Why were there so many lovers in the world?
This was regardless of the practically nonexistent probability that the ones you show fondness towards will coincidentally be fond of you.
And, Lizel believed that it was because your fondness was imprinted.
From the moment the other party becomes self-aware of their fondness of you, their eyes seek to follow you, instilling a sense of fondness for you in them.
If you want to be loved, then you must first put forth the effort, and that effort alone, known as “displaying your fondness”, was the way to the other party’s heart.
To the merchant working hard to stand on his own, this means demonstrating your wholehearted trust by leaving all matters of your purchases to him.
For the emotionless employee who didn’t know how to be pampered, this means conveying through your palm all the affection he never knew he wanted until now.
First was to clearly display your fondness and ingrain your existence in their mind. After that, you need to continue to convey what you desire.
It must not be frequent enough for the other party to become numb to it, but also not rare enough for them to lose interest. It’ll be a success when your affection becomes something the other party cannot be without.
This was one method Lizel used when he met ones he wanted to become closer to.
This method may sound like foul play, but it certainly was not.
It was natural to express affection to those he wanted to become close to, and Lizel merely chose a reliable method to show his fondness.
It was exactly because of his perception of people being a cut above others and the method’s capability to have the other party understand what was desired of them.
Lizel didn’t care what others thought of this method, but he hoped that no one would misunderstand this one thing—the affection he conveyed and the fondness the other party felt were not lies.
“I understand that you’re a dimwit when it comes to matters outside of business, but please come back as soon as possible.”
“What’s with that reaction? Was the only thing that matured your body and not your mind?”
That was exactly why Lizel smiled as Studd and Judge joked around with each other before their departure to the mercantile country Marcade. Although Gil felt otherwise, pressing them to hurry up.
As expected, things didn’t escalate past Studd smacking Judge.
“Studd always acts this curt with me.”
It was rare to see Judge voice such clear displeasure that Lizel wryly smiled at their intimacy.
Inside the faintly rattling wagon, Lizel suddenly turned around and looked at Judge’s back as he diligently served as the driver.
The grassland, stretching out as far as the eye can see in the front, could lull him to a wonderful sleep as long as monsters didn’t appear.
The wagon in Judge’s possession was naturally designed to transport goods.
Lizel thought that Judge could have stuffed everything inside a bag with spatial magic, but it seemed that there were many labyrinth items that were completely impervious to all types of magic, although Lizel had yet to encounter one.
Thus, a wagon was necessary to transport such items.
While it was used for transport, its appearance was that of a passenger wagon.
The body was composed of a solid framework covered not by cloth but wood. The wood used here was likely from the labyrinth as the weight of this covered wagon could be described as light despite its hefty appearance.
It may seem like an exaggeration for a single shopkeeper to own a wagon that hardly rocked out of concern for his delicate goods.
But, it was exactly because Judge’s shop cared deeply about the products that he ordered this wagon.
But, the wagon naturally lacked windows since it was designed for transport, and there was only one seat for passengers that was situated back-to-back with the driver.
The plank of wood functioning as a seat fit for three people stuck out from the wall, and through Judge’s consideration, that too was made to feel comfortable.
Despite the lack of windows, the rear was left wide open to ease loading and unloading the cargo. Likewise, the space behind the driver’s seat was left open to allow the driver access to the cargo.
As no fragile goods were loaded (there were some, but none were problematic), those two areas were left wide open, letting the scent of earth ride on the wind that blew through.
Because Judge’s seat was slightly higher, the elevation of Lizel’s and Gil’s head was roughly around Judge’s back. However, they didn’t have any problem conversing.
The sounds of the horses’ hooves treading upon the natural path could be heard.
“I had imagined it would be more of a typical covered wagon.”
“Eh? There’s no way I would allow you two to ride in such a vehicle…!”
“You didn’t need to concern yourself that much. But, this is certainly pleasant. Thank you very much.”
Just as Lizel said, this was an unprecedented accommodation for an adventurer’s first time escorting.
Unless they were some extraordinarily esteemed adventurer, they would normally be stuffed in between the gaps of the cargo.
It was common for them to endure motion sickness and back pain from a cheap wagon that rocked all the way through the journey.
“And yet,” Gil thought as he peeked at the seat he was on.
A cloth was draped over the wooden plank, and the back was buried in cushions. A supposedly uncomfortable seat had become soft and luxurious.
Gil wasn’t very fond of becoming an escort and thus didn’t take those requests, but he understood that this was considered exceptional treatment.
He wondered how Lizel’s first escort request would play out when he suddenly jerked his head around.
When he stuck his head out from behind the driver’s seat, he really could see out far off into the distance.
“Gil? Is there something wrong?”
“…I don’t think they’ve noticed us. Keep going straight.”
Judge had no idea what was out there, but he gripped the reins tighter.
Lizel also knelt on the seat and stuck his body out, but he couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
“Is there something over there?”
“Probably a group of razor wind wolves.”
“That’s the feeling I get.”
Gil let out a long yawn and leaned his back against the seat, but Lizel really couldn’t understand and looked outside once more.
“Gil, you often say stuff like presence and bloodthirst, but I don’t get it at all.”
“You’ll get it with experience.”
“How exactly does one get experience for it?”
“Aah… I guess spendin’ some time in a place where if you can’t sense ’em, you’ll die.”
Gil gave this advice but suddenly sensed something unpleasant and looked at Lizel.
As he had expected, Lizel was seriously considering this, so Gil firmly told him not to.
Based on all his experiences so far, Gil knew that Lizel would, despite his cleverness, nonchalantly do idiotic things.
He also noticed Judge’s back, trembling from the dangerous talk, and sighed.
“Hey, you know what to do, right, employer?”
“Eh, ah, y-yes?”
“If monsters come out—”
“I’ll stop the horses and go inside the wagon!”
Judge had traveled to Marcade numerous times already.
Of course, he had escorts accompany him each time, and he himself hadn’t once encountered a monster throughout his 10-day, round-trip journey.
He was notified of the monsters by the escorts and could follow the path to avoid drawing attention with his scant courage.
Every time a monster appeared, he would leave the driver seat, half in tears, and take refuge inside the wagon, so he was already accustomed to the process.
Gil explained that this was mostly the norm to Lizel and looked at the wagon’s ceiling.
By the way, Gil’s voice as he explained was rough and incoherent. Lizel easily understood that Gil had only mentioned the main points.
“Hey, does the top open?”
“Ah, yes. It’ll open if you press against it… I’m surprised you knew that.”
It was exactly as Judge said; he needed to push against it since there was no handle on the inside.
There were practically no gaps around the opening, adequate for a wagon that prioritized airtightness. Lizel had to strain his eyes just to see the outline of it.
He assumed that this design was for the capability to unload from the top.
“In that case, hey, even if the monsters notice us, you can keep going straight until they get about closer to 50.”
“It’ll take too much time to stop for all of them.”
Judge turned around with a skeptical face.
It was common practice to stop the wagon the moment monsters from afar approach, and that idea already terrified him.
And yet, the notion of continuing straight meant to advance without slowing down or anything else.
The adventurers Judge knew were, by no means, weak, but they had never said this.
“W-will you be attacking them from afar with magic…? But, rapid-fire is impossible, and I heard that it’s difficult to target from a wagon…”
“It ain’t magic, so it’s fine. The one doin’ it will be this guy.”
“Hmm, I’ve never done it from on top of a wagon… I wonder if I can hit them.”
“What are you sayin’? You casually hit bull’s-eye on your targets while walkin’.”
As he nudged his elbow against the back of the seat, Gil said in astonishment and looked down at Lizel.
Although his tone was doubtful, his face didn’t reveal any signs of unease.
Even when the two walked together while conversing, as long as Gil indicated the direction, Lizel had no issue firing at and piercing the target. The wagon may be moving, but Lizel would be at the top, so this should be nothing. In the first place, the rifle itself floated in the air, so the vibrations of the wagon had no effect.
“Controlling mana is delicate work, I’ll have you know.”
“But, you can do it, can’t ya?”
“Well, yes, that’s true.”
Lizel grumbled under his breath, but Gil knew that Lizel’s complaint was valid.
Normal magic that required controlling mana wasn’t generally handicapped by it.
The way attack magic such as Flare Ball worked was by not moving the ball of fire left and right but by having it track its target.
While the people capable of such a feat were extremely few, Lizel’s rifle had that handicap innately built in. He needed to accurately determine the angle of his target and suppress the gun’s massive recoil.
Thus, to simultaneously fire his gun while conversing and walking spoke of his ability to concentrate. His mind processing several complex tasks was surely extraordinary.
It would be a joke to say that such a person was incapable of locking on to his target simply because he was on top of a wagon.
Still, Gil naturally understood the burden that would come from such a feat, so he planned to handle any extra monsters that approached too closely.
Although, wagon escort requests hardly ever had to face large crowds of monsters.
“Mr. Lizel, that’s…”
The frozen Judge began to move again.
Although he had been frozen, the horses had continued along the road as directed. This showed how close of a relationship the animals and driver had.
Lizel tucked his hair, a mess from the wind blowing from the back, behind his ear as he pretended to take his gun out from his pouch.
As expected, it would be difficult to make an excuse for why a gun suddenly appeared from nowhere.
“Would you like to take a look? Here.”
Lizel turned around and held out the gun.
Judge panicked and after checking that the road ahead was straight, he accepted the gun in one hand.
Its heavy weight was unmistakably that of a gun, but he had his doubts about calling this a weapon.
Gil looked at Lizel with a suspicious face as he asked in a low voice.
Judge should be able to perceive that this was no ordinary gun. Gil scowled, trusting that Lizel wasn’t planning on exposing everything, but Lizel continued to smile.
After observing it for some time, Judge tilted his head, perplexed. Just as Gil thought.
“This isn’t a normal gun, correct?”
“You are correct. That’s why I’m using it.”
“The bullets are crystal…no, that’s not right. Perhaps, mana… But, reloading doesn’t seem possible.”
The two believed that Judge would see through their ruse, but even Gil was impressed that Judge managed to consider the finer details as well.
Being able to figure out the nature of tools from another world could only be described as impressive.
Lizel watched Judge appraise his gun in satisfaction and casually pointed at the bullets.
“That’s correct. You can’t load mana in, right?”
“I see… I’ve never heard of using mana as bullets, but… I guess that’s how labyrinth items go.”
The rule “It can’t be helped because it’s a labyrinth” also applied to labyrinth items, of course.
Lizel appreciated this mindset that anything goes when dealing with labyrinths, no matter how impossible things may be.
“When I opened the treasure chest, practically all my mana was sucked out of me. That was probably the trigger as it only accepts my mana.”
“Only yours, hmm… The material doesn’t seem like it absorbs mana, but I guess there’s stuff like this out there.”
“Ah, but how about the recoil…?”
“Naturally. I use the device there.”
As Lizel and Judge cordially conversed, Gil shot quip after quip in his head.
Then again, Judge readily believed whatever lies Lizel was feeding him.
However, it was a good move to have this explanation ready for the next time they will need to fight in someone else’s presence.
If they could deceive someone with such excellent eyes as Judge, then they should be able to deceive anyone.
Lizel had foreseen everything and smiled at the sighing Gil.
“There you have it, Gil.”
“Understood. I just need to make it seem like I was with you when you found it, right?”
“Aware as usual.”
Lizel whispered so Judge couldn’t hear, and Gil nodded, aware that more persuasion was probably necessary.
It was evident that folks would hear that Lizel had something nice in his possession and come after him without questioning the information’s validity.
While dealing with Lizel was a completely different matter, there were hardly any people out there who would pick a fight with Gil.
Likely due to becoming excited about Lizel’s gun as a merchant, Judge only looked forward again after returning the gun.
He suddenly raised his voice and tightened his grip on the reins.
The outline of monsters gradually popping up and approaching could be seen from far off in the field.
Lizel looked over at Gil, and Gil nodded. It appeared that the monsters had noticed them and were now coming.
Judge’s face turned pale as he saw the shadows diagonally in front of him. Lizel couldn’t see his face from his angle, but he easily assumed such and lightly patted Judge’s back.
“Don’t worry. I’ll protect you.”
After confirming that Judge’s hand relaxed, Lizel stood up.
The wagon really didn’t shake much, a testament to its fine quality, and Lizel looked directly up at the opening.
When he pushed against it with both hands, there was some slight resistance before it smoothly opened up. Further proof that the wagon was properly maintained.
“…Gil, I can’t climb up.”
“Hah? You’re tall enough to reach.”
“Please don’t assume that everyone can do pull-ups.”
Gil, someone who lifted Lizel up with one hand, probably couldn’t understand.
Could he comprehend how much work was needed for a grown man to put his hands up there and pull his own weight up high to get on the roof?
Moreover, the ceiling was also an issue; it was high to accommodate the tall Judge. This opening was the only way to exit the wagon.
Judge felt anxious again at this conversation and trembled. The encouragement Lizel gave was now nullified.
“M-Mr. Lizel… You can’t…!”
“I said I’m fine. Gil.”
Judge could imagine Lizel fighting because he possessed a gun, but deep down, he still had his doubts.
Unaware of this, Lizel called out to Gil. Gil, in response, extended one hand while still sitting down.|
This gesture looked like Gil was inviting Lizel to sit with him, but Lizel understood Gil’s intention and wryly smiled.
“Should I take off my shoes?”
“It’s fine. Just hurry up.”
Lizel grabbed the ceiling opening while putting one foot on Gil’s palm.
Gil didn’t need to support his extended arm. Even with Lizel’s whole body weight on it, it didn’t move an inch.
How much muscle was required for this feat? Gil’s body looked rather thin for an adventurer under his clothes. As Lizel looked down on Gil’s arm and thought this, his whole body was quickly lifted up.
After half his body was outside the wagon, the rest was easy. He gracefully leaned forward and pulled the rest of his body on top of the wagon.
Although Judge turned his head around to look at the roof in concern, Lizel waved a hand and looked toward the monsters in question.
Up until now, the monsters were only outlines, but they had come close enough that they could be properly identified.
They were green hyenas. Although this would be the first time Lizel ever encountered them, he had seen them in the guide on monsters.
With their dark, matte green fur and body larger than typical animals that lived in grasslands, they hastened towards the wagon.
The crowd of roughly eight of these creatures approaching had probably been out hunting. The sight of them would have been beautiful if the wagon wasn’t being targeted by them.
“Keep going. It’s fine.”
Lizel continued to reassure Judge as he walked on top of the roof. He bent down and patted him on the head.
Judge had no leeway to act embarrassed. He restlessly looked between Lizel and hyenas, expressing his absolute terror.
Lizel wondered if he was truly being seen as that unreliable. With a smile on his face, he brought out his gun.
“Are the horses fine with loud noises?”
“Eh? Yes… They’re fine with most, I believe…”
Immediately after, an explosive sound flew past Judge’s ear.
Before the reverberations of the first shot settled, another one echoed. Judge still had no idea what was happening and curled his shoulders.
He remained clueless for several seconds. By the time he noticed that the noise ceased, he timidly opened his eyes.
He nervously looked up at Lizel, and in turn, Lizel gently patted him on the shoulders to calm him down.
“Okay, I’m done.”
Judge couldn’t comprehend what was said to him. With wide eyes, he looked at the direction the hyenas had been coming from.
No matter how much he searched for signs of them, he found nothing. Only upon looking more thoroughly did he spotted dark green fur buried among the grass in the field.
Dumbfounded, he looked at Lizel again and saw the rifle floating in the air right next to Lizel.
“Ah, this is a countermeasure for its recoil. I’m controlling it with mana.”
Judge asked, confused once again, and slowly understood after his question was answered.
Although Judge was being useless here, the horses properly continued the journey in his stead. They were certainly excellent animals.
Judge wasn’t well-versed in magic in the first place, so combined with his confusion, he couldn’t fully understand Lizel’s words.
“Sorry to interrupt when you’ve relaxed, but there’s two more.”
Lizel suddenly heard a voice from underneath and slightly tilted his head.
“Where are they, Gil?”
“Waiting in ambush near the direction their group was comin’ from.”
“They could have just run away though.”
He followed Gil’s instruction, but he couldn’t see anything hiding from that far away.
Lizel muttered, “As expected of monsters,” as he stood up and readied his rifle.
When he fired several shots in the general area, the monsters revealed themselves and rushed forward, but Lizel intercepted them the same way as the previous ones.
After confirming that there were no more monsters in his field of vision, Lizel finally put away his rifle.
“Then, I’ll go back inside the wagon. Judge, good luck driving.”
“But, when I look down like this, I’m pretty high up here… Gil—”
“What kind of fair lady are ya?”
Judge watched as Lizel’s body disappeared through the roof opening together with the sound of Gil’s complaint. He adjusted his grip on the reins with a distracted look on his face.
Still, there was no reason for him to do that. The excellent horses had been properly following the road, so there was no problem.
Judge suddenly recalled the conversation from the other day and burned the sight of what just happened into his mind.
If the scene had been preserved as a picture, he would buy as many as he could.
“Mr. Lizel and a gun…… It would probably ring up quite the price.”
This careless muttering naturally reached Lizel’s ears as he returned to sitting behind Judge. It went without saying that this started a conversation. “Eh, it’ll sell?”
Because there was no need to slow down or stop the wagon when they spotted the monsters, their journey had gone smoothly.
In the end, they hadn’t encountered any more monsters that day, so they were thankfully able to make great progress on their journey.
When night fell, they had already traveled two day’s-worth of distance.
The wagon wasn’t loaded with much and was thus light with even three people on board. As such, the horses were still capable of pulling this highly efficient wagon.
However, Lizel and the others weren’t reckless enough to travel at night nor were they in such a rush, so they began setting up camp for the night as planned.
“Judge, is there anything—”
“It’s fine. Please sit down!”
However, it was only Judge who was setting up camp.
The way he somewhat sparkled as he passionately cooked made it look like he enjoyed this.
Lizel wasn’t frantic to offer his help, and if he was asked if he was confident in his cooking, he hadn’t actually done any.
Obediently sitting down was probably the safest thing he could do to avoid getting in the way of the active and busy Judge.
“Gil, are you good at cooking?”
“…I can make stuff that most people can eat.”
Upon hearing Lizel’s words, Gil resolved to never ever let Lizel hold a knife in his hands.
On a fundamental level, Lizel was capable of doing the most skillful task, but, once in a while, he was guilty of terrible blunders. And, if cooking fell under those “terrible blunders”, Gil didn’t want to even think about it.
Then again, since he knew of Lizel’s origins, he could easily imagine that as a noble, Lizel had never cooked in his life.
Nevertheless, his eager desire to learn could be applied to anything. He mimicked Judge, pretending to hold a knife and cook. Based on his movements, there shouldn’t be a problem.
By the time the food emitted a delicious smell, Judge excitedly brought out a table and chairs from the truck imbued with spatial magic.
And, he set it up inside the large wagon.
The setup was completed with a white tablecloth, causing Gil to be astonished and Lizel to show a wry smile.
After having experienced such perfect accommodations, they didn’t think they could enjoy any other escort requests unless they came from Judge.
They sat down in the seat after being encouraged to do so, and cups of bottled water were placed on the table.
“Spatial magic sure is nice.”
“You don’t have any there, right?”
“I’m worried that I’ll end up too accustomed to it by the time I go back.”
When Judge had left the wagon to check on the status of the food, Lizel looked down at his pouch, wondering if there was any possible way to bring it back with him.
The two worlds had resembled the other this closely, so an abnormality like this magic would be impossible in the other.
“I would like to go meet a magician who could imbue items with spatial magic one day.”
“…There are hardly any spatial magicians out there.”
“I’ve also never met one.”
If Judge, someone who handled such goods, had never met one, then these magicians must be a fairly guarded secret.
If spatial magic corresponded to his original world’s teleportation spell, then the magic must be hereditary.
While Lizel was lost in these thoughts, dish after dish was lined up on the table. No matter how he looked at them, these dishes were perfect.
“He made a full course meal, Gil.”
“That guy only used a frying pan.”
The only flaw he could point out was that the dishes weren’t brought out in order.
It was no exaggeration to say that the dishes that covered the surface of the table looked as beautiful and perfect as those in the royal court.
To Lizel’s eyes, the food created by Judge’s lively hands didn’t look at all out of place, and it was done well.
If someone told him that this food was brought here through spatial magic, he wouldn’t question it.
But, since spatial magic wasn’t actually used on the dishes, then it was as Gil said: Judge had made all of this with a single frying pan.
“Please, enjoy your meal.”
At Judge’s smile and prompt, Lizel ate the food, and it went without saying that it was delicious.
“Mr. Lizel… it suits you…”
“(Well, that’s his profession.)”
Judge had been waiting on the side to serve them, so Lizel had him sit down and eat together with them.
As soon as Judge sat down, his energetic self settled down, and he returned to his usual, timid character.
This dinner appeared to be a complete, full-course meal, but as there wasn’t anyone who was concerned about it, they chatted away as they ate.
“That reminds me. When camping out like this, I assume that having someone keep watch is necessary.”
“The wagon’s got a cover to repel monsters, but I guess it’s necessary.”
The cover was just for peace of mind.
It can only affect monsters by making them not want to really approach, so there were naturally monsters unaffected by that.
As the horses were tied outside, someone certainly needed to keep watch.
“You have been driving the wagon for a whole day. No, you must rest.”
Judge volunteered but was immediately denied.
Of course, there were times when even clients kept watch when there were multiple of them on an escort request, but Judge was the only one here.
Everything would be for naught if Judge collapsed after driving for a whole day.
“Let me be the first to go. I’m not very confident that I can wake up after falling asleep.”
“Eh? That’s unexpected…”
“This guy’s fundamentally awful at wakin’ up.”
“How rude. I’m not that bad enough to be called awful.”
It was decided that Lizel and Gil would take turns sleeping inside the wagon, so that meant that those two would be keeping watch.
Lizel wondered if he could really be useful on watch.
There wouldn’t be a problem once he spotted the monsters, but he still couldn’t figure out how to sense presence.
Gil offered to do everything himself and just sleep during the day, but Lizel rejected, turning him down.
As if this was natural, Lizel would be first on watch and Judge would clean up after the meal by himself again.
Lizel thought he would help out with at least the cleanup, but he was expectedly denied by the lively Judge.
Now that he thought about it, whenever he visited Judge’s shop, Judge would be polishing or arranging goods. It was possible that Judge was the kind of person who couldn’t settle down unless he was doing something.
Judge’s quick movements as he placed down a thick mat and blanket inside the wagon were different from his usual actions.
“He’s the type to work himself to exhaustion.”
“Cooking and other stuff. He’s surprisingly talented.”
The mat laid out inside the wide wagon looked undeniably comfortable.
If everyone knew of this, the number of people vying to accept his escort requests would increase.
Lizel was glad to have accepted this request as he sat down in the seat placed beside the campfire. Of course, the seat also felt nice to sit on.
“As if I could let Mr. Lizel sit on the ground…!” Judge said as he placed the seat. Based on his tone, Lizel assumed that he had never done this for his other escort requests.
He thought that this must have been the first time Judge had cooked food and prepared this much before deciding to stop thinking about it. Lizel wanted Judge to remain the honest, good kid in his head.
“Is it fine if I read some books?”
“As long as you don’t get sucked in.”
“Then, Judge, make sure you get some proper rest.”
As Lizel took out a book, he smiled at Judge, who still looked apologetic even now.
He also didn’t forget to remind Judge, so that Judge wouldn’t say that he was troubled and couldn’t sleep well.
He watched Judge act embarrassed as he restlessly went inside the wagon, and he also waved to Gil.
“If somethin’ happens, call.”
“You too. Please make sure you rest well. If you don’t, I won’t change shifts with you.”
Gil grumbled that word with an exasperated tone and headed inside the wagon.
Lizel imagined the two tall fellows sleeping side by side and held back the desire to take a peek.
He could probably see them when he goes to change shifts. As he looked forward to this, he shifted his eyes away from the half-opened door.
He opened the book he recently started.
The soft scent of earth that came together with the light breeze was pleasant.
He could only hear the faint sounds of tree leaves blowing in the wind, highlighting the serenity of the night.
The flickering light from the fire wasn’t suitable to read in, but Lizel silently smiled, thinking that doing this wasn’t bad once in a while.
If food was placed in containers or dishes, they would be together when using spatial magic.
So, if they were placed together, what would happen when they were taken out? Would they be the same as when they were placed or would they be a mess without the dish or container? That would indeed be a complicated setback.
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