For now, I got Noire to come into my home and had her sit at the table in the dining room.

I sat down across from her, and got prepared to listen carefully to what she had to say.

Sakura and Garnet both happened to be present in the dining room, but they were openly wary of Noire.

Their expressions and attitude showed that if anything happens, they would strike immediately.

It was mostly because she used to be Hero Falcon’s party member.

It was like looking at a bed of needles. This was a situation I didn’t want to be in if possible.

「So, what do you need at this time of night?」

「……That’s…」

Noire tried really hard to keep her breathing steady, and opened her mouth when she was ready.

「I heard from the knights that… you’re in trouble because you don’t have enough help……」

「That reminds me, I did mention to them that I had too much work here and not enough help.」

「So……I was wondering if you could, let me work here……」

I didn’t expect what she said, so  my eyes went wide.

I’d thought of a couple of reasons why she came here to see me, but I never expected it to be this.

「Didn’t you get hired by the Golden Fang Knights? Don’t tell me you’re working for free?」

「Obviously not.」

Garnet smacked the back of my head.

「I want to atone for what I did by helping you out. I want to redeem myself and free myself of these feelings. That’s probably what you’re thinking, right? You just want to make yourself feel better. You’re not thinking about the person you betrayed at all.」

Garnet said with an unreserved tone while rummaging through the kitchen for something.

I could imagine why she’d be so harsh.

Although I didn’t hear this from her directly, I found out that her mother had been murdered.

If she imagined the murderer acting freely, saying things like 『I want to atone for what I did,』 that’d put her in a considerably bad mood.

「……That’s exactly it. I won’t try to deny it……However, I really want to make up for what I did to you…… If I don’t distinguish what’s 『right or wrong』, and continue on without clearing things up…… I really won’t be able to stand it……」

Noire clenched her fists tightly on top of the dining table.

「I don’t need a wage…… If you allow me to be your strength, that’s enough……」

「Luke-dono, may I say something?」

Sakura interrupted us while still holding onto the handle on her katana.

Seeing that, Noire’s shoulders began to shake.

「From what I’ve heard, she was captured together with the hero. Also, her younger sister is still being held captive.」

「……」

「I don’t have any proof, but we can’t deny the possibility that she is being manipulated through magic or threatened through the use of her sister as a hostage.」

「……T-That’s……」

「I think it should be fine in that department.」

When I said that, not only did Sakura look at me with surprise, even Noire did.

「The Silver Wing Knights should’ve investigated whether or not she was under any curses or spells. If not, they would’ve never released her and let the other knight brigade take her.」

I exchanged looks with Garnet nonchalantly, and she nodded at me without saying a word.

「Even if she was sent here to do something, I wasn’t her target, right? By the time she returned to the surface, I never tried to pick a fight with the demon king or anything like that, right?」

「You’re right… The order is backwards. Because she appeared, Luke-dono ended up being deeply involved with the conquering of the demon king’s castle.」

「Right? Even if her target wasn’t me and she was planning something, the Golden Fang Knights would be keeping a close eye on her anyways.」

I wasn’t trying to clear Sakura’s worries without evidence.

The Silver Wing Knights and the Golden Fang Knights. The two knight brigades rejected the hypothesis that 『Noire was an assassin sent by the demon king』. Or, if by any chance that something did happen, they were prepared for it.

If Noire managed to prepare some sort of trap that even the knights were unaware of, someone like me wouldn’t be able to do anything about it even if I tried.

Of course, if anyone asked me whether I believed in Noire or not, the answer would be no. At the same time though, I felt that there was no need to bottle up all that excessive suspicion.

「If that’s what you think, Luke-dono, then there is nothing for me to say.」

Sakura seemed to accept my explanation, and stayed quiet.

The problem now was whether I should accept Noire’s request.

「Right now, you’re still hired by the Golden Fang Knights as their guide, right?」

「……Yes. I only work a few days a month……For the rest of the days, I just wait for orders…..」

Noire spoke bit by bit. While she was doing so, Garnet had made some cold herb tea and gave Noire and I a cup.

「Here. Don’t worry, there’s no poison in it.」

「T-thank you……」

The tea was brewed in the afternoon, made from the herbs that Silvia had brought.

It was blended with medicinal herbs used for food preservation and left out for an entire day after being boiled down, so the people of Greenhollow often drink it like water.

Noire took a sip of the herb tea, and took a breath.

Thanks to the smell of the herbs, Noire calmed down a bit, so it felt like the conversation could proceed.

「I’ve said this before, but I don’t wasn’t particularly concerned about you. That’s because you were like your younger sister’s follower rather than the hero’s. Whether that was a good thing or not, I don’t really care.」

Of course, some would think that she was just as bad for not doing anything when I was assaulted and left behind.

I won’t deny those people exist. However, I didn’t see it that way, that’s all.

「Whether you live with regret or compensate me, I don’t care. That’s better than how I would treat the hero himself.」

「……」

「I’m busy enough that I don’t have the time and effort to spend on torturing you, and I don’t find pleasure in criticizing people. Honestly, just do what you want.」

「……T-then……」

Noire gulped and braced herself, like a prisoner about to hear her sentence.

「However, I can’t accept your proposal. That’s not going to work.」

「……I see, that can’t be helped, then……」

「How can you say you don’t need a wage? If I make you work for free, some weird rumors might start and the shop’s reputation will drop. If you’re going to work here, you’ll be receiving an appropriate wage.」

「Eh……?」

Noire had been looking downward this entire time, but now she looked up with a shocked expression, desperately trying to process what I’d just said to her.

Sakura smiled with her arms folded, while Garnet turned away. I couldn’t tell whether she’d agreed or not from her expression.

It’s been twenty years since King Alfred His Majesty took over Westland. Backward things like slave labor were no longer acceptable.

No matter the situation, making someone work for free would only give you a bad reputation.

「If you really don’t want to accept the money, just spend it in town randomly. That’ll stimulate the town’s economy, which will help me.」

「I-is it really, okay? For me to work here……」

「What’s with that expression? You’re the one who asked if you could work here. We get so busy here I’ll even borrow a cat’s paw.」

「T-thank you, thank you……Luke……!」

Noire leaned down against the dining table, burying her face.

Seriously, things have gotten so strange.

I wanted more employees as soon as possible, but I never thought the first person I’d hire would be one who came here to『atone』.

At any rate, I finally got a regular employee.

I quickly changed my thoughts and planned for tomorrow. Then, I decided to think of ways to put Garnet into a better mood, since she seemed dissatisfied now.

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