The First Exploration
Shizuna woke up from the sound of a sword being swung.
It wasn’t really a sword, it was a katana.
It was still dark in the cave. Almost no light came in from the entrance, she could only see the figure from a faint light produced by magic.
At the center of the light, Ria was swinging her katana.
Though she had learned her father’s style of swordplay, she understood the principle.
Each form had its own principle. The sword slash was tinged with light from its initial motion, the end of its motion was beautiful.
The blade was glittering.
The same went for Ria, who was handling the katana. Her beauty was beyond comparison.
(Even though she’s a pervert…)
Her personality and skill didn’t match.
Though she felt Shizuna’s gaze, Ria swung her katana with a peaceful heart.
To be bloodthirsty and to sexually harass many girls, she was pure when she was with her katana.
Better yet, because she purified her corrupted heart when she was with her katana, she was able to live in rivers of blood.
Finishing her forms, she quietly sheathed the katana.
Turning around, she met Shizuna’s eyes.
Though Shizuna looked away with an amazing momentum, Ria’s current mind and body were filled with purity.
“It’s still early in the morning. Want to have a quick match?”
Not knowing why, Shizuna found herself obediently nodding towards Ria’s question.
Their bout was held outside the cave.
Shizuna was most skilled in piercing long sword techniques.
Now that she didn’t use a magic sword, her basic skills were being improved. Even without killing intent, she put her whole spirit into it and let out her techniques.
Even with all of that, though, she couldn’t surpass Ria.
“Well, since you’ve fought against demons the whole time, it’s no wonder you couldn’t win.”
Ria admonished her. She had placed the point of her katana against Shizuna’s neck many times by then.
“If you’re just speaking about talent in the sword, you might even be better than me. Still, you haven’t practiced one on one combat and your experience is a problem.”
Her words didn’t help to recover Shizuna’s pride. Though it is true that Shizuna mainly fought against demons, she had fought unarmed against men in that town filled with fights.
“Have you ever been trained in war?”
To that question, Shizuna shook her head. An explorer’s swordplay was to fight against demons.
However, the knights that trained Ria polished her capability in the theory behind human wars. Moreover, she had mastered that art in her previous life.
Though you couldn’t express ability with a simple Skill, it was Ria after all.
“Use the rest of your endurance. One last time, give me your best shot.”
Ria opened her hands to usher her in. Meanwhile, Shizuna brandished her sword grandly and charged.
But then, she wasn’t able to swing it down.
Before she had noticed, Ria who was a good distance from her had drawn close enough for their noses to touch. When she flicked Shizuna’s sword away bare-handed,
“The secrets of the nonexistent katana. By fighting unarmed, neither the opponent nor yourself will die. It’s the best technique to use if you don’t want to kill someone. Well, I’d disagree if you asked me.”
Ria didn’t use body strengthening magic. Shizuna had been completely overwhelmed by skill.
“For now, how about some food?”
Contrasting Shizuna’s ragged breathing, Ria hadn’t even broken a sweat.
“No way, for Shizuna to be unable to do anything…”
Gates, who had been watching from the cave’s shadow, sighed. Among those in Thunder’s Fangs, he was the most knowledgeable in person to person combat.
“Vargas, could you win?”
He asked Vargas, but he was already shaking his head slowly.
“Though I can’t know for certain without trying, I believe it’s impossible.”
“For the millennium, it’s said that heroes who exceed the limits of ordinary people will appear. Perhaps, that Ojou-chan might be one of them.”
Vargas was confident in his skill. As an explorer that challenges the Dark Labyrinth, he also had fighting spirit.
However, the fact was that he’d come to a standstill after capturing a floor.
He was still alive. However, he wanted to feel even more alive.
Getting to his age, he was finally able to find it.
The group finished breakfast and immediately began their exploration.
Since they had already thoroughly explored the first floor, they headed towards the stairs leading to the second floor.
Going ahead of them was Shar and Maal, the cat beastkin combo.
In the Dark Labyrinth, there were few mechanical traps. You could say there were hardly any at all. However, magical traps were abundant. Maal’s Fairy Eyes were very useful for finding them.
The labyrinth’s traps weren’t constant. Particularly the magical ones. The ones found most often in the Dark Labyrinth were those that materialized a great amount of demons when stepping on the magic formation.
“How many is a ‘great amount’ anyway? Depending on the amount, it might be a good way to raise levels.”
Vargas responded to Ria’s absurd statement calmly.
“It’s usually between ten and twenty. Since there are a lot of enemies that can use magic, there’s a high chance of people dying.”
This was different than the Immortal Labyrinth, Ria warned herself. It would have been different if she were going by herself, but she couldn’t afford to bring her comrades to their death.
Salamanders and Worms, as well as huge insect-type monsters were defeated. They had obtained a huge amount of magic crystals. There was definitely no comparison between the Immortal Labyrinth’s enemies and this one’s.
Before long, the two people that went ahead returned.
“There’s the sound of metallic armor. It would be good if that was just the normal sound of armor, but…”
According to Shar’s explanation, it would be bad if the enemy was a Ghost Knight-type.
“A detour huh.”
Vargas’ judgement wasn’t wrong. Being able to evade danger was a necessary talent for an explorer.
An attack from a Ghost Knight inflicts an abnormal condition, it was very dangerous while exploring labyrinths. It’s fine if it can be fixed, but the speed you can escape from the labyrinth with falls if you can’t.
In that sense, Ria probably didn’t have any talent at being an explorer.
“Hey, is it no good for me to go by myself?”
Vargas frowned when she said that. Though he looked to Carlos for his opinion, he only shrugged.
“The Ghost Knight’s attack will cause a different abnormality according to the individual. Though you’ve probably fought one, it’s dangerous.”
However, he didn’t forbid it.
“If you’re fine with it, then I’m off for a moment.”
Ria broke into a run as if she was just heading out for a bit.
Shuzina was dumbfounded and went up to Carlos.
“Hey! Aren’t you that girl’s guard!?”
She wasn’t worried. She wasn’t worried, definitely. But still.
Just, she just didn’t want to approve of that lack of common sense.
“I’m not Ojou’s guard, I’m a watchdog. Well, I can’t say I’ve accomplished that recently though…”
Carlos already thought that worrying about Ria was useless. She was just unaware of danger.
The members of Thunder’s Fangs were worried.
The sound of metal hitting metal could be heard from the other side of the bend in the passage.
Before long, it grew quiet. Ria popped back out into view.
“I defeated it. Though, it wasn’t a Ghost Knight, it was an Evil Spirit Knight.”
Despite being dumbfounded, the group ran over to Ria.
The armor had decayed. Just the sword remained.
“An Evil Spirit Knight…? That’s a higher-ranked version of the Ghost Knight.”
Vargas firmly recalled how troublesome those were.
While the Ghost Knight was just an undead that had regrets left in the world, Evil Spirit Knights were demons who cursed all living humans. Specifically, they had many ways to inflict abnormal conditions.
“It’s good you were able to defeat it by yourself. Do you have a talisman or something?”
Jason asked with a piercing interest. Though explorer comrades wouldn’t pry into each other’s skills too much, this much wasn’t to be concerned about.
“I don’t really have something like that, but most abnormal conditions don’t work on me. Before you say anything, since I’m a bit weak to frenzy-type conditions, don’t get near me at that time.”
In fact, there was one more thing. Though it was a fatal weakness, she didn’t mention it since it was unrelated to labyrinth exploration.
To not be affected by abnormal condition attacks was a terrific and envious characteristic for an explorer.
“I see, so you can defeat high leveled enemies with that then?”
Jason consented and thought to himself.
During their conversation, Serge used Identify on the sword that remained.
“Though it’s not cursed, it curses the opponent. The curse causes what it cuts to not move, making it heavy like stone. When the opponent it a man, the effect doubles.”
It was a long sword. Among them, Shizuna wasn’t the only one to use long swords, but…
“We don’t need it. It’s fine if you guys take it.”
“Is it alright? Even if you don’t use it, it’s worth a fortune.”
Though the girl watched the sword with eyes that looked like they were drooling, Vargas asked to make sure.
Explorers hoped for riches. They hoped for power. This sword was both.
“I don’t mind. However, this is still the first floor. There’s still a lot of fun to be had.”
“No, it’s unusual for something like an Evil Spirit Knight to be on this floor…”
Vargas passed Shizuna, who already couldn’t help but be amazed, the sword.
“I can use it?”
She asked her father with sparkling eyes to make sure.
“You having it would improve our fighting strength the most.”
Though they were in a passage, the group took a rest.
Shizuna swung her sword, becoming familiar with it in her hands. Fortunately, she didn’t seem to have trouble handling it.
“Seriously, even though she was born a woman, she just likes weapons…”
“Ria’s the same. Though she doesn’t hate to dress up beautifully…”
Vargas and Lulu shared similar sighs.
“Have you known the Ojou-chan long?”
“Yes, oh my. I met her around four years ago already now?”
“Half-elves have a long life. I thought you surely knew her since her birth?”
“No no. I’m still only around twenty-five years old.”
Though half-elves didn’t live as long as elves, they did inherit the characteristic of not growing old.
While having such a conversation, they were deepening their friendship. Seeing that, Carlos was envious. As usual.
The labyrinth conquering was proceeding well.
Ria, together with the two scouts, went quite far ahead.
If they discovered an enemy that the scouts couldn’t identify themselves, Ria could use Identify and they would be able to figure out if they should engage.
Even if it was an enemy they usually avoided, since Ria could block abnormal conditions, they took up the strategy of the other members beating up the remnants.
Specifically, the Basilisk.
Ria easily conquered the formidable enemy that possessed the gaze of petrification.
She crushed its eyes with her katana, then called the rest of the group up. Just like beating an octopus, it was easy work.
It could nullify magic, and though they fought an existence that could do that like the Dogazer before, they broke through it with strength.
Coming this far, the members of Thunder’s Fangs were already becoming accustomed to the abnormality known as Ria. Though they had doubted Ria’s strategy of rushing forward, they didn’t hesitate anymore.
At a speed that put them far ahead of schedule, they reached their goal, the sixteenth floor. It took them four days to reach there.
Though the Thunder’s Fang’s map was complete up to the sixteenth floor, it was full of empty spots there.
They had decided to cooperate up to here to get them accustomed to the labyrinth and turn back here. Although, they had planned on it taking around a week for them to get there.
When they then made it on the fourth day, Ria’s patience had hit its limit.
“Let’s take a bath.”
With those words, Shizuna paled.
Since something like that just wasn’t said in a place like that, she didn’t think she’d be made to enter a bath in the labyrinth.
“Ah, that sounds good.”
Lulu also agreed. She thought the smell of sweat couldn’t be helped, but if Ria insisted, she wouldn’t oppose.
Lulu tapped Shizuna’s shoulder and whispered.
“Give up. If you hesitate, that will just amuse Ria more.”
No one stopped Ria anymore. Bathing in the labyrinth was also an abnormality, it was something newcomers might try.
Reluctantly, Shizuna took off her clothes herself and entered the bath area.
Ria didn’t proactively sexually harass her and quietly washed her back. It was rather eerie.
“You have beautiful skin after all.”
“I-is that right? There are scars everywhere though.”
“Though those are also cute, why not heal them if you mind them?”
Ria, who had smooth skin without any wounds, spoke.
Though explorers were rough people, Shizuna was also a woman. If something like that were possible, she would ask even if it took some of the money she’d saved.
In truth, it was possible through a special healing magic.
After that, Ria began to massage the soles of Shizuna’s feet.
“Eh-, a-a place like that—”
“Does it feel good? By stimulating this place, it recovers your fatigue and improves any abnormalities in your internal organs.”
By the way, Maal massaged Ria’s soles. Of course, Ria also massaged Maal’s soles.
It was a paw pad massage.
With a loosened and relaxed expression, Shizuna stepped out of the bath.
Knowing this pleasure might be dangerous. Though she felt a sense of crisis, it was difficult to deny something so good for the body.
The men entered the bath next, and she fell asleep for the day.
It was the third day on the way back.
Though there was still some dangerous fights, they always had some flexibility to spare. Limited combat like this shouldn’t have been done in this labyrinth. It was different from the Immortal Labyrinth.
“But it was the right answer to get more people.”
Leaving the cave at last, they bathed in the sunlight.
“The speed and level of fatigue is definitely different. Though, most of that is thanks to Ojou-san.”
“I’m just happy to have fought formidable enemies.”
Ria answered that her aim was power, not treasure.
Cell’s beautiful elf form was no exception, expressing a somewhat ironic smile.
“Though not a warrior, my Corfus tribe’s senior is the preeminent strength on the continent. Try and meet him at some point.”
Cell wasn’t from a forest nearby, but rather from the Oomori Woods.
They returned to Jaeburg on the mountain road.
That way was also dangerous, but with those members it’ll be alright.
The party collected around the gigantic gravity well known as Ria.
However, no one was aware.
The Five God Dragons.
The Demon King and the demon tribe.
There wasn’t much time until the stability they had intentionally made crumbled.