The place where all the divergences begin, and even though it is the starting place, it is also an important place that heavily influences the difficulty of the next floors.
As always, the venue is like a festival.
The variety of food is crazy, the number of people is also crazy.
If we are talking about a place in the grand labyrinth of Yaso-Katsui where the difficulty level is low and has a lot of tourists, it would be this place.
It is actually to the point that any mamono that appears is pitiful.
-Second floor, Garden.
Each one of the types are not as wide as Entrance, but looking around it, it felt like a space that resembled the outside.
The mamonos that appear and the terrain have their own traits, and the width of the difficulty degrees is incredibly wide.
The number one lowest difficulty is the introductory floor, its name is also pretty easy to understand: Beginner Garden.
In our second day, we left the guiding to Hokuto and the others, and the place we ran past through was the same as the day before, Drake Garden.
Well, if I had to put it in words, it would be like a nest of dragons.
-Third floor, Path.
This place is narrow.
But this floor is practically a highway, where avoiding battle itself is difficult.
The number of encounters increase and the exhaustion grows drastic as well, so they normally have the cooperation of several parties and the sharing of exp.
The denominator gets bigger, so the amount of deaths here is obviously a lot higher than in the previous floor, and it seems to be the first wall that the beginners hit.
According to the information of Hokuto, if you enter this floor from the Beginner Garden, this third floor will be the Beginner Path and becomes a dead end.
Because of the Alt floor, this was my first time in this place, but for Tomoe and the others, this would be their second time here. We passed through the floor called Tribe Path.
It was a straight path with a number of halls; a monotonous floor. At the straight parts, it was a continuous battle with weak mobs, and at the hall parts, you would fight with a boss.
-Fourth floor, Valley.
Just as the name states, a valley. It is a floor that you have to advance through the bottom of a valley, and the field of vision is slightly dark.
The extent of actions you can take are limited like in Path, just that the enemies and traps were coming from all directions.
It was an attack from the sky.
It was mainly mamonos that have wings, and at times, there would be worm type mamonos coming for surprise attacks. It was also mainly traps falling onto us. That’s what I thought, but at the end, the valley itself was narrowing on us and that had quite the impact.
When I heard the name of the floor was Negligee Valley, I can’t deny I wasn’t interested in it.
By the way, there was no pink anywhere, and the whole floor itself had some sort of debuff effect that reduces all your abilities.
…Just what part of it is negligee.
-Fifth floor, Maze.
This was exactly a dungeon.
It was a depressing floor, but the pathway and ceiling was pretty wide, so there wasn’t a feeling of confinement. That part alone was a saving.
Also, Hokuto properly constructed a route to the next floor, so we simply had to follow him and didn’t get lost which played a big part in making me feel better.
There were armed goblins and Orcs, Lizardmen and Beast type mamonos appearing here, and the moment they found us, they would attack us with all they had, which made this floor a pretty hostile floor.
The floor’s named Sword Maze, so there weren’t many with blunt weapons.
The Boss-like guy was also a big sword.
A sword that’s floating in the air and swinging at you as if dancing is already close to being a horror movie.
-Sixth floor, Hill.
It wasn’t a hill at all. This is already at the level of a mountain.
I felt like they should change the name to Mountain.
We endlessly climb the unpaved path that was leveled by the steps of previous visitors while surrounded by overgrown trees.
We were being constantly attacked by wriggly mamonos that hide their presence and go for surprise attacks.
Only the Forest Oni, Shii, was more elated than normal in the middle of this arbour space as she spearheads, or more like, bats her way through the mamonos, turning them into minced meat.
Hide Hide Hill.
Just like the name states, it is a floor where it is hard to grasp the presence of the enemies, and that must be why the Hide is repeated twice. It is an important part after all.
But Shii’s compatibility with it was extraordinary.
For a Forest Oni that can forcefully gather information from the trees, even when the beasts try to hide their presence, it was totally visible in her eyes, or so it seems.
And so, tragedy unfolded upon them.
Now that I think about it, what did Gonzou experience in the fifth and sixth floor that made him feel despair?
It was also the same with the other floors we passed, I didn’t really understand that feeling of his.
-Seventh Floor, Hole.
A floor where if you didn’t buy a map, gathered information beforehand, it would partially destroy your party or even wipe them out.
Well, after reaching this far, there shouldn’t be that many people who are like that.
The moment you enter, there’s a big pitfall.
Nothing to grab onto, there’s not even a portal.
You simply fall.
And you get attacked by flying mamonos.
If you don’t control your fall in some sort of way, you can have luck in passing the mamonos and then go *splat* at the end of the fall.
There’s no device floating around or placed at the walls that can assist you with that either.
Going by the information of the map, there’s practically no Holes where you can find gimmicks that can make you float or scaffolds you can hold onto.
This Great Hole is a place where you totally have to manage on your own.
In my opinion, I feel like it would be a lot scarier to make someone jump on their own will by baiting them with fake scaffolds, compared to having them fall no questions asked.
At any rate, there’s not much problems on our side.
And so, aside from falling into a big hole, there’s nothing special to mention, and we all safely landed.
This time around, it did feel like a big wall you would hit -in a psychological sense.
-Eighth floor, Lake.
Location, a lake.
In other words, the romance of explorers.
I accept all objections you may have towards this statement.
This is a place that made me understand once again that we are deep underground. Ground and rocks in their natural splendor, and the bedrock ceiling that gave out a complete feeling of enclosed.
In that kind of space, the inside of the lake was releasing a gentle light like that of fireflies.
If we look at the whole space itself, it is on the level of being dim, and definitely not a light that you can define as dazzling.
But what was spreading from the lake was giving off a strong sense of presence.
There were a good amount of rocks, big enough for a person to jump on, floating on the lake.
Those were not the top parts of stone pillars, they were floating rocks.
If we take into account all the equipment, Shii, who is the heaviest in the party with weapon and all, would not sink. That’s how much buoyancy it had.
The runner-ups Beren and Hokuto are obviously fine as well.
Just that, because of the size, it is hard to have two people jump on the same rock.
The portal is as always in a place close to the starting location, and at the center of the lake, there’s a teleport formation leading to the next floor.
In these points, this is a simple floor.
It is easy to understand what you need to do.
Must mean that you need to trail the floating rocks and arrive at the center to continue on.
The mamonos were all aquatic type that live in the lake.
There were no attacks at land.
Leaving aside their presence, the mamonos that were jumping to the water surface as if aiming for flying bugs, their bodies were practically transparent.
Is it some sort of camouflage?
With that bad footing, and our actions limited a bit, handling the mamonos was quite the work. Moreover, at the middle of the stage, there were floating rocks that actually sunk the moment you jump on them, and you can’t tell them apart from the others.
Tomoe wanted to go a lot deeper in one fell swoop, so she made a big jump, but the foothold couldn’t stand it and Tomoe ended up dripping wet.
That probably pissed off Tomoe, she dove inside the lake and…after that, the underwater attacks had stopped completely.
Well, I can sympathize with that sentiment of hers, this is a floor that really stresses you out.
Clay Doll Lake.
If there’s a next time, let’s jump towards a correct foothold and finish it at once.
-Ninth floor, Gate.
In other words, a warping floor.
In this one as well, if you know the correct answer, the pathing is manageable.
Really have to be grateful towards the pioneers that cleared this place.
This continuous warping that would make anyone go crazy, I don’t have the intentions of testing every single one of them.
For some reason, Hokuto looked disappointed, but I completely ignore that.
The rooms aren’t big by any means, and there’s 4 teleport formations at the rooms, and each room isn’t much different between each other.
It seems like a switch is what opens the door to the next area.
Name’s Cube Gate, it is a simple floor, but that’s exactly what makes it easy to get lost at and a troublesome place. Moreover, there’s quite a lot of rooms where mamonos lie in wait, and after teleporting, it normally ends up in an instant fight.
It seems like Mio didn’t find this place amusing. The mamonos that were waiting in ambush were mostly used to vent her stress.
After several tens of times, we found a corridor we haven’t seen before, and when I saw that, I sighed in relief.
-Tenth floor, Palace.
This place’s portal was filled with a number of teleport formations incomparable to the floors before.
It was an impressive sight.
It is not on the level of Entrance, but there were a number of groups divided and doing talks and discussions at the portal.
What is going on?
As we got closer, all the people gathered there turned towards our direction at once, and I felt somewhat uncomfortable by it.
This is…it felt like the eyes of someone that was looking at something weird.
The image of the floor is also not like a dungeon at all.
No well, there have been floors like that before, but this place feels somewhat different.
That’s right, we are indoors, and it is pretty luxurious.
If it is to take it relax, then this place is certainly good enough for people to gather.
Since these people were able to come all the way from the 10th floor, that must mean they have a decent amount of experience, so…they may have more useful information than in Entrance.
We register at the Portal as per usual.
And as per usual, the Obelisk emits a red light in return.
It is the sign that the registration was completed.
Okay, with this, we will be able to come to the tenth floor whenever we want.
We have also safely finished the task of Rokuya-san.
Everyone is…it doesn’t seem like they are that tired, but with information gathering in mind as well, it should be okay to take a rest here.
It is already noon after all.
It should be a good time to have lunch.
“Welcome to the communal 10th floor, Palace. It is been awhile since I have seen new faces here. Nice to meet you.”
From within the crowd of people that were looking at us, one of them welcomes us and extends his right hand for a handshake.
Ah I see, it was because it’s been awhile since new faces showed up huh.
I can understand that.
Since they know everyone’s faces here, it is as expected, not a place that prospers much in change.
Leaving aside when someone dies, it is rarer to have people increase huh.
Also, the word communal 10th floor and this many people at the vicinities of the portal, could it be…
I respond to the extended hand of the man and exchange a handshake with him.
At the same time, I send a gaze at Hokuto and he nodded.
In other words, this Palace is a place where no matter what route you take in the previous floor, you will always end up here.
That’s why this is a floor where people gather from every route.
“Nice to meet you. I am the representative of the Kuzunoha Company, name’s Raidou. My companions are all employees, and they are: Tomoe, Mio, Beren, Hokuto, and Shii. It took us time, but we were somehow able to arrive here. Nice to meet you as well.” (Makoto)
“Company? No, that doesn’t matter, you made it all the way here, so you must have actual skills. If you came all the way here in order to do business…”
“No, they don’t have those intentions. Right, Raidou-kun?”
Right after I began the conversation with the man that seemed to have the strongest standing within these adventurers, a person that came from the crowd of people who opened the way for that person to pass, cut into the conversation.
It is a voice I am familiar with.
It is him.
“That’s right. Today I didn’t come here to do business. I didn’t expect you to be waiting for me here, Rokuya-san.” (Makoto)
“…Rokuya?! The one from Apple? You must be kidding, right? He looks exactly the same as the picture I saw when I was a kid. Is he the real deal?”
From what I see, the man that was looking at Rokuya-san with wide open eyes is at least 40 years old.
Rokuya-san’s outward appearance seriously hasn’t changed at all.
Because of Rokuya-san’s arrival, the surroundings get even more rowdy.
“Nah, I arrived just now. I was thinking about coming here early and notify the people here of you guys. It was completely out of my expectations that you would be able to clear all in half a day. Truly abnormal beings, monsters.” (Rokuya)
Rokuya-san seemed like he didn’t care about anyone aside from us as he continues our conversation.
“It is certainly true that with that level, not only would it be hard for normal adventurers, even the seasoned adventurers that challenge the World’s Border would find it hard to learn from you guys. Even if you were to slowly guide them, instead of them having a strong spirit to learn and reach the level, it would most likely damage them. I see, I see. Now I understand.” (Rokuya)
For a second there, a light of pity showed in the eyes of Rokuya-san. And on top of that…a small dose of sympathy?
As expected, it is hard to read the emotions of the mild smile of Rokuya-san.
“Now then, you being here is proof enough that you have passed the task, but can you tell me about the floors you passed to reach here? Just as reference.” (Rokuya)
“Understood. Drake Garden, Tribe Path, Negligee Valley, Sword Maze, Hide Hide Hill, Great Hole, Clay Doll Lake, and Cube Gate.” (Makoto)
The surrounding noise gets lower and lower as I tell Rokuya-san the floor names.
“…Was the one who set up this route you, Raidou?” (Rokuya)
“No, it was Hokuto.” (Makoto)
“I see. Was there some sort of *meaning* when he set it up? Ah, I am not talking about *thread*, okay?” (Rokuya) <The two words are said as Ito, but are written differently.>
Hokuto looks at me to confirm if it is okay for him to talk.
I silently nod.
We have already finished our task and can obtain his cooperation.
I don’t think there’s any problem.
But, that Rokuya-san…was he indirectly telling us that he knows Hokuto is an Arke?
Even at his first meeting with Tomoe, it seemed like he already knew her identity.
“…I noticed that, in this dungeon, the higher the floor’s difficulty, the higher the possibility of that floor leading to lower ones. Of course, we could have moved through the floors that are not as dangerous, but it is more certain it connects to the next one the higher the danger; in that case, if it’s Waka-sama and us, going through those would be the shortest and best option, that’s all.” (Hokuto)
“So that’s why huh. There were also routes where the main theme is solving riddles and avoiding traps though. Is that a weak point of your group? More than half of the people here arrived here through those kind of routes, you know?” (Rokuya)
Rokuya-san continues on the answer of Hokuto as if he was having fun.
“It is not like it is a weak point of us. But if we were to choose those routes, the amount of times we have to go back and forth is too much; a waste of time. For example, passing four types of second floors and gathering slates in order to challenge a special third floor, and after that, you would have to clear four types of seventh floors as well. In that fashion, we would have to do things like that more than 10 times before arriving here. The amount of floors we would have to pass would be too much. If it’s the route I set on, we would only need to advance and pass the floor once. If we were to choose the route you talk about, it would have been practically impossible to arrive here in 1 day time.” (Hokuto)
“…Well, I am speechless. It was a perfect answer. That is one of the ways to completely clear this labyrinth of Yaso-Maga—I mean, Yaso-Katsui. It seems like you guys will be able to safely arrive at the 20th floor without the need of our advice.” (Rokuya)
Hokuto answered discouraged knowing that he was being tested by Rokuya.
There’s no real problem in that, so I didn’t say anything.
“Well then, Rokuya-san, Just as you promised last night, you will be our ally at the time of the negotiations, right?” (Makoto)
I confirm just in case.
“Of course, I’m okay with that. I will keep my promise. But you see, after our last meeting, I learned about the details of the problem, and I gotta say…this will be tough. Of course, at the negotiation, I will be taking your side. I will, but…I don’t think I will be able to help you in creating the opportunity for that said negotiation.” (Rokuya)
“What do you mean by that?” (Makoto)
A bitter smile comes up from Rokuya-san as if he was troubled, he is stuck in what to reply.
We can only wait for his answer.
Beginning with Tomoe and Mio, I could tell that my companions were slowly getting pissed.
Maybe his side has fallen into some sort of irregular situation.
“Hah… this is no good. No matter how I look at it, this will be difficult. The time is right, so how about lending me some of your time while we have a meal?” (Rokuya)
“…Understood. It is already time for lunch anyways, so okay.” (Makoto)
One person outside our plans has joined the group.
We moved to a corner at the vicinities of the portal and began our preparations for lunch while being poured the fiery gazes of interest from the other parties.
We decided to take a rest as we have lunch.