Section 8: Anytime, Anywhere
[Iris]: “The layout’s changed……is that even possible?”
Abusing my position as the daughter of a bookstore, I have read hundreds of adventure novels. It would be an overstatement to claim I’m the most well-read person in the world on the topic, but I’m proud of the fact that I’ve read more books than most people will read in a lifetime.
Yet not a single one of those stories has ever included a dungeon that was capable of altering itself.
[Carol]: “You wouldn’t think so. I’ve been a part of the Thieves Guild for a while now, but I’ve never heard of even a rumor about something like this happening before.”
Carol would occasionally come to a stop, but whenever she did start walking again, she did so without any hesitation.
[Iris]: “……but this one did? Its structure has changed?”
With her keen hearing, Carol was able to pick up my soft murmurs.
[Carol]: “……yeah, it’s changed. The trap I removed last time we were here has been restored……no, rather than restored, it’s like…….”
Carol once again stopped and crawled down onto the floor. She then closed one of her eyes and carefully examined one part of the floor.
Pulling out a metal rod from the pouch hanging at her waist, she began tapping different points of the floor.
[Carol]: “It almost feels like someone brought in a completely different trap. It’s too blended into the rest of the floor to be a simple restoration. Oh, don’t step right there. The floor will either explode or give out from under you.”
Carol spoke as if it were no big deal before setting down a coin on the floor to act as a landmark.
[Toslin]: “Brought? How could someone bring in a trap?”
[Carol]: “Beats me.”
Carol shrugged her shoulders at Toslin’s question.
She then returned her tools to her pouch before rising to her feet and continuing forward once again.
[Carol]: “But that’s what’s happened, so there’s no point in denying it. An adventurer has to believe what they’re seeing no matter what it is. They can think about the why’s after that.”
That was probably Carol’s personal philosophy as an adventurer. It was her straightforward declaration as she continued forward with the same pace as before.
My mentor had the exact opposite opinion. Grandpa Ferdinand told me it was important to always doubt everything as even what I see for myself could be a trick.
I’m sure both of them are right though.
Carol’s is the correct answer based off of Carol’s experience, and Grandpa’s answer is correct based off of Grandpa’s experience.
Honestly, there could be a bunch of correct answers besides theirs as well. We are a party, so everyone should be able to rely on each other and do what they can.
[Toslin]: “……it’s unusual for you to say something decent.”
After Toslin shrugged her own shoulders and muttered out a compliment under her breath, Carol once again came to a stop.
She then turned around with a wide smile and slightly blushed face.
[Carol]: “Fufu, did you think I was cool right then? Is it love? Have you fallen in love with me all over again? Hm? Hmm??”
[Toslin]: “Haa. This is what I get for giving you a small amount of praise. You did great, so why don’t you go take a look ahead?”
Toslin shot off a kick capable of breaking a huge golem straight into Carol’s butt.
Carol flew through the air in an arc.
[Carol]: “Just kidding! Marvel at this Carol-san’s brilliant landing!!”
But she managed to adjust her position in mid-air to pull off a beautiful landing.
It’s just like Toslin to send out a strong kick without any hesitation, and Carol pretending to be blown away when she actually managed to dodge it is part of their usual routine. They’re both weirdos. Not in a good or bad way. It’s just a fact.
[Ashel]: “Something similar happened inside the castle, but so you act like this even inside a dungeon I see.”
Ashel-sama pulled a wry smile, the same one she wore back when we first properly met each other.
[Litzreich]: “Their ability to always remain cheerful is its own special kind of talent. It would be nice if the Shirayuri Knights had at least one member like Carol. Everyone is so serious all the time that it tires me out.”
[Lapris]: “Ah, you’re always acting like an idiot when you’re around us, but I guess even you have to act serious whenever you’re with your followers.”
[Litzreich]: “I’m originally a cheerful, playful, and loveable woman, but that Yuhanna is so stubborn. Oh if only I could forget about the Shirayuri Knights and the school so I could completely immerse myself in my research. Although, how happy would I be if I could spend the whole day relaxing with Iris without having to think about a thing…….”
Litzreich threw back a couple glances my way. She released an overly suggestive sigh as a pink aura began permeating her entire body.
If she was as young as she looks I would happily pat her head, but this person is older than me.
[Lapris]: “There’s no way we’re going to leave Iris alone with a walking obscenity. Go get yourself checked into a hospital and have your head replaced.”
[Ashel]: “A-Ahaha……y-you two get along quite well.”
Ashel-sama……. Despite being one of the most esteemed people in the country, currently she is stuck between Litzreich and Lapris and forced to play arbitrator.
If you leave them alone, they will probably continue on like that endlessly. Ashel might end up suffering from stomach pain by the time we reach the dungeon’s depths.
[Saluena]: “By the way Carol. Are you sure we’re going the right way?”
[Rose]: “I was wondering the same thing. Will we be okay without the map?”
After the two sisters pulling up our rear brought the discussion back to the matter at hand, Carol pulling up the front called back to them.
[Carol]: “Yeah, we’ll be fine. The layout might’ve changed, but our scent from the last time we were here lingers.”
[Lapris]: “Oi oi. Following our scent? You really are a dog.”
[Carol]: “What did you, I’m a wolf!”
Lapris and Carol repeated a similar exchange as to what they’ve done before.
[Carol]: “There’s no wind or rain here, so it’s easy for me to just follow the smell. So you can follow me with confidence. Honestly, you should be glad I’m here. If not, you would have to thoroughly search this whole place from here to the depths. It’d take you at least a week just to get there.”
[Lapris]: Hearing you telling me to be relieved just makes me more anxious.”
[Toslin]: “Yeah, I get that.”
With Toslin joining in, the conversation looped between the three of them.
Upon seeing and hearing them like that, Ashel-sama put a hand over her mouth, but despite her best efforts, I could still see how brightly she was smiling.
We continued on our way down further and further into the dungeon for about two hours without incident.
If there was anything of note, it would be that Carol’s tail was singed after it accidentally set off a trap. Also, we encountered a fresh bold loire, (I’m not entirely sure what ‘fresh’ means here, it’s just what Carol called it) but Carol and Toslin’s eyes changed as soon as it appeared and was quickly crushed.
We’ve encountered six bold loires so far, and all of them were quickly dealt with by Toslin followed by Carol deftly picking apart the gems studded inside the armor.
So far we haven’t seen any significant changes in Toslin’s sword after its remodeling. I’m curious about what the jewel embedded in the pommel is for, but so far all it has done is reflect some light.
[Carol]: “Aiya~, big catch big catch. If we can keep getting a steady stream of gems like this why not just leave the dungeon as is?”
Carol was happily juggling the bag full of gems she had gathered.
[Litzreich]: “Don’t say anything crazy. There is a school and a city above here right? If they find out a bunch of high-ranking monsters like bold loires are under their feet, it will inevitably cause a panic.”
[Ashel]: “And there won’t always be high-ranking adventurers like you in the capital to deal with them.”
[Carol]: “Ah, I almost forgot. It still hasn’t really sunk in that I’m a high rank yet.”
[Toslin]: “It wasn’t that long ago that we were strapped for cash and celebrated every time we got even a little bit of money……..”
[Rose]: “For some reason I feel like Toslin-san might have been the only one doing that…….”
[Saluena]: “Everyone was already orange rank by the time I met you. I wish I could have you seen you before then Rosa. I’m certain you must have been cute.”
[Rose]: “Oh my, Sally-oneesama. Are you trying to say I am not cute now then?”
Saluena tried to fix the terrible mood between them, but the cold response and terrifying smile she got back from Rose-san made her eyes swim.
As far as I know, Rose-san is the only person who can make Saluena act like this. After all, she is a very special person to Saluena.
[Saluena]: “O-Of course that’s not the case. You are a stunning combination of both beauty and cuteness. Rosa. Just like the flower.”
[Rose]: “Thank you very much. If only you did not say the same thing to every woman you meet, I might have taken your words seriously. A shame.”
Is there no land here where Saluena can anchor herself?
[Iris]: “Uh, um……Rose-san, Saluena, well, pretty soon……..right?”
Two hours have already passed inside the dungeon. I think it’s about time I threw Saluena a lifeline.
I’ve tried ignoring it until now, but in the same way that Ashel-sama is sandwiched between Lapris and Litzreich, I’m stuck between these two, and my stomach is about to scream from the stress.
[Iris]: “…….Rose-san, um…….isn’t it about time to forgive Saluena?”
Rose-san is usually terribly kind, but once she gets angry, it’s scary. I know because she got mad at me once in Soletta Ritta. I think the best way to describe the current situation is to say that while your body may be fine, your spirit is slowly being frozen solid.
[Rose]: “…….Iris-san? No, but……..”
[Iris]: “Yes, I understand. Saluena is a fast-talking womanizer, and it’s natural you would get angry when you see her like that.”
[Lapris]: “Do you have any room to talk?”
[Lapris]: “No, nevermind.”
Lapris might say that, but isn’t Saluena fundamentally different from me? I don’t kiss the back of the hand of every cute girl I meet, nor do I pull them in close and whisper sweet nothings into their ear.
At most I’ll hold hands or hug somebody, and I’m not always the person initiating those.
That’s why Saluena and I are different.
[Iris]: “But as for yesterday, I believe Saluena was thinking about us. Saluena used some old tradition to help all of us relax before we headed down for a dangerous exploration…….”
[Saluena]: “No, that is a legitimate tradition practiced by the Goddess Knights for a millennia.”
[Iris]: “Shut up”
With a quick glance Saluena zipped her lips closed and defensively put up her hands.
[Rose]: “……haa, I understand. I cannot allow such frivolous things to bother Iris-san.”
[Saluena]: “Rosa? Then…….”
[Rose]: “Yes. It is true that the tension of last night was alleviated thanks to Onee-sama’s actions, so I will forgive you this time.”
[Saluena]: “Ooh, Rosa…….”
[Rose]: “But from now on, whenever you are in front of Iris-san or Carol-san…….please refrain from any lewd acts.”
[Saluena]: “Umu, in that case, I shall take the utmost caution. I will stop at the point of simply sharing a drink together.”
Saluena, do you comprehend the reason why Rose-san was upset with you?
Rose-san was angry because you kept flirting with other women right in front of her. You get that, don’t you?
[Rose]: “…….haa, that will suffice. Then please do so from now on.”
[Saluena]: “I will. The world without your smile is equivalent to an abyss that has lost its light. I swear here and now that I shall do what I must to ensure that such a beautiful smile will always be turned my way.”
Saluena took Rose-san’s hand and kissed the armor covering the back.
[Rose]: “…….Onee-sama is hopeless.”
[Saluena]: “I will take that as a compliment.”
[Ashel]: “…….wa, wa…… Somehow the back line has become amazing……. I, I…….should I be averting my eyes?”
[Lapris]: “First time?”
Ashel-sama had developed a deep blush after seeing how sweet and pink our backrow had fallen. Lapris threw the usual rough language her way, but before anyone could say anything else, carol raised her hand from the front of the group.
[Carol]: “It’s time to pay our attention forward. We’ve got some enthusiastic fans up there waiting for us.”
Carol pointed towards the darkness.
Kakon. Kakon. Kakon. Kakon.
There, from somewhere deep in the dungeon and out of sight, I heard a familiar noise.