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Depths of the Otherworldly Labyrinth

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Depths of the Otherworldly Labyrinth

[Translator – Mab ]

[Proofreader – ilafy ]

  

Chapter 39 - Interval (2)

  

“Welcome home, Master.”

“I’m home. Also, stop calling me master.”

When I returned home straight from the hospital, Maria greeted me. I warned her about her way of addressing me, but I was on the cusp of giving up on that front, so I was indifferent to it.

“Are you okay now, Maria?”

“Yes, I’m all right now. Having my level go up made me get carried away. I didn’t know my place and I put too much expectation on myself.”

Maria looked calm when she bowed her head to me. As far as I could tell, she didn’t seem to be bothered about what Lastiara told her anymore.

“No, it was a lapse in judgment on my part. I was overconfident in my plan and misjudged when we should have retreated.”

“Fufu. I knew you would say that, Master. Thank you very much.”

Maria snickered, then thanked me.

“Why would you thank me? It was my mistake. It was my fault that you were in danger, you know?”

“But you made that mistake because you were thinking of me, right?”

With the same smile, Maria continued.

No, no I wasn’t. It wasn’t something that noble. I had forced my own ideas on Maria for my own safety. I was only subconsciously avoiding imagining that scene playing out one day.

“You’re being too self-conscious. I don’t have the luxury to think of others.”

“I digress. Master, you didn’t want to make me sad, so you couldn’t decide when to leave, isn’t that right? You hesitated since you didn’t want to destroy my dream, didn’t you?”

Maria made me out like I was some kind of decent human being, but that was an invalid assessment. While, indeed, I donned the mask of a good person, it stemmed from my lack of determination and mental strength.

“I told you, you’re wrong…”

“Fufu.”

Maria smiled at me as I continued to deny her. But then, her expression suddenly darkened.

“—But I’m sure I can no longer be of help in the Labyrinth. Now that I know I’m only bringing you trouble, I don’t know what I should do…”

She spilled more of her thoughts than I thought she would.

I was surprised by how different she looked. I hadn’t seen Maria so crestfallen before. I knew it was impossible for the matter not to bother her. There was no way she could sort out her feelings in just a few hours after returning from the Labyrinth.

“Calm down, Maria… No one said you can’t do anything. You can take your time and find what you can do here.”

“I am… allowed to be here?’

When I said the word ‘here’, Maria asked anxiously. I asked her back.

“…Do you want to get out of here?”

“I will definitely return the favor, but there’s no reason for me to be a nuisance in this house any longer…”

“Hold on, hold on…! Where’s your usual bravado? Don’t get too depressed, you idiot.”

She was so full of arrogance just a few days ago, but there was no sign of it in that conversation. I could only deny her strongly, as the difference in attitude made me panic.

“That bravado… is nothing more than a facade…”

Maria replied with self-mockery. 

I had no means of knowing what was making Maria so pigeon-hearted, but I knew that, at least, I didn’t want to see Maria looking so sad—it reminded me of when I had first met her. I needed her to stand firm, for my own sake.

I wouldn’t mind letting her go if she looked as lion-hearted as before, but if she left with her face looking like that, I would vomit from all the regrets and worry.

“You have things to do here. You can cook for me. The house is in your care, Maria.”

That was why I tried to give Maria whatever significance I could. The best I could come up with on the spur of the moment was cooking. With her skills, there was no doubt she could handle the housework.

“But you said I don’t have to cook…”

“That was just an excuse to bring you with me into the Labyrinth. I was being callous since I really wanted you to come with me.”

That was no lie. At the time, I had really thought of her as more of a potential fighter than as someone to fix me meals. 

“Did you really…”

“That’s why… let me be the one asking now. I want you to cook for me every day in this house.”

After what had happened, it was I who brought up the topic. When I pleaded to her seriously, Maria answered with a troubled look on her face.

“E-every day, you say… Haah, you always say the dumbest things, Master. That was a really embarrassing line, you know? Even if you didn’t mean it…”

“Yeah. I’m getting embarrassed after saying it.”

Maria looked at me with the same dumbfounded look she always gave me. How she looked at me didn’t matter as long as she got back to her own feet.

“I will gratefully take up on the job, then.  Thank you very much, Master.”

“Yeah, I’m in your care.”

We smiled at each other and renewed our agreement. She wasn’t as crestfallen as before, though I wouldn’t say my eyes were good enough to see through her pretenses, so I didn’t feel it was safe just yet.

“Well, then, since we’re on the topic, let’s cook together.”

“Together?”

Thus, I decided to watch and see how she would fare as we cooked.

“Yeah. I want to see how good you are. I’m quite confident with my skill, but I’m probably not as good as you.”

“Oh, no, I’m no match for you, Master.”

“No, no, you have the knack for it, Maria. I can see talents, remember? I can see that you have the talent for cooking.”

“Talent for cooking?”

“Yes, and I don’t doubt it. Be more confident in yourself.”

“Talent for cooking…”

* * *

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Translator - Mab

Proofreader - ilafy

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Maria’s face somewhat brightened. It’d be great if she could solidify her raison d’etre with that.

I scrupulously began to teach Maria my culinary knowledge in order to make her love cooking. While Maria, in turn, taught me about the cuisines of this world. Our culinary conversation became much livelier than I expected.

We kept the conversation up as we began preparing dinner in the kitchen.

Maria was cheerful during the cooking. I was relieved that my choice wasn’t the wrong one and enjoyed cooking with Maria. For a time, the Labyrinth slipped from my mind as I became more absorbed in the task at hand.

***

“I’m back. Oya? Something smells incredible.”

Lastiara came back at the perfect time just as we were about to finish preparing dinner as if she had been watching us. I left the rest of the work to Maria and walked over to Lastiara. I thought I caught Maria’s expression shifting a little then, but there was nothing I could do about it.

“Oi, Lastiara. I have a lot I need to say to you.”

“N-no, wait, wait wait wait! Please listen to what I have to say first!”

When I irately called out to her, Lastiara immediately spat out her excuses. She strung words together in a panic.

“I didn’t take you off work without thinking, Christ. I gave it a lot of thought. I also thought that you were doing it since you want to reduce their workload anyway… so I spoke to them in your stead. I mean, you can be oddly indecisive, Christ.”

“Yeah. That’s right, earning money there isn’t that efficient, but I have other businesses there… collecting information, for one. Besides, the tavern can’t run if they suddenly lose an employee.”

“I thought about those points too. I have the info up until floor 23, and Maria-chan can work there if the tavern needs a helping hand.”

She seemed to highlight that she held the information that I needed to get away from the mess she made, but she couldn’t dictate what the tavern needed at her own convenience.

“I’ll give in in terms of gathering information. However, you can’t just tell someone to do someone else’s work. Also, who says Maria is going to do it for you?”

“Eeh. But all you did was wash dishes, Christ. Anyone can do it. Maria would be better at helping the tavern with her Cooking Skill. And most importantly, it’ll be good for business if the staff is a cute girl, don’t you think? As for consent… Hey, Maria-chan, will you do it?”

Lastiara called out to Maria, who was still cooking.

“If it’s for my Master, absolutely.”

Her reply was too spiritedl. Hearing that, Lastiara turned to me with a ‘See!’ look.

“Kgh…!”

Her brilliant get-away attempt made me snarl. I could have gone on and on, but there was no reason to go that far. She was, in some respects, correct. That was for sure.

Seeing that I didn’t say anything back, Lastiara continued.

“This way, if we ever need to gather information, we can ask Maria-chan to do it. See, there you have it: a brilliant division of roles. Even you wouldn’t be so overprotective to object to that, would you?”

If possible, I’d rather not have Maria work in the tavern. The reason was that there were a lot of rude customers, but Maria’s high level should solve that problem. She was no match for us, but her abilities were on par with those of a skilled explorer. If I objected, I would inevitably be branded as overprotective.

With no other choice, I shifted the subject. I just couldn’t let Lastiara get the win.

“Even so, we’re not done talking just yet. It doesn’t change the fact that you did as you pleased at your own convenience, and you only asked Maria post de facto. Your selfishness hasn’t been forgiven.

“A-all right, what’s for dinner~?”

“I don’t mind scolding you while we eat. A meal is tastier with a side of scolding.”

“It’ll make my meal taste bad, though…”

Lastiara sensed that things had just gotten uglier for her and tried to change the subject further, but I would have none of it, and I followed Lastiara, who fled to the table.

Maria put down the finished dishes as she watched us.

—Thus, our second dinner together began.

All the while, I continued to scold Lastiara endlessly for her selfishness. Maria, our resident silver-tongued girl, backed me up so Lastiara wouldn’t push me back.

In the end, Lastiara gobbled up my and Maria’s scolding and ultimately bowed her head and gave a small apology. With that, the day came to an end. 

All three of us parted to get to our beds, a smile on each of our faces. The gloomy atmosphere from the agony in the Labyrinth was all gone by then.

At the very least, it was for me.

 

 


 

『Tenth Day Finished』

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