7: Played with Some Kittens
“There are labyrinth items like this, huh…”
The shopkeeper resurrected from his frozen state and looked over the two teddy bears in admiration.
Although he was too young to be wearing a monocle, it suited him well.
He still seemed to lack confidence as always, but his serious expression as he conducted his appraisal made him look worthy to be entrusted with this task.
“However, I didn’t think that you wouldn’t believe me when I said that I became an adventurer.”
“I-I apologize… Ah, but you do have a more approachable air to you compared to before…”
“That’s wonderful to hear.”
The shopkeeper quickly averted his gaze from the smiling Lizel and looked at the teddy bears again.
Gil entertained the idea that Lizel was hard to approach before as he looked over at Lizel.
It was true that Lizel blended in more than before, but Gil felt that it might have simply been due to the change of clothes.
By the way, a former aristocrat claiming to be an adventurer was fairly hard to believe.
Well, Gil understood why. From what he had heard, the version of Lizel the shopkeeper saw was from when he just arrived in this world.
Gil himself believed without a doubt that Lizel was a nobleman from the beginning, so if that person claimed the next time they met that he became an adventurer, Gil surely wouldn’t believe him.
Lizel enjoyed the shopkeeper’s reactions to his occasional comments, but Gil advised him to stop and looked at the tools to maintain his sword lined up on the shelves.
Since the teddy bears were that unusual, it would probably take the shopkeeper some time.
While Gil discussed with Lizel and picked out the tools that Lizel still lacked to be an adventurer, the appraisal finished.
“How are they?”
“Um, you found these on the second floor of the nearby labyrinth…correct?”
Lizel nodded, curious, so the shopkeeper lined up the two teddy bears to show him.
The red and blue eyes reflected the light and sparkled.
“The fabric, buttons, and the jewels in their eyes—everything is a product of the labyrinth.”
“Made quite well for somethin’ from the second floor.”
“Do you think we can make one gold coin for the two of them?”
The client’s budget was a maximum of one gold coin. Although it was expectedly unlikely, Lizel wanted to squeeze the most amount of money he could from it if possible. He was the type to receive all he could.
Gil had previously mentioned that if an adventurer carelessly brought a worthless item, their reputation would lower.
“Far from one coin, you could get five gold coins from these two depending on the person.”
“A doll…ah, yeah, like those collectors who specialize in dolls?”
“Yes, there’s quite a few of them. One could get you two gold coins. And a pair like this would be five coins, probably…”
“This?” the two looked down at the teddy bears. Neither Lizel nor Gil could understand such a sphere.
However, if this was about books, then Lizel could understand. If it was an unusual book, Lizel wouldn’t even look at the price before buying.
Such was the world of an enthusiast. Lizel nodded in agreement, and Gil beside him still couldn’t understand and had a suspicious look on his face.
“However, if I were to view these as a normal labyrinth item, then they really are a low-ranked good…”
“As a labyrinth item?”
“Those depend on practicality. But since these dolls seem to be useless no matter how you look at them, they really seem like a labyrinth item you’ll find on the second floor.”
Setting aside those who collect labyrinth items, the average adventurer stressed practicality in their tools.
Excellent weapons and armor were a given, but items such as eternally lit lamps, permanently sharp knives, and precious ore were naturally worth a lot.
Likewise, they can be considered valuable based solely on their monetary profit.
If you sold items such as the aforementioned lamp to the guild wholesale, then those items would also have a high price tag.
Lizel’s teddy bears were an exception this time.
Practically was nonexistent, and it seemed like an incomprehensible notion that a doll fanatic existed inside the labyrinth.
By the way, during instances when labyrinth items coming out of treasure chests didn’t match the floor they came out of at all, the adventurers would say, “The labyrinth’s bugged.”
“Low-ranking labyrinth items have appeared deep inside a bunch of times, but never has somethin’ good pops up in the early floors. Looks like it didn’t bug out this time either.”
“You say that, but these are just teddy bears.”
Lizel held up a teddy bear and didn’t know what to do.
It wouldn’t be bad to sell it to a fanatic, but then they would need to dive into the labyrinth again to fulfill the request.
He didn’t want to attach a high price tag to them, but he also didn’t have any labyrinth items to submit instead.
“…Well, it’s fine. Please write an appraisal certificate with their price as labyrinth items.”
“Eh?! It’s fine…?”
“You’re gonna start trouble, aren’t ya?”
It was an unimaginable move for an adventurer to abandon a way to get rich quick.
Lizel’s eyes narrowed as he smiled at Gil’s critical gaze.
The two exchanged glances for several seconds while the shopkeeper nervously between them.
The first one to break was Gil. He clicked his tongue and let out of deep sigh at this inevitability.
Lizel unquestionably accepted Gil’s advice whenever it concerned adventurers and adventuring.
So, for Lizel to refuse to listen, this meant that he must have something big in mind. And, that was most likely trouble.
Though Gil didn’t know what it was exactly.
“…Do whatever you like.”
“Yes. Then, if you would.”
The shopkeeper was momentarily dumbfounded as the mood broke down, but he prepared the certificate after Lizel’s prompt.
He pressed the shop’s seal onto the paper that had the complete price recorded.
Lizel peered in. The recorded price was three silver coins. Despite having no practicality, it was a reasonable price for something with artistic value.
It was a job well done delivering goods for a low-ranked adventurer.
From the beginning, a labyrinth item worth one gold coin could only be found on the middle floors of a labyrinth. The client should have also set that price fully aware of this.
“Is it fine to give it bare just like this?”
“Put them inside some box.”
“Then, let’s have them wrapped as well since they’re stuffed animals.”
It appeared that Lizel had long accepted that his first labyrinth item was a set of stuffed animals.
Seeing how he would throw a few more coins in just to have it wrapped, Lizel must be thoroughly enjoying himself.
“The guild’ll have to a check. You don’t have to overdo it.”
“Then, how about sticking a nice ribbon on the box? Ah, a silver-colored one would like nice.”
A sticker resembling a decoration made from a long, silver ribbon was attached to a reasonably-sized, sturdy-looking, black gift box.
The ribbon had black and white stripes. Lizel watched in satisfaction as the teddy bears transformed into a mature and chic present.
By the way, the appraisal certification was put in an envelope that resembled those used by the castle for invitations, and it was also placed inside the box.
Gil wondered what drove Lizel to go that far, seeing that Lizel was a perfectionist to a strange level.
And, for some reason, this shop could also wrap their goods. If Gil had to say, this place was more oriented towards adventurers.
Lizel and the shopkeeper appeared to be delighted at a job well done, yet Gil looked at them, unable to fully comprehend.
He told Lizel to put them in a box, but he would have never imagined that Lizel would go this far.
“You… Why do you put the effort into stuff that doesn’t make sense?”
“I have a playful side.”
“Is that so?” Gil nodded and gave up on pursuing any further.
After that, they headed to the guild to safely deliver the requested good, but it was needless to say that Studd accepted with his expressionless face the box Lizel took out of his pouch, confirmed its contents, and silently closed the lid.
Lizel was notified that the request’s completion was acknowledged without problem, so he left the guild, satisfied.
After returning to the inn, Lizel had been reading the whole time.
This was not limited to only today. Whenever he had any time, he would spend it with a book in hand.
He made his rounds to bookstores other than the one that was introduced to him. He chose and purchased books with contents that didn’t overlap with others he read, and there was always a supply read in his pouch.
Since the first bookstore had a fine selection, he didn’t need to absurdly buy out the whole store.
He suddenly looked out the window and confirmed that the sun was beginning to set.
He closed the book he was reading, put it in his pouch, got up from his chair, and left the room.
Then, he knocked on Gil’s room next door. Because Gil would always faithfully tell him whenever he was going out, Lizel knew that Gil was inside.
“Is now a good time?”
“I have something I would like to ask you.”
After being invited in, Lizel sat in the seat facing the desk.
As usual, the room was clean and tidy. By the way, Lizel’s room was slightly a mess because he left the books he finished reading everywhere.
“About the party I met in the guild this morning.”
“Wasn’t the guild full of parties in the mornin’?”
“The one talking about the new labyrinth. You remember? The party with the note I peeked at.”
“Ah, the ones you stuck your nose into.”
Gil didn’t hide the criticism in his eyes, so Lizel returned a wry smile.
It was true that a guard would want to voice his complaints if the person he was guarding got involved in trouble themselves.
As someone who had been protected by guards, Lizel knew better than to do anything unnecessary, but he wanted to try various things since he was finally free in this other world.
Gil had no choice but to give up.
“Is there any information about them as a party of adventurers?”
Gil raised an eyebrow in suspicion because there hadn’t been a single time Lizel paid any attention to the many adventurers around them.
“Somethin’ on your mind?”
“Not really. I just thought it might be good to know.”
“‘Might be,’ huh. I don’t know much ‘bout them.”
The info Gil disclosed was general knowledge. Everything could have been discovered if investigated. This demonstrated how little interest Gil had in other adventurers.
Although all the members were young, they were C- and D-ranks, thus their party was expected to reach C-rank in the future.
The requests they took were mostly combat-types, so they were the stereotypical group of adventurers.
Their frequency of fights could be due to their age, but the public opinion of them was neither good nor bad.
“Now that you mention it, they did seem like a rather naughty group of children.”
“Though they’ve never picked a fight with me.”
“Isn’t that because they know their limit? They seem vastly more intelligent than that man from before. Their potential?”
“Huh? I dunno… But, it’ll take some more for them to reach B.”
The higher the ranks went, the more difficult the journey to the next one became.
Lizel had advanced from F-rank to E-rank from today’s request, but this was a completely different level.
Because only the people the guild judged as worthy of advancing to the next will advance, advancing was not always guaranteed.
Lizel muttered that he understood, so Gil leaned on his elbow and asked.
“So, what ‘bout their potential? You want ‘em?”
“No. But, don’t you think it might be beneficial, even for a side job, to invest a little in those young ones?”
Gil was aware that Lizel kept him by his side because Lizel deemed him as necessary.
He thought that Lizel must have deemed them necessary as well, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
But, this was more than that. He didn’t feel overly self-conscious, but he still bothered that those kinds of people would be viewed at the same level as him.
As Gil pondered what Lizel meant by investment, he heard familiar footsteps. They were headed in this direction.
For some reason, the footsteps walked past and stopped while Lizel stood up and walked towards the door.
The slightly powerful knock echoing and Lizel opening the door and poking his head out happened at the same time.
“Oh, Mr. Lizel, you were there?”
“Sorry for the trouble. So, is something the matter?”
“No, but I wanted to ask you something…”
The footsteps’ owner was the hostess, and she lowered her voice with a suspicious look on her face.
She seemed wary of something, so Gil stood up and approached the two conversing by the door.
“Some visitors came and said they have some business with you, but they don’t look like the type of men you associate with…”
Gil looked down at Lizel. Lizel shouldn’t have any acquaintances who would come visit the inn.
As far as Gil knew, there was only one person who would elevate themselves to an acquaintance when talking to others.
The only one they had exchanged names with—Studd.
However, not only would he not come here, but he also wouldn’t cause the hostess to speak in that way. He would neatly wear the guild uniform, so someone who was unsociable yet courteous wouldn’t be viewed badly.
When Lizel noticed the gaze Gil was sending, he broadened his smile and faced the hostess.
“Were they young men?”
“Yeah, I think they were around twenty years old. They looked somewhat like ruffians, but they weren’t arrogant. They were rather docile despite their appearance. I was thinking about driving them away if they were planning on doing anything to you.”
“Then, they’re probably my guests.”
“Based on your words, they’re probably not close friends of yours. Unlike Gil who just looks like that, how did you come to know such rough-looking and acting adventurers?”
“No, but I’m also an adventurer.”
The hostess still forgot that Lizel was an adventurer.
While Gil had slightly conflicted feelings about being judged on his appearance, Lizel persuaded the worried hostess that they weren’t dangerous.
She might have been under the impression that the calm-faced, naïve Lizel would fall victim to some deception. She was terribly overprotective of him.
“Hey, it’ll rude to keep guests waiting so let’s go.”
“If Mr. Lizel says so, then it’s fine… Are you sure you don’t want to do it in your room?”
“There’s no one in the dining hall at this time, right? Since there are chairs there, let’s meet downstairs.”
As if escorting the hostess, Lizel took her hand and gently turned her around.
The hostess resigned and headed down the stairs. Lizel followed behind her and threw a glance at Gil.
Gil understood that as a sign to come along, so he locked the door to his room and headed downstairs.
He already figured out the meaning of Lizel’s question before as he let out a sigh mixed with admiration and astonishment.
At the end of the staircase, four men stood at the reception area that was certainly not wide.
They appeared to be discussing something while the hostess was away, but they suddenly stopped speaking as soon as Lizel and the others showed up.
They seemed to be trying to read the mood yet remain firm to avoid having it carelessly seen. Observing them, Lizel smiled as if he was relieved about something.
“Hostess, can I reserve the dining hall for some time? I would like to use it for our discussion.”
“I guess it’s fine since there’s still some time before dinner. I don’t think anyone will come, but I’ll put up the sign saying that we’re not open.”
“Thank you very much. I’ll throw you a tip.”
The hostess gave a hearty laugh and left.
The men were dumbfounded as they watched Lizel proceed ahead without asking for their purpose.
Lizel looked back at them and opened the door to the dining hall.
“Please come in. I’ll listen to what you have to say inside.”
Lizel went inside first and sat at a random table. The men followed behind and sat on the seats opposite of him.
There were only two seats on that side, so the remaining two men used a nearby table.
Gil stood diagonally behind Lizel. Since there was a wall behind him, he leaned against it. He crossed his arms and looked down at Lizel.
The men were worried about when that gaze would be directed toward them, so they couldn’t relax. Being exposed by this sharp, frigid gaze, the men probably couldn’t hold a proper discussion.
That was how much awe Gil inspired in other adventurers. Though, the person himself seemed oblivious.
“So, what is the matter?”
As if to break this frozen atmosphere, Lizel asked in a gentle voice.
The gentle sound of his voice was exactly the same as the one the men heard this morning. As such, they were able to recall their purpose in coming here.
Right, they were completely swept up by the two in front of them that they forgot their purpose.
They reprimanded themselves for being overwhelmed by the beginner adventurer in front of them and looked directly at Lizel.
Gil glanced over at the adventurers to observe them. Unlike the one he directs to Lizel, this gaze felt astonished as he didn’t bother to hide his contempt.
He could understand that they were trying to take the lead in the discussion, but it was too late.
By the time they accepted Lizel’s advice this morning, they had already lost the right to take control.
Yet, they were utterly ignorant that they were viewed this way, and the man in front of Lizel opened his mouth.
“I’m this party’s boss, Ein. Next to me is the second-in-charge.”
The man who called himself Ein spoke as their representative.
Lizel returned a smile to their simple greeting.
“Thanks to your advice this mornin’, we’re currently at the top for that labyrinth.”
“That’s wonderful news.”
While Lizel congratulated them, he wondered how exactly adventurers were aware of each other’s progress.
In many labyrinths, adventurers rarely encountered others on their trek inside.
No matter how many groups entered the exact same labyrinth, they wouldn’t see any other adventurers around.
Still, Lizel couldn’t wrap his head around it since people were progressing through the labyrinth simultaneously in real-time. It was another instance of “What can you do? It’s a labyrinth.”
Since there would be no meaning to ask Gil about it now, Lizel decided to hold his question for later.
“I hope you can continue like this all the way to the lowest level.”
“…About that. We wanna consult you.”
“We’re stuck again and wanna ask for your help.”
It appeared that this kind of puzzle frequently appeared.
To be stuck again the same day you solve a new puzzle, what a cruel labyrinth.
Lizel purposely tilted his head to the four pairs of eyes looking at him.
He knew that this was their purpose, but he feigned hesitation.
Whether or not Lizel was aware that Gil thought he had a horrible personality, Lizel suddenly extended a hand.
“I think I should receive half of what you uncover on the lowest level.”
The man sitting the farthest away stood up, loudly knocking down his chair.
When Lizel leisurely looked over, the man’s face twisted in anger as he glared at Lizel.
“Ah, but if there’s nothing, I’m fine with not getting anything.”
“Don’t mess with us! There’s a limit to how much you can take advantage of us!”
“Then, let me ask you this.”
Lizel comfortably leaned against the back of his chair, knitted his fingers together, and rests his hands on the desk.
That alone made the seat Lizel was sitting on not a cheap one belonging to the inn but a stately one a noble would sit on.
His eyes were not sharp by any means; rather, they were gentle. Yet, this gaze made the man it was directed to unconsciously tighten his fists.
However, Lizel did not continue to look at that man. Instead, he returned to Ein.
“I solve the puzzle, send you to the lowest level, and then what?”
“Did you think a simple ‘We’re done. Thanks’ would be the end?”
The one Lizel had been speaking to was Ein since the beginning. The man standing up sensed what was implied and sat back down.
These weighty words were said in his usual calm manner, but it felt dominating for some reason.
The men didn’t understand the reason behind it, but they no longer thought of Lizel as some beginner adventurer.
“…Of course, we didn’t think you would be doin’ this for free.”
“Is that so?”
Just as Lizel said, Ein and the others did hold the small hope that Lizel might help them for free.
Firstly, Lizel didn’t appear to be in any need of money.
Secondly, Lizel didn’t show any interest in the new labyrinth this morning.
The former was based on Ein’s group’s own impressions, and it was difficult to say that Lizel felt that his above-average amount of money was enough.
The latter was based on the request Lizel took that day being unrelated, and he also didn’t show any interest in the unconquered labyrinth.
“It’s only natural to receive compensation equivalent to the results, yes?”
Lizel added as though he saw through the men’s thoughts, and this smashed their hope into fine dust.
But, their hope to have this free of charge was still a dream. They had prepared to discuss compensation.
However, that didn’t mean they could accept the amount Lizel suggested.
“No matter how you put it, half is too much.”
“Did you not think that this was impossible by yourselves? Is that not why you came to me? I think it’s an appropriate amount given that I’m transforming the impossible to the possible.”
“The ones who are actually diving into the labyrinth will be us. The danger and effort to do that can’t be compared to what you’ll be doing.”
“That’s why I said the compensation should be equivalent to the result, not the effort.”
No matter what the men said, Lizel flatly responded. This caused the men to gradually lose their temper.
The reason they hadn’t laid a hand on Lizel yet was solely that Gil was standing behind him.
Presently, Gil showed no signs of moving, but it was easy to imagine the moment they did make a move, the sword at Gil’s waist would instantly be drawn.
That was exactly why Lizel did nothing and only smiled at the men who clearly weren’t hiding their anger.
“I believe you have misunderstood one thing.”
“And what’s that?!”
“That you are in no position to demand negotiations from me.”
Lizel’s broad grin caused the adventurers to be taken aback for a moment.
Not only could they not understand what was said to them, but they also couldn’t believe that such words came out from that gentle, smiling face.
“You can tell me to bring up my proposal of half of the reward to other parties, you know.”
While they may lose half of the treasure obtained in the labyrinth, they would, in turn, be given the achievement of being the first to complete the labyrinth.
If the question was whether there were parties who would accept such conditions, undoubtedly many existed.
Everyone desired the achievement of being the first to complete. To adventurers, there were many benefits to having your fame spreading, and it was also very appealing when advancing to the next rank.
Despite that, the reason Ein and his group were reluctant was that they were presently the closest party to being the first to complete.
They couldn’t completely cast away the hope and possibility that they could clear it all by themselves.
But, if Lizel were to aid some other party, they might lose their first place position.
“…Do you think some other party’ll suddenly believe what you gotta say?”
“That’s coming for you who believed me?”
Ein couldn’t say anything to Lizel who was smiling in delight. Because he had believed that one hint he got in the morning.
He ended up believing it. He couldn’t help but believe it.
He couldn’t imagine any puzzle the Lizel in front of him couldn’t solve.
Ein knew that what he felt would also be felt by other parties.
“Besides, your assumption in the beginning was wrong.”
“You came to me to seek my help, but if you could complete the dungeon yourself, you wouldn’t have come, correct?”
“Right, that’s obvious.”
Lizel unraveled his fingers and pointed his index finger upward.
As he pointed that finger at himself, he signaled a look over at Gil behind him.
“You can go try to challenge it tomorrow.”
That was when Ein and his group arrived at the possibility for the first time and shuddered.
They hadn’t thought about that. If Lizel and Gil were to dive into the labyrinth, would they be able to make it to the lowest floor?
Even at the middle floors where Ein’s group was currently at, the monsters that appeared were at most the kind experienced D-rank adventurers could pass through.
Such a labyrinth shouldn’t pose any difficulty to “One Slash”, and Lizel should be able to solve the numerous puzzles.
Ein finally understood. It wasn’t that they would be giving Lizel half of the reward for his help.
No, they would be given half of the reward and the achievement of being the first to complete the labyrinth by Lizel.
Since they were on the receiving side, these were unprecedented terms. As Lizel stated, they undoubtedly weren’t “in any position to demand negotiations.”
Rather, they should feel indebted to the point where they couldn’t express their gratitude.
“…Sorry, let’s restart from the beginning.”
“By all means.”
The party members who couldn’t keep up with the conversation shouted, but the second-in-charge was the only one who understood Lizel’s words and obstructed them.
Ein left the matter of explaining to the members to the second-in-charge and faced Lizel again.
“We’ll accept the honor of being given the achievement of being first to complete the labyrinth, so please help us.”
Ein promptly understood his position and responded accordingly. “He’s quite the clever boy,” Lizel thought with a smile.
The others received a sufficient explanation and were convinced. They waited for Lizel’s answer.
Lizel thought that one of them wouldn’t have agreed and violently protest, but Ein appeared to be a fine leader for them.
As expected of someone who assembled a group from this age range and became a C-rank. The guild’s rating appeared to be accurate.
“Then, it’s a deal.”
Ein’s group rejoiced in excitement.
They cheered as if the achievement was already in their hands, but Lizel wryly smiled and Gil let out a sigh.
The two sitting at the next table must have heard Gil’s sigh as they froze.
“We wouldn’t want strange rumors spreading, now do we? If you have any puzzles you don’t understand, please leave them with Studd…”
“Don’t do it.”
Lizel was about to say, “Please leave them to Studd, I’ll see to them, and I’ll return them back to him,” but Ein’s and Gil’s looks of disagreement stopped him.
It went without saying that Ein wasn’t very good at dealing with Studd. No adventurer was good with Studd.
Moreover, a new trauma was instilled in Ein this morning, so he would never voluntarily speak to Studd.
Gil was fully convinced that Studd hated him.
No one could agree with Lizel’s statement that Studd was a good kid.
“Then, please give it to the hostess here. You can have her call me whenever I’m here.”
“But then we can’t get through it all in a day.”
“Isn’t that fine? You can’t enjoy it like that.”
Lizel was telling them to think and understand for themselves.
Only when they cannot figure it out no matter how hard they try should they ask for help. After all, Lizel wouldn’t always be waiting for them in the inn.
“‘An investment as a side job,’ huh,” Gil muttered.
Lizel’s words right before Ein and his group arrived must have been referring to this.
For now, they would receive half, but a party willing to give the remaining half must have a good side.
They were still young and didn’t seem content to stay at C-rank. Though, if they were asked if they would become S-ranks, their answer would probably be that it was impossible.
“This method wouldn’t necessarily slow down your pace, correct?”
“Yeah. It’s not uncommon for parties to take a week for just one puzzle. And the ones who can’t figure it out after a week will steadily give up.”
“Please don’t say that they can’t advance because the monsters are too strong. That will make everything seem like a waste.”
Gil watched Ein and his group talk normally despite being overwhelmed before.
Lizel probably intended for things to turn like this. If he could control not only his own emotions but also those of the other party according to his will, he must have performed exceptionally well as a noble.
It was terrifying that the other party hadn’t noticed and even more so that Lizel was doing this unconsciously.
After briefly making plans, Ein and his group left with eyes brimming with immense gratitude. Lizel saw them off before turning back to Gil.
“You too. Are debates another one of your fortes, oh noble lord?”
Gil laughed as he said, and Lizel blinked in astonishment and smiled.
“There weren’t any arguments to make it a debate. I was just playing with some kittens.”
Lizel put his thumb, middle finger, and ring finger together and opened and closed them to resemble a mouth flapping.
He smiled in such delight that Gil was convinced Lizel was terrifying. In his good mood, Gil muttered.
“That’s a fox over here.”
<Translator’s Comments> With the length of these chapters, you would think you’d be getting two chapter’s worth compared to other novels.
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