Chapter 9 – Guided Exploration

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 The day after having a meal with Sophia and Selma.

 Since from tomorrow I will be exploring the Great Labyrinth, I want to purchase consumables such as recovery medicine, so I head to the general store that I always go to.  

“Grandpa, hello.”

“Oh, Orn, it’s been a long time…”

 The owner of the general store has a long beard that is completely white, a grandfather around the age of 60. 

 From since I arrived at this city and became an explorer, I often visit this store.

 During the times when I didn’t make a lot of money, I received discounts, free trial products, and sometimes even life advice from a senior.
I’ve been very well taken care of by Grandpa.

“It’s not been that long, yeah.
I was just here four days ago.”

“Is that so? Recently, there have been more customers and I have had more chances to talk to different kinds of people.”

“As long as you’re doing well.”

That’s also thanks to Orn.”

“I didn’t do anything.
It’s simply because the medicine and products made by Grandpa are high quality.” 

“I am aware.
You promote my store.
Although you have become a top explorer, you continue coming to my store, and I’m already grateful for that, but you even publicise my store, I am really thankful to you, Orn.”

 Grandpa suddenly said words of gratitude to me.

“What’s happening suddenly? And also, you’re the one who’s always been taking care of me.”

“You can always convey your gratitude.
It’s something you can show whenever you have the chance.”  

 Certainly, you don’t know when your last farewell might come.

 ”Gratitude is something you can show whenever you have the chance” is something Grandpa always tells me. 

 Even so, I may already no longer be able to return his kindness.

“…Grandpa, I’m sorry.
Actually, I’m no longer a member of the Hero party… So from now on, I probably won’t be able to publicise your store anymore…”

 Until now, this store had been promoted using the fame of the Hero Party.  I myself am not famous, and the me who is no longer a member of the Hero Party doesn’t have much influence on my surroundings. 

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 After I confess I’m no longer part of the Hero Party, and I can’t promote the store anymore, Grandpa strokes my head with his usual, unchanged soft expression. 

“A kid doesn’t need to worry about something like that.
It’s almost been nine years since I met you.
Nine years talking to this old fool, that alone is enough for your gratitude.
It’s okay if you don’t worry about that.
Besides — making sure the customers brought by Orn don’t leave is something I need to do.
Orn, you’ve done enough for me.
Thank you.”

“That’s, me too, thank you.”

 Touched by Grandpa’s kindness, I can’t resist the tears. 

 Normally, I don’t think I would have cried, but being expelled from the Hero Party seems to have inflicted more damage to my heart than I’d thought. 

 When Oliver, who I had been together with since I was born, expelled me from the party, I felt like everything I had done up to now was being denied.

 That’s why when I was acknowledged by the Grandpa with whom I had spent so much time in the past 9 years, I felt redeemed. 

 The Grandpa who always listens to my idle complaints.

 The Grandpa who always helps me. 

 The Grandpa who always is on my side.

 I don’t have a family, I think of Grandpa as my real Grandfather.

 I will never betray this person.
Once again affirming this, I swear firmly in my heart. 


 After buying the necessary items at Grandpa’s store and lightly warming up my body against demonic beasts in the labyrinth, I visit “Night Sky’s Silver Rabbit”’s headquarters to discuss the matter of tomorrow’s guided exploration. 

“…The interior is stunning.”

 Until now, I’ve pretty much only seen the outside of “Night Sky’s Silver Rabbit”’s headquarters while passing by, today is my first time stepping inside. 

 During my time in the Hero Party, one of our Marquis sponsors had organised a party in the lounge of a top-class hotel, this lounge doesn’t lose out to that lounge.  

 Even I, not really familiar with furniture, can tell that there are many objects of high value. 

“You’re here, Orn.”

 Selma, sitting on a chair in the resting area of the lounge, calls out to me after I enter.

“Good evening, Selma.
It’s my first time entering, but this is a wonderful lounge.”

“Thank you.
Well, it’s because this is the entrance that there’s a bit more effort put into it, other places aren’t like this, you know.
Then, I’ll guide you right away.
Follow me.”

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 I follow Selma.

 Just as Selma said, as we head towards the back of the building, I can tell the furniture is on a lower level.

 That said, for explorers, they’re adequately good.

 Entering the room I was guided to that looks like a conference room, a man in his early thirties is already seated inside. 

 The man is dressed mainly in black and blue, colours symbolising “Night Sky’s Silver Rabbit”, and on his left chest the Clan emblem is embroidered.

(An administrative person? Fits his air.)

“Orn, let me introduce you.
This person is President of ‘Night Sky’s Silver Rabbit’, Vince Briars.”

 I see.
This is the person at the top of the clan. 

 Then I can understand the air he exudes. 

 Since it is likely that circumstances behind this guided exploration means they have to succeed without fail, so much so that they are willing to have an outsider like me participate, I did think that at least a Clan executive will come to meet me.

 Nevertheless, for the top to meet me directly, I wonder what intentions they might have. 

 He’s also definitely not somebody with this much free time on his hands.

“Nice to meet you, I’m Vince Briars.
I have heard rumours about you.
I have been thinking of wanting to speak with you at least once, and the information that you would be coming here today reached my ears.
So I hurried to come here.”

 ……Rumours about me? I haven’t heard of any, and I’m also not well-known.
Even in the Hero Party, there should only be a bare minimum amount of information released about me, I wonder exactly what you’ve heard. 

“Nice to meet you, I’m Orn Doula.
It’s an honour for me to have this chance to meet the President of ‘Night Sky’s Silver Rabbit’.”

“It is alright for you to not be so vigilant.
I hear that you have left the Hero party.
Surely then it becomes no longer necessary for us to probe each other like this?

 ……I can’t read the thoughts of this person.

 Most people generally reveal their thoughts through their facial expressions. 

 Unless the other person is at the level of a high rank aristocrat, I can more or less infer their thoughts through their expressions, but I can’t read anything from this person. 

 It’s true that the sponsors of the Hero Party and “Night Sky’s Silver Rabbit” belong to different factions. 

 After we had both reached the same floor, there were times when the sponsors had instructed me to sabotage them through inhumane methods.

 To be honest, I didn’t want to bring the circumstances of aristocrats into the labyrinth, but in light of their funding, I also couldn’t just bluntly refuse.
I didn’t do anything inhumane, but we did compete in mutually dragging each other down. 

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 That was a period of time when I was really fed up. 

 After the internal turmoil of “Night Sky’s Silver Rabbit” and the progress of the Hero Party to the next floor, those sorts of instructions ended up ceasing.

 Anyway, aside from the Hero Party sponsors, “Night Sky’s SIlver Rabbit”’s sponsors probably don’t find their current situation amusing. 

“…That’s true.
Then, I hear you have a more detailed explanation for me today regarding tomorrow’s guided exploration?”

The explanation will be provided by Selma.”

“The general outline is as I had mentioned yesterday.
In three days, we will be capturing the 1st to 51st floors of the Great Labyrinth in one swoop.
As for the specifics, on the first day we will proceed until the 21st floor, the second day until the 36th floor, and the third day until the 51st floor. 

 Even after hearing it again, I still find it a ridiculous schedule. 

 The guy who made this plan probably not only had an extremely poor understanding of the Great Labyrinth, but had also probably only consulted the opinions of overconfident advanced explorers. 

“…If we’re talking about accompanying beginners, then it’ll be a day trip right?” 

“That’s right.
As one might expect, having beginners stay overnight in the labyrinth will be too much of a mental burden.”

 Following the shortest route, having advanced explorers defeat the Floor Bosses, then was this, doable? 

“Next, regarding the demonic beast encounters, there will be a total of ten beginner parties.
For the demonic beasts met along the path of travel, we will have the beginners fight them in rotation, for the demonic beasts that appear from the left, right, and back, the Officers will handle them.”

 ”Officers” probably refer to me, Selma and the other advanced explorers. 

 Ten parties fighting in a rotation, advanced explorers to deal with ‘surprise attacks’ from demonic beasts that appear, certainly the burden on newcomers will be reduced.
A simple calculation suggests they will only need to engage in less than one tenth of the battles of a typical exploration. 

 Well, considering the fatigue of travelling, I feel like it will end up quite similar though….

“The participating Officers, including Orn and I, will number five.
Each Officer will be in-charge of two parties, and will be required to step in if the parties they are in-charge of fall into a pinch during battles.
In the upper layers, we will have the beginner parties themselves handle their own battle organisation.
From the 31st floor — after entering the middle layers, we want the Officers to give battle instructions.”

 The Southern Great Labyrinth can be roughly divided into four sections.

 The upper layers consisting of the 1st to the 31st floor; the middle layers, the 31st to 61st floor; the lower layers, the 61st to 91st floor; and the deep layers below the 91st floor. 

 Obviously, as you progress lower into the layers, the more powerful the demonic beasts that appear, and the floors also become more vast. 

 And the ranks of parties are also divided into four stages.

 If the average floor a party can descend to is in the upper layers, then they are C Rank; the middle layers, B Rank; the lower layers, A Rank; and the deep layers, S Rank. 

“I think I’ve covered everything, do you have any questions?”

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 Questions? I have too many things I’d like to criticise about this plan…

 However, my criticisms are probably already considered as unavoidable parts of the plan, so pointing them out wouldn’t help matters. 

 I’ll ask about the thing that bothers me the most. 

“Then, only one.
Why are there only five Officers? With this kind of unreasonable schedule, I think it will be good if multiple A Rank parties were to follow, so we can have advanced explorers to also deal with the demonic beasts encounters along the path.”

“That… certainly the objective is to bring the beginner explorers to the 51st floor.
However, they have this rare opportunity to receive support from advanced explorers.
There won’t be many such good chances.
Won’t it be a waste if we lose this possibility to nurture our newcomers?”

 No matter how you think about it, this is a front. 

 The only thing that matters for this plan are the results.
It doesn’t matter what means they use.
“Night Sky’s Silver Rabbit” should also be aware of this. 

 Therefore, there should still be another reason for only going with these members, but as expected, they won’t be telling me. 

 Selma’s expressions are surprisingly easily readable, and I think I will be able to obtain some more information if I can get my hooks into her, but Vince Briars is also here. 

 If I do something unnecessary, it’s not unlikely that my own neck ends up being strangled. 

It seems like it’s going to be a tough three days, but I’ll cooperate.”

“Thank you.
Next will be regarding the reward, we would like to pay you two gold coins in advance, and ten gold coins as the remuneration, what do you think about that?”

 That’s pretty high…

 The currency of this world consists of seven types of coins: iron coins, small bronze coins, large bronze coins, small silver coins, large silver coins, gold coins, and platinum coins.

 Iron coins have the lowest value, platinum coins have the highest value. 

 Ten coins of one type has the same value as one coin of the higher type. 

 To understand their value more intuitively, think of one gold coin as sufficient monthly expenses for a commoner.

“There’s no problem with me, but isn’t this quite high?”

“That’s how much it costs to hire you, Orn.
​​We’ll be counting on you from tomorrow.”

I’ll put in my best effort.”

 In the end, the President over there let the conversation end without saying a single word.

 Seriously, why’d you even come?

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