Ayra reluctantly–because up till now there had never been a favorable response to him in this territory after the young lord revealed that he was a mage–admitted that Janus was correct.
However, Janus’s reaction seemed a little different, compared to the other people here.

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     “Yeah.
I’m a mage.
Have you seen a mage before?” Ayra said.

     “I’ve fought a few of them before.
They weren’t all that great though.”

     If those mages weren’t particularly impressive, they must not have been Labyrinth denizens.
In any case, as soon as Ayra heard all that, he finally could guess at the other’s job.
“Are you a Mercenary?”

     “Sometimes I’ll work as a mercenary–when I’m short of money or I feel like doing it.”

     Being a Mercenary certainly suited this man far better than a beggar trembling in the cold or an untalented bard.
Even covered by those shabby clothes, his impressive body was hard to hide.
After eating two steamed buns, the young lord felt like food was packed all the way up to his throat; he pushed the remaining food towards Janus and asked, “Are you working nowadays? Alone? How good are you?”

     Janus, accepting the food, replied, “I’m not working nowadays.
In general, I always work alone, and I’m on the more talented end of the scale.”

     “How about a hill-sized Muirka or a Rock Hawk…Or, can you defeat a Groot?” Ayra asked jokingly, recalling the conversation he had with the citizens in the bar a few days ago.

     Janus, who polished off the steamed buns in an instant, laughed openly, “That’s nothing.
I can beat those with just one fist.”

     Though he didn’t realize it then, Ayra noticed that all those in this territory who defeated demonic beasts for a living were prone to bluffing.

     Janus opened his mouth and tipped the bowl over, drinking till the very last drop.
“Why? Are you thinking of hiring me?”

      Ayra had no intent of doing so at first, but the proposition was quite tempting; he was an outsider who had spent 10 years away from this region.
Ayra gained a cautious attitude.
He had never hired mercenaries before.
He glanced up and down Janus’s body.

      Could he trust this man? They had only properly met for the first time and exchanged a few words today… But Ayra soon came to a hasty decision; after all, he wasn’t entrusting something particularly important to the man.
Anyway, he’d have the official title of a lord sometime in the near future.
It’d be a little concerning if the lord of this region knew less about the place than a mercenary that had been living here for 10 years.

     “I’d like to hire you if you don’t mind.
Nothing too difficult… I’ve been away for too long, so I know nothing about this area.
Please tell me something about this territory,” Ayra said.

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     At those words, Janus narrowed his eyes and glanced his opponent up and down, just as Ayra had done earlier.
Then, for some unknown reason, he burst into cackles.
Suddenly, Ayra felt like he had made the wrong choice.

      However, no matter how horribly things may go, the worst that could happen would just be an insincere guide…

     As Ayra struggled to bury his feelings of discomfort, Janus nodded in agreement.
“Fine.
It doesn’t feel like you’re hiring me for anything too big.
Anyway, I don’t have much to do nowadays, so I’ll do it—your job.”

 

***

 

     After finishing their meal, Janus dragged Ayra to the city outskirts.
‘Where are we going?’ Ayra might ask–Janus’s reply was always ‘follow along quietly.’ The mercenary’s feet led them to the mountain.
Further questions from the young lord only elicited laughter.

     As he climbed the isolated mountain with Janus, anxiety gradually soared within Ayra’s heart, ‘Come to think of it, this man could be an insane serial killer.’

     Out of breath, huffing and puffing, Ayra was barely climbing the mountain when he randomly looked down at Pebble.  Was informing him of another’s name the only thing it could do…? ‘Can’t you figure out if the other has any insidious motives, Pebble-ah?’

     When Ayra looked at it with a meaningful gaze, Pebble, on the back of his hand, floated the word, ‘No!’ over its body.
Ayra had no expectations.
Swallowing a sigh, the young lord shifted his gaze back onto the mercenary.

     Whatever the other’s intentions may be, Ayra felt like he’d run out of breath and die before the other had the chance to kill him.
Janus ascended the mountain calmly, as if he had no need to take deep breaths, while the mage, who had been stuck in his lab during his time in the Labyrinth–more studying less walking–felt the view in front of him dim as he climbed.

     “Argh!” Hobbling as he walked, Ayra lost all strength in his legs and fell forward.
Rather, he almost fell.
If it weren’t for the other’s strong grip on his arm, Ayra might have rolled all the way to the base of the mountain.
He sat down right there, soothing his startled heart.

     Still holding the young lord’s arm, Janus looked as if he saw something preposterous and clicked his tongue.
“Is your foot screwed on properly? Why do you stumble so often?”

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     “My feet…run…*gasp*…just fine…”

     “Even if I crawl, I’d be faster than you.”

    Ayra also thought that would be the case, so he couldn’t refute those words.

     Instead, he asked Janus, “You said you’d guide me through the territory…Why are we…climbing a mountain?”

     “There’s something I want to show you.
However, it’ll take an hour to climb up like this.” Janus fell into deep contemplation, rubbing at his chin; Ayra attempted to pull out his arm from the mercenary’s grasp, but failed.
Perhaps because the opponent was a mercenary, the young lord’s strength was not enough.
Janus looked upon Ayra’s groans with pity in his eyes before, soon, releasing the young lord’s hand.

    Janus stared at how Ayra retreated, legs shaking, before asking in an imperious attitude–as if he were bestowing some great kindness, “Should I piggyback you?”

    Could that be called kindness, though?

     Ayra was incredibly tempted but agonized for a while due to his social dignity; he looked around at his surroundings.
Come to think of it, could his societal image be damaged if no one else was around? Because his body was utterly exhausted, Ayra slowly approached Janus as if he was possessed.
However, he further doubted, “Why? Do I need to?”

     “Is it too forward at this stage to carry you on my back? Then, I’ll hold your hand.”

     Ayra tilted his head.
What does he mean by ‘is it too forward at this stage’? But, before he could say anything, Janus snappily grabbed his hand.
It felt strange; his large hand was warm, as if Ayra had grabbed a hand warmer, and firm like a rock.
Certainly, holding his hand made it easier to climb up.

     Ayra–half carried, half dragged–finally reached the mountain’s summit.  Unlike Janus, who had never been out of breath in this entire journey, Ayra could only straighten his back after taking several deep breaths.
However, all that he could see was the dense trunks of trees and a pure white, jagged rock precipice that was double his height.

     Was there treasure buried here or something? As the sweat cooled, he started to feel the cold gradually seep in.
As Ayra attempted to ask again why he was brought here, Janus, at that moment, turned around.

    Janus, who approached close in an instant, grabbed Ayra’s waist with one hand and his legs with the other; with what seemed to be no effort at all, the mercenary held the young lord up before throwing him upwards.

     “……!” Surprised by the unexpected action, Ayra didn’t even have the chance to scream.

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     ‘As I expected–he’s a psychopathic serial killer!’ The thought flashed through Ayra’s brain like lightning; his blue robes flapped in the air.

     A second that felt like an eternity.

     As soon as he attempted to instinctively use magic while reacting to the sensation of floating in the air, his feet touched the ground.
He stumbled around, dazed, before a touch on his shoulder returned him to his senses.
Whether Janus threw him and carried him up there, Ayra realized he was standing on that strange rock precipice.

     “Now, what do you think?” Janus asked.

     “T-This…” Ayra’s heart fluttered, bewildered by the sudden movement.
He was unable to talk properly, but the other man seemed to accept that as a sign of the young lord’s joy.

     “What? You like that we were able to climb up here so fast? I knew it.”

     ‘Who throws people around like this on mountains? You crazy punk!!’

     However, Ayra didn’t voice his inner thoughts.
The overwhelmingly impressive scenery stopped his words in their tracks.
“Ahh…”

     As soon as he looked at his surroundings, he was able to realize why Janus had brought him all the way up here.
They had climbed to the summit of the highest mountain in the territory, so he could overlook every inch of the land.
The white castle, nestled behind the precipitous mountain range, the small city where the denizens of the territory lived, and the rugged mountains and few plains spread out like a lush landscape painting.
As the chilly wind penetrated to his chest, his startled, fast-paced heart beat gradually began to calm down.

     Because, in this world, maps were so hard to come by–it was rare to get a glimpse at one if you were a commoner; Janus had to climb to such a high place.
Of course, there was probably a map of the Solar territory somewhere within the estate, but it was definitely more intuitive to see the land directly.
Suddenly forgetting his anger at Janus for throwing him up so carelessly, Ayra began engraving the landscape into his mind, as if he were drawing a mental map.

     Soon afterwards, he heard a bell sound effect; a system window popped up before him.

 

[The territory management function has been added.]

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[The map item has been added to the management tab.]

 

     ‘Hm? The territory management function was added before I even became a lord?’

     Ayra sneakily glanced at Janus before turning away, pretending to admire the scenery, before summoning the territory management window with his mind.
Just one window opened.
It wasn’t what he had expected but another notification window.

 

[The conditions for estate/territory management have not been met.]

*GM spirit level (1/2)
*Succession ceremony completion (0/1)

 

     Tsk… He had gotten his hopes up for nothing.
It seemed that even if he raised Pebble’s level, the function could only be activated through the ceremony.

 

 

TL : Territory management! Maps! More things added to the system~ (Too bad it can’t be accessed yet)

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