Editor: A s h e s
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On the second day of the exploration, Mitche, Frau, and I headed for the labyrinth after breakfast. The area we explored yesterday was added to the map, and we pushed through the 1st level with it. When we were leaving camp, we heard from Varold and Keith that a survey team would be entering the labyrinth after us to verify my map’s accuracy – the one mentioned last night.
From what I heard, I was to re-draw the parts that had already been mapped before I came, but we had to proceed with our exploration regardless. Once through the first level, we’d come to a large 2nd level. The route I had mapped yesterday was on the opposite side of the route done before. So, we needed to confirm as soon as possible whether this route led to the 2nd level, to the same destination as the old one, or intersected with it
“Let’s pick up our pace a bit and not stop until we reach the large room from yesterday, okay?”
“Okay. Since we don’t know the size of this labyrinth, it’s better to check out the unexplored areas as soon as possible.”
Both Mitch and Frau agreed with me. P90 at the ready and muzzle pointed down, I picked up my speed. I moved forward at a steady pace, faster than walking, but slower than running. My body wouldn’t tire out at such a speed. As expected of B-Rank adventurers, the other two moved with ease without being out of breath. Even Frau, a magician, didn’t seem to have any difficulties at all. She probably knew some kind of martial arts, I guessed.
I signaled for Mitche and Frau to stop. I heard 5 pairs of footsteps ahead, most likely goblins based on the lightness of their steps. And a thudding sound… A staff?
“5 goblins ahead, normal types. There may be a mage too.”
“Sure smells like goblins, nya.”
“If there’s a mage, then that will be our priority. I’ll set up a magical barrier.”
Magical attacks in this world had strong offensive power. In case of a battle between magicians, attacking first didn’t mean having the advantage. Things weren’t that simple.
The attacking magician also had to set up a magical barrier to defend themselves from the other’s magic. According to Frau, magical barriers were invisible and their sizes depended on the magician’s ability. At the very least, it could cover the magician themselves. A skilled magician could set up a barrier to protect the other members in their party, or even to cover an area the same size as a small room in this labyrinth.
Magical barriers could repel all magical attacks once activated. To break a barrier, you either needed to launch an attack with greater magical strength than the barrier or get close and physically attack the magician who conjured it. Of course, you could just use ranged attacks such as archery, but even an inexperienced magician wouldn’t forget to ward himself against arrows.
“I’ll take charge and launch a preemptive strike. Mitche, you’ll be the backup. Take that mage’s head.”
“Got it, nya.”
Crouching down while lowering my gun, I watched out for the goblins. Turning off the tactical light, I threw some light grass seeds forward. The seeds sprouted immediately, emitting thin shreds of light. The night view mode in my head goggles gave me full vision even with the low light.
Before long, the ugly faces of the goblins came into view from the dark passage in front of us. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! The mage was that one.
“1 mage, in the center!”
I told Mitche, who was positioned diagonally behind me to the right. I opened fire on the goblins, focusing on those on the right since Mitch would charge from that direction. Firing at the right-most goblin, I pierced a hole in its head. At the same time, Mitche charged. Seeing their comrades suddenly taken down, the goblins didn’t look in our direction at all but screamed out something in their strange voices instead. They couldn’t see in the dark?
The goblin mage was the only one that looked at us. He lifted his staff slightly and shouted. With my goggles, I could see the air around him distort for a moment. Seemed like he set up his own barrier.
Still watching the mage, I glided the crosshairs over the group and continued shooting the other goblins. They were shouting and kicking around, making it difficult to shoot at their heads. Instead, I aimed for their torsos and successfully stopped 3 of them from ever moving again. After taking down the leading goblins, I noticed the mage was chanting something. A fireball formed in front of his long staff, ready to fire at us. Just as his magic was about to be completed, his head fell sideways unnaturally, and the fireball dispersing.
Mitche had snuck behind the mage and took his head. Literally.
Picking up the mana stone, Mitche went back to us. All the mana stones acquired during the exploration were divided equally among the 3 of us. It wasn’t an exactly equal distribution, as we couldn’t exchange them for money at camp, so we just made our own estimation based on their conditions.
“Well, let’s continue on then.”
Actually, I knew the mage’s barrier wouldn’t have been able to repel a round from the submachine gun. Before, when saving Ashley, I was able to pierce a goblin mage’s barrier with just a single 9×19 parabellum bullet.
Whether the bullet was more powerful than a goblin mage’s barrier, or if it was simply a successful long-range physical attack, I didn’t know for sure. Regardless, if I had broken the mage’s barrier, the girls would have considered it an act of magic, so I didn’t.
Afterwards, the 3 of us continued down the passage, each with their own role. When we reached the large room from yesterday, we took a short break. From there on, today’s exploration started.
After the brief break, we headed towards the unexplored central area of the 1st floor. There wasn’t a single source of light, so we dropped light grass seeds around as we went. Looking at the map my goggles displayed, this labyrinth had the same intricate structure as the entrance.
According to Mitche and Frau’s talk during our break, in other regions, labyrinths with such big 1st floors were all ancient ones built hundreds of years ago. However, this labyrinth wasn’t ancient. Based on the number of monsters in its vicinity, it was built very recently – but then, why was the 1st floor this big?
We continued to advance further into the underground passage while killing differently ranked goblins. Deep and deeper we went, then my map displayed…
“What’s wrong, nya? Goblins, nya?”
As I stopped, the two girls got ready for battle, but I was just standing still. There wasn’t a sign of enemy movement either. I stopped because I had seen something I didn’t expect and I was surprised by it.
“Schwarz, it’s not an enemy, right?”
“No, it’s… Well? It’s just a possibility, but… The Spring of Purity is ahead of us.”
(T/N: Reminder: In this world, each labyrinth has a safety zone called Spring of Purity, where no monsters could enter.)
Indeed, my map displayed a small square room, smaller than the usual small rooms in the labyrinth. It was the same size as the Spring of Purity in the Wolf Fang Labyrinth. But this was just the 1st level! From what I had learned in the General Guild’s library, the Spring could be on any level of the labyrinth, but there had not been a case where it was on the first level.
“The Spring? On the 1st level, nya?”
“This is rare… I’ve never heard of a Spring of Purity on the 1st level.”
The other two were also surprised at this. So it was truly unusual?
“Be it really there or not, let’s continue for now. Go on a bit more, then turn right.”
Speeding up a little, I went on. And just as expected, the moment I took a right turn, it was there.
It was bright. In a dark labyrinth where my tactical light, Frau’s orb, and the white light from the glowing grass were the only sources of light. The whole room was shining dazzlingly. This was, without a doubt, the Spring of Purity.
“It really is the Spring…”
“This is nasty, nya.”
“Nasty? You mean the Spring being on the 1st floor?”
“In normal labyrinths, there will be a Gatekeeper 2 levels below the spring, but if there’s another final spring, the Gatekeeper will be 1 level below. Then the Dungeon Master will be below them.”
“In short, if the spring is on the 1st level, then the Gatekeeper will be on the 2nd level and the Master on the 3rd level?”
“No, nya. This labyrinth is way too big compared to others, nya. If it was another labyrinth, we would have reached the 2nd level already with the distance we’ve covered, nya. If we continue, it’s very likely that we’ll cover 2 more levels, nya. In short, it’s very likely that the Gatekeeper and the Dungeon Master are ahead of us, nya.”
“It’s better to return to camp and report it to Varold and Keith about the Spring.”
“I understand. Let’s get back to camp.”
There was also a possibility that the Emerald Demon’s Labyrinth didn’t have a multi-level structure like the other labyrinths, and instead had all of its elements crammed into one level. That would explain why it was bigger than others. With this, we hurried back to report.