The sound of water dripping reached his ears. A chilly wind blew past his cheek, and

his whole body shivered. Hajime groaned softly as he opened his eyes. His cheek was

resting on something hard, while the lower half of his body was freezing cold.

Groggily, he pushed himself up off the ground, an aching pain running throughout his

entire body all the while.

”Owwww, where… I thought I… ” He steadied his head with one hand, then tried to

recall how hed ended up in that position.

His surroundings were relatively dark, but thanks to the green crystals scattered

about, it wasn pitch black. He looked behind him and saw a river five meters wide,

and noticed that he was still half submerged within it. His upper body was resting on

a boulder that jutted out from the riverbank.

”Oh yeah… the bridge broke, and then I fell. And then… ” A haze lifted from his mind,

and his brain finally started working again.

A stroke of luck had saved him from falling to his death.

Halfway down the cliff he had seen an opening in the wall from which water was

flooding out. A waterfall, basically. There had in fact been numerous little waterfalls

as he continued to fall, and Hajime had found himself swept away by them, until

eventually they had guided him into one of the openings in the cliff, much like a water

slide from hell. The fact that he was still alive was nothing short of a miracle.

Especially considering that halfway through his water ride, something smacked into

him and knocked him out. Honestly, even he didn comprehend just how miraculous

his survival was.

”I don really remember what happened, but I guess Im not dead at least… Achoo! IIts really cold. ” His body temperature had dropped dangerously low due to how much

time hed spent in the cold water. He ran the risk of developing hypothermia if he

stayed submerged much longer, so Hajime quickly pulled himself out. Shivering, he

stripped and started wringing out his clothes.

Then, in nothing but his underwear, he cast a transmutation spell. He used it to carve

a magic circle into the hard earth.

”Gah, Im so cold that its hard to concentrate… ” He was trying to inscribe the ”flare ”

spell. It was a very basic spell that even kids could cast with a ten centimeter magic


However, not only did Hajime have no mana crystals with which to enhance the magic

circle, he also had a magical affinity of zero. As such, he needed a complicated magic

circle over one meter in diameter just to cast a simple flare spell.

After ten grueling minutes he finally finished his magic circle and chanted the


”Mine desire is fire. Fire, imbued with the essence of light— Flare… Gah, why does

such a simple spell have such an exaggerated incantation? Can believe I have to chant

something so embarrassing… Haah… ” He sighed again, something hed been doing

quite frequently as of late, and brought himself closer to the fist-sized flame. He also

laid his clothes out next to it to dry.

”Where am I…? I fell pretty far down, so can I even make it back up? ” Worry gripped

his chest as he calmed down and considered his situation while warming himself by

the fire.

He felt like bawling his eyes out, and tears did form in the corners of his eyes, but

Hajime knew he would break down completely if he let himself cry, so he held them

back. He stubbornly wiped his tears, then slapped his cheeks.

”Im gonna do this. Ive gotta get back to the surface somehow. Itll be fine, Im sure Ill

figure something out. ” He gave himself a pep talk and renewed his determination,

wiping the sullen expression off his face. After that he simply gazed into the flames,

mulling over his options.

After about twenty minutes he warmed himself sufficiently and his clothes were

mostly dry, so he decided to head out. He didn know what floor he was on, but he

was clearly deep in the labyrinth, and it wouldn be strange for monsters to pop out

at any time. Hajime walked as cautiously as he could down the long passageway.

The path Hajime was going down resembled a cave of sorts.

It was nothing like the orderly rectangular passageways hed been on in the upper

floors. Boulders and other obstructions showed up at random intervals, and the path

itself was twisting and winding. Much like the path they had found at the end of the

twentieth floor.

However, the size of this one was on a completely different scale. Even with boulders

and the like obstructing parts of the path, it was twenty meters wide. In fact, even the

”narrow ” stretches were still at least ten meters wide. Though it slowed his progress,

Hajime moved from cover to cover, making sure to stick to the shadows as he


He had no idea how long he walked for. Around the time Hajime was starting to grow

tired, he found himself at a fork in the road. Though it was more like a street

intersection than a fork. Hajime hid behind a boulder as he deliberated which way to


While he was thinking, he saw something move out of the corner of his eye, and he

hurriedly shrank back, behind the safety of the boulder.

He timidly peeked out from behind the boulder and saw a giant white ball of fur

hopping down the passage directly across his. It had rather long ears and looked just

like a rabbit. However, it was the size of a dog, and it also had very thick hind legs. Plus,

there were veins of pulsing dark red mana trailing down its body. It looked quite


It was clearly deadly, and Hajime decided to go down one of the paths to avoid running

into it. Judging by the position of its ears, Hajime determined that it would have a

harder time spotting him if he went right.

He held his breath and waited for the perfect moment to run. Eventually the rabbit

turned around and lowered its head, busily sniffing the ground. It was at that moment

that Hajime attempted to leap out from behind the boulder.

But then the rabbit suddenly twitched, rising back up as it did. It warily looked around,

its ears twitching.

Crap! D-Did it see me? O-Or am I safe? Hajime had quickly retreated behind the safety

of the boulder, and he tried to calm his pounding heart as he clung to the rock face for

dear life. He broke out in a cold sweat, afraid the rabbits exceptional hearing would

be able to pick up on his pounding heartbeat.

However, it was not Hajime that had spooked the rabbit.

”Graaaaaah! ” With a bestial roar, a white-furred wolf monster leaped out from behind

a different boulder, heading straight for the rabbit.

The wolf was as big as a large dog, and had two tails sprouting from its behind. Just

like the rabbit, pulsing veins of dark red mana ran down its body. Then, out of

nowhere, two more Twin-tailed Wolves suddenly leaped out into the open.

Hajime peeked out from behind the boulder once more to see what was happening.

The wolves were clearly attacking the poor bunny, though the creature was nowhere

near cute enough to warrant a description like ”bunny. ” Hajime slowly got to his feet,

planning on escaping during the confusion of the fight. However…

”Kyuuu! ” The rabbit let out a cute squeal, then leaped up, did a turn in midair, and

caught one of the wolves with a powerful roundhouse kick.

Boom! It didn sound anything like how a kick should, and connected squarely with

the face of its target.

A second later— Crack! Together with a very ominous sound, the wolfs head was

turned to a very unnatural angle.

Hajime stood stock still as the battle raged on.

The rabbit then used the centrifugal force of its spin to turn itself upside down and

hurtle toward the ground like a meteor. Then, a mere instant before impact, it righted

itself once more. A powerful axe kick came down on the wolf standing at the rabbits

point of landing.

Smash! The second wolf didn even have time to cry out before its head was


Two more wolves came out of hiding and charged the rabbit.

Hajime thought that was the end for the rabbit, but it flipped itself upside down, and

like a breakdancer, stood on its ears while spinning, legs spread out. The two new

wolves were sent flying by the tornado kicks and slammed into the wall. And they hit

that wall with a splat, spraying blood everywhere, and slid to the ground, unmoving.

The last wolf growled menacingly, its tails standing straight up. Suddenly, electricity

began running down its tails. It looked like that was the magic the wolves could use.

”Graaaah!! ” The wolf roared, and bolts of lightning flew toward the rabbit. But with

nimble steps, the rabbit swiftly dodged the incoming bolts of lightning. Then, at the

moment the lightning attacks stopped, the rabbit hopped forward and hit the last wolf

with somersault kick. The wolfs head bent back with a sickening crack, and it fell to

the ground, utterly still. It was yet another wolf with a broken neck.

The Kickmaster Rabbit let out another squeal.

”Kyu! ” Is that supposed to be a victory cry? After that, it started scratching its ears with

its leg.

Youve gotta be freaking kidding me. Hajime smiled in disbelief, his body still

completely still. ”Dangerous ” didn do the beast justice. That thing made the Traum

Soldiers Hajime and the others had fought earlier look like nothing more than toy

skeletons. In fact, it mightve even been more dangerous than the Behemoth they had

fought, since the Behemoths attack patterns had at least been easy to read.

Hajime trembled in fear, knowing that his life was forfeit if he were discovered. Due to

his fear, he unconsciously took a step back. But that was a mistake.

Clatter. The noise reverberated throughout the cavern.

He had accidentally kicked a pebble when hed stepped back. He couldn believe hed

made such a basic blunder. Rivulets of cold sweat were pouring down his forehead

after the fact. The rabbits neck creaked like a badly oiled machine as it turned to look

in the direction of the kicked pebble.

The Kickmaster Rabbit clearly saw Hajime. Its glowing red eyes glared at him. His

entire body stiffened, like a deer caught in headlights. His brain was yelling at him to

run, but it felt like his nerves had all been cut, so his body refused to listen.

The rabbit turned its whole body around, then began gathering strength for a leap.

Here it comes! Hajime instinctively managed to guess the moment of the rabbits leap.

The speed of its jump was so ridiculously fast that it left afterimages behind it.

Driven purely by instinct, Hajime threw himself to the side. An instant later, a kick with

the force of a cannonball slammed into the ground Hajime had been standing on. The

force of it gouged the earth below. Hajime rolled over and over on the hard ground

before coming to a stop in a sitting position. His face paled when he saw the pulverized

ground and he quickly started running.

The rabbit leisurely got back up and dove toward him with another earth-shattering

leap. Hajime hurriedly transmuted a wall behind him, but the rabbit easily blew it

away and aimed another kick at Hajime. He instinctively brought up his left arm to

shield himself from the blow. That somehow helped him avoid getting his face blown

apart, but the shockwave of the kick sent him flying backward. Waves of excruciating

pain ran down his left arm.

”Gaaaah! ” When he looked down, he saw his arm was dangling at a very unnatural

angle. His bones had been completely shattered. He crouched down in pain, then

looked over at the rabbit. This time it wasn lunging forward, but leisurely hopping

toward him. He wasn sure if it was just his imagination, but it felt almost like the

rabbit was looking down on him. It was toying with him.

But even then, all Hajime could do was unceremoniously continue backing up. Finally,

the Kickmaster Rabbit stopped right in front of him. It glared down at Hajime as if it

were looking at a worm. It then raised one if its legs up high, as if to show off before

slaughtering its prey.

So this is where I die… Hajime thought, sinking into the depths of despair. He looked

up at the rabbit with defeated eyes. Its leg came swinging down, together with a

whoosh of wind.

Hajime closed his eyes, terrified of what was coming.

”…… ” However, the blow he was expecting never came.

Hajime timidly opened his eyes to the sight of the rabbits foot inches from his face.

The rabbit had stopped just before hitting him. Hajime despaired, thinking the rabbit

intended to toy with him further, but then he noticed there was something off about

it. A closer glance revealed that the rabbit was trembling.

Wh-What? Whys it shaking? It almost looks like its scared… It wasn ”almost: ” it

actually was scared.

A new monster had appeared from the right-hand corridor Hajime had tried to escape

into. And said monster was massive. It stood over two meters tall, and like everything

else on that floor so far, had white fur. And just like the others, it had veins of dark red

mana running down its body. The closest thing it resembled was a bear. However,

unlike a bear, it had massive forearms that went all the way down to its feet, which

ended in wicked sharp claws over thirty centimeters long.

The Claw Bear had closed in while the rabbit had been focused on Hajime, and it glared

down at both of them. A moment of silence enveloped the corridor. The rabbit had

gone stiff out of fear and stopped moving. Rather, it couldn move. It was in the exact

same situation that Hajime had been in mere moments ago. It was staring up at the

bear, completely immobilized.

”…Grrrrr. ” The bear let out a low growl, as if tired of watching two unmoving statues.

”Wha—!? ” The rabbit quickly did an about-face and began hopping away as fast as

possible. The explosive jumps it had used to annihilate its foes were instead being

used to jet it to safety as fast as possible.

However, its escape was still unsuccessful.

The Claw Bear rushed forward, surprisingly fast for its large frame, and swiped its paw

at the Kickmaster Rabbit. The rabbit nimbly dodged, twisting its body to avoid the

paws sharp claws.

It looked to Hajime like the rabbit had somehow managed to dodge perfectly, avoiding

even a glancing blow.

However… The moment the rabbit landed, a fountain of blood spurted forth, and the

two halves of the rabbit fell in different directions.

Hajime watched on in shock. That overwhelmingly powerful rabbit had been killed so

easily. It hadn even had time to put up a fight. Hajime understood why it had been so

scared and ran earlier. That monster was on a completely different level. Even the

rabbits Capoeira-esque martial art skills had been of no use in the face of its might.

The bear leisurely walked up to the rabbits corpse, speared one chunk of it with its

claw, and began scarfing it down, making sickening squelching noises.

Hajime was rooted to the spot. The combination of fear and the bears sharp gaze kept

him pinned in place. It kept its eyes on Hajime even as it chewed on the rabbit.

It finished the rabbit off in three huge bites, then turned its body around and roared

at Hajime. Its eyes told Hajime everything he needed to know. The bears next meal

would be him.

Panic gripped his mind as he stared into the eyes of the predator.

”Uwaaaaaah!!! ” He let out a garbled scream and momentarily forgot about the pain of

his broken left arm as he mounted a desperate escape attempt.

However, it was impossible for Hajime to escape from an enemy not even that rabbit

had been able to flee from. He heard the sound of rushing wind, and an instant later

something hard hit his left side. He was flung against the wall.

”Gahaah! ” Hajime coughed violently as all the air was pushed out of his lungs, before

sliding down the wall to fall in a heap on the ground. His vision blurred over, but he

could still make out the bear chewing on something.

But he couldn quite make out what it was. It had already finished eating the rabbit,

so it couldn have been that. Then he realized the bear was chewing a very familiar

looking arm. Still confused, Hajime looked over to his left side, which had become

inexplicably lighter. Or, more specifically, to where his left arm should have been…

”H-Huh? ” His expressions stiffened, and he tilted his head in bewilderment. Why don

I have an arm? Why is there so much blood spurting out? His mind, no, his entire being

was rejecting the reality his eyes saw. But he could only feign ignorance for so long.

The excruciating pain of having his arm ripped off finally hit, which brought him back

to reality soon enough.

”Agaaaaaaaaahh!!! ” Hajimes scream of anguish echoed throughout the labyrinth. His

left arm had been torn cleanly off from the elbow down.

That was the bears particular magic ability. Its claws were wrapped in blades of wind,

and could cut thirty centimeters past what their length would suggest. All that

considered, it was a miracle Hajime only lost his arm. Hajime wasn sure if it was

because the bear was toying with him too, or if he was just lucky, but that last attack

should have cut him in half.

After it finished wolfing down his arm, the bear slowly started walking toward Hajime.

Unlike the rabbit, it didn seem to be looking down on Hajime. Instead, it merely saw

him as food, nothing more.

It slowly extended one of its claws toward Hajime. The fact that he wasn ripped to

shreds by it told Hajime the bear meant to eat him alive.

”Aaaaaah! Gaaaah! T-Transmute! ” His face covered in tears, snot, and drool, Hajime

screamed out his transmutation spell and set his right hand against the wall behind

him. He was barely even aware of his own actions any longer.

He had been ridiculed as incompetent and had no magical affinity or physical talents

to speak of, so Hajime, the weakest of them all, relied on the only power he did possess.

A skill that was normally only used to craft armor and weapons.

Hajime, who possessed a job normally only meant for blacksmiths, desperately fought

back. Because hed been ridiculed for his lack of strength, hed used all of his

knowledge to think of unique ways to put his power to use. His results had been so

unorthodox that hed surprised even the knights, and his fervent devotion to his lone

skill had even made him somewhat useful to his other classmates. This was why, even

in the pits of hell, Hajime instinctively relied on this skill, and it was also why that skill

was able to save him.

His sky blue mana shone briefly, and a depression opened up in the wall behind him.

Hajime barely avoided the bears outstretched paw and tumbled back into the hole he

had created behind him.

The bear roared, furious that its prey had managed to escape from right under its nose.

”Graaaaaaaaaah!!! ” It wrapped wind blades around its claws once more, then thrust

its paw into the hole Hajime had made for himself. The wall screeched angrily as the

bears claws gouged furrows into it.

”Aaaaaaah! Transmute! Transmute! Transmute! ” Hajimes panicked mind registered

the bears roar and the sound of the walls being gouged away, so he continued

transmuting in succession, trying to put as much distance between him and the bear

as possible.

He didn dare look back for even a second. He just kept transmuting. And crawling

forward into each new opening he made. The pain of losing his left arm was

temporarily forgotten. His survival instincts had kicked in, and he transmuted like his

life depended on it. Which, frankly, it did.

He had no way to tell how far hed dragged himself. Hajime had no idea; he just knew

he could no longer hear the bear thundering behind him. In truth, he had not actually

traveled all that far. Transmutation was only effective within two meters of his target

(this was still double what it had been initially), and blood loss had slowed him

considerably. He wouldn be able to keep moving for much longer.

In fact, he was already on the verge of unconsciousness. Still, he squeezed every last

ounce of strength out of him to keep crawling forward. However…

”Transmute… Transmute… Transmute… Transm… ” He kept chanting the incantation,

but the wall in front of him remained unchanged. His mana had run out before his

consciousness. Drained of all his strength, his hand fell away from the wall and he

collapsed on the ground.

Hajime used every ounce of his willpower to keep himself conscious, rolling himself

onto his back. He gazed blankly at the dark ceiling above him. There were no green

crystals there to light his surroundings.

Hajime began recalling events from his past. Guess this is what they mean when they

say your life flashes before your eyes. He went over his life, from preschool, to

elementary, to middle school, and then finally to high school. Memories flew by, until

at last they stopped… on the night he had talked with Kaori. He recalled the moonlight

spilling in from the window, and the promise he had made with her.

His consciousness finally faded as he recalled that fond memory. But before he sank

fully into unconsciousness, he felt water dripping onto his cheek. They felt like

someones tears.

Drip… Drip… The water trailed down his cheek and dripped into his mouth. Hajimes

faint consciousness slowly began to grow brighter. Bewildered, he slowly opened his


Im alive…? Did someone save me? He raised himself up, only to bump his head on the

low ceiling.

”Agah!? ” He remembered too late that he had made the ceiling above him a mere fifty

centimeters tall. Hajime raised his arms up to the ceiling to transmute a larger hole.

However, only a single arm entered his line of sight, and he cried out in surprise.

He stared at the stump of his left arm in disbelief for a moment before remembering

he had lost it recently. A sharp pang of pain ran down where his left arm should have

been. He was experiencing phantom pain for the first time. His face twisted in anguish

and he reflexively gripped his left arm, only to realize— That there was slight swelling

where his arm had been cut off, and the wound had already closed.

”H-How…? It was bleeding so much… ” It was too dark to see, but if there had been any

light it wouldve been clear that Hajime was lying in a pool of his own blood. In fact,

Hajime had lost so much blood that he should by all rights have been dead.

He felt around with his right hand and felt the sticky sensation of blood all around him.

It was recent enough that it hadn dried yet. With that, he was able to confirm that his

bleeding out had not been just a dream, and that it had been only a few minutes since

Hajime lost consciousness.

And yet his wound had completely closed up, and as Hajime pondered how such a

thing was possible, he felt water drip onto his cheeks and mouth once more. He felt

somewhat revitalized as the drops slid down his throat.

”Don tell me… this is what saved me? ” Hajime was still a little lightheaded from the

blood loss and phantom pain pangs, but he reached his hand out to the source of the

water and transmuted the earth around it.

Still somewhat unsteady, he continued transmuting deeper and deeper into the wall.

The strange liquid that he now realized couldn possibly have been water, continued

oozing out of cracks in the rock. Interestingly enough, it restored his mana as well, so

Hajime was able to continue transmuting without running out of energy. Hajime

deliriously continued transmuting, single-mindedly seeking out the waters source.

Eventually, the slow trickle transformed into a faster stream, and Hajime finally

arrived at the source of the liquid.

”This… is… ” The source of the liquid was a basketball-sized crystal that emitted a pale

blue light.

The crystal was buried into the wall around it, and the liquid was pouring out from

underneath it. It had an aura of wondrous beauty about it. The light it emitted was just

a shade darker than an aquamarines. Hajime stared at it in wonder, his pain

momentarily forgotten. Then, as if drawn to it, he put his mouth to the crystal.

As he did so the, the pain, the haze that had fallen over his mind, and the fatigue, all

left his body. As he had suspected, it was the liquid from this crystal that had saved

Hajimes life. Which meant that the liquid contained some kind of healing agent. His

phantom pain could never be cured for good, and the blood hed lost wasn coming

back, but the rest of his wounds and all of his mana were restored in an instant.

Though Hajime didn know it, the crystal was actually a ”Divinity Stone. ” Divinity

Stones were rare crystals, and considered to be one of the worlds greatest historical

treasures. Modern day people thought them a lost legend.

Divinity Stones were created when a large clump of mana pooled together and

crystallized over the course of a thousand years. They ranged from thirty to forty

centimeters in diameter, and then over the course of a few hundred years their

saturated mana liquefied and poured back into the earth.

The liquid they secreted was known as Ambrosia, and it healed all wounds. It couldn

regrow missing limbs, but supposedly it extended ones life so long as they continued

to drink it, and was also referred to as the elixir of life. Legend claimed that Ehit healed

the masses with this very Ambrosia.

He realized hed just narrowly escaped a very painful death, and Hajime slumped

down against the wall. He hugged his trembling body, then buried his face in his knees,

the fear of death still fresh in mind. He no longer had the energy to try and escape. The

constant stress and fear had finally broken him.

If it was just enemies he had to face, then he might have managed somehow. He would

have rejoiced at the fact he was still alive, then gotten back up.

But those eyes the bear had looked at him with broke him. Those were the eyes of a

predator that saw Hajime as nothing more than food. The eyes most humans, who

stood at the top of the food chain, never even had to dream about. Those eyes, and the

sight of the bear chewing on his own arm, had completely crushed Hajimes spirit.

Someone… anyone… please save me… But he was deep within the pits of hell, so there

was absolutely no way his thoughts would reach anyone. He didn know how long he

sat there. But for the longest time, he just huddled in a fetal position, begging for

salvation he knew would not come.

Four days had now passed since Hajime had fallen from the bridge.

In that time he had barely moved, drawing the sustenance he needed from the Divinity

Stone. However, while Ambrosia could keep a man alive through all but the most

heinous of conditions, it could not sate his hunger. Though he couldn die, Hajime

suffered constant pangs of hunger, along with the phantom pain that ran down his

missing left arm.

Why is this happening to me? That question had been something he constantly thought


He couldn sleep because of the pain and hunger, and if he drank more Ambrosia, all

it did was clear his mind to let him feel the pain more vividly. Over and over, his fatigue

brought him to the edge of consciousness, only for the pain and hunger to draw him

back. And then to escape the pain he would drink more Ambrosia, which only invited

further pain. He had repeated that cycle more times than he could count.

At some point, Hajime stopped drinking the Ambrosia altogether. He had

unconsciously chosen the fastest way to end his pain.

”If all that awaits me is eternal pain… then I might as well… ” He muttered to himself,

clearly defeated, and let his consciousness slip away.

Three days after that.

The pain which had passed a certain threshold had abated for a while, but that was

simply the calm before the storm. His starvation came back in full force, and

excruciating hunger pangs continuously wracked his stomach. The phantom pain

continued as well, tormenting Hajime all the while. It felt as if his fingernails were

slowly being peeled off one by one, and then salt was dumped in the open wounds.

Im… still not dead yet…? Aaah… Please, please… I just want to live… While craving

death, he still instinctively clung to life. His thoughts began to contradict themselves.

Hajime was no longer capable of rational thought. His delirious mumblings no longer

made any semblance of sense.

Yet another three days passed.

Without the Ambrosias aid, he would expire in another two days. He had drunk

nothing in that time as well, so his thirst mingled with his hunger.

However, a short while earlier, around the eighth day since discovering the Divinity

Stone, a strange shift in his mentality had begun. Hovering between wishing for death

and praying for salvation, his mind had begun to warp, and dark thoughts began

welling up from Hajimes subconscious.

Like slime, it had slowly oozed into the cracks in his heart caused by his suffering, and

slowly eaten away at his soul.

Why do I have to suffer so much…? What did I ever do to deserve this? Why me… Why did

it end up like this? God just kidnapped me and dropped me off at this place… And then

my classmates betrayed me… I was looked down on by a rabbit… And then that bastard

ate my arm… His thoughts continued to grow darker. Like black ink slowly spreading

through white parchment, Hajimes pure heart slowly grew sullied.

Someone was at fault, someone had pushed this unfairness on him, someone had hurt

him like this… His mind started searching for an enemy to hate. The pain and hunger

and darkness all slowly eroded away Hajimes sanity. His dark thoughts continued to


Why isn anyone coming to save me? If no ones going to save me, what should I do? How

can I make this pain go away? By the ninth day, Hajime was trying to find a way out of

his predicament.

Thoughts of how to escape the pain were all that filled him, and even anger and hatred

were slowly being worn away. There was no time to be trapped by such petty feelings.

Because no matter how much he raged against his foes, Hajimes pain never lessened.

In order to escape the absurd and unreasonable situation he was stuck in, unneeded

feelings had to be discarded.

What is it I want? I want to live. And whats stopping me from living? The enemy. And

just who is the enemy? Everyone and everything that gets in my way, everything that

pushes this unreasonable fate onto me. So what is it I should do? I should… I should…

The tenth day. Both hatred and anger had vanished from his heart. The unfair god that

thrust him into this world, the classmate that betrayed him, the monsters that wanted

to kill him… even the smile of the girl who said she would protect him… they all ceased

to matter.

Compared to the pressing need for survival, such tiny feelings meant nothing. Hajimes

will resolved into a hardened point. Like the tip of a sword forged from the fires of hell.

Sharp, strong, and able to cut through anything.

And his will desired to… Kill them. There was no hatred, hostility, or anger in those

words. Just a simple statement of fact. In order to live, he had to kill.

Anything that threatened his life was an enemy. And all enemies were to be… Killed.

Kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill

kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill kill. In order to escape the relentless hunger,

he had to kill them and eat them. It was at that moment that the kind, quiet Hajime

Nagumo, the Hajime who blew everything off with an apology and a smile, the Hajime

Kaori had come to admire, ceased to exist.

And a new Hajime Nagumo, one who was willing to mercilessly slaughter anything

that stood in his path, was born.

His shattered soul had reformed once more. And it was not as a mere patchwork,

hastily repaired soul. No, this was a soul reforged in the darkness and despair of hell,

a soul tempered in pain and instinct. A soul harder than steel.

Hajime dragged his weakened body over to the cavity where the Ambrosia had spilled,

then lapped it up like a dog. His hunger and pain still remained, but his body regained

its vigor.

Then he roughly wiped his mouth, his eyes sparkling ferociously as a wicked grin

spread over his face. His canines peeked through his cruel smile. It was a complete

about-face from the kind of person he had been before.

Hajime stood up, and began muttering while he transmuted the ground.

”Ill kill them. ”

Twin-tailed Wolves made their dens in certain parts of the labyrinth floor. They

usually moved together in packs of four to six. Alone, they were among the weakest of

the monsters that roamed the floor, so they always acted in groups. This pack was no

exception, and was a group of four.

They skirted from boulder to boulder, vigilant of their surroundings, searching for a

suitable hunting ground. Twin-tailed Wolves generally preferred to ambush their prey.

They wandered the corridors for a while until finding what they deemed a suitable

hunting spot and all hid behind different boulders. All that remained was to wait for

prey to fall into their trap. One of the wolves slipped between a small crack in a nearby

boulder and the wall, then erased its presence. It licked its lips in anticipation,

imagining the flesh it would soon feast on, when suddenly it felt a rather odd sense of


As the wolves key to survival was their cooperation, the members of a pack all shared

a peculiar link with each other. It wasn as straightforward as telepathy, but they were

basically able to tell what the rest of their pack was doing and where they were. And

it was that link that tipped the wolf off. They were a pack of four, and yet the wolf could

only sense two of its other companions. The wolf that should have been lying in wait

on the other end of the corridor suddenly vanished.

Suspicious, the wolf slowly rose on its haunches, when suddenly another one of its

comrades howled. The wolf that was hiding on the same side of the wall as the one

that had disappeared was feeling a sense of impatience. It was caught in something

and trying to escape, but seemed unable to do so.

The two wolves on the other side of the corridor rose to go to its aid. But then the

struggling wolfs presence suddenly vanished as well.

Confused, the two wolves rushed over to the far side, but found no one there.

Bewildered at the turn of events, the two wolves put their snouts to the ground and

began sniffing the area their pack members had been in moments ago.

Suddenly, the ground under them began to cave in, and the walls jutted out to encase

them. They tried to jump out, but before they could, the ground around their feet rose

up and hardened around them. Normally, the wolves would have easily been able to

shatter such frail shackles. Had they not been confused by this unusual situation, they

would never have even fallen for such a simple trap.

However, their assailant had predicted their confusion, as well as their hesitation. And

their precious few moments of confusion were enough for him to trap them.

”Graaaah!? ” The two wolves howled angrily as they found themselves stuck fast inside

the wall… Then the wall swallowed them whole, and only the echoes of their screams


It was, of course, Hajime who had trapped the four wolves. Ever since he had resolved

to strike back, he had spent each day in ceaseless training, ignoring his pain and

hunger. The Ambrosia extended his life and restored his mana, so he was able to focus

on his transmutation twenty-four seven. He worked on his speed, his precision, and

his range. He knew then that had he gone outside with his current level of skill, he

would have died instantly. So he made his base where the Divinity Stone was, and

honed the only weapon he possessed. That weapon was, of course, transmutation.

Though he had ignored his pain while he trained, it only continued to grow as time

passed. But that pain only spurred his determination, and he redoubled his efforts to

improve his transmutation. Thanks to his focused training, his skills increased far

more rapidly than they had been until now, and he was able to transmute from over

three meters away now. Unfortunately, his talent for earth magic itself had not grown

at all.

Once he had decided hed trained enough, he created a small stone container in which

he scooped up some Ambrosia, and began wandering the dungeon, transmuting,

searching for his first target.

That was when he had found the pack of Twin-tailed Wolves. He had followed them

silently for a while. Of course, he was nearly spotted numerous times, but every time

he managed to transmute walls around him and remain inconspicuous. Then, the

moment the four split up to head to their ambush points, he had transmuted the wall

and dragged one of the wolves into it.

”Now then, still alive, are we? Well, I can kill anything directly with transmutation, I

suppose. I could maybe make spikes come out of the earth, but they wouldn have

enough force to kill monsters this deep in the labyrinth. ” Hajime grinned wolfishly as

he peered down at the trapped monsters through a small hole at his feet. The wolves

were all trapped within the wall itself, and couldn budge an inch. They were all

whimpering softly, panic evident in their eyes.

He had, in fact, tried to attack a monster by transmuting a spike to stab it from

underneath before, but it hadn even had enough power to penetrate its hide. That

was, after all, something more in the domain of earth magic and not transmutation. In

the end, it was still a skill used for mineral processing and production, so it would be

impossible for a production skill to have any real power. Which was why trapping

them was the best he could do with it.

”I could just suffocate you in here… but Im not patient enough to wait that long. ”

Hajimes eyes had the glint of a predator to them by that point.

Hajime put his right hand up against the wall and transmuted it. He cut away parts of

the boulder little by little, focusing on the image in his mind to make sure his work

stayed precise. Eventually, he was able to make a spiral-tipped spear. He then began

working on the shaft. He added a handle where the grip would normally be.

”Now then, time for a little digging! ” Hajime pointed his spear down at the wolves as

he said that. He thrust down, and felt their tough fur and skin deflect his spearhead.

”So I can stab through, huh? Well, I expected that, though. ” Why had he not just

crafted himself a knife or sword? That was because the stronger a monster got, the

tougher its outer hide was, usually. Obviously there were species that were exceptions

to the rule, but as Hajime had spent all his time at the castle studying, he knew that a

normal knife or sword wouldn penetrate the hides of monsters at this level.

And that was why he began to twist the handle he made for himself, while applying a

steady downward pressure. The spiral-shaped tip began to rotate as he twisted. He

had made a drill to pierce the thick hide of monsters.

He pushed the weight of his entire body down into the drill as he turned it with his

right hand. Slowly but surely, the drill began to penetrate the wolfs thick hide.

”Graaaaah!? ” The wolf howled in pain.

”It hurts, doesn it? Well, Im not gonna apologize for it. Gotta do this to live after all.

Youd eat me if you had the chance, so we
e even. ” He spoke to the wolf while

continuing his slow drilling. The wolf tried to struggle, but it was unable to move at all

due to the stone tomb.

Finally, the drill pierced the flesh of the wolf. And Hajime mercilessly gouged out its

insides. The wolf screamed in agony as it died. Its howls lasted for a while, until

suddenly, it spasmed and grew still.

”Alright, with this I finally have some food. ” Hajime smiled happily as he drilled the

other three wolves to death. Once they were all dead, Hajime transmuted their corpses

up to him, then began awkwardly peeling away their fur with one hand.

After that, driven by his hunger, he began to devour them. He cut a ghastly figure as he

tore into their flesh, illuminated dimly by the green light of the crystals. The green

light that defined his hell. He greedily devoured the wolf, every bit the animal he had

just killed.

”Agah… Gah, tastes like shit! ” He spat curses, but that didn stop him from eating the

wolf. His entire mind was focused on his meal.

The flesh was tough and stringy, and the fresh blood clogged his throat, but he tore at

the meat and swallowed it all happily nonetheless. It was his first time tasting food in

two weeks. His stomach protested at the sudden infusion of flesh, and resisted its

ingestion. But Hajime didn care what his stomach thought, so he continued wolfing

the wolf down.

He looked just like a feral monster. Any modern human would have found his current

figure repulsive.

The meat smelled raw and disgusting, bringing tears to his eyes, but Hajime felt the

food relieve his excruciating hunger pangs, and compared to those, such minor

inconveniences were nothing. He had never imagined eating meat could be such a

euphoric experience. He ate and ate and ate.

Hours passed, and still he continued to consume. He gulped it all down with Ambrosia,

and had the priests of the Holy Church known his barbaric meal was accompanied

with such a sacred drink, they would have fainted. However, around the time he was

finally starting to feel full, Hajime began to notice a change occurring within his body.

”Ah? Gah!? Agaaaah! ” Searing pain shot through him. It felt as if something were eating

away at him from within. As time passed, the pain only grew worse.

”Guaaaaaaaah!!! Wh-Whats— Gaaaaaaah!!! ” It was unendurable agony. The pain was

trying to eat him from the inside out. Hajime writhed on the ground, screaming in

terror. This pain was far, far worse than the hunger pangs he had been feeling


With a trembling hand, Hajime pulled a stone vial out of his pocket, ripped the cap off,

and poured its contents down his throat. The Ambrosia did its work, and the pain

began to recede, but then, eventually, it returned once more.

”Hiii… Gugaaaaaah! Why… won it heal… Gaaaaah! ” Along with the pain Hajime, began

to feel his body throb. It began to pulse, like one big organism. In fact, he could hear

his body creaking too.

However, an instant later the Ambrosia kicked in again and began repairing his body.

Once the healing finished, the pain returned. Then he was healed again.

Thanks to the Ambrosia, he couldn even faint. Its healing powers had backfired on


Hajime screamed incoherently, smacking his head against the wall over and over, but

the pain showed no signs of ending. He begged for someone to end his pain, but of

course no one granted his wish.

Eventually, Hajimes body began to morph.

The color was bleached from his hair. He was unsure whether it was from the pain or

for some other reason entirely, but his distinctively Japanese black hair slowly turned

white. Then, his muscles and bones began to grow slightly, giving him a toned

appearance. Red veins ran down the inside of his body, though he wasn aware of that

at the time.

There existed a phenomenon known as overcompensation. When one attempted

muscle training, their muscles actually tore, and the body simply regrew them a bit

stronger to overcompensate. And that same thing was happening to Hajime.

A monsters meat was poison to humans. Because of the mana crystals distilled into

their blood, a monsters specialized organs allowed them to directly interface with

magic, and give them superior physical strength. The mana that circulated through

monsters affected even their bones and muscles.

This transformed mana allowed monsters to use magic without incantations or magic

circles, though no one knew exactly how. Regardless of the particulars, a monsters

mana was poison to humans, and killed any who tried to ingest it. It would eat a person

away from the inside, destroying their very cells.

There were people who had tried to eat monsters in the past and they had all, without

exception, died. In fact, Hajime had read all about this, but his extreme hunger had led

him to forget.

Had Hajime just eaten the wolfs flesh, he would have died an agonizing, but swift

death. But there had been something that prevented that. And that was the Ambrosia.

It healed him every time his body was destroyed. As a result, his body was forced to

evolve at an unnaturally rapid pace.

It was broken, then repaired. Broken, then repaired. With each cycle, his body slowly

changed. Almost like a reincarnation of sorts. His frail human body was forcibly

transformed into something stronger, and he went through a ritual of rebirth. It could

be said Hajimes screams were akin to the cries of a newborn.

Finally the pain receded, and Hajime slumped to the ground. The hair on his head had

turned white, and underneath his clothes, veins of dark red mana ran down his body.

Just like the Twin-tail Wolves, or the Kickmaster Rabbits, or the Claw Bears.

Hajimes right hand twitched. He slowly opened his eyes, then groggily looked down

at his right hand, and finally clawed at the ground, slowly curling his fingers into a fist.

He clenched and unclenched his hand multiple times, confirming that he was indeed

still alive, and that his body still listened to him, before slowly getting up.

”Come to think of it, you weren supposed to eat monster meat… I can believe I did

something so retarded… Well, I wouldn have lasted much longer without food either,

though… ” Exhausted, Hajime smiled self-deprecatingly.

His hunger had faded, and the specter of his left arm no longer pained him either. For

the first time in what felt like an eternity, he was free of pain. In fact, his body felt

surprisingly light, and power was overflowing from within him.

Despite how much the constant pain had exhausted him mentally, he still felt better

than he ever had in his life. He looked over at his arm, then down at his stomach, and

saw very prominent muscles. He had grown a little taller too. He had originally been a

mere 165 centimeters tall, but he had grown a full ten centimeters.

”What happened to my body? I feel different somehow… ” And it wasn just the outside.

The inside of Hajimes body somehow felt different as well. It was at once both hot and

cold, an indescribably strange feeling. If he focused, he could make dark red veins float

up to the top of his arm.

”Uwaaah, th-thats gross! Its like I turned into a monster or something… I better not

have, that would make for a terrible joke. Oh yeah, I should check my status plate… ”

He fished around for the status plate he had completely forgotten about, eventually

pulling it out of his pocket. It appeared he hadn lost it yet. He examined his current

stats, imagining it would give him some insight to the changes in his body.

Hajime Nagumo Age: 17 Male Level: 8

Job: Synergist

Strength: 100

Vitality: 300

Defense: 100

Agility: 200

Magic: 300

Magic Defense: 300

Skills: Transmute — Mana Manipulation — Iron Stomach — Lightning Field —

Language Comprehension

”What in tarnation? ” A little of the old Hajime returned as the shock made him slip

into his weird accent. His stats had all risen astronomically, and he had three new

skills. But his level had only risen to eight. Since a persons level represented the

proportion of the total potential they had reached, it would seem that Hajimes growth

limits had increased as well.

”Mana Manipulation? ” If he took it literally, that would mean Hajime had gained the

power to directly control mana.

Could that weird sensation Ive been feeling be mana? Hajime thought, and attempted

to activate his Mana Manipulation skill.

When he focused, Hajime saw those dark red veins come up to the surface of his skin

again. He concentrated on an image of that sensation rushing to his right hand all at

once. As he did so, the strange sensation, or rather his mana, began slowly flowing

down to his hand.

”Oh? Oooooooh! ” He unconsciously cried out at the inexplicable sensation of mana

moving throughout his body. Then, suddenly, his mana poured into the magic circle

inscribed on the glove he was wearing without him having to say anything. Surprised,

Hajime attempted to transmute something. The ground rose up without him saying a


”No way. I didn even need to chant an incantation? I thought direct mana control

wasn supposed to be possible for anyone except monsters…? Does that mean I

absorbed a monsters special abilities by eating it? ” That was indeed the case. Hajime

had acquired the power of monsters. He then moved to try out another of his new

skills, Lightning Field.

”Umm… how am I supposed to use this? Since it says Lightning Field, it must have

something to do with electricity, right? Could it be? Do I have the same skill the wolf

used when it gathered electricity in its tail? ” He tried various things, but none of them

seemed to do anything. Unlike Mana Manipulation, he couldn physically feel the skill

inside him, so he wasn exactly sure how to go about activating it.

While pondering to himself, he remembered that when he was transmuting, he always

needed a mental image of the effect he was trying to produce. The less one relied on a

magic circle to define the characteristics of a spell, the more they needed a mental

image to guide its creation.

Hajime formed an image of crackling static electricity in his mind. Suddenly, red

lightning started trailing down his fingertips.

”Oooh, I did it! I see. So to use a monsters magic, I need a good mental image of its

properties. And now that I take a closer look… my manas become reddish just like the

monsters. ” He continued practicing making electrical discharges over and over.

However, unlike the Twin-tailed Wolves, he was unable to fire off the electricity he

could generate. From the sound of the name ”Lightning Field, ” Hajime surmised that

he could only wrap himself in lightning, and transfer it via direct contact. So he

practiced adjusting the flow of the current, as well as the voltage of the electricity he

could produce.

The skill Iron Stomach most likely did exactly what its name suggested. Hajime most

certainly didn want to suffer that hellish pain of eating monster meat ever again.

However, there didn appear to be any other source of food in the labyrinth either.

Which would have meant that he would be forced to choose between starvation and

agonizing pain. Fortunately, he assumed that skill of his prevented him from having to

make such a choice.

He took another strip of wolf flesh and seared it with his Lightning Field. Since he was

no longer half-mad with hunger, he realized there was no need to eat the meat raw. He

tried to ignore the pungent odor of burning flesh as he cooked the meat. Then he

steeled himself, taking a bite of the meat.

A few seconds passed… a minute… ten minutes… and still nothing happened. Hajime

grilled some more meat and ate it. And still there was no pain. He wasn sure if it was

due to his Iron Stomach, or if his body had just adapted to monster flesh. He also didn

care too much. He was just glad he could eat again, without having to suffer every time

he did.

After he had eaten his fill, Hajime returned to his base. As he was, he might even have

had a chance against that bear. He decided to spend some time training his new skills

first, though.

He went back to where hed left the wolves corpses and cut their meat into strips. He

had a much easier time peeling their fur off this time. He piled as much meat as he

could hold into another one of his stone containers, and carefully took it back to his


Once safe in his base with a supply of food, Hajime spent the next few days diligently

training his skills.

All of his skills grew at a fast pace. His transmutation skill underwent a change as well.

It appeared that he had mastered it to the point where derivative skills began to pop

up. The derivative skill he had learned from it was ”Ore Appraisal. ” It was a high-level

derivative skill that was rare even among royal blacksmiths.

Appraisal magic was generally far more complex than offensive magic, and therefore

required suitably large magic circles to activate. For that reason, only certain academic

facilities and large institutions had appraisal magic circles. However, people with

appraisal skills could appraise anything within their domain of analysis with a small

magic circle and simple incantation, as long as they were touching their target. It was

a derivative skill, so it was by definition impossible to innately possess. Only through

long years of transmutation training could one obtain the skill.

When he acquired it, Hajime made sure to appraise every single ore and mineral he

could find. When he appraised the green glowstones, the following appeared on his

status plate:

Green glowstone: This ore can absorb mana. When it is saturated with mana, it emits

a faint green light. If you break a saturated glowstone, the light it has contained within

explodes out all at once in a brilliant flash.

A very simple explanation. However, it was still very useful information. Hajime

grinned wickedly as a plan came to mind. He wandered the labyrinth, looking for other

stones to appraise, and ran into a certain mineral that gave him the idea for a weapon

that would soon become his trump card.

Blastrock: A combustible ore. When exposed to fire, it burns like oil. As it burns, it

slowly decreases in volume until it finally burns to cinders. Burning large quantities

of blastrock in a confined space will make it explode violently. Depending on its

quantity and pressure, its possible to create flames as strong as those created by fire


Hajime could feel all the pieces coming together when he read that explanation.

Blastrock is just like gunpowder back on earth. With something like this, I can make a

weapon out of Transmutation, even!

Hajime stared at the stone excitedly. It would take a great deal of trial and error to get

things the way he wanted them, but he was still overjoyed. He finally had a combat use

for the transmutation that had saved his life so many times before.

He began zealously working on his project, so focused on his transmuting that he

didn eat or sleep for days. After thousands of failed attempts, Hajime finally

completed it.

A modern weapon that boasted immense strength and fired projectiles that traveled

faster than the speed of sound. The weapon was about thirty-five centimeters long,

made of the hardest and densest material he could find, taur, and it boasted six

chambers. The barrel was rectangular. The bullets were made from the same superhard taur stone, and each shot was packed with powdered blastrock.

He had made himself a revolver. But the difference was that it used more than just the

power of blastrock combustion to propel its bullets. Hajime was able to use his

Lightning Field skill to electrically accelerate his shots like a railgun. The combination

made his bullets pack more of a punch than an anti-tank rifle. He decided to name it

Donner. It was going to be his partner moving forward, so he reasoned it needed a


”With this, both those monsters… and the exit… are in my sights! ” Hajime stared

proudly at Donner, the weapon he had made by using the guns he remembered from

his old world as a reference.

The most common class in the world, Synergist, which was thought to be good for

nothing more than crafting swords and armor, had brought forth modern weaponry

into this fantasy world with the power of its sole skill, Transmute.

Taur stone: A black, hard rock. On the Mohs scale that went up to 10, it would rank an

8 for hardness. It is able to handle heat and direct impacts well, but is weak to the cold.

Cooling the stone makes it brittle and fragile. However, reheating it will restore its


”Munch… Munch… Man, even rabbit meat tastes like shit… ” A few days after he had

finished crafting Donner, Hajime was sitting outside his base eating rabbit meat. By

rabbit meat, he of course meant Kickmaster Rabbit meat. The same powerful rabbit

that had looked down on Hajime before was nothing more than his prey. Hajime had

hoped the rabbits meat might taste a bit better, but it was every bit as disgusting as

the wolves he had eaten. It was still monster meat, after all.

Despite its disgusting taste, he still ate it with gusto. Thanks to his Iron Stomach skill,

he was able to eat as much as he wanted whenever he felt himself getting hungry.

Using the magic he had acquired from monsters made him grow hungry quickly, and

since he had used that magic to take down the rabbit, he had eaten it all to replenish

his energy.

If he overused his magic, his hunger pangs would flare up again, and while he wouldn

die thanks to the Ambrosia he carried with him everywhere, he still needed to be

careful about how much magic he used.

Incidentally, he had killed the Kickmaster Rabbit by luring it into a trap. He had drawn

water from the river he had first woken up in, and lured the rabbit close. Once it had

dashed forward into the wet surface he had created, he had used Lightning Field to

transmit a powerful electric shock. Once the electricity passed, smoke started rising

from the rabbits body, and as he had expected, its movements had been slowed.

Hajime had finished the weakened rabbit off with Donner.

Just as he thought, his railgun powered revolver was able to obliterate the rabbits

face, the bullet moving three kilometers per second as it punched through its head.

Donner was even more powerful than Hajime had imagined.

”Now then, that was my first time eating rabbit meat, so lets see how my stats

changed… ”

Hajime Nagumo Age: 17 Male Level: 12

Job: Synergist

Strength: 200

Vitality: 300

Defense: 200

Agility: 400

Magic: 350

Magic Defense: 350

Skills: Transmute [+Ore Appraisal] [+Precision Transmutation] [+Ore Perception] —

Mana Manipulation — Iron Stomach — Lightning Field — Air Dance [+Aerodynamic]

[+Supersonic Step] — Language Comprehension

As he had thought, eating monsters increased his stats. Though he hadn gotten much

stronger by eating more Twin-tail Wolves, his stats had taken a huge leap when he ate

a new type of monster.

Guess Ill test out what this ”Air Dance ” does. What first came to Hajimes mind was the

way that rabbit had moved. It had rushed forward so fast that hed only been able to

make it out as a blur. He inferred that that was most likely the Supersonic Step skill at

work. Come to think of it, its a lot like the fast movement stuff you see in anime.

Hajime kept the image of explosive power gathering in his legs and dashed forward.

He felt mana gather within his legs. The ground underneath his feet exploded in a

shower of rubble as Hajime leaped forward… and slammed face first into the wall.

”Owww! C-Controlling my acceleration is harder than I thought. ” However, his

experiment was still a success. He imagined that if he trained it a little, he too would

be able to move like the rabbit had. Used in tandem with his revolver, those skills

would be a powerful weapon indeed.

Next, he tried to use Aerodynamics. However, he found himself unable to activate it.

He had a hard time figuring out just what kind of skill it was from the name alone.

After testing a bunch of different things, Hajime suddenly remembered how the rabbit

had sometimes looked to be standing in midair. And so, he quickly stuck his foot out

and imagined there being an invisible shield supporting it from below. Then he

jumped forward.

He found himself face-planting magnificently into the ground.

”Guooooh!? ” He cradled his face in his hand as he rolled around in pain. After the

aching subsided a little, he sullenly drank a bit of Ambrosia.

”Well… at least it works… ” The reason he had faceplanted into the ground despite

jumping forward was because he hadn properly formed his footing. That was why he

had effectively stumbled and fallen in midair. Aerodynamic was apparently a skill that

allowed him to create footholds in midair. He had obtained multiple skills at once from

the rabbit, though they were all derivative skills of the skill Air Dance.

Pleased that he had obtained multiple skills at once, Hajime began training them at

once. He wanted to be strong enough to take down that Claw Bear. He figured hed be

able to defeat it at long-range with Donner easily enough, but he wanted to make

completely sure, just in case. And there was always the possibility of even stronger

monsters showing up. Optimism in the labyrinth got you killed. Once he was certain

he could kill even Claw Bears, it would be time to start searching for an exit.

Hajime redoubled his resolve, training harder than ever before.

A figure sped down the labyrinth corridors so fast that he appeared no more than a


That figure was, of course, Hajime. Having completely mastered Air Dance, he was

using Supersonic Step to dash off the walls, while sometimes also using Aerodynamic

to create mid-air footholds for himself. He traversed the labyrinth at high speed,

seeking out his mortal foe, the Claw Bear.

In all honesty, searching for an exit should have taken priority, but Hajime was

consumed by the desire to get revenge on the bear. He wouldn be able to move on

unless he was able to prove to himself that he was more than a match for the monster

that had once crushed his spirit.

”Graaaaah! ” He ran into a pack of Twin-tailed Wolves, and one of them leaped at him.

Hajime calmly vaulted into the air, did a mid-air somersault, pulled out Donner, which

was strapped to his right leg with a holster made of transmuted threads, and fired.

Bang! The sound of combusting blastrock echoed down the corridor and Hajimes

Lightning Field-accelerated bullet pulverized the head of the first Twin-tailed Wolf.

He then used Aerodynamic to do a double jump in the air, before taking aim and firing

a volley of shots at the other wolves. They didn all hit their mark, but he was still able

to annihilate the pack with only a single barrage.

Hajime held Donner in the crook of his left armpit and quickly began reloading. Then,

without so much as a backward glance at the fallen wolves, he dashed off once more.

After a while spent killing any Kickmaster Rabbits or Twin-tailed Wolves that he came

across, Hajime finally spotted his prey.

The Claw Bear was in the middle of a meal. It was chewing on the remains of what

appeared to have been a Kickmaster Rabbit. Hajime grinned triumphantly and began

leisurely walking closer.

The Claw Bear was the strongest monster to appear on this floor. In other words, it

was the king. While there were hordes of Twin-tailed Wolves and Kickmaster Rabbits,

the Claw Bear was the only one of its kind.

Thus, it stood to reason that there was nothing stronger inhabiting the floor. The other

monsters all took great pains to stay out of its way, and if they ever encountered it,

they ran as fast as they could in the other direction. No creature dared oppose it. The

thought of anyone approaching it of their own free will was patently absurd.

However, that very absurdity was currently unfolding before the bears eyes.

”Sup, bear. Been a while. Did you like the taste of my arm? ”

The Claw Bear narrowed its angry eyes. What is this creature? Why doesn it run? Why

is it not trembling in fear? Why does despair not fill its eyes? The bear was confused,

having never seen something like this before.

”Im here for my revenge match. But first, Im going to make you see me as your enemy,

and not just prey. ”

Hajime pulled Donner out of its holster and pointed it at the Claw Bear. He then slowly

asked himself a question as he took aim.

”Am I scared? ” The answer was a definitive ”No. ” He wasn shivering in fear, nor was

he in the grips of despair. No, the only emotions roiling within him were a fierce will

to survive, and a burning desire to kill his enemies.

Hajimes lips curled upward into a ferocious grin.

”Im going to kill you and eat you, you bastard. ” He pulled Donners trigger. With a

resounding bang, a hardened bullet of taur sped toward the Claw Bear at three

kilometers per second.

”Gaaaooo!? ” It instantly dropped to the ground with a roar, narrowly avoiding Hajimes


It had started moving even before Hajime had pulled the trigger. It was of course

impossible for the bear to see the bullet Hajime had fired, but Hajimes bloodlust had

made it reflexively dodge. It wasn this floors strongest monster for nothing. It had

reacted far faster than its massive, two meter long, frame would have suggested.

However, even then it hadn been able to completely avoid the attack. The bullet had

grazed its shoulder, gouging out a slice of it.

The Claw Bear angrily glared at Hajime, blood staining the white fur around its

shoulder. It looked like it finally saw him as an enemy and not just food.

”Graaaooooo!!! ” With a furious roar, it charged Hajime. The ground thundered as its

tree trunk sized legs pounded down the corridor, making for a truly awe-inspiring


”Hahaha! Thats right! Im your enemy! Not just some prey to be hunted! ” Despite how

foreboding the Claw Bear looked as it bore down on Hajime, his smile didn waver.

This was the moment of truth. It was the moment that would decide if Hajime could

overcome the monster that had eaten his left arm, crushed his soul, and been the

impetus of his transformation. A necessary ritual he needed to overcome, if he was

ever to move forward. Something deep inside made him feel that he would give up for

good if he failed at that point. He couldn explain how or why, he just knew.

He took aim, firing Donner once more at the charging bear. He had aimed squarely at

its forehead, but the Claw Bear somehow managed to roll to the side, even while

charging forward. It made no sense for something so big to be so fast.

It barreled its way into range of Hajime and swiped at him with one of its massive

claws. The edge of its claws looked slightly warped as they swept down. Is that related

to its special magic?

Hajime recalled that the rabbit that had supposedly dodged the bears swipe had still

been cut in half. So instead of just barely dodging to the side, he leaped back with all

his might.

”Hah. ” An instant later the bears claw swiped past where Hajime had just been

standing, followed by a ferocious gale. He gasped in pain, then looked down and saw

shallow cuts running down his chest. He hadn been able to completely dodge it. His

reaction time wasn able to keep up with the rapid increase in his physical abilities.

The Claw Bear roared, angry that its prey still lived, and in the blink of an eye, swiped

down a second time at his enemy.

”Damn, you
e fast! ” Hajime cursed without realizing it as he saw a second set of wind

blades bear down on him. He instantly used Aerodynamic to flee into the air while

firing off a third shot. However, the Claw Bear instantly changed directions the

moment it saw the red flash from Donner, completely ignoring the laws of inertia.

Upon closer inspection, Hajime saw deep ruts in the ground and realized it must have

used its claws as a fulcrum to pivot off of. It was certainly far more intelligent and far

more agile than a normal beast.

”Gaaaaaaoo!!! ” It roared again, then swung its foreclaws in a cross at Hajime, who was

still up in the air. Warning bells went off inside Hajimes head. Without sparing a

moment to think, Hajime activated both Aerodynamic and Supersonic Step at the same

time, then dashed away from that spot.

He felt a gust of wind brush past his thigh, and a second later the wall behind him had

a crosshatched lattice of furrows gouged into it.

”Guh. Damn bastard. You can do that too? ” Hajime groaned as he fell to the ground. He

hit the ground off-balance, and fell. He righted himself instantly, but staggered as a

sharp pain ran through his thigh. It seemed that the Claw Bear could throw its wind

claws too.

Hajimes expression twisted into a pained grimace, but he took no time to dwell on it

and fired Donner once more. He didn have time to nurse his wounds, as the bear had

already started closing in once more. He pulled the trigger again, firing twice in quick

succession. Even with its inhuman agility the Claw Bear wasn able to dodge both

bullets, and took two hits, one to the temple, and the other to its flank. Though it had

managed to avoid fatal injuries, it had still been blown off the course of its charge. The

distraction proved enough to stop the next barrage of wind claws from going off.

However, though it had veered a little off course, the Claw Bear still charged forward

like a cannonball. Though he wasn directly in the bears trajectory any longer, his

wounded leg prevented him from dodging, so the bear still managed to hurtle into

him. It felt like being hit by a truck. Hajime was blasted backward from the force of the

bears charge.

”Gahah!? ” The impact forced the air out of his lungs, which made Hajime snarl


Donners chamber held six bullets. He had fired five, but he still had one left. There

was no way he would be able to reload in the middle of this fight, and his own stats

weren high enough that he could beat the Claw Bear without Donners overwhelming

firepower. Each shot that missed was a shot that had brought him that much closer to

death. And yet, Hajime still grinned. Because with this, his victory was now assured.

As he slammed into the ground, he flung Donner into the air. He then pulled something

out of his pocket and threw it at the injured Claw Bear.

”Im quite proud of how this one turned out. Youd best be careful if you don want to

die. ” Though there was no way for the bear to understand Hajimes words, it still

looked down at the object that rolled to its feet when he mumbled that. What lay there

was a small emerald ball, about five centimeters in diameter. And that ball suddenly

burst in an explosion of light.

It was Hajimes makeshift flash grenade. The principle behind it was simple. He had

taken a piece of green glowstone and filled it to the brim with mana. After that he had

applied a thin coating over it to keep the light from leaking through. He had then

packed a small quantity of blastrock in the rocks center, and created the blastrock

fuse that led all the way to a coated surface.

Finally, he had lit the fuse by using Lightning Field. The blastrock on the outside

burned slowly until it reached the packed center where it exploded violently. With the

crystal shattered, the glowstone released its light all at once in a brilliant emerald

flash. He had set the fuse to explode three seconds after he lit it. Though it had taken

a great deal of effort to make, he was proud of the end result.

The bear, who had no knowledge of modern weaponry, naturally found its gaze drawn

to the grenade, and when it exploded it blinded the Claw Bear. It roared in pain, wildly

swinging its front paws. Being blinded had sent it into a panic.

And Hajime planned to take full advantage of that. He scooped Donner off the ground,

took aim, and fired. The electrically accelerated bullet hit the rampaging bear squarely

in its left shoulder, and ripped it clean off.

”Graaaaaaooooo!!! ” Its roar was loud enough to crack eardrums. The Claw Bear had

never suffered such pain before. Gouts of blood spurted from the stump that had once

been its arm. The blown off left arm spun in the air a few times before losing its inertia

and flopping back down to the ground with a wet thud.

”What an ironic twist of fate. ” Hajime had not actually aimed for the Claw Bears left

arm. He just wasn that good a shot yet. He had enough practice from fighting Twintailed Wolves and the like to hit an enemy that was charging straight at him, but he

certainly wasn good enough to hit a flailing enemy with pinpoint accuracy. So the fact

that Hajime had taken the bears left arm, just as it had done to him, was a complete


Hajime kept a close eye on the bear, which was still flailing around blindly, and pushed

Donner up against his body with his stump of a left arm and reloaded.

He fired once more. Though the bear was still disoriented, its beastlike sixth sense let

it perceive Hajimes bloodlust and it leaped to the side. It seemed it was Hajimes

bloodlust that gave the Claw Bear enough forewarning to dodge railgun accelerated

bullets. Once he realized this, Hajime narrowed his eyes, and used Supersonic Step to

dash past the bear, over to where his severed left arm lay.

The bear turned to look at him with its furious, hate-filled red eyes. It seemed it had

finally recovered its eyesight. As it was watching, Hajime lifted up the bears left arm,

and bit down on it. His jaws had been greatly strengthened from eating demon meat

for so long, so he easily tore through the tough skin and sinew. It was a repetition of

the time when the Claw Bear had eaten Hajimes arm in front of him, except this time

it was Hajime doing the eating.

”Hamf, mmf, no matter how many times I eat it, demon meat still tastes like shit…

Though for some reason this is just a little bit better than the others. ” Hajime looked

down at the bear, who was watching him warily by that point. It didn move. There

was fear in its eyes, but the shock of seeing its own flesh eaten in front of it, combined

with its still blurry eyesight, prevented it from moving.

Glad for the reprieve, Hajime continued chewing. Suddenly, he felt something. Sharp

pains pulsed through his body, just like the first time he had eaten monster meat.

”Wha—!? ” He quickly pulled out a vial of Ambrosia and ingested it. The pain wasn as

bad as the first time, but it was still sharp enough that he fell to one knee, unable to

keep himself upright. It appeared the Claw Bear was a different species entirely

compared to the Twin-tailed Wolves or Kickmaster Rabbits, and absorbing its power

brought with it the old pain.

Of course, the bear wasn about to let that chance slip past. It roared in defiance and

charged forward. Hajime was still on one knee, unable to move. At this rate he would

be trampled by the bear, and it would just be a repeat of their first encounter. But when

that thought crossed his mind, something suddenly occurred to Hajime and he


He put his right hand on the ground… and wrapped it in lightning. All of the lightning

released by his full power Lightning Field raced down the liquid coating the ground,

and zapped the bear standing on the other end.

The liquid was of course the bears blood. The sea of blood that had poured out of its

stump of a left arm. When Hajime had brandished the Claw Bears arm right in front

of it, he had spilled drops of blood everywhere, and created a small puddle of it around

where he stood.

He was not so arrogant that he would eat in the middle of a fight just to show off. He

hadn predicted the pain of eating monster meat to return, but the rest of it had all

been part of his trap. Even eating the arm right in front of the bear had been to goad it

into charging headlong at him. The pain had thrown a bit of a wrench in his plans, but

everything had still ended up working out just fine.

The moment the bear had stepped into the pool of its own blood, thousands of volts

of electricity fried its entire body. The electricity burned the Claw Bears flesh,

scorching some nerves as it did. However, though he had unleashed it at full power, its

might was still a far cry from the actual thing. Unlike the Twin-tailed Wolves, he was

unable to shoot lightning bolts, and his Lightning Field could only output half the

power of the original. But even that much was still enough to paralyze the bear for a

few seconds.

”Graooooo! ” The Claw Bear let out a low growl, then collapsed to its knees, shivering

in a puddle of its own electrically charged blood. Even down on all fours— or rather

all threes— it still glared murderously at Hajime.

He glared right back at it, and painfully got to his feet. He slowly pulled Donner out of

its holster, and walked over to the Claw Bear. He pushed the muzzle against its


e my prey now, ” he said with finality, pulling the trigger one last time. The taur

bullet fulfilled its duty, utterly pulverizing the Claw Bears head.

One final gunshot echoed throughout the empty corridor.

Up until the moment of its death, the Claw Bear never took its gaze off Hajime.

Similarly, Hajime never took his gaze off the Claw Bear.

The exhilarating rush of joy he had expected never came. But there was no sense of

emptiness either. He had simply done what was necessary. Necessary in order to live,

in order to earn the right to survive.

Hajime closed his eyes and rethought his mindset. After a moment of quiet

deliberation, he resolved to continue living like this. He did not enjoy fighting. He just

wanted to avoid pain. He just wanted to be able to eat his fill.

He just… wanted to live.

Overthrowing his unreasonable fate, killing everything that opposed him, they were

all simply steps he took in order to survive.

He swore to himself. That he would survive… and… make it back home.

”Thats right… I just want… to go home. I don care about anything else. Ill make it

home, no matter what I have to do. Ill grant this one wish of mine, by my own hands.

And no matter who they may be, anyone that tries to stand in my way… ” Hajime

opened his eyes and smiled viciously.

”Will die by these hands. ”

Hajime Nagumo Age: 17 Male Level: 17

Job: Synergist

Strength: 300

Vitality: 400

Defense: 300

Agility: 450

Magic: 400

Magic Defense: 400

Skills: Transmute [+Ore Appraisal] [+Precision Transmutation] [+Ore Perception]

[+Ore Desynthesis] [+Ore Synthesis] — Mana Manipulation — Iron Stomach —

Lightning Field — Air Dance [+Aerodynamic] [+Supersonic Step] — Gale Claw —

Language Comprehension

Let us turn back the clock a few weeks.

Shizuku Yaegashi gazed sorrowfully at her still-sleeping friend. The summoned heroes

had all been granted private rooms in the Heiligh Palace, and Shizuku was currently

resting in one of them.

It had been five days since their desperate life and death struggle in the labyrinth. They

had rested one night in Horauds inn before taking an express carriage back to the

palace. After having tasted death and despair, the students were in no condition to

continue their practical training course. Furthermore, even if he had been treated as

a useless hanger-on, a member of the heros party had died and that fact needed to be

reported to the king and the Holy Church.

And though they knew they were being cruel, the knights couldn allow the heroes

fighting spirits to break. They had to restore the mental stability of the students before

their psyches shattered completely.

As Shizuku recalled the events that had transpired since Hajimes death, part of her

wished that Kaori would wake up quickly, while another part of her hoped that she

might just sleep forever.

Every single person who heard the report of Hajimes death was first shocked that a

member of the heros group could have died, and then relieved when they heard it was

just the ”worthless ” Hajime.

Even the king and Ishtar reacted similarly. One of the powerful heroes who would save

this nation couldn be allowed to die in a dungeon. Someone who couldn survive a

dungeon excursion would stand no chance against the demons, and would only serve

to spread further unease among the people. The messengers of Ehit, the heroes

brought forth from another world, had to be invincible.

At least the king and Ishtar had been somewhat respectful. There were some nobles

within the palace that had insulted and belittled Hajime behind his back instead.

Of course they said nothing incriminating publicly, but when they were talking

privately among fellow nobles, many of them had whispered their scorn for him. They

all abased him with statements like ”Thank god it was the worthless one that died, ”

and ”Im so glad the incompetent got weeded out from Gods messengers. ” Shizuku

had trembled with rage when she had heard such snide comments, and had nearly

come to blows with those nobles multiple times.

And had Kouki not flown off the handle before her, she probably would have beaten

them to a pulp. Because of Koukis heated protests, the king and the Holy Church

seemingly decided that it would be dangerous to let a negative opinion of Hajime

spread. Therefore, they quietly dealt with anyone who badmouthed him… However,

all that served to accomplish was increase Koukis popularity. Most people saw Koukis

anger as proof that he was kindhearted enough to care for even the weakest of his

party, and the general opinion that Hajime had been nothing more than a burden to

such a noble hero remained cemented in the minds of the people.

Despite the fact that the only reason the rest of them were still alive was because

Hajime had held back a monster not even the great hero Kouki had been able to touch.

Despite the fact that he was only dead because some idiotic classmate had fired a stray

fireball that had hit him.

However, as if by some unwritten agreement, the students all agreed not to talk about

that stray fireball. Everyone was sure they had kept perfect control over their magic,

but it had been a veritable storm of spells, and no one wanted to consider the

possibility that it could have been their misaimed fireball that had led to Hajimes

demise. Because if it had been them, they would become a murderer.

As a result, they all closed their eyes to reality, choosing instead to pretend that it was

some mistake on Hajimes part that had led to his death. After all, dead men tell no

tales. Rather than worry about who had killed Hajime, it was far easier to pretend he

had died due to his own mistakes. That way none of them would have to worry.

Without any collusion on their part, the students all came to that conclusion, and thus

the topic was not discussed.

In order to uncover the truth behind Hajimes death, Captain Meld decided it would

be necessary to interrogate the students. He did not think the truth was something as

innocent as a stray fireball. And even if it were, that was all the more reason to uncover

the truth, so he could give the student who had accidentally killed Hajime the

counseling they needed.

The longer the matter remained unsettled, the more problems it would cause down

the line. And most importantly, Captain Meld simply wanted to know. Even though he

had promised to save Hajime after they had fled to safety, his words had turned out to

be as hollow as he now felt.

However, Captain Meld was not allowed to go through with his plan. Because Ishtar

had forbidden him from questioning the students. He had protested the ban hotly, but

even the king forbade him from meeting with them, so he had no choice but to comply.

”If you knew… youd be furious, wouldn you? ” Shizuku whispered quietly, then took

Kaoris hand. She had not woken since that day in the labyrinth.

According to the doctor there was nothing wrong with her physically. She had

apparently just fallen into a self-imposed slumber to protect herself from the mental

shock. The doctor had said she would awaken on her own eventually.

Shizuku tightly gripped Kaoris hand and prayed to no one in particular, ”Please, please

don let any further harm come to my kind and gentle friend. ” And at those words,

Kaoris hand twitched slightly.

”Huh!? Kaori!? Can you hear me!? Kaori! ” Shizuku yelled out her name over and over.

Eventually, Kaoris eyelids began to flutter. Shizuku kept calling out her best friends

name. As if responding to her words, Kaoris fingers curled around Shizukus hand.

And slowly, she opened her eyes.

”Kaori! ” Shizuku leaned over the bed and looked down at Kaori, tears in her eyes. Kaori

looked around dazedly, before her mind finally started working again, and her eyes

fell on Shizuku.

”Shizuku-chan? ”

”Yes, its me. Shizuku. How do you feel, Kaori? Does it hurt anywhere? ”

”N-No Im fine. My body does feel a bit heavy… but thats probably because I slept for

so long… ”

”Thats right, you slept for five whole days… so its normal to feel a little numb. ”

Shizuku hurried to help Kaori, who was trying to rise, and smiled sadly as she told her

how long shed slept for. Kaori started acting odd when she heard that.

”Five days? How did I sleep… for that long… I thought I was in the labyrinth… and then

I… ” As she saw Kaoris eyes grow more and more distant, Shizuku panicked and

quickly tried to change the subject. However, Kaoris memories returned before

Shizuku could get even a word out.

”And then… Ah… What happened to Nagumo-kun? ”

”…Well… ”

Shizuku grimaced, unsure of how to explain. From Shizukus pained expression, Kaori

was able to surmise that the nightmare she saw in her memories was indeed true.

However, Kaori was still unable to accept that harsh reality.

”…It can be true. Please, tell me its a lie, Shizuku-chan. You guys saved Nagumo-kun

after I fainted, right? Right? Tell me you did. Im in the castle right now, right? We all

made it back safely to the castle, right? Nagumo-kuns just… out training, right? Hes

down at the parade grounds, right? Right, that has to be it… Im going to go check right

now. I have to thank him… so can you please let me go, Shizuku-chan? ”

Incoherent ramblings spilled from Kaoris mouth as she tried to get up and go look for

Hajime, but Shizuku firmly grabbed on to Kaoris arm and refused to let go.

Despite Shizukus anguished expression, she kept a strong grip on Kaoris arm.

”Kaori… You understand, don you…? Hes not here anymore. ”

”Stop it… ”

”Its just like you remembered, Kaori. ”

”Stop it. ”

”Hes… Nagumo-kuns… ”

”Stop, I said stop it! ”

”Kaori! Hes dead! ”

”No! Hes not dead! I know it! Stop saying such cruel things! I won forgive anyone for

saying that, not even you, Shizuku-chan! ”

Kaori kept shaking her head, struggling to break free from Shizukus grasp all the

while. But Shizuku refused to loosen her grip even a smidge. Instead, she hugged

Kaori, trying to warm her frozen heart.

”Let me go! Let me go right now! I have to go look for Nagumo-kun! Please, Im begging

you… I know hes still alive somewhere… so please! ” She yelled at Shizuku to let her

go, but was still sobbing into her chest as she did.

Kaori clung to Shizuku like a drowning man to a rock, wailing so loudly her voice went

hoarse. All Shizuku could do for her best friend was hug her as tightly as possible.

Praying that she might somehow ease the pain in Kaoris heart.

The two of them stayed like that for hours, until the clear blue sky had been stained

blood red by the setting sun. Kaori sniffled slightly in Shizukus arms, and stirred

slightly. Shizuku worriedly looked down at Kaori.

”Kaori… ”

”Shizuku-chan… Nagumo-kun… he fell, didn he…? Hes not here anymore, is he? ”

Kaori whispered in a trembling voice. Shizuku didn want to give her any false hope.

If she told Kaori he was still alive, that might alleviate her pain in the short run. But it

would scar Kaori forever when she finally discovered the truth. And Shizuku couldn

bear to see her best friend hurt any more than she already was.

”Thats right. ”

”Back then, it looked like Nagumo-kun got hit by one of our fireballs… Who cast it? ”

”I don know. Everyones trying to forget it ever happened. Its too scary to think about

for them. Because if they were the one that did it… ”

”I see. ”

”Do you hate them for it? ”

”…Im not sure. If I found out for sure who it was… Id definitely hate them. But… if no

one knows… then maybe its better that way. Because if I did find out, I wouldn be

able to hold back… ”

”I see… ” Kaori spoke haltingly, her face still buried in Shizukus arms. Suddenly, she

wiped the tears from her puffy, red eyes, and looked up at Shizuku with renewed


”Shizuku-chan, I don believe it. Nagumo-kun has to be alive somewhere. I won

believe that hes dead. ”

”Kaori, you… ” Shizuku looked down sadly at Kaori. However, Kaori cupped Shizukus

cheeks with her hands, then continued speaking.

”I know. I know that its foolish to think he survived that fall… But you know, theres

no proof that he died. So what if the chance of him surviving is less than 1% of 1%?

Its still not zero… So I choose to believe. ”

”Kaori… ”

”Im going to get stronger. Strong enough to protect him even from whats down there,

and then Ill go look for him. I won rest until Ive confirmed with my own two eyes…

whats happened to Nagumo-kun… Shizuku-chan. ”

”What is it? ”

”Will you help me? ”

”…… ” Shizuku met Kaoris unwavering gaze. There was no sign of madness or

desperation in her eyes. Just an unbreakable will, one that would not rest until she had

confirmed the truth for herself. Nothing could change her mind when Kaori got like

this. She was far too stubborn for even her own family to deal with, let alone Shizuku.

In all honesty, it was probably safe to say the possibility Kaori was referring to might

as well be zero. It would be natural to assume anyone who thought differently was

simply trying to escape from reality.

Even her childhood friends, Kouki and Ryutarou, would probably try and tell Kaori she

wasn acting sane. But that was precisely why only a single answer came to Shizukus


”Of course I will. Until youve found an answer you can accept, at least. ”

”Shizuku-chan! ” Kaori hugged Shizuku and thanked her over and over.

”I don need any thanks. We
e best friends, remember? ” Shizuku replied, ever the

manly samurai. The title that magazines had given her was rather apt.

Just then, the door to the room suddenly burst open.

”Shizuku! Has Kaori woken… up…? ”

”Yeah, hows Kaori… doing…? ”

Kouki and Ryutarou came hurtling into the room. They had come to check up on Kaori.

It seemed apparent that they had rushed straight over after training, as dirt still caked

their uniforms.

Ever since the labyrinth excursion, the two had trained harder than ever before. They

had both been hit pretty hard by Hajimes death as well. After all, they were the ones

who had refused to retreat, which had caused the nearly fatal crisis that Hajime had

to save them from. They were both training hard so that they would never do

something so unsightly ever again.

Aside from those two, however, there was a third figure hanging back in the doorway.

Shizuku directed a question toward him, her voice full of suspicion.

”Why are you— ”

”S-Sorry! ”

”I-Ill leave now! ”

The figure hurriedly apologized, overruling Shizukus words. Looking as if theyd seen

something they shouldn have, they hurriedly left the room. Kaori looked at them in

confusion. However, the clever Shizuku realized what the cause must have been.

Kaori was currently sitting on Shizukus lap, and holding Shizukus face in her hands.

To an outsider it must have seemed like they were about to kiss each other. Shizuku,

too, was holding Kaori by the small of her back and her shoulder, like a lover.

It must have looked like a very romantic scene. Had this been a manga, there would

have no doubt been flower petals everywhere in the background. Shizuku sighed

deeply, moving away from Kaori, who was still staring blankly in confusion.

”Hurry up and get back here, you moron! ”

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