~~Beilanea North Gate, Fifty Past Seven in the Evening~~
At this time of day, the only ones who would typically leave town were adventurers and those who wanted to gain some levels.
Pochi and I had arrived at this meeting point ten minutes ago.
We were at the little guardhouse in front of the now-closed north gate.
By illumination from the torches on both sides of the gate, we could see that there was no one else around except us.
And the gatekeeper was in the guardhouse, of course, but definitely not anyone belonging to the party we were supposed to meet up with.
“Did we arrive too early, sir”
“No, I think were on time, actually”
“So theyre late, after all!”
“Quick to shift lanes as ever, I see.”
Thanks to Pochi… or perhaps the banter we were throwing around, I managed to keep my patience.
Sitting down, Pochi let off a long yawn, and as if it was contagious, I yawned as well.
Although we had taken a nap before coming here, I was still weary from the daytime lectures.
The plan for this labyrinths exploration was to make our way to it during the night, then enter it in the morning.
I had been informed of everything from Duncan beforehand, but I hadnt been able to converse with the A-ranked party so far.
I wouldve liked to discuss some things with them if I could, but… well, this isnt unusual, either.
Anyway, the party was supposed to consist of two men and a woman, all warriors, I think
And as I was pondering things over up to this point, Pochis ears and nose responded to signs of people approaching us.
“There they are, sir.
Clanking of armor, stench of blood and oil on weapons… and lively yet quiet steps… they definitely are the A-ranked adventurers.”
“Well, thats reassuring.”
And then, just as I started to hear those sounds of clothes and armor, I also heard the voices in energetic conversation.
“Ooh, lucky! Our pal this times a mage!”
“Bruce, we already told you that earlier.
“Hah, he never remembers anything.
You should know his personality well enough to know that, Blazer.”
“Sorry, Betty, I wasnt paying attention.”
“Hah hah hah! Dont apologize for that kinda thing, man!”
“Youre one to talk, brother!”
As the three approached us, we nodded slightly to acknowledge them, as per the usual greetings among fellow adventurers.
The man called Bruce, seeming quite friendly, lightly waved his hands in response.
“By Duncans reference, well be the ones assisting on your mission.
Im Asley, and this is my Familiar, Pochi.
Nice to meet you.”
“Oh, well get along just fine! Im Bruce, shes Betty, and that guys Blazer!”
In response to Bruces comprehensive introduction, Betty smiled, and Blazer lightly nodded.
At the same time, I appraised their statistics.
――――――――――――――――――――Name: BRUCETITLES: Eldest Brother, Sword Master, Rank A, The Ferocious, Member of the SilverLV: 62HP: 1,450MP: 91EXP: 424,498SPECIAL SKILLS:Fortify StrengthFortify ResilienceSmash-slashTempestFortify Mind
Considering his appearances and aura, he was a far cry from the stereotypical warrior.
His countenance was fairly gritty, but his cheeks were visibly sunken, perhaps a sign on inconsistent weight gain and loss.
And that title, “Member of the Silver”… Perhaps that was an organization I hadnt heard of.
――――――――――――――――――――Name: BLAZERTITLES: Sword Master, Rank A, The Strong, Leader of the Silver, The Silver LionLV: 67HP: 1,539MP: 129EXP: 519,746SPECIAL SKILLS:Fortify StrengthFortify ResilienceTempestAerial Dancer
This man donned lightweight silver armor and carried a silver ornamented sword.
He gave off the impression of a fearless frontliner, his countenance expressing strong determination.
He had short light brown hair, and he wore a red scarf around his neck.
In terms of statistics, he was the strongest of the bunch, being well-balanced in raw numbers and skills.
Seeing that he was the “Leader of the Silver,” perhaps the organization consisted of him and the other two
And he had a unique-sounding title… Perhaps he was supposed to be a well-known figure from somewhere.
She had yellow-highlighted short hair, wore a green bandana, and was lightly equipped in mostly green clothes and a silver b.r.e.a.s.tplate, prioritizing swift movement.
Around 25 years old, if I had to make a guess She looked fairly young, but considering how strong she was, she must have gone through strict training, on top of her natural talents.
And if Id assume… she was Bruces little sister.
In stark contrast to her brother, she was quite well-groomed.
――――――――――――――――――――Name: ASLEYTITLES: The Fool, The Polarizing, Hermit Candidate, Mage, Alchemist, Staff Wielder, Six Archmages (Tentative), Professor, Rank B, Top Student, Papa, Bullied Kid, Student Council MemberLV: 57HP: 998MP: 16031EXP: 300009SPECIAL SKILLS:Attack Magic (Skilled)Support Magic (Advanced)Recovery Magic (Intermediate)Purification (Advanced)
――――――――――――――――――――Name: POCHITITLES: The Fools Familiar, Advanced Familiar, The Powerful, Great Wolf, Watchwolf, Apprentice Mage, One Who Requires Earplugs, Godparent, Sweet Tooth, The One Raised by the FoolLV: 100HP: 2782MP: 637EXP: 9999999SPECIAL SKILLS:Breath Attack (Zenith)Air ClawGigantificationTempestFortify Resilience
As for us… we had quite a lot of positive and negative title effects in conflict.
So the five of us are to challenge an estimated-A-ranked labyrinth… One could say that I was here to measure how far I could push myself, having finally shown improvements on a normal persons rate and all that.
“All right! Its about time we got going!”
“Ill lead the march.
Asley, stay in the middle behind us, and Pochi, well leave rear guard to you — Bruce and Betty, behind me to the left and right.
Now, we depart!”
The leader sure has an amazing command on his party.
He instantly selected a practical formation to add a mage to their ranks.
Although he still needed to determine my abilities, he didnt have too much doubt and chose my positioning to optimize teams performance.
Having little experience when it came to fighting in groups, I can definitely learn from him.
We left Beilanea and headed straight toward the Labyrinth of No Return in the north.
The adventurer trio so far has been quite the good-humored bunch, unchanged from the first impression they had made.
“Man, having a mage with us for once really makes a big difference.
That Light Source spell, well, I think thats what its called It sure is convenient, not having to hold torches and all.”
“Yes, my Master sure is convenient to have around!”
“Hey, is that how you talk about me”
“Ha ha ha ha! Its pretty rare to see a mage get along with his Familiar this well, too.”
“Well, our contract is more or less on equal terms, so to speak–“
While I was speaking, Blazer suddenly stopped his march and poised for combat.
At almost the same time, Bruce and Betty drew their swords from their scabbards on their waists.
It took me a few moments after that to notice what was up.
“Nah, gotta be thieves.
Anyway, youve got a pretty solid awareness for your age, eh, Asley”
Bruce gave me a casual compliment while he drew his blade.
So this is what professional combatants are like… I still have a long way to go.
No matter how powerful my spells are, I wouldnt hold my own on the front lines at this stage.
I sent the Light Source spell forward.
After a few seconds, six hidden figures revealed themselves.
“Bruce, the two on the right.
Betty, one on the left.
Ill take three in the front.”
“Bring it on!”
“Pochi, youre on rear guard, and Asley, situational support.”
“Three, Two, One… GO!”
As Blazers signaling yell echoed through the plain, the thieves made their move along with us.
I cast support spells, first for Blazer, who seemed to be at the worst disadvantage.
With Pochi covering my back, I could provide support from a relatively safe position.
Right — I never really considered it, but this sure makes fighting significantly easier.
Without a moments delay, I cast the support spells for Betty and Bruce as well, then kept a close watch on the skirmish.
The first one to realize the effect of my spell and make his major move was, as Id expected, Blazer.
With extraordinary speed, he instantly cut down one enemy.
Bruce also took another one down in quick succession.
Betty, occupied with one enemy, didnt show much movement.
Perhaps she was being cautious, or the enemy didnt have any openings…
“Master, five coming from behind! Support!”
“Hype Up! Be careful out there!”
“You too, Master!”
Pochi ran off to the back, and I turned around to cover her.
The one on the far right has a bow… now thats dangerous.
Pochi, seeming to notice that as well, dashed towards him.
“Fire, Fire, Fire!”
I casted some covering shots to distract Pochis five targets.
Blazer took care of his third opponent, filling his quota.
He then proceeded to run up to Bettys position.
Bruce defeated his second opponent and confirmed that Blazer has Betty covered, then ran up to me.
A well-distributed assessment of the situation.
In the back line, Pochi made a jump at the enemy archer.
However, the four others hopped away and proceeded to make their retreat.
Either because they noticed Bruce approaching or realized that they had underestimated our levels, the thieves made an early escape.
They lost five of their members in this skirmish.
“…What was that about”
“Likely the Laughing Foxes, a band of thieves with stronghold in north of Beilanea.
I heard theyve been causing some damage around here, too.”
And since they knew that they cant match us, they ran while they could, eh”
Bruce scratched his head and threw out a simple guess.
“No, the one Betty fought… he might be stronger than me.
Thats probably why Betty couldnt move much.
He didnt budge when I ran up to him, either.”
I thought Id be fine with Asleys spell, but I was in over my head fighting that guy.”
Betty sheathed her sword, seeming relieved.
“The ones in the back were fairly tough, too.
I was able to hold them off since they misjudged my level, but I had a tough time by myself.”
“Good god, what a nice start were off to.
Thanks to the great outdoors for making them so damn tough, I guess…”
True, living without walls to surround them practically meant that they were constantly in battle.
In a sense, they were more specialized in combat than adventurers.
“Lets be on high alert throughout the way.
If what Pochi said is true, they might be trouble for us down the line.”
“Right, we should.”
“But really, Asleys magic sure helped me a lot back there! Awesome support, man.
And we didnt get hurt, but you were planning your moves in case we were, too, right”
“Ah, you could tell”
“Sure could! Theres a flow to every battle, you see.
Your control over the fight and awareness of those around you boils down to how well you scoop that flow up.
You staying in one place was a good choice for the situation back there too.”
He seemed like an aloof character at first impression, but it was clear that he picked his battles well.
I can definitely learn a thing or two from him too.
“No wonder the Adventurers Guild in Beilanea was pushing you up.”
Now, lets keep the same formation as before, but a little more spread apart.
Were on a limited time, so well have to be quick.
But always stay on guard!”
As such, our labyrinth challenge finally, truly began.