15: Back to Business

Lizel sat on a cafe terrace, comparing several sheets of paper to a book. Being a handsome young man, focused on his task, yet with an aura of gentleness, he was drawing attention from passers-by. At this time of day, a little after breakfast, the seats would normally be empty. That they weren’t right now was definitely thanks to Lizel. From the store’s point of view, Lizel’s presence was a blessing, and when Lizel’s order of black tea was brought out a plate of pastries was added as a show of appreciation.

The cafe sat on a fairly wide street, but unlike the main road it wasn’t full of street stalls, so the level of noise flowing in was comfortable. Carriages rattled by, and when Lizel looked up, the blue sky was criss-crossed with banners and advertisements. After being surrounded by the lively crowds and furious bargaining of Marcade’s main street the day before, Lizel felt that this atmosphere was just right for taking a break. Although in reality he was waiting for someone.

Among adventurers, Gil’s name and face were well-known, and he drew not just feelings of admiration but also feelings of envy over his strength. There were quite a few A- and S-rank adventurers above Gil who weren’t pleased with the rumor that he could compete with S-rank parties solo despite only being B-rank. One might think that the higher-ranked adventurers would have some brains, but basically all adventurers were muscleheads. That was inevitable—adventurers were basically a gathering of people who made money by showing off their strength, after all.

When Lizel had stopped by the Marcade Adventurers’ Guild—firstly because he was curious about what the guild was like in other countries, and secondly because he had a few errands to run there—an apparently A-ranked party had tried to pick a fight with Gil. Perhaps it would have been better if Lizel had gone alone, but Gil frowned when Lizel suggested that. Even if he had come alone, they probably would have picked a fight with him just for being Gil’s partner. And while it was better to avoid getting tangled up in fights, what else could they do when they were arbitrarily attacked?

“In that case,” Lizel said, “thank you for coming with me. I’ll wait for you at the cafe over there.”

The A-rank party had looked at them, stunned. From a certain point of view, it looked as though Lizel had abandoned his companion and simply left, but that wasn’t the case. Lizel simply did not believe for a moment that Gil would lose. After all, Gil was smiling when he waved Lizel off, having blocked the first attack with ease.

The cafe was a bit of a ways from the guild, but Lizel could still hear the screaming. He began to gather up the papers he had spread out, satisfied with his research, and poured a little tea from the pot on the table. The tea had begun to cool, but that just meant it was the perfect temperature to drink now. Soon, he saw Gil walking towards him. Lizel lifted a hand, still holding his papers, and waved. Gil headed over and dropped into the chair across from him.

“Nice job,” Lizel said.

“If they want a fight, they could at least get some skill first.”

“Gil, who would you actually have trouble fighting against?”

“That’s what I wanna know.”

Lizel smiled wryly while Gil picked up the tea. Lizel offered him the leftover pastries, the ones that weren’t too sweet. Gil finished them off in a few bites, licking the crumbs off his lips. A young waitress, surprised to see the person Lizel had been waiting for, looked over just in time to see that and quickly turned away, face red, busying herself with another table.

Only those close to them were aware of it, but ever since they had become a party, the atmosphere around Gil changed whenever he was with Lizel. His gaze wasn’t as sharp as before, and although his face was still scary, it had softened, and the antisocial aura he used to give off had lessened considerably. Most people were not aware of it because it was something only noticeable at close range. Even Lizel, who was with Gil all the time, was not aware of it. But something had certainly changed. If this had been the same Gil as before, the waitress would not have blushed, she would have turned pale and run away in fear for her life. However, neither Gil nor Lizel noticed any of this.

Lizel turned his book around to show Gil the cover. It was the strategy guide he had gotten just the day before. “The Crystal Ruins are close by, aren’t they?” he asked.

“About twenty minutes by carriage from the west gate.”

“Are the carriages for adventurers?”

“For tourists. The labyrinth is popular ‘cause of the way it looks, so the guild makes money showing tourists around the first floor.”

Nodding, Lizel looked down at the cover. Across the front and back, behind the title, The Ruins of Crystal, there was a detailed painting depicting the inside of the labyrinth. Even the radiance of the crystal had been faithfully reproduced, so that this held value not only as a book but as a work of art. If a mere painting was like this, the real thing surely drew plenty of attention as a sightseeing destination. Even if monsters did appear inside, that was why the tours were limited to the first floor where there was less danger. The guild took the lead in conducting sightseeing tours with adventurers and the like acting as escorts.

One of the reasons Lizel had visited the guild was this place. Or rather, it was for the sake of the strategy guide for the ruins rather than for the ruins themselves. The Crystal Ruin Labyrinth seemed to have been around for some time, and because it had been thoroughly explored there were maps of all floors. Lizel had purchased one of each from the guild.

Gil stared at him in astonishment. “Ya always double-check things, huh?”

“It would be terrible if the information were incorrect, wouldn’t it?”

“It’s common sense that strategy guides are accurate.”

In the first place, the rich people who normally bought strategy guides weren’t interested in whether or not the information inside was accurate. If an adventurer got one, they would sell it and never even consider it might be wrong. It was rare for someone who had a strategy guide to also buy maps of the labyrinth as Lizel had done. In fact, this might have been the first time ever.

“There are no mistakes in the maps from the guild,” Lizel said.

“Of course they aren’t. It’s a labyrinth hundreds of people go through, they’d notice right away if there were any mistakes.”

“That’s true,” Lizel agreed. “They aren’t wrong.”

Lizel hummed and paged through the book. Gil stared at his fingers. Just like the rest of him, they didn’t look like the fingers of an adventurer, too smooth and unblemished. With those neat fingers, not a single chip in the nails, Lizel pointed to a spot on the map on a page of the strategy guide. “But,” he said, “this path is not drawn on any of the maps from the guild.”

“Huh?” Gil looked at it. When he compared the strategy guide to the map of that floor from the guild, which Lizel had apparently completely memorized, sure enough, the path wasn’t there. Had no one found it before, or had it just never been reported to the guild? Either way, it had to be hard to find. The path led to a small room.

“And this room here…” Lizel flipped several pages forward to another intricately drawn map. In the corner was a room not connected by any paths to the rest of the floor. Comparing it to the other page, the rooms looked to be on top of each other, so it was hard to say they were unrelated.

“The labyrinth must connect by goin’ straight underground…” Gil said.

“Could it be a trapdoor?”

“Or could be a transport circle.”

“A hidden room with treasure or something like that?”

“Might be a crazy valuable labyrinth item… or a strong monster.” Gil narrowed his eyes with a battle-hungry smile. Although the first hidden room was on a middle floor, the room it appeared to be connected to was only one floor up from the very bottom of the labyrinth. If there was a strong monster waiting there, and it was stronger than the other monsters on that floor, it had to be quite powerful indeed. For Gil, who had only been able to fight small fries lately, this would be far more fun than sightseeing.

“If I won’t get in the way, may I go with you?” Lizel asked. “I’d like to see a hidden room.”

“Who said anything about ya gettin’ in the way?”

“But you don’t usually invite me when you go to labyrinths.”

“That’s ‘cause I mostly go to labyrinths to keep my skills sharp.”

Certainly, Lizel would have nothing to do even if he accompanied Gil for his daily training in the labyrinths. It was the same if Gil went with Lizel to collect books. Incidentally, normal adventurers didn’t train by capturing labyrinths, but Lizel nodded.

Gil went on, “If it were just a normal hidden room, it would’ve been found by now. There’s gotta be a reason if it hasn’t.” With a glance at Lizel, he stood up. If an ordinary adventurer was enough, Gil would be fine on his own. However, if it was beyond normal adventurers, Lizel’s knowledge and perspective might be necessary to find the hidden room.

Lizel closed the book and stood up to follow Gil. He left money on the table, a little more than the cost of the tea, and caught up with Gil, smiling. Teasingly, he said, “This is the first time you’ve relied on me!”

“Idiot.” Gil knocked Lizel on the forehead, but it didn’t hurt at all.



Most of the carriages to the Crystal Ruins were filled with tourists, but adventurers could be seen here and there among them, too. Because labyrinths separated people based on parties, it seemed that adventurers would act as a vanguard, going in ahead of the tourists accompanied by guides and a protective escort. Even though they were not really a party, they were treated as one by the labyrinth. The adventurers whispered amongst each other that the labyrinth was too flexible about its own rules.

The tourists were startled to see Lizel and Gil entering together, but they were used to the attention.

“This really is a wonderful sightseeing spot. It’s very bright and beautiful,” Lizel said.

“I’d rather have something to fight,” Gil replied.

As the name suggested, the ruins were formed from transparent crystal. The crystal looked like it could be worth a lot if pieces were broken off and sold, but it was common knowledge that labyrinths were indestructible. Lizel knocked on a crystal pillar while Gil went to stand on the magic circle near the entrance. When it lit up, he called Lizel over. “What floor is the secret path on?”

“It’s on the 19th floor.”

“Then we’ll go to the 20th.”

Naturally, this labyrinth was one of the many around Marcade that Gil had already captured. The floors of this labyrinth were on the large side, so it would be annoying to go down starting from the first floor. Much easier to skip ahead using the transport circle. Lizel and Gil had dived into the deeper levels of labyrinths together before, so there was no problem with Lizel coming along. Gil could easily defeat the monsters of the deeper floors, and Lizel’s gun was plenty effective against them, too.

After a moment in which they felt as though they were floating, the scenery changed instantaneously. Actually, it wasn’t that different from the first floor. For those unfamiliar with this labyrinth, it was hard to tell the floors apart. What told Lizel and Gil that they had changed floors was mostly the monster suddenly looming over them. Or rather, Lizel only knew that he was suddenly in shadow. Before he could even get a clear look, he summoned his gun and shot the monster through the head while Gil slashed it in two.

“The stairs are made of crystal, too. It’s scary how breakable they seem.”

“They’re not.”

“I just mean how it looks.”

If anyone had been around to watch these two head for the stairs as if nothing had happened, they would never believe Lizel and Gil were a D-ranked party. Party rank was determined by taking the average of the member’s ranks, so as long as Lizel remained E-rank, it couldn’t be helped that their party rank was also low. Incidentally, the appropriate rank for tackling the 20th floor of the Crystal Ruins was B. Lizel, at E-rank, should never have been there, and even Gil, at B-rank, should not have dived in alone. However, everyone knew that Gil’s rank was not a reflection of his actual ability, and Lizel assumed he was fine because Gil didn’t stop him.

Chatting about how it might be a good idea to hurry up and raise Lizel’s rank, they climbed the stairs to the target floor. No matter how pretty it was, looking at the same, unchanging scenery quickly grew boring. No wonder one floor was enough for sightseeing, they thought, and turned their attention to where the path branched off in three directions.

“Which way?” Gil asked.

“This way.”

“It’s easier with you here.”

“Don’t make it sound like I’m just a convenient tool…” Lizel said with a wry smile, shooting the monster that appeared from around the next corner.

Normally, adventurers would move forward after careful consideration or stop and expand their map while having to keep an eye on their surroundings at the same time. Gil, not originally a man with much patience, traveled through labyrinths entirely on instinct, which (in a manner of speaking) impressed Lizel. For his part, Lizel remembered the way without even trying, so they were able to proceed without wasting any time.

A little ways down the middle path, Lizel stopped and said, “It should be around… here?”

The wall where the hidden path should be was gently sloped, but there was no sign of a door. Lizel felt along the wall, but it was solid. No cracks, switches, or irregularities of any kind. Lizel stopped again, humming thoughtfully. Every now and then while he stood there thinking, a monster would appear, and whichever one of them noticed it first would take care of it.

“These sorts of things usually have a trick to them, don’t they?” Lizel asked.

“Usually ya push a spot on the wall or set off some gimmick and the door should open.”

“Even if you say so, I can’t find any sign that there’s a door here.”

It was unlikely that the door would open by blindly pressing on the wall. The normal course of events was to notice a strange indent or a slight different of color first, find it suspicious and investigate, notice then that it was a door to a hidden room, and proceed to finding a way to open the door. However, this wall was perfectly smooth, and even Gil couldn’t see any evidence of a door. It was no wonder the hidden path had never been found before.

“Maybe if I…” Lizel said, and suddenly started firing his gun at the wall. Clang, clang! Lizel shot along the wall as if playing a tune. Gil grimaced at the loud noise, certain to attract monsters. He easily took care of every monster that appeared, though. Lizel went on, smoothly changing the position of his shots until a certain spot rang back with a different sound. He shot a few more times to be sure, but further along the wall the high-pitched noise returned; only that spot produced a dull sound.

Wondering if this was the entrance to the hidden path, Lizel approached the spot. As he had expected, that shot alone had bounced off and left a mark on the wall. Lizel traced the mark with a smile. Labyrinths were indestructible. If that was the rule, then either this wall was not a part of the labyrinth itself, or it was meant to be destroyed. “Gil. It’s probably this spot.”

“Even though it’s unbreakable, it looks like this’ll break, huh…” Gil was left wondering just how this guy’s mind worked. Lizel had taken information he had only just learned and turned it on its head. Lizel’s shot hadn’t gone all the way through the wall, but Gil trusted him. He couldn’t just whack the wall with a sword, so Gil told Lizel to step back, lifted a leg, and kicked through the thick crystal as if it were glass. While admiring Gil’s impressive strength, Lizel shot through yet another monster that had been attracted by all the noise.

When they walked over the broken crystal, the passage they entered looked the same as the rest of the labyrinth. Lizel wondered if he could take back a chunk of the broken crystal, but it was impossible. As soon as it broke, the crystal pieces had become part of the labyrinth and stuck to the floor. Strange, but easy to explain: It’s a labyrinth.

“Let’s go,” Gil called, noticing Lizel had been distracted.


Usually, Gil would have been more exasperated about having to wait for Lizel and his endless curiosity, but this time he was apparently too busy thinking about the possibility of fighting a strong opponent. Lizel smiled at Gil’s unexpected excitement.

They didn’t have to walk far before they reached the room at the end of the path. In the back of the small room was an altar made of crystal, and in front of the altar was a magic circle about two meters in diameter. There was a treasure chest in the middle of the altar and nothing else. They avoided the magic circle for now, looking around and walking to the front of the altar. It was made of crystal and beautiful.

If the treasure chest is placed here, it seems like there will be quite a strong monster ahead,” Lizel said.

“There’s no other reason to put the treasure before the transfer,” Gil agreed with a bloodthirsty smile and a swing of his sword. It looked like he was having fun.

Lizel went ahead and opened the treasure chest. Inside was a map. There was an X drawn in the middle of a forest, but there were no landmarks to indicate where the forest might be. Lizel checked the back and found nothing, tried to tear the paper and could not. Even if it was a labyrinth item, to Lizel it just looked like a map.

“Gil, what is this?”

“Whatever it is, if it’s comin’ out of a hidden room, it’s valuable.”

“I suppose I can have Judge look at it when we return,” Lizel said and carefully put the map in his pouch, wondering what it would be used for. He looked around, then down at the magic circle. They probably had to do something to activate it. “This isn’t a one-way transfer, is it?”

“Does it look different from regular transport circles?” Gil asked.

“No, it looks the same.”

“Then it’s probably fine.”

Even though he had asked, Gil hadn’t actually expected Lizel to remember the labyrinth’s intricate magic circles. Lizel had compared the transport circle he saw in his first labyrinth to the circles of his original world, and after that he had researched and confirmed that the circles of this world were completely different. If anything, he could say that the magic circles were incomprehensible. As expected, the logic of the labyrinths was completely separate from ordinary logic. However, because he had investigated them in detail, Lizel could say with confidence that this magic circle was exactly the same as the ones normally used for going back and forth within labyrinths.

The two of them stood on the magic circle, and it activated. The transfer began as usual.


They were not transported. With the activation of the magic circle, the floor disappeared from under their feet—not just in the area of the circle, but the entire floor from wall to wall disappeared, leaving them with nothing to grab onto. Gil caught Lizel’s arm as they began to fall. He clicked his tongue, twisting his body so that they wouldn’t land on their heads, and pulled Lizel closer to avoid hitting the walls, switching his hold from Lizel’s arm to his waist. Despite the entire floor disappearing, the hole they fell into was only two meters across, the same as the width of the magic circle. Arms around Lizel, Gil looked down, but it looked like they still had a long way to go before they would hit the ground.

Lizel said, “What a surprising development…”

“We can’t lower our speed until we can see the ground.”

Both of them were calm because if they really wanted to they knew several ways to slow down. As one would expect, it was a bit difficult to hold his gun in place while falling, so Lizel put it away. Gil was holding Lizel’s head down against his shoulder, but Lizel managed to raise his face enough to look down.

“…There’s something down there,” Gil said.

“In the middle of this tunnel?”

“No… Damn, a dragon?”

“What? Is it strong?”

“It’s definitely strong, but… with a dragon…”

With an extra vicious click of his tongue, Gil tightened his grip on Lizel. Lizel immediately saw why. Down below, flames were surging up the tunnel towards them. A dragon’s breath, a flame that burned everything it touched, covered the narrow passage from wall to wall, cutting off all escape. When Lizel looked back at Gil, he was sighing and putting his sword back in its scabbard at his waist. He had already analyzed the situation and calmly decided on what to do.

“It’ll be hot, but your equipment will protect you, so just hold on,” he said.

Lizel replied with a wry smile and a shake of his head, “It’ll definitely still burn something…”

Their equipment didn’t cover their entire bodies. They had recovery potions to heal any injuries, but if he could avoid it, Lizel never wanted to experience pain.

“…I’ll try opening a wind tunnel.”

“Can you do that?”

“For a moment, maybe, if I put a lot of mana into it.”

“I’ll give you a signal.”

Lizel summoned his gun. It was unstable because they were falling, but he forced it still and aimed the barrel directly below. The heat of the flames was already close enough to hurt. Gil pressed Lizel’s unprotected face against his shoulder again, burying his nose in his hair and putting his lips beside Lizel’s ear. As the roaring sound of the flames overwhelmed them, a low, calm voice reached Lizel’s ear and directed everything Lizel had towards controlling the barrel of his rifle and transferring mana.


Immediately after the BANG of Lizel’s gun sounded, loud as a cannon, a thin beam of concentrated win magic shot out, opening a hole in the dragon’s flame. Between the speed of the dragon’s breath and Lizel and Gil’s falling speed, they only came into contact with the flames for a moment, but that moment was enough to understand that those flames had the power to turn everything they touched to ash. Lizel pressed his forehead against Gil’s collarbone to endure the painful heat, and Gil held him tightly.

“Ouch, this— My hair is definitely on fire!” When he could breathe again without burning his lungs, Lizel looked up at Gil and complained.

“It’s not, it’s not!” Gil said, laughing at Lizel’s unusually fierce tone. He ruffled Lizel’s hair with the hand still on his head. Even through his gloves, Gil could feel that Lizel’s hair was hot, but not a single strand was actually burned.

Lizel put a hand on his neck to check while Gil pulled a huge bronze sword out of his spatial magic pouch, keeping his other hand around Lizel’s waist. As Gil threw the sword straight down with all his strength, Lizel reached up and laid his palm against Gil’s neck as well, worried about him, only to find him pleasantly cool by comparison.

Below, the dragon roared when the sword struck its throat. In the next moment, a groan sounded from much closer.

“I think we’re getting close,” Lizel said. Tension drained from his body as he added, “And it seems there won’t be a second breath attack.”

Gil glanced at him. “I’ll slow us down. Are you still okay to keep going?”

“Of course.”

“Despite his smile, Gil knew that Lizel had used a huge amount of mana with that last massive attack. That had been big enough to take on an army. Lizel would obediently speak up if he was unable to do something, so it seemed that he had not used up all of his mana yet. Doing so would knock him unconscious, and Lizel knew that would only be a bother to Gil; he wouldn’t do something so self-sacrificing. On the other hand, Lizel was fully capable of using up all of his mana until just before the point of falling unconscious without showing any outward sign of struggle.

“That’s enough,” Gil said.

With another wry smile, Lizel pointed his gun at the wall. Using fire attribute magic, he shot at the wall behind Gil’s back. It exploded, and the blast pushed them across the tunnel they were falling through. Gil hit the wall feet-first, protecting Lizel. His boots scraped noisily down the wall, but of course the labyrinth took no damage. Gil leaned forward and tried to grab the wall with one hand, and thanks to his overwhelming physical strength he was able to keep his fingertips scraping against the crystal, creating a high-pitched sound. Thanks to his high-performance gloves, his hands were perfectly safe.

“Here I go,” Lizel said. He aimed at the tip of Gil’s boots where they met the wall and fired, then continued shooting in the direction they were moving. Each water attribute bullet turned into ice when it hit the wall, creating a small series of footholds. Of course, as fast as they were falling, they were immediately crushed under Gil’s boots, but gradually their speed fell as they hit one icy foothold after another.

“Oh!” Lizel said. “I can see it!”

“An underground dragon, huh? It’s pretty big.”

A few dozen seconds after the breath attack, the end of the tunnel became visible, and with it the appearance of a huge monster. Gil’s bronze sword had pierced the dragon’s lower jaw, and it glared at them, blood dripping between its fangs.

If they had continued to fall at their initial speed, they definitely would have died, but by successfully decelerating they had gone down to a speed at which they might just crack a few bones. After confirming that they had slowed to a safer speed, Gil told Lizel to stop shooting.

“I can shoot a little more,” Lizel replied.

“Haven’t ya noticed?”

Lizel’s hand holding onto Gil’s shoulder trembled for a moment but immediately stopped. Trembling hands and feet were a typical warning symptom that a person was running low on mana. When it got worse, the whole body would be wracked with tremors.

When he realized that Lizel had forcefully suppressed the trembling, something that should have even been possible to control, Gil found himself immensely shocked and a little annoyed. Lizel still refused to show any weaknesses in front of him.


Gil cut Lizel off before he could even speak. “Don’t bite your tongue,” he said, looking down at the underground dragon baring its fangs at them. Gil kicked it in the nose to block it from biting them and jumped to the side, sliding across the floor when he landed. The hands that lowered Lizel to the floor were gentle, but Gil’s emotions were anything but. He drew his sword and put a hand on Lizel’s shoulder when he tried to stand. “Stay still.”

“Okay. Happily,” Lizel replied, smiling, and watched Gil go walk away with his sword gripped tight.

Faced with such a powerful enemy, Gil couldn’t help but smile. He felt a small, cold feeling of bloodlust bloom inside himself. It was a contrast to Lizel who disliked doing anything that might require him to raise his usually gentle voice. Unless circumstances dictated, he felt no reason to kill. With a fierce laugh, Gil slashed at the dragon, catching its giant claws with his sword.



After returning to the city and having a peaceful dinner at the inn, Lizel, who rarely sat in bed without a book in hand, was sitting and smiling up at Gil standing over him. Lizel had planned to go out to eat, enjoying a little more time as a tourist, but Gil had stopped him because he wanted to know what Lizel was thinking. Lizel knew that Gil was both annoyed and frustrated, and, of course, worried about him. That irritation was aimed at Lizel for not relying on him, but also at himself, for not being good enough for Lizel to rely on. Even now, hours later, Lizel could see that seed of frustration in Gil, so he opened his mouth and said, “I have never allowed anyone to see me tremble because of a lack of mana.”


“Of course, there have not been many situations where I have run out of mana, but still, not even once.” Gil’s face was clearly asking what he was talking about all of a sudden, but Lizel simply continued, “I have not cried out in pain, nor have I complained. I know it would be easier not to suppress it, but that is what became normal to me.”

Gil was quiet.

Lizel said, “It’s terrible how I always end up relying on you.”

He smiled wryly as Gil’s eyes widened. He was not used to being on equal footing with anyone. Gil himself felt that he was the only one allowed to be equal to Lizel, but that was not something he took for granted. He couldn’t put a name to the emotions welling up inside himself, but Lizel laughed at the way Gil was looking at him and crawled into bed. Mana could only be replenished with sleep.

“…Can’t ya be more obvious when ya rely on me?”

Lizel’s reply was so quiet that Gil probably didn’t hear it. “I’m relying on you even now.”

Previous Part

Table of Contents

Next Part

4 responses to “15: Back to Business”

  1. Satellite Avatar

    Thank you for the update!!!


  2. niwx99 Avatar

    Thank you for the chapter! I was looking forward to this one a lot.


  3. Roccy Avatar

    thanks so much for the chapter!


  4. haru Avatar

    Danggg, I ship them so hard 👌👌 It would be great if a framed photo of them hugging while descending comes out as a reward from the labyrinth. I’d be happy to death XD

    Thank you so much for the chapter!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: