Authors: Fujino Omori
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy
Waves of awe echo through all of their voices. Some of them whistle at Ms. Wallenstein and other female members of the group as they walk past.
I’m just as awestruck as they are.
To think I would see “the one” in a place like this!
W-what do I do?
Should I go over there and say thank you for saving my life…? No, no, no. I’d just look stupid. Even if I went over there, what the hell could I say? “I love you! Let me take you out!” Yeah, right. I need to calm down. She doesn’t even know my name.
Okay, just watch.
I can use the bar as cover; don’t want
to see my red face watching them from across the room. I feel like I’m stalking my prey in some vast savannah and the trap has been set. Syr’s looking at me with concern on her face, but I’m too busy to notice.
Ms. Wallenstein’s seat is facing directly toward me.
… The sound of their chairs on the floor fills my ears, but my eyes are locked firmly on her.
“Yes-sa! Great day out there in the Dungeon today, people! Time to cut loose! Drink up!”
One of them stands up and makes a toast. His back is to me, so I can’t see his face.
They all start talking at once. Loud clinks of glasses, cutlery hitting plates, shoveling food into their mouths. But Ms. Wallenstein just has a small plate in front of her, taking her time.
’s toast was some kind of signal, other patrons remember they have drinks and food, too. It’s like the room flipped a switch and went back to normal.
members are regulars here. Their goddess, Loki, seems to like it here.”
Syr just whispered the best news I’ve ever heard into my ear, her hand up like a wall to keep anyone from overhearing her.
But I understand loud and clear.
If I come here, there is a good chance of seeing Ms. Wallenstein.
My eyes follow every one of Ms. Wallenstein’s movements. How she laughs when someone tells her that her face is red from drinking. How she talks with her female teammates, her energy, her smile. How she delicately wipes the side of her mouth as if caring for a young fawn.
I can’t say I’m proud of spying on her this way, but how else could I have gotten information like this without my own two eyes?
She likes to talk about this, she laughs like that…
My whole body feels like it’s burning red. I’ve never felt like this before.
“Yeah, Aiz! Tell us that one story!”
“That one story…?”
My body freezes. One of them called her Aiz.
A young male animal person sitting two seats diagonally across from her requested the tale.
He has a handsome face, but also a very manly aura. I’m male myself, and I have to admit I like his style.
“You know the one! About those Minotaurs that got away!
Remember, you finished off the last one on the lower fifth! You know: tomato boy!”
Lightning shoots down my spine; the butterflies are gone. Something else is taking their place.
My mind is frozen. My body won’t move.
“Are you talking about the group of Minotaurs that attacked us on the lower seventeenth floor, and they ran away when we fought back?”
“Yeah, yeah! That one! By some miracle they ran up! We tore after them! Already damn tired, too!”
The only mode of transportation in the Dungeon is your own two feet. Since there is no convenient way to reach the lower levels, adventurers who go there pass through the same path over and over.
Therefore, adventurers need to be prepared for both the trip down and the trip up. If you just go as deep as you can, you won’t be able to make it back and will be lost forever.
that go into the Dungeon need good leaders with a strong sense of how far to go and when to turn back.
The story so far:
was on some kind of “expedition.”
They encountered a group of Minotaurs on their way back but couldn’t slay them all.
The remaining Minotaurs ran toward the surface. They caught up to the last one on lower Level Five.
Ms. Wallenstein delivered the final blow.
And at that very spot…
“Yeah, and there! That ‘adventurer’! Damn newbie kid!”
“Got himself cornered like a lil’ bunny! Shaking like one, too! Poor thing was about to explode!”
Every inch of my body is burning. I might explode right now.
“Oh? What happened to the boy? Was he okay?”
“Aiz here carved up the Minotaur at the last second, ain’t that right?”
My jaw won’t close. My eyes are locked on that guy, my neck not budging an inch in any other direction. Something’s gotta give.
He cocks his eyebrows, upping his manly presence.
“The kid took the full blast of that stinky cow’s blood, got soaked! So, tomato boy! Gya-ha-ha-ha-ha-ahhh—Ow, my ribs!!!”
“Aiz, please tell me you weren’t trying to do that! I’m begging you!”
“… No, I wasn’t.”
The animal guy is laughing so hard he’s tearing up. The rest of the table, too. They’re laughing at me. Even the customers around them are trying not to laugh.
“And get this! Tomato boy! He ran away, screaming his head off! Gya-ha-ha-ha! Our princess saves him, and he just buggers off!”
“GYA-HA-HA-HA-HA! Absolutely priceless! Aizee scares away a newbie! You are sooo awesome!”
“Ha-ha-ha… I’m sorry, Aiz, but I can’t take this anymore!”
“Ooooh, don’ make them scary eyes! It ruins yer cute face!”
table erupts with laughter.
I feel like they just blew a hole in my chest.
It’s as if the whole world is in that corner.
I can hear Syr’s voice, but it goes in one ear and out the other.
Their conversation is starting back up.
“But really, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen something so pathetic! So disgusting I could cry!”
“The hell was he doing? If you’re gonna cry like a little bitch, you shouldn’t be down there in the first place! Right, Aiz?”
I can almost hear my own head caving in.
“It’s weak adventurers like him who give us a bad name. Just give it up already!”
“Shut your mouth already, Bete! It was our mistake that let the Minotaurs escape! That boy had nothing to do with it! And stop drinking! Learn some respect!”
“Oh-oh! You elves and your pride! But yeah, what’s in it for you to protect that piece of shit? Saying it’s our fault, you’re lying to yourself! Just to keep your pride! Trash is trash! What’s wrong with calling it what it is?”
“Hey, hey! That’s enough! Bete, Reveria, relax! You’re killing the mood!”
—tick, tick, tick
“Eh, Aiz! What did you think about him, the pathetic piece of shit who was shaking in front of you? Do you think he deserves to stand at our level, as adventurers?”
“… I don’t blame him for acting the way he did under those circumstances.”
—tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick
“Why you acting all Goody Two-shoes? Okay then, I’m changin’ the question. Him or me—who’s got it going on?”
“… Bete, are you drunk?”
“Shut it! Now, Aiz! Choose! As a female, which male wags your tail? Which male makes you hot?”
—tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick
“… I have no reason to answer that question, especially to you, Bete.”
“Quiet, hag!… Well then, what if that piece of trash came up to you, said he liked you, would you take him?”
—tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick
“Of course you wouldn’t! Why would a tiny kid who’s so weak,
feeble, and all-around nauseating have the right to even stand next to you? There’s no way he’d measure up!”
“A tiny kid could never land Aiz Wallenstein!”
I stand up, the chair flying backward.
I tear my eyes away from their table and make a break for the door.
The street is jam-packed with people and buildings, but I don’t care. I focus on getting away. Someone is calling my name, but it’s just sound to me now.
It’s really dark out, but I don’t care. I’m gone.
A young waitress pursued a boy’s shadow as he burst out of the bar in a full sprint. Some of the other customers realized something had happened, but it was so fast that no one really knew for sure what was going on.
Confusion spread through the main floor of the bar.
“Did someone just dine ’n’ dash?”
“At Mommy Mia’s? The guy’s got guts, that’s for sure!”
Bete and the other adventurers in the corner table ignored the rest of the patrons’ comments, but Aiz stood up.
Her well-trained eyes shot through the crowd and caught a clean look at the shadow just before it got away.
A thin body with white hair.
Slightly downcast ruby-colored eyes shone from under the bangs—just like the boy from yesterday.
Could that be…?
She shuffled her way to the front of the building and leaned on a pillar in the entrance to look outside.
Looking to her right, all she could see was the back of the young waitress as she ran into the crowd on Main Street.
The boy was nowhere to be seen.
She mouthed the name that the young waitress yelled into the night.
For whatever reason, she heard his name more clearly than the voices of her comrades currently tapping on her back.
“Oi-oi, Aizuuu, what’cha doin’?”
A woman had left the table and now stood behind Aiz. She wrapped her arms around the blond girl’s body. The woman pressed her hips into Aiz’s backside and took a squeeze, body and breast. Aiz lost her breath for a moment.
If this person had not been the goddess Loki herself—or a woman at least—she would have been quickly dealt with. Aiz held herself back, unable to just throw her off.
However, she didn’t have to put up with it. She grabbed the arm coiled around her stomach and drove her elbow into it. Loki stepped back a bit in surprise, giving Aiz enough space to spin around and bury her palm in the goddess’s cheek.
“Chee, ya’re feisty! Ya don’ look it at all, Aizuu!”
“Hands to yourself.”
Loki was shaken and looked as if she was about to burst out crying before suddenly smiling with Aiz’s dark red handprint still pulsing on her face. She looked to the sky and yelled, “Shy ’n’ cool! Soooo my type!”
Aiz couldn’t look at her. It was too embarrassing.
“Don’ be makin’ that face. If Bete’s gettin’ to ya, I’ll have Mommy Mia to string ’im up outside!”
Loki must have misunderstood why Aiz had left the table in the first place.
Looking back inside, members of their party were holding the young animal man down while the elfess with whom he had argued earlier tied him up.
The elfess smiled as she stood over him, her foot pinning him to the floor.
“Hee-hee, Aizuu. Come on back.”
Loki wrapped her arm around Aiz’s shoulder and guided her inside. Aiz fought it long enough to look outside one last time.
Even with the magic stone lamps lighting the busy street, the boy was long gone.
Storm clouds hovered in the night sky; it could have rained at any moment.
Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!!!!
Bell was running. Tears flowed from his crooked eyes, falling to the ground behind him.
The events of the last hour were replaying in a loop in his mind.
He was so embarrassed, so humiliated, so ridiculed that he wanted to just disappear for the first time in his life.
Why am I so damn stupid?!?!
Each of that animal man’s words cut deeper every time he heard it.
Weak, feeble, trash, tiny, nauseating, pathetic, disgusting, little bitch…
The question burning in his mind wasn’t “What can I do to get close to her?”
It was “If I don’t do something, I don’t even have the right to stand next to her.”
That animal man’s words, and the laughing faces around him, awakened violent urges within Bell.
But he was angry at himself; his do-nothing-and-expect-the-best self.
This hurts… hurts…! HURTS!!!
It hurt to know that everything that guy said was absolutely true.
It hurt that he couldn’t respond, defend himself.
It hurt that he was nothing more than a funny-looking rock on the roadside to her.
It really hurt that he didn’t even have the right to talk to her.
His ruby-red eyes looked up from the ground to take in the scene before him.
The entrance to the Dungeon was waiting for him beneath the white tower, door open.
He was going in, to prove them all wrong.
Holding back his tears, Bell ran flat out to the base of the tower.