Hajime and Yue harvested the flesh from the defeated scorpion and cyclopes, then

carried it all back to his base. Transporting such a huge quantity of meat was no easy

feat, but after giving Yue more of his blood to restore her energy, Hajime was able to

enlist her help. With their combined strength, enhanced by her body-empowering

magic, they were able to transport the vast quantities of meat to his hideout.

Originally, he had suggested using the room Yue had been sealed in as a new base, but

she had rejected the proposal.

He supposed it was understandable. She was probably sick of staring at the walls of

what had been her prison for centuries. Even if they were going to be stuck on this

floor until Hajime replenished his stock of supplies, it was better for her mental health

to have Yue out of that room. Thus, they were both spending the time talking and

getting to know each other better while they scavenged for supplies.

”So that means you have to be at least 300 years old, right Yue? ”

”Its rude to ask a girl her age. ”

She glared angrily at Hajime. It seemed even in parallel worlds asking a girl about her

age was taboo.

From what he recalled, the vampires had been destroyed in a massive war that had

enveloped the land 300 years ago. Chances were Yue had lost track of time, trapped in

the silent darkness as she had been, but it stood to reason that she must have been at

least that old. If shed been sealed at the age of twenty or so, then she was most likely

far older than even 300.

”Do all vampires live as long as you? ”

”…No, Im an exception. I don age because of my regenerative powers. ”

According to her, she had stopped aging ever since she had awoken to her powers at a

young age. Average vampires could still extend their lifespan by drinking the blood of

other races, but even then they couldn live much longer than two hundred years or


As a frame of reference, humans in this world lived an average of 70 years, while

demons lifespan was a bit longer at 120. Beastmen had varying lifespans, depending

on the specific race. Elves, for example, could live for centuries.

The reason for Yues exceptional powers was because she had inherited the blood of

the ancient atavistic vampires. Her lineage had made her one of the strongest

creatures in the world at the time, and she had ascended to the throne at the tender

age of seventeen.

I see. No wonder she was able to blast through that scorpions shell so easily. Better yet,

she was nigh immortal. Only gods or devils could aspire to that level of strength. And

it seemed Yue had been classified as one of the latter.

Her uncle, blinded by his greed and ambition, had perpetrated the misconception

among his fellow vampires that Yue was indeed a devil. He had then used that as

justification to try and kill her, but had been stymied by her automatic regeneration.

As a result, he had ended up sealing her here in this underground abyss instead. At the

time, she had been too shocked by the sudden betrayal to resist capture. By the time

shed regained enough of her composure to understand what had just happened, she

had already been sealed inside the rock cube.

Which was why she had no idea how that scorpion had come to dwell there, how shed

been sealed, or even how theyd managed to bring her down here into the depths of

hell. Hajime had been a little disappointed when hed heard that, as hed hoped she

might have known some way out.

She discussed the specifics of her powers with him at length as well. Supposedly she

had perfect affinity with every element. At one point Hajime recalled saying ”What the

hell, you
e totally overpowered… ” to which Yue had replied by saying she wasn very

skilled at close quarters combat. The ”best ” she was capable of doing was using

strengthening magic to increase her physical abilities to run around while firing off

spells as fast as she could. Of course, her ability to ignore wounds thanks to her innate

regeneration and the overwhelming might of her spells meant that was still enough to

kill most everything.

An interesting thing to note was the fact that she still said spell names out loud, despite

having no need for chants of any kind. It seemed it had just become a habit since she

had started learning that way. Even those with an affinity for magic usually had to say

something related to the spell to keep a firm image of it in their minds, and it seemed

even Yue was no exception.

Her automatic regeneration appeared to be a kind of special magic similar to what

monsters had, and would naturally activate so long as she had mana remaining. Unless

she was literally reduced to ashes in an instant, she could come back from any injury.

But looking at it from another angle, that meant that once her mana dried up, her

injuries would no longer heal. Had she taken any damage in that fight with the

scorpion, she would undoubtedly have died.

”Anyway… onto the most important question. Yue, do you have any idea where we are?

Or any idea how to get back to the surface? ”

”Unfortunately, I don . However… ” It seemed Yue was unsure of their exact location

too. Though her tone was apologetic, the way she trailed off implied that she knew

something at least.

”According to legend, this labyrinth was built by one of the mavericks. ”

”The mavericks? ”

On top of being an unfamiliar word, it had a rather ominous ring to it. Hajime stopped

his transmutation work and turned to face Yue. She tore her gaze away from his work

as well and met his eyes before nodding sharply and continuing.

”They were rebels that tried to bring about the end of the world. ” With how reticent

and expressionless Yue was, her explanations always took time. For his part, Hajime

had a boatload of transmutation to get through, so he settled back to listen while he

worked on replenishing his supply of ammunition. The previous battle had also shown

him just how lacking in strength he was, and he had started work on a new weapon to

rectify his insufficient firepower.

Supposedly, there had been seven descendants who had colluded together to plot the

destruction of the world. However, the gods put a stop to their plans and they were

forced to flee to the ends of the earth. Their bastions of exile were what later came to

be called the Seven Great Labyrinths. The Great Orcus Labyrinth being one of them, of

course. The maverick who created it was rumored to reside in the deepest depths of

this abyss everyone else called hell.

”…Its possible there might be a path to the surface there, in the deepest part of the

labyrinth… ”

”I see. I can imagine there being some huge, thousand story long staircase at the

bottom. But if this whole thing was made by someone from the Age of the Gods, then

theres probably a teleportation circle or something. ” Hajime smiled at this new

possibility. He returned his gaze to the work at hand. Yue followed suit. Her eyes were

glued to Hajimes hands.

”…Is it really that interesting to watch me work? ” She nodded silently. Hajime thought

she looked extremely cute just then, sitting there hugging her knees with her fingers

barely poking out of the sleeve of his baggy overcoat. He was overcome by a burning

desire to hug her.

Man, I can believe a cute little girl like her is really 300 years old. Parallel worlds really

are something. They even have eternal lolis. Even transformed, Hajime never forgot any

of his otaku knowledge. As if reading his thoughts, Yue suddenly looked up.

”You just thought something really rude, didn you, Hajime? ”

”What do you mean? ” He played dumb, internally sweating at how perceptive her

womans intuition was. Silently, he returned to his work, clearly hoping to distract

Yues attention. He apparently succeeded, as she started bombarding him with

questions about himself.

”…Hajime, what are you doing here? ” That was the question he had most expected.

This was, after all, the bottom of the abyss. The figurative pits of hell. A place no one

but monsters called home.

But that was just the first of many questions to come. How are you able to control

mana directly? How can you use the special magic of monsters? How are you able to

eat monster meat and not die? What happened to your left arm? Are you even human,

Hajime? Whats that weapon you used earlier?

After the first one it was as if a dam had burst, and she pelted him with questions


For his part, Hajime too, had been starved of conversation for far too long. He

answered each question thoroughly, not at all annoyed by the storm of inquiries. It

looked like Hajime had a bit of a soft spot for Yue. He probably also unconsciously

realized somewhere that she was the only reason he hadn truly fallen to the level of

an unfeeling monster that cared only for his own survival.

Starting from the summoning, he retold the tale of how he wound up there. He told

Yue about how they had been selected as heroes, and how he had been a worthless

Synergist with no useful skills, to the labyrinth excursion and his fight with the

Behemoth, to his betrayal at the hands of one of his classmates, his descent into hell,

how he lost his arm to the Claw Bear, his discovery of the potion (Yue later explained

to him that it was Ambrosia), how he started eating monsters, how his knowledge

from his original world gave him the idea for his weapon, his rematch with the Claw

Bear, and finally his descent through the dungeon until he reached her floor. He talked

at length about everything he could remember. And, as his tale wound down, he could

hear her sniffling.

”Whats wrong? ” Hajime asked, the concern evident in his voice. When he glanced

back at Yue he saw tears spilling from her eyes. Surprised, he hurriedly wiped the tears

from her face and repeated his question.

”What happened? Whats wrong? ”

”Sniffle… Hajime… you suffered so much… just like me… ”

She was crying for his sake. Hajime was momentarily taken aback, before he smiled

reassuringly and patted Yue on the head.

”Don worry about it. All that stuffs in the past now. Theres no point in getting hung

up over it. I don even really care about my old classmates that much anymore, and

Im not all that interested in getting revenge. All I care about now is polishing my skills,

so I can make it out of here alive and find a way to return home. ”

Still sniffling, Yue closed her eyes and enjoyed the sensation of having her head patted,

looking very much like a big cat. However, she suddenly jumped with a start when

Hajime mentioned returning home.

e going to go back? ”

”Hm? You mean to my own world? Of course I am. I miss it… A lot of things have

changed now, but I still wanna go home… ”

”I see. ”

She looked down dejectedly, then quietly whispered:

”…I don have a home to go back to… anymore… ”

”…… ”

Hajime took his hand off Yues head and awkwardly scratched the back of his own.

He was by no means a dense person, which was why he had already vaguely realized

she had started treating him as her new ”home, ” so to speak. It was the same reason

she had asked him to give her a name. She was worried shed lose her home again if

he returned to his original world.

Didn you promise yourself youd live only for the sake of your own wish? Just how soft

can you get? Hajime mentally berated himself, but he still extended his hand to pat

Yues head once more.

”Well, how about coming with me, then? ”

”Huh? ” Her eyes went wide with surprise as she processed his words. She gazed

deeply at him with her crimson eyes, wet with tears. Unsettled by the intensity in her

gaze, he quickly began talking.

”I mean, well, back with me to my world. Its a boring place with nothing but humans,

and someone with powers as amazing as yours might not find it to your liking, but…

well, I guess at this point my abilities are just as crazy. Anyway, I have no idea if youll

even like it or not… and its only if you want to come, but, well, what do you say? ”

She blinked at him in confusion for a few seconds before timidly asking, ”I can really

come with you? ” Though her voice was meek, her eyes were overflowing with hope.

Hajime smiled when he saw how vividly her eyes were shining, and nodded. As he did

so, Yue smiled so brightly it almost felt as if her expressionless mask until now had

just been an act. For a few moments, he was completely captivated by her radiant

smile. After a while he realized he was staring like an idiot, and he quickly shook his


Unable to keep looking at her, Hajime returned to his work. Fascinated, Yue sidled up

to watch. However, this time she stuck much closer to him as she observed him

transmute. He had to keep reminding himself not to get flustered.

”…Whats this? ” She pointed to the mechanical parts Hajime was currently

transmuting. There was a thin cylinder about one meter long, red bullets twenty

centimeters in length, and a few other strange objects. They were all sections of a new

weapon he was developing in order to make up for Donners lack of power.

”This is, uhh… an anti-tank rifle, railgun enhanced edition. I showed you my other gun,

right? This is basically just a bigger version of it, with special bullets. ” Once the parts

were all slotted together, it would turn into a rifle that was one and a half meters in

length. He had pondered earlier how he could possibly increase his firepower, and had

come to the conclusion there was no way to increase Donners explosive force, or the

acceleration of its bullets. That simply meant that if he wanted something stronger, he

would need to make a new gun.

And said gun would of course need a wider and longer barrel, so it could fit larger

caliber bullets and accelerate them for longer.

Hence why he decided to model this one after an anti-tank rifle. Its size made it

cumbersome to carry around and it could only hold one bullet at a time, but its power

would be theoretically unmatched. Donner alone was already slightly more powerful

than a standard anti-tank rifle, so it stood to reason that a railgun enhanced rifle would

fire with enough force to pulverize most anything. The recoil alone from such a gun

would be enough to destroy any normal humans arms.

Theoretically, his new Schlagen would be 5-6 times as strong as Donner… or at least

that was the hope.

He had used parts harvested from the scorpion to make it. After the battle had

concluded, he had examined the scorpions super-hard shell. To his surprise, his Ore

Appraisal had been effective on it, and had shown him its properties.

Shtar ore: A peculiar ore with a unique affinity to mana. The more mana it absorbs,

the harder it gets.

It appeared the scorpions toughness had come from building its shell from shtar ore.

Since the scorpion had probably been able to pour a huge amount of mana into it, it

made for a perfect defense.

If its classified as ore, I should be able to duplicate it myself, right? He had tested that

theory and had found he could replicate the ore quite easily. After which, a truly

depressing thought had run through his mind. Wait a minute, if this is ore, I could have

just transmuted that stupid scorpions shell off to save us a ton of trouble.

In the end, they had still succeeded and he had gotten his hands on some interesting

new materials, so he supposed it was alright. Once he had analyzed the ores

properties, he had instantly gotten to work making Schlagens barrel. His skills had

progressed considerably since the time he had built Donner, and his work went far

more smoothly than before.

He was very precise with how he made his bullets too. He used taur for the shells core,

and applied an outer coating of shtar over it to harden it. It was his fantasy version of

a full metal jacket bullet. He also made sure his ratio of compressed blastrock for the

new bullets was perfect. Thanks to his Duplicate Transmutation derivative skill, he

was easily able to mass produce the bullets once he had finished a satisfactory

prototype to work off of. He talked Yue through the entire process as he worked, and

the time flew by quickly as he finished Schlagen.

It looked quite intimidating once it was all put together. He gazed at it proudly,

satisfied with the quality of his work. Having finally finished, he realized he was quite

hungry and grilled some of his cyclops and scorpion meat.

”Yue, you want some— Er, wait, you probably shouldn eat this, should you? I really

don want to let you experience that kind of pain… Actually, since you
e a vampire,

can you eat monster meat just fine? ” Eating monster meat had become a natural

routine for Hajime by that point and he almost invited Yue to eat with him out of habit

before correcting himself. He glanced over to her and saw she was fiddling with his

new weapon. When she noticed his gaze she put it down for a moment and shook her

head saying ”I don need any food. ”

”I guess that makes sense. You survived 300 years without it after all… Still, do you not

get hungry at all? ”

”I do… but Im full for now. ”

”You are? You already ate something? ” He tilted his head in confusion at Yues

declaration. She pointed at Hajime.

”…Mhmm. Your blood, Hajime. ”

”Aah, I see. So does that mean as long as theyve got blood, vampires don need to eat? ”

”We can absorb nutrients through food as well, but blood is more efficient. ”

He supposed it only stood to reason that a vampire would be fine with just blood. So

Yues full from the blood she sucked out of me. As he nodded to himself in

understanding, Yue licked her lips suggestively.

”…Why are you licking your lips like that? ”

”Hajime… you taste good… ”

”Th-Thats not true, Ive eaten so many monsters by now that I probably taste

disgusting. ”

”Your blood tastes very rich… ”

”…… ”

According to Yue, Hajimes blood tasted like a very savory soup. Come to think of it, she

looked pretty happy when she was sucking my blood last time too. He imagined it must

have been akin to eating a first class meal after starving for weeks.

But when she licked her lips like that, she looked eerily seductive, so Hajime wished

she would cut it out. It was times like those that he remembered she was far older

than him. But her outward appearance was still that of a young girl, which made

Hajime feel guilty for thinking dirty thoughts.

”…Delicious blood. ”

”Please, just give me a break. ” His new partner was quite dangerous, in more ways

than one.

The same day that Hajime and Yue had met, and fought off the scorpion, Kouki and the

others had returned to the entrance of the Great Orcus Labyrinth. This time, though,

it wasn the whole class, but just Koukis party of four, Hiyama and his band of thugs,

and a judo club member called Jugo Nagayama along with his five burly party


Their reason for returning was quite simple. Even if they avoided talking about it,

Hajimes death had still been weighing down on most of the students. They had

realized they might really die fighting here in this world, and that fact had greatly

shaken their confidence in their abilities. Hajimes death had traumatized them.

Naturally, the Holy Church was not happy with the turn of events. They urged the

students to go back and gain more practical fighting experience, thinking time and

familiarity would heal their wounds.

However, Aiko had vehemently opposed that plan.

She hadn been present for the fateful excursion where Hajime fell. Because of the

rare and valuable job she possessed, the Holy Church wanted her to focus on

cultivating the land over building up combat experience. So long as they had her

agricultural powers, they could easily solve their food problems.

When she had learned of Hajimes death, Aiko had fainted from shock. She had felt

responsible for the students, and couldn forgive herself for hiding back at the castle

where it was safe while one of her students had fought and died. She blamed herself

for not being able to bring everyone back to Japan safely. Hence why she firmly refused

to allow her students to be exposed to any further danger.

Her job was special enough that she was capable of single-handedly revolutionizing

the agricultural standards of this world. So when she protested any further practical

training exercises, the Holy Church had no choice but to acquiesce. They couldn

afford to antagonize Aiko.

As a result, only Koukis party, Hiyamas party, and Jugos party, who had willingly

volunteered to return to the battlefield, were at the labyrinth. In order to grow

stronger, they had chosen to once more challenge the Great Orcus Labyrinth. Captain

Meld and a contingent of knights were escorting the students this time as well.

Today marked the sixth day of their expedition.

They had made it all the way to the sixtieth floor. After only five more floors, they

would arrive at the deepest point humans had ever explored.

However, Kouki and the others were currently stuck. It wasn that there was no way

forward, but rather the sight before them brought back old fears that kept them frozen

in place.

A huge cliff spread out in front of them. Though it wasn the same one Hajime had

fallen from, it was similar enough to bring back unpleasant memories. In order to

advance to the next floor, they would have to cross the suspension bridge that spanned

the length of the room. Normally that would have been no problem, but past memories

bound the students in place. Kaori especially just stood there, gazing intently down

into the abyss.

”Kaori… ” Shizuku worriedly called out to her friend. Kaori slowly shook her head and

turned to smile at Shizuku.

”Im fine, Shizuku-chan. ”

”Okay… but don push yourself, yeah? You don have to pretend to be strong in front

of me. ”

”Ehehe, thanks, Shizuku-chan. ”

Shizuku returned Kaoris smile. A powerful light still dwelled deep within Kaoris eyes.

She was no longer in the grips of despair. Shizuku, who was gifted with above average

powers of observation and a knack for understanding the feelings of others, realized

Kaori was telling the truth when she said she was fine.

Kaori really is strong. It was all but certain that Hajime was dead. His chances of

survival were honestly less than hopeless. Despite that, Kaori chose neither to run

from that fact nor to deny it. She simply kept going forward, determined to see the

truth for herself. Shizuku admired her strength.

But as always, the classs thickheaded hero was unable to realize that. To Kouki, it

seemed as if Kaori was doing nothing more than grieving at the death of her classmate.

She truly must be kind if shes still sad over his death. Thus, when she smiled to Shizuku,

he concluded she must be forcing herself to look cheerful.

He didn even consider the possibility that Kaori had feelings for Hajime, or that she

still thought he could be alive, and walked up to offer some unnecessary words of


”Kaori… I really admire how kind you are. But you can let yourself be depressed over

your classmates death forever! We have to move forward. Im sure thats what

Nagumo would want too. ”

”Hey, Kouki… ”

”Please let me finish, Shizuku! I know she may not want to hear this, but as her

childhood friend, I have to open her eyes! Kaori, itll be alright. Im still here with you.

I won ever die. And I won let anyone else die either. I promise I won let anything

make you sad ever again. ”

”Haaah, this guy never changes… Kaori, I— ”

”Ahaha, don worry about it, Shizuku-chan. Umm… I get what you
e trying to say,

Kouki-kun, so you don need to worry either. ”

”You do? Im so glad I got through to you! ” Kaori smiled awkwardly, feeling a little

guilty for fueling Koukis misunderstanding. But even if she tried to explain herself to

him, she doubted hed understand.

Hajime was already long dead in Koukis mind. So it would have been impossible for

him to fathom that the reason Kaori threw herself into training so fervently, and was

so eager to return to the labyrinth, was because she wanted to look for him. Because

he never once doubted that his own beliefs were the absolute truth, he would simply

think Kaori was unable to face reality, or that Hajimes death had somehow mentally

damaged her were she to tell him her real feelings.

Shed known Kouki for long enough that she understood how he thought, and

therefore decided it was far simpler to just go along with his interpretations.

That having been said, he had no ulterior motives in trying to cheer Kaori up either.

He was seriously concerned for her well-being. Shizuku and Kaori were both used to

his behavior, so they usually just ignored him, but had that line been directed at any

other girl, she would have fallen for him in an instant.

Kouki was smart, kind, handsome, and athletic; the kind of perfect guy that no girl

normally thought to resist. However, there was a reason his two childhood friends had

no romantic interest in him whatsoever. Shizuku had spent her childhood training in

her fathers dojo under his strict tutelage, along with many other adults. Her

upbringing, combined with her naturally observant disposition, had led her to quickly

realize Koukis fatal flaw: his misguided sense of justice. A sense of justice that had

brought nothing but trouble for Shizuku. Of course, she still cared for him as a friend.

For her part, Kaori was naturally dense when it came to matters of love, and shed

heard enough complaining from Shizuku to be more or less aware of Koukis true

nature. She did think he was a nice person, but his cliched lines failed to set her heart

aflutter, and she had no romantic interest in him.

”Kaori-chan, Im here for you! If theres anything I can do to help, just ask. ”

”Yeah, we
e your friends, Kaorin! ”

The two girls, Eri Nakamura and Suzu Taniguchi, walked over to Kaori to try and cheer

her up.

Kaori had only met the two of them in high school, but they had hit it off immediately,

and were now counted among her best friends. In addition, they were powerful

fighters that were strong enough to fight in Koukis party.

Eri was a beautiful girl that kept her black hair cut in a tiny bob, and wore glasses. She

was a quiet and gentle girl that usually observed things from a distance. She loved

books, and resembled the stereotypical bookworm. She had, in fact, also been the class


Suzu, on the other hand, was a tiny girl, barely 142 centimeters tall. Despite her short

stature, she had a boundless supply of energy, and always looked like she was having

fun. She kept her hair in braids, and was constantly jumping around. Her hyperactive

personality had made her into the class mascot.

The two of them had seen how distressed Kaori had been when Hajime had fallen off

the cliff, and they both understood and approved of Kaoris decision to see things

through for herself.

”Yeah. Thanks Eri-chan, Suzu-chan. ” She smiled reassuringly at her two friends.

”Ohhh, you
e so brave, Kaorin! Nagumo-kun, you better not make Kaorin any sadder

than this. If you
e not alive, Ill kill you myself! ”

”U-Umm, Suzu? You can kill him again if hes already dead, right? ”

”Who cares! Fine, if hes dead, well just use your necromancy to revive him, Eririn! ”

”S-Suzu, don say that! Kaori still thinks Nagumo-kuns alive, remember? Besides, my

necromancy isn … ” Eri scolded Suzu for her tactless behavior. That interaction was

indicative of how the two usually were.

Kaori and Shizuku smiled happily as they watched their two noisy friends. Kouki and

the others had gone on ahead, so they didn hear the conversation between the four

girls. Along with his overbearing sense of justice, he was also blessed with the ability

to conveniently go deaf whenever someone said something that didn fit with his


”Its okay, Eri-chan, I don mind. ”

”But Suzu, you should still tone it down a little. You
e bothering Eri. ”

Suzu puffed up her cheeks and pouted at Shizukus words. Though relieved to hear

that Kaori wasn hurt by Suzus words, Eri was nevertheless still pale.

”Eririn, are you still uncomfortable with using necromancy? Its such a cool job, too… ”

”…Yeah, sorry. I know Id be more useful if I could use it properly. ”

”Eri, everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. You also have a really high

magic affinity, so don worry too much about it, okay? ”

”Thats right, Eri-chan. The fact that its your job just means you have an aptitude for

it. It doesn actually mean you have to force yourself to use it if you don want to.

e already more than helpful enough with just your magic. ”

”I know, but I still think I should try and master it. Ill be even more helpful that way. ”

She curled her small hand into a fist and solidified her resolve. Suzu hopped around

Eri going ”Thats the spirit, Eririn! ” while Shizuku and Kaori watched on.

Eris job was Necromancer. It used dark magic to alter the minds and spirits of others,

and was primarily a magic debuffer class. The most advanced of its skills involved

using dark magic to recall the lingering attachments of the deceased. The Holy Church

employed a number of necromancers as mediums, and they used their powers to

converse with the dead and relay their final moments to their families and friends. It

was regarded as quite the sacred job.

However, necromancys true strength didn stop there. The proper way to use a

necromancers magic was to wrap those peoples lingering thoughts in magic, then use

them to possess their corpses. The corpses revived through this method were capable

of using the skills they possessed when they were alive, to an extent. Furthermore,

necromancers could possess the bodies of the living, and copy their skills to some


However, the revived corpses were not truly brought back to life. Though they could

respond to basic commands, they retained little of their original personality, and their

skin remained pale and lifeless. They were more zombies than anything. Furthermore,

Eris conscience prevented her from doing something as immoral as resurrecting the

dead, so she had trained her necromancy abilities very little.

While the girls discussed Eris powers, a certain figure watched them, or rather Kaori,

from the shadows.

Daisuke Hiyama. A few days after their return to the capital, Hiyama began to be

shunned by the other students. Once they had calmed down a little, as he had

expected, they began to resent him for leading them all into that trap.

He had planned for this, and once the insults started flying he instantly got down on

his knees and begged for forgiveness. He knew trying to argue back would only make

things worse. To make sure it had the maximum amount of impact, he had chosen a

particular time and place to give his apology.

Specifically, he made sure to do it publicly, in front of Kouki. He knew that Kouki was

likely to forgive him if he apologized sincerely, and would then smooth things out with

the rest of his classmates.

His plan succeeded perfectly, and people quickly stopped directing their scorn at him.

Kaori was fundamentally kind by nature, and even she forgave him when he got down

on his knees and begged with tears in his eyes. Everything so far had gone according

to plan. However, Shizuku was still vaguely suspicious of Hiyama, and disliked him for

manipulating her friends.

Meanwhile, Hiyama began surreptitiously carrying out the orders hed received from

the figure that day. They were quite frightening orders. Orders he would normally

have never accepted. But now that hed crossed a line, there was no looking back. As

much as he hated it, he had agreed to carry out his masters orders.

He was terrified of this classmate of his, who was capable of plotting something so

dreadful and could still mingle in with the rest of their classmates somehow. Still,

mixed in with the terror was a small seed of joy at the sheer brilliance and audacity of

the plan.

That monster is totally insane. But if I do what they say, Kaorill be mine… If he followed

orders, Kaori would eventually be his. He felt a surge of fierce joy, and his lips curled

up into a wicked grin.

”Hey Daisuke, whats wrong? ” Kondou, Nakano, and Saitou all looked at Hiyama with

puzzled expressions on their faces. Those three stooges were still hanging around

Hiyama. As the saying went, birds of a feather flock together. Their relationship had

become slightly strained when Hiyama had come under attack, but his contrite

apology had restored their friendship. Whether it could still be called friendship if

they only got along when it was convenient was debatable, but that was just how it


”O-Oh, its nothing. Im just happy we made it all the way to the sixtieth floor. ”

”Oh, yeah, I get what you mean. Five more floors and well be the greatest dungeon

delvers in history! ”

”Weve gotten pretty strong, haven we? Man, those guys who stayed behind have no

balls. ”

”Now now, don say that. We
e just that much stronger, thats all. ” The three others

accepted Hiyamas explanation without question.

Believing themselves special just because they won a few fights was the trademark

trait of all small-time bullies. And like the bullies they were, they had actually been

throwing their weight around among the students who had chosen to remain. Their

arrogance had started bothering the others. However, they were still strong enough to

make it as far as the sixtieth floor, so no one was brave enough to complain to their


Besides, even they couldn match up to Koukis party, so they at least remained docile

in his presence. Just like the small-time thugs they were.

The party managed to advance without any real difficulty, and before long they

stepped foot on the historic sixty-fifth floor.

”Stay sharp, everyone! This floor still hasn been fully mapped. Theres no telling what

might happen! ” Captain Melds loud voice echoed throughout the room. Kouki and the

others had grim expressions on their faces as they stepped into the unknown.

After a few minutes of walking they found themselves in a massive chamber. Everyone

present suddenly felt a chill run down their spine.

An ominous premonition settled over them, a premonition that proved all too soon to

be accurate. A magic circle suddenly began glowing in the center of the room. A very

familiar, pulsing, dark red magic circle.

”Y-Youve gotta be kidding me… Its that thing again!? ” Cold sweat poured down

Koukis forehead. Everyone else was clearly nervous as well.

”Seriously!? I thought that bastard died when he fell! ” Ryutarou screamed, the shock

evident in his voice. Captain Meld replied to the group in a stern but calm voice.

e still not sure what causes monsters to spawn in the labyrinths, but its possible

to have to fight a monster you defeated once before. Everyone, stay sharp! Make sure

theres always at least one open path of retreat! ” His foremost priority was securing

an escape route. The knights under his command all hurried to obey. However, Kouki

seemed unhappy with his orders.

”Meld, we
e not the same weak kids from before. Weve gotten way stronger! I

promise we won lose this fight, so let us take him! ”

”Heh, you said it. I can stand being beaten and having to run away all the time anyway.

Its time for our revenge match! ” Ryutarou said, a feral grin adorning his face all the

while. Captain Meld shrugged with exasperation at their eagerness, but he had to

admit that they might have a chance with their current strength. He too, smiled grimly.

The magic circle exploded in a burst of red light and summoned forth the nightmare

that haunted all of their dreams.

”Graaaaaaaaaah!!! ” The Behemoth roared angrily as it stamped the ground. Those

familiar red eyes, dripping with murderous intent, glared squarely at Kouki.

Among the cowering students, one girl glared right back at it with unwavering


Kaori. In a voice so quiet that no one else heard it, Kaori said the following to the


”I won let you take anyone else from me. Ill trample over you and make my way back

to his side. ” With her determination thus expressed, the battle to overcome their past


Kouki made the first move.

”Soar unto heaven, O divine wings— Celestial Flash! ” With a thunderous roar, a

shockwave of light slammed into the Behemoth.

In their previous fight, even his strongest skill, Divine Wrath, had been unable to

scratch the Behemoth. But as Kouki had said, they were no longer the weak kids they

had been.

”Graaaaaaah!? ” The Behemoth backed away shakily, screaming in pain. There was a

long red gash running down its chest, spilling blood.

”We can do this! Weve gotten way stronger! Nagayama, you circle around to its left.

Hiyama, take it from behind. Meld, encircle it from the right! Rearguard, give us some

spells! The strongest youve got! ” Kouki swiftly began barking out orders. His quick

assessment and judgment were a result of Captain Melds personal training.

”Heh, youve gotten pretty good at giving orders, kid. You heard the man! Everyone,

follow his lead! ” Captain Meld confirmed Koukis orders, then led his troupe of knights

around to the Behemoths right side. Everyone sprang into action at once, surrounding

the Behemoth.

The vanguard set up a defensive perimeter, preventing the Behemoth from wreaking

havoc on the back lines.

”Graaaaaaaaaaaaaah! ” It decimated the ground as it charged forward, trying to break


”Like hell you will! ”

e not going anywhere! ” The classs two burliest guys, Ryutarou Sakagami and

Jugo Nagayama, grappled the Behemoth from each side, holding it in place.

”Grant unto your servant the strength to shake the earth! Herculean Might! ” Clad in

their body strengthening magic, the two boys halted the Behemoths charge.

”Graaaaaah! ”

”Raaaaaaah! ”

”Uoooooooooooh! ” The three of them each let out a different roar as they squeezed

out every ounce of their strength. The Behemoth, enraged that a pair of mere humans

had stopped its assault, stamped impatiently on the ground. Seeing this, the other

students took advantage of its momentary distraction.

”Peerless swordsmanship that rends even the heavens— Eternal Severance! ” Shizuku

drew her sword, slicing through one of the Behemoths horns. Her lapis lazuli-colored

mana wrapped around her sword, an artifact with a magically sharpened cutting edge,

and increased the speed of her draw. However, her sword failed to cut all the way

through the horn, instead getting lodged halfway into it.

”Guh, whys it gotta be so hard! ”

”Leave it to me! Pulverize, shatter, decimate— Bonecrusher! ” Captain Meld leaped

forward, slamming his sword into Shizukus own. The speed of Shizukus slash was

enhanced by the sheer strength the captain had put behind his own blow, forcing the

sword deeper into the Behemoths horn. Finally, her sword cut all the way through,

and sliced the horn straight off its head.

”Graaaaaaah!? ” Infuriated beyond reason, the Behemoth flailed wildly, flinging

Shizuku, Meld, Ryutarou, and Nagayama to the corners of the room.

”Enfold the weak with your gentle light— Hallowed Nimbus! ” Before they hit the

walls, countless rings of light intersected to form a net behind them, cushioning their

fall. Kaori had used a rather peculiar defensive spell to soften the impact of their


Her artifact, a white staff, glowed light purple as she fed it her mana. Without pause,

she began chanting another spell.

”Heavens blessing, shine thy grace on all thine children— Succor! ” In an instant, all

four fighters that had been flung away were healed. Long distance, wide-area healing

was on the upper end of the intermediate level of light spells. This particular one was

an advanced version of the Heavens Blessing spell she had used once before.

Kouki shifted stances in preparation to thrust, then charged the beast. He chanted a

spell as he ran forward, aiming for the wound he had created earlier.

”Dazzling Eruption! ” Vast quantities of mana gathered at the tip of his sacred sword

as he thrust deep into the Behemoth, which then exploded from within.

”Graaaaaaaah! ” The Behemoth howled in pain as spurts of blood poured out of the

new wound gouged into it, but it still managed to land a counterattack while Kouki

was recovering from the effects of using a skill.

”Guuuuuh! ” Kouki screamed in pain as the Behemoths clawed paw flung him into the

wall. The claws themselves failed to pierce his sacred armor artifact, but the force of

the impact still left him gasping for breath. Still, at least the pain vanished almost

instantly. Kaori had started chanting another healing spell before Kouki had even hit

the ground.

”Heavens blessing, grant thy progeny the strength to fight once more— Divine Ray! ”

Unlike the mass heal from earlier, the new spell was only capable of healing one target

at a time, but in return it was far more potent. Kouki was momentarily wrapped in

golden light as he was fully healed.

Meanwhile, the Behemoth roared mightily and leaped into the air, tired of the other

flies buzzing around it. The shockwave sent everyone tumbling back while its broken

horn began glowing red.

”…So it can do that even with a broken horn. Brace yourselves, everyone! ” Shizuku

yelled out a warning as the Behemoth began hurtling down.

Everyone present was familiar with its special magic, and they had already prepared

for impact. However, the trajectory of its leap surprised everyone. Rather than aiming

for Kouki and the others, it was headed straight for the back line. During the fight on

the bridge it had always leaped only toward what was directly in front of it, and the

members of the vanguard all panicked when they saw it pass over them.

One of the members of the back line, Suzu Taniguchi, stepped forward and switched

over to chanting a new spell.

”Let this be a holy ground that denies thine enemies passage— Hallowed Ground! ” A

glowing dome of light surrounded them not a moment too soon, and the Behemoth

crashed into it. The shockwaves from the impact was so powerful that the rocks on

the floor nearby were swept away like cobwebs.

Suzus barrier successfully ground those shockwaves to a halt as well. But because she

forcibly shortened the four verse spell into only two verses, the shield was imperfect.

Cracks had already begun appearing within it. Had her job not been Barrier Master,

her improvised barrier wouldn have done much of anything.

She grit her teeth, and held both hands out before her. Frantically, she supplemented

the verses with a mental image of an impenetrable barrier. A good shield never cracks.

My protection is absolute!

”Uooooooh! Like hell Ill lose to this stupid thing! ” The Behemoths murderous gaze

fell directly on Suzu, making her arms tremble in fear. The artifact that she used, a pair

of bracelets, went dark for a second before glowing bright orange with her mana once

more. She banished the fear from her mind and shouted again.

But unfortunately, her willpower wasn enough to keep the barrier alive. The

Behemoth was attacking relentlessly, and in a few more seconds it would crumble.

No, its going to break! Suzu lamented.

”Heavens blessings, grant me thy wonder— Transference! ” Suddenly, her body was

wrapped in light, and she felt her mana increase exponentially. Kaori must have healed


Normally, the spell would only restore a little of the recipients mana, but by adjusting

how much of their own mana the caster used, it was possible to restore all of it.

Transference was a very practical spell. And only someone like Kaori, who possessed

the priest job, could use it.

”I can make it now! I love you, Kaorin! ” Suzu poured her newly replenished mana into

the barrier, cementing its strength. With a sharp snapping noise the cracks in the

barriers began melding. Angry at being cut off from its prey, the Behemoth glared at

Suzu. She glared right back.

Finally, the red glow started dissipating from its horn. It slumped to the ground now

that the force of its charge was completely spent. Suzus barrier vanished at the same


The Behemoth decided to kill that heavily panting girl next, but before he could do

anything the vanguard arrived and began surrounding it again.

”Back line members, retreat! ” At Koukis signal the rearguard all took a few steps back

and the vanguard filled in the space between them. They continued their hit-and-run

tactics until finally the back line had finished chanting their strongest spells.

”Everyone, fall back! ” Eri, the leader of the rearguard, gave the signal. The vanguard

all simultaneously unleashed their strongest attacks and leaped away.

Momentarily winded, the Behemoth was unable to avoid the barrage of fire spells that

came flying at it right after.

”Royal Flare! ” Five people chanted in unison. A miniature blazing sun bore down on

the Behemoth, scorching everything in its path. It grew to eight meters in diameter

before colliding with its target.

Blistering heat scorched every inch of the Behemoth. The spell was so powerful that

it threatened to engulf even the students, and Suzu hurriedly erected a barrier. Unable

to escape, the Behemoths helmet melted from the heat of the blast.

”Graaaaaaaaaaaaah! ” Its dying screams echoed throughout the chamber. They were

the same screams the students had heard when the last one fell off the bridge. The

ear-piercing cries slowly faded to a pained gurgle, until finally the Behemoth was

nothing but a smoldering pile of ash. Only the blackened walls and charred ashes

served to show there had even been a monster there before.

”D-Did we get it? ”

”We won… ”

”We really won… ”

”Seriously? ”

”Is this real? ” Everyone stared dumbfounded at the remains of the Behemoth,

tentatively muttering words of disbelief. Kouki was the first to regain his senses. He

held his sword aloft, and proclaimed,

”Thats right! We won! ” His holy sword glittered in the dim dungeon light, declaiming

their victory for all to see. The reality of what theyd just achieved finally hit them, and

the students all broke out into cheers simultaneously. The guys all slapped each other

on the back, while the girls hugged each other with joy. Even Captain Meld was moved

by the victory.

Kaori, however, was simply staring blankly at the pile of ash that had once been a

monster. Shizuku noticed she wasn joining in on the celebration, so she walked up to


”Kaori, is something wrong? ”

”Huh? Oh, its just you, Shizuku-chan. No, nothings wrong. I was just thinking… weve

made it so far. ” Kaori smiled wryly as she answered Shizuku. She was even more

moved than most that shed gotten strong enough to defeat the monster that had once

haunted her nightmares.

”Yeah. Weve gotten a lot stronger since then. ”

”Mhmm… Shizuku-chan, do you think well find Nagumo-kun if we keep going? ”

”Thats what we
e here to find out, isn it? Thats what all of this was for. ”

”Ehehe, yeah. ” They could finally move forward. There was finally a very real chance

Kaori could find out exactly what happened to Hajime. She suddenly stiffened up in

fear, scared the answer might not be the one she wanted. Shizuku noticed the change,

and chose to tightly squeeze Kaoris hand in response. Reassured that Shizuku was

with her, Kaori banished the fear from her heart.

They stood there silently for a few minutes until Kouki walked up to them.

”Are you two alright? Kaori, that was some amazing healing. As long as you
e here,

Im not scared of anything. ” He flashed the two girls a dazzling smile as he praised

Kaori and Shizuku.

”As you can see, Im perfectly fine. And you… Well, you
e obviously alright, ” Shizuku

muttered in a tone full of mirth.

”Yeah, Im fine, Kouki-kun. Im glad I was helpful. ”

They returned his smile. But their smiles slipped slightly at Koukis next words.

”With this, Im sure Nagumo can rest easy too. The classmates he protected were able

to take down the monster that killed him. ”

”…… ” He was already lost in thought, and didn notice the two girls expressions

darken. Apparently Kouki really thought it was the Behemoth that had sent Hajime to

the depths of hell. In a sense, that was true. After all, it was the Behemoths magic that

destroyed the bridge. But more precisely, it was the person who had thrown that

errant fireball that had killed Hajime.

Even if everyone agreed not to talk about it, it didn change the fact that it was true.

But it seemed Kouki had forgotten that fact, or perhaps simply never been aware of it

in the first place, since he seemingly thought killing the Behemoth would be all it took

to let Hajime rest in peace.

Kouki, who believed everyone was a fundamentally good person, probably didn want

to keep blaming someone for a mistake. And of course, he couldn even imagine the

possibility that someone might have done it on purpose.

But Kaori couldn put that thought out of her mind even if she wanted to. She could

only hold it in because she didn know who it was, but she knew for sure if she found

out shed chase that person to the ends of the earth. Which was why it amazed her

that Kouki could just forget about it so easily.

Shizuku let out a long sigh. She really wanted to reprimand Kouki, but she knew he

didn mean anything ill by what he said. In fact, he had been thinking only of Kaori

and Hajime when he had said that. Sadly, it was his good intentions that made the barb

sting even more.

Besides, the other students were still basking in the glow of victory. Shizuku wasn so

tactless that shed try and start a scene.

After that, the classs most energetic girl jumped into the conversation, dispelling the

strained atmosphere.

”Kaorin! ” Suzu jumped into Kaoris arm, calling her by her strange nickname.

”Fwah!? ”

”Ehehe, I love you sooo much, Kaorin! If you hadn saved me back there, I would be

flat as a pancake right now! ”

e exaggerating, Suzu-chan… Wait, stop touching me there! ”

”Gehehe, do you like it? How about this, you like this? ” Kaori blushed as Suzu started

feeling her up like some old pervert. Shizuku stopped her rampage with a quick chop

to the head, though her blow had a little more force behind it than what was strictly


”Cut it out. Kaori doesn belong to you… She belongs to me. ”

”Shizuku-chan!? ”

”Hmph, I won let you get in my way. The only one who gets to xxx Kaoris xxx is me,

Suzu! ”

”Suzu-chan!? What are you trying to do to me!? ”

Trapped between Suzu and Shizuku, Kaori could only wail helplessly. The strained

atmosphere from earlier was nowhere to be found.

From there on out, they would be heading into uncharted territory. After defeating the

specter of their past, Kouki and the others advanced deeper into the labyrinth.


”Daaaaah! Dammit! ”

”You can do it, Hajime… ”

”Aren you a bit too relaxed!? ” Hajime was running through a clump of grass, with Yue

on his back. Thick, tall grass, coming all the way up to Hajimes shoulders, stretched

out in every direction as far as the eye could see. Yue would be completely buried

within the 160 centimeter tall grass.

The reason Hajime was currently whacking weeds out of the way as he ran for his life


”Shaaaaaaaaa!!! ” Because he was being chased by two hundred monsters.

Once they finished their preparations, Hajime and Yue had set out for the bottom of

the labyrinth. Theyd cleared ten or so floors with ease already. His new equipment

and improved skills had been part of the reason, but another important factor was

Yues devastating magic.

She could cast any elemental spell nearly instantly, and supported Hajime from the

rear. Though she was unparalleled when it came to offensive magic, it appeared Yue

wasn very skilled with barriers or healing. Perhaps it was because she unconsciously

regarded them as unnecessary since she was able to automatically heal any wounds.

Furthermore, Hajime had his Ambrosia with him, so he had no need for healing spells


That was why their travels had progressed smoothly until now. When they had first

descended onto the floor they were currently on, they had been greeted by a massive

sea of trees. Each tree was over ten meters tall, and they were packed together tighter

than sardines. The entire floor was extremely humid as a result. However, unlike the

jungle floor he had traversed earlier, it wasn sweltering hot.

As they had been searching for the next staircase, they suddenly felt a huge

earthquake. Seconds later, they had found themselves face to face with a huge reptilian

monster. It looked just like a Tyrannosaurus rex.

The only difference was, for some reason, it had a beautiful flower adorning the top of

its head. Its sharp fangs and overflowing bloodlust clearly marked a dangerous foe,

but the sunflower resting atop its head made it seem more comical than deadly. This

was quite possibly the most surreal monster Hajime had faced thus far.

The Tyrannosaurus roared angrily and charged the two of them. Unfazed by its

onslaught, Hajime calmly moved to draw Donner… only to be stopped by Yue, who

raised her hand.

”Crimson Javelin. ” A spear of whirling flames formed out of thin air, then shot straight

through the mouth of the T. rex. The heat melted the T. rexs entire head, leaving him

dead in seconds. The ground shook as the beast crumpled.

The flower perched on the remains of its head came off with a plop.

”…… ” Hajime stared on, speechless.

Shed been asserting her strength more and more aggressively recently. Originally she

had just supported Hajime from behind, but as time passed she eventually just started

preemptively one-shotting anything that intended to do him harm.

He had fewer and fewer opportunities to show off his skills, and was starting to feel

rather useless. Is she just one-shotting them because Im nothing but a burden to her in

combat? he began to think worriedly. If she really told him that hed probably be

depressed for weeks. And so, he holstered Donner and awkwardly asked Yue the

question on his mind.

”Umm, Yue? Im glad you
e pumped to fight, but… I feel like I haven been pulling my

weight recently. ” Yue turned back to Hajime, and despite her poker face, he could tell

she was rather proud of herself.

”…I want to be useful. Because Im your partner. ” It seemed she just wasn satisfied

with only covering Hajime from behind.

He certainly did recall saying a while back that they would need to rely on each other

in fights as partners who shared the same fate. It had been just after one of their fights.

Yue had overextended herself and collapsed after running out of mana. Hajime had to

rescue her, and she was beating herself up over it pretty bad, so he had told her that

to comfort her… but it seemed shed taken those words to heart. She wanted to show

Hajime she was a partner worth relying on.

”Haha, trust me, you
e more than useful. But even though your magic is ridiculously

strong, you
e not good at close combat, which is why I asked you to guard my back.

Being the frontliners my job. ”

”Hajime… Fine. ” Yue looked a bit glum as she listened to Hajime lecture her.

Hajime just didn want her to be hung up on the idea that she had to somehow be

useful to him. He smiled reassuringly and gently stroked her soft hair. That was all it

took for Yues mood to improve, and Hajime lost the heart to keep lecturing her when

he saw her contented expression.

He didn want her to end up dependent on him, so he tried to warn her from time to

time, but in the end he was just too soft on her. He was actually disgusted at himself

for how weak-willed hed become in that regard.

As the two of them were having their faux lovers spat, Hajime didn neglect to

continually use Sense Presence, and he suddenly realized there were enemies

approaching them.

About ten of them were circling around to surround them. If they
e coordinating their

movements, does that mean they hunt in packs like the Twin-tailed Wolves? Hajime

thought warily to himself as he motioned to Yue and began retreating. If they were

outnumbered, it would be in his best interests to at least move to more advantageous


As they began to close their encirclement, Hajime chose a point to break through and

charged. They pushed their way through a dense copse of trees, and as they finally

jumped clear, they found themselves face to face with a massive, two-meter-large,

raptor-like monster. This one had a tulip blooming on its head.

”…Cute. ”

”…Are those in fashion or something? ” Yue blurted out those words before she could

stop herself, and Hajime found it hard to take the raptor in front of him seriously. As

he stared at it, an impossible hypothesis came to mind.

Like the T. rex, the raptors bloodcurdling howl was at complete odds with the cute

flower on its head. Everyone began getting ready for combat. The flower fluttered

peacefully on the raptors head, but…

”Shaaaaa! ” It paid it no mind, and leaped at the distracted Hajime. The twentycentimeter-long talons extending from the raptors feet glinted cruelly in the dim light

as it attacked.

Yue and Hajime both jumped in different directions to dodge.

Not content with simply dodging, however, Hajime also used Aerodynamic to leap

multiple times through the air, until he was directly above the raptor. As a test, he shot

off the tulip poised on its head.

His bullet passed effortlessly through the tulip, scattering its petals in all directions.

The raptor spasmed momentarily, before tripping over itself and somersaulting into

the trees, where it lay motionless. A moment of silence descended. Yue tottered over

to Hajime, and they both stared at the tulip petals scattered across the ground.

”Is it dead? ”

”Doesn look like it to me? ” As Hajime had so astutely observed, the raptor wasn

dead. It twitched for a few seconds before slowly standing up and examining its

surroundings. When it noticed the tulip petals, it padded its way over and started

crushing them underfoot, as if the tulip had done it some great harm.

”Huh, what on earth is it doing? Whys it crushing the petals? ”

”…Maybe someone put it on its head as a prank? ”

”Im pretty sure the monsters around here aren some elementary school kids that go

around sticking kick me signs on everyone they see… ”

Once it had finished grinding the tulip into dust, it looked up contentedly at the sky

and let out a high pitched screech. It then finally spotted Yue and Hajime, and jumped

with a start.

”Looks like it just realized we were here. Just how absorbed was it with that tulip? ”

”…Maybe its being bullied? ” As Hajime marveled at its inattention, Yue looked at it

with something akin to sympathy. The raptor stood there for a moment, overcome by

shock, before suddenly lowering its stance and bearing its claws. It let out a low roar

as it rushed Hajime.

He calmly pulled out Donner, and shot an electrically accelerated taur bullet right into

the raptors gaping maw.

It made mincemeat out of the raptors head, and bored its way through a few of the

trees behind it before vanishing from sight.

Carried by the force of its own charge, the dead raptor slid a few feet across the ground

before coming to a stop. Yue and Hajime both stared down at the raptors corpse.

”Seriously, what was all that about? ”

”First it was bullied, and then it got shot… Poor thing. ”

”Can we just drop the bullying part? Im pretty sure that never happened. ”

He had no idea what had just happened, but the monsters on this floor made no sense

to him anyway, so he just stopped worrying about it. Their encirclement had started

closing in on them, so they quickly moved to find more advantageous terrain.

As they pushed forward, they found themselves surrounded by a sea of trees, each five

meters wide at the base. The trees were packed so closely together that their branches

were entwined, making a natural pathway through the sky.

Hajime used Aerodynamic while Yue used wind magic to hop from branch to branch.

He planned to shoot down all the monsters that came after them from above.

In less than five minutes, the ground below became a hive of activity as one raptor

after another poured into the area. He was about to throw down an incendiary

grenade when suddenly he stiffened. Next to him, Yue also stiffened, her hands still

outstretched to cast magic. The reason for their sudden hesitation was none other


”Why the hell do they all have flowers on their heads!? ”

”Its one big garden. ”

As Hajime had so eloquently stated, the dozen or so raptors all had flowers adorning

their heads. All of varying shapes, sizes, and color.

His outcry had alerted the raptors to their presence, and as one, they all turned to face

him. Each of them got ready to leap.

He quickly threw his incendiary grenade and began shooting down the raptors outside

its range. After each gunshot was a brief red flash, signaling that Donner had torn the

head off its quarry. At the same time, Yue used her Crimson Javelin to take down

raptors one after another.

Roughly three seconds after the battle began, the incendiary grenade exploded.

Burning hot tar splashed everywhere, incinerating a swathe of raptors. Hajime

breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that his other weapons were still effective on

this floor. It appeared that scorpion had just been exceptionally strong.

The entire flock of raptors was taken care of in less than ten seconds. But for some

reason, Hajimes expression was still grim. Yue saw the look on his face and tilted her

head in confusion.

”…Hajime? ”

”Don you think its strange, Yue? ”

”Hm? ”

e too weak. ”

Yue was taken aback by that unexpected response.

It certainly was true that both the raptors and the T. rex had moved in very simplistic

patterns and had been easily defeated. On top of that, though they exhibited a fair

amount of bloodlust, they had felt almost unnaturally mechanical in their actions.

Especially when compared to the raptor whose flower Hajime had blown off. The way

it had ground the flower to dust had felt far more natural.

Hajime turned to Yue, but before he could say anything, his Sense Presence detected a

new wave of monsters. There was a veritable army of them closing in from all

directions. His Sense Presence had a radius of twenty meters, and there were already

more monsters than he could count heading their way, with even more pouring into

range every second.

”Yue, we
e in trouble. Theres at least thirty, no, forty monsters heading our way.

e surrounding us from all sides too. Its almost like someones controlling them. ”

”…Should we run? ”

”No point. With how many there are, we won escape. Itd be smarter to climb to the

top of the tallest tree and pick them off from there. ”

”Okay… Ill ready a big spell, then. ”

”Yeah, let em have it! ”

They sped through the branches, searching for the tallest tree in the area. Once they

found it, they hopped onto one of its branches and destroyed all of the surrounding

footholds, making it harder for the monsters to follow them.

Hajime held Donner at the ready as he waited. He felt a slight tug at the hem of his

shirt, and realized Yue had grabbed onto him. That restricted the movement of his

arms a little, so he leaned into her to free them. Her grip strengthened as he did so.

Finally, the first wave of enemies appeared. It was a mix of raptors and T. rexes this

time. The T. rexes started ramming into the trunk over and over while the raptors used

their claws to make footholds and leaped up the tree.

Hajime squeezed Donners trigger. Chunks of flesh rained down to the ground below

as one of the raptors had its head blown off.

That had been the last of his clip, so he detached the revolvers cylinder and spun it to

dislodge the empty shells before sticking it in his left armpit and reloading. The entire

process only took five seconds.

But he had still made sure to drop an incendiary grenade in the downtime to keep the

raptors busy. A curtain of flame fell to the ground below. Seconds later, a barrage of

bullets followed. Hajime had already killed fifteen of them, but there was no time to


A group of thirty raptors and four T. rexes had formed down below, and they were

frantically trying either to climb the tree or just topple it outright.

”Hajime? ”

”Not yet… Wait just a bit longer. ”

He replied, without taking his eyes off the enemies he was shooting at down below.

Trusting in Hajime, Yue concentrated only on pouring more mana into her spell.

Finally, when there were more than fifty creatures swarming around the forest floor,

Hajime decided that must have been all of the enemies hed detected and he gave Yue

the signal.

”Yue, now! ”

”Okay! Frost Prison! ”

The moment Yue unleashed her magic, the ground all around the tree began to freeze.

In the blink of an eye, all of the monsters had been encased in tombs of pale blue ice.

They dotted the frozen landscape, looking like crystal blossoms.

Trapped in their pretty frozen coffins, the light of life soon drained from their eyes.

The field of frost expanded fifty meters in all directions. Her magic really was a

weapon of mass destruction.

”Haah… Haah… ”

”Nice job. Im so glad I have a vampire princess on my side. ”

”…Gufufu… ”

Hajime couldn help but marvel at the frozen hellscape Yue had created with a single

spell. But casting such a high level spell had drained her of all her mana, and she was

panting heavily. She had completely exhausted herself with that attack alone.

Hajime gently supported her with one arm and bared his neck. Shed recover her mana

if she drank his blood. The Ambrosia could heal her exhaustion too, but perhaps

because she was a vampire, it took a lot of time to fully take effect on her. He supposed

it made sense that blood was the best remedy for a vampire.

Yue smiled faintly at Hajimes praise before sinking her fangs into his neck. A slight

flush crept up her cheeks as she drank his blood.

Before she could finish, however, Hajime suddenly dislodged his neck and stood back

up. His Sense Presence had discovered another hundred monsters heading their way.

”Yue, weve got twice as many as before heading our way. ”

”Wha—!? ”

”Theres definitely something strange going on here. We just wiped out a huge group

of them, didn we? But they
e still rushing us anyway… Its like they
e being

controlled. Don tell me those flowers are… ”

”Parasites? ”

”You think so too, Yue? ”

Yue nodded in agreement.

”…It should have a main body somewhere. ”

”Yeah. If we can get the bastard that stuck those flowers on everyone, well have to

fight our way through every single monster on this floor. ”

They decided to look for the mastermind behind the flower parasites before they got

overwhelmed by sheer numbers. Until they defeated the puppet master, they wouldn

be able to do a proper search of the floor.

As they no longer had time to let Yue leisurely suck his blood, Hajime tried to pass her

a vial of Ambrosia. However, she didn take it. He tilted his head, puzzled. Yue was

holding both her arms out to him instead of taking the vial.

”Hajime… carry me… ”

”What are you, five!? Wait, don tell me you expect me to carry you and run while you

suck my blood!? ”

She nodded emphatically. He supposed Ambrosia would take too long to take effect,

and in a pinch they would need Yues magic to save them. However, he wasn thrilled

about the idea of fleeing from a monster army while she sucked his blood. I suppose

drastic times call for drastic measures… In the end, he agreed and lifted Yue into his

arm… and then realized that would hinder his movements too much, so he slung her

over his back instead. His preparations complete, he leaped down.

And so, we return to the earlier scene, in which Hajime was being chased down by 200

monsters. Hajime hacked his way through a dense clump of weeds with Yue still

clinging to his back. Though she had finished sucking his blood, she still hadn gotten


As he ran, he heard a massive rumbling noise behind him. The entire floor shook as

the army of dinosaurs charged toward him. The raptors hid themselves in the tall grass

and threw themselves at Hajime from all directions. He killed the ones that managed

to reach him and ignored the rest as he ran as fast as he could. He was currently

making his way to what he thought was the most obvious hiding spot he could think

of. Yue launched magic projectiles left and right, keeping the monsters at bay and

preventing them from getting completely hemmed in.

Sluuuurp. She sucked his blood again as he ran. Their destination was the dungeon

wall located at the other end of the sea of trees. On that wall was a massive fissure that

opened into a cavern.

The reason he had chosen to investigate that location first was because of a peculiarity

he had noticed in the monsters behavior. While Hajime had been running through the

forest, it was only when he had headed in a certain direction that the monsters attacks

became more frantic. As if they were trying to prevent him from going that way. It

wasn much to go on, but it was all they had. Besides, if they took too long theyd be

overwhelmed anyway, so they had no choice but to bet it all on whatever clues they

managed to find.

He had hoped to hide among the grass as he made his way over, but that plan had

clearly failed already. Instead, since his position was already compromised, he decided

to speed up and activated Aerodynamic along with Supersonic Step to shoot forward.


”Yue!? Can you please stop sucking my blood at every opportunity!? ”

”…I need it. ”

”Liar! I know youve barely used any mana since the last time you took a sip! ”

”Their flowers are… draining my… Kuh. ”

”Stop playing the tragic heroine card, I know you
e just fine, you moron! I can believe

e screwing around like this when Im running for my life. ”

Even in such a tense situation, Yue was more interested in Hajimes blood than their

impending crisis. Man, shes got no shame. Guess I shouldve figured since shes royalty

and all… And despite her playful attitude, she was still shooting down every monster

that leaped in range without skipping a beat. After a few more minutes of running they

arrived at the cave entrance, with two hundred monsters in tow.

The fissure was narrow enough that two grown men would have trouble walking side

by side. The T. rexes wouldn fit at all and the raptors would have to follow in single

file. One of the raptors leaped at them, claws at the ready, but before it could even

make it a few feet, Hajime blew it to bits with Donner. Once they were through the

fissure, Hajime transmuted it, closing it behind him.

”Haaah, we can finally take a break. ”

”…You sound tired. ”

”If you
e worried about me, how about you get off my back? ”

”Muu… Fine. ”

Reluctantly, Yue slipped off of his back. She must really like my back.

”Now then, considering how desperate those guys looked, Id say we
e in the right

place. Make sure you stay on your toes. ”

”Okay. ”

The inside of the cavern was dim since Hajime had closed the exit, so they proceeded


After a few minutes of walking, the path opened up into a wide room. There was a

second fissure on the other side of the room. Maybe thats the path that leads to the

next floor? Hajime started combing the room. Sense Presence didn detect any

enemies, but there was this ominous feeling he just couldn shake, so he kept his

guard up. He had learned the hard way that some monsters could evade his Sense


It was when they reached the center of the room that it finally happened. A countless

number of what seemed like green ping pong balls flew at them from every corner of

the room. Yue and Hajime stood back to back and began shooting down the ping pong


However, there were over a hundred coming at them fast, and he realized he couldn

get them all in time. He instantly changed tracks and transmuted a wall to protect

himself. The balls all crashed into the wall, unable to pierce through the thick stone.

Though fast, they didn appear to have much force. Yue had no problem taking care of

the ones on her side with her superior wind magic.

”Yue, I think thats the main bodys way of attacking. Do you have any idea where it

is? ”

”…… ”

”Yue? ” Hajime asked, inquisitively. Though she didn possess any perception skills like

Hajime, her honed vampire senses provided her with a useful amount of information

unavailable to Hajime.

However, Yue didn respond. Confused, he turned to her and asked again, but the reply

he received was completely unexpected.

”…Run, Hajime! ” Her hands were pointing at Hajime. Gales of wind whipped

dangerously around them. His instincts screamed at him to run, so he leaped away as

quickly as possible. Not even a second later, a blade of wind passed through the spot

hed just been standing on and neatly sliced through the wall behind him.

”Yue!? ” Hajime could barely believe what he was seeing. He raised his voice in

surprise, but then understanding dawned on him when he saw what was above Yues

head. Blooming atop her golden hair was a small flower. It felt almost as if the monster

had chosen that flower specifically for her too. After all, the scarlet rose above her

head suited her perfectly.

”Dammit, those green balls mustve been flowers! ” How stupid can I be? I want to punch

myself right now, he thought, as he evaded another one of Yues wind slashes.

”Hajime… Unngh… ” Her usual poker face was replaced with a grief-stricken

expression. When hed shot the flower off the raptors head it had stamped on it with

a surprising amount of hatred, which meant that it had recalled the time it had spent

under the flowers control. The flower controlled only the body and not the mind.

Fortunately, he already knew how to free her from it. He took aim at the flower and

prepared to pull the trigger.

However, it seemed his quarry was aware of what his weapons were capable of, and

that hed shot down a flower before.

It controlled Yue, forcing her to protect the flower. It made her bob up and down,

meaning that if he missed he was liable to shoot right through her skull. He ran

forward, intending to pluck it off, but Yue pointed a hand at her own head as he did.

”Oh now youve done it… ” The message was clear. If he tried to get close, the monster

would force Yue to attack herself with her own magic.

Though she was practically immortal, Hajime couldn say with confidence shed still

be able to regenerate if she blew herself to smithereens with a powerful spell. And she

was more than skilled enough to cast even the strongest of spells in seconds. He wasn

willing to risk Yues life on a gamble like that.

Sensing his hesitation, the monster slithered out of the crack in the back of the room.

What crawled out of the depths was a woman-plant hybrid that closely resembled

something like a Dryad or Alraune. There was no better way to describe the creature

they faced. According to legend, they took on the forms of beautiful women to sap their

opponents will to fight, and if one treated them well they would be blessed with good

fortune. However, the creature standing in front of them didn seem anything like the


While it did still look like a woman, its face was as ugly as its fighting style was dirty,

and the countless vines writhing around it like tentacles only served to make it look

all the more disgusting. It might have been better to call it an Alraune wannabe. There

was a wicked grin plastered across its hideous face.

Hajime lost no time in pointing Donner at this new opponent. But before he could fire,

Yue got in between him and the Alraune wannabe, blocking his line of sight.

”Hajime… Im sorry… ” Yue gritted her teeth in frustration. Not being able to control

her own body must have been unbearable for her. Even now, she was desperately

struggling to move. As Hajime watched, crimson droplets began trailing down the

corners of her mouth. She must have bitten her lips so hard she drew blood. He

couldn tell if it was frustration at her own powerlessness, or an attempt to inflict

enough pain that she could break the spell. Perhaps it was a little of both.

Using Yue as a shield, the Alraune wannabe fired another green ball at Hajime.

A bullet from Donner blasted it to bits. Though he couldn see them, he was sure the

ball must have sprayed flower spores everywhere when it burst.

However, Hajime didn feel a flower blooming on his head. The Alraune wannabe

suddenly stopped grinning when she saw Hajime was still unfazed. The spores

seemed not to work on him.

Must be because of all the resistances I have. His guess was more or less correct, as the

Alraune wannabes spores were a form of neurotoxin. Hence, his Poison Resistance

made him immune to their effects. In other words, the only reason Hajime wasn a

puppet was because of sheer luck. It wasn as if Yue had let her guard down or

anything. Which was why she had no reason to be blaming herself.

Realizing her spores couldn control him, the Alraune wannabe pouted and

commanded Yue to attack him with her magic. Another blade of wind shot out toward

him. From how simple Yues movements had become, and how single-minded the

earlier raptors attacks had been, Hajime surmised that the Alraune wannabe couldn

bring out her controlled subjects full strength.

I guess thats some consolation at least. When he moved to jump out of the way, Yue

pointed a hand at her head again, rooting him in place. Unable to dodge, he activated

the Diamond Skin skill hed taken from the cyclops to defend himself.

Diamond Skin involved coating the casters body in mana and then hardening it, so

that they were surrounded by a shell literally as hard as diamonds. He hadn trained

it much yet, so it was probably barely even a tenth as strong as the cyclops version of

it had been. Still, it was enough to stop Yues wind blades, which were sharp but lacked


There is a way I can end this fight right now, but… Im worried about the aftermath…

Should I try throwing an incendiary grenade at it? As Hajime pondered how best to

escape the deadlock, he heard Yues grief-stricken shout.

”Hajime! Don mind me… just shoot! ” It seemed shed resolved herself. If she was just

going to get in his way and attack him, shed rather just be shot at herself. There wasn

even the slightest hint of hesitation in her crimson eyes.

Normally this would be a scene where the main character said something like,

”Theres no way I can do that! ” or, ”Ill save you, no matter what it takes! ” and

strengthen his bonds with the heroine. And in fact, the old Hajime might have done

just that. But the current Hajime was a much harder man.

”Wait, really? Thanks. ” Bang! A single gunshot resounded through at the room.

Upon hearing Yues words, Hajime had fired without hesitation. Silence filled the room

as the gunshots echoes faded away. The red rose spun through the air before

soundlessly falling to the ground.

Yue blinked in surprise. The Alraune wannabe did too.

Yue uncertainly patted the top of her head. The flower was gone, but the hair near it

was frizzly and torn. Even the Alraune wannabe, wicked as it was, glared scornfully at


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