(Now then…) (Eugene)
I looked up at the outrageously tall tower that is the Zenith Tower Babel.
The tower is so big that you could even put a city in, and it is said that it goes for over 1,000 floors.
And the reality is that there hasn’t been anyone in history who has arrived at the 1,000th floor.
Of course, this isn’t something that a mortal could build. It is being called the training spot from the Gods, or a place for trials.
Most popularly known as: the Last Dungeon, Zenith Tower Babel.
It is one of the highest ranked dungeons of the world located in the center of the South Continent.
The magic academy I attend, no, even the city-states that have academies are simply an extra for the Last Dungeon.
Many people gather, seeking the treasures of the giant dungeon. Stores are created and cities are born around it.
The scale of the city increased more and more, and it eventually became a city-state.
That was the birth of the city-state Caliph that’s also known as a dungeon city.
If an anomaly happens in the Last Dungeon, the explorers residing in the dungeon city have the duty to prioritize this over anything.
The students are no exception.
There’s currently dozens of explorers at the plaza located at the entrance of the dungeon.
(So few…) (Eugene)
There’s several thousands of explorers in the academy sector.
It seems like the high ranked explorers are out.
Well, the higher ranked the explorer, the more often they are adventuring, so it can’t be helped.
My explorer rank is D.
This is proof that I can explore alone.
Most of the people gathered here must be D Rank.
“Everyone, I am glad to see you gathered here!”
The one who is raising their voice is called a Dungeon Staff.
They mostly keep an eye on the Zenith Tower and aid the injured. Civil servants of the city.
“A Dungeon Destroyer has appeared inside the Last Dungeon! This is an emergency. Everyone, check the Satellite System!”
The explorers gathered there were all looking at what was projected in the giant screen even without being told.
And they were all making bitter faces.
The 5th floor of the dungeon was a sea of fire.
(What’s that…? The floors all the way to the 9th should originally be grass-covered plains and forest areas…) (Eugene)
The Last Dungeon has 1,000 floors in total, so it is a super gigantic dungeon, and the scenery changes greatly every 10 floors.
I have reached the 9th floor myself.
That’s why I can tell in one glance how abnormal this state of burning with fire is.
“It is impossible for a fire of this level to happen naturally! Something has set it on fire! We are currently trying to extinguish the fire, but it is not showing signs of receding. I want everyone to investigate the source of this.”
The Dungeon Staff announced the details of the request.
“…Oi oi, don’t be unreasonable here.”
“…We would die.”
“…Fireproof armor is expensive after all.”
I heard those whispers.
This is a high difficulty case for low ranked explorers.
“We will be lending fire resistant robes for free. Make sure to bring anything necessary. Also, you will be rewarded in gold regardless of the results if you cooperate in the exploration…”
I slowly headed to the entrance of the dungeon after hearing that.
There’s explorers hesitating and there’s also others getting their fire resistance robes and lining up.
Someone approached me.
“Eugene! You will be going?”
The one who spoke to me is an old man I am familiar with that’s a Dungeon Staff member.
“Yeah, it would be better to hurry, right?” (Eugene)
“That’s a great help. A fire resistance robe…is unnecessary for you, huh, Eugene.”
“No need. I just need to sign here before heading out for the exploration, right?” (Eugene)
“That’s right. Okay, I have registered your participation. Ah, right. Take this. It is a used one from me though.”
The old man gave me a slightly tattered fire resistant robe.
“I won’t be using it though…” (Eugene)
“Don’t say that. Explorers have to be prepared first and foremost. Also, there might be people who didn’t manage to escape in time, so take it.”
“Got it. Thanks, old man.” (Eugene)
I thanked him and entered the 1st floor from the entrance.
There’s nothing out of the ordinary here.
I head to the center just like that.
The center of the dungeon has the Dungeon Elevator set there.
The Dungeon Elevator is an ancient relic.
No one knows when it was there or how it moved.
Everyone simply uses it because it is convenient.
Its mysterious trait is that the user can only be transported to the place they can reach with their own ability.
In my case, it only shows the buttons until the 9th floor.
I push the 5th floor button.
The Dungeon Elevator slowly goes up and eventually arrives at the 5th floor.
When the door opened, I was welcomed by raging flames.
The area close to the Dungeon Elevator has a barrier set by the dungeon, and the fire can’t reach.
But everything else is covered in flames.
Many explorers have come to the 5th floor already…and have given up.
“Oi…we are going inside this?”
“I don’t wanna go…”
“The vision is terrible. You wouldn’t be able to react if a monster attacked you.”
“Is there a monster on the 5th floor that can endure these flames…?”
“Who knows. We are facing an anomaly here after all.”
Everyone has stopped in place, unable to step into the roaring flames.
As for me, I headed in the direction where the fire was the strongest.
“O-Oi! You, what about your fire resistance robe?!”
“It is okay. I am a Barriermancer.” (Eugene)
“N-No…even if you are a Barriermancer, look at these flames!”
“That’s reckless! Come back!”
The explorers around were worried about me, but I waved my hand inside the fire and showed them there’s no issues.
Looks like they get it now.
I go deeper and deeper into the raging flames.
—The flames were roaring ferociously as I walked within them.
The carbonized dredges of trees crumbled like sand as I passed by.
I don’t feel the heat thanks to the barrier around my body.
Even so, the sight of being surrounded in all directions by fire is not a relaxing view.
Are there any living beings that can survive here?
There’s an 8 out of 10 chance that a fire monster caused this.
A hungry monster from a higher floor probably came down to a lower floor.
That said, I haven’t heard of a monster that can pull off something like this within the first 10 floors including the 10th floor boss…
At that moment…
I heard the faint voice of someone within the crackling sounds of fire.
(The crying…of a girl?) (Eugene)
Is it an explorer that didn’t manage to escape in time?
Inside the flames?
I don’t think this is the time to be crying though…
It is possible for a monster to imitate the voice of a human to bait them into a trap.
I can’t lower my guard here.
That said, I haven’t heard of a monster on the 5th floor with that much intelligence though.
Then, is it just a human?
A lot of things don’t click here.
But I can’t just not go.
I carefully move to where the voice is coming from.
(…Someone is there.) (Eugene)
I see the shadow of someone.
At the center of the fire.
The place where the fire is the most intense.
A single girl is crying there while sleeping.
- Chapter 4: Eugene’s meeting
By the time I noticed, I was sitting on an unknown plain.
No, that’s not it.
There’s something more important.
I don’t have memories of myself.
(I-I’m scared… What? Why…am I here? Where’s my house? My family? Everyone from school?)
I don’t remember anything.
No…I have memories of my childhood.
I can faintly remember the face of my parents.
I have a little sister.
The faces of my friends in elementary school.
My friends since middle school—ow!
My head hurts as if it is splitting apart.
The voice of someone resonated in my head.
That’s probably…my name.
I remembered my name.
That calmed me down a bit.
But I can’t remember my family name.
My head is throbbing in pain.
I have no memory of the time right before I arrived here at all.
Where am I…?
At that moment, men who were talking in an unknown language were coming over here.
I thought about asking for help for a moment there, but my body shook the moment I saw the eyes of the men.
The men were grinning and it didn’t look like they were friendly at all.
Also, their attire is weird and their countenance isn’t good.
The men were looking at my body as if licking it all over.
My high school uniform was in tatters, and my skin was exposed really close to dangerous spots.
One of the men was saying something as he approached me.
My hairs stood on end at the fear and disgust…imagining what would be happening to me here.
“S-Stay away! Don’t touch me!” (Sumire)
There’s no way they would stop at my voice, the man grabbed my arm.
The man behind him was talking as if fanning him on.
The moment the man was about to push me down…
I raised a scream from the top of my lungs, and in the next instant, my surroundings were covered in flames…but I only noticed that a good while after.
I had lost consciousness.
How long has it been since I lost consciousness?
The men just now are nowhere to be seen.
There’s fire raging about in my surroundings.
I can’t feel the heat for some reason.
Black soot was on my arm, so I shook it off and stood up.
That’s when I noticed something outrageous.
I instantly crouched right then and there.
(M-My clothes!) (Sumire)
The uniform I was wearing has completely burned off.
I am naked.
W-What should I do…?
Is there anything I can use to hide my body…?
Even when I looked around, the plains were simply stretching far and wide.
Moreover, the fire is spreading more and more.
I saw something big move.
Is it the men from before?
No, it is bigger than that.
A giant bear that’s around 2 meters in size.
It was charging straight at me.
I will be killed!
Is what I thought, but the fire blocked its path and couldn’t get close, so it ran off.
What was that just now…?
Or more like, this fire…is coming out from my body?
Just what in the world is going on…?
My feet were unsteady, but there was a big rock, so I leaned on it.
I sat down, curled up as if hiding my body…and cried.
Aside from the bear just now, there’s also wolves, lions, and other big beasts.
But none of them got close to me.
There were also other people who spoke an unknown language too, but…they were blocked by the fire surrounding me and couldn’t get close.
They were shouting something to me, but I couldn’t understand.
There was even a horrible person who shot an arrow at me.
Even at that time, the fire coming out from my body steadily got stronger…and the plains around me eventually turned into a sea of fire.
It was a hellscape.
Did I die?
I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it I don’t get it.
If this is a nightmare, please let me wake up…
I continued crying.
Around 1 hour later of crying.
Someone spoke to me.
My body shook and I looked at the direction where the voice came from.
The one who was looking worried at me was a tall, slender, and kind-looking man.
It is completely different from the perverted men and the hostile people of before.
It seemed as if he was worried about me.
I squeezed out all the courage I could muster and spoke.
“U-Uhm…please help me.” (Sumire)
“X~, XXXX? XXXXXX…”
The man scratched his head as if troubled.
My words really aren’t getting through…
And then, he gave me the clothes that he had in his hand.
I am not wearing anything!
I hurriedly grabbed it and clung onto it.
It is like a raincoat made of cloth.
Is it called a robe?
The man smiled and extended his hand at me.
I was about to grab that hand of his…but I hurriedly pulled my hand back.
My hand…is burning.
I myself don’t feel the heat.
Even so, I doubt that’s the case for others.
The bear that attacked me did run away from the fire after all.
The hostile people also couldn’t get close to me thanks to the fire.
Now that I think about it, why is this man okay inside the fire?
He doesn’t seem to be wearing anything fireproof.
The man looked troubled with his hand still stretched out.
(…It is impossible. If he touches me, I am sure he will be injured…no, something even worse might happen.) (Sumire)
The men that tried to assault me had disappeared.
At first, I thought they might have run away…
The fire had me distracted there, but I felt like there was something charred closeby…
Even though it is not cold, I can’t stop trembling.
At that moment…
—My hand was grabbed.
I unconsciously look up.
The tall young man still looked troubled, but showed a smile.
I-Is it not hot?
“XXXXX?” (Are you okay?)
I don’t understand what he said, but I am sure that’s what he said.
That gentle smile felt like a God giving me a helping hand in this hellish situation.
I lost consciousness at that moment.
“Eh? She fainted…” (Eugene)
The girl clad in fire lost consciousness as if falling asleep.
I can tell from her breathing that she is not dead.
The fire coming out from the girl’s body slowly weakened and disappeared.
Maybe because the source of the fire is gone now, the fire on the 5th floor is slowly weakening.
(At any rate…just what is this girl…?) (Eugene)
I doubt she is human.
There’s no human that generates fire from their body.
At first, I thought she might be a monster or a demon, but I couldn’t feel any evil intent at all.
I can’t tell what she is at all right now.
Only choice right now would be to bring her back.
I carry the girl on my back and return to the entrance of the dungeon.
I used the Dungeon Elevator and returned to the 1st floor.
When I arrived at the entrance of the dungeon, the Dungeon Staff old man ran to me.
“Eugene, what happened to her?! A stray?!”
Explorers who couldn’t return from the dungeon on their own and are taken into custody are called Strays.
Well, you normally would think that.
“Hmm, it is hard to explain…” (Eugene)
I told him what happened on the 5th floor.
“Are you telling me she is the Dungeon Destroyer?”
“She is at least related.” (Eugene)
“Got it. Then, we will look after her—”
“Is the D Rank explorer Eugene here?!”
My name was suddenly called out loudly.
That’s a..high ranked dungeon staff?
“I am Eugene.” (Eugene)
I raised my hand.
“His Majesty is calling for you! Make sure to go to the courtroom together with that Dungeon Destroyer!”
After being told this, I was surrounded by soldiers.
“What’s going on all of a sudden?! Eugene came back from a dungeon exploration just now, you know?!”
The old man raised his voice and tried taking my side, but…
“Shall I take that as treason?”
“No way, I wouldn’t go against His Majesty! That’s not what I meant—”
“Old man, thanks. I’ll be going.” (Eugene)
I thank the old man that was directing a worried look at me and held up the girl whose name I don’t know.
I thought they would tell me to give her to them, but that didn’t happen.
Being escorted by high ranked dungeon staff members, I headed to the only courtroom in the dungeon city.
Whether you are a criminal or not is all decided on the whim of the King.
The King of this city-state is by no means a tyrant.
But he likes to stick his head in the business of the citizens.
He is a mass of curiosity.
(Hope it doesn’t turn into trouble…) (Eugene)
I slowly walked on while not feeling too good about this.