In a hastily prepared meeting room, two suspicious-looking people sat quietly. Or not exactly—upon closer inspection, there was also a third, smaller figure, a foot or so tall, with dragonfly-like wings on her back. The two other people in the room were seated facing her—Ramiris and two of her servants, Beretta and Treyni.
The small pixie bashed a fist against the small desk in front of her.
“This is exactly why I thought none of this was working!” she groused, rubbing her hand. “I told you we needed to move outta here!!”
“Correct as always, Lady Ramiris,” Treyni agreed, watching her affectionately. “Truly, a most brilliant idea!”
“Right? Isn’t it, though?”
Ramiris gave Treyni a satisfied nod.
Beretta was less than convinced. “One moment, please. Brilliant though the idea may be, where do you intend to move to? And could you explain why?”
Why do I have to do this? he thought. Treyni, his colleague, was a thoughtful, detail-oriented, hardworking woman. She had a good reputation among the spirits, allowing her to manage Ramiris’s labyrinth all by herself. That was something Beretta couldn’t do, and there was no doubting her usefulness to Ramiris. But there was an issue: Treyni, ever the loyal servant to Ramiris, spoiled her far too much. She agreed with everything Ramiris said, never doubting it for a moment. Someone needed to stop this before it led to trouble.
The ex-demon Beretta couldn’t help but laugh at himself a little. Oh dear… I am not here serving Lady Ramiris because I want to serve that role…
To someone like him, who did enjoy Ramiris’s company very much, getting bossed around all the time wasn’t a concern. What did concern him—albeit only slightly—was how his lone coworker here was an unabashed yes-man. Unfortunately, it was an ironclad rule of life that the hardest-working people tended to be the ones who lost out in the end. If you blow the whistle and warn about the dangers ahead, it’s usually your job to clean up the mess that results—something Beretta was about to learn the hard way.
“Great question, Beretta! Listen, aren’t you bored being in here at all? There’s nothing to do for fun in this place. The only diversion we have is building golems, and that’s about it. Barely anyone even comes to visit us! But over there, they’ve got all kinds of stuff. So I figure, you know, I’ll just invite myself over!”
Ramiris put forth what she must’ve thought was a convincing case. It just made Beretta sigh inside. He wasn’t dead set against it himself, but he remembered what the demon lord Rimuru was like and suspected getting his permission would be a problem. If she tried moving there now, he could easily envision her getting thrown out on her ear. Treyni must have known that, but all she had to offer was her unequivocal agreement.
“But, Lady Ramiris, didn’t Sir Rimuru already turn you down once?”
Beretta had to say it. She had already tried it. Without a better excuse, all she’d do was incur Rimuru’s wrath. Maybe Ramiris was oblivious to this fact, but to Beretta, that was the biggest problem of all.
“Come now, Beretta,” his unreliable coworker said. “You’re overthinking this! Sir Rimuru is such a nice young man. He’d never be cruel enough to deny the dreams of someone as cute ’n’ lovable as her!”
Treyni was being far too optimistic. If Ramiris wasn’t involved, Treyni was a capable woman of action, but there was no counting on her now. So since the other two people in the room weren’t using their brains, he tried to find a good way to navigate this. After all, he wouldn’t mind living alongside Rimuru, either.
I suppose that’s why I find even a situation as ridiculous as this exciting…
And it was a lucky thing he had a mask on, because under it was a smile almost childish in its glee.
After I saw Gob’emon go, I headed back to Tempest. I had been using Dominate Space to travel as of late, which allowed me to instantly transport myself to anywhere I had visited before. It consumed a nontrivial amount of magicules, but it was fairly trivial for me considering the energy I had to work with. I was free to use it as much as I wanted now, which made travel pretty simple—although I still tried to regulate my use, since I’d look so lame if I abused it and went into sleep mode as a result.
The moment I was back, Ranga sent me a Thought Communication.
(Master, Gobkyuu and the craftsmen have gathered at the western gate. However…)
He didn’t finish the sentence. What happened? Concerned, I headed for the gate, using Dominate Space despite promising myself to lay off a moment ago. Activating Universal Detect to gain a broader vantage point than what my eyes could give me, I spotted Ranga at the site—and if my destination was within sight, Dominate Space made it easy to rush over. Just a matter of changing my coordinates, really. Really convenient, but kind of hard to use in battle, since it takes a little time to set off. I’m always scared of leaving myself open like that. Besides, I’m trying to conserve it, remember?
This, on the other hand, was an emergency, so I reappeared right next to Ranga. We were outside the west gate, and immediately I spotted Gobkyuu arguing with someone. Universal Detect already told me who it was.
“No, you see, like I just said, we’re officially taking over this place!”
I took cover, listening in on the conversation.
“I know what you said, ma’am, but we can’t really accept that, do you understand? I’m going to ask Sir Rimuru now, so if you could just wait here and keep quiet for a little while—”
“No! We’ve already abandoned our previous labyrinth to come here! Are you going to kick out a poor, homeless woman with no place else to go?”
“N-no ma’am, I… This area is officially the territory of the demon lord Rimuru, you see, so you will need to obtain his permission first—”
“Pfft! Can’t sob story my way in, eh? In that case, I’ll have to resort to force. If you keep nitpicking every little thing, you know Beretta here isn’t gonna take that lying down— Ahhh!”
I couldn’t stand any more of it, so I sneaked up to the problem child in front of me and captured her in my hands. Taking a look at her, I confirmed it was Ramiris.
“What are you doing?”
“Um… Hey there, Rimuru! How’s it going?”
She was avoiding eye contact, clearly understanding she was in big trouble. Whatever she was up to, the small hut behind us clearly had to do with it. Ramiris was claiming the structure as her territory—she had to be hiding something inside. But how did she even bring it over here?
“Lady Ramiris! I’ve brought over some new wood!”
The riddle was solved by Treyni, coming over with an armload of wooden beams.
“Um, Treyni, what’re you up to?”
“Ah! Um, Sir Rimuru! I trust all is…well?”
She froze the moment she saw me. Did it not occur to her that building a hut right in front of the town gate might get spotted pretty fast?
“Can I ask what’s going on, Treyni?”
“W-well, this… It’s not what it looks like. L-Lady Ramiris did nothing wrong, um…”
The Treyni I knew always had this air of authority. Serving Ramiris had completely torn that apart. Like master, like servant, I guess. The only person here who could guide me through matters was likely Beretta, who was currently kneeling before me.
“It always has to be me, doesn’t it…?”
Resigned to his fate, he relented.
It all began, he said, with something Ramiris told him.
“Beretta, you traitor!!” Ramiris shouted, freed from the prison of my hands, but I ignored her.
According to Beretta, Ramiris absolutely insisted on moving to my town, with Treyni in full agreement. I glanced at Treyni; she was staring into space and looking supremely awkward. Apparently, she spoiled Ramiris at all times, which I could see from the last time we met, so I believed it. Neither she nor Beretta would dare defy this lady, so they were all but forced into this would-be invasion of my land.
“And also, as Lady Ramiris stated, we came here after sealing off the entryway to the labyrinth we called home before.”
“Right! Exactly! So come on! If you kick us out, we’ll be homeless, Rimuruuuuu!”
She tried to sound as forlorn as possible, despite this being entirely her own doing. “Oh, poor, poor Lady Ramiris,” I heard Treyni lament. Please don’t keep encouraging her…
Either way, though, now I knew the situation. This wasn’t Gobkyuu’s fault at all—it was all on Ramiris and her servants.
“Sorry you went through that, Gobkyuu.”
“No, no, we were fine, but the gate guards had the worst of it…”
He eyed a nearby hobgoblin by the gate, sleeping soundly.
“Yeahhh, uh, sorry. I got a little excited…”
“That wasn’t Lady Ramiris’s fault! That guard was saying terrible things to her, so I used magic to put him to sleep for a little while.”
What had gotten into Treyni’s mind anyway? She really did cast a spell, I presume for Ramiris’s sake. No wonder Beretta looked so guilty at the moment.
I would listen to Ramiris’s and Treyni’s excuses later. I wanted to learn more from Beretta, but he didn’t have much else to offer. They showed up here, Treyni brought in wood, and Beretta fashioned it into the log hut before me. Apparently, they had been interrupted just as he began work on a terrace in front of the door. This hut was meant to be the entrance to a new labyrinth.
It certainly wasn’t the first time Ramiris had demonstrated a desire to move here. This hut—which served as an entrance to her full residence—was all the real estate she really needed.
“Okay. So you tried building it here, and the gate guard stopped you. He was getting in your way, so you commanded Treyni to put him to sleep, and then Gobkyuu and these other craftsmen spotted you. Do I have this right?”
“Um… No, that’s not… Well, not exactly the case, I don’t think… Maybe?”
“Okay, so I do. Ramiris…”
Ramiris must not know the meaning of the word no. She knew this was my territory, as recognized by the other demon lords, and that what she did was tantamount to staging an invasion. If war broke out over this, she’d have nothing to whine about.
But I paused a moment to think it over. Having this hut presented to me gave me an idea. Perhaps I should encourage this. Maybe give her permission to make a labyrinth here, even.
My conversation with Mjöllmile flashed before my eyes. We needed attractions that’d keep visitors coming again and again. These could be theaters, arenas, health spas, you name it, but I was still fishing around for other ideas. Do the same thing enough times, and you’re bound to get bored. We wouldn’t hold daily arena battles—I figured the tournaments would be more seasonal, maybe four a year. We could hold beginner-level matches daily, like with horse racing, but I didn’t see that attracting the connoisseurs among the nobility. We’d mainly be appealing to mass audiences—or maybe the adventurers stopping by.
If this town turned into the trade mecca I was planning, waves of merchants would be visiting, with adventurers serving as bodyguards. I wanted Tempest to turn into a base of operations for people like that. Adventurers could make money in assorted ways, one being monster hunting. Perhaps we could build a labyrinth for them and release some monsters inside? Would that attract a decent amount of daily traffic? A labyrinth is a dungeon, after all; if we invited people to help clear it out, that might attract adventurers with a completist bent.
This could work.
I looked at Ramiris, still smiling awkwardly up at me. I wasn’t too sure—okay, I was completely sure I couldn’t trust her, but maybe we could make something out of this. It was time to talk things over.
First, I asked Gobkyuu’s craftsmen to dismantle the hut for me. Since we already had the materials and everything, I decided to have it relocated for use as a break room for the gate guards.
Next, it was time for a strategic conference. We filed into the usual meeting hall, Gobkyuu in tow.
“Um, what is going to be the, er, happening to us?”
Ramiris’s anxiety was making her less and less coherent. Her eyes were fixed on me now, gauging my temper.
“You don’t have to be so nervous. If you’re trying to be polite, you’re failing miserably.”
I didn’t intend to do anything to her, no. If she was willing to accept my offer, I was willing to overlook her excessively bold overtures. But before that, we had to go over a few things.
“Gobkyuu, I was thinking we could build an emergency shelter space under the arena. Is that possible?”
“I’m not sure it’d be safe to have one directly under the arena stage, no matter how we try to work out the structural calculations. Any empty space under the floor would cause a cave-in at the first shock wave. But if we move this space a little, I think we can avoid that problem.”
“All right. I’d also like to have a door built down there.”
“A door, sir?”
“Right. Make it thick and heavy—and maybe put a bunch of carved stone tablets around the frame and stuff. It needs to look foreboding.”
“Would there be another shelter beyond the door?”
“Nah. No need for that. We just need the door, is all. Right, Ramiris?”
“R-Rimuru?! Are, are you saying that—that…?”
Gobkyuu was questioning my sanity, while Ramiris buzzed happily in the air next to him.
My proposal was simple. Basically, I wanted to have Ramiris build a dungeon and let her manage it. If she was gonna build an entrance in a simple wood hut, better to give her something that looked more the part instead, right? And given how all good dungeons extend deep underground, having it beneath a battle arena just seemed right to me. We could use the arena to train rookies during the off days, and I planned to have a potion shop on the premises. If we ran a dungeon on-site as well, I bet a tavern for adventurers looking for a quick pint on the way back from work would be a big hit. We’d make money off them, and Ramiris would have a home, a job, and a little spending money from me. It’d require mutual cooperation from both of us, but I thought it was a pretty neat idea.
Once I finished explaining all this, Ramiris burst into a flurry of shouting.
“Wh-what?! So—so do you mean that, maybe, not only could I build a labyrinth and live here, but you’ll even give me a full-fledged job?!”
“I guess so, if you’re willing to accept that.”
“Huh?! Okay, okay, so you’re saying that, uh, I no longer have to be the ‘jobless shut-in’ people accuse me of being?!”
The proposal must’ve been a big shock. She opened her eyes wide, babbling on like she had been struck by lightning. “I’m so glad, Lady Ramiris,” Treyni whispered, eyes welling up. Beretta, oddly enough, seemed to be smiling at me—I wondered if that fatigue I felt before was just an act. Did he want this? Maybe, maybe not, but either way, if he’s happy, no worries.
After calming down a bit, Ramiris swallowed nervously. “Um… And you’ll give me an allowance as well?” she carefully asked. “Do you really mean that?”
She must’ve been afraid I’d take it back. I’d never do that. I’m not that much of a sadist. Although, I couldn’t give her an exact figure on her allowance yet, since that depended on sales proceeds. Better put her mind at ease for now.
“I really mean it. But I don’t know how much profit we’ll make until we get things going. How about we say you get twenty percent of the profits after I deduct advertising expenses, rent, and other needed expenses?”
“How, er, how much do you think that would add up to?”
“Well, if we can attract, say, a thousand adventurers in a day, that could net you as much as two gold coins, maybe?”
“Gahhh!! That much?!”
“That’s just an estimate, keep in mind. There’s no guarantee it’ll work out that way. None of what I say means anything until we see some real, paying customers. But if you’re planning to live here anyway, it’s not a bad deal for you, is it?”
Ramiris bobbed her head. If she was going to squat on my property either way, she’d be maintaining her labyrinth no matter what I told her to do. It’d be smarter for her to listen to my offer, for sure—it’d grant her permission to stay and be a way to make money. Really, she only had one choice.
Thus, she latched on to my head and did a little dance of joy. I took that as a yes, and I was sure Beretta and Treyni wouldn’t complain. In fact, they were smiling at Ramiris, who was currently busy tripping off to her own little world.
“Eh-heh-heh… I’m gonna be filthy rich now! No more ungrateful bums calling me a deadbeat and a destitute demon lord!”
Ah well. No harm in that. It’d certainly do nothing to damage the faith her two servants had in her. Her sheer enthusiasm for the offer made me wonder just how often she had been picked on in the past. She was more excited than I was about it, so I doubt I had to worry about compliance.
What’s with her obsession over money, though? I didn’t think a lust for riches was a common trait for a demon lord, myself excluded. Was her lack of a decent job the main issue? Her labyrinth wasn’t exactly teeming with visitors. She must have been lonely, with way too much free time on her hands. It’d be great if we could attract crowds of adventurers to this dungeon—for my sake, as well as hers.
We better work out a plan of action fast.
Calling Ramiris back from her mental head trip, I decided to have her help rework our arena plans with Gobkyuu.
The way I saw it, we should expand the open area outside the western gate, where the highway ended, and build the arena there. There was ample pasture space for travelers’ horses, as well as a vast tract of empty land to work with.
Sometime in the future, I’d like to lay rails on top of the highway and run trains up and down it. Ever since I decided to target noble customers for this, I had been considering what to do about our transportation issues. If I could guarantee safe passage for them, I thought it’d be much easier to attract richer tourists. But that wasn’t the only goal. A rail system would make it possible to transport vast amounts of goods in one go, improving convenience and greatly contributing to town development.
That was what I had in mind for the town’s future expansion, so I wanted a spot for the arena that wouldn’t get in the way later on. I could establish a rail station near the spot, hopefully within an hour’s walk of the gate—any farther would be asking a lot from our tourists. Having the arena within walking distance of town also made it possible to offer more hotel options in a smaller area. Unlike my old world, people here did a lot of their traveling by foot. If a journey was up to around six miles round trip, most folks wouldn’t hesitate to hoof it, so a little distance wasn’t a daunting obstacle.
Those were my thoughts behind my proposal for a location, but Ramiris had other ideas.
“Why, though? Didn’t you have empty space within town limits?”
“Yes, but it’s occupied by beastman refugees right now. We have streets of temporary housing laid out for them. I can’t build an arena over that.”
“No,” added Gobkyuu, “we can’t throw the beastmen out of town. I think development will have to wait until after Sir Geld completes work on the new Eurazanian capital.”
“Okay, well, how about we just move them into my labyrinth? I could transplant the entire layout of that area inside it, so it wouldn’t be too much of a burden on them.”
That sounded, to be frank, absolutely bonkers. Gobkyuu and I exchanged glances, unsure we were hearing correctly.
“Er, you mean we’d move the inhabitants in there as well?”
“Um, I can’t move living things around without permission, no. They’d need to willingly go in there for me. But anything inanimate or unconscious? I can whisk it all right over, no prob!”
“Are you serious? So you can move all the beastmen’s houses and belongings inside your labyrinth anytime you want?”
“Yep! You got it!”
She sounded proud of it, as she should. That’s the kind of skill anyone deserved to brag about.
Pressing her for more detail, I learned that this was Mazecraft, one of Ramiris’s intrinsic skills. As the name suggested, it basically made Ramiris the supreme god of any labyrinth she created. It worked over astonishing distances, too, even affecting people and things near the maze entrance. She could even take the weapons and armor off people close by.
It was a crazy power to think of, but it did have its limits. If the target’s equipment had its own consciousness—a sword infused with its user’s magic, for example—Ramiris couldn’t affect it. You weren’t exactly stumbling over sentient objects like that every day, though, so if you picked a fight with Ramiris, you’d better be prepared to get stripped naked first thing. Maybe she really did deserve the demon lord moniker.
“Wow… I mean, honestly, I thought you had, like, zero ability to defend yourself in battle.”
“Sheesh, way to be super-mean! You’re talking to the woman they call the strongest demon lord in the world!”
“C’mon, Ramiris. Calm down. Tell me what else you can do with it!”
Upon further prodding, she revealed some more details behind her abilities. Essentially, I had five questions for her:
1. How many floors down can you build your underground labyrinths?
2. How many days do you need to build them?
3. What kind of monsters are inside?
4. Can you change their internal structure at will?
5. What happens if someone dies in there?
For a change, Ramiris gave me sincere answers to all of them.
For question one, there was no strict floor limit, but realistically speaking, she could max them out at around a hundred.
As for question two, one floor takes approximately an hour to complete. This figure remained steady for subsequent floors, so a hundred-floor labyrinth took around a hundred hours to complete. Any floors beyond that consumed exponentially greater sums of magical energy, hence the answer to question number one.
For question three, you wouldn’t find monsters, let alone insects or other creatures, just arbitrarily inhabiting a labyrinth. Her previous labyrinth had “monsters” in the form of spirits—spirits who remained as part of the floor structure, partitioned off from the physical world but able to come and go as they pleased.
However, it was possible to “seed” a labyrinth with monsters for adventurers to test their skill against. Fill a maze with magicules, and monsters would spring to life from them. Adjusting the labyrinth’s magicule density made it easy to predict the strength of the monsters who resulted, as well as restrict monsters to a certain floor or floors. That made it possible to fine-tune a labyrinth’s difficulty level with some precision. I had an idea of how this magicule infusion process worked, so I’d give that some thought once I had the right container for it.
Regarding question four, the sheer power of Ramiris’s Mazecraft skill meant she could change the entire structure of a floor in about an hour, although floors could not be edited for twenty-four hours after the last revamping.
There were conditions, of course. She couldn’t make something—plants or other organic matter, for example—out of nothing, so structural changes would chiefly result in staid-looking mazes of blank walls. However, if you simply wanted to redecorate a floor with some materials at hand instead of changing its structure, that wasn’t too terribly difficult.
It was also simple enough, by the way, to rearrange a labyrinth’s floor order. This, too, was set in stone for twenty-four hours afterward, but that made it no less useful a tool.
And last but not least, question five. Astonishingly, this depended entirely on Ramiris. If she was keeping tabs on things, she could snap her fingers and resurrect the dead inside her labyrinth. I was just wondering how she handled the corpses of monsters and hapless adventurers, but this sounded like nothing short of voodoo to me. Apparently, she wasn’t sure what happened to monsters born inside the labyrinth, since she had no examples to work with yet, but she had already resurrected quite a few adventurers in the past.
This was why she emphasized not being able to move organic creatures inside “without permission” earlier. This “permission” was nothing too formal; what mattered was that the subject in question knew he or she was going into the labyrinth. Without that understanding, any visitors would be refused entry. In other words, when I went into Ramiris’s labyrinth a while back, that was because I actively tried to do so. If I was carrying a sleeping companion on my back as I ventured inside, we would’ve been blown back at the entrance. (One exception to this was infants. Children young enough to not have their own free will yet were essentially treated as “things” by this rule.)
You could drag someone kicking and screaming into a labyrinth, but only at a great burden to Ramiris, so it was impossible if she resisted you at all. “You wouldn’t want to try it,” is how she put it to me.
So there you have it. Essentially, anyone who goes into a labyrinth was under the tyrannical rule of Ramiris—something they agreed to the moment they stepped through the entrance. If they accepted the rules, Ramiris would keep careful tabs on their status.
“And you know how much we like playing pranks, don’t you?” she said, puffing out her chest. “I just like surprising people and seeing their reactions. If they died, you know, that’d kind of weigh on my conscience. So I do what I can to keep ’em alive and set them back on their way.”
Sometimes, there’d be an unlucky subject who really did die on Ramiris, but it sounded like those deaths occurred outside of her labyrinth. At the very least, she didn’t want to kill me when I was in there. That golem who looked ready to stomp me to oblivion was only there because she knew she could fix me up, good as new, if called to. That made sense to me, although it seemed to lower the stakes of what I went through quite a bit.
“So if a band of adventurers goes in on a monster-hacking run, you can revive them if they die?”
“Yep! Once they’re booted out of the labyrinth, I can resurrect them like nothing happened. It’s a bit tougher if we’re talking a whole party at once, though, so we might need to send them in with some of my revival equipment.”
Equip a specified item from her Mazecraft labyrinth, and dying would just transport you back outside intact. That solved my safety concerns, which was really the biggest problem.
“Excellent! That’s wonderful, Ramiris!”
“R-really? You mean it? I’m really that great, aren’t I?”
“You sure are! Our ambitions are as good as accomplished!”
“They are? Yeah, they are! I was just thinking that myself!”
We looked at each other and nodded.
“I’ll be counting on you, Ramiris.”
“And I’ll hold up my end of the bargain! It’ll be nothing but smooth sailing ahead!”
Smooth sailing, huh? Hopefully the boat isn’t made out of mud. We couldn’t shake on the deal, given our size difference, but I think our minds were linked up well enough anyway.
Accepting Ramiris’s offer, we decided to build the battle arena in the empty space on the southeast side of town, a dungeon spread out beneath it.
Our theater, meanwhile, would be put up on the northwest side, near where all our high-end spa facilities were. We had actually put up a gym, a museum, and so forth among all the luxury lodging over there, so all we really had to do was refurbish a previously built structure for the purpose.
So the dungeon and theater were in place, but we still had no arena. Geld wasn’t around, but I’m sure I could rely on Gobkyuu and his crew. With them, we’d doubtlessly have something in place by the Founder’s Festival—
“I’m not sure we can do this, Sir Rimuru.”
Oh, no? Yeah, guess not. I mean, any normal project like this would require several years of work. Asking for a finished arena in a month or so was kind of insane. Even with monster-level muscle on our side, I wasn’t so sure we could do it, either.
“Yeah… All right. Let me lend a hand, then. I’ll help move dirt around and process the metal infrastructure.”
I may not look it, but I did used to work for a general contractor. I didn’t have that much on-the-field construction experience, but with what I learned imitating the veterans, I wasn’t a total amateur. Besides, I had Raphael.
“Me too! Let me help!”
“In that case, allow me to help, too.”
“As you wish, Lady Ramiris.”
I suppose that meant I had the support of Ramiris and Beretta and Treyni, too.
Let’s get right to work. I opened up my blueprints among the tents that lined the area.
“Hmm… All right. I don’t see a problem with this.”
“Great. Better explain things to your beastmen, then.”
A lot of our nation’s beastmen were out working on remote projects, so I decided to give Alvis and Sufia the full explanation for now. We would meet together this evening.
“If that is what you seek, Sir Rimuru, it shall be done.”
“It sure will. We’ve got no right to complain!”
Once I explained my whole plan to them, they accepted with surprising speed. They also stated that I wouldn’t need to explain it again to the other beastmen.
“Sure, Sir Rimuru,” Sufia said. “You’ve given us all food to eat and a place to stay. We’d all be glad to help out with building this arena or whatever.”
“Besides,” Alvis added, “I hear that Sir Carillon will be involved in the festival you’re holding. We all would be delighted to help you out. I am a tad under the weather, so I will leave the rest to you, Sufia.”
“You got it!”
So Sufia would lead the beastmen on this job—and once that was decided, things proceeded at blazing speed. One order from Sufia was all it took to get the beastmen out of their tents. As they all lined up in formation, Ramiris nimbly transported all the tents into her labyrinth. We now had a large patch of empty land to work with.
Still a little wowed by this feat, I used Belzebuth, Lord of Gluttony, to consume parts of the lot I didn’t need and pare it down to a square, flat expanse. The steel framing came up soon after, and once it did, Gobkyuu and his crew stacked up preprocessed stones to fill in the walls. Within the day, we had walls so hardy that not a single hole could be found in any of them. This gave us a sturdy-looking underground space with a large door in the front of it. For someone from my “modern” era, the whole thing was wrapped up with unbelievable speed.
“W-wow,” Ramiris gushed. “My new castle… Oh, right! If you touch this door, it’ll take you to the labyrinth floor where the tents are!”
We all took a trip inside. There, we saw the beastmen’s living space, exactly as it looked up on the surface. Alvis and Sufia couldn’t hide their astonishment—especially since the air was kept refreshingly cool down here.
“Do we even need these tents now, I wonder?”
“I dunno, yeah. I assume it doesn’t rain in here, so I bet we could just sleep on the ground…”
They didn’t seem at all dissatisfied with this. I could see them and the other beastmen experiment with going back and forth between the real and labyrinth dimensions—all it took was a moment’s thought for them.
“So does it get dark in here at night?”
“Sure does,” replied Ramiris. “We’re linked to the outside from here, so I can even make it rain if you like!”
Man. She could do just about anything, huh? But it wasn’t like they were farming crops in here, so I just asked her to set up a normal day-night cycle for me. This whole space seemed a lot more useful than I guessed at first; I bet I could adapt it to other needs, too. We’d have to brainstorm some ideas.
Apparently reassured, the beastmen went off to help with the outside work. They’d pitch in with the arena, evidently, under the command of Gobkyuu. A lot of them were women and children, but that’s beastmen for you—they all wanted to work, and each one was stronger than a human, at least. Gobkyuu was giving them the basic manual-labor jobs, it looked like, but better-trained beastmen were on-site as well now, aiding in construction.
Treyni was supplying logs for the building (don’t ask me how she got them), while Beretta’s precision carpentry turned them into usable boards. He could even cast a spell to dry the wood, which slashed the time involved dramatically. I thought I had abandoned my common sense long ago in this world, but it was sights like these that occasionally made me think Wow, I really am in a whole different world, huh?
If this keeps up, we truly could make it in time for the Founder’s Festival. I had spit out the land I ate earlier to create a small mountain, too, so perhaps we could use that as a field feature in the arena. It should work great.
“Leave the rest to us, Sir Rimuru!” said Gobkyuu.
I nodded, full of excitement over the arena’s imminent completion.
With the main construction now in full swing, Ramiris had been left to her own devices. She needed a job, if only so she wouldn’t start pestering everyone else. And what was she good at? Why, expanding the labyrinth, of course. Better use her while I got her.
“I gotta say, Ramiris, your Mazecraft skill amazes me.”
She had transported everything within a pretty broad stretch of land in the blink of an eye. I didn’t want to compliment her too much, but I had to hand it to her here. The labyrinth itself was pretty amazing, too.
“Hee-hee! Aw, it’s nothing! But right now, though, it’s only this room, the deepest depths where my spirit friends live, and a connecting corridor. I’ll have more levels for you tomorrow!”
It took one hour to build a level, right? Building a vast underground labyrinth that went down a hundred floors would be a pretty tall order even on modern-day Earth. Building up, after all, is a hell of a lot easier. Ramiris’s skill, though, made that possible—and suddenly, some pretty fantastic dreams seemed within reach.
“Okay, let’s go with your limit, then. One hundred floors.”
“Huh?! Do you need that many?”
“Yep. I want to fill it up with traps, and I want enough space to gradually up the monster-challenge level as you go down.”
“I mean, that’s fine by me, but can I ask you something?”
“I was just wondering: How do you plan to expand the number of monsters in there? Are you gonna catch them somewhere?”
I suppose her question made sense. It’d take a lot of monsters to fill a hundred levels. But I had an idea. Let’s tell her a little about it, at least so she’ll cooperate with me.
“Well, between you and me…”
I let her in on the secret of how I wanted to structure this dungeon. As she listened, I could see her eyes begin to twinkle.
“Right—right. So then, Ramiris…”
We began offering suggestions to each other as we whispered. This was getting exciting. And given it was the two of us involved, we naturally began to go off on tangents we never should have. Before long, we had worked out the concept for our Advanced Dungeon, as we called it. I honestly wondered if we could get away with it, but there’s no turning back now. We had to do it—and Ramiris was itching to start, promising me that she’d build this labyrinth with everything she had.
“You can take your time and rest along the way, okay?”
“Ha! There’s no way I’ll take a rest after hearing an idea like this! I’m gonna do it, lemme tell ya!”
I was just trying to motivate her a little, but I guess I got her really riled up. I’m glad she liked the romance of the idea, at least. I was just as excited. It was like a fantasy come alive.
“Well, do your best. I’ll get everything we need ready.”
“All right. Good luck, Rimuru!”
“You too, Ramiris.”
We were comrades in arms now, grinning at each other.
Exiting the labyrinth, I found the sun was already about to set. We must’ve been talking for a while. Work had finished for the day, with crews cleaning up and starting to cook dinner. I didn’t want to bother them, so I told Gobkyuu and Sufia that I’d see them the next day and took off.
My next stop was Kurobe’s workshop so I could have him give me some of the weapons and armor he couldn’t sell on the market—stuff that was more to his personal tastes. The southwest side of town was currently an industrial kind of area, and Kurobe’s place was there, along with workshops owned by his apprentices. There was also dorm space for the newer pupils without their own sites yet, along with lines of warehouses. There were inns and restaurants for all these craftsmen and apprentices, of course, and overall it was a fairly lively place.
Kurobe’s workshop was dead in the middle of it, and when I popped in, he warmly greeted me, showing me to his storage building after wrapping up dinner.
“Right here, Sir Rimuru. The stuff I have locked up in this warehouse is all pretty unique—not the kinda thing anyone can handle easily, you know. Are you all right with that?”
I nodded my approval. Kurobe was right—not all of it was very user-friendly or accessible. Some of it was locked up because it was too powerful, but a lot of it was just a total handful to use. The armor was a great example—like the suit of mail that sucked the wearer’s magical force to erect a magic barrier. That might sound useful, but it continually sapped your power whether you wanted it to or not, eventually killing the hapless owner. Great defense, but a pretty damn pointless piece of equipment.
There was also a sword that attracted all magicules in the local area like a magnet, making it impossible to cast any spells, and transformed them into explosive force. You definitely got a bang out of it, but it didn’t exactly spare the wielder from the blast. I’d be way too scared to use that thing or the suit of armor that granted the wearer extraordinary physical strength for a limited time. Once that time expired, your muscles all ruptured, rendering you motionless and dead unless you had healing magic on hand…
So basically, you had a room full of equipment that could kill you if you weren’t paying attention. I doubted anybody in town was dumb enough to try any of this unevaluated stuff out—especially because I didn’t want to take responsibility for the fallout—but I thought it’d all work just fine in Ramiris’s labyrinth.
“Yeah, it’s fine,” I told Kurobe. “These actually seem really valuable if you take into account all their different features.”
This was decent stuff, after all. Much of it was valued at Rare or above, with a few Uniques scattered here and there—in the same lineup as the Scale Shield and Tempest Dagger I gifted Kabal’s party.
I picked up one of the items—the Tempest Sword—as I turned to Kurobe.
“It seems like kind of a waste, doesn’t it? Keeping all this high-quality stuff in here just because it’s still in the test stage. Don’t you want to pair some of it with the kind of people who could really take advantage of it?”
I was trying to lead him to the answer I wanted. Kurobe took the bait.
“Oh? Well, you can take whatever you like from here.”
I wasn’t tricking him, exactly, but I did feel kinda bad about it.
Soon, Kurobe’s warehouse was a fair bit emptier. Now I had a set of weapons I could populate the treasure chests in the labyrinth with. They’d be obtained by adventurers who earned the right to them by reaching the level I put them in, so I didn’t lie to Kurobe at all. No need to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Still, I was amazed at his sheer output. There was more here than the last time I had stopped by; I’d say it was at over a hundred items now. Much of it was dicey, yes, but some pieces were just difficult to master. The one common link among them was that they were all superior to anything you’d see in the capital at Englesia, the kind of thing you’d normally only see at auction.
During the Harvest Festival that marked my ascension to demon lord, Kurobe received the unique skill Mastercraft. This was a force that stacked on top of his previous Researcher skill, polishing it further. By this point, he was way past Kaijin. Whenever he got serious about a project, it wasn’t uncommon for a Unique-grade piece of equipment to result. Rare level for sure, at least. That was much of the reason why only his apprentices’ work appeared at public showings.
“Gotta say, though, I’m impressed. I’ve learned forging myself, but no way could I make any of this.”
“Heh-heh! High praise from you, Sir Rimuru. Oh, but lemme give you this before I forget.”
Suddenly serious, the ever-modest Kurobe returned to the tatami-mat room in the rear to fetch something.
“Well, it’s something I’ve made you wait far too long for.”
He handed me a long, straight sword, the blade a jet-black in color. Not too long, but not too short—made just for me, at truly the ideal length.
“So this is…”
“Yep. My greatest masterpiece yet.”
At first glance, the only unusual thing about the sword was its black body. There wasn’t some ultra-powerful aura shooting out; it wasn’t generating its own magic or anything. But that’s what I wanted. This blade’s focus was squarely on durability. It’d never break, never bend, and would fully adjust itself to my magical force—without wreaking havoc around me, like with Hinata’s Moonlight sword. It allowed me to be wholly unrestrained in a fight.
“Well done. You’ve made me proud, Kurobe.”
“I’m just as proud of it as you, trust me on that. But the sword isn’t complete just yet. As you know, my weapons usually have a hole at the base, the way you suggested they should.”
I looked at the base. “Oh? I don’t see any here.”
“No. The other weapons get that hole when they’re complete, but not this one. Because once it acclimates to your magic force, it’ll grow…and evolve. And despite that, I built it so it’ll always look like just another sword otherwise.”
He had a right to be proud. As he put it, this sword in its complete state could be a piece of Legend-class material…not that it felt that way presently. The other equipment in the family was still under development, and the magic crystal meant to go into the hole he mentioned wasn’t done yet. No point having a hole if there was nothing for it yet. I would just look forward to that forthcoming moment.
I left Kurobe’s workshop with a spring in my step. I had my own sword, and I also got all the other stuff I wanted. Now I could seed those treasure chests and spread them all around the Dungeon. It’d be kinda fun to insert boss monsters to protect the particularly nice pieces, too. This was almost like designing a real-life dungeon-crawl RPG, and it was unbelievably exciting.
Yeah, you could probably make a mint selling these test items and failed experiments at auction—I’m sure Mjöllmile or Fuze could hook me up with the right people for that. It’d be a surer way of earning income, but I didn’t want that. The key here was to get humans interacting with monsters. I wanted to bring people over here and have them experience everything that made Tempest great—and if they liked what they saw, I’m sure they would come back. This was just one part of that effort.
Plus, this wasn’t just a matter of bribing adventurers with loot and sending them on their way. I already had the next step of the process in mind. Let’s say you have someone hacking their way through the Dungeon, collecting assorted items and bringing them back to the surface. Using non-appraised weapons or armor, I had heard, was considered extremely dangerous. That’s where my little friend Assess comes in. This stuff was made in Tempest, so I naturally knew all about their traits and features. A lot of it would be quite useful to adventurers, assuming you used it right—yeah, some of it was downright dangerous, but we’d offer a buyback service for that.
Money’s meant to be circulated, not kept in a vault or whatever. As long as we purchased the materials we needed and paid for necessary upkeep, we could give back the rest to the adventurers. Word would spread about this over time, and I was sure it’d make our land famous. Besides, filling adventurers’ wallets would improve the outlook for our inns and lodging houses. More people coming to Tempest meant less downtime for places like that, which was important—for business and for advertising.
So the southeast side of town would have a battle arena, with Ramiris’s dungeon underneath. On the southwest, we’d have discount inns and hostels. Unlike the high-end facilities to the northeast, we’d keep things cheap down there, attracting primarily adventurers to help delineate our offerings. Their location would be convenient to the labyrinth, and I was positive it’d be a booming success.
I was worried at first when Ramiris talked about moving here, but maybe that was the right thing to do all along, huh?
We also planned to have at least one or two large-scale events at the arena each year. Mjöllmile was no doubt filling in the rest of the year’s schedule with other things, too—military training, test-your-mettle events for adventurers, and so on. There could be a lot of demand for that kind of thing, I thought. We could have people try to use that training in the Dungeon—a kind of standardized exam, you could say. If you can’t die in there, you could try some crazy stuff you’d ordinarily never dream of attempting.
Realizing how many options were open to us—not just commercial, either—I decided to talk with Benimaru later about them.
I had my seed items, but it was too early to focus on the Dungeon; that could wait until it was done. For now, I wanted to wrap up talks with the one person we needed for the final touches, the whole cornerstone of this scheme—Veldora.
I found him relaxing in my little house a bit removed from town, a nice little Asian-style teahouse. There’s actually a secret to this building—but I’ll go into that later. Veldora was treating the place like he owned it or something, which I didn’t mind that much, but…come on, man.
“Yo, Veldora. Can you do me a favor?”
“Mm? What? I am busy.”
Yeah, busy reading manga, maybe.
“Ah… Too bad. I thought this was a pretty neat offer, too… But if you’re busy, then oh well. I just figured we could use your aura to— Oh, right, sorry. You’re busy. Never mind.”
I pretended to walk away. Leaving what was supposed to be my own house was a little weird, but well, I had lots of places to sleep. Besides…
“Oh, just one moment. I am busy, yes, but if you insist upon it, I will lend you an ear!”
Great, I hooked him. As gullible as always, I see. Like taking candy from a baby. I should start calling him the Gulli-Dragon.
The rest would now easily fall in place. I stood tall, looking as haughty as possible.
“Well,” I started, trying to sound suggestive, “I was thinking about providing a den for you to live in, sort of.”
“Wh-what?! My own place? You mean it?!”
I really got him now. He took his eyes off the manga he was reading, watching me curiously.
“Yep. All for you. But if you’re too busy right now…”
“Wait—wait! No need to be in such a hurry. We’re friends, are we not? I’d be glad to put your requests at the top of the queue! Kwaaaah-ha-ha-ha!”
I had Veldora excited now. Perfect. Might as well go through with the pitch. He almost never listened to people, so these preliminaries really were necessary. A pain in the ass, but I just considered it a little ceremony I conducted to help him be useful for a change.
“Mm, yes, what are friends for, after all?”
“Precisely. Tell me what you want!”
“Well, Ramiris is moving into town, and we’re gonna build her labyrinth right underneath the arena. So—”
“Oh, Ramiris?” Veldora replied, picking up on what this meant. “Her powers are a bit of an unknown quantity to me. I understood them as creating paths that led you to the same spot, no matter where you were. Does she twist and turn these paths around to create mazes?”
“Right. And she can add more floors to these mazes, so I want to fill them with tricks and traps and stuff.”
“More floors? That little girl was more powerful than I thought, then.”
Now Veldora was looking serious, engaged. So gullible.
I then regaled him about the entire story behind our dungeon plan. “But it’d be boring to just have a plain old labyrinth, right? That’s why I want to make it into something really great—like, great enough to be a huge attraction. I was just talking with Ramiris today, but she’s busy adding levels to her labyrinth right now.”
“Oh? And how does that connect to me?”
“Well, I’m thinking we need an overlord to govern the dungeon.”
“Ramiris and I will manage the dungeon itself. On the hundredth floor, at the bottom, there’s a door that leads to the spirit labyrinth that’s Ramiris’s main residence. Don’t you think a door like that needs a guardian, Veldora? Like, the strongest guardian in history?”
“I do! I do! Yes, well said, Rimuru. And you would like me to take this role?”
Just as I thought, he latched on to the offer. The word strongest (when pointed at him) usually made him melt, so I knew uttering it would have the desired effect.
“That’s right, Veldora. And if you’ll take it, you’ll get another bonus out of it, too.”
“Oh? I was already waiting to say yes to you. But let’s hear what this…bonus is.”
Heh-heh-heh. The “bonus”…or really, the gist of the whole thing.
“So you’ve been wanting to let off your aura for a little while, right? You said you were about to hit your limit or whatever?”
“Ah! You mean…?”
“Yes! In the labyrinth, you’ll be free to unleash it all you want. You can go back to your normal dragon form, even.”
“Just imagine, this divinely cool dragon lurking deep in the depths of a forbidding labyrinth—”
“Meaning myself?” he interrupted. “So I’ll be allowed to use my full power on anyone who visits? All Kwah-ha-ha-ha-ha, welcome, you insects and so forth?”
Plainly, he loved it. The lethargy of a moment ago was gone. Dangling that bait in front of him got him monstrously excited. Now for one final push, I thought, as I recalled a little something Ramiris and I had discussed.
“I’ll even put some units in place for you to fight off the adventurers with. That’s right—I’m gonna re-create that game you wanted to try out. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?”
This, in a nutshell, was what I wanted to make—a real-time (also, real-life) strategy game set in a dungeon. The idea came to me out of nowhere as I’d talked with Ramiris. I’d have units (monsters) in place to tackle adventurers, along with bosses to protect the loot chests. The Dungeon would be filled with Veldora’s magicules, growing thicker as you approached the hundredth floor. The force in the air would be pretty thin up top, so you’d only see minion-level monsters at first, but the deeper you got, the more higher-level foes you’d find patrolling the halls. Even in his former prison, enough magic leaked out to create tempest serpents (rank: A-minus) and other powerful creatures—I couldn’t even imagine what he’d create at this point.
Frankly, the whole “gate guardian” thing didn’t matter to me; I didn’t really expect anyone to make the hundredth floor in the first place. The key to all this was getting Veldora’s aura released. It felt to me like I couldn’t get away with making him keep it in much longer, but if I just left him to his own devices, he might decide to blow it all out in some empty corner of the world. I couldn’t take my eyes off him for a moment, because if he erupted closer to town, maybe my administration and I could withstand it, but nobody else would. With enough magicule concentration, anything below a B in rank would die.
I found it dangerous to rely solely on Veldora’s willpower to keep us safe, so Ramiris’s labyrinth was really a lifeboat in the nick of time. It was a completely sealed space, something I confirmed when I explored it myself earlier, so there was no worrying about magicules leaking out. Veldora’s full aura unleashed shouldn’t faze it at all.
Even in the Sealed Cave, it’d be impossible to resist the aura of a fully revived Veldora—not that I’d bring him down there now, what with our research facility and all. The Dungeon was perfect for him, and for the purposes of my true goal. I wanted him to whip out that aura and go to town with it.
My “true goal,” you see, was to use the large, dense cloud of magicules he’d create and generate monsters with it. The whole plan rode on that idea—Veldora releasing his aura, and me making good use of it. An excellent plan, if I do say so myself. Two birds—no, three birds—with one stone. Not only would it keep him from crashing my house uninvited, it’d also make him useful as a magicule generator for my new monster factory, giving him a job to do so he wouldn’t be such a freeloader. Not that I thought anyone would actually make it all the way to his floor, though…
But what did he think? Veldora stood up, placing his manga in a pocket, then extended a hand toward me, offering to shake.
“I like it. I like this very much, Rimuru. We will have adventurers dispatch these ‘units,’ so they can stand before me, and I can deliver them divine justice. They may try to run from me, of course, but I will never allow them to. Perhaps I could bellow something akin to Bah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You cannot escape me! Didn’t you know? There is no fleeing the Storm Dragon! I always wanted to try saying that, and now I’ve got the chance, don’t I? Ahhh, I cannot wait to begin!”
His imagination was already running wild. I nodded back at him, but now I worried that I’d egged him on a little too much. Is this gonna be okay? Like, there’s really no way someone’ll reach Floor 100, right? I was a little concerned about that, but I needed to push this plan forward.
“…Well, you’re the only person I could ask to do this. Are you in?”
“Of course. Rimuru, you’ve done well to reach out to me. Truly, it is a task only I am capable of.”
He gave me a firm nod. I’m so glad he’s really that stupid. His cooperation, and his reaction, were even better than I thought possible.
The next day, Veldora and I went to Ramiris.
Construction of the arena began early in the morning, and the site was alive with activity. Some of the beastmen that were out on training had come back to pitch in, following Gobkyuu’s orders as they ran to and fro. I didn’t want to wreck their concentration, so we headed for the labyrinth.
The moment we entered, we emerged in the room Ramiris was in. As she promised, she had been busy expanding the Dungeon.
“Hello, Ramiris. Doing well?”
“Ahhh! Hello, Master! It’s good to see you again. I’m doing fine!”
Ramiris looked a tad fatigued but eminently satisfied with herself. I advised her not to overdo it. She was now seated on Veldora’s shoulder; I was glad to see they were still getting along.
I was glad, but it was also a problem, because the sight of Veldora was making Ramiris totally forget my advice.
“Just leave this to me! I’ll do it! I can totally pull this off, guys!”
To calm her down a bit, I decided to start with breakfast.
After that, I asked her about her progress. For now, she had expanded the labyrinth down to Floor 15; at the current pace, she’d reach one hundred several days later. I could decorate the interior along the way, so there was no need to hurry her further.
“The subsequent floors will formulate themselves at this point,” she said. “I’ve got nothing to do right now. Would you like to mess around with the floors that are done?”
Apparently, the floor-making work would proceed on its own, as long as Ramiris had remaining magic strength.
“All right, how about we set up Veldora’s room first?”
The domain of Veldora would be on the bottommost floor. I wanted to get it all set up for him, if only so I could kick him out of my place pronto. For now, that floor was still an empty space—no walls, no hallways, no stairs; just a door in the middle of nothing.
“Wow. Literally starting from zero, huh?”
“This is my room, Rimuru? Because it reminds me of my time being sealed away…”
Veldora wasn’t a fan. I saw his point. I’d feel kind of bad for him like this.
“Not to worry, Master!” Ramiris smiled at Veldora. “I can add stairs and other things easily enough, just by thinking about it.”
“All right,” I said, “how about we all use Thought Communication to figure out what we want this place to look like?”
We connected our minds together, and I showed them what I was currently picturing.
“Oooh! Yes, yes! Quite fine, Rimuru! I knew you were better than that. I suppose I am in good hands after all!”
“Sounds like Veldora’s all for it. Think you can make it into this?”
“You got it! This much isn’t a problem.”
Ramiris wasn’t kidding. In another instant, the space transformed. We were quickly surrounded by walls of thick stone, forming a large chamber with several smaller rooms coming out from it. The main chamber was a square three hundred feet or so on each side, impassive and looking every bit like a boss room. She did it up exactly like I pictured it in my mind.
“Whoa! This is perfect…”
“That it is, Ramiris. I am eminently satisfied!”
“Hee-hee! Glad you like it! Yes, I really am that good, y’know!”
Ramiris didn’t get compliments often enough, I guess, because she looked beside herself with joy. I really was impressed, though. If you tried to physically construct this, it’d take decades, not even years—and she was done in an instant. Plus, since this whole space was under her jurisdiction, she could customize it pretty freely. Astounding. I really started to see her in a new light.
But I couldn’t marvel at her forever.
This chamber was meant to be the reception area for any adventurer who made it here. But it wasn’t just that. In reality, it was a space large enough for Veldora to return to his original form. He needed to be able to fully relax and get comfortable in this space, or we’d never get anywhere. Of course, looking at him lately, he was chill enough in pretty much any physical form, I felt… If anything, being human made it easier to play games and read manga. He liked that form enough to use it to hang out uninvited in my home, after all. Maybe we’d need to build a human-Veldora room, too.
In the chamber was two doors, a large one that connected to the upper floors and another that connected to his private chambers. Ramiris did such a good job crafting my vision, it was literally just as I thought it’d be.
“Hoh? This is my room?”
Letting the curious Veldora look around a little, I took out a set of furniture from my Stomach. Deftly, I laid down a carpet woven by our town’s goblinas, placing a handmade desk and chair set on top of it. There was also a sofa in case he wanted to lie down, as well as a bed that I wasn’t sure would be used very much. The place looked comfy enough to me, and I even copied some manga I knew Veldora would like and filed it all into a bookshelf on the wall. The main chamber was dark and foreboding; this one was a cheerful little studio perfect for young, urban singles.
“Oh, how nice!” chirped Ramiris, looking a bit envious. “I’d like some furniture like this, too, y’know.”