10-6. Passage of Death
Satou's here. When I was playing a console-RPG-like tabletop RPG, there were a lot of quests without completion deadline time. I felt that it was odd as everyone would then just take those quests since they had nothing to lose.
"Ooh! It really feels like the genuine entrance to a labyrinth isn't it."
There's a downward stair beyond the opened gate, and after descending five meters below, we come to a semi-underground passage that's five meters high and ten meters wide.
Looks like Pochi and Tama have remembered Seryuu's city labyrinth, they've encamped themselves on both my sides in silence.
Since the passage has skylight windows on the ceiling, it's sufficiently bright. It's not bright enough to read a book, but it's also not so dark you can't walk without a torch.
The other side of the skylight windows is probably the above ground, I can sometimes see soldiers who seem to be on patrol there.
I don't know whether the passage's way is meandering, or how long until it reaches the entrance of the labyrinth ahead. It seems to be called [Passage of Death] here, and the labyrinth is still a bit more beyond.
Since I'm free, I check various things on the MAP.
The labyrinth city Selbira has 110.000 people in total. Among them Shiga Kingdom army that's called Labyrinth Area Army is 10.000 people. The army is in the giant fortress to the southwest. The average soldier's level is 8, higher than other territory army. It's slightly higher than retainer knights, so they're probably elites. Since I have a letter from Nina-san to the general of this army, I have to see to it after we're done with the labyrinth exploring.
The army that's in charge of the labyrinth city defense is not this kingdom army, but the army of the present viceroy of Selbira, Marquis Ashinen. I've had some slight trouble with this person in the trade city, so I don't really want to get involved with him. It should be a while before he returns here from the trade city, so my duty should be fulfilled if I just give the house some greeting and passable gift before he comes back. I'll be excusing myself from troublesome things.
Now then, the search continues.
There are unexpectedly few explorers, no more than 5000 people. According to the traveler's journal there are 1000 young people who come here to become explorers every year, so I think this number is too few considering that. Fundamentally, they reside in the western area.
There are about 1000 people who are working as baggage carriers like the little girls earlier. Most of those people are working outside the labyrinth city. Are they working in some kind of public construction since they failed to find job in the labyrinth?
There are 50 people in the labyrinth entrance ahead, I wonder what are they doing?
Four explorers are coming from ahead. Their level are low at 7-9. No, considering levels of knights are around 10, they might be mid-level explorers or prospective newbies. Looks like one of them is heavily injured.
"It smells of blood nanodesu."
Pochi and Tama quickly notice the appearance of the explorers from the meandering path ahead.
"Nana, protect Arisa and Lulu."
Is Mia fine. I thought so, but Liza has already moved in front of Mia.
"I am Jeje of 『Red Ice』! We have an injured person! Please leave the dispute for later."
A young man who seems to be the leader shouts so while waving his hand. I thought that it was a chuuni nickname, but it seems to be their party name.
I can't see the face of the injured person, but the person's armor is split widely, and blood seeps out of the shirt that's been used to wrap the wound.
"Uuh, that's a really terrible wound..."
Arisa and Lulu become very pale when they look at the injured person. Mia asks with her eyes if it's fine for her to use magic, but I signal not with my hand.
"I'm Satou, a beginner explorer. Please use this medicine if it's fine with you."
So I say, and hold out two diluted magic potions from the shoulder bag. This should be enough for recovery judging from their levels.
"I'm sorry, but we don't have anything. I'll pay you back when the leader who's selling the magic cores catches up. It's shameless of me, but can I have the medicine beforehand?"
"Yes, go ahead."
Since I originally intended to give them for free, I quickly replied and presented the magic potions to Jeje.
"Huh? Don't tell me that these are magic potions?"
"Yes, that's right. Rather than that, drink it to that person fast."
"Yeah, I'm indebted."
One bottle recovers nearly 60% of the health. I can't see the wound since it's wrapped in cloth, but it should be closed now.
"Then, we'll take our leave."
"P, please wait. We still haven't paid the cost."
"I've got those from someone, so please don't worry about it. We'll meet again if fate allows."
We can't keep loitering here all day, so we part with them. I heard warning from behind, "There's an abnormal outbreak of ants in area 1-4 of the labyrinth, don't get close to it." so I waved my hand to express my thanks. That's just right, let's head there today.
Mia and Lulu are trembling, maybe they're anxious after seeing someone's injured. Arisa's tension has also fallen, but it doesn't seem as bad as these two.
"You two, should we stop today?"
"I, I'm fine."
The two force themselves to be stouthearted and walk forward with clenched fists.
If their conditions aren't restored when we get to the labyrinth entrance, let's go back.
There's a big around-five meter tall door at the end of the passage. That's probably the labyrinth gate. A deep red devil's face is embossed on the jet black door.
There's a 10 meter long 5 meter wide counter beside the gate. There are several people who seem to be guild staffs behind the counter, and also four high-leveled magicians who seem to be their escorts.
At one part of the counter, the leader of 『Red Ice』 and a middle-aged man who seems to be a guild staff are apparently arguing about the price of magic cores.
On the opposite side of that counter, children are sitting down, occupying 30 meters space.
They're human children of around 10-14 years old, the ratio of male and female is approximately the same. There is no slave. Everyone's levels are 1-3. They're wearing short clothes, and sandals knitted from weeds. There are also children who only wears trousers and without sandals. They're all not explorers, but baggage carriers. None has weapons or armors.
"There are a lot of children nanodesu."
Pochi, Tama, and Mia tilt their head together while looking puzzled. I don't think they've arranged it beforehand, but they're doing it splendidly uniformly, inviting a smile from me. Arisa is saying, "I was late." while looking vexed, but let's pretend that I didn't see it here.
Now then, those children lock-on to me with their eyes without even a sound or sign. It's a bit, scary.
"I wonder what are they doing?"
"Their eyes are scary."
Arisa also wonders. Lulu feels that it's spooky, I totally agree.
I was worried that Nana would abduct them since they were all children, but--
"Denying that I'm fine as long as it's a child."
--so she says. She might have her own criteria too.
"Master, the staff is calling."
I didn't notice that the staff was calling me until Liza brought it to my attention.
"What is it?"
"Excuse me, but are you a beginner explorer?"
"Yes, please take care of us from now on. I'm Satou."
"Ara, how thoughtful of you. I think you've already heard it when you are registering, but we will buy the magic cores you get from the labyrinth here. And also, we will be buying monster parts from the notices that are hung on the wall over there, but since some of those applications posters aren't always present, there is no guarantee that they will remain when you've gotten out of the labyrinth so please take care."
I've only noticed it after the staff explains it smoothly to me, but there's certainly a big board that looks like a bulletin board standing, and it's stickied with a lot of posters. Most of the clients seem to be craftmen or stall merchants. There is no request from the guild. There is a blank space on the bottom half of the poster, it's written with symbols that seem to be date and name.
Anyone who aims for the request probably fills the space.
Beside the posters, there are children with slightly better clothes. According to the staffs, there are no small numbers of explorers who can't read, so the children of merchants who can read and write stay here to read aloud or write for them and earn some small incomes.
"I recommend the applications for labyrinth frog meat and shells of insect monsters since they're always present. There are some persons who mistake the labyrinth frog with wart poison frog and carry the meat back with them, so please be careful."
The staff tells me some recommended requests. Since behind me, Liza is nodding while muttering, "That's delicious." she probably knows the difference. She probably remembers about the barbecue party in the labyrinth of Seryuu city.
Right, might as well ask about it.
"By the way, what are those children?"
"Ah, they're children who work as baggage carriers. They're waiting to be employed by explorer parties from there. The children waiting outside change with them every two hours, and they're prohibited to promote themselves."
She added that it's because the echoes on the wall were noisy.
Still, for carrying baggage, isn't it better to employ adults or beastkin rather than those children?
When I was going to ask about it, the labyrinth gate opened, and a 10-person explorer party came out. It's a party with mostly warriors averaging at level 20. The three beastkin among them seem to be baggage carriers.
"Yo, Vena. Sorry for interrupting you, is the request for Grey Spider meat still there?"
"I'm really sorry. The 『Owl's Beard』 has brought it this morning, so I think there won't be any request at this time."
"Ceh, those guys again huh. Can't be helped, Vena, I'll grill this meat. Oy, you brats, I'll give some to you guys. You can say, "Dozon-sama is cool", or "Thank you Dozon-sama" all you want while you're eating them."
After the bear-like bearded explorer declares so to the children, shouts of joy that split my ears are raised.
Pochi and Tama were also lining up as they seemed eager to eat it, but they came back immediately when I called them. I'd feel sorry to snatch the feast of those undernourished children after all.
We show the gate staff our wood plates one by one, and tread upon the labyrinth. The guild staffs looked surprised toward Pochi and Tama who opened the solid labyrinth door.
Well now? What is it I wonder?