When we reached the passageway leading to the middle floor past the upper floor of the dungeon, I was finally able to get away from the chaos.
The people using the intercontinental underground passageway, the adventurers who look for medicinal herbs or monster corpses, and mercenaries generally only use the upper floor.
Because of that, it's only been two days since we've entered the dungeon and today, we enjoyed silence and were able to walk casually.
"How long will it take until we reach the middle floor?"
"It'll take around three days."
It's just the passageway between the upper floor and the middle floor, yet it'll take three days?
"Be that as it may, it'll take too long."
"That's because it's not just a simple passageway. It's not a literal title; rather than calling this place a passageway, you can call this the upper-middle floor."
The upper-middle floor, you say.
When the kid described the dungeon beforehand, I hadn’t heard anything regarding the upper-middle floor.
Now that I think about it, he didn't explain the middle floor either.
When I think back, now that I've entered the dungeon, the information that the kid gave back then didn't have any worthwhile information.
"What's in the upper-middle floor?"
"Rather than an intercontinental passageway, the upper-middle floor is generally used as a refuge. There are a few refugee towns composed of criminals and cursed people."
It's as big as a town...?
"It seems like it's a lot bigger than I thought."
"Yes. It's actually larger than the upper floor. However, since we're going to use a crossroad that leads directly to the middle floor, we should be able to pass through it in three days."
Contrary to his explanation in the town, it was fairly informational.
I didn't know how precise and substantial the contents of his explanation were.
I saw the thieves occupying the crossroads and asking for money as if it were obvious and briefly pondered.
Should I just give them the money and pass through?
[It's been a while, so what do you think about tidying them up, Warrior?]
Just shut up a bit, you psychopathic demon sword.
I looked at the kid, but he just looked back at me as if paying the toll was expected.
And it didn't seem like he had any intention of paying the toll with the down payment I gave him yesterday.
[Warrior, we don't have any change right now. We have to pay with the gems, but if they accept those gems, they won't let us go; rather, they'll try to extort us even further.]
They probably would.
But you never know, so I decided to pay the toll fee.
If there are any surveillance crystals stuck somewhere, things will become troublesome.
This is the cave passageway.
If this lively bunch in the surrounding area become my enemies, they could even tear down the passage and bury us.
I took out a gem from my inventory and threw it to him.
"This should be enough, right?"
The thief boss, who had received the gem, briefly pondered, and asked, "May I ask you where your destination is?"
Seregia's prediction was wrong.
He spoke much more submissively than I expected.
"The middle floor," the child beside me said abruptly.
The man glanced at the boy and said, "So, you were a guide, huh."
The man turned his head towards me again, and asked, "You have no business in the upper-middle floor?"
"No. We’re planning on going straight down to the middle floor," the kid said again.
"Then may we guide you?"
"Yes. Of course."
The kid accepted their leader’s request.
I didn't know anyone here, so I decided to stay quiet.
After the kid exchanged a few more words with the thieves, we started to move again.
One thief was added to our party of the kid and me, so we moved as three.
"Explain to me what happened back there," I asked the kid, after around thirty minutes of walking.
The kid glanced back at the thief following behind to see if he was watching, and started to explain.
"I told you that the people in the upper-middle floor formed a town and gathered, right?"
"Yeah. You did say that."
"There's something like an ongoing conflict within that group. That's why when someone that looks strong like you appears, Swordsman, they're probably concerned that you'll join the other side. Normally, rather than just letting you pass, they’ll ask you to join them or often take you with them against your will..."
Rather than that, it meant that they were comfortable with the fact that I was clearly going down to the middle floor.
"That man back there had better sense than you."
I had sated my curiosity and continued to walk forward.
Together with the awkward kid.
* * * * * *
"Starting from here, this is the middle floor."
The man who had said that he would guide us but actually followed us to spy on us had already left.
The kid explained that this was the entrance of the middle floor and his face expressed an anxiousness that he didn't have before.
"Really dangerous monsters appear in the middle floor. Plus, there aren't any light stones embedded in the walls... And..."
"Right, I know it's dangerous, so let's hurry and get going."
"...And... starting from the middle floor, if you don't have a guide, you'll never be able to return outside."
"Ok. If it becomes dangerous, protecting you is my top priority."
It seemed like the kid wasn't relieved even after hearing my response.
When I looked at the hesitant kid, I thought.
If I want this kid to guide me to the lowest floor, what should I use to convince him: gems or violence?
It seems like I was leaning towards the latter.
In any case, if I take away the gems, and I want to convince him, it'll inevitably be accompanied by a coercive atmosphere.
Fortunately, the kid started to move before I was finished thinking.
First, he took out and raised a short wand from the large backpack that was strapped onto his back.
And he started to walk forward.
I followed behind the kid and as I went down the middle floor, I could see the remarkably different landscape.
Contrary to the upper passageway that seemed well-built, the middle floor was a dark and uneven underground tunnel.
It was such a narrow tunnel that a single adult could barely pass through it.
"This is way too cramped."
"If you go farther, it'll become wider. Narrow passageways and large clearings show up repeatedly in the middle floor. They each have a different size, and they say that there are some empty lots the size of a town, but there are also passageways so narrow that it's even difficult to crawl."
If the passageway is that small, it'll be a bit uncomfortable.
After he finished talking, he seemed to be tense, trembling with every step.
It seems like this is the first time that this kid has come to the middle floor.
Both his words as well as his behavior indicated this.
Will we really be able to go all the way to the lowest floor?
[Warrior, I have a hunch that that child won't be of much help.] Seregia said.
No, it seems like that child will be helpful.
I replied to Seregia.
Honestly, I'm relieved.
Before we got inside the dungeon, I was considering two things while I was bringing the kid.
It was late, but I was thinking about going back to the town and getting a new guide...
Or going into the dungeon alone without a guide.
However, I ultimately discarded the first option because it was a hassle and discarded the second as well because you never know what could happen.
It was truly a relief.
If I came all the way here by myself, I would've had to go back to the town in order to get a different guide.
[It's already been hundreds of years since I became a holy sword, but this kind of feeling is a first. What should I call it? Hm...]
The holy sword muttered in a slightly quiet voice.
[I feel like I'm going to vomit.]
[Is that so? I don't feel any different.]
Seregia's like that because she can't consciously spread mana.
It was the special characteristic of this dungeon’s middle floor.
The mana that I had spread in order to grasp my surroundings quivered dizzyingly.
The mana that had been wandering in the air couldn't escape my periphery and dissipated just like that.
I may be jumping to conclusions, but using your mana to survey your surroundings or to find a path is impossible.
And this middle floor is really vast and also narrow; and if that winding path had forked roads like a maze, it would be impossible to get out of here by yourself.
Just like the kid had said.
[Perception Degradation Magic, Mana Diffusion Magic, and it also seems like there's some other types of suppression magic that I’m not familiar with... There are several mixed together. I cannot dispel it with my abilities, and it's also at a level that I cannot grasp its true nature.]
Since the holy sword is going that far and saying that, it seems like it'll be difficult for me to escape this situation on my own.
Fortunately, the kid walking in front of me should have a method for finding the right path.
When the man we had met in the upper-middle floor had heard that we were going to the middle floor, he looked at the kid and noted that he was a guide.
The old lady that I met in the town recommended this kid as a guide to get me to the lowest floor.
This kid definitely has a way to find the right path.
And that way is probably related to the wand he had taken out.
I sorted my thoughts and took out a luminescent stone from my inventory, silently walking and following behind the kid.
It wasn't difficult for me to walk in the darkness, but it's probably difficult for the kid.
I have to at least be considerate of his needs.
Since his senses were outstanding, he could probably walk through the darkness without much trouble, but in this narrow underground tunnel, the walls were thick and rugged, so he could easily be injured.
The kid was concerned that the light would draw and gather the monsters, but I insisted that it would be ok.
Drawing the monsters with the light was killing two birds with one stone.
* * * * * *
While gazing at the beheaded monster's corpse, I asked the kid, "Are all the monsters in the middle floor like this?"
"Yes... well... yes... most of the monsters are at that level..."
What a disappointment.
All the monsters in this dungeon were the type that would hide themselves in the darkness to suddenly burst out and ambush me.
After that, they would just follow their instincts, utilizing their quick and agile movement to use their sharp talons or teeth to attack.
That was it.
Of course, they were really fast and were powerful, but that was it.
I shoved the luminescent stone back into my bag.
If the monsters that lived in the dungeon's middle floor were all just monsters like this, I didn't really want to go so far as to lure them in order to kill them.
[Are you not really satisfied, Warrior? Even though you haven't seen blood in a while? It's hot, fishy, and red blood! Yoo-hoo! Warrior, won’t you swing me and use me to fight next time? Yes? I'll even beg you like this. Tee-hee?]
This crazy bastard.
The holy sword is exposing its bloodthirst now.
[It's boring. Now that I've become and started living as a sword, I wanted to cut down an opponent who knows swordsmanship. Even if they don't know swordsmanship, it would've been nice if they were at least intelligent.]
Seregia's response also wasn't really desirable, but I agreed with her opinion.
The IQ of the monsters here was way too low.
"That monster just now… It's a species called cave clock. If we consider that it's in the middle floor then... it was... a Class 2 risk... This isn't a monster that you can normally kill in one stroke..."
The kid had quickly taken out an illustrated book out of his bag and rummaged through it, and spoke.
Even though the luminescent stone was in my bag.
Considering that he could read the book aloud even though the luminescent stone was off, it seemed like the dark wasn't much of a problem for him.
When you consider the speed of the monster that I had just taken care of, as well as the durability of its hide, it was a really dangerous opponent.
I said this before, but it was just too dumb.
"Where do we have to go next?"
There was a forked road behind the monster's corpse, which was collapsing down onto the floor.
The kid raised his wand in front of the forked road, gripped it tightly, and concentrated.
That's what he did whenever we came across a forked road.
After about five minutes had passed, the kid opened his eyes.
I matched him and opened my eyes.
"It's the left-most path. This way."
* * * * * *
It's already been two days and we still haven't been able to get out of the middle floor.
First, I gave up on drawing a map inside my head using my sense of direction within the first six hours of the first day.
Even if I go back the same direction to the place I was before and followed the forked road, something I'd never seen before would show up.
When I asked the kid, he said that the place was different from the one before.
The location seems the same, but he said that that was the lower floor.
When I asked him why we're going further up, he said that while he was looking for the path that went down, he ended up going up instead.
Then, when I asked why he didn't find that path when we were on the upper floors, he said that there was no crossroad that directly connected to that path on the upper floors.
When I thought about my journey inside the dungeon, I felt tired.
I wasn’t physically fatigued, but it was narrow, dark, repetitive, and emitted a strange smell; we also didn't know where we were going and regularly walked in circles, which was mentally draining in itself.
After walking around in circles for two days, I abandoned the map inside my head as well as everything else.
Instead, whenever the kid came across a forked road, I concentrated whenever the kid raised his wand and gathered his focus.
5 forks in the road.
Two of the paths led up, while three led down.
However, that's just the direction of the forked road; you don't know what way the forked road leads until you actually walk through it.
However, the kid, without being blocked or without hesitation, picked one of the paths of the forked road.
We had stayed in the middle floor for two days, not because the kid couldn’t find the path and was wandering around, but because this middle floor was excessively vast.
The kid had said that he had memorized the geography of this place, but that was a lie.
This wasn't at the level you could memorize and go through.
I wonder how you could go through the forked roads without memorization?
You couldn't even spread your mana and look ahead with it.
Did he create a map in his head and pick the right path?
Is there a sign that only guides can identify for forked roads?
Throughout the two days, I had thoroughly observed for a sign in vain.
Is it simply using decision-making and prediction?
Likewise, that's impossible.
If this kid is using his own knowledge and wisdom in order to find the right path, that's close to predicting the future.
The last thing I could think of was obvious, but it was that wand.
The wand was acting as a navigator.
I have my doubts again here.
If that was the case, then that wand is some sort of magic tool; but how could it find the right path?
This dungeon was characterized by mana obstruction that was extensively pinning us down.
The kid closed his eyes.
I also closed my eyes.
The kid, in front of the forked road, acted as if he were concentrating and secretly pet the lower part of the wand's handle.
In the next moment, the wand emitted mana.
That mana doesn't spread towards the forked road.
It just roamed about the surrounding area and transiently dissipated.
Just like my mana.
The kid opened his eyes.
I also opened my eyes.
"It's the second path from the right. This way."
* * * * * *
The kid stopped walking before the four forked roads without an up or down.
As he had done before, he tightly gripped his wand.
He closed his eyes.
I also closed my eyes.
It wasn't the first one.
It also wasn't the third one.
The fourth one was... a bit ambiguous.
[I have absolutely no idea.]
[It seems like the third one, Warrior.]
It's not the third one.
It doesn't seem like the fourth one either.
It's the second one.
Now, let's see if I've picked the right path.
This kid opened his eyes.
I also opened my eyes.
"It's the second path from the left. This way."
Buy us some coffee!