「 Oh, I was wondering who it was, it’s just Marie girl! 」
Hagen lets go of me, finally, so I also turned around.
Her amber half-open eyes stare at me. Her softly permed rich blonde hair is dull, it doesn’t look like she’s maintained it. The dark red sooty robe she’s wearing makes it obvious that she’s not paying attention to her appearance at all.
It’s Marie. She was the magician at our party.
It’s been three years since the party broke up so it’s been a while since I’ve seen her face, but I think she and I both remember each other very well. I don’t remember being close to her when we were at a party, and when we broke up the party, she was easygoing about it, so I thought that, unlike the other members, she completely forgot about me.
「 It’s not a good idea to flirt on the road you know? 」
「 Wait, this is not how it looks like okay? 」
「 Then, what is it? 」
「 Our relationship is purely business 」
「 Wow, so you’re selling yourself? I’m disillusioned 」
「 I beg you, please don’t speak like that even if it’s a joke!! I’m just a normal guy! I prefer women! 」
「 Still, I’m disillusioned 」
「 What do you want me to do?! 」
I feel stabbed with words, folding my knees in depression.
「 Gahahaha! Marie Jou-chan’s funny! 」
I hear a loud laugh at my back.
Hagen’s laughing at the exchange between her and me.
「 So, what are you here for today? It’s unusual for you to show up my store 」
「 I had no business at the store, but I saw something so interesting that I just…didn’t expect Zaryu for that kind of person to be interested in that… 」
「 I told you I’m not! I mean, does that mean that it’s what you’ve been thinking since we were at a party? 」
「 Yes, what about it? You’re an adventurer, but you never flirt, and you turned down invitations from men to visit brothels so I assumed that you weren’t interested in women 」
「 I’m glad that I cleared up our misunderstanding over the past three years. Please don’t do it again 」
I can’t believe my ears when she made her shocking confession.
Sure, I was stoic back then but I never dreamed that my party member saw me that way. I feel dizzy from the unexpected shock. I’m aware that I’m already notorious among the adventurers because I join and leave parties often but I never thought that I’m avoided for other reasons as well.
「 So, what’s the real reason why are two guys hugging each other 」
「 Zaryu’s leveled up 」
「 !! No way?! 」
Marie looks at me with eyes opened wide in surprise.
That’s the face she’s making while looking at me. I think that it’s not that surprising, but true, even I’m in doubt so it’s not that outrageous. Although, it’s embarrassing to see an old acquaintance look so surprised.
As I was feeling uncomfortable, Marie suddenly relaxed and showed me a soft smile.
「 Congrats, Zaryu. Truly 」
That expression and her words caught me off guard.
It’s no exaggeration to say that I got enchanted. I feel my heart throbbing.
「 T-Thanks 」
I managed to speak out, but nothing else came after that.
A moment of silence. Hagen’s the first one to break the ice.
「 So, what do you need Zaryu today? You’re here to buy supplies for your next job? 」
「 Oh, about that. I don’t have anything in particular 」
「 That’s rare, usually you’re ready for anything yet you’re not buying anything, is it going to rain spears tomorrow? 」
「 Actually… 」
I reported my current condition to Hagen and Marie.
That the party I was in broke up. And I was thinking of retiring from being an adventurer. That I used up my funds. As for leveling up, the guild has yet to renew my license.
「 So, you woke up this morning and felt strongly that your level has increased. It was a day after you decided to retire from adventuring, you’re born at such a difficult star, aren’t you? 」
Hagen shows a complicated smile while understanding the story.
「 Still, it’s strange that you suddenly leveled up. Did you do anything special yesterday? 」
「 N-No, I don’t remember any 」
I can’t stand Marie’s straight gaze at me so I crossed my arms, twisted my head, and looked away to face the day after tomorrow to cover it up. I can’t just say that I lost my virginity and impregnated a prostitute, so I’m on my next level. The best-case scenario is that they’d think that I’m going crazy.
「 If the guild hasn’t renewed the license, then there’s no way to prove one’s level. If you’ve been an adventurer for five years, then you’d usually be in great demand, but the rumors of Zaryu having no talent is spread out so I don’t think it’ll end well 」
Hagen speaks harshly, but that’s a frank opinion.
「 Zaryu, do you intend to continue adventuring? I don’t think you should force yourself to be an adventurer just because you leveled up. You were determined to retire from adventuring so I don’t think it’s a bad option 」
「 Marie Jou-chan has a point. Adventurers who were able to retire in good health are very lucky. It’s not a bad option to stick to your decision on retiring. Though, you may feel reluctant to do so considering that you achieved a level up that you’ve always wanted 」
The words of Hagen, a former adventurer, echoes heavily.
Only a few adventurers drop out because they lose a limb during their ventures. Those who became unable to do so find other jobs, and are forced to spend the rest of their miserable lives as beggars in the corner of the slums. I hear that Hagen’s former comrade took their own life because they can’t bear to have that kind of living. There’s no guarantee for me that it won’t be my future as long as I continue being an adventurer.
Originally, I had other means of earning money other than adventuring.
Now that I have leveled up, I might be able to live a modest life in this town without any trouble.
「 That’s true, but I still want to give it a try. The sprout of the seed finally appeared after five years of desperately biting it like an idiot. It feels like the world wants to test my potential as it’s asking me if I will end it here, or if I want to aim higher 」
「 Are you an idiot? 」
「 Lady, men are dumb creatures 」
Hagen shows approval with my declaration.
Marie on the other hand seem to be fed up and sighed loudly.
「 Well, whatever. So, let’s get a move on before the sun goes down, shall we? 」
She fixes her hair back, looked at me, and told me.
「 Where? 」
「 Where you ask? My house. You don’t have rent money, do you? I’ll let you stay at home out of old friendship, you should be grateful 」
She says to my great surprise.
I looked at Marie’s face with my eyes wide open in surprise, but I have no idea what she’s thinking.