Chapter 23: Smoldering Heart


—I want to fulfill a love.

After talking to her in-depth, I learned that Alty didn’t really have anyone she was particularly fond of.
Of course, it would be best if Alty herself could fall in love, fulfilling her own wish.
However, she said that she wasn’t someone who could fall in love.
Her tone was self-deprecating, as though she was regretting something.

So, as a compromise, she wanted me to introduce her to someone who was in love.
She said that if she could see and feel someone in love and see that love come to fruition, she would be clear of any attachment.

It was as juicy as it was fishy.

However, Alty’s eyes shone too bright for it to be a lie.

When talking about love and romance, Alty was as young as she looked—no more than a girl that had fallen in love with love itself.

I mused about how I would respond to her wish.

I pondered, and pondered, and reached a conclusion.
I judged that the most appropriate place to start was for me to pretend I would undertake her request.

And since Alty claimed that she had no desire to fight, I had decided against engaging Alty from my end.
After all, I would feel ashamed to thrust my sword at Alty, whose face was that of a young girl’s.
Not to mention, there was the calculation that the longer I could stall my confrontation with her, the more I could gain levels, which would lead to a higher safety net.

For the time being, I let Alty accompany me to the 11th floor, pretending that I would take on her request.
Of course, I wasn’t taking all that she said at face value, so I wasn’t letting my guard down around her.
Alty walked in front of me, and I always watched her from behind.
We evaded strong enemies and chose weaker ones that wouldn’t rob me of too much of my attention.

…Such a distorted, hastily-made two-person party.
We talked as we continued progressing down the 11th floor.

“—I am just saying.
As a girl, I can’t possibly just die without tasting love.
Hence the lingering attachment.”

“…Are you even at an age to call yourself a girl?”

“At the very least, I’ve lived for a thousand years… supposedly?”

“A granny, then.
Go and kick the bucket already.
The faster you die, the better it is for everyone.”

“You’re so rude, Christ.
How dare you grab such a lovely girl and call her a granny… You can’t treat women right, can you?”

We made light introductions and called each other by name.

Incidentally, no more flames were leaking out from Alty’s body.
The bandage with a flame-suppressing incantation was wrapped all around her body without gaps (and I had to help her wrap it, for some reason), and then she wore normal clothes over it.
She also put on a cloak and covered her face with its hood.

It was a good thing since I’d hate to be seen cooperating with a flaming person.
To a bystander, I should have looked like I was walking with a human girl.

“Hm? I spotted a monster up ahead, Christ.”

Let’s fight it then.
I’ll give you support from behind.”

Then, for the umpteenth time, a battle against a monster took place.

Of course, I chose which monster to fight with «Dimension».
I decided on a path where we would encounter monsters that wouldn’t require me to let down my guard around Alty as we fought.

“Here we go then…!”

Alty attacked the monster with her flaming sword in hand.

She moved with speed comparable to Tida and slashed at the monster with the characteristic herculean strength of a monster—easily fatally wounding it.

“—«Ice Quick Arrow».”

I then launched an arrow made of magic to finish it off, and the monster turned into light and disappeared.

Alty picked up the fallen magic stone and threw it to me.
When I caught it, she showed a smug look.
She seemed to want me to say something to her, so I decided I’d off-handedly praise her.

“…yeah, yeah.
You’re oh so awesome.
Come on, let’s continue.”

You’re cold to such a well-meaning ally as I… Can’t you give me a more honest compliment?”

“I didn’t mean that as a compliment.
You’re a boss monster, so being awesome is just natural.”

“You’re not very honest, Christ.”

Alty dropped her shoulders, muttered, “good grief,” and then continued walking as I told her to.

As mentioned earlier, Alty remained cooperative.
She might get talkative, but her actions showed her willingness to contribute to my Labyrinth exploration.

However, that didn’t mean I could easily trust her.
As long as she was a monster, placing my trust in her would never happen, no matter what… or so I had determined, but even that determination was gradually fading the more I came in contact with her.

The ‘Display’ judged Alty to be a monster.
She herself even identified so.
If not for that, I would have classified Alty as some kind of a demi-human, seeing how prevalent they are in this otherworld.

In this otherworld, beastfolks and dragonewts, whose very existence was as alien as monsters to me, were integrated into my daily life.
If I didn’t have my ‘Display’ system and Alty approached me in a friendly manner, without the nonsense of calling herself a monster, I would have accepted her as a party member without holding any suspicion of her.
I would.
She was just that close to a normal human being.
She spoke with intelligence like a person, expressed feelings like a person, and even looked like a person.
And that bothered me the most.
It rattled my feelings and diminished my resolve. Is rejecting Alty really the right thing to do? Isn’t that just the worst thing a person can do to another? Isn’t this nothing more than a prejudice against a ‘person’ that can be talked to—

—yeah, let’s stop there.

If I beat myself over it, then the «???» Skill might go berserk.
It would be foolish to repeatedly let it go berserk when I know the triggering condition.

I don’t have to be bothered by it.
Monsters are something to be wary of, big or small.
It eases me mentally and physically if I put it like that.

Thus I reaffirmed my determination.
I would not trust that monster called Alty until the day I died.
I would pretend to trust her while keeping her away from me.
I would pretend to take her offer as I bought time and raised my level to the point I would be able to defeat her for sure.

—If I ended up having to face her, then that would be that.

That would be the future me’s problem.

“Okay, let’s go.
It really becomes easier thanks to you, Alty.
We’ve cleared the 11th floor with no problem, so let’s go to the 12th floor.”

“Fufu… You’re blushing, Christ.
Just leave the 12th floor to me.

Alty seemed like she was having fun.
She joyfully let out a laugh and then went ahead.

I followed behind her, trying not to look at her face, fighting the emotions swirling in my chest.

* * *

Reaper Scans

Translator – Mab

Proofreader – ilafy

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* * *

“Now, Christ!”

“I got it!”

I threw my sword at the forehead of the giant gorilla-like monster.

The sword, thrown with all my might, pierced through the monster’s skull without missing its target.
Alty, in turn, pierced the monster’s torso with her flaming sword.

The monster—its brain and heart destroyed—quickly faded into light.
I retrieved my sword and the magic stone.
I also checked the difference of my EXP on the ‘Display’; the EXP I received from the monsters of the 12th floor sure was different.
It didn’t seem like Alty’s help decreased the EXP that I gained.

“Monsters on the 12th floor are such a piece of cake, eh?”

“I agree.
And it’s really easy to have you as our vanguard, Alty.”

I pretended that I gradually opened my heart to her.
I acted as if her devotion was moving me.

“Hah, that was nothing.
Just count on me.”

“You can be commendable too, huh…”

Alty seemed content, believing the words I spewed for her.
She had been aggressively taking down monsters and stood her ground to prevent any of them from attacking me. 

But for my part, I didn’t want to keep it up.
It was tiring to always worry about my remaining MP so I could fight Alty at any moment.
I wanted Alty to strongly assume I put my whole trust in her so I could end my exploration as soon as possible.

So I decided to stage that breakaway event myself.

The plan was simple; I would show an opening when facing a small fry monster and have Alty rescue me. 

Not only would that save time, but I might even find out her true intentions.

If Alty saw that opening as a chance to attack me, then things turned simple.
I would just strike at her after she bit the bait.
After that, I would either fight or flee. 

If Alty saw that opportunity and went to save me, then the plan worked.
I would praise Alty for rescuing me and pretend that my heart was completely open to her, then I would assure her that I would do what she wanted from me, then I’d suggest that we should part ways.

“Well, let’s defeat more monsters then.
I need to defeat a lot of monsters from the 12th floor for my future plans.”

“Sure, let’s.”

And so we proceeded to slay the monsters that dwelled on the 12th floor.

Alty took care of most of the fighting as the vanguard, whilst I repeated the simple task of delivering the finishing blow over and over again.
And then I spotted a monster suitable for my plan and went on about it.

“—Alty! This guy’s fast! We need to surround it!!”

“Good idea.
I’ll close in from the back.”

I suggested as we dealt with an agile-looking quadrupedal beast.
The monster looked quite nimble, so Alty readily agreed. 

Alty sped up, and we splendidly encircled the beast.
As planned, the monster was sandwiched between Alty and me.
The two of us then went in and attacked—or pretended to, in my case.

I had no intention to give it all, not when Alty was watching… but more importantly, that monster could easily be defeated if either of us wanted it.
I would make the fight worse by appropriately interrupting Alty’s movement, letting the monster slip by.

Then, after confirming that Alty had taken a step away, I deliberately let my sword be swatted away by the monster’s attack.


I grunted after losing my weapon, exposing my defenseless body to the monster.
At the same time, I put my right hand behind my back so that I could pull out the spare sword from the ‘Item List’ at any time.


I cursed and threw my gaze to Alty.

I watched Alty’s expression and movement as I pretended to ask for help.

——Alty’s response was as straightforward as it could be.


She looked flustered and dashed forward as fast as she could.
Not towards me, but the beast monster.

She thrusted out her flaming sword with all her strength, practically slamming her whole body into the monster.

That spared me from the monster’s attack.
I retracted my hand from my ‘Item List’, got up, and ran towards the sword that had been swatted away.

Alty scuffled with the monster at practically zero distance.
She sliced through the monster’s torso with her flaming sword in her hand spewing flames.
Naturally, that made the monster vanish into light and disappear.

Having defeated the beast, Alty hastily turned to me.

“Christ! Are you okay?!!”

No malice, no hostility… Words of genuine concern for my safety.
That was the answer Alty gave me.

And that answer attacked me with pangs of guilt.
I felt an uncomfortable feeling of pitch-black sludge oozing from my heart, filling me up to my head.
I was the only one who was filthy in that place.

I’m all right.
Thank you, Alty.
You actually saved me… Man, I’m useless…”

“You’re okay… Fufu, don’t worry about it.
It’s only natural for comrades to save each other, no?”

Alty laughed, saying that it was obvious she’d save me.
Even though her bandages had ripped and her body was bathed in monster’s blood, Alty went and saved me.

I suddenly remembered the occurrence on the 9th floor: How those slaves were being used as disposables and how I had jumped in to save them, and how I had only been greeted with alienation after that.

Had Alty been there, would she approve of what I had done?


I immediately shook my head, dismissing that line of thought as irrelevant.
I had to pretend I trusted Alty, as originally planned.

“Haha, natural, huh… Fine, I admit it.
You just want me to fulfill your wish, and you have no intention of harming me at all…”

“Huh? Are you sure? I was prepared to be as patient as I needed to be, you know…”

“If I keep being stubborn even though you’ve gone this far for me, then I’d feel like I’m being immature and miserable.
I will trust you, just for a little.”

“A little, huh.
No, that’s enough.
After all, I am a monster while you’re a human.”

Alty nodded happily.
I watched her, feeling the most deplorable.

“But that’s that for today.
My MP is running low, and my concentration is waning.”

The truth was I had more than half MP left.
However, if I took having to potentially face Alty into account, that was the minimum.

“Mhm, I understand… That’s the end of it for today, then.

“Let’s get back to the Main Road… Since we’re here anyway, tell me more about that thing on our way back.”

“Does that mean you’ll cooperate with my wish?”

“Didn’t I just tell you I’ll trust you a little? Come on, just say it.”

I put my sword in its sheath and asked her as we went back the way we came from.

Well, you see… Like I told you before, I mainly want to watch over a girl who’s fallen in love.
Specifically, I’m going to use my ability to haunt them undetected.
I have the ability to be a parasite, you see.”

“Haunt? Will the girl you’re haunting be harmed?”

“They won’t.
I can assist them, depending on the situation, but essentially, I cannot harm them.
I’ll just be able to feel what the girl feels.
I want to watch over a girl as I haunt them until her love is realized.”

“I see…”

In other words, if I could introduce her to someone who was experiencing a romantic feeling, then Alty wouldn’t leave that person.
In the meantime, I would be able to explore the Labyrinth in peace.

If that’s all, then I can try finding someone.”

“Ooh, really?”

“But this isn’t exactly what I’m good at, you know? I’m not exactly someone who’s good at love affairs, and I don’t have the connections to look for one.
If that’s alright with you.”

“No, that’s good enough.
I want you to clear me of my lingering attachments… After all, you have the record of fulfilling Tida’s wish.
Moreover, I am a patient girl.
If I wanted to, I could wait even for decades.”

“So if I do find someone, what do I do then?”

We were approaching my main worry.
If she said, “I’ll follow you around the whole time, Christ, so don’t worry,” then that was the end of the deal.
In that case, I would even consider fighting her.

“If you do, then, hmm… You can just report it to the flames on the 10th floor.
I will look for a candidate on my own, so I won’t be there the whole time, but… If you talk to the flames there, I can answer you from wherever I am.”

So she wouldn’t stick with me.
I didn’t know if that was out of concern for me, but for the moment, that was a relief.

“Got it.
I’ll do just that.
Or rather, Alty, when you said you’ll search on your own, you mean in the Labyrinth?”

“No, in town.
The barrier makes us much less powerful, but Guardians aren’t bound by the Labyrinth, so we can walk around outside.”

“That’s, well… shocking to hear.”

I had never heard that intel, not even in the tavern.
It was probably information that had eluded even the allied nations.
It was a good opportunity, I thought about what other information I could fish out from Alty.

“Even Tida put on a mask and wandered around the town from time to time.”

“That’s frightening to even think about.
Actually, that makes me wonder… Are there other Guardians beside you two?”

“No, there aren’t.
Shamefully, humankind has only unsealed the Labyrinth up to the 23rd floor.
I think that there’s only one of us unleashed per 10 floors, so there’s only two of us.”

Alty showed a disappointed look and said, “try harder, humans.”

That was unexpected.
I had thought that it was the boss monsters that interfered with us to keep us from advancing through the Labyrinth, but it seemed that it wasn’t the case.
From what Alty told me, it even sounded like the Guardians shared the same spirit with us rather than against us.

As we talked about such details, we arrived at the 10th floor.

The place was still ablaze with flames, quite a hard place for a human to stay.

“Are we going to part ways here?”

“No, I’m going to the surface too.
You introduced me to quite an interesting girl, Christ.”

“I did?”

I didn’t recall ever introducing her to anyone.

“That Franrühle girl.
That kind of clumsy, fiery love is my favorite.
Well, it doesn’t seem like it will bud, though.
Fufufu, fufu.”

Alty’s face warped into a nasty smile.

“Ah, that.”

That made me remember something I wished I didn’t, making me dejected.

“Don’t speak about her like she’s an object.
From the looks of it, she must be in love with you.”


Alty confronted me with a fact that I had been dimly aware of but didn’t want to admit.

“Fufu, I know that you have no intentions of accepting her, but she still looks interesting.
I’m going to hang out near her for a short while.”

“Feel free to…”

Personally, I couldn’t care less what happened to that pesky Franrühle.
I would give her up without any shred of conscience.
However, I was a little afraid that Alty might help that girl fulfill her feelings.

We walked to the surface, discussing how to realize Alty’s wish.

Our policy on the surface was basically to work separately.
It was a good thing that we had agreed to report back to each other if we found a suitable person.
Although that meant I would see Alty on a regular basis, it gave me a way to avoid fighting a Guardian and even allowed me to keep her away from me.

Inside, I was pleased that my feign-trust strategy had succeeded, but I also felt the mud of self-loathing building up in the depths of my heart.

The «???» Skill would surely make that feeling go away.
However, I didn’t want my Confusion modifier to exceed 10.00.
My vidya-logic told me that reaching 10 could be a condition for something unknown.

This emotion… it’s not something fatal, not just yet…

I told myself thus and kept walking.

Alty and I… Walking on the road leading to the bright surface.

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