Readying the spadework – Part 2
Lise walked a step behind Mirta, hand in hand with her, and people kept greeting the woman with cheerful voices as soon as they noticed her.
“Oh, hello there, Mirta! Are you taking a stroll?”
“Hey there, Boss! Thanks for sending help last time!”
“Mirta! Thank you so much for lending us all that money! Now our job has finally become lighter!”
She always replied to them politely, exchanging brief and friendly chats with all of them before moving on—or rather, to the next guy.
Some didn’t pay much attention to Lise, but some others sure did.
“Oh, welcome Mirta~! Wait, that’s the kid I’ve seen before. Do you know her?”
“Yes, she’s Archbishop Lise Crest, a guest of Suzuran.”
“This kid is the Archbishop?!”
The woman who owned the shop bowed her head in apology, but she didn’t look very sincere.
“Sorry. The children roaming in the slums usually snatch stuff away, so I thought you were suspicious seeing your pretty dress.”
“N-No worries. It is fine as long as you understand.”
Lise hid behind Mirta, evident tension cracking her voice. The shopkeeper’s scream was still ringing loudly in her memory.
The child was a little hurt by her sudden change of behavior, but that simply confirmed how much the woman trusted Mirta.
Whenever Suzuran’s head introduced Lise as the Archbishop to someone, they never doubted her words. Even the curtest ones apologized and treated her with a bit more reverence as soon as they knew.
“What on Earth are you, Mirta…?”
“What do you mean? I’m only the head of Suzuran…”
Mirta wore a gentle and warm smile as she leaded the way.
Lise thought of her as a gentle woman and a good cook, but she would’ve never expected the slums’ people to be so warm to her.
That was amazing. No… Mirta was.
“Are you the kind of strong person who can take upon the brutes too?”
“I learned some self-defence from dad and Jill, but I doubt I can face a bunch of giants at once.”
“I see… Since you said you can use Holy Magic, what if you only had to face a lone but very strong enemy?”
“Oh, I actually mixed that up with standard magic!”
“I see… and what about your job? You must have a good eye for business as the administrator of your company, right?”
“To be honest, I always leave that to Geiz…”
“I-I see… Mirta, is there anything you are actually able to do?”
“You didn’t have to ask like that!”
The woman scratched her cheek with a troubled expression on her face.
“Maybe there’s nothing I can do. I can’t fight like many members of my company, I lack Geiz’s business abilities and Takumi’s knowledge… but I love laughing along with people rather than commanding them.”
A soft chuckle slipped through her lips.
She wanted to do things in her own way instead of mimicking her father.
She wanted to reach out to people and spread her ideals with the warm and kind smile that could overcome any wall.
Lise easily understood that it was a mammoth task.
“Mirta, you are so gentle, strong and amazing.”
“I think… I’m not different from your average joe, really.”
“That is not true. You have a big chest.”
“How is that related to anything?!”
“A big chest symbolizes motherhood and abundance. Goddess Filia has been described as a woman with big breasts, so I am comparing you to her as a praise…”
“Aaah! Aaah! Nooo! Don’t tell me stuff like that pleeease! Nooo!”
Mirta blushed a deep red as she tried to silence Lise with a hug, but the child kept talking with sparkling eyes.
“I want to be closer to our Goddess as a clergyman. How can my chest grow big like yours or that elf’s?”
“W-Well… o-oh, look! That’s Geld’s gunshop!”
“Takumi makes a lot of business with him, he’s his favorite gun artisan!”
“I see… you are trying to avoid the topic… but we will talk again later.”
Mirta let out a soft sigh and relaxed before opening the gunshop’s door.
A gust of dry and hot air hit them the next moment, along with the loud sound of hammers striking metal on the anvils and the eardrum-rending noise of metal being polished.
“W-Welcome! How may I help yoUH!”
A girl holding a huge box filled with what looked like heavy things stepped toward them but fell headfirst, making the contents of the box sprawl all over the floor with a very loud noise.
“Are you alright, Corona?”
“Ouchie…! S-Sorry! Wait, you’re Suzuran’s boss, right?”
Corona looked up to the woman while rubbing her aching nose.
“I am Mirta Familie, head of Suzuran. Is Geld around?”
“Are you looking for my master? He should be in the workshop working on some blueprints…”
Then, they heard a thunderous noise from the other side of the shop, as a door flung open kicked by a bearded dwarf.
“What the hell was that noise?! Oh shit, the tamahagane’s all scattered on the floor!”
“I-I’m sorry…! I fell but I’ll pick everything up right away…!”
“I told you not to bring more than you can goddamn handle!”
“B-But I thought you’d need this once you were done with your current job…!”
“It’s gonna take me some more time, so you don’t need to rush, you heard?! HEY, GUYS! Can you help her pick up this stuff if you don’t have shit to do?!”
Almost every guy in there walked up to them and helped with a wry smile on their faces.
Lise couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She almost goggled her eyes in front of that sight.
“This is a dwarf’s workshop… and he is working with a dragon-man…?”
“Hey, what’s up, kid? Wait, but that’s Mirta. What do you need? Usually it’s Takumi who shows up for business.”
“I, uuhm… we’re here to talk to you about Takumi.”
Geld arched his eyebrows as if he doubted his own ears.
“He shouldn’t have requested or asked us anything lately. Becht, did he talk to you or something?”
“Nope, I heard nothing from him.”
Becht, who was helping picking up the scattered tamahagane, faced his master with a puzzled face.
Then, Lise stepped forward.
“Takumi has been arrested by the Inquisition.”
“He fucking what?! Spare me that bullshit, why would they do that?!”
“I am stating the true. He is currently charged with the murder of Kiad Fortesea and kept prisoner in the northern prison of the middle layer.”
“Bullshit! Takumi would never do something that stupid!”
Seeing the dwarf so obstinate made Lise as much stubborn.
“I believe in his innocence as well, that is why we are here. Will you help me?”
She didn’t beat much around the bush and her words felt kind of weak, but her face showed an incredible sincerity.
Geld was taken aback by that and fell silent for a moment while stroking his beard.
“I’m not convinced yet. Who the heck are you, anyway?”
“I am Archbishop Lise Crest. I want to prove Takumi’s innocence during the trial, so I am asking help to the people of the slums.”
“Mirta, that’s more bullshit or is she speaking the truth?”
“It’s all true. This child is currently the Archbishop and Her Majesty’s personal messenger. She is helping us with this matter, as it is true that Takumi’s kept prisoner.”
“Oh shit… how could this happen…?”
“I-I am at fault. Takumi saved me from Fortesea and Lord Elvis decided to frame him for revenge. He wants to kill Takumi and make an example out of him.”
“And you’re trying to help him back now?”
“Yes. He has saved me before, so now it’s my turn to save him.”
The child balled her hands in frustration and casted her gaze to the ground for a moment.
“I need to save him…”
She rose her head again with a hurt expression and saw the dwarf staring back at her, his face burning red as big tears rolled down his cheeks. All the people in the room were flabbergasted even more than her.
“Uuugh…! That’s bloody sad, dammit!”
“Wow, I’ve never seen our master crying before…”
“O-Oh no, M-Master! A tissue won’t do, I’ll go take a towel!”
Becht kept staring at the dwarf in mute amazement, his head tilted to one side, while Corona hurried to bring Geld a towel, and once he wiped his tears and blew his nose, he snorted and let out a soft laugh.
“Got it! Go tell all the artisans in town, Becht! There must be a shitload of people who want to return the favor to Takumi!”
“Roger! I’ll report everything directly to Suzuran!”
“Corona, your friend works in the middle layer, right?!”
“Y-Yes! She helps a doctor gather medicinal plants!”
“Reach out to her! We must gather all the people we can, even those in the middle layer!”
“O-Okay, I’ll inform Recy… right, Strepto should’ve returned from his journey too.”
“Call every fucking one of ‘em! You gotta call whoever crosses your mind! I don’t give a damn if you call someone’s drink buddy too, just gather whoever knows Takumi!”
The dwarf commanded with a broad smile on his face and all his workers left the shop in a hurry.
Lise was dumbfounded by what had just happened in front of her eyes, but she got back to her senses after a few moments.
“A-Are you sure about it? I mean, is it a good idea to act so rashly…?”
“Huh? What the hell should I think about?”
Geld showed her his pearly whites.
“You want to save him to call it even, right? He didn’t do anything wrong, then. Also… he never threw shit at my guns. He called them ‘interesting weapons’ when everyone else called them ‘stupid playthings made by that shitty dwarf’.”
He stroked his beard with a nostalgic expression on his face as he recalled.
“I thought of Takumi as an obnoxious brat at first, but he’s always seen me as a gunsmith, not as a simple dwarf. He showed me that I’ve been doing my shit the right way, and thanks to him now Becht has stopped being a crybaby and become a straight-up man. I have a dragon-man working for me and I’m prolly the only gunsmith in the entire capital who changed their mind about one. Takumi has never got shit wrong once so far, so I’m damn sure that he hasn’t this time as well.”
He scratched the tip of his nose, probably due to embarrassment.
“Anyway, let’s get him out of there! Let’s have all the damn slums help!”
“B-But refrain from using guns, okay?”
“We’ll consider it when the time comes, Mirta!”
“No, just don’t! Those who aren’t used to fire might hurt innocent people!”
“Damn… you’re right. Let’s just keep it a bit riot-ish and not push shit too far, then!”
Geld gave a hearty laugh.
“I’m gonna tell all my middle layer friends! Stay safe! Especially you, young lady!”
“O-Okay. Thank you for helping.”
The dwarf patted Lise on her shoulder before hanging the “I’m off” sign and getting out of the shop.
The child looked at him walking away and only mustered the strength to say a few words.
“He really helps a lot of people, does he not…? That slave merchant…”
“Yes. He never cares if they’re humans or demi-humans, he just saves all who need to be saved. That’s why he’s the ‘Soft-hearted slave merchant’ Suzuran is so proud of.”
Mirta puffed out her chest with pride as if she was praising herself.
“Geld is going to help us now, so we can go to our next…”
“No, wait a moment, Mirta!”
Suzuran’s head and Lise looked behind them and saw Becht closing in with a bunch of sheets in his hands.
“Takumi told me I shouldn’t show these to anyone, but… what if these are the real reason behind his imprisonment?”
“These are blueprints, right…?”
“Yeah, these are the blueprints for his latest request.”
Lise rushed to see one of the sheets and furrowed her brows.
“It is quite different from any other gun I know.”
“It isn’t only different, it’s something we’ve never seen before. The gun’s shape, way of shooting and ammo are unknown to us.”
“We do have records of prehistoric guns that were totally different from the current ones, but only one country had them and none survived until today… neither did their data.”
They barely had any record about the prehistoric era. All that survived until now was contained in the Holy Text and the nameless Tale of Heroes.
At that point, Becht’s expression stiffened.
“What if the Inquisition caught him because they want to know the way to reconstruct these? Can I ask you to take care of these, in that case?”
“Okay. Leave them to us. No one will ever take a look at them. Lise, the same goes for—wait, what are you doing?”
The child stared hard at a sheet, then scanned all the others.
“Can I ask you something about these blueprints…?”
“Oh, those ones? Takumi said that it’s a ‘wheel gun’. You load the bullets in this wheel and whenever you fire, the wheel rotates and automatically loads the next one…”
“Do not bother explaining that. I only wanted to ask why this gun has so many details on its blueprints.”
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s strange, right? He explained us the mechanics behind the other weapons he has commissioned before, but he has never specified the materials, the thickness of the gun barrel or the grip so far.”
Then, Becht rose his head as if he had remembered something.
“Thinking about it, he said that ‘this should be the twelfth memento’.”
“Yeah. It’s strange that a memento is some half-assed number, don’t you think?”
Becht tilted his head in deep thought while an idea popped into Lise’s mind.
“I might come again to ask you a few things.”
“Sure, come whenever you want. I’m counting on you for Takumi.”
As one of the children who were slaves along with Takumi and one who had spent quite some time with him, he bowed his head to the Archbishop in deep respect and hope.
“Leave it to me. I will do everything I can to save him.”
Her words were resolute, her expression determined.
She couldn’t let anyone down.
She wasn’t alone anymore, and she wasn’t doing it only for herself, but for all the people who hoped to meet Takumi again.
A ray of hope was finally shining on the road she wanted to walk down.