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The Weakness of Beatrice the Level Cap Holy Swordswoman
Volume 7, Chapter 5: That Which is Known as the Root Cause

Volume 7, Chapter 5: That Which is Known as the Root Cause

Part 1

Abyss// I am sorry.

Abyss// I considered making an appeal to emotion or finding an emotional resolution.

Abyss// But I decided we would never have peace unless the root cause was dealt with.

Abyss// The Hero is dead. I led you all there and had you act more hastily than may have been wise.

Abyss// That appears to have paid off, but this is not over yet.

Abyss// Ground’s Nir Reject Sky.

Abyss// That alternate ultimate weapon has dedicated herself to her work task even after forgetting the original objective of said task.

Abyss// Unless she is stopped, the Iberian Orc problem caused by the artificial atmosphere cannot be fully resolved.

Abyss// The final battle will soon begin.

Abyss// Good luck, everyone.

Part 2

A few days had passed since then.

“So.”

In Roppongi’s Detached Magic Palace, the three maid sisters were holding a discussion after leaving their master sleeping like a log face down in her queen-size bed.

They moved out to the garden where Misoka, the second sister, looked like she did not quite understand.

“This country’s simulator was connected that other unit called Sky instead of, uh, Abyss was it? Because if her plans were sent over as a Piece, an identical unit could maybe be created here on Earth. As long as it worked, I guess the box that wanted arms and legs didn’t care which one it was.”

“She put more sugar in her tea than normal, so I’m worried about her mental exhaustion… M-milady doesn’t tell us much about what happens in that world, but it looks like she’s had a rough time of it there.”

“She won’t tell us directly, no.” Bespectacled Iroka lightly shook a tablet while responding to Haruka who was like a nervous small animal. “But if you check the stock prices in New York or London, you can get a pretty good idea of what’s happening in Ground’s Nir. Success there leads to Pieces…which in turn affect the technological development competition between nations and corporations.”

“Only you’re enough of a weirdo to look at that with a knowing smile. You can convert those numbers and graphs to human language, right? Then hurry up and explain it so we can understand.”

“If you insist. But to be safe, I’ll add in some other exchanges.” Iroka pressed a fingertip against the bridge of her glasses. “America, China, Russia, and the EU. No matter which region you check, the markets are in decline. That suggests the trouble is not human in nature. It’s likely a natural disaster or a dangerous creature.”

“B-but exploring the Labyrinth is their job, isn’t it? Couldn’t they be stuck at some super strong gatekeeper or really tricky puzzle?”

“I doubt it. They tend to start gathering minds and materials to fight back in those cases, but there’s no sign of them recruiting here on Earth and no unusual targets of investment have cropped up either.”

“So they’re just waiting?”

“Although I wonder how many groups there are smart enough to make such a wise decision. I imagine they are either too confused to do anything or are bluffing because they can’t report what happened to their higher ups.”

For their normal work in the Labyrinth, they would have a lengthy list of excuses to use if they ran across unexpected trouble. Adult society did not take “I can’t” as an answer, after all. But this was different. No one knew what had caused the commotion, so they could not even guess how to solve it. This was not a case of encountering the unknown. They had not encountered anything, yet they were being asked to deal with it.

Most of them had been left out.

The three sisters’ master was probably facing some kind of major secret at a point deep within all of this.

“And like always, the lady is trying to carry it all herself.”

“Yes. At least she has friends to fight alongside her in that world.”

Their master was already in an unreasonable situation. In the limitless combinations of the Character Creation, she had just so happened to end up with an appearance identical to the Sage and she had been given the rare Job of Holy Swordswoman. That was all it had taken to gather the attention of the government and an even larger force. And instead of praising her for that innocent result, they had decided to enclose her in a luxurious cage.

She could not even attend school like normal.

Beatrice and the Sage.

Could they be the same person?

The intense fear brought by that question had sent her to a happy prison. After weighing the pros and cons, the powers that be had decided that was for the best.

Without this government protection, she may have found she did not fit in during a normal life and given up on that, but Iroka still could not bring herself to say this was the best answer. The one silver lining was the group of friends she could rely on in that other world.

“I just hope there is something we can do for her.”

“Oh? What if I said there is?”

When bespectacled Iroka gave a sigh of mature mischievousness and said that, her younger sisters stared back at her.

“Eh? Eh? I thought you weren’t the type to joke, Onee-chan!”

“Are you planning to attack that subway station simulator again? Even though we have no clue how we made it back alive last time!?”

“Tsk, tsk.” Iroka wagged her index finger. “I will answer this one step at a time. The simulator and Sky were connected. That is safe to assume, don’t you think?”

“I-I suppose.”

“The simulator assisted Sky because it wants a body to freely move around in. But what about Sky?”

“Huh?” Haruka tilted her head as this new question occurred to her. “If she only needed to move around in that world, she wouldn’t need to respond to any offers from Earth, would she?”

“There must have been some kind of logical reason. If we know why Sky wanted the simulator, don’t you think we could come up with a plan to trip her up while back here on Earth?”

Part 3

“Squeal.”

They had returned to the small island of Ground’s Nir.

Sky had flown from the glass continent, so they had no real reason to stay there. The humans returned to Earth to get some rest and Boo Boo spent the time back on that small island. He was currently watering the field in front of his brick house using a giant watering can made by modifying a wooden bucket.

“Hwah☆ That’s just what I needed.”

Someone was buried up to her hips in the soft soil and she spread her arms to accept the water sprinkling down on her. She was Ileana the Mandragora, one of the Break News and the strongest of the plant types. She looked like a woman with long bluish-silver hair and a curvy brown body, but those traits could easily change depending on the nutrients in the soil. Since she cared a lot about her appearance, her presence here showed she approved of Boo Boo’s field.

“I want to take these vegetables today. The Juicy Tomatoes!”

“Oh, you’ve learned to enjoy veggies, have you? Then take these Water Bottle Cucumbers and All-Purpose Sorghum too. You need to keep a balanced diet.”

“Boo. They aren’t for me to eat. I can stab a stick into them to lure out the big fat Fluffy Chickens.”

“I said you need to keep a balanced diet. That means not just meat, meat, and more meat!”

They were interrupted by an oddly elderly groan for the girl it came from.

Ileana looked back while still half-buried in the field and saw Fairy Queen Strigona staggering toward them while carrying a giant sack in both hands. Someone from Earth might have called it a Santa sack and it was so big it covered up her face.

“Hey, Boo Boo. Is this spot good enough?”

“Squeal. Over here.”

Ileana immediately grew cautious.

“Wait, wait! What is that!? Hey, pest, I don’t like the idea of a toxin expert like you messing with the soil. You aren’t planning to ruin my precious mountain field with herbicide or insecticide, are you!?”

“Ugh, why do I have to do all this for the perverted carrot?”

“For me? …Wait. Wait, wait! Just to be clear, pest, no matter how many nutrients it might have, I do not want raw garbage dumped on me!!”

“Calm down, vegetable.”

Ileana immediately quieted down in the middle of the field. She seemed to have a policy of doing what her flower caretaker said.

“Squeal. These are the leaves from the forest floor. Spread these damp ones around and the vegetables will grow even better.”

“Phew, so it’s just normal mulch. For that you get a passing grade. Needless to say, I assume you will be smoking out the-…”

“Hm? What are you talking about? Pour, pour.”

“Gwaaaahh!? All the leaf and root eating larvae are still in there!!”

Ileana grew pale and screamed as her small ecosystem was suddenly destroyed.

Meanwhile, Strigona spoke up after literally having a load taken off her shoulders.

“Isn’t it sad, Boo Boo? Food is the foundation of everything, yet here you are having to bow down to a perverted carrot to set up traps.”

“Ew, peh, peh. Curse these Root Biter larvae! Now, setting aside how every single kind of foolish pest seems to be picking a fight with me, what do you mean?”

“Squeal. I gave my Shining Weapon to Beatrice, so I don’t have a hunting weapon.” Boo Boo sounded troubled and placed a hand on his chin. “The rocks and logs I find are okay, but they break so quickly. Boo, I might need to prepare a proper tool.”

The standard Iberian Orc tactic was to use disposable weapons, but Boo Boo had been forced to learn on his own for so long that he had not inherited that technique. This was why Beatrice had taken the lead role on the glass continent while he played a supporting role. Without that log or steel beam of Shining Weapon, he had nothing to fight with. It had only been a few days since then, so he had not had enough time to adapt.

And all the techniques he already knew only made it harder to learn a brand new set of techniques.

Ileana tilted her head while driving the larvae out of the mulch by scattering a mystery pollen from her long hair.

“But that could be tricky. What could you even use to make a weapon for it to survive your strength? Plants are a little too fragile for that.”

“I would have suggested the Diamond Salt used to make blades and homes in the southern forest where a certain Vampire lives, but that already failed to work.”

“What about bone?”

“Too weak.”

“Yes, but if he has Skull Wave work on it, couldn’t he get a weapon that repairs itself immediately after breaking?”

“That’s a fair point, but once we’ve reached that point, wouldn’t it be better to just ask Mr. Bones to fight for him?”

“How about we stop aiming for the most solid weapon possible? He could use a whip or a blackjack. In that case, there would be some plants he could use. I might be willing to locate a sturdy vine or hard nut for him.”

“That’s not a bad idea, but let’s keep thinking. There has to be something we aren’t thinking of.”

The two Break News kept talking without Boo Boo. They could probably work at a clothing store with this dynamic.

“But, Boo Boo, are you only now starting on your traps? The sun is already high in the sky. If you don’t catch anything, you’ll be in for a sad and hungry night.”

For those who lived in the wild, it was too late to start struggling once your strength began to fall. With water, food, and a place to sleep, you had to work at it before you actually needed it. Once things were off track, you could easily tumble all the way into the pit of death.

But Boo Boo did not seem that worried.

“Squeal. Beatrice and the others left this here before going home.”

“Geh.”

Strigona’s face stiffened when she saw a device like a metal barrel. And this was not because of the old idea that Fairies could not handle metal.

“Tah dah! It’s a smoker! This is a miraculous tool. If you put meat in the top tray and burn firewood in the bottom tray, it can turn anything into bacon. And that keeps for a while!!”

“So if the trap fails, we have to eat your stockpile of thick bacon again tonight!? Boo Boo, I know you’re excited about this new smoker of yours, but three days in a row is a bit much!!”

“By the way, why are you complaining under the assumption that Boo Boo will be making your dinner? The former Soviet soldiers shared everything, but even they looked after their own stew pots.”

Also, Boo Boo mistakenly thought you could only put meat in the smoker, but you did not get bacon if it was cheese you smoked in there.

Either way, the ability to store food was revolutionary for that brick house without a refrigerator or vacuum packing. …But to preserve her rich culinary habits, Strigona decided he could never find out about pickling, drying, or canning.

Boo Boo rubbed the surface of the metal barrel with his too-large hand.

“Squeal. But this is still a problem. …I can crush something like this if I squeeze it too hard. Where am I supposed to find a new tool I can call my partner?”

Part 4

The palm-sized Fairy named Meridiana snorted from her small nose as she lay on the brick house’s roof to hide.

“Oh, no! Boo Boo is in trouble! But this sounds interesting!”

Next to her, her younger sister Alice sounded annoyed already.

“Ehh? You’re going to make that for him just because that sister stealer has gotten used to the brick house???”

“Quiet, Alice. Now is the time to give Boo Boo a power up. I will offer him a weapon! And doesn’t a fairy weapon sound like it would be super strong!?”

“But I don’t want to touch anything as dirty as steel.”

“Uh…”

“Same for copper and silver. Gold might just barely be tolerable, but that is too soft for a weapon. I could stand making a pot because we only have to dig a mold in the dirt and pour the molten metal in there, but a proper weapon requires beating it, stretching it, heating it, cooling it, and all sorts of other things.”

Elder Morgan flew in to join them.

“What are you two up to?”

“Oh, Elder Morgan.”

“I have a feeling Meridiana is about to get carried away and cause us some more trouble. I mean, should a girl really start obsessing over a long, thick, and extra-large tool just because the guy she likes won’t pay any attention to her?”

“Aliiiice!!” screamed Meridiana, but this was not enough to faze the elder.

“Oh, you were talking about making a new weapon for Sir Boo Boo? I am here to move into his home so I can do daily work to repay him for everything he has done for us.”

“Huh!? E-Elder Morgan, you’re trying to outdo me by becoming his maid?”

“The cold high-status girl suddenly becoming a maid is a high level moe technique,” proclaimed Alice.

“I am not sure what you are talking about, but Sir Boo Boo’s strength is too powerful for normal crafting techniques to work. Simply put, this job is too much for us. So instead of wasting your time, I recommend introducing him to something he can use.”

“Such as?”

“Isn’t there someone who can use plenty of ridiculously powerful weapons of unknown construction? I am referring to Abyss sleeping inside this very house. He can borrow one of her high-tech weapons.”

Part 5

Night had fallen.

Skull Wave - a skeleton in a cowboy hat - sounded surprised when he stopped by the brick house in the middle of a stroll.

“Oh, what are you doing up this late, Boo Boo?”

“Squeal, I learned how to drink coffee! If I drink this, I can keep my eyes open.”

“(That’s just a replacement made using a plant root, isn’t it? My wife liked rooibos tea, but I doubt this even has caffeine in it.)”

At any rate.

After eating the super thick bacon that was sitting heavy in her stomach, Strigona had said she was going to look at the stars. She pulled out a weird (for a super strong-toothed wild animal like Boo Boo) hair-covered brush and moved it around in her mouth. Since she was doing that now, she likely intended to climb onto the brick house’s roof and go to sleep.

Boo Boo was inside that house.

He climbed the ladder to the attic and found Abyss still lying silently on her back.

Or was she so silent?

Abyss// You aren’t mad?

He was not just imagining it.

Different parts of Abyss’s body faintly glowed red in the darkness. And she spoke words that only Boo Boo could hear. He did not really understand it, but after incorporating the traits of other plants and animals into their evolution, the Iberian Orcs apparently had the ability to perceive trace electrical signals. …Boo Boo’s only image of electricity was the lightning during a storm or the static during the winter, so he was not quite sure what that sparking stuff had to do with sending messages.

Regardless…

Abyss// I honestly thought you would throw me out once it all came to light.

“Squeal. Without you, I couldn’t have saved Beatrice when her Shining Weapon broke. The fight against the Hero was tough and I still don’t get the more confusing parts, but if you thought it was necessary, then it was probably necessary. Even if I am still confused because I don’t understand why.”

Abyss// …

“I trust you, so it’s okay. Plus, this is your house too. There’s nothing to worry about. Squeal, you can relax here.”

Abyss// ……………………………………………………I am unsure how to respond to that.

There was a much more complex emotional tinge to her voice, but could Boo Boo really pick up on and comprehend that much?

Abyss had indeed deceived Boo Boo and the others to lure them out to the glass continent so the Hero would be revived. But that was because she concluded the people she cared for would never find peace if the root cause of the disaster was not removed. She had been willing to be branded a traitor and abandoned because for it.

But Boo Boo only heard it like she was a small child pouting her lips.

So Abyss changed gears in order to dodge that issue.

Abyss// Unlike me, Sky appears to lack the power to dismantle this island even while functioning normally.

Abyss// I imagine that is because the Hero inputted an irregular design to have her constructed.

Abyss// The armory does not appear to have authorized her.

“Squeal? What does that mean?”

Abyss// You can focus on defeating Sky alone.

Abyss// I heard from the Fairies that you require a weapon.

“Boo. I’m a little scared of having too much power to fight, though. Still, I can’t even hunt for food with my bare hands. And Strigona said I can’t just eat bacon forever.”

Abyss// My weapons are made from materials stolen from the Gimmicks in the deepest floors of the Labyrinth.

Abyss// If you wish for a weapon made from equivalent materials, descending into the depths would be the quickest way.

Abyss// You should be able to take a shortcut from the Iberian Orc village.

“Squeal?”

Abyss// There was one Gimmick I could not steal from back then.

Abyss// The Execution Warrior.

Abyss// That is a malfunctioning product that easily exceeds the set upper limits for strength.

Abyss// Perhaps you could view it as a guardian deity that naturally appeared within the Labyrinth.

“The Labyrinth, huh? But Beatrice and the others aren’t back yet and I’d get lost on my own.”

Abyss// As an alternative, you could work with the Sage.

“Ah!”

Abyss// And if it would not be too much trouble, I have a request of my own.

Part 6

Birdsong rang through the cool morning air as the sunlight filtered through the forest’s leaves.

But the song was too loud to be wild birds.

The singers perched on the branches were a girl with brown skin and white wings and a woman with white skin and black wings. They were Archangel Marinka. Together, they represented every aspect of the sun, including the solar eclipse.

Hurried footsteps thudded along directly below them.

“Squeeeal! I’m back, elder. I brought some thick bacon as a gift!!”

When the nearly-4m pig-faced giant entered the village deep in the forest, more of his species appeared.

However…

“S-snort… Meat…finally.”

“No, elder! I am not letting you get spoiled! You are eating your vegetables today!!”

The most conspicuous person was not any of the Iberian Orcs. The human woman wearing red armor and a white miniskirt was known as the Sage and she was jumping up onto the strongest Iberian Orc’s head.

As the little ones gathered around, Boo Boo handed out hunks of meat larger than the inn town’s bricks, and…

“Oh, right. I have business with you, Sage.”

“Wait just a moment, Boo Boo. Give me some time. You can ask me anything once I’ve fed this disobedient boy his ham salad. C’mon, elder, quit running away and clean your plate!! It’s all vegetables? You’re the one who ate all the ham first, so you only have yourself to blame!!”

Some intense screaming continued for a while.

Boo Boo had nothing to do in the meantime, so he began chatting with Royal Elf Sibyl who was walking around nearby.

“Squeal.”

“A being beyond the planet, hm? That explains why I couldn’t see her using the three royal treasures I manage.”

“So it turns out putting Sucking Bee honey on a Water Bottle Cucumber doesn’t make it taste like a Jewel Melon!”

“Wait, young life of the forest. Listen carefully. You may have tried that as a simple experiment in your spare time, but you have just shattered a legend that dates back to antiquity.”

After hearing a voice saying “sorry about the wait”, he turned around to find the incredibly cheerful Sage approaching with a hand raised in greeting. There was not a peep from the elder who had ultimately been dragged into his large leaf house by a single arm.

“Vegetables are scary.”

“Right? Everyone agrees with that, right?”

“Squeal, and they’re everywhere. They can be chopped up and hidden inside meat or even made into a drink, so you need to be careful.”

A stir was running through the little ones and Sibyl let out an exasperated sigh before speaking.

“He explained the situation to me while you were busy with Operation Eat Your Veggies. Basically, he wants a hunting tool to replace his Shining Weapon, so he needs a guide into the Labyrinth.”

“Squeal, I can apparently get the weapon materials if I defeat some extraordinary guardian deity called the Execution Warrior!”

“Really? Couldn’t you just grab something Demon Lord Tselika had stashed away in that cave? That museum is full of sturdy junk you can grab and hit people with, like dragon fossils and eternal icicles. Not to mention the sturdy rod supporting the door into the place. Pull that out and it’d make for a decent weapon.”

The Sage casually gave a shocking response (that contained enough detailed knowledge of the contents and the structure of the door to suggest she had snuck in there at some point), but Boo Boo’s plan was little different. Everyone acted like the Labyrinth was communal property that anyone could use, but that only applied to the people going there. The clockwork Gimmicks that already existed there were not Boo Boo or the Sage’s property, yet they would go there, destroy the Gimmicks, and steal from them. You could even view this a sign that humanity’s sinful nature had not changed since the Age of Exploration and that mentality was gradually corrupting the residents of Ground’s Nir as well. …Humanity had been so afraid of the Red Iberian Orcs invading Earth, but it was their own actions that had planted that spirit of exploration inside the Iberian Orcs. The Sage only ever said that humanity would destroy themselves one day, so she may not have cared about all this even though she understood it.

The red and silver haired woman placed a hand on her hip.

“Well, I’m fine with anything as long as it isn’t a filthy human asking it of me. Will the Party just be me, you, and Sibyl?”

“They don’t look like they have anything to do, so why not take them with us?”

Sibyl pointed her index finger up toward a sound of rustling feathers. Archangel Marinka - both the brown girl and the white woman - actually flew down and landed on Sibyl’s fingertip like they weighed nothing at all.

“We **** ***n watching f**m ab***. **ur b***le be*a* **** *** He** ************ **, so we a** *****ally t* ***me. T*** ***** ** * chance to *ep** *ou f** **** we hav* *one.”

“** have bee* ******** *ro* **ove. Yo** *att* **g*n with the **ro manipulating us, ** ** *re parti**** *o bla**. *his gives us a ****** ** r**ay y** *or what ** ***e d***.”

Their voices were hard to make out through all the noise, but when they spoke in unison, their voices formed a beautiful chord that entranced all who heard it.

“We have been watching from above. Your battle began with the Hero manipulating us, so we are partially to blame. This gives us a chance to repay you for what we have done.”

“You two are such a pain to deal with.” The Sage kept her hand on her hip and spoke with exasperation in her voice. “And does everyone from those three royal families feel the need to be overly polite all the time?”

“Elder Mermaid Vivian was a much sportier person.”

Boo Boo and the others made their way to the elder’s house while listening to that. But rather than visiting the transformed hunk of flesh within, they were interested in the crucial entrance hidden in his house.

“The Central Shaft. Boo, does that thing still work?”

“Not to worry, Boo Boo. It will at least last longer than the foolish human race.”

It had been buried, but Boo Boo remembered Beatrice and the others speculating that this was the real entrance to the Labyrinth. Using it let them skip all the intermediary floors and take a giant work elevator along a complexly-curving route directly to the deepest part.

“Boo. …We’re coming in, elder.”

“You don’t have to be so polite,” said the Sage. “This is basically my house now.”

“You won’t rest until you’re the dominant one in a relationship, will you?” asked Sibyl.

“If I don’t sleep here, a thief will try to sneak in and steal him in the night. …Curse that negligee Vampire.”

The Iberian Orcs must have felt some respectful fear of the elder’s home because the little ones made no attempt to follow them there. …Or were they simply afraid of the Sage while she was in eat your veggies mode?

“Snort, squeal…”

A giant lump was curled up in one corner. Everyone was too afraid to ask how exactly the strongest of the Iberian Orcs had ended up like that.

They had business with the small tent-like space in a corner of what was otherwise a single large space. When they looked inside that “room” made of leaves, they saw a square outline on the ground. Last time, Beatrice’s Party had fought the Sage here, so they knew the entire square would move to take them to the bottom of the Labyrinth.

And…

“Boo, young one.”

The elder asked a question while still curled up in a corner.

“How is Lady Abyss? Is she doing well?”

“Squeal. Abyss is Abyss. She’s the same as always! I have her looking after the vegetables in the field while I’m gone, so she’ll be fine.”

“I see.”

Only someone as close to him as the Sage may have known what emotions were carried by those words.

The Iberian Orcs had originally wanted such powerful bodies so they could defeat the ultimate weapon that would bring disaster to all of Ground’s Nir. If the Hero’s designs for a body of her own were ignored, the Red disease could have been seen as their pursuit of strength going too far and their evolution going berserk.

The leader of the Iberian Orcs was showing concern for their nemesis Ultimate Weapon Abyss.

He had not said much, but those words carried great meaning.

The truth of how this world’s humans had died out and the Underworld Lord’s existence had proven Abyss to be more than just an avatar of destruction. She may have been too late to do so, but she had been created to save many lives. Once they knew that, there was no reason to continue a meaningless conflict with her.

The Central Shaft was meant to be the starting point of a deadly journey in which they delved into the depths of the Labyrinth to attack each new ultimate weapon before it could make a proper appearance, so it was enclosed within the elder’s house and the other Iberian Orcs were not to mess with it. That fear had even gained a religious connotation similar to a curse or a miasma.

But things had changed.

It was no longer a symbol of loathsome impurity.

“Squeal. Okay, elder, we’re going.”

“Sure. Keep safe, okay?”

Part 7

In Shinjuku, Tokyo, explosive sounds rang through a rundown gym. But they sounded more like light shockwaves than dull booms. A glasses woman with her long black hair worn up was wearing the martial arts sportswear of a tank top and hot pants. She had just finished pummeling the nearly-2m trainer in the ring.

But she had not been taking out her anger on him or challenging the entire gym.

“You’re worthless. This doesn’t even qualify as practice! Old man, are you trying to get me to bring those showy acrobatics into an actual battle with lives on the line? You’re my sparring partner, so come at me like you’re trying to kill me! Don’t forget to put yourself into the mindset of a cornered criminal!!”

It was unclear who was teaching who and the tough-looking trainer (who secretly liked chocolate parfaits) ended up leaving the ring and running off while wiping the tears from his eyes. And he was a former champ who had made a living with no more than his fists and had won belts in several different classifications in the modern age. The young glasses woman scratched her head in the middle of the ring as she realized maybe she had taken that too far.

(Damn, I did it again. He’s got the build for it, but his heart is basically tofu. I bet he’s headed to that usual ramen place, but I don’t feel like buying a sobbing man a drink and a chocolate parfait from the secret menu.)

“Okay, Inoue, you’re up next. Get in the ring so we can have a fight between pros.”

“Not a chance!! That champ didn’t retire because he was getting too old and started to lose! He got carried away with one of his rushes and accidentally killed his opponent! I am never climbing into the ring from hell where the woman who defeated the Heavyweight Killer is waiting for me!!”

“Oh, so you prefer fighting outside the ring, Inoue? There are tons of makeshift weapons out there and you never know what you’ll hit when you fall…but yeah. That would be more realistic. That’s the kind of resolve I like to see in a subordinate. I’m so glad you’re passionate about your training.”

The baby-faced PI(?) with a mole under his eye screamed and began to flee while searching for anything he could use as a shield. The glasses woman who was searching for a trainer who would “come at her with the intent to kill” showed no mercy.

“The worst part is how you’re just a workaholic and aren’t even trying to harass your workers!!”

“Ha ha ha. You complain, but you’re blocking pretty well. I’m impressed. Now, I think it’s about time we shifted up a gear.”

The young man’s scream shifted up a gear as well. What would become of that poor counterintelligence agent?

“One, two. Yes, very good. Keep it up. One, two. One, two.”

“Is this some weird new form of bullying where she compliments him while murdering him?”

In a corner of the same gym, a girl from a prestigious school was wearing a baggy T-shirt and skintight bike shorts. She stood behind an eyepatch Japanese doll girl in a hoodie and track suit pants to give a hands-on lesson in how to hit the sandbag in front of them. Her upper class background made her seem more like a fitness instructor than a martial arts one. And the bob cut girl could not let anyone know she had only gone to the sandbag because she had been goofing off hitting the punching ball with kitty punches until the leather bag came back and smacked her in the face.

“Okay, keep that up for another minute. Just one more minute and you can take a break, so don’t let up now. One, two. Go at it like you are trying to wring all the oxygen out of your body.”

“I’ve heard enough of your lies about ‘just one more minute’!! Are you trying to get me to run a full marathon at a sprinting pace!?”

…She currently held the position of the elegant and absentminded Student Council President, but in the other world, she had once worked as a strict instructor for the Guild known as the Religious Society. That said, not many people could reproduce those extreme martial arts while here on Earth where their stats were not enhanced in any way. The glasses woman who could defeat a tiger, a bear, or a muscular baldy who had lost all the kindness in his heart was an exception to the norm.

“So after all this, Ground’s Nir Reject Sky shows up, huh?” The glasses woman licked her alluring lips while swinging her fists with enough force to crush a small car. “Even with Abyss, we didn’t exactly defeat her in a straight battle in an open space. In the Labyrinth, we were a secondary concern and she was only trying to reach the surface. Largescale chaos aside, her simple firepower was greater than Demon Lord Tselika’s. Sky was created in the same armory, so she’s probably the same. How are we supposed to defeat her?”

“Gwah, agh, eeeeeeeeeeeeeek!! She can do this when only half focused like she’s texting and walking!? Her destructive power keeps rising as she imagines I’m the enemy, so someone help meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!”

The baby-faced young man pulled off the metal exit door and tried using it as a shield, but that was no defense at this point. It instead dented in and absorbed the impacts like polyurethane.

The Student Council President girl casually led the eyepatch Japanese doll girl behind the sandbag so they would not be caught in the fray.

“But Sky no longer has an objective, right?”

“No, it’s the opposite. She only has an objective. The results don’t matter to her. She killed and threw out the Hero in order to create the artificial atmosphere meant to protect the Hero.”

But in a way, they should have expected this.

“U-um! I read in the reports that Abyss kept following the Ground’s Nir humans’ commands and only focused on the objective of defeating the Underworld Lord. Whoa, that was way too close!! Eek, eek, even after the humans she was supposed to protect had gone extinct, eek!!”

“So those artificial beings will strictly follow their initial command until they receive a new command negating the first??” The Japanese doll girl had a calm look on her face as she pounded on the sandbag. “In that case, she never will stop. As similar as they are, Sky was created differently from Abyss, so there might not be a stop command to be found in the machinery at the bottom of the Labyrinth.”

After being reborn, the Hero had been killed by Sky because she had screwed up the initial settings. In her desperation after learning there was no saving herself hundreds of years before, she may have neglected to include any safety standards.

Regardless…

“Ground’s Nir is only safe and peaceful now because Beatrice used her Magic to blast eight holes in the artificial atmospheric barrier. Just like stabbing an ice pick into a TV screen. Listen, that’s just eight holes. …All our work goes out the window if Sky fixes the broken barrier and it covers that world again. The Iberian Orcs will be afflicted by the Red again and their threat will reach Earth.”

Sky was focused solely on executing her initial settings, so there would be no persuading her to stop. She did not think in terms of good and evil or in terms of like and dislike. As her creator, the Hero should have been their best hope of negotiating with her, but that woman had been immediately eliminated. What hope did some outsider’s words have of reaching her?

She would create and maintain the artificial atmospheric barrier.

She was not concerned with any negative effects that brought. It did not matter to her that the intended effect was no longer possible.

If someone would reduce her efficiency even slightly, she would use her full power to eliminate them. Yes, the full power that had been designed to singlehandedly defeat the Underworld Lord who had only just barely been defeated using the combined forces of all the living things from both Earth and Ground’s Nir.

Plus…

“She has the high ground.”

It was the same reason an aircraft carrier could defeat a battleship and a bomber could defeat a railway gun. It was the same reason so many castles and fortresses used tall stone walls to face the enemy. A height difference was a simple thing, but it had vital tactical importance.

“Not only does she have such massive firepower, but she can watch us from beyond the very atmosphere she has created. Everything’s set up to give Sky the advantage. We need to figure out some way of pulling this off. This battle is going to be tougher than conquering your average castle.”

Part 8

With a dull thud, the floating feeling in the stomach vanished.

“Squeal…”

Boo Boo had arrived in the deepest part of the Labyrinth.

It was not that exciting this time around. When he had come here with Beatrice and the others, the fate of the world and future of the island had given it more meaning, but without all that, it was just an empty space.

There was a stone floor and a slick light source different from fire. The double doors led to the armory’s core where Abyss had slept.

“Hm? I thought the Execution Warrior you were after was on the floor above this?”

“Abyss asked me to do something first!”

Sibyl and Marinka tilted their heads as Boo Boo thudded on through the doors.

“Why is he willing to help her when she tricked him and he was badly injured?”

“That is how Iberian Orcs should be,” said the Sage. “We can keep those clever doubts to ourselves.”

“I’m back,” said Boo Boo before long. It was unclear what he had done, but it could not have been much since he had not been gone long. Sibyl guessed he had been asked to pick something up for Abyss, so she decided it was not worth spying on with the three royal treasures.

The Sage did not bother asking. She walked toward the large stairway leading up and raised her arms to stretch her back.

“Okay, how about we get going?”

They had skipped straight to the goal and were now going in reverse. That meant they would run into the final gatekeepers first. Sibyl readied her Shining Weapon that resembled a staff and a bow and Marinka stuck the white woman’s hands into the brown girl’s body through the shoulder blades, but then the Royal Elf realized something.

Boo Boo was all about physical strength.

The Sage could use all Magic freely.

Marinka would crush the enemy with long-range attacks using the Elements of fire, water, wind, and earth.

And Sibyl reproduced residual thoughts and converted them into attacks.

“Um, is it just me or does our Party not have a healer?”

“Oookay, let’s search for this rumored guardian deity, shall we? That said, the thing is so strong that normal humans and the other Gimmicks can’t even perceive it. The best way to lure it out is destruction. If we defeat every Gimmick we come across and spread the chaos, the Execution Warrior will detect it and come to us. We’re gonna be sitting in one place hunting all the Gimmicks on this floor, so it’s sure to be a test of endurance!”

“No, it isn’t just me!! And we have to test our endurance without a healer!? So is the best way to survive with this Party makeup getting super aggressive and defeating the enemy before they can defeat us!? Then, Sage, you need to use your Magic to attack, not to support us!!”

Part 9

So.

The three maid sisters were still in the courtyard of Roppongi’s Detached Magic Palace.

“We cannot target the simulator hidden in the subway station closest to the National Diet Building. We would fare no better than last time,” said the oldest sister, Iroka. “But can a simulator really function all on its own? Where does it store the massive amount of data it uses? Where is the server system used to support its communications with the outside world? Where is its power source, temperature control, vibration reduction, dust removal, etc., etc. Most of all, a simulator requires a lot of data input. If it greedily gathers all the big data out there to assist its calculations, then there must be a ton of subsystems in addition to the main simulator.”

“So we have to start at the outer edges of the overall system? Do we really have time for all that?”

“This is meaningless if we do not produce definite results.” Iroka was not green enough to let impatience color her thoughts. “When it has to do with the miss, anyway. That is a lesson you taught me.”

“Um, um.” Haruka, the youngest sister who was like a small animal, had been looking back and forth like a tennis referee, but now she hesitantly raised a hand and spoke. “So, uh, who exactly will we be fighting and what will we be destroying?”

“…”

“Haruka, I have wondered for a while if you are growing an otherworldly lifeform in your heart.”

“Eh? Eh?”

Haruka looked confused and Iroka and Misoka responded with exasperated looks, but she was right in this case. When things grew too complex, it could be useful to rephrase things in a simpler fashion. If they had to fight, they could do it elsewhere. And if it was for their beloved master, that was all the better. What could be simpler?

“Now, a question. What do you need to do to create a system that will never go down even if there is a blackout, a fire, or a largescale EMP attack?”

“Prepare a perfectly identical machine and circuit board.”

“Correct. That is the idea behind nonstop computers. Basically, it’s the rather violent idea that if you have two brains and hearts, you can survive if one or the other is destroyed. Although actually implementing it costs a lot of money. You have to pay double for everything going into maintaining the system.”

The idea of increasing processing speed by using multiple chips for parallel processing was well known, but the advantages of parallel systems did not stop there. Paying for extra equipment was the norm in fields like refrigerated warehouses, germ labs, life support systems, military systems, and anything where you couldn’t just say “sorry, but the power went out”.

Nonstop computers would attach two CPUs to a single circuit board and insert two identical motherboards into a single computer. But if the components were connected with fiber optic cables, they could be anywhere on the planet with no noticeable lag. That was similar to a mirror server or hot standby, but this was different in that the redundant parts still acted as a single large device. Instead of switching entirely over to a new system when a malfunction was detected, the routing of power would switch between the different components on the circuit board. Each of the thousands or tens of thousands of components could be switched between.

“However, nonstop computers do have a flaw. Since A and B are both equally important, they must regularly exchange data to sync up. And if you want the backup to work even after a bombing or an EMP attack, you cannot have them in the same facility.”

“Ohh, I get it.”

“Eh? That was supposed to be an explanation? I thought Onee-chan was just trying to sound smart.”

“Don’t worry, Haruka. That muscular brute Misoka is only pretending to understand.”

“I do to understand!!” snapped back the second sister while blushing red. “You’re saying the backup facility has to be somewhere other than that subway station. And since it never sees the light of day, the security will be a lot lighter. In fact, it may have been forgotten about altogether. The secrecy of the whole system may have come back to bite it in the ass here. And it has to regularly connect with the mainframe to sync up. Now, if we injected a virus into that backup facility, what might find its way into the main system when the next sync comes around?”

“Oh.”

“It’s worth trying, that’s for sure.”

Part 10

The space echoed with the sounds of hard and heavy things bending. Over and over again. Armor broke, gears of various sizes scattered, and all sorts of remains littered the floor.

This destruction was meant to lure out the Execution Warrior. That guardian deity was wandering somewhere in the Labyrinth, but it was so powerful it would not react to normal humans and Gimmicks. It could only be Encountered after producing extraordinary results worthy of its level.

On the unnamed floor at the very bottom of the Labyrinth, the walls were formed out of giant cranks and pistons. Steam roared out as those devices rose and fell in what looked like the underside of a society built from stone and steel.

The Sage spoke cheerfully while lightly swinging a Shining Weapon given a rapier shape by patching together various broken blades.

A magic circle much like Beatrice’s floated behind her back, but it wavered irregularly and was filled with static and sparks.

“What’s with you, Sibyl? You’re awfully motivated today. You normally keep up a composed look of disinterest in worldly matters.”

“Pant, pant, gasp!! D-does it really look like I want to be doing this? We have to defeat them with a preemptive surprise attack before they can move a single step because our stupid Party doesn’t have a healer and a single mistake could mean a serious wound and we have to plan everything out so that we take no damage whatsoever and it’s really all your fault!!”

“Well, since one round wasn’t enough for our greedy elf here, we’ll just have to go for another. I gathered a whole lot of Hate to bring a bunch of insta-kill Gimmicks over here. Look, look. We’re completely surrounded by all these big hard things. We aren’t getting any sleep tonight☆”

“You need to abandon the title of Sage right this instant, you complete and utter morooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooon!!!!!”

This was a disaster for Sibyl, not because her normal physical abilities were unimpressive, but because this unexplored area had very few residual thoughts for her to draw on. It was humiliating, but she had to us the residual thoughts likely left by Beatrice’s Party when they had pursued Abyss down here.

(Argh, I just wish I could fully draw out the healer’s effects, but it’s only giving me the Mixing knowledge! Can I not make the potions without the ingredients? Dammit!!)

Incidentally, there did not seem to be any residual thoughts for Abyss herself. No matter how much she looked and acted like a living being, she was still artificial.

This destruction was needed to lure out the Execution Warrior, but they were risking their lives more than enough with this.

The Gimmicks this deep were so brutal that it was usually hard to tell what plants or animals they were based off of. One was a cube of stone with swords, spears, and other weapons sticking out, one was a face made out of a spider web that was distorted in agony, and one was a girl with her back split open to grow wings. An entire human Guild might be wiped out by any one of these, but Sibyl did not want to check their actual strength. Whatever the case, they would be annihilated if they did not finish the Gimmicks off with a preemptive surprise attack. Anything that would make them hesitate would be suicidal at this point.

Then she heard a high-pitched sound.

A new light source appeared within the dimly lit Labyrinth. It was a group of Salamander Fire Spirits, the red will-o’-the-wisps summoned by the large and small Marinkas.

“Go forth.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want anyone saying I’m all talk. Here, I’ll help out.”

“Ahhh! Why are you people filling this enclosed space with fire!? Are you legitimately stupid!?”

“Squeal?”

“Life of the forest, if you have time to tilt your head in confusion, then dive to the floor immediately!! Those idiots aren’t Beatrice!! They do not know how to pay attention to their surroundings when spreading destruction around!!”

Sibyl could have shortened that down a bit by omitting things like the “life of the forest” part, but Boo Boo was an obedient soul.

“Okay!”

The nearly-4m pig-faced giant threw himself to the floor as instructed. And this placed him right on top of Sibyl.

“Hold on, that weight might kill me! I didn’t need another idiot in this- gwaaaaaaaghhh!!!???”

She made an odd noise, but the mass of flames passed by overhead and reached the extraordinary Gimmicks.

“That may have been overkill. If they are turned to ashes, you cannot retrieve a weapon from them.”

“Don’t worry about it. We’re only trying to lure out the Execution Warrior. And they’re the ones that are overkill. Hey, Boo Boo. Quit getting it on with the Royal Elf in the dark there. She’s probably foaming at the mouth with hearts in her eyes below you.”

As Sibyl trembled while lying face up with her legs spread, she had been pushed so close to the line it no longer qualified as comedy. The Sage had no choice but to use her Magic to summon several acupuncture needles. They could not have their elf traveling to the land beyond comedy, so she stabbed the needles into various parts of Sibyl’s skinny body to fill her with life.

“Ah ha ha. Hee hee hee. So this is the sailor uniform those inn town humans wasted their ingenuity to develop…ah!? Th-that was a dream? What am I doing here???”

“It’s okay, wannabe cosplayer elf, but wipe that drool from your mouth. At least we’re back to something comedic now.”

The ever-capable Sage was the same as always. She was very casual in how she treated anything or anyone.

And the cause of this series of events tilted his head in ignorance.

“Squeal, why did you pass out, Sibyl? You’re surprisingly sensitive. Are you sick? Then you need to eat liver. That’ll fix you up.”

“Heh heh heh. Remember this, Boo Boo. This horny flirt of an elf is no exception. All girls are fragile creatures, so treat us with care, okay?”

“Leave it to me! I’ll tackle anything that comes our way to protect.

To be continued, please go to 𝚒𝚗𝚗𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚍.𝚌𝚘𝚖 to read the full chapter.

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