Translator(s): Yomigaeru Editor(s): Yuzuha Proofreader(s): Yomigaeru
To the Boss Room.
The bed is empty. I don’t hear the sound of her breathing; the room is silent. Yuel should be right here, but she’s gone.
It’s late at night. Moonlight is faintly streaming in from the window. Dawn is still far off.
Where could she possibly have gone at a time like thi–
–Suddenly I’m reminded of Yuel’s trembling expression from yesterday.
My stomach sinks. I have a bad feeling about this.
…Maybe she just got up to use the restroom. That’s the first thing I should check. I climb down to the first floor of the inn and knock on the restroom door.
There’s no reply.
「If I work even harder, then…」
I recall Yuel’s words from yesterday.
Work harder… at what, labyrinth exploration? …Don’t tell me she went into the labyrinth at a time like this? All by herself.
No, no way. To enter the labyrinth while I’m still asleep, even Yuel wouldn’t do that. She would at least ask my permission first. …Or have I driven her so far into a corner that she’s no longer able to ask?
What if, just maybe, she did enter the labyrinth? Knowing Yuel, she could make it to the 7th floor by herself. Rather, it’s probably easier for her to make it without me.
But, if by “work harder” she meant to produce better results than she has thus far…
–And so she went to the boss room?
I even told her about the rare drop and how much it would help our results.
That would be really bad. Yuel can’t win against that boss.
Huge Slime has a body that’s 3m in diameter. Yuel would be facing it with a 20-30cm knife. No matter how agile Yuel’s movements are, or how skilled she is with the knife, her body is that of a child.
How much time would it take to whittle down that giant body with such a tiny knife? As the battle dragged on, she’d eventually start to get exhausted from running around while attacking and dodging. Once her movements became dull, the Huge Slime would crush her. That image–
–just thinking about it is making my pulse race.
I need to find her. Yuel might already be on the way to the boss room by herself.
Yesterday, Yuel said that she was okay. She was smiling by the end. Maybe she didn’t enter the labyrinth after all? The moon is nice tonight, maybe she’s just out for a walk.
But there’s no way I can sit around and wait patiently.
I run along the main street toward the labyrinth. The streets are quiet. I still have a long way to go.
Did Yuel really go to the labyrinth? I have no proof. But, thinking over yesterday’s conversation, it’s definitely possible.
I suddenly spot a drunkard sitting on the road ahead. …Could he have seen Yuel?
「Nh… Hey you, did you see a dark elf girl pass by here?」
If you saw her, please tell me. And please tell me she wasn’t heading toward the labyrinth. If that were the case I could return to the inn and wait for Yuel. And I could shake off this growing unease.
「Tell me, did you see her or not?」
「…I did, why?」
「…! How long ago? Do you know where she went?」
Hurry and tell me. I unconsciously grab the drunkard by the shoulders and shake him.
「Wha, what’s your problem? Sh, she went that way. ’bout 10 minutes ago!」
The drunkard shrugs off my arms and points.
…His fingertip aims toward the center of town, in the direction of the labyrinth.
The labyrinth walls give off a dim light, illuminating the signposts that indicate the shortest route as I dash through the labyrinth.
I advance through the passages and soon come across a Fang Rabbit, which is nimble enough to catch up with me if I try to run from it.
I rush over to it and swing my mace down.
It easily dodges, and a sharp pain runs up my arm. Looking down, the Fang Rabbit has sunk its fangs into my right arm. My sleeve is torn, and blood is oozing out.
I try to pry it off, but the Fang Rabbit’s jaw is firmly clamped on my arm. I try shaking it off, I try pulling it off with my left arm, but it won’t come loose.
I can’t be wasting time on the first floor like this.
–If I don’t hurry, Yuel could make it to the boss room before me…
I slam the Fang Rabbit against the wall with both arms.
At the moment of impact, its fangs pierce even deeper. The sharp pain turns into a dull, unpleasant ache that runs along my entire arm.
But, I can heal it. It’s a treatable injury.
Reassuring myself, I slam it even harder against the wall. After countless blows, the Fang Rabbit dissolves into light.
Without Yuel, even a Fang Rabbit is such a difficult fight for me?
Do I need to go back and find someone to team up with? No, it’s the dead of night. I could probably convince Eight’s group or Ruruka to come, but I don’t even know where they’re staying. The adventurer’s guild will be nearly deserted too. And convincing a stranger to cooperate will take time. I don’t have enough money to recruit someone on the spot.
Once Yuel enters the boss room, she won’t be able to leave until the boss is dead. Which means I have to stop her before she reaches it. And she already has a 10 minute head start over me. If I go back now I doubt I’ll make it to her in time.
「I can only press forward.」
There’s no need to defeat any monsters. I just need to outrun them.
Plus, I have my healing magic. As long as I don’t die in one hit, I can recover. I just need to catch up with Yuel, then we can return together. With each passing second, Yuel gets deeper into the labyrinth. I can’t turn back now.
I run and run and run, getting bitten by monsters and slamming them into the wall, never stopping.
At last I reach the stairs to the second floor. But I haven’t come across Yuel yet.
I run from the second floor to the third floor in a daze. There aren’t a lot of monsters along the designated route, but they still appear.
Ignoring the Salt Puppet, I keep running. Stabbed by the Goblin, I keep running. Enduring the Green Ivy’s lashes, I keep running. Sending the Big Tick flying, I keep running.
It’s painful. So many times, I felt like I was going to die. Surrounded by Goblins, chased by Big Ticks, swinging my mace, I somehow keep running.
I want to turn back.
I want to go back to sleep at the inn. I want to go get wasted at the tavern.
But, if I go back now, Yuel might make it to the boss room.
If I went back knowing that, my heart couldn’t handle it. There should still be enough time.
Following the posts, I whip around the corner of a passage.
…And I suddenly lose my balance. My body becomes airborne. From the force of my momentum, my head hits the ground. The ridges on the floor scrape against my cheek and blood starts to flow.
I press the ground with my hand to stand up, but my hand slips.
What in the–
I look behind me, and there’s a Giant Ant covered in blood that’s chewing on something. In its mouth is a light brown leather shoe.
…That’s… my… foot.
The end of my right leg is gone.
Red. My thoughts go completely red. I’m done for. I’m hurt. It burns. It feels awful. In the shadow of the passage, I didn’t notice it. The blood continues to flow. The Giant Ant draws near. Its huge mandibles, stained with blood, keep making a crunching noise. This is bad, this is so bad. I need to heal.
My flesh ripples out and forms into a new foot. A pleasant warmth soothes the pain. I jump away from the Giant Ant as its mandibles snap shut around the place where my right leg was, just a moment ago.
I keep running. I haven’t caught up with her yet.
I descend the staircase to the 7th floor. Yuel must have already gotten this far.
My clothes are soaked with blood, ripped and torn. The result of running past the monsters to catch up with Yuel.
I could still catch up with her. She might actually be just around the corner.
I dodge an attacking slime and continue to run. I sprint toward the center of the level.
–And finally, I arrive at the boss door.
I made it here. I made it here, without running into Yuel.
Did I fail to get here in time?
No, if Yuel was inside the boss room, surely she would still be in the middle of fighting.
Compared to the humble labyrinth, the huge, extravagantly decorated door sticks out like a sore thumb.
If I open the door now and go inside…
「Huh, Shiki? …! What happened, you’re covered in blood!」
「Man, you’re a mess. You okay?」
–Some voices suddenly call out to me from behind.
It’s Eight and Geyser. Looking around, a few other adventurers are gathered. There’s a magic user, too.
There are many parties that hang out on the 7th floor overnight. This must be one of those.
I’m saved. It should be doable now.
「Eight! Geyser! When I woke up, Yuel was gone… Yuel… Yuel might be fighting the boss right now!」
Upon hearing my words, Eight looks at me in shock.
And then Geyser…
…makes a face like “What is this guy saying?”–
「What are you talking about, Shiki. Yuel-chan should be in the tavern right now?」
He says something ridiculous.
「Like I said, Yuel-chan’s at the tavern. What, did you forget?」
I don’t understand.
「Eh, what? What do you mean forget? This is the first time I’m hearing about it!」
「Y’know, back when we drank the Red Dragon Killer? Yuel said she wanted to earn some money by herself to buy you a present? She said she would work while you were asleep so she wouldn’t cause you trouble, and you told her “do your best”? Man, she’s a hell of a girl. Oh, by the way, I was the one who suggested she work at the tavern.」
Ah, she did ask me. Or rather, she asked but I couldn’t hear anything so I just nodded along. So that’s what she was talking about.
Then that drunkard wasn’t pointing toward the labyrinth, he was pointing toward the tavern that’s in the same direction as the labyrinth.
…What the hell. It’s my mistake? All the pain I went through, all the times I nearly died. I was just jumping to conclusions?
And yet, it’s a relief. It may have all been for nothing, but I can relax knowing that Yuel is safe.
…No, I can’t relax.
「Uh, umm, Eight-san? Gazer-san?」
「What’s with the formalities, man?」
「……Please take me back to the surface?」