Chapter 10 : An Abnormal Situation
Intense weapons clashing, and explosion sounds rang out inside the dim underground dungeon, with only a faint green light to rely upon.
It was so intense that it could be described as severe, and even the far distant wall shook from time to time. Numerous silver-colored sword trails were beautifully drawn in the empty space. Flame bullets, flame spears, wind blades, and water lasers flew about like a barrage. Sound of something hitting tough flesh, angry roars for their companions, and war cries filled the should be silent space suddenly turning into a battlefield.
“O light cutting through all creation, wind bring forth destruction, scatters and dances around like a whirlpool, and become the storm of light that cut my enemies! Soaring Severation!”
The Holy Sword he had in his hand, along with his wrist blurring as they accelerated, and numerous swords of light released with him, Kouki, as the core. The attacking bat-like demonic beast with the length of about 50 centimeters was instantly cut into ten pieces, and fell into the ground without being able to successfully attack as its blood splattered.
“Vanguard! Counting, ten—!”
Ant-like demonic beasts that moved their jaws, bat-like flying demonic beasts, and sea anemone-like demonic beasts with numerous wriggling tentacles; hey wriggled and moved around inside the 30 meters in diameter round shaped room. The demonic beasts were coming from the eight tunnels all around the room.
This place was «Orcus Great Dungeon» 89th floor. The vanguards, Kouki, Ryuutarou, Shizuku, Nagayama, Hiyama, and Kondou, were matching the countdown timing of the rear guard’s all out magic attack. The demonic beasts, which managed to attack the rear guards, were repelled and defeated by Kouki and the vanguards as they wait for the countdown.
The troublesome bat-like flying demonic beasts rushed to attack the rear guards using the space between the vanguards’ defense, but were stopped thanks to rampart made by the reliable “Barrier-user.”
“O’ ephemeral storm, O’ invisible shield; rage, blow, swirl, and stop everything, “Wall of Furious Tempest”!”
Taniguchi Suzu activated the offensive defense magic. The chanted spell went right before the rearguards, and breeze could be felt by their outstretched hands. No change could be seen with naked eyes. Even the bat-like demonic beasts didn’t notice its presence, and were not alarmed by their instinct. They kept trying to attack the rear-guards who were about to activate large-scale attack magic spells.
However, before they reached, what met the charging demonic beasts was a wall of air that looked like a huge distortion of space appearing all of a sudden. Tens of those bat-like demonic beasts collided against the wall one after another, but the wall of air only bent without letting even one through.
When all of the charging bat-like demonic beasts had collided, the distorted space exploded, causing great impact as if it had reached its limit. The generated impact was tremendous, and the fleshes crushed by it immediately splattered on the dungeon’s walls with sound of raw and death. Splatter!
“Hmph! I won’t let you pass that easily!”
The voice of the class’s mood-maker, Suzu, rang in the middle of the intense sound of battle. At the same time, the rear guards simultaneously fired their best attacks. It was an attack where it was necessary for them to be at a distance, since it would defeat the enemies, and struck all those who are close to it.
“Retreat!” With Kouki’s order, the vanguards immediately backed away from the demonic beasts.
In the next moment, the magic attacks of six people arrived with such perfect timing.
A huge fireball crashed and simultaneously caused a huge explosion. Meanwhile, a tornado trampled the battlefield, bringing forth vacuum blades which sucked the demonic beasts and cut them up. On the ground, stone spears shot off with tremendous speed and pierced the demonic beasts’ lower parts. At the same time, the icicles falling from above created holes in the demonic beasts’ upper bodies.
There was no way a living thing would be able to survive inside the sublime space that looked like it was receiving the wrath of nature. The attacks only last for tens of seconds. However, more than 90% of the demonic beasts were dead while the rest were on verge of dying due to grave injuries.
“Alright! This is good! Let’s finish the leftover ones quickly!”
With Kouki’s shout, the vanguards once again went forwards, and the demonic beasts on the brink of death, couldn’t even fight back thanks to the all-out magic attacks, were finished one by one. Not even five minutes had passed when all of the demonic beasts were annihilated.
The battle ended, but Kouki’s party didn’t relax their guards and searched their surroundings to see if there were more enemies.
“Phew, next is the 90th floor, huh… We were able to defeat the demonic beasts in this floor without much difficulty… and it looks like the end of the combat training inside this dungeon is near.”
“That’s why; don’t let your guard down. After all, we don’t know what kind of demonic beasts and traps are ahead.”
“Aren’t you worrying too much about it, Shizuku? Didn’t we just an easy battle in a floor no one ever reached? No matter what may come, I will defeat them! Even if it’s the Demon race!”
Shizuku cautioned Kouki, who muttered so in deep thought, and the muscle headed Ryuutarou replied with a hearty laugh. Nevertheless, Kouki made fist-to-fist greeting with Ryuutarou, and revealed a fearless smile. Seeing them, Shizuku sighed while rubbing her creased forehead. She came and had followed the extremeness of the two, which ascended her to a stage of a wordly-wise man. My wrinkle hasn’t increased again, right?, was her worry as the number of times Shizuku looked in a mirror had sublimely increased. Even so, she didn’t restrict the two as she followed them; truly a good natured person.
* * *
“Hiyama-kun, Kondou-kun, I think you must have recovered by now. But… how are you?”
While the others were discussing the earlier battle, Kaori was doing her duty; to heal the injured people from previous battle, since she was a “Healer.” It should be noted that there was another girl with “Healer” class within the 15 people who had undergone combat training by conquering the dungeon, and the duty to heal was divided between the two.
“… Aah, there’s no problem now. Thank you, Shirasaki.”
“O-Oh, it’s okay now. Thanks.”
Himaya, who was healed by Kaori, was daydreaming due to the close proximity of Kaori’s face, and answered absentmindedly. It was obvious he was charmed by her. Even Kondou was saying his gratitude with his reddened ears. Because they were the vanguards, Hiyama and Kondou were frequently in care of Kaori’s healing, and yet they still could not get used to coming in contact with Kaori. Although Kondou’s attitude was just like a child in puberty… there was darkness inside Hiyama’s eyes when he looked at Kaori. The darkness became thicker as days go by… but almost no one noticed it.
Hearing their gratitude, Kaori said, “You’re welcome,” with a smile. Then, she stood and turned around. When she confirmed no one else was in need of healing, she secretly sighed, and she began to look at the dim passage ahead with eyes filled with anxiety.
Noticing Kaori’s state, Shizuku understood what her best friend felt. Kaori’s mind was filled with worries. There were ten more floors until the lowest floor (the general opinion), yet they didn’t find any sign of Hajime at all.
Although it meant there was hope, the despair was far stronger. Even if she decided to not believe Hajime was dead until she saw it herself, another floor was conquered, and the negative thoughts that surged when nothing was found, could not be easily put aside. Furthermore, four months had passed since the day Hajime fell into the abyss. Even if her determination was strong, it was enough time for negative thoughts to begin invading her mind.
Seeing Kaori’s appearance while she embraced her artifact, a white staff, tightly, Shizuku called out to her since she could no longer endure it. And, before Shizuku moved, the small mood-maker said,As if I will let Kaori keep worrying like that!, and ran towards her. Bounce, she jumped and embraced Kaori from behind.
“KA-O-RI~N!! There’s no need to heal those guys, just heal Suzu a, lot~! Heal me with this and that~”
“Hya! Suzu-chan! Where are you touching! Rather, Suzu-chan should not have any injury!”
“There is! Suzu’s glass-like heart is injured! That’s why, spoil me! To put it concretely, use Kaorin’s big breasts!”
“B-Brea—… I said stop! Ah, hey! Yanh! Shizuku-chan, help!”
“Haa, Haa, is this good? How about over here? Young lady, you are quite th-puuutt!?”
“… Haa, stop it already, Suzu. I know you don’t mind the boys’ gaze… But, you should…”
Suzu had transformed into a perverted old man and was groping Kaori’s breasts with an expression so sloppy that it couldn’t be shown to other human. It was the reason why she received a head chop from Shizuku, and collapsed. Incidentally, some of the guys who watched Suzu and Kaori’s yuri scene had also collapsed. Suzu was convulsing with lump on her head, and was looked after by Nakamura Eri with a wry smile.
“Uu~, thank you, Shizuku-chan. That was embarrassing…”
“Alright, alright. It is okay now. I have exterminated the pervert, okay?”
Kaori, who clung to her with teary eyes, was gently patted by Shizuku. It was scene that could often be seen recently. Shizuku took a look at Kaori’s complexion while she gently stroked Kaori’s silky hair. Kaori was looking at Eri who was looking after Suzu with troubled but somewhat happy expression, and her anxiety from before was no longer there. Apparently, her feeling had changed even if it was a temporary thing. One way or another, Shizuku felt admiration in her mind as she thought, As expected of the class’s moodmaker, Suzu (Oldman version).
“There are only ten floors left… Let’s do our best, Kaori.”
Shizuku put her hands on Kaori’s shoulders, and then put some strength into them as she looked straight at Kaori. It was her way to encourage her best friend, so she would not break. Seeing Shizuku, Kaori noticed she had become slightly more timid, so she slapped both of her cheeks and returned Shizuku’s gaze with a powerful gaze.
“Un. Thank you, Shizuku-chan.”
Shizuku’s worry made Kaori realized again how much Shizuku would support her, and Kaori conveyed her gratitude as her gaze softened as she smiled. Shizuku quietly nodded, and her gaze also softened… Lily flowers were blooming on their sides, but they didn’t notice it. Kouki and others who were looking around awkwardly were also unnoticed by Shizuku and Kaori. They were already in their own world after all.
“If it is now… can I protect him?”
“I see… I am sure you can. We are different from that time… Even our levels have surpassed Meld-san and the other Knights… However, hehe, isn’t it possible that he has also became stronger? Even that time, he was the one who helped us in the end.”
“Haha, jeez… Shizuku-chan…”
Kaori believed in Hajime’s survival, but she was looking down on her current self, wondering if she could protect him this time, and that’s why Shizuku was poking fun at her as a joke. Actually, they would be dumbfounded for various reasons when they found their target… But that is something for the near future.
Incidentally, the ones here were Kouki, Ryuutarou, Shizuku, Kaori, Suzu, Eri, five people including Nagayama Juugo, and Hiyama’s gang of four; a total of 15 people, while Meld and the Knights were standing by at 70th floor. Actually, they were able to start from the 70th floor, since a teleport magic circle that connected 30th and 70th floor was discovered. Though it became easier to move to the lower floor, 70th floor was the limit for Meld and the Knights. To begin with, there were only Meld and few others who could keep up while accompanied by Kouki’s party when they were around the 60th floor. Thus, they had only become a hindrance to Kouki’s party when they reached 70th floor.
Even Meld was conscious of that. He taught Kouki’s party of all the know-how about the dungeon. That’s why, he and the Knights decided to try their best to secure a safety zone around the teleportation circle, and only Kouki’s party were to move on.
Meld wanted to show a bitter smile due to being exceeded in only four months. But even so, after associating with Kouki’s party, he and the Knights were satisfied if their abilities could safely secure a safety zone in 70th floor.
Kouki’s party current statuses were something like the following:
17 Years Old
17 Years Old
17 Years Old
17 Years Old
Kaori’s Healing Magic and Light Element Aptitude skills were at the extreme. Her healing magic in particular was in the highest rank possible. Just judging by the amount of skills, Kaori’s was at least amounted to four people. Furthermore, her current number of skills even exceeded the Hero, Kouki. With tit for tat, everything was definitely for her promise. Believing in his survival, this time, she would be the one to protect him. It was the result of her single-mindedly repeated the things she could do while spared little time for sleep.
“I think it’s about the time to leave… Is it okay now?”
Kouki timidly called out to Kaori and Shizuku, who were still looking at each other. Before, he had witnessed Kaori and Shizuku embracing each other in Kaori’s room, so sometimes Kouki’s attitude became suspicious, which had taken Kaori aback, but Shizuku knew what was in his mind and only quietly watched him. Her eyes were truly expressing, “Until when are you going to keep this strange misunderstanding, you fool.”
Pretending he didn’t notice Shizuku’s gaze, Kouki ordered the other members. They had explored 90% of the 89th floor, and the route they were to go now was the last place to explore. Thinking about the structure of the floors up until now, it was about time for them to see the stairs.
The prediction turned out right, and the party discovered the stairs 10 minutes after they moved out. They descended the dim, spiral staircase while confirming the existence of trap. After they descended for around 10 meters, Kouki’s party arrived at the 90th floor.
For now, Kouki’s party were looking in vigilance for anything that might happen since it was the starting point. However, just by its external appearance, nothing had changed from 80th-ish floors they had just finished exploring. They immediately began their exploration while mapping. Even if the structure was the same, but they could not let their guard down because the demonic beasts that would appear might be strong ones.
In vigilance, Kouki’s party explored the passages and rooms with the same structure as before. The exploration progressed easily. Or so it should be, because before long, one by one they made doubtful expressions.
“…What’s with this?”
By the time the party reached a deep inside broad space, the incomprehensible feeling reached its peak, and Kouki leaked a questioning voice with a perplexed expression. The other members were also perplexed just like him, so they halted when Kouki asked the question.
“… Even though we have explored it so much, why we didn’t encounter even one demonic beast?”
Their exploration had reached the latter half part, excluding the unneeded passages. Up until now, they would not have been able to advance this easily since they were furiously attacked by strong demonic beasts. Normally, they needed two days to reach the latter half of a floor. However, not even three hours had passed since Kouki’s party started exploring the 90th floor. The reason for this progress was simple. They didn’t encounter even one demonic beast in this floor.
In the beginning, they thought the demonic beasts were observing Kouki’s party from the shadows, but nothing popped up even when they used their perception skills and magic spells. It was strange for them not even feel the presence of a single demonic beast. It was obviously an abnormal situation.
“…How to say it, it feels eerie. Was nothing here since the beginning?”
Similar to Ryuutarou, the other members also talked about the other possibilities which remain unsolved. Their confusion only deepened.
“… Kouki, shouldn’t we return for now? Somehow I feel an ominous premonition. Meld and Knights might know something about this situation.”
Shizuku suggested to Kouki while she strengthened her vigilance. Kouki considered Shizuku’s suggestion because he also had a bad feeling about it, but they must keep advancing no matter what happens, and he thought they would be fine because they could take it easy in the 89th floor, so he hesitated on answering.
While Kouki was hesitating, the party members who explored the nearby surroundings unexpectedly raised their voice when they found something.
“This is… blood…, right?”
“It is hard to discern since the blood assimilate with the color of dim wall… They are all over the wall.”
“Oi, oi… this… this is quite the amount.”
Nagayama advanced from within the paled party members, and he touched the liquid they thought as blood with his finger. Afterwards, he confirmed the details by looking and smelling the blood stuck on his finger.
“Amanogawa… we should follow Yaegashi’s suggestion… This is demonic beast’s blood. Furthermore, it still fresh.”
“Well, if that is demonic beast’s blood, it means the demonic beasts around her have all been killed. Not only that, it also means there’s strong one who did it… But, won’t we be unable to advance unless we defeat it?”
Nagayama shook his head towards Kouki’s rebuttal. Even though Nagayama was the second biggest after Ryuutarou, he had a very prudent character unlike the other one. Nagayama watched the surrounding carefully while being prepared for battle, and told Kouki what he thought about the situation.
“Amanogawa… the demonic beast is likely not to go out of this room alone. We also haven’t even encountered one in the passages and rooms up until now. In addition, it is the first time we discovered traces. In other words…”
“… Something must have hidden the traces of the attacked demonic beasts, right?”
Nagayama nodded at Shizuku’s words. Even Kouki’s expression showed he realized something because of those words. Then, just like Nagayama, he raised his vigilance to the maximum with a stern expression.
“There’s also the possibility of demonic beasts becoming more intelligent… But, it was natural to think someone was here… In addition, for only traces in this room not to be hidden, either it means it didn’t have the time to do it, or…”
“Here is the last stop.”
What succeeded Kouki’s words was a never heard before voice of a woman suddenly ringing out. It was a man-like husky voice. Kouki’s party became pop-eyed, and they immediately entered battle state. They turned their gazes towards the source of the voice.
Sound of footsteps resounded, but what appeared from deep within the darkness of the spacious hall was a young woman with blazing red hair. The woman’s ears were slightly pointed, and her skin was darkish.
Kouki’s party opened their eyes wide in astonishment. The woman’s features were something they know very well. Though they have never seen it before, it was a race’s characteristics that always appeared inside the lecture from Ishtal and the others — the enemy of the Church of Saints’ God, and also the arch-enemy of human race. It was…
Someone muttered, and the woman from Demon race revealed a faint, cold smile.