18-27. A Boy in Labyrinth City
※ It's the state of labyrinth city after five years told from a mob character's perspective.
"I'm heading off to the labyrinth city today."
I muttered to myself to steel my determination.
"Guess I won't see this scenery for a while..."
I'm looking down over the poor village I grew up at over a cliff.
This village has nothing.
Children would be constantly starving, and a number of them won't make it pass winter without fail.
There's no apothecary, so falling ill spells death, there's even those who died after getting injured in the mountain. Things are better during the years Talbec-san dropped by here, but since Talbec-san rarely visits this village so far away from his own, we can only rely on the stupidly pricey medicine brought by peddlers in those blank years.
Word on street apparently many people died during the Great War of Demon God five years ago, but our village actually had less death that year since Echigoya Firm's people came by and gave away food and medicine for free.
"Niisan, are you really sure about it?"
This grown-up calm voice is my little sister's.
She's disliked by the adults due to her taboo hair color, but she's actually very smart and reliable.
"Yea, take care of mom for me, okay?"
"Won't you reconsider? In nine, no six years time, I too can depart from this village. I'm worried about leaving you by yourself, Niisan."
Those words don't sound like a six year old.
"I'm gonna be 21 in six years. I can't be an explorer by that old man's age."
"...21 year old is far from being an old man."
For some reason, my little sister has a loose criteria for 'old man' and 'aunty'.
She even said something like 'Even 40 is still quite young.'
"Please won't you--."
My lil' sis sighed out greatly when I gave that reply.
It's like she's given up on trying to scold an unruly kid or something.
"I knew you would say that. Here, it's a parting gift."
She handed over a brand new dagger and a blue steel helmet.
The dagger isn't a cheap one used for stripping meat, but a battle ready one on the bigger side.
"What's this? Where'd you get something this expensive looking?"
"I made them myself. As this village has no scrap iron, I had to gather iron sands in the river over the course of few months. It wasn't easy so be sure to take care of them, okay."
No, wait, she made these?
"No no no, how'd you even make these things?"
"...Right yes. I bought them. I traded some beautiful pebbles I picked up along the riverside to a peddler. Let's go with that."
--She's going with what.
It's hard to tell if she's lying or not, like always.
"Am I perhaps troubling you?"
My lil' sis asked anxiously.
"Not at all, I'm super glad."
Then her face brightened up at once.
She looks her age when she's like this.
"I'm gonna earn big with these and make your life and mom's easier."
"There is no need for that."
My lil' sis got back at me.
"Niisan, please steadily keep this word 'Cherish my life' close to yourself for the next six years until I get to the labyrinth city myself."
"Got it. Steadily, yeah?"
My lil' sis loves this word.
She'd always try to stop me whenever I wanted to go out on an adventure.
Most of the time, I'd push through, made a blunder and got myself hurt, yet she'd always treat me back to health despite all the scoldings, she's one lil' angel.
"You really mean it?"
"Yea, promise. I swear to this dagger!"
My lil' sis doesn't look convinced even though I put on my serious face.
But, it'll be fine--.
"Reina, believe in me."
"I understand. I believe in you--"
Cuz she'd say that while blushing if I held both her hands tight as I said that word.
"That's not my name."
For some reason, my lil' sis insisted on calling me [Rom].
To begin with, her real name is actually [Tona], while [Reina] is a [Soul Name] according to her.
She said something I don't get, like 'Since I'm Reina, Niisan should be Rom-niisan'.
She even dissed my name, 'Sharon sounds like a woman's.'
But then she continued, '...but Niisan might look good crossdressing.', she looked so serious I got away from her right then.
The village bell could be heard tolling in the distance.
"Ah crap. Gotta go soon."
I'm going to the nearest town with slack season farmers looking for work and other kids my age looking for apprenticeships.
During this season, the townlord's army would be patrolling to cull out bandits and monsters roaming the highways, but small bandit gangs are always everywhere.
So we're moving in group as a preventive measure.
I went to the village with my little sister.
"Niisan, choose wisely when the options are between an unprofitable but safe path and a profitable yet dangerous path, okay? 『I can still go on』 also means 『It's getting dangerous』, you hear me?"
Meanwhile, this lil' sis of mine kept going on like a mom more than our own mom.
"Eh, it'll be fine. I got my ace up sleeve."
"No you can't. Using that even once eats up all your mana. You absolutely cannot use that Niisan, get it?"
Lil' sis doesn't like to speak my skill name.
Cause it's a rare skill and it's gonna be my last resort, so I gotta keep it from other or something.
She also said something about the dagger. En-chant or something, I don't get it so didn't pay attention.
My excuse is because my head is already full of the labyrinth city I'm heading to.
"Get here quick! Sharon!"
"My bad! Be there!"
When I turned around to say farewell, my little sister was nowhere to be found.
Not because she's bothered by the villagers who shun her hair color--but because she doesn't want me to feel ashamed because of such thing, for sure. She's that kind of girl.
I joined the group and shouted out loud to my little sister hiding somewhere.
"I'm off now! I'll come back safe and sound, I promise!"
I couldn't find where she's hiding, but I'm sure my words reached her.
Then I waved back for the last time before departing from the village.
"Oy, Sharon get up."
Gon from the neighboring village I met in the town woke me up.
I parted ways with the other guys from my village but joined up with around 20 newly come of age adults aiming for the labyrinth city during this slack farming season.
"You too Zaki, Keros, Shina and Rasa."
"Damn my back hurt sleeping on hard ground."
"Told ya to clear away the pebbles."
"Yeah well, this whole's mountain ground is hard."
Keros got up while grumbling.
This guy's the third son of a money lender in the town, he'd always complain whenever we camped out.
"How long till we get to this labyrinth city anyway."
"Crossing over the steep mountain in Eluett Marquisette will be tough, but the city should come into view after this one."
The well-informed Zaki said that, must be true.
Besides, he's been over to the labyrinth city with his peddler father many times already.
"Sharon, let's go boil water."
"Yeah. Gotta drink some hot water to loosen up your stiff body that's for sure."
I go prepare hot water with Shina.
We camped near a spring so we can draw water anytime. The quiet Rasa had gathered firewood before anyone realized. Shina asked other group for lit fire.
Shina comes from the same village as Gon, the sole girl in this group.
There are actually five girls in total when you count other groups but she doesn't seem to get along well with them, she joined our group a few days after leaving the town.
The water was boiling by the time Gon had come back from the group leaders' meeting, we shared it with everybody while chewing on some hard bread. Our last jerky was eaten up yesterday.
"Phew, it's warming my body."
The hot water soaked in my body.
The water is tasteless yet paired with the coldness of mountain, it's a downright feast.
As we deceived our hunger with the little breakfast we had, we continued climbing the mountain following other groups.
Just as Zaki said, we crossed the mountain that day and came to a ridge with the sight of a faraway basin.
"It's the labyrinth city!"
"So that's it huh."
"Is that mound thing to the west the labyrinth then?"
Hearing the guys ahead giving their impressions on the labyrinth city, we all broke into fast gait toward the top of the ridge and looked over the city down below in a row with the other guys.
--The labyrinth city.
"Our legend starts here!"
I reflexively put my hands on my mouth, but that wasn't me.
It's the usually quiet Rasa. No doubt about it, the guy is looking down while blushing.
But I get you, Rasa.
I can't stop my excitement just looking at the labyrinth city.
Not being in the same village I lived in day to day, the start of a life where my wits decides on my fate, it all finally feels real.
"It's the final stride. Let's go guys!"
We cheered to our leader's yell.
<TLN: Catch the latest updates and edits at Sousetsuka .com >
"Uwaaa, that's a long line!"
Shina shouted when she saw the city's north gate.
During this season, youths like us from towns and villages all over the place are heading to the labyrinth city.
Hence the incredibly long line formed as seen before us, thus the knowledgeable Zaki spoke.
"Can the labyrinth even fit this many people?"
"Ahaha, it's not like all of them are here to become explorers."
There are those trying to become weapon and armor merchants, or those doing business with explorers.
"And besides, the labyrinth is unbelievably huge. There's this passage in the Ancestor King Yamato's legend, 『The oldest Labyrinth in the world Selbira is boundless. Its ends extend to the outskirts of the Great Desert.』."
"Hee, never heard of it. You cityfolks are awesome."
"Oh it's nothing. My dad would always scold me for reading so many books."
Zaki was shyly being humble when Gon praised him.
Keros didn't find that amusing, he snorted as he frowned.
"Hmph! That's just something you read on books! True explorers experience it themselves! Like me, I went to the second floor of a Purple Tower at the verge of our town and defeated the monsters there!"
I thought Keros was just all talk, I may have to reconsider.
"Oy oy, don't fall for that crap now. That guy only went in a pleasure trip with his guards. Those monsters he defeated? He got those guards beat and tied them up so he could stab them death."
Behind us, a bully-looking giant ridiculed Keros while his underling-looking men around him laughed.
Keros could only bit his lips seemingly unable to retort back.
I won't praise or commend what he did, but I know that's something wealthy townfolk often do from my little sister. That girl sure knew so many weird things.
"I see, and?"
It's not that I'm defending Keros, I just don't like this giant's attitude.
"What? You one of new Keros's underling for money?"
"No. Keros is a comrade."
Though it's only limited until we arrive at the labyrinth city, no doubt he's a comrade.
"You there! Get off the line if you're gonna cause trouble!"
A horse-riding viceroy soldier came by and defused our dispute.
The giant looked like he still had something to say, but when the soldier showed off his well polished spear, he went back to his line with a disgruntled look.
Listening to wandering minstrels, you'd think viceroy soldiers are nothing but fodders for monsters, but a soldier in real life oozes this strength incomparable to us.
Even Gon looked at the soldiers in awe.
"Let's put on our equipment so people won't make light of us! Gon, gimme that luggage."
Keros put on a leather armor, a leather helmet and a shield on him. He also put on the cloth-wrapped small sword on his waist. His armor and weapon sure look completely new for someone who fought in a Purple Tower though.
Not to lose on them, I also put on the steel helmet my little sis gave me.
I've got a wood chest protector under my clothes, but it's only good for a peace of mind.
"Keros, where's, you know, that thing?"
"This dagger here. This thing cost a gold coin!"
"Whoaa! A brand new dagger!"
"Gon, put that away, that's dangerous with people around."
Gon stared while grinning at the iron dagger Keros handed him.
He looks like a deranged man like that, but I can't blame him when I did the same thing with the dagger my little sister gave me.
"I know I know. I just wanna look at it for a bit."
Gon sheathed the dagger back and kept staring at it while all grins.
"It's that time of the year already huh."
"Work hard now~."
Five boys and girls not far older than us came out of the north gate, and then they encouraged us--or rather, everybody who were aiming for explorers before they started running along the wall.
"What the heck are those?"
"I think those were explorers."
"What they doing? They didn't even got weapons on them?"
"I believe it's what they call 『Ranning』."
--No. It's Running.
"Yup, apparently it's the secret art to stamina building introduced by the eldest of Kishresgalza Sisters [Black Spear Liza]."
"Hee, that's swell. Wonder if I could do that?"
"Probably. My dad said you just have to run like normal."
I knew about it from my little sister.
Once I started doing the regime, I didn't tire as easily walking on the mountains or doing farmwork. I also remember feeling gross when my little sister touched me all over once I built up some abs from muscle training.
"Should I get on it too then?"
"Well what's the harm? You don't need money for it."
Meanwhile, other explorers also ran by us.
Feels like there were many with short statures.
"Next up, you guys."
After about two bell tolls worth of time, our turns finally came and we all managed to get in the labyrinth city by showing our IDs given to us by village elders.
Looks like it's true that you're exempted from entrance fee so long as you have your IDs during this season, I also saw someone who forgot their ID and got asked to pay one silver coin as they turned pale.
"Labyrinth City at last!"
"So where's the Explorer Guild?"
"I don't know. But I don't think we'd get lost."
"I mean, that's where everybody around us is heading to right?"
The crowd aren't heading to the street that connects north and south gates, but toward a passage to the west along the white city wall.
We decided to go with this flow.
"What a beautiful river."
As we walked on the maze-like neatly constructed stone pavements, we came across a small stream running through the city. The flowing water looks so clear with small fish and dazzling lights reflected from the sun.
"It's more a waterway than a river. According to dad, this waterway was initially dirty back in the past."
"Is that true?"
"The dirty waterway turned clear under the direction of that Lord Pendragon the [Demon Lord Slayer]."
"Hee, that's awesome!"
He's not only strong but even capable of such feat huh.
"He also made the fake 『Beria Magic Potions』 into real things, distributed food to the poor and rookie explorers, and even built an orphanage for orphaned children, or so I'm told."
"A white tower?"
"Yep! That's the Explorer Guild!"
There stood a building bigger than anything I've seen before.
The castle in this city was big, but this is even taller than that, and it's got a pretty white color.
"Oy, don't block the road now. Get to the roadside if you're stopping."
A senior explorer-looking man scolded us as we all looked up the tower.
"S' fine, s' fine. We dropped our jaws like you folks when we first saw that thing too. I'm Jel the Great Shield. I'm open to consultation if ya got trouble."
The senior explorer headed to the direction we came from after candidly telling us that.
"That great shield on his back is so cool!"
I get Gon's surprise.
I've never seen someone 1.5x as tall me as me and a shield as tall as that.
"How'd he walk so casually with such a big shield on his back? That man must be a famous high level explorer."
Zaki is right, a shield that big must be as heavy as two adults.
"Wonder if he's going to the labyrinth?"
"I don't believe so. The labyrinth is in the direction we're heading to."
Apparently that direction Jel-san went to is the entertainment district.
"What is an entertainment district?"
"It's a bar with lots of pretty women. It's also got an establishment lord Pendragon is intimate to and a playhouse he's a patron of there."
Zaki informed us many new things.
I'd like to take a look at least once, but there's nothing but bitter taste with booze, and it costs money, I probably won't ever go there. My little sister also would often warn me, 'Niisan, don't go to an establishment with lots of women, you'd contract a disease.'
Gon and Keros got so excited, Shina even got disillusioned, 'This is why men are....'
I don't really get it, but apparently women hate you if you go to the entertainment district?
Gotta be careful, my lil' sis warned me and all too.
"Let's go. I wanna register right away."
Urged by Rasa, we hurried up to the explorer's guild.