“I’m Ma, Mariete.
I’m four.”

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 After saying that, the little girl bowed, but her face showed that she was clearly frightened. 

 She had heard the voice of the older sister who she had gotten along with the other day, so she rushed to the front door to welcome her, but she had been surprised to find an unfamiliar dark-skinned uncle next to Yuika. 

 No hair and no eyebrows. 

 Although she had greeted him right away, because of his expressionless face, she kept her head down while timidly trembling. 

“…Nuuk”

“Ha… my apologies.
I should have been polite.
My name is Nuuk.
I am 31 years old.”

“What are you saying.”

 Yuika sighed and tried to reassure the little girl with a smile. 

“Sorry, Marin.
We surprised you.”

 Eventually, Rowe came from the back of the corridor in an apron. 

“Hey to the two of you, why are you here this early in the morning?”

 Mariete circled around to her brother’s back, peering out with only half her face.
While watching that figure in disappointment, Yuika announced the purpose of their visit.

“Apologies for coming uninvited.
I came here today to express my gratitude to you saving me – and Nuuk said he had some things to talk to you regarding the labyrinth exploration.”

“Then please, let’s head to the living room.”

 The kitchen, which was open to the living room, had a table and chairs placed in the middle. 

 On the table were three small baskets, packed with food like smoke meat sandwiches, boiled eggs and fruits.
In the room wafted the faint smell of black tea. 

“Did you have plans to go out?”

“Yeah.
With Marin, to pick some Gaj.”

“Gaj?”

“It’s a small fruit that grows this season.
You can boil it to make a delicious jam.”

 Rowe covered the baskets and moved them into the kitchen area. 

 Why didn’t you invite me – Yuika was about to say, but upon reflection, she realized that it had probably been difficult to suddenly invite her after she had returned to the surface in that kind of condition. 

 Mariete walked over while cautiously carrying a tray with two teacups of black tea.
Instinctively, Yuika lifted her hips from the chair, but she decided that she could not hinder Mariete’s efforts.
While praying to God for Mariete to be able to safely bring the tray over, she prepared herself to help out in case anything happened. 

“Bla, blac tea.”

 Fortunately, no accident occurred.

“Ah — Marin.
Thank you.”

“My thanks.”

 After Rowe patted her head, conveying the feeling that she had done a great job, Mariete shyly laughed and sat in the chair next to her brother. 

 She was definitely afraid of Nuuk, that’s why she didn’t come to me. 

“…if only you weren’t here.”

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“Black Princess, what?”

“……nothing”

 For the time being, I need to get us back to the situation where we can talk again.

 On the table, Yuika put an assorted box of sweets she had bought.
The wooden box contained the highest quality products.
She went into the store with the finest looking appearance and purchased their most expensive item. 

“Because of Rowe, I was able to retrieve my life.
Thank you.”

“It’s only natural to help each other in the labyrinth.
Please don’t worry.”

“And I want you to receive this too.”

 A full leather bag that landed on the table with a thump. 

“This is what we got in exchange for the drop items obtained from the labyrinth exploration.
The Adventurer’s Guild staff seemed to have calculated this overnight.
As a result of discussions among our members, we decided to divide it equally amongst the number of people – in other words, one fifth of the rewards to Rowe. 

“As expected, that would be too much.”

“No, at first I was talking about handing you half.”

 Yuika said with a straight face.

“What would you do if you were given thirty gold coins?”

 If you owned a house in the rural area, you could live on one gold coin every month.
Thirty gold coins would cover 2 and a half years of living expenses. 

“I might just retire from being a Sherpa.”

“That would be a problem.”

 He was already considered a member of the team in terms of rewards distribution. 

 Nuuk took over the conversation.

“In the first place, it was I who advised you to leave the luggage.
There will always be chances to make money, but you cannot chance someone’s life.
It was of course a blessing that Black Princess’ life was saved, but if we had abandoned the spoils from the labyrinth, ‘Twilight’s Sword’s’ labyrinth exploration would have turned out to be a complete failure.
Because of you, the reputation of ‘Twilight’s Sword’ has been protected.
By all means.
we would like for you to receive this.

“If we protect our reputation like this, won’t we only become more suffocated?”

 Yuika’s interruption stiffened Nuuk’s mouth slightly. 

“Black Princess.
We have received assistance from a great number of organisations and individuals.
This assistance is not limited to just funding.
The preparations for coming to this town, such as arranging the carriages, coachmen, accommodations, help with coordinating between Adventurer Guilds, recommendation to the Sherpa Guild and much more.
The reason why we can focus our efforts on clearing labyrinths, in short, is due to this reputation of ‘Twilight’s Sword’.
Even in the area of information gathering–”

“Alright, alright.
I’ve heard this before.”

 It seemed like the speech was going to go on, so Yuika surrendered to stop Nuuk from talking.  

 Anyway, Yuika insisted that it was the party consensus, and with that, Rowe accepted the leather bag filled with gold coins. 

“And in addition, what I need you for.”

 Nuuk’s request was related to what he had mentioned earlier about reputation. 

 Put simply, he wanted the Dive Report to be embellished in a way to improve their standing.

 For example, ‘The party that discovered the 48th floor Dungeon Oasis was too frivolous, failed to conduct adequate observation and ended up carelessly attacking a new species of plant-type monster.
As a result of that, the monster erupted with a tremendous explosion, poisoning not only the party, but also the Sherpa.
As there were no measures to cure Yuika, they had to abandon exploring the labyrinth.
Finally, they had to make use of the Sherpa’s medicines and Gift to barely escape with their lives’ — such content would be somewhat disgraceful for them.

 Rowe nodded.

“I understand.
Then let’s do it this way.”

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 ’The party discovered a Cannon Vine in the Dungeon Oasis on the 48th floor, to ensure that the Dungeon Oasis could be used by future Adventurers, they proceeded to subjugate the monster.
However, in reality, this was a Cannon Vine variant, and after the monster exploded, Yuika who had been unfortunately near, ended up being poisoned.
Because it was the poison of a new species, there was no effective antidote available.
Although with medicine prepared in advance, they were able to undertake life-saving measures, it was judged that it would be difficult to continue further exploration of the labyrinth.
It was also the case that they had already achieved definite results, so it was decided that it was preferable to return for treatment.’

“That’s fine.
The Dive Report that I will be submitting to the Adventurer’s Guild will follow the same content.”

 The adult’s conversation had ended, but Yuika was evidently displeased.

 Nuuk mentioned that he had important matters pertaining to the labyrinth exploration to talk about, so she had reluctantly brought him along, but she didn’t think that it would be such a pathetic conversation.

 To make things worse, he frightened Mariete.

“Now, the talk is over.
Rowe, sorry to disturb you while you were preparing to head out.”

“No, it’s not a problem.”

 After leaving, Yuika made Nuuk wait at the gate and immediately turned on her heels. 

 Then, she stared at Rowe who had seen them off at the front door. 

“…?”

 She smiled at Mariete who was standing beside him, and spitefully looked at Rowe again. 

“…Ah~”

 Rowe scratched the back of his head while asking Yuika. 

“Your body’s condition, how is it?”

“I’m in great shape.”

 Yuika grinned and laughed.

“If you happen to have some time available, would you perhaps like to come with us to pick some Gaj?”

“–I’ll go!”

 The gleeful Yuika chased Nuuk away.

“I’m sorry for earlier, Rowe.”

 Along the way to their destination, Yuika, who was holding hands with Marin, struck up a conversation with Rowe. 

“About what thing?”

“Nuuk’s talk.
Were you not disappointed with ‘Twilight’s Sword’?”

 The incident about comparing and adjusting the Dive Report. 

 If you were a child who looked up to Adventurers, such feelings might be born, but Rowe was someone who worked professionally as a Sherpa.

“That’s not the case at all.
If our respective Dive Reports failed to match too much, we will be requested by the Guild to verify discrepancies on some later day.
We haven’t faked anything this time, we just omitted certain things and changed the wording a bit, well, there shouldn’t be any problems.” 

“It’s like that huh.”

 They arrived at their destination, the forest.

 Many short shrubs grew here, and much sunlight shined through.
With the presence of a spring and flower fields, it was one of Mariete’s favourite places. 

“Last time, when I was looking at flowers, Mr.
Rabbit came.”

“Hou, was he cute?”

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“Yea.
He was white, long ears, fluffy… but when I tried to catch him, he ran.”

“Catch? Why?”

“Mr.
Rabbit is expensive, you know.”

“-Oi, Rowe”

 Feeling a glare, Rowe’s cheeks twitched.

“I’ve thought about this before, but let’s talk a little about how you’ve planned to educate Marin.”

“No, that, well…”

 Even if I did raise her to be independent to prepare for any accidents in the labyrinth that would leave me unable to return, in the end, I might have gone a bit too far.

 I will change the subject. 

“Oh, Marin.
There’s a Gaj tree over there.”

“Really! Sister, quickly Gaj!”

“Ah, hang on Marin.
If you run like that you’ll fall over.”

 The Gaj fruit was about the size of the tip of a little finger, and turned a bright yellow when ripe.
Wearing aprons tied to their waists with a big pocket, they stored the Gaj inside. 

 By noon, they had rounded up their work, found a flat place in the shade of a tree, and laid down a large cloth. 

 After having Rowe’s homemade lunch, just like that, the three of them took an afternoon nap side by side.

“Brother.
Story.”

“Hm~mm, what would be good I wonder?” 

 Rowe’s choice was the story of an Adventurer betrayed by friends in the labyrinth, and this Adventurer who had been left behind, mustered all of their wisdom and courage to return to the surface alive.
At the exit of the labyrinth was the lover they had promised to marry, the two of them hugged and lived happily together — that kind of promised happy end. 

 When he was stroking the hair of Mariete, who had dozed off in the middle of the story, he suddenly felt a gaze. 

“Is there something?”

“No, I just thought when Rowe is with Marin, he’s got a good face.”

 Yuika was lying with her elbows propping up her cheeks. 

“It’s the same with Yuika, you know.”

 Compared to when they had first met, she had started to show various expressions. 

“Hnn, is that so?”

“Please sleep too, Yuika.
Aren’t you still tired?”

 Yuika could’t sleep while using the Gift [Phantasmagoric Needle].
The one who had told him this was Magikan.
He heard this after transporting Yuika to the clinic.

“…This time, will you be gone?”

“Gone from where?”

“When I woke up at the clinic, an old man like a Skeleton Soldier was staring at me.”

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 With a bitter smile, Rowe apologized, “I’m sorry.”

 He had a promise with Mariete that he would go to her as soon as possible after his Sherpa work was over. 

“Doctor Canop is a good Magician.
In addition, he’s also the one who taught me about pharmacy.
He has a scary face, is hot-tempered, overcharges for his treatment, and he drinks while at work, but he’s a reliable person.” 

“Doesn’t sound like there’s anything good about him.”

 Rowe took out a blanket and placed it over Yuika and Mariete.

“Now, please take a rest.
I’ll wake you up together with Marin.”

“……okay.”

 After all, she had yet to recover from her sleep-deprivation.
Yuika closed her eyes, and soon her breathing started to slow as she entered sleep. 

 Rowe stared absentmindedly at that sleeping face.

‘Do you need a reason to help someone you like?’

 Why did I say something like that?

 I had wanted to give Yuika, severely poisoned and fighting with all her strength, even if only just that one bit more to her will to survive – that kind of motivation had been present. 

 Regardless of her response, without being able to reply, there was no way she could just die in good conscience after being confessed to by someone from the opposite gender.

 But that question had ended up being a terrible mistake. 

 Although I hadn’t thought that these were heartfelt words, I was quickly convinced otherwise.

 Objectively speaking, Yuika is a beautiful woman.

 Her face is well-proportioned, and her hair is long and lustrous.
Her slender style fits my type, and her skin is light and clear. 

 I also like her personality of valuing efficiency, and being able to boldly make decisions.

 Looking at her playing with Mariete, it’s also easy to see that she likes children.
Her attachment to Mariete is another huge point in her favour. 

 And also, that tenacious force of will she showed in Tyros Labyrinth.

 While poison was circulating in her own body beyond her control, Yuika managed to use recovery magic on everyone without being defeated by the poison in her body. 

 The differences in our social standings –  the so-called social class divide may be a big problem, but that and my feelings are an entirely different thing altogether. 

“What I said in the labyrinth…”

 Under his breath, Rowe muttered.

 The leaves rustled and made a gentle noise. 

“It wasn’t a lie.”

 It felt like a small knot in his heart had been refreshingly untied. 

 As he unthinkingly said out what he realised about his feelings, the black-haired Hero who should have been sleeping suddenly got up.

 Taking him aback, she forcibly grabbed him by the collar and pulled him towards her. 

“–Are you sure?”

 Like she was interrogating him.

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