The death throes of the Behemoth resounded over the entire area, the stone bridge was crumbling with a huge rattling noise. And then…… Hajime disappeared into the abyss along with the rubble. That scene played for Kaori in slow motion, filling her with despair.
Last night’s event went through her mind repeatedly. In the room illuminated by the moonlight, she sat there and chatted with Hajime while drinking the black tea imitation prepared by Hajime, which even as a compliment, could not be considered delicious. That was the first time they had talked seriously with each other. Uneased due to her nightmares, she paid a sudden visit to Hajime. Even though Hajime was considerably surprised, he still listened to her earnestly, and before she knew it, her uneasiness was gone.
Only after returning to her room in a jubilant mood did she notice how boldly she was dressed and writhed in shame. When she recalled that Hajime didn’t have any particular reaction, she became disappointed as she wondered if she was lacking in appeal. Her roommate, Shizuku, was surprised when she caught Kaori making all sorts of funny expressions by herself, which will probably become her dark history.
That night, the most important thing was the promise she made to “protect Hajime”. It was a promise proposed by Hajime to relieve Kaori of her anxiety. The memory of Hajime disappearing into the abyss right before her very eyes kept lingering in her mind.
Somewhere in the distance, a scream could be heard. When Kaori noticed that the voice belonged to her, she grimaced as she was quickly brought back to reality.
“Let me go! I have to go to Nagumo-kun! I promised! I will… I said I will protect him! Let me go!”
Towards Kaori who looked like she was about to jump after him, Shizuku and Kouki desperately held her back. While thinking “How could such a slender body possess so much strength?”, they continued to restrain her.
If she kept struggling like this, she might injure herself. Nevertheless, they could not just let her go. If they released her, she would definitely jump off the cliff. She did not have a shadow of her usual calmness, looking completely frantic. No, it might be more appropriate to say that she had a pained expression.
“Kaori! You can’t! Kaori!”
Because Shizuku could understand Kaori’s current feelings, she could not find the right words to say. All she could do was call out her name desperately.
“Kaori! Are you also trying to die? It’s already too late for Nagumo! Calm down! You’ll hurt yourself!”
Kouki tried his best to show Kaori how worried he was. However, this was not the right place and time to say something like this to the already confused Kaori.
“What do you mean “too late”? Nagumo-kun is not dead yet! I have to go, he is surely seeking for help!”
He fell from the cliff into that bottomless abyss. No matter who looked at the situation, it was already hopeless for Nagumo Hajime. However, the Kaori now did not have the composure to accept this reality. If they said too much, she would only talk back and then exert herself even more. Ryutaro and the other students also did not know what to do as they just stood around, unable to speak.
At that moment, Commander Meld walked over and wordlessly struck the back of Kaori’s neck. She jerked for a moment before she lost consciousness. Kouki held the weary Kaori and glared at Commander Meld. Before he was able to complain, Shizuku seized the opportunity and bowed towards the commander.
“I’m sorry. Thank you very much.”
“Please stop it…… Save your gratitude for later. We won’t let another person die. We will devote our full strength to make sure you leave this Dungeon safely…… I’ll leave her to you.”
“You don’t even need to ask.”
Seeing the commander leave, Kouki who wasn’t able to say anything revealed an unhappy expression. Shizuku received Kaori and told Kouki.
“Since we couldn’t stop her, the commander had to do it. You understand, right? We don’t have much time. Before her cries starts to affect everyone’s spirit, or before she has a mental breakdown, it was necessary to stop her…… Look, you have to open the path, at least until everyone get out of here…… This is what Nagumo-kun would have said.”
Accepting Shizuku’s words, Kouki nodded.
“You are right, let’s go!”
Seeing a fellow classmate die in front of their eyes, had left a deep impression in all the students’ minds. Everyone had a blank expression as they looked towards where the bridge used to be. There were even some who said “I’ve had enough of this already!” and slumped on the ground. Just like Hajime had exclaimed, the group needs a leader right now. Kouki raised his voice towards his classmates.
“Everyone! Right now, just think about how to return alive. We are withdrawing!”
The students moved sluggishly in response to his words. The magic formations were still active, and the numbers of Skeletons Soldiers continued to increase. It would be reckless to continue fighting with their current mental state. It was also unnecessary. Kouki shouted with all his might and urged his classmates to escape. Commander Meld and the knights were also trying to encourage the students.
Eventually, everyone escaped by the stairs.
The stairs to the upper level was long. It was so dark that they could not see anything as they continued to climb upward. They felt like they had already climbed more than thirty floors, even their magically enhanced bodies also began to feel weary. Due to the injuries from the battle earlier, the long and gloomy stairs only made the students even more dejected. Just as Commander Meld was considering taking a short break, a huge wall that was engraved with a magic circle finally appeared ahead of them.
The students started to regain their vitality. Commander Meld and the knights quickly approached the wall and started to investigate it. They did not forget to use the Fair Scope. From their investigation, the chance of it being a trap was very unlikely. It seemed like the purpose of the engraved magic circle was to move the wall in front of them. Commander Meld started to chant and poured magic power into the magic circle. As a result, just like the hidden door in a ninja’s house, the rock wall rotated with a rumbling sound to reveal a path that leads to the room behind it.
Beyond the door was the room on 20th floor where they originally came from.
“We got back?”
“Did we get back?”
“We’re back… we’re really back…”
A sigh of relief escaped from the students in succession. There were a few that burst into tears and others who were embracing each other. Kouki and his party immediately sat on the ground after passing through the wall. However, they were still in a Dungeon. Even if they were low level, they did not know where a magic beast would appear from. They had to escape from the Dungeon before they completely snap from all that tension.
Suppressing his feeling of wanting to let everyone rest, Commander Meld hardened his heart and made the students stand up.
“All of you! Don’t just sit there! You won’t be able to get back if you start relaxing here! Try to avoid combat with the magic beasts as much as possible, we have to escape as quickly as possible. Just endure it for a little longer!”
The students’ protests of wanting to take a little break was silenced by a glare from Commander Meld. The students staggeredly stood up. Kouki endured his fatigue and took the lead. Centering around the knights, they fought as little as possible as they made their way towards the entrance in one go.
Finally, they arrived at the 1st floor and saw the nostalgic receptionist. They had obviously not even spent one day in the dungeon, yet many people felt like it has been a long time since they last passed through here.
This time, the students revealed genuinely relieved expressions. There were even students who sprawled out in front of the square, overjoyed that they were still alive. However, a group of students – Shizuku, who was still carrying the unconscious Kaori, Kouki, Ryutaro, Eri, Suzu, and the girl Hajime saved – had dark looks on their faces.
Commander Meld made a report at the reception area while keeping a sidelong glance at this group of students. The new trap they discovered on the 20th floor was too dangerous. Although the stone bridge had collapsed, they didn’t know if the trap was still active, hence the need to report it.
Additionally, Hajime’s death must also be reported. Commander Meld was having a hard time preventing his sadness from showing. But even then, he couldn’t help but let out a sigh.
After the group returned to Holward, they dejectedly returned to their rooms. There were a few students who were discussing, but the majority of them had already fallen into a deep sleep.
And then there was Hiyama Daisuke. He left the inn by himself and was sitting at an inconspicuous corner of the town, hugging his knees. His face was buried between his knees, unmoving. If his fellow classmates saw him like this, it would seem like he was at a loss. But in reality……
“He, Hehehe. I-It was his fault! For a small fry… h-he got carried away… i-it was divine punishment. It was not my fault… it was for Shirasaki’s sake… that small fry… is no longer a concern… I’m not wrong… hehehe.”
With his dark grin and clouded eyes, he tried to justify himself.
The fireball that veered off course and hit Hajime was indeed casted by Hiyama. When he was contemplating between escaping to the stairs or rescuing Hajime, the memory of Hajime and Kaori’s night rendezvous emerged in his mind, and Hiyama heard a devil’s whispers. “If it’s now, nobody will even notice if you kill him~” At that moment, he sold his soul to the devil.
In order to not get exposed, Hiyama timed his shot very carefully and casted a homing fireball which hit Hajime. In that chaotic barrage, it would be very difficult to determine who casted what. Besides, Hiyama’s aptitude was with wind. It was impossible to tell it was him without any evidence. Hiyama said these to himself as he revealed a dark smile.
Just at this time, someone called out to him from behind.
“Sigh~ so it really was you. The first student who committed homicide in another world…… you are quite capable~”
Hiyama backed away in a panic. The one who hailed him was a fellow classmate.
“W-Why are you at this place……”
“Don’t worry about the minor details. Rather than that… Murderer-san? How do you feel now? How does it feel to kill a love rival in the midst of all the confusion?”
That person lightly laughed, as if having just watched a comedy. Although Hiyama did it on his own accord, one of their classmate did die after all, yet this person was acting like nothing happened. Until a moment ago, that person had a shocked and weary expression like the rest of the students. But now it has been completely wiped off this person’s face.
“Is this…… your true nature?”
The stunned Hiyama muttered out. A condescending scoff could be heard from the person.
“Nature? It is nothing that exaggerated. Isn’t it common for people to put on different masks? More importantly… what would happen if I spread this to everyone? Especially… if she heard it……”
“——!? S-Such a thing… No one would believe it… there is also…”
“No evidence? In other words, you don’t believe I can persuade them? Do you think the words of a certain desperate guy at that time will be convincing?”
Hiyama was cornered. It was like these words were used to make a fool out of an already weakened mouse. No one would have expected that this fellow was such a person, it would have been more believable if someone had told him that this person had split personalities. The person looked down at Daisuke with a sadistic expression that sent chills throughout his body.
“What do you want?”
“Oh? That was unexpected. It seemed like I was threatening you, isn’t it? Fufu. It’s not like I want something from you right now. For now, all you have to do is to obey me and become my subordinate.”
That was essentially the same thing as a slave declaration. As expected, Hiyama hesitated. Of course, he wanted to refuse, but if he did, then this fellow would mercilessly spread the rumor about his deeds. Hiyama who was at a loss started having this kind of murky thoughts, “I might as well get rid of……” However, this person had already anticipated this happening and decided to tempt him.
“Don’t you want Shirasaki Kaori?”
“——!? W-What did you say?”
Hiyama’s murky thoughts were blown away instantly, staring wide-eyed at that person. This individual smirked at Hiyama’s stunned visage, and continued to tempt him.
“If you follow me… I guarantee she will be yours. I was planning to offer this to Nagumo-kun, but…… you killed him. That’s fine, you might be more suited for what I have in store. Since there was no harm done, why don’t we just forget about it?”
“…What’s your objective? What do you hope to accomplish!”
Faced with such a baffling situation, Hiyama let out a panicked voice.
“Fufu, it has nothing to do with you. Well, let’s just say I am looking for something… So? What’s your answer?”
Hiyama felt irritated at how that person had been looking at him like he was an idiot, furthermore, that person easily changed characters and Hiyama felt intense fear towards of this transformation. Anyway, he did not have much of a choice in this matter, so with a defeated look, he nodded.
“Ahahahahahaha, marvellous! I don’t want to accuse my classmate after all! Well, shall we let’s get along, Murderer-san? Hahahahahaha.”
That person returned to the inn while laughing happily, Hiyama watched that person’s back as he softly let out a “Damn……”
Hiyama wanted to forget about it, but regardless of how he denied it, that scene will never be forgotten; The expression Kaori had when Hajime fell into the abyss. It was impossible to find the words to describe her feelings then……
Right now, all the students were exhausted and slept like logs. After they calmed down and understood the reality of Hajime’s death, they could easily discern Kaori’s feelings. Kaori never did take care of Hajime simply out of goodwill. Moreover, just looking at Kaori’s haggard face, they would unconsciously think of the cause. Hiyama’s careless act put him in a dangerous situation.
In order to secure his place, he must conduct himself well. Hiyama had already crossed that line, it was impossible for him to stop now. If he followed that person’s orders, the possibility that he had thought was gone – it was still possible to make Kaori his.
“Heh-heh, i-it will be alright. Everything will go well. I didn’t do anything wrong…”
Burying his face between his knees again, Hiyama muttered to himself. This time, there was no one who bothered him.