Authors: Fujino Omori
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy
’s base, the hidden room under an old church.
The room is underground, so naturally there are no morning sunbeams or crowing roosters to wake me up. It’s just force of habit to get up at a certain time.
I used to have to get up early to work in the fields back home in the countryside. I developed a very precise body clock right around my tummy.
Just to be sure, I lift my head to check the clock on the wall.
While it’s dim in here, it’s not completely dark thanks to a magic stone lamp on the ceiling. My eyes don’t even have to adjust.
Human engineers figured out how to make magic stone lamps. The gods call it “cutting-edge technology.” It was the discovery of the century. Even the gods acknowledged the influence of human engineering techniques. These things are amazing!
The goddess and I had a small party last night. When we got sleepy, I left the bed to her and went to sleep on the sofa as usual. Sure, it’s not that wide, but I’m used to it.
I blink a few times to get the sleep out of my eyes. I should get up and wash my face and get ready to.… Huh?
There’s something on top of me. Not the sheets, and it’s round and extremely light. I’m breathing just fine, otherwise I would have noticed sooner.
Just what is this thing? Maybe if I touched it… No way! It’s the goddess!
She’s asleep with her face buried in my chest. Ha-ha, imagine that.
Did she sleepwalk…?
I guess there’s a first time for everything, but now I have to figure out how to get out of this predicament.
I’m sure I could get out from under her without waking her up, but she’s so soft and cuddly, I don’t want to move. She’s an extremely good body pillow, a godlike one!
that specialize in making items and weapons, but I can say for sure that they don’t have anything like this! The goddess is incredible!
With all due respect to her, I wrap my arms around her squishy body. If cotton were a liquid, this is how it would feel.
This is bad. I really won’t be able to get up at this rate.
She even smells nice… Aww, a tiny yawn and now she’s snuggling her face into my chest like a little baby.
She’s so damn cute!!!
Wait a second, what are these soft melons on my chest? Don’t tell me, it’s
I move fast. This god pillow has turned into a death trap. I slide out a little and flip her onto the sofa, trading places with her.
She almost killed me…!
It’s the first time she’s sent a chill down my spine…
were touching me! I couldn’t breathe! What if I didn’t get out of there?
I put the sheet over her and get ready to go. I shouldn’t be here when she wakes up. Now that I think about it, wow, I’m an idiot! What have I done?! She’s a goddess! And I felt her… on me…
I sneak through the room and out the door without a sound.
“… zzz… Bell, you’re so stupid… zzzz…”
Well, that was an eventful way to wake up…
I sigh to myself as the brisk morning air chills my skin.
Main Street in the morning is very different from how it is in the afternoon. The streets feel so much wider at sunrise—no people, no noise. Every one of the two-story shops have their shutters closed. The shops look like a long stone wall all lined up in a row.
The eastern sky is getting brighter. I’m not alone on the streets, either. A few prums are setting up their store here, and a group of
dwarves are talking in a cluster over there. By the looks of them, they’re adventurers like me. I wonder if I’ll run into them in the Dungeon later on.
I might have a lot in common with them. I got up, got ready to prowl the Dungeon, escaped from… I mean, left my goddess behind, and am now on Main Street.
“Ah, rats… I didn’t eat anything…”
My stomach is talking to me. All I can do is trudge toward the Dungeon and rub my tummy to calm it down.
There is nothing in there, just hunger.
At this rate, I won’t be able to slay anything in the Dungeon. Can’t concentrate…
I know that I said I wanted to save money yesterday, but if I don’t get something to eat, I’ll starve before I even get there. What’s open at this time? Maybe I can find a nice morsel…
Something’s behind me!
Behind my right shoulder!
Nothing…? I’m not the kind of adventurer who can sense danger or anything, but I swear I felt the eyes of a killer on my back… Something
Were they sizing me up? Whoever this is, they’re not normal, and they aren’t holding anything back.
There’s someone on the café terrace setting up tables, two animal people standing on that corner over there, and a woman looking down from the roof of that shop… My eyes are jumping back and forth to all the people I can find. Maybe I missed someone over my other shoulder?
Everything looks normal for early morning on Main Street. There isn’t even a suspicious shadow around. Then again, I probably look pretty suspicious, standing in the center of the road with my head on a swivel. As soon as I look at anyone, though, they get right back to work.
Am I going crazy? Is the black hole in my gut playing tricks on me?
My heart is pounding in my ears. I know there’s definitely something around here…
“Um, excuse me…”
I spin around and raise my fists to defend against the source of the voice. Onlookers probably think I’m overacting.
A girl, a human like me, is standing there.
She wears a white blouse with a light green knee-length skirt. On top of that is a salon apron.
Her simple blue-gray hair is tied into a tight bun on the back of her head, but a ponytail sticks out from the center of it.
Her eyes, the same color as her hair, look innocent and rather cute. She’s so scared that her smooth, milky skin is all bunched up around her eyes. Oh yeah, my fist is a few inches from her jaw…
She’s no threat. What the hell is wrong with me today?
“S-sorry! I was just a little surprised…”
“No, no! I’m sorry for startling you…”
Now she’s apologizing just as furiously as I am. She didn’t do anything…
She looks older than me, but just a year or two tops.
Was this the girl I saw on the café terrace? She was carrying a table all by herself…
“Um, can I help you?”
“Oh… yes. Here, you dropped this.”
A bluish purple crystal sits in her outstretched palm.
“A magic stone? Huh?”
I crane my neck around to look at the pouch strapped to my lower back. I use this fist-sized pouch to hold all the magic stones I collect from monsters in the Dungeon.
A drawstring usually keeps it wrapped up pretty tight. Is it loose? I thought I exchanged all of the stones I collected yesterday at headquarters. Did I miss one?
Only adventurers would have magic stones in the first place, so maybe she’s right.
“Thank you for going out of your way!”
“Oh, no. Don’t mention it.”
I return the smile that blooms on her face. My eyebrows drop a bit in shame. I have no idea what to say, so I just chuckle along with her. My shoulders finally relax as she good-naturedly hands me the stone.
“Are you already heading to the Dungeon at this hour?”
“Yep, I thought I’d get to work a bit early today.”
She asked that question to break the awkward silence. I didn’t know what to say myself, so I’m glad she spoke up. I’ll try to say good-bye after a little small talk.
… Or so I thought. My stomach speaks up before I can make a clean getaway.
Her eyes go wide.
My face goes red.
I hear her laugh a little. My face feels hot enough to cook an egg. Nah, it would burn…
“Ha-ha. Are you hungry?”
“So, you didn’t have any breakfast this morning?”
This is so awkward. I can’t look her in the eyes, just drop my head and nod.
I see a little light flick on in her eyes. She suddenly turns and runs quickly to the café, her boots clopping on the Main Street pavement. She disappears into a side door and returns almost as quickly as she left.
She has a charming little basket clutched in her arms. Bread and cheese are sticking up from the brim.
“If this is okay… I mean, the café isn’t open yet, so all I can offer is my morning rations…”
“Eh? No, no, no. That’s your breakfast! I can’t accept it!”
She looks a little bit shy and bites her lip.
Whoa… She’s one of those inner-beauty types.
When I see Ms. Wallenstein or the goddess, I get butterflies. Not so much with this girl, but the more I talk to her, the cuter she looks…
The goddess would call her a “good girl next door” type of girl.
“I can’t leave you hungry like this. It would make me sad as a person to do that. So please, Mr. Adventurer, accept it, for me.”
“How can I say no to that…?”
How can I possibly refuse something offered up like that? I don’t have the guts to say no to that smile.
She closes her eyes for a moment while I search for my next words. When she opens them, a mischievous smile creeps over her face. She leans forward until her face is just a few inches from mine.
A little too close…
“Mr. Adventurer, I’m making this sacrifice for you. So in exchange for the bread and cheese this morning…”
“You have to eat dinner tonight at the bar I work at.”
It was my eyes’ turn to get wide.
I slowly chew over her words.
This girl has completely destroyed the ice. This is the first time we’ve met, and she’s laughing like we are old buddies.
“You don’t play fair, do you…?”
“Hee-hee-hee. Here you are! Don’t worry about it because I’m sure I’m going to make a lot of money today!”
Basically, “spend a lot of money tonight!” Great.
What’s with her? Isn’t that a lot of pressure to put on someone you just met?
“… Well then, I’ll be seeing you tonight.”
“Yes! I’ll be waiting!”
She laughs for me as I leave. Sure, I feel a little manipulated, but I also feel good, kind of like we just had tea together or something. Why am I suddenly so shy?
I hold the basket in one hand as she sees me off.
I look down Main Street, toward the tower at the center of the city.
Lines of tall buildings pierce the morning sky, but the center tower looms over all of them. The Dungeon is waiting below it.
Something very important pops into my head as I take my first step. So I turn back to her.
She looks a bit confused. I take a deep breath.
“I… I’m Bell Cranell. What is your name?”
A heavy second passes as I squint my eyes waiting for her response. They pop open when she smiles at me.
“I’m Syr Flover, Bell.”
We exchange names, laughs, and waves before I set out.
The Dungeon was here before the gods came down to our world.
There was a city above the Dungeon, too, just much smaller than it is today. I’ve heard the Guild was there as well.
What I’m trying to say is that there were people who joined the Guild and fought monsters without receiving a blessing.
Part of me doesn’t believe it was possible. The other part of me is completely awestruck with admiration for the adventurers of old. I have a blessing, but I only recently got strong enough to slay kobolds. Those guys fought and slew monsters that were far more powerful in this very dungeon.
What if those adventurers were here now, in the present?
What if a warrior who could dominate enemies with pure power was here?
If that warrior were in my situation, he could mow these monsters down and pick his nose at the same time.
“There’s just no way!!”
I can’t do this.
“Damn it, you coward!!!”
I turn my back to the group of kobolds and run like hell. The six of them shoot out after me, all of them tenacious fiends.
I’m still in lower Level One of the Dungeon.
All I can see are the dark blue walls and ceiling as I run by. The floor spreads out in all directions in this sky-less maze. The path forks suddenly; there are many intersections, and even some slopes in here. I’m pumping my arms as I run back the same path I always take through this level.
It’s still morning, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one here. I was playing it safe, staying on Level One, and had the luck to run into a group of these bastards.
There were eight of them at first. By some miracle, I took out two before I got surrounded. But when the rest spread out like a net, I had no choice but to run away.
Kobolds don’t do that—at least they aren’t supposed to. Usually the dog-headed beasts wander around alone or in pairs and attack with sharp claws and fangs. I realize I’m a newbie and all, but I’ve never seen kobolds act like this before.
The Minotaur yesterday, and now this.
I must be cursed or something.
That’s it! This part of the floor is a loop! I jump behind two corners and hold my breath.
Run around forever like yesterday or ambush them. I choose ambush. As soon as they turn that corner, I’ll make my move.
I may have a plan, but my heart is still testing the limits of my rib cage. Damn, I’m nervous.
If other adventurers were here, they’d laugh through their noses and call me an idiot.
However, the halls of lower Level One are wide. Going against a group of enemies isn’t a good idea; you’ll get surrounded. No matter how much you run around, a one-on-one battle will never happen. So says Dungeon theory, anyway.
There’s also a risk of being caught in a pincer between two enemies.
If I’m going to survive this, I have to attack.
Clop, clop, clop
. The thumping sounds of their feet are closing in.
I look down at all five of my fingers, clenching ever tighter to my dagger.
I, Bell Cranell, am a dagger wielder. This particular dagger is about twenty celch long and is my only weapon.
My sweaty palm grips even tighter, and I try to focus through all the beasts’ howls echoing through the corridor. Forcing my heart to be quiet, I take a deep breath.
The second I see their bloodshot eyes turn the corner, I spring the trap.
Time slows down. I lock eyes with their leader. Jump!
My reflection grows in its eyes. Strike!
Direct hit through the heart. That’s one down.
The remaining kobolds round the corner half a breath later and jerk back in surprise. But I can’t let up now! I grab the body of the dying kobold still on my dagger and charge headlong into the horde, using it like a shield. Two of them get bowled over by my surprise attack.