And then, they ended up in Tianna’s apartment.
There was no other option since the other three were staying in inns rented day by day.
Tianna got up while dealing with a headache brought about by a hangover. Next, Nick tried to remember what happened the previous night.
“I’m starting to remember it… We got kicked out of the tavern because it was closing, bought alcohol, and came here to drink some more.
Tianna looked at the corner of her room and saw empty bottles and half-eaten snacks. It looked like they had been eating preserved foods meant for people exploring labyrinths, dried meat, and even hardtack.
“I’m really sorry, we’ll clean everything and leave right away.”
Sem and Karan woke up and apologized, feeling embarrassed by the state of the room around them.
Nick guessed they weren’t used to this sort of thing.
“Well then, we should be leaving soon…”
Nick interrupted Sem.
“W-What is it Nick?”
“Are you really fine with this?”
“Can we just disperse and carry on living like this?”
Nick’s words brought silence to the room.
They all realized that even though they shared their hardships, none of their problems was resolved.
“Tianna, aren’t you in trouble because you have to pay rent soon?”
“How do you know?”
“You said it last night when you were drunk! Karan, Sem, and I, we’re all on the same boat. We’re all at our wit’s end right!?”
Nick looked at Karan and Sem. Karan looked frustrated but had no intention of talking back, and Sem nodded in agreement.
“So I have a proposal.”
Nick purposefully ignored Tianna’s quizzical response.
“How about we form a party?”
Their eyes were shining with hope as they heard Nick’s words, but it quickly faded away.
Tianna’s apartment fell into a heavy silence once more.
“…Well, I appreciate the offer, I really do, but…”
“I can’t trust people so easily.”
“I’m reluctant to fight back to back with someone else too…”
They were all hesitant, but…
“I get that.”
Nick paid no heed to it and continued talking.
“But can you go back to New Beads and form a party there? We all failed at that didn’t we?”
“You’re right but…!”
“I don’t want to get betrayed either, so even if I form a party there I’m going to doubt everyone, and I’m sure you feel the same. I think the most efficient solution is for the four of us to form a party.”
“I get it, that’s why…!”
That’s why I’m hesitant, is what Tianna was going to say before Nick spoke.
“Yes. That’s why I think it’s a good idea to establish some ground rules.”
“Rules…? What do you mean?”
“We have no choice but to make a living as adventurers, but we also don’t want to be betrayed by our partners, so we should have a plan in place to prevent it.
“I guess, but…”
“There are two main reasons for betrayal, money, and likes and dislikes.”
“That’s pretty simple to understand but… I guess it’s true.”
Sem nodded and whispered, and Tianna and Karan followed suit.
Since there didn’t seem to be any objections, Nick continued.
“First of all, money, we’ll all look after our finances. Our party’s budget, how we use it, and we’ll write everything down, the same way merchants keep account books. We can rotate who gets to hold the money too.
“…I’m not good with that sort of thing.”
Karan mumbled, but Nick wasn’t bothered.
“I’ll teach you so be sure to learn.”
Karan looked at Nick with a surprised expression. Ever since she got to that city she heard ‘do this’ and ‘don’t do that’ a lot, but almost never ‘I’ll teach you’. Mostly, she had no choice but to learn by watching.
“Or is it that you just don’t like it?”
“T-That’s not it.”
“Let’’s keep going then. As far as the second point, let’s try not to interfere in each other’s personal affairs.”
“…What do you mean specifically?”
“For example… When we’re done exploring a labyrinth, split our reward, and go our own separate ways, we can do whatever we want. Whether it’s eating, drinking, or whatever, we can’t deny people their interests.
Tianna looked as though something hit home to her.
She was addicted to gambling, and most people would have a problem with that.
“Why do adventurers like to go out drinking so much anyway? Why do people that don’t like drinking all that much have to feel awkward and people that love booze are praised? I don’t think that’s right what should really be appreciated is how one works and that’s that.”
“…Nick, I feel like your personal grudges are getting mixed up in there.”
“-W-well, maybe a little bit.”
Nick tried to gloss over his rant, but Tianna was listening attentively.
“That sounds nice… Especially the part about not denying people’s interests.
“Right? I don’t want people meddling with my interests either. I hate that idealistic notion that a party is like a family… So I don’t trust party members and I don’t want them to trust me. Feel free to have suspicions about me or anyone else betraying you.
I don’t think leaving everything up to someone is trust, to me trust is believing in each other’s innocence.”
Said Nick without stopping to catch his breath.
The others only looked at him.
“…Sorry, I got pretty heated.”
“No, I think that’s good.”
But they were looking at him with respect.
Everyone in this room had been deceived by lies, and Nick’s thoughts and assertions spread like water dripping on dry sand.
“So… You know…”
Nick felt embarrassed as he scratched his head.
“…Won’t you form a party with me?”