Basically, Karan insisted on wanting to live somewhere cheap because she wanted money to buy somewhat nice clothes, to be able to enter restaurants with a dress code… She tried to play it off as something lady-like, but it was 100% due to her gluttony.
But Nick and the others argued that leaving nice clothes in a cheap inn would inevitably lead to them being stolen, and those clothes would be ruined if they started smelling like shady herbs. Eventually, they managed to convince Karan to move.
They went to the post town called ‘South Gate’, where Nick was staying. The people staying there were vulgar, but most had respectable occupations.
Half were adventurers and half were merchants working away from home, so it was a comfortable place to live if you were used to this sort of thing.
But it wasn’t a very friendly place to outsiders. There were a lot of unspoken rules about how to use the rooms, the order in which people could use the well, household items that could be rented, etc. Rent could be low if the tenants followed the rules. It was nothing like East Gate, where people happily loitered around during the daytime.
“So Karan and Bond. Let’s go with this inn for now.”
“I don’t care where I’m staying as long as it’s not expensive.”
“Do I also need to pay rent? I could just turn back into a sword…”
“It’s 1500 dinnar a day, and we’re making money so bear with it. And Bond, if turning into a human isn’t a burden for you, keep that form as much as possible. People will think it’s weird if you keep appearing and disappearing, and we want to avoid making the guild suspicious.”
“We don’t have a choice.”
The inn they agreed on was an old wooden building.
The sign on the entrance had completely worn-off, but this place was leagues ahead of where Karan had been staying.
“This place is pretty good for its price, but don’t forget that they only rent for three or more days at a time.”
“Hm… So what if it overlaps with days when I’m out adventuring?”
“They’ll return 20% of what you paid if you cancel.”
“What a waste…”
“You have to think about your schedule. And few things get stolen around here, so you can leave your stuff. There’s even a box that’s locked with a magic item.
“Really. And most people here are intermediate adventurers, so people that are clearly robbers can’t get inside easily, and they might get beaten up if they try. It might even be safer than some high class inns. What do you think?”
“I-I don’t hate it.”
Karan was thankful for the consideration. Nick didn’t even demand anything in return.
He jokingly said she’d better thank him, but he never demanded anything more from her than things like picking a new inn.
Karan looked at Nick with respect.
If Single Meal Fifth was who she wanted to be, Nick was like an older brother.
“Then let’s go with this one. And Karan, come to my room tonight.”
He should be like an older brother, but Karan was shaken by those words.
That night, Karan went to Nick’s room just like he asked.
“Yes, that’s good.”
“You learn quickly, Karan… Now let’s do this.”
“I-It’s too big… I can’t…”
“Come on just try.”
Karan let out an uneasy sigh.
“I-I am at my limit… Nick…”
“Good grief, alright then. Leave it to me…”
“It’s just like two digit calculations. Listen, first you buy five swords for 9800 dinnar each. It says you get a 5% discount if you buy them all together, but if you take it one step at a time there’s no problem. First you add everything…”
Nick sounded very serious as he solved a math problem.
The introductory book he bought in a bookstore was open, and Karan looked as though her head was boiling, as she frantically wrote with her pen.
“Why are you studying so seriously? How dull, how dull.”
Grumbled Bond as he watched.
“Shut up. You can cheat to do calculations, so just sit there and be quiet.”
“Cheat!? I have always had this calculation feature!”
“It’s not fair.”
“Even you Karan? Good grief, you can live without knowing how to do calculations, just rely on me.”
Said Bond proudly, but…
“I can’t trust you.”
Karan put a stop to it bluntly.
“It’s not like it’s just you. If you leave something to someone else because it’s hard, it’s going to come back to bite you one day.
“…Ah, that is what you mean. You scared me.”
“That’s why I asked Nick what to do so I don’t get tricked. And then…”
Karan peeked at Nick.
“Karan wasn’t good with numbers, so I thought I’d teach her when we had the time.”
“…I didn’t think you’d call me to your room all of a sudden though.”
Grumbled Karan with a light blush on her face.
“Ah, did you have plans or something?”
“I-it wasn’t anything like that!”
“Hn? Ah… Sorry.”
Nick didn’t notice that Karan was agitated, and apologized half-heartedly.
Bond, bored by what he was watching, yawned.
“You sure are serious about this. Is arithmetics really that important?
“There are people that target others that are bad at calculations, because a lot of adventurers come from orphanages or remote villages and can’t study that sort of thing. I used to get tricked a lot too when I was a kid, so if i didn’t buckle down and learn, it would be a matter of life and death.
“There are some evil people out there.”
“We’re all tricked by evil people.”
“Stop speaking like that, it is hurting my heart.”
“I’m getting sad just saying it too… Anyway, this is important.”
“Yes, I understand… Leaving that aside.”
“I want to go out somewhere. Take me.”
“So that’s what you really want…”
“Yes, yes. We are free today and tomorrow anyway. We are not going on adventures correct?
“Yes, it looks like it’s going to rain, so we’re taking two or three days off. We just finished a big job too, taking you out of the labyrinth.”
“You also received a nice reward. Do you not feel like going out into the world? I have not been outside in many, many years.”
“Hn, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea… Karan, do you want to take a break?”
There was a twinkle in Karan’s eyes. She was tired of studying.
“Alright. Then let’s go out and get something to eat.”
By the time the trio left the inn, the sun was setting, and the street was painted red.
The area around them had a lot of taverns aimed at residents of the inns.
Lights were starting to be turned on, and people started stepping outside to try to attract customers.
“All the places around here that try to attract customers are duds, so don’t get your hopes up. Well, there aren’t any obvious rip-offs either.”
“Anything is good. Ah, but I do not like barley or millet porridge. Bread or fried rice is good, but I like to avoid fish with too much salt.”
“So not anything then. How about meat?”
Nick walked past the street full of taverns, and headed towards a place in a somewhat quiet spot.
“This place is a day-time café, so there aren’t many annoying drunks.”
The warm light coming from the glass candle holders illuminated the entrance to the brick building. On the door was a blackboard with the day’s menu, alongside illustrations drawn with light brushwork.
“It is. After all…”
It was cafe Fromage, the place where Nick used to go on dates with Claudine.
“Ah… It brings back bad memories.”
Nick remembered the face of his ex-girlfriend, or rather, the girl that led him on. Looking back, Nick felt so embarrassed about giving so much to such a nasty girl, he could die. Nick even felt slightly irritated just looking at carefree looking girls with blonde hair.
“What’s wrong Nick?”
“You are hungry are you not?” Let us go in right away.
As Nick was considering going somewhere else, Bond opened the door, and the bell attached to it rang.
“Ah, table for three.”
“Please come this way.”
The waiter led them to a table. Nick used to always see this man when he went on dates with Claudine, but he didn’t seem to be surprised by Nick walking in with another girl.
Nick was thankful for that.
“Houhou, such a rich menu. I will have the soft and creamy demi glace omelet with rice.”
“That was fast… I’m surprised you know so much about this world.”
“I do have knowledge. I tapped into the guild’s communication orb just a little.”
“Don’t over-do it. What about you Karan?”
“Butter roasted beltfish with soy sauce accompanied by couscous. I will leave the wine up to you.”
“…You really are a gourmet aren’t you? What’s beltfish like? I’ve never had that.”
“It’s a white meat, long and narrow fish that lives in the sea. It doesn’t really have a strong taste, but I recommend it if you like cooking from the south. If you don’t, it probably won’t be that interesting.”
“Eh… Wait, you can eat sea fish here?”
Claudine only ate food that looked simple and easy to understand.
Ordering something that was so different than what they used to have back then wasn’t a bad way to erase the lingering impression of those days. Nick decided to order the same thing as Karan.
The cafe wasn’t very crowded, but they could still hear light conversation.
“Do you like it…?
Asked Karan after Nick took one bite, with a slight tone of insecurity.
“Why are you so nervous?”
“I-I mean, it’s my first time recommending something…”
“Yes, it’s good. You have good taste.”
It did have a light taste, but if you took your time eating it, its subtle taste would become more pronounced. When Nick went to that cafe before, he was too busy trying to please the person in front of him to actually enjoy what he was eating. He laughed at himself as he thought about it.
“That’s right. I’m a gourmet!”
“Geez. How much do you spend on food…”
Karan’s smile cleared away Nick’s hazy feelings.