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"Well, well," says Octavo, stepping between us with his hands outstretched to separate us. "I'll consider your opinion, Dedan, but it's my decision that counts. The guild recommended each of the members of this group to me. If you have questions, you can ask the guild. Xelean’s rank in the guild is indeed lower than yours, but that is only for the moment. The guild's idea is for Xelean to prove if he has what it takes to be promoted."
"But..." begins Dedan to argue.
"If we see he doesn't have what it takes to survive on the top floors, we'll let him go at the first chance we find a way out," says Octavo, in an appeasing tone.
"Hmm, ok," says Dedan, though it seems reluctant.
"Good. With that cleared up, I need to ask you a question, Xelean" says Octavo, turning to me with a strained smile. "My idea is to spend several days inside the labyrinth. I'll take care of the food and things we might need for camping, but there could be always something you might need that I haven't thought of"
"Yes, but..." I say, to explain that, although I have everything ready, as I always have everything I need for camping in my inventory, I never spend whole days in the labyrinth. But I am interrupted.
"I know I should give you more time to prepare, but we had agreed to be ready to enter the labyrinth today. When the guild told me about you, we were almost ready, and I don't want to keep Roran, Dedan, Rufus, and Radovid waiting. Since they are already prepared," says Octavo hurriedly, interrupting my words "So, if you need something, it would be great if you could get it for today. If you need more days, I'm afraid you won't be able to join us."
"I need nothing," I say calmly.
Fortunately, I always carry many things in my inventory, as I can stock up on many things beforehand and store them in the skill. And that's without fear that they might deteriorate, as time doesn't seem to advance inside. Otherwise, I would probably miss out on this opportunity.
"Great! Payment will be one platinum coin per day spent in the labyrinth and will be made when we exit the labyrinth. The duration of the mission is indefinite. I'll clarify more details when we're inside," says Octavo.
I am surprised by his incredibly soft and calm tone of voice. At first glance and by his voice, I would never imagine that he is someone who is organizing an incursion into the labyrinth.
If it weren't because he had the church behind him, I would be wary of this proposal. But according to the receptionist, the church and the guild vouch for him. So, it makes no sense to be suspicious.
To enter the labyrinth, we walk hand in hand forward, heading towards the dark pillar. And suddenly, our surroundings change.
We appear in a lighted stone corridor, but with lighter stone walls and floor compared to the 35th floor.
The lighting and width of the corridor are also different. The light is because of bluish flame torches, instead of magic lamps. While two carriages could pass through the corridor perfectly well, compared to the lower floors where there was only room for one.
I guess the appearance of the floors is changing as the difficulty increases.
"Hey, brat," Dedan says, looking at me with a smirk, "since we couldn't fight. How about having a little competition to see who kills the monsters on this floor the fastest? I don't think the boss has anything against that, do you?" he finishes looking questioningly at Octavo.
"Do whatever you want..." says Octavo sighing "Just don't forget that we're on the 65th floor. Xelean, I think at least you should go with caution since you've never been here."
"Yes, I think you're right," I say, as I flex my arm muscles to prepare for combat. "But I'll take the challenge, anyway. It's the only way for some," I add, looking emphatically at Dedan, "to accept me into the group."
Octavo seems to want to say something at this last remark, but keeps quiet.
When fighting, I can perfectly cope with the monsters on this floor.
The monsters on these floors are different beasts with humanoid characteristics. There are centaurs, kobolds, gnolls, harpies, and minotaurs.
When we encounter two of the same enemies, we decide to start our competition.
Dedan is quick to dispatch his enemy, throwing waves of mana of wind-affinity, sporadically with his sword.
Hmm, it seems the big man is not just words… But my timing with Azur in combat is perfect, and we defeat the minotaur somewhat faster than the adventurer with attitude problems.
Minotaurs are man-bodied, bull-headed monsters about six feet tall. They use a large double-edged ax as a weapon. Their dominant characteristic is their great physical strength and endurance. But, in matters of speed, they do not stand out so much.
"Ohh, looks like the cub sure knows how to move," says Roran.
"That were just two minotaurs, we'll see what happens when he faces a large group of enemies," says Radovid, mockingly "I'm sure he'll flinch at the slightest sign of real threat."
"He won't have to face a group of enemies alone..." says Octavo, looking at him with a frown. "After all, that's why there are 6 of us in the group, right?"
"Yeah," he replies with a grunt. "I guess you're right".
"That doesn't count!" exclaims Dedan, snorting, "the kid cheated, the draco was supposed to stay out of it"
"The draco is just another weapon of the boy's, Dedan. You can't complain about that," says Roran in a dry voice, "if it bothers you so much, try training a draco yourself, but I hear they're not very easy creatures to train!"
Dedan grunts and spits on the ground in response, and keeps moving down the hallway.
It looks like I'm going to have to arm myself with patience to keep my composure, despite the growing irritation.
While Roran and Octavo seem more reasonable, the other three in the group have the mentality of a goblin.
But, despite the attitude of some men in the group, they are all incredibly capable and we coordinate with little trouble during combat.
"Well, now that we're in and we've been fighting for a while, can you tell us why we're doing this?" I hear Rufus' voice ask behind me, as he shoots arrows at a harpy flying over our heads.
Harpies are monsters with a bird-like body about 5 feet tall with a woman's head. They use mana bullets as a weapon while flying quite high. But, occasionally, they descend to fight with their claws. So, a group that couldn't attack from a distance would be lost against them.
"It's a church mission," replies Octavo's voice, as the owl over his shoulder fires a mana bomb towards the harpy. It doesn't look like the boy can fight, though his holy magic is equally useful for us. In contrast, his feathered companion is more than capable with its fire magic "I was sent to check every floor of this labyrinth for clues" I hear him gasp, I guess he must have had to dodge an attack "since we don't know why on earth this labyrinth is releasing monsters"
"WHAT?" I ask, turning violently towards Octavo and momentarily losing sight of the giant double-bladed ax of the minotaur coming in my direction from the side...