Having successfully stolen the treasured sword, Harold’s group avoided Liner’s pursuit and safely returned to the royal capital . Their purpose was to deliver the sword to Harrison .
Since they were supposed to not be able to speak, the delivery went smoothly and quickly ended . However, because of that, they did not get any rest and they were immediately given a new order .
Their next destination was some ruins . The appellation “Ruins” was a substitute to what was rather referred to as dungeons and labyrinths in RPG terms .
According to this world’s, or rather, to the game’s settings, what was commonly referred to as “ruins” were the remains of an ancient civilization, and within them could be found items and weapons that were impossible to reproduce using the current day’s technology . Discovering those objects, and making easy money out of them, was the main goal of adventurers . Having been adventurers in the past, Liner’s parents had also been in some ruins before, and that was where they had found the Gram Grand treasured sword .
While a few of those ruins did appear in the original story, there were countless ruins in this world that were not shown in the game .
Well, when thinking about it, it would have been ridiculous if only two of them had been left by the civilization of the ancients on the whole continent like in the game’s case, especially since that was not the only thing which was not actually shown in the game in favor of convenience .
As such, the ruins that Harold was now going to explore was part of those that had not appeared in the original story .
On the way towards his new destination, Harold did feel some anxiety regarding the exploration of the unknown, but that sentiment was completely thrust aside by his excitement . In short, to him, this was a call to going on an adventure .
He had cleared the game’s ruins dozens of times, yet after coming to this world, the only information he had gotten about them were from books .
But this was his first time actually seeing these ruins with his own eyes, and he was extremely intrigued about what was going on inside these ruins .
While thinking that it would be nice to become an adventurer if he ended up being unable to return to his former world after clearing the game’s scenario, Harold came to the Haibar ruins . Naturally, he was together with Ventus and Lilium .
The Haibar ruins, where Harold and the others were made to go, had yet to be fully explored by anyone . As a matter of course, it was unknown how deep it went . It was quite unreasonable to expect three people, among which there were no professional adventurers, to explore such ruins by themselves .
Moreover, it was strange how Harrison even came to know about a treasure being in those ruins . But well, Justus had probably somehow gotten some relevant information about them .
Still, even if Harold thought of these things, there was not much he could do about the situation, he could only quickly go inside and find the object he was looking for .
The huge entrance to the all-important ruins was halfway up a rocky mountain; however, the bottom of said mountain was still considerably prosperous regardless . Although this was also because there was a populated town right next to the ruins, in general, adventurers would naturally gather around these sorts of big ruins . Moreover, those adventurers needed food and items, so even some merchants would come so as to sell their products at unreasonable prices .
Exploring ruins was not a short process; it was therefore easier and cheaper to make a base near the entrance rather than to go back to town every single time . In short, since the adventurers would live on site, they needed some supplies to support their lifestyles .
It was a cycle, the adventurers would sell the items they discovered in their exploration, as well as any fangs and furs of monsters that had commercial value, and then they would use the money they made from that to buy the articles they needed .
This place gathered people and objects together, and gave birth to a back and forth exchange of money and goods . With that, different goods were distributed amongst the people, and an economy had come to be . As the scale of that economy increased, the surrounding shops and simple post stations were maintained, and so people kept on gathering . As a result, a community akin to a small town had been born .
Although some monsters did appear, there were always adventurers on site who were experienced with weapons . They would defend the place in case of an attack, which was a great help to lower the merchants’ anxiety to a minimum . Or so Harold had heard .
(Still, this place is livelier than I expected . I don’t want to stand out too much though…)
The order that was imposed on Harold was to bring back a treasure that was said to be at the deepest part of the Haibar ruins .
However, he also had to be aware of the fact that he could not spend too much time on that task . First of all, this was to help keep Harrison in a good mood, but more importantly, Harold had to gather all the treasures by the time Liner would finally reach Harrison .
No matter how long this time’s operation would take, Harold wanted to get this done within a month . There were thousands and thousands of ruins that had yet to be fully explored by adventurers after decades, and yet he had to do this with a group of only three, in the span of a month . If he were to actually accomplish such a tremendous feat, it would surely attract lots of attention .
After that, perhaps not only his identity as Harold, but even his black-robed identity would get a bad reputation, which would make it difficult for him to move around . All he could do was to get to the deepest part of the ruins while being seen by as few people as possible, and then to leave as if nothing happened .
That was his decision; however, although he wanted to just go ahead and do it, he still believed that challenging a labyrinth without any prior knowledge would be too reckless . It would have been helpful for Harold if there was someone kind enough to share the common knowledge and information regarding the exploration of the ruins, but while adventurers would cooperate with each other depending on the situation, they were still basically rivals . It was unthinkable for them to share information about the job that brought bread on their tables in exchange for nothing .
So Harold had no other choice than to give them something in exchange for the information he needed, an information fee .
The problem was that Harold’s mouth was not suitable for negotiations . If he flicked a big sum of money at the adventurers and condescendingly asked them about the ruins, he would only end up provoking them no matter how he thought about it . Therefore, he decided to change his approach accordingly .
【”Now then, let’s talk . ”】
【”Heh, of course, you’ve bought so much from me after all . ”】
If the adventurers were no good, then the merchants were the key . For them, money came above their pride, as long as they were paid, they would share some of the information they had; and above all, Harold figured they were well aware that that kind of information could turn a profit .
However, the people he was facing were professionals at making money who therefore tried to take advantage of him upon seeing him buy their goods as he was told to, so it was necessary for him to moderately threaten them and to ask the same question from multiple merchants to increase the accuracy of the information he had in hand .
Because of that, Harold had ended up using a big sum of money . He even wondered whether Justus would cover his expenses if he asked him .
(Like hell he would… . )
Harold’s idea was quite foolish .
He had not been employed by Justus . Officially, Harold was just offering his services to him to redeem himself from the crimes he had committed; he was no more than something like a servant under Justus’ control .
When he thought back upon it calmly, the way he was being treated was depressing, but dwelling on it was a waste of time, so he just cleared his mind and went to take on the exploration of the Haibar ruins .
For now, through the tactics Harold had used to get information, he had already bought food, recovery items, and some other essential articles which he carried with him as he swimmingly ascended the mountain till he reached the ruins’ entrance . To aid him in his ascent, there was an artificially made path that had been well maintained .
However, in contrast to the light steps Harold was taking, the many adventurers he caught sight of had a tense atmosphere around them .
There were monsters and many other causes for distress on the roads of these ruins, so lots of people had lost their lives there . Therefore, those who had become professionals on said roads were always that tense . Harold took a deep breath at once and settled down his heart .
【”Let’s go . ”】
Ventus and Lilium followed closely behind Harold who took the first step forward .
They had a good field of vision near the entrance thanks to the light that came from outside . As for when they reached places where the outside light could not reach, their path was lighted by multiple lamps that were hanging along the road .
The true nature of the light within those lamps was actually “light stones”, a type of stones that were naturally luminescent . Their grades were divided depending on the color and strength of the light, and it was said that, when it came to the top quality light stones, even a fist-sized sample could be sold for enough money to build a house . That being said, the stones that were used in lamps like these ones were worthless .
Under the guidance of the light, Harold advanced through the narrow passages that were around two meters wide . After slowly descending for a few minutes, his field of vision suddenly opened up .
Fascinated, Harold forgot himself for a moment at the sight of the room he was facing . While slightly distorted, the room was shaped like a dome, and the best part of it was that every single rock that could be seen was actually a light stone . There were soft, light purple lights glowing from every direction . It was a fantastic sight .
Certainly, judging from the strength of the lights and their color, those were low-grade light stones that did not have much value as products . However, that had nothing to do with how beautiful they were .
Looking up, Harold assessed that the highest part of the ceiling was likely at a height of no less than ten meters . From that shape, it would be hard to believe that the room was made by nature, which left Harold wondering just how it had been dug in . Was that the work of adventurers or was it built by the civilization of the ancients who once lived in these ruins? Harold was sincerely interested .
When he looked below, there was an underground space which was so deep that even the ceiling could not compare .
Along the walls of the room, there was a very long pathway built as a spiral that went deeper and deeper, layer by layer . Along the way of that passage, Harold could see many tunnels which appeared to be connected to the inner part of the rocky wall . Among them, there was probably a road that led to the center of the ruins and perhaps even further inside . But while Harold had these thoughts, it did not mean he did not understand that he needed to take his time to explore the ruins so as to avoid any accidents .
In case of a monster encounter in this construction, it would be extremely difficult to fight . That was why, apparently, one was basically supposed to just run away upon any monster encounter inside the ruins . Not only was it difficult to fight in narrow spaces, but it also seemed like the monsters that lived in ruins had a habit of forming groups . So there was a risk of being attacked by said groups, and Harold had heard that, when these monsters fall into an agitated state, things could get way out of hand .
That was probably one of the main factors that hindered people during explorations .
While looking out for any signs of monsters in the surroundings, Harold and the others went down the spiral-shaped pathway, aiming for the deepest part . They kept descending without sparing a single look into the tunnels along the way .
That was because, considering the structure of the map and how RPGs worked, Harold had judged that the important items would be at the deepest part of the ruins . He would rather search the place with the highest priority first, and only after that would he sweep the place clean .
【”…Stop . “】
The duo behind Harold followed his instruction . The three of them stopped their feet as Harold felt a presence different from a human’s in the depths of the 20 meters tunnel ahead of him .
As the trio concealed their breaths, a three-meter tall Golem emerged from the tunnel . That monster made of soil, with its body that stuck out of the earth with rocks attached to it like armor, was a regular sight in the game . Slowly and gradually, it went down the passageway . Apparently, it was moving towards the same direction as Harold and the others .
Harold was hesitating about what needed to be done . Perhaps it would be better to wait for the Golem to go somewhere else . However, there was no way that the Golem would be the only monster the group would encounter; and so, if a different monster were to come out from another tunnel from behind the group, there was a risk of being attacked from both sides .
Although the trio would not be defeated, it would still cause an uproar that would cause even more monsters to appear, in which case, they might have to return to the entrance temporarily . That would be troublesome .
Harold sharpened his senses even further, and assessed that there were no other monsters than that Golem, or at least, there were none in the range that he could sense .
So, there was only one enemy . Its movements were dull, and it had not even noticed the existence of Harold, Ventus and Lilium .
Harold quietly put down his luggage, and without any sound, he pulled out the two swords that were sheathed at his waist . Within the dim place, the swords shone bewitchingly under the glow of the light stones .
There were two rays of light . They weren’t rough like thunder, rather, they were refined, and sharp lights . The rays intersected with the Golem’s body, and after a very short pause, the monster collapsed to pieces . Harold went down on top of that wreckage, and looked down with cynical eyes on the mountain of soil that used to be a Golem .
Then, he had a thought . If they’re at this level, then no matter how many groups we face, we should be able to deal with them .
Perhaps this was an effect of the great efforts he had put in, having grown accustomed to fighting alone against a many . Harold realized that he had seriously grown .
But that atmosphere was cut off by a single scream .
That deep voice sounded as if it had come from the bottom of the earth, but rather than a scream, it was more like a war cry . Along with that, Harold’s feet felt an earth tremor, much like an earthquake .
“I have a bad feeling about this” Almost at the same time as Harold thought that, he finally saw the source of these happenings . A single man came rolling out from a tunnel at the bottom layer of the room, with a cloud of a dust and a thunderous noise accompanying him . As the man was still too far, and due to the combined work of the cloud of dust and of the dim lighting, Harold could hardly see him . But judging from his voice, he was certainly a man .
Perhaps because he was injured somewhere, the man was having a hard time standing up after rolling out of the tunnel . Then, multiple groups of monsters appeared from the tunnel and surrounded him .
The monsters were bipedal moles that had some sort of mechanisms at the tip of their noses; those were thick, drill-like horns that could rotate on themselves . The monsters also had long claws that they would clang together to threaten their enemies . This was a group of spiral moles . As for the man, he was still collapsed on the ground and looked quite miserable .
Letting out a sigh towards the troublesome matter that was occurring before him while thinking “So that’s what happens when you agitate the monsters . ” as if this was someone else’s problem, Harold jumped down into the middle of the groups of spiral moles .