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.
Latter half of the chapter hasn’t been edited yet. Will do it after work. IT’S DONE, IT’S EDITED, HIP HIP HOORAY!
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.
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
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,
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—-
—– let out a sleeper’s breath, then fell to the floor.
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?
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.
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.”
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.
“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!”
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.”
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.”
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—-
The ranger screamed out of surprise.
His voice was loud, but Gael couldn’t blame him.
Even Gael, for when he saw that,
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!”
When he heard the ranger’s words, Gael felt that he caught on to something.
“Kill them. like animals?”
The mage who had kept his silence opened his mouth in embarrassment.
“Isn’t this beef, like, for cooking?”
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.
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.
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.’
“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.
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.”
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?”
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.”
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.
I take out the communication tool from my chest and bring it closer to my mouth.
“Drei, bring the entrance to us.”
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?”
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.