|Author: Sasaki Ichiro||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 2719 characters|
|Translator: Tanaka||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1048 words|
“So, this is the portal to the boss’s lair? It seems unusually undersized,” Joey remarked, his gaze fixed on the petite gate measuring 2.5 meters in height that stood at the top of the stairwell. Despite calling it a gate, it was actually an unobstructed entryway.
“Well, in comparison to the Sandstorm Labyrinth, it does seem smaller. But remember, the further we venture, the more expansive regions we’ll find. Wait, where do you think you’re going?”
Hiyuki hastily tried to restrain Joey as he started to ascend the staircase, though he remained unperturbed.
“We’re already here, might as well investigate what’s inside,” Joey said, gesturing towards the stony path visible beyond the gate.
“Were you even paying attention? Even with your magic sword, you’re not skilled enough to confront the boss alone!”
Without hesitation, she sprinted past Joey and stood defensively at the base of the stairs, her arms crossed in an attempt to halt his progress.
“Even so, staying outside could be dangerous. Also, our team might’ve already arrived here ahead of us. It would be neglectful not to check on them, don’t you think?”
Finding herself without a rebuttal, Hiyuki watched as Joey casually bypassed her.
“Just a little peek, alright?”
“Don’t worry. I’m only going to take a look around the entrance. I won’t venture further,” Joey assured her, his tone reminiscent of a scheming boy trying to manipulate a gullible girl. However, he was truly naive and didn’t possess a trace of malice.
Persuaded by his innocent demeanor, Hiyuki reluctantly unclasped her arms and followed him.
Had there been a third party present, they might have sharply reprimanded their reckless behavior and ignorance of the world’s realities, but there was no one around to do so.
Despite the sporadic magical lanterns lighting the rocky corridor, the place was far from brightly lit.
Joey, suddenly recalling something, posed a question to Hiyuki while staying alert for any sudden ambushes.
“Say, could you use the illumination spell from before?”
“I can, but…… if you’re feeling discouraged, we can still turn back, you know? We’ve journeyed quite a distance and I haven’t seen anyone yet.”
Joey realized her concern for him, but he felt slightly patronized. Instead of responding, he quickened his pace, his determination partly fueled by stubbornness.
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“So, this is the boss’ lair?”
They were fortunate to avoid any monster encounters on their journey to the heart of the labyrinth, eventually reaching a small chamber. A stone entrance, specifically dual doors, lay beyond, while a series of compact rooms, presumably meant for respite, lined the area just before the hall.
“Correct. If you breach those doors, the boss will confront you. And trust me, with your current gear, you’d be as effective as a twig.”
“I know, I know. If I am not wrong, the boss is a golem, right?”
“More specifically, a Metal Golem. It bears similarities to the golem from the Sandstorm Labyrinth, but it’s twice the size and constructed from steel. A standard sword wouldn’t make a dent. You’d need a heavy, blunt weapon to inflict damage, or be skilled in powerful, high-speed magic to halt it, then strike its weak spot… This should be enough, right? Let’s go back.”
As Joey was about to agree with Hiyuki, his response was abruptly cut off.
“Oops, I’m afraid we can’t allow that.”
“You’re not going anywhere.”
“Hold still if you value this woman’s life.”
Just as they were about to backtrack, three ominous men armed with swords emerged from the shadows, encircling Hiyuki.
“Are these your friends?”
Taken aback by the sudden situation, with swords aimed at her neck, chest, and stomach, Hiyuki asked nonchalantly.
Joey, however, furrowed his brow in confusion at the familiar assailants, but recognizing one of their faces, things started to fall into place.
“You… Schmitt! From the ‹Crimson Cloth Brigade›!”
“I see you remember us. Stalking you here was worth it,” Schmitt retorted, sporting a malevolent grin. His appearance had drastically changed from his adventuring days, now resembling a bandit.
“So, you’ve been following me? Hiyuki is not part of this, let her go!”
“You think you’re in a position to negotiate? You’re more foolish than I thought.” Schmitt raised his voice and pressed his sword further against Hiyuki’s throat, emphasizing that Joey wasn’t in control.
“Kuh…” Joey clenched his teeth, frustrated by their precarious situation.
Schmitt reveled in Joey’s visible irritation, prompting him to reveal more than necessary.
“Your meddling got us kicked out of the guild and stripped of our hard-earned ranks. When I learned about your dungeon expedition, I saw an opportunity for revenge. It was fortunate that you left your team and ventured alone. We hid in one of these rooms, waiting for our chance while you were busy being cozy. In this place, no one would think twice about your disappearance. It’s a shame your female companion isn’t here.”
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“No, no, boss. This one’s even more of a beauty than that spellcaster.”
“Except for her lacking chest,” added another.
Joey, standing directly in front of Hiyuki, could clearly see a vein throb on her temple.
…Yeah. I should avoid mentioning her chest. Or should I tell her I prefer smaller ones?
As Joey pondered over these thoughts, giving the appearance of distress over the hostage situation, Hiyuki spoke in an unusually flat tone.
“So, what’s next?”
Her words snapped Joey back to the reality of their predicament, and he let out a regretful sigh, “I’m sorry. This is my fault. I promise, I’ll save you! So, just hold on for now!”
“Just hold on, huh. Alright, then.”
“Hmph, let’s see how long you can hold onto that spirit. Now, open the door behind you. You’re going to challenge the golem boss. We’ve heard that defeating the boss yields a treasure chest. Fight with all you’ve got.”
They seemed wary of confronting Joey directly, opting instead for a more roundabout method. Likely, their plan was to delight in the sight of Joey’s struggle against the boss, and in the event of his victory or inflicting significant damage, they would seize the opportunity to kill him and claim the treasure.
Joey, complying with their demands, reached for the door behind him, biting his lip. Despite its imposing appearance, the door was surprisingly light.