Chapter 50.1 : Cockatrice’s Garden
My Apologies for the delay, you can blame the new server for this.
◆ Black Haired Sage, Chiyuki
We were in a labyrinth located in the middle of the Minon Plain.
I didn’t know how long it would take until we conquered the labyrinth. At least it was located right in front of a human settlement.
There was a theory that the labyrinth was created by a dwarf. It seemed to be just another story from one of those Freedom Fighters since there was no dwarf inside the labyrinth.
There was also no indication from the dwarves that they were the ones to create the labyrinth.
Although I did not know who created it, I knew the labyrinth had a master. It was called Minotaur, a demon with a human body and a bull’s head.
The labyrinth had once been the capital of the Kingdom of Minotaurs. They didn’t allow any other demons inside their walls.
One day, for some reason, all Minotaurs entered the labyrinth. The Minon Plain lost its owners and was eventually populated by humans.
The humans who took ownership of the Plain prospered with the fertile lands and abundant natural resources.
However, from time to time one or two Minotaurs crawled out of the labyrinth, sometimes with other demons. They attacked the cities closest to the labyrinth and kidnapped the citizens.
The Freedom Fighters of Teseshia entered the labyrinth to save the citizens, but they couldn’t save all of them.
But they discovered traces that many people had entered the labyrinth.
Originally, the Minon Plain was a wealthy land. Especially in the middle, where the labyrinth was located.
The abundance of mana in that location formed crystals, making it possible for the extraction of many rare minerals. Thus, many people who aimed to hit the jackpot entered the labyrinth.
The reason the labyrinth was labeled as dangerous was because of the great number of demons residing inside.
But the humans entered the labyrinth regardless of the danger.
That was the place we were heading to.
It seemed to spread underground and we had no idea how deep it went, but the size of the floor was impressive.
The ground level alone was larger than Teseshia.
「Do you feel something, Nao-san? 」
I asked Nao, who stared at the labyrinth while hugging her pet rat to her chest. She brought the rat along since she couldn’t find a place to leave it.
I had thought she’d grow bored with it quickly but she seemed quite fond of it. Well, she’d grow tired of it someday.
「No… It’s impossible. There’s a barrier all over the place, and it blocks me. I can’t feel a thing.」
「I see… My magic isn’t working either, huh.」
Without Nao’s sensing ability and my clairvoyance magic, our vision inside the labyrinth was limited due to the mist around us.
We had no other choice but to rely on someone to guide us.
I looked at Shizufae and her comrades.
Her party was made of five people, all women. Female Freedom Fighters were quite rare since they tended to be mostly men.
One of the women had brown skin, black hair, and she carried a polearm on her back. Her name was Kenya.
Like Shizufae, she wore light armor. Her bare limbs looked very healthy. Her long and slender legs were mesmerizing, and they seemed very agile.
Perhaps she wasn’t the brute force type, but rather the hit and run type of fighter whose primary attribute was speed.
The shortest one had a childlike face, and she wore a magician’s apparel. Her name was Madia.
Her appearance suggested she was a magician, but I believed she wasn’t very powerful. I could barely feel her mana. But magic users were rare, so even with her weak mana, she’d be a welcome addition to any party. Having a magician as a comrade was quite reassuring.
Not to mention, Madia’s appearance was so adorable, anyone would want to travel with her.
There was also a priestess of the Rena Temple called Leylia, who seemed to be an apostle. Since she said she heard the voice of an angel, perhaps she wasn’t an apostle of Rena but an apostle of an angel who worked for Rena.
After becoming an angel’s apostle, she seemed to be able to use healing magic. Also, since her main weapon was a mace, I wondered if she was a master of close combat.
She gave off the feeling of being more like a familiar than an apostle, so her master might be aware of anything she does.
Our every action might be reported to Rena.
The woman with tattoos all over her body was an Elf called Nora.
I heard of a case about an Elf who left the forest and became close to a human.
Elves were especially obsessed with handsome men, to the point some Elven women would kidnap men while they slept and bring them to their forests. But an Elf who became friends with a human wouldn’t do such a thing.
I heard they ended up returning to their forest when they became pregnant.
Seeing the Elf named Nora mingling among girls made me think she wasn’t targeting some human male. But if that was the case, I had no idea why she left the forest. The tattoo on her face seemed like some sort of seal, probably preventing her from communing with spirits. Another mystery was why the Elves from her village seal her magic.
I didn’t know what happened, so I could only wonder if she was being punished for some sort of crime. But worrying about it wouldn’t change anything, so I let it go.
In the end, those women were Shizufae’s comrades and our guides in the labyrinth.
Then we found another traveler.
There were almost a hundred Freedom Fighters following us into the labyrinth. The one leading them was the Hero of Earth, Godan. They were the elite fighters we requested from Snefowl to assist us until the end of our quest.
Shizufae’s presence was unnecessary, but Reiji insisted she should be the one to lead the way.
There was also the Hero of Fire Novis, who was Shizufae’s acquaintance, tagging along.
A young man with flaming red hair whose height made him seem older than he actually was. Despite his young age, he was hailed as a Hero, so he must be talented.
From what I could tell, he had feelings for Shizufae.
Good luck, young man.
After analyzing every member of the labyrinth search, I turned to Shizufae.
「Shall we enter now? 」
The ground floor had been entirely explored. There was a huge stairway in the center of the floor leading underground.
It almost felt like we were inside a maze, with how we couldn’t move in a straight line to the center. Many ruined buildings blocked our path. Flying might be faster, but we couldn’t take so many people with us.
We hadn’t located any signs of the kidnapped citizens of Pashipea Kingdom since we entered, which suggested they might be on the floor below.
I was told there would be no danger if we completed the search.
「Sage-sama, the ground floor of this labyrinth is a den of Cockatrice. We must avoid this demon.」
Shizufae’s words shocked me.
Cockatrice were demons with the body of a chicken and a snake tail. It spat a venom that petrified whoever touched it. It also had a sharp, tough beak.
For a normal human, a Cockatrice was a formidable opponent. But they shouldn’t be that much of a threat to Shizufae and the others.
If they had a hard time against a Cockatrice, how did they enter the labyrinth?
「Den of Cockatrice? Then how did you enter the labyrinth until now? 」
「Cockatrice don’t live in large numbers. Also, we can just turn around and take another route if we get spotted. They don’t give chase.」
「Nothing else aside from them? 」
「It’s just Cockatrice on the ground floor. But I’m afraid so many people entering the labyrinth at once might attract them.」
Even if the Cockatrice were the only demons on that floor, it didn’t mean we didn’t need to think of a plan to deal with them.
Thus, I turned to Reiji.
「What do you think, Reiji-kun? In my opinion, I think we should search around this floor, too.」
「You’re right. We should enter in turns, dividing our people into several groups, then we search the ground floor. That way we can do our job without inciting those Cockatrice. Once each group is done, gather at the central building. Godan, my party can act as the vanguard but this is your turf. Will you go? 」
「Yes, please leave the vanguard position to us! Everyone, advance!! 」
Following Godan’s order, the Freedom Fighters separated into several groups and headed into the labyrinth with Godan leading them.
Behind them was Shizufae’s group, plus Novis.
I squinted at Reiji, wondering about his decision.
「You could exterminate the Cockatrices by yourself, so why didn’t you enter first? 」
「It’s troublesome and I don’t think the Cockatrice are all we have to worry about, so I let them go first.」
Reiji let out his usual carefree laugh.
「Geez… So Godan and the others are just baiting for that ‘something’ you’re worried about? Still…」
Still, it would be better than us meeting such danger, since I could also feel that something was lurking inside.
Thus, we entered the labyrinth.
As soon as we stepped inside, I could hear the Freedom Fighters screaming.
I knew it.
◆ Freedom Fighter Girl, Shizufae
「Are you okay, Shizufae?! 」
「I’m okay, Big Sis Keyna!! WHERE THE HELL DID ALL THESE GOBLINS COME FROM??!!」
I was screaming.
The ground floor should only have Cockatrice, but Goblins attacked us as soon as we entered the labyrinth. Surprise took us because the entire ground floor was covered with mist magic.
The Goblins reminded me of the reason Reiji-sama entered the labyrinth: to save the Pashipea Kingdom citizens that were kidnapped by Goblins.
These might be the same Goblins who ran away from the farms.
I killed one of the Goblins attacking me.
「MADI!! Are you all right?!」
「Yeah! I’m somehow managing it, Shizu-chan.」
I had to fight and protect Madi at the same time.
Because she was a magician, close combat was her weak point.