“Minth-san, run away!”
Hearing a woman’s voice all of a sudden, Armed Librarian Minth Chezine involuntarily stopped in his tracks. He put his thick fingers to the hatchet-like sword hanging from his waist.
Minth was at a corridor that had its walls, floor and ceiling all made out of grey stones. This stone floor upon which humans (as well as those who were not) came and went for thousands of years was worn down yet smooth. The floor and walls were stained here and there. Those stains, either colored grey, grey-brown, dark-brown or reddish-brown were all the traces of blood Armed Librarians or trainees have shed before.
Human faces have been engraved at intervals of about ten meters on both sides of the walls. They were made of blue quartz that absorbed heat from its surroundings and radiated light. The pale cold light dimly illuminated the entire corridor. The carved faces were of men and women of all ages with none of them sharing the same facial expression. All of them had one thing in common – they were the faces of dead people. It was a fitting symbol of the Library that housed all dead people of this world.
It was incredibly chilly around as if it was winter. The sword hilt touched by Minth’s fingers was as cold as ice. This was due to both the endothermic effect of the blue quartzes as well as the smell of death that dominated the area.
He was currently at the Fifth Level of Bantorra Library’s underground Labyrinth. It was the so-called core of the Library created by the Overseer of the Past.
A single woman came running from far away in the long road while raising a scream. She was Armed Librarian trainee Noloty Malche.
When she came running to him, Minth suddenly clutched her face. Noloty’s feet now stood on empty air.
“O-ouch ouch, what’s that for?!”
“Nobody’s chasing you, so what are you saying about running away?”
He turned Noloty around while holding her and put her down. Looking ahead, Noloty sighed in relief.
Minth lightly nudged at Noloty from behind as she sighed.
“What were you doing shouting like that when you’re just on the Fifth Labyrinth? Do you really plan on becoming an Armed Librarian?”
“T-that’s not it.”
Noloty refuted while exhaling a white breath.
“I wasn’t chased around by the Guardian Beasts. It was a human.”
“Who was it?”
Minth asked, and Noloty averted her gaze for a short while before answering.
Minth went silent. He wrinkled his eyebrows with a sour expression.
“…You met Mokkania?”
He sighed. Then, he once again flicked Noloty’s head.
“If you got close to that idiot it’s your fault.”
“Come on now, that’s unreasonable…”
Noloty murmured. It really is, Minth thought to himself.
It was said that being an Armed Librarian is an occupation with lots of strange and eccentric people in it. Even Minth couldn’t deny it. He recognized the fact that he wouldn’t fit as an honest citizen of society, and he also knew that there were plenty others like him.
It wasn’t unthinkable. There’s no way that a job that required one to skirt between life and death regularly would make someone into a decent human being. Those who spent their youth in learning combat and Magic had a harsh upbringing. Furthermore, since they possessed the techniques to depart from the world’s logic using Magic, they had to grow far detached from common sense in order to perfect it.
Therefore, it was unavoidable that there were would be plenty of eccentric people among them. But still, even he ended up wanting to say “cut that out” from time to time.
Minth separated from Noloty and walked for a few minutes. During that, he went up two flights of stairs and one down. He went around three corners and then passed two crossroads. Even inside this complex maze, Minth didn’t hesitate even once.
It has been thousands of years since the Labyrinth was made. But although it was so extremely complex there was, to an extent, a method of moving around. He knew that there were fifty one roads breaking through the Fifth Labyrinth. He was headed towards the fifty-first of those that led to a route disconnected from all the others. That corner of the Labyrinth was a dead end.
Minth called. There was no answer.
“Mokkania, are you there?”
He called to him once again.
There was a strange door in the wall of the dead end. This small door was made of maple tree and seemed as if it suddenly appeared on the stone wall. On the center of that door was a small bell shaped like a canary. This elegant symbol of the Kingdom of Rona felt hopelessly unsuitable to the cold Labyrinth.
“Mokkania! Are you there?”
Just as he was about to touch the door knob, a loud voice came from inside.
“If you’re there then answer me.”
“I answered now.”
“I meant immediately.”
Speaking in a bitter tone, Minth turned the doorknob. The room behind the door was just as strange.
It wasn’t too big. Being around seven square meters, it was a bit narrow for a person to be living alone in.
It wasn’t that there was something special inside. The furniture was refined yet simple. Children’s toys were scattered on the floor. An elegant drawing of apple groves and a water wheel was hung on the wall. It looked like the room of a small family who was poor yet lived happily.
Nothing was strange about the room itself. However, everything in it fitted a family living in peace at some town and not a residence at the Fifth Sealed Labyrinth of Bantorra Library.
Minth always felt dizzy when he came inside this room. A terrible feeling of the boundary between the normal and the unusual being destroyed gnawed at his mind.
“What’s wrong, Minth?”
The room’s owner turned his back to Minth. He sat on the floor cluttered with toys and seemed to be doing something with his hands.
“Mokkania, what did you do to Noloty?”
“I just asked her what she was doing here.”
The room’s owner – Mokkania – turned around only his head.
He was a young man with blue eyes and graceful features. His white face peeked from within the gaps in his hair that reached down to his nape.
If dressed normally he could be a very handsome man. However, his deep-blue suit was wrinkled and his shirt was open up to the second button. The small knot of his refined silk necktie was loosened and went far below the larger knot. He certainly looked like a recluse.
Mokkania’s eyes seemed vacant as if he just woke up.
“I’m at a very important part now. Let’s talk later.”
Saying that, Mokkania looked away. Then, he started playing with a squirrel doll he held in his hand.
“Then the fox said – ‘winter is coming. I have to gather plenty of acorns and warm leaves’. He then went to see his friend the squirrel.”
It seemed to be some fairy tale. But Minth never heard of it. Perhaps it was made up by Mokkania himself.
“‘Squirrel-kun. Please give me lots of leaves’. The squirrel said – ‘got it, fox-kun. I’ll go get them’.
The fox thought that the squirrel was a very good boy. He would do anything for him after all.
Conversely, he thought that bear-kun was horrible.”
Mokkania kept narrating as he moved the dolls.
It can’t be the important part is this performance, right? Minth thought.
The man’s name was Mokkania Fleur. He would become twenty three years old later that year.
He was an Armed Librarian for more than five years already. He was three years younger than Minth, but two years his senior in the job.
Originally, he was an elite among Armed Librarian and held many people’s great expectations. He obtained the qualification of an Armed Librarian while he was young and was eager to work. He was so refined and courteous that no one had any doubt he would become the next Acting Director.
However, starting at a certain point, he became reluctant to come in front of people. He also avoided talking to people, and especially hated talking with women.
In addition, he never came out during daytime and never went off the island, stood out as being eccentric because of it, and eventually created a residence of his own accord inside the Labyrinth. Currently he secluded himself in the midst of the Labyrinth and only came outside when he had to procure food and water.
Even during the assault on Bantorra Library last month, while Minth and the rest were fighting the Monster, Mokkania simply ate snacks inside this room.
He continued playing with his dolls.
“Bear-kun was the scariest animal inside the forest. ‘Hey, fox. Bring lots of honey to my place’.
Because it was near winter, there was barely any honey in the forest. Also, honey was fox-kun’s favorite food. However, as bear-kun was very scary when he was mad, fox-kun always did as he told him to.
He searched for honey inside the forest and squirrel-kun talked to him. ‘Fox-kun, I came to look for leaves and honey’. And fox-kun answered, ‘oh, thank you squirrel-kun’. Fox-kun soon brought the leaves and honey to bear-kun’s place.
‘You’re a good guy’. Bear-kun said so and withdrew inside his den.
The fox thought, if only I was stronger than him, he wouldn’t be able to do as he pleased…”
Minth took a bottle of alcohol from his breast pocket and drank. Then, he sighed.
When was this going to end?
“However, during that day, fox-kun heard a voice from inside the forest. The ants were talking to him. The ants were the weakest creature in the forest.”
The fairy tale was suddenly interrupted right there. While still playing with the dolls, Mokkania fell silent.
“Mokkania. What happens then?”
Mokkania put the fox doll on the floor. It seemed to Minth as if he was suffering. But he couldn’t understand why at all.
“What’s wrong with you?”
Mokkania got up and walked to the corner of the room.
“What is it now?”
“It’s time for snacks.”
He rummaged his cupboard. What he took from inside was a red lollipop. Mokkania started sucking it restlessly.
He took another candy from inside the cupboard and threw it to Minth.
“It’s snack time, so you should eat.”
Minth threw the lollipop back.
“I don’t like sweet things.”
“What a strange guy.”
Mokkania looked at him suspiciously and put the second candy inside his mouth. He kept working as an Armed Librarian even with this kind of behavior only because of the strength of his ability. His battle strength was said be second only to the Acting Director Hamyuts, and perhaps even above it.
Minth didn’t personally witness his true strength, but he heard stories about it.
While he was eating the lollipops, Mokkania suddenly asked a question.
“By the way Minth, who was that immodest woman?”
“…You’re talking about Noloty?”
Mokkania asked with a straight face.
“Noloty the trainee. How come you don’t know her?”
“What kind of woman is she?”
“She came from the southern frontier. She’s been a trainee for a year but she’s not too bright. She was involved in the recent Monster incident.”
“What is the Monster incident?”
Even now he seemed to be serious. Minth’s head hurt.
“The incident when Bantorra Library was attacked by the Indulging God Cult! How can you not know of this?”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with me so I don’t need to know about it.”
Minth lost all words. In order to remain calm, he decided to change the subject.
“So, what did you do to Noloty?”
Mokkania answered while still licking the candies.
“That woman brought a heater here. She ran away when I talked to her.”
“Why did you talk to her?”
“I don’t need a heater in this room. I got angry and she ran away.”
“When I told her to stop she ran faster. Such a strange woman.”
Looking at it, Minth noticed a small heater placed in the corner of the room. It had been broken to pieces. Mokkania probably smashed it after Noloty ran away.
This guy… He probably behaved suspiciously and applied his weird logic while talking to Noloty. Of course it would make her run away.
“It really makes me feel bad. I’ll eat another candy.”
Minth looked at Mokkania rummaging his cupboard while trying to suppress his headache.
“By the way, what do you need?”
After being asked by Mokkania, Minth recalled his business here. He came to visit because of a certain reason but completely forgot about it.
“I came to return the winged ants I borrowed.”
He took out a small bottle from the bag hanging at his waist. Those were winged ants used for surveillance the other day during the Monster incident. He borrowed them from Mokkania a while ago but forgot to return them.
“Put it to the side.”
Mokkania said disinterestedly.
“Hey, can I use them again for a while?”
Mokkania shook his head from side to side.
“There are other people that want to use them, and I also do. You’re not the only one I lend them to. Put them to the side like you were told.”
But where should he put them? The room was messy. He looked for a suitable location.
“It’s just that we have a mountain-load of Books to organize. Mirepoc is waiting at the Labyrinth’s entrance to give more instructions.”
“I understand. I’ll go there later.”
Why does simply returning something tires me out so much, Minth wondered.
Then, he found something on top of the table. It was a small Book fragment inside of a basket.
All Books must be contained in the archives. Even pieces were no exception.
“What is this?”
While saying so, Minth sent his hands to the fragment. However, at that instant, his instincts as a warrior stopped him. He mustn’t touch that. He didn’t understand why, but he couldn’t touch it.
Next to him was Mokkania, one of the world’s strongest people. As long as he was there, Minth mustn’t touch that Book.
“That’s probably important. Put it back.”
Minth said and pointed at the Book fragment.
Mokkania took the Book and put it inside his breast pocket.
“Oh right, that trainee Noloty or whatever tried to touch that Book.”
“What an outrageous woman, trying to touch this…”
Minth saw that Mokkania’s soul was dyed in the colors of battle. He might kill anyone who touches that book. Even Minth and Noloty. He was a man able to do that.
“If it’s that important, carry it around with you.”
“I’m doing that as much as possible.”
Saying so, Mokkania rubbed it inside his pocket.
“It can’t leave this room. This room can’t have a heater. I must have my dolls. I also must have snacks. It’s all obvious.”
Mokkania kept talking to himself.
Who does that Book belong to? Minth decided not to ask this. It probably had to do with the reason it couldn’t be touched.
Minth left the room and entered the Labyrinth again.