Ouroboros Record – Chapter 17 – Tullius Oubeniel and the Key of Secrets

From Sychev: Apologies for the one-week delay. I had wanted to finish this arc (which ends in chapter 19) before November, but unfortunately I got stuck several times during this chapter’s translation. On the brighter side, it seems that Shalvation had started the translation for the newest volume of Dungeon Defense. Seeing that most of you who read this story read that as well, I hope that you didn’t run out of reading materials last week.

For you who don’t read Dungeon Defense. I’d recommend you to read it. I’d say you’ll either hate it or love it. But if you like this story, I suppose there’s a high chance that you may like it.

Also. I will be leaving on a highly-mobile trip from 15th November to 2nd December. Needless to say that I won’t be able to translate anything during that period of time. I’ll try to finish the arc before the 15th, but I really can’t promise anything, so take my words with a pinch of salt.

Enjoy.

From Deskie: Latter half of the chapter hasn’t been edited yet. Will do it after work. IT’S DONE, IT’S EDITED, HIP HIP HOORAY!


Translation: Sychev

Edits: Deskie


 

Chapter XVII – Tullius Oubeniel and the Key of Secrets

 

Gael and his Green Squad had come prepared for this, all sorts of precautions had been made as much as they could as well.

However, the reality was beyond their expectations.

“Impossible…. This can’t be…..”

Gael unintentionally let out a groan.

They had come with layers upon layers of caution, they had been using their limited time frugally, but when the time to investigate finally came, this was the result.

Really, this upset, just who could be blamed for it?

“Is this, is this really okay?”

The heavy warrior let out a loud, trembling voice as well.

It was something he ought not to do in a secret investigation quest like this.

But no one stopped him from doing so. So he didn’t stop.

“It’s way beyond my expectations, how these things went….”

The mage held his head in his hands, for he couldn’t believe the sight before him.

For what he saw had transcended beyond his common sense.

Then, the party’s vanguard, the ranger whose primary mission was to probe, muttered.

TL Note: the nobushi (guerrilla warrior) will be translated as ranger from this point on.

“This residence—–”

Gael already knew the words that would follow after that.

Of course, the heavy warrior and the mage had already known as well. But no one would stop him from saying the rest of it.

Because doing so would be meaningless. The willpower to do so in the first place had already been completely exhausted anyway.

The ranger went to conclude his words.

“———– is way too unguarded…… !”

He held his head as he spoke.

… Indeed, the residence’s security was so loose to the point it was practically nonexistent.

As anyone would expect, sentries had been posted by the guests of honour’s lodging section and the master of the house’s – the viscount’s, bedroom.

However, since all they were doing was just standing there, they were only as good as scarecrows. Besides, since all they did was to put the slaves in a steward’s uniform, it would seem that everyone there was unlikely to do their job correctly. If Gael were to make noise somewhere in a different spot to lure them out, they’d simply leave their post and head there, which in turn would allow Gael and his men safe passages as the result.

To put it bluntly, as guards, they were among the worst of the worst.

“So it’s not only limited to the furnishings, it seems that they couldn’t afford to put money for security as well, huh…”

“Really makes me doubt whether that appalling secret that the client told us about truly exists at all.”

The mage said.

Important documents related to the administration and the treasury was secured as expected, but the only problem they had was the locks. They let it go this time, but had they got the time, it would be easy to break through them anytime they wanted. They caught the sight of a small room that seemed to be an alchemy lab, but the mage commented, “It’s a facility to compound medicinal herbs. The equipment here isn’t enough to make anything large-scaled.”

So far, their infiltration through the residence’s security had been going well, however their investigation of their target’s – the viscount’s, weakness had produced no result. That success was thus meaningless.

“But there are still sections that we haven’t checked yet, yes?”

“…. Yes, the eastern wing of the main residence’s first floor. Though there’s also a staircase leading to the dungeons in the west wing as well.”

“Then, is there a staircase leading to the basement as well?

By the way, there was nothing in the dungeons’ cells. As no one was being held in those cells, it was nothing but a deserted guardroom. They were requested to carefully search the basement in particular, so they tried to affirm whether any sorts of hidden passages existed or not, but Gael hadn’t been able to find anything like that.

“The room behind the main hall was the wine cellar, yes?”

“Yeah, nothing’s there too. Rather, there wasn’t even a lot of wines there.”

“They were mostly already served in the party, I guess.”

That means, if there was really something there, it would be in the unexplored eastern wing of the main residence’s first floor, but

“…. Wait.”

Gael called out to his companions in a small voice. As expected from a veteran adventurer party, immediately after they observed the intention of their leader, they stopped from making any voice or movement at once.

After he confirmed that they did, Gael stared at the darkness of the end of the corridor.

‘…. It’s there.’

It was there, by their destination— the east wing, at the end of its corridor.

Leaning invisibly on the corner was a tall man who had no presence about him. There he quietly stood, hiding to the point that he was not sensed even by the ranger, their vanguard. It was probably Gael’s sixth sense, which had been tempered through many brushes up with death, that made it possible for him to sense his presence. For the time being, they managed to perceive his presence before their encounter.

(Could he be…… the guy known as the “Two-Handed Sword”!?)

‘I can’t help but to feel terrified. From his title only, it was easy to tell that this adventurer called Due knows his way with the sword. Just, how to go about him who could still remain hidden against our first-class ranger?  Had we not realised it, if we just approached him carelessly, we’d surely end up being slain by that two-handed sword which I suppose was where his title was derived from. As I thought, he’s a shrewd one. After all he’s a titled adventurer whose B-rank surpasses our “Green Squad”—–!’

(Leader, what now….!?)

The heavy warrior asked him whether to advance or retreat by his eyes only. If they were to consider combat potential only, then surely retreating here would be the best policy. If the four of them ganged on him they might be able to take down someone who was one rank higher than they were, but they had to take him down quickly, lest they would make an uproar. And when that happened, the guests of honour would mistake them as burglars, and the entirety of the residence would chase them out altogether.

Having said that, were they really going to flee just like that? Now that they had noticed him, it was possible that he had already noticed them as well. No, if he had been watching over this passageway as a guard, then it should already be considered that he had already took notice of them, seeing that they were coming his way. As soon as they turned their back, he’d probably jump at them right there like a wolf who had found his prey.

And even if they managed to escape, then what? As they contrived their escape, their client, Count Linus Oubeniel would say something like, “so you couldn’t investigate enough because you were afraid of the guards”, just how could they have the face to report that? The road to be promoted as the count’s shadow operatives would then cease to exist as well.

Desire and self-preservation was tipping each other over the scale inside his mind.

But before Gael drew his conclusion,

“Hyiiih!?”

The ranger carelessly raised his voice.

The shadow that seemed to be the ‘Two-Handed Sword Due’ began to move.

But just before Gael prepared himself as he thought that they were already discovered, that man—-

“…… Gruoooooooooo….”

—– let out a sleeper’s breath, then fell to the floor.

“……………………. Huh?”

It took almost a minute for them to understand what exactly had happened.

Could it be? One may believe it or not, but could it be that he had already fallen asleep when Gael first noticed him?

When Gael mistook him to be in hiding, and the reason why his bloodthirst and his warning intention wasn’t being emitted from his presence, it was all because he was asleep?

Was that it?

““Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa~………….””

All of the “Green Squad” members reflexively let out a big sigh.

‘That surprised the crap out of me’, they said as they found relief. ‘We went this far and we still aren’t being spotted, huh?’, the flow went naturally like that.  Even for a moment, they had thought, ‘What will the guard do to us?’, and then the irritation that that wasn’t the case kicked in. That sentiment was mixed into their sigh.

“Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….”

The man also let out a loud snore.

“…. Leader, what do we do now?”

“Hah…. just in case, make him sniff ‘sleeping powder’ so that he won’t wake up while we look around.”

“Right.”

Upon being instructed, the ranger approached him with timid steps, and then he thrust a scrap of paper containing the powder under the tip of the man’s nose. Indeed his nose took the powder in, as it invited him to a further deep sleep.

The mage let out a mockery at that sight.

“What an irony. The guard of an alchemist’s house was administered with sleeping powder, itself the product of alchemy.”

“Good grief…. Hey, look. There’s a exaggerated-looking two-handed sword on the wall.”

“So, the guy really is the ‘Two-Handed Sword’….?”

“This guy….? B-ranked? Seriously?”

“Nguh, uh…. Ca, can’t drink anymore, Milord…. Mmh, nyah…..”

Unaware of the “Green Squad” members who were looking down on him in contempt, the “Two-Handed Sword Due” leaked out a content-sounding sleeptalk. As his astoundment grew further, Gael prompted his companions.

“Anyways, let’s quickly look around in the area beyond this point. As expected, the stairs leading to the basement are there.”

“For them to make a B-ranked adventurer explicitly stand guard here, I guess there’s really something here, huh?”

“The B-ranked guy didn’t guard shit though.”

“Shh, stop the talks. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time. Let’s pack things up before the first light.”

Said the ranger as he descended the stairs.

The mage let his mana flow into a lantern-shaped magic tool, and a faint light illuminated their way forward.

There was no sign of anyone in the basement. Just like the dungeon in the western wing, no one was there.

However—-

“What the heck….!”

An unusual wave of cold struck the group who had been negligent due to the lenient security. It sent shudders up to their spines, as they felt goosebumps emerging on their arms.

….. It’s cold.

Although spring nights in the inlands are somewhat cold, this is downright abnormal.  There must be a source of this inexplicable cold in this basement’s entirety.

At the end of their descent was a short and wide passageway, and at its end they saw a big and sturdy-looking iron double-door. If one were to open it, five or six people could pass through it together, side by side. Of course, a lock was attached to it. So there was that attached to the door, and then there were two chain-fixed padlocks, so it was triple locked.

“Just, what’s with this cold air?”

“So, so it wasn’t just my imagination, isn’t it coming from the other side of the door?”

“That’s not the only thing.. There’s a mana reaction. Moreover, it’s quite big too.”

Said the mage, he didn’t try to hide his nervousness.

—– A mana reaction.

—– A large one, too.

—– And then, there was this extraordinary presence.

Gael swallowed his breath and held it in anxiety. The viscount who passed himself off as an alchemist. If he really was hiding some shady stuff, then it must be beyond this door. They couldn’t find anything in the other places. Then, this time they’d get it right.

 

“Alright….. Let’s open it at once. Then let’s expose whatever stuff lies beyond this door in the daylight!”

“Oooh!”

They let out a low-voiced cry, and began to release the locks. The ranger was tasked to pick the locks, and the mage was to verify it. First would be the padlocks. Although it could be released as soon as the chains broke, when they tried to ascertain the chains’ hardness by lightly brushing it with a knife, it was the knife that got scraped instead.

“…. Just what kind of metal did they make this from…”

“Leader, can you break it?”

“I don’t know. Though I fear that its loud noise upon breaking would make us noticed, if we leave them broken as it is, they’d figure out about our intrusion too.”

With this sort of hardness, he didn’t think that it will somehow open only by hitting it forcefully with weapons.

“No choice but to do it steadily. Begin.”

“Roger!”

While shivering from the cold air that was leaking from the door, the mage began his unlocking attempt.

Both of the padlocks went out in less than three minutes.

The mage’s eyes went round in surprise.

“Wow, well done.”

“Not at all, the locks had a different model, but their mechanism was the same…. The door’s main lock will be the real deal.”

Said the ranger as he thrust a lockpick in the last keyhole. As expected, it was different than some shoddy affixed padlock. He knew that it would take time.

Sweat started to rush from Gael’s forehead.

What if, the effect of the sleeping powder Due sniffed had ran out.

What if, another passing guard noticed that Due was in a deep sleep.

When he thought about those things, his anxiety was getting unbearable.

“…. It’s not open yet?”

“Shhh! Please wait for a bit more!”

The ranger gave Gael, who could finally no longer hold his words, a single glare. For him, the youngest, to show his irritation to his leader even for an instant, it was clear that he needed a large amount of concentration for this work.

‘It can’t be helped’, he went down a step, and then switched his attention to the stairs up.

‘… It’s quiet. There’s no sign of a person at all. Now we’ll just have to open the lock and reveal whatever’s hidden inside.’

And as he braced himself once again,

“…… Alright, it’s open.”

“Good job!”

Gael tapped the ranger’s shoulder while raising a quiet cry of joy.

With this, they could finally get into the secret basement.

“Right, as usual, we’ll break in along with the vanguard going ahead. Hey, pass him the lamp. You’ll have to be able to use magic, right?”

“Yeah, got it.”

After he confirmed that the mage had already passed the lighting magic tool to the ranger and had equipped his cane once again. Gael exchanged a nod with the other party member, the heavy warrior. As the lock was affixed on the door, he didn’t think that there was anyone inside, but just in case.

The heavy warrior put his hand on the door. Gael stood in preparation in any chance of surprise attack.

Later, the door was slowly pulled open. Along with that, the cold air from inside increased in strength even more.

“Well then, be it a demon or a snake…”

TL Note: Be it a demon or a snake (鬼が出るか蛇が出るか) is a proverb, it means there’s no telling what trouble may lie ahead, let’s just go with it anyway.

 

The secret that was tightly concealed by the noble who had never run out of strange rumours in regard of him. From the outside, it was already clear that there was a strange atmosphere about the room. Whatever came out wouldn’t be much of a surprise—-

“HIIIIH!?”

The ranger screamed out of surprise.

His voice was loud, but Gael couldn’t blame him.

Even Gael, for when he saw that,

“C, corpse….!?”

There was a dismantled corpse.

It was hung on a hooked rope that was affixed to the ceiling, exposing its peony-coloured content of flesh and muscle to the dark empty space.

There was no stretch from it. However, there was a faint mingled smell of iron and blood that filled their nasal cavities.

The corpse was fresh.

No, if he were to look closer, there were several of these lump of meats hanging in the back, swinging around.

“This is cruel….”

“A, as I thought, the rumours were true….. That nobleman really is a ‘Slave Murderer’!”

The heavy warrior groaned as the ranger cowered.

Gael’s mouth was involuntary seized as well.

“What horrible things…. Look, blood’s still flowing from all of them! I didn’t even notice the smell back then, until the door’s opened!”

“This, this isn’t something humans do! For him to kill them like animals!”

“…. Hm?”

When he heard the ranger’s words, Gael felt that he caught on to something.

“Kill them. like animals?”

“Errr, leader…”

The mage who had kept his silence opened his mouth in embarrassment.

“Isn’t this beef, like, for cooking?”

“Eh?”

Gael picked up the lighting tool that the ranger had dropped, and then tried to illuminate the hanging lump of meat once again.

“Ah….. now that you say it, it does indeed look like that.”

After Gael had taken a better look at it, it was too large to be a human’s carcass. It did look like a dismantled corpse, but it was clear that it was far too wide and too thick to be a human’s. Perhaps it was like the mage had said, it was that of a cow’s.

The lump of meat appeared all of a sudden, illuminated by a scanty light. And then there was the prejudice caused by the shady rumours regarding Viscount Oubeniel. Combine the two concepts, and then of course they’d first thought that the lump of meat they saw was a dismantled human body.

“…. Shit, we’ve done it now. So this place is a food storage?!”

“Ha, hahahaha… just for how many years have we been adventurers again?”

“Sh, though I’m not much of a C-rank, did I really just scream at the sight of beef?”

“Well, what to say.”

The mage, the only one who remained calm a while back, gave Gael and his men – who lost their guts at the sight of a mere piece of a hanging beef and was now being frustrated for it – comforting words.

“Anyone would be surprised to find a bleeding lump of meat just beyond a door they had to struggle open. Besides, for a mere food storage, it was too tightly locked, and they had a former adventurer to guard this place, right? Perhaps, there may be something hidden here.”

“I see. Certainly this level of security should mean that something’s here.”

He convinced himself that it was the case before he stepped into the food storage…. It was really cold, after all. The interiors of the storage were filled with cold air. As if they were in the mountains during winter. They did know that, because they had hunted monsters several times in the wintry mountains.

“Come to think of it, you said something about feeling a force of mana here, right?”

“I did. I can feel mana from the back of this storage.”

“Alright, let’s go.”

Pushing their way through the forest of closely hung upside-down meat, they found another door at the back of the storage. It had no locks attached to it. Though even Gael, whose senses weren’t as good as the mage, could feel that there was an extraordinary amount of mana emanating from it.

The “Green Squad” assumed the vigilant stance that they had just taken a while back.

This mighty force of magic had a strange chill about it. Perhaps they had some kind of a powerful magical beast that could manipulate ice. If that was the case, and if he had kept it without the royal permission, then that would mean it would be considered an act that threatened the stability of the kingdom, and he would be subject to a punishment. It’d surely be the evidence that would take hold over the viscount’s fate, just like what their client had wanted. However, if there were indeed one beyond the door, then it would be dangerous for a person who stepped in the first.

“Listen well, we don’t know what will jump out at us, alright? Be absolutely vigilant.”

“Yeah, got it, leader.”

And then, the door was opened.

“NMUH!?”

Cold air that couldn’t be compared with the one before was blowing out from it.

‘Cold. What is this? Is this the magical beast’s frozen breath?  No, it’s too strange for this to be that.’

“C, C, C, COLD! WHAT THE HECK IS THIS!?”

“Trap? Magic attack? Or perhaps, frozen breath?”

“No, this is….”

The mage stepped into the room while shielding himself from the current of cold air with his robe.

“Hey, stop it! Don’t just carelessly go ahead!”

Even though he was feeling really uncomfortable, he’d still have to rebuke his rear guard who was projecting on ahead.

Though, the mage still wouldn’t stop and went into the room.

While bearing the cold that was so chilling it made his upper and lower eyelashes seem to stick together, Gael glanced at back end of the room beyond the door.

“This is…”

There was some sort of a magic device. An elaborate phosphorescent magic circle emitting bluish-white light was drawn all over the room’s floor. On top of which, shining jewels which regularity could never be understood by outsiders were lined up. Supposedly, they constantly generate a sort of magic when combined.

‘Is this… the thing the Viscount wanted to hide?’

“Hey! Wh, what’s this magic circle!?”

“Please wait, I’ll analyse it right now!”

The mage said as he squatted down beside the magic circle.

“This is… what the…. The construction of this circle is so precise it’s almost unbelievable…..”

He grunted and grumbled to himself while occasionally chanting spells to analyse its system. The mage was examining the device in a trance. The source of the cold air and the air current was that magic circle, so of course his whole body had to suffer those things, but he didn’t seem to care.

“Just do something already! I’m, I’m going to freeze to death!”

“Just hold on, I’m feeling the coldest here!”

“Liar! You’re a mage, aren’t you supposed to be the most resistant!?”

As they exchanged those words, the analysis, which had taken well about ten minutes, was concluded.

‘First, he should return to the food storage so we can have this door closed. If we keep this door open any longer like this, the interior of the residence would seem to return to the midwinters.’

“Co, coldcoldcoldcoldcold……..”

“So, what was that? Was it a prototype of a dangerous magic weapon or something?”

“Ah, that, huh. It was something ridiculous.”

At the mage’s way of speech, expectation and anxiety were welling up in the same time.

Something ridiculous.

If he’d go that far in his remarks, it must’ve been some sort of a supertech product that would be far beyond them who weren’t well-versed in magic.

They swallowed their breath and waited for the continuation of the mage’s reply.

“—- It was just a device to cool the temperature down and generate air current.”

““Huh?””

At that frosty tone, all three of them, save for the mage, were dumbfounded.

“That magic circle was indeed composed of a terrifyingly advanced technology and a bunch of expensive materials, but its only function is to ‘continuously generate cold and air current for as long as possible’. Good grief, what a ridiculous thing. Here it’d be proper to say that it was a terrible waste.”

“What, what the hell with that? Why would the Viscount put something like that in his basement!? It was strictly guarded to that extent!”

Gael inadvertently let out a loud voice. It was an unseemly sight for a leader of a party in a secret investigation quest. But who can blame him? They had swept through the entire residence and when they thought that they had finally caught on to something hidden, it turned out to be merely a crap of a tech and material waste. And now the result of the quest of which the future of his party hangs upon was nothing more than a waste.

Probably everyone could understand that feeling as well, so no one tried to blame Gael.

The mage continued his remarks,

“I told you didn’t I? It was composed of valuable materials. The lines of the magic circle was drawn with molten silver, serving as its power source are genuine and highly-pure crystals. The device used an abundant amount of it. Perhaps it’s the most expensive thing inside this mansion?”

‘Besides’, said the mage as he pointed at one of the hanged meats.

Drops of water were dripping from the meat, as if it was sweating like when it was alive.

“If you look at it closely, you’ll see that the meat seems to have become softer and somewhat wet, isn’t it? It was frozen until a while ago. We opened this storehouse’s door and cold escaped from this room, so it’s thawing now. Perhaps the device was meant to keep meat fresh by freezing them?”

“It was to preserve meat, you say…”

“N, now that you say that, I did think that there’s way too much fresh-looking meat here….”

“Oh, blimey, this amount of meat will go bad before it’s completely consumed. So to avoid that……”

The heavy warrior touched the meat with his hand, and indeed they felt softer compared to when they were pushing them about to pass through a while earlier. Why in the world did he not notice it when he touched them earlier? Or was it perhaps because it was his first time seeing raw beef that wasn’t dry-preserved?

“So is that it? All those heavy security the viscount placed here was just for meat? So that the cold air wouldn’t escape the room to keep the meat from thawing, and so that thieves who’d go about looking for stuff wouldn’t break the device?”

“…. That way of thinking is just natural though.”

‘Unfortunately so’, said the mage while casting his gaze downwards.

What were they supposed to say? The secret that they had uncovered with their utmost best was only that.

A pointless high-grade piece of garbage to indulge a gluttonous peculiar young noble’s wish to eat fresh meat anytime he’d want it. That was all there is that they could find.

“But there’s no way for that to be the end of it right? After all, it’s that Oubeniel, you know? It’s the corrupt noble who got himself the nickname, ‘Slave Murderer’, right? More, this…. surely he’s hiding secrets that are more sinister than this, isn’t he? There must be one, right? Right?”

“Eh, em, right. You’re right. There’s still time until dawn, so let’s look around for a bit more.”

The mage responded to the quivering Gael, but from the way he spoke, it was clear that he wasn’t expecting any results.


 

The next day.

Taking the horse carriage prepared by House Oubeniel, Gael and his “Green Squad” were on their way back to the capital.

The atmosphere in the carriage was heavy. The man that they had escorted as their apparent official request was being resentful for that the investigation that was carried out by the “Green Squad” didn’t produce a decent result, and his mouth hadn’t been saying anything from some time ago. Well, Gael was thankful for that. After hearing a tirade of verbal abuse immediately after the report, he felt that his body couldn’t bear much more as well. If it was possible, he’d like the man to shut his mouth until they got back to the capital.

(….. At any rate…)

Gael glanced at the man he escorted. Then he imagined the figure of the Count behind him.

The result of their investigation on Tullius Shernan Oubeniel determined that the man was exceedingly nearly innocent on all counts. Their late-night investigation didn’t get a single speck of dirt on him, and the poor security conversely left a good impression on them. They couldn’t think that he was plotting something dark in the shadows. Of course, that is, unless he was doing something outside the residence, then that would be a different story altogether.

And his older brother was trying to affix a crime upon him in a frenzy. In Gael’s imagination, it couldn’t help but to give him an image that he wasn’t superior, though not so much, compared to his younger brother.

(Rather, the notorious younger brother seems to be better than him.)

The nobleman known as the “Slave Murderer”, pondering it over upon the result of his investigation, didn’t seem to be someone who could do something so outrageous like that at all. While he was born as the second son to a count house, and while he did receive a peerage as a viscount, it seemed that he wasn’t unacquainted with the common sense of the aristocracy. And thinking about the two famed adventurers that he enlisted into his service, being separated from the job for so long, the first had already wilted away, while the second was in the state where he could be outmaneuvered by them, who were C-ranked. Also, during the banquet, contrary to his notoriety, he went as far to lose his face just to help a slave who was being picked into a quarrel by a guest. And when they had thought that he was rigorously hiding something, it was actually just a meat storage.

In the end, it was hard to think of him as anything but a simple young lord who was ignorant with the ways of the world.

Instead, he felt that it was the older brother who was conspiring to kill his own younger brother who deserved the infamy more.

(… That’s probably the case.)

While he was killing time during his long return trip, Gael was flirting with that reasoning.

The scenario would be something like this.

Even though they had already investigated into it just in case, the fact that a large amount of slaves purchased under Tullius’ name went MIA was already known. But what if the one who ordered it was actually the present head of the family, the older brother, Linus himself?

So the older brother had the younger brother buy a slave, and the he killed them. Besides, outsiders didn’t actually know who was actually murdering the slaves in Oubeniel’s house. Though, of course the allegation of slave mass-murdering and the notoriety that came along with it would go to Tullius who went out to buy them.

Of course, this was just a musing. He had only seen Tullius Oubeniel for only one day, which was yesterday, and their relationship with Linus was limited only through the delegate who was now assuming silence before him. Their association was basically just that, so what’s there to understand? He was just musing to kill time, that was all.

It was for certain that the count would not be satisfied with the findings from this quest. After all, there was not a single piece of evidence that would point to his younger brother’s mismanagement that he longed so much for. And that was saying nothing about them finding no evidence that perhaps would prove the rumour of his “slave-murdering” vice. On the contrary, the slaves working in the residence were dressed in fine attire and were well-educated, and they were treated better than in most places. Hence the ridiculous theory he came up with…….. In any case, the Count would never put their trust in them who had failed to grasp Viscount Tullius’ weakness.

(On the contrary, maybe it was for the best.)

Strangely, there was no disappointment in Gael’s heart.

Now that he had thought it over, while it was a bit late, being a spy under a nobleman’s control was too much of a burden for them. This time, if the opposing party were to actually possess the war potential that was mentioned in the preliminary information, then the “Green Squad” wouldn’t be able to get away with it. The reason that Gael was able to investigate all the way there and still was able to return in one piece was because the other party was the relaxed son of a distinguished house and his similarly relaxed army.

As he thought about that, he was beginning to feel that his earlier self who wished to be associated with the Count was a fool.

Say that they did manage to obtain the position in the veteran seat under the Count’s direct command as he had wanted earlier, would their retained need to brave dangers disappear? Though if they had to escape several jaws of death before they really lost it, that’d be fine as well.

If things were to go well after that, would they have a chance to be appointed as regular vassals, eh? Just what exactly could he expect from an uncompassionate person who’d harbour an intention to kill his own brother? And even if they did get themselves appointed, it would mean that they’ll be coworkers with this unlikable delegate in front of him. He didn’t think they’d make a good fit for that.

After all, they were still adventurers. Monsters were supposed to be their opponents and the labyrinths in the mountains and the fields were supposed to be their place to be. They’d never fit in the dark side of the society where they’d be up against nobles, like, for example, in a scene of a secret feud.

(Once we get back to the capital, shall we reestablish our roots and do some adventuring?)

He would have to return to the days when they’d have to scramble for requests against their fellow men in trade and fight monsters for living, and while that road had been tough, at least it was a familiar one. Rather than beginning to row for another course at this late hour, it’d be better for him to earn honest money in the path familiar to him.

And if they were to keep saving money little by little, surely they wouldn’t miss a meal in their old age as well.

Gael allowed himself to be convinced of that.

As he thought of that, he took a glance at the view outside through the rear window.

The residence of Tullius Oubeniel had now disappeared beyond the horizon. There worked the “Silver Wolf”, who had to lower her head before that middle-aged noble and couldn’t resist even when her buttocks were being groped. And the sight of her during these—- it was as if she was a different person from what she was during her time in the capital. However, he felt that she had become more human-like than what she was then. People wouldn’t believe this, and they would keep jabbering as always, but that place was indeed where she had found her peace. Gael believed that there certainly was a day when the monster who had been dubbed as the cursed silver wolf had returned to be a human before one realised it.

That shoddy “Two-Handed Sword” might have been eaten by rust as he submerged himself in such lukewarm waters. Although he couldn’t seem to be able to get used to that way of life, his was a precious, ordinary life he wouldn’t want to intrude.

‘Being in a line of work where I may have to destroy those things, that’s definitely a no-no for me. When I get back, let’s make a new start as proper adventurers once again.’

So Gael thought as he left himself to the sways of the carriage.

 


 

“Aaah, I’m tireed….. I really can’t get used to this, good grief.”

After I sent out the last carriage and sent home all of the guests, I let out a forceful sigh.

Alongside those words were,

“Yes, my utmost gratitude for your hard work, Your Excellency.”

Something along those lines, which Victor said without moving a muscle of his face.

I suppose he’s glad because he made me feel weak, because I had to put up with various things that he did however he liked. What a terrible vassal. So I thought, when I have the chance, let’s thoroughly alter his brain tissue once again.

“For the time being, I don’t want to do this anymore, this kind of ceremonious job, I mean.”

“I am of the same opinion. We’ll leave this for a while, in the meantime, let’s have you properly learn the practices of the court—–”

“Please spare me the joke….”

I waved my hands fluttering as I find myself walking in the corridor of the new residence.

Accompanying me are Uni, who has been attending me from behind ever since the start, and Due, who doesn’t seem to know what to do with his hands.

“Well then, I’m going back to my research. I can entrust the residence to you, yes?”

“Certainly. But please return to do your official duty tomorrow.”

Damn you Victor, you just had to be cranky until the very end huh.

Due laughed at that sight.

“Hey, hey, Milord. Are you letting the tool say that much? Don’t you feel he’s out of the line?”

“Please stop. Everything is due to the Master’s mercy.”

“Well, if he didn’t have the degree of freedom to say that, he wouldn’t be able to remonstrate me for my oversight.”

I’m on my way to the lab. I’m heading to the eastern wing of the first floor, a passage which is a basement for food storage is there, on paper.

When we’re about to approach the stairs, Due shrugs,

“But still, what a terrible farce you had me do there, hey.”

“Farce? You mean, sleep-feigning?”

What he talked about was something from last night。

My brother’s delegate had brought an adventurer’s party under the pretext of them being his escort. During the time when they were running about here, I purposely overlooked them to do the former.

“Well, my reason to join hands with you was because I had wanted to fulfill a prideful life as a swordsman, though….”

‘And because I had to do that, that bunch made light of me”, complained Due.

Ah, how petty. For a man his stature, it appears that he had some woman-like qualities in him too. See, even Uni seems to react with disgust.

“What are you talking about? You’ve agreed to exchange your everything for Master in exchange for your life.”

“Yeayea, rightrightright. My bad.”

Due said groveringly. Well, I suppose I’ll have to patch things up here.

“Well, isn’t it fine? Against an opponent who couldn’t even see through your feigned sleep, it doesn’t matter how much they sneered at you. What’s important here is the safety you had brought in exchange for that one sneer.”

“Wait. Was just doing that really worth that much?”

“Of course.”

I said as I descend the stairs.

“According to what Uni said, it seems that those people also were alarmed about you. By having them see you and letting them think that you weren’t much of a big deal, the effectiveness of this plan rises as well.”

“Even when it’s by chance only, we were fortunate to have them misjudged me by their own volition.”

Uni said.

I see that it was a good thing to have those adventurers around when I lent Uni a helping hand when she was being sexually harassed by the old nobleman and wasn’t resisting him for it. This way, they have now undervalued her as being “weakened”.

Oh wow, talk about a severe case of jumping to hasty conclusions.

After all, Uni was still in her early teens when she was living in the capital. She’s still as deadpan now as she was at that time, but she was a lot sourer then, and she did have several cases of going into unexpected rampages. To the point that we’d occasionally have a number of the guild’s staff come running into the old residence.

Her mental stability is more of a recent thing. She’s not weakened—- it’s not like a case of a once wild kid gone quieter, it’s more like she grew calmer as she matured. For them to be mistaken about her, it’s just an unusual blunder for veterans that seems to be in their later thirties. The fact that she serves me with joy has, as you know, always been the way she is in the first place. And for them to think that she’d have her specs down when her mood changed a little—- I don’t make my “masterpieces” in such a lax manner………….. Well I don’t know about Charl, though.

It’s probably that, right? A wishful thinking born from the desire of wanting their mission to go well, I suppose?

And because they stood apart from Uni, they couldn’t hear what we were talking about there as well. They were mainly distracted by Uni, but, the ability of the mass-produced slaves were on par with C to B ranked adventurers as well. While this would depend on the individual, some of them were more skilled than the “Green Squad”. They also had a reasonable level of a ranger’s skillset. If it’s only eavesdropping on people who’s talking in small voice because they’re being careful of their surroundings, then they can do that too. So when they were being busy going about in the residence, the slaves that I had placed here and there had already caught the contents of their conversation.

By the way, Uni could hear them clearly as well. The ranger’s skills that the mass-produced slaves possessed was originally the detuned version of Uni’s data. As she was the original owner of those skills, of course her accuracy to attentively listen would be far more superior.

Well, if they were to find the place where I’m hiding things, I might as well put an act that will perfectly hide the thing they’re looking for.

“The location of the entrance to the new lab is the information that needs to be kept confidential. If we want to hide it well, then it’s best to relax the opponent’s investigation first. So first, I purposely let the other party to investigate however they wish, but don’t let them grab the only one fatal information. With that, the person in charge of the investigation will judge that the entrance of the lab is not in the residence. ”

This is the initial route of the plan.

There’s this word of wisdom, “a loach caught by chance under a willow”. It means that if you caught a loach once, you won’t find another one in the same spot. It is a proverb that warns against holding on to one-time success and good luck. My plan is exactly the reverse. Say that a person arrives at a spot under a certain willow with great pains, but what if there’s no loach to see there? Of course they wouldn’t think to search the willow. If they want the loach, then they would be better off looking somewhere else.

That’s what I aimed for. No matter how well you conceal something, people may still find it if they look for it over and over again. Then make people lose their motivation when they get to the place where the thing’s concealed. Let them tumble for a loach under the willow as much as they want, and let them conclude that there’s no loach there. However, even if I show them the way in, I’m tightly holding the thing they’re looking for.

“And on top of that, in order to give some credibility to the result, we have to make people in our side look completely incompetent. If the information they have is taken from a dim-witted opponent, then they’d think that the information is absolutely true……. It was a splendid plan, Master.”

That’s how it goes.

It is said that the time when people are most likely to be deceived is when they are looking down on their opponent. When trying to trick someone, a person who’s under the impression of something along the lines of “I won’t be tricked by cheap tricks” would be in fact the easiest to trick. And thus, act as foolish as possible, and let them search a residence that has been sterilised of evidence (or rather, it’s a new residence, so there’s not much proof to go around). If their assessment of this side is that low, then there’s no reason for them to doubt their findings.

And that goes even to my brother, who’s behind the ones investigating me this time. He must’ve regarded me as someone dangerous already, but he doesn’t think I’m smart. After all, I haven’t been able to learn things like the common sense of the aristocracy and all that stuff.

Because he thinks that I’ve only had a basic education with me, his assessment of me should be pretty low.

I wonder: what would that brother of mine think when he finds out that they didn’t find anything even after they’ve investigated?

The best case scenario is, he would conclude that I’ve grown calmer, and with that he’d retract his intention to kill me. It would be a great help for me if I could have my enemies lessened…… Well, considering his character and the emotions he’s holding onto, the chances of that are slim.

I suppose that the successful part here is that my brother will think that I’m holding my secrets outside my residence and his next investigations will be thrown off from now on. While the other party is wasting their resources, like time and personnel, I can do whatever I want here.

The worst thing that can happen is that he saw through my acts and with that he’d send another party to investigate the residence…. Though, figuring out the mechanism of the lab’s entrance will not be an easy task. In the first place, the plan that tricked those adventurers was that plan that I came up with at that night. I had the confidence to do it, and Victor, who I had consulted beforehand, liked the plan well too, so that was the first thing in my mind. At most, let’s hope my brother and the old marquis would look for the lab’s entrance outside of the residence.

…. However, my favourite thing here is how the lab’s entrance is concealed.

I quickly unlock the key and open the door to the food storehouse. A huge amount of cold air spews out from the door.

“Well then.”

I take out the communication tool from my chest and bring it closer to my mouth.

“Drei, bring the entrance to us.”

“Affirmative, Master.”

At that moment, they were changes happening in the interiors of the storage

Zap, zap, violet lightning glowed in the air, and at the centre of the electric discharge, the deflected space began to twist. And from twisting, space-time fine particles of colours gushes out with a furious momentum from another dimension. And then eventually it formed a solid shape in this dimension.

— It’s an altar.

At a glance, it is shaped like a cauldron, supported by metal legs. And what it supported  was engraved with complex and precisely-carved magic circles.

On its rim Drei shallowly sits. As soon as she finished her transition spell, she descended from there and bows.

“As Master have ordered, I have brought what you requested here.”

“Yes, thank you.”

“….. Just how did you come up with the idea of hiding things this way?”

Due gazed at the “entrance” that Drei had brought and muttered amazedly.

“What are you talking about? One of the factors when I thought of this was a remark of yours, though?”

“Eh? Me?”

Amazingly, he seems to have forgotten about it.

Good grief, if I have to make another large-scaled augmentation next time, should I tamper with his memory region a bit more?

“Didn’t you say to me when we were getting back from the mountain mine, ‘Such a convenient thing, huh, this transition magic is’?”

‘Did I say something like that?’, he said as he tilted his head in contemplation. Ah, dear me, he had more or less done a meritorious service to the plan’s creation, but it seems that he wasn’t aware of it.

This is the idea that I came up using his remarks as an inspiration.

First, the distance between the new lab and the basement of the new residence. I made it so that I can come and go between the places in an instant. By using transition magic, the physical distance can be substantially ignored.

However, if I had to use transition magic every time I come and go, no matter how large the caster’s mana pool is, it will never be enough to do so. In addition, the amount of mana consumed by the spell depends on the distance it has to cover and the amount of mass it has to transport, so it will be difficult to bring in large-scaled materials and bodies for experiments.

Hence, the answer to that is this cauldron-shaped altar.

It’s one of a pair of large magic tools that connects the user to the other by using transitional magic—– I named it “Portal Gate”. In other words, it is a teleportation device that connects a specific point in space with another determined point. Although the start and end points of the transition are limited to the physical location of these pair of devices, its safety is correspondingly high, and it’s able to carry large-scaled materials between a considerably long distance.

And this is the entrance to my new lab.

“This was the proposal that I came up with. With this teleportation device, this “Portal Gate”, it’s possible to go to the lab in a blink of an eye even though it’s physically far from the residence. However, if they were to search the residence and then found the device, there’s the concern that they’d trespass to the lab as well, right? That’s why—–”

“In case of emergency, hiding the teleportation device temporarily using bonafide transitional magic is all that needs to be done. It’s like a translation magic nestled in translation magic.”

TL Note: The part “nestled” was incorrect before, thanks for the correction Krazy.

“—- Well, that’s how it is.”

That’s why instead of fixing the device to the floor, I made its shape to be footed instead. If the caster’s mana pool is as large as Drei or Uni, then they can take the device away using transition magic, and if I have a number of the mass-produced slaves to cast the spell together, then it’s possible for them to do the same thing as well. Though, on top of having to combine functionality and safety into the device, it was a struggle for me to reduce its weight so that it may be transported by teleportation magic.

If there’s a weakness to it, it is that a skilled mage may detect the transition magic’s residual mana from it, but…. for that reason that I’ve installed a cooling device on its back. The device discharges mana as well, so if it’s only a residue of a spell, then it’ll be camouflaged right away. Since the cooling device is quite the expensive item itself, people won’t find it strange that I had them tightly locked in the basement.

But, if there’s a problem with that idea, then,

“Master, can we please head to the lab right away? It’s, a little, you know…. co, cold here.”

Although she appeared in a cool manner, Drei’s body is shaking all over. She’s dressed in a bizarre-looking bustier and pants made of leather, and only a cloak to top it. Well, we’re inside a meat freezer, she’s wearing something with the degree of exposure that can usually be found in carnivals, so of course she’d feel cold. That magic equipment was made with her opinion as a reference, and the model apparently is the conventional style of dress for dark Elven mages. For me it looks like what an evil woman boss would wear in your typical fantasy show.

The equipment was actually endowed with cold resistance, but like wearing a snowsuit in a snowstorm for a long time, you’ll end up freezing anyway. It’s not something you can do for long.

“Sure. Let’s go right away then….. I want to get on with the next research as soon as possible as well.”

So I said, as I stepped onto the “Portal Gate”. I proceeded to its centre and lightly made my mana flow into it. Immediately, the spell that was etched into its circuits was activated, and then it brought us to the other side.

I let the spy catch on to some nonsense. With this, the enemy side will stop their movements for awhile. In the meantime, I must proceed with my own preparations as much as I can.

Of course, that includes the research for my long-desired immortality as well.

There’s just a lot of things I have to do.

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Ouroboros Record – Chapter 16 – Party Night

It’s kind of late. Sychev has just sent me this and I suppose I’ll edit this when I have the time. He said you can blame the tardiness on him and Japanese pranks of ghosts being put into taxis. Or something like that.

Anyway, the guy currently needs to laugh a lot. If you have a humorous thing to share. Movie, stories, comic/manga/anime, anything, send him a message in NU or something with that link.


TL: Sychev

Edits and TLC: Deskie

 

Chapter XVI – Party Night

 

 

Construction of the Lord of Marlin’s new residence, which was started during the arrival of spring, advanced at an astonishing rate, and has now been completed.

Because the territory was a remote land, they couldn’t be elaborate with the mansion’s decorative side, thus the construction progressed in favour of the mansion’s functional aspects only.

As the viscount’s golems were put into work, and as the population was mobilised, the foundation works were finished at a considerably rapid pace.

The mansion was built as the base of the Viscount’s sitting administration, but unlike the deputy’s manor which laid in the centre of the town, it was located outside of the fortified town. As the mansion served to manage the administration of the entire viscountcy and not only the county town of Marlin, it was located near to the intersection of the highway which extended throughout the region. At the same time, the deputy’s manor, which was once the viscount’s temporary residence, was left as an office for vassals responsible for the town’s administration.

The newly built residence was more like a small castle, rather than a mansion.

The mansion is surrounded by a bailey, which itself is enclosed by a deep moat, and watchtowers are affixed to the main building. Since the mansion lies outside the fortification that protects the town, their presence is a given as a countermeasure against bandits or monsters.

However, for a building that claims to have disregarded appearance in pursuit of its utility, its hard, rugged appearance casts an intimidating impression to its surrounding, in a different sense than the deputy’s manor – which lords over the townscape.

If a stray traveler were to see the figure of this residence illuminated by the flashes during a thunderstorm, they’d go, ‘Good Lord, is this the Demon Lord’s castle, where evil spirits dwell?’ as they went to be frightened out of their wits. Really, what a pretentious piece of structure.

“What an eerie-looking dwelling. I’d say that it is just so like that little brother of his, though.”

There was a building that couldn’t be called as a mansion nor a castle that sat on top of a small hill at a distance from the viscount’s residence. From there, a man muttered this ironically.

TL note: First sentence was “館とも城ともつかぬ建物から離れた、小高い丘”. Not too sure about this part, TL might be erroneous. If I did make a mistake, please feel free to correct it in the comments.

The man was dressed in starched formal clothes, and there were no sunburns on his skin. His beard was well kept. From the way he dressed, he probably was a noble, but from the quality of his clothes, it could be surmised that he was a humble subordinate of another house.

The man haughtily took a glance backwards.

“Listen well, you people. We will now head for the viscount’s residence, but I’ll say this over and over again. Yes, over and over again. Make sure you don’t draw any attention to yourself, okay?”

He was talking to the four figures who held themselves at a distance behind him.

Their attire were completely different to the man who dressed like a nobleman, in the way that they seemed to be boorish. While they kept their appearance as tidy as they could so as to keep their appearance proper for a visit to the viscount’s residence, they only wore things like chain mail, breastplate, and clearly, weapons. And even when dirt and filth had been brushed away from them, it was still obvious from their appearances that those things had been accumulating quite the damage from battles, as small scratches were engraved here and there.

For a band of escorting knights, their arms had no sense of unity, and the things they wore as decorations seemed to be unrelated with each other as well.

And a group of people who could still move alongside the nobles while having such characteristics. In this Ithuselah continent, there was only one possibility as to who they might be.

They were adventurers.

“I said we got it. You expect us to be on our best behaviour, like a temporarily hired escort should, right?”

Said the lightly-equipped swordsman that seemed to be the leader among the four men. While he indeed wore a breastplate, and his armour covered his elbow, knee, and shin, one may see that they weren’t designed to protect his body. They were equipment made for the classes of vanguard that go on the offensive, in order to  protect those areas from being hit by the sword while they nimbly move around.

“But you won’t mind if we were to indulge in the feast’s leftovers, yes? It’s not often for us to partake in a noble’s banquet. I wish you’d give us that leeway at least.”

“….. Do whatever you want. Though I myself will try to keep whatever they’re serving from entering my mouth as much as possible.”

Said the noble-styled man as he snorted.

“After all, the other party is that notorious ‘Slave Murderer’…”


Today, at the new residence of Lord of Marlin, Tullius Shernan Oubeniel, a banquet to celebrate the residence’s completion is being held. Various stakeholders have been invited to this feast.

The main participants were the neighbouring lords, the viscountcy’s upper class, regular and irregular merchant – and the head of the noble house of Oubeniel which entrusted the land to him.

TL Note: original words for regular and irregular merchants were “付き合いや出入りのある商人たち”, which means (Tullius’) merchant relations and merchants that have been coming and going in his territory. I translated it as regular and irregular for the sake of simplicity.

However, the viscount’s brother – the count and the head of that family –  was being occupied by a business he couldn’t let go of at that time in the capital, and his delegates had been sent to attend instead. Everyone knew that it was only an excuse, though. The true reason, which is the discord between the two brothers, had been a public secret after all.

The Broussonne-based adventurer party, “Green Squad” had come to this place under the pretext of being the escort to that said count’s delegate.

“Still, the place is more bleak than I imagined, or rather, the plainness of this residence.”

Said Gael, the “Green Squad” leader, as he glanced around the entrance hall.

Red carpet was laid on the floor, and since the place was newly constructed, not a single speck of dust had fallen from the ceiling. But there was a scarcity of things like arts or decorations which usually could be found in a wealthy people’s house. The only painting there was, was a reproduced portrait of the first head of the House of Oubeniel on the landing of the staircase leading to the second floor, which was connected by a stairwell. Things like statues in the centre hall, or the vases or pedestals that usually were at the ends of the corridors – it could be said that the things that Gael thought should belong in a nobleman’s residence was extremely few.

“He’s living really modestly, isn’t he?”

So he asked to his client, the delegate, with a low voice.

He thought that he’d be ignored, but instead the man replied as he turned his head.

“Well, I suppose he’s forced to do it. After all, like what you saw along the way here, this territory lies far in the countryside……”

The colour of apparent scorn and contempt lurked within his tone of voice.

Being an aristocrat means being involved in the business of selling appearance. Putting expensive art objects and furniture at one’s home is a great opportunity to show one’s status to their visitors. So what happens in this mansion’s case where expensive things like that are scarce? The answer is as one may see. The owner would be made light of by the other nobles. At the very least, people would think that the owner couldn’t even afford to deck out their own property.

Of course, if one were to continue to spend high on things that didn’t match their wealth, then people would deem that person as a squanderer, and in cases where the furniture did not follow a certain style, then, yet again, the person would be made light of as a tasteless one. Considering those areas skillfully was supposedly what the respected nobles in high societies do. However, in Tullius Oubeniel’s case, it was as if giving that thing over is out of the question.

Guessing from the look of things around him, Gael thought to himself, ‘man, being a nobleman is tough.’.

“Too bad….. I thought I could see the so-called treasures of the nobility.”

The warrior, which was the youngest among the party, grumbled as he wriggled his hands around casually.

TL Note: There are two simplifications in the sentence above. “野伏”, nobushi, is more like a guerilla fighter, some kind of a warrior class in medieval Japan. “手をわきわき” is a lot more complex than “moving one’s hand casually”. It’s a contemporary slang of a set of moves which I can’t translate well to English. Here’s what the term means (in Japanese).

His fellow magician poked his head lightly with his cane.

“Ouch!?”

“Please stop it, you’re being rude. It’s because you say things like that, that people are spreading nasty gossip that we’re thieves behind our backs.”

The guild has been dubbing the job of “unlocking keys, disarming traps, scouting and the sorts” as what the “rangers” did. Actually, the outdated custom was to call the person doing these tasks as a “thief”.

But, currently, the word “thief” means exactly what it is.However, the changed form of the job title is only occasionally used, so that people do not confuse these people with the target of their subjugation quest, the custom to call them that took root, and once a thing has taken root, it will not easily go away. In fact, currently a lot of former thieves have turned over a new leaf to be rangers.

“Cease the skit. We’re currently the guard escort of this noble gentlemen over here.”

“Indeed. Let’s not do anything unsightly, we should be careful so as not to hurt our client’s honour, and ours as well.”

 

 

Gael chimed in to agree with his fellow vanguard heavy warrior.

Having witnessed that, the noble client diverted his line of sight from them and sighed. If Gael and his other man didn’t advise their fellow people, surely the would get a handful from himself.

It was at that time.

“Oh, well well well——-”

A young noble was descending the stairs of the hall, and he was accompanied by a blonde man that seemed to be his vassal.

‘His facial features, they look young. I’d say he’s probably not in his twenties yet.’

His attire was strenuous. Over the gold-embroidered deep crimson justaucorps was a silver-embroidered black vest that accentuated the former. A shiny white cravat adorned the bottom of his neck. He dressed like a dandy that would stand out in the capital’s evening party, though regrettably his face was too plain to wear that clothing in a stylish manner. He did by no means look ugly, (to the contrary, he was rather well-proportioned), but somehow there was not enough of air of magnificence about him. That gently smiling face too was, for some reason, vaguely giving the impression that he was feeling troubled because he was suddenly forced into what he was wearing. The young vassal that was accompanying him would look better in that attire.

“—- Greetings, you are my brother’s delegate, yes? Welcome to Marlin. The name’s Tullius.“

The way he gave a slight bow as he spoke indeed gave the impression of a good-natured son of a nobleman who was not yet used to the ways of the aristocracy. It was almost enough for Gael to forget about various ill-rumours that he heard about him.

But he could not afford to forget. The young noble was the cause of House Oubeniel’s loss of reputation in Broussonne’s society. He was so abhorred people went so far as to call him the “Slave Murderer”, or the “Man-Eating Snake”.

Sure enough, the delegate floated him a smile.

“Goodness me, it is a great honour to be received by Your Excellency, the viscount, himself.“

And he greeted him back with teeth-grating flattery. Seeing that change, it would be hard for someone to imagine that he just spoke ill about the young man using the strongest words possible just a while ago.

While being stumped by the so-called facade of the aristocratic society, Gael and his fellow “Green Squad” took to their knees to greet the noble.

“Oh, who might these gentlemen be?”

“Hired men to escort me in my journey, these men are adventurers.”

“I see. Indeed, the roads have been dangerous recently…. Name yourselves, please.”

As he issued his permission, Gael raised his face.

 

“I lead the ‘Green Squad’ Party, my name is Gael.”

“This is the first time I’ve heard of that party, your rank is… ?”

“Yes. We’ve received the C-rank rating from the guild.”

“C-ranked, huh…. I wonder if you are in the upper tier among the middle-rank. For doing something like journey escorts, you have quite the reasonable number of men.”

‘Oubeniel displayed an unexpected familiarity with the adventurers’ circumstances. No, considering that he’s the master of that “Silver Wolf” who reigned over the capital until a few years ago, of course he’d know at least that much.’

“The Silver Wolf Uni”. Gael had crossed paths with her several times. She was an eerily expressionless lady of whom not one soul knew about what was going on inside her head. She did perfectly even in quests that demanded a fair amount of skills, and despite being a solo, she was a monster who fulfilled an unusual amount of requests during a short period time. The fact that she might be somewhere in this hall made Gael couldn’t help but to worry about the future of this job.

“As squalid as these men might be, I sincerely hope Your Excellency might extend his hospitality to them too.”

“….. Victor.”

“Yes, I will have someone to show them the way to the barracks at once.”

The blond youth named Victor gracefully turned around and went his way to call someone.

‘We’ve broken the first barrier, huh’

Inside, Gael was relieved. If the Lord Viscount were to refuse the presence of these band of unknown adventurers, and say something like ‘why don’t you use the town’s inn’, it would be a troublesome thing for him.

Viscount Oubeniel gently smiled.

“Until the time of the banquet, please feel free to enjoy yourselves. Though I’m afraid this is a new residence, and so there’s absolutely nothing interesting to see here.”


 

 

Gael and his men were guided to a barrack built in the premises. It probably was there as the lodging spot for the viscount’s soldiers in case of emergencies. They were placed in a drab room with only a pair of double bunk beds and a single table inside it.

“We will bring beverages for you gentlemen in a moment. Please excuse me.”

The maid who guided them gave them a single bow before she left. She was wearing a silver collar on her neck. Maid uniform and slave collar—- that combination reminded him of a certain face he’d rather not see if possible.

As he shook the feeling off, Gael called out to his companions.

“Hey, so how is it?”

“… There’s no sign of presence around. I don’t feel we’re being watched.”

Said the youngest warrior among them as he put down his hands, which he used to cover his ears.

“Still, there’s really a lot of slaves here in this mansion, or rather, this castle? Hah.”

“I know, right? Usually, maids are supposedly apprentices in lessons of good manners who learn through serving a lord, but…”

“He isn’t really popular, is he? I mean, the lord of this place.”

“Rather, it’s surprising that living slaves are swarming in this place. Isn’t it the word of the people that Oubeniel’s second son is someone with a bad hobby of buying slaves and later killing them?”

“He did it as an alchemy experiment or something, that kind of rumour?”

Then, the magician said,

“That story seems fake, apparently.”

“Is that so? I heard that alchemists do various weird research in order to attain their goal of immortality though. ”

“That’s just crazy talk. Alchemy is actually a field of magic that concerns itself with permanent transmutations of an element that’s already there in the first place. Like concocting potions from medicinal herbs, or enhancing weapons and armour with magic to make them into magic equipments. I suppose the reason as to why alchemy is seen as suspicious is because the job is basically about giving super-mysterious attributes to such objects.”

The mage’s words were sharp. Because he had learned magic earnestly and he had been surviving through life because of it, he wouldn’t want to believe the superstitious infamy of that one subject.

Probably finding the mage’s reaction amusing, the young warrior jokingly said,

“So, what are you suggesting? Do you mean that the viscount is actually a good person?”

“I wouldn’t say that far, it’s too hasty to say that. Alchemy is a fully-fledged subject of learning, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of its learners is a good person. Whether a scoundrel who’d torture slaves and then kill them really does exist or not, the matter itself not entirely impossible.”

“So it’s not that all alchemists are degenerates, it’s just that the viscount is a special kind of degenerate scum, is that it?”

“Well, I guess you can say so. Back when he was in the capital, even with a little research you would know that he bought a lot of slaves, so much of them that it wasn’t possible to pack them inside the main house of his old residence, It seems that some of them were brought here, too.”

“And among them is that ‘Silver Wolf’.”

“Stop it, just don’t make me remember that unpleasant stuff.”

Gael involuntarily moved his hand to his temples.

The “Silver Wolf” is C-ranked, which is the same as them. However, in practice, it may be said that she might have the ability of an A-ranked adventurer. To prove the rumour, a party of B-ranked adventurers crossed her once, and she annihilated them all by herself.

“Moreover, there are also talks that he’s got another adventurer with him too.”

“That B-ranked swordsman, ‘Two-Handed Sword’, wasn’t it? Supposedly, he was from St. Gallen.”

“Good grief. If that’s true then that adds to our problem.”

 

“Yeah, so basically we’ll have to slip through two adventurers who are ranked higher than us before we get to investigate, right?”

To investigate.

It was the main objective of the “Green Squad” that had slipped themselves into this residence.

The requester was none other than the head of the viscount’s family, Count Linus Streinn Oubeniel.

—— ‘Go and investigate whether my brother’s usual abnormal behavior has gotten worse. There hasn’t been any news about him ever since he entered this territory, but on the contrary, that’s suspicious to me. The probability that he might have taken hold of the officials that he recruited from the capital is high as well, and if that’s true, it’s possible that he hasn’t ceased his usual atrocious deed of slaughtering slaves. If you were to find a proof of that, bring it to me in secret‘. And so on, and so on.

In short, they were a piece in this secret feud between the two brothers.

“—– Well, we’ll just have to do it.”

It was not that he wasn’t feeling disappointed after being forced into accepting the fact that thy were there as a nobleman’s hound. However, in recent years, he felt that the “Green Squad” hadn’t been making much of a breakthrough as adventurers. It might have been said that they had reached their limits. Although they had been drawing attention to themselves from within the middle-ranked as they rose to rank C, their growth had stopped right there. For Gael, they lacked in a certain necessary thing to rise even higher as an adventurer. It might have been the talent for combat and exploration, or it might have been the adventurous spirit to challenge difficulties. He didn’t know what exactly that “thing” was. However, it was because of those reasons that they had been remaining in a standstill before the wall that is rank B for years now.

The moment he figured that out, he realised that at some point of time they had been looking for stability without even realising it. They scraped their lives through the days, they scrambled for the pie against the similarly-ranked adventurers and their seniors, and as the greenhorns rose into prominence, before long their decline surely would come. Before Gael had realised it, he had reached his thirties, and his fellow heavy warrior has reached it too. He felt troubled with those things, or perhaps it was fear, or maybe, what he felt was an aversion. The mage and the warrior still were in their twenties, but they had been in this trade for over a decade now. They were aware that their growth had been slowing down as well. Even if they were to continue doing this for a long time, they wouldn’t be able to rise so high up there .

Then what were they to do? ….. They may simply have no choice but to quit from being adventures. But if they were to simply drop out like that, for them who only knew how to fight, it might be impossible for them to return to a normal life now, they might be cast out to wander the streets or they might even go lower by making violence into their livelihood by turning into outlaws.

And so, there was this matter. They were being forced to do their noble master’s bidding and engage in intelligence work for a political feud. That itself was a painful road to take, but at least their opponent was a regular person. They didn’t have to fight a literally inhuman monster, they didn’t have to run around secluded and unexplored regions, and they didn’t have to ruthlessly compete with those groups who’d do the previous stuff while humming a tune. For Gael and his men, it was an attractive alternative.

To mention the fortunate thing about it, the still-young Linus hadn’t yet had any adventures for him to rear as his personal adventurer. If they were to occupy that, surely they would never miss a meal from then on. If they were to take the count’s hand now, surely they would be the most veteran among his ranks, and so they’d be useful for a long time, which would prevent them from being easily discarded. Such was his forecast.

“This is going to be a tough job, but this’ll be the last one. If we can push through this, we’ll openly be under the Count’s house.”

“We can finally say goodbye to the days where we put ourselves on the line against monsters, huh.”

“If everything goes well, we might even be employed as his vassal.”

“And for that, we absolutely can’t fail this time.”

“Yeah.”

Gael hit his palm with his fist as he said so. Its dry sound reverberated in the barrack room.

“Our future depends on this. All the other people, whether it’s the “Silver Wolf” or the “Two-Handed Sword”. We won’t let them get in our way………..!”

 


 

Later that evening.

Numerous round tables were arranged in the mansion’s reception hall, and on top of every single table was an overwhelming amount of plates of dishes. They might have been presented by the viscount’s people, various meat such as beef, lamb, pork, chicken –  all sorts of foods were aligned perfectly, and each of them were steaming fragrantly. Although Marlin is a mountainous area, dishes of seafood, which apparently was brought from Canales through the border with great pains, were provided as well. The star of the show was a baked shrimp that was as large as an adult’s arm.

It was a banquet to celebrate the completion of the new residence of the lord of Marlin, Tullius Shernan Oubeniel. Today, in this place where the utmost luxury was being gathered and commemorated, the lighly-groomed Gael and his men already had mixed into the crowd. In normal circumstances, commoners could never make their way into a place like this, but apparently even the farmers were also invited to the banquet. If one were to use that as a basis of their reasoning, then the delegate’s escort, “Green Squad”, also could be included among the worthy guests.

For the adventurers, the fact they were being in a place where the gussied up noblemen and merchants gathered made them feel terribly ill at ease. ‘Just start already’, Gael thought to himself as he saw Tullius at the end of his line of sight, finally, he was there standing on the podium.

“Ladies and gentlemen. I offer you my sincerest gratitude for attending this celebration to commemorate the completion of this residence.”

Then, the newly appointed viscount cut his greetings short and got the ball rolling with these words,

“—- Well, I’m afraid a greenhorn like myself is bad with tedious, dragged speech like these. Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy yourselves. That is all.”

…. And thus down came the curtain quickly.

Even from Gael’s perspective, that conduct had to be some sort of a joke. Shouldn’t a word of greetings in a place like this usually include something about gratitude to the king and the church and the like? The guests of honour in the periphery were seen to be dropping their jaw or leaking a laughter. Vassals, such as the young man called Victor looked up to the heavens and covered their eyes in shame.

“…. This kind of behaviour is unexpected from a count’s pedigree.”

“Is, isn’t that because he didn’t want to keep us waiting?”

“Fool. Even if you wanted to be courteous, you’ll still have to give a word first.”

“I’ve heard that although he was granted a viscountcy, it actually was to banish him from the capital, now I understand why…”

The noblemen and the elderlies blatantly expressed their annoyance in that manner. While sipping the wine that had been served to them, they uttered several words of disgust and disappointment.

Of course, they didn’t rudely raise their voice so much as for Tullius to hear them. Perhaps because of that, Tullius, who had already gotten off from the platform and were then greeting the guests, was tilting his head in order to see the guests of honour who were exchanging whispers.

“Leader. Even if we didn’t investigate anything, wouldn’t that young master be demoted from his post due to his ineptitude anyway?”

“Shhh!”

While rebuking the young warrior who carelessly slipped out that remark, deep down he felt that the youth might be correct.

Even from the viewpoint of Gael who didn’t know formal etiquettes, Tullius Shernan Oubeniel’s behaviour was out of the question. Truthfully, he couldn’t believe that the completely naive young man was to safely fare in the aristocratic society. After all, to his noble associates that were currently gathered in the room, the impression of Tullius was already absentminded at best and idiotic at worst. And that information would get into the network of social circles, and spread in a blink of an eye. Even that he was nothing more but an adventurer, Gael could at least understand that much. Because keeping an eye close and straining an ear for information about one’s peers works pretty much the same in any kind of society.

Meanwhile, at the hesitating noblemen’s sidelong glance, a group of people was approaching to greet the viscount. They were merchants.

“My, my. Your Excellency truly is an unique person!”

“Indeed, just like the adage in our trade, ‘time is money’”

“Greetings, thank you for the deal on the distribution of your potion . We’re looking forward to continuing this mutual relationship in the future.”

“So I’ve heard that you’re planning to open a mine nearby, yes? In that case, we, too, would like a share—-”

If was a storm of such adulation.

The delegate from his house snorted.

“Humph…. What words for someone they’ve just met.”

“Perhaps they are saying these things in order easily lobby him in the future, ‘let’s get ourselves some rights and concessions’, is probably what they’re having in mind.”

Gael surmised as such. Even as they were sucking up to him, there were no respect in the merchants’ eyes. Rather, their glare was as if they were trying to propose a loan for their household that’s currently supporting a high-class beautiful lady. Butter the viscount up with skillful words, stretch their roots in the domain’s economy, and then seize its flow of gold. Even if the lord of the territory were to change or even if the country were to seize the lord, as long as their invested businesses or projects continued to function well, the arrangement would mean that they still wouldn’t be severed from their long-term source of revenue so quickly.

Sure enough, against that scheme, the viscount,

“Weeell, since we’re currently in a celebration——”

Warded it off by stating so.

“—– Now, now, more importantly, please enjoy the dishes before they get cold. As you can see we have a lot of items ordered from Canales, though some of you might come from there, and you might have grown tired of these items already, at any rate, please feel free to relish in the flavours of this house’s cooking.”

“I, indeed.”

“If that’s what Your Excellency recommends then….”

So, he was able to splendidly use his mind to evade that. Though, why didn’t he use that mind of his during the greeting? Even Gael was having a hard time understanding that.

“By the way, sir. Aren’t you supposed to do your delegation stuff?”

“I know it already…. I’m leaving now.”

To that suggestion, the delegation quickly retracted his sullen face and went away to express his greetings.

As he saw that, Gael once again thought that being a noble is rough. Unlike adventurers that simply needed to be skillful to do their job, there were too much restraints in the aristocracy’s line of work. But, there was indeed some sort of steadiness that couldn’t be found in the meritocracy of the adventurers’ rough society.

And while he was thinking about that.

“Dear guests.”

Someone called out to Gael and his men,

He turned around as his heart involuntarily skipped a beat. There was the statuesque stiff beauty, the composed-looking maid whose feelings could never be guessed by anyone. And on the back of her neck was the silver collar that was the origin of her title.

‘S, Silver Wolf…….!?’

In the entirety of Marlin, she was someone he had wanted to meet the least.

There was no mistake, it was indeed the “Silver Wolf”. While she was indeed still in her teens, that figure which he hadn’t seen during the years have grown somewhat taller, and while she had become more feminine, there was no mistake regarding her identity.

“Wh, what, do you want?”

While he promptly tried to keep a calm facade, he poked his companion who were petrified due to his shock to bring him back with his elbow.

‘Why are you calling out to us? Could it be that she’s suspecting that we’re here to investigate?’

To Gael who were succumbing to his uneasiness behind his fake ordinary visage, Uni said

“…. May I interest you in some beverages?”

She was carrying a tray with a bottle of alcohol and a number of glasses equal to the number of Gael’s party.

His shoulders fell down reflexively.

“Ah, no…… we’re good. We’re in charge of guarding someone. Surely nothing will happen here in His Excellency’s residence, but just in case, it’d be better for us to refrain from alcohol.”

“Is that so. Well then, please excuse me.”

Uni bowed after she spoke, and then she walked away.

While seeing her off, Gael and his fellow “Green Squad” gleefully breathed a sigh of relief.

“That surprised me. She was just offering a drink……”

“Anyway…. So she really was a maid.”

“As an adventurer she always wore an apron and dress, I thought she was just being eccentric though…”

“Normally people wouldn’t think that she was really a maid, doing adventuring jobs in the sidelines.”

‘Seriously. The fact that she was only an adventurer in the sidelines and still ranked higher than them, and then the fact she was completely leading in terms of ability. When I think about it, it makes me feel that all I did in the past was in vain.’

“Still—–”

The mage of the party opened his mouth.

“It has nearly been three years since she received her last quest. Assuming that she had devoted herself exclusively as a maid during those years, I believe this will help us a lot.”

 

“You mean that she has been on a hiatus?”

Indeed, that was the case. Adventurers are human too. No matter how much one were to increase their ability, if they were to lose the chance to use those abilities, then one’s proficiency would surely drop. Just like how horses that are kept in their stables all day will no longer be able to gallop, adventurers who don’t go on adventures will also decline as well.

“Hey, you. I told you my glass is empty so bring me a larger bottle, why took you so long?”

“Yes, my apologies.”

“Quickly pour it…. Sigh, paying attention to nobles before commoners is supposedly a common sense.”

“It is as you say. My apologies for my ineptitude.”

Gael’s and his fellow’s eyes went round.

That girl, whose prestigious title, the “Silver Wolf”, resounded loudly in the capital, was lowering her head repeatedly to a vulgar nobleman who obviously was picking a fight with her. Once a bumpkin of an adventurer did a similar thing, and off with his head he went. And even though there was a story like that, what exactly was it that they were seeing? It was as if she was just that, a maid.

But the surprise just grew even further.

 

“Hmm? Do you want me to think that you’re reaaaaaly sorry?”

“HAA!?”

As Gael saw that, he inadvertently did the reckless action of raising his voice in disbelief.

At Uni, who didn’t show any intention to resist him, that quarrel-picking nobleman was currently using those hornworm-sized fingers to grope her buttocks, that buttocks of hers which people would know how well-shaped they were even when they were covered by her skirt.

TL Note: Strange paragraph, strange comment about buttocks, I know.

 

He was groping it in a way that people could hear the sound of it being squeezed. Gael could only think of it as some sort of a sadistic, perverted hobby of the nobleman. He acknowledged that her bravery of not reacting so far to the tiny details was as expected of her, but in this case, for her to not be rejecting him clearly was a bad move in itself. The middle-aged noble had a vulgar smile as he applied his mouth to bite her ears.

“If you really wish to apologise, then let me hear it slowly later? Alright? In the room your master prepared for me…. Alright? Alright?”

Gael didn’t actually hear that, but what he said must’ve been something along those lines. He could tell just from the movements of his lips. And then, he moved to pinch the soft flesh and moved his hands as he spun them around like a slug.

“…..”

Uni didn’t react. She must’ve hated it. However, her status made it impossible for her to honestly resist the noble. To wear a silver collar actually meant this kind of thing. Rather, as a slave it was her behavior during her adventuring days that was abnormal. Gael had only realised this truth now.

‘Should I interfere and put a stop to this?’, Gael thought for a moment.

Even the surrounding guests who noticed this didn’t try to stop them. Was it because they didn’t want to get involved? Or perhaps it was because the sight of a good-looking maid being groped by a guest was a common one? In any case, there was no incentive for this bunch of people who held the viscount in scorn to move in. There was no one but Gael and his men to stop this.

Even though he felt that she was the least wanted existence in this request, he didn’t want to see the “Silver Wolf” to fall even further than this. Even though he had to admit that they were no match for her even as a joke, she was still a remarkable fellow who was once in the same trade as his. Even if he didn’t know about her achievements, as a fellow adventurer it was still unacceptable to see her being dishonoured by a man who was acting like a horny dog. He could feel that he was reaching his limit, he could feel the last remnants of stubbornness inside the old man who didn’t want to get into trouble aching. The heavy warrior who was standing next to him had his throbbing eyebrows raised as well.

But just before that last thread of patience was about to snap,

“What are you doing?”

Her master, Tullius Shernan Oubeniel, broke into the scene.

The noble immediately retracted his hand which had been fiddling around with her buttocks a moment back.

“A, aaah, nothing… Hello, this girl just made a little careless mistake.”

It was an ingratiating smile, as if he made it to hold his tongue from clicking.

‘What careless mistake’, thought Gael as he couldn’t help but to click his tongue slightly. Wasn’t it just a lecher doing the thing he had in mind by picking a quarrel with her?

“Ah, is that so? Sorry for that.”

Oubeniel, who heard his answer, immediately lowered his head. The surrounding guests went into a roar.

“O, Lord Oubeniel! It wasn’t….”

“No, it’s a master’s duty to train his servants. If she did indeed make a careless mistake towards a guest, then it was a common sense for me to apologise. Will you please accept my apology and give her your forgiveness?”

“Yo, you….!”

Viscount Oubeniel’s apology warped the noble’s face to a great degree . The host of the banquet had made a direct apology. Pushing this matter another time would be equal to announcing to the surrounding people that he was a man without magnanimity.

As if to deliver the final blow, Uni knelt and kowtowed to the man. Rubbing one’s face against the floor is the highest degree of apology. As the master stood there and lowered his head, the slave must go lower than that.

“I would like to apologise for my rudeness one more time. Please accept the master’s apology.”

“I, if you’re willing to go that far….”

The noble ignored Uni and turned to Oubeniel.

“Ple, please raise your head, Lord Viscount.  I will accept your apology. I, I’d like to apologise for disturbing this auspicious occasion by picking a needless quarrel, I’m very sorry.”

“So you do accept! My, thank you very much!”

Viscount Oubeniel was full of smiles when he raised his face.

And then the matter was settled. Although the noble was still dissatisfied with it, he left for the other seat, and the other guests of honour also turned away as they started to chat about things that wasn’t related to it. Only the viscount and Uni, who was still kowtowing, remained.

“It’s fine for you to stand now, Uni.”

“No, I have greatly wounded Master’s honour in this auspicious occasion—-”

“And I mean that, too. I told you it’s fine. I’m not angry at all.”

“… Yes. My utmost gratitude for Master’s profound compassion.”

“More importantly, please stay as you are. Alright?”

After Uni rose up, Oubeniel personally brushed off the dirt from her skirt. In a new residence that have been meticulously cleaned, Gael thought there wouldn’t be a lot of dust stuck there. However, at the end of it, he was able to finally understand the intention of the gesture.

“Well then, let’s finish up with this. Turn your back towards me.”

“My back, is it?”

And then he struck—– the place that was touched by the vulgar noble, lightly, as if he was cleaning it. His hand movements seemed to be truly gentle.

“Ahn……”

“Has the dirt fallen off, Uni?”

To those words, Uni gave her master a respectful bow with a colour of understanding in her face.

“……. Yes. Thank you, Master.”

There were an indescribable flood of emotions packed in her words of gratitude.

“….”

“….”

“….”

 

“….”

Gael and his men were stunned by the sight.

What was that voice?

That faint, shivering voice, that was there as if to conceal the sound of a certain fervent heart?

Was it really the “Silver Wolf” who raised that voice?

“Hey, leader.”

“What is it.”

“Did we get the wrong person?”

“Would be great if we did…..”

“But that face is definitely her…….”

“And she certainly had the same name…”

The impact that he bore was different than the time when she was enduring the noble’s abuses silently.

If it was that, then it could still be interpreted that he held back because of his current duties.

But, now, that was impossible.

No matter how you look at it, she was gladdened by the thoughts of her Master. So ardently, too.

“What to say, it’s as if she’s genuinely happy, like a normal maid does…”

“Rather, isn’t this an illicit affair with that master of hers—–”

“Please wait! If you say it that way, my image of the “Silver Wolf” is—!”

“If someone were to tell me that she was a different people with the same name who is really alike to the original, I’d have an easier time believing that.”

‘Good grief’, Gael nodded.

As they gazed at her again, the person in question had already returned to her duties without realising their investigation duty. Her face was as indifferent as ever, but somehow she was making her steps lighter. It could be hard to be seen by an untrained eye, but if you were to be acquainted with what a kind of person she was after stumbling into her a few times, it was clear that the way she was walking was full of openings.

“The ‘Silver Wolf’ has waned….. Can we see it that way?”

Gael couldn’t find something to instantly refute the mage’s remarks.

And after he thought about it for a while, he still couldn’t find anything.

Gael opened his mouth with mixed feelings.

“Even so, pay in mind that she might somehow regain her old self with some impetus. More than anything, it doesn’t mean anything if we were to slacken our guard even more than a waned person does.”

“That’s correct. And he still got another adventurer with him, right?”

“The swordsman from St. Gallen, the “Two-Handed Sword”

“Is it possible that he was hired because the ‘Silver Wolf’ has already become like that?”

“…….. Probably.”

Before they realised it, the hours had gone far into the night. The banquet was about to come to a close, and the time for Gael and his men to do their job was drawing near.

“Anyway, don’t be careless. We’ll see through this job until the end.”

As he said so, he and the others braced themselves.

‘Estimate the sleeping hours of the people inside, then take the advantage of the dead hours of the night to investigate the nooks and crannies of the residence. Since the invited guests are hosted here, chances are that the security will be tight. And even though the biggest menace that is the ‘Silver Wolf’ has been weakened to a degree, I expect that this job won’t be a breeze…..’

Ouroboros Record – Chapter 15 – Roars of Laughter from Beneath the Grounds

Warning: Latter part of the chapter haven’t been edited/TLC-ed yet. Will do it when I’m free from work.

FRET NOT! Deskie may be late, but he edits! It should be fully edited now.


TL: Deskie and Sychev

Edits: Deskie

Chapter XV – Roars of Laughter from Beneath the Grounds

 

In the gloomy tunnel, fresh blood flutters.

Blood, meat, bones. In the twinkling of an eye, the scenery that the lantern scantily illuminated is dyed in a grotesque colour.

In spite of this amount of gruesomeness, no screams are heard. Why indeed? That is because this massacre was done all too quickly. In exchange of the screams, the loud laughter of the perpetrator resounded all over the tunnel.

“Kukuku……haahahaha!! Fragile! Fragile! Too fragile! What’s this, they’re not responding at all! If this is all they’ve got, it wouldn’t even be enough as a warm-up now would it?!”

The figure of the person that raised this voice was someone with a matching top-and-bottom suit, a blood-red scarf, and a black mantle coiling around his body, a youth with a noble air. Though his elegance did not match the darkness under the damp soil in itself, there was one eye-catchingly strange thing about him.

It was his hand.

The nails had grown and crooked in a bizarre way, as if it was an instrument of torture or execution.

Those outlandish nails seemed to outline the ruthless nature within him. It was the very weapon that massacred the true inhabitants of this dark dannel.

“Pugiiiiiiiii!?”

“Gyagyagyagya!?”

Perhaps it was so much of a surprise, that even their survival instinct couldn’t help them from being frozen in their spot, as those who was left behind raised their screams of amazement a little too late.

As one might have known from their cries, both of them weren’t humans.

There were a number of follower goblins, along with an orc, as the leader of the flock. Both were the types of monsters which would normally make caves their primary residence.

Be that as it may that the only merits that the goblins had were their numbers and their intelligence that was akin to that of a child’s, the orcs had a degree of physical ability that most common adults wouldn’t be able to match. However, that was about it. For the starring actor of this massacre that, more or less, to some extent, possessed superhuman strength, these beings were not fit to be his match.

Maybe the young man thought so as well, as as soon as his laughter subsided, his expression turned gloomy.

“…. Boring. How boring. As I thought, if this is all it takes, this is boring.”

As he said so, he drew his blood-drenched claws closer to his lips, and then licked it – and then immediately spit it out.

“Awful. They’re weak, they’re boring, and their blood tastes awful. Ah, just why were you guys alive anyway? To think that there’s an existence so worthless like you lot.”

While he distorted his face in his unpleasantness, the young man shook his arms lightly.

Then lo. They watched as that claw of a weapon shrinked, and then, sure enough, his hands regained its elegant form.

As their opponent put his weapon away, the monsters breathed a sigh of relief.

However,

“…. You aren’t worth my claws. So, die quickly. ‘Sudden-Death Insight’.”

What was delivered was none other than the cruel verdict of death.

It was a curse of instant death with everyone in his sight as the target. The freezing hands of death invaded the hearts of the monsters and promptly seized them.

“….. !?”

For this repeated mass-murder, as one might’ve thought, there were no screams raised this time either.

When it came to, all of the monsters fell to the ground as if they were dolls whose strings were cuts.

As he found his satisfaction from watching the scene, the youth once again floated a smile.

It didn’t take long until his smile turned into a mad, loud laughter.

“Kuh, huhuhu….. To think that I was able to cast this high grade curse without chanting…….  AHAHAHAHAHAHAH! AS I THOUGHT, I’M AMAZING! THIS NEW BODY! IT’S SO MAG NI FI CENT I CAN’T STOP LAUGHING!!”

 

“By all means, please stop. Your laughter echoes throughout the caves and it gets noisy in here.”

 

I couldn’t resist and called him out from his back.

Then he – Charl Franz Schmidt, ceased his laughter at once and went into prostration at lightning speed.

“Ah, yes. I’m sorry, Master. I got carried away, yes… my apologies.”

 

When I saw this change, I didn’t think that he’d been in his perfect form just now. I involuntary put my hand to my temples… The difference in your spirits is way too extreme, Charl…

 


 

 

We are at present advancing through the “Old Luire Mine”, one of the dungeons in Marlin.

The purpose of this expedition was to limber Charl up, to verify the profitability of the abandoned veins, and on the same occasion, to fulfill the request of monster extermination in the area that was raised by the commonfolk.

And since that was the case, one of my intention was to try Charl’s ability out, but…

“Ain’t gonna say anything about vampires being intoxicated when it comes to blood and all that, but there was way too much fooling around in your movements there.”

—- Remarked Due.

“So, imbeciles who’d cast an instant death spell on small fries like those do exist after all. What a waste of mana.”

—- Remarked Drei.

“….  Against monsters with that sort of intellect, and strength. Surely words are unnecessary here.”

—- Remarked Uni.

Like that, the evaluation given by his seniors was terrible.

“Yes, yes…. My apologies, dear esteemed seniors, yes….”

And the Vampire Lord was earnestly apologising.

He is possibly the first high-ranked Vampire Lord ever since the dawn of history to prostrate on the grounds of a mine while apologising over and over again, huh. So I suppose in a sense, this is quite the remarkable feat.

Looking at that curling figure as it begs for pity makes me think that all those talks with Uni regarding methods to deal with him the other day were all but needless anxiety.

TL Note: He’s referring to the discussion with Uni regarding what they should do if Charl were to go rogue from the previous chapter.

…. No, no. Complacency is something that I absolutely must avoid here. After all, he was still a prodigy that could be counted among the top five in the Necromancy Department back in the academy. And he’s an inherently evil vampire now. The possibly that this pathetic figure of his might just be an act in order for him to be slighted by his surroundings is not zero. While appropriate measures have been undertaken, he would definitely be a substantial menace if he actually went rogue. In the previous world, there’s this story called “brushwood and gall”, and then there’s Han Xin’s tale as well. Just because he’s putting up this unsightly figure on display today, if the tusk that could be used to turn against me in the future isn’t taken away, then his threat level will not change. Let’s handle him carefully from now on as well, shall we.

TL Note: “Brushwood and Gall” (Wo Xin Chang Dan) and “Han Xin’s Crawl Between His Enemy’s Legs” (Kua Xia Zhi Ru) are two stories from medieval China with pretty much the same morals and conclusions. Feel free to Google it if you wish to know more.

For the moment, just so he doesn’t hold pointless animosity, let’s patch things up a bit here.

Under that prudential consideration, I open my mouth.

“Charl, there’s no need to be that ashamed. It’s fine to try to do what you couldn’t do this time later. Besides, you’re primarily here as my fellow researcher, yes? You don’t have to feel down when people are finding fault in your battles, which is outside your expertise anyway. Come on now, you’re my ‘masterpiece’, act like one.”

“Oh, Master! Master is, Oubeniel is truly magnanimous! I’m so touched I can’t hold off my tears!”

And as he found consolation in that, he vigorously rose up, and then he stroked his own shoulders as he embraced his own body, wiggling while he was at it. Just how earnest is he here, anyway?

Well, whatever. There’s no need to put my thoughts into something that’s useless to be pondering about.

“At any rate, the first objective, which was to warm Charl up, is complete. Shall we move on to the next objective? Drei.”

“Yes.”

As soon as she received my instruction, Drei starts her preparation immediately. The second objective is to re-examine the veins.

“‘Oh, Spirit of the earth, answer this query of mine. What might the mysteries thy concealeth be. Where might the riches thy storeth be———– ‘Wide Detect’!’”

Along with her chants, the orderly mana released from Drei’s body changes into a spell  that runs through the surroundings. It’s a wide-range exploration spell that borrows the power of the spirit of the earth attribute. Due to Drei’s unique affinity as a dark elf with the spirits, the synergistic effect it generates greatly improves the range and the precision of the exploration spell. Let alone this abandoned mountain mine, the spell should be able to locate resources in the surrounding underground area as well.

After a silence of a few tens of seconds, she raised her face.

“….. The deposits here are no good. The excavated area and its vicinity has already been mined to depletion.“

“Saw that coming. No matter how little profit the mine had left, those greedy former deputies would still never let it alone.”

Abandoning the mines so that it became a nest for monster, and then leaving it alone must have had a cause. Well, it doesn’t matter, I never expected much in the first place anyway.

“However—– please rejoice, Master. There was an indication that there’s a large copper deposit fifteen kilometres to the northeast from here.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful!”

Copper mining, if it could be made into a large-scale operation, then Marlin’s finance will greatly benefit from it. Even from my own viewpoint as an alchemist, the fact that there’s a large amount of copper – which as a material may be processed into various things -available is a joyous one.

“…. While it is indeed fifteen kilometers to the northeast, it’s within a rugged mountainous area. The forests along the way are also thick, so it’s not feasible even if we were to open a path.”

“Ah.”

I realise that my joy slips away as I hear Uni’s remark.

That’s right. As it is, this place is deep within the mountains. If I were to proceed further from here, just what kind of an unexplored region would I find?

Regardless of how promising the deposit is, in order to mine the copper, transport it, and put it into circulation, there must be a way to get there, and without it the whole deal is out of the question. I wonder how much gold it would cost me in order to expand the roads all the way there. I’m not that knowledgeable in this field of expertise, but I know that this’ll cost me a fortune. At least, for the current budget of my territory, there’s fundamentally not enough strength to bear that kind of a burden.

“… My apologies, Master. It seems that I’ve agitated your heart with that needless information of mine.”

“Ah, no. Eventually Marlin will develop, and surely a time will come when it will be possible to expand the roads to go all the way there. There’s no loss in bearing this in mind, in order to prepare when the time comes.”

If all goes well, it’ll probably take ten or twenty years, if it doesn’t, we’re probably talking about a century.

“Say, if Milord were to prepare huge golems to deploy there, wouldn’t we able to excavate it right away?”

Due chimed in.

Charl made an exaggerated sigh before answering him.

“Good grief. Just what are you saying? It’ll have to knock the forest down, dig the mountain out, carry the mined copper….  A golem that can carry out such large-scale work, wouldn’t it be already at the scale of a super-weapon that the country does not allow possession of? The extent of use of the mud golem in the irrigation job was a different story altogether. They did observe it, but in the end a summons came from the imperial court for an enquiry into it anyway.”

He let out a broad grin. It probably was payback for his criticism regarding the battle earlier. Bearing the brunt of that, Due’s face became stiff.

“What you’re saying is reasonable but… why is it so frustrating that you’re the one pointing it out!?”

“HIH!? No, no violence please!”

As Charl reflexively hid behind Drei’s back, he got a “don’t touch my butt” from her before being kicked, rolling all over the tunnel as he tumbled.

Leaving out the skit that this statement started, for the most part, what Charl said was correct. If I were to make that sort of thing, the neighbouring residents who might witness that would go into a panic, and then someone would inform the Adventurer’s Guild, and from there the story would go around the country. I have been contributing various things to Marlin through alchemy, but I don’t think that I’m revered enough for the country to let me off in that serious of a matter.

If that’s the case, then there’s other no way but for me and my masterpieces to manually mine it… or so I thought, since that would be a bad move as well. If it just were soil and irrigation improvements in a scale that we did before, then any other lord could do it, provided they had a fairly skilled alchemist around them, but the degree of difficulty differs when it comes to developing a mine in the mountains. If the news that the operation could be carried out with just a few people were to come out, then it would make the Centralists and the surrounding lords to be greatly wary of me. I already have a bad reputation in hand, and my brother along with the Centralists are keeping an eye on me. I’m not in the mood to be involved in more unnecessary problems than I currently am.

“Well, there’s no choice but to slowly and steadily explore the places around the mine. The fact that we can’t do anything unless we do so can’t be helped anyway.”

“Yes. Besides, Master’s main purpose is to research immortality after all.”

Said Uni.

Just as she said, for me territory management is, to put it nicely, a source of funding for my research, or to put it badly, it’s nothing more but an unnecessary diversion. Besides, as I was being too obsessive about it, I invited trouble here in the process, and that was me pulling the cart before the horse. In other words, as I’m now under the watch of Marquis Lavallée and being sent Victor and his company, I had made a huge mistake. It was something to reflect over.

“Then, we’re mostly done here, shall we do the last finishing touches and then go home? Heeeey, Charl! Do one more thing for me please!”

“Ye, yees….”

Charl, who wobblingly came near after being called, was covered with mud after he had rolled over here and there. Rather than a vampire lord, he looks like a freshly resurrected zombie from the bottom of the earth.

However, his skill as a necromancer, being an undead himself now, is one of the best in the continent. I’d say he’s probably among the top three now.

Well, from now on I’m just going to squander that talent in wasteful jobs, though.

“Well then, please begin to set it up.”

“Yees…. five High Skeletons, was it not? If it’s only that much, there’s still plenty of leeway even without me chanting.”

So he said as he snapped his right hand finger that was out of his mantle.

— Instantly, a sudden change occurred.

The corpses of the monsters that he slaughtered along the way began to gather in one spot. And then they were compressed by an otherworldly force, losing their material form in the process as they turned into black particles. The particles were a form of negative energy, also dubbed as miasma. Although it is harmful to ordinary lifeforms, long-time practitioners of dark magic and monsters of darkness can manipulate it to cause various phenomenon.

“Oh… brethren in the dark, my kinsmen! Serve this beautiful and noble self, serve with bravery in your devotion! ‘CREATE SKELETON’!!”

Charl was floating a menacingly exalted smile, perhaps from the ecstasy of being in touch with the miasma as an undead,  as he was casting his spell. That sight of his was truly becoming of a “Vampire Lord”, the wretched king of the undead.

However—-

“Hey, didn’t this guy say something about not going to chant a while back?”

 

“…. If memory serves, the words for the spell “Create Skeleton” isn’t anything like that.”

 

“Perhaps it’s an improvised poem. Though I will refrain from commenting about it.”

 

— The other three just had to say their riposte like that, though.

In the meantime, the miasma had cleared up, and the end product of Charl’s spell appeared.

For some reason, the bluish skeletons were bleached in atrocity, and each of these monsters were carrying a rough-looking sword and shield that appeared out of nowhere. The so-called Skeleton, or perhaps calling them High Skeleton, the superior species among them, would be more appropriate. There’s exactly five of them, just as I ordered.

“How strange though. The corpses were those of goblins and orcs, but no matter how I look at it, I don’t see anything but human skeleton.”

“That’s a given! Rather than keeping the deceased soul inside the dead body and turning it into an undead, I turn the dead body into a material and grant it a temporary life instead, thus it is a completely new undead. For a practitioner my level, doing something like changing the shape of their bones is E-A-S-Y!”

“This guy’s mood surely fluctuates too much for every little thing….”

The other masterpieces gazed at the dancing Charl with exasperation in their eyes.

If it goes this far, then I suppose that this is his inherent nature? It appears to be so. He always was a timid one during his time in the academy, but when he’s intimidated or being ordered, he still curls himself up even now. He stuttered slightly in the past, so I couldn’t get it, but apparently, there were times when he might had been in high spirits as well.

“Hey, hey, pay attention to the job until the very end. Be sure to set up instructions for them too, okay?”

“Ahahaha! Thaaat’s an easy task—-!”

Though it wasn’t much of a job, perhaps because he got to show off his specialty, he sure is in a good mood. Since it’s better for him to be feeling happy when doing jobs, I’ll just leave him alone.

“Hear me here, okay, you people? ‘Draw whoever that trespasses into this cave into the interiors and then kill them”. “You don’t have to chase anyone who escapes’. And—–”

“And thus the High Skeletons are set in these caverns, I suppose it’ll get rid of goblins and other wild monsters.”

That’s how it is. Normally that would be the adventurers’ job, but unfortunately, on top of having poor transportation links, this Marlin is a land with only a few things going on in it. There’s no reason for the middle-class and upper adventurers to come here, and there’s no way a fledgling adventurer would have the funds to go all the way here in the first place.

There’s one guild branch established here, but that’s just one single branch in a large countryside where there’s comparatively no people in it, and virtually no business is going on in there. Their primary job is mainly receiving and sending stuff like letters, it gets to the point where they’re probably better off putting the “post office” sign there. Of course, there’s no adventurer that’ll accept subjugation quests there. So if you want to get rid of a monster in the Marlin Viscountcy, you’ll have to take the trouble to ask the guilds in the neighbouring counties, or the citizens will do it themselves, or the lord – that’s me – will suppress them personally.

However, the first option costs too much money. The second option has the risk to make the vigilante groups into rebel groups if they’re left alone and thus there’s a security concern there. The last option, the third, is troublesome for us. No, it isn’t because I’m lazy. The problem is that the monsters around here are low-leveled, and thus there are no decent drops that may compensate me for the labour of going around here and there. If I use the military under my control, if I move them around poorly, I may incur the costs of procuring provisions, weapons, and other various troublesome costs.

So, I decided to place some familiars in the dungeon, which was the monsters’ colony, to exterminate them. Once they are set up, they will automatically hunt the wild monsters for a long period of time. Also, if I were to keep the familiars’ degree of usage as it is right now, there wouldn’t be a fuss, even in the one of a million chance that the common-folk or (as if they’d have the interest to come this far into the sticks) some adventurers with idle curiosity were to discover them.

I’m able to make adequate familiars using alchemy, but as I thought, in the end, that would just reek of being the job of an alchemist somewhere. And surely someone would eventually link me with the monsters that would appear in the caverns. Among the most promising candidates to do so, though I won’t mention any names, would be a certain immature count when compared to his little brother, or a certain marquis who happened to sire a bastard in his old age.

And that’s why I asked Charl, a genuine necromancer, to create High Skeletons, which may naturally occur and are possible to control. Of course, if it’s just the for the “Create Skeleton” spell, then Uni or Drei can do it, heck even I can do at least that much. But, leaving goblins aside, it’s hard to make a skeleton that can win against orcs. In addition, as we’re weak in the subject of handling spirits, the accuracy of our instructions would also decrease, and a real human corpse would be needed to create one of them as well. It’s not about the ability of the spellcaster, it’s about the spellcaster’s affinity to Death Magic.

Eh? If I need a corpse as a material, then won’t I be able to get no matter how much I need from the lab, you say? Please stop joking. Even by chance, I can’t leave any traces of my experiment outside. It’s not because I’m afraid that I left some traces of surgery there, it’s just that being careful where I should be is my principle. Ever since I still was in the capital, other than valuable samples of the corpses that came out of the experiments, I properly will burn all corpses until their bones break….. Though, when I had to leave for Marlin, I couldn’t take the samples with me, so I had to burn them as well,

Ah, it seems like Charl will finish his job soon.

“—- Right, that’s the end of it. I’m done setting up instructions, Oubeniel-kun.”

“Well done. Shall we return then?”

As soon as I said so, everyone else gathered around Drei. Using the space transition magic “Greater Teleportation”, we would be able to arrive to the mansion we’ve grown familiar of in an instant.

“Such a convenient thing, huh, this transition magic is. Thanks to it, even under these winter skies, we still can fly back home.”

Remarked Due keenly. That’s right. It’s winter now. Charl’s augmentation has just been completed. Though I suppose a reasonable person would’ve figured that out.

“In exchange of that, the spell eats away my mana, and if it fails we’ll fly straight into the walls. Don’t let go of my hand, alright? The farther away you are from me the more likely you’ll run into a transition accident… Master, your hand, please.”

I took upon on her words and grabbed her hand. Due is holding her other hand. Uni and Charl are nearby. If it’s those two, even if there’s a mistake by chance, their surgery would interfere and readjust their position as to prevent them from running into an accident. As for me, magic suppression skill aside, because the problems of absolute quantity are involved, it’s hard for me to step in when it comes to transition.

After Drei was done chanting a drawn-out chant so as to execute the spell perfectly, she closed her eyes and called the name of the spell in the end.

“….. ‘Greater Teleportation’!”

The providence of nature distorts, and through the dimensional wall we leave the abandoned tunnel. As long as the remaining skeletons do their job properly, we won’t return here for a while.

 


 

“I see…. and so, at this stage, mining the likely deposits will be quite extortive.”

After he marked the map based from the information received from Drei’s investigation in red, Victor raised his face. Due to his ability and his status, he now occupies the position that’s akin to the chief of the domestic officials. Well, his predecessors was morally compromised and weren’t that skilled in the first place, though. Contrary to my expectation, with his known merits, the whole deal should not be a trouble for him.

“Although the amount of materials are more abundant than expected, it’s a shame that because of the cost and current technology, their practical uses is unexpectedly few.”

“Good grief, though even if it can be excavated, mineral poisoning will appear here and there and it will be quite tough to deal with. So, on the contrary, the fact that it has extortive cost seems to be a good thing.”

I said while relaxing on the office’s chair. Even though I have wholly delegated most of the job, I’m still obligated to put out a word when it comes to deciding important matters and anything related to alchemy. Especially in this subject, which revolves around the mine as a source of valuable material. If I can’t be serious at times like these, there’ll be quite the noise after this. Although their brain augmentation prevents them from betraying me, it won’t stop them from reprimanding me.

“You have a point. Well, in light of our current financial position, I’m afraid that we can’t afford to invest in mines.”

“So, from your viewpoint, what is the ideal spot for you?”

“This spot: it’s where copper, tin and lead overlaps. There are also mountains where gold and silver can be mined, but I’m worried that the country will butt in if we were to dig those out.”

Riiight, it’s never that simple huh? To put it the other way, a mountain of gold, or silver, would be put directly under the king.

“How unfortunate… if we could dig out that gold and silver ourselves, I’d be able to make  as much magic equipment as I’d like.”

Your excellency.

“Ah, yes. Got it, got it, I’m properly listening. You recommended this triple deposit, yes? I’ll also make estimates for the pollution control facility later, so let me consult the person in charge.”

I responded hurriedly to his unexpectedly piercing reaction. Victor and Laubert, these people surprisingly don’t pamper me. Though that part was my doing, times like these would make me think that it would be better for me if I were to make them a bit more reasonable.

“I’m really asking you here. Mineral poisoning is a serious case…. Well then, on to the next issue. It’s about the construction of your formal mansion that was entrusted to Laubert.”

“As I thought, was the land I wanted no good?”

I asked proactively.

The matter in question was about the planned construction site for my residence. I’ve selected myself a place where the land’s spiritual power is good, which is suitable for building in alchemy lab.

However, there’s some problems there…..

“Of course it’s no good. The designated land was far too detached from the town. It can’t be used as an administrative centre that way. The one you proposed within the town is also out of the question. Isn’t that the place where the church currently is? You’re going to destroy a church in order to build your residence, even your low reputation will go rock-bottom this time around, you know?”

Victor’s reply was within my expectations.

The land where the spiritual power is strong and within the boundary of the town is mostly dominated by the church. Its purpose is so that the priests may use it as a ritual ground in order to cast large-scale holy magic. If I were to forcibly take the land from them, it would mean that I would be adding even religion into the long list of my enemies. Besides, as recovery magic is practised there, the church of this world also functions as a hospital. If the lord were to destroy it out of his own selfishness, it would be inevitable that the support of the people would plummet.

On the other hand, if the administrative processing capability were to decline because the residence was built far from the town, then my problems, in the eyes of the lot from the capital, would soar as well. How troubling.

“Better yet, can’t you just make your laboratory separate from the residence?”

“I wouldn’t be troubled if that’s possible. But, think about it. Every single day, the lord is seen to be entering and leaving a mysterious facility in a place out of town. If my brother and your father were to hear about it, they would gleefully come to investigate. To make matters worse, ever since I got here, my research has become too radical.”

“That’s your just deserts though? As if a dark elven slave wasn’t enough, now you went as far as dragging a vampire into this. Had I not been brainwashed, I’d find myself running to the church, the High Court, or the Adventurer’s Guild.”

Even though his lord is venting about his problems, that’s what this vassal is concerned about.

I reflexively looked up to the heavens.

“Ah, good grief….. I thought that I just got back from a dim underground dungeon, and now there’s this. Sigh, can’t I ever catch a break——–”

At that time. There were something flashing in my mind.

 

 

—– Better yet, can’t you just make your laboratory separate from the residence? —–

—– I thought that I just got back from a dim underground dungeon —–

—– If we could dig out that gold and silver ourselves, I’d be able to make as much magic equipment as I’d like. —-

—– Huge golems to deploy there, wouldn’t we able to excavate it right away? —–

—– Such a convenient thing, huh, this transition magic is. ———–

 

 

Those words became a dot, and then a line was created between them, as they linked with each other, they built a picture.

This is… by any chance, could this idea be viable?

Or rather, how come I couldn’t figure out something this simple?”

“Your Excellency? Are you okay?”

“—- That’s right, yes. If it’s like that, then won’t it all be okay? In the unlikely event where their investigating hands were to break into the residence, with this move, it wouldn’t be a problem….”

Paying no attention to Victor’s words,  I was piecing the plan together.

After I finished my trial calculations, I rose from my chair and called her.

“Uni.”

“Yes, by your side.”

Victor’s eyes went round as he saw that Uni appeared without a sound, but I ignored him.

I don’t do it so much now, and besides, Uni appearing as soon as I call her should already be a common knowledge around these parts.

“The construction of the lab will be moved ahead of schedule. We can’t afford to leisurely wait until the snow thaws. Let’s start right now.”

“As you wish.”

“Ple, Please wait, Your Excellency. Lab construction, right now, you said? Where would that be? And what about the new residence?”

Victor’s somewhat noisy. But well, if he hears this idea, he will be silent and go along with it.

“As for the plans for the new residence, I’ll leave it to Laubert and you. Build it wherever you wish. If you’re the one building it, even if it’s seen from a nobleman’s perspective, you won’t build that much of a weird building now, will you?”

“That goes without saying though …”

“But you’ll have to make a mansion with a large basement in it. You can build it under the pretext of storage, or a wine cellar.”

“Will that be fine for the lab?”

“As you suggested, I decided to build it apart from the living quarters. The place is… right.”

After thinking for a moment, I pointed to a spot in the map.

“Let’s build it here. It’s decided.”

As he saw the spot that I pointed at, Victor’s mouth hung open without his usual grace of a young nobleman.

It’s probably because of the construction site I proposed. On top of being too far detached from the town, no matter how one might think about it, it would be impossible to make something like a lab there.

But, that’s where this idea is brilliant.

“Ju, just what are thinking, Your Excellency!? Your Excellency!?”

As I heard his confused voice which I haven’t heard for quite a while, Uni and I left the office.

I walked in an excited, exhilarated manner that was so unlike me.

Although one of the vassals who passed me in the hallway found it creepy, I didn’t pay it any mind.

“It’s good that Master’s happy. Well then, what might you be thinking of?”

“Yes, well, hear me out.”

To Uni who boldly asked me, I confided her in this idea that I just thought of.

As if she had just heard something impossible, she blinked her eyes several times over.

“That is quite the outrageous idea….”

“Are you opposed to it?”

“No— I do not mean it that way.”

Uni seemed to be taken aback, but she soon gave me her seal of approval.

Like during that time with Charl, she said so without overlooking her apprehension no matter how small. I’m becoming more and more confident in this idea.