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Returning to the Crossroads Town, I looked for an inn to stay at that was not too far from the labyrinth.
I delivered the bodies of the bandits that we had found on the outward journey to the Village of Flowers to the guild, and I received 130 gold coins for their delivery.
After a few days of rest, I explored the town. During that time, I took the opportunity to restock some things, such as potions and some food.
And to buy other things, like an enchanted artifact to shave.
The need to shave is something I realized during my stay in the cave, as I have started to grow some facial hair.
And, while I can't call what I have a beard yet, I suppose it would look pretty ridiculous if I didn't shave.
When I got bored of exploring, I decided to try to see how far I could get in the labyrinth.
But we had to climb back up from the beginning of the labyrinth, as these don't share the log of floors climbed with each other.
It took us less than a week to climb back up to the 29th floor, and we were even able to get to the 35th floor by the end of that week.
The monster race that appears from the 31st to the 39th floor are trolls.
They are somewhat stronger and larger than goblins. But their real strength seems to be their incredible regeneration ability, which allows them to heal most wounds in a matter of seconds.
That would make them formidable opponents if it were not for the fact that I always take them out with one or two slashes with my sword. And that Azur gets rid of them in a few swipes of his claws.
Also, the new variety of monsters in this fourth stage of the labyrinth seems incredibly slow and predictable to us.
So, they don't really represent us any challenge.
This was reflected in the number of levels I was able to get these days.
Or rather in the absence of them, since I didn't go up even one level despite having climbed so many floors during this week.
That's why I'm a bit impatient to climb to higher floors.
But no matter how easily I defeat the monsters, I still need to find the door to the next floor to advance.
So, my ascent in the labyrinth is not going as fast as I would like.
A few days ago, when selling the loot I had harvested during that day, I talked about this with the guild receptionist.
She proposed to me to meet with a person who is looking for people to explore the last uncovered floors of the labyrinth.
If this person accepts me into his group, I could skip the process of climbing floor by floor.
Also, this will serve to test if I am worthy of a promotion to the vanguard rank.
Since, according to the receptionist, I could have been promoted a few days ago by bringing so many monster corpses to the guild.
I could have been, except that they need to check if my abilities are real, and that I didn’t buy the corpses from other adventurers.
Having a better rank in the guild doesn't matter too much to me.
But it would translate into waiting a lot less time to be served since the queues are practically non-existent for vanguardists, and better deals both for buying or selling items.
For those two reasons, I told her I accepted the offer.
And, after she talked to the other person, the receptionist set up a meeting for the stranger and me to meet a few days later.
I am supposed to meet him today. And for that reason, I am a little nervous as I walk to the guild building.
Yesterday I cleaned my clothes and tried to polish as best I could my armor and weapons to try to show my best image to the stranger.
I need to make a good impression on him so that he will accept me into his group.
Improving my rank in the guild may not matter much to me, but I am extremely interested in having quick access to the upper floors of the labyrinth, and thus avoid wasting time exploring the lower floors.
As I enter the guild, I signal to the receptionist who points to a door to my right.
Behind the door, I hear two people conversing. But the conversation stops at the sound of the door when I open it.
Stepping through the doorway, I enter a small room with two sofas, a small table, and a window.
In the room, I see that five men are waiting for me inside.
Three of them are sitting on the sofas, while the fourth is in a corner sharpening a large sword.
The fifth, a bow user, is looking out the window, ignoring my entrance to the room.
I see the youngest of the five get up from the sofa and come over to greet me.
He introduces himself as Octavo and seems to be the one who is looking for people to explore the top floors.
He must be about 20 years old. He has a thin build and his face is framed by two curtains of blond hair that fall on the sides of his head. His eyes are brown and are slightly distorted by the large circular glasses he wears.
I don't see that he carries any weapon in sight. But, on his shoulder, he carries an owl that appears to be made of lit fathoms.
Curious, I use my ability to get information from the creature, but I only see its name 'Quinto', so I don't find out much about the owl's race.
However, I notice that, where Octavo's class should appear, the words 'Dual Soul' appear. So, I assume that the little owl must be somehow related to the singularity of, if I'm lucky enough, my future exploration partner.
The other four occupants of the room are introduced by Octavo as he points them out.
They all appear to be between 30 and 40 years of age, except Octavo who is the leader of the company despite being the youngest.
Rufus is a tall man, with a mane of white hair that gives him the appearance of an old lion. He has a slender build and a bow on his back.
Dedan is a big man with dark hair. He has a muscular build and a large sword that he seems to carry crossed behind his back when he is not sharpening it.
Radovid is a short man with graying black hair and a slender build who carries a crossbow.
And Roran, a man with brown hair and brown eyes. He is slim and about my height, and he carries a hammer as a weapon on his belt.
They all have leather armor, similar to the one I wear. Except for Octavo, who wears no visible protection.
"And this is Xelean, the latest member of our company" says Octavo, introducing me to the group.
When they hear this, various expressions of disgust appear on their faces.
But only one decides to put into words what the four of them are clearly thinking.
"Are we really going to have to go with a child to the labyrinth? If you want to know my opinion, Octavo, I don't think we should have to babysit while we're fighting" Dedan says, looking at me with disdain.
"Do you want to test me, big guy?" I say looking defiantly at the man and approaching with a sinister grin.
I'm sick of people still judging me by my age even though I'm already 15.
Besides, with my changed appearance due to increased stats, I should look a couple of years older.
What is this crap about calling me a kid?
Hmm, it seems like it's going to be impossible to make a good impression…
I don't know how strong these guys are going to be, but I spent almost a year training with Gideon. I guess that it will have to count for something.
I figure, if I leave one of these smug assholes half dead, they'll have no choice but to acknowledge my abilities.
"I'd love to, kiddo, but we can't fight here. Let's go outside to find a good place for me to give you a spanking, you little brat…