Around noon that day, news of Ein’s group finally completing the labyrinth spread among the adventurers.
People had viewed them as only possessing the necessary strength for an adventuring group, so no one ever thought they would accomplish this feat. As such, this created a cascade of speculation.
They would be troubled by people trying to get involved with them or flatter them for some time, but Ein and his group didn’t care about that at all; they were brimming with joy.
They obtained a thousand gold coins as the treasure from the lowest floor. It would rather be strange if they weren’t elated.
However, the gold coins weren’t inside a treasure chest but rather strew over the floor of a small room as they were commonly found. It seemed that this result caused Ein’s group excitement to fall greatly.
By the way, they had already visited Lizel last night and handed over the promised 500 gold coins.
Lizel was surprised that they had honestly handed over half of their treasure although he did feel apologetic for having this prejudice against them.
However, on the other side, it was obvious to Ein and his group that they couldn’t easily get away if they deceived Lizel and Gil.
That night, they showered Lizel with great praises and gratitude before they left to celebrate completing the labyrinth in high spirits.
“Is 120 gold coins for each of them considered a lot?”
“You can easily blow off over half of that gettin’ a nice set of equipment. And if you’re aimin’ for a higher rank version, it’s naturally not gonna be enough.”
It was presently nighttime, and Lizel and Gil were in the bar they went to when they first met.
Sitting at the counter seat, Gil ordered a drink. Since Lizel was troubled, the same fruit juice was brought out.
Lizel looked at the alcohol bottles on the other side of the counter in great interest as he sipped the fruit juice.
The sweetness had been subdued, so it suited Lizel’s taste.
The owner glanced at the smiling Lizel and silently nodded.
He originally was a man of few words. But, while he wasn’t sociable, his skills kept the customers coming.
As Lizel quietly lowered his glass, he took out a cloth bag from the pouch at his behind.
When he placed the black cloth bag embroidered with golden thread on top of the counter, the clinking of coins hitting each other could be heard.
Lizel placed it right between himself and Gil, but Gil didn’t look at it. Instead, he rested his elbow on the counter and looked at Lizel.
There was often a smile on Lizel’s gentle face, but it disappeared from that visage.
However, that alone brought out his sincerity. Unaffected by that sentiment, his relaxed, sweet eyes oozing with affection didn’t look away but pierced Gil.
Gil finally comprehended why the young ones naturally grew attached to Lizel if they were being pampered by someone with that face.
“Thank you very much for this month.”
That was right. It was exactly one month since the two had met.
In other words, today was the end of the contract Lizel spoke of in the beginning.
“It looks like you were unable to empty my wallet.”
“‘Cause you got your hands on a stupid amount of money right before…”
In response to Lizel’s teasing smirk, Gil furrowed his brow and clicked his tongue.
In the first place, he was only bluffing since he didn’t know how much money Lizel had on him, so he wasn’t seriously bitter about it.
This behavior was simply a protest to Lizel for not only saying it so plainly but also teasing him about it.
There was no doubt that the bag was filled with gold coins.
And he knew from looking at it that it was clearly more than his price of taking care of Lizel for a month.
Lizel should have certainly known how much to spend after a month of studying under him. In that case, he shouldn’t have made a mistake.
Gil left it alone on the counter and raised his glass.
“That’s quite a lot.”
“It’s to express my gratitude. As well as an advance payment.”
“An advance payment?”
Lizel’s tone sounded like he was already done with Gil and would thus leave. As such, Gil didn’t hide the suspicion on his face.
Gil was also aware that Lizel wanted to keep him by his side.
Gil himself thought he would be together with Lizel for as long as Lizel was in this world.
“If something else comes up, will you lend me your hand?”
Immediately after, the glass in Gil’s hand cracked.
The next day, a shocking notice spread among those involved with adventurers.
The adventurers gathered in the guild couldn’t relax and discussed the headlines from these few days.
People usually weren’t in such an uproar over a single adventurer joining a party, but this was about Gil the “One Slash” finally joining one.
Those who knew Gil couldn’t believe it and flatly rejected the notion. Those who knew that Gil was with Lizel had doubts but accepted it. And those who were close to the two were confused, thinking that they had already paired up.
The exception among those who were close to them was Studd. He faced the one at the center of the gossip with visible objection.
The blunt gaze didn’t hide his discomfort, so Gil snorted and looked down at Studd, unperturbed.
“Don’t pout ’cause I stole the guy you liked, brat.”
“Who likes who, jeez.”
“You aren’t even aware…”
Studd processed the request completion as he turned away from the astonished Gil.
Before Gil met Lizel, he had somewhat matched the name “One Slash” to a degree since he was like an exposed blade.
He only had business conversations with Studd, and it went without saying that Studd had never started a conversation with him.
Gil’s facial expressions always made him look annoyed, and he never kept anyone company. The only times he had ever walked beside someone was when women tried to invite him for the night.
Since Gil didn’t engage in pointless chatter, Studd didn’t hate him. Of course, he didn’t like Gil either.
But, Studd wondered about that.
He doubted that the man who showed such an astonished look at Lizel could be the same person as before.
Gil hadn’t softened, nor did he grow more lenient. It wasn’t hard to imagine him baring a killing intent as sharp as a blade if someone were to pick a fight with him.
Should it be considered good that his mood had become more flexible? Studd even strangely felt that his standard as an adventurer was raised.
If Studd was asked if he liked or hated Gil, then his answer would be that he wasn’t fond of him.
“…Even if you’re no longer his guard, please don’t expose him to danger.”
“Who do you think you’re talkin’ to?”
There were various places Studd had issues with, but at the end of the day, that was the only thing that concerned him.
It didn’t matter if Gil changed or remained the same. As long as Lizel was safe, nothing else mattered.
Seeing that Studd wasn’t aware that he harbored such feelings, Gil was astonished and resigned.
As Studd felt conflicted that Lizel had finally found a suitable party, he appeared to have finished processing the request.
Lizel reached out to grab his guild card being returned to him when Studd grabbed the cuff of his sleeve.
“Then, what’s with this bruise on his wrist? You’re all talk.”
He slightly turned the arm over, revealing a purple bruise wrapping around Lizel’s wrist.
It looked like someone had tightly gripped his arm, and its color was fairly vivid for an adventurer as fair-skinned as Lizel.
When Studd let go of the arm, Lizel gave an amused laugh and said as he fixed his sleeve.
“Gil clung to me and begged me not to throw him away.”
Although he denied it, Gil sulked and clicked his tongue, so there was no doubt that it was him who gave Lizel that mark.
Based on how Gil turned away from Studd’s disappointed glare, it must mean that even he was embarrassed by what he had done.
Studd believed that something must have happened, but he trusted that Gil would never hurt Lizel again and didn’t inquire about it.
In the first place, he was someone who hated it when people meddled in other people’s affairs.
In fact, the only one who knew what happened last night was the bar owner.
It was impossible for that taciturn man to talk about that event to others.
Gil himself didn’t want to remember either. As a matter of fact, he wanted everyone to forget as soon as possible. The truth will probably never be exposed.
After confirming that Lizel had safely put away his guild card, Studd held out a letter.
“This was mixed in with the letters addressed to the guild leader this morning. He looked at the contents, and it appears to be addressed to you.”
“I heard nothing of this, but…it was addressed to me?”
This letter had neither a name nor address, but it did indeed appear to be using thick and quality paper.
Lizel received the letter. When he turned it over, he saw that “Mr. Bear” was written in bold letters at the lower right.
He didn’t need to think about it. This was from Viscount Ray.
“What did the guild leader say?”
“I don’t know. He just brought it to me, so I’m also in the dark. However, there should be no problem.”
Compared to the usual letters, this letter was very much like the viscount. Based on how the sender addressed Lizel, the guild leader must have confirmed the contents and accordingly brought it over.
As Lizel wondered if this was okay, he asked the guild employee sitting nearby. They nodded.
It appeared that they hadn’t handled such personal matters before, but Studd, who stressed efficiency, occasionally had.
“You mentioned when I registered in the guild that you deny intervention from authorities, but is this fine?”
“We merely refuse to register them as guild members. If nobles were to become our customers as clients, then the guild couldn’t be happier.”
Even if the guild refused intervention from authorities, they didn’t want to create enemies.
In that case, they would make nobles their allies. This appeared to be the guild’s objective.
However, as long as the guild didn’t warn nobles not to get involved, they had no right to refuse letters from nobles.
Lizel thought that they didn’t have to deny them as he opened the seal of the letter and took out the letter inside.
“Is it fine if I read it here?”
Lizel sensed the doubt in Studd’s words and suddenly looked around.
All the gazes that had been focused on him because of the rumors instantly split in all directions, causing Lizel to wryly smile.
It wasn’t that he hadn’t noticed earlier, but Lizel lived his life as a noble constantly bathed in gazes, so he was simply indifferent to them.
Lizel was often found guilty of broadcasting such information despite knowing that it would cause trouble if those around knew.
Although, he could at least sense when he really shouldn’t.
“Well, they don’t know the contents or the sender.”
“There’s no way they would know…”
There were already enough eyes focused on them because of the matter of their party, so the guild employees sympathized with Lizel after sensing that this special letter was related to a heavy matter.
It was unnatural for such a thing to be given Lizel who only recently started as an adventurer.
Even now, rumors and speculations of his background were running rampant, but it appeared that they’ll needlessly increase now.
Tucking the fallen piece of hair behind his ear and gracefully running his eyes across the letter, Lizel didn’t seem to mind.
“You also do things your own way.”
Lizel gave a vague smile in response to Gil’s astonished voice before he finished reading the letter.
“Even though he’s a noble, he’s light on his footwork.”
“Here,” Lizel said and handed over the letter. Gil dropped his gaze down to the written text.
The hearty letters matching the writer’s lively personality smoothly flowed across the paper.
The polite style of nobles, or frankly speaking, their roundabout manner of writing, made Gil furrow his brow. After deciphering the sentences, he realized the contents were quite simple.
He wanted to show off his collection. Taking this opportunity, he also had a favor to ask. Thus, he wanted Lizel to come. That was all.
“What should I do? I feel like he wouldn’t condemn me if I refused.”
“Then, you don’t wanna go?”
“I’m merely stating that the option exists. Since we’re now a party, I felt that I should ask for your take.”
“Aren’t ya the leader?”
That was right. The representative for their party was Lizel.
Normally, the one with the highest guild rank would function as the leader, and this could be said to be common knowledge among adventurers.
As such, Lizel thought that Gil would become the leader. However, the man himself hated the idea.
According to Gil, “Tell you to obey me? You’re joking.” He had said that with such a matter-of-fact face that Lizel couldn’t bring himself to force Gil.
This was how the E-rank party was born.
“If you hate it, Gil, I will decline. After all, it seems like you dislike being involved with such people.”
“I don’t care if it’s necessary.”
Lizel stared at Gil.
If Gil’s words were a lie, then Lizel would have been fine declining this case, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
“(It’s not that he hates nobles but dislikes certain ones, huh.)”
Lizel was convinced that Gil must have (or once had) some connection to nobles in some respects.
Perhaps he was a knight or even a relevant nobleman. This was only a conjecture, but Lizel didn’t think that it was wrong.
Since it seemed that Gil didn’t want him to know, Lizel wouldn’t forcibly press him on the matter. However, he would unequivocally ask if necessary.
“Then, since we have been kindly invited, let’s accept.”
“Studd, do you know the location?”
When Lizel asked Studd about the viscount’s residence, he was told that it was expectedly in the city center.
Lizel had thought this on the first day he came to this world, but this country was no exception among the many countries that concentrated their important components at the center.
The district where nobles resided was close to the castle, and since the city center was encircled by a river, the border was clearly defined.
There were large bridges located in all four cardinal directions to allow people to cross the river, and military police acting as gatekeepers were stationed there. It appeared that they checked the people and prevented any suspicious characters from crossing.
Naturally, nobles weren’t the only people who entered the city center.
If many held jobs in the city center, then the number of merchants passing the bridges was also high.
As this was the city center, it was natural that the perimeter was bustling with people. Lizel and Gil should be able to leisurely enter.
“Although there’s some distance, you can walk to the large bridges of the city center and rent a carriage there.”
“Can adventurers normally borrow such a thing?”
“Well, it would look highly suspicious if you were to rent one without any purpose, but it should be fine since you have that letter from the viscount. You especially shouldn’t have to worry about that.”
Generally, the carriages at the large bridges were large, extravagant ones used to escort those who lived further inside the city center.
It was common practice for them to use a smaller carriage when they left the city center, so it was rare to see a large carriage in this area.
If an adventurer were to borrow such a carriage and head to the city center, they would first be stopped.
It would have been a simple matter if they had proof of accepting a request from a noble, but that was only for S- to A-rank adventurers. For E-rank adventurers, even if they carried a letter from the viscount, they would undoubtedly be found suspicious.
However, Studd took this into consideration.
Lizel wouldn’t be asked to show his guild card or letter from the viscount. He could surely and smoothly borrow a carriage.
After all, the gatekeepers would merely think that some nobleman had merely gone out and was returning home.
“I’ll send a prior notice. There should be no problem if you decide to visit today.”
“Then, we don’t need to head there right away. Let’s enjoy a leisurely lunch before going.”
And, after lunch, Lizel watched the outside scenery change from inside the carriage as it made its way quietly across the smooth, paved road.
The inside was so expansive that even as Gil sat on the other side and extended his long legs, there was still plenty of room left.
“I truly didn’t think that they would let me in after just looking at my face. I look like an adventurer, yes?”
“You ain’t exactly the average adventurer. In terms of material, your clothes are better than a nobleman’s.”
“But isn’t that the same for you then?”
Gil was also wearing a custom-made outfit tailored from scratch, so he too should be dressed differently from the adventurers you would see on the streets.
Lizel had thought he looked like a magician, but the manufacturer must have made the outfit with Lizel’s nobility in mind.
Gil believed the new clothes were mostly based on the ones he was currently wearing, but he decided not to say anything to Lizel who was worried that he didn’t look like an adventurer.
Even if he were to point out this aspect, there was nothing Lizel himself could do about it.
“Should I make myself look a bit more boorish?”
“Don’t do it.”
Lizel was about to calmly veer off in some direction, so Gil stopped him. Just as he did, the carriage slightly rattled to a stop.
After some time, the driver opened the carriage door and placed a simple set of stairs below the door.
Gil watched as Lizel patiently waited for that sequence of events to occur, reconfirming his belief that Lizel truly was a nobleman.
Gil got off first. Following, Lizel descended and handed the driver a silver coin.
He watched the carriage leave before taking a leisure look around him.
“Lord Lizel and Lord Gil, am I to presume?”
Politely standing in the middle of the opened gates was an elderly man.
He was probably a butler given his form. He showed a beautiful bow and looked at the two with a smile.
“I currently serve as this mansion’s chief butler. Please come this way.”
Gil and Lizel followed him and passed through the entrance.
They were met with a spacious hall adorned with pictures of all sizes on the walls that depicted highlights scenes.
Lizel scanned over every detail of the pictures, confused.
The scenes of the subjects drawn weren’t chosen for artistic reasons.
The depictions included a scene of an adventurer shooting a monster, another being the opposite, the landscape inside a labyrinth, and even just the outside gate.
“Gil, this is…”
“Oh, I see that these have promptly caught your eye. These are my prized collection of labyrinth items!”
Ray had his bombastic entrance. In actuality, he didn’t make such a clamor.
The way he whimsically had his arms wide open was just like an actor in a troupe.
“I’m glad that you came. Welcome.”
“Thank you very much for inviting us—”
“Do stop. I am the one who decided that we’re close friends! I would prefer you two to also interact normally with me as friends do.”
Approaching with quick steps, Ray stopped Lizel from announcing his visit.
Lizel thought it was strange to catch an adventurer as a friend as he looked at Ray who stopped in front of him.
This man probably had a different idea of how close personal space should be as he stood in such close proximity.
Lizel took a step back to distance himself from the shining golden hair and smiling face. The man drew closer.
Being told by someone above you to loosen up had two meanings.
It was either that they meant exactly what they said or they intended to observe how you would close the distance.
If you abruptly acted overly familiar, this was undeniable proof that you had previously viewed the person as lower than yourself.
Lizel considered that Ray had stated such with that intention, but that didn’t seem to be the case.
Lizel took a peek at the silent Gil before returning to look at Ray.
“Then, I shall do so.”
“Then, I’ll do just that.”
“Yes, you too!”
Lizel realized that Ray was the type to personally close the distance rather than test the waters, so it seemed that Ray didn’t have any ulterior motives.
Lizel wryly smiled as Ray nodded in satisfaction at these two.
“Then, let me show you around.”
“Ah, before that.”
Just as Ray was about to turn around, Lizel called out to him and rummaged through his pouch.
He grabbed the object he wanted and presented it to Ray. He pondered if he should directly hand it over, so he looked for the chief butler, but that man was nowhere to be found.
What Lizel handed over was wrapped with white and citrus orange stripes. The opening was tied with a gorgeous ribbon, and a similarly gorgeous letter to the previous one was attached to it.
At first glance, it was clear that this was a present, so Ray’s eyes sparkled as he accepted the gift.
“ngh~~~ Amazing! You are the best!”
Ray carefully opened the wrapping, revealing the souvenir. Upon seeing it, his high spirits went even higher.
The glittering aura around grew brighter. He suddenly spread his arms and rushed towards Lizel.
He was about to deeply embrace Lizel, but Gil sensed this and pulled Lizel’s arm, allowing Lizel to avoid being squeezed.
Ray didn’t seem to mind that he embraced nothingness. Instead, he looked over the present labeled as a souvenir again.
It was a teddy bear with glittering yellow jewels as eyes. This was inside Lizel’s commemorative second treasure dive.
He thought about giving it to Ray the next time they met, but since he was given this opportunity, he decided to wrap it as well.
By the way, when Lizel opened the treasure chest, Gil unusually put his hand on Lizel’s shoulder to console him.
“Settle down, old man…”
“Now, now. I’m glad that he loves it this much.”
“Amazing! I couldn’t be any happier now! Ah, to experience such a miracle!”
As they wondered when Ray would calm down, the chief butler approached from somewhere and had Ray settle down.
The chief butler dealt with Ray so familiarly that they believed that this must be routine for him.
The teddy bear was handed over to the chief butler, and it would most likely be displayed with the previous ones.
After that, they were guided by the chief butler again but this time to the parlor.
While still decorated with pictures, it wasn’t at the same level as the entrance hall. Furthermore, this room was furnished with a labyrinth item similar to a display window.
Expectedly, the picture was a scene from some labyrinth. It realistically depicted some adventurer.
“The subject of this painting is, perhaps, an actual person?”
It was likely that the picture wasn’t expensive, and you could obtain such from any labyrinth.
Having little worth despite its size and bulkiness made it an undesirable item for adventurers to find.
Lizel and Gil both possessed bags imbued with spatial magic, but few adventurers owned such given how expensive they were.
So, practically all the adventurers who didn’t possess such means left the pictures in the labyrinth.
The price of these pictures was solely based on how important the scene it depicted was.
Their contents were of actual events that happened in the labyrinth.
As such, most of them were of empty labyrinth passageways and such, but if they depicted the labyrinth boss or a mysterious scene, only then would they be considered valuable.
And the most valuable ones were pictures that showed famous adventurers.
Pictures of S-rank parties, famous parties, and famous people were priced exceedingly high.
“Then, it would mean pictures of Gil are worth quite a sum, no?”
“Who knows? Or rather, I don’t wanna look at somethin’ with me on it.”
“Hmph, I have just one! You want to see it?”
Gil looked like he wholly hated the idea based on the frown on his face. Lizel pacified him and nodded, “Certainly.”
With a broad grin of amusement on his face, Ray snapped his fingers.
In an instant, a servant carrying a cloth-covered picture arrived and gently unveiled it.
Gil turned away, openly displaying his displeasure and refusing to look. Lizel glanced at him from the side before freely looking at the picture with Ray.
Inside this roughly one meter wide frame was a picture of Gil with cold eyes was cutting something.
That “something” was too large to be completely seen, but since it was this big, it must be the labyrinth’s boss.
“Ah, yes. A double-shot with ‘One Slash’ and the boss rang up quite the price. I heard that the picture came from the lower levels. It seems that the labyrinth also understood how valuable this is.”
“Incidentally, how much was it?”
“I believe it was eighty gold coins. I’m glad I obtained it through some connections, but if I had to get it from an auction, it might be two hundred.”
“Well, aren’t you popular, Gil?”
Lizel teasingly shook Gil’s shoulders, but Gil sulkily grabbed Lizel’s hand and threw it off.
“I’m assuming strong adventurers are popular?”
“Strength is certainly a factor, but when there’s a beauty depicted in the scene, it’s even more so. I predict that the young ladies in the auction would have vied for it, easily raising the price to two hundred.”
“Beauty, you say?”
After thoroughly examining the picture, Lizel stared at Gil’s face.
He believed that Gil had a handsome face, but now he understood. If Gil had stopped furrowing his brow, his beauty certainly would be something.
And, the face Gil had in the picture was certainly a serious-looking one.
The arrangement of his almond-shaped eyes, straight nose bridge, and thin lips were perfect. His apathetic gaze gave off a masculine appeal.
Lizel had only viewed this man as boorish until now, but he understood that this faint sense of danger from Gil was probably irresistible to many women.
Under such meticulous observation, Gil had continued to look away, but he did take a peek at Lizel.
Gil’s face had his trademark furrowed brows and displeased face, but he eventually resigned, let out a sigh, and raised a hand.
Then, he firmly gripped Lizel’s head as if to cover his eyes.
“Your gaze’s annoyin’.”
“Hey, hurry up and put that away.”
Gil saw Ray’s lips break out into an amused smile and glared at him.
Ray boisterously laughed and had the picture taken away. Only after that did Gil release Lizel’s head.
Lizel fixed his slightly disheveled hair and glanced over at the place where the picture once was.
“I wonder when a picture of me will appear. I wouldn’t be as displeased as Gil, but I guess it really would be embarrassing.”
“In that case, I’ll buy all that appear. Fret not!”
Hearing Ray’s assurance that he would display every one of them once obtained hadn’t at all reassured him.
Rather, Lizel took this as Ray openly proclaiming his desire and considered refraining from entering any labyrinths.
Currently, he could only hope that the labyrinths didn’t have eyes on him.
“By the way, what was the favor you wanted?”
“Ah, that’s right.”
Lizel asked to change the subject. In response, Ray brought out a letter.
Lizel accepted it and assumed it must be official as it was sealed with wax. Moreover, it was thick.
However, he hadn’t any idea what its contents were. He looked questioningly at Ray.
“You two will probably visit Marcade one day. If necessary, use that!”
Ray said with a grin.
Based on what Lizel had gathered after his conversation with Ray before, the hostess had called the viscount a “beautiful, older man.”
Lizel now understood. He could easily imagine that this man was popular in his youth if he could make such a smile.
Lizel took another glance at the letter and repeated Ray’s words in his head—If necessary, use that.
“…I don’t think that such an opportunity will come to an adventurer like me though.”
“Well, I don’t believe that.”
Lizel nodded, “Ah, so it really is like that.” Gil was suspicious of Ray’s words and actions.
That was to be expected. This was only their second time meeting, which meant that there was no reason for the viscount to act this cordial.
Gil believed that he could probably see through to Ray’s true motive. That was exactly why he didn’t completely let down his guard.
Likewise, Ray sensed Gil’s state but retained his amicable attitude, once again reconfirming that Ray was indeed a nobleman.
Lizel didn’t return the letter but tucked it away. He showed a satisfied smile to Ray and stood up.
“Now onto today’s main event. Do enjoy my collection to your heart’s content!”
It appeared that Ray was more focused on this. He triumphantly walked ahead, having the two follow behind.
Afterward, Lizel and Gil were shown the collection to their hearts’ content.
Naturally, this was referring to the content of Ray’s heart.
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