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Fortunately, the Big Rock is easy to find. After a dozen minutes of walking through the forest, the large rock existed at the deepest part. It had probably existed for tens of thousands of years, but it was lying there, its huge body silently asserting its presence.
We split up and surveyed the area around the large rock in a circle. According to Sicily, there was a hollow point where if you pushed your hand into it, a stairway to the underground would appear.
Perhaps it was because we split up, but it only took us about ten minutes to find a place that looked like it.
The princess and maid spread out, and when I’m about to stick my hand in as the volunteer, Chloe, the maid, says something ominous.
“Wait, Leon-sama, is it okay to stick your hand in carelessly?” (Chloe)
With those words, I stop my hand in midair.
Sicily nodded her head at the exchange.
“I put my hand in this hollow many times when I was young, as did my brother.” (Sicily)
“Well, the princess is part of the royal family.”
Sicily looks even more confused.
“In other words, this hollow may be a device that only royalty can touch. If a commoner were to get his hands on it, it might get chopped off.”
“Oh dear.” (Sicily)
Sicily, finally understanding the danger, put her hand over her mouth and was astonished.
“Then, I’ll do it.” (Sicily)
But it was too late. I stopped my hand in the air a while ago, but in fact, I had almost touched the hollow. I hurriedly tried to let go, but it was a bad idea. I ended up touching the back of the hollow.
When I touched the hollow, the area around it began to glow. The magical device began to work.
I heard the earth shake, and at the same time, the stairs appeared, but at the same time, my right hand was seized by something.
My body, being seized by something, reflexively fell back. I shouted while my face was distorted by pain.
Sicily, who was watching me, approached with her face pale and grabbed me shouting, “Leon-sama!”
She tries hard to pull out my hand, but she only has the strength of a normal woman. There is barely a shift.
Sicily is tearfully asking for help from Chloe, just standing there on the sidelines.
“Chloe! What do we do?! It seems that Leon-sama’s right hand will be cut off! At this rate, not only his left hand but also his right hand will be lost.” (Sicily)
My left hand is an artificial one, and I lost it for the sake of the princess. She doesn’t want me to sacrifice a part of my body for her any longer. Such emotions must be dominating her heart. She was truly desperate.
—Then the reason why Chloe doesn’t help is.
Chloe calmly explained the situation as she sighed.
“Princess, please observe carefully. The hollow is very shallow. You can see Leon-sama’s right hand well.” (Chloe)
“What do you mean?” Sicily observes my right hand like that, but she seems to be in a panic and still doesn’t understand the meaning.
“There is no blood or wound. It’s just shining—Leon-sama is just teasing you.” (Chloe)
“—Just teasing?” (Sicily)
Sicily finally grasped the situation, and she let out a sigh of relief instead of being furious.
“—that’s good. Leon-sama’s right hand is safe.” (Sicily)
Despite my morbid joke on her part, The Princess rejoices instead of getting angry, it clearly shows her character.
(Seriously, she’s just too nice of a person.)
As I evaluated her again, I apologize to the princess.
“No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that prank.”
“My heart was about to stop.” (Sicily)
“You have very bad taste.” (Chloe)
They let out a few words like that, but they didn’t seem to blame me anymore. Thankfully, I looked at the stairs that appeared.
“Is that the tunnel?”
“Looks like it.” (Chloe)
Looking towards Sicily, she nods.
“I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid, but it brought back vivid memories for me.” (Sicily)
“All right, then, shall we go in?”
“That’s right, but we forgot about the torch.” (Chloe)
Chloe had never imagined that she would be diving into an underground passage. There seemed to be no torch in her possession. It’s unbecoming of her Perfect Maid persona, but it’s not a problem. I’m a “magician”, after all.
“There should be one for each family, a universal knife and a magician.”
After teasing her, I borrowed a sword from Sicily.
A sword with a delicate and fine design, and when I traced it with my finger, I began pouring my magical power into it.
Soon a yellow light spreads, illuminating the entrance of the tunnel.
Seeing the scene, Sicily was astonished she cried,
“Being a magician is really convenient. You can go to any place without needing a torch or lantern.” (Sicily)
“Oh, thanks to that, I can go on a journey by myself.”
“*Giggle*, you seem to need to have a book on hand, though.” (Sicily)
Sicily smiled and giggled, as she remembered the collection of books that crowds my very stuffed bag.
“You can hunt for food if you forget. But that’s not the case with books. If you are not careful, they will pile up.”
“And is that not a ‘pile up’.” (Sicily)
“That’s what I mean. My goal is to read every book in the world.”
“If so, I will try to give you the chance to do so.” (Sicily)
When Sicily declared so, he entered the entrance to the underpass with a shining sword.
A dimly lit underground passage. It was covered with cobwebs, and there was no sign that anyone had stepped into it for years. Perhaps it hadn’t been used since Sicily and Reinhardt used it as a playground.
The fact that it had been used as a playground by children meant that there was probably no danger, but I still wanted to proceed with caution.
We walked forward with Princess Sicily at the forefront.
The reason why I put the least powerful Sicily in the lead is that I don’t expect her to be able to fight. In case of emergency, Chloe and I can move immediately on the front line. During a battle, I intended to have her move behind us and act as the light bearer.
Well, the maid in charge of “Her Highness” still complained.
“Leon-sama, why did you let the Princess be in the front?” (Chloe)
“She has the light source, and this used to be her playground. She knows the way.”
“There is but only a single road,” (Chloe)
As we were exchanging words, Sicily interrupted them.
“Chloe, don’t worry, there’s nothing dangerous in this underground passage. There are no monsters.” (Sicily)
“Maybe, a long time ago.” (Chloe)
“You’ve seen spider webs earlier. You’ll notice if something goes in and out. And if there’s a monster, we won’t be late to react.” (Sicily)
She slashed her glowing sword through the air. Shadows dance on the walls of the underground passage. She seems to be showing off her abilities.
“It’s natural that I am not as good as Leon-sama and Cloe, but I am not weak.” (Sicily)
That’s an exaggeration, but it’s probably a measure to keep us from worrying. And I’m not going to let anything happen to the princess. If a monster showed up, I was going to kill it instantly with a spell.
When I explained this, Chloe reluctantly admitted that Sicily can take the lead, but she still wanted to say something.
“I’m not sure what to do about the monsters, but what if there are traps? The one in the lead will take the brunt of it.” (Chloe)
“Well, but when I was a kid, there was nothing then.” (Sicily)
“We’re just halfway there. Didn’t you say that you’ve never been away from the villa’s side?” (Chloe)
“That’s true, but if the designer has a trap in mind, I believe it will be in the first half.” (Sicily)
“Maybe it’s a device that doesn’t react to the royal family.” (Chloe)
“Ah, such a maid you are. I know you’re worried, but the one who designed this underground passage doesn’t have a clue about magic. I don’t feel any magic except at the entrance, and I don’t feel any magic along the way.”
“I heard the architect of this escape tunnel is a dwarf.” (Chloe)
“I don’t think they could be that clever.”
“I guess.” (Chloe)
Sicily and I expressed optimistic thoughts. Basically, a military strategist assumes the worst, but sometimes you have to be bold to get a “payoff”. For now, the priority was how to get to the villa rather than worrying about traps.
That was what I was thinking, but then something happened that made me think that I might have been wrong.
It happened when we were in the middle of the underground passage.
As I walked with Sicily in the lead, I found a circular stone pavement.
It was clearly a different structure from the one we had been walking on.
I sensed an obvious artificially made structure, but I got on the cobblestones without taking any precautions because this was still the place where Sicily has explored before. All three of us at the same time entered.
When the three of us get on the stone pavement, a crunching sound echoed through the air, and the cobblestones cracked open. Darkness peeked out from the ground.
We are instantly freed from the yoke of gravity.
The maid, Chloe, looks at me, holding her flouncing skirt as she falls further and further underground.
I don’t think she’s mad that I’m looking at her underwear through the edge of her skirt. I apologize honestly.
“It seems that the trap is not based on whether you are royalty or not, but simply on your weight. It doesn’t seem to work with the weight of a child.”
I calmly say this as I surrender to the force of gravity, but I think my attitude has rubbed off on Chloe. She glared at me.
Seeing that reaction, Sicily gets in between.
“Chloe, please don’t blame Leon-sama. He is neither all-powerful nor all-knowing.” (Sicily)
“That may be so, but if we keep falling, we’ll die.” (Chloe)
“Normally, if we fall like this, we will be skewered by the spikes underneath, right?” (Sicily)
“Yes. But that’s not going to happen.”
“How can you be so sure?” (Chloe)
“Because I’m about to cast a spell to slow our fall.”
“I’d like to surface and return to my original position.” (Chloe)
“It’s difficult with three people.”
“And you still call yourself a court magician?” (Chloe)
“I’m a librarian by trade.”
After saying this, I cast magic on Sicily and Chloe too.
It’s the magic spell [Float]. This magic is a magic that raises you slightly off the ground and protects you from earthquakes. By applying it, I was able to protect ourselves even in such a situation.
Thanks to [Float], we were able to avoid crashing into the ground.
“There are no spikes, huh.”
I sighed, but then I noticed that Sicily’s underwear is in full view. Apparently, it got caught on something in the middle of our descent. I never thought anything of it when I saw Chloe’s underwear, but the princess’ underwear was something. I felt my skin heat up and turn red. Chloe moves forward to block the princess from sight and takes out a sewing kit from her bag. She seems to be sewing right here.
The Almarsh family is a noble family, so I turn away from them and apologize to them for everything.
Sicily is as forgiving as ever, though.
” Don’t worry about it. Clothes are bound to get torn someday.” (Sicily)
“That’s not what I meant. I underestimated the existence of traps. I am a terrible strategist.”
“No, it was wrong of me to assert that it was safe. I’m sorry.” (Sicily)
“No, this is the fault of the military strategist? You can’t go forward if you’re arguing about it. I think we’re both responsible here.”
I couldn’t see her face, but she must have been smiling like a flower.
Chloe told me to turn around because it was now safe to turn around, and there appeared was the usual Sicily. Chloe’s sewing skills were impressive.
“It’s normal for a maid to know proper sewing.” (Chloe)
“By all means, please continue.”
I praised the maid and decided to proceed to our exploration.
This time, Chloe was in the front row. Sicily was behind her, and I was at the back of the line.
It was a princess guard formation that would protect the princess best.
The three of us continued on through the underground tunnels. Unlike the upper levels of the labyrinth, there was almost no human intervention. It seems to be a natural cave that has been used as-is.
“Did the dwarves find it when they were working on it and decided to use it as a trap?? (Chloe)
I will answer.
“Probably. Seeing as how they didn’t skewer us, it’s either a natural labyrinth or there’s one hell of a guardian lurking around?”
“Or both.” (Chloe)
I smiled wryly since it became a reality.
We wandered through the tunnels for half an hour, but never found our way back to the upper levels.
“There are no stairs, no hills. I keep seeing the same place over and over again.” (Chloe)
“How about we go back to where we started and return from where we fell?” (Sicily)
“It’s already closed with a thick lid. It’s impossible to cut through the rock because it’s so hard. There’s no way we can do it, but there’s a good chance the surrounding area will collapse and kill us.”
“……that’s no good.” (Sicily)
“Then we’ll just have to find a normal way through to the upper levels.”
“If there is one, that is. There’s a chance there might not be one.” (Chloe)
With such a worst assumption, Chloe puts her index finger in her mouth.
Sicily and I pay attention to Chloe.
She is a demi-human from the Doll tribe, and she has a better sense than the average human.
“–I just felt the wind move.” (Chloe)
“If there’s wind, it means there’s a path to the outside.”
“That’s good.” (Sicily)
“Can you tell which way it’s blowing?”
“Yes, that direction. However, I tried to find a way from that direction, but there was no path…” (Chloe)
As soon as I heard that, I checked the wall in the direction Chloe pointed.
“It’s normal that there are hidden passages like this. As you saw from earlier, it’s not a magical construction, but a physical one.”
As I carefully searched the wall, I noticed that the wind was leaking through the gaps in the wall.
“I see, this is it.”
“It’s a hidden door.” (Chloe)
“It looks like–Oops, is it here?”
I find a hollow and push it.
The bottom of the hollow opens up and a [Operation Device – Console] comes out.
“Does it require a password?” (Chloe)
“It’s like a puzzle. If we can solve it, we can open the wall.”
So, check the surroundings.
“I’m an intellectual, but I’m not good at puzzles.”
“So, you want me to solve it?” (Chloe)
“I’m counting on you.”
Chloe reluctantly began to solve the puzzle.
After about five minutes of staring at the puzzle, she had an “*Lightbulb*! I’ve got an idea!” expression on her face and started to play with the controls.
“Chloe’s hobby is solving crossword and number puzzles from Maid’s Friend Monthly.” (Sicily)
“Oh… what is the Maid’s Friend Monthly?”
“It’s a magazine for maids all over Ernia. I believe it is published by a company affiliated with the Sun Elfism newspaper.” (Sicily)
“It’s a maniac’s magazine”
“It’s disrespectful to call venerable magazine like that. The hair ornament I’m using right now is from a bonus issue of Maid’s Friend Monthly.” (Chloe)
“That’s quite the bonus.”
“Recently, publishers are having a hard time.” (Chloe)
Chloe quickly solves the puzzle as she replies.
As she stared at the puzzle calmly, Chloe wipes a drop of sweat off her forehead.
“Done. All we have to do is press ‘enter’.” (Chloe)
“You’re truly a puzzle expert. You’re quite quick.”
Chloe made a smug face as she turned her chest and pressed enter.
The sound echoed, but nothing happened.
Hmm, the cave was quite silent.
“…Nothing is happening.”
We stared at Chloe, and she giggled.
“I failed, teehee~!” (Chloe)
“Aren’t you supposed to be checking the Puzzle Corner every monthly issue?”
“I do, but I never claimed to be good at it.” (Chloe)
“The answer is revealed in the next month’s issue, but I am almost always wrong.” (Chloe)
“Say it beforehand!”
I wanted to smack her head, but I couldn’t do it with Sicily watching. Besides, I wasn’t good at puzzles, so I couldn’t scold her like I was any better.
I had no choice but to try my hand at the puzzle, but within ten seconds I had a severe case of brain fever. What a pain in the ass. When I was in trouble, Sicily raised her hand slowly.
“-Ah, if you don’t mind, can I try solving it?” (Sicily)
“Yes. I’ve solved the Maid’s Friend Monthly puzzles several times.” (Sicily)
“I see, please.”
The reason I said it so freely was because I had already given up.
My head is already occupied with calculating the strength of the wall. In the worst-case scenario, I was going to destroy the wall with a spell. I was going to ask the princess to take charge of the puzzle until the calculations were done, but the calculations didn’t fall through.
It took only three seconds for the princess to say.
“-That might be the solution.”
The princess said with an apologetic tone.
It’s not possible,” said Chloe, peering into the control unit. Of course, I can’t tell if it’s solved or not.
Se’s not fully confident, so I look into it in the same way, but I didn’t know what was different from Chloe’s answer.
So I casually pressed enter, thinking that it would be a “miss”, but the moment I pressed enter, the input device shone brightly.
“Authentication confirmed. Opening the door.”
An inorganic female voice echoed through the room.
As soon as the reverberation of the voice disappears, the earth begins to shake with a rumbling sound, and the door begins to move. It was a brilliant trick, but what was more surprising was the princess’s intelligence. In just three seconds, she had solved the puzzle that Chloe and I had been unable to solve.
Chloe and I stare at the princess.
“Brilliant Princess.” (Chloe)
They are words of praise, but the princess is humble.
She thrusts her hands out in front of her and waves at our words, “No”.
“I’m not a genius. I figured it out by watching the steps you two took.” (Sicily)
“No, the complexity of that puzzle doesn’t give a hint of that level.”
“Come to think of it, I’ve seen the Princess looking at the puzzle section of the monthly, but she usually finishes it in about three seconds. I thought she was just skimming through it, but maybe she was already done solving it.” (Chloe)
The silence from the princess was confirmation enough
She’s a Genius.
We kept praising her like that, so the princess’s face is bright red, so we leave it there and I whisper.
“From now on, when I can’t solve the puzzle as we go deeper, I will be relying on the princess.”
“Well, I’d like to ask the princess to solve the Maid’s Friend’s prize-winning puzzle, but there are more important things than that at the moment.”
“…how embarrassing.” (Sicily)
The three of us proceeded straight to the back of the wall.
But we have wasted a lot of time. I ask Chloe what time it is.
She pulls a watch out of her pocket and tells us the time.
“The time is 6 o’clock.” (Chloe)
“The sun is setting. Let’s set up camp.”
There were no objections, so we found a suitable spot and set up the tent.
I set up the tent, Chloe started cooking, and Sicily assisted me.
Since we had already divided up our roles, we were ready to set up camp in about 30 minutes.
I cast an Ignite spell on the bonfire fuel Chloe had prepared and lit the campfire.
The fire is the base and center of the camp, and that’s where we start our activities.
Chloe heats up a frying pan over the fire, while Sicily boils water.
I stoked the fire and watched as they prepared a feast for us.
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