Chapter 8

On the first floor of the Labyrinth, the noble knights were gathered.

This was the staging area for their ROKUKEN.

As the senior students informed the newcomers about the rules an exploring team watched from the distance.

It was an all-girl adventure party. Comprising of six members.

“Are those noble knights?” (Tank Girl)

“I believe so.” (Mage Girl)

“What rotten luck.” (Thief Girl)

“What do you mean?” (Healer Girl)

“You are saying you have never heard of the stories?” (Thief Girl)

“You mean the ones about no monsters appearing when noble knights are around?” (Warrior Girl)

“Exactly. Noble knights are a curse to us explorers of the Labyrinth. Just our luck to be here when a bunch of them have assembled.” (Thief Girl)

“Isn’t their number way more than a bunch? What are they doing?” (Ranger Girl)

“Who cares? There in our way.” (Thief Girl)

“There no need to lose your temper. We just have to go deeper into the Labyrinth.” (Ranger Girl)

“Don’t be ridiculous. This is not your low-end Labyrinth you know. Don’t forget people haven’t even made it past floor 30 yet.”(Thief Girl)

“I wonder about that. I heard that the merchant guild regularly sells dragon materials. Wouldn’t that mean that people are exploring as far the 50th floor.” (Mage Girl)

“That is just an urban legend. Don’t you think any party or knight unit would be signing their exploits at the bar by now?” (Thief Girl)

“What if it was the noble knights who were responsible for it? I hear they hardly socialize in public that would explain why there is no news of their exploits.” (Healer Girl)

“Are crazy? Everyone knows that noble knights are weak pathetic men. I was once hired to escort a noble lady to the capital from the Bonnies. 

The noble knight she was married to was pathetic. He was running alongside our carriage for a whole mile while his wife was getting fucked by her lover inside the carriage. It was pathetic. There is no way those wimpy men could take down a dragon.” (Thief Girl)

“I must agree with that statement. I have never heard anything positive about noble knights ever. I don’t think they are capable of doing such a thing.” (Mage Girl)

“I wonder about that. My uncle who regularly travels to the Bonnies to trade always warned me to not pick a fight with noble knights. He said, ‘Don’t even think of blocking one of their attacks you hear. Doge or run away.” (Tank Girl)

“You mean the same uncle who sold me this cheap ass knight for ten silver coins?” (Thief Girl)

Tank Girl could only shrug her shoulders at thief girls’ remarks. Her uncle wasn’t a successful merchant nor a reliable one.

“If what your uncle said is true then I will ask a noble knight to marry me while naked. For now I going to tell those bastards to buzz off… Eh… Where did they go?” (Thief Girl)

“They must have left while we weren’t watching?” (Mage Girl)

“Does that mean we can start exploration now?” (Healer Girl)

“That right… Find us some prey… Is something the matter?” (Warrior Girl) 

[Impossible! There is no way a group that large could have left without me noticing anything… It’s just impossible to slip past my skills as a ranger. Especially on a grassland lake this…] (Ranger Girl)

While Ranger Girl tried to understand what was going on the noble knights had already reached the 12th floor.

They zoomed past each floor, leaving behind only after images of their presence.

Their goal was the 45th floor. 

A large grassland floor with a single large tree growing in the middle.

Before they were sent off, they were given four rules to follow.

The first was that no infighting was allowed. You could not attack another noble knight during ROKUKEN.

The second was to head straight to floor 45 and ignore or other monsters in their presence.

Thirdly, any monster not yet swiped was fair game. 

When registering as an explorer every noble knight was given a guild card. When a monster was defeated one simply needed to wave the card over the monster's corpse and the monster would be immediately teleported to one of the merchant guilds warehouses for processing and the card will be credited with the appropriate amount for each monster.

One then simply needed to go to the magic tool near the reception to collect the amount owed to them.

The merchant guild was so cheap that they dared not hire any staff to handle the processing of payment and left it all to the magic tool.

Fourth. Once they arrived at floor 45 they had one of two choices. To fight or wait for the battle to end and proceed to floor 46 where they can earn their own pocket money if they desire.  

As they moved through the floors, the monster dared not approach them. It was like they were avoiding them.

Monsters in general believed in one thing and one thing alone. 

The strong rule the weak.

To monsters, humans are the weakest.

Goblins as they raped captured women would often taunt, ‘Because your men are weak, your children are weak, and you are weak. That is why you are here.’

Humans and monsters cannot understand one another.

For the raped women all they can hear are the sickening howls of a monster.

Monsters were also not stupid.

One needed only to at the weapons or armor Orcs and Ogres are often spotted with. Even the traps that goblins make should have been a sign to humans that monsters weren’t so simple-minded creatures.

Monsters can tell if their opponents are strong or weak. Humans would often come out as weak but there were exceptions.

Sometimes humans in funny clothing and weapons would appear to challenge the monsters.

Sometimes they would win and dismantle the monsters for materials to sell.

Sometimes they would lose and have their dead bodies eaten while their armor and weapons were taken by humanoid monsters like goblins and orcs.

Of course, as bad endings go, that was the lucky one. The world is full of stories of female adventures becoming playthings for goblins, or male adventures being roasted alive by Ogres.

Adventuring was a do-or-die occupation. That paid well for the high risks one often took.

Of course, noble knights were the exception. 

Even now as they passed the 40th floor no monster dared approach them. They could feel it. These were not your ordinary humans.

The reason no monster appeared whenever noble knights were around was that monsters like goblins were scared of them. 

They could feel the difference in power just by glancing at the noble knights. 

As the knights entered the 44th floor Colin started a conversation with his friends.

“What do you think is waiting for us on the 45th floor?” (Colin Frederick)

“It can’t be a floor boss. It should only appear on the 49th floor.” (Archie Lancaster)

“Then perhaps it a place where a lot of monsters appear?” (Aaron O'Brien)

“Something like that only appears in the deep floors. Around floor 70 onwards.”(Archie Lancaster)

“Then what can it be?” (Colin Frederick)

“I don’t care what it is as long as I get to kill something.” (George Dragonfire)

“Spoken like a true muscle brain.” (Archie Lancaster)

“What did you say?” (George Dragonfire)

“Nothing.” (Archie Lancaster)

“Save it for later guys. Looks like we have arrived.” (Colin Frederick)

The noble knights had arrived at floor 45.

It was a large grassland with a large tree growing in the center. The tree was so large that it touches the sky.

The noble knights could see fruits growing on the tree.

“That is the Labyrinth world tree.” Charley Gardner spoke as he stood in front of the noble knights. 

“Can’t believe I am seeing a sky underground.” (George Dragonfire)

“Don’t bother trying to figure out the mechanics of such a thing. People smarter than you and me have tried and failed.” (Archie Lancaster)

“My father was right. It’s as if you are sent to another world. What do you think Colin?" (Aaron O'Brien)

When Colin didn’t reply to his comment, Aaron looked at his friend and found him not looking at the tree or sky but what was there beyond the tree.

Colin was the first but soon the other first years began to notice it. 

What was beyond the world tree was an army of monsters.

“Welcome to ROKUKEN!” Charley Gardner said with a grin on his face.

No one knows exactly when it all started but at some point whenever the world tree bared its fruit a large army would assemble on the 45th floor.

Orcs, Ogres, undead, ghouls, horned wolf, and goblins were all neatly arranged in battle formations.

Anyone else would be mistaken into thinking that the demon king had returned as that was the only time that monster armies were ever spotted. 

However, this was not the case for the noble knights. They knew that this army would be here. It always appears whenever they do ROKUKEN, almost as if the monsters were waiting for them and that is exactly what was happening.

Facing humans that strike fear into them, Mid-Ranged monster such as Orcs, Ogres, undead, ghouls, and horned wolves throw away their pride and allied.

They knew from experience that these humans descended into the Labyrinth in large numbers whenever the Labyrinth World Tree bared its fruit.

They would assemble an army and meet them head-on, there was only one problem.

Who leads such a massive army?

After long discussions, they sought the help of even greater monsters.

The High-End Monsters, such as Vampire Familiars, Golem, Cursed weapons, Arachnes, Chimera, and Earth Dragons.

The High-End Monsters have also encountered these humans before. While they did not fear them as much the Mid-Ranged Monsters they couldn’t hide the fact they too were unable to beat these humans in combat. 

It was agreed that a High-end monster would take command of the allied forces each time it was assembled and the honor of commanding that force this time around belonged to a monster that was fared by all humans across the world.