Translator: Suzuran Editor: JackOFallTrades
A little bit of time has passed between now and when I washed my body off in the water.
I started a fire with an ignition rock and ended up waiting listlessly for my clothes to finish drying. When they were finally dry, I headed down the other path the redhead girl told me about, the corridor.
「Wow! There are so many!」
I looked around the room at the end of the corridor. It must have been the size of who knows how many Earth gymnasiums and it was filled with an incredible variety of edible monsters.
Even saying that, I don’t actually know if all of them are edible to humans. There were bug-like monsters that I had never seen nor heard of, reptilian monsters, and other sorts of creatures I had never thought of as edible before.
The monsters weren’t trying to leave the room. Some of them looked my way, but none came to attack me. There was another Safety Torch in the corridor, so it should be safe from the monsters.
Such a setup in the middle of a dungeon wasn’t exactly surprising, but the gazes of the monsters made me tense up even though I knew they wouldn’t attack.
Even after I cautiously entered the room, they made no move to attack me. They probably only aggro if you attack them or get too close.
「That one’ll do.」
There was a Grateful Boar standing right next to the entrance, so I quickly sliced it down and dragged its giant body back to the safety of the corridor.
I was worried that when I attacked a single monster all the rest would attack me together, but that didn’t end up happening.
I still had plenty of meat left in my pack from previous quests with the guild, but I wanted to see if the redhead girl was telling the truth and it’s always good to restock when you can.
Nevertheless, I now know for sure that the corridor leads to a dead end.
None of the monsters I saw close to the entrance were particularly strong, but further off I spotted a Gigant Giant, a Marsh Hydra, a Paralyzing Moth-Crab and even a Darkblood Tarantula. All sorts of monsters who would be the final boss of a normal dungeon were gathered together in that room.
If I faced any one of them one-on-one, I would undoubtedly take heavy damage and still might lose. To face them all together would be suicidal.
When I took down the Grateful Boar, I could feel their killing intent turn toward me even from so far off. No, to call it killing intent would be egotistical. It was the feeling of an ant watching a human decide whether or not it would be worth the effort to kill it, and it made me break out in a cold sweat. Even if I went and got more EXP and raised my level, I would still be killed instantly. That was the gap between me and them.
My original plan had been to snark when I got back to the Safe Zone, to ask the redhead girl if she was going to say I got chased back by monsters again. But having seen that room, I didn’t think my joke was funny anymore.
Comforting myself with the thought that at least I got more monster meat out of the visit, I started back down the way that took me there.
The dungeon as a whole was just infuriating, but that room instantly raised it to an S class dungeon.
While I was still ruminating about how bad the situation was, I made it back to the main room.
「Idiot! Where were you going?」
She sent out a spell and it took all my effort and reflexes to deflect it away with my 「Iron-feathered Fan Blade」.
「Don’t greet me with a magic spell!」
Taking a look at the deflected spell, I saw that it was earth-aligned magic, a giant flying ball of sand. It was at that point that it hit the ceiling and burst, raining sand down onto us.
The redhead girl choked a bit on the sand before shouting at me.
「What were you thinking, idiot!?」
「But it was your fault, redhead!」
「Fine, just make me another meal.」
「Already? What kind of stomach do you have? Is there something wrong with your metabolism?」
I did say that I would make double portions for her next meal, but I didn’t think it would be just three hours after the first.
Is her stomach a black hole?
「Mmmm… I guess that ugly pig could become a tasty meal. It’s even tastier than last time.」
「Of course it’s tastier than before, it’s way more fresh.」
I promised to make the same recipe with double portions, so I put away my scruples and cooked with the fresh meat. That is to say, I carefully cut the meat, added vegetables, dumped everything in a lightly boiling pot, and skimmed off the fat. I never had that much of a reason to learn how to cook before, so that was the limit of my abilities.
My dad was the most domestic of my family, but my sister would always beg me to make sweets for her, so I got a lot of experience making cakes and other desserts. However, because I always used the recipes in my sister’s magazines, I had no idea how to make them on my own. I’m not one of those geniuses who can cook with whatever they have around. Then again, the important thing is not to cook amazingly, just to cook good enough.
「That’s not it. I’ve had Grateful Boar in restaurants before and it tasted terrible.」
「So why? Is it because you boiled it? Is it a special fire? The cut? A spice? I thought there was a hint of alcohol, but, maybe the secret is in the vegetables?」
She’s not too far off. The secret was to boil the meat gently and smoothly with the bones still in, then to add in the the liquor of ricol fruit from the first harvest.
The redhead girl refilled her bowl and drank another spoonful in one fell swoop. Then she looked my way with a glimmer in her eyes and asks me questions with a strangely uncertain confidence.
「I… I… I really like this dish! What’s the recipe? How did you make that super gross meat into this?」
For her to act so impatiently, she must really like it.
As I ponder my response I looked at her and did a double take at her already emptied second bowl. How could she eat so fast? I wasn’t even halfway done with my first one.
Her eyes were still shining in anticipation, so I put down my bowl, slowly turned to her, and looked her in the eye.
「You really want to know the recipe? The correct way to handle this kind of meat?」
And so I, of course, told her…
「Nope, can’t say. It’s an industry secret, highly confidential. Why would I teach you anything, you idiot?」
At that point I broke down laughing at the redhead’s vacant gaze. It was just the funniest thing.
「Y-you! You would dare to speak to me like that!?」
「What are you talking about? In what world do chefs teach their recipes to their customers?」
Furthermore, I put it took a lot of effort to learn this recipe. Why should I teach her?
I deflect the oncoming fireball away from my body.
「Hey! How do you cast your spells so quickly?」
「It’s simple, you just gather your magic power really quickly, then shape it into the desired form really quickly, then fire it really quickly. If you want the full answer, tell me the recipe.」
「That’s not the full answer? Wait, that explanation makes no sense, redhead.」
「Hey! Don’t call me that!」
「Well what should I call you? It’s not like I know your name.」
When I say that, unlike the other times I mocked her, her expression shifts to shock, as if that was the last thing she expected me to say.
「My… Like I would want a commoner calling me by name anyway!」
「Wait, what were you about to say?」
The redhead turned away awkwardly, as if all her prior energy was an illusion.
「You’re just trying to ferret out my secrets!」
This time I dodged the fireball she sent out, thinking about the redhead’s words.
「I’m not, and stop tossing magic at me!」
Between her haughty attitude, her words and her aura of supreme self-confidence, she probably used to be a noble. Given how much power she could wield, she must have been an adventurer. She could also have been a soldier of some country, but I can’t imagine someone with her personality as a disciplined soldier.
The fact that she didn’t want to reveal her name also fits that theory. If she was from a disgraced noble family, it would make sense for her to want to avoid standing out, but…
It’s not my place to theorize about her situation for my own satisfaction, so I stopped that train of thought from progressing any further.
In the end, she just grumbled and went back to her meal without giving me a name. And here I thought she didn’t want me calling her “redhead” anymore.
「Even though you’re an idiot, a mere cook, someone with a face that screams mediocracy…」
「Are you picking a fight with me?」
「You sound like a pouty kid.」
Deciding to shelve the issue for now, I got the last laugh with a cruel barb and also went back to my meal.
「Yep, the universe is mocking me.」
After we finished our meal, I asked the redhead about the dungeon. It turns out the she herself only got stuck here three days before I did. She tried to get out several times, but was always brought back by that stupid trap.
To make matters worse, she said that the dungeon only got harder as you go through it, though she also said there wouldn’t be any monsters to fight.
When I asked her how she knew that, she mentioned that she had a full written explanation.
It turns out that on the back of the mocking banner which greeted me when I got caught in the slide trap and fell back down, someone had written an explanation:
This is a maze, don’t try to cheat.
There are no monsters in the maze.
If you shout that you give up, a hole will appear to take you back to this starting room.
If you clear the dungeon, you can return to the surface.
If you stay here for more than 6 months, you will be forced to return to the surface.
The monsters in the room beyond the corridor will ignore you for a short time after entering, so it should be safe to hunt the ones close to the entrance for food.
If you cannot utilize the monster room for whatever reason, there should be enough water in the starting room to keep you alive.
Every day, the color of the water in the starting room will change.
Whoever clears the dungeon will get a reward.
Those were the nine points written there.
「This is definitely a dungeon, but it’s different from the others I’ve seen.」
Dungeons in this world are naturally occurring structures where people can fight through gathered monsters and defeat a boss to get loot and power.
Despite that, this dungeon showed signs of being man-made. From the explanation to the trap that mocks its victims, there were signs everywhere of the influence of some unseen mastermind.
This was unheard of. Certainly none of the dungeons I’ve cleared before had anything like this.
Then again, I shouldn’t get too distracted thinking about this. I’m no dungeon scholar. All I have to focus on is clearing this dungeon. I can leave the investigations and the analyses to the experts. When I leave here, I’ll tell someone important back in the Empire and that will be that.
「First of all, those stairs are the only way out.」
I can see now that the stairs have shifted from a slope back to their prior state. I gently touched the lowest stair and felt that the oil was gone, leaving only dry stone.
There’s probably some step that turns the stairs into their slope form when stepped on. Knowing that, the only issue remaining is figuring out how to climb the stairs without pressing down that step.
I was still trying to figure it out when a voice came from behind me.
「Hey, there’s a way I can take you safely up the stairs. You want to know it?」
「What, do you know which step activates the trap?」
「That’s thinking too small. But first, if you teach the recipe—」
「Nope nope nope. There’s no way I’m going to give it to you.」
I’m not an idiot who gives up their trump card so easily.
「Besides, I don’t need you help anymore. I’ve figured it out.」
Having finished speaking I stood up and took off in a dash. Then, coming at the beginning of the stairs at an angle, I pushed off the ground with all my might.
「Here we go!」
I push off of the wall of the stairs, landing a bit further up the stairs on the opposite wall.
That’s right, I was wall-jumping like Mario.
Always aimed toward the top, I repeated the process in a zigzag pattern.
「Hah! Who’s the boss now, stairs?」
If I never use the stairs, it doesn’t matter whether they turn into a slide or not.
I, who used to say I wanted to be a ninja when I grew up, had performed this maneuver plenty of times in my head when I was younger. Now, I could use the strength I got in this world to pull it off in real life.
「What. Is he an idiot?」
The redhead said something in shock, but her words didn’t reach me. I was too engrossed in jumping from wall to wall like a ninja.