New Game – Chapter 30

The way to open up the cage – Part 3

Twilight painted the upper part of Listina in shades of vermilion.
Probably somehow noticing that a long time had passed, Lise rubbed her eyes as she lifted her body.

“Did I… fall asleep…?”

“Yeah. It’s evening right now.”

Lize jumped at Takumi’s voice, not expecting him to be that close.

“…This is the worst. Letting you see my sleeping face is just the worst.”

“Try to think a bit more about yourself, then. No matter how much stressful work one has to do, a good child shouldn’t push all-nighters and just go to sleep early.”

“I am no child… but I have surely been a problem. Sorry.”

“No need to apologize. I’m in debt with you for teaching me about magic, so if you need help with anything, feel free to come to Suzuran.”

“It was not that big of a deal… also, I do not… need anything.”

“…I see. Keep doing your best, then.”

Lise balled her hand firmly at his words.

“My job isn’t that important…”

As if to squeeze out her feelings, she uttered those words in a whisper.
Before he could comment, the sound of heavy footsteps approaching them reached their ears, and they turned to see Mirta hurrying over.

“Sorry for making you wait! Oh, Lise, are you awake?”

“…Yes. Sorry for falling asleep in the middle of our lesson.”

“Do not worry! I came by a few minutes earlier, but you were still sound asleep on Takumi’s lap… I confess I was a bit envious.”

“…Did I sleep on this slave merchant’s lap?”

As she stared at Suzuran’s leader in wonder, Takumi patted the said zone.

“Yeah, I was reading this book while you rested your head here. It was bad when you started drooling, though.”

“…No way. I do not drool.”

“What’s that thing on the corner of your mouth, then?”

She blushed furiously while scrubbing her mouth with her sleeve.

“Guess I just imagined it, huh?

“…People like you are the lowest of the low…!”

“Oh, who cares. At least you woke up, didn’t you?”

Unable to stomach Takumi’s smile, Lise flailed her arms about while her face flushed a bright red and tears welled in her eyes, and the slave merchant decided to take a hold of himself.

“By the way, one of Fairstadt’s messengers came to escort you home. Please, take this as a sign of gratitude for what you did for us today.”

Mirta handed a basket over the archbishop.

“What is this?”

“An apple pie I just baked.”

The child’s nose twitched as she smelled the sweet aroma coming from Mirta’s hands, and she looked at the basket with sparkling eyes, like it was a treasure.

“Takumi told me that you wanted to taste my dessert, so I thought to give you some… do you perhaps dislike it?”

“No, I like sweet things… but I am not used to this kind of things, so I am surprised.”

Holding the basket close to her chest, like she was holding a precious gem, Lise bowed her head.

“Thank you very much. I will take good care of it.”

“Do not mention it. Still, although the pie’s flavor should be all right, the shape is a little bit off. Be careful not to wrinkle the paper when you lift it, okay?”

Gazing at the woman’s wry smile, Lise’s mouth curved slightly.

“…Okay. I will be careful.”

“I hope you like it! Let’s go now, the messenger is waiting at the door with a carriage.”

Suzuran’s leader stretched her hand toward Lise, who was about to grab it, when…

“No… I will be fine by myself. Thank you for worrying.”

…after a nimble bow, she darted away.
Watching her back growing distant, Mirta let out a few whispered words.

“Lise, will you…?”

“I can’t promise that, but at least she shouldn’t be excessively abused. That piece of shit Kiad did it only to provoke us, and, in the past, she has probably been… but I don’t think it has been that bad since she became the archbishop.”

Lise now had the chance to show herself in front of other nobles, so Fortesea couldn’t hurt her thoughtlessly, given that rumors could have spread and tarnished their fame. Kiad would never think that was fine.

“Kiad is just a brute, that’s why he hit her. But he knows well what his actions could bring… At least, he knows he won’t just be spanked a little.”

Then, Takumi grinned.

“Still, the likes of him are easy to manipulate.”

He tapped repeatedly on his temple.

“Let’s go, we have some stuff to do. Tell Elsa we said hi.”

“Okay… Takumi, take care of Lise.”

As she looked at him with uneasiness, he turned his back and waved his hand, then told the others to come with him and headed to the slums.


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1+

New Game – Chapter 29

The way to open up the cage – Part 2

As Elsa was spanking Kunon while scolding her, Takumi and the others were analyzing the match’s details.

“…Elsa just started a spanking session instead of a sparring battle with magic.”

“Good. We should start the lesson with our Lady Archbishop, then.”

“I mean, should we not help her?”

“Karin, can’t you see how much fun they’re having?”

“They get along very well! Ah, I will go brew some tea!”

“You guys are really heartless…”

Takumi and Mirta were enjoying the scene, and since Karin knew that meddling with Elsa’s punishment would have brought severe repercussions on her later, she just ignored them.

“…So, what do you want to know?”

Probably feeling alienated from the others, Lise drew their attention by pulling at their clothes while wearing an uneasy expression, and the slave merchant thought about her question for a bit.

“Let’s see… Richtert’s magic knights can use two types of magic, right?”

“If we put it in a simple way, yes. You told me that you know something about it, but how much?”

“Only the basis, I guess. We can manifest it thanks to magic formulas and law formulas. Everyone possesses the former along with magic power, but only a handful of people can use it. I didn’t research the theoretical stuff, so I’d love if you could enlighten me on that.”

Lise lightly nodded and then drew two circles with a pebble.

“Let me correct you, though. If you only needed to study to use magic, everyone could use it freely.”

“So… both I and Kunon, and even Takumi could?”

“Exactly. You, that wolf, the slave merchant: as long as you have magic power, you can hypothetically use magic. But Richtert’s magic is a little different.”

She drew a few stick figures while talking.

“Intelligent creatures have magic power within them, and magic formulas are engraved in their soul. Mixing knowledge, experience, and understanding of the process results in a stronger and more complex output.”

“I see… So, people cannot use it because they do not understand how it works. That’s also why even if they know about it, they cannot manifest it.”

“Precisely. A few are born with complex formulas within them, which power is not related to their age or bloodline. For your information, I am one of them.”

Seeing Lise puffing her chest pridefully, Karin smiled wryly.

“This is the main difference among people. The study of magic is passed down since ancient times… but magic formulas are complex, as we must take into account that their power is variable, and there might be special ones.”

She drew a complex figure within one of the circles and wrote ‘awesome magic’ under it. Then, she tapped under the other circle.

“Now, law formulas are the way with which we can manifest magical phenomenon. They can be strengthened and also written in more complex ways but simplifying them is common in Richtert’s magic.”

“And that implies some kind of demerit, since we are talking about blessings, right?”

“Exactly. To put it simply, think of magic as a drawing.”

Lise rummaged in her pockets and took a feather pen and an ink bottle out of them, and then started drawing.

“This pen is a magic formula, the ink is magic power, and the law formula is the drawing. If we had to draw a complex image, we would need a lot of ink and time, which might be fatal in battle, so magic formulas need to be simple, but maintain a considerable output as well.”

As she explained, Karin replayed the scene she saw a few minutes before.
Elsa cast some spells despite being in battle, but she was so fast that Kunon couldn’t do anything to stop her.

“Holy knights like us follow God’s teachings and strive to grasp the rules they have created. We specialize in law formulas, while sorcerers specialize in magic formulas… together, we brought Richtert’s magic to its current fame.”

“I see, so you are the basis of Richtert’s strength.”

“Yes. None of us are allowed to lose. This means that we need strong people like me to keep…”

Then, Lise, who was talking freely until that very moment, shut her mouth.
Takumi remembered her doing that before, and tried to move on.

“By the way, what happens if the law or magic formulas are hampered?”

“Mmh… That is a good question but hard to answer to.”

She brought a hand to her mouth and started thinking.

“First, the magic will not work. Magic and law formulas can work independently, but magic must be composed of those two functions.”

“So, if I meddle with someone while it’s casting, I can interrupt its attack, right?”

“Yes, but you cannot touch magic formulas, since they are carved in their very soul. Only God can do that.”

“I see… but that means that I could meddle with law formulas, yes?”

“…This is hard to say as a holy knight, but I cannot say it is impossible.”

Lise’s uneasiness became evident on her face.

“A law formula is ‘a way to materialize magic into this world’. It is necessary if we want to manifest magic, so if it is written on something, it is possible to meddle with it.”

“But in Elsa’s case, she didn’t have anything like that, right?”

“Right. She recalled a law formula from her memory, then imagined how to use magic, and moved in a certain way before activating her spell. She actually entwined some things, but we cannot see magical power, so only the caster will know beforehand where the magic will manifest.”

The archbishop paused to catch her breath.

“Destroying something you cannot see is hard. Also, grasping the shape of the law formula you are trying to undermine is very important.”

“…I see. That makes it almost impossible, then.”

Without knowing where it is, how it is drawn, and how does that specific law formula work, it was impossible to stop it.
Still, after tapping on his temple for some time, Takumi smiled happily.

“Err… have you finished talking?”

Mirta was standing nearby them with a teapot and cookies in hands while looking at them blankly.

“Yeah, we can stop here for now.”

“Ow… sorry for taking this long, but I did not set foot in here for so long that I did not know where everything was…”

“…Mirta, are you really the leader of Suzuran? I wondered the same when I ate at your place.”

“Yes, why do you ask? I might not be reliable, but I am still a full-fledged leader!”

She spoke pridefully while bringing a hand to her chest, but the sweet aroma of cookies and tea wafting in the air totally ruined the seriousness of her image.

“I brought some for you too, Lise, so feel free to serve yourself.”

“You already accompanied me here, I cannot accep–”

As she sprung on her feet, trying to stand her ground, her tummy rumbled loudly.

“…There are also some sandwiches, if you want.”

“…I will have some, thank you.”

She blushed and got back to her seat before accepting her part of food and tea.
Her stony expression started to loosen up a little as she enjoyed her sandwich.
Food, what a great magic.

“Mirta is not only a beautiful leader, but also a great cook.”

“That’s exactly why we’re proud of her. She’s also a crybaby, and she’s so soft-hearted that she’d heal even injured demi-humans.”

“Aren’t you known as soft-hearted, Takumi?!”

Mirta waved her hands in denial, her face red from embarrassment, while Lise inclined her head and thought.

“Healing their injuries…? Holy magic could do that, but magic cannot.”

“Eh? I-Is that so?”

“Yes. If somebody tried to heal injuries or illness with magic, both caster and patient’s magic power would mix and react… in the worst-case scenario, it would discharge spontaneously. That is why people cannot heal others with magic.”

“Still, that does not happen with holy magic, right?”

“Actually, holy magic is a collection of complex law formulas. Essentially, it is used on a subject who does not know magic in order to use its magic power to heal itself.”

While talking, she wrote something on a scrap of paper.

“A law formula is the piling of figures, symbols, and rules… If you touched one like this, you would activate it. This is how holy magic works.”

“So… using the users’ magic power without mixing different people’s prevents magic from discharging?”

“Exactly. Healing the injuries on your own body by yourself is not a problem, that is why magic knights are obliged to know how to do it, but holy magic is used mainly for common people. Now, let me show you an example.”

She wrote something on some paper again, then walked to Kunon.

“Wolfie, let me borrow your body for a little.”

“Eeeh?! My body and soul are broken right now…”

“I want to heal you… but this binding magic might be a bother.”

Lise touched where the red light was coming from, and the magic shattered in tiny fragments that vanished into the air along with the sound of breaking glass.
Kunon found herself falling the next moment and landed on the ground.

“Ouchie…! I couldn’t break free with my strength, but you could destroy it so easily…?!”

“Actually, I negated its structure with an inverse law formula. Now, if you please.”

With that, Lise placed the paper she was still holding on Kunon’s chest, and the written symbols entered her body.

“…Why doesn’t my butt hurt anymore?”

“Because I used my holy magic. Instant recover.”

Elsa, who watched the entire scene, raised her voice in awe.

“That was truly wonderful to see!”

“…This is normal for me.”

“That is exactly why you became Crest’s Archbishop! Analyzing something from afar and preparing a counter is a thing, but writing a healing law formula on the spot is something that the average holy knight would never be able to do!”

“I, uuh… Thank you.”

Lise scratched her cheek in embarrassment when Elsa lowered her head in respect.
Healing was a holy knight’s strong point.
They had to grasp the nature of every injury and create law formulas that could cure them as fast as possible.
What the archbishop just did was something hard even for a skilled holy knight.

“I will go back to my lesson now, so please, continue your training.”

“Eh? I-I guess we can stop here, though…”

Kunon tried to get away while shaking her head, but her action was futile as she was soon restrained once again.

“I came up with this binding spell. It should be stronger than Elsa’s, which is an all-purpose type, and will wear off after a certain time. Do your best.”

“How can I?! I might be tough, but I also have a limit! Ahhh~! No, Captain! Not my tail! I can’t handle that!”

Lise ignored Kunon’s cries and returned to the others while wearing a deadpan expression.

“This is holy magic’s healing.”

“Woah! That was fantastic! My magic takes a lot more than that to work!”

Mirta grabbed the archbishop’s hands in the spur of her excitement.

“Lise, might you teach me more about holy magic?”

“I do not mind it, but… are you really interested in it?”

“Yes, but how can I say it… I studied magic with Elsa when we were little, and I used my power to heal others. It worked just fine so far, but it would be a real problem if my magic were to discharge and I hurt someone.”

Then, Mirta wore a wry smile.

“Hurting someone with a power that could help them is… really a sad thing to do, is it not?”

The next moment, her smile became sunny. After watching it for a few instants, Lise closed her distance with Mirta and hugged her.

“L-Lise? Are you okay?”

“…You are a kind person, Mirta. Almost like Her Majesty.”

After squeezing her for a little while, she let go of her.

“Mh, now I am satisfied. You were pleasantly soft.”

“P-Pleasantly soft? Does that mean I gained more pounds?!”

“No, given where she hugged you, she was referring to your–what’s up, Lise? Stop glaring at me.”

“…Lecherous slave merchants like you should just die.”

Discontent depicted on her young face, but as soon as she brought a cookie to her mouth, her expression loosened again. Her anger didn’t last long.

“So, how can we deal with magic?”

“Right… if Kunon cannot stop the casting, we will be in a big disadvantage.”

“Use magic tools. They require very little magic power, and if you need it, I can tune them for you.”

Takumi cocked his head.

“No, that won’t work. We must defeat them without using magic.”

He had a reason to pick a fight with Kiad at the banquet.

“The nobles are privileged also because of their potential in battle. That’s why Richtert’s magic is known as the mightiest.”

Nobles kept researching so that people could admire them and count on their power.
To destroy that belief, people had to witness magic’s defeat.

“If we use any magic-related trick to defeat them, people will think that magic is unbeatable, and everything will be ruined.”

“…Still, fighting a magic knight without magic or magic tools is simply a suicide.”

Lise’s face clouded.

“The Fortesea family directs Richtert’s magic chivalry. Winning against them is impossible.”

Her words alone were enough to give up any hope.
Takumi observed her before shifting his gaze to meet Karin’s, then smiled.

“If it’s impossible, why don’t we make it possible?”

“Well, if my Master wants it, I should abide to his will… I can probably silence all of those peasants who think we elves are powerless.”

“Do it, then. Show them that elves aren’t just good-looking.”

“…I do not think I need to do that, though.”

Karin faced elsewhere while huffing her embarrassment, and Mirta wore her usual worried expression.

“…Are you going to be okay? You will have a handicap, and Kunon is at a disadvantage against magic. Also, Karin is not very used to fighting…”

“Yeah, don’t worry.”

“Yes, do not worry.”

“How can you two be that positive?!”

Takumi waved his hand nonchalantly.

“Mirta, I only asked for a handicap.”

“And… what do you mean with that?”

“You will see. Now, the problem is me.”

“Eh? But you will not take part in the match, right?”

“Try to think about Kiad’s personality. If one of my servants defeats one of his, don’t you think he’ll directly challenge me?”

“I… can see that coming.”

Takumi did his best to make Kiad hate him.
Under normal circumstances, being defeated in front of everyone would show how unbeatable was magic.
Still, winning against Kiad was possible… if they prepared the right measures.

“No matter how much I struggle, I’m still an average human. I won’t win a fist fight against him, let alone a magic one.”

“Oh, right, you are more or less a normal human…”

“I often forget about that too, Karin…”

“…Girls, is that really the first thing you wanted to say right now?”

He sighed deeply and then fixed his expression.

“Also, I’m not a normal human.”

After glancing at the elf, he kept talking.

“I don’t have a teensy bit of magic in me.”

“That cannot be… Magic formulas and magic are within us the moment we come to life. You might have a very small amount, but not having any at all is–”

“I speak the truth. If I had some, I could activate any magic tool, but they are all the same junk for me.”

Being interrupted in a serious tone, Lise fell silent.
Takumi wasn’t born in that world.
He reincarnated into it asking to preserve his former world’s body, which meant that, exactly like in his old world, he hadn’t magic within him.
The Goddess was right. He was the weakest existence in this world.
Not having magic in a place where it was a keystone was practically suicidal.
If humans hadn’t had magic, they would’ve surely been inferior to demi-humans, considering the gap between their physical prowess.

“It doesn’t really bother me. There aren’t many chances of things going awry, and I’m sure that Kiad will step out himself.”

He showed a bright expression, but Lise cast her gaze down in deep thinking.
She squeezed her hand, and, after a few seconds, raised her face again.

“…Slave merchant, you should–”

“Takumiii! My butt huuurts!”

Kunon jumped on him while crying, cutting the archbishop’s words.
Elsa was approaching them from behind with a satisfied expression plastered on her face.

“Eheheh… I knew it, Wolf girl! Usually, the usage of magic is forbidden, but the guards are all nobles’ blood relatives! Never forget that they could even use magic tools to seize you!”

“Uuuh…! Seeing you this carefree is confusing…!”

“I only wanted to show you that, but I guess you did not grasp it right away… Let’s try another time, shall we?”

The guard’s smile made Kunon shriek and hide behind her Master.

“Takumi! Please, save me from her!”

“What, Takumi, do you want to be spanked too?”

“Thank you, but I’m not into that kind of stuff, and neither I’m trying to shield her.”

“A-Are you leaving me behind?! Master, are you really leaving me behind like this?!”

“Don’t make it sound so bad. It’s something necessary.”

He started to tap on his temple while smiling boldly.

“Go have fun with Elsa for some more time.”

“No, pleeease…! C-Captain, stop dragging me away! And what’s with that happy face?!”

Elsa grabbed Kunon from the nape and resumed their training while smiling joyfully. Once the wolf’s screams of pain started to resound again from the barrier, the others pressed their hands together and said a prayer in silence.

“Sorry for the interruption. You were trying to say something before, right?”

He tried to push Lise to finish her last sentence, but she remained silent, her body moving ever so slightly.
He was about to speak again, but then noticed her closed eyes and soft breathing.

“She… fell asleep, huh?”

“Let her be. She’s still a child, but has to think about a lot of stuff, which isn’t very easy on her body and spirit… I guess she hit her limit.”

Mirta and Takumi talked in whispers, and she gently moved Lise’s head over her lap.
Seeing the child sleeping that soundly, Takumi nodded.

“Karin, bring me the paperwork from my desk.”

Probably guessing the meaning behind his request, she smiled.

“Roger. I will hit the slums and get right back.”

“Eh? If you want that, you can go take it from Geiz…”

Takumi interrupted Mirta by raising his index finger.

“I’ve been gone for a while, so I’d better return to my main job.”

“…Oh, that was what you meant.”

She probably reached Karin’s same conclusion as she joined her hands happily.

“Can I help you?”

“Sure… could you bake some sweets? Put them in a basket and do more than enough for two people. Oh, and try to maintain them warm, please.”

“Leave it to me. Will you take care of Lise?”

“Yeah. I’ll just read a book, so make her use my lap for now.”

After moving and adjusting Lise beside him, Mirta hurried back to the kitchen.
Then, Takumi took his coat off, and as he was about to put it over the child…

“Sorry…”

…she whispered and kept sleeping soundly without hints of waking up.
He couldn’t understand if she muttered that while dreaming, or if it came directly from her subconscious, and neither he could grasp who she apologized to.
That was exactly why Takumi lifted his book and fell into deep thinking.


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3+

New Game – Chapter 28

The way to open up the cage – Part 1

The next day, Elsa’s condition finally improved, so she invited Takumi and the others to the Fairstadt’s mansion, which wasn’t any bigger than other nobles’ estates, but it looked more refined.
Fresh water gushed out from the fountains and the gardeners’ diligence was evident, given how magnificent and well maintained the garden was. Even the stone balustrades presented attractive patterns carved in them.
Still, Suzuran’s members weren’t invited to sightsee the place.

“Sorry for bothering you and also using your training field.”

“Hahaha, do not mention it… My subordinates told me to be your friend, and this is the only place where I can be myself…”

Clad in plain clothes and hugging her knees, Elsa stared in front of her with empty eyes, while Kunon was jumping around euphorically.

“Captain, Captain! Can I really go all out in here?!”

“Mh? Oh, yes. Magic tools are used to deploy a magic barrier surrounding the training field, so no matter how hard you will hit or how explosive your magic will be, you won’t damage anything outside this place.”

Elsa raised her head lightly and peered at the sky, which was slightly distorted due to the barrier.
Nobles strove for magic, researching and practicing to control it, and they were obliged to install magic tools that always kept active barriers to avoid accidents like damaging the surrounding areas due to spontaneous discharges or magic going wild.
That’s exactly why Elsa said it was better to practice in a safe place, and also the reason why they were invited there.
Still, Karin frowned looking up at the sky, a light shade of uneasiness clouding her face.

“I am not fond of these barriers. They do not look very sturdy…”

“Fear not. They were made by–”

“I made them myself. These barriers are unbreakable.”

Lise’s silver twin-tails swayed in the air, and Takumi’s gaze shifted between her and Mirta, who was holding the archbishop’s hand, before facing the child.

“…What are you doing here?”

“I am no ‘you.’ My name is Lise.”

“No, I mean, is it okay for you to be with us?”

Remembering what happened last time, he lowered his tone of voice, but she kept her usual, indifferent expression.

“Yes, there are no problems. Last time, I did not tell anybody that I would go out, but today, Lord Kiad gave me his permission.”

“That’s great, but he hurt you.”

“I am Fortesea’s guest, the holy knight who invented and still researches the law formula. Probably Lord Kiad acted like that to warn me that such things should never happen again, considering how important I am.”

“I see… So, you got spanked like a child.”

“…Well, my age is still what it is. Also, Lord Kiad apologized, so you do not have to worry any further about me.”

Takumi peered into her eyes, trying to perceive what her heart really wanted to convey, then let out a little sigh and smiled.

“That’s good to hear. Now… Mirta, why are you with her?”

“Err… I was going to meet with Jill in the upper part, but then I found her nearby our headquarter. She looked like she was lost, so I invited her to tag along with me.”

“Exactly. Mirta is gentle and graceful like a goddess.”

The child didn’t let go of her hand while nodding.

“And… what about Jill?”

“Well… since Geiz’s new trading routes are not going very well, Jill departed from the capital in the morning to go help him.”

“…What a bad timing. I was planning to make him teach Karin…”

Jill was usually by Mirta’s side as her assistant, but when he worked under Vatel, he was mainly a fighter and attender in trading meetings. That’s why he was well known among their business partners.

“And here I thought Jill from Dämmerung could be a huge help…”

Demi-humans hardly used magic, since they usually possessed a small amount of it inside their bodies. Still, even though they couldn’t use it, they had to know about it.
That’s why Takumi planned to make Elsa, who knew a lot about Richtert’s magic, and Jill, who knew a lot about foreign magic, teach Karin and Kunon, but now things took an unexpected turn.
The slave-merchant started to wreck his brain to fix the problem… but Lise interrupted him by pulling his clothes.

“If you need help with magic, I can help you.”

“…Really?”

“Yes. The Goddess says to always repay our debts, and Mirta accompanied me here.”

“How honest of you… but holy magic and common magic are pretty different, right?”

“Yes, they are. Their principles and usage are different, and they bring different results for medical treatments, barriers, and so on. I had to research magic to create law formulas and magic tools, so I am quite knowledgeable about it.”

She puffed her chest pridefully.

“That makes me an expert of magic. Praise the genius standing in front of you.”

“Woah, super cool! What a genius!”

“…Are you making fun of me?”

“I never meant to. I wouldn’t lose the chance of being taught by the Archbishop herself.”

Seeing her cracking a smile, Takumi turned around and looked at the others.

“Elsa, stand up and fight with Kunon.”

“You heard what I said before? We are going all out.”

“Sure. Imagine it as a real challenge. You will even fight with real swords.”

“Then… let me vent a bit.”

Elsa rose on her feet and unsheathed her sword.

“So, Wolf girl, are you confident in your strength?”

Kunon gazed at her with half-opened eyes and started to put her strength into her legs.

“Get ready, I won’t go easy on you!”

The ground under her cracked as she kicked it and jumped forward.
She wanted to finish the battle in a single strike, using her incredible speed to strike before Elsa could react, but…

“…That won’t work on me.”

A light whisper reached Kunon’s ears before Elsa hit her with the sword’s handle.
She blocked the blow and distanced herself as her face warped slightly: no ordinary human had that kind of strength.

“…Is this your magic, Captain?”

“How quick-witted. As expected from a seasoned fighter like you.”

Glaring down the demi-human, Elsa calmly prepared to use her sword.

“The magic of Fairstadt I use is called ‘Fairness’. No matter how quick or strong my foe is, my power will always match theirs.”

Richtert’s magic wasn’t used to simply produce fire pillars or ice lumps, but was composed of many unique strands that were researched, polished and passed down from the oldest of time.
That was why Richtert’s magic was the mightiest.

“You are not the only target, though. If I want to be faster, I will use it on the wind, and if I want to be tougher, I will use it on my blade. This magic is exclusive to my bloodline.”

Elsa wasn’t facing Kunon as the Captain of the Guards, but as a magic knight.
Finally understanding the situation, Kunon grinned, showing her canines.

“This isn’t boring like the last one I saw… Interesting! Lemme enjoy more, more, mooore of it!”

She looked crazy as she kicked the ground again, but Elsa easily warded her off with her sword.

“Wolf-men may have amazing abilities… but they are nothing in front of my magic.”

“Sure… But I’m the only one who knows my strength. I just need to find the right way!”

With that, Kunon swung her arm down and hit the ground, which cracked and let flying dust and debris in the air that concealed Elsa’s vision.

“Tch… What a cheap move…”

Elsa clicked her tongue, and when she cut through the cloud of dust, a golden color reflected in her eyes.

“If I go all out, not using weapons is better.”

Kunon kicked Elsa’s sword, completely smashing it, producing high-pitched clinks whenever a fragment landed on the ground.
Taking advantage of it, the demi-human continued her assault raising her fist, but the opponent didn’t show any fear.

“Let me warn you, too.”

Kunon tried to punch her on the face, but her fist stopped in front of it, like she had hit an invisible wall.

“I never said I can use only one kind of magic.”

She didn’t have time to process those words as a red light shone from under her feet, and the next moment, something restrained her limbs while also raising her in midair.

“What the–Captain, Binding Magic is unfair! And why doesn’t it come off?!”

Kunon was struggling with all her might, but she couldn’t break free.
Seeing that, Elsa nodded satisfied.

“Every noble family in Richtert uses its own magic… and using defensive magic tools when fighting with magic is just common sense. Binding Magic is a peculiarity of guards.”

Elsa showed her the bracelet coiled around her wrist.

“Now, Wolf girl… you always give me a really hard time…”

She started approaching her prey with a wicked smile on her face, and Kunon, feeling the danger, raised and stiffened her ears and tail.

“T-Thank you for always taking care of me!”

“Yes, I always do… Like when I had to search for you at the banquet, or when I had to pay for your food, or when I had to overlook the things you destroyed… The list is quite long, you know?”

Towering over Kunon, who was shivering and almost crying in fear, she smiled like an angel while veins were popping on her arms and head.

“I will now beat some discipline into you, since your Master never did.”

For some time, the only two sounds that could be heard were Elsa’s laughter and Kunon’s screams.


<Prev | Index | Next>

2+

New Game – Chapter 27

The birdie that doesn’t chirp – Part 3

The approaching twilight started to paint the sky red.
As promised, Takumi and his comrades were bringing Lise home, and were currently walking in the streets after descending from the gondola.

“Thank you for accompanying me home.”

The archbishop bowed her head, and Takumi shook his hand.

“I always keep my promises. I’m sorry I interrupted your research.”

“I do not mind. If I could, I would have loved to have a taste of Mirta’s dessert too.”

“Yeah… she fled in a hurry for the ‘puppet show’.”

Mirta was glad that Lise enjoyed the food, and started to prepare even a dessert, but she noticed that it was getting late, and darted off without finishing it.

“The doll maker had finished his job, but she couldn’t fail the play.”

“I would have never expected that you worked even as doll makers and as a theatrical company.”

“Ah, well, we plan to do a bit of everything.”

“…You are strange people. I heard that you originally were an illegal company of the slums, so I thought you only did scary jobs.”

Karin wore a complicated expression while looking at Lise’s slightly shining eyes.

“…Takumi, do you really want her to believe that?”

“Why not? She didn’t ask directly, anyway.”

The two talked in whispers, so that the child couldn’t hear.
He used a code.
The puppet show was actually a delivery of smuggled goods, the doll maker was the deal, and the puppets were the method of trading, which consisted in hiding the things within a false corpse in a coffin.
Vatel came up with all of this, and only Suzuran members could understand the real meaning of those words.
Karin was sorry to see that Lise was trusting them, but this type of job wasn’t something that a child like her had to know about. Although the corpse they used wasn’t real, she would have shown her indignation and scolded them for using such blasphemous methods.

“So, Lise, how was your first time in the slums?”

After their meal, Takumi and the others took her for a walk.
She couldn’t see the slums from the cathedral or the castle because it laid behind the top and middle layers. That’s why, time permitting, she wanted to visit as many places as she could.

“Now you’ve seen something you can’t just look from up there.”

“…Yes. I saw the embodiment of hell on earth.”

Remembering what she saw, Lise let out a deep, heavy sigh.

“Plenty of drunk people sleeping in their own vomit and excrement in broad daylight… Stallholders and seamen randomly fighting among each other while being surrounded by people who instigated them to violence… Children taking advantage of that to steal goods… Are the slums always this chaotic?”

“Nah, usually it’s even worse.”

“Right. The sleeping ones would yell at the fighting ones to shut up, and things end up in huge brawls.”

“Yep! Then the guards join in and quell everything!”

“…Admittedly, I can easily imagine it.”

The archbishop’s tone was resigned, but her expression was somewhat relaxed as her gaze grew distant, like she was seeing a faraway land.

“This is the worst, most awful place I have ever seen…”

Then, her voice became a whisper.

“…but I cannot help being envious of it.”

She lived in a completely different world, and although she was still admiring the townscape around her, she ended up lowering her gaze.

“You are all so free. Even the perverted bird and the sultry drakonid are able to have fun and be that noisy, despite being demi-humans—existences surrounded by a hostile environment.”

Her lips bent slightly into a little smile as she remembered the carefree behavior of that duo.

“The people living in the slums are poor and struggle to survive, pursuing the few choices they have… still, they have not lost the freedom in their hearts.”

Her answer took a philosophical direction while her smile became slightly bigger.

“Seeing people acting like that was… really nice.”

Resignation and a dim shade of envy painted her face, along with hope.
Seeing her, Takumi rubbed her head.

“If you’re envious, why don’t you also try to act like us?”

“Because… I cannot do it.”

Her words leaked out her lips as tears streamed down her eyes.

“The caged birdie… will never be allowed to chirp freely.”

The moment she stared down while balling her hands, an unexpected voice reached her.

“You catch up quickly, Lise Crest.”

Her entire body started to tremble.

“How dare this repulsing trash take my guest for a walk?”

A thick arrogance permeated those words, and soon, the speaker stepped out.

“Lise… we couldn’t find you in the cathedral and grew quite worried.”

“…I am sorry, Lord Kiad.”

Seeing her apologetically bowing, he snorted.

“Now… the thugs that kidnapped the archbishop deserve an exemplary punishment…”

A simple gesture of his hand, and a lot of soldiers stepped out while drawing their swords. They were the pride of Richtert: the magic knights.

“P-Please, wait a minute! They did not do anything wrong! I–”

“Who said you could speak?”

He growled and grabbed her by her slender neck.
The child struggled in agony as her airway was being crushed.

“You are very wise despite your young age. I thought you knew your place, and you even said all that just a minute ago, but you probably weren’t educated enough…!”

He easily lifted her up and forcefully threw her away from Takumi and the others, who watched the scene without moving an inch.

“Oh, weren’t you good friends? I thought you’d try to help her.”

“…Do you really think we’d fall for a cheap provocation like that? You need to come up with something better.”

“Hah… I didn’t know trash could be intelligent. If only you tried to touch me, we’d have washed the streets with your blood.”

A crooked smile cracked on his face as he lightly prodded Lise, who was lying on the floor.

“Look what you did by taking what’s mine with you… It’s hard to see her making such a face… no one ever asked for this.”

“…You have quite the status to treat her like something belonging to you.”

“I know, right? You all belong to Fortesea. And sooner or later, everything will.”

Takumi quietly listened while glaring at him.

“Lise, get up and hurry back home.”

“Yes, Lord Kiad… Thank you for sparing them.”

“Well, I must consider a plea from someone who always does what we ask. Also… I finally got something off my chest.”

He smiled sadistically in front of her, whose aching body was trembling in fear.

“We’ll see again each other in the match. Enjoy your last days, filthy trash.”

Spitting harsh words, Kiad turned on his heels and started to walk away, followed by his men and Lise, who looked at Takumi and his friends for a brief moment. A gloomy shadow darkened her bruised face as her lips moved in silence.

I had fun.

Then, she silently walked away.

“Well done for controlling yourself, Kunon.”

“I’m not so stupid to jump into a fight without thinking of the consequences! You’re talking to a wolf, you know?! Still…”

She gripped the hilt of her black daggers and whispered in a low, guttural voice.

“…that wasn’t nice to see.”

An aura of blood-lust formed around her, while Karin flicked her hair back annoyed.

“I totally agree. Even though I’m used to see stuff like that, it still gets on my nerves.”

“Yeah, I know where you two are coming from… but now there’s something we know for sure.”

Takumi started to tap on his temple as he repeated Kiad’s words.

“Although he said they couldn’t find the archbishop in the cathedral, the rest of the city was too quiet. He didn’t mobilize the guards or his personal army to search for her, and that bragger didn’t look worried in the slightest.”

“…So, he doesn’t consider her that valuable?”

“No, in that case he wouldn’t have come all the way here. Also, he forced her to go home with violence. You know better than me who gets treated like that, don’t you?”

He used violence to bend her to his will.
Despite not being a slave, she acted in the very same way, and that meant that there was a reason she had to be like that.

“Now, how could he find us? A simple estimation of the path we were going to take wouldn’t be accurate, and he said that we were good friends with her… Almost like…”

He then stopped his finger.

“I see… that’s why that was written.”

“You mean that personal request…?”

“Yeah. It was only one sentence.”

A few days before, they received a letter.
There weren’t details of any sort in it, so they had to blindly search for information, but the only thing they found was a sentence that looked like a request of help:
The caged birdie will never be allowed to chirp freely.
Takumi kept thinking about what that could mean.

“…This isn’t an easy request.”

“Indeed… It’s the archbishop we’re talking about. Contrary to slaves or ordinary people, we can’t just kidnap her, and she can’t run away by herself either. Anyone who would help her would be considered a traitor from the country and executed.”

Being the archbishop meant having a certain authority, and also be subjected to some very strict rules.
Even running away for a short time would be difficult, since the Fortesea’s shadows might appear at any time, instilling a growing fear in the evader every day.

“She really is in a cage of steel.”

“And there’s more, right?”

“Yeah. They’re earning quite the profit from her.”

Saying that, Takumi smiled amused, and the others looked at him and did the same.

“Is it doable, Master?”

“Of course. I wondered why she acted in such a roundabout way, but now that I’ve understood it, we can act whenever we want.”

Turning on his heels, Takumi took the way back the slums while tapping on his temple.

“Karin, once we’re home, reorganize the information we’ve gathered. Kunon, you come with me. I’ll let you vent a bit.”

“…Will you let me kill that guy?”

“Something like that.”

“Really?! Yaaay! Takumi finally told me I can kill someone!”

“You know how messy things will become if you kill the capital’s top authority?”

Seeing Kunon drawing her swords and slashing the air happily, he grabbed her from her nape.

“Owww… but I wanna squash him so haaard…”

“I already told you that killing will only put an end to someone. Killing for revenge makes you fill better at first, but deep down, your heart will always search for forgiveness…”

As he scolded her, his lips bent again.

“But I’ll never forgive Kiad. I won’t have mercy. Every single cell in his body must scream in agony and be forgotten in the darkest pit of loneliness, otherwise I won’t feel at ease.”

Lise’s aching face as she walked away flashed in front of Takumi’s pitch-black eyes again, and the words she couldn’t say out loud resounded in his ears.
I had fun.
With her image still burned into his sight, Takumi faced the others.

“It’s been a while since we got something to do in our territory. Let’s go.”

“Recently, we only had to work as a major company… I’m glad you didn’t forget about our main activity.”

“I’m perfectly fine with destroying everything!”

“Feel free to do that in the match. This time we must tell Mirta what’s going on. We need to define some details, and she knows how to do that very well.”

“Roger. How should I tell her?”

“I guess telling her directly will work just fine.”

Another smile appeared on his face.

“Let’s go save Lise Crest.”


<Prev | Index | Next>

4+

New Game – Chapter 26

TL note: heartfelt thanks to Jethro Salim, who donated twenty euros for this series!


The birdie that doesn’t chirp – Part 2

As the gondola floated down the river, the elegant townscape around them gradually turned into the slums’.
People tend to relax when they return to places they know. On the other hand, those who set foot into a new territory are usually excited and curious, and it’s exactly that curiosity that dissipates their caution, pushing even the most careful of lambs into the lion’s den…

“I-I… should have stayed home.”

Lise was now in the dining room of Suzuran, trembling slightly.

“What Her Majesty said was real… Scary people kidnapped me when I was alone…”

“Hey, who’s scary? Don’t go around tarnishing people’s reputation.”

“…I am sure she is talking about you, Takumi.”

Karin, who had finished her work, was taking a break and sighed deeply.

“I can’t believe you kidnapped the archbishop…”

“I didn’t kidnap her, but only fueled her interest and got her to come with me without specifying where we would go.”

“So, you are not only a crook, but you also tricked a child, huh…?”

“I am not a child. I can go back alone anytime.”

Lise tried to put up a brave front, but her voice was weaker than usual.

“I already told you we’re gonna bring you back later. Relax.”

“I-Is that so…? Are you not lying?”

“No, I’m not. You said you never visited the city, so I wanted to let you see the one part you would have never bothered to see in your entire life.”

“C-Can you not decide everything by yourself, please?!”

The archbishop showed her anger, and so did Mirta, who was listening to their exchange.

“She is right. You cannot keep doing whatever you want! And stop involving people in your moody choices.”

“…How can I take you seriously? You prepared all of this with a huge grin on your face, Mirta.”

“I-I was not! I was only trying to cook what you suggested and… ended up doing too much!”

Bashfully pressing her fingertips together, she lowered her gaze from the dining room’s long desk, which was covered with food.
Stew, omelets, doria, gratin, hamburgers, fried chips, pizzas, curry, various fried food, tonkatsu, fried prawns, udon, carbonara, napolitan, sandwiches, french toasts, pancakes… and many more.
She was used to cook large quantities of food, given how many people their company had, but she asked Takumi for advice to expand the menu further, and things turned out like that.

“This looks like a family restaurant…”

“A family… what?”

“Nothing, don’t mind me. You gathered quite a lot of ingredients, huh?”

“Geiz asked his contacts to help him, and they made him seal a business deal with a new sea route, which stocked a lot of foreign ingredients. He had to go through quite a lot of troubles for it.”

Mirta showed a radiant, proud smile. She was indeed a passionate cook, which was wonderful, but it wasn’t a great characteristic for a leader.
Still, in front of her effort, Lise looked amazed at the delicacies spread in front of her.

“There is plenty of food I have never seen before… May I have a taste?”

“Yes. I never cooked these before, but feel free to help yourself.”

“I will.”

Lise grabbed a spoon and timidly brought some stew to her mouth. Then, she repeated the same motion again and again, in silence, like she was in a trance.
Seeing that she was liking it, Mirta’s face brightened.

“Lise, would you like some hamburgers?”

“Mh, yes, please. I would love to taste many of these dishes.”

“I am glad to hear that. Let me give you some, then.”

Suzuran’s leader started to take small portions from various plates for her guest.
The usual image of a dignified leader was nowhere to be seen, but she was honestly enjoying the moment, so no one said anything.

“But… is this meal not too much for us?”

“Probably… I’d feel bad to have any leftovers, and Karin doesn’t eat much…”

In front of them was food for dozens of persons, and many of the plates were main dishes and fried ones, so they were quite heavy on the stomach.

“Ah, do not worry. There are some voracious members in our company.”

“You mean Kunon?”

“Are you speaking of Kunon?”

“Yes, like Kunon… Ah, Lewin told me he and Aigle will come here after they finish their work.”

Karin and Takumi stiffened at her words.

“Karin, you got it?”

“Yes. What if Aigle tries to do something?”

“Make sure he can’t move. If necessary, feel free to beat him until he passes out.”

“Roger.”

“Why would you do that?!”

“Prevention is better than cure. We can’t make him meet L–”

The door flung open, interrupting Takumi.

“Woah! There’s a lotta food!”

“There really is, Instructor! Is this aroma not a bliss for the nose?!”

“Keep it down, Aigle! Otherwise I’ll pluck your wings!”

“Ahaaah! That would be a real honor for me!”

“Then, Sis Mirta will cook them!”

The three demi-humans entered the room, and as soon as Kunon saw Takumi and Karin, she trotted to them.

“Hey Karin, Takumi! Are you back already?”

“Yeah… we came back to eat. Why are you with those two, anyway?”

“I met them on my way here! I just finished training the other kids!”

She happily answered, and Takumi hid his face with his hands.
It was bad. He didn’t expect that turn of events, and now it was too late to prevent them, especially her, from coming here.
The next moment, Aigle opened wide his bloodshot eyes and sniffed the air deeply.

“I smell an unknown girl.”

“Damn you, stop sniffing out people.”

“I can prey on targets with both my eyes and nose!”

“Can you?! For Filia’s sake… your super-senses are a hassle in these cases.”

Ignoring Takumi’s shock, Aigle looked around to track the source of the smell, and after locating it munching food nonchalantly at the table, he slowly walked and stopped beside Lise.
His overwhelming frame towered over her, who faced him with a puzzled look.
The next moment, something changed in his expression, which became more elegant, and he kneeled.

“Forgive my rudeness, Silver-haired Lady… would you be interested in riding on my shoulders?”

“…Riding on your shoulders?”

“Yes. If possible, I would love your soft, silky legs to swing in front of my face… Legally speaking, enjoying bare legs should not be a problem!”

“I believe your death will unburden the world.”

“NHHH! So glad I was abused by such a soft voiceee!”

As Aigle shouted his torrent of feelings at the sky, Lise turned to Takumi.

“Slave merchant, what is this revolting and twisted bird’s problem?”

“Long story short, he’s a pervert.”

“…Thank you for putting it this clearly.”

“W-Well, Aigle is a bit gross, but he is also a good guy… Do not mind him and let’s keep eating before it gets cold.”

“Lady Mirta screwed my service up… but this feels good in its own way!”

Paying him no more mind, everyone started to dig in.

“Oi, Silver-haired Missy! This curry is hella good, ya know?! It’s so spicy it reaches even my blazing heart!”

“…I cannot handle spicy food.”

“Dahhahaha! Probably it’s still too early for your taste!”

“Lady, try this fried chicken meat, then! Delicious juices spread in your mouth when you bite it!”

“…Bird, do you consume your own race’s flesh?”

“I descend from hawks, so, technically, I am no cannibal!”

The two demi-human’s loudness and energy softened the mood, and probably resonated with Lise, whose cold expression seemed to warm a little.
Observing her from the distance, Takumi smiled.

“Karin, make sure those two don’t get carried away.”

“I know… You really are soft-hearted.”

Karin was surprised by his choice, but happily got closer to them the next moment.
Kunon, who was eating at the table, rose on her feet after seeing her friend approaching, and walked to her Master.

“Takumi~! As you said, the Captain gave me these!”

“Oh, great job. Are you sure they are two different types?”

“Yes! They’re the oldest and the latest style’s magic tools!”

Saying that, she took a couple of bracelets from her pouch.
They were magic tools provided to the guards: both were made of gold and silver and had a peculiar shape, and words carved on them.
Takumi tried to analyze them by sight alone.

“I see. Writing the code with gold on holy silver speeds magic transmission up… and using the Veril continent’s language, which comes from the ancient Centaria, boosts the output power… huh?”

“Woooah! Could you tell only by looking?”

“Well, I was in charge of those magic tools and law formulas.”

“Didn’t you say they resemble some of the machines you have in your country?”

“Yeah, only a little bit. If I think of magic as electricity and law formulas as circuits, I can get a grasp of it.”

Magic tools weren’t that different from his former world’s machines.
They reproduced magic thanks to the materials they were made of, their shape, and the Law Formula that bound the components together.
Fundamentally, they controlled the flow of magic to reproduce the desired effect.

“But this is closer to occult stuff than machines. Law Formulas are a mix of semiotics, iconography, and mainly allegorical hermeneutics, while magic’s concept is closer to Taoism and Chinese medicine.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about!”

“Basically, there’s a lot of jumbled, unclear stuff. I could figure out some parts thanks to what I learned in my country, so I can potentially create a Law Formula that Richtert hasn’t still come up with.”

“Woah…! You really know a lotta things! I don’t wanna study more than I need to, and I prefer guessing than remembering!”

“I think you’re fine as you are, Kunon… so? What does your intuition tell you?”

Asked Takumi while staring at the magic tools, and the Hound frowned slightly.

“I’m not sure… but these are somewhat bad.”

“Bad?”

“It’s like… a drop of oil that melts into water… something like that?”

She started to think deeply as she couldn’t express her feeling clearly.

“Well, I’ll remember there’s something off. You demi-humans have incredible senses and can perceive a lot of things we can’t, so I’ll trust you.”

“Yaaay! So, can I go back eating now?!”

“You sure can! There’re lots of plates from my coun–”

“I wanna eat meat!”

“…Then try tonkatsu.”

Kunon grabbed a fork and pierced the tender, tempting meat and brought it to her mouth, where it melted slowly as she chewed it.

“Nhhh~! It’s crispy but juicy, and the seasoning is perfectly made! The sauce’s flavor is richer and tastes a bit like apple, which also fixes the oil’s boring taste!”

“Try to express what you just felt like that.”

“I can talk about good food, but everything else is boring, so forget it! Gimme more!”

“Yeah, fine… Eat as much as you want.”

“Eeeh? I’m tired from all the work, so I want you to feed me.”

“…No? If you only want to stuff your stomach, shouldn’t you do it by yourself?”

He protested as he brought to her open mouth some food.

“Lieeege! I am really envious of what you are doiiing!”

“Masteeer! That’s not what a Master should dooo!”

“Shut your traps, bird-head and blockhead. If you two wanna do it, just do it.”

“Hoorayyy!”

“Hell yeeeah!”

As they pushed their fists together and let out cries of joy, Kunon turned her face away.

“Forget it. Aigle is too noisy, and Lewin is too sultry.”

“Nnnhhh! Instructor, abuse me more, please!”

“Sis Kunon, drive a hot shot into my mouth!”

As they asked for some good, they felt a tight grasp on their shoulders.

“You… know what will happen if you dare to touch her, right?”

“Guys… if you keep yelling like that, you will ruin our meal, you know?”

Mirta and Karin were grinning as they towered over them.

“If you want, I can pluck the feathers of your forehead and write ‘idiot’ on it.”

“Ah, this frying pan is still really hot…but you like hot things, don’t you, Lewin?”

The next moment, the two demi-humans prostrated while begging for forgiveness.


<Prev | Index | Next>

7+

New Game – Chapter 25

TL note: heartfelt thanks to Johnson Keriri, who donated twenty euros for this series!


The birdie that doesn’t chirp – Part 1

“Aaah… speaking formally and minding etiquette made my shoulders stiff…”

The next day, Takumi left the castle again and after cracking his shoulders to relieve some stress, he checked his schedule.

“The match will be held in seven days in the western part of the Eltern plains… I can’t believe that queen. She’s too bossy, and now we have to handle another of her whims.”

Usually, normal duels and even magic battles were fought in the capital, but since this match could be nastier than usual, it was decided to relocate it outside the capital. Eluria ordered to install special seats for the overlords and the royal family, while also providing provisional ones for nobles only.

“And to make things worse, Elsa collapsed due to a stomachache… this is no good.”

The last encounter with Takumi had been a death blow for her. She accepted the request as long as she could have an entire day of rest.
The slave merchant was still thinking about it before raising his head.

“…Aigle, can you ask Geiz what’s going on? Trying to handle this by myself might be a bit too much.”

The bird-man that was walking with him spread his white wings and straightened his back.

“Yes, my Liege~!”

“Don’t shout like that. My ears hurt.”

“Forgive me! I will pay more attention next time!”

“…Just stop shouting.”

“Ahahaaah! Do you really think I will?!”

With burning passion in his eyes and an imaginary fire behind him, he kept yelling, so Takumi pressed his palms on his ears while frowning. Then, the drakonid that was with them joined the discussion. His scales were dark like black iron, and his big mouth was filled with sharp teeth.

“Dahahaha! Aigle was scolded ‘cuz he’s too loud!”

“Lewin, don’t shout.”

“Huh?! Am I?! What’s the problem with my hot voice?!”

“It’s that you’re sultry.”

“Duh, that’s a praise, not a problem!”

Opening his red mouth wide, Levin broke into a cheeky laugh, and Takumi let out a deep sigh.

Usually, Kunon and Karin accompanied him, but they already had something to do in the slums, so Aigle and Lewin became his bodyguards for the day.
They were part of his demi-human squad, whose members were equipped with modern weapons and entrusted with various roles depending on their abilities. Takumi taught them modern warfare’s tactics, and Kunon was their tutor, making them real elites. They were second only to her in terms of power.

Aigle was a bird-man with unbelievable strength thanks to his huge frame and muscular body. A single arrow of his longbow could almost sink a ship.
On the other hand, Lewin’s particularly solid scales granted him a tough, strong body that was almost matchless in battle.

Bringing many people into the royal castle was hard, and Takumi couldn’t allow anyone to see his underlings use the weapons or tactics he taught them.
That’s why he chose to be accompanied by these two, who didn’t need weapons, but…

“At least Kunon’s is somewhat cute…”

“I totally agree, my Liege! My instructor’s cuteness shines like a treasure! Whenever she pours abusing words on me, I feel an impressive joy warming my heart…!”

“I know that feeling damn well, Aigle! When Kunon kicks my butt hard and looks down on me like I’m a piece of trash I just feel too good!”

…Takumi should have predicted how rotten they could be, despite their amazing abilities.

“I’ve had enough of you two. Shut the hell up. I don’t want someone to see me walking with two perverts screaming in a place like this.”

“A pervert?! I’m so honored to be praised by you, my Liege!”

“Force me to! C’mon, bring it on! Hit me super hard!”

Handling them caused Takumi his his first headache, but then his gaze fell on the Goddess’ cathedral sparkling under the sunlight.
On its walls were carved law formulas, as well as complex patterns and figures, which only improved its artistic, beautiful appearance.
Takumi recalled the previous day, and casually started to walk in its direction.

“Aigle, go to Geiz and update him. Lewin, go to Mirta and make her write a list of people who need some construction, then reunite with Aigle.”

“But we are supposed to be your escort, my Liege!”

“He’s right, Master! What if we’re not with you and somethin’ happens?!”

“I’m going to the cathedral. Do you wanna come too?”

The two closed their mouths right away.
Bird-men worshipped the sky, the trees and the sun, while drakonids worshipped their ancestors, who they saw as deities.
Every demi-human race had its own creed and respected the others’.
That’s why they were inclined to avoid any contact with them, and Filia’s cathedral was no exception: they would have stepped into it only if absolutely necessary.

“I’m sure you would’ve come if I hadn’t given you another work just a minute ago. But don’t worry, the cathedral is a safe place, and I won’t do anything reckless.”

“Very well! I shall fulfill my new duty, then!”

“Yeah, me too! For our big sisters!”

The two rose their hands high in the sky along with passionate words before walking away. They were indeed noisy perverts, but when it came down to business, they were reliable.
Takumi, now alone, approached the guards stationed in front of the cathedral and spoke to them.

“Excuse me, I am Takumi from the major company Suzuran. I was entrusted by Lady Fairstadt to deliver a verbal message to the archbishop. Is Lise Crest here?”

“She is currently praying in the cathedral… Forgive me but are you perhaps the same Takumi who exposed Amberg’s wrongdoings?!”

“…Well, I do not think there are many Takumis around…”

“Oh my! I would have never imagined making your acquaintance, Sir!”

Takumi was slightly startled by the guard’s excitement, and waited for the right moment to speak again.

“I took part of the operation to unmask Amberg, last month! Your plan was flawless! Truly wonderful!”

“Oh, really? Sorry for using you as decoys, though.”

“Do not mention it! We were just… cowards unable to lay a finger on those nobles.”

For a moment, the guard hung his head in shame at his own words.

“We could only watch like miserable cowards… But we’re now respectful and proper guards, and it is all thanks to you, Sir Takumi!”

The slave merchant smiled back vividly at the guard’s pristine smile.

“I only pushed you a little, but you earned the respect you deserve by sticking bravely to that unreasonable tactic.”

“Thank you…! I will treasure your words and pray so that I can walk the path of justice forever!”

“Good. I will also try my best to meet your expectations.”

The guard bowed deeply before straightening his back again and nodding to Takumi, who proceeded to enter.

The cathedral was bathed in sunlight, and probably thanks to the stained glass, there wasn’t a single shadow inside. In the deepest part, a young girl was praying on her knees. She must have heard the sound of the door opening, because the next moment she turned toward it.

“…Keep your voice down, slave merchant. I could hear you from here.”

“Ouch, really? My bad.”

“…No problem. I had already finished my daily prayers.”

After brushing the dust off her knees, she looked straight at his face.

“So, what brings you here in the holy cathedral?”

“I just left the royal castle and thought to drop by to chat a little… What’s with that face?”

“It is the mirror of my current displeasure.”

Takumi smiled bitterly at her reluctant expression.

“This is no place for unbelievers like you. Go back home, please.”

“That’s rude. I’m a dedicated believer of Filia, you know?”

“Stop mentioning our Goddess’ name in vain. You have not even read the Holy Text properly…”

“‘Thou who aspirest to being a hero, thy Goddess shall grant thee the smile of victory,’ chapter of the goddess, twelfth paragraph. The words that Goddess Filia reserves for the heroes who march to war.”

“…Chapter of heroes, twentieth paragraph.”

“‘For our choice, we proceed down the righteous path we decid’d.’”

“…The difference between the other chapters and the law’s one?”

“The former ones record the ancient war between nameless heroes and gods and are divided into chapters and paragraphs, whereas the latter one is composed of two-hundred-sixty-four articles and forty poems that record the law established after said war.”

“…Umpf.”

Lise let out a puff, unable to find an error in his answer.

“What matters are not the contents but what lays behind it.”

“I can’t take you seriously with those puffed cheeks… anyway, don’t you think I’m a bit better than those who treat the Holy Text as a simple decoration? Shouldn’t I be rewarded for this?”

“…I cannot help it. The archbishop’s duty is also to exchange words with other believers.”

Coming to terms with her work, Lise patted a bench with discontent, and Takumi sat on it facing her to have a proper conversation.

“Come to think of it, aren’t you the genius who invented the law formula?”

“Yes, I am. Is there something you want to ask this genius archbishop?”

“Oh, yeah, totally.”

“Given your rough conduct, you would not deserve any answer… but whatever.”

“Thank you for your generosity, oh genius archbishop. I have a question concerning the law formula.”

“…Is that so? I thought you were going to ask about magic.”

Lise tilted her head, and Takumi looked up at the ceiling while answering.

“Someone is already teaching me its basics and use in battle… and I’ve also done some research on it.”

Magic was divided into two parts: Innate and Control.
The former referred to the power stored in the soul, which was the source of magic, and the latter was basically imagination, which served to control and polish that mighty power known worldwide. People could create supernatural events by combining these two, and Takumi was especially interested in the Innate part.

“Is Innate something that you can simply imagine gathering on your fingertips?”

“Yes and no. There are many ways to control and use it.”

Lise spoke while moving her hand in circles.

“Imagining gathering it, casting it with words, activating it by moving according to specified patterns… It is not only about imagination, but about the various meanings that the actions hold.”

“Like the thing you just did?”

“…You have quite keen eyes. I was imagining magic gathering into my finger while enhancing it with words and shaping it like a circle. This way, I overlapped chanting, various hieroglyphs, and actions, so it does not really matter how you do it.”

“I see. Last time I saw someone casting magic, they only chanted it.”

“That is quite common. Other countries’ magic is weak exactly for that reason. Overlapping more methods is a slow process, but it amplifies significantly the output of the spell, and the only way to speed the preparation process up is doing everything simultaneously.”

“I guess it’s not that easy, though.”

“Indeed. Writing something with a hand while tracing a shape with the other and chanting at the same time is no easy task, but a real holy warrior should research how to speed up, polish and improve this process.”

“Wow… that’s quite interesting.”

“I agree. It is like trying to solve a puzzle in many different ways.”

Her expression was as dull as ever, but she was swinging her legs excitedly.
After a little while, Lise shifted her gaze to Takumi.

“What? I was listening.”

“…That is why I am surprised right now.”

“Don’t take me for one of those adults who never listen to children…”

“There are plenty of people like that among nobles. They do not care about the effects and essential points of the law formula that makes magic work, so almost no one listened to this kind of explanation except Her Majesty.”

“Well, isn’t it better to have a casual talk with them?”

“…I spend all my time researching, so I do not know how to do that.”

She replied with her usual flat tone, but there was a hint of loneliness in her words.
She was part of the elite of society, and wasn’t only a unique holy warrior thanks to her distinct ideas and intelligence, which made her earn the title of archbishop, but had even enough prestige to being invited from the Overlord of Fortesea as a house guest.
Takumi started to think about her words, and the next moment he got up on his feet.

“Lise, wanna try to get out of here?”

“…Eh?”

The slave merchant grabbed her hand and started to walk toward the door.

“N-No, wait. I have to get back on my research…”

“There should be gondolas passing on this layer, right?”

“I saw them passing behind the cathedral… should you not prepare for your match?”

“Who cares, I’ll just do it tomorrow. Have you ever been on a gondola?”

“N-No, never. I only watched them descend Listina’s channels. It was relaxing.”

“Getting on one is even better, trust me. Listina isn’t the Water Capital for nothing.
Also, the look of the city is amazing when…”

He kept talking to fuel Lise’s interest as they approached the gondola, and once they were in front of it, Takumi helped her get inside.


<Prev | Index | Next>

5+

New Game – Chapter 24

Sorry for the delay, the editor had two exams this few weeks, so we couldn’t release the chapters like usual.
Enjoy this way longer than usual chapter! The next one will be a new game sponsored chapter too!


The ashen-colored birdie – Part 4

Mirta’s flushed face and angry expression were the center of attention.

“Get your hands off me, Lord Kiad! I said I refuse!”

“Aren’t you a bit too cold with me? My invitation should make a grown-up woman like you happy.”

She glared at the man in front of her, who was not only enjoying the situation while holding her arm, but also cracking a vulgar smile as he sniffed her blond hair.
He was Kiad Fortesea, the overlord who administered and maintained the city’s military power.

“This buffet is hosted by Her Majesty, and I do not see how…”

“Mh… so what? Her Majesty still hasn’t come, and my father Elvis couldn’t attend this feast, so it would be a waste to not enjoy myself, don’t you think?”

She bit her lower lip, disgusted by his behavior.

The host was Queen Eluria herself, and they were now in the royal castle, meaning that any improper conduct would be interpreted as an insult to the royal family, but Kiad didn’t seem to care of it. The overlords retained the real power in Richtert, after all. The queen’s prestige was a mere decoration.
Those thoughts were evident on his face, and his harassment wasn’t going to end soon. The nearby lords and princes, as well as the guards who were attracted by the ruckus and wanted to check what was going on, were watching at the scene without trying to stop him.

The Fortesea family was so powerful that even foreign countries shook in fear when hearing about their magic knights, and their influence in the city was evident.
They could ruin any noble family if they so desired.
Their leadership was based on sheer power and intimidation. That’s how they earned the suffix ‘valiant’.

“I like strong people. You came all the way here after overthrowing Amberg despite being part of a company of the slums, and then you step into the aquamarine garden with the most influential nobles of Richtert… I greatly value your abilities, you know?”

He spoke those words with a hint of scorn in his voice, and looked down on her with fiery passion burning deep into his eyes, like a beast looking at its prey.

“I can’t stop myself from desiring a gorgeous lady who was able to accomplish even such a feat.”

“As the leader of Suzuran, I am very busy, so I will not change my mind! I humbly refuse your invitation!”

“Is that so? Not even if spending a single night with me, the heir of Fortesea, would bestow my family’s protection on you and your organization?”

Mirta couldn’t keep her repugnance hidden anymore, and openly showed her emotions.

“I already know how skilled my men are, so none of us need that.”

“Hahaha, well said! Perhaps that elf approached us to enjoy my patronage?”

He burst into a loud laughter while eyeing Karin up, and Mirta lost her temper.

“That elf plays a key role in our company, and is one of my most important friends! Take back what you have just said!”

“A friend? Do you think demi-humans are on your level? What a sweet thing to say! They’re but disposable pieces! Elves in particular are just alluring toys!”

Brought to her limit, Mirta freed her hand and raised it to slap him, but Karin stopped her from behind.

“Calm down, Mirta.”

“No way! He dared to insult you and our organization, so…!”

“I appreciate your concern, but getting mad is not your duty right now.”

Karin smiled tenderly. Then, a thunderous, dry sound echoed around, and more guards came running to see what was going on.
Kiad turned to face the source of that bang with a sharp glare, and saw a composed, carefree guy approaching them while the smell of gunpowder wafted in the air.

“Hello. I saw you inviting my leader with enthusiasm, but… what about understanding that coercion does not make you look cool?”

Takumi was smiling brightly while the noble turned pale and brought a hand to the short sword tied at his hips.

“…Did you make that sound?”

“Oh no, how could I? That sound reminded me of a rifle… do you think I am holding one right now?”

The slave merchant provoked him by showing his empty hands.

“Now, trying to force random girls to come into your room is a thing, but unluckily this time you chose Mirta, Suzuran’s leader, and Karin, one of its important employees.
Might you take back what you just said and apologize, please?”

“How dare you speak to me like that… You have no idea who I am!”

“Oh, do I, overlord Kiad Fortesea? I do not think there is someone in all Richtert who does not know you.”

“Hah! So, you do know who you are talking to! I guess you didn’t grasp the meaning of my comment, then.”

Remarked the noble while a triumphant smile spread on his face.

“Is that… so?”

Takumi couldn’t contain his laughter anymore. It sounded eerie, but different from a madman’s. It had a deep meaning.

“As the owner of the magical knights, you retain the influence and leadership to control people… Your abilities are suitable for an overlord…”

Takumi curled his lips into a self-confident smile.

“But that’s it.”

For a moment, none of the presents could understand what he meant.
Even Kiad’s mouth remained closed as his entire body stiffened.
No one could conceive that someone could tell the symbol of the Holy Kingdom, Fortesea, ‘that’s it.’

“Suzuran is a company, and I am in charge of selling its goods. I am interested in valuable things, but… those who abuse of their power are simply worthless.”

“Are you trying to insult Fortesea?!”

Kiad came back to his senses and vigorously unsheathed his sword.

“It never crossed my mind. As a merchant, saying that something useless is actually worth something would only ruin my reputation.”

The next moment, blood-lust gushed out from the noble, who dashed onward and swung his sword at Takumi, but the blade stopped in mid-air.

“This is not good…”

A cheerful, blonde girl had blocked it with one of her black daggers.

“You have to tell me when things get spicy, Takumi.”

Ferocity burned in Kunon’s glare as she wore her usual smile.
The man tried to recompose himself, but when he saw the ears on the girl’s head, he openly showed annoyance.

“You have a lot of nerves to bring here even a filthy fox…”

“I’m a wolf, not a fox! I’ll kill you if you get it wrong again!”

She replied with a cheerful tone, but her golden eyes were dead serious, and killing intent overflowed from her. Kiad’s body froze, but his arrogance didn’t disappear.

“What a big mouth you have, despite being powerless in front of our magic.”

Magic was widely spread in the world, and even the distant island countries knew of it, but everyone recognized that Richtert’s magicians were extraordinary.
Thirty years ago, Richtert waged war against Dämmerung, known to use demi-humans to overpower human soldiers, but Richtert was victorious despite having only several hundred units.
Elvis Fortesea made the magicians be the key part of their battles.
They researched magic since ancient times, so they had the skills, gears and power to reach that outcome in such a dire situation.
Still, Takumi showed a boisterous smile.

“Do you really think that our bodyguard would lose against the magicians you are so proud of?”

“There’s only a way to know it!”

Kiad glared down at Kunon, when a voice reached them.

“Sheathe your weapon!”

Everyone fell silent when they recognized the owner of that voice. After a moment, a person walked through the crowd.

“What might disrupt the quietness of my buffet?”

Eluria’s words were grave, and Elsa, who was by her side, took a step forward.

“Her Majesty issued an order. Any other hostile act from any of the parties will result in their arrest.”

“Tch. Mind your own business, Fairstadt’s tomboy.”

“Silence, undisciplined son of Fortesea. Seems like you are getting ahead of yourself while your father is absent, but are you really going to continue your misconduct in front of Her Highness?”

Despite being both overlords, they didn’t seem to get along, as they glared daggers at each other.

“That ruffian of a slave merchant started this, and I only acted to teach him a lesson.”

“If that is true, he will be severely punished… but we will hear his version of the facts first. Slave merchant of Suzuran, what do you have to say?”

“I showed my contempt about the idleness of Fortesea, and also criticized the power of magic.”

Eluria looked at Takumi, who calmly mouthed those words, and nodded.

“So, are you saying that there was a discrepancy between your opinions? This does not change the fact that you bothered the other nobles gathered in this place with your behavior.”

She then paused for a moment before starting to talk to both of them.

“Therefore… as the leading authority of this kingdom, I propose to set up a place to clear their uneasiness.”

“Oh…? What does that mean?”

“It is simple, Kiad. Our Queen told you to reach an agreement worthy of the title of magic knight you earned in the past.”

“Precisely. You will set your dispute with a match and the royal family will personally oversee it. We will set a date for it, and it will be held in the presence of your companies and all the present nobles. Would it be good for you?”

“Absolutely. I didn’t want to meet them ever again, but I guess I need to teach them what the magic knights are made of… even though I don’t think they will last enough to see it.”

Commented the noble scornfully looking at the merchant, who paid him no mind, with a sidelong glance.

“Her Highness, as Lord Kiad said a moment ago, this fight cannot be fair. To have a chance of winning, might I provide a list of handicaps we should take into account?”

“…I see. Indeed, Richtert’s magic knights are…”

“Let me clarify my words: my organization should have those handicaps, otherwise Fortesea will not have a chance of winning.”

Eluria’s solemn aura dissipated as she stared at him in wonder. Then, she timidly tried to confirm what she had just heard.

“Are you… sure about your decision?”

“Yes. This match would be boring otherwise. Our participants will be our elf Karin, the most powerless demi-human, and Kunon, who will be blindfolded and handcuffed… will this be fair?”

Eluria was baffled, and Kiad, on the other hand, was reaching the limit of his patience.

“How long will you keep to make fun of the magic knights?!”

“What do you mean? If I want to ridicule you, I have to go all out, no?”

Then, Takumi faced him while wearing a taunting smile.

“Checkmate, young master of Fortesea.”

The slave merchant’s irises were pitch-black, like bottomless pits.
His self-confident gaze stood out even more over his firm smile, and the overall pressure he exuded made Kiad’s expression warp for the first time.

“…Fine. Witness your defeat.”

Clicking his tongue, the annoyed Kiad left the place. Now that the commotion had ended, the curious nobles started to talk to each other again, and Queen Eluria, who seemed to enjoy the peace she had restored, smiled while bringing a hand to her cheek.

“Oh my, this will be a headache for Lux.”

“I was trying to meet your expectations, Your Majesty”

“In that case, I am looking forward to your showdown.”

With that, the queen turned her back and walked toward the puzzled nobles, while a dense aura brought Takumi to face someone whose veins popped from her forehead in anger.

“You just can’t be satisfied unless you create a mess, are you?!”

“Hey, the bang you heard earlier came from over there.”

“Where?! Where is the guy who picked a fight with Fortesea?!

“In front of you, duh.”

“WHO ON EARTH CARES ABOUT YOU!”

Elsa started to forcefully hit him on the shoulder, but after a few instants she stopped and let out a brief groan while falling on her knees due to a terrible stomach-ache.

“Anyway, thanks for calling the queen.”

“Huh…? Go thank Crest’s archbishop, not me. I was greeting Her Highness when she called us in a hurry.”

She replied and shifted her gaze toward Lise, who was following the queen while glancing at them as to confirm their condition.

“The guy you’re searching for has already left. Oh, and sorry, but could you bring me Kunon? She disappeared again.”

“What?! Wasn’t she here just a minute ago?!”

“Since she couldn’t fight when the queen appeared, she got bored and went to get some more food.”

“And why didn’t you stop her?! Also, are you planning to make me take care of her again?! You are her master, shouldn’t you take your responsibilities?! Aaah, for Filia’s sake! No matter the problem she will cause, they’ll blame me anyway!”

Takumi turned around, and Elsa dashed away while screaming to bring Kunon back. No matter what happened, the captain of the guards was very diligent.

“Mirta, are you okay?”

“Y-Yes. My arm hurts only a little bit… Sorry, he interrupted me while I was speaking, and things escalated like that. Now our plans are ruined, and I can’t just try to introduce ourselves to influential companies…”

Realizing that she couldn’t carry out her duty, her eyes welled with tears, guilt gnawing at her from the inside.

“Now that I could finally act as a real leader… how could things turn this way…”

“Don’t be sad, Mirta. You did exactly what you had to. Our leader wouldn’t look down on her comrades, who you firmly protected. That was your real duty.”

As he patted her head, he shifted his gaze toward Karin.

“Also, this brought us closer to our true goal… right?”

“I gathered quite a lot of information, and we picked a fight like we planned, so everything was flawless.”

The two of them smiled at each other, while Mirta cocked her head, puzzled.

“Your… true goal?”

“Yeah, we wanted to pick a fight with that imbecile of Kiad. We needed a pretext to fish him, and even though I didn’t start it myself, I managed to arrange a nice table for this game.”

Tapping on his temple, he kept talking.

“Magic is the foundation of Richtert, and influences it greatly. The nobles and the privileged classes use it to keep other countries in check and to mock demi-humans.”

Demi-humans generally lacked magical power. Only elves could beat humans when it came to it, but their knowledge was passed down to their descendants only, and they kept living in secluded regions… or so Karin said.
Even if a demi-human learned magic, it couldn’t live of battles only. Since magic was considered ‘sacred’ for Richtert’s doctrine, the nobles wanted demi-humans, who couldn’t use it, to reside in the worst place possible: the slums.
Thanks to that crooked view, the citizens started to think that demi-humans were simply inferior to humans and developed unfounded prejudices about them.

“I want to destroy that stupid idea of omnipotence.”

Magic was the ultimate power, so the magic knights were unbeatable.
Soon they would have known the huge difference between them and demi-humans.

“Don’t you think it will be a lot of fun?”

He pictured that scene in his mind, and smiled while vacantly staring in front of him.
Karin couldn’t help but poke his back.

“That will be fun for you and Kunon, but do not drag me into this, please.”

“I-I agree! Kunon is a thing, but Karin can’t fight!”

“Actually, I am fine with fighting.”

“Are you?!”

“Well, as a former slave, I got used to it. I just cannot use the weapon I grew accustomed to.”

She practiced more than anyone else with the weapon that Takumi built for her, but she couldn’t bring it in a match with that many people.
Modern weapons should be researched and developed over a long time. Otherwise, the world’s balance would have been easily destroyed.

“So, Master, you will give me a great reward for making me fight, are you not?”

“A reward, huh…? What about this?”

He faced Karin with a complacent smile.

“If you win this match, I will do whatever you want only for once.”

“…Are you serious?”

“Yes. Anything is fine as long as it is possible.”

“Anything… He really said that…!”

She muttered something in a cute voice, and then nodded slightly.

“We will win, and you will feel on your skin the shame of wearing a dress!”

“Karin… do you hate them that much?”

“Of course, Mirta! I only want to go home and change into my normal clothes…”

Remembering that a lot of people had already seen her, she blushed furiously and hugged herself to hide her body.

“Takumi, it will be my first magic battle, though.”

“I know a few people that might help us, so don’t worry about it.”

“Do you know an expert in magical battles?”

“Yes. She should come here soon.”

Karin wore a doubtful expression as footsteps approached her from behind.

“Captain! Don’t hold me like I’m a bag or something!”

“You’d escape again if I were to hold you in any other way!”

Elsa was holding Kunon under her armpit, and once the guard spotted Takumi, she briskly walked to him.

“Here’s your lost pet dog, slave merchant! And don’t you dare go away without me! You owe me one for this, you heard?!”

“Oh, great job, Elsa. By the way…”

“…What? I am all ears for your apologies.”

“Sorry, but can you be our instructor to win the magic battle?”

“…I must have misheard that. Can you repeat?”

“Overlord Fairstadt, might you be our instructor, please?”

“Oooh. You see, as a Fairstadt, I’m very busy.”

“Oh, c’mon. Everyone in the slums knows you as ‘the guard in charge of the slave merchant.’ We’re friends, so you will help us in this time of need, right?”

“Well, I’d almost want to see you bow and yell ‘my savior’ while I walk away!”

As she let out a dry laugh, Takumi placed a hand on her shoulder.

“We’re counting on you.”

It goes without saying that Elsa fell on the ground due to another horrible stomach-ache.


<Prev | Index | Next>

5+

New Game – Chapter 23

The ashen-colored birdie – Part 3

The inner part of the castle’s pavement was made up of white marble, to represent the elegance of the best part of the capital, and blue stone, that reminded the lake Verna.
The royal family called it the ‘aquamarine garden’.
They used it to relax in the afternoon, since only a handful of people had access to it.

“Forgive me for interrupting your talk, Soft-hearted slave merchant.”

A woman showed him a graceful smile while sitting on a plain chair.
She looked to be in her early twenties, and Takumi remembered her.

“It is an honor to meet you again, Her Majesty Eluria Richtert.”

He bowed and went down on his knees, and the woman let out a stifled, soft chuckle.

“Oh my, that politeness is just a sign of your deceitful nature, is it not? I preferred you last time.”

“Guess I should be like that, then. Let’s avoid a roundabout speech.”

As soon as he finished the sentence, someone hit him on his back.
When he turned to see who did it, he found an extremely displeased Lise.

“…You are in the presence of Her Majesty. You must mind your tongue and your attitude.”

“Can’t I just apologize for what I said?”

“No. Keep going as long as Her Majesty wants.”

“Okay, fine. My Queen, can I be forgiven?”

“Yes, of course. Lise, do not bother Takumi.”

Lise hung her head with puffed cheeks at that rebuke.

“So, why was I brought here? There shouldn’t be any problems with the slaves I sent back home or with anything else.”

“Indeed. The operation was flawless, and we have not received dissensions from the surrounding countries. This result is actually quite ideal.”

As she spoke, Eluria turned to face him.

“Let me express again my appreciation for your efforts. I expect great things from Suzuran.”

“I’m glad for your words, but use the guards to call me, please.”

“Oh, was Lise not to your liking?”

“Of course not. Who would be glad of being dragged away by a holy warrior? For a moment I thought it was the inquisition.”

Several orders of clergymen acted in the name of Filia.
The most famous ones were the priests, who spread Her verb and lectured people, but among them were also the inquisition and soldier-like members, who were proficient in battle, called holy warriors.
They were similar to fighting monks, who cultivated their doctrine, protected and taught people, but they also captured the heretics and purified the sinners.

“Still… I didn’t expect the famous archbishop to be a child.”

“Those who saw her had the same reaction, but Lise is a genuine holy warrior who earned such title.”

“Indeed. My title is proof of my greatness.”

She tried to puff her chest pridefully, but missing the raw material, it looked like she overstretched herself.

Now it was clear why the Crest’s archbishop wasn’t a public figure.

“Well, at that age is better not to go around much.”

“We are not fond of exposing her to potential danger, and despite her being the genius who wrote the Law formula, Lise is still a child. Because of that, we allow her to move only in the most secure places, meaning the royal castle and the cathedral.”

“…I could manage myself, since I am not a child anymore.”

She looked depressed, but Eluria smiled happily.

“It will be a problem if you get lost, is it not?”

“It is fine as long as it does not happen.”

“That is true, but given how lovable you are, what if some brute were to kidnap you?”

“K-Kidnap me…? That sounds kind of bad.”

“It does, right? Is it not better to stay here and talk with me, then?”

Eluria hugged Lise, who was now shivering, and patted her on the head. The archbishop’s lack of freedom was probably caused by the queen’s worry, rather than her own will.

“Her Majesty, you look quite fond of your doctrine’s archbishop.”

“Eheheh… As the vessel of the Goddess’ blood, I love my doctrine and children alike, albeit Lise is allowed to be by my side only temporarily.”

“You mean officially?”

“Yes. I asked the overlord of Fortesea to let their guest of honor come and talk with me in her free time.”

Eluria smiled apologetically while the archbishop’s face clouded. Takumi shrugged his shoulder at them and let out a sigh.

“Anyhow, I’m sorry, but being lead here by a child was painful.”

“…I am not a child. Also, I have always been way more distinguished than you.”

She said in a flat, indifferent tone.

“First, to mistake me for someone of the inquisition should make you feel ashamed of yourself.”

“I’m from the slums, you know? There’s barely anything that makes me feel like that.”

“…Her Majesty, I wish for this man to get seized by the inquisition.”

“Oh my, that would be problematic.”

Lise glared at him like a child glares at its parents’ enemies, and Eluria, who should have held her reins, let out a moderate chuckle.

“Why are you looking at me like that? This is the first time we meet.”

“…It is not. I was near Her Highness during your first audience.”

Now that she mentioned it, Takumi remembered that a month before, when he stood in front of the queen, he noticed something silver moving behind the throne.

“…So that was you, huh.”

“That what? This is the worst. Seriously, not even being perceived is just the worst. I want to punish you here and now in the name of Filia.”

“It’s not my fault if I couldn’t see you from there. You’re just too short.”

“I am not. I will let you know that you are looking at the tallest among my peers.”

“You are all still children, so what’s the difference?”

“I-I am still the tallest!”

She remarked annoyed, but the truth was that she wasn’t even 1.4 meters tall, and it was even more pointless to compare herself to other children her age.

“Oh well, I’m sure you’ll grow enough in the next ten years.”

“I told you I am grown enough already! And stop patting me on the head or I will really call the inquisition, for Filia’s sake!”

As he rubbed her head, Lise slapped his hand to push it away.
Eluria, who was watching them carefully, opened her mouth.

“Forgive me, but I shall jump to her defense. I am sure that witnessing your exchange before, she now thinks that you are a bad person.”

“…No, Your Highness. I believe that he is wicked.”

She stated mercilessly, thrusting her index finger at him.

“Not only he dared to negotiate with Her Majesty, who has the Goddess’s blood flowing in her veins, but also rudely conducted himself without apologizing! I can perceive the wickedness in his soul!”

“Lise, you know quite a lot of difficult words for your age… You deserve praise.”

“Y-Your Highness, why are you also treating me as a child…?”

Feeling betrayed by her only ally, Lise started to shiver teary-eyed, and the queen warmly looked at her while repeating how cute she was.
Maybe Eluria was the real wicked one here.

“Still, you cannot cry over something like this. I know very well how skilled you are, Lise.”

“…Really?”

“Absolutely. So, stop crying, okay?”

With a lovable smile, the queen wiped her saddened eyes.
Then, after reaffirming how cute the archbishop was with a somewhat excited expression, the other two started to ignore her behaviour.

“Well, I’m glad that you recognize other people’s worth. There’s a lot of guys who can be used if you consider their abilities alone.”

“I agree. In fact, you are one of them, and I am prepared to recognize you only to benefit from your efforts.”

“…I see. But I’m a slave merchant, so I might accept any job outside my area of expertise only after some consultation.”

“That is right… let me assign you something fitting, then.”

She carefully peered at him while wearing a smile that implied something troublesome, giving Takumi a strong feeling of deja-vu…

“Please, do not bother Her Highness.”

A frowning Lise started to hit the slave merchant’s side, but he just shrugged his shoulders.

“…Fine. You won’t mind if I go back now, right? It’s my chance to gather more contacts among nobles.”

“Yes, I will see you there. Lise, can you accompany him again to the buffet?”

“…I do not feel like it, but I will follow your order…”

With dissatisfied words, the girl bowed and grabbed Takumi’s hand before leaving the garden behind.
At first, none of them tried to start a conversation as they walked on the marble in silence, but Lise was the first to break the ice.

“Sheesh… I do not understand what Her Majesty saw into you.”

“She told you before, did she not? I have talent.”

“This is not about your talent, but your luck. You got your contacts with the guards by sheer luck. The big companies were misbehaving, and you happened to find a solution… I cannot think of it as talent or ability.”

She was firmly convinced of her words. It looked like she didn’t want to recognize Takumi, who was now dejectedly shaking his head in denial.

“I had some expectations given your role, but I guess you’re still a child.”

“…You are the worst. I will not turn a blind eye to any other attempt at treating me like a child.”

“The worst is that you stopped using your brain. The very concept of luck is something believed only by lazy people who shut their brain down. It’s not a word that can be used so easily.”

She turned her head to look at his face.

“What do you mean with that?”

“Oh, can’t you get that? Let me show you with a game, then.”

He took a silver coin from his breast pocket.

“Let’s try to flip this coin. If I get the right answer before it falls, would you believe that to be a mere fluke?”

“…Can I guess that one side is not heavier than the other, so there is not the chance of it being counterfeit?”

“Nice guess. Rest assured, this coin is perfectly balanced, so I won’t trick you.”

“Then you will guess the answer out of luck.”

“Let’s see. Try to flip it yourself.”

She stopped walking and took the coin from his hand with a puzzled expression, then adjusted it on her finger.
A clink rang from the flick of her thumb, and as soon as the coin started to spin in the air…

“…Tail.”

“Eh?”

She heard his words clearly, and when the coin fell on her palm, it was exactly as Takumi said.

“I won. Do you think I was lucky?”

“…Of course. It was only a coincidence.”

“And if I told you I just predicted it?”

A smile brimming with confidence formed on his face.

“I took into account the strength you put into the flick, the number of spins, the time it would have taken to land, the surface it was going to hit, and I guessed the right answer. Do you think all of this is simple luck?”

“It is… not possible to do any of that. This does not count! You tricked me!”

Unable to stomach that outcome, she started to pull his clothes while protesting.

“No, I just considered the primary factors and calculated what was gonna happen. If you label it as fortune, it means that you stopped using your brain.”

She looked up at him only to see his face in profile.

“What people call ‘luck’ can be disassembled into analyzing and guessing, but you are now denying that. So, did you become archbishop for a fluke?”

“No…! I studied hard and earned my role!”

“Don’t label everything as luck, then. Everyone put effort and hard work in what they do, so it’s not right to shrug it off as simply ‘luck’.”

The despondent girl hung her head in shame, and Takumi stroke her hair lightly.

“Do you get it now?”

“…Yes. I said too much. Sorry.”

“Don’t worry. Let me tell you a little secret.”

“…A secret?”

She cocked her head, and he smiled from ear to ear.

“What you just heard was a bunch of nonsense. I got it right by sheer luck.”

“…Can I punch you really hard?”

“I think I’m understanding the queen better now. Teasing kids is fun.”

“You are the worst! And stop treating me like a child, for Filia’s sake!”

He mischievously whistled while she hit him repeatedly on the side.
Then, her hands stopped all of a sudden.

“So, are you really just lucky?”

As she lowered her voice almost to a whisper, her gaze turned to meet his.

“Let me apply your words to myself. I am lucky to be born, and I am by growing up into a noble family and being chosen by a rich person too. My ability is no exception… so is all of this blessed fortune or just misfortune?”

She enquired in a plain tone, and Takumi, seeing through her questions, snorted loudly as if he was bored.

“Sorry, I would never give up or doubt myself, so I never thought about any of that.”

“…I see.”

She hung her head again for a few moments, then rose it again.

“That was somewhat interesting.”

“Nice. I’ll tease you again when I get the chance, then.”

“Not that part. I will call the inquisition if you dare to tease me ever again.”

She sharply glared at him, who wore a wry smile and turned to see outside, only to find that no one was there anymore.
He felt that something had changed in the air, as it grew darker and heavier.
Then, a scream thundered in the air.

“Give it a rest!”

The next moment, a voice echoed in the castle.


<Prev | Index | Next>

4+

New Game – Chapter 22

The ashen-colored birdie – Part 2

If unauthorized, not even the nobles could step into the top level of Listina, where guards were always patrolling.
The Holy Kingdom of Richtert’s castle was snow white, and people prayed in the cathedral of the Goddess Filia, who they worshipped.
It was the territory of important entities like the royal family, a place that people of the slums, like Takumi and his comrades, could visit only when the stars aligned.
If a devout person was allowed entry, they would surely start crying tears of joy.
But for Suzuran’s members, who were walking through the castle’s corridor that was filled with a gloomy atmosphere, that wasn’t the case.

“…Aaah…”

“Uuuah… Totally unsettling…!”

Karin and Kunon were indifferent to the cathedral and the royal castle, and trudged forward with a depressed look on their face.

“…Hey, you two. We’re about to arrive, so keep yourself together.”

“Elsa is right. It’s still a sort of public buffet, you know?”

The slums’ captain of the guard and Mirta rebuked them, who answered half-heartedly, so Elsa decided to ask Takumi.

“Hey, you’re their master, right? Tell them something.”

“There’s not much I can do… Girls, why are you even like that?”

“Can’t you tell…?”

Karin grumbled with downcast eyes, her lips pressed in a thin line.
A long slit on her burgundy dress showed her cleavage, and since she was used to hide a lot of skin, that outfit made her feel terribly uneasy.

“…I said I’d come too, but I never agreed to wear a dress.”

“We can’t help it, Karin. We might be tasteless guys from the slums, but we can’t just come here wearing casual clothes. There’s a dress code we should respect for this kind of occasion.”

Elsa was clad in her usual work clothes, as she was there as a guard, and Mirta was wearing the same outfit, coat included, she had when she did her speech to become the leader of Suzuran.

“…You are dressed as always, though.”

“Well, I usually take care of my look. Also, putting aside me being a slave merchant, I’d win the antipathy of nobles if I was dressed too flashy.”

Appearance was essential for people with a certain social status.
If one was to dress more pompous than someone with a higher status, he would’ve been shunned, but if the opposite happened, the nobles would’ve been pleased. Or rather, things would’ve been easier to handle.

“I understand, but… It wasn’t necessary to show my chest and legs. If I had to wear a dress, wasn’t something like Mirta’s outfit fine for me?”

“Well, given her role, that kind of things fits her pretty good.”

“Her role…?”

“Yeah. She doesn’t fail to be girlish, and it’s not like she will flirt with men. Even though she is a woman, she should still dress like a major company’s leader… That’s why I said ‘her role’.”

The girl they were talking about was walking firmly in front of them, her back straight.

“There’s quite a lot of male chauvinism in Richtert’s tendencies under many aspects. They’ll be pretty worried now that a woman will have to deal with the public finances.”

Men didn’t discriminate against women, but females usually had a lower social position.
Still, the highest authority of Richtert was the queen. She was treated as an exception because she was supposed to be a descendant of the Goddess.
Also, she was the symbol of the Holy Kingdom. She had decision-making power, but most of the real power was in the hands of the three overlords, so she wasn’t particularly involved in national politics.

“If we keep bringing good results, people will have a better impression of women, and more career paths will open for them.”

He wasn’t thinking only of the present, but he even kept the future into consideration. After Takumi explained all of that…

“Weren’t we talking about my dress?”

“Listen, I liked that one, okay? I wanted to boast about you to the nobles.”

“Couldn’t you keep that idea to yourself…?!”

He started to whistle and ignored her while she tried to shrink in her tempting dress.

“It won’t kill you to dress like that every once in a while. If you feel too embarrassed, just stay quiet behind me or Mirta.”

“…Remember, Takumi. You’ll pay for this.”

“I’m looking forward to it.”

He smiled at her resentful gaze, and then looked at her side.
Kunon was dressed up as a slave merchant’s apprentice, and wore a hat to cover her ears. She was muttering her discontent with her cheeks puffed.

“Takumi, I never agreed to come here!”

“This is what you get for falling asleep.”

“That’s because Captain’s lap is comfy and cozy! Also, I hate formal gatherings!”

“You only have to act as our bodyguard as usual, and you don’t have to care much about your behaviour, so go eat something if you’re bored.”

“Oh, can I? All’s fine, then!”

She raised her thumb and returned to her normal self. Thank Filia she was easy to handle.

“Have you finished your talk? We’ve arrived, so try to not cause any problem.”

Elsa butted in, and after she gave orders to some guards, the massive door in front of them opened.
There was a lot of extravagant furniture lined up in the vast room.
The curtain’s fabric was embroidered with gold and silver threads, and the beautiful, polished marble that made up the floor and walls wasn’t only a sight for sore eyes, but it also perfectly reflected the light, enhancing the visibility in the room.

“Wow… so this is a buffet, huh?”

A lot of people friendlily chatted among themselves, glass in hand, but a treacherous, dusky feeling drifted in the air.
For example, the nobles surrounded the most influential among them, who kept showing their power and dignity by dragging more and more people in their little crowds while trying to show off their accomplishment with their oratory skills.
Those who formed the crowd faced them with toady smiles.
But the shepherds were ambitious, so they didn’t only make sure to keep control of their flock of sheep, but also take any opportunity to steal more from others.
Those who were trying to trade were talking about business related matters.
They carefully chose their words while playing with the abacus in their mind to achieve the greatest profit possible.
That was the falsehood and distrust that jumbled together at that place.

“I cannot guide you any further, as I must go back with the other guards to patrol the perimeter. Please, remember to not be rude to others…”

“Elsa, we already have a problem.”

Takumi interrupted her, then pointed at his side.

“Kunon smelled something good and disappeared.”

“…Seriously, why did you let that irresponsible wolf girl free…”

With a slightly teary voice, Elsa shrugged her shoulders and started searching for the lost child. She grumbled often, but in the end, the nice guard honestly cared for them.

“Well then, time to…”

The moment Takumi opened his mouth, a voice reached them.

“Are they not from the new company?”

Those words were spoken so loudly that they reverberated in the entire room.

“As revolting people of the slums, they still had the courage to show their face here?”

“Is that not exactly because they are from the slums?”

“Yes, probably. The lack of intelligence and grace brought them to a place they do not belong to.”

“Indeed. They will make this place reek of black water.”

“The Fairstadt are supporting them, is it not? I had some expectations for Lord Lux despite his young age, but now I shall change my opinion on him.”

As soon as they entered, a lot of people started to mock them one after the other.
It was only natural, as those who came from the slums were the lowest in the social hierarchy.
Normally, nobles wouldn’t even have looked at them, but now that the guards accepted their help and they even became a major company, the nobles showed their true nature.
For those who thought only about their personal authority, the inhabitants of the slums were but unsightly garbage.
Still, Takumi grinned.

“Maaan! I’m so glad they insulted us!”

“Ahahah… You know that you shouldn’t be happy of being badmouthed?”

“Well, my sensitivity is pretty distorted. Anyway, I didn’t expect you to remain calm.”

Usually, Mirta would have been disheartened if anyone mocked her company, but she was now smiling.

“I am here as the Leader of Suzuran, so I cannot let anyone see a shameful side of my persona, do you not think so?”

She didn’t appear as a simple girl, but as a real leader standing above others, and Takumi smiled satisfied at that sight.

“Nice reply. Shall we introduce ourselves?”

She nodded slowly and started to walk toward the nobles who mocked them until now.
She ignored the voices stirring around her, and stopped in front a middle-aged man, then bowed politely to him while holding the hem of her dress.

“This is the first time we meet. I am the leader of Suzuran, Mirta Famille. You are the Count of Lingen, Alfas Hilbert, am I right?

“Y-Yes… indeed. I appreciate your politeness.”

“Today, I do not stand in front of you only because we received the invitation, but mainly for the great honour of introducing myself to you gentlemen.”

She spoke with a meek smile, and the man’s expression warped in embarrassment, but it wasn’t because she could talk so politely even as a mere resident of the slums.

“…Famille, you say? Forgive my rudeness, but what about introducing yourself to someone more important than me?”

He didn’t mouth those words humbly, even though, compared to other dukes, he wasn’t but a lad living in a warehouse, and but a drop in the sea compared to the lords and princes who were attending the buffet.
Still, Mirta showed him a graceful expression.

“I am grateful for your suggestion, Sir Alphas, but as an inhabitant of the slums, I consider every gentleman here as equals.”

“…I see. Your attitude is laudable.”

He was slightly shocked by her behaviour.
She just showed everyone that it didn’t matter how powerful the other party was, they all deserved the same respect.
After that, the derision and hostility hung in the air dimmed.

“Lady Famille, it is surprising to see someone so young as the leader of a company, and it is incredible that it became a major one because of the unforeseen accident of the other day.”

“My title is real but also a sort of decoration. This man, Takumi, was the first to support me, and many others followed his lead to make me reach this position.”

The young guy who stood behind her stepped forward.

“Very honoured to make your acquaintance, Sir Alphas. I am a slave merchant and a member of Suzuran as well. My name is Takumi.”

Instead of acting arrogantly as usual, he bowed his head and spoke elegantly. Still, the noble’s face warped in disgust when he heard his occupation, and looked at him annoyed.

“A slave merchant…? Many members of other companies try to make a profit at these events, but it is the first time that someone so vile attends one.”

Slave merchants traded human and demi-human’s lives, so Alphas couldn’t hold back his disgust.
Not only nobles and normal citizens tried to avoid any contact with them, but also fellow traders sneered at them behind their back.
But Takumi smiled.

“You are absolutely right… but every person allowed to participate at this buffet, starting from you, has some great abilities.”

“Are you insinuating that the same goes for you?”

The man’s face started to redden out of anger, but the slave merchant kept talking.

“Sir Alphas, might I ask you how you see the elf who is glancing at us?”

“Elf…?”

A ladylike Karin, who stood behind Takumi, cast her eyes down as the man’s expression distorted.

“…I cannot believe you brought a demi-human with you…”

“Why is that? Do you see this elf as a simple demi-human?”

“What are you saying? What else might it look like?”

Without grasping the meaning of his words, the noble looked at him with a puzzled expression.

“Slaves are like ore. They have the potential to become gems if polished and refined properly. Elves are seen as disgusting sex toys, but as you can see from this beautiful maiden, stating that she is not different from the others might represent a serious lack of aesthetic sense.”

Looking at the graceful girl who still hadn’t lifted her gaze from the ground, Alphas was at a loss for words, and Takumi took the chance to continue.

“But sometimes, I value my articles way more than mere gems.”

“Do you value them more than gems? That is quite the outrageous thing to say.”

The man shrugged his shoulders while laughing, but Takumi was unflappable.

“Let me give you an example. Ten hired employers fill a leather bag of ore each, but a demi-human alone can instantly find where the most precious stones are hidden. In such a case, only one person could do the job, am I right?”

“The next step of your bragging will be a delusion?”

“No, since those kinds of demi-humans exist. I know quite a lot of them given my job, so I understand very well the weight of my words.”

The noble’s sidelong glance revelead a slight hidden interest.
Takumi chuckled within his heart and kept talking.

“With such a demi-human, the working process would speed up sharply and become faster than having those ten employers handle it… That would mean that for you, wise Alphas, and many others, hiring demi-humans would be evidently better.”

“…If you speak the truth, I would almost say that I agree with you. The value would indeed be greater than a gem.”

“Thank you for understanding. I try to grasp the abilities of my articles in order to offer my clients what they need. This is the kind of slave merchant I am.”

Alphas brought a hand to his chin with interest.

“There are plenty of demi-humans with useful abilities. For example, drakonids are great miners, since they can survive if the site caves in thanks to their sturdy scales. A bird-man could read the wind current into the tunnel and dig a hole to let the poisonous air drift away. Thinking about it, have you ever heard that the number of miners dying in these circumstances is lowering?”

“…This is enough, I understand how good you are. I already looked into the background of the people in the remote regions.”

“Oh, please, I was only talking about a common accident in the mines.”

The noble smiled wryly at Takumi’s bright grin.
There were many casualties among miners because of poisonous gases or other accidents, and a few years back some happened even in Alphas’s territory.
The mine was currently closed due to the gas, and the work couldn’t proceed.
That was why his noble’s rank declined.

“If you are interested in the services of slaves, feel free to speak to Suzuran, our company. I will arrange our meeting ahead of time.”

“I will come when I find some free time. Despite my hate for slave merchants, I can at least trust someone competent like you.”

After that, the noble smiled friendlily and walked away.

“Done, got a new client. Gonna keep this up.”

“…Seriously, you are like a swindler. You never stop talking.”

“You can’t sell if you don’t know how to talk, Karin. Thanks for helping me, though.”

“You wanted to use me like this from the start, huh? If standing quietly is all I need to do, I feel a little better.”

She let out a light sigh mixed with gratitude and shock.

“Well, there are six other potential clients left. Let’s start with the lowest ranked and see if we can get closer to the subordinates of the leaders… mh?”

As Takumi was reorganizing his thoughts, he felt someone grabbing his sleeve, and once he turned his head, he found a little girl looking up at him. She looked very little, maybe she wasn’t even ten.
He guessed that she might have been the daughter of some attendant of the buffet.

“Yes? Can I help you in any way, young lady?”

Takumi made sure to keep talking politely as he bent to look at her. Her ashen-colored eyes were scrutinizing him.
She nodded, and her silver, almost transparent twin-tail swayed gently.

“You are a slave merchant from Suzuran, right?”

She spoke with a slight lisp, but her tone was hard and totally unfitting a child.
Takumi noticed that she was different from the people around them, and looked at her attire. It reminded him of western clothes.
It was blue like the sea and the sky, and the white seemed to resemble purity and honesty.
Then, the girl opened her mouth again.

“I am Lise Crest… Archbishop of Filia’s holy doctrine.”

Her gaze sharpened as her tone grew heavier.

“On behalf of Her Highness the Queen… I was ordered to take Takumi, one of Suzuran’s slave merchants, away from here.”


<Prev | Index | Next>

3+

New Game – Chapter 21

The ashen-colored birdie – Part 1

Uaaah! I’m tired!”

Kunon broke the silence of Suzuran’s office while flailing her arms in the air.
Karin lifted her face and let her silky black hair sway behind her.

If you don’t start working, this will never end, you know?”

I know! But I’m not good at this!”

She puffed her cheeks and tapped her pen repeatedly with her index finger.
On the desk in front of them laid a mountain of papers… or rather, two or three huge piles of paperwork aren’t a real ‘mountain’, but they’re still a lot.
Even the diligent elf sighed dejectedly at that sight.

We can’t help it. Geiz is managing the company by himself, but we still have to select the new routes and customers for our trades.”

A month before, a major company fell apart.
The guards stormed one of its properties where illegal gambles were performed in secret and arrested the masterminds behind it and all the related nobles.
That’s how Amberg crumbled. Then, it was absorbed and replaced by Valeria, now Suzuran, of which Takumi and the others were members.

Takumiii…! Let’s go grab some food…!”

Kunon pleaded tearfully while shifting her gaze on him.

Okay, fine. Let’s go to Lilia’s after we finish.”

That’s not fine! I want to eat something now!”

C’mon, you only have to stamp a seal on these things. I know you’re not used to this kind of job but look at what I have to deal with.”

The cup of cold, black tea trembled while Takumi moved to grab some papers, making the ones nearby flutter as he showed the documents to her.
Karin also looked at them and remembered something.

Isn’t that… Geiz’s report?”

Yeah. A big shot complained about the reorganization of the facility located in the upper part.”

A big shot…? Isn’t Lux keeping the nobles at bay?”

Exactly, but he can’t manage everyone.”

Looking at the name on those papers, Takumi wore a sour expression.

Kiad Fortesea…”

Fortesea…? One of the three overlords?”

Yes. Even Lux can’t do a thing against them.”

Listina’s royal family, and more precisely the queen, had the strongest influence in the capital, but the national politics were in the hands of those who were called ‘three overlords.’
The righteous Fairstadt, who ruled over justice, the harmonious Administer, who managed the administration, and the valiant Fortesea, who ruled over war.
Those three weren’t only the three duchies of the kingdom, but also the delegates of Richtert’s magic.
In the Holy Kingdom of Richtert, worshipping magic as a godsend was a national custom. The privileged nobles were selected to learn Richtert’s peculiar magic.
The strongest were a step above the others even on a social level, and among them were the aforementioned overlords.
They were leagues above the other aristocrats.

But… we only changed our facility. What is that Fortesea guy complaining about?”

Remember the defensive magic tools I removed from the former Amberg’s facility? Seems like we should bring them back because there’s a problem.”

Well… complaining won’t help, huh? But we are also a major company that participates in the state management, so getting robbed or assaulted would be troubling.”

The nobles’ mansions and the major companies’ headquarters were important facilities for the national politics, so a lot of magic tools were created to defend them.
But since Takumi wasn’t authorized to remove and re-utilize them as he wanted, it was only natural that the Fortesea, who carried the national defense on their shoulders, would complain about what he did.
The slave merchant brought a hand on his chin while staring at the papers.

The slums are a thing, but robbery and assaults hardly occur in the upper part. I’d understand this turn of events if we were in the middle of a war, but there haven’t been big conflicts for the last thirty years. Still, the next day we dismantled them, we got Geiz’s report about the complaints.”

Takumi tapped on his temple with his index finger again and again.

Let’s see, what should we do about this…”

…Are you planning something again?”

Of course. My philosophy is to use anything as long as it can be used.”

Whatever, just tell me what you come up with in advance, since I have to keep up with your impossible requests. Otherwise I won’t have enough time to fulfill them.”

You’ll be the very first to know. Also, your help will be essential for executing the plan. You’re the only one who can understand what my aim is, after all.”

…I guess it’s fine, then.”

She sulked and turned her head to hide her embarrassment, but her ears betrayed her as they started to turn red.

Let’s start with telling Geiz to dispose of those magic tools.”

I don’t think you should… People would kill for them.”

Magic tools, as the name suggests, were tools enchanted with magic.
They could use magic when activated, and their user-friendliness made them ideal devices for the military, peddlers and thieves, who never had enough of them.
Still, those tools weren’t created only from rare materials, they also needed the ‘Law formula’, which was the magic formula that composed their core.
Only skilled mages, namely those who understood the right method to write those formulas, could write them, so the distribution of magic tools was lacking compared to the demand.

Also, if those tools were Amberg’s, they should be made by Crest’s archbishop. Did you know that they are the best in the whole capital?”

Crest…? Those who changed completely the magic tools used by mages two years ago?”

Exactly. They also created Seizing Magic for guards, and the defensive barriers you want to dispose of, along with pretty much every magic tool you can find in the upper part of the capital. They are all made by the same archbishop.”

Wow… How much do we know about this one?”

Almost anything. He shows up only in the royal castle or in the cathedral. Not even our slaves are allowed to enter those places.”

She meant the network of slaves that they created in all those years.
Thanks to them, Takumi could acquire any sort of information.
But they were limited to their employers and those who were close to them. It was quite difficult to gather information about the important structures of the upper part, especially the castle and the cathedral.
Lux could give them a hand, but given his personality and position as one of the three overlords, the level of confidence was different than what Takumi had with his articles.

If slaves can’t access those places, I have to think of another way to gather information from there.”

I agree. I’d like to use Geiz better, but the hierarchy of the upper part’s branch isn’t ready yet, so we have to wait for some time…”

…It must be fun to talk to each other while I starve, huh?”

Commented Kunon while staring at the others.

Especially you, Karin. You look happier than usual whenever you talk with him.”

Happier…? I don’t think so, though?”

That’s a lie! You’re smiling!”

Wh…?! I’m not smiling!”

Karin immediately started touching her cheeks to confirm it.

See?! I’m not! I’m the same as ever!”

Okay, stop you two. Karin, you just look relaxed, and it’s only normal that you smile every once in a while, isn’t it?”

How many times must I repeat myself?!”

Takumiii! Gimme food, pleeease!”

As the girls lost their focus completely, Takumi waved his hand and sighed.

Fine. I have to hear Killfer’s report anyway, so let’s finish a little early today.”

Really?! Yaaay!”

Hearing the great news, Kunon’s eyes started to sparkle and her ears to twitch, and a broad grin formed on Karin’s face.

I heard his report before coming here. He asked me to tell you that the Holy Text’s script was spread, and everyone received it.”

Oh, that’s good to hear. Well, there’s no reason to go there, then.”

Nooo! Karin, you big idiooot!”

That’s what you get when you say weird stuff!”

Asserted the elf with her face flushed red and her lips bent in a childish grin.
The werebeast started to hit her lightly as her dreams shattered.
Meanwhile, Takumi started to tidy up the workplace, since it didn’t look like things were going to proceed any further. At that moment, someone knocked on the door and opened it.

Takumi, do you have a minute?”

A girl entered the room, her platinum hair swaying in the air.

Hey Mirta, what’s up? I was about to take a break.”

You have a guest… Girls, what happened?”

She cocked her head, looking at a flushed Karin and a desperate Kunon on the verge of tears.

Nothing, just a shyness stroke and polyphagia. So, someone wants to see me?”

It was a bit late for visits, since it was almost midnight, but another person entered the room. It was a girl with long, flame-red hair tied in a ponytail wearing a snow-white uniform.
Seeing her, Karin let out a surprised voice.

Elsa? It’s strange for you to drop by this late at night.”

Well, my shift just ended, that’s why I’m this late.”

What, you came here at this hour to make sure that I’m not causing some trouble?”

…Listen, even I wouldn’t be that brazen, okay?”

Currently, Suzuran and the guards of the slums were collaborating.
Although they were an illegal company before, now they were one of the major companies selected by the Holy Kingdom of Richtert itself to manage the public affairs, and their current headquarter resided in an office with a surreal quantity of paperwork.
That’s why they didn’t only keep in touch with each other, but a strong guard was put in charge of defending them.
Before, the guards avoided dropping by as much as possible, but now they brazenly walked in and out.

So you came here because there’s something urgent you need?”

No, nothing urgent… wait, what happened to that wolf-girl.”

Sob… Captaaain…! Gimme some food pleeease…!”

Kunon was walking unsteadily toward her new hope with a strange expression plastered on her face.

Oh, are you hungry? That’s good. I was wondering if it was too late… They gave me a lot of extras at the bar, so…”

She offered Kunon a paper bag, and the next moment, strength returned in her petite body. The werebeast’s eyes started to sparkle, and she hugged the guard tightly.

Yaaay! Captain you are… a goddess!”

Woah, calm down! Here, eat this! Get off… Don’t drool! You’re gonna stain my uniform! Get off me! Slave merchant, stop watching and help me!”

Screamed Elsa trying to push Kunon away.

The three witnesses nodded with sympathy.

That’s peaceful.”

Peaceful, indeed.”

How peaceful, is it not?”

Stop looking so calm and help me!”

Kunon finally reached for her food and checked the paper bag while Elsa sat on a nearby chair.

Jeez… today I’m not here as a patrol, but as a messenger. Brother Lux asked me to.”

Takumi wore a dubious expression, and then she took out a letter from her breast pocket.

A royal buffet will be held three days from now to celebrate your promotion. The royal family, three overlords, four major companies, and all the influential nobles who have the right to speak will be present… there will be quite a lot of people.”

I see. You came to warn us.”

Your invitation was written by Her Majesty the Queen herself. Actually, it should have been held in the near future, but a certain major company has been redesigned earlier than expected.

She kept talking after making Kunon sit on her lap.

Rather than a party, they want to remind you of your position. National politics are discussed in congresses, but since in this case we’re talking about a formal gathering, it will be hard to grasp other people’s attitude. This buffet serves as a mean to share intel and exchange ideas.”

Oh, thanks for explaining. I don’t have much information regarding the upper part of Listina, so accepting this invitation might actually help me gather some.”

Takumi smiled happily, and the guard looked at him with dubious eyes.

…Don’t try to do anything funny, okay? If you do something, the Fairstadt family, meaning me and Lux who recommended you, will get in trouble. Understood?”

Why would I do something funny?”

Because you always do?! Ugh, my stomach…”

She started to pat her stomach with an uneasy expression on her face.
That happened whenever she tried to deal with Takumi.

Mirta… I’m counting on you. Keep him at bay.”

Eh? Am I also invited?”

Of course. It’s only natural that a major company’s leader would be invited, no? Also, you know how to behave and have the proper manners to participate, don’t you?”

I-I indeed learned a lot from the time we practiced etiquette together at your residence, but…”

She didn’t only think too much over things, but imagining to participate at a gathering where the royal family and the three overlords would be present made her so nervous that her gaze started to wander aimlessly through the room.

Mirta, it would be good to be a bit more confident, you know?”

I-I already am!”

Seeing her sticking her chest out, Takumi nodded satisfied.

That’s it. No matter the place or the opponent, just keep looking good. Prepare to look down on the three overlords, the royal family and even the gods if necessary.”

W-What was that…? Why can I picture you doing it so easily?”

Because I’d do that even if a goddess went against me.”

Listen… if someone hears you saying that, it wouldn’t be strange for the inquisition to drag you away, you know? People worship the Goddess Filia here, don’t forget it.”

Rebuked a disgusted Elsa, but since he already treated the Goddess of Reincarnation with insolence, he was only stating the truth.

Anyway, just take care of your look. Also, she is more or less the sister of one of the overlords. If you feel uneasy, practice in front of her.”

I am a proper sister, if anything! But he has a point, Mirta. If you need me, I’ll help you.”

I should think of Elsa as an enemy…? Err… L-Like, is this okay?”

Suzuran’s leader adjusted her expression and stuck her chest out looking straight at her friend, who looked back at her in satisfaction… then stiffened her face.

How to say it… You really grew…”

What…?”

Haha… To think that we had them alike once…”

Where are you looking at?! Where on earth are you looking at, Elsa?!”

Mirta started to hit her while blushing, and the guard quivered under her friend’s assault while looking in front of her absent-mindedly. They were like sisters, so mixed feelings were probably raging within her right now.

Well, not like you’re any bad either. C’mon, stick ’em out!”

Hahaha… Takumi, you really need some lessons to understand how to deal with women’s delicate matters.”

Isn’t it a bit too late to say that?”

I should be the one to say that!”

Then, Karin raised her hand lightly.

Thinking about it, Elsa, can I and Kunon also come at the buffet?”

Mh? Yes, no problem. Guards and chaperones’ attendants are also invited… how curious, though. I thought you hated those kinds of things.”

Well, I do hate nobles, but my Master said he’d go, so I can’t not join him, don’t you think?”

…Right. It will be reassuring to have my great secretary with me.”

The elf glimpsed at him, who nodded back at her quietly.
They finally had the chance to gather information, and Karin had the most useful ability for the occasion. She could read people’s mind by looking into their eyes, which meant that they could skip a lot of steps to obtain what they wanted.
Elsa didn’t know about that, so she nodded without much suspicion.

Anyway, feel free to come and bring Kunon too. Come to the Fairstadt residence on the appointed day, and I’ll bring you there myself.”

As she tried to stand up, she suddenly stopped.

…Hey, wolf-girl. Get off. I have to go.”

Nnnh… T’z monnin’~?”

Kunon had fallen asleep while the others were talking and was now mumbling something incomprehensible.
Elsa enjoyed that scene before starting to slap her on her cheeks.

C’mon, wake up. Sleeping right after eating is not good for your health.”

Not sleepin’ here… My food’s still there…”

When her face started to get rubbed, she started to squirm restlessly.

Ehehe… Pudding for dessert…”

Hey, don’t touch me there! No, stop drooling! Please, stop, for Filia’s sake! If you drench my coat it will be freezing cold outside! Nooo!”

Elsa tried to rip her off her lap, but looking at her innocent, sleeping face made her hesitate for an instant, and… the next moment, her coat was completely smeared with drool.
Everyone could see Elsa’s deep grief while she walked down the road in the chilly night with her coat in hand.


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