|Author: Ryuusen Hirotsugu||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 3065 characters|
|Translator: Nomad||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1505 words|
The group took a simple break after they finished climbing the stairs.
Mira sat on the knee of a kneeling Dark Knight while sipping on some mixed berry ale. Arlon sat on the ground while gulping water from his canteen.
Those two had experience going through the Libra Fortress so they were rather relaxed.
On the other hand, this was Sasori and Hebi’s first time there, so they kept looking around restlessly as they had a small bite.
「I was surprised the first time too, but they’re completely harmless. No need to be so wary.」
Arlon spoke to the two worried girls as he turned the now-empty canteen upside down and shook it.
「But there are monsters all around us, are you sure this is safe?」
Sasori ate a cookie with her left hand while her right firmly grasped a dagger, her sharp eyes constantly looking around. Meanwhile Hebi had retreated between the golem’s legs, shielding herself with it.
「All monsters that reach here, even Legion Wraiths, turn around and go back when they reach this place. The uneasiness barrier cast in this place is simply too strong.」
Arlon smiled slightly as he looked around, understanding how the two felt. In front of them were many knights with unsheathed swords and blank faces running around in sync like the gears of a clock.
That was a vestigial spirit art from the war with monsters from eras past, images that confused any monster that attempted to pass through.
「A barrier… I heard about that before, but it still makes me feel uneasy.」
Saying that, Sasori took a round plate and threw it to one of the images, passing right through it without making as much as a noise from the air, eventually landing at the feet of another knight, raising a high pitched sound as it collided with the gray floor.
「See, completely safe.」
Arlon grinned as he heard the echoes from the clang fading away.
「I guess… so. But let’s go anyway!」
The spirit magic cast on the floor was really well made, so the knight projections reacted to anything resembling an attack and now approached the group with infuriated expressions. Since they were mere images there was no physical harm that could come from them, but their appearance was as impactful as the Dark Lord’s, so Sasori’s tail stood straight up as she quickly got on her feet.
Seeing her like that, Mira reminisced about her first time there, looking up at the tall ceiling above them.
The Libra Fortress’ third floor occupied enough space to reach a theoretical eight floor, consisting of a large three dimensional maze. There were stairs heading to all directions, crossing and splitting into different paths like a spider’s nest.
Amidst that chaotic scene of countless stairsteps crossing each other, there stood a square room in the very center of the room, supported by columns that almost looked like small towers.
Now that the maze was three dimensional, it posed infinitely more chances for the group to get lost.
「We go up these stairs, then keep going straight until we reach a turn to the left leading down. The path has some turns though」
Hebi deciphered a complex diagram of the three dimensional maze and pointed out the correct route.
Going upstairs was too tiring for Mira, so she was sitting on a Dark Knight’s shoulder again, straddling its neck while crossing her arms in a haughty manner similar to a princess.
Arlon walked right behind Hebi, peeking into the map while frowning seeing how complex it was.
On the other hand, Sasori had been almost teary eyed after being seen with hostility by all the illusory knights, her tail unable to retract and curl up and her lips pressed into a straight line as she glared at them. But as they kept walking, she slowly began to relax, her tail starting to sway from side to side while she waved at the knights.
Once they got used to them, the illusory knights posed no threat at all, but there was more to the Libra Fortress’ defenses. Sprinkled here and there, in mid-air or along the stairs they could see spherical barriers that distorted the light and sight like lenses, and if one walked into them, it would utterly confuse and disorient them.
Looking up, there were more knights walking up and down the stairs, even some that walked on the underside of the stairs, giving the feeling that they were trapped inside an optical illusion.
It was no exaggeration to say this third floor was the main attraction of the Libra Fortress. And with the added thorough protection it had, monsters would never spawn in or dare step into it.
At first sight, the place did not look too dangerous, but it was a dungeon that had been investigated by many early explorers. Hebi was in the lead of the group, but sometimes it appeared like she vanished, only to appear again a few steps ahead. The three dimensional maze was filled with optical tricks that distorted the visitors’ vision, but as long as they followed the map there was nothing to worry about.
After walking through countless stairs, corridors, and the small square room hung in the middle of the room, the group stopped walking at a downwards path, where the stairs turned upside down.
「According to the map this is the spot.」
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Hebi checked the map many times over, but she still sounded unsure as she declared that.
「It’s always hard to tell from looks alone.」
Arlon frowned as he looked at the underside of the steps ahead of them.
「I can vaguely remember something like this, but I can’t say for sure…」
This had never been a place Mira visited regularly during the game period, but her fuzzy memories were still clearer than the optical illusions of the third floor.
The place where they had stopped looking like any other in the maze, but when it came to their progression it was only around a fifth of the way.
「Should I go down there to make sure?」
Sasori leaned over the edge of the stairs and looked down, seeing herself wave back at her like she was looking at a mirror.
「Sounds good to me.」
「Gotta give it to you.」
Sasori spoke without much thought, but the other three were so indecisive they instantly jumped at Sasori’s suggestion and put her on the lead.
It was hard to see what was below them, due to the barrier that distorted the light and space, on top of the crossing stairs that looked like tightly woven mesh. But that also meant that it was possible to drastically shorten the travel distance by jumping down on the correct path.
Going through the intended route of the third floor normally took an entire day, so if they took their time and leisurely went through it, Chimera Clauzen could still use a shortcut and get to the end before them. Since they had no idea when they could show up, it was best if they got to the end as soon as possible and got everything ready for an ambush there.
In other words, they had to use and abuse all shortcuts available.
The three looked expectantly at Sasori, her a cramped smile overtaking her face as she regretted blurting that so confidently.
All the shortcuts were detailed in the map, but their eyes still tricked them into doubting everything. Even Hebi had checked the map countless times and thought they were in the correct spot, but she still felt unsure about jumping down.
Arlon had been in the dungeon before, but that time he went through the full route without skipping anything, so he knew nothing about the shortcuts and simply looked down the stairs indecisively.
Mira had more experience with that part of the dungeon, but maybe because of the hassle the Libra Fortress posed, or because she had not been there in a long time, or maybe both, her memories were too muddied to say with certainty that they were in the correct place.
「Even if we can’t rely on our eyes, your voice should reach us. Once you land try to describe what you can see.」
Hebi looked at the map a few more times, eventually nodding at Sasori to assure her they were in the correct place.
Everyone was dead set on having Sasori scout ahead, to which she could only respond with an awkward smile that was reflected back at her by a reflection.
「Well, I’ll go then!」
Still, she quickly managed to steel herself before jumping down with a loud 「Hyah!」 The remaining three watched as she appeared to sink into her own reflection, staying silent while waiting for her voice.
『Uwah, it was closer than I thought! I totally didn’t expect this!』
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