“She is a woman. She must have been hiding her gender using the her magic or some kind of artifact.”
… Why are you saying it so casually?
You didn’t even tell others that the mage was a woman. You had been looking after her with the excuse of tending to her wounds.
If this was the modern world, you would have been accused of being a sexual predator.
“… Who do you think I am. You are not even trying to hide your suspicions. It is unpleasant, so please don’t make a face like that.”
The mage was a woman with eye-catching long curly hair.
“Anyway, isn’t she too young? I think someone said she is the head of some Magic Tower. How could someone so young be in a position like that?”
I am not so surprised about the fact that the mage was hiding her true self.
She is a mage, so she could. I can understand that.
However, she looks too young.
She isn’t just a little young. I think she is younger than me.
“I think she is the pupil of the Maruathen Magic Tower’s head. It seems she was disguised as the head of the Magic Tower and sent in here.”
Before we reached a conclusion, the knight came by and said that.
“Yes. I have no way of knowing why. Perhaps it was because the Magic Tower’s head is very old. Maybe it was a matter of health.”
“But the disguise earlier didn’t look all that old either?”
“That was also just an embellishment. The Magic Tower’s head is actually over hundred years old. That’s what I heard.”
That’s really old.
After he heard us talking, the mercenary came by. He whistled and said,
“She is quite the beauty. Mr. Holy knight, were you having fun here by yourself?”
Having heard what the mercenary said, the holy knight shouted,
“* * *! * * *. * * * * *!”
What is he saying?
“What are you saying?”
“He was swearing curses. When people of holy professions must swear out of circumstance, they use this ancient forgotten language. That’s what I heard. I don’t know the meaning either.”
Thanks to the knight’s explanation, I got to at least figure out the essence of what the holy knight just spewed out.
Swearing using an ancient civilization’s language…
Is it impossible to translate even with the power of the knowledge, even before the time of Babel? Maybe it is because the skill’s level is not high enough yet.
“Ah, oh my. I apologize, so please don’t be so angry. I was just joking. Aren’t you overreacting? Even though you are a man of religion, still…”
The holy knight was not able to calm his anger immediately. He grabbed hold of the mercenary and lectured him for a long time.
The mercenary was starting to get frustrated before the lecture finally ended.
Afterwards, grabbing the holy knight’s shoulder, the knight said,
“From now on, we should not approach this mage as much as possible. I understand that you stayed around her to heal her, but that was too dangerous. From now on, unless everyone is watching, don’t approach her alone.”
“… I got it.”
The holy knight agreed to the knight’s suggestion.
The response is rather calm for someone who was just angry for being suspected of indecency.
It seemed the knight read the puzzled look on my face. The knight explained again,
“I am not saying this just because she is the only woman in this dungeon. Showing consideration for a lady who is trapped here with men is only obvious. However, there is a doppelganger in this place. You must not forget this fact.”
“I don’t understand. What does doppelganger have to do with her?”
Ah, you don’t know this. It is like this: what do you think will happen if a doppelganger assumed a human form and forms an intimate relationship with someone of the opposite gender?”
“A life will be conceived. It won’t matter if the doppelganger was the man or the woman. The conceived child will be born with the appearance of a human being. However, the child will be born inheriting the doppelganger’s existence and the abilities. The child will be even more dangerous because it will be able to assume the human form without stealing another person’s appearance. Also, as a way of survival and to increase their numbers, the doppelganger will actively attract the opposite gender.”
… It really is dangerous.
The danger rating for the doppelganger skyrocketed in my head.
I thought about a scenario.
A doppelganger in human form marries a human and gives birth to children.
The children will grow up and marry other humans, giving birth to more children.
After this pattern repeats for a few generations, it won’t be long before a small village would be full of doppelgangers.
Like that, as the doppelgangers increase in their numbers to the point where most of the population could be doppelgangers.
Everyone agreed to do as the knight said. Slightly anxious, we had our dinner.
The next morning, the mage woke up.
* * *
It was during the third day since the 16th Floor’s stage started.
I was preparing the breakfast, and the mage woke up.
The mage screamed in pain as soon as she woke up, and the holy knight rushed to treat her.
Her mana ran amok because her focus was interrupted in middle of casting a spell, so the damage was more substantial than I ever imagined.
After the pain was relieved, the holy knight gave a short summary of what happened so far.
The mage was panicking about the fact that her true appearance was revealed more than over the contents of the summary.
We told her it was all right, but she panicked and tried to use magic.
Perhaps due to the internal injuries, her magic failed.
She was very conscious about the fact that her appearance was revealed.
I was curious why she was acting like that. I figured that I might as well ask her to talk about herself so I can get the answer her answer.
Surprisingly, the mage barely said anything.
She only spoke in few terse words. When she said long sentences, she wrote them on the notepad she had in her bag.
Because of this, to listen to her stories, we had to invest a large amount of time.
“So, you are saying you disguised yourself as a man ever since your childhood? Why?”
According to her, ever since she became a mage, she had been living under the disguise of a man.
She said she was asked to come to the dungeon as a double for the head of the Magic Tower because she was used to acting due to her experience.
The mercenary found her explanation questionable, so the mage started to diligently write something in response. Meanwhile, the knight stepped in.
“I heard that there are quite a lot of female mages who hide their feminine identity. There is no gender-based limitation on mastering magic. However, magic itself is an exclusive tradition of the nobilities. In the past, only males were allowed to master magic. The custom had been mitigated quite a bit now. However, conservative mages still don’t take kindly of talented female mages. Instead of facing such discrimination, I heard that female mages just live under the male disguise. In her case, she was talented and powerful enough to act as a double for the head of the Magic Tower, so she was probably under the same circumstance. I heard that the female mages first receive the disguise magic or artifact from the teachers and use their own magic power to keep up the disguise once they grow up. In her case, she probably received the help from the head of the Magic Tower. From social standpoint, it is a great misfortune for a woman to hide her feminine identity for the rest of her life. However, mages are not like the most people. The mages are not interested in dating, marriage or having and raising children, so I heard they make this kind of choice often.”
As usual, that was a great explanation.
I wonder if there is a way to have this man tag along with me at all times?
Like a Pokemon inside a Pokeball.
It seemed everything was as the knight just explained. The mage nodded in agreement to the knight’s explanation.
After hearing the explanation, I wanted to ask her to teach me magic. However, the holy knight strongly advised me against it.
He said she needed more rest because she had been unconscious for two days. So, I decided to wait a bit longer.
With the time left, I made a changing room and a restroom at the corner of the dungeon.
While it was just among men, we didn’t care. We just went to a corner to change clothes or take care of our businesses. Now that we had a woman, we needed a blind for her.
* * *
We finished eating lunch and all of us sat at the center of the dungeon room.
It was the time for the chatterbox knight to continue. Now, this became a regular event after meals.
I brought out crackers and snacked on it while listening to the knight.
Calling it a simple blabber mouthing didn’t do justice to the man’s ability. It was closer to a stage performance.
The knight was like a stage actor. He told the story along with exaggerated movements.
His story was quite interesting, so everyone tuned into the man’s story.
While the knight was giving realistic portrayal of the princess he saw at the coronation, I directed my gaze away and looked at the holy knight and the mage.
They were sitting right next to each other. Something was odd.
They looked too close.
It was as if they had known each other from before.
They became too close too fast.
It had not been that long since the mage woke up. It was just from the morning to the lunch time. It had only been a few hours.
Of course, it was the holy knight who treated the mage while she was unconscious. I could understand that she would be thankful to the holy knight.
Also, if they are good fit to each other, they could become close easily.
However, we are inside a sealed room with a doppelganger. Is it still normal for people to become so close and so quickly?
I don’t know the customs or common sense of the people in this world, so I am not sure if I should bring this up to the people or not.
No matter how I think about it, it is strange.
Let’s organize my thoughts on this.
If I start with how the battle went during the first day, the friendly atmosphere between the two is strange.
First, when the holy knight and I were in the path of the fireball’s effective area, the mage launched it without hesitation.
If I didn’t block it using Talaria’s Wings, the flame would have engulfed both me and the holy knight.
Afterwards, the mage fainted from being struck by me, and the holy knight healed her.
When she lost consciousness again because her mana ran amok, the holy knight healed her again.
From the mage’s perspective, I guess this will be complicated.
She must be surprised. I bet she feels guilty about it and even thankful.
Is she being friendly with the holy knight because she feels sorry?
This is difficult to figure out.
My doubts never went away because I had suspicions about the holy knight’s attitude since yesterday.
Since the battle yesterday, the holy knight was pristine example of moral righteousness.
He intentionally sought to create friendly atmosphere for everyone to get along and talk comfortably.
Honestly, his behaviors were in line with my goal of hearing stories from everyone, so I didn’t mind it so much.
However, before the battle, the holy knight was concerned about eradicating the doppelganger more than anyone.
He guided the mood toward violence and anxiety. Instead of calmly talking about it while resting, he insisted on finding and killing the doppelganger immediately.
His attitude now was different from back then. Something didn’t look right.
There definitely was a doppelganger amongst us in this dungeon room. How could he afford to act so altruistically?
Of all people, he was the one who was most concerned about the doppelganger, so why is he doing this?
The following was my theory.
Initially, he intentionally created violent mood and caused splits among the people to cause chaos.
During the battle, he acted selflessly to erase the suspicion in people’s hearts and gain potential supporters.
Assuming the holy knight is the doppelganger, the two were aligning with his goal.
In this situation, I had plenty of reasons to think something was odd about the fact that the holy knight and the mage were becoming close so fast.
Just like the holy knight, the mage was also a strong suspect for being the doppelganger.
From her perspective, the holy knight was a generous man and also a tool she could take advantage of. Becoming close with him was going to benefit her survival.
One last thing…
From the stage’s description, there was nothing about there being just one doppelganger.
This is Hell Difficulty, so I need to consider the possibility that there could be two doppelgangers.
I think I should watch the holy knight and the mage closely.
After I organized the thoughts, I remembered the God of Adventure’s response when my gaze ran into that of the mage.
What was the God of Adventure’s response?
At that moment, I was certain that…
[The God of Adventure is highly entertained while watching you.]
That was the response.
What’s so entertaining to watch?
[God of Adventure is rooting for you.]
I don’t need it.
* * *
I asked the mage to teach me magic as soon as the dinner was over.
I waited long enough.
I only had four days left until the stage was over.
Even if it was going to be a little bit, I wanted to learn magic from her. I could not afford to wait any longer.
[It is forbidden to teach magic to an outsider. A mage can teach only teach magic to pupils of the Magic Tower.]
The mage let me know in both spoken and written words that she could not teach me magic.
Yep. I knew you would say that.
People tend to not listen when asked politely.
In this circumstance when nothing can be helped, I will be using a way that is not so polite, so it is quite regrettable.