|Author: Sasaki Ichiro||Original Source: Syosetu|
|Translator: Mab||English Source: Re:Library|
After turning left at the first fork and approaching the second, our opinions were split. No, well, strictly speaking, I was the only one against going any further than this. Against me were four people insisting we should continue left. The last person in our group abstained from voting, leaving me at a considerable disadvantage.
“Everybody knows the theory that you just need to follow your left hand in a labyrinth, duh. Sure, it works with the right hand too, or you can try starting from the middle since that’s closer to the goal, but this exam is to test the basics. No need to try some weird strategy, just stick to the basics.”
Björn, the oldest of the trainees taking this exam—who had once worked for adventurers as their porter and later became their apprentice—voiced his opinion. He spoke to me as if he were explaining to a naive child.
Three other trainees nodded in agreement. Only our youngest member, Lynn, seemed unsure whether to side with him or me.
“All the more reason to go back and map out the terrain. Isn’t it basic for an adventurer to minimize unknown risks?”
I tried being patient with him since, technically, he’s older than me. However, this approach seemed to have backfired, as Björn grew even more arrogant.
“You must be fun at parties, lil’ boy. Listen, every part of this Hannes’ Dungeon has been thoroughly explored for over 50 years. You can buy a map of it, and, of course, I’ve already memorized it.”
Björn smugly tapped his temple, as if no one else knew about or had investigated the dungeon. But then, the other three trainees cheered “woow~!!”, looking at Björn as though he was a genius.
(…We were informed about the exam location beforehand, so why didn’t these fools research it?)
I was dumbfounded by their sheer incompetence, but Björn must’ve mistaken my astonishment for something else, as he gave me a belittling snicker while continuing to speak.
“Not to mention, there are only three kinds of monsters on the first floor: Hunter Mice, Spring Mushrooms, and Mimic Slimes. All ranked F minus—weaklings that even amateurs can defeat. The takeaway? Don’t waste your stamina on frivolities; reach the goal as swiftly as possible.”
He spoke as if he had all the answers, persuading even Lynn. Great, now it’s 5 against 1.
“…I wouldn’t say there are only three. Didn’t we recently come across a scarecrow puppet?”
It might not have been formidable, but since it attacked us on sight, it should be classified as a monster as well. That was my rationale.
“That’s merely a lackluster magic puppet. They’re not native monsters here, so the instructors likely placed them for added challenge.”
However, Björn dismissed it without much consideration.
“Regardless, we’re not retracing our steps just for your map. If you wish, do it on your own.”
After making his point, Björn haughtily proceeded down the left corridor. The other trainees followed suit, their condescending smiles evident as they vanished from view.
That left Lynn and me. Lynn seemed torn between joining Björn’s group or staying by my side. With a hint of resignation, I told him, “Go on, or you’ll lose them from sight.”
“Umm… and you, Senior Bruno?”
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For some unknown reason, Lynn began addressing me as ‘Senior’. When queried, his only response was, “It just feels right.”
“What else? I’ll continue mapping the terrain.”
I changed my demeanor and pivoted. Holding my lantern high, I cautiously retraced our path to the initial fork. Lynn hesitated momentarily, but soon enough, the sound of his footsteps trailed behind me.
“—and in the end, those four set off the traps the instructors had prepared, got lost in the newly installed labyrinth and were nearly devoured by slimes mimicking treasure chests. Everyone was dropped out with minor injuries…”
Bruno and his trainee friend, Lynn, came to visit me. A worried smile appeared as I listened to his story.
Well, it should have been logical to suspect that the dungeon had been modified the moment you realized that the instructors had released some magic puppets. Why would they assume that prior knowledge would suffice? That’s just being short-sighted, or perhaps, thoughtless…
“They do sound like a bunch of meatheads… Indeed, the training was necessary.”
I shared my candid thoughts, and Bruno nodded in agreement. Eren, leaning against the wall, chimed in, “Like you’re any different.”
“Excuse you, but I evaded all the traps flawlessly. With Lynn’s assistance, we mapped the entire layout, and even discovered a concealed chamber before reaching our goal.”
Bruno turned to face Eren, who was lounging on the sofa in the drawing room, and refuted Eren’s assertion indignantly.
“Hmm. I suppose even you can learn to make better judgments then. Or perhaps you only managed that because Lynn led you by the hand?”
“N-, not at all! If not for Senior Bruno, I wouldn’t have passed the exam…”
Given it’s Bruno we’re discussing, he likely told Lynn he was meeting a friend and then unceremoniously brought the unsuspecting lad to the baroness’ mansion. Lynn, allegedly 12 years old, with grass-colored hair and a rather endearing face, had been sitting upright and seemed too embarrassed to even sip the tea Eren had poured for us, blushing profusely.
“Don’t undersell yourself. It was you who noticed a concealed entrance to the goal after inspecting the map. Our success is owed to you. Moreover, knowing that I wasn’t all alone was really reassuring. You had my back.”
Bruno expressed his gratitude sincerely. Witnessing this, Lynn stuttered, “n-, no… it was nothing…”
“But honestly, placing the switch for that door so high up? I couldn’t have reached it on my own. It was only after I hoisted you onto my shoulders that we managed, right?”
“Y-, you can drop that topic now!”
Lynn’s already flushed face deepened in color as he playfully smacked Bruno.
Eren and I observed this touching interaction with maternal gazes, as though witnessing our mischievous younger brother maturing.
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“So, you merely dropped by to announce your successful completion of the training course?”
Eren inquired nonchalantly, prompting Bruno to remember something. He then bent down and retrieved an object from his sling bag.
“—have a look.”
He presented a wooden box about the size of one’s arm span.
Its varnish was chipped, revealing worn grains underneath, yet its structure remained solid. The keyhole embedded in its metal fittings appeared perfectly serviceable. At a cursory glance, it resembled a—