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New Game – Chapter 40

What was of the man who opened the birdcage – Part 2

The dark basement room was painted with pale shades of melancholy. The dim sources of light glowing around were scattered magic tools. Natural light never reached that place.

Kiad was cowering on the floor, his body shaking. What had been of his brawny figure was now gone. He looked one or two sizes smaller and weaker than before.
No light shone in his dead-looking eyes as he scanned around the room.

What was placed on his desk was now littering the floor. All his documents were torn to pieces and chunks of wood lied nearby the walls—they were probably former chairs he had smashed.

Kiad had been deprived of his magic power. Takumi cast him in that hell after their fight.
He could no longer active any of the law formulas his father had researched for so long.
Despite being blood-related to Elvis, he never tasted his father’s benevolence or mercy. All he had to do was not to fail, and if he did once, he wasn’t allowed to a second time.

Elvis, who only cared about the sheer power of people, wouldn’t let his children inherit the family’s headship only because they were his legitimate sons. Sigurd—Kiad’s younger brother—had been chosen to be the heir to the throne given his diligence to his father’s orders.
He never failed to complete one.

On the other hand… Kiad’s destiny was to become a miserable laughing stock if people came to know he had lost his magic power.

“I… I won’t fail again…!”

He squeezed those words out of his throat, but his hand tremors betrayed his confidence.
The afterimage of that obnoxious, triumphant smile was burnt in his mind—it flickered endlessly, and so did his fortitude.
He had walked on his path through life by believing in himself and acting as he wanted… but now he couldn’t take a single step forward—no future pictured him victorious.

“If only… If only I had won that battle…!”

He firmly believed he could win the match Elvis had stopped. He knew he could’ve won against Takumi back then. This wasn’t his arrogance talking, it was just a matter of fact—Kiad was definitely strong and possessed the strongest magic in the entire Kingdom, the valiant Fortesea’s. That slave merchant didn’t stand a chance to win against him.
However, Elvis wasn’t sure of it, so things turned out like this. His father had denied him that victory.

“Right… it wasn’t my fault…! I wasn’t the cause of my defeat…!”

Yes, his father had just grown old and coward… he didn’t need to care about him.
He only had to be himself… and act as he wanted to.
The moment a breath of relief blew into him, he heard someone knocking on the door.

“I SAID I DON’T WANT TO MEET—”

“Don’t you dare to speak to your father like that.”

Kiad grasped right away who was talking and shrunk even further.
The door opened slowly, letting in the ticking sound of his cane tapping the floor.

“I haven’t seen your face in a while… you look awful.”

The man’s grave voice fit his stony expression, as he looked down his pitiful son.

“Father… why are you here?”

“What a strange question. A father should visit his sons when they’re moping.”

Kiad clicked his tongue in his mind at those shameless words. He knew his father had just lied. Elvis Fortesea didn’t have the slightest ounce of familial love within him—his sons were just useful or useless beings like any other.

“I ordered Suzuran’s slave merchant and his attendants to hunt some monsters.”

“Hunt some monsters…?”

“Yes. This time I’m worried, so I took the right measures.”

Strangely enough, there was a shade of emotions in Elvis’ voice.

“Putting your failure aside, my blood runs through your veins. As opposed to Sigurd, who would be a mere nobody without me, you have the makings of a Valiant Fortesea… I’m here to grant you a chance to redeem yourself, although I never invested my time on you so far. Help me, instead of rotting away in a place like this.”

Kiad raised his head, light returning to his eyes—his father had praised him.

“Will you… let me redeem myself?”

“Why wouldn’t I? This is my consideration for my son.”

“I… I will surely repay your kindness.”

Kiad bowed his head down.
He didn’t expect his father to show him any mercy… but now, he could have his revenge. He could fan its flames by seething anger and hatred. That obnoxious slave merchant would pay for what he had done.

“I already sent a message to Sigurd. He’s incompetent but he obeys my words. He should be heading to Renunt by now.”

“Sigurd…? So will he use Denmerg’s monsters?”

“Of course. That slave merchant might hinder my plans, so burning his surroundings to the ground and letting him squirm in despair is the least he deserves.”

Tack, tack—Elvis repeatedly stabbed the ground with his cane.
Takumi wasn’t someone he could just mess around with, so he carefully gathered enough resources to take him down.

“If I use the magic crystal that Archbishop Crest made for you, our plan will be perfect… and there’s no way it won’t be, so there’s nothing to fear.”

Kiad was paying particular attention to his father’s words. When he perceived the glacial tone in the old man’s voice, he suddenly understood that something was off.

“So… what should I do for you, father?”

“Mh? Do you not understand?”

“I apologize… As far as I grasped, the plan is to make Sigurd crush them. That’s why you ordered him to go to…”

“Do you not understand, Kiad?”

His father interrupted him brazenly and stabbed him on the chest with his cane, a brimming smile distorting his face.

“Ouch…! What…?”

Kiad let out a dumb voice when he looked down to see the butt end of the cane piercing him.

“I see… so he did something to you. Given that you can’t use magic or activate magic tools, he must have messed up your magic formula, huh…?”

Elvis kept stabbing his son’s chest, his expression never changing. His heartless gaze made him look like he was looking down on a worm.

“This is my consideration for you. My plan would be flawless without you… so don’t be afraid of the future and depart to the same sky all the heroes are sleeping in.”

“Don’t… mess with me…! Are you saying I should die here…?!”

Kiad grabbed the cane that was stabbing him, trying to defend himself, but the slender arms of the old man were insanely strong, and gradually his stabs became harsher.

“You are miserable, Kiad.”

When his cane impaled his son, he twisted it and saw Kiad spitting an ominous amount of blood.

“You’re way too incompetent and you’ve always failed to notice. You’re just a worthless nobody who thinks too much of himself, and you even failed to follow my steps. Your smoldered, almost non-existent ambition is but a fragment of wisdom… but let me tell you something.”

His cold words cut Kiad like a knife as he readied to stab him again in the hole he had dug on his chest.

“The only reason you are alive was to breed so that the blood of Fortesea could keep flowing through this world after my death… that was the only expectation I had for you, and yet you couldn’t live up to that too. You’re just a useless pig groveling on this earth.”

Elvis never stopped stabbing his son while talking.

“Still, I found some worth into your uselessness. Even a waste like you could be a pawn against that obnoxious slave merchant. Rejoice, for your end has now a meaning that it wouldn’t have had otherwise. First, you let that slave merchant get the better of you—dancing on his palm like a puppet has been ridicule of you—then you let him take Lise away from you, and lastly you let him destroy your magic formula, which was something inviolable. No one must know about it.”

When his son’s consciousness started to dim, Elvis remembered something and stopped for a moment his lunatic assault.

“Right… I almost forgot to tell you. This is the first time you’ve been of any use to me, dear son.”

His expression was stony and cold as he watched the light in Kiad’s eyes die out.


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Guild Master – Chapter 44

TL note: it only took me two years and a half to notice that the 12 guilds in this novel are actually references to the zodiac costellations, sooo… yep, some names are going to change:
Silver Mug –> Silver Aquarius
White Goat –> White Aries
Purple Scorpion –> Purple Scorpio.
Mhhh… taste of epic fail…


The king of guilds and the underwater danger

The second floor of our guild’s dormitory was almost empty, but the rooms were ready to host people, so I proposed Zect and Mizuha to sleep there.

“Tomorrow I’ll officially leave Blue Sagittarius. I’ll also take the stuff I’ve left there back. Not like there was anything important, but still…”
“Let me come too! I’ve left some of my stuff there as well.”
“Leave it to me. You didn’t have much stuff with you, I can handle it by myself. Go rest for today.”

Zect then shifted his gaze from his sister to Verlaine and I.

“Thank you for everything. I’ll leave her in your care.”

The next moment, he turned around to leave the room.

“Zect, the guys from Blue Sagittarius who guarded the demi-humans’ prison are just sleeping, right?”
“Yes. I made them faint with a blow from behind, so none should’ve seen or recognized me. Thinking about it, all of them might become homeless once we sue Blue Sagittarius…”
“We could say they were obliged to Blue Sagittarius, as it was the place they worked in, but they reaped what they sowed. They might get employed by another guild, anyway. If we exclude ours and Blue Sagittarius from their options, they still have ten other chances in the capital.”

Garamdoor imprisoned and sold demi-humans as rare articles. Their actions were extremely illegal by the law of the capital, so their trading license was going to be blocked and their organization dismantled. Blue Sagittarius was their accomplice, so its Guild Master probably had to dismiss from their position as well.

The Royal Court, an organ of state under the direct supervision of the King, would declare it in the court hearing.1 If necessary, the Royal Court could even mobilize the army and the royal knights to make the population abide by the laws. A guild could try to fight back, but that would’ve potentially made them face the knights—their end. We can say there wasn’t any organization in the entire capital who could escape the law’s iron grip.

Actually, my guild and White Aries had enough power to withstand them, so what I just said isn’t entirely true, but doing something like that would plunge the entire country into chaos… that wasn’t exactly what we hoped for. I wasn’t unsatisfied of the laws yet.

“We should assume that Blue Sagittarius’ Guild Master knew what Garamdoor was doing and accepted to collaborate. If that’s the whole point of this, Blue Sagittarius will either be forced to stop any activity for some time or have their Guild Master dismissed from the position.”
“Our former Guild Master resigned due to the bad results the guild was achieving, right, Master? In that case, replacing a Guild Master should not be that much of a hurdle.”
“I’ve been here for five years now. I’ve seen people retiring by themselves, but none of them have resigned from their position before. This is going to be on everyone’s lips… although it won’t last forever, I guess.”

Then, a thought crossed my mind.

Blue Sagittarius was affiliated to White Aries. What would the top ranking guild think of us when they knew we were the cause Blue Sagittarius’ wrongdoings had been found out? Once their activity were officially suspended for some time… how would White Aries react?
I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

When I first became Guild Master of Silver Aquarius, all the other guilds were affiliated to White Aries except mine. Up until now, I made three guilds withdraw from that affiliation.

Vinceburg’s underlings were part of Purple Scorpio, which was just another guild affiliated to White Aries… thinking about it, I had to gather some more information about White Aries’ Guild Master. Maybe they were behind this case too.

What if White Aries was planning something obscure along with the seven other guilds affiliated to it…? I didn’t like conspiracy theories, but what if that was actually true…?

“What’s up, Guild Master?”
“Oh, nothing, Mizuha. Leave Blue Sagittarius and Garamdoor to me. I only have to show the Royal Court the proofs our intelligence has gathered.”

Anyway, this wasn’t probably going to end only by pointing the wrongdoings of two organizations out.

I felt like somebody had pulled the strings of this matter… but who? White Aries’ Guild Master? Or… someone else?

I had to research the influential guilds of the capital, which meant paying extra attention to everything. It was time to gather my intelligence team and talk things over with them.

◆◇◆

I knew some of the guilds that were affiliated to White Aries. When we had to rival against Red Gemini, I met their Guild Master to talk it over. I heard from White Aries that she was perfect for the job, but it had been a while since I last saw her.

I knew Black Leo’s Guild Master too. His guild wasn’t affiliated with anyone and they were rivals of White Aries, so I could’ve probably earned their help if I played the right cards.

If we found out that White Aries was planning something darker than expected, the capital would’ve become a sort of war zone. Was it worth to keep investigating, knowing that it could’ve caused a disaster like that?
I kept racking my brain over a solution, and time went by slowly in my office on the second floor…

“Master, what is it? You look lost in thoughts.”
“Purple Scorpio is affiliated with White Aries. We might have to face them.”
“…I see. Are you worried about our guild members and their closest relatives? I don’t think we’ll face a foe that wicked, and if there was someone pulling the strings of the demi-human traffic, that someone would be like cancer for this city. I understand and share your worries on the matter.”

Verlaine’s words made me feel somewhat better.

I didn’t fear White Aries. The city could’ve took their side, but that wouldn’t have stopped me from fighting them with all my might.

“There might be more victims if we don’t take care of Mizuha and the other demi-humans. This is what bothers me the most. If what you addressed as cancer really does exist, it will surely keep this up.”
“Then push onward your researches. Ask the intelligence team to move as you’ve done so far. As long as it’s within this capital, it can’t hide forever. If Dick Silver from Silver Aquarius means it, he can reach even the top secrets information, isn’t it?”

At first, I created our intelligence team to search for requests that only we could fulfill.

Even if I knew about the internal condition of other guilds and that led me to some other additional information, I never ordered to search a guild specifically.

There were twelve guilds for a reason—they all had a role. As I didn’t want anyone to nose around my guild, I made a taboo of investigating the others.

And yet, this time I had to break it. I had to interfere with them and gather information about them.
Furthermore, I needed to pry into all the other guilds.
I thought interfering from the shadows was right… Everything could go my way, but that had never been my intention… so far.

The next moment, I understood that something had changed inside me.

I noticed that… to stop demi-humans from being assaulted, I couldn’t just deal with every single case about them. That wasn’t a solution to the problem.

“I might say too much as a mere maid, Master. Forgive me in advance, but as the former Demon Lord, I will speak my mind freely. You should rule over all the guilds of this capital.”
“What?! W-Why should I? I’m fine with being Guild Master of the 12th guild. I would be arrogant just by considering your suggestion.”
“I wouldn’t call arrogant those who stand above the others and have the ability to be so. What we call a king is something that people want to be led by… and you, Master, should become the king of all guilds. It doesn’t matter if you seem to only keep the twelfth, I believe you should extend your control over the others too. I feel like everything will surely bend to your ideals.”

Never before had I heard words that straightforward… and frustration started to well within me for having thought about it in the past.

I wanted the best outcome without standing in the limelight.
I wanted to live quietly and egoistically like I had been so far, accepting jobs I was interested into and drinking all day.
My guild had finally grown closer to the ideals I embraced.
That’s why there was no reason to extend my influence over the other guilds… or at least, that was what I believed up to that day.

I wanted to fix the ill feelings between humans and demi-humans. That was the cause I wanted to follow although it didn’t suit me at all.

“Right… I don’t need to rule over them… I can just influence them.”
“Eheheh… I’d call it a great step onward. I always believed you could have the capital in your hands, Master. Information are a strong weapon, and no one is better than you at gathering them. No one has better instruments than you to do it. Your influence might reach the farthest place in the world if you only wanted to. The Transfer Magic circles are just proof that this guild is already working on it.”

Having the capital in my hands…? Becoming someone who rules from the shadows, leaving the center of attention to the real King and becoming in turn a secret King…?

That thought made me crack a smile. Wouldn’t people call that… a Demon Lord?

“Grrr… what’s so funny? You think I’m speaking the absurd?”
“No, not at all. I just thought you’ve really been the Demon Lord, Verlaine. Of course, I mean it in a good way.”
“…I might speak like one, but currently I’m just a failed Demon Lord—I moved into the house of a human I rigorously serve every day due to my expectations. Thinking about it, I look like an impulsive girl who’s run away from home.”

She laughed at herself. Phrasing it that way probably made it sound funnier than expected for her.

“Let’s keep doing things our way for now… and let’s act when it’s needed. I just hope the top guild doesn’t have any rotten egg among their members.”
“If that will be the case, you should just extend your hand to grasp all the guilds in this capital from the shadows, Master. It would be better to do it for your just cause.”

Verlaine’s opinion of me never wavered. She was unbelievably strong, and yet she was now my subordinate. Was she actually fine with wasting her life on someone like me? I couldn’t stop that thought from surfacing in my mind.

Her purple irises shone like amethysts the moment we locked eyes with each other, the color of her hair darkening.

She said she liked to talk to me. That was the key to know someone better… and I believed her words nailed the situation.

Why did she want to dispel my doubts?

She mentioned her expectations. If I betrayed them, would she have returned home to the demonic region?

“S-Stop looking at me like that… I’m good at attacking, but defending is hard…”
“I see… that’s why we won back then, huh?”

I knew she meant something else, but I still wanted to crack a joke. She let out a soft chuckle, her eyes still locked with mine.

We couldn’t look away. If one did, our relationship was going to change forever.

In the end… I doubted it would’ve been a turn for worse.

But… was that thought really mine… or was it just the thought of a lone guy?

Clack.

The sound of the door opening behind us blocked my train of thoughts.
I was so used to being interrupted at that point that I guessed the Goddess of Destiny was just fooling with me.

“Grrr…! L-Lady Mylarka? What is it? Weren’t you sleeping in the living room?”

Right. Mylarka, Yuma and Aileen were spending the night here and they should’ve been sleeping on the sofa in the living room. What was the genius girl doing here, spacing out still half-asleep?

“I need the toilet, where is it…? Gosh, my head hurts… It won’t explode, right…?”
“W-Wait, Mylarka! I’ll heal your headache right away. Sorry, I forgot to sober you up before.”
“No problem, I enjoyed it anyway… You didn’t do anything funny while I was sleeping, did you?”
“BHHH—W-What do you mean?! Oh, right, you’re still half-asleep… I won’t take it seriously.”
“Master, I’ll show Miss Mylarka to the toilet. It would be better for a girl to help another now.”

Verlaine arranged her look quickly, made Mylarka hold onto her and helped her walk to the floor below. The only toilet in the entire building was on the first floor, so she had to use that.

When I looked at my desk, I noticed the red mark of Verlaine’s lips on the cup of tea she had left behind.

What I felt a few minutes before resurfaced within me, and I ended up wondering… what would’ve happened if Mylarka didn’t interrupt us?

◆◇◆

It was pretty late when I went to take my bath.

The water was very hot when Mizuha took hers, so now it should’ve been just lukewarm. It was probably better to heat it again.

“…Mh?”

I entered the bathroom without thinking and I noticed a bit too late that there were bubbles popping on the water surface of the bathtub.

Who the heck was hiding underwater?! Was it some assassin?! No, wait, let’s think about it rationally… it was surely someone who was sleeping here, and the only two persons small enough to fit entirely in the bathtub were Yuma and…

Splaaash~!

“Hey there~! It’s me~!”

Looking at the humanoid figure who emerged from the bathtub, I thanked any superior entity for making Verlaine and Mylarka go downstairs. I was reminded again of how fleeting the sense of relief was when someone could finally satisfy the eager of bathing.


1 I’m not good with law-related stuff. The original (国王直属の法務庁の審問官たち) actually says “ministers meeting/hearing under the direct supervision of the king”, but I thought it would be closer to the Supreme Court, where they just do the trial under the supervision of the King. I’ll probably keep Supreme Court given the Japanese one, but feel free to suggest something that works better!

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New Game – Chapter 39

What was of the man who opened the birdcage – Part 1

Two weeks after Lize had become property of the Queen, Lux called Takumi to see him in his office. It was within the castle.

“Hi, slave merchant. This time you’ve really met my expectations in a positive way.”

Lux looked totally different from the last time as he spoke in a good mood. On the other hand, Takumi let out a listless yawn.

“Yeah, whatever, I’m glad to hear that… Have I ever mentioned that seeing you Fairstadt in a good mood kinda pisses me off? Because it does and it’s strange. Maybe I’m getting why Kunon gives her worst when she’s around you.”

“You could’ve spared me your dumb remark and avoided pissing me off too. But well, thanks to you the Queen has dragged me into her plan, so I’ll turn a blind eye for now.”

“Thank you. Why did you call me all the way here, anyway?”

Lux straightened himself, a sour expression on his face. He knew their conversation wasn’t going to be pleasant.

“Let’s start from the good news. The Queen has assigned your knight subordinates their territory. It’s the place you asked for.”

As he spoke, Lux took out a document from his desk and handed it over.

“Finally… now many things are going to be easier.”

“Many things, huh…? I can’t let my guard down when you’re involved… What are you up to this time? Don’t go too far, or you’ll have to face a bothersome guy.”

Lux squinted his eyes slightly as he pushed the conversation on.

“Elvis has acknowledged you as his enemy. It would be better if you don’t draw his attention too much.”

“Do you think I’ll stay put only for this?”

“Of course not, but he’s surely the most bothersome person in the entire kingdom. What I’m about to say goes for you too—the scariest people are those who are hard or impossible to read.”

Lux propped his chin with his hand while tapping repeatedly on the desk with a finger.

“He wasn’t only behind Archbishop Crest’s law formula’s experiments. I heard he was in contact with many major companies of the northern districts during the former empire, and he also has contacts with Denmerg. He must be searching for something and hiding his true objective… but gathering information about him doesn’t help to piece everything together.”

No matter how inexperienced Lux was, he was still an Overlord with all the privileges it included. This meant that if he couldn’t figure out what Elvis was planning despite doing his researches on him, the Fortesea’s leader was particularly good at covering his actions up.

“The only thing I’m sure about is that he’s planning something from the shadows. Keep your eyes peeled, okay?”

“Yeah, sure. So I should also find a way to gather information about him and share them with you?”

“I knew you would’ve gone straight to the point, but I don’t want you to do anything reckless. To be honest, it would be a hard blow if we were to lose you now.”

“…Meeting your expectations brings as many fruits as problems, you know? Nobles have been sending me petitions since our official fight was announced.”

Takumi shrugged his shoulders lightly while Lux’s grimaced, patting his stomach.
The nobles saw magic as something peerless and none would’ve expected for mere demi-humans to squash that one-sidedly. The obvious consequence of such an absurdity was a lingering feeling of distress for those who had been looking down on demi-humans for so long.

“On the other hand, we’re now heroes for the slums, aren’t we? This is the first time in history that some demi-humans earn the title of knights.”

“Well, you’ve been heroes for a while now. The heroic major company that fights injustice, the heroic knights who ascended from the slums… and the heroic monster hunters, I guess.”

Lux handed over an envelope to the slave merchant.

“Let’s get to the bad news. Elvis Fortesea ordered the new novice knights to exterminate some monsters.”

Takumi scanned the documents in the envelope quickly while Lux filled him with the details.

“They’ve been assigned to Renunt Village, which it’s been attacked by monsters. Kunon and Karin are to eliminate the monsters and improve the village’s morale. This way you will also shut the skeptical nobles down by showing them your abilities.”

The next moment, Takumi made a sour expression.

“…You’re kidding, right?”

“Can’t you see Elvis’ official stamp down there?”

“I don’t care if it’s authentic. Can’t I just burn this down and go home?”

“Congratulations, you’ve been accused of treason. The jail will be your new home now.”

Lux smiled bitterly in front of Takumi’s deep sigh.

“Don’t worry, Renunt Village is nearby the foot of Meld mountain range in the North. That’s probably why we get report of minor monsters attacking the village. That shouldn’t be a problem for you guys, right?”

Monsters were living creatures in their world.
Sometimes the magical power on the earth made some beasts outgrow. These oddities were called ‘monsters’, as they were usually dangerous, and there was often need to eliminate them.

Still, the minor ones weren’t that dangerous.
As for the few times that one of them outgrew, even a strong man who grasped the basis of martial arts or a woman who knew how to build and lay traps around could capture them without much effort.

“Well, your order from above is essentially to make a good impression on your boss. Now, no matter how minor these monsters are, we received a lot of reports about their attacks. It might be hard to deal with all of them without a magic knight if there are too many, but try to deal with it and protect the village.”

“…How many reports did you receive?”

“Perhaps dozens? None of the nearby village reported serious damage, though.”

Takumi’s expression warped in an instant, hearing those words.
Then, his usual smile returned to crack his face.

“…Well, as long as we don’t have to hunt some major monster or have to deal with insane requests, everything’s fine.”

“Where is your usual ‘it’s gonna be a piece of cake’ sort of arrogance?”

“I mean, as long as we have to deal with minor monsters or middle class ones, it might only be a hassle… but the major ones can use magic, you know?”

The middle class monsters had humongous bodies, but it ‘merely’ took several men to defeat one.
On the other hand, the major monsters not only had humongous bodies, they could also use magic. This meant that their size usually placed them at the top of the food chain, and their magic simply confirmed that position—they could literally be man-eating giants.
The worst part was that monsters not only feasted on humans, but on their magic formulas too, which meant they had to be vanquished as soon as possible.

“If one who can use advanced magic was to appear, this country might be done for.”

“You’re right. We handled them the few times they appeared, but I remember some years ago the majority of the magic knights had been deployed to bring one down. Probably only the heroes in the west city-states could have faced it alone like us.”

“Yeah, fighting a monster like that would be a huge pain in the ass. But humans are still scarier than monsters.”

“I agree. Elvis sent you this directive for a reason. I’m sure he’s planning something… and you should consider Kiad taking his revenge too.”

Lux crossed his arms on his chest, wearing a sour expression.

“I heard he has changed in a bad way. The guards in the upper layers said his arrogance is gone and he always looks tired and almost emaciated. He hasn’t set foot outside his mansion once yet.”

“Oww, poor thing. I did something horrible.”

“Please, I know you don’t feel sorry at all… honestly, he deserved it. He was rather unpleasant to see, so you have my gratitude.”

Lux shrugged his shoulders, then faced Takumi with a sharp gaze.

“Anyhow, just be careful, okay? You still have lots of things to do.”

“Yeah, sure. Guess I’ll cut my subordinates some slack for once, then.”

“…Excuse me?”

Lux was even more puzzled to see Takumi’s merry expression.

“I mean, Renunt Village has some hot springs, right? We got assigned there, so we could take a breather and enjoy a bath for once.”

“…Don’t tell me you asked for a place in the middle of nowhere like that only for this reason.”

“What, is it so wrong? I like bathing and I love hot springs. The reason I accepted the Queen’s request has been half for Lize and half for the hot springs.”

“I don’t know why I feel like that’s not all there is to it… also, I think I’m getting why you’re this happy…”

Lux felt all his strength drain away while Takumi put all the documents in his bag.

“I’ll take my leave now. I have a guest today.”

“A guest…? Oh, Archbishop Crest?”

“Exactly. I heard she was ordered to get along and deepen her friendship with the major company Suzuran by the Queen. Our chief is in high spirits since this morning.”

“Oh… Mirta is? That sounds good, doesn’t it?”

A bitter smile thinned Lux’s lips as he recalled Mirta when they were younger.

“By the way, can I borrow Elsa for a bit?”

“Sure thing. If I let her handle you, my stomachache will surely get better.”

“Don’t force your stupid stomachache on each other, siblings.”

“I don’t want to hear that from its living cause. Go have all the fun you want.”

Takumi exited the room the next moment with light steps, closing the door behind him. Lux could finally let out a soft sigh of relief.

“I can’t read you at all…”

His words were directed to the door the bothersome slave merchant had just closed behind him.


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Guild Master – Chapter 43

Hey there~! Guess I never really introduced myself so far. I’m Zahj, AcanTranslation’s only translator. I’m going to write a brief summary of my 2019 before the chapter to make everyone know why AcanTranslation’s releases have been so sporadic this year. Feel free to skip this, but please, read the “tl note”!

We’ve been on a hiatus for some months because my former editor had a lot of exams at his university and a lot of stuff to do at work, so he couldn’t dedicate any time to these projects (and he still doesn’t). I’m talking about December 2018 – January 2019. In that period, I was so tired of translating I just had to take some time for me… and so I did. Unluckily, I’m the kind of guy who forgets or doesn’t want to rest, so it isn’t uncommon for me to be saturated (which we can roughly translate as “I’m dumb, please be patient”).
After taking an entire month for me my batteries were finally replenished, so I decided to wait a bit longer for my editor and improve my language skills on some other sectors of the translation world like mangas, comics, anime and stuff, but… well, dumbness kicked in and I ended up taking too many projects in my hands, so now I’m completely saturated with work.
After another month, I understood that I couldn’t keep waiting forever and I started to search for a new editor (who is the one currently helping me with New Game and Dick), and once I found one, it took her around two or three months to read through all the past chapters to get to the point I was at. She is very busy with her life and university, so it couldn’t be helped.

The beneficial part of all of this is that I got to be an “official translator” for some projects by working my ass off (I’ll link them in the next chapters of these series when they’ll be ready) and I could meet and collaborate with a ton of adorable people. I also gained a bit of attention from the people I admired (yes guys, some senpais noticed me), so I’m very happy about the results I achieved… but on the other hand, it was all at the expenses of AcanTranslation’s projects, since I don’t have as much time as I had in 2017 or 2018 to work on them.
I’m currently working on a total of 10 projects divided into comics (I’m getting paid for some of them), animes (not in English) and light novels (Dick and New Game are included in them), and well, I was a bit too late to notice that’s a bit too much for a puny human like me to handle, so now I’m focusing on the paid projects and trying to complete the ones that are almost finished to get a bit more time to work on these novels and some other projects.
Be reassured: I have absolutely no intention to drop Dick or New Game. I won’t drop them even if someone “sniped” them, because I like these projects so far and I want to keep working on them.
I’ll try to release at least a chapter of them each month, but I’m sure sometimes I’ll fail to. Don’t hate me for that.

This will probably be the last post of the year, as I don’t think I’ll have time to work on New Game soon.
Let me thank you all for your patience and for following these series despite the long waiting time.
Oh, and thank you for pointing out that the website was dead for a few hours! I forgot to keep the dominion alive, but now it’s all fine and dandy!
Wish you a merry Christmas and a fun New Year’s!

TL note: I kind of mistranslated the way Mizuha talks, but I don’t really know how to convey it for now. She kind of alternates formal speaking and colloquial Kansai Dialect, but I didn’t know how to convey it in a proper English accent, so for now I changed her way of talking. Feel free to suggest changes about it, and thank you in advance if you do!


The blue fox tribe siblings and their homeland’s fruit

Blue Sagittarius helped Garamdoor with demi-humans trafficking.

I believed what Mizuha said, but I only had circumstantial evidences, so I couldn’t prove it yet. Also, even if I reported Garamdoor, we wouldn’t be able to demonstrate Blue Sagittarius’ involvement.

I was racking my brain about how to find a crucial proof… when Sakuya entered the shop from the backdoor. What a perfect timing, she had probably waited the end of our conversation.

“Master, the demi-humans prisoned in Garamdoor’s attic has been moved to another place, but I already figured their new location out.”
“Great job as always, Sakuya. So, where are they now?”
“Look at this map. This inn in the 11th street looks like many others, but I received eyewitness reports of Garamdoor’s people bringing huge luggages into it.

Zect and Mizuha’s expressions darkened at her words.
The young fox was clearly mad and she surely wasn’t afraid of fighting for her own kind. Her power wasn’t something to be underestimated, as Aileen had almost went all out in their showdown.

“Let us help too. I’d love to quench my revenge. But more than that, I wanna rescue those prisoners.”
“…Let me join too. I don’t want to kill anyone in the capital and I promise I won’t ruin the reputation of your guild.”

Aileen almost had to face Zect and Mizuha, who were two SS rank adventurers, ‘seriously’, so those siblings alone were more than enough to handle this mission… but three men could be better than two.

“If you allow me, I will be their guide.”
“Sure thing, Sakuya, please do. Sorry for always bothering you.”
“No bother. I was going to rescue those demi-humans anyway.”

Sakuya’s will was clear. The dedication in her investigation brought her to find the demi-humans’ new prison. If she went all out, she could’ve rescued them even by herself.

“Rigel, Lia, McKinley, well done. Your job is over, so feel free to go home and relax.”
“Yay! We’d like to help too, but it would be bad if we attracted attention for being too many on the move, so I’ll just go home.”
“Let us know if we can help. We’ll make sure to be ready for anything.”

After that, Rigel and McKinley left the room and headed to the guild’s dormitory.

“Mister Guild Master, I’d love to help too… as a fellow demi-human, I want to rescue them.”
“Are you sure? You just got back from a mission, aren’t you tired? Let me heal you and rest for a bit.”
“Mhh… T-Thank you, but you don’t need to worry. I trust my stamina.”

I cast Healing Light on her to help her recover… and while I was on it, I did the same on everyone else. It didn’t even cost me much magical power.

“Master, I was not expecting to be healed… your consideration warms my heart.”
“Even priests hesitate to use Healing Magic due to its huge cost of magical power… I really admire your kindness, Sir Guild Master.”
“…What on earth is your main job?”
“Brother, what a silly question. Is he not a Guild Master?”
“It should be written on my guild tag, but unluckily I don’t have it with me right now.”

I deceived them and recalled what was really written on my guild tag…
Oh boy, they’d have seen I’m a SSS rank adventurer with ‘Demon Lord Slayer’ as my job…! All my efforts to be unnoticed would’ve gone to waste!

On the other hand, I was starting to take into consideration the possibility of acting in the frontline instead of pulling the strings from the shadows…

Wait, that wasn’t the time to think about it. The next moment, I noticed Aileen eyeing Mizuha.

“Oh, right, Mizuha! You’re only wearing that overcoat, aren’t you cold? Do you want some warm clothes? I live nearby, I can get some for you.”
“I have another small maid dress like this in my room. It is on the second floor. Let me know if I should take it for you.”
“Are you sure? Then I’d… urr… I wanna…”

It was a hard choice: a onepiece dress with a long deep slit like one of Aileen’s martial art’s uniforms or Verlaine’s maid dress?

“…Since you work here I’m sure you need as many change of clothing as you can, so I’d go for Aileen’s, if I can.”
“Sure thing~! Wait a few minutes, I’ll get back in a flash!”

Aileen left the room and headed to her house while Verlaine brought a hand to her cheek.

“Usually, our customers enter the bar expecting a maid-dressed girl to serve them… losing against Lady Aileen is slightly vexing…”
“By the way, Mizuha, if I consider you as one of our employees, do you mind if I pair you up with Zect?”
“Guild Master, quit the formalities when you speak of me. I’d be your subordinate just like my sister, so you don’t have to be this midnful. Also, I’ve yet to start working for you.”
“Oh, okay. Got it.”
“Forgive my brother, he’s adamant on some topics. He’s always been the thickhead he looks like.”
“…Sorry.”

Zect’s reply was curt, but I could tell he wasn’t really angry. Mizuha knew it, that’s why she tried to laugh the matter off with that joke.

“…Now, would you like to take a bath before changing your clothes? Or do you prefer to wait until you return home?”
“Ah… s-sorry, I couldn’t bathe for some time. I-I must… s-smell like…!”
“You don’t smell. My overcoat is odorless.”
“Whatcha say?! I’m wearin’ it ’cause I can’t just walk ’round naked! It’s self-control! Do ya have any idea when I last took a bath?!”

It’s common for adventurer to camp outside, so they slowly grow accustomated to their own smell, but sometimes they get reminded of the importance of bathing.

When I was still an adventurer, there were times I didn’t bath for days, but whenever I got back home, my sisters forced me to take one. And well, now I got why. Bathing is a good thing, and even though the tub was a luxury, I would’ve used it every day if I could.

“Verlaine, can you prepare a bath for her? She’d probably like to change  clothes after it.”
“Can I?! Boy, It’s been so long since my last one I can’t believe I’m gonna take it now…! This guild’s adorbs! Don’t cha think too, Brother?”
“I’m glad you’re better, but stop playing around. I can feel shame too.”
“Please, turn a blind eye to her tomboyish behavior. She is still your adorable little sister.”
“Verlaine, how kind of you…! Ma’am, I like you! Can we live together?! My brother can live by himself, I’ll bother him every now and then!”
“Why are you… well, fine. Do as you please…”

Zect’s baffled expression was so precious I was about to forget he was a SS rank adventurer… but I had heard of his achievements in Blue Sagittarius, and they were all surely proof of his strength.

Rescuing the demi-humans from their prison wouldn’t be hard for him. If he paired with Sakuya, there wouldn’t be anything to do for me and I could leasurely drink all day in the bar.

“…Master, are you going to employ Mizuha as our waitress? She probably has the right attitude to join the intelligence department.”
“Oh, you think so too, Sakuya? These siblings look great, don’t you think?”
“Yes. What about measuring their adventurer score?”

Mizuha’s score probably rivalled Sakuya’s, or it was even higher than hers.
The blue fox tribe girl was stronger in her beast form, so now she should’ve more or less matched a S rank adventurer.

Since I broke our guild’s measurement instrument, I had to buy a new one… but maybe it was better to bring the siblings with me and let a specialist measure their score.

◆◇◆

The basement of the inn that Sakuya had pointed out really turned to be the prison of Garamdoor’s articles. It was guarded by some members of Blue Sagittarius, but they were all B or C rank adventurers, so Zect’s party easily defeated them all without being noticed.

Within the prison were a wolf girl and a racoon guy wearing the collar that forced them into their beast form. They were caged in different jails.

Once the collar was on, their consciousness dulled and they grew wild like beasts, so different species couldn’t be together, as they risked to attack each other. Some of the people ‘questioned’ by Zect’s party said that even beast-tamers gave up handling them.

The inquiring party welled with rage when they heard that, but none of them vented it on the inn’s owner or the Blue Saggittarius’ members guarding the prison.

Now that they had gathered the proofs they needed to uncover Garamdoor and Blue Sagittarius’ wrong doings, there was no need for the blue fox tribe siblings to take the law into their own hands.

Zect brought the rescued demi-humans to our guild and I asked the licenseless doctor living nearby to take care of their wounds, then we left the patients relax and sleep for the night. Meanwhile, Sakuya was able to get in touch with the wolf girl’s parents and she made them talk to the doctor to reassure them about their daughter’s conditions.

After that… my bar was lively as always.

Mylarka and Yuma came to the bar and were now drinking with Aileen in their private room.
Rigel and McKinley had returned too and were sitting at Lia’s table. They noisily talked about their adventure and every now and then the tiger race girl, who was usually silent, chimed in their talk curtly to remind them she was unluckily paying attention to their words.

I was sitting at the counter along with Mizuha, who was wearing a dress similar to Aileen’s and was hiding her fox ears with a hat, Zect, who sat alongside his sister, and Sakuya, who sat a bit far away from me. It was very rare for her to drink something at the bar, but tonight she felt like it and asked Verlaine a drink. It was carrot liquor blended with citrus juice.

“Thank you for your hard work, Lady Sakuya. Today you look quite in high spirits.”
“Yes. I always have a sense of fulfillment whenever I finish a job, but today I feel particularly fulfilled…”

I would’ve loved to hear what they were talking about, but I decided to make Mizuha and Zect taste what I made for them.

“Guys, try this out. I don’t know if it will fit your tastes, though.”

I asked Verlaine about the liquor and the drink I made, and she placed two glasses in front of me. After checking them one last time, I made them slide toward their consumers.

“T-This smell is… coconobi fruit mixed with goat’s milk… how do you…?”

Goats were the most common livestock of cold places. Even the fox tribe – which descended from the blue fox tribe’s same ancestor – raised them, so I guessed that the siblings would be quite familiar with it.

The glass for Mizuha was a ‘coconobi shake’. It was made by skinning the coconobi fruit, mashing its white part, straining it, adding some spices and honey to balance the flavor and then shaking it with cold goat milk.

The one for Zect was ‘coconobi rum’. It was made by steeping the edible part of the fruit in the rum and waiting for its extract to flavor the liquor. Unluckily, I only had one day to do it, so I didn’t know how much I should’ve left it there, but it turned out good anyway.

Unlike its white part, the blue skin of the coconobi fruit didn’t look very tasty, but once the edible part was soaked in rum, it started to turn a pale yellow and color the rum.

“Take a sip. It should taste familiar to the blue fox tribe.”
“When did you get this…? Did you know we were going to come here and prepared these in advance…?”

I didn’t answer. Not everything went as I planned and I didn’t know if they would’ve liked their drinks.

“Thanks for the treat. Mhh~! Gulp! Gulp!

Mizuha held the glass with both her hands, and after the first sip, she started to gulp it down only to stop halfway.

“It tastes like mom’s… It has the same flavor of the village’s… and it’s also…! My, who knew coconobi fruits could taste this good!”

She then returned to chug her drink down. Probably she didn’t drink much at the water cave.
Zect ended up doing the same: first he tasted the rum and opened his eyes wide in amazement, then he checked if his sister was liking her drink, and lastly he gulped his liquor down.

“To warm our body in snowy days, we often drink alcohol. Where did you get the idea of steeping a coconobi fruit into liquor…?”
“This is a bar and I love drinking nice stuff. I spend a lot of effort making drinks. Anyway, the most important part for me is that you liked it.”

The mug in front of me was filled with simple ale, but I had tasted their drinks before.

If I found a way to obtain coconobi fruits regularly, I could’ve added those drinks in the menu. Also, the nice part of those fruits was that they restored some magical power.

“Being a Guild Master is such a wonderful job, isn’t it? We just met each other and yet you’re trying to make me feel at home…!”

Tears welled in Mizuha’s eyes as she recalled her hometown.

Verlaine handed her a handkerchief, and Zect, looking at her sister tearing up, grabbed his glass, stood up and walked to me.

“It tastes like home… Guild Master, sorry for taking me so long to ask, but could you keep taking care of us?”

Mizuha grabbed her glass as well and walked to me. Both of them handed them over waiting for my answer.
I took my wooden mug and clinked it with the siblings’ glasses.

“Remember that I’m just a drunkard in this bar, so treat me accordingly. You’re forbidden from calling me Guild Master here.”

The siblings glanced at each other while Verlaine and Sakuya turned to look at me with a smile on their faces. They were clearly thinking ‘stop with that thing already’, but I couldn’t just stop following my principles out of the blue.

When Zect and Mizuha understood what I meant, they both smiled—it was the first time he showed me one, and only then I realized that, as obvious as it was, even he could smile.
I believed that was the true form of the man his sister knew so well.


<Prev | Index | Next>

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New Game – Chapter 38

The birdie’s tears – Part 6

The approaching evening darkened the sky, dimming Takumi’s path as he walked through the aquamarine garden. The glossy marble under his feet kept reflecting a faint light even in the sunset.

“Why, are you not a bit late?”

Eluria’s words reached Takumi when he entered the gazebo. Her gaze was wandering in the darkening sky.

“I’ve had to babysit your article and now she’s taking a nap. Do you mind it?”

The Queen looked at Lise and smiled happily as she stretched her hand to caress the child’s sleeping face.

“Ehehe… She is adorable even now, is she not?”

“Yeeeah, whatever. Let’s get down to business.”

Takumi lay the child nearby his customer and took a document off his breast pocket.

“This is Lise’s contract. I usually want the buyer to treat their slaves like human beings, but since this is quite a special case, there’s more stuff you’re bound to follow. Read this carefully before accepting.”

“There is no need to, I already understand what this is about. It goes along the lines of ‘this contract binds Queen Eluria to ensure the safety of Lise Crest and her mother Serena Crest. She also have to take care of the latter’s medical treatment fees’, right?”

She tittered and Takumi shrugged his shoulders.

“Do not worry, it was my intent from the start. Now that Lise belongs to me, I will do whatever it takes to protect her and her family. This is my moral duty, and if someone will dare to tarnish my vow, I shall act brazenly.”

“Right… the overlords hold the real power of the country in their hands, but they fear your dreadful amount of political power. However, as the embodiment of the city’s symbol and direct descendant of our Goddess, you can’t move around too much… but with Lise, now you can work around the problem.”

“Exactly. No matter how a showpiece of a Queen I am, I cannot let my country twist without lifting a finger.”

Her beaming grin betrayed the flaming rage in her eyes.

“I was enthroned when my predecessor, my mother, perished. Given my age at the time, the power of the country had to be split between the three overlords… thus I was robbed of my freedom.”

She didn’t own any executive power despite being the city’s living symbol and its Queen—her current condition was the mere product of the plan a third party had put into action.
No matter her authority or influential speeches, the overlords had the last word on the majority of the decisions.

“However, I shall now act through Lise and Lux. Especially against Elvis, that crafty man. Otherwise I will never be satisfied.”

“Good. Let us know if we can help. You can use Lise now, so stop sending us secret letters and strange invitations, okay?”

A request was written in the invitation to the buffet addressed to Suzuran: save a certain someone. That short message was the reason behind Takumi’s actions since the day he had read them.

“By the way, is Lux gonna join us too?”

“Yes. He is afraid of the power Fortesea is gathering, so we are collaborating to keep them under control.”

“Well, I made a profit from it last time, so I don’t mind it. By the way, can you answer one of my questions?”

Eluria nodded at him as he slightly changed his tone of voice.

“How did you notice that Kiad was mirroring information like that?”

The Archbishop would have never betrayed Kiad by telling someone the truth.
If Lise, who had magic tools that could mirror information with her, was to talk to Eluria, everything she’d hear would’ve been mirrored.

“You sent me a letter because you couldn’t ask it out loud, huh? And you even took into consideration that writing too much would’ve alerted the listeners by the prolonged sound of the brush on the paper, that’s why you kept the message short, right?”

“Exactly. I knew someone as observant as you could get what Lise was going through… after all, you have based your information network on the slaves you bind with those contracts, right?”

The slave merchant squinted his eyes—that was a top-secret information.
Only Takumi, Karin, Kunon and a part of the demi-human unit knew it. None of their closest and most intimate friends did.
The specific words ‘information network’ were just too specific even for someone like Killfer, who was very sharp and also part of the web. Only someone who already knew about it could have been that precise.

“The contracts you created are very interesting. The letters are positioned in specific ways, the overall layout is constant, everything is within edges or frames, you use different kinds of ink for different kinds of paper… there are various reasons behind it, right?”

She looked straight at Takumi, who had lowered his head lost in thought, as another titter slept from her lips. She had just addressed the true essence of his contracts.
A few instants later he reached the answer to his question and rose his head back, then faced the Queen’s gaze.

“I see… You got everything from looking at the law formula I created, huh?”

“Eheheh, you get full marks~! Or rather, I wish you had, but you only got half right.”

“I guess the other half is gonna be a secret, right?”

“It sure will. In exchange, no one will know the truth behind your contracts. Sharing a secret with your Queen sounds fun, does it not?”

“I’m about to ask you to spare me this link, oh wicked Queen…”

“Why, older women do not fit your taste?”

“They absolutely do. I’m still in time for a certain slave quite some times older than me, though.”

“Aww… not even I can match the beauty of an elf, huh…?”

Takumi couldn’t help but smile wryly in front of the dejected Queen who sadly brought a hand to her cheek.

“Anyhow, you did great this time. I really think you did, so do not doubt my words.”

“Well, that’s somewhat a reward. I mean, I’ve picked quite a hard fight for a single child.”

He pointed at Lise and Eluria stroke her head gently.

“She is not very different from me… used by adults since our childhood, left alone as our heart is worn down by loneliness… I want to save her from all of this.”

The sweet smile on her face was pure like the words she was speaking.

“Also, she is sooo adorable! Look! Look how she mumbles in her sleep! Her very existence is soothing for my heart… ugh!”

“Keep fooling around and she’s gonna wake up. I got that you’re like her stupid soft-hearted doting parent, but can’t you behave like a proper queen for once?”

“Why, are you not the soft-hearted one? You even put aside your objective to fulfill my request and save this child.”

Eluria squinted her eyes slightly as she took a deep breath.

“You planned to make magic lose its worth to strip Richtert of the deterrent keeping the other countries at bay… and no one have noticed any of this.”

Takumi shrugged his shoulders in silence.

“I only included Lise in my plan because I thought it’d be fun in the future.”

“Oww, you do not need to be that embarrassed.”

“I’m not saying this to hide my embarrassment. Also, it’s evident that I’m soft-hearted.”

A smile cracked Takumi’s face as he looked his Queen in the eyes.

“I am the Soft-hearted slave merchant, after all.”


<Prev | Index | Next>

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Guild Master – Chapter 42

 

The phantom fox’s real body and the new comrade

We’ve got sporadic guests even in that afternoon—that wasn’t a problem, though, as we pretty much opened our bar pretty much to welcome new requests, our own guild members or the nearby citizens who only wanted to grab some food.

I left the bar to take care of some ingredients when I went on my break. I was a sort of regular of every wholesale and retail store of the capital, even the smallest.

The shopkeepers of “Cardila store”, a little shop located in the 10th Street, passionately sold rare stuff. Since their goods weren’t common at all on the marketplace, they were often away to restock the shop, but whenever it opened—and I thought they could’ve just kept it opened more than once a week—I was always tempted to buy something from them.

“Aquarius’, are you interested in the ‘blue fox tribe’?”
“Yes. I’d love to stock up some food for them.”

I didn’t know the shop owner’s age, but she looked on her late twenties. She ran the shop with her husband, but I had never seen her before as she took off way more often than him.

Her generous clothes revealed plenty of her golden brown skin and I guessed she was probably from the southern regions—the desertic ones.
She wore many accessories on her neck and arms, but she didn’t look fond of divination or fortune-related stuff. They were probably hitting ratio boosting items1, albeit I wasn’t sure about it. I could tell they weren’t mere decorations, though.

She used to call people by shortening their guild or shop name instead of using their real name. This was a sort of rule for her, and yes, I was “Aquarius’”.

“I found that ‘coconobi fruit’ on a mountain nearby the blue fox tribe’s zone. Unluckily, I faced a blizzard, so I couldn’t meet any of them.”
“I see… this sure have a weird shape.”

It was a slightly curved blue fruit divided into nine bunches. I could smell its sweet fragrance even at a short distance.

“I heard it’s quite sugary. Do the blue fox tribe grow these by selective breeding?”
“Maybe they do, Aquarius’. They eat this fruit in many ways—drying the white fruit under the blue skin to preserve it, or they just mash it, or they drink it along with cattle milk… It’s very nutritional, a real help against their freezing winter.”
“I see. Can I have one?”
“One bunch is ten silver coins. Buy five and one is on the house, so forty coins.”
“Please, with all the trouble you got through, let me buy them at full price.”

I put my fifty coins in the bag on the desk and she handed me five bunches with a smile on her face.

“This stuff grows in the wild. I only took some. Even five silver coins each would be enough.”
“Nah, this price is right in my opinion. It’s still fresh too.”
“Actually, I found them three days ago. This fruit hardly spoils, so even leaving it ten days at room temperature won’t make it rot. Also, it gets sweeter in time. I heard it tastes the best right before it starts to rot.”
“I see… I’ll taste it when it’s well ripe, then.”

People can make fruit ferment to sweeten its juice and use it to make drinks and liquors.
Wine was the main booze in the capital that used fruit juice—grape juice, to be more specific—as its core ingredient. The sugariest juices were usually used to flavor liquors or make syrups, and even this coconobi fruit could be used for something like that… but now I had to think about my plan before anything else.

I was looking for a collaborator who could help me make a liquor in our guild’s cellar. If we did it, we could’ve sponsored it as our guild’s specialty.
Still, making it would cause us to stand in the limelight. Even if we gave it only to our most trusted regulars, would we be able to keep doing it? Trying to create something like that could’ve been a great hobby, but managing the bar and the guild was way more than that—it was my job.

“You look lost in thoughts. Why don’t you just try to do whatever crosses your mind until you can? You’re still young to do it.”
“Well… right, thank you. Mind if I come again to talk in a few days?”
“I’ll go on another trip in three days, but I’ll be here until then. We still have a lot of stuff you might want to see.”

I put the fruit I had bought in my bag and left the shop.

Aileen and the others should’ve already brought the ice fox—the blue fox tribe shape-shifter—to our guild.
We had to keep her for a while and show her that not all humans were disgusting and daunting people like Garamdoor’s. We wanted to make her experience what “friendship” meant for us.

I didn’t know if it was the right choice and I didn’t know if I should’ve welcomed her pretending not to know her.

What I knew was that we all had something to do, and my job right now was to trust Aileen and her party. I had to get back to our bar.

◆◇◆

About an hour before the night shift, Aileen and the others brought the ice fox to the bar… along with Zect Crucifer.

“Bro, we’re back! Aileen took care of everything!”
“We’re back, Dick. We removed her collar and managed to bring her here.”
“I see, great job… is this the ice fox…?”

Zect was carrying in his arms a little girl wrapped in the man’s overcoat. She was steadily breathing in her sleep until he stopped walking, then after a few moments her long eyelashes trembled a little—she was probably about to wake up.

The man carrying her opened his eyes wide for a brief moment as if he had just realized that the drunkard he had seen before really was Silver Aquarius’ Guild Master, then he returned to his usual poker-face.

“So you were the Guild Master huh…? I thought you were just a regular. I guess my eyes deceived me.”
“No, please, let me apologize for not introducing myself first.”
“I should be the one apologizing for my rude manners. If it wasn’t for this guild, I wouldn’t have been able to save her. Thank you for everything. And again, I’m sorry.”

His words were proof of his close relationship with the girl he was holding in his arms.

“Please, don’t mention it. Thanks to you we got to know about Garamdoor, Zect. We won’t let them keep doing this sort of stuff.”
“…Do you have any proof about it? Did they really seize demi-humans, forced them into their beast shape and sold them…?”

Verlaine switched with me to answer his question—she wore a pair of glasses along with her usual maid dress.
She heard Mylarka and Manarina talk about it during one of their studying sessions. I bet it piqued her interest.

“Our guild investigated on the matter and we have confirmed that the rare articles sold by Garamdoor were demi-humans. Soon their headquarter will be searched.”
“I see. So Garamdoor did seize and force them into their beast form, huh…? My guild is directly connected to them. I didn’t want to doubt anybody, but… I cannot ignore your proofs.”
“What do you mean? What connection does your guild have with Garamdoor?”
Zect lowered his gaze and fell into deep thought. I got that revealing information about one’s guild was hard, but this wasn’t a conversation he could escape from.

No one talked for some more instants… then a crystal-clear voice cracked the silence.

“Brother, you should stop hiding it. I was able to come back to my senses only thanks to them.”

The little girl’s accent was peculiar, probably because she was part of the blue fox tribe. The next moment, she got down the man’s arms.
She was quite a short girl… I was about to look down on her. She was barefoot, but she didn’t seem to mind it and looked up to me with her big round eyes. When she took off her hood, I saw her aqua-colored hair and her fox ears stood right on her head. I guessed her tail was still hidden under the overcoat.

“Brother…? Zect looks like a human, how can you two be blood-related…?”
“Nice to meet you, my name is Mizuha. I and my brother have the same father, but not the same mother. He is my step-brother.”

She politely lowered her head to everyone while Zect’s face didn’t budge—or rather, he was watching over her.
It was a shock to think they were siblings. They didn’t resemble each other at all.

“Our father is from the blue fox tribe and my mother is a human. I had fifty-fifty chance to born as a human or as a demi-human. As you can see I’m human, but I still inherited my father’s hair color.”
“I thought your dark hair were sort of bluish, but who would have guessed this…”

Truly, his hair color was peculiar, but that alone couldn’t be a distinguishing feature of his blood.
Not even Verlaine could guess his origins, so we can say it was impossible to get.

“If you allow me, I cannot see any similar features between you and Lady Mizuha.”
“Both my parents are from the blue fox tribe. Sometimes our ancestors wake up within us, so we inherit the power to shape-shift… although it is very rare. Aileen, sorry for trying to hurt you back then.”
“I’m fine, don’t worry. What about you, Mizuha? Are you hurt? It’s been a while since I found someone that strong, so I go a bit too serious…”
“No, even in that daze I could tell you weren’t going too hard on me. When you smashed my collar, I felt relieved and it only took a few deep breaths to snap out of it. I kept losing control of my body until that moment… I was so afraid I would’ve never returned myself…”

She reminisced about those dreadful memories with watery eyes. Seeing her in pain, Aileen knelt in front of her and hugged her small body. She then patted the child on the head and on her back.

“We were born in a village on a very snowy mountain. Basically, Mizuha is forbidden to leave the village for long due to her power, but she always wanted to, so I talked to the head of our family and I was allowed to take her here for once… Maybe making her used to people from depopulated villages would’ve been better than bring her straight to the capital.”
“Don’t beat yourself over it, Mister Zect. You and your sister didn’t do anything wrong. I’d love you not to regret your choice. Could you please wait here until you decide what you really want to do?”

I knew my request was hard to accept, since both of them had been through a lot, but I couldn’t accept that Mizuha was going to return home with these bitter memories alone…
It was just too sad.

“I don’t want to think badly of Blue Sagittarius. They kindly offered me a meal and a room to sleep, but now I don’t feel the same… They seized me, brought me to Garamdoor and…”
“Wait, someone from Blue Sagittarius has seen your fox form?”
“Y-Yes… I turn into a fox whenever it’s full moon… and…”

Zect closed his eyes slowly. He was oblivious to what happened.
He had joined that guild because he trusted them… and he had been badly betrayed. Now his seething killing intent was reaching the boiling point.

“There are still people we need to punish, huh~? What if we get rid of a rival guild at once~?”
“Aileen, I can’t ask any more help from this guild. I will make the Guild Master of Blue Sagittarius spill the beans by myself.”
“You want to take responsibility for what happened? I suggest you to let the authorities handle their public judgement.”
“Do you want to stop me, Guild Master?”
“No. I only want to expose their wrongdoings. What’s between you is none of my business.”

It wasn’t impossible for fellow guilds to fight each other. Sometimes even members of the same guild could get into a fight.
But we all would be restricted and receive a stake-out if we were to fight Blue Sagittarius, as we could toss the capital into chaos.
That didn’t mean we were going to sit on our hands, though.

“Still, despite everything, we’d like to offer you and your sister a place to stay. You came all the way here, so let me repay you for it.”
“Repay me…? I’ve been rude to you so far. My apologies alone shouldn’t be enough to make you repay me.”
“We had accepted the request to seize the ice fox, although we did not know all the details behind it. Now we canceled it, but as a matter of fact, we have still brought here the ice fox, so we should take responsibility for what is going to happen next. This is the policy of our Guild Master as well as the duty of our guild.”

Zect looked at Verlaine baffled. I would’ve thought her words were hard to believe too if I was in his shoes.

“Let me be honest—I long for people like you and I want to create a world where demi-humans can be accepted as they are. I believe my dream can become reality if we act the right way, so… can you help me transform this capital into a place filled with good memories for Mizuha?”
“Wow, Bro, you really are nice…”
“I’ve thought you spent all your days drinking… I never imagined you could think big like this…”
“There is probably some remarkable side in the insolent man who helped Lady Timis’ elder sister, then.”

I wanted to tell Rigel’s party to stop that, but I couldn’t just misinterpret their goodwill.
Zect stood still in silence when I held out my hand to him… then Mizuha took his hand and brought it over mine.

“I’m Mizuha Crucifer. Forgive my brother and, if possible, me for accepting your offer and live here for a while.”
“…Mizuha, that’s taking it too far. This guild already helped us plenty, so we can’t…”
“Would you work for me? I promise you Silver Aquarius will know better than Blue Sagittarius how to handle your true abilities. We will arrange a suitable room for your sister too. Remember that we aren’t doing this out of charity, so don’t hesitate to accept and stay as long as you want.”

The other presents in the room held their breath to hear his final answer.
After only a few instants, Zect shook my hand. The equipment covering his body and the back of his hand were just another proof of the huge experience he had.

“Once this is over, I’d like to work for you. I’m looking forward to it, Guild Master.”

His words sounded sincere as he wore a deadpan expression. His smile was probably plastered on his sister’s face, as she looked up to her brother.
If we hadn’t helped him, he would’ve probably made the wrong choice and hurt his sister forever in that fight—we had to prevent that.

Now Garamdoor and Blue Sagittarius were finally going to face their end.


1 The original sentence is “的中率を上げるためにつけているアクセサリーらしい“, but I don’t really know why would he think something this specific. Maybe there’s a common feature about this kind of items that’s gonna be explained later in the story

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1+

New Game – Chapter 37

The birdie’s tears – Part 5

As the match was declared over and the arena emptied, silence fell on the plains and the royal castle…

Fuck it! Shiiit!”

Kiad’s room was the only exception.
He bashed the wall to vent the rage boiling in his stomach.

Defeat… that word was clinging at his mind like a parasite. He’d been unrivalled until then, but now… he had ultimately been defeated.

He was born the eldest son of the Fortesea and, unlike his younger brother, he had been blessed with the strongest magic… or so he had believed.

He had scouted the best wizards and greatly increased their abilities with the best magic tools he could provide them with. They should have been able to crush anything standing in their way, and yet… they had lost.
And to make things worse, he was defeated the moment he entered the arena to settle the score. The lowest human on the planet, some guy that couldn’t even use magic, had him in the palm of his hand from the start.

No… I didn’t lose…!”

Even though Kiad had lost the match, his defeat was never officially declared. But even just trying to find any sort of justification for himself was pissing him off.
What he needed to do was sending that damn slave merchant straight to hell. And if he didn’t… he was afraid that something within him might break.

He tried to drive that feeling away and headed to the royal castle’s laboratory, when, at the end of the corridor, he saw a little girl walking towards him—her silver hair tied up into twintails.

…Are you awake, Lord Kiad?”

The tone of her voice was as flat as ever.

…Lize, I was looking for you. The magic tools you’ve created were so bad they made Boris and Castells lose. I want you to start working on better ones now, as they’re the main cause of all of—”

Sorry, I cannot help you.”

…What did you say?”

I have been in the laboratory to destroy all the prototypes and law formulas I created. I even blocked the magic that allowed you to hear whatever I could.”

She lowered her gaze while facing the man.

I will not help you in your experiments anymore.”

The man’s expression twisted unsightly at her words.

YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE SHIT! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU’RE SAYING?!”

Smacked by his roar, her body jolted and froze.

WHO PICKED YOU UP AND LET YOU STUDY WHEN YOUR FATHER DIED?! WHO’S THE ONE WHO WORKED HIS BUTT OFF TO GET YOU WHERE YOU ARE NOW AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE?! WHO DO YOU THINK IS KEEPING YOUR SICK MOTHER ALIVE?!”

Squashed by his burst of rage and his mad gaze, Lise felt her eyes water, but she bit her lower lip to suppress her fear and firmly stared back at him.

I am grateful for your kindness, Lord Kiad. Thanks to you and the Fortesea family, I became a holy warrior and earned my title. But…”

Trembling, she let out the feelings she had locked away for so long.

I didn’t become who I am to do this kind of stuff! I’m glad I could help people with my magic tools! I’m proud I could save people like my father, who’s fallen in battle, from certain death!”

She was forced to warp her researches slowly: some of the law formulas she entwined were harmful to people, and yet she had to experiment them on human test subjects. Due to that, a constant sense of guilt tormented her and gnawed at her heart.

Despite being a child, she knew it very well—what she was doing was absolutely wrong… but she was forced to do it. Locking her heart away was her only way to keep it together—not to make her sanity crumble to pieces.

I’ve had enough… I don’t want to hurt any more people with my work!”

Her jumpy voice was clear despite her shaky legs.
She had finally squeezed out of herself the words she most feared to say in front of Kiad.

Is that all, Lise Crest?”

The low, heavy sound of his words was stained with murderous intent.

My pet dog still bit me even while chained and with its tight collar on, huh?”

As rage started to blind him, he slowly closed their distance.

You don’t get it at all… You can’t even dream to be free.”

His gaze seemed to look at some unnecessary piece of trash as he towered over her.

LET ME BRAND ON YOUR BODY WHAT BITING ME AND THE FORTESEA ENTAILS!”

He charged his fist to vent all of his rage on Lise when a sash of light sprouted from the darkness and coiled around his arm. Many others bound his body until he found himself completely blocked, and then he snapped, unable to contain his rage anymore.

I KEEP GETTING THWARTED EVERY SINGLE FUCKING TIME! I’M A FORTESEA, AND NOTHING CAN STOP ME FROM DOING THE FUCK I WAAANT!”

His lunatic scream roared in the hallway as his eyes became bloodshot.
Then, the clacking sound of approaching footsteps started to reverberate over his voice—a self-confident grin filled the calmly approaching man’s face.

…Can I ask you not to lay your filthy hands on my best article?”

Hearing that voice, Kiad twisted his neck to watch behind him: there stood Elsa, whose Binding Magic was restraining him, and Takumi.

Slave merchant…!”

Yes, it’s me. I came here to get my article and here I find you on the verge of beating it to death… I can’t allow it.”

…Takumi, you never know when to speak appropriately, do you?”

Elsa commented almost shocked, and Kiad started to scream again.

FUCKING FAIRSTADT! I DON’T GIVE A SHIT IF YOU’RE AN OVERLORD, I’LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR THIS!”

Neither will I forgive you, Kiad. I’ll let you know I was ordered to escort this slave merchant to his new article by Her Majesty.”

STOP SPITTING OUT BULLSHIT! WHAT THE FUCK IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!”

Takumi’s grin broadened when Kiad’s glare shifted from Elsa to Lise, who was still standing in front of him.

Lise Crest, we’ve come to retrieve you as this slave merchant’s belonging.”

Takumi took a document out of his breast pocket and waved it on Kiad’s face.

That brat asked me for a huge-ass sum of money a few days ago, but since she couldn’t pay it back entirely, I made her become my slave.”

SPARE ME YOUR BULLSHIT!”

This isn’t bullshit. She couldn’t pay me back for the super expensive ingredients we put in her apple pie, which would be around… like, a thousand holy silver coins.”

Takumi was obviously joking, but the document he was holding in his hand was absolutely authentic, and the name of Lise Crest was scrupulously written on it.

They must have found a way to keep in touch with her without him knowing, that’s why she holed herself up in the laboratory until today.
Still, the only contact she should’ve had with people was with the maids that brought her food and checked her body up to see if anything was off… which means that they could’ve used only one way.

I-It can’t be… I crushed it, there was nothing—”

That’s mean. Did you really crush my leader’s pie? She put her soul into it… although it was only a snack for Lise.”

Takumi gasped as he waved the document in front of him.

Did you forget that Suzuran is a company of the slums? We’re the lowest craftiest scum around… and our way of doing really do us justice. We know a lot of ways to contraband stuff, and it’s very easy when we speak in coded language between comrades.”

Cooked sweets meant that they were going to smuggle something, the basket was the way they were going to perform it, putting the sweets in the basket meant that the contract was somewhere in there, and doing it for Lise meant that she was involved with the contract.

Our former leader loved to come up with this kind of tricks. If you do the right things in the right order, the basket’s handle comes off and reveals that it’s empty inside.”

Vatel Famille came up with that.

If one didn’t wrinkle the thin paper in the basket and peeled it off slowly from the one beneath it, they’d see the memo showing how to activate the mechanism, then they’d find the hidden contract and message in the basket’s handle.

That basket is like a printed list of instructions. There’s no point in shelving it.”

How can someone understand how that works without explanations?! That’s uselessly risky!”

Risky? What are you saying? I leave nothing to chance.”

Takumi said that while laughing from his nose.

I knew Lize would understand it. I made sure she would do the right things, since I observed her personality, behavioral principles, the people around her and what she thinks about them.”

That’s why he had prepared the letter and the contract for her.
Lise had been enslaved due to the huge debt she had with Takumi: since she couldn’t pay him back with money, she had to pay him with her life.

I… I CAN’T ACCEPT ANY OF THIS!”

Who cares if you don’t, the law of this country allows me to enslave her.”

Takumi tapped on his temple.

Holy text… law section, article twenty, line eighteen: ‘If a debtor cannot pay up their debt to their creditor, the debtor can be enslaved by the creditor, who will then own the debtor’s fortune and human rights.’ I’m legally enslaving Lise Crest.”

That law had almost been forgotten… but law was still law.

If you try to prevent me from having what I rightfully own, you will be publicly exposed as a criminal. Then, as a criminal, the law would force you into slavery despite you being an overlord.”

Takumi’s cruel smile resembled that of a wild beast.

It’s a shame that Lise has become a slave, but I already found someone who would pay a lot of money for her. I’m going to meet the buyer after I’m done with you.”

He didn’t specify the name of the buyer, but it was obvious who it was.

Now… I’ll tell you as many times as you want—checkmate.”

That was the same word he told him at the buffet.
He had planned everything up to that moment.

You’ve never been able to change anything in my plan. No matter how much you squirm, there’s nothing a worm like you can do.”

Takumi locked on Kiad’s eyes—a shade of fear was painting them.

I’ve never even looked at you. Whenever someone tries to, they see a mere shadow of Fortesea. You are so insignificant that you’re not even worthy of anyone’s attention.”

As Takumi said that, Kiad’s eyes started to shake violently—those words were like knives slicing at his heart.
Then, Takumi took another document from his breast pocket. This time it was tied up with a thread.

And yet, insignificant as you are, you’ve always been so pushy and pompous… that’s why I’ll make you fall to the perfect place for you.”

The perfect place for me…?”

You’re gonna fall in the most hideous and loathing place you can imagine.”

When he unfolded the document, Kiad goggled his eyes.

He grasped that the list of complex symbols and codes in front of him was a law formula, but it was the first time he saw that language. There wasn’t anything like that in Richtert… it could’ve even been a variation of some type of language.

When I studied magic, law formulas were the thing that most interested me—I don’t have magic power within me, so I find magic and magic tools useless, but law formulas make use of other people’s magic power.”

With a smile plastered on his face, Takumi waved the paper in front of Kiad.

Law formulas are very interesting… they can active so long as the used language and symbols make sense. They could work even with something that isn’t part of this world.”

That law formula was written with the language he had learned in his previous world, so it was something that shouldn’t have existed in their current world.
That’s why it might bring unexpected results.

Kiad, tell me… what happens to a human when they get stripped of their magic power?”

Slowly, Takumi brought the paper closer to his target, who was shaking his head violently.

That’s impossible! Humans can’t rule over magic!”

The next moment, his instinct shrilled to get away from there, but he couldn’t move.

Fall to hell.”

Mouthing sharp words, Takumi pushed the document on Kiad’s chest, and the paper squirmed as it was alive, assaulting the man’s body.

STOP IT! I’M PART OF THE VALIANT FORTESEA, THE STRONGEST—”

He felt like his inner self was getting teared to pieces by an intruder. His dignity, his pride, his power; everything that was part of him was getting destroyed.
Takumi looked at him coldly.

…Is that so? I didn’t fight you, so I can’t tell you are.”

A few seconds later, the light bindings coiled around his body had vanished, and he was left staring at the air with empty eyes, shivering and clattering his teeth.

Why… Why is my power… what I inherited from the Fortesea…”

He was powerless—his heart had been torn to pieces and his condition was now a living hell. Takumi, after observing him for a brief moment, lost any interest in him and faced Elsa.

I’m done here. I’ll bring Lise to her buyer and leave the rest up to you.”

Okay, no problem. I don’t think I’ll have anything to do with Kiad like that.”

Her expression stiffened as she glanced at the man who was hanging his head in a trance.

Takumi… I trust you because we somewhat collaborate, but… tell me again, what are you? What are you aiming for?”

She squinted her green eyes ever so slightly.

You siblings look alike in the most strange places…”

Remembering that not that long ago even Lux asked him the same thing, Takumi smiled happily.

I only want to see how far my abilities can bring me. I’m aiming for… let’s say something big, like world peace or world domination.”

Tch, I knew it. You’re the kind of guy who’d answer like that.”

Thank you for understanding. Rest assured that I won’t do anything bad, anyway.”

I’m not worried about that… you’re the ‘Soft-hearted slave merchant’, after all.”

He faced a shrugging Elsa with a bitter smile, then turned to approach Lise.

Howdy~! You really tried your best there.”

…Yes, I tried my best… and I have a favor to ask you.”

A favor? What is it?”

…My legs are shaking so much I cannot move.”

Reaching her limit, her legs caved in, and she composedly fell on her bottom.

Jeez… I’ll piggyback you, get on.”

Stop treating me like a child! No, I never said I was not getting on!”

With her cheeks flushing red, she climbed on Takumi’s back, who had bent over, then he started walking to the garden where the buyer was waiting.

For a short while they were silent as Takumi’s clacking footsteps resounded in the stone-paved corridors.

Thank you, Takumi.”

Lise’s few words sounded like a distant whisper.

I could find the courage to say it only thanks to you. That I have had enough. That I do not want my work to hurt people…”

You said it because you wanted to. Even if you didn’t tell him a thing, I still would’ve brought you to our Queen.”

Even so, you never turned your back to yourself like I did, and you successfully defeated strong magicians like Fortesea’s… if you did not show me that, I would have kept those words to myself alone.”

She talked slowly as she clung to his shoulders.

I kept pretending not to see that what I was doing was hurting people… That is why I had to act the opposite of what I wanted.”

Her words were a firm declaration—I can’t forget about those I hurt with my actions, and I can’t forget about trying to find a justification about it.

She let out a soft yelp when he cocked his head to his side and hit her nose with the back of his head.

Ih huhss…”

I mean… children shouldn’t think about stuff that complex. Just face sincerely what you really want to do.”

What I really want to do…?”

Be glad of what you accomplished. People always see the bad part in everything, as if it’s the only part that leaves an impact… but you accomplished way more than that.”

He started to speak about her accomplishments with a warm laughter.

The law formulas you invented can be used in a lot of different ways. The binding magic we’ve just seen is just one of them.”

…Right. Lux asked me to create a law formula that helped guards to seize people without hurting them. It’s useful to arrest criminals or to quell riots.”

You live in this part of the city so you probably don’t know it, but those magic tools are used quite a lot down in the slums. That place is a mess and there’s very poor public order, you know?”

Since the slums were filled with violence and criminals, the guards’ equipment was provided with defensive barriers and seizing magic tools just like Elsa’s. They were used frequently.

With them, even a simple quarrel can end with people being unscathed, and there isn’t much risks for guards to face criminals, since they have their defensive barriers. Also, Elsa told me they can be used in many other ways.”

He took a brief pause before resuming his talk.

Let’s take Binding Magic for example. When it rains very hard, the water flowing to the slums becomes very muddy and its current becomes fast and powerful like a rushing stream, so it isn’t rare for kids to get hit by a wave or something and fall into water, where they usually drown. Still, some times they’ve been saved thanks to those magic tools.”

Saving them has been very hard, but it’s been possible only thanks to Binding Magic.

It’s even been used for rebuilding a destroyed church. Bringing logs of wood that high requires quite a lot of attention, but thanks to Binding Magic, they could speed up the process and once more provide a shelter for those who’ve lost a place to sleep.”

As he spoke, he felt Lise trembling, but he pretended not to notice and kept talking.

That’s the same for those defensive barriers. Before, when something caved in, people had to pulverize the rubble with magic, but that could hurt the survivors who were buried under them. Now the soldiers can just jump on people, saving them right away as the barrier activates. Yeah, those who decide to do that have balls of steel, but it’s all thanks to magic tools if they can do stuff like this. They’re all happy to have them.”

He could hear Lise trying to stifle her sobbing.

I bet you thought only about the bad things you’ve done, but many other people are grateful to you, as they could save someone or be saved by someone with the tools you’ve created.”

Lise let out a soft lament as her tears started to stain Takumi’s overcoat.

That’s why you shouldn’t deny everything you’ve done. Even though you blame yourself for what went wrong, you should be proud of your achievements.”

Unable to hold back anymore, she started to sob out loud.

You did great by yourself so far.”

She pressed her face on his back as her little body trembled. Her tears streamed from her eyes as if to wash away her sense of guilt—a reaction fitting a child her age.

Takumi didn’t speak another word, and after buying a little time with a couple of detours, he headed to the garden where Eluria was waiting them.


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2+

Guild Master – Chapter 41

TL note: sorry for disappearing again for weeks. Lately I’ve had a lot of deadlines looming on me and two weeks ago I had a splitting headache that lasted four days, so I’m currently struggling with catching up to the schedule I wanted to follow (guess who won’t be able to catch up to anything).
Next one will be New Game 37, but I don’t know when the chapter will be ready. I’ll try my best at least to make it worth the wait.


The phantom fox’s blizzard and the true form of the Charming goddess of wrath

There are two kind of “caves” in the Kingdom of Albein. The first one is a cave that’s been formed naturally, so a normal cave without class difficulty.

The other one is a “dungeon”, a cave counting at least two floors that have been formed artificially by humans, monsters or spirits.

The Water Cave is an underground dungeon made by a group of monsters that was abandoned when their ruler died. It is now owned by water spirits, which have changed the environment to fit their needs.

As the power of the spirits matured, other creatures found the dungeon to be a comfortable place and became attracted by it, while its former residents desperately tried to find a new place they could call home.

Still, some creatures, like the goblins, decided to stay and adapt to the new environment: their race could adjust to any kind of situation, that’s why ‘frozen goblins’ and ‘heat goblins’ exist. The process wasn’t always easy, and many ended up losing their lives, but once they adapted, their numbers increased sharply.

Frozen goblins live in the first floor of the Water Cave in groups that count dozens of them and they have a proclivity to attack adventurers due to their bold and aggressive temperament, but a C rank adventurer can manage to repel them. They pose no threat for a B rank one.
Even though goblins’ peculiarity is using poisonous attacks, the ones living in the Water Cave had nothing that could be turned into poison. Also, if they were to leave their dungeon to cause troubles or to remedy their lack of poison supplies, the adventurer’s guild would request several expeditions of at least C rank adventurers to take care of them.

Putting goblins aside, the others creatures of the first floor hardly attack people, so they can be ignored. Sometimes a frozen slime pops out of nowhere, but they don’t pose a threat, especially if we think that they’re served as a delicacy in the town nearby the lake east of the Water Cave.
Still, preparing them takes some time and they aren’t recommended as opponents for amateurs. Selling them yielded quite a few money, but without at least a B rank adventurer helping with the seizure, one could even face death.

Frozen slimes, as the name suggests, are slime enemies, so they seize their foe by incorporating them into their slimy body and eat their equipment by melting it. They usually don’t attack living creatures, since they only feed on inorganic matter, but it might be a problem if an adventurer ends up seized by one of them.
But if that was to happen anyway, bringing some salt with yourself will save you, since frozen slimes despise it for some reason and usually run away from it.

Salt isn’t the only option to get rid of them… but let’s leave the alternatives to your imagination. I strongly suggest the salt way, given that once the threat is gone you might not feel at your best (especially on a mental level).

Going further in the dungeon, the second floor is house of snow wolves, so it’s common to meet and fight them. They can use their Ice Breath ability, which can annihilate a C rank adventurer in the blink of an eye, and they usually hunt in packs of ten, so if they were to use it simultaneously, they would surely pose a deadly threat.
The best way to avoid that outcome is to attack them first and bring some down right away, so that their combined Ice Breath becomes only a threat and not a death flag. Probably only a team of B rank adventurers or stronger ones can handle them.

Once the snow wolves have been defeated, they flee and never attack the same target again. They usually run to nearby monsters to have some sort of defence against their former prey, so an average party of B rank adventurers shouldn’t chase them around too much.

Also, the wolves are smart, since their “allies” can be a handful even for A rank adventurers. That’s why the quests posted in the adventurer’s guild that ask to venture down to the Water Cave’s second floor and further specify that the ‘potential danger is for A rank adventurers and above’.

Since Silver Aquarius fetches their ice from there periodically, they make sure that those kind of accidents are very unlikely to happen. Unluckily, I can’t say they are impossible.

There will always be that infinitesimal chance that things take an unexpected turn no one wished for.

— Extract from Silver Aquarius’ documentation about the Water Cave dungeon —

“…I’m glad we’ve read about those slimes. They’re pretty bad news, ain’t they?”
“They shouldn’t be underestimated, Rigel. If you tamed one, it would come in handy when you have equipment to discard, though…”
“Lia, have you had a bad experience with slimes?”
“I-I haven’t personally. Long time ago, I was in an expedition with other people to eliminate some slimes, when… no, this isn’t the right place and time to talk about that.”
“Tell us next time, then… goblins are coming again!”

Aileen was at ease in the dim light of the cave. Her senses were so sharp that even Lia, a prideful demi-human whose strong point was detecting enemies, was surprised.

The goblins dug holes high in the walls to hide and get ready to attack unaware passersby. Their surprise attacks consisted in jumping on their targets while swinging down their clubs or short swords, or throwing them rocks.
Once in front of them, they were crushed one-sidedly: Aileen made them fly with her punches, Rigel avoided them and counter-attacked, McKinley fired fire arrows in the holes where they hid, and those who tried to jump on him were cut down by a single, precise slash of Lia’s sword.
The goblins who charged at the adventurer’s party by feet met the same doom.

Zect saw some goblin mages chanting a spell a little further in the cave right in front of them—their light wands illuminated the other goblins, casting their shadows around.
He couldn’t let that chance slip away.

Shadow Bind.

The next moment, his magic affected all of the enemy shadows, and the goblins started to struggle to free themselves.
They could move the upper part of their body, but not the lower one—it was like their feet were sewed to the ground, were their shadow was cast.

“Lia, don’t go for the torches! Charge them from the front!”
“Yes!”

Lia followed Aileen’s instructions, who was the only one grasping what Zect was doing, and cleared the path from the goblins that were popping out to defend the mages.
Their torches fell as they struggled to get free, but they were soon cut down.

Rigel picked up a torch, but Aileen extinguished its flame right away with a kick.

“Aww… Sis, why’d you kill the light like that?”
“’Cause it isn’t necessary. Your job… your magic messes with shadows, right, Zect?”
“Yes. I don’t think it was necessary for me to fight, but using magic shouldn’t have hindered your actions much, right?”
“Yeah, you’ve been very helpful. When goblins are about to die and get on a rampage, they might jump at their targets and hurt them.”
“Lia, I didn’t get what happened… what was it?”
“He cast a spell on the goblins’ shadows, binding them to the ground… right, Aileen?”
“Exactly. Grasping that in a battle means that you’re pretty good.”

Rigel let out an impressed sigh and McKinley puffed out his chest slightly. Lia gave a sidelong glance to them, then faced Zect.

“Would casting that same spell on the ice fox make her seizure easier?”
“I can easily cast it on goblins and those weaker than me, but casting it on something agile and smart like that is very hard.”

The demi-human shrugged her shoulders, understanding that it wouldn’t do.

It took him a lot of effort to bind something as strong as him, and that was the same for a single target stronger than him.
The ice fox was a SS rank monster, which was also very nimble and smart; a difficult target. The only member of their current party who would withstand that spell was Aileen, who steeled herself.
I can’t mess this up.

When they were about to enter the second layer, an icy wind blew past them carrying a lot of white cold particles that melted the moment they touched the party members’ skin.

“This is… snow…?”
“She stopped in the second layer…? Keep your guard up. Probably we’re about to…”
“No way… wasn’t it only one? What’s with that pack?!”

A very spacious room stretched in front of them, where numerous white four-legged beasts were slowly forming a huge pack.

Snow wolves… they were forming a circle around another creature, just like devotees worshipping their deity.

“That’s the ice fox… it’s commanding the wolves, isn’t she?”
“She became the dungeon boss, huh? I knew things could turn out this way… you three have to work hard too, then!”
“Yay! Sis, go for the ice fox! We’ll take care of the snow wolves!”
“If it gets too close to you, it’s gonna be hella tough… Lia, McKinley, I’m counting on you!”
“Okay. Be careful, you’re gonna suffer from frostbite if you get hit by her breath.”

Lia and Rigel unsheathed their swords and McKinley loaded a fire arrow on his arbalest.

“Three… Two… One… Go!”

Aileen sprinted onward followed by Zect, who cast his Shadow Bind on quite a lot of wolves and ended them all by throwing his slicer once. Meanwhile, those who jumped not to get trapped in his magic swooped down on Rigel and Lia as if they were swooping down on their prey.

“Damn, they’re quick! But…!”

With a flash, Rigel’s sword repelled a wolf as McKinley’s arrows hit their targets, setting some on fire, and Lia joined them by cutting down a couple of incoming beasts.

Once Aileen was sure that Rigel’s party had engaged the wolves, she lept high in the sky, toward the ice fox’s silhouette that emerged from the darkness.

Zect noticed that she was jumping way too high… then understood that she wanted to reach the ceiling.

The ice fox followed Aileen with her eyes, which let out a silver light, then a blizzard lashed out in the room and dimmed everyone’s vision. Aileen tried to defend her body with the flaming magic that was within her, and after kicking the ceiling with all of her strength, causing it to crack from the impact, she swooped down on her target.

“Superia hand-to-hand style’s secret technique—Olympus-rending kick1!”

The momentum she built with her action equalled the strength and the speed of a lighting, and crashing where the ice fox stood until a few moments before, she fractured the ground, creating a huge, deep hole.

She created that blizzard only to dim my vision?!

Aileen had goosebumps and a shiver run up her back while seeing Zect’s slicer flying in the air and cutting through the blizzard’s strongest wind—only a metallic sound rang from the other side before it came back.

The ice fox concealed her presence in the blizzard and moved away in the blink of an eye—for a mere moment she was visible again, then she looked as if she was dissolving into snow.

“As long as the blizzard is raging, we can’t count on our eyes to point where it is!”
“Yeah, I know it…!”

Zect already knew the ice fox, so he was probably already used to perceiving her presence like that, but even he couldn’t get close to it.

How can I seize it…?! There must be something I can do! Dick is counting on me…!

“B-Behind you! Get away!”
“Ugh!”

She jumped away just in time as a furious gust of wind, an Ice Breath that could’ve cast her into a pack of snow, lashed where she had been standing until now.

The attack aimed at her legs, the only part that granted a martial artist their mobility.

If the fight lasts too long and my body gets overcome by the cold, what would happen to me…?

That feeling had never haunted her before, but now Aileen was getting afraid of dying, and that fear was setting her heart ablaze.

“…Would you come to rescue us…? I guess it would be hard, huh…?”

Zect readied his slicer again. The ice fox would have let Aileen see her again to make the girl attack, so if he attacked in that moment… if he used his best attack repeteadly as a Shadow Chaser, sooner or later he’d have hit her.

“You don’t have to attack! I told you to leave it to me, didn’t I?!”

The man stopped his hand, puzzled from her words. No matter how stronger than him Aileen was, if she was hit by one of the ice fox’s attacks, she’d have frozen and wouldn’t have been able to avoid her next attack.

The strongest weren’t those with an unlimited supply of energy, but those who could fight without receiving much damage.

In the worst case scenario, the stronger would meet their doom no matter what. Even that was a potential outcome, but while Zect processed those thoughts, his movements stopped.

In front of him, Aileen’s red magic power wrapped her body like hellish flames as her peach-colored hair turned crimson and red light shone and scattered from her eyes.
That vision alone woke up a feeling that was slumbering in his heart since he was a child—fear.

As her flaming power swelled up and exploded from her, he understood that he should have kept his distance from her and stood still.

“…Are you… the Charming goddess of wrath… Aileen Superia?”

The ice stuck to her clothes evaporated, and she decided to take her heavy overcoat off, since she no longer needed it.

That girl just had too much power. He could see red lightnings running on and nearby her, which made chunks of snow evaporate at a single touch—it looked like snow wasn’t something allowed to be in her presence.

“Finally I can move freely. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.”

A soft smile cracked the face of her blood-curdling figure, and when he blinked his eyes, she had disappeared.

The ice fox cried loudly when it felt Aileen grabbing her tightly. With a gesture of her tail, the beast created and hurled countless ice blades to the demon, who needed no more than her free hand to shatter the attack.

Now only another SSS rank could have faced her up.
Still, the ice fox tried to resist—it struggled and let her vixen scream2 ring loudly; although it was a wild beast, it was now gumbling its life to protect its territory, the home she had chosen—but it was all for nothing.

With a single hit, Aileen’s bare hand smashed her collar.

“McKinleyyy!”
“Yes ma’aaam!”

As Rigel and Lia kept fending off snow wolves, McKinley loaded the paralysing dart on his arbalest and fired. The ice fox tried to struggle to free herself but her legs were stuck to the ground.

Zect had respected Aileen’s will and didn’t attack again, but he still used his spell Shadow Bind while the fox’s attention was robbed by that demon.

As the arrowhead stuck in the fox’s torso, the poison started to spread right away, and in a few moments the beast’s hostility vanished and she closed her eyes unmoving.

Aileen could have carried that small creature on her arms without breaking a sweat. She smiled bitterly while thinking that something that adorable could control a blizzard that powerful despite being on a rampage.

“I still have a long way to go… if I was afraid of a cute fox like this.”

Aileen had returned to her normal self—none of the others, except from Zect, had seen her demon-mode due to the blizzard.

“…No need to keep up my Shadow Bind, then.”

Zect said, and canceling his spell, she lay on the ground. Then, her shape started to change into a human’s in front of Aileen’s eyes. The fox’s fur grew back into snow-white skin, and the girl couldn’t help but comparing the morphing body, which looked small and slim, to Yuma’s.

Then, Aileen darted away to take the overcoat she had took off before and returned the next moment to cover the body on the ground.

“I-It’s a little girl…?”3

“Does she look like a young boy to you?”

He nonchalantly took off his coat to add another layer of clothes to the girl while Aileen looked in puzzlement at the sleeping child.

When Rigel’s party reached them, they let out surprised voices as they watched the ice fox’s true body.
It didn’t take more than a few instants to accept the current situation.


1 The original actually says “heaven-tearing mountain-rending kick”, so I thought “maybe I can convey this with a single, cool word” and then I remembered about Mount Olympus, so… well, I used that
2 https://youtu.be/J6NuhlibHsM?t=61
3 Thing is that the fox’s gender is never specified by Zect. Since it’s never addressed directly, we could say he addresses her as “it”, but I thought that anyone would address a friend or a close person with their gender, so it would’ve been strange to let him address her with “they” all the time, given that as long as we know this fox is a girl. Tl;dr: I assumed her gender and I will change it if it’s necessary for plot. Sorry for “ruining” this cliché scene

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New Game – Chapter 36

The birdie’s tears – Part 4

Takumi and his comrades were now in front of the nobles’ seats, their heads bowed.
The most powerful people in the Holy Kingdom of Richtert—the overlords and the queen Eluria Richtert, symbol of her country, were just a few steps away.
She was wearing something simpler than usual, trying to balance comfort and looks since she knew that she was going to reach the arena at some point. The ceremonial sword tied to her hips reminded everyone of the official status of the match.

“It has been… a wonderful match, Suzuran’s members.”

After hearing her words, the three of them rose their heads.

“Lord Elvis extolled your brave fight, and I can do nothing but agree with him and approve of his choice. Today, we will also hold the ceremony to baptize you winners as knights.”

Takumi glanced at Elvis, who sat a few steps behind Eluria, but couldn’t read any concern on his face.

“I am deeply delighted by the words Her Majesty has addressed to my subordinates. Their victory was blessed by our Goddess Filia, thus they should aim to become our Queen—Filia’s closest entity’s—sword.”

“Eheheh… Hearing you mouthing wise words is hilarious…”

“…Your Highness, please, refrain from murmuring something in the middle of your talk.”

“Why, are you in a bad mood, Lux?”

“I am not. But whenever that slave merchant does the impossible, I receive a lot of exhortation, so my stomach is hurting a little.”

Lux, who sat behind her, managed to smile despite the twitching of his cheek.
Nearby him, an old man adjusted his glasses on his nose.

“Ohohh… It looks like you are going to rack your brain, Lord Lux. That man you have set your eyes on is earning a title, so should you not be happier?”

“…I am obliged for your observation, Lord Cramer. I envy how you avoid problems and hardly have to deal with any.”

“Ohohh… Dealing with problems and discord is the way of doing of the harmonious Administer. Whenever we find a lull sea, we never know what boils deep within it.”

Cramer Administer, the overlord who carried Richtert’s national politics on his shoulders as the prime minister and also controlled the cabinet ministers, replied to Lux’s cynicism while shaking his mustaches.
He was a crafty man who acted to maintain harmony and stability in his country.

“Forgive this old man for butting in your conversation, Your Highness. I am sorry.”

“Well, you better be. We are in the middle of a public speech.”

“Ohohh… I did not expect to be rebuked like this…”

“…Can any other unnecessary conversation stop now? None are worth these people’s time.”

Maybe afraid that their talk would last too long, Elvis cut it down with a sharp voice, and pushed the Queen, who looked at him with a wry smile, to go on and face Takumi again.

“Lord Lux will notify you with the details of the lands you will be put in charge of after your subordinates become knights. I also have a personal matter I want to discuss with you, slave merchant.”

As Eluria mouthed those words, she exchanged looks with Lise, who was still standing behind the throne—her usual sour look plastered on her face.
The child took a step toward Takumi while tightly pressing her lips together.

“…I cannot believe you really won.”

“I was hoping to hear ‘I believed in your victory’, though.”

Hearing him joking around, she squeezed her staff tighter along with her lips.

“I should not believe… that is why I gave up.”

After crushing her personal beliefs, the only thing that was left for her was to obey.
She gave up because she believed that she could’ve never won that fight.
It couldn’t be helped—that justification was what helped her bear her current life.

“Did you like the apple pie, Archbishop Lise Crest?”

“…Yes. It was so delicious it made me feel better.”

His simple question cleared her face from any shadow as she answered with a beaming cherubic smile.
Takumi nodded in satisfaction.

“I heard Her Highness’ words clearly. I will abide by Lord Lux’s details once I receive his notification.”

“Look forward to it. Now… we cannot let people wait any more. As a boring ceremony, Let us hold it right away.”

Saying so, Eluria stood up and unsheathed her sword, the symbol of the royal family—the blue of its blade was clearer than the sky’s and deeper than the sea’s—and lowered it on Kunon and Karin, as they both kept their heads bowed.

“In the name of Eluria Richtert, your queen, I hereby grant you the title of knight. By the power vested on you, I ask your loyalty to my country.”

The flat part of her sword touched their shoulders, and once the queen finished the ceremony, thus marking the official end of the match, Takumi’s comrades, silent until that moment, rose their heads again.
The audience bursted in excited cheers for the last time that day.


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Guild Master – Chapter 40

TL note: heartfelt thanks to Tentacle Daddy, who donated twenty euros for this series!


The Water Cave and the Shadow chaser’s negotiation

Rigel, Lia and McKinley departed to North with Aileen, who had been convinced by Dick. Their destination was the Water Cave.

The closer they got to it, the more the temperature dropped, and after an hour of travel by horse, the air started to chill steadily.
Still, they didn’t feel much of it, since rather than worrying about melting perennial ice in order to drink it, they had improved their resistance to cold.

Rigel’s team heard that the temperature from the second floor of the Water Cave was so low that water couldn’t be found in liquid form, so they prepared in advance and wore a thick coat over their equipment.

“Guys, dress warmly and try not to catch a cold.”
“Okay, Miss Aileen. I’m quite resistant when it comes to cold, though.”
“Is that so, Lia? By the way, did you hear about the tiger-race’s village from Dick?”
“Yes, I did. That is actually my birthplace. I own Sir Dick another favor now.”

Compared to the Lia that Dick met when he first helped Timis, the current one smiled much more often. She respected Aileen as a warrior, and whenever her party members looked at their interactions, it was like they were watching a teacher interacting with her pupil.

“Sis, we wanna see Bro’s good points too!”
“You’re never afraid to speak your mind, huh, Rigel… I told you to stop calling Miss Aileen ‘Sis’.”
“Hahaha… Maybe being Dick’s sister would’ve been better. If I was his only one, I feel like he’d have been sweeter with me.”

This wasn’t the first time that Aileen joined a Silver Aquarius’ team of adventurers.

When she was part of the expedition party, not every member in the team knew how to polish their strength, but Dick’s suggestions—summarized in ‘improving by acting alongside a stronger adventurer’—made the weaker members’ growth rate spike quickly.

Applying that method, in a few days of adventure they were now five times stronger than before, and getting stronger wasn’t an easy task for an adventurer.
Rigel’s team knew how valuable was Aileen’s presence in their party.

“If we get any closer to the Water Cave, it will be too cold for the horses. Should we tie them around here?”
“Yes, let’s cense them to keep beasts away. Guys, you wait here.”

Horses were terrified by the smell of tiger demi-humans, but Lia managed to build a relationship of mutual trust and understanding with hers, which she got while working with Timis.

Lia was a bit worried to leave them in the woods, but Dick had prepared a powerful ‘defensive smell’ that could null the horses’ entirely, making them unapproachable for beasts.

“Bro is amazing. He always has a lot of stuff, doesn’t he? If he makes this many things by himself, including that incense, when the heck does he sleep?”
“Dick’s good, but his friend Duke’s even better than him. He knows a lot of things and he even seized a fire dragon without breaking a sweat.”
“Speaking of Mister Duke, it’s said that recently he’s been seen in the Magic Academy. If I see him, I’ll ask him to be my teacher.”

Aileen burst into laughter seeing their expressions filled with devotion.

Dick was obsessed to never be the centre of attention, so he created this mysterious figure called Duke Solver. A part of Aileen wanted to tell them the truth, but she was extremely careful not to.

Those who understood Dick’s secrecy policy were protected by him… and Aileen actually wanted to make him dry and comb her hair at least once in two weeks, so her lips were sealed.

Thinking about him, the image of last night—where she had been seen naked by him—flashed through her mind, and she couldn’t help but blush furiously up to her ears.

“Wow Sis, are you hot? I’m all dressed up and still shaking like a leaf.”
“N-No, don’t worry. I’m just not used to wear this kind of clothes, but the Water Cave will help me chill, so it’s fi…”

Aileen’s voice trailed off. If they were to follow the road, they’d reach their destination, but she could hear someone fighting in the distance.

Metallic sounds, something zipping through the air and some men’s screams. It sounded like several people were fighting, so Rigel’s party fell silent and its members nodded to each other.

They hid their presence, took cover and got ready to act if something bad was to happen. Aileen preceded them but could only see the results of the battle.

In front of the Water Cave’s huge white entrance, there were a lot of armed adventurers sprawled on the ground. Only one was still standing among them—Aileen guessed that he had knocked all the others out alone.

The man wore a hard leather armor, had bluish black hair and gripped a throwing weapon in his hand: a ring-shaped blade with smaller blades stuck on it—a slicer.

And yet, the adventurers on the ground didn’t show injuries on their body. That was proof of his overwhelming power, which showed by defeating them without even breaking a sweat.

“…Are you Zect? You came to greet our guild, right?”
“You mean Silver Aquarius or some other guild…? Seems like your ears don’t work. None of theirs did too.”

He was visibily annoyed, but he didn’t raise his voice. Aileen thought that maybe fighting him would have been better than arguing with him.

The only thing that was holding her back were Dick’s words: don’t fight him. But facing a foe that strong after so long made her clench her fists.

“That’s the face of someone fond of battles. I heard that the spirit tribe has that proclivity, but does that come without exeptions?”
“Nah, there are plenty of people who don’t care about fighting. I’m just particular. Are you going to enter the Water Cave? We have business in there too.”
“…This has nothing to do with you. If you don’t want to end up like these guys, don’t do anything unnecessary.”
“I’d like to say I won’t, but let me ask this first—what will you do when you find the ice fox?”

Zect, who had started walking toward the entrance, stopped and faced her.
The grip on his weapon tightened and she felt a vivid malice coming from him—the ice fox might have faced its doom.

“That’s bad. Garamdoor asked to bring it back alive, remember?”
“…Mind your own damn business. This is the only way I thought of to bring her back to her true form.”

Now, this is my chance!

Aileen told him everything she knew.
The ideal outcome was that Zect would tell her the connection between him and the ice fox before they ventured in the deepest layers of the Water Cave.

Given what he had just said, he knew that the ice fox was a demi-human forced in its beast form, so they probably knew each other.

She understood that he wanted to help the beast, but beating her was the only way he thought of to force the ice fox’s reversion.

I wish I could leave this brain-racking thing to Dick… I’d be happy if I could just earn my weekly rewards…

What would Dick think about that? As she racked her brain over it, her next words became hope for Zect.

“I know a way to make her shape-shift back to her demi-human form. If you let me, I can save that ice fox.”
“…Where did you find it? Did you research it in this short time…?”
“Yeah. I’ll fight her face-on and remove her collar. If you can do that, I’ll let you do it in my place and just watch from a distance, but if you still believe that beating her is the best option, I’ll surely get in your way.”

Aileen didn’t hide her killing intent. If Zect was really strong as he was supposed to be, he would’ve surely felt the difference between their level.
The next moment, thinking that he might have attacked her suddenly, she took the fundamental position of Superia’s hand-to-hand fighting style, with both her right hand and leg ahead of her.

Then, Zect imbued the slicer he was holding with power, and the blades on it moved back to their original position. The next moment, the ring circled around his waist and returned to be his belt.

“…A collar, huh? Can I believe you? If that’s the reason of her madness…”

Aileen felt relieved seeing that he didn’t know why the ice fox had lost her reason, so she kept talking.

“I don’t know if taking off her collar will make her revert to her human form, but I’m sure that is what forced her to shape-shift. My guild knows how to do its job, and I trust their research. I can’t assure they’re right, though.”
“…Thinking about it, I’m sure I saw a collar. I can’t believe that company is using magic tools for this… I believed that maybe using force was the only way to help her… how stupid of me.”

Along with his self-deprecating words, his will to fight Aileen faded.

Their competition had become a collaboration, and if there was no need to fight Zect, the only thing still left to do was to coming up with a plan to seize the ice fox.

“We don’t need to fight the ice fox. I bet you had it tough since you didn’t want too… Not like I know your story, though.”
“If possible, I don’t want to kill her. I thought that if she started to live here, some adventurer would’ve defeated her one day, so I would rather do it myself… damn, I was so off the mark about it.”
“Nah, not everyone come up with the right solution instantly, but the important thing is reaching it eventually.”

While Aileen was speaking, Rigel and the others came out from their cover. Zect looked at them and seemed to estimate their strength.

“I don’t have the right to tell you this, but don’t get noticed by the ice fox before we face her. She is too much for you guys in her current form.”
“Ouch, is that so…? Sis, is there something we can do other than that?”
“You can take care of the other monsters on our way. I’ll try to take the ice fox alive.”
“Roger that… we won’t join the battle against the fox.”
“Miss Aileen, I have a sleeping and a paralysing dart with me. Can I help you…?”
“Thanks, McKinley, that’d be great. Go for the paralysing one, but beware not to aim at her eyes.”
“I’d aim at an easier part of her body, like her torso. If I gulp the drink I got in the shop yesterday, my fingers won’t become too cold to bend.”

When Rigel’s party showed up in the bar last night, they found all the things they needed already prepared. Along with some milk, each of them also had some special liquor.

The one for McKinley was some dwarf fire beer, which he kept in a little bottle. He had to drink it before entering the Water Cave.

“Drinking before entering a dungeon…? What a strange guild.”
“As long as you don’t end up dead drunk, alcohol is good for your body. By the way, our Master invites you to drop by again and take a drink with us.”
“…I doubt I will. But if I can, I’d like to apologize for my impoliteness.”

Dick wished for Zect to join his guild, and Aileen noticed that maybe his hopes weren’t going to waste.

If Zect, whose strength could be perfectly used and improved by Dick, really were to join the guild, Silver Aquarius’ Guild Master would’ve had a lot less burdens on his shoulders.
Zect would’ve been an expensive mercenary, but Dick usually had so much work on his hands that Aileen ended up worrying about him.

She respected him, who didn’t feel burdens as burdens… and actually, she wanted him to take care of her hair every day. Thinking about it, once a week or two wasn’t enough in the slightest.

Aileen knew she was being too greedy, and yet, Dick seriously took on her proposal anyway, despite knowing of it.

“Okay, let’s enter the Water Cave. Are you guys ready?”
“Yes!”

Rigel’s party answered in unison while Zect kept silent.
The five of them entered the chilling cave and made their way in there by mowing down the swarms of frozen goblins1 that kept charging at them.


1 the original obliges us to read it that way (フローズンゴブリン = furoozun goburin = frozen goblin). The goblins aren’t actually frozen, that’s just how they’re called

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