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Depths of the Otherworldly Labyrinth

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Depths of the Otherworldly Labyrinth

[Translator – Mab ]

[Proofreader – ilafy ]

  

Chapter 48 - This Story’s Turning Point

 

Lastiara put on her social mask and greeted Hein-san back.

“Good day to you, Hein-san. Are you alone today?”

“I am.”

I used «Dimension» to probe anyone who was hiding around. Lastiara looked at me, so I nodded to confirm that Hein-san was indeed alone.

Understanding it, Lastiara continued along.

“Are you here to once again challenge my knight Christ to a duel?”

Hearing the word “duel”, Hein-san stiffened a little. He then immediately affirmed with many small nods.

“Indeed, a duel. But first, there is a little talk that we need to go through.”

“A talk?”

“Yes, between your knight and me.”

Having said so, Hein-san turned his head to me. I walked forward to hear what he wanted to say.

“What do you want to talk about, Hein-san?”

“Ah, you see, it’s not like we always have to fight. For example, I can offer you what you want, and you can admit defeat in return.”

In a soft tone of voice, Hein-san appealed to me for non-violence. Certainly, if the matter could be solved with negotiation, I would prefer it that way.

“You’re right, we could.”

Then, without showing a single gap in defense, Hein-san started the negotiation with a smile.

“In that regard, would you tell me what you want?”

“What I want, is it…”

“Money, honor, whatever it is, I can prepare it for you. If you yearn for amusement much like my lady, then I will provide as much amusement as you desire… So will you please lose the duel?”

It was a very reasonable proposal. But alas, I wanted nothing he could provide. I wanted only one thing, and that was to return home. I wanted to go back to my one and only family. Nothing else.

At the moment, the only possibility to fulfill that desire lay in the deepest depth of the Labyrinth. I had found no other possibilities in all the information I had gathered. If so, the only thing I wanted was a talent that could bring me to the deepest layer of the Labyrinth.

So far, there were only three people who seemed to possess that talent; Lastiara, Dia, and Alty. There was no reason for me to give up even a single one of them and conceded victory to Hein-san.

“…What I want is not something you can provide, Hein-san.”

“It’s not?”

“What I want is in the deepest depth of this Labyrinth. Therefore, you cannot provide it for me.”

I turned down his deal. Raising a brow slightly, Hein-san continued to negotiate.

“That miracle… What you want is that miracle that lies at the deepest level…?”

“Yes.”

“Right, that isn’t something I can provide…”

The moment Hein-san learned of my objective, he held his head and turned his face down. Then, after some thought, he blurted a few words.

“The worst…”

His words were shaky. No longer was it the gentle and soft voice but a gravelly one that leaked from the bottom of his stomach.

After which, Hein-san slowly raised his face, revealing to me a grieving face. There wasn’t any hint left of his perfect smile, as it was the face of a banal person undergoing a most saddening event.

The sudden change in expression unnerved me. Hein-san, however, didn't care about my dismay and continued the talk with a sad face and a hoarse voice.

“This is the worst. Your wish is the worst for me… There is nothing wrong with wishing for a miracle. However, not in this Labyrinth. Not here. Aah—what a bad place to be.”

“What do you mean…?”

I couldn’t make heads or tails of what Hein-san was trying to say and tried to ask back.

“You left me no choice. Let us duel.”

But Hein-san didn’t answer me and demanded a duel.

“Well, I won’t back down from a duel, but…”

“As always, if you win, I won’t show up before you again. Is that right?”

“Yes, of course. But—”

I felt uneasy, as if a bug was crawling up my back, and tried to stop the conversation from going further. But Hein-san was having none of it. He continued to rattle off one word after another, never pausing.

And then he threw me the final sentence.

“Then, if I win, you and the lady must leave the Allied Nations.”

His expression returned to a smile when he uttered those words. With a fawning smile and the kindest tone he ever had, he declared our sanctions.

“Huh?”

I didn’t immediately understand the meaning of his words. From how everything had been going up until then, I had thought that Lastiara would just go back to wherever she came from if he won. However, Hein-san wanted something completely different.

That would be a completely different deal. I tried to walk a step forward, wishing to turn the deal down, but…

That step never took place. My feet didn’t reach the ground, and I felt suspended in the air.

“—«Shearing Wind»”

Hein-san pointed his right hand at me and his left at Lastiara and casted his magic. At the same time, one of his rings shattered and a streak of soft wind caressed my cheek.

The next moment, the scenery in front of me was distorted, and a huge mass of air hit my eyes, forcing my eyelids to close. There was enough pressure to blow my body away that slammed into me.

It came from Hein-san. However, my vision was blocked and I couldn’t see what the pressure was.

Instinctively, I curled my body and prepared for an elevation of the situation.

“—?!!”

I was blown backward. I lost all sense of up and down during the process. At that point, I finally understood that I was being blown away by a gale made of magic that far exceeded human knowledge.

Hein-san’s good-natured atmosphere had caught me off guard, leaving me late to respond. Indeed, I felt a touch of discomfort, but there was nothing that had indicated that he would produce such a spell.

Still being carried away by the wind, I deployed «Dimension Gladiator» and picked up information on my surroundings.

In that instant, I spread my magic around and built a means of response based on the information it fed me. In less than a second, I knew where I was in the air and where the wall where I was about to be slammed against was. In response, I prepared to break my fall.

First, I put both arms and legs against the wall to absorb the impact. As I was attached to the wall, I let «Dimension» permeate the entire room.

In the far distance, Lastiara was knocked unconscious against the wall. She might not have been dead, but a glance at her was enough to reveal that she had broken an arm. It seemed she was unable to break her impact as well as I was.

It wasn’t that Lastiara’s reaction time was any worse than mine. If anything, it was because she had stood in the wrong place. I had more than ten meters before I reached the wall, but Lastiara had no time to think because the wall was right behind her.

I judged then that Lastiara wouldn’t be of any help. I had no choice but to leave Lastiara behind and concentrate on the enemy. Right when I reached that answer, I saw Hein-san drawing his silver twin swords and closing the distance to me.

I put my feet on the ground while also drawing out my sword, the Treasured Sword, from my ‘Item List’. I constructed my magic, taking advantage of my position before Hein-san arrived.

“—Magic, «Foam», «Daytime Snow»!!” 

I created countless magic bubbles.

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Seeing that, Hein-san casted a spell of his own. He turned one of his silver swords at me, and as he did, one of his rings shattered.

“—«Settling Wind».”

The moment he spoke the name, a soft wind was created from Hein-san’s silver sword. It didn’t have as much pressure as the previous attack. However, it went ahead and swept away all the magic bubbles I had created around me.

Realizing that my magic bubbles wouldn’t be effective against Hein-san, I stopped mass producing them. I then decided to concentrate on the sword, attempting to put more energy into «Dimension»—only to realize that my magical senses were disrupted.

“—!!”

The gentle wind Hein-san created was disturbing the magic, and thus it was incapable of properly feeding me information about my immediate surroundings.

Gritting my teeth, I intercepted Hein-san. 

His twin swords attacked me from both sides. I caught one of them with the sword in my hand as I dodged the other by twisting my body to its human limits. It was sheer luck. I had no experience against dual wielders, so I had to use nothing more than my reflexes and intuition to survive the attack.

I warded off his opening attack, and as I moved out of his range, something within me told me that I would regret it if I didn’t exhaust all of my options against him. I put my hand behind my back and was ready to draw my spare sword to take Hein-san by surprise.

Once again, his twin swords came at me from both sides, and that time I blocked them with my own dual swords. 

Seeing an extra sword, the blonde knight showed a slight surprise. I wasn’t one to miss that moment, as I swiped my swords outward and kicked him in the torso. The kick itself wasn’t that powerful, but it was enough for me to bounce away from him.

I kept my distance and focused on Hein-san, trying to gather all the details I could—

 

【Ring of Quake Wind Magic Stone】

A ring that holds the power of Quake Wind

【Ring of Scatter Wind Magic Stone】 

A ring that holds the power of Scatter Wind

【Ring of Divine Wind—

 

Ten rings, of which The Ring of Divine Wind Magic Stone had shattered.

“—«Shearing Wind».”

With that, Hein-san sucked the air in the surrounding, compressed it, and released it en masse at me. The unleashed storm easily lifted my body, blowing me far backwards.

However, I had seen it before. I didn’t lose my balance and broke my crash perfectly against the wall. Seeing it, Hein-san stopped.

With the distance open and the attacks stopped, I regained some composure and called out while strengthening «Dimension».

“Hein-san!! What is this all about?!!”

As he was gathering the wind around him to build another magic, Hein-san answered.

“What else… it is a duel. However, this isn’t some senseless duel with silly oaths on the Line. This is a duel in its real form, where one imposes violence on another to obtain what they want.”

His voice itself was gentle, contrasting the horrifying thing that he kindly told me.

After being assaulted so clearly, I knew that words wouldn’t resolve anything. I clearly understood that a ray of hope had been cut off.

“Shit…! —Magic, «Dimension Gladiator»!!”

The only way to settle the situation was to attack him from my own end. However, as I tried to construct a tactic… I found myself frozen.

I realized that it was the first time I had ever been in an all-out match against a human opponent, and I felt uneasy about what I had to do to accomplish my victory.

How far was I willing to go to attack? Should I aim to stun him? That would be best if I could, but he wasn’t anywhere weak enough for something so lukewarm. Then should I tell him to be prepared to lose a limb or two? That might be a good idea if I was confident to actually sever another person’s limb. Could I? No, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was—

—The problem is that this is a kill or be-killed battle against a human opponent.

My conscience wouldn’t be hurt if I was against a monster. Even if it was a humanoid, I could make excuses to myself that I was facing a monster, but if I slew a human being, no amount of excuses could save my mental health.

I was fully capable of constructing a sound strategy in an instant, but I couldn’t come up with an answer to that predicament right away. My body stiffened, and I was incapable of taking the appropriate action.

Meanwhile, Hein-san’s magic was completed.

“I will have you listen, even if you lose a leg in the process…!”

His determination-ridden words echoed.

The air around him was distorted. Countless lines of distortion floated in the air, and soon, the sound of something cutting through the air reverberated through the 20th floor. The Knight pointed a silver sword at me and chanted.

“—«Ray Wind».”

A line of distortion ripped through the air, flying at me. I focused my magic in that direction in order to dodge it.

However, as I tried to concentrate, the soft breeze that filled the room disturbed my magic. It didn’t completely offset my «Dimension», but it created a slight deviation, and any slight deviation could be fatal.

Judging that relying on «Dimension» could be dangerous, I grabbed a bag of flour from my ‘Item List’ and threw it at the distortions.

The bag was torn open, and a large amount of flour was scattered. The cloud of flour formed shapes in the air, making the distortions clearly visible. In its wake, it restricted my own vision, but that wasn’t a problem if I had my magic.

I ran as fast as I could, dodging the distortions ripping through the air as I approached Hein-san.

“—«Wind»”

The knight chanted his next magic and blew away all the flour. But by then, I had already dodged all the distortions and used my momentum to attack him.

I wasn’t ready to go for the kill. However, since he said he’d cut off my leg, I swung my sword with some mental preparation—that was the best I could do.

Swords clashed, and sparks bloomed.

I would keep my distance no more. I was a fish in a barrel for his wind magic. Even if I tried to set tricks and traps and stayed at mid-range, his wind magic would blow everything away. My only option was to stay close and personal.

His unique twin-swords technique was a threat, but not so much that it could settle the match right away. 

I kept striking down his slashes as if my swords were locked to his. I poured more of my MP into «Dimension Gladiator» and tried to pry open up any chance to win in a close-range battle.

By the time our swords clashed a dozen times or so, Hein-san’s expression changed. He moved away from me and uncharacteristically clicked his tongue.

I tried to go after him but stopped myself. I knew why he had backed away. His bitter face was pointed towards Lastiara, whom I saw groaning. She seemed to be regaining consciousness.

With relief, I readied my swords. The tables would turn if Lastiara woke up right then. Even the mighty Hein-san would have no chance of winning if she joined the fight.

Which meant I just needed to keep my ground until she awakened.

Seeing that I adopted a defensive posture, Hein-san sighed heavily. After which, he put his twin swords back into their sheaths and slowly spun his words.

“I never thought you’d be this strong, Christ-kun… My plans have been foiled…”

Hein-san spoke ruefully—and somewhat happily. From what I could see, he seemed happy that his plan fell through.

With growing alarm, not at all sure of what his true intentions were, I replied.

“Why are you doing this…?”

I wanted to know the truth. I wanted to know what he was trying to accomplish, even if he had to literally sweep us off our feet.

“…It is because you’ve seen my lady having fun.”

He replied weakly.

“Lastiara having fun…? What of it…?”

Why did that lead to the desire to kick me and Lastiara out of the Allied Nations? With the information I had, I couldn’t see the connection.

Hein-san laughed fleetingly in response to my question.

“I was wrong.”

And then, with a distorted expression, he blamed himself. All I could do was watch in bewilderment. 

Hein-san appeared sane, however, what he said was fundamentally off. I felt a tinge of instability as if I were dealing with Lastiara in her heightened mood. 

I couldn’t find any words to say back. In the meantime, he continued to talk.

“If this continues, my lady will die. Please, Christ-kun. Let her escape…”

“Eh?”

Lastiara will die…?

My heart jumped out of its cavity. 

Hein-san continued to talk like a broken dam.

“None of my words will reach her by now, so I have to bring her out of here, even if by force…! Christ-kun, never…! And I mean, never ever listen to a word my lady says to you…! Her words will sound sincere, but all of it is made-up. Her expressions, her emotions, her thoughts, everything of her is made-up. I was complicit in it, so I know for sure. Listen to the true feelings of the girl in there, and not that distorted, unstable, and inhumane being called Lastiara…!!”

I didn’t understand a word he was saying. It was too abrupt and too abstract.

Made up, he said? Does that mean Lastiara isn’t saying her true feelings?

While I was unable to gauge the true meaning of Hein-san’s words, I caught sight of Lastiara trying to get up at the edge of my field of vision. So did Hein-san, thus he spat out a parting threat as he retreated to the stairs to the 19th floor.

“Bring her out of here, no matter what… Take her far, far away…”

His eyes shimmered darkly, enchantingly. The blonde knight’s good looks only gave me goosebumps.

With those words, he disappeared into the darkness of the staircase.

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