“W-wait wait. Hale is very quick to escape, so make sure he doesn’t notice you.”
The man that received the medicine saw Sem was about to leave, and hurried to stop him.
And then, like a broken faucet, he let out everything he knew. Places well acquainted with the
‘bedroom’, where Hale usually was, where guards usually appeared, how most women there were in love with Hale and would not be easily persuaded to speak… etc. Even more information than they needed.
Sem tapped his shoulder, and the man waved with a happy expression on his face, almost like a puppy that looked up to Sem.
They then moved on, as Nick looked at Sem, impressed at this demonstration of his enchanting charisma.
“…But that was a big information fee you paid them wasn’t it?”
“Maybe… But it didn’t feel to me like I was just solving someone else’s problem.”
Sem smiled self-deprecatingly.
“You can relate to him?”
“Yes. I probably would have ended up here if I didn’t become an adventurer.”
“…Yes, that’s possible.”
It was easy for Nick to imagine an alternate reality where he didn’t meet his partners, quit being an adventurer altogether, and ended up here as well.
If that did happen, and he met someone like Sem, it would be easy for him to win over Nick and get him to tell anything he wanted.
“Let us keep moving.”
Bond urged Nick and Sem, who stopped while they were talking, to keep moving. With Bond leading the way, they advanced towards the area known as the ‘Bedroom’.
Thanks to Bond’s search function, they had an almost perfect grasp of the geography of that place, and where people were. All they had to do was advance while avoiding danger, and repelling the dangers they could not avoid.
“Hmm… Going by my investigation and what the man told us… This way.”
“This. There are rods between these iron poles, see? This is a fire ladder.”
“Are you telling us to climb this…”
Bond climbed what seemed like a maintenance ladder, advanced through what seemed like an air vent, that could not be traversed without ducking, and opened a door hidden behind a big dustbin.
The windows were boarded up, and not a ray of sunlight could make its way inside. Instead, almost dead magic lamps flickered and lit the paths with obscene colors.
It was impossible to tell if it was night or day, and while it was man-made, this place felt like being inside of a monster.
“Oops, get down and hold your breath. There is a patrol.”
“Ah, it is coming this way… It is unavoidable, we have to knock them out.”
“There are two of them, so I am counting on you.”
Nick started twisting his fingers, wrists, shoulders, and elbows in weird angles to warm up. Nick was fond of fighting, but he also trained his flexibility. Occasionally, Tianna would say he was the reincarnation of a mollusk.
The results of this were being put on display. While hiding in the shadows with a strange posture like a cat, he bent his arm like a whip and hit the enemy’s chin hard, from an angle where he could not see it coming. One enemy was down, but the other did not notice it, and started chatting.
“Yeah William, let’s go out drinking when we’re done patrolling. Someone’s been pilfering…”
“That William you’re talking to went to sleep before drinking.”
Nick approached the man from behind and smoothly put his arm around his neck, rendering him unconscious in a second.
He subdued both men without suffering any harm.
“…Ahh. There’s a different kind of tension when facing human opponents instead of monsters.”
Nick took a big breath.
“Having you and Bond here makes this easy.”
“There’s no place to use magic or swing around a huge sword like yours so, let me do this kind of work once in a while.”
“Yes, once in a while.”
Karan was sometimes skeptical about Nick fighting the vanguard.
She was leaving this to him, but wasn’t completely satisfied with it.
Nick reassures, “It’s alright, I can take care of this.”
“I-I’m not worried or anything.”
“I said I’m not worried!”
Karan lowered her head in embarrassment, but started speaking seriously.
“…I know we can rely on you at times like this, but that’s why you need to be careful. If I go down, everyone can manage, but it’s not the same if you go down.”
“Yes. That’s a good point. Having Nick fight here is the correct choice, but Nick, your eagerness to fight is not right.”
Bond agreed with Karan.
Nick also realized Bond had a point. He was actually excited when he started warming up.
“Fufu, did my words strike a cord?”
“…I’m confident I won’t lose against something I can fight with my fists, so it actually makes me feel happy to be able to help like this.”
“You are actually very good at fighting, are you not, Nick?”
“But in labyrinths I’m always going to fall behind sorcerers and warriors, so I get a little jealous.”
Said Nick while scratching his cheek and turning away in embarrassment.
“Fufun. Those feelings are pointless when you have my union.”
“But that’s your power, and the power of whomever I combine with.”
“Yes, but the strength of a team is also the strength of its leader, would you not agree?”
Nick was not entirely satisfied, and Sem chimed in.
“So basically, you want power you can use in labyrinths by yourself?”
“Not really labyrinths…”
“Like reality… and in life…”
It was strangely silent.
Nick was the only one flustered over this, and everyone else was exasperated.
“…Did I say something weird?”
“You’re an idiot.”
“You are an idiot.”
Nick was not expecting this sudden barrage.
Tianna shrugged and started speaking.
“I know I’m boasting, but I’m a big deal. Not a lot of people can use lightning magic but I can.”
Tianna did a little twirl, lifting her hair. It was purposefully affected, but it strangely suited her.
“Even if you say it like that, I’m not going to disagree. I mean, I already think of you as amazing.”
“Oh shut up. Anyway, I think we can agree that myself, Karan, Sem, and yes, even you, are strong.
“You know but you don’t seem to understand.”
“Even if we have that power, when we lose, that’s the end. No matter how strong, a single person is still weak.”
“There were times when I was miserable and even wanted to die, but you’re the one who taught me how to keep going after a loss.”
There was no feeling of defeat or darkness in Karan and Sem’s faces as they spoke, rather, they looked at Nick with kindness.
“Nick, you’re absolutely not weak, but you’re still developing. You’re even awakening your magic power. Who knows, maybe something small will trigger your growth, and you’ll blow past us and become a super A rank adventurer.”
“That’d be great.”
“If that day does come, please don’t think you can do everything for yourself. I’m not going to tell you to believe or count on me, because who knows what will happen in the future, but…”
A harsh pink light shined on Nick’s face. This color was like the sun just before setting, and it was strangely refreshing.
“You know how weak people are, and I want you to stay that way.”
Nick liked to act cool, but that was just what adventurers were like.
They liked to go on cool adventures
They liked to brag about their cool adventures and being fawned over.
They liked to speak sharply and receive applause.
So sometimes Nick encourages his partners in the same manner as well. Hearing this sort of thing said back to him felt very embarrassing, but he was happy to hear it.
“I know that very well… But I’ll make sure I don’t forget it.”
Nick turned away while blushing and trying to hold back a smile.
Everyone seemed satisfied with what he said.
“Let’s keep going!”
Nick continued walking to hide his embarrassment.
“Hey, wait. We are getting close, so we need to proceed with caution.”
“Then, follow me.”
“Good grief, you treat your swords too harshly…”