Chapter 61 The Labyrinth Girl
“…Someone’s fighting. It seems like a rather tough battle.”
At present, our party has been exploring the Twilight Forest with the goal of leveling up.
After we descended into the Labyrinth like usual, we searched the forest for a while. Sheila reported that news with her hands on her ears and her eyes closed.
“It’s that way, shall I lead the way?”
We ran on a trail in the forest, following closely behind Sheila, fast enough to avoid being separated. Even though there was no question about saving other parties while we were in the Labyrinth, it would be much worse if it resulted in a double accident.
(TN: double accident = both parties suffering equal damage)
The fight wasn’t too far away.
However, it wasn’t a party of adventurers, but a scouting group of knights.
“Damn! What the hell is this unpleasant voice!”
“Sh-….Shit! I’m getting dizzy…”
“Hang in there you guys! Open your eyes!”
Mercedia, the female knight I had met yesterday, was calling out to her collapsed companions. Brandishing her blade, she rushed towards several Killer Plants alone.
There were broken lanterns rolling around at the feet of some soldiers, who were entwined within the tree roots.
Mercedia was fighting several Killer Plants by herself, but she was suppressing them with ease even though she was outnumbered. While confronting the plants before her, she used her blade to send blade auras at the Killer Plants that were trying to go near her collapsed companions.
Have the collapsed soldiers been put to sleep by a Whispermush’s spell?
Although the return gate had been opened after the red dimension stone had been activated… unfortunately, they were unconscious and unable to retreat.
…Hmm. She was clearly trapped by the Twilight Forest. I was glad that the situation had not yet become very grave. However, I couldn’t afford to ease up now. The bushes within the forest shook—a sign that meant more Killer Plants were coming.
Without hesitating, Grace headed towards the Killer Plants that were approaching Mercedia from the bushes and dealt with them.
“Ashley should head towards the guys who are sleeping. Sheila will go help Mercedia. Irm will support both of you.” (TN: Irm is a nickname for Irmhild)
“Please leave the rear to me.”
After I gave the instructions, the girls immediately went into action.
Perhaps I should kill the Mushrooms that were casting sleep spells from the bushes?
There was no point in putting us to sleep if we woke up instantly.
After being revealed by a fireball that I had thrown into the bushes, the group of Whispermush started to catch fire and went into a panic.
One of the burning Whispermush headed towards Ashley, who had gone to rescue the soldiers but…it was blown back by her long mace.
As if to say ‘Don’t come here’, the burning Mushroom was swatted at by tree roots and rallied through the forest. It was quite an unusual scene.
“Geez, what would’ve happened if you guys hadn’t come by?”
Mercedia let out a big sigh.
If the soldiers had woken up from their slumber when we had saved them, they would no longer be outnumbered.
As we were taking a breather after wiping out the Killer Plants, Mercedia and the soldiers thanked us.
After speaking with them, it appeared that the Fairy Light, the thing that they had been using to illuminate the area, had been knocked away. The soldiers fell into confusion and ignited a lantern.
Meaning… they had created a disturbance when they were entangled by the tree roots, causing the Killer Plants to gather around them.
After that, they didn’t know how to counter the Killer Plants, and the group of Whispermush successfully cast a sleeping spell on them. Since they were unable to resist the spell, their numbers slowly dwindled as more of them fell asleep.
Well, like the first time, the way they were trapped seemed to be quite typical.
“The more Fairy Lights you have, the better.”
It was a relief that I had spares in my storage bag from earlier.
“I sincerely apologize. I’m grateful for your advice.”
Mercedia took off her helmet and nodded seriously.
It seemed that her helmet’s visor was damaged, limiting her vision.
“Are you the one in charge of the Twilight Forest, Mercedia-san?”
“Yes, our assignment was to train in this forest…”
“What is it?”
One of the soldiers timidly gave their suggestion.
“Didn’t we decide that it’ll be fine to hire Adventurers? Is it impossible to cooperate with these guys?”
“That would be… difficult.”
“We recently had a dispute with some Adventurers, right? We can’t just say, ‘You were a nuisance last time, but please come with us because we need you this time.’ I think we should retreat for now, and continue training on an earlier level. In the meantime, I will investigate this forest area.”
…Wherever Fernand was, I wanted him to hear her words.
It seemed that the soldiers also agreed with her.
“However, have you collected Dimension Stones from this forest?”
“… That’s right, but we ended up using a Red one earlier, though..”
Although Mercedia had her eyes closed for a bit, she finally turned towards me and bowed.
“Theodore-dono, I’m aware that this is really shameless of us but could you accompany us until we go back? This will be an official request, and we will give you a proper compensation afterwards.”
Not ‘investigation’, but until they ‘return’, huh?
I wouldn’t say that I wanted to sell a Red Dimension Stone within the labyrinth, but she was right.
She had changed her mind because in a situation like this where morale was at its lowest, she had decided to turn back. She had chosen her duty as their Captain over her own pride.
After everyone shot glances at each other and exchanged their opinions, the girls nodded.
Well, come to think of it, it was an act of mercy.
“Understood, I’ll accept it.”
From what I had seen in the way that they had fought earlier… the soldiers’ fighting ability seemed to be pretty good. I wondered if they would have been able to make their way through the Twilight Forest if they hadn’t run into that situation.
In other words, what these guys needed was to gain more experience and a higher degree of familiarity in various areas of the Labyrinth.
Therefore, I had decided to advance onwards, while observing how they conducted themselves in the Twilight Forest during their practice.
Even if I called it ‘conduct,’ their level of risk in the Twilight Forest would lower greatly if they kept two things in mind—one was to cast a protective Spell against the Whispermush’s Sleep Magic, and the other was to properly use Fairy Light.
Although it was fine to gather Fairy Lights to use as a source of light or to store for later, casting Healing Magic on them every now and then seemed to make them last longer or shine brighter. It was a bad idea to activate a flame spell, since, unlike the glow from the fairy light, it would easily wake up the sleeping Killer Plants.
After that, they should stick to the basics, like carefully evading monsters after discovering them, or finding easily-roused Killer Plants that mimicked non-motile plants and defeating them one by one with preemptive strikes.
“Hmm? Is something wrong?”
If Sheila thought it was an enemy, she certainly would have said so.
“Something’s there but… I don’t recognize it.”
She gave an unusually vague reply. Although I followed Sheila’s gaze, I could only see the intermittent glow of the scattered Fairy Lights throughout the dark forest.
Irmhild pointed at a part of a bush, and Sheila nodded.
I checked it out with Life Detection, and there was certainly something there.
It was a small, bright reaction, like a warm-blooded animal. Its silhouette was—a young, human… girl?
A rustling noise came the bushes, and a face popped out. After dispersing the spell, my sight returned to normal… and was met with a pair of bright, golden eyes.
“Why are you in such a place?”
It was a reasonable question from the soldiers. Speaking of child Adventurers, some did exist, including me… but to be alone in the Twilight Forest… it was unusual. Had she been separated from her friends?
The girl simply stared at me before turning around and running away, continuing to rustle the bushes around her.
“That’s dangerous! Get back here immediately!”
All the soldiers called out to her and jumped into the bushes to try and chase after the girl.
Well, certainly, they should protect the young adventurers who have been separated from their companions.
“That child just now, where have I–”
Irmhild muttered with a dumbfounded look.
Somehow… it seemed that I had no choice but to chase after her as well.
It was a rank six Light Spell used for protection. Although it was only a thin veil of light, its defence rivaled that of metal armor. I weaved through the bushes as I went after the girl.
Soon after, I realized something unusual. She was running way too fast, and I couldn’t close the distance.
I considered going ahead by myself, but if we split up, it would be impossible to go on, due to the low level of visibility from the forest cover.
Eventually, we reached the outer edge of the Twilight Forest.
In other words, it was part of the outer wall of the Labyrinth, which concealed the outside from within the forest. There, hidden between the trees, was a closed door .
It was sealed, engraved with elliptical relief that overlapped on top of each other.
“W-what is this?”
“Hey, this is a lie right?”
As soon as the girl touched the door, she vanished to the other side, like water soaking through cloth.
I shot a glance at Irmhild. The girl who was always smiling cheerfully actually had her eyes popping out in astonishment.
“Irm, that child just now… do you know her?”
After asking her with a whisper, she shrugged her shoulders.
“I don’t really know. I feel like I’ve seen her from somewhere before, but maybe not.”
Irmhild’s vague memory contained nothing other than the time she had spent in the Labyrinth.
“A sealed door, huh?”
Should I say that it was discovered by accident? Or should I say that we were led here by a girl?
However, the design of its relief was quite different from what I knew.
According to Kagahisa’s rule of thumb, the relief would mean something. Maybe I should accurately remember this.
As for committing the precise figures to memory, leaving it up to Caduceus sounded good to me.