There was a TL error in chapter 6
‘an adventurer with two titles’ > ‘a titled adventurer’
It has since been amended. Sorry about that.
Oh and by the way, don’t worry. I didn’t split the chapter. The author did.
Chapter XII – Gleaning (Former Part)
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The mornings of an unemployed had always been early.
TL Note: the original word for “unemployed” is 部屋住み, literally “those who live in their rooms”. These are the guys Oubeniel had talked about back in chapter 10. In chapter 10 I referred them as “those confined in their rooms”. To put it in a simpler term, they’re another term for an unemployed.
At the very least, that case was true for Jean-Jacques Laubert, the fourth son of a certain baron house.
In his house, where her older and younger sisters had already been married off and his illegitimate brothers had already joined the lowest rank of the knights’ order, men without a job were seen in a stern manner.
Day after day, from early morning he would go around and make visits to find a lord to serve, and when he got rejected he’d go to an eatery and eat cheap lunch that commoners would usually eat, then he’d go to the library to study in order to prepare for that someday when he finally gets employed, and then he’d return home to his parents’ disappointment. Every day was like that.
The number of fellow young nobles his age who were in similar circumstances as him was unexpectedly large. Some of his acquaintances pointlessly gave up their urban lives, like going to the countryside in search for a lord, or training in order to become a knight, or apparently leaving in order to become an adventurer. But mostly, these people would choose to resign themselves to a life where they were uselessly kept and idly spend their days from dawn to dusk.
And then there’s the latter group who would begin to hang around with some people from the underworld that were out looking for noble connections, and then they’d commit crime with their privilege which the commoners don’t have. In the beginning, they’d usually abuse their family name to extort people, but when they get worse, the kind of business where they’d set the good-looking women among their servants and accuse them of a crime to enslave them also existed as well.
Jean-Jacques Laubert had seen plenty of his peers who went along that course ultimately smeared mud upon their family name as they to prison and then disappeared. He mustn’t end up like that, no, he didn’t want to end up like that. And with that wholehearted intent, he was walking around that day too in order to find a house that would be willing to employ him.
Laubert thought that the royal capital would be the most ideal place in order to do such activities. Even if one would to go to the rural nobles, at the end of the day the territory, which had been developed for generations, would form a wall, and there’d be very little room for the new vassals to enter. For that matter, as an extension of court politics, not a few noble in the royal capital would seek to be placed in the rural areas. Take the following example, when a certain feudal lord’s house got crushed, their vassals would also be implicated and punished as well. For newly titled nobles, it would surely be in their nature to seek out vassals who don’t carry guilty conscience with them as they were stained by other houses’ colours. He anticipated such demand.
And that was why Laubert had a weakness for rumours. He’d keep track of such and such feudal lord that were known to be dealing in suspicious practices, which would most likely be hunted down by their political enemy. And based on information he’d guess which house was going to get crushed, and take a note of the name of the noble that would most likely be replacing their post. He did all that so he could get a job.
In a sense, it was quite the wicked habit. Because that would mean that every day he was waiting for a noble house to destroy itself by misfortune.
And so, when the young noble that was Jean-Jacques saw the bulletin board when he was making his regular rounds to look for a job after he left his house early in the morning as usual, his eyes went round.
Vassal Employment Notice
Newly-established territory of a Viscount house, Marlin Viscounty, Walden Province.
We are recruiting personnel to be involved with the new administration in this territory.
Are you interested to work in a picturesque, naturally rich land?
Experienced personnel are preferred, but those without experience are welcome to apply.
Ours is a homely workplace where you can consult with your superiors in ease…
And so on, and so on.
For a summons from a titled noble, the wording was unbelievably humble, and at the same time, it also gave an indescribably cheap impression.
“Hey, fourth son of the Laubert house. You saw that too, huh?”
The one who called Laubert out to ask Laubert was a fellow unemployed illegitimate son. He had been looking for a job in the royal capital as well, and they had been competing through several recruitment quota. Well, as a result, these two were still in that state of affairs together.
“Yes, well, since I look for a job everyday… But still, this bulletin is…”
“Odd, yeah? Though the benefits offered seem to be good enough…”
As that acquaintance of him said, the amount of salary written on the lower part of the bulletin was quite decent. While it wasn’t a spectacular amount, it was still a fair one. After living expenses, you can still spend for your hobby and save. And depending on how you plan it, you might get some women too.
“I haven’t heard of this Marlin. I know that Walden Province is to the far southeast of the capital, but where in Walden is it?”
“Even for you, who read books every day, it still doesn’t ring a bell. How come I’d know about it?”
So he told him, and he agreed so.
At any rate, from the catchphrase “picturesque, naturally rich land”, it’d probably be somewhere deep in the countryside.
The acquaintance sighed deeply.
“Even if we got accepted, we’d be living in the countryside huh…”
“Don’t ask for too much. Even if you keep dragging yourself around the capital, it’ll just be hardship for you.”
Laubert told him so as if he was telling that to himself.
Every day his parents would look at his face and the contents of their purse successively, his sisters who had already gotten married into other houses in their various fussy habits kept telling him to get a job, and on top of those his younger brothers had recently begun to see him as some sort of a competitor.
TL Note: the original word for successively was見比べ, which means to look in comparison. In this context it was meant to put his remarks sarcastically (and rather humourously) in a self-depreciative way, but since it’s a bit hard to make sense of it in English, I used successively instead, though any better wording would be welcomed.
Rather than remaining there where there was no prospect for him, he wondered whether he should take the plunge and get on with the offer.
While thinking so, he read the continuation of the bulletin.
“… ‘Lord of Marlin Viscounty, Royal Viscount Tullius Shernan Oubeniel’… huh?”
It was an unpleasant name he hadn’t heard for a while.
Perhaps his face was rather full of suspicion, as his acquaintance puzzledly asked him.
“Are you familiar with that name? Come to think of it, you don’t just study, you also listen to rumours too, huh?”
“Well, more or less… these stories rather lacked credibility though…”
With those words as a preface, he summarised it for him.
Tullius Shernan Oubeniel, the second son of the Oubeniel house.
He was a man with quite the unfavourable rumour. When he was younger he was known for his intelligence, but later he was instead known for his eccentricity as he indulged himself in alchemy. It was said that he bought a number of slaves all at once, killed them all and called their murder “an experiment”, it was also said that the maid who was always seen serving beside him was actually a corpse he revived. He was sort of a mystery man with those kinds of absurd rumours surrounding him. But while the authenticity of such information was unclear, it was indeed true that he bought slaves at an unusual pace, and a dubious light from his residence’s garden—- which was said from the flame that was used to incinerate the dead slaves—– was often witnessed.
“At the very least, I’m sure that he’s an eccentric one. He rarely shows up in social occasions, and I haven’t heard him getting engaged with any daughter of any other houses.”
“Although he’s a second son, he’s still in the bloodline of a Count family. It’s rather weird that he doesn’t look for a bride at all…”
“That’s what I heard. Even now, his older brother, the head of the family, is still struggling to find a marriage candidate due to his younger brother’s poor reputation, but I digress.”
In short, he wasn’t a respectable noble. Laubert concluded so.
His acquaintance groaned as he folded his arms,
“And while that kind of guy is a viscount, we’re unemployed?”
“Stop it, don’t say something so saddening like that…”
In short, it was just a matter of lineage.
The second child of the Oubeniel family in question, even with his problematic (?) personality was still a son of a powerful family, and thus there was a proper path for him to progress there. The illegitimate sons of a baron, a baronet or a knight, no matter how respectable they were, would have nothing but an uphill struggle for them. Still their conditions were still more considerably preferable compared to commoners who hardly received any education at all.
“So, Laubert. What are you going to do?”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t play dumb now. Are you taking this on or not?”
As he said that to him, Laubert pondered.
It was for certain that the viscount, the second son of Oubeniel house, was an infamous noble. If he was asked to swear loyalty to him, the answer would be none other than no. However, he did find the charm in the task to turn the viscounty around for the better. Laubert thought that he was more suitable to do official work rather than being a knight or an adventurer. And opportunities for illegitimate children of poor nobles to have such a job were scarcer than he thought.
Practically, there was only one answer.
“I’m on. I’m not happy with the lord’s hobby, but I can’t afford to be picky here. Even if it’s in the countryside in the far southeast or wherever, I’ll have a go at it.”
“I suppose so. Well, I have the same sentiment.”
‘Let’s put our all this time too’, so his acquaintance said as he tapped his shoulder.
It’ll be another competition with him. There’ll be no grudge as to whoever would be employed in the end. It was their pact when they see each other for the first time, and it was still continuing then. Both of them were in this predicament. How will it turn out this time?
Tullius Shernan Oubeniel couldn’t leave his territory, and so the interviews for his vassal recruitment would be held there. Generously, his party would be the one covering their travel expenses. Laubert’s acquaintance was pleased that they’d be paid in gold, but that made Laubert to form a different opinion.
“He promised a good salary, and he covered the costs of this journey, apparently he’s not good at counting money…”
While being rocked in the large horse-drawn omnibus, Laubert murmured. He was riding a carriage bound for Marlin from the royal capital. All of the candidates were divided and placed in several large carriages that will take them to the site. So far there had been no noble who would spend so much for interview candidates whose employment was still undecided. If the number of candidates were this much, then it’d be fine for him to let the candidates pay for their own travel expenses and high-handedly wait them there. Had Oubeniel was blessed by a wealthy land then this’d make more sense to Laubert, but the Walden Province supposedly wasn’t that very rich of a territory. In other words, such facts implied that Viscount Oubeniel knew nothing about bookkeeping or labour management.
As his sharp ears caught that remark, his acquaintance, who was sitting beside him, snapped into the conversation.
“But, why would you find it strange? From what I’ve heard, hasn’t he been earning from the sales of his own potions?”
“Accounting for personal business and the economy of a territory are two different things. For a long time the viscount has been employing only slaves, hasn’t he? They don’t need salary or good treatment. So it’s different from us, who, despite being lower in rank than him, still belong to the nobility. That is why it would probably be correct to deem him naïve, though I don’t know to what extent.”
Certainly, in order to learn about people management, some nobles would grant their children slaves first. But the lesson that one can take from it, like from a children’s textbook, would be the first step among the first steps. Normally, as they grow older, they would be entrusted with the children of their commoner vassals, then someone of their same age from the lower-ranked nobility, and then a senior assistant would be assigned to their side. That way to learn about managing people would be the usual way for a noble to study to be a good leader.
TL Note: original word for leader is emperor, as in”帝王学”, “study of how to be a good emperor”
Laubert had yet to meet Oubeniel, but from his point of view, Tullius Oubeniel apparently was missing such experience entirely.
It was then,
“Oh, aren’t you talking about quite the interesting thing.”
A well-dressed young man cut into their conversation.
The acquaintance was making rather the suspicious face.
“…. Who are you?”
“Apologies. I am—-“
Apparently the young man was the youngest, and furthermore, an illegitimate child of a certain count.
He had a lot of siblings so a job was very hard to come by for him, he said he responded to this recruitment opportunity because had already ran out of patience.
“You’re one of the sons of Baron Laubert’s house, yes? I’ve been listening to your eye-opening analysis since a while back now.”
“No, it was just a mere conjecture…”
“No need to be humble about it. Your analysis was rational and it was truly magnificent— it’s just that…”
The young man glanced over his surroundings.
“All these people riding this carriage with us are competitors for the official posts. If you talk too much, they might use it to slander you.”
As he told him so, Laubert realised his fault. They were now heading for Tullius Shernan Oubeniel’s place in order to implore him to accept them into his service. So to backbite him there by spouting forth conjectures regarding the man would be a careless thing. If by any chance his remarks were to reach viscount’s ears, it’d surely invite his displeasure. It would be as if they were narrowing a gate that was already narrow in the first place by their very own hands.
“I’m thankful for your advice.”
“Not at all. Don’t mind it.”
The young man smiled. He had a good lineage, and surely his hope of being on official would be granted first. In the noble society that put a heavy emphasis on pedigree, even if he was illegitimate, the fact that he lineage was that of a count would tally heavily in his favour. Probably, he kindly advised his competitors to show that margin between them.
“Now that I gave you my advice, mind if we talk? I don’t know a lot of faces here.”
A lot of people in the carriage were children of low-ranked nobles. For him who came from the house of a count, surely he’d not be acquainted with most of them.
There was no reservation in Laubert’s speech, but the young man was laughing and smiling as if his curtness didn’t offend him.
“I’m thankful. It’s a long road ahead, but with you people I don’t think I’d be bored.”
“…. Thank you for that.”
His acquaintance seemed to be a little sullen. His house was that of knight’s, which mean he was barely a nobleman. From his point of view, the young man, who could be discerned as being one from a count’s family just by looking, surely was a strong stimulus to the cold gate that was his inferiority complex.
And with those young noblemen inside, the carriage proceeded slowly through the road to Marlin.
“I heard that it’d be in the countryside, but…”
“It exceeds my expectation, as to how there’s absolutely nothing in here…”
The young man and the acquaintance sighed as they saw the scenery shown by the window.
Outside their carriage was a forest, or a meadow, or a mountain, or a field. Most of the fields only produce staple food, such as wheat. They couldn’t see any of them producing special products, such as vineyards for wine. Even if they were just fields, there were some fields that would be pleasing to the eye either because of their produce or their form, but apparently none of it could be expected here in this side of the country. Compared to the land they entered just before this place, it was hard to tell whether they were still in the same province, no, in the same country at all.
“Is this land the one that got entrusted to the viscount…?”
“Yes… normally dividing the role of government to several deputies would be a more efficient approach to rule this land… but—-“
Laubert took a glance at the farmers who were plowing their fields outside the carriage’s window. Sweat was flowing down their forehead as they were working hard, but they were still singing happily and there seemed to be a cheerful atmosphere about them.
“— The faces of those farmers are unusually lively. And there’s water throughout the farmlands. It seems that they have taken several approaches to take care of their people.”
“Oh, as expected from Laubert. What a different view of things.”
“Stop it, sir.”
He smiled as he waved his hands at the young man’s words.
“Well, it’s true that we’re in the countryside, but I think there is a room to grow. If a new industry were to develop here, it’s possible for this land to prosper even more.”
“Hmm. For example, mining?”
From the light investigation he did before he left, it seemed that copper mines once flourished in Marlin. However, most of the mountains were already abandoned then and people kept away from it as their number dwindled.
“Liquor, how about liquor! Brewery seems good to me! Walden Province used to be famed for its wine, didn’t it?”
“No, that’s not for us to decide…… in the first place, it’s not decided yet whether we’d be working here or not.”
He smiled wryly at his companions. Certainly, Walden was a wine producing region. At the same time however, other regions in this province had already taken a hold of the share to cultivate them. There was very little room to cultivate them in Marlin, as its utmost utility was to produce staple crops, such as wheat.
But if one were to close their eyes to the fact that this countryside lacked entertainment—– and that its lord was ill-famed back in the royal capital—-, he thought it was actually not that bad of a land.
“Anyway, it’s not fair if I’m the only one talking here. Have you two noticed anything else?”
“Yeah, now that you mention it…”
“Hmm, indeed there’s something that left me rather wondering…”
The young man said so as he put on some airs.
“Up until this point, I haven’t seen any structure that resembles a fortress on the way. Even if there was, they were hardly maintained at all.”
“Ah, come to think of it, that’s true.”
‘Uh-huh’, the acquaintance nodded as well.
In order to protect the land from thieves, bandits, and monsters, development of fortresses as the base where knight’s order would be stationed in should’ve been a necessity. Especially for Marlin, as the size of the territory far exceeded its population density. There were supposed to be more bases for the knights to inspect the territory.
“In other words, I wonder if that means the size of the knight’s order here isn’t that big?”
If their number were lacking, of course the number of forts would also decrease. As the number of people to maintain and defend the fortresses would be insufficient as well, there would be the risk that they might be taken over and abused as the base of bandits or the likes. The number of the fortresses would be decreased in order to avoid such situation.
“That’s good news. I don’t have your lineage, and I can’t study like Laubert. If their knight’s order is lacking in hands, there’s a room for me to enter.”
“True, that… well, it’d be easier than being a knight in the capital…”
“I think it’d be a much busier job though?”
“Well, it’s much preferable than no job at all. It might be a petty post, but it’s still an opportunity to get myself knighted. I’ll have a go at it.”
While they talked about other things, the carriage had finally arrived at the town that served as the centre of the viscounty. It was a rustic town with a population of three or four thousand people at the very most. The town landscape was pretty much a number of houses huddled together on the centre top of a small hill like a flock of sheep surrounded by a battered wall around it. It was an awfully common small walled town that may find itself tremble from the threat of monsters or bandits.
“Gentlemen, welcome to Marlin.”
The one who welcomed the candidates as they alighted from the carriages was a small man whose voice was devoid of any intonation whatsoever. Judging from his appearance alone, he was a small-time nobleman. But his dull expression and his pale complexion made his presence absolutely unnoticeable. If they were to pass each other in the town, it was possible for them to mistake him for a commoner.
“His face looks like a doll’s, huh. Spooky………”
The acquaintance whisperingly voiced his impression. Yes, a doll. He was so inanimate it was hard to tell whether he really was a living human being at all. Even slaves who got overworked for years wouldn’t have a face which seemed to have already worn out of emotions like this far.
The surrounding noblemen children probably held the same sentiment as well, as the gaze they casted upon the man were without any favourable light on them. But as if he were paying no mind to it, the flat voice continued.
“After having all of you gentlemen stay in this town for one night, you will be taking another examination tomorrow. After that, you will be interviewed by the lord in order to decide on the possibility of your admittance….. such will be the program.”
“May I ask you a question?”
The young man promptly raised his hand.
“………………………. By all means.”
“I suppose that we’ll be guided to our lodging in a moment, but, I’d like to inquire about that in advance. With all due respect, this is a small town, and thus there should only be a few facilities that can host this number of adults all at once. So I’d like to know, how is your lord going to treat us considering that?”
It was a daring question. The point that could be heard from the question was, “does your lord know how to treat a noble?”. Laubert couldn’t figure out the meaning behind such question that might invite the displeasure of the lord if things were to go wrong. Considering the personality of the young man he had been speaking with along the journey so far, he couldn’t understand the reason of such conduct.
Instead of being baffled, the man replied,
“The lord has instructed us to treat you according to your families beforehand.”
“And that instruction was?”
“For those who came from a viscount house and above, while it is a bit far away, we have prepared for you a refurbished lodging place in the deputy’s manor. For those who came from a baron house, please use the lodging house in this town. As for those who came from a baronet and a knight house, we apologise for your inconvenience, but you will be staying at the house of the town’s volunteers for tonight.”
His reply was curiously still without any intonation at all, as if he were reading it aloud from a paper.
With a ‘hmm’, the young man nodded.
“…. Excuse me for that. Although it might be possible that I may have offended you, recently there are a lot of people who would ignore the convention that is the hierarchy among the nobles of the kingdom. Well, I believed that the viscount isn’t one among them, though.”
So he courtly concluded the matter.
The guide gazed at everyone with his emotionally indecipherable eyes, and said,
“Then, please come this way……”
With a gloomy tune, he began to lead the candidates on their way.
The young man shrugged.
“Hmm. He’s unexpectedly shrewd.”
“You gave me the chills there… You said before, ‘let’s get accepted now’, so why did you become belligerent all of a sudden…”
“What you did was so unlike you—-“
The young man waved his hands lightly at Jean’s and the acquaintance’s vigorous argument.
“My bad, my bad. I just wanted to probe around the situation for a bit.”
He excuse was that it was just out of childish rashness of his.
But Laubert could intuitively tell that he was lying.
“… Well, now the one with the least prospect to get employed would be you, I guess.”
“Hey, hey, you’re being cruel with your remarks.”
And so he let it be bygones.
Although they had grown closer, they just casually knew each other. He felt that he might have some hidden circumstances, but he might get into trouble if he poked too deep, so he kept away from doing so.
“Still, the three of us got splendidly split apart, huh. I’ll be borrowing the townsman’s house, huh…”
“From the start, the status of our families is different so…”
“Haha. Strange, though, I don’t feel that difference at all. Hopefully, all three of us can be accepted together.”
And so the young man of the count house concluded their conversation.
It was certain that he had a secret with him, but he was a pleasant partner for intelligent exchanges.
Indeed, it would be nice if everyone could be accepted without a hitch.
The next day.
Laubert, who had spent the whole night without a wink of sleep, was taking his exam while still feeling a bit tired from the journey. The contents of the exam were not at all difficult. There were some simple math word problems as a warm-up, some liberal arts questions on history and manners which he smoothly answered, and then a bit of general knowledge subjects such as civil and criminal law. Finally, the exam was tied up by some essay questions, and then that was it.
For Jean, who had been studying in the library on a daily basis, save for a few careless mistakes, the questions were so simple to the point that he might not lose any marks at all. Similarly, other candidates who had some sense with them would probably find it not particularly difficult as well. Conversely, however, those who spend their days idling about and passed through life just with their noble status would most likely find the questions tough.
“… It’s time. The examination is over.”
As the sound of a bell was heard from the distance, a slave dressed in maid attire heartlessly declared so. At those words, some of the examinees that still had yet to fill in the blanks made desperate faces.
“Wa, wait! I’m still on it!”
“No, the exam is over.”
“I said, ‘wait’, slave! I’m a noble, okay?! I don’t remember that lowly people like you can order me arou—!”
One examinee tried to vehemently argue with her in an unsightly way. However, the slave-maid didn’t give in.
“Yes, I’m a slave. However, you’re not my master.”
Exactly. A slave is their master’s possession. And her master was Oubeniel, the owner of the Marlin Viscounty, As long as the maid-slave was moving under the instructions of her lord, even if he was a noble’s child, the man, in his position as someone wishing to be employed as an official by the viscount, did not have the right to hinder the task entrusted to her.
But then again, had he understood that, he wouldn’t make such a fuss in the first place.
“For a mere lowly slave, you’re cheeky!”
A dry sound echoed within the test venue. The infuriated examinee had just hit the slave.
As expected, this was crudely. Jean-Jacques Laubert reflexively covered his face. On top of having refused to submit his answer after the exam had already been over, he also resorted to an act of violence. From his attitude, apparently his house was quite a renowned one, but he caused a commotion in another house’s residence, and surely no house would want to take in a bastard like him. Even if one were to accept him, he probably couldn’t do enough and would just be a source of embarrassment for them. He’d end up disinherited or sent off to a monastery, accepting him would be a mess like gulping down the worst wine that somehow got mixed in.
While failing to notice such a thing, that examinee smiled triumphantly at the staggered maid.
“Listen, you… Do you know who am I?”
“Yes, I know who you are. You are examinee number 14, surname is—“
“I’m not asking that!”
And then another slap.
Jean could not bear it any longer.
“You, stop it!”
“Hey, let go! You dreg of the Lauberts! What are you doing to me!?”
He also used the same way of speech to Laubert, who was now restraining his hands. There was no saving him.
But Laubert had to finish what he had already started. For now, he had to calm him down. If he could lay down his arms and apologise here, it shouldn’t end up as that serious of a matter. But that was only if he could do that.
“Please just listen up, alright? Slaves are their owner’s property. If you hurt them without a care, that’s just the same as smearing mud on the lord’s face, okay?”
“He wouldn’t mind if I punish a rude slave who does her job improperly, would he!?”
“No, if you say improperly…”
Wouldn’t that remark apply more to you?
But before he could argue so, the examinee broke free from Lebert’s arms, he didn’t have enough strength to restrain him.
And it was then,
“Hey, what’s this ruckus all about?”
A tall man that seemed to be a swordsman entered the room where the examination was held.
The examinee that raised the commotion shakingly raised his voice as well.
“Wh, what are you?!”
“…. Retainer to the viscount, Due Schwarz. Until a moment ago, I was in the other venue testing candidates for the military posts.”
The man who introduced himself as the viscount’s vassal said so in a rough manner of speech.
From his formal attire, apparently he was a military officer serving the viscount, but his speech and conduct, his disposition, his facial expression, no matter from where you look at him, he exuded an uncouth atmosphere about him. ‘Is he perhaps from the lower nobility, or raised from being a commoner?’, Jean surmised so.
It seemed that the problematic examinee concluded so as well, as he suddenly started to float the colour of contempt on his face.
“That so? Well great timing then. Your house’s slave has greatly injured my feeling. It’s necessary for you to punish her accordingly here.”
“Not very bright, are you? You can’t understand unless I speak it in a vulgar manner? Fine, let me put it this way, show me that you’ll at least clean up that bloody slave’s mess, alright?”
He said so with a look of utmost pride on his face.
The man who introduced himself as Due turned around to the slave woman that took a pratfall on the floor.
“I am Suzanne, Due-sama.”
“Right, right… that was your name huh… what happened here?”
In her emotionally cryptic voice, the slave said,
“I was attempting to collect the answer sheets as the time-indicating bell had already rung as the Master instructed me to when examinee number zero one four claimed he was ‘still on it’ and resisted.”
“…. Hah. I see.”
With a revolted look, Due shifted his gaze to the other examinees that were Jean and his co.
“It’s this guy right? Just wanted to confirm it from the neutral standpoint of other examinees.”
Laubert unintentionally nodded. His eyes were calm, but there was an enigmatic force in it that told him he wouldn’t tolerate a lie. Also, there was no gain for him even if he told him one. The other examinees followed after Jean and nodded as well.
“Well then, number zero one four. You’re disqualified. Let’s obediently go back to the capital now. If you have no travelling funds with you, I can give you an interest-free loan.”
“Wh, what! What do you mean, go back!? And what do you mean by an interest-free loan!? You mean you’re not paying me reparations, but giving me a loan!?”
“If you get it then our matter is quickly settled. Then, please leave immediately. Or perhaps—“
With a glint in his eyes, Due glared down at the examinee.
“—- you can’t walk unless I lend you a hand, huh?”
If you don’t want to get beaten up, then beat it with your own legs. He was saying that.
“Kuh…..! Ever since I was born, this is the first time I’m insulted like this! I, I’m leaving!”
So he said, and the problematic individual in this incident left.
Due let out a deep sigh that was full of his exasperation.
“’Ever since I was born, this is the first time I’m insulted like this’, huh. He’s sure was living quite the happy life.”
“…….. All examinees, we apologise for the trouble caused. I will now resume collecting your answer.”
“I’ll see myself out too, then. Examinees, if you get accepted, apparently we’ll be in each other’s care for a very long time, looking forward to working with you.”
Leaving the answer sheet collection to the slave-maid, Due made his exit.
Soon after, she finished collecting them. At the same time, some of the examinees had this ‘I did it’ face on them.
‘Ah, were they filling in the blanks during the commotion?’
Or perhaps, there was also the possibility that their cheating was even more explicit.
‘How shrewd’, Laubert lamented.
In the worst case, these guys might become his colleague instead of the guys who did the tests by themselves. ‘Will I be able to cope well with this kind of people?’, as he thought so, he could feel that he was getting depressed.
“Then, after the scoring is finished, the successful applicants shall enter into an interview with the lord. As this will take some time, lunch is already served for you in the dining hall in the meantime, so please take your time until then. That is all.”
After she said so, the maid left as well. It was as if she had already forgotten that an examinee had slapped her a while ago.
“… Quite the well-educated maid. Don’t you think?”
The young man he had just acquainted the other day talked to Lebert.
“So, the exam, how was it for you?”
“Well, all the answer columns were filled.”
‘That means no problem for me’, Laubert thought to himself. If he could do all of it, then the difficulty level was low enough for him to exceed the pass zone comfortably. Though there were a few things outside of the exam questions themselves that he couldn’t figure out got mixed in as well.
“More importantly, Jean-Jacques Laubert, what do you think of that maid?”
“Hey, hey, you’re asking that as soon as the exam’s finished? You fancy someone like that?”
As might be expected from an attending maid, even as a slave she was well-kept. However, her features were not among the best. Among their generation, she’d be the number three beauty of a random small village, and that would be the highest valuation that she could get. And he couldn’t get past that cold attitude of hers either. As a woman she would be dull, and as a slave she would come out to be a bit arrogant.
At that, the young man made a wry smile.
“Not that. Did you notice it while you were looking at her? That maid clothes is quite the magic equipment, you know?”
“What was that?”
Jean unconsciously asked him back
Magic equipment. The words referred to magically-enhanced articles crafted by a mage’s hand. It would be considerably expensive to attribute magic in normal tailoring. These weren’t that uncommon in the noble society, but it was unheard for a slave to be wearing one on them.
“I’ve heard that the viscount was an alchemy fanatic, but…..”
“Perhaps, he produced them on his own and then granted to his men and slaves. Even that swordsman who showed up in this place just now, I can see that even the Royal Guard wouldn’t be entrusted with what he had as his equipment.”
TL Note: original word for “show up” in the raw was “収める“, but none of its meaning can be used in this context, except if he was trying to say the following: “a swordsman who solved the issue in this place a while ago”, in which osameru means to resolve/settle. If you’re a fellow translator, please call me out if I made an error here.
“No, that’s not possible now, is it? I mean, the Royal Guard is the kingdom’s most elite. And if it was that hard for even them to get their hands on one, so how come a single military officer of a viscount could have it?”
That was impossible. After procuring such things, there was no way he could have a leeway to pay up such lavish salary like the one written on the bulletin. Just how much wealth would it take to pull that off?
“No, those property themselves didn’t come by because he was a viscount. I think it was probably handmade by the viscount himself.”
“Hang on, I couldn’t quite catch up. Handmade? He could make equipment that are superior in comparison to the ones that the most elite in the kingdom have, is that it? Well, just ‘that’s because he’s an alchemy fanatic’ wouldn’t be enough of an explanation now, would it?”
“……… Even I’m a little taken aback as well. I’ve had taken the rumours about Viscount Oubeniel with a grain of salt until I came to this place. However, today, I was convinced for the first time. The man we will be meeting soon is a maestro alchemist. To the extent that he’s probably in the entire continent’s top five.”
“I still don’t quite understand even if you say so….”
Jean said so as he shook his head. In the first place, the subject of alchemy itself had very little connection with the nobility. It was a trick of fraudsters who would straight-facedly speak of bedtime stories like turning lead into gold or achieving immortality. Even some people would hesitate from putting them in the category of magic. The subject was recognised as such. Even if he said that he was probably in the continents’ top five, he couldn’t perceive how big of a deal that was.
A mage with a certain extent of ability would be enough to create the kind of remedy or attire that the royal family uses, and if you desire more than that, that would be where the dwarven smiths come in. The merit of studying a subject like alchemy had been held in doubt in its entirety. He thought, just what kind of drunk madman would pay attention to something like that, but…
“… The interview will be after lunch, huh. Let’s change the place for a bit. There’s something I want to talk about, just for the two of us.”
As he said so, the young man took Jean out. Their destination was an unpopular spot behind the mansion.
“So, what’s this all about? For you to need a place like this to talk.”
Naturally, his words became harsh. He was forcibly dragged there because some sort of a secret talk. It was a nuisance no matter how one looks at it.
The young man, with the preamble of ‘before that’, began to talk,
“Jean-Jacques Laubert. Did you not ever find it suspicious?”
“Find what suspicious?”
“The fact as to how Tullius Shernan Oubeniel was made as a viscount in this territory to begin with.”
It was indeed a curious turn of events. While still being wary, Laubert prompted him to continue.
“While you were looking for official jobs, you should’ve collected rumours about various noblemen. Among them, of course there should’ve been a story about the discord between the two Oubeniel brothers.”
“Certainly, there was. Long ago, it was said that the Oubeniel’s second son was a prodigy that would surpass the first son, but after his reputation fell to the ground, it was said that the younger brother’s notoriety held the older brother back. I’ve heard that kind of a story now and then.”
‘There it is’, the young man sighed.
“And that older brother, who is now the current head of the family, went and appealed to the court to grant that little brother a viscountcy, and gave him this territory. Why so, do you think?”
“Hmm, if the rumours about the discord were true… then it was to keep him away from the capital?”
“There’s that too. Although the younger brother couldn’t be charged for his slave-murdering conducts, the older brother couldn’t bear to let the young brother’s questionable research to continue in the capital. But there’s one other reason.”
Reason. As he was told so, Jean pondered about it. The reason why the older brother might give his younger brother, who was alchemy-crazed, murdering slaves with cruel methods, and a disrespectable noble, position and power.
There was one, one unpleasant guess crossed his mind.
“Wait, don’t tell me…..!?”
“It’s exactly as you guessed.”
The young man bitterly affirmed.
“Set him up for misgovernance as a lord, and then use that wrongdoing in order to put his brother in blood to death.”
It was really a ridiculous narrative. Kill his own brother? And he gave him a viscountcy, just for that? On top of being too elaborate for just a small gain, even if he succeeded he wouldn’t be able to avoid unfavourable criticism for it. Before he could ask him about that, the young man added.
“Of course, staining the name of the count house of Oubeniel would be a foolish undertaking he wouldn’t be able to avoid. However, as of now the head of the house could not kill his brother. As the younger brother were still being protected under the noble society’s principles, killing his younger brother in blood for the sake of self-protection because he was being a threat to his position as the next person in the line of their succession would penalise him. But what if he were to kill him because of territory mismanagement? The narrative will change like this,”
As he said that, he began to emulate a play as he spoke with swagger.
“’Alas! The lord of the count’s house hath sent down punishment even upon the brother he shared his blood with in order to reformeth his politics! Partiality as a sibling hath blindeth him to commit an error when he hath his brother appointed, but for the count’s was ashameth of it, while he kneweth he hath to vindicate his honour, he still did so in order to maketh it right!’…. like that. It wouldn’t change the fact that he killed his own brother, but this way the damage it would do to the house’s reputation would be kept to a minimum.”
“He gave him a territory…… so he could pull off that cheap trick on him?”
“Even if it was out of self-love, it was such a terrible deed, right? He abused the trust His Majesty has given him to govern his lands and used it as a pretext in order to solve his sibling rivalry, on top of that he even got the court involved when he gave his brother his peerage. What a big deal of a count. Though a viscount that deals with his political affairs nonchalantly while he amuses himself with alchemy is no better than him too.”
The young man did not attempt to hide his contempt as he spat out.
Laubert could see finally see what he was talking about. Of course, the young man would also tell him that he had a solution to that issue.
TL Note: second sentence in the raws was, “勿論、彼もそこを解からせるように話を運んでいることだろう”, not sure if I translated this correctly.
He talked about both of the Oubeniel brothers with disgust, and though dim, fervent loyalty towards the royal family could be seen from him. Take these two together, then it was clear as to where it all came to down to.
“That means, you….. came here to secretly investigate the viscount’s house. Moreover, you also grabbed the count by the tail before you did so with the viscount’s. Thus your true lord is probably one of the centralists.”
TL Note: the Japanese expression “to grab someone by the tail” (尻尾を掴む) could mean a lot of thing. In this context, the most apparent meaning was that the young man had something on both of the Oubeniel brothers.
“I knew it, you’re quick-witted. Those fellows who let you be an unemployed up until now just don’t have keen eyes.”
“Thanks for that… well, that talk you want to have so you brought me here was—“
“I want you to help me in my secret investigation. I don’t think that this operation will go wrong, but if they were to look into me for a bit, they’d know right away that I’m connected to the centralists. You, on the other hand, have a clear personal record.”
There was a selfish reason in that. After all, it would be like saying that he’d be dragged into a political strife that was so far up beyond the reach of a baron house like Laubert’s.
But at the same time, he could also understand the following things. There was no changing the fact that Viscount Oubeniel does rule Marlin. And for him, in addition to having his brother as an enemy, he also got the centralists, which was the natural enemy of the local lords, to keep a close eye on him.
That means, even if by chance he got through the interview later that afternoon and joined in as a vassal, his future would still be bleak.
“You had this high opinion that I was quick-witted, right. Then, shouldn’t you know the answer already?”
“Even so, I’d still like to hear it from your own mouth.”
“So you want to take my word for it…… sigh.”
‘Can’t be helped, huh’, he shrugged.
“I’ll do it. Considering which would be the winning plot here, there’s no choice but to do it. But after we got him crushed, don’t go poof on me.”
“That would depend on the way we work. Not just you, me too.”
And then as a proof of contract, they shook their hands.
The young man’s hand was cold. But it was said that only those with cold hands could excel in politics. If the young man could acquire the intelligence that could determine the viscount’s, and his older brother, the count’s lives, the centralists would surely arrange a reasonable post for him. Serving under him after he got placed up there might not be so bad as well.
“By the way, what will you do about that acquaintance of yours? I think it’s better to talk to him about this as well, though.”
“Let’s not. Spouting lies while keeping a straight face is not in his disposition. He’s not suitable for a covert job like this….. But he’s quite stubborn, if there’s something that may benefit from the strength of his sense of justice, we should be able to pick him up later.”
And then it felt like the man’s cold hand wasn’t the only one’s there. As if there was a transparent hand joining them. To fulfill a stated intention is also a thing among the relationship between nobles. Even Jean could understand such way of living.
“Hmm. Well then, let’s both be careful during the interview in the afternoon later. As I said before, the viscount is an extraordinary alchemist. We don’t know what kind of preparations he had made.”
They didn’t quite know what kind of preparations the alchemist had made, but one can’t be too careful. As a noble, the viscount stood out as someone who lacked common sense, but in the other hand, Jean heard that he was top-notch in his field. They must be careful so as not to get drawn into their opponent’s field.
Laubert engraved that in his mind.
………. But all that was for naught.