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Chapter 9: Message

Message

Five days after the Labyrinth crawling commenced, the fifth floor had been safely cleared.

The parties that wouldn't originally have been permitted to enter were now scrambling about to take out the monsters wandering about.

With the boss having been slain, Alette-san put some of her party members on the fifth floor as lookouts.

They stood on standby around the center, and made sure no irrelevant adventurers were to descend down any further.

All the members of our party had experienced the Labyrinth at least once.

That considered, we decided to take an all-inclusive day off.

If it was up to the fifth floor, we'd be able to go and return in a day. Because with the bosses gone, and the monster numbers lessened, we'd rarely end up in battle.

But if we had to go any further than that, we'd end up staying the night.

Our preparations for it were one thing, but before that, it was best we finalized the formation of our party.

The number of simple buildings around us had increased, and the base was full-blown on its way to become a splendid town.

And within that were adventurers still living in their tents.

Come morning, they'd confirm their equipment and challenge the labyrinth. Come night, they're return, and throw their money to the bars and cards and women.

Rather than the adventurers risking their lives in the treacherous depths of the Labyrinth, it looked to me that the merchants and harlots dealing with them were the ones making much more money.

And in all actuality, those very merchants and harlots were getting rowdy over how it was their prime time for profits.

Now it was set that it only took a few days for goods to pass to Beim, and wagons filled to the brim with materials and magic stones could be seen leaving the base to return to the free city.

When the adventurers got the urge to go home, they'd take up a request as one of those caravan's guards, and return alongside them.

And similarly, new adventurers also flowed in from Beim to the base.

I looked over the town.

"It's fine and all that it's becoming more splendid by the day, really, just how long is it going to go on like this?"

It was my first participation, and as of yet, I've failed to grasp the situation.

Perhaps she had got the info from a merchant, but Miranda nearby began explaining it to me.

"It seems this is just how Labyrinth Subjugations go. Even knights and soldiers need the right supplies, so they make such bases as well. Well, the reason it's so lively is because they're all adventurers, perhaps? Why not play around some more yourself, Lyle?"

I looked at her face tiredly.

"Gambling isn't fun. We have enough food. To top it all off, women are... I'll close my mouth on that one. I want to save up money, so I'm good with playing around."

Hearing that, Miranda grinned as she locked her arms under her breasts to emphasize their size.

It doth seem she be provoking me.

"Well that's a pity. A harlot even told me to introduce the cool-looking young man I was with. It seems she'll be gentle."

I do have some lust in me, but the problem is what's to come after I bring my feet over.

If it can work out without my comrades finding out, then all's well with the world, but in this situation, such a thing will become common knowledge instantly.

From the Jewel, the Fourth.

[It's definitely a trap. If you go over to that side, Miranda-chan's just admitted she has harlots to gather information from... isn't this girl the scariest one?]

The one to oppose that opinion was the Sixth.

[Miranda is scary? What do you think you're talking about? The level she's out can be called cute to me. It's not like she complains the moment you even send a glance at another woman, and she hasn't laid a hand on him yet. And wait, Miranda's my recommendation, so could you avoid saying it like that?]

He declared his support of Miranda.

There, the Third.

[Then I nominate Clara-chan! That one's a good girl! She even has a convenient Skill.]

Using her convenient Skill as the driving force, the Third proposed Clara.

The Fourth.

[No, let's support Novem-chan. She's the Forxuz's girl after all.]

The Fifth.

[... How isn't May number one? ]

The Seventh even...

[A woman worthy of Lyle, who carries royal blood... they'd have to be at least Count Class to even be up for discussion, thank you very much.]

I thought.

(I'm not the Walt heir, or a Count's son or anything at this point. You're too held up on that, Seventh.)

To Miranda's enticements, I scoffed.

"I won't fall for such cheap provocations."

Miranda happily.

"I see. Well good for you. But if it's to the extent of playing around, then I'll permit it. As long as you don't get serious about it, that is."

To Miranda's statement, the Sixth.

[... If only that girl was as tolerant.]

Perhaps recalling his own wife, the Sixth spilled some complaints in a tired tone.

-

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-

To aim for the sixth floor, I put together three days' worth of planning, and decided to challenge the Labyrinth.

Descend down to the sixth floor, fight the monsters there, and see how it would all work out.

Mini Porter's tuning was finished, so when night came, I transmitted the composition of our members.

We finished our meal in our tent, and while we were leisurely sipping our tea afterwards, I went into announcing the plan, and personnel.

It was winter, and the inside of the tent was cold.

The contents of the cups were letting off steam.

Anyways, in the tent lit by the lantern's light, I looked over everyone, and declared the members to go along.

"From tomorrow, we'll be diving into the Labyrinth for an estimated three days. Our main purpose is to confirm the sixth floor. If it is deemed possible, I think we could also challenge the boss. The members will be Aria, May and Eva on the front line; Novem and Clara as rear guard."

The remaining members were Miranda, Shannon, and Monica.

Monica acted quite displeased.

"Since we've come here, I've only ever set foot in the Labyrinth once, if you haven't noticed?"

I smiled.

"Everyone's about the same in that regard. Only me and Clara have done multiple runs."

Miranda also looked displeased, but Shannon clenched her fist in victory under the table.

"May I ask why I'm to step out?"

Miranda was smiling, but her eyes weren't too pleased.

"There's no deeper meaning to it. Mainly to preserve our forces."

There, Monica.

"As I thought, you're preciously saving away your trump card, I, Monica. Good grief, you could've just told me, dammit."

... The reason I didn't take Monica alone was because whenever she fought, it was hell to recover monster materials and stones from the tattered bodies.

A single blow from the maid wielding a mace in each hand caused the bats to fly off and splat. The frogs were crushed into a gooey mess... it was just too pitiable for Clara to collect.

If we were fighting a boss, then perhaps it would be best to take her along. Other than that, to put it bluntly, she would be in the way.

Looking around, I saw Aria was making a bit of a troubled expression.

-

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The morning of the next day.

Taking along the modified Mini Porter, we headed for the entrance to the Labyrinth.

It now had baggage hanging off of its side, but it looked much more reliable than last time.

It's just, the atmosphere of the gathered party members was somewhat disconnected.

(... Aria feels disconnected, or how should I put it, unaccustomed.)

She should very well be a veteran, but she felt isolated among the members.

No, if I had to be more accurate...

"Hey, Novem! When we get back, let's go to that stall. Now's fine too."

May was trying to solicit the food from a stall out of Novem.

From the Jewel, the Fifth.

[May! I told you, you can't just go around eating everything!]

He raised a worried voice.

Eva spoke.

"Damn, I wanted to stay behind. And I'd finally received permission from my brethren to take the stage... Ah, when we get back, come have a listen won't you, Novem?"

Wanting her to listen to her songs, she called out to Novem.

And to the two of them with a smile, Novem.

"May-san, let's eat there once we get back. Eva-san, make sure you don't trouble any other parties. We'll all go listen when we return."

The three of them got along too well, that Aria was left out.

I looked at Clara.

It seems she was putting some distance between herself and Eva.

(... Is she angry Eva stole the moral of the story? And wait, the energetic Eva and quiet Clara... if you asked if they didn't go together, they don't, do they.)

After coming here, the human relations were becoming more complicated.

I let out a sigh as I called over to Aria.

"What's up? Did you not want to tag along?"

There, Aria averted her eyes from mine.

"... There's no way I could act all buddy-buddy at this point in time. Up to now, I kept it at the minimum necessary amount of conversation."

Aria's eyes sent fleeting glances at Novem.

"I doubt Novem minds it. And wait, isn't it alright to make peace with her already?"

Aria glared at me.

"It's not that easy! And wait, the greatest cause of all of this is, you, Lyle! You hear!?"

I heard the Fifth let out a sigh.

[Lyle, don't dig in any deeper. Just stop it at calling out to her, and trying to follow through. Because I don't think you have the necessary skillset to cut your way through this situation.]

Embarrassingly enough, I was of the same opinion.

"S-sorry. It's just that we'll be fighting alongside one another, so don't let your mind wander. If something happens, you can talk to me."

She stared right at me.

"Oh my, the words of our reliable leader bring tears to my eyes."

The Fourth.

[Quite right.]

But the Third...

[Even so, I'm sure... mr. lyle could do something about it all. Right, if it were mr. lyle...]

I get the feeling he was sending some glances at me, as I got the urge to slam the Jewel into the ground.

(That man isn't me!)

The ancestors had joyously dubbed my post-Growth high tension state as 'mr. lyle'

I'm not sure what fun they found with it, but they even made a 'Best Lyle' album, gathering up and ordering the statements from my mouth.

(You all have too much free time!)

From my perspective, my predecessors were gathering up all my black history with earnest faces.

I'd appreciate they stopped.

-

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-

We stepped foot into the Labyrinth's interior.

My Skills Map and Search brought us to the fifth basement floor's boss room using the shortest possible route. And when we arrived at the entrance to the sixth floor, I encountered Alette-san.

She seemed to be discussing something with her men, but when she saw us, she cut her conversation short, and approached.

It wasn't the room a boss once resided for nothing; the room was quite vast.

But they had brought a desk and boxes to suh a room, as if this site had become the front line of the Labyrinth Clearing expedition.

"So you're already here? That was quite fast. Wait a little longer, and we'll defeat the sixth floor boss, and you'll be able to press on further."

So the sixth's boss has yet to be slain.

I asked her.

"So you've been living down here the past few days?"

There, Alette-san smiled.

"No, I've work up there as well, so I've been coming and going. We had to bring luggage down here as well, and I had to hire other parties to transport them down here for me."

When I was impressed, she pointed deeper into the room, towards the stairs.

"From here on, only the adventurers recognized by the guild may pass. Well, you guys are clear, so go on if you want, but... at present, only Albano and Marina are beyond this point, so you'd best watch yourself."

It's natural Albano's party was beyond, but it seems the solo adventurer called Marina was somewhere in these parts as well.

"Wouldn't it be rough for a soloer beyond this point?"

Alette-san shrugged her shoulders as she looked a bit amazed.

"Hey I said the same. But Marina's a stubborn one. And she's got enough power to desire to go alone, so I can't stop her. If you see her, I recommend you don't get too close."

Waving her hand, she returned from us to her subordinates, seeing us off with back.

(... So the peculiar ones besides Creit-san are all beyond here.)

As I looked at the stairs, I was losing my motivation to press on.

-

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-

A passage of the sixth floor.

The cave atmosphere from before had yet to change in the slightest.

I checked around with Map and Search, but I couldn't feel any particular changes.

The only party moving around was avoiding battle, moving from room to room, and picking up all the treasure on the way.

When I looked for the solo response...

"The hell's this?"

I was shocked. Red dots swarming around a yellow one.

But whenever they got too close, the red points would disappear one after the other.

Alone, the way she could take on enemies while surrounded like that was abnormal. But the fact she was overwhelming them was even more abnormal.

"What seems to be the matter, Lyle-sama?"

As I had stopped, Novem called back, and I shook my head.

"No, it's nothing. Let's go down that passage."

We couldn't go about approaching Albano-san or Marina-san, so I suggested an alternate route.

I had picked up a signal from an unclaimed chest, so claiming that wasn't a bad idea.

(Thank god it isn't one rigged with a trap. I was sure there was barely anything left, but did they leave it behind for the rest?)

Having collected a majority of all the treasure, Albano-san's party wasn't too adored by the other adventurers.

Their competence just made it so those around couldn't' say that much against them, which only lead to a greater level of animosity.

And proceeding forward, I ended up stopping again.

This time, Aria raised a fed-up voice.

"Hey, quite stopping again and again. Did something happen?"

From the wall of the nearest room.

The room just on the other side the walls of the passage we were in, I confirmed a strange response.

"... A treasure chest manifested."

Yes, looking closely, a treasure chest had suddenly appeared in the room closest to us. And my Skill had picked it up.

May looked at me.

"There definitely was some movement. But I'm surprised you could pick up such a detailed reading. Even I couldn't tell the specifics."

Eva was also impressed.

"And that clears our goal for the day. Now let's all go home."

When she said that, Novem denied it.

"That's no good, Eva-san."

"... Of course."

Clara looked at me, and tilted her head.

"What's wrong, Lyle-san. Could it be that it's rigged? We don't have Miranda-san with us, so should we ignore it?"

I shook my head.

"... No, it's not booby trapped or anything. But something's strange, or how should I say it... anyways, let's go check it out."

No response pertaining to traps. We started moving again to collect the treasure that'd suddenly appeared.

A little down the road was a tunnel to the entrance of the room.

There weren't any monster responses inside, but Clara lit the room, and Aria took the lead as we entered inside.

Eva followed behind, and after the two of them looked around, they beckoned the rest of us to come in.

May guarded the rear, and after we all entered, we looked around.

Treasure chests weren't always in the shape of boxes.

They took on various forms based on the Labyrinth, and sometimes, the loot was just embedded into the walls themselves.

Clara was lighting the room, but that wasn't enough, so I, Novem, and Eva used our magic to make it brighter.

There...

"... It's peridot. The same as before."

A pea-green gemstone was shining, peeking out from its hole in the wall.

Novem looked at it.

"Consecutively finding the same thing? It's a little unbelievable. I didn't hear anything like that at the base."

It's not strange for a Labyrinth to produce the same sort of item one after the other.

But after we found that precious stone, we didn't hear any talks at the base of another such gemstone being found.

(Did Albano-san recover them all, and keep them on his person? Or could it be this is just that sort of Labyrinth? But just like the previous one, this one's also quite pretty.)

No matter how much I stared, it didn't seem anything would happen.

(Does peridot have some sort of meaning?)

I tried mulling over it, but I didn't have such an answer in me. It was at that moment.

Clara muttered.

"Peridot was the birthstone of the eighth month, I believe."

Eva agreed.

"Right. But the same stone twice in a row... there must be some sort of meaning behind it!"

Aria was a little irritable.

"Why's everyone getting so worked up over the same rock twice? More importantly, let's claim it already... Novem?"

Looking at the peridot embedded in the wall, Novem seemed to be lost in thought.