[Do you know what I saw on the 30th floor?]
[What did you see?]
[It was just a heap of ashes.]
[... Take comfort in the fact that you probably weren't planning on staying in the 30th floor.]
* * * * * *
"Then let's get going."
[Come now. Say it like it is, Warrior. Rather than departing, aren't you running away?]
This annoying bastard always says things better left unsaid.
I arrived at the bonfire room before I went to the portal for the 31st floor stage.
I breathed in the fresh air, and my head felt a bit refreshed.
"It feels like I'll survive now."
My original plan was to study magic for about a week after wrapping up my swordsmanship training.
However, I ended up leaving the 30th floor residential area on the second day, contrary to my plans.
[Who sets fire to the town like that? Warrior, did you not wet yourself?]
I shoved the annoying holy sword into my inventory wordlessly.
[It's nice now that it’s so much quieter, Warrior.]
It's just as Seregia said.
On the last day of my swordsmanship training, the residential district went up in flames.
After living in stages where it didn't matter whether there was a fire or not, or in the waiting room that could restore itself, the very concept of fire had faded from my conscience.
Regardless of whether the town burned down or not, I had escaped the region of flames and begun my study of magic.
However, the residential district's buildings were made of wood, so the longer the fire continued, the fiercer it got.
The fires had become too wild for me to put out now, let alone extinguishing the flames later. I had no choice but to escape from the residential district.
[What do you think about studying here, and then going?] Seregia asked.
"No. It's fine. I've read over the runes once already, so I can just memorize them as I go through the stage."
It seemed like it would be better to study magic in the next stage's waiting room.
My body itched ever since I entered the bonfire room, as I wanted to go straight into the next stage.
Instead, I created a sphere of aura in the air about the diameter of a finger.
And I slowly - at an incredibly slow pace - rotated it.
I planned to get a bit comfortable with using the aura sphere by repeatedly rotating it, stopping it, and rotating it in the opposite direction.
If I clear the stage while maintaining the sphere, my proficiency should rise quickly.
Before I went on to the next stage, I removed the holy sword from my inventory.
"Are you going to keep messing around?"
[I'll stop messing around. I, Ahoubuch, promise that I'll become your loyal, and cute holy sword, Warrior. I love you, Warrior.]
I kind of wanted to put him back into my inventory after hearing about his cute such-and-such, but I decided to just depart.
I stepped atop the portal.
[Welcome to the 31st floor stage.]
The 31st floor stage was somewhat unusual.
I may be inside of a cave, as there were rock walls all around me.
Peculiarly, the rocks were all red.
And they were dimly glowing.
Are they a type of luminous stone?
[They're magic blood stones.]
What are magic blood stones?
Since the stage was an unfamiliar environment, I asked telepathically.
The holy sword replied frankly.
[They're a type of rock found inside a dungeon. You don't see them often. The fact that the ceiling, the floor, and the walls are all made of magic blood stones means that this dungeon's level is no joke. Honestly, this place is no different from the demon world. Please be careful.]
At least when the holy sword explains something, he explains it plainly.
This guy also has the tendency to be an explanation freak.
Just as the holy sword said, who is firmly strengthening his position as a Pokedex, I decided to be a bit more tense.
The 30th floor residential district was a kind of line.
The 31st stage and after were stages prepared to give challengers an even harder challenge, especially after leaving the completely safe and pleasant 30th floor residential district.
Whenever you pass through a residential district, the difficulty spikes dramatically,
The challengers on normal or hard difficulty had realized a long time ago that after you pass through a residential district, the difficulty shoots up dramatically.
I tensed up and focused. Soon, I felt someone's presence in front of me as I was walking slowly.
Because of the corner, I couldn't see him.
I could sense two people through my mana.
One of them was 2 meters tall, and the other was significantly shorter at 150 cm.
Both of them had already sensed my mana and were displeased that I was spying on them.
Both of them swiftly accelerated and approached.
While I was preparing to respond, a message appeared.
[The 31 floor's challenge is starting.]
Explanation: You have entered the devil world ?? ??? region. Once every 100 years, the demons of all regions gather in one place, and only the victor of the competition has the chance to challenge the Demon King; this ?? ??? areas, possessing a unique culture have always produced a powerful Demon King.]
Presently, in the ??? ?? region, the current Demon King has ruled for 400 years in the ?? ??? region, and has been considered the strongest Demon King, generation after generation.
Win the competition, and then prove that you are the greatest challenger in your ?? ??? region.
Finally, challenge the ?? ???'s ruler, and prove that you are the strongest demon of ?? ???.
??? ?? Pass the first round of the region preliminaries.
[TL Note: I did my best to make it understandable, but the author is purposefully omitting certain things.]
What an interesting explanation.
The two approaching enemies revealed themselves.
They each had large horns on their heads and wings protruding from their backs.
"This isn't a dungeon that's close to the demon world; it seems like demons have actually come looking for me?"
[Yes. They're truly classic demons. Melee fighting type. They are weak to the water and holy attributes. They have a high resistance to mental attacks, high physical resistance, and have a moderate resistance to magic. Their danger level is 5-stars. At your level, Warrior, they're about 1 1/2 stars.]
He's progressively evolving into a Pokedex.
The demons marveled at the holy sword's explanation, and one of the demons exclaimed.
It was the tall one.
"You rude bastard!"
What's with him.
Of course, it was rude to spy on people with my mana, but how could a demon be so narrow-minded and get offended over that?
"You dumb bastard!"
"Right back at you."
The tall demon looked shocked after hearing my response.
He looks kind of dumb.
"Y-You shameless bastard!"
He really is dumb.
Why is he being like that?
Is there a problem with the translation of the knowledge before Babel skill?
He was begrudgingly standing there until the short demon beside him spoke.
"Hey, newcomer. If you're too late for the qualifier, you should show your sincerity to your seniors and think about joining them. Who do you think you are, to mock us like this!"
Preliminaries, join up, sincerity.
Those are words you don’t usually see together.
[Warrior, use that, that.]
What is that?
[You know, that thing. The one that goes 'kaboom'. Don't you have that thing that you used to burn down the residential district?]
That’s an interesting way of putting it.
I don't think the holy sword knows the term 'kaboom', so the knowledge before Babel skill probably just translated the meaning of the term to 'kaboom'.
"No. I have a lot to ask them. And if something goes wrong with that, it can be dangerous for me as well."
I raised my head, and gazed at the demons again.
The demons were looking at me as if they were asking, 'why is he muttering to himself?'.
I've barely just met these stupid demons, so I can't let this opportunity just pass by, now can I?
* * * * * *
"So you're saying that if you kill other demons, you get a token, and you have to gather a thousand of those tokens in order to pass the preliminaries?"
"Yes, yes. That's right."
The two demons were kneeling before me, telling me information about this place.
Of course, before I had asked them for information, I needed to do a bit of reconciliation.
The short demon was called Kakarang.
The tall and stupid demon was called Ubo.
Kakarang was the one talking for the most part while Ubo kept his mouth shut.
"Ah, by the way."
"Yes. Yes. Please ask."
"What do you see me as?"
"I'm sorry? You, of course, look like a strong, beautiful, wicked, and great demon."
So I look like a demon.
Is it because they were hit, and if not, do they really see me as a demon?
[PR Note: It’s safe to assume he beat them up.]
It's possible, if it's possible for the system to change my identity from a human to demon for this stage.
"Even though I don't have any horns, nor do I have any wings?"
"Jeez. Do you think that all demons have to have horns and wings? I'm different from those conservative geezers."
Based on what he's saying, it seems like there are demons without horns and wings.
However, there should be differences in skin color, physical appearance (ears, eyes, mouth, and nose), and body type.
It's a bit strange that he's not suspicious of me at all.
Was this set up by the system after all?
[It seems like they see you as a demon, Warrior. I don't know why they're under that sort of delusion, but it's a relief,] the holy sword said.
Well, I guess it's a relief.
"Then, keep talking."
"Yes. I understand. First, I'll tell you about the current situation with the preliminaries. The preliminaries have gone on about the same way for two years already, and we’ve never made it very far."
Based on what the short demon said, the preliminaries have become a heated competition amongst the great factions.
Rather than several demons participating, acquainted demons started to make groups amongst themselves, and eventually, some groups had grown to command more than tens of thousands of members.
In order to protect themselves from hostile groups, the other demons would join other groups or start making their own groups.
That's how the originally individual preliminaries had become a power struggle.
"Besides, they say that the level of the competition really changes starting from the second round of the preliminaries. That's because they're the strong who take the tokens one by one. That's why even if the representative of the group gather a thousand tokens, they continue to gather tokens with their comrades. Even if they gather more than a thousand tokens, the strong individuals remain, so their group identity worsens as time goes on."
So the time limit for the battle for power exacerbated the conflict.
They would competitively stockpile their forces, and the competition would be rife with betrayal, plots, covert fights, and trickery.
It's a situation where wars of words and marriages of convenience come and go.
To the point that I couldn't believe that this was a competition between regions or an event.
"About you guys."
"Yes, yes. Please ask."
"To be honest, it doesn't seem like you guys can pass the preliminaries. Why are you guys out here?"
"Ah, are you perhaps a foreigner? All the demons in this region are forced to participate in the event. And before the event has come to a close, we cannot escape from here. If you want to live, you have to stay here, even if you have no desire for Demon King's position."
So that's how it is.
Then if you're a strong person who really isn't interested in the Demon King's position, you could just stay in the first round of the preliminaries, since it'll become unnecessarily dangerous the higher you go.
"Fine, do you have anything else to tell me?"
"I do. There's a lot. Uh... by the way. Could you please take us with you? We'll definitely be of help to you."
It seems like they want me to carry them on my back.
Well, it seems like it won't matter.
I’ve already heard all the fundamental information, and I can just learn the rest as I fight.
I just need to check one more thing.
I stood up from my spot.
"Are you leaving? In the future, people from each group will stick real close to you. There's no way that the groups will leave a newcomer alone. They'll probably either try to appease you or attack you. If you tell me what you want, I'll guide you, ugh."
I pierced Kakarang's neck with my hand.
And I continued on, slicing my hand downwards.
Kakarang was split from his neck down to his hamstring, and died.
The external appearance of the joints weren't much different from a humans.
However, I need to check the locations of the organs.
I looked inside the split body, and there wasn't really anything different or strange about it.
"You, you bastard!"
The tall demon, Ubo yelled belatedly, and ran towards me.
There wasn't really anything to check now, so I cleanly lopped off his head with a straight hand.
It was a pain chopping off someone's head barehanded, especially because he's much bigger than me. But it wasn't hard for such a slow demon.
I waited briefly, and the two demons' bodies started to evaporate into the air.
The corpses soon completely vanished.
In their place, a piece of stone appeared.
Just like Kakarang had said, it was a token.
It's just like when you defeat your enemies in a game and loot the items.
I also confirmed the most important piece of information.
So I guess I just need to gather a thousand of these stone pieces.
I roughly put the tokens into my pant pocket.
And I continued walking.
[The God of Death is snickering unpleasantly.]
[The God of Chaos is watching you.]
[The God of Deception is watching you.]
[The God of Games is bored.]