung his sword in quick succession, cutting open a path. Following along with Takase, that’s my line, Makoto thought.
By defeating foes, was he ascertaining his own abilities and obtaining a sense of satisfaction in his strength… or perhaps he was immersed in the fulfillment of earning experience points. He had two complete deadweights and was thrown into a situation that would be quite a predicament even if he were in perfect form, and yet Shouki even seemed to enjoy himself as he butchered each successive foe and pressed on.
“I can see the stairs! That means that big guy’s the floor boss!”
Obstructing the stairs down was a robust giant of rock, a stone golem. Shouki challenged it head-on. The shrill shriek of stone and metal colliding reverberated through the basement labyrinth.
“Hasebe… you really are the hero, huh.”
“What was that, Makoto!?”
Shouki replied as the enemy’s resistance made him renew the grip on his hilt.
For agents of the Kantou Agency, this one monster would take ten… even a few holy knights would be required, and Shouki was exchanging blows on his own.
It was different from the small fries they had met. By the sacred assembly’s scale of A to C, it was an A-Rank monster. Its body towered at three meters, even sturdier than it appeared. Shouki couldn’t just slice through it in one swing. And it wasn’t just defense.
Shouki stooped over to dodge a blow of brute force.
The overwhelming power that came from its weight was enough to crumble a wall in one punch. Yet Shouki maintained the advantage in speed.
Whittling it down… had a bad ring to it, but while the process was slow, the hero’s sword was reliably shaving away at its stony physique. It wasn’t long before cracks surfaced in multiple points across its body.
A rending cry. The sword point thrust with all his body weight stabbed and pierced through the stone golem’s bulky chest. A conspicuously larger crack ran down, and in an instant, the golem began to shatter.
Shouki looked down over the wreckage as if to shout, I did it.
“Phew… What was that, Makoto?”
“You really are the hero, I said.”
“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean? You’re only just noticing?”
His face sullied with blood and scratches, Shouki gave a broad smile like a child that had gotten all muddy. This was the sort of smile that could be called fascinating.
This was her classmate who was always sleeping in class, who had been bombarded with the teacher’s chalk more times than anyone in the school’s history. And yet, a peculiar high schooler whose grades were always at least in the upper rankings.
In her first year, when she didn’t know of his identity, he was just another sloppy schoolmate… we’re surely incompatible, she thought and saw him at a distance.
Makoto turned her face away as she passed Shouki by.
“Yeah, yeah, don’t get in over your head. There’s still a ways to go. Now we’ve got to find that demon called Meeko as well as Suzuran and Ripple-Rapple.”
“Don’t worry, just leave it to me. I’m supposed to be really tired, but my body’s strangely light, or how should I put it… I don’t feel like I’m going to lose.”
“Hmph… so you really did level up, damn brat.”
For some reason, Takase didn’t seem too invested. Proclaiming himself an evil organization, he was the hero’s enemy. To him, Shouki’s level-up was by no means something to be celebrated.
“Of course, if you don’t get back alive, it’ll all be for nothing… kukuh. Enjoy it while it lasts.”
“And you’d better hope you can keep that light tone all the way to the surface… Iori.”
When the stairs down were right before their eyes, gaping open, pleading them to descend. The two stopped and began glaring at one another.
“What are you people thinking!”
At Makoto’s raised voice, the two turned in surprise.
“Suzuran and Ripple-Rapple weren’t on this floor! That means they’re even lower, in a place even more dangerous than this! It’s two girls alone! This is no time for the men to be homoing up the place!!”
“Sorry, that was my… wait, what?”
Shouki went pale. Takase angrily raised his shoulders as he quickly shuffled over to her.
“In the first place, you’re the one who said you wanted to come here, little girl! If you didn’t start all this, those two would have to be in such dang…!”
“Heeeey evverrryone!! They’re gay and that’s okay…!!”
“Fine! I get it, just shut up!!”
By the persuasion of two half in tears, Makoto reluctantly quieted down.
All that homo talk aside. Finding Suzuran took priority, Shouki understood too. He was trying to keep Makoto at ease, and despite what he said… quite honestly, he couldn’t deny he felt like he was pushing himself.
(Let’s hope this doesn’t drag on too long…)
He didn’t know if his stamina would last.
While he had engrossed himself in defeating monsters, the total floors of this dungeon were unknown. And where exactly those two were was also unknown. Perhaps they were already…? Shouki shook his head at the swelling insecurity he definitely couldn’t accept as he raced down the long stairwell. He reached the sixth floor.
Shouki took in the sights. The left was a wall. Tracing it with his eye to the opposite side, he could already see the stairs down. But for some reason, the right side was preposterously vast. So endlessly expansive even, that in the distance, the floor seemed to gradiate into darkness, and he couldn’t see the end.
“What is this place, Iori?”
“Seriously, don’t ask me. This is the first time I’ve gone down this deep… or so…”
Did he just hesitate for a moment? When Shouki turned, Takase was making quite an unsettles face.
“Oh, aren’t those the stairs right there? Off we go.”
“Wait, Makoto. We can’t say for sure Nagoyakawa isn’t over there.”
And Shouki took a few steps towards the wide-open space.
Roused by an absurd sense of dread, he reflexively readied his sword. As if a hand of ice had gripped him right by his spinal cord… as if his very sense of existence was being denied.
Ever since he became the hero, Shouki had walked the boundary of life and death numerous times, but never once had such a sensation come over him.
“Hey, the hero’s here. Who’da thunk it… no wonder it’s so noisy.”
By the time he noticed it, the man was already sitting there. A casual outfit with the sleeves torn off, disheveled hair like a waterfall. Such a man, with the plaza to his back, sat facing them cross-legged.
“Who are you!?”
“Call me Homura-san.”
He informed them in the mouth right below where his bangs fell short. On closer inspection, behind that hair, his eyes gave off a red glimmer. It wasn’t a reflection, his eyes themselves were emitting a dull light.
“You’re a demon, aren’t you!?”
“Don’t get so heated, Mr. Hero. I don’t got no mood to duke it out with you. Just came for a bit o’ a warning.”
“All that aside, it’s been ages. I see you’ve grown, kid.”
His red irises slid off of Shouki. To Takase who similarly faced the open space.
“Excuse me…? Who are you? I’ve never met you in my life.”
Takase’s voice didn’t sound like he was playing dumb. As far as Shouki could tell, he really didn’t know. In contrast, the man who heard it… self-proclaimed Homura-san held his mouth half-open in surprise. Was he blinking? The blazing red lights flickered on and off… in the end, he slapped against his cross-legged knees and began guffawing aloud.
“Oh I see! So that’s it, I see, I see! Now this is a treat! What, in that case, I’d better hush up. So anyway, this place is off limits.”
“You think I’m just going to say, ‘oh, okay then,’ and leave!?”
Shouki put power into the hand gripping his hilt.
“Give it a rest, give it a rest. Ya’r getting’ in way o’er yer head.”
“You don’t know until you…”
The instant Shouki said it. Bang! The floor roared out. The man’s hand was gripping a wooden rod. Like a battledore had been made thinner and stretched out, the hefty pole of iron sunk its way into the ground.
The glimmer in the man’s eyes grew far stronger.
“You should get it by now, Mr. Hero. As ya are now, yer no match for us. Not even a pipe dream. Take a good look at yerself, see ‘ow yer sweatin’ and shakin’?”
It was only when pointed out that Shouki finally noticed. His own state.
(No way… I’m the hero for Christ’s sake…!?)
And yet here he was fearing dreading, quivering in an unsightly manner. He was scared. By this cross-legged man who showed no will to battle, by this man full of openings…!
“Can you see that behind me?”
As instructed, Shouki focused his eyes on the darkness. He swallowed his breath. No, perhaps he had unconsciously stopped breath.
There was something massive. It was too dark, and is simply far too large that it could only remain vague, but something that surpassed common sense, something outrageously large was lurking there. A something like the very incarnation of power.
A monster? No, he’d never heard of such a large monster before. But in that case, if it wasn’t, what could it be?
“Well done, Mr. Hero. You can see it. I’m the one keepin’ watch o’er this thing. So this place’s off limits.”
“You… what are you…”
From Shouki’s throat bone dry in tension, he somehow managed to squeeze out a voice. Homura-san scratched up his unkempt hair as he thought.
“Tha’s a hard one. I’ve been called an Oni, Yomotsu Ikusa, quite a few things, but ya know…”
Oni? An ogre? No, this man was different from the Sacred Assembly’s designation. He was definitely not a monster. He was a demon.
Then Yomotsu Ikusa… a guard from the land of Yomi?
“Well… if I had to say, I’m sediment ’s all.”
“Right. Won’t ever float to the surface again, just wanna live a quiet life here. So playin’ around’s nice and all, but if ya meet people like us, ya should try listenin’. Never hurts.”
“Is there someone else like you? In this place…”
“It ain’t just here, but… come ta think ‘a it, I saw the underworld princess go down.”
A woman with vibrant black hair naturally surfaced in Shouki’s mind. Graceful and modest. It was because he always did think the word princess was most fitting.
Putting aside the fact she looked to be in her early twenties or so.
“Are you talking about Ms. Meeko?”
“Yeah, guess she’s callin’ herself that… anyways, that’s one person ya should stay away from, Mr. Hero. That one there’s real trouble. All ‘o us here are just thankful she’s finally settlin’ down.”
What was this man talking about? Was that person more dreadful than him, than whatever it was behind him?
“There’s a bit of a strange one on the floor before but… whoopsie, can’t go spilling the beans. Well ‘n, take care ‘n have fun.”
After saying what he wanted, the man called Homura-san disappeared just as abruptly as he had appeared. That presence that caused him to shutter was already gone. No matter how he concentrated his eyes, he could no longer see anything in the darkness.
And Shouki… never even considered walking in that direction ever again.
(… Just what… was that…)
“Hasebe, listen to me!”
He turned blankly to Makoto’s voice.
“Huh…? Yeah. What is it, Makoto?”
“Don’t give me that. You suddenly pulled out your sword then dazed out right where you were.”
At Makoto’s doubtful blue eyes, Shouki finally remembered to lower his sword.
“I… how long was I like that?”
“Hah? Just around ten seconds. What? You growing senile at your age? Ah, what am I supposed to do with you, you’re senile, you’re homo, the Sacred Assembly really did choose the best of the best…”
Turning back flabbergasted, Makoto promptly took off towards the stairs down. Shouki tucked the sword into its scabbard as he whispered to Takase beside him.
“… Hey, Iori.”
“Yeah… that’s how it is, brat. It looks like the little girl couldn’t see it. No, I guess that man called Homura chose not to show her.”
“What do you mean…?”
“Me and you, we’ve both let our bodies sink to a certain depth in the world. That little girl has some knowledge for argument’s sake, but…”
Makoto wasn’t involved deeply enough to directly put her body on the line.
“Just like we don’t reveal our identity to the common rabble, perhaps that man did the same.”
“Then he’s an existence even deeper than we are? That man? What could possibly be lower than the third world? And Iori, that man seemed to know you…”
His questions came out rapid fire, but Iori wouldn’t say anything on the matter. He seemed to be terribly troubled, failing to put his thoughts into words.
While that was going on, Makoto who had approached the stairs, shouted back in a loud and shrill voice.
“What’s with you people!? No matter how much you love one another, you can’t just leave a feeble maiden on her own…”
“Would you quit it with that!!?”
Upon passing through the sixth floor, but Shouki and Takase lost their energy. The hero who been so sprightly would now look at his own sword, his own hands at times, brooding something over. Takase no longer had his unnecessary outbursts, from how he hung his head he had to be thinking hard about something; his heart wasn’t here…
Just what could have been in that space on the sixth floor? Makoto had no way of knowing. At the very least, that there was definitely something there… she hadn’t lived in the third world just for show. She did have a vague sense.
(Yeah but… doesn’t look like they’ll speak up if I ask…)
The two of them were silent. So Makoto walked in silence.
There were no monsters in the seventh-floor passage. But a certain door… no, it was before a prison-like plane of iron bars that the party came to a stop. The bars probably did function as a door regardless. There was a button right aside it that looked like it would open the way.
‘Don’t push, Danger!’
Despite being a switch, it proudly flaunted a warning that denied its own purpose for existence.
“Now what do we have here… when they say don’t push…”
“Then you don’t push it!!”
Shouki’s hand grasped Makoto’s slender finger. For beyond the bars… a tightly knit squad of monsters was watching. Dullahan, gargoyle, zu… just from what could be identified, a herd of monsters the same A rank as the stone golem gathered together to uniformly glare their way. Rather, Shouki could already see a number of the very same stone golems he held a close fight with.
“… Hey, Makoto. Even for me, these numbers are a bit…”
In a cold sweat, Shouki gave an unusual show of weakness.
According to the plate on the iron bars,
‘Shortcut to the Eighth Floor Shortcut to the World Beyond
Here sleeps Emperor Ewan Tobinovski’
The sign seemed quite certain of itself. Well, if Shouki was cowering, perhaps it was true, but.
“Now listen here, Hasebe! There’s no guarantee anywhere that Suzuran didn’t fall here!”
“Why do you look so happy!? You sure you don’t just enjoy troubling me!?”
“Oh, Hasebe.I simply have faith in the mighty hero of the assembly… right, Iori Takase?”
“No, if they did fall here, I doubt they’re still alive…”
“What’s with that? In that case, if we slice open one of these guys’ stomachs, they might come out. Just like red riding hood.”
“Don’t casually bring up something so morbid…”
“While I hate to admit it, I’m with the brat on this. The ones here aren’t the sorta monsters that swallow you whole.”
Clip clop clip…
“And god, that clipclopping is so noisy. Just what is…”
WhenMakoto turned to the passage, what she saw there was,
“Whoooooooooh! How cute!!”
A rather large penguin. Makoto pounced and hugged it tight. Its short legs teetering, the penguin barely manage to catch itself without falling over.
Shouki’s eyes looked on blankly in surprise.
“It’s a big… Iwatobi rockhopper…”
“Don’t be stupid, brat. At that size, it’s gotta be an emperor.”
“Then how do you explain that V-crest, Iori?”
“That’s, well… an emperor penguin must have mutated…”
Shouki and Takase held quite a pointless debate.
“Aaaaah, wow, how fluffy! How warm! This raw plumage is the best!”
“Raw plumage… that’s an odd way to put it…”
As Shouki lost heard, the penguin chirped.
“Cut the crap. I don’t know any penguins.”
As Takase spoke, Makoto and Shouki suddenly turned around. It didn’t seem he was talking to himself… Takase was meeting eyes with the flightless bird.
“Hmhmm. Bird, a mere penguin dares to call me a whelp? There’s that blasted Homura, then you…”
“Wait a second! You speak penguin!?”
This time it was Takase’s turn to furrow his brow.
“… You two… can’t hear him?”
Makoto raised her eyebrows over her glasses, tilting her head.
“… I see. No… for some reason, I can understand…”
His face was unsettled after all as he took a revised look at the penguin.
“Oh, that makes sense. I carry the blood of the Iori House… I’m the head, so it seems I can establish a telepathic connection.”
“Hmmm… hey, so Hasebe, you don’t have anything like that? Isn’t yours a godslayer house too?”
“No way. I’ve never heard of anything like that.”
Shouki tilted his head.
“Naturally, brat. And listen here, little girl, among the four godslaying houses, the Hasebe House and Amashiro house are closer in nature to the main arts of the Nagoyakawa House. But the Iori house alone, unlike the method of chasing and subduing monsters and demons with resolute force the Nagoyakawa’s use……”
“The Nagoyakawa use—what?”
Makoto asked, still embracing the penguin. Takase shook his head and rethought his words.
“No, that has nothing to do with you people. More importantly, right now, Suzuran and Ripple Rapple are…”
“… I see.”
Takase nodded to the penguin’s cry.
“Oy, don’t just get it on your own, Iori. We can’t hear.”
“Yeah, looks like they’re both safe. They passed through here not too long ago and went off to the eighth floor.”
Takase nodded again.
“… And this penguin says he’ll guide us to the stairs, but…”
Seeing Makoto tilt her head for the last time, Takaselet out a thunderous roar.
“Get a clue, girly! Because you won’t let go, this penguin can’t move!”
Makoto took another look at the fluffy penguin in her arms. At such lovableness, she gave it an even stronger hug than before.
“Never! I’m going to take this one home! This guy alone’s already a huge harvest. I mean, have you ever seen such a large rockhopper penguin before!? His streamlined shoulders are sexy, he can serve as a hug pillow, and penguins have a ton of subcutaneous fat, so they nice and warm and splendidly soft!!”
“And so what!!”
For a while now, the two men were often on the same wavelength. Despite all their objections, could it be they really did like… as Makoto harbored a deep suspicious, Shouki thrust in his finger.
“Oy, Makoto. In the first place, you didn’t come all the way here to pick up a penguin, did you? What happened to sacred treasures and Iori being E0 and whatnot?”
“… Sorry. I seriously forgot.”
“What, it’s nothing to get so angry about… then once I fulfill my original objective, it’s fine if I bring this kid back with me, right?”
Which is more important to you, Shouki kept himself from saying as the Penguin chirped out.
“… Little girl. It seems the penguin can’t leave this place.”
“N… no way… that has to be a lie!”
“Don’t get so seriously shocked! Try thinking about it. Why is there a penguin here? What’s more, a rockhopper this massive, surrounded by monsters.”
Takase’s words hit the mark. This was no ordinary penguin. A monster… perhaps. In which case, there was no way she could purposely drag it into the world of humans.
And outside of the monster-ridden room, the penguin’s guidance had them reach the stairs down.
The penguin chirped on its parting, clipclopping back the way it came. Upon hearing that, for a while, Takase stared fixedly at the pendulum swing of the penguin’s sloping shoulders.
“Hey, what did he just say?”
Takase was silent.
“… Well, whatever. By the way, what was that Emperor Ewan Tobinovski thing back there all about? Doesn’t it bother you, Hasebe?”
“It doesn’t. If you want to go back so badly, go alone.”
Shouki was quite unsympathetic. The dungeon’s mysteries only deepened.