The south-western area of the Labyrinth City was mostly populated by the middle class.
The areas in the south-east and near the east gate were not safe, but the western side was the complete opposite. It was filled with peaceful residential areas, thriving stores, and factories and studios where workers did their jobs. Not a single drunkard could be seen lying on the streets, and very few stray dogs even.
“Suisen, let’s have lunch.”
Located in one of said streets was the studio of an armorer. His skills were top-notch, and he had a good reputation for being affable and attentive, especially for a dwarf, since they were known to be moody people.
The worker, his wife and son, and a widowed dragon person managed the studio. Since there were so few people, their output was low, but they had many loyal customers.
“You don’t have to work so hard.”
“I do. This is sort of like my last service.”
Suisen stopped working, stood up, and headed towards the back of the studio.
The studio also served as the owners’ home, so they ate there as well.
“Ah, thank you ma’am. Was she a good girl?”
“She slept soundly the whole time. I think she feels more at ease with her mother around.”
The wife of the owner of the studio, who was also a dwarf, held a baby in her arms, but not a dwarven baby. This baby was growing horns on her head, although they were still very small and barely visible, and her arms were covered in blue, transparent scales from the elbows down. It was clearly a dragon person’s baby.
“Suisen, someone’s here.”
The son of the dwarven couple called. His age could be said to sit between being a small child and a boy, and his face, although covered in sooth, resembled his father’s.
“You idiot! Did you greet a customer looking like that!? Go wash your face right now!”
“I was just helping with work, it’s fine. And it’s not for you dad, it’s for Suisen.”
“Me…? Is it mister Bellocchio?”
Suisen walked towards the entrance with a puzzled expression.
What awaited Suisen was her sister, who she met just a few days before.
“…Geez, you’re bothering the owners you know?”
“Same to you.”
Karan and Suisen walked through town side-by-side.
The quiet peace of the streets in the west felt very different to Karan than what she was used to. However, even though she saw herself as someone that did not like disorderly, noisy places, she strangely found herself more at home in her normal environment.
“I’m surprised you knew where I was.”
“I didn’t follow you around.”
Hector’s investigation took two days, and he found where she currently resided, and what she had been doing since arriving in the Labyrinth City. The investigation advanced very swiftly because she had been living like a proper townsperson.
Suisen entered the city as the wife of a traveling merchant/adventurer. From there, she helped her husband with his work, and put her toughness to use as an adventurer. They lived not in a cheap inn, but in the kind of apartment that would require a guarantor.
However, her husband had since passed away.
He went to a port town by himself to deliver some goods, and contracted a disease. By the time he returned to the Labyrinth City, he was already half dead, and although they had a priest treat him, it was to no avail.
Suisen became a widow, and was left with a newborn baby, her husband’s remaining money, and her connections as an adventurer. Since she was a dragon person, she had an interest in fighting, but had other skills as well. One of them was fixing armor, since she would frequently fix her husband’s, especially his chainmail.
She possessed both the raw strength of a dragon person and dexterity on par with dwarves, and was hired by a dwarf that saw that potential in her. He also felt sorry for her, as himself and her husband used to do business, but the fact of the matter was that the armor she made was good enough to gain a reputation.
Karan learned most of what she wanted to know about Suisen, and the rest, she would have to ask herself. That was why she made her way there.
“Who told you where I was?”
“No one, I had someone investigate you.”
“Did that leader of yours put you up to this?”
“No. He introduced me to a detective, but I was the one that made the decision.”
Suisen seemed surprised, and just as she thought about what to ask next, Karan instead asked her a question.
“What’s your baby’s name?”
“Reika. She’s your niece right?”
“So it’s a girl…”
“Yes. You can see her later.”
They sat on a bench as they continued talking.
Suisen bought steamed buns at a stall on the way.
Karan thought about how it had been many years since they last ate together, and that it was probably the first time without anyone else around.
“So, why did you go through all that trouble to find out where I am?”
“I wanted to ask some things.”
“Don’t you remember what I used to tell you? If you’re going to talk, think…”
“Why did you leave home? Did you hate it there?”
Suisen was taken aback for a second by such a blunt question.
She took a bite out of the steamed bun, chewed, swallowed, and hesitatingly answered.
“…It’s not like I hated uncle and aunt, or you. You’ve always been family to me.”
Suisen’s parents had passed away, and her uncle, Karan’s father, took her in. They were also cousins, but since she had been around for as long as Karan could remember, she could hardly see her as such.
“But I think I just wanted my own place.”
“Thinking about it now, they took care of me, and asked me if I was interested in marriage meetings… I was thankful, but having to be thankful to someone else every day was suffocating. But I really should have shared what I had to say instead of just leaving home like I was running away.”
“After that, I used my spear to take down monsters and helped with my husband’s work…”
“Are you working as an armorer while taking care of your baby?”
“You sure did your homework.”
“You had me investigated as well, didn’t you?”
Said Suisen, before facing Karan.
“But why are you working as an adventurer now? You almost died, and your orb was stolen.”
“I was lucky, you know?”
Karan found what her sister said to be very surprising.
It was not something one would expect to come out of the mouth of someone who’s parents and husband were dead and was left to raise her child on her own.
“My husband was kind. He didn’t just take in a kid that knew nothing like me and tricked me.
I learned a lot after coming to this city, and even at times where it seemed I would get cheated or killed, I managed to struggle through it. My daughter is healthy too.
…A lot happened, but I don’t consider myself unfortunate.”
Suisen’s eyes were focused far away.
She was not putting on a fake front. Even if she had gone through some painful experiences, she was strong enough to take it.
The girl in Karan’s memories was more sensitive and rash.
“That’s why I want to go back home and tell them about it. I figured since you’re walking such a dangerous path, I should take you with me.”
“You do? Does that mean we can cancel the match and you’ll come with me?”
“That’s not it.”
Karan then asked Suisen a question in a very calm tone.
“Were you so aggressive because you didn’t trust the other members of Survivors?”
“Did you think they were taking advantage of me?”
Suisen sighed and nodded.
“When it comes to groups like adventurers parties, people tend to feel guilty about leaving even if they have bad experiences or are bossed around.” Suisen explained.
“But that doesn’t mean you owe them anything. Some people are awfully good at making you feel like you owe them. They’re so smart it’s unfair. Even if they can’t read difficult things or do complex calculations, they know other’s weaknesses and how hard it is to go against them.
There are many like that, especially in places where shady people gather.”
If it was before, Karan would have certainly angrily denied it.
Was Suisen calling the person she owed so much to a bad guy? Or was she talking about a man she was deceived by? A man named Karios.
What should be done about someone so attached to something important that it clouded their vision?
Karan did not have the answer.
“Is that why you want to take me back by force via the match?”
Suisen looked at Karan as though she was looking at something strange.
“…You are Karan, aren’t you?”
Suisen’s eyes were filled with surprise.
“Is there something weird about me?”
“Now, hum… Didn’t you used to be… Dumber?”
“No, hum, sorry, that came out wrong. I mean, you used to have a shorter temper… Like you could only see what was right in front of you…”
“Sorry… What I mean to say is that you’ve grown. You’re not like what you used to be.”
Karan tried to get up, but Suisen pushed her down.
After hearing her sister, Karan sighed.
“…Did you think my party was ripping me off?”
“That’s not the case.”
Karan quietly denied it.
“I’m not mad or anything. We share our rewards, and I’ve even been taught how to count and read the account book. I can ask about what I don’t know and Nick… And the others will tell me. And he tells me to doubt him instead of trusting him blindly.”
Suisen let out a surprised voice, and Karan laughed, as if to say ‘got you’.
“What a weird guy.”