Depths of the Otherworldly Labyrinth
[Translator – Mab ]
[Proofreader – ilafy ]
Chapter 31: Celestial Knights
I left Maria at home and went to the tavern. It was the first day of work after the vacations, but there was no particular change. I greeted the manager, Lynn-san, and the customers briefly and went to work.
As usual, I was working mainly on cleaning up and washing dirty dishes. However, as I was working for the first time in a long time, my dish-washing speed had become abnormal mainly due to my higher ‘Status’. I had to be careful to keep my hand speed down so as not to look suspicious.
Of course, I wouldn’t neglect gathering information during my shift. If there was a customer I judged I could chat with, I would broach the subject with him or her. There simply wasn’t enough information regarding the 20th floor if I only listened in with «Dimension».
That day, I was getting my intel from a certain familiar warrior Onii-san, Crow-san.
“—Huh. So there aren’t many monsters on the 14th floor?”
“Yup, that’s right. It’s the total opposite of the wetlands of the 13th floor; the 14th floor is a barren land—it’s a vast expanse of desert with no water at all. It doesn’t have many monsters, and it has a few area bosses as well. Few people go there to explore or hunt monsters. Usually, they just take the Main Road and go straight to the 15th floor.”
“I see. Desert sounds hot, doesn’t it?”
“Exactly. The temperature on the 14th floor robs your body of water. That’s why there are so many unexplored areas on the floor.”
Crow-san was someone I had a close relationship with ever since he had called out to me on my first day on the job. He was usually drinking when I was working.
Thus, I found time between chores to ask him, a seasoned explorer, about such things. However, if I chatted too long with Crow-san, the manager would take notice of me. I had obtained enough information about the Labyrinth for the day, so I decided to end the chat early.
“Thank you, Crow-san. You’ve told—”
It was then that an unusual group came crashing into the store.
I didn’t recognize any of them. Their attire wasn’t crude, as was often the case in Varte, but rather well-crafted, beautiful, and clean. Above all, they looked well-off. That was my first impression.
The woman walking at the forefront of that wealthy-looking group was a beastfolk. I felt something particular to the strong from her, so I focused my gaze on her.
Name: Serra Radiant
HP: 256/256, MP: 101/101
STR: 6.22, VIT: 7.91, DEX: 8.89, AGI: 10.02, WIS: 5.60, MAG: 7.77, APT: 1.57
Holy Magic: 0.89
A level in the twenties—a visit from one of the best and the fiercest of the Allied Nations.
She was a young beastfolk woman with bluish silver hair. She had a tuft of hair tied in a knot to the left, and her hair was down to her waist in the back. Both of her ears were animal ears, and she had a tail resembling a wolf’s, making her a beastfolk. She wore comfortable clothing, minimal silver armor, and had a sword hanging at her waist.
Above all else, her eyes were distinctive. The sharp, slitted eyes revealed the rigor of the woman.
She passed her gaze throughout the entire tavern, seeming to be looking for something. The other customers were beginning to notice the group, wondering what was going on.
Perhaps she grew impatient; she began to speak loud and pronounced enough that everyone all around could hear her.
“…A man named Christ is supposed to be working here.”
My heart leaped out of my chest.
She had named me. I hadn’t expected that at all.
A single sentence from her and several of the customers passed their attention to me. It was inevitable since the regulars knew my name. Their gazes led her eyes to fall on me, and beastfolk then called out to me.
“Are you Christ Eurasia?”
With a much sharper gaze, the woman glared daggers at me.
I was at a loss for an answer.
The problem was that I couldn’t see her agenda. This atmosphere was nowhere near normal, and the armored men she brought with her screamed danger to me. I wanted to play it cool as much as I could.
But even if I lied, someone else could have confirmed my identity, and that’d be the end of me. I had no choice but to tell her that it was my name.
“…yes. I’m Christ, a waiter here.”
The woman, after confirming my identity, took a breath and continued her words solemnly.
“My name is Serra Radiant. I am one of the Celestial Knights of Whoseyards. I have only one matter of business with you: I have come to challenge you to a duel.”
With those words, she lifted her sword, still in its scabbard, to indicate her intention to fight.
The bar was buzzing. Some were astonished to see Serra Radiant in person, whoever she was, as well as her sudden challenge to a duel.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying. Why challenge me?”
I tried my best to remain calm and inquired about her true goal. I remembered I had received advice from a knight named Palinchron before. Still, I didn’t understand why I was in that situation at all.
“Why, you ask…?! You dare to ask with that mouth of yours…?!!”
Radiant-san, perhaps not pleased with my response, grew furious. Crow-san then stood up for me.
“Oi, you hold your horse. I don’t care if you’re a knight from Whoseyards or my arse; you can’t just rear your heads here and act like you own the place. This is a tavern. Don’t mess with the waiter.”
Other customers with whom I regularly interacted stood up as well.
It looked like something important was about to happen. One by one, customers who seemed to know how to hold their grounds stood to speak up as well.
“I only watched ‘coz I thought this was gon’ be fun, but if you gon’ hurt one of ours, then we talk together.”
“Don’t think you can make a fool of Varte.”
“We don’t know each other much, but Christ boyo is no stranger to us.”
Many other voices went on to condemn Radiant-san.
They were agitated for my sake, making my heart flutter. It seemed like, before long, I had been recognized in my own right.
“Ain’t that right, Manager?!” One of them shouted.
Before I knew it, the manager had come out of the kitchen and was standing behind me. He spoke over my head.
“Don’t get too crazy, you dang fools. This Whoseyards Ojou-chan ain’t gonna go berserk in the store right now… But Ojou-chan, remember that this’s a tavern. A store. You interrupt my business… things gonna get messy for both of us.”
The manager was also a man nearing the 20th level. He didn’t take a step back against the dangerous group of people.
“Do forgive me. I guess I was a little over my head. I apologize if I was interrupting your business. However, we have a mission we must fulfill on our part. That is to duel with that man and get our lady back.”
Radiant-san bowed and talked with the manager calmly. She had seemed agitated earlier, but she turned out to be quite the reasonable person by nature. The manager listened, cracked a smile, then asked me.
“Hou, that sounds amusing… Oi, Christ. You seduce some noble lady or something?”
“Eeh… Do I look like I would?”
“I mean, surprisingly, it’s slender guys like you who tend to… well, you know?”
“I know… what? I didn’t.”
The atmosphere was bleak and high-strung not even a second before, but as soon as it was clear the whole thing was about some lascivious affair, the manager shifted to a lighter tone.
“Radiant whatever girl. You heard what our Christ said. But… well, this sounds sensitive. I’d bet you want to talk it over. If a duel is what you want, can’t you wait until this guy takes a break?”
“…Indeed. I didn’t mean to cause trouble to the store either. You’re right. We shall rest until that guy’s break time. Of course, we will order in.”
With that, Radiant’s group took their place at the larger table.
“And that’s that. These Whoseyards knights came for a meal. You lots don’t need to mind them. Go back to your plates.”
“Oi, oi. You sure about this, manager?”
“Sure or not, this got nothing to do with the store. It’s Christ’s problem. It don’t look like some baseless resentment, so we just gotta wait and see.”
“Well, you’re not wrong…”
* * *
Translator - Mab
Proofreader - ilafy
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* * *
The manager hushed the customers. That was not good for me, though. I wanted everyone to help me more.
“No, manager. This is baseless. I don’t remember ever doing anything wrong.”
“You bastard…! You still want to feign ignorance…?!”
When I spoke up, Radiant-san glared at me with a frightening expression.
“The knight missy sure sounds convincing, though… Just talk it over, Christ.”
The manager put an end to the conversation, making it sound like I was reaping what I sowed before he retreated to the kitchen.
“Fufu. Your time is numbered. Prepare yourself.”
Radiant-san muttered loud enough that I could hear her.
—Just the thought of having to work with that murderous stare clinging to me until break time made me let out a huge sigh.
“Haa, what the hells…”
Still, I had no choice but to do my job as usual, up until the end of my part-time shift, though—
“—So, who is this lady you speak of? Is it Dia?”
After enduring the work hours like I was walking on a knife’s edge, I took my well-earned break and sat down at the same table as Radiant-san. Her fellow knights stood behind me, blocking my escape route.
Through Palinchron, I had confirmed that what they meant by their lady was not Franrühle, so for good measure, I brought up Dia’s name. After all that was said and done, I still couldn’t believe Dia was being honest with his gender, and it wasn’t hard to believe that he was actually some kind of runaway noble lady.
“Dia who? Don’t play dumb. Who else but our lady Lastiara-ojousama?”
Radiant-san’s voice turned one pitch lower when she mentioned the name Lastiara.
She probably didn’t want the name to spread.
“Lastiara…? Aah, that troublesome girl.”
With those last few days that had been condensed with events, it took me a while to remember the girl I had met on my first day. The girl was still high on my list of dangerous individuals, although her freaky impression had faded with the arrival of Alty and Franrühle in my life. The whole debacle was caused by that girl.
“Troublesome, you said…?! You dare to call her like that after you kidnapped her—?!!”
“Hang on. Me? Kidnapped Lastiara?”
“Yes. Our lady has gone missing, and on her memo, she said she… she…! E-el-elo-eloped with the crook that is you!!”
“Haah. Eloped, you said.”
There was no way she had eloped with me. I had never even seen Lastiara since that night.
It was a clear case of false accusation, and it was Lastiara who threw me in the hot water.
The next time I saw her, I’d beat the hell out of her. With my level, I figured should be able to.
Radiant-san was so agitated she wasn’t speaking clearly, but she still kept on taunting me.
“Ourladyourladyourlady—! Our most precious and kind lady!! All she ever talked about in the cathedral was you! How she happened to meet you by chance in the Labyrinth, what kind of man you were, all the things you had done, she kept talking about you every day, every single day with that beautiful smile on her face, and us Celestial Knights who had to listen to your wretched name from her lips again and again and again… do you even know how we feel?!!”
“Calm down. Have some water.”
“This is no time for water!! Spit it out! Where did you hide our beloved lady?!!”
“I told you, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t seen her since running into her in the Labyrinth. She’s the one who lied to you. I mean, it’s her we’re talking about… I bet she ran away from home just for the fun of it.”
All I ever thought of Lastiara as was some kind of freak who took delight in her mischief. I did feel sorry for Radiant-san, but screaming at my face wouldn’t give her anything.
“Fu-, fufufu— You mean our lady did it just for fun? Running away from us? For fun? How could that modest and caring lady of ours do such a thing? She would never. Don’t think I don’t know when you’re trying to pull the wool over my eyes. That is why we must duel. I will deal with you through the duel. We can look for our lady at ease after you’re gone…!”
“I’ve no reason to accept your duel, though…”
“Even if you don’t accept it, you and our lady will never be united either way. You must defeat all of the Celestial Knights, or we will hunt you for the rest of your life.”
“Lastiara isn’t with me, even if you hunt me down. You can come to my house to make sure of it if you want. She’s really not with me.”
“I know how your perverse mind works. You’re trying to distract me with false information, aren’t you? Hah, you won’t deceive me. I will catch you by the tail no matter what.”
We weren’t even on the same page. I hadn’t the foggiest what happened, but Radiant-san was hellbent, convinced I was behind it.
I could continue to plead my innocence, but I’d hate to be followed around all the time. I wanted to keep as much information about me hidden as possible. Grinding levels for Maria, for example. By the looks of it, she was willing to chase me around the clock, following me even when we explored the Labyrinth.
I calculated the gain and the loss in the corner of my mind.
I judged that taking up the duel itself wasn’t a bad idea. My tolerance margin for risk had increased with the rising of my level, after all.
“I understand. Let’s duel then. If I lose, I will tell you everything. I don’t know Lastiara’s whereabouts, but I swear I will cooperate fully in your search.”
“Hou… Finally, you gave up. Actually, no, I’d say it’s more apt to say that you’ve realized your sin and are ready to take the punishment for it.”
“No, don’t kill me off, please. I accept your duel, but let me give it a rule of my own: Nothing that will result in a grave or permanent injury. You kill, you lose. You win only when your opponent admits defeat. After all, peace is best.”
“…Mhm. Very well. I never fancied violence myself. Right, why don’t I start by beating you until you give up on doing evil ever again.”
The beastfolk knight claimed she had never fancied violence in the same breath that she declared she’d beat me into submission. I found it hard to believe she hated violence at all.
She was someone I’d prefer to avoid contact with if at all possible.
“If I win, don’t show up before me again.”
“Sure. The duel, of course, will be a one-on-one match.”
“That’s what I’m thinking as well.”
“Good resolve. Fufu. Bring this outside.”
With a single command, the knights lined up behind me and cleared the way for us.
I got up to walk outside, finding the worried looks from people around me. Lynn-san, who had been eavesdropping as she did her waitress chores, tried to talk me out of it, but I turned her down.
“It’s okay, Lynn-san. We’ve already made the decision. Worst comes worst, I won’t die.”
I answered her with a smile, my voice loud enough to be heard by the manager and the customers.
“Th-that’s right, but… Be careful, Christ-kun…”
My smile didn’t crack even when Lynn-san showed her worry.
After all, that wasn’t exactly a bad Event. If anything, it was a good Event.
I had always wondered… I had managed to defeat Tida, even when humanity as a whole had a hard time fighting him. If so, then just how strong was I compared to the rest of humanity…
And then, conveniently, someone with a level in the twenties had appeared before me. She was enraged at the moment, but her personality seemed to be one that valued civility and humanity. She even accepted the lenient rule I had proposed to the duel. It was too good an opportunity to affirm my rank in terms of strength at the moment.
My level was at about half of Radiant-san’s. However, I wasn’t inferior to her in terms of ‘Status’. Any slight numerical differences could be covered with «Dimension», and I could read her tactics from her parameters.
I also had some new magic I wanted to try. It wasn’t wrong to say I had my own interest in that one-on-one match.
Yes, thinking positively… Her group had come all the way to the tavern for me. I couldn’t possibly miss out on the advantage.
With that rational answer, I walked away with a thin smirk on my face.
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