‘What’s this? Something smells good…’

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     While being dragged around by Janus, Ayra slowly realized that the other smelled quite nice.
He wondered how the other could afford to spray perfume, a luxury item, while being homeless and leaned in to take a sniff.
He suddenly felt the other’s heavy and large groin; Ayra was a little freaked out.
Was this guy stuffing his crotch or something? “Stop it right now!”

     Ayra tried to kick him in the shin, but failed as Janus avoided his leg.
Next, with a mischievous smile on his lips, he grabbed Ayra’s waist again and lifted him up.
Then, after twirling around a few times, he finally placed him on the ground.
The passersby who were looking on simply clicked their tongues, shook their heads, and went on with their day.

     Ayra, staggering because of his dizziness which he could finally endure, attacked Janus with pale cheeks stained by blushes.
The young lord wanted to grab the mercenary by the collar, but his curiosity acted first.
When he peeled off the cloth covering the mercenary’s eyes, he could see the other’s red eyes bent into an eye smile.

     “Did you do something to the fabric? Or, maybe because it’s so old, there are holes in it?” Ayra asked rudely, fueled by his anger and excitement at the other’s prank.

     Janus watched Ayra folding and unfolding the fabric, pulling at it, before placing it against his own eyes.
Somehow, it seemed like the Mercenary was laughing at how cute the young Lord was acting while checking the cloth’s integrity.
Ayra’s face turned slightly red.
No matter how much he checked, it was simply an ordinary piece of cloth.
However, he wanted to be more certain.

     “Wait.” Ayra spoke calmly, pulling the train of his robe over his own eyes.
Because the fabric was quite thick, there was no way the other would be able to see the way ahead.
Satisfied, he drew a line along the cloth with his finger; the train was divided straight along the line as if it had been cut by scissors.
Focused and excited, Ayra’s eyes twinkled, as if he were experimenting in his labs.
Janus looked down at the young lord, his gaze gently brushing past that face briefly.

     “Done.
This time I’ll tie it myself.”

     “Do as you please.” Janus spoke softly and inclined his head a little.
Excited, Ayra moved to tie the roughly cut robe fragment around his eyes but then paused.
The act of tying cloth around someone’s head invited closer physical contact than he had expected.

     Ayra tied the cloth as cautiously as possible, but the mercenary’s soft hair tangled in his fingers, and the other’s outer ear was warm–like a palm–and pressed gently against his hand.
By the time the young lord felt the slight agitation leave his body, his fingertips trembled.

     “Alright.
Try again.” Suppressing his strangely quivering heart, Ayra instructed the other in a calm voice.
He didn’t forget to retreat far away so that he wouldn’t be caught by Janus again.

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     The corners of Janus’s lips were raised into a smile as the mercenary took another step.
Once again, even though his eyes were meticulously covered, his steps were no different from when the streets were clearly visible.

      Without bumping into anyone, he finally arrived at the mercenary’s office, opened the door, and entered.
Ayra, with slightly shorter robes flapping around his legs, followed.

“Oh! Isn’t that Janus?!”

      “Janus, why do you have your eyes covered? Hey guys, look who’s here?”

     “Janus! Why, it’s been such a long time!”

     As soon as Janus entered, the mercenary’s office promptly burst into a flurry of activity as the other mercenaries flocked around.
Ayra had wondered if they were close friends but, on another look, the crowd looked like dogs rushing to greet their owner.
There was no way to reply to them individually, so Ayra experienced second-hand impatience.
But, he could understand their reactions to some extent.

     That man, Janus, exuded charm without realizing it.
It was a sort of attraction that couldn’t be explained away by a mere handsome face.

      If it were Earth, Ayra thought the other might have succeeded as a celebrity.
Janus, who untied the cloth fragment tied to his head, shook his head at the young lord, as if to say ‘Are you seeing this?’ At that reaction, the mercenaries’ gazes now turned to Ayra.

     One of them pointed at Ayra with his chin.
“Who’s that?”

    “My employer.”

     “Ah, a patron.
Welcome, come on in.
Do you have any questions about mercenaries? I’m Nadal.” A young man with an amiable impression approached Ayra and requested for a handshake.
While returning the handshake, Ayra looked around the mercenary’s office.
Since the mercenaries gave off the air of someone dispatched to some remote area while leisurely resting, the building was appropriately luxurious with a warm atmosphere.

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     “What type of service do you need? If you have money to give, we’ll do anything.
From escort services, hunting magical beasts, assassination, to wars… Just say the word.
In case of group contracts, we’ll provide additional services as well.
Since you’re a customer brought in by Janus, we’ll definitely treat you well.” As Nadal spoke, he glanced at Janus with a gaze filled with admiration.
Anyone could tell that his feelings went beyond longing and well into liking the other mercenary.

      Janus faced that explicit gaze head on and–whether or not he was truly ignorant or pretending to ignore the other’s feelings– and asked, “Do you really need to go that far?”

     Nadal leaned towards Janus and smiled brightly, “Why, we’re friends aren’t we? This is nothing between friends.”

     Hah? Ayra tilted his head slightly.
‘Mm, Am I mistaken? He’s a bit too clingy for a friend…

     Ah, come to think of it, Janus said he was here to find a lover, wasn’t he?’

     How many candidates has Ayra met these past few days while traveling around with Janus? He was curious but, simultaneously, his heart felt uncomfortable.
In just a few days, it seems as if his affection for Janus had grown considerably.
Though, it seems that this affection wasn’t purely innocent…

     After thinking that far, Ayra suddenly shook his head, wiping away those thoughts.
Nadal’s puzzled gaze further motivated him to erase the strange direction his thoughts were wandering towards.

     After a long conversation with Nadal, Ayra gained the information that hiring mercenaries was a truly expensive matter and that the mercenaries were actually from different territories.
There were parties dispatched from other territories alongside those that became mercenaries for personal reasons.
Even a couple of mages were included in this office–though he didn’t seem to be a Labyrinth denizen, and his magical abilities were poor.

     ‘However, one should be careful depending on where they’re from.’

     No matter their status as a mercenary, they’re still definitely a military force.
In a way, having mercenaries invites enemies within the territory.
However, the mercenary’s office itself was also a useful facility for the territory in various ways.
Ayra kept this information well in mind.

     Janus, after leaving the mercenary’s office, traveled from here to there, introducing the young lord.
Each time, Pebble also worked hard, notifying ‘Store and NPC information has been updated!’ This wasn’t even an RPG game or anything, how could it treat living and moving denizens like NPCs.

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     “Aren’t you focusing too much on cosplaying a game system?” Ayra asked.

      When he poked and criticized the small spirit resting on the back of his middle finger joint, Pebble popped up a system window.

 

[Tip! The current User’s most enjoyed hobby was an RPG game.]

 

     Since this artificial spirit was created as a reflection of his unconscious ego, it was as if Ayra spat on himself.
Even so, he still pressed down with his finger and chased Pebble around his hand.

     Suddenly, Janus stopped walking.
“Come to think of it, I’ve yet to receive my reward for winning the bet.”

     Ayra, who had half-forgotten about the bet, flinched.
He hesitated as he retrieved the instrument that he had stored inside his system space.
Since he had lost, he had to play, but he was an utter stranger to this instrument.
“I don’t know how to play this.”

     “That’s alright.
Just strum it any way you like.
I’ll laugh excitedly for you too.
I wonder, do you think you’ll be able to earn a living by playing an instrument?” Janus’s red eyes shone as he adopted a mischievous tone.
Though it didn’t seem so earlier, perhaps Ayra’s harsh criticism stayed in his heart.
Ayra held the instrument in his hand before strumming a string. Plink…Plink…After plucking two or three times, Ayra placed the instrument back into the system space.

      Janus’s eyebrows wriggled, and the corners of his lips rose up as if to say ‘See that?’

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      Ayra began to make excuses, “I didn’t even want to make that kind of wager in the first place.”

     “Fine.
I thought our wager was pretty trivial anyway.” Janus shrugged, as if he hadn’t expected anything else.
That attitude made the mage’s heart feel some discomfort, and his pride was slightly hurt.
Though it may have been an unwanted bet, a loss was a loss.

After a few minutes of consideration, Ayra said, “If you give me some more time, I’ll perform for you properly.
Just one week is enough.”

     “Well, if you want to do that, then sure.”

     The pit of Ayra’s stomach felt chilly for some reason–he was the one interested in placing a bet.
What was with his capricious attitude?

     “Hey, if you have the time, buy me dinner tonight.” Janus, finally grinning, tapped the other on the shoulder; Ayra smiled brightly in response, as if he had been waiting for those words.
Though, after a while, he recalled himself and wrinkled his forehead.

     There was no relationship between them–the other was simply a guide hired to introduce this territory to the young lord temporarily.
Why would the mercenary invoke such feelings within him?

 

 

 

TL: I’m back from my honeymoon! I’ve been unable to build up my stockpile for this series T_T Sorry for the break.
Without a stockpile, I’m unable to post when I’m out.
(I’m trying to rectify that now)

Some news: I’ve made a Patreon, but this series isn’t part of it (yet).
However, the discord attached will have my release schedule, including this series! Have a link: https://discord.gg/c9j7zxvZxJ

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