Depths of the Otherworldly Labyrinth
[Translator – Mab]
[Proofreader – ilafy]
Chapter 35: Hero and Midwinter Snow
Countless beasts crammed into the wide corridor. It was a Herd.
It was a scene I would never encounter if I wanted to since I had the means to look for them. Being attacked by multiple monsters at the same time would cause me to be at risk of losing my life, even if I was above the floor’s appropriate level. I had heard stories of a terrible encounter with a herd of monsters before in the tavern, and ever since then, I had been careful to never encounter a herd.
In the middle of that herd of monsters was Lastiara, fighting all alone as she laughed. She took on the violence of numbers without a second thought.
I watched from far behind with Maria. I picked up Lastiara’s battle with «Dimension» and observed.
Wearing only a thin robe that provided no defense whatsoever, she smoothly dodged the claws of the beasts. Then her sword flurried at them as her body dodged. Rinse, repeat. Despite her high ‘Swordsmanship’ ‘Skills’, her actual swordsmanship was crude.
Occasionally, she would show a spectacular flash of the sword, but it was far more often a haphazard sword slash than actual technique. Her moves indicated not so much that she was good with the sword but rather that she was excellent at mastering her own body. She might be able to use magic, but even if she could, it didn’t seem like she would use it at all.
As I analyzed Lastiara’s tactics in fighting monsters, I also observed one other person.
“Wh-what in the world… is she…”
Maria was watching the battle unfold in stunned disbelief. I looked at Maria’s ‘Status’ through the ‘Display’ and checked her EXP.
It was an important information analysis. I would say that it was much more important than analyzing Lastiara’s tactics.
That was the first time I challenged the Labyrinth in a three-person party. If it were a game, the change in the number of party members would cause a fluctuation in the distribution of EXP. Would it be a penalty, a bonus, or would it be a completely different distribution method? I had to make sure.
With Lastiara in charge of grinding EXP, I continued to observe the changes in the EXP columns between the three of us.
“Master, who is she…?”
Maria asked me the question as I was analyzing. As my brain continued to calculate the differences, my mouth answered her question.
“I don’t know much either, but I know for sure she is someone special. For now, though, you just need to see her as nothing but a knight girl who loves going into the Labyrinth.”
It seemed like Lastiara had finished her extermination as I was talking with Maria.
She walked to us with an easy gait, shaking off her blood-soaked blade as she did. Incidentally, there were hardly any drops of blood on her person. Still too easy for her.
“Haa~ Finally got the last one~ That took some from me~”
“That’s why I told you we need to detour.”
“Detour means we gotta take the long road, and I don’t want that. We need to go deep and fast.”
Lastiara didn’t like being on the shallow floors and had single-handedly cut through a herd of monsters that were blocking the shortest path to the next floor.
I had suggested a detour to avoid the herd, but it actually helped me too. She provided me with a lot of EXP, enough to derive an analysis.
Thanks to her, while tentatively, I had confirmed four rules:
Even if there was only one person doing the fight while the other two only watched, the EXP was still divided among three people.
The range of the party system didn’t change much, even with three people.
There was a slight penalty added if the party had multiple members.
The EXP distribution wasn’t different; it remained equally divided amongst all members.
Also, I could say I was starting to catch on to the trends of the party system to a certain extent.
“Alright. Let’s head to the next floor.”
“Lets~ I’m on the front~”
With that said, Lastiara once again took the lead as we moved through the Labyrinth. She was walking briskly, perhaps because she wanted to get to the depth of the Labyrinth as quickly as possible.
I followed behind Lastiara, who was looking like a child on her way to a toy store. But then, I suddenly noticed something was off about Maria.
Lastiara’s fast-paced walk was quite imposing. Any normal person would get run out of breath trying to go at her pace. I was fine, but with Maria’s ‘Status’, it might have exhausted her. Thinking so, I turned my eyes to Maria and saw that her face had turned pale.
“Wh-what’s wrong, Maria…?!”
Maria walked right behind me, her hand seemed ready but hesitant to grab the hem of my clothes at any moment.
“Master… Don’t you think something is wrong? When you looked at Lastiara-san…?’
It seemed like Maria was stuck with oppressive fear after seeing the fight that had just taken place. Right, to someone of lesser ability than her, Lastiara would appear to be nothing but an overwhelming bundle of violence. I, too, had once had an eerie, apprehensive fear of Lastiara.
“You’re right. Lastiara can be a little bit scary… But she has an innocent heart, despite how she implied, she isn’t exactly a bad person.”
I couldn’t help but think how funny a manner of speaking could be. She wasn’t exactly a bad person, sure, but a troublesome one? Absolutely.
“Innocent, that is why she is scary…”
Even after she listened to my defense, Maria couldn’t seem to shake off her fear. She even described that Lastiara was scary precisely because she was innocent, like she was the type of person who would innocently step on an insect and squash it. And I understood what she meant.
“It’s okay. Whatever happens, I’ll protect you. I’m strong enough to protect you from Lastiara.”
“Eh? Master, you can win against her…?”
“Not easily, but I think I have an advantage over her. She has a lot of air in her head, and I don’t think my swordsmanship is any less than hers. We’ll be fine.”
I spoke softly, padding my odds of winning in order to reassure Maria. To be honest, there was probably not much difference between Lastiara and me.
If anything, it would be the circumstance where I would be fighting while protecting Maria, automatically putting me at a disadvantage. If I was free and could fight for my own, then I’d say my odds of winning were around 50% at most.
Either way, I needed to have Maria be at ease, so I continued to act like I had the advantage.
“Even if that’s the case… It should be me who protects my Master…”
At the very least, it seemed like she believed that Lastiara wouldn’t be a problem as long as I was around for the time being. Her fear had considerably lessened.
…supposedly. Maria was skillful at pretension and putting a bold front, so I couldn’t trust my own judgment.
Next, she began to mull over her own position. I quickly gave her my words, afraid that she would bring up the whole slave or friendship debacle all over again.
“No, you don’t need to. If anything goes wrong, Maria, you should mind your own safety.”
“I don’t need to…? Master, you mean—”
Hearing my retort, Maria looked like she had arrived at a conclusion, but her expression quickly reverted, and she shook her head.
“No, it’s nothing…”
Oh, how I wanted to read her mind. Whenever that happened, I couldn’t tell at all what was going on inside her head.
Maria shifted gears and then smiled as she talked.
“In the end, it boils down to my powerlessness… Isn’t that right? Also, now that I think about it, I should also know very well that Lastiara-san is not a bad person at all. If anything, she’s quite a good person.”
“Eh? Sh-she is?”
While it was me who had said she wasn’t a bad person, I somehow couldn’t accept saying that she was a good person either.
“Last night, I shared the bed with her, and we chatted endlessly. I think I know her character much more than you do, Master. I mean, she seems to like me too much.”
“You’re right… She does seem like she fancies you a lot…”
Her steps grew lighter as we talked. She came forward and began to advance through the Labyrinth in front of me.
“That means we must be quick, or else Lastiara-san might leave us behind.”
“Yeah, let’s go.”
I looked at her back and continued through the Labyrinth.
With me behind her, I couldn’t see the face that Maria made. No, I could easily see her face if I used «Dimension», however, I would never be able to see what kind of expression her heart made.
I wasn’t assertive enough a man to force someone to speak out their mind. However, I promised myself that, no matter what happened, I would always protect Maria. And then, I walked on—to the depths of that otherworldly Labyrinth…
* * *
Translator - Mab
Proofreader - ilafy
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* * *
After challenging the Labyrinth so many times, I became accustomed to dealing with the monsters.
I especially felt that notion as we approached the 20th floor. The monsters themselves weren’t exactly something entirely alien to me.
Having played many games in my previous world, not many of those monsters came to me as something new. I had seen something similar to the majority of them in some certain works or titles.
While I was at first taken aback by the unreal existence of the monsters, at that point in time, whenever a new monster popped up, I could afford to think ‘Oh, this one looks like a monster from that game.’
On the contrary, Maria and Lastiara were surprised from the bottom of their hearts whenever a new monster appeared looking all odd and weirdly shaped.
As we fought a wide variety of monsters, we thus reached floors deep enough to render Maria a complete non-combatant.
I wanted to warn the others that we might have gone too deep, but I kept missing my timing until we reached the 19th floor. I mean, Lastiara always instantly killed the monsters that occasionally appeared before us. On top of that, the three of us were still unharmed thus far. I wanted to stop moving deeper, but I couldn’t think of anything persuasive enough.
As the three of us were walking along the Main Road of the 19th floor, a monster so huge it blocked the whole passageway appeared.
It stood on two hoofed legs, its lower body covered with dark brown body hair, its upper body almost looked human, albeit all the muscles, while its head was the shape of a bull. It had an evil glint to its eyes and its hands clutched a giant battleaxe.
“Ooh~ What’s this? What a weird monster.”
“I-it’s revolting to look at… And big…”
Lastiara and Maria were appalled by the monster that they were apparently seeing for the first time, while I didn’t say a word and simply looked at the ‘Display’.
【Monster】Carmine Minotaur: Rank 20
So it is a minotaur… Or maybe my guess was near accurate because every single word my head processed is translated beforehand…? It’s a little disconcerting to see something so familiar in this strange, alien world.
I passed the information I had obtained to Lastiara.
“It’s a monster called a minotaur. I think it’s a power-type, maybe. Who’ll fight?”
“Maybe I should protect Maria-chan this time? I need to replenish Maria-chan’s affection rate for me since I think it’s gotten dangerously low now.”
Surprisingly, Lastiara ceded the battle to me. She used to give any and all monsters unknown to her the sword treatment, but it seemed she had finally begun to realize Maria was drawing away from her because of that.
Hearing that, Maria turned her down with a snap.
“No, thank you. I’d rather be left alone.”
“Oof! She hates me so much so suddenly! We were close enough to sleep together last night, you know!”
“I’d rather use the word abduction.”
“Hmn. Seeing you thorny like that makes me all the more eager, you know.”
Lastiara approached Maria as she spoke and threw a hug to her.
“Wha! Wait, why are you hugging me?! Know the proper TPO!”
“All good now. That one is yours, Christ.”
For Lastiara, that was what she meant by the word protect. Messing around with companions in the Labyrinth was one of her goals. She must have been having fun.
Lastiara was holding down Maria, who looked to really be hating every second of it, with one arm. Maria’s STR had increased considerably, but she was still helpless before Lastiara’s high ‘Status’. With her being restrained, it was unlikely for Maria to jump into the fray after mistaking me for being in danger.
With a sense of relief washing over me, I turned to the minotaur.
The huge monster was already so close, prominent with its heavy breathing.
Rank 20… That would be the first time I would face a monster at such a high rank.
In my experience so far, it was safe to assume that the existence of Ranks represented the adequate level to face it. The ranks that appeared in the ‘Display’ were always close in number to the appropriate level of the explorers who faced the monster, a piece of information I had obtained by scouring intel from the tavern and putting two and two together. In other words, the minotaur was a monster normally only an explorer at level 20 or over would deal with.
While indeed my level went up the previous day, I was still only at level 11, so there were still nine levels worth of gap. However, my ‘Status’ was comparable to that of an individual at level 20.
“—Magic, «Dimension Gladiator», Magic «Foam».”
A huge axe, about three meters in size, swung down at me. I dodged it just in time while constructing my ‘Dimensional Magic’. I wasn’t daring to aim at dodging by paper-thin margins. At that deep a floor, I didn’t have much margin of error.
If I were alone, I would take my time grinding level and only fought with 100 percent confidence in my odds to win. That time, however, I had Lastiara with me.
If things got dangerous, Lastiara, who was as powerful as I was, would give me support. What was even more important was that Lastiara could use recovery magic. Although she wasn’t fond of magic and rarely used it, I felt secure in the knowledge that she would heal me in case of injury.
Before, I had no other choice but to return to the surface in case of injury. That time, though, we could continue our exploration even if we were slightly injured. In other words, I was willing to take some risks.
I dived under the minotaur’s axe, avoiding serious injury. At the same time, I attached a huge amount of «Foam» to its body.
I was able to generously spend my MP because I had split my battles with Lastiara. Man, parties are convenient.
With the «Foam» adhered to its body, the minotaur lost all possibility of catching me. The more that magical bubble adhered to its body, the more potent my ability to grasp space, as I had already confirmed during the previous day’s battle against Serra Radiant.
After confirming that the axe no longer posed a threat, I performed my next magic experiment.
“—Magic, «Foam», Magic, «Freeze».”
A large bubble was created, and within it, magical cold air was trapped. «Freeze» used to be nothing more than dropping the temperature of the room a few degrees, but with the increased consumption of MP and condensing it within the bubble, it became incomparably colder.
I finished constructing the magic as I fought.
I then blended it in with the other bubbles and slowly moved it to the minotaur’s feet. The minotaur didn’t pay attention to every single one of the countless bubbles, hence the new magic landed on its foot without any problem.
The cold air sealed inside gushed out, freezing and gluing its foot to the ground. As its foot was suddenly restrained, it lost its balance.
A combination technique of «Foam» and «Freeze»—
“—Magic, «Daytime Snow».”
—appropriately named. I was glad it was a success.
I was a bit frustrated that I had failed to acquire the Freezing Magic «Little Snow» the previous day, so I had come up with something similar.
With that, all experiments so far were done. I jumped on the minotaur, very much defenseless at that point, and went to cut off its head.
My sword managed to get in up until it caught the monster’s cervical spine. I was worried that the blade might not be able to pass through its skin due to the sheer difference in level, but it was still okay, it seemed. The power of the sword itself was great, after all.
I gave up on cutting off its head and resorted to cutting a blood vessel. With a snap, I saw the blood begin to gush out of the minotaur’s neck like a geyser.
Having been attacked, the minotaur swung its giant axe in a fury. However, perhaps due to its anger, the attack was lackluster. It had the power, but it lacked the technique and was comparably slower.
That time, I deliberately chose to dodge by paper-thin margins, then crushed both of its eyes.
The end of line… I focused only on dodging the minotaur, which was losing more blood as time passed. Its eyes had been blinded, and its movements became so chaotic that evading became that much easier. If anything, I paid more attention to not being hit by its splattering blood.
I delivered a series of light attacks as I spied an opening before the minotaur finally ran out of steam. As usual, it disappeared as light, and then a red magic stone fell.
The monster wasn’t as good as Lastiara, but it was still a good result against a rank 20 opponent.
I checked my EXP.
Once we reached the deeper floors, I could get hundreds of EXP with a single monster, even if I had to split the EXP between the three of us. Next, I picked up the magic stone and checked its details.
【Semi-3rd Grade Fire Magic Stone】
A highly-concentrated Magic Stone with the power of Fire within. Dropped from monsters of the Fire Attribute. ‘Fury’ is dwelling within it.
I might learn magic if I swallowed it, but it was raw, so to speak. That thing was too terrifying to swallow.
While I was looking at the Semi-3rd Grade Fire Magic Stone, Lastiara and Maria came walking up to me.
“Good work, Christ. You said it’s too early for you to go to the 20th floor, but look at you slaying.”
“No, I wasn’t slaying it per se. It was an equal match. I need to be more overwhelming…”
“Eh? More than you already are…? That’d be no different than reaping wheat from its stalk, though?”
“That’s my minimum standard.”
I would reach the Deepest Depth of the Labyrinth with the ease of reaping wheat from its stalk. When she heard my ideal, Lastiara looked at me like she couldn’t even fathom how my mind worked.
“I know that it doesn’t fit with your ideal, Lastiara. But… that is precisely why we fit each other.”
“No, no, if our ideas don’t fit, that means we don’t fit either.”
“Say we explore the Labyrinth together and I hand you everything that I think is dangerous. That way, I will be safe while you take my share of the fun. See? Nobody loses.”
“W-well, that’s true… but, mn~, I feel like something’s not quite right…”
“That’s what reality is all about.”
I joined them, exchanging light banter, and we proceeded further down the Main Road. Maria looked relieved and then checked to make sure I wasn’t injured.
I wonder if she intended to make that check every time I fought…
“Maria, I’m not hurt. You don’t need to be so worried again and again.”
“N-no. I’m not exactly worried or anything..”
From my point of view, I could see that Maria was unusually concerned about my safety. Was she perhaps thinking she would lose her bulwark against Lastiara if I died?
I patted Maria’s head and smiled, telling her not to worry.
Maria’s face turned beet red, and her eyes glared at me. Perhaps she was angry that I treated her like a child. I hurriedly parted my hand from her head, then turned to face the depth of the Labyrinth again and spoke to Lastiara.
“Hey, we’re about to reach the 20th floor, right?”
“That’s right. Just a little bit more.”
All that time, Lastiara had been leading the way. The reason for that was not only because of her temperament; it was also because she had experience in entering the 23rd floor, the depth limit of humanity, all by herself. Of course, while it was the basic to go by the Main Road, there were still monsters that intruded on the Main Road, as was the case right then. The deeper the floor, the stronger the tendency. Still, her having the experience of reaching the 23rd floor was reassuring.
Guided by Lastiara, Maria and I walked along.
We were attacked by monsters several more times on the 19th floor. However, those monsters always appeared alone, so Lastiara or I could handle them without any problem.
After overcoming several monster attacks, we finally reached the 20th floor. I set up my «Dimension» so that I would be ready for anything to happen. Thus, we slowly descended to the 20th floor.
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