After returning from my day trip with [Maximum Soul] I encountered Rita in front of the labyrinth gate.
It’s been a while.
Last I saw her Rita had stopped being a porter and officially joined [Sand Of The Star] led by Saul-san.
She was very thin before, pretty much skin and bones but now she had filled out and her body suited her age.
It seems she was living properly now. (1)
Their policy of nice and steady means their income is not a lot but it’s stable.
“Ippei-san! Long time no see!”
“You too Rita. You look well. Have you become a bit more mature? You are more beautiful than before.”
She’s still innocent.
“Hey, Ippei-san have you heard the story from the 5th ward on the 2nd floor?”
“No, what’s that?”
“It’s said that an F-rank demon stone appeared in a serpent in the 5th ward. It’s become quite the uproar.”
The serpents in question are large ferocious snakes measuring 5 meters in length officially called Sidewinders in Nepia.
It’s called the strongest monster on the 2nd floor and has a neurotoxin that paralyses the whole body.
It’s not particularly popular as a hunting target though. Its skin can be sold but that’s about it.
It’s easier to ignore it and go down to the 3rd floor where the game is better.
As far as I knew only G-rank demon stones came from the Sidewinder.
It’s been said that F-rank stones do not appear on the 2nd floor.
“The Sidewinder’s stone is always a G-rank. Perhaps it sometimes gives an F-rank?”
“No this is different. The drop rate hasn’t changed but all stones coming out are now F-rank. That’s whats making such an uproar.”
If it’s true it makes for a pretty attractive story.
I’ve wanted an F-rank demon stone for a while now. There’s new equipment and golems I want to make but they require F-rank stones.
I was troubled by the fact I would need to go to the 3rd floor to get them.
I’m still concerned by my low HP and defence but if this story is true I don’t need to tackle the 3rd floor.
I decided to consult my friends at once.
I invited all the members of [Phoenix Company] to my house that evening for a dinner party and a meeting.
There’s a high probability that Jean and Bonnie-san will come to eat anyway without being called.
Tonight’s meal is hamburger steak and cauliflower potage with a side of mashed potatoes and glazed carrots.
“Bonnie-san, don’t put your carrots on Kuro’s pate!”
She’s a troublesome person with a lot of likes and dislikes.
“So then, is the story of the F-rank demon stone true?”
I understand Jean’s doubts. I had them too.
Such a story has never appeared before.
“I thought the same thing so I went to the guild and asked. Apparently, it’s true.”
According to the staff, it began this week.
The first party that got one tried to conceal it and as a result, the porters started selling the information so now pretty much everyone knows.
“Isn’t it quicker and better to just go to the 3rd floor than hunt the Sidewinder’s?”
Jean’s right if you think in terms of efficiency.
“If Ippei-san wants to go I’ll go with you.”
Kuro is kind as always.
“If you consider the cost-effectiveness however then the 3rd floor loses out as it’s only 2 days to get to the 5th ward and hunt the Sidewinders. Also, I’ve never been to the 5th ward.”
Meg is harsh with money as always but she’s also kind.
That reminds me. Everyone in [Phoenix Company] apart from me has already gone to the 3rd floor and become 8th rank adventurers. I’m still 10th.
They’ve opened quite a large lead on me.
Everyone’s agree’s to go to the 5th ward tomorrow after being asked. (2)
On the 1st day, we plan to go to the 5th ward on the 1st floor and on day 2 go to the 5th ward on the 2nd floor via the 4th ward.
I ask everyone something important before we go.
“With regards to purchasing the demon stones. Will you sell them to me and not the guild?”
It’s forbidden to take out any demon stones of rank F and above. The gate security makes it impossible to smuggle out.
If I want to make anything like a golem or an accessory then it’s got to be done in the labyrinth.
There’s a golem I want to make by any means possible.
I tried to make it with a G-rank stone but it was no good.
All the members of [Phoenix Company] had no problems with it.
With this is finally feels like I’m able to approach the abyss that is the labyrinth once again.
My breath comes out pure white.
Me and Jean pass through the labyrinth gate while playing the dragons breath game.
Why has everyone moved away from us?
Are they embarrassed?
A young boy’s heart is never forgotten.
“Oh! If it isn’t Ippei!”
Standing on the stairs down to the labyrinth was Lainas from [Maximum Soul]
His tensions high as ever.
“It’s a cold morning! You can breath out like a dragon! Kaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”
Lainas breathes out really strongly distorting his face.
……………I’m suddenly ashamed of myself.
Jean seems to have learned something as well.
All the members of [Maximum Soul] are also watching from quite a distance away.
“What are you all so shy about! Don’t forget a boys heart! Ippei!”
Is this what I was like a few seconds back?
Aaah. Where’s a hole when you need one?
“We’re hunting Kobolds in the 2nd ward. Let’s do our best!”
Lainas flashes his white teeth and heads off down the stairs.
The other members are poor at communicating like always but after fighting together the tense expressions they once had are gone.
Who knows. A day might come when we do something together.
I waved at their backs.
…………..I wonder what happened about their name?
[Maximum Soul] had a divided opinion.
“Us too…..Let’s go……”
With Bonnie-san in the lead, we set off down into the labyrinth.
(1) Chapter 19 for reference.
(2) See chap 28 for a map of the 2nd floor.