Bantorra Library was composed of six big Archives and five Labyrinths. All of it was located underground, and besides the large gate on the surface, there was no other way to intrude inside.
The Sixth Archive was the closest to the surface. From the fact that it wasn’t sealed and even Librarians with no combat capabilities were allowed to enter, it was known as the Open Archive.
About four fifths of all Books were housed there. This was where ordinary people who led ordinary lives would arrive at after their death.
By opening the door at the back of the Sixth Archive, the true form of the Library – the Book Labyrinth – would be revealed.
No one had ever measured it precisely, but there was about a kilometer from the surface to the deepest parts. It was said to be easily larger than a town.
The Labyrinth was further divided to six Levels, and naturally, it grew more complex as one went deeper inside.
The Books that were designated for sealing would be scattered among the Labyrinth’s Archives according to their importance or danger held within them.
Those who challenged this Labyrinth as well as protected it were called Armed Librarians.
The Fifth Book Labyrinth was silent. After Minth left her, Noloty walked there alone. She cautiously surveyed her surroundings. When she descended about fifty stairs down, as it became suddenly colder, she felt the hair at the back of her neck stand up. Noloty gently lowered the knapsack on her back. Something came walking at her from the front. It was a four-legged beast colored as black as ink that looked like a horse.
These kinds of beasts who confronted intruders were known as the Guardian Beasts. They were created by the Overseer of the Past Bantorra to indiscriminately attack every living being inside the Labyrinth. Those who didn’t have the strength to defeat them were not allowed to head inside.
“Alright, here we go.”
Noloty readied her fist.
In the blink of an eye, the upper body of a man grew upon the horse’s back. It was a knight clad in black armor with no lower body. His right hand held a spear while his left hand held a muzzleloader-style revolver.
“So it’s a Cavalryman.”
The Cavalryman started charging. At the same time, he shot towards Noloty. She deflected the bullet using the rope on her fist. While evading the thrust spear by a hair’s breadth, she kicked the horse’s legs. Noloty’s flank bled a little.
The Cavalryman, having lost its balance, collapsed to the side. While it trampled its revolver underfoot, Noloty used her other leg to kick it in the head.
As the Cavalryman’s head was knocked off his neck, it ceased all movements. The black knight’s torso burrowed into the horse’s flesh. The Cavalryman stood unsteadily, turned its back to Noloty and went away.
Noloty sighed and relaxed her body. Even with her power, it wasn’t difficult beating the Guardian Beasts of the Fifth Level.
She picked up her luggage and started walking again.
From there, after going up and down twelve flights of stairs, she turned around the 58th corner. When she arrived there, she passed by several Armed Librarians and trainees. Climbing a long set of stairs, there was a copper-colored door in the middle of a large wall. Noloty extended her hand towards this double door which was three times the height of a human being.
Noloty exhaled and pressed at the heavy door. It made a loud sound that seemed to make the ground shake and the door slowly opened. Warm air came flowing inside – the fresh air of a place inhabited by the living.
Noloty came back to the huge spiral staircase at the very bottom of the Sixth Archive.
“Noloty Malche, safely returned!”
“Welcome back, Noloty.”
A voice called to her. Mirepoc Finedell put her hands on the railing and spoke to her.
“Good job. You were quick this time.”
While saying so, she handed Noloty a cup of tea. The sweet, hot tea permeated her cold body.
“You’ve grown a little, Noloty.”
Mirepoc spoke in a friendly tone. Starting from the Monster incident a little while ago, she seemed to get a slightly better opinion of Noloty.
“No, I don’t really feel so.”
“But you did. Feeling that will come later.”
After Noloty finished drinking and returned the cup to Mirepoc, she smiled. She was honestly happy at having been approved by her superior that was of the same age.
“After delivering the Books, even if it seems a bit early, go back and take a nap. I’m going to have you work more tomorrow, so you have to stay sharp.”
“What about you, Mirepoc-san?”
“I was entrusted with the control room until tomorrow morning. After that’s over I’ll sleep a little and then go and help Mattalast-san.”
Mirepoc went back to the control room. Noloty also wanted to head up, but just as she put her feet to the stairs, a woman came walking from above.
Noloty’s legs stopped. Her body shook with more tension than when she fought the Guardian Beasts.
Accompanied by footsteps of sandals-covered feet, the one who came down was the Acting Director of Bantorra Library, Hamyuts Meseta.
“So you came back, good job. Keep working hard.”
Hamyuts walked slowly while her luggage hung from her waist.
Only a handful of Armed Librarians knew what really happened the other day in Bujui during the fight against the Monster.
Hamyuts manipulated Noloty in order to revive the Monster. Nobody talked about the fact that she wanted to fight Enlike afterwards. Minth told her to forget it all. Noloty also thought she should do so, but she couldn’t forget the fear of facing Hamyuts Meseta no matter how much she wanted to.
“E-even you’re shelving Books, Director?”
Noloty raised a nervous voice and tried talking normally. However, even her body was frightened, let alone her mouth.
“Yeah. Because we don’t have enough manpower.”
While saying so, Hamyuts caressed Noloty’s head.
“You’re also working hard, huh? You’re almost fully qualified now.”
Hamyuts smiled while tousling the girl’s hair.
“What’s wrong, Noloty? You’re pale.”
“Oh well, see ya.”
After saying so, Hamyuts left for the Labyrinth.
Noloty couldn’t understand Hamyuts at all. She was competent, but was also known as an extremely ruthless woman. Until now, even Noloty thought so. However, she had the feeling that something far more dangerous hid in her true nature.
“She’s scary but… I can’t do anything about her.”
Noloty muttered and began climbing the spiral staircase.
Normal librarians hurriedly went up and down the stairs while holding baskets full of Books. Crossing paths with them, Noloty grew closer to the surface.
Entering a side path that was close to the topmost level, she arrived at a waiting room made for the normal visitors. It was filled by the smoke of tobacco and the sighs of people who were tired of waiting. There were many who had to withstand vexatious procedures and long waiting times so they could view certain Books.
“Ah, Noloty-san. I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Let me read it already. I can’t take it anymore.”
Those who wanted to read Books as well as the normal librarians started talking to Noloty.
“Noloty-san, here’s some water.”
A librarian passed Noloty a bottle.
“Ah, thanks. But I’m not thirsty. Rather than that, let’s hand out the Books.”
Noloty took a small wooden box from within the rucksack on her back.
The librarian who held out the water bottle replied in a small voice. Noloty didn’t pay him any heed and started taking Books out.
“Umm, who requested the Book of the hunter Goul Baroque?”
The one who raised his hand was a bespectacled old man with a hunched back. Noloty heard that he was an expert in the research of ancient civilizations. She then began the obligatory explanation.
“I’m sure you are well aware of this, but I’ll explain it again. This Book was designated under the Fifth Seal. You are strictly forbidden from taking it outside the archive or showing it to other people. In the case of violation, your memory will be wiped off by the Fiction Obliterating Cup Argax and you will be forbidden from entering the Library ever again. Leaking information or damaging the Book will also incur punishment by law. If you acknowledge all of this, please sign here.”
“Yes yes, give it to me. Now I’ll be able to understand the lifestyle of people in the southern frontier during the year 800!”
Noloty checked the signatures on the document and then guided the old man to the reading room.
“And now, who requested the Book of the sea adventurer Bleuney Stamp?”
Noloty passed the Book to the man who held his hand. He was probably an adventurer just like the Book’s owner. He was a burly man with a scar on his face.
After explaining and confirming his signatures, Noloty guided the man to the reading room.
“The Book of the astronomer Honney Mashea.”
“I’ve been waiting for this forever! The Astronomy Society meeting is next month!”
The scholarly woman ran to the reading room in the middle of Noloty’s explanation.
“The Book of the coal mine owner Colt Moari.”
A man stood up, grinning. Although officially his goal was the reclamation of the coal mine, his true aim was to locate the whereabouts of an enormous inheritance. He received the Book, barely able to suppress his joy. However, Noloty read the Book before, so she knew – there wasn’t any inheritance in the first place.
“Next is the Book of the Magician Mill Moomiton.”
And thus Noloty handed over all Books. A third of the people in the waiting room received their Books and went to the reading room.
Now my work for today is over – just as Noloty thought so, a voice called to her.
It was a woman about twenty three years old wearing mourning clothes.
“How can I help you?”
“Umm, I was supposed to get the Book of my husband Bleuney Stamp, but…”
“Oh, that one. Earlier I gave it to another person, so you can get it once he finishes viewing it.”
“But my husband wasn’t a sea adventurer…”
The mourning woman said hesitatingly. Behind Noloty, a librarian looked at the Book list and then said to her,
“Noloty-san, that was another person with the same name.”
It seems she made a blunder. Noloty thought for a second they were tricking her. However, the librarian stared at her from behind, and at her front the mourning woman grabbed her handkerchief.
“…I’ll go bring it now!”
Noloty fled from the waiting room.
“I haven’t grown at all.”
As she muttered this, Noloty went down the spiral staircase of the Sixth Archive.
Before diving into the Book Labyrinth again, she wanted to eat. The cold inside made her hungry.
“You there, please wait.”
When Noloty turned around, she saw the adventurer man whom she gave the Book to before.
“What is it?”
“I’d like to ask you if I can go retrieve the Book myself?”
Noloty sighed in her heart. Once in a while there were these kinds of people. Newspaper reporters that wanted to see the interior or warriors who wanted to test their own skills – there was no end to people who wanted to enter the Labyrinth.
“I have confidence in my abilities. Don’t worry about me.”
The adventurer rolled up his sleeves. He certainly seemed to be well-trained, and could be a splendid warrior if he had some discipline. But that wasn’t the issue here.
“I appreciate the offer, but you can’t do that. No one can enter except Armed Librarians or trainees.”
“I see. Thank you.”
“Yeah. Unfortunately, we have such rules.”
When Noloty said so, the adventurer made a small laugh for some reason. Then, he went further down the staircase.
Half a month passed since the Monster incident. What awaited Noloty who resolved that incident was her unchanging usual daily life.
Carrying a bag full of Books on her shoulders, going back and forth inside the Labyrinth – that same kind of daily life. She came back to the simple days of slowly grinding through her mountain-load of work.
“I wonder how you’re doing now, Enlike-san.”
Noloty recalled the face of the young man she met in battle. He was supposed to have stayed at Bantorra Library. However, ever since the incident ended, she hasn’t seen him at all.
Around the same time…
It was in the part of Bantorra Library above ground. Inside a huge room in the castle there were two men.
One of them was the Armed Librarian Mattalast. And the other was the ex-Monster, Enlike Bishile. He left the Indulging God Cult and started cooperating with the Armed Librarians.
Enlike closed his eyes while sitting on a chair. Mattalast stood next to him while calmly smoking his pipe. The two didn’t make any sound. Enlike was focusing inside himself, and Mattalast held his breath so as to not disturb him.
“…It’s no good.”
Enlike opened his eyes.
“Is it impossible?”
Mattalast sat down on a chair next to him.
“The Imaginary Entrails are filled with knowledge. However, I cannot touch or read it.”
“That’s a problem.”
Mattalast blew out smoke.
“So it’s just like the Magic Agency thought. You can possess Zatoh’s body, Enlike-kun, but you can’t go as far as control his Magic Right.”
Mattalast gazed towards the report sent by the researchers from the Magic Agency. Inside were written the results of the research about the Book-Eating ability conducted by the Magic Agency, as well as several researchers’ opinions on the matter. As Enlike became a collaborator with the Armed Librarians, he conveyed everything he knew about the Indulging God Cult to Mattalast. However, since he was a mere Meat he barely knew anything. The only things Enlike could tell him were about the ship, about the island, and about how he overtook Zatoh.
The one who should have deep knowledge about the Indulging God Cult was the Monster Zatoh Rondohone. Just now, Enlike tried pulling out his memories from inside the Imaginary Entrails.
“Most probably, both the act of using the abilities of eaten Books as well as accessing their memories is part of Zatoh’s Magic Right. In fact, right now I can’t eat any Books, nor can I control cloth.”
Enlike said while emitting small sparks from his fingers.
“But you still have your regeneration, don’t you?”
“That seems to be the exception. It might be because it’s an automatic ability or because Kayas is letting me use it.”
Enlike said with a downcast gaze. He was probably reminded of his comrade that would never return.
“Well then, Enlike-kun. What are you going to do from now on?”
“I’ll undergo Magic Deliberation and acquire a new Right. I’ll get one that’ll allow me to retrieve Zatoh’s memories.”
That would be difficult, Mattalast thought. Acquiring an inborn ability such as Book-Eating through normal means is next to impossible. However, Mattalast couldn’t tell him to quit.
Enlike was sincere more than Mattalast expected. He couldn’t tread upon his efforts like that.
“…Sorry, Mattalast. I can’t offer much cooperation after all.”
“Don’t mind it. We once tried to kill each other after all.”
Mattalast smiled. Strictly speaking, that wasn’t Enlike-kun though, he added in his mind.
“Also, you can still be plenty of use even in your current state. For example, we’ve found plenty of goods on the island you came from. That alone is a huge progress.”
Then, the door opened without even a knock.
“Mattalast. A report came from Guinbex’s government.”
The one who came inside was a man wearing a dark-green military uniform. He had a medium build and height, with a physique that didn’t stand out at all. His hair was slicked backwards as if he attempted to erase any and all of his features.
His symbol as an Armed Librarian was on a medal attached to the chest of his uniform. He had several documents in his hand.
“From Guinbex? Why?”
“This is about the manufacturer of the food found on the Indulging God Cult’s island. That was unmistakably food made for the use of the Guinbex army.”
“As we thought. Where did the manufacturer lead us to?”
“I don’t know. I’m going to issue instructions on that matter now.”
The man put the documents on the table. He turned his eyes to Enlike, and then snorted.
“I am First Class Armed Librarian Feekiee Quinn.”
He introduced himself in a cold voice.
“We’ve met once before, so I know you. I also heard your name at that time.”
Feekiee averted his gaze from Enlike.
“I see. I don’t have time to remember dogs abandoned by the Indulging God Cult one-by-one.”
“Hey, Feekiee. Try to get along with him.”
Mattalast chided in while smoking his pipe.
“Mattalast, be careful around him.”
Feekiee left those words and then left. Mattalast shrugged as if giving up. Enlike saw Feekiee off with a discouraged expression.
“Sorry, Enlike-kun. Don’t be offended. He’s just a bit too serious.”
“Yeah. I don’t mind.”
“Good grief, everyone from Guinbex is so serious that it’s troubling.”
Mattalast removed the ashes from his pipe. He put another leaf in, lit it with a match, and then suddenly changed the topic.
“Hey, Enlike-kun. Do you know why I’ve been assigned to you?”
Enlike raised an eyebrow.
“It’s because I’m the best against surprise attacks.”
“What do you mean?”
“If I were in the Indulging God Cult, I would, without any doubt, want to erase you.”
“The biggest strength of the Indulging God Cult is the fact that nothing is known about it. They should be afraid of information leaking first and foremost. Am I wrong?”
“That might be true, but…”
“To tell you the truth, I’m expecting you to play the role of bait.”
Mattalast brought the index finger on his right hand close to Enlike’s face.
“When those insolent guys come near you…”
He grabbed his finger using his left hand.
Mattalast twisted his fingers.
“I don’t like the way of doing it.”
“No, it’ll be fine.”
Enlike emitted small sparks from his body. Mattalast smiled as he thought about how reliable he was.
Two weeks have passed since the incident. It’s about time for something to happen, Mattalast thought to himself. I wonder where it’ll come from.