Full Clearing Another World under a Goddess with Zero Believers: Volume 2 - Isle Osaki - E-Book

Full Clearing Another World under a Goddess with Zero Believers: Volume 2 E-Book

Isle Osaki

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Beschreibung

After being dragged to another world with his classmates, hardcore RPG player Makoto Takatsuki has spent his time training and grinding. Nearly a year has gone by since Makoto became an adventurer, and he has finally reached level 20 and iron rank, which should be a cause for celebration... However, despite these accomplishments, Makoto feels as though he’s hit a wall. All seems dim until the goddess Noah tosses him a lifeline—head for the great maze dungeon of Labyrinthos! The place is well-known for its difficulty, but since he and Lucy are now iron rank, they’re strong enough to challenge it. Makoto and Lucy head off to conquer Labyrinthos, fully intending to stay in areas that are relatively safe. But the best-laid plans often go awry, and after an accident plunges them into the depths of the dungeon, the pair end up facing off with both monsters and revelations wildly beyond their expectations.

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Prologue: The Story of a Pair That Liked Games

“You’re always playing games, right, Takatsuki?”

“Huh?”

We were in classroom 1-A of Eastern Shinagawa Public Junior High School, and the person who’d suddenly spoken to me during lunch break was a petite girl wearing pigtails.

Not much about me had changed in the half year since we’d started junior high. I was still a loner, so the girl and I weren’t friends. I knew her name at least since she was a classmate, but we’d never spoken...until now.

“Ah, sorry. I kinda came out of nowhere. Am I interrupting?” she asked.

“N-No, not at all...”

Even if she was, it’s not like I could tell her that outright. I can’t talk with people! And on top of that, my heart was racing because I hadn’t talked to a girl in a long time.

“What kinda game is it?” She asked her next question as she leaned over to look at the screen. Guess she had a pretty loose concept of personal space.

“Uh, it’s a new one...” I answered before pausing. “Do you like games, Sasaki?”

I was sure that was her name—Aya Sasaki. She was a talkative girl who scampered around like a hamster. She wasn’t a grand beauty, but she was cheerful and easy to talk to, plus she had a cute smile. The guys and girls all loved her.

Obviously, she’d have nothing in common with a gloomy gamer like me, so why had she come over to talk? Some kind of dare?

“Aya! Come on!” one of her friends called.

“Comiiing!” Sasaki answered. She raised a hand before turning back to me and clapping me lightly on the shoulder. “Let’s talk about games some other time, Takatsuki!”

Once she’d dashed off, I noticed that my body felt slightly hot where she’d touched me. Maybe I was a little jealous.

What was that all about?

It’d been a long time since a girl had spoken to me. The experience had been nerve-racking...but Sasaki did seem easy to talk to.

Whatever. Her saying “some other time” was probably just one of those social obligations.

Or so I’d thought...

“But here she is at my house...”

“What was that?” asked Sasaki.

“Nothing, don’t worry about it.”

Out of nowhere, she’d asked me if I was free. Seeing as I’m in the go-home club, I’d said my schedule was free every day.

“Can I come over then?” she’d asked, and there’d been no way to refuse.

As she peered around my room, she commented, “You don’t have much stuff, do you?” Then, she sat down on my bed with a soft thump.

Uh... That’s where you’re sitting? No hesitation at all, right onto a guy’s bed.

“So! What games do you play?” She was kicking her legs in the air and looking at me.

“Uh...well these are the games I bought recently...”

She looked through them. “Aww, they’re all single-player. Don’t you have any two-player ones?”

Well, I always played on my own! It’s not like I had anyone to play with anyway.

“I’ll bring some of my brother’s over next time.”

Huh? You’re coming again? I thought, but couldn’t ask.

In the end, we played an RPG together.

—The next day.

Here she is again.

This time, she had brought several games that she’d taken from her brother.

Apparently, Sasaki liked games, but her brother wouldn’t play much with her anymore, so she was looking for someone who would.

“Can’t you play with your girl friends?” I asked.

“Well, none of them like games.”

“Hm, so why not look for someone who does?”

“Why do you think I’m here?” She answered my question with one of her own, and her expression conveyed an unspoken, What are you on about?

“Oh, yeah, that makes sense.”

“Besides,” she added after a minute, “girls are cliquey, so making new friends is a lot of work.”

“O-Oh... Right...”

So this was the darkness of female society. I’d heard some superstitions online.

“Takatsuki, does it bother you? Me being here.”

“Nah, not at all.” I’d been nervous at first, but I was always willing to talk about games. It was actually pretty fun.

So that was how Sasaki had ended up coming over to my place a few times each week. Before I knew it, I’d stopped calling her Sasaki and had started calling her Sasa. This routine continued as we moved into high school as well.

“Hey, do you have plans over Christmas?” she asked one day.

“Why bother asking when you know I don’t, Sasa?”

By this point, we’d gotten completely relaxed with each other.

“Keep yourself open then,” she said.

“I already told you that I’m free.”

Well, if she wanted me to keep that day open, then I would. Otherwise, I’d never get the chance to find out why she wanted me to be available.

“I’m looking forward to the ski trip next week!” she cheered.

“Well, I’m not great with the cold. I wanna bunk off and game at home.”

“You don’t exercise enough, Takatsuki. You need to do it more.”

“You like to exercise, Sasa?”

“Hm, I think I prefer playing games at your place now,” she murmured into my ear, her warm breath carrying her words.

That’s bad for my heart!

I felt my face redden as she giggled.

All of this was a memory from winter during my first year of high school.

Recently, I’d felt like I was forgetting her smile. The last time I’d seen her was over a year ago. It was just before we’d ended up in this world, and the two of us had been talking in the trapped bus.

Right now, the sight above me was a familiar ceiling in the rest area of the Macallan adventurer’s guild.

I’d been dreaming of the past.

I miss you...Sasa.

She was a classmate I hadn’t been able to see in this world—she’d been my only friend from junior high, and a girl that I’d had some quiet feelings for back then.

I’ll never see her again...

I spent the rest of the day feeling sad.

Chapter 1: Makoto Takatsuki Departs for Labyrinthos

“Ahhhh!”

Flee! Flee! Flee!

The goblins, orcs, and ogres that were chasing us all had looks of rage on their faces. I guess I’d also be pretty pissed if someone firebombed my house.

Regardless, I kept running, and I could see Lucy standing in the distance.

My role was to draw them back into Lucy’s range.

“Ground Magic: Boulder! Fire Magic: Imbue Flame!” Lucy cried, raising her staff. A massive boulder appeared in the sky, burning scarlet.

The monsters noticed that something was up, but it was already too late.

“Meteo! Blow them all away!”

At least Lucy was enjoying herself. By the way, there wasn’t a spell called Meteo—Lucy just had decided to nickname it.

Whoops, now’s not the time to space out!

Dodge!

The massive crash of the flaming boulder blew the monsters away. Dust erupted into the air as the blast flattened everything, leaving only a crater behind.

“Man, Meteo’s as overwhelming as ever,” I said.

“Good work, Makoto! You dragged in fifty monsters today. Was it a close call?”

I laughed feebly. “I’m fine.”

“Let’s get back to the guild then! We’re gonna make bank today!”

“We need to put the fires out first.”

The aftereffects of Lucy’s spell had ignited several fires that were now burning around the vicinity, so we’d need to put them out before they developed into a full-blown forest fire.

This was all that my water magic had been used for recently. Thankfully, I could now generate water, even away from an actual water source, because of elemental magic. Not that I’d learned that technique for firefighting, though.

Later, I was with Lucy at the skewer stall.

“Another ale, Chef,” I ordered.

“Coming up,” he responded. “You’ve been drinking more recently, Makoto.”

“I get how tasty it is now.”

Not that it was any less bitter. No, enjoying ale was about the actual drinking (or so someone had once said).

“Ha ha,” the chef laughed. “Well, you’re a full-fledged adventurer now that you know the joy of ale.”

“Hmm, I’m not a fan,” Lucy said.

She was drinking a fruit cocktail. It hadn’t been part of the stall’s menu before, but the chef started making it for Lucy once she became one of his regulars.

“Hey, Lucy, come drink with us!” an adventurer called.

“Forget that apprentice mage and party with us tomorrow,” added another.

“Your magic was crazy today,” a third one joined in.

No one would’ve suspected that, until just a little while ago, Lucy had been a problem child that no party had wanted to touch, even with a barge pole.

But mages that could use strong spells were in demand by every party, huh?

“I don’t want to party up with anyone but Makoto!” Lucy cried out faithfully.

“Phew,” I sighed, draining about half my glass of ale.

“Drinking it like water, huh?” a middle-aged adventurer asked.

“Oh, Lucas,” I answered. “Nice work, by the way.” Apparently, yesterday he’d taken out a water dragon that’d been harassing the fishermen of Lake Chimay.

In all the time I’d been in this world, I’d never seen a dragon. I wonder if they’re strong. Will I ever be able to fight one? I pondered these questions before tilting the glass and draining the rest of my drink.

Bitter, I mused as I looked at the bottom of the empty glass.

“Come on, Makoto. You’re lookin’ pretty gloomy for someone that set a new record—fastest to reach iron rank in the Macallan adventurer’s guild!”

That’s right, Lucy and I were iron rank now, commonly called mid rankers.

“I bet that bastard’s just mooching off Lucy’s magic.”

“He’s got it good for an apprentice.”

“Shh, he’ll hear you if you’re loud.”

I can hear you anyway...

I had the Listen skill, so I could hear even that. I’d honestly prefer it if they would keep the gossip further away.

“Hey! Makoto’s great! Don’t accuse him of stuff!” Lucy yelled at the other adventurers, angry at the slander that her sensitive elven ears had enabled her to hear.

“It’s fine, leave ’em be,” I told her.

“But...” Lucy argued. Judging by the look on her face, she was not willing to let it drop.

“They’ve been stuck at bronze for two years, so they’re just jealous of Makoto, and they’re venting. Pathetic,” Lucas had added that last word scathingly, but his overall message seemed sympathetic to me.

“Makoto!” Mary cried out, hugging me. “I’m so glad you’ll drink with me now!”

“I still can’t hold my booze, so I’ll only have two or three,” I told her.

I hadn’t gotten any better with my alcohol tolerance, even after drinking regularly. Lucy held her liquor fairly well, so did it have anything to do with her stats?

Either way, I wasn’t actually all that fond of alcohol. The only reason I drank anyway was...because of my mood.

“You’ve got the face of someone with worries, so why don’t you talk to your guild receptionist?” Mary whispered this into my ear, her arms still around my neck.

“Mary! He’s in my party, so I’ll talk it out with him!” Lucy shouted.

“Don’t you think it’d be easier for him to talk about his troubles with someone older?”

“I’m older than him too!” protested Lucy.

“Only by a few months though, right? You’re practically the same age. By the way, what do you think about trying out some dungeons for mid rankers?”

But Lucy wasn’t having it. “I already told you! We’ll decide that together!”

“Chef, another ale!” Mary called. She’d finished hers really fast!

Lucy cried out competitively, “I’ll have another as well!”

I was getting crushed here.

“You sure are popular,” Lucas laughed.

These arguments had become routine recently. They weren’t really fights; it was more like Mary was teasing Lucy.

I guess I did look pretty popular from an outsider’s perspective. And, thanks to that, the male adventurers were sending some pretty harsh glares my way.

Sigh...

“Lucas, how do I get stronger?” I asked, quietly putting my recent worries into words.

“Hmm?” he said. “I think you’re already strong enough. You took down a griffin and an ancient chimera. The other bronzes have gotta be jealous.” His facial expression implied that he thought I was being ridiculous.

“Jean took out the griffin, and the chimera was Nina’s kill.”

“They couldn’t have done it if you weren’t there though, right?” Lucas asked. “That’s what I heard.”

“Well, I don’t know. I think Lucy’s stronger than me.”

Lucy’s fire magic had been the deciding factor in both of those fights.

“That’s what parties are for though,” Lucas assured me. “You need attackers and support—both are important.”

“I mean, I understand that, but...” I trailed off and drained my drink. “Another ale, Chef...”

“Sure thing, but don’t overdo it.”

“This’ll...be...my last tonight...” I was actually pretty wasted... The world seemed to be spinning. Damn, I didn’t control myself well enough.

Recently, I’d left offense entirely to Lucy and had just been on bait and cleanup duty (aka, firefighting). The last strong monster I’d taken out had probably only been an ogre. And even that’d been done with a trap.

“What level are you, Makoto?” the chef asked.

“Level 20 now.”

“You haven’t even been an adventurer for a year, but you’re already iron rank and level 20,” Lucas pointed out. “So, what are you complaining about?” Lucas and the chef exchanged bemused looks.

“I wouldn’t say I was complaining, exactly,” I answered, opening my Soul Book.

“Ooh, Makoto’s Soul Book?” Mary asked, perking up.

“Peeking into someone else’s is rude, Mary.”

“I work for the guild, so it’s fiiine, eh heh heh.” No good, Mary’s completely drunk. “Hmm... Still, these stats at level 20? You’re right. They’re too low. Hang oooooonnn?!”

“What’s up, Mary?” Lucas asked, joining her in peering at my Soul Book.

“L-Look! That water magic mastery!”

“Let’s see... Wait...99?”

“I’ve never seen someone get their mastery to 99,” the chef added, impressed.

The three of them gave me looks like I was an utter weirdo.

“See, Makoto’s amazing!” Lucy insisted. I don’t know why she was proud of it. She already knew I’d hit 99.

“This is why I’m worried,” I told them.

“Why?” Mary seemed confused.

“I hit 99 mastery, but I’m still not much stronger.” Even with my low mana reserves, I could train my mastery. The maximum value was 99, so mine could go up no further.

The precision and speed at which I could cast had risen some, but my spells were still weak. For all the effort I’d put in, it was honestly pretty disappointing. I’d been hoping to get some kind of bonus for hitting the maximum level.

“O-Oh, right. What about elemental magic?”

“I’m at my limits there as well.”

I’d even borrowed that book from Mary, and I couldn’t at all see spirits like the giant had said. Would I really be able to do it?

Later on, someone called out, “Hey, Makoto! You good?”

“Lucy, your clothes are showing off as much as ever, I see.”

“Got a problem with that, Emily?”

It was Jean and Emily, adventurers that we’d partied up with before. Behind them was an unfamiliar male fighter along with a female mage. I guess they were new party members.

That’s kinda shocking too, I thought. I was almost certain we’d carry on working together pretty frequently, but Jean and Emily had already formed another party.

I guess it was our fault for not calling out to them, though.

“Yo, Jean,” I answered.

“Thought we could eat together, but it looks like this place is full,” Jean said in disappointment. The skewer stall didn’t have much room.

Lucy, Lucas, Mary, and I were all present, along with a few other customers, and that was all that this stand could seat.

“Looks like you’ve been doing pretty well for yourselves,” he added, putting a hand on my shoulder. Was he always this nice to be around now? Guess that swordsman I used to clash with is long gone.

“It’s Lucy that’s doing well,” I told them. “I’m just behind the scenes.”

“That’s not... Well, I heard the rumors saying that, I guess,” Emily conceded, her expression saying that she couldn’t find another way to put it.

Emily could read the mood, so maybe she realized that I wasn’t all too happy.

“Let’s all aim for silver rank then!” Jean cheered with a laugh before heading off to another stall.

The fighter and mage both gave bows. They were probably new rookies that Jean had lent a hand to. A spellsword, fighter, mage, and cleric. It was a good party composition.

“Huh, I thought Jean wanted to party up with you,” Mary mused. So did I, to be honest.

“No way! I know I can’t work in a party with Emily,” Lucy griped. She had been in their party before but had left.

It might be better now, though. Lucy had improved her magic, and I’d seen her and Emily having lunch together every so often.

She’d be way better off with them than in my two-person party.

I caught my thoughts spiraling down. That’s no good.

“I’m heading to bed,” I said. “Night, Lucy.”

“Huh? R-Right. See you—”

“Let’s take a break tomorrow,” I interrupted. “We’ve made a fair bit of money.”

“Y-Yeah. Maybe we can go shop—”

“I’m gonna go to Fujiyan’s tomorrow.”

“Right, okay...”

With that, I tottered back toward my room.

“Shot down, huh,” came Mary’s voice.

“Shut up!”

“Right, another glass!”

—The next day.

“I’m sorry, Mister Takatsuki, the boss isn’t here today’h...” Nina told me apologetically. I’d gone to the Fujiwara Trading Company’s store, but Fujiyan wasn’t in, so she greeted me instead.

Guess I shouldn’t have turned up out of nowhere.

“Do you know when he’ll be back?” I asked.

“He’s making a big deal, so he isn’t planning to be back for two or three days’h...”

“Oh, right.”

Damn, the one guy I could complain to was gone. Oh well, maybe I’d go hunt some goblins solo.

“By the way, Mister Takatsuki, look at this’h!” As thoughts of goblin slaying passed through my mind, Nina smiled and showed me something shining on her chest.

“A gold badge?”

“Yes! Thanks to the divine protection of that deity, I managed to become gold rank’h!”

“Wow...congratulations.”

That was incredible. The gold badge was the highest rank that branch offices of adventurer’s guilds could give. Platinum ranks and above had to be issued at the main office in the capital. In other words, Nina had reached the highest rank in the Macallan adventurer’s guild.

“I never thought I’d get past silver rank on my own. Guess you never know what’ll happen’h.”

“Well, your martial arts were incredible.” That footwork must have been what earned her the rank increase.

“The boss has been super happy with the deals he’s gotten thanks to that magicite—that’s thanks to you too’h!”

Nina was praising me with a wide smile on her face, but I honestly felt more lifeless than happy about it. Everyone else was doing great, but I...

“Give Fujiyan my regards then,” I said.

“Sure! Come again’h!”

Nina watched me leave with a smile.

I’d now lost my plans for the day.

And so, I decided against goblin hunting and just spent the day training in the town plaza. I’d hoped that Lucy might’ve been around, but she wasn’t.

Once I finished up my training, I offered my daily prayer to my goddess.

“Phew,” I sighed, falling back and checking my Soul Book.

Lifespan: 11 years.

Looks like I’d survive a little longer, probably due to the daily hunts.

Water Magic Mastery: 99.

I’d maxed it out. Nothing had changed in the month since I’d done so, despite me thinking that its level might even go past 100. But, no.

After those two entries, the rest of my unimproved stats were listed.

I don’t get it.

When I had first arrived in this world, I’d been so excited. But back in the Water Temple, when I’d found out how low my stats were, it’d been a big shock. I’d trained for a year after that but hadn’t gotten much stronger. Even so, I’d managed to train my skills and had become an adventurer.

I’d even grown pretty well-rated lately. I didn’t have any huge problems, but... I guess this is how it is...

I’d enjoyed everything until recently.

There was the first monster I’d killed.

My first nickname, even if it was crap.

The first friend I’d made.

The first time I’d nearly died and had gotten my goddess’s protection.

The first adventure I’d had with a classmate.

All of that had been stimulating, but recently...everything seemed boring.

As those thoughts swirled through my mind, I felt myself drifting off.

I was standing in a place with nothing. Actually, that was a bit rude—let’s call it the goddess’s space.

“Oh, Goddess. It’s been a while.” I wasn’t even surprised at this point, so I just put my hands together in a familiar movement and bowed.

I hadn’t seen her for some time, and the last time I’d heard her voice had been back with the giant.

She didn’t say anything.

“Uh? Goddess?” I asked, lifting my head at the lack of response. She was standing right next to me.

Whoa. She was close enough that her hair brushed against me. Her eyes were cold as well. Had I made her angry?

I’d been playing things pretty safe recently...

“U-Umm.”

“Say, Makoto?”

“Yes?”

“You’re my believer, right?”

“Of course,” I replied. “I pray to you every day.”

“I know. I’m watching.”

That figures. Still, her expression was cold.

“Do you know what a goddess’s job is?” she asked.

“A goddess’s job?” I parroted. That was a weird question. Well, their churches seemed to benefit from all the donations at least. “Gathering donations?”

“Not even close! Why would I need money like that lot in heaven?! I don’t!”

“Oh, I was wrong?” Guess I didn’t know, then.

“Idiot, my job is to guide my lost lambs! You’re all fidgety and worried, so talk to me! Rely on me!”

She was now giving me a noogie. It didn’t hurt at all, but in this position, her chest...

“U-Um...your chest’s touching my face.”

“It’s on purpose.”

And she just comes right out with it! This seductress!

“Uh, I’m sorry, Goddess,” I said, pulling away from her...attack?

She was always quick to lure me in.

“Why won’t you ask me for help when you pray every day?”

“Well, it’s sorta a last resort.” To be honest, I was scared of incurring debt from relying on her too much.

“It’s fine,” she soothed, “go right ahead. Don’t you worry about debts. You’re my only believer.”

Noah seemed like she’d have a high interest rate though...

But she was right. I had discounted asking her for advice.

“Can you make me stronger?”

“Hm? I already gave you my blessing, didn’t I? I can’t do anything else.”

“Huh?” That doesn’t help at all, then.

“We can do this, though.” She grinned, suddenly holding something.

“Got my Soul Book again?” This goddess was a total klepto.

“Just a little something-something,” she said. Was she writing? “Look at this, go on.”

She grabbed hold of my head and showed me my Soul Book. Again, she was way too close!

“Just look already!”

“Right... Huh?!”

Water Magic Mastery: 103.

“G-Goddess? What did you do?”

“You’re the type to level up to 99 in your RPGs, right?” she asked. “But then, you hit the level cap and got burnt out.”

She’d seen straight through me. Well, she is a goddess.

Noah chuckled before carrying on.

“One more hint: if you raise that proficiency to 105, you’ll be able to see water elementals.”

“Huh?!” I-It was that simple? But I’d done all that training in the rain, under waterfalls, even spent the whole day in the water.

“You’ve sure worked hard at that training...even though it was pointless.”

“You should have told me!”

All she did was laugh at me. She had a real problem! Wait, no.

“Thank you, Goddess,” I said, clasping my hands together and bowing deeply.

Now I can keep training my water magic mastery!

“Oh, my. That’s much better,” she said. “Yup, work hard.”

“I was struggling this time, so you’ve really saved me.”

“I’m just glad you’re happy. You’ll need to be careful though.”

“Why?” Was she going to come right out with some unreasonable demand?

“Nope, it’s just that those deities in heaven were the ones who decided that the stats in the church Soul Books should cap at 99.”

“Oh, I see.”

“There’s actually no limit on how much you can raise mastery—it depends on the work you put in, but it’s just not shown in numbers. All I did was change your Soul Book a little to reflect levels over 100.”

Now that was what I wanted to hear. It depends on the work I put in, huh? I’m all fired up now!

“Modifying a Soul Book is illegal in the churches of the Sacred Deities,” she warned. “You might end up getting interrogated if they find out.”

“What? Hang on!”

“Also,” Noah added, “worshipping a wicked deity carries the death penalty in Highland and Roses. Savages that they are.”

“Th-The death penalty?! Really?!”

“You didn’t know?”

No, I didn’t! I’d spent the whole time avoiding the church. I’ll need to be careful.

“Well, that’s all we have time for.” Her figure soon started to fade.

“It’s always so rushed,” I commented.

“Oh, you wanted to chat for longer?”

“I’d definitely like to have a relaxed chat sometime, yeah.”

She giggled. “You’re getting much nicer. Feel free to keep going and fall for me.”

Quit it with those sidelong looks, it’s bad for my heart.

“Oh! One last thing!”

“What is it?” I asked, expecting her usual vague instructions.

“Head for Labyrinthos next. A fine encounter awaits you.” As she spoke, the goddess vanished.

Huh... That’s really specific.

Maybe her personality was changing.

“Hey, Makoto, you’ll catch a cold sleeping outside.”

I opened my eyes to find Lucy in front of me. Our surroundings were already dark.

“My bad... Huh? Guess I slept for quite a while.”

“What are you playing at?” she demanded. “You didn’t even show up for dinner... I was worried.” Her expression was somewhere between anger and sadness.

“I was just talking to my goddess.”

“Oh?! What’d she say?”

I didn’t know what to say right then. I figured I’d give her a simple answer now and tell her about the Soul Book later.

“Go to Labyrinthos.”

“The huge maze?” Lucy asked. “That’s great! I’ve been itching to try my skills out.”

“You’re coming too?”

“Huh? Y-You don’t want me to?” She looked on the verge of tears. I’d really rather she not give me that kind of face.

“Well, you’re not one of her believers,” I pointed out, “so you don’t have to obey her, do you?”

“It’s fine! The monsters around here aren’t enough anymore!”

Her spells had been just blowing everything away recently. It was almost enough to make me feel sorry for the beasts.

“Let’s go inform the guild about our expedition then.”

“Sure!” she agreed. “You seem happier now too.”

“Oh? I do?”

“Well, you’ve seemed real down recently.”

I must have made her worry, huh? I scratched at my cheek as I realized that our positions had been reversed.

We wandered off, returning to the adventurer’s guild.

“What?! Why are you heading to Labyrinthos all of a sudden?!” Mary demanded, her voice echoing throughout the guild. “There are other dungeons! There’s the Valley of Fire Rats in the Nation of Fire, the Forest of Dryads in the Nation of Wood, and the Cavern of Tundra Tigers closer to home in the Nation of Water.”

“Those dungeons are fine mid rank ones, yes,” I answered.

“Right! You should go for one of them!”

“I’ve already made up my mind, though. We’re headed for Labyrinthos.”

“Lucy, say something,” Mary prodded.

“Makoto’s our party leader, so I’ll follow his lead.”

First I’d heard that I was the leader. Anyway, apparently, Mary agreed.

“Can you deal with the arrangements, Mary?”

“Ugh... You’re both iron rank, so it’s not against the rules...” she muttered before sighing. Despite her complaints, she started work on our excursion.

I guess she didn’t want to encourage me going there.

“Hey, Makoto! I hear you’re heading for Labyrinthos?” Lucas called from a stall next to the guild where he was drinking with Jean.

“We’ll be lonely,” Jean added.

News sure traveled fast.

“Hey, Jean. Where’s Emily?”

The cleric was normally always with him, but right now, she was nowhere to be found.

“She said she was heading off to eat with Lucy.”

“Makes sense. I haven’t seen her either.”

The original bad blood between those two had all flowed away and now they seemed to get on pretty well.

“When are you heading out then?” Lucas asked.

“We haven’t decided yet.” I sat next to them and addressed the stall assistant. “An ale, please.”

I may as well eat with these two.

This stall made stuff like fried chicken, grilled meats, and really flavorful noodles, generally along the lines of Chinese food. An ice-cold ale went perfectly with that fare.

“Have you ever been to Labyrinthos, Lucas?” I asked.

“’Course. You ain’t gonna find a gold ranker that hasn’t. It’s a dungeon that every adventurer in Roses goes for at some point.” His answer came as he gnawed at a big chunk of fried meat on the bone.

“How far did you get?” Jean asked. I wanted to know as well.

“Hmm, Labyrinthos isn’t like a normal dungeon. There aren’t ten or twenty floors, only five. There’s the upper floor, middle, lower, the depths, and the abyss. I went as far down as the depths...but you shouldn’t go that far in yet.”

“I know, past the lower floor, there’s the Nest of Dragons, right?”

It was a famous place, and I’d even learned about it in the Water Temple.

“Yeah, it’s teeming with earth, water, and fire dragons.”

“I’ll pass on that,” I decided.

“The upper floor has quite a few pushovers, though. About all you need to do is keep an eye out for the minotaurs.”

“They’re the guards for the upper floor of Labyrinthos, right?”

“You and Lucy should be able to take one on.” Lucas drained his glass. He sure was tossing them back.

“What about the middle floor?”

“Variety is that floor’s characteristic. There are goblins, orcs, man-eating giants, along with undead monsters, like zombies, skeletons, and vampires. On top of that, there are lamiae, arachnae, harpies...and more besides.”

“None of those are very strong, though,” Jean said.

It looked like he thought he could take them on. Maybe he’d come with?

“Don’t be naive—they all come in swarms,” Lucas told him.

“Huh, swarms?”

“Each group has a boss, and that boss orders the whole swarm to attack or retreat. An average adventurer’d get surrounded and eaten in seconds.”

Neither of us replied. Well, that wasn’t terrifying at all... It stands to reason that the biggest dungeon on the continent would be difficult.

I had never come across monsters that worked together in a group like that. I’d need to gather more info before we went.

“But that’s not all you’ve got to worry about,” Lucas added.

“There’s more?”

“It’s important. They hunt new adventurers there.”

“Uh, like older adventurers coming down on cocky rookies?” I thought that was something that happened in pretty much every town.

“Not even close. Labyrinthos is something that adventurers aspire to. They raise their confidence in local dungeons and then splurge on equipment to challenge it, right? Those adventurers get hunted down.”

Well, there’s the darkness of human society. Maybe people are scarier than the monsters.

Neither Jean nor I said anything before Lucas continued.

“Mid rank adventurers with cash are easy marks, and the expensive armor makes them obvious. It’s pretty common for higher rank adventurers to pretend to be friendly at first...and then they lure low rankers out to somewhere secluded and take everything they have. The victims are then left for the monsters.”

That’s illegal! Well, a lot of illegal stuff happens in dungeons...

“Makoto! You can’t go!” Jean cried out. Guess the scare got to him.

I was now distinctly less eager as well.

“Best not go if you’re scared,” Lucas cackled. “I tell everyone that wants to beat Labyrinthos the same thing.”

It worried me, honestly. After all, mid rank though we were, Lucy and I still had our fledgling coats on.

Still... I thought. My goddess had given me some concrete instructions for once, and I couldn’t pass up this event. Plus, there’d be a new encounter! I had to try.

“I’m still gonna go,” I said.

“I’ll support you then, but make sure you’re prepared,” Lucas said seriously. “I’ll tell you the main things you need to know.”

“Got it,” I answered. I honestly admired him a lot. He was like a second father to all the adventurers in Macallan.

He spent the next while regaling me with tales of his exploits and scary stories about Labyrinthos.

Lucas and Jean headed off for a second round and I stepped out for some training. But then, Mary grabbed hold of me.

“Come with me, Makoto,” she insisted.

Mary took me to a bar called Asakusa. The name was... Well, forget about it. The place was probably run by some full-on Tokyoite from my old world.

“Cheers,” we toasted together.

It was a quiet bar with a more refined feeling than the Catgirl Cantina or the stalls at the guild. The other customers were all elegantly enjoying their drinks.

I don’t get how to behave in a bar like this... I thought to myself.

For now, I’d decided to order the pretty blue cocktail that the bartender had recommended. The alcohol content of this drink was a little high, and I could feel myself getting tipsy.

“You talked about Labyrinthos with Lucas, right?” Mary asked me.

“I did. He had a lot to tell me. Sounds like a pretty dangerous place.”

“So you’re going, no matter what?”

“Are you against it, Mary?”