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The Sasanqua members and I returned to the main camp, paying a visit to the HQ tent immediately. We had slept earlier than usual last night and departed before sunrise this morning, so it was still early in the morning when we arrived. Yet, Varold-san and Keith-san were already waiting inside the tent.
“Oh! You’re back! We heard the wail last night and thought the labyrinth was conquered, so we’ve been on standby since earlier this morning. Seems like it was worth doing.”
Varold-san greeted us with a grin. So the Labyrinth wail had reverberated even to the outside world. Since Frau-san was the leader of our group, she started reporting on our behalf.
“Yes, we had a lot to report so we came back quickly. First of all, we successfully defeated the Gatekeeper and retrieved the Dungeon Core.”
Frau-san said and urged Lali-san to come forward. It was Lali-san who had removed the Core from its pedestal. This meant her bride training with Sasanqua had been completed.
“Congratulations, Lapitilica-sama. May I take a look at the Core?”
It sounded like Varold-san had also noticed this fact – his attitude towards her had changed. He was not treating her like a C-ranked adventurer, but like the daughter of the Lord of Barga and beyond, Lapitilica Barga.
“Yes, of course. This is the Core of the Emerald Demon Labyrinth.”
Lali-san said as she took out the core from her utility bag on her hips. The stone was as big as a rugby ball and was shining brightly with a multi-colored light. Its radiance could be said to be in rainbow colors with a little bit of a stretch. The stone had a marquee cut, like a gem. The shine of a mana stone depended on its attribute. This stone had the shine of 11 attributes: fire, water, wind, earth, darkness, light, snow, ice, wood, air*, and non-attribute. It was an extra-large magical tool, and was used in water purification facilities for cities and such. It was also highly valuable as a work of art. These Cores, after being brought out of labyrinths by adventurers, could be auctioned off at large metropolis like the Imperial City to be traded by merchants and nobles alike.
“Its radiance is surely splendid. There’s no doubt it’s a Core.”
Both Varold-san and Keith-san had their eyes glued on the stone.
“Varold, we still have one important thing to discuss. The truth is, there was no Dungeon Master in Emerald Demon Labyrinth’s inner sanctum. The Knight Order is searching for him in the labyrinth depths even now, but he probably doesn’t exist.”
“There is no Labyrinth Master? Is such a thing even possible? Also, since you’ve removed the Core, the Master should have died.”
We also had the same question as Keith-san, but the truth still remained: there was no Master. What we should consider now was not the Labyrinth’s Master, but the dying labyrinth itself. What should we do with it?
In order to fill up the incomplete parts of the map I had been drawing, I would probably have to go back inside again. Of the Sasanqua members, Frau-san and Mitche-san had been intended to guard my bodyguards, so they would accompany me. The remaining three would return to Miral and Barga to report to the General Guild and the Lord. About one month later, the Labyrinth’s harvest festival would start. To collect the mana stones and resources inside, many adventurers and traders from Barga would gather here, as well as a various workers. It would last until the labyrinth died, with Miral Village at its center.
“Schwarz-san, we’re in your debt. Thanks to you, we successfully conquered the labyrinth in such a short time. Thank you.”
“No, please raise your head, Laptilicia-sama. I’ve also been in your care.”
I went to the camp entrance to saw the three Sasanqua members heading to Barga off. After returning to Barga, Laptilicia-sama would get back to be the Lord’s daughter and get married as someone who possessed outstanding magical abilities. The Core would be her dowry. At the end of the festival, she’d come back with the Lord of Barga – Duke Franklin Barga – to confirm the labyrinth’s death. Miranda-san and Ruu-san originally had come as her guards from Sasanqua, and their mission also ended with this conquest. It would be completed for real when they returned here with her.
“I will come back at the end of the festival!”
“We’ll meet again.”
“I’ll look forward to it. Please take care on the way.”
They hadn’t said anything about my skills after all this time – they’d probably wouldn’t tell anyone. We would see each other once more towards the end of the festival, so it wasn’t a final farewell – we would meet again.
And like that, they mounted the horses the General Guild had prepared and left the camp.
I was about to go back to my mapping tent to write down some notes on the map I’d been drawing. But just as I turned back, I saw Linel and Will from Rafflesia standing there.
“Mapper, I heard you conquered the labyrinth.”
“It was the Knight Order and the Sasanqua group who conquered it.”
As always, he called me mapper. To this guy, my only worth was drawing maps.
“But wasn’t it you who led them? The Master of such a newly-formed labyrinth like this probably wouldn’t have been very powerful. They said there was no Master, but maybe you had killed him without noticing.”
“Yes, it is possible.”
Of course, there was that possibility – that ogre fighter might have been the Master. But then again, that wouldn’t explain why the throne on that gate was empty. I had asked Varold-san and Keith-san about this. There was suppose to be a sculpture of the Master’s likeness on the throne. They said they had never heard of an empty throne until now.
“The one who contributed the most in this conquest was you, mapper. We spent more than a week down there, but we couldn’t move forward at all. And you actually went into its depths in just a few days. “
“It was thanks to the Sasanqua group.”
“Them she-foxes were just extras!”
This guy… He seemed to really dislike Sasanqua, or maybe just women in general. He was so condescending towards them.
“Schwarz, we Rafflesia really value you highly. How about coming to us?”
“You mean joining Rafflesia?”
“Yes! Sasanqua is full of she-foxes, it’s not a place for a man like you. We are different. There are some women too, but we are mainly a group of capable men. You have the ability, so come join us!”
I had never heard of such an invitation… Before joining P0wDer, I had also gone through many different clans in other FPS games. The clans all had different purposes, from enjoying yourself like members of a family to winning, or even to just provide guidance to new players. None of them were as belligerent as this one though. They reminded me of the old days.
“… I would have to decline.”
“You reject an invitation from Rafflesia, the biggest clan in Kurtmelga? I’m not boasting, but it is very rare for us to issue such a direct invitation. Do you know how much of an honor it is?”
“Do I have to spell it out for you? I can’t stand your attitude. The way you treat the Sasanqua members, no, the way you treat women in general, is disgustingly arrogant. Such a long-standing clan… Boasting about your track records and your members’ abilities, looking down on others, always thinking you’re the righteous ones, you’re just a bunch of rascals doing whatever you like. No matter what world it is, I won’t join you!
“Mapper… You bastard…”
“…Schwarz, I understand your feelings. Well then, I will also be blunt. We want your ability, as a tool! With your mapping ability, Rafflesia would be able to conquer all the labyrinths in Kurtmelga, no, on the whole Orlando continent and beyond! You’ll understand who to work for sooner or later…”
After saying this, Linel and Will went back into the camp. Glaring at their backs, I thought back on what they had said. They only saw me as a tool to be used for their selfish desires. I had no intentions to join such a clan.
I also went back into camp and did what I had to. First thing was to finish the map of Emerald Demon Labyrinth.