I finished adding the new areas we explored in the labyrinth onto the map the day I returned to camp. With the harvest festival coming closer, we quickened our pace of mapping the rest of the labyrinth. To be more specific, Frau-san, Mitche-san – my two bodyguards – and I headed into the labyrinth then split into two groups. The two girls headed in the direction of the Spring, sweeping monsters on the way. I headed for the unmapped areas, moving in high speed..
There were light grasses blooming here and there, but I still turned on the NV to ensure adequate visibility in the dark passages. I made use of the high-speed movement technique frequently used not only in VMB but in other SF shooters also – consecutive strafe jumps – to literally fly around the labyrinth.
Strafe jumps, to put it simply, were jumping in the direction you wanted to go while slightly leaning to either left or right. If you wanted to turn right while jumping, then you slightly rotate to the right mid-air. Since you could change the direction where you were going just by changing your angle, you could cover a longer distance and move forward faster. With consecutive strafing, you could change your direction from left to right alternately without stopping so you could move even further and faster.
While performing consecutive strafes, I also kept an eye on my map and listened to the noises around me. Where I currently was, the only enemies were a mixture of normal and higher-ranked goblins. Strafe jumps weren’t just a movement technique – you could charge right into battle and spray bullets to take down enemies. It’d be as if you ran them over.
A few dots appeared on my map just after the left turn up ahead. I put my finger on the P90’s trigger on my chest, adjusted my angle, and took the left turn, descending upon the monsters.
I flew by the corner at the highest peak of the jump, making use of a spare moment mid-jump to place the crosshairs on the goblins’ head. There wasn’t a need to aim carefully one by one. When I passed over their heads during the jump, I squeezed the trigger. I fired 3 rapid shots, then continued strafing without confirming if they were dead. There wasn’t a need to – I had killed enough goblins to be able to sense when I made a kill. I also left the mana stones for later. For now, I wanted to 100% complete the map as soon as possible.
In the end, it took me an entire day to completely finish the map. Still, it was shockingly fast to have it mapped, drawn up, and delivered to the Guild only two days after the labyrinth was conquered.
When I stepped out of the mapping tent, holding the complete map, the sun had already set. However, campfires were lit here and there throughout the camp, enveloping everything in red light. They all gathered here: adventurers from Barga, as well as traders and workers who had heard of the labyrinth’s conquer. The labyrinth harvest festival had already started, beginning with the sleepless white nights.
When I entered the HQ tent, Varold-san was still working even though the day had ended. There was one other person inside; the one who had sent me on this Labyrinth conquest, Guild Investigator Remi-san.
“The map of Emerald Demon Labyrinth has been completed.”
“Schwarz-kun, you’ve worked hard.”
I gave the map to Varold-san. With this, my job this time had come to an end.
“You did it Schwarz-kun, just as expected. Looked like I was right to rely on you.”
“Thank you, Remi-san. But it probably was not right for me to accept this job.”
“R-Remi-san… I’ll have my staff reproduce this map. S-see you later, Schwarz-kun.”
Varold-san seemed to dislike the disquieting atmosphere between Remi-san and me, and he exited the tent with haste, leaving only the two of us inside.
“Schwarz-kun, do you have any questions?”
I brought up the questions I’d had since I accepted this job. The job changed from mapping to labyrinth conquest was to my own wish, so it wasn’t a problem. The questions were about if my identity as the cartographer was really hidden, and Rafflesia.
“I think Rafflesia won’t leak your information since they’ve invited you to join them. If they give out your information, there’ll be more competition.”
Remi-san sat down at Varold-san’s desk and listened to me. Of course, since Rafflesia wanted my mapping ability, they wouldn’t spread information about me to keep invitations from other clans coming.
“Regarding your identity as this mission’s cartographer, I’ll take the responsibility of concealing it.”
“Your phrasing is somehow worrying.”
“Don’t you understand? Schwarz-kun, would you like to provide labyrinth maps for the General Guild from now on?”
“Really… If I do that, won’t it be meaningless to hush things this time? It’ll bring me some nice pocket money, but I’m quite worried about the reactions if I accept it myself.”
“In that case, what about not accepting it by yourself?”
“You mean Rafflesia’s invitation?”
“Yes. I know why you dislike them, but it’s not good to make them your enemies. They’re the number one clan in Kurtmelga in both name and practice. Their current Master is second in line to the throne, Prince Kirik Kurtmelga. He’s the Master with the second-highest status in Rafflesia’s history after the Founder. It could even be said that their power is now stronger than ever.”
“I heard that royalties do join Rafflesia, but a prince? No wonder…”
“If you want to rival the current Rafflesia, you should have some sort of backing yourself.”
Remi-san got up from her seat and came close to me. No, not just close, but too close; she was a bit taller than me, and she was standing with her nose almost touching my eyes.
“Would you join the Guild?”
It sounded like the loving chirping of a small bird. Remi-san’s chirping resounded in my ears and my heart alike.
“I didn’t say this just for fun. To be honest, I think your maps are dangerous.”
My voice also lowered down to a whisper spontaneously. The distance between Remi-san and I became even shorter. She was beautiful, with her short red hair and tanned skin. The eyes that bore into me were pale red; her lips were plump and pink.
“You haven’t drawn any maps for anything other than labyrinths, but you can map the natural world with the same precision, right?”
That… Surely I could. I just needed to trace it like I had done with the labyrinth maps.
Then, a map was, in short, a bundle of information. I didn’t know much about the level of this world’s military affairs, but there were no specifically named armies – only Knight Orders. I didn’t know what kind of organizations the Orders were, but according to the labyrinth maps I’ve seen in the Guild’s Archive, I had the impression they did not possess large scale surveying technology.
If I used trace to draw the maps, this whole world would become an over-specified tactical map.
“This silence means yes, doesn’t it?”
I couldn’t answer Remi-san’s question. I couldn’t decide what the right answer would be.
This must also be why Rafflesia wanted me. Not just as a tool for Labyrinth conquests, but beyond that.
“Yes, I can.”
I didn’t want to utter those words, but it was useless to lie now. That aside, it once again came apparent how foreign VMB’s powers were for this world. The word “cheater” crossed my mind. Cheater – The word that we FPS Players were most averse to… To this world, I was not a strange object, but just a cheater…
“You don’t look well. Are you alright? I don’t plan to condemn you or anything.”
Remi-san put her hand on my back and gently rubbed it. It must have looked like two lovers embracing.
“Yes, I’m alright… About the invitation to join the Guild… Please give me some more time.”
“It’s OK. You’ll receive the remuneration for this job from Rezmond. Just show up and you should be able to get it.”
Remi-san said and moved away from me.
I stood still, alone in the tent. I didn’t know what I should do. Should I continue using VMB? If I continued living in this world, should I give up this power and live my life as a normal human? No… Why did I have to live in this world to begin with? Why was I here? I didn’t get it, I didn’t understand.
Someone, anyone, tell me…
“Why… am I… here.”
In the tent with no one besides me, VMB’s mail ringtone rang.