, Janus grabbed the back of the young lord’s neck and put him right back on his feet.
“It’s not a bar.
Come to think of it, there’s one more advantage to this territory; the people here can brew a damn good, strong drink.”

     What did he mean? The mercenary’s words were odd, but Ayra followed immediately behind Janus anyway.
After about an hour of slipping and tumbling down the mountain path, Janus’s footsteps finally stopped.
Ayra, who walked almost like he was crawling on the ground, raised his head.

     It was a bleak, shady, and remote place.
Beneath Ayra’s doubtful gaze, Janus crouched atop a rock with zero hesitation.
Then, he began to dig vigorously at the ground with his hands.

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     “……!”

     The ground was frozen hard since it was in shade, but the mercenary’s hand dug into the ground like it was a shovel.
His speed was so fast; when Ayra looked behind the mercenary to look at the mound of dirt piling up quickly, Janus had, in that moment, finally pulled something out.
It was a wooden box caked in dirt.
How long ago was this box buried? When Janus roughly brushed it off, instead of dirt the wooden box in its entirety had fallen apart.

    Five bottles of liquor appeared.

     Ayra opened his eyes wide, “What? Why is there alcohol here?”

     “When I first came here, I buried a few things.” Holding a bottle of liquor, Janus began walking again.
If he buried those when he first came to this territory, then that liquor had been underground for 10 years.
Full of expectation, Ayra followed; a good, wide rock–perfect to sit on–appeared before them.
It was located in a high position in an area with a lot of sun; the scenery before them was beautiful.
While sitting on the rock, Janus handed the young lord the entire bottle.

     “Wait a minute.” Ayra searched around his system space.
One of the first survival tips young mages learned when they entered the labyrinth was to keep emergency food in their system space in case they get lost.
If they waited while eating their emergency food supply, the senior mages would go around rescuing their stupid juniors weekly.

     After a long search, Ayra pulled out some twisted jerky and a half-crushed biscuit from a corner.
He spread his handkerchief over some rocks, placed the food on top, and opened the alcohol.
The heavy scent of alcohol pierced his nose.

     Excited, the mage bumped his bottle against Janus’s and took an eager sip.
The strong alcohol made him gasp.
“Just what percent is this?”

     While shaking the bottle back and forth, Ayra looked to the side; Janus had emptied the bottle halfway and was whistling pleasantly.
“It’s aged well.
It would have been perfect if it was just a little stronger, but this isn’t so bad.”

      If the drink was stronger, wouldn’t it just be pure alcohol? In anycase, aside from its extreme percentage, the 10-year-old precious liquor tasted delicious.
After taking a bite of jerky, Ayra once again brought the bottle back to his lips.

      As he sipped, moderate warmth welled up in his body; his mind, which had become anxious from looking around the slums, was slightly relieved.
He even began to think, ‘It’ll all work out somehow.’  Looking down at the back of his hand, Pebble, who had followed its master and became drunk as well, moved around more languidly and elastically than usual.

     ‘Hmm, soon I’ll achieve the quest conditions; the estate will work out, one way or another.
It may somehow be more enjoyable and delightful to live here than in the Labyrinth’…Dark grey eyes sought the person sitting next to him.

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      After a couple more sips of alcohol, Ayra spoke in a cheery tone, “Today was great.
You’ve guided me well these days, and this alcohol is quite valuable.
I’d like to reward you.”

     “Well, it’s fine.
I’ve gotten clothes, and I also had an enjoyable time with you.” Janus said languidly as he tilted his bottle.
Perhaps he was in a good mood–disheveled hair cast small shadows over his groggy eyes.
Ayra glanced at the other’s lips, guzzling at the bottle, and the up and down of Janus’s adam’s apple.
Inadvertently, the young lord’s ears pricked up.

     Trying to be nonchalant, Ayra asked calmly, “Really?”

     “Running into things as if you have no eyes; stumbling over as if you have no feet.
Things like that.”

     “Hey…”

     Ayra glared at the notion that he was made into some sort of spectacle; at that sight, Janus erupted into laughter.
Staring at such an attractive face made the young lord feel a little better.
On one hand, Ayra’s pride was slightly hurt by the other’s words, on the other, his face flushed red and his heart fluttered from the joke.
How fortunate that his face was already reddened by alcohol.

Pouring the alcohol into his mouth, Ayra recalled his memories of walking through this land with Janus.

     Pure white castles, rugged houses made of bricks and wood, slums, the markets, small trading posts, farmland plains, and impressively high rocky mountain ranges…

     After two weeks–perhaps long, perhaps short period of time–he had finally gotten slightly used to this land.
Solar was a cold, arid, dry, and mostly mountainous land.
However, even in this climate, the denizens were busy living their own lives, working hard.
That sight permeated into Ayra’s brain.

     And, obviously, the Solar territory wasn’t the only thing to grasp a portion of Ayra’s heart.

 

 

TL: I always go TT_TT at the names in this novel.
What kinda name is Acht?

Janus says “손 많이 가네”, which literally means “you take a lot of hands.” It’s basically ‘high maintenance.” 

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