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Chapter 13: Targeted Comrades

Targeted Comrades

The twenty ninth floor..

Miranda confirmed the dagger and knife hanging at her waist.

As she had chosen clothing easier to move in than before, her body's lines were coming out.

Even if she were to be called her lightly equipped, while there were metal protectors around her knees and whatnot, with the design focusing on ease of movement, it couldn't be said she had any actual armor.

Even so...

"Yep, and we're done here."

She tossed the dagger in her right hand at the ogre with iron wrapped around its body, and it stabbed into its eyes.

In the direction it had lost sight of, was Aria.

Having come all the way to floor twenty nine, even Aria started using her Skills.

Several times her own physical strength, weapon enhancement... with those stacked onto one another, a heavy blow came down on the ogre's head.

The shortspear impaled its skull, and after it collapsed, she withdrew the spear, and took distance from the other surrounding monsters.

The orc that tried approaching her had its head blown off.

It was Lyle.

Stanced with a bow, he used one of his limited exploding arrows to whittle down the enemies' numbers.

Miranda also tossed her knives at the monsters that tried approaching her.

An orc, that had lost both of its eyes to her knives tried to blindly swing its weapon, but she tossed a dagger at its throat.

Blood poured out of the pierced jugular, and the orc writhed around in pain, messing up the movements of its allies around it.

And in that time, another explosion wrung out, and the struggling orc was the only one that remained.

Using up all its strength, it finally collapsed onto the floor,

And Aria dealt the finishing blow.

Lyle issued out orders.

"Keep watch of the perimeter. We'll be taking a short breather here. Clara, I'll leaving it to you. Novem, how are you feeling?"

The magician, and the party's main firepower Novem had been making frequent use of magic on the twenty ninth.

Lyle wanted to preserve it in preparation for the next day, so he didn't include her in the preceding battle.

"I'm fine. Would it not be better if I fought as well?"

Miranda thought to herself.

(I'll bet. Lyle's decision isn't wrong, but he's underestimating her.)

After thinking a while, Lyle spoke.

"... We've already found the entrance to the thirtieth floor. I'll have you prepare for tomorrow. While I can also use magic, I'll generally be leaving it to you, Novem. Thinking of what's to come, as you're also taking the role of our healer, I'd like you to preserve Mana."

Miranda turned to the rear of her vigilant party.

(If we weren't being trailed, Novem would've participated, and the battle would have ended easily.)

There was a party on their trail, and it was a few days prior that her sister Shannon started being wary of them.

Having come this far on the seventh day after entering the labyrinth, their party was moving at quite a high pace.

Last time, they had defeated the fortieth floor boss, and returned within a week.

Considering that, it may seem slow, but their pace was more than high enough.

The knives and daggers on hand.

Clara recovered them along with the materials, and handed them to Miranda.

"Miranda-san."

"Thanks, Clara..."

Miranda had made sure to direct a smile when Lyle had invited the girl over, but her true thought on the matter were a little conflicted.

Despite having seen the ugly sides of her, he had accepted her as she was. But to what extent was that...

No one understood that. Not even herself.

(Comrades, is it?)

It would be a lie to say she didn't have anything to say about Clara.

Miranda hadn't been invited by Lyle yet. She was just offering her help at this point.

While they were officially registered in the same party, she couldn't help but wonder.

Just how does Lyle think of me?

They were words close to a confession. Novem also perceived her as a member of the harem. And strangely enough...

Right now, she wanted to stay by Lyle's side.

(I mean, we're already in a situation as if we've been driven out of the Circry house, so it's fine to tag along to the end, isn't it?)

The personality brought forth by Shannon, and the face she had never put on the surface.

The two of them mixed, and the current Miranda no longer merely an existence with a disposition to be nice to any and everyone.

Her eyes drifted slightly towards Lyle as she talked with Clara.

She accompanied her to Porter's side, confirmed her own equipment, and wiped off the blood.

"Ah, I guess it would be better to replace these."

Finding a knife that would be better off switched out, she called out to Shannon within Porter.

"Shannon, can you pass over my spare knives?"

As there were no signs of enemies around, she raised her voice, and a metal door opened, from which Shannon emerged, and dismounted.

Perhaps she was sleeping, as her hair was in disarray.

"You.. you were sleeping in the middle of battle?"

Miranda seemed mildly fed up, but Shannon spoke.

"I mean, you guys aren't going to lose against those measly numbers, right? Also, I didn't have anything to do, so I was bored. I should have brought something along to kill time."

The sister who she thought couldn't see... the frail and docile girl seemed to be able to adapt to the oppressing air of the labyrinth better than anyone.

(Could it be the power in her eyes?)

Taking the knives, she handed Shannon the ones that had become unusable.

"... Even when we still have the return trip, we've ruined more than half of our equipment. Will we be fine like this? Food supplies are also..."

Shannon said that looking at Porter, and Miranda replied.

"It's fine. The return is easier than the journey... no, that's wrong. It's because we know the path that the return trip is quicker. But we'd usually be loading up with magic stones and materials, making the load troublesome, it seems..."

Miranda looked at Shannon and Porter.

The comrade that Lyle and Poyopoyo had manufactured was truly a reliable existence.

"... Well, we'll be fighting the boss tomorrow, so we'll be going back as soon as we're done with that. We know the road to take, so it'll likely be faster."

They confirmed the entrance to the thirtieth floor.

Calling a close early for the day, they were resting in preparation for tomorrow.

Miranda told Shannon to return to Porter, as she stowed away her replaced knives.

(It would be nice if nothing were to happen, but that's impossible.)

Looking behind, Miranda sensed an ominous presence...

-

-

-

The exit of the twenty ninth floor... meaning the area before the boss's room on the thirtieth. There, we found a small room, and took a break.

I stationed Porter at the room's entrance, so entering or exiting wasn't possible.

"I should've just done that from the start."

I complained, but Clara was opposed to my opinion.

"Blocking off rooms in the labyrinth isn't recommended. Here in Arumsaas, the place is managed by the guild. With that being the case, turf disputes among adventurers is hated."

WE could lose our rights to challenge the labyrinth, so doing something like this in an area with a greater number of parties was out of the question.

"So it's like a rule in Arumsaas?"

"It's a local rule. It may be different elsewhere."

Clara informed me of how standard adventuring rules could vary by the province.

While I was talking with Clara, as she lit up the room with her staff from the corner, we were actually keeping watch.

I heard a voice from the Jewel.

It was the Sixth.

[Lyle... how about turning around just a little bit? If you don't take in any sensory information, we can't see either.]

(... Dammit. Try considering why Clara's on watch in the first place.)

At present, behind me, the female army...

Everyone apart from me was wiping down their bodies with towels.

A bucket had been filled with water Clara produced with magic. Using that, they were wiping off the sweat, and monster blood.

I spoke.

"Hey, is the water created through magic drinkable?"

Clara shook her head.

"Researchers have carried out experiments on it time and again. Generally, you'll ruin your stomach if you ingest it. There are some people who won't break, but... I cannot recommend it. Also, how should I put it, it's a bit questionable..."

I listened to her words, and spoke.

"So you tried it?"

"Yes, with the mindset that I could put enough food on the table if I became a support who could prepare drinkable water... 'Twas a failure."

What a challenger.

The Second spoke.

[It's not good to rely on magic for everything.]

The Third was of the same opinion.

[Right. It's always the same. [The Magician's Village], I think it was.]

Hearing that, the Fourth tried to remember something.

[That's a fairy tale directed at children, right? It was quite an essential one.]

[the Magician's Village]... I've also read it.

But I think Clara's case is a little different.

"It's that. It's best not to overstep your bounds."

"Yes, I swore never to try it again."

I conversed some more with Clara, as she hung her head, before a refreshed Aria called out to us.

"We're done over here."

As I turned around, the Sixth let out a bit of a regretful voice.

[She just doesn't get it. A little more embarrassment would be appreciated here.]

The Seventh also looked at Aria, and spoke.

[This girl is, bit by bit...]

The girl attaining bad rep among those two was equipped waist down, but her top half was wearing a shirt without any undergarments underneath.

What's more, she was carrying herself boldly.

"Something wrong?"

I spoke.

"I think you should be a bit more bashful."

But she responded swiftly.

"And why do I have to mind that in a place like this?"

She was right.

Clara also addressed me.

"Lyle-san, you dreaming too much. This is how female adventurers generally are. They're just comrades who sleep alongside male adventurers as well... but I think this party is on the better side of things. Among them, there are women who wear nothing but underwear, or prance around naked. Ah, that's only after securing a safe spot in the labyrinth, mind you."

The Fourth spoke.

[The hell... no wonder adventurers avoid those in the same business.]

The Second spoke.

[It's because men are beings that live through dreams. But I guess there's no helping it, given the environment.]

While that was going on, Miranda-san wandered over.

"What are you doing?"

She had a towel wrapped around her neck, but she was properly wearing clothing underneath. The reason for her rough attire was likely because Porter was blocking the entranceway.

Her hair still seemed to be a little damp.

With her disposition to tickle and tempt the male heart, I was unable to lift my eyes from her.

The Fourth spoke.

[This is it...]

The Fifth too.

[She sure does resemble Milleia...]

The Sixth...

[This girl sure does get it.]

The Seventh was...

[Hmm, completely different from that Aria.]

I felt my own face getting mildly flushed.

Clara and Aria stared at me reproachfully. But all I could think for now was...

(Why am I listening to these sorts of conversations from the ancestors... no, it's just I'll hear them regardless, and I can't turn it off.)

-

-

-

The next day.

Having gotten our preparations together, we descended the stairwell to the thirtieth floor.

Novem asked.

"It's fine to have Shannon-chan on Porter, but I think it will be difficult to station them at the room's entrance."

The passage that led to the boss room was quite wide, and it was impossible to block it up with Porter alone.

Shannon was wary of those pursuing us from behind, but that doesn't give much peace of mind.

"It will be most dangerous when we're in the middle of fighting the boss."

After I said that, Poyopoyo stepped foreard.

"Well then, I, Poyopoyo will protect the rear lines!"

I was mulling over whether to dispatch her in the boss battle. She was too strong for me to get a sense of achievement.

And before those feelings and all, we needed to know whether we had the ability to take on the boss ourselves. For that sake, Poyopoyo had been put on support to now.

"... Stay close to Porter, and protect Shannon. I doubt it'll happen, but if we are to lose, then take the surviving members along with Shannon, and escape."

She shrugged her shoulders, and looked at me with some cynicism.

"What is it?"

"No, if my chicken dickwad is to perish, then that strange energy source you call Mana will be cut, and I will cease function. I'll likely be able to move for a while, but personally, I would be using that time to beat the living daylights out of whoever killed my master, and make them regret the day they were born into this world."

As she said that overflowing with confidence, Novem gave a wry smile.

"Um, wouldn't it just be better to lend a hand if it gets dangerous?"

"I-I'm being hypothetical here. I-it's not like I want to see my chicken dickwad die either, you know!"

The Third spoke.

[I'm starting to lose track of whether automatons are supposed to be amazing, or not.]

The Fifth.

[]To have such glaring flaws in a machine this elaborate, I'm not sure whether to praise or speak ill of them... how troubling.

And as a conversation like that carried out, we arrived at the boss room.

I issued orders to everyone.

"You've all made sure to check your equipment, right?"

I made sure everyone nodded, before confirming the plan.

"The front lines will have Aria and Miranda-san moving around to attract its attention. I'll take the center, and support you two with magic. I'll leave the finishing blow to Novem, and Clara, please operate Porter, and keep the room alit. Shannon is on standby within Porter, and Poyopoyo will be guarding them."

After finishing the checks, I went on to the measures against the pursuer that had a high likelihood of intervening during the battle.

"... There's a possibility we'll be assaulted by a third party during the battle. Right after the fight as well. If it happens during the battle, take up a formation as to focus boss together. In that case, I'll be the one taking on our stalkers."

After the battle, we would remain wary of the entrance, and station Porter to make a wall, in case any attacks were to come.

On my judgement, the Second seemed unsatisfied.

[Well, if you think that's fine, then have at it.]

The Third spoke.

[It's Lyle's decision, so let's leave it at that. Personally, I do see a problem, though.]

There's no guarantee... that retreat would mean safety.

We have much too little information on the enemy.

The reason I put the boss as the priority was so I could use my ancestors' Skills after that.

(We have to swiftly take the boss out, and prepare for our pursuers. That's how we'll break through the present situation.)

Based on Shannon's testimony, they were still on our trail.

... I declared to everyone.

"Let's go!"

We rushed forward, and Aria and Miranda-san ran in front of me.

I could hear the footsteps of the members behind me, and the turning of Porter's wheels.

Within the room, was the figure of a large ogre holding a cylinder.

"I didn't pay it much mind before, but... it's much bigger than a normal ogre."

It had a large amount of exposed skin, but around the head and neck, and the abdomen was, not a jumble of parts like the other monsters, but what seemed to be an armor specially fitted to it.

The thick rod in its hand was hollow, and seeing it, Poyopoyo spoke.

"So it has a cannon, does it? ... Equip it on porter for an instant power up."

On the other end of the pipe, it had a squarish bludgeon-like weapon stuck on. It probably had it precisely because it's an ogre, but I'd like to refrain from getting hit by that one.

I drew a sabre, and prepared magic in my left hand.

In that time, Aria and Miranda-san positioned themselves to attack from two sides, and garnered the ogre's attention.

I chanted magic.

"Fire Bullet!"

Numerous orbs of fire came down on its head, temporary sealing off its eyesight.

There, Aria used a Skill to cut at it.

Miranda-san tossed her daggers at the area around its knee joints.

I couldn't see its face through its helmet, but it raised a war cry, so it had likely flown into a rage. I looked behind.

(Novem hasn't finished her preparations yet.)

I watched the boss, praying an enemy attack wouldn't come, as I continued scattering small spells at it, making it focus a moderate amount of attention on my position.

And starting to swing around its cudgel, it chucked it at Clara, who was lighting the room.

"Clara, fall back!"

The thrown weapon made an unpleasant metallic sound as it was shot down to the ground.

The one who did it was Poyopoyo.

"Securing the backline's safety is I, Poyopoyo's, job... with a worthless master behind me, I'm currently reflecting on my life."

I gave my thanks in answer to her sarcasm.

"Nicely done. I'll tell you the name I thought up when we're done here. Keep looking out for the back lines like that!?"

"What did you say!? Why did you have to say that now, and not during yesterday's rest..."

She started to mumble about 'Flags' or something of the sort, but I ignored her, and looked towards the boss. Having lost its weapon, it was hitting down on Aria and Miranda-san with its bare hands.

"Lightning!"

When the two of them took up some distance from it, I used magic to rack on some damage.

It was far from a fatal blow, but I definitely dulled its movements somewhat.

(As I thought, the First's Skill sure was useful.)

Before the enemy we're currently struggling with, thinking of how I beat it with a single blow before reinformed me of how valuable the Skills were.

And as we surrounded the boss, laying on attacks, Clara shouted out.

"The preparations are finished!"

On the loud shout of the usually-quiet girl, we all retreated. After I had made it all the way to the room's wall, the temperature suddenly started to climb.

"Fire Storm!"

Flames started to gather and swirl, and they condensed on their target, bringing forth a pillar of flame. Seeing that, I checked to see if that had clenched our victory.

While the boss continued to struggle and thrash about, it was unable to escape. After running out of power, it finally collapsed.

"Okay!"

The second I said that, the Second cried out.

[Lyle!]

Hearing that, I turned to the entrance.

The ones entering the room were adventurers. It was plainly obvious that we were conducting battle in this room.

On top of their clear breach of manners, the weapons in their hands were bows.

"Everyone, behind Porter!"

Aria and Miranda-san sprang to action.

As Novem had just used magic, she borrowed Clara's help to head to Porter.

But their movements were dull, so arrows came flying at the two of them.

I could see a glowing light at its tip.

Within the room lit by the burning carcass of the boss, what I saw was definitely the exploding arrows I used as well.

"...!"

The second they started running for it, the fired arrows came down on them. Based on the angle, they wouldn't be able to get behind Porter in time.

And the one who stepped out front was...

"I won't let you do that!"

Several arrows hit her head on, and explosions rung out.

It happened in an instant.

Poyopoyo still maintained her form, and stood where she was.

And there, a well-kept adventurer made his grand entrance.

I shouted out.

"You guys, what is your intent!?"

A grin floated on the face of the adventurer's delicate features.

(With that appearance... a Noble? ... the receptionist said one was trying to pull Novem and the others away... is that it!?)

In the past, I had heard talks of a noble adventurer trying to recruit Novem and the rest of the party away.

A few arrows came flying my way, so I avoided them.

They exploded as they hit the walls, but along with them, smoke started coming forth.

The Fifth spoke.

[Lyle, whatever it takes, cover your mouth!]

A kind of poison.

As I thought that, the adventurer turned to me, and spoke. His eyes went towards my comrades gathered behind porter.

(This guy's aiming for Novem and the others, and...)

"Lyle, the Burden... I'll be taking your Porter."

For a moment, I was unable to comprehend what he was talking about.