Guild Master – Chapter 42

 

The phantom fox’s real body and the new comrade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

◆◇◆

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Guild Master – Chapter 41

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Extract from Silver Mug’s documentation about the Water Cave dungeon —

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

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

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

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

Shadow Bind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Three… Two… One… Go!”

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

“Damn, they’re quick! But…!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

She created that blizzard only to dim my vision?!

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

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

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

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

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

“B-Behind you! Get away!”
“Ugh!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“McKinleyyy!”
“Yes ma’aaam!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I-It’s a little girl…?”3

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

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

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


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

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Guild Master – Chapter 40

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


The Water Cave and the Shadow chaser’s negotiation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aileen burst into laughter seeing their expressions filled with devotion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, this is my chance!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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0

Guild Master – Chapter 39

TL Note: I don’t know how I didn’t notice this before… Rigel actually addresses Dick as “(big) bro”, not “mister”. It isn’t relevant for this chapter, but it will be for the next one. I apologize for this huge slip-up.
Oh, in the note before the image I explain the difference between web novel and light novel in that scene. It changes a bit, that’s why the image is different from what’s described in here.


The demon girl living alone and the beast’s collar

The Water Cave had three floors.
There was a lake in the third one, where a special race of water spirits called ‘ice nymphs’ lived.

The lake was frozen due to the spirits’ power and highly transparent lumps of ice called ‘perennial ice’ could be extracted from it. The power of the spirits was so strong that the ice kept its cold temperature even outside, so it could be brought home.
During the Lord of Fire Spirit’s non-stop activity on the eighth month, the ice nymphs were weaker, so their power couldn’t keep the ice frozen outside, but any amount could be preserved if well covered by straw.

If the ice fox fled into that cavern, my shop would stop receiving that wonderful ice… But that was just a trivial problem. What was bothering me was the root of this entire problem, which was way deeper and big than expected.

I knew that humans and demi-humans weren’t in good terms, given what I had seen when I saved Riko, but since the current accident was affecting the capital too and no one was acting to fix the matter, I couldn’t let it be anymore.

“…A confrontation between species?”
“Master, there is no need for you to feel responsible about it. This problem is as old as the history of this kingdom, so it is not something we can just solve overnight. Nothing has changed in all this time, after all.”

Verlaine answered the thought that slipped through my lips while pouring me a cup of strong tea, then, after placing it in front of me, she sat on the other side of my office’s desk, over which was spread the Water Cave’s map. Sitting on my chair, eyes fixed on the paper, I was trying to figure out how to make Rigel’s party move.

She was still wearing her maid uniform without her headdress and her white skin had now returned to its natural dark color. I wanted to thank her for the help as I looked at her listless figure after work, but if I was too concerned about it, she’d scold me like she had done in the past, so I kept it to myself. Thinking about it, why did I want my guild members to hold back that much?

“That map is very well made. Did you draw it, Master?”
“When I first brought perennial ice home, I went into the Water Cave myself. It’s not that dangerous, and when a monster appears, a B rank adventurer can handle it.”
“How strong do you think that ice fox is?”
“…I’d say they match a B rank adventurer, but I’m not that sure…”

That beast could be a bit too much for Rigel’s party. I had to ask Aileen for help and make her act for the next day.

“Zect… if that guy from Blue Sagittarius is involved, the ice fox might actually match an SS rank adventurer… or maybe a S rank one. Right, Master?”
“That’s possible. I have to ask someone who can make sure both the ice fox and Zect are gonna be fine…”
“Grrr… the demon girl, huh? I was thinking about the light blade hero, but if the opponent is some beast, Aileen is probably a better choice. The fierceness of her attacks is always astonishing.”
“Yeah, you’re right. You’re starting to get how I think, Verlaine.”
“I always think about some plan whenever I look at you, so I keep my mind at work… but something praiseworthy has yet to cross my mind.”

She brought her own tea cup to her lips and crossed her legs.
Was she planning to do something to me…? She was a beast during the night and a fool with her head filled with absurdity during the day, so I couldn’t tell…

“The demon girl might misunderstand why you dropped by this late at night, but she has an iron will.”
“She’s bad news when she’s half asleep… but I can wake her up with magic.”

I was frightened by what was waiting for me at Aileen’s, but I had to do it to help Rigel, so I headed to my doom.

◆◇◆

Aileen didn’t want any house in particular and her income allowed her to live wherever she wanted without effort, so she ended up renting the best apartment in the 12th Street, which was constructed for the ‘12th Street’s Bests’ and wasn’t that far from my guild.

The 12th Street Bests were a family of shopkeepers who offered some fun to tired women and men for brief periods of time and also managed some information. Even so, Aileen never felt anxious or troubled whenever she bumped into one of them. That was one of her best sides.

Her apartment complex was constructed so that the many apartments on the second floor—the last of which had ‘Superia’ written on its doorplate—were connected by a common space.
Aileen didn’t want to write her name on it because she was afraid that people, recognizing her as one of the members of the expedition party, were going to sightsee the place like it was a tourist attraction and breach her private spaces repeatedly.
In the neighbourhood, she was known as Aily, and thanks to that she managed to keep her real identity a secret.

If I rang her doorbell, I’d bother the closest neighbours, so I knocked at her door with a specific sequence: two, one, three. That was my signal.
I really had a bad habit when it came to codes if I used one even there…

A few moments passed without an answer, and when I was about to repeat the code, the door opened.

“Come in~!”
“Thank you. Sorry for coming this late, but I have a favor to aAHH!”

Behind the door was standing a woman—Aileen, her gorgeous figure wrapped in a towel while a good smell of soap wafted all around her.

“Don’t worry, I knew it was you. Otherwise I wouldn’t have opened the door like this.”
“W-Well, it should be a problem even if it’s me. You could’ve taken your sweet time—”
“So, what do you want to ask me? Something urgent?”

I was breathless in front of her stunning appearance: her long hair usually tied up were now hanging down her shoulders, dangling in front of her flushed, healthy skin—she didn’t seem to notice it, though.

Was a friendship between a man and a woman something like that? Did it mean that she didn’t see me as a person of the opposite gender? That was fine, since people tended to lose sight of the important things around them when they wanted too much, but a huge conflict was raging inside me anyway.

“Don’t stand there, come in and wait a minute. I have to dry my hair… right, can you do it with your magic?”
“S-Sure… I don’t mind. But before that, can you put something on…?”
“If I dress up while I’m this hot, I’ll just end up being sweaty all over again. I don’t wanna take another bath, you know?”

Still, the towel wrapping her body wasn’t that thick and it was somewhat short on the lower part of her body. If I had to see her from behind, I felt like I could…

“C’mon, dry my hair from behind. It makes me feel sooo good when you do it~! I bet anyone would want someone like you in their house!”

Turning on her heels, she started to walk deeper into the house. As I looked at the lowest edge of her towel, the question “is that her butt or her thighs?!” flashed through my mind, but frowning in front of reality, I calmed down. It was obviously the latter.

◆◇◆

I infused a comb with some Recovery Magic and combed her hair to repair it. Then, I dried all the water in excess from it, leaving behind only the moisture her hair needed.

I remembered that five years before, when we were on our expedition to defeat Verlaine, Aileen’s pink hair, colored like a peach’s flower, was heavily damaged due to the harsh environment she’d lived in. Still, after I combed her hair, she could run her fingers through it smoothly and that same scene repeat this time too.

“Okay, this should be fine. What’s up, Aileen?”
“Nothing, you did a great job. How come that you didn’t comb my hair for so long but you seem still used to it? Do you perhaps comb Verlaine’s every day or…?”
“No, she’s never asked me to. I just comb myself.”
“I see… It’s been a while, isn’t it? You really are good with your hands.”
“Thank you, but I won’t do it often. Let’s keep it around once a month.”
“Okaaay! Hahaha, I look like a little girl again! When I was young, my mom combed my hair for me.”

I remembered that when I was little, I used to take care of my two big sisters. My parents were never home, so those two girls were the closest I could have for a parent.

Sometimes I wondered how my family was doing, but I never felt like going back to them. They were a bunch of people who liked to stand in the limelight and they thought of our home as their base. I often ended up wondering if I missed home… but thinking about it, both I and my family probably had a lot on our plate right now.

“That’s a shame, though… so if we were to live together, you wouldn’t comb me every day… I didn’t expect Verlaine to hold back that much.”
“I can tell from your eyes that you’d like to make me comb your hair… and well, it’d be fine as long as it won’t be a daily duty. By the way, Aileen, I know you just finished your last job, but I need your help urgently.”
“Mh, sure. Urgently as in within tomorrow?”
“Yes. Rigel’s team accepted a quest that was accepted by another guild too, and one of the other guild members is a SS rank adventurer named Zect. Could you make sure that those two parties won’t clash against each other?”

I showed her the quest’s information document and she nodded every now and then while scanning it.

“I think I got it. So this isn’t about kicking some ice fox’s ass but about capturing it alive, right? Do you think this Zect guy will attack us if he finds us before its target?”
“Yes, that’s possible… but we’ll probably be fine if we avoid him. If we can get the ice fox before him, we’re probably gonna be okay.”

I told her this ice fox could actually be a shape-shifted demi-human from the ice fox tribe and that Zect could be connected in some way.

“…Selling shape-shifted demi-humans as rare animals? Dick, why don’t we just destroy those Garamdoor bastards? We can’t let them do stuff like this.”
“I asked Sakuya to investigate their headquarter. She should come back soon.”
“Oh, that’s fine, then. As a demi-human herself, she’s probably gonna blast the hell out of them all.”
“I can’t say she won’t, but I’m sure she understands that we can punish them whenever we want, so it would be better to keep a low profile for now.”
“Well, I have no complaints as long as we’re gonna punish them. I want them to pay, no matter the consequences.”

She clenched her fist tight as I wondered if she was still hot from the bath. She’d been wrapped in her towel from a while, right now.

“Aileen, what about you get some clothes…?”
“Right, sorry. I’ll go change right away…”

Still, no matter who you are—even an invincible martial artist like Aileen can’t escape fate…
That thought flashed through my mind while, after she got up, her towel gave in to gravity and fell to the ground in front of me.

Aileen gasped, her voice stuck in her throat. My mind went blank, my muscles forgot to move, and so my voice to sound, as the tempered graceful body of Aileen was reflected in my eyes.

Yeah, probably the best part of those curves was her bosom. I heard that tempering one’s body resulted in a reduction of the chest, but it looked like that rule didn’t apply on someone who’s still growing. I never minded being close yet distant to her like a friend could be, but there I was changing my mind in a mere instant.

The next moment, Aileen tried to hide the most of her body as she could, leaving her chest to her hair that was partially covering it—her face flushing red from embarrassment. Leering at her didn’t help either.

“…Dick…”

That familiar name she had pronounced so often now sounded… off.
Showing up this late in the night and being invited to enter her house while a thin towel was the only layer that covered her body—it didn’t make me feel in turmoil… who knows why I was actually calm.

Aileen probably thought the same.
If I spoke now, it would have been decided—the end.
While thoughts zapped through my brain like bullets and my indecisiveness was taking the better of me, I…1

“Master, am I interrupting something?”
“HOLY SHHHOO-Oh, S-Sakuya? When did you…?”
“You didn’t answer, so I felt that something was strange and unlock the door. Verlaine told me you were here.”
“Y-You’re not interrupting anything… Actually, we were waiting for you, Sakuya.”
“…Perhaps naked, Miss Aileen?”
“W-Well, I mean…! Y-You know, my knots aren’t that tight…! S-Sorryyy!”

Aileen stormed out of the room, leaving the towel on the floor. Her back was so—no. I had to pretend I’d never seen anything. For the sake of world peace…!

“…This was quite the unexpected scene, maybe a little disturbing too… I will just try to digest this as a bad dream.”
“T-Thank you… you’d save me… By the way, could you…”
“Yes, I’ll tell you everything once we return to our guild. But before that…”

She extracted something similar to a belt from her overcoat. Magic runes were carved on its leather, which was also decorated with magic stones and gems.

That was something a human would never wear… it was a collar for beasts.

“…That magic tool was used to block the process of shape-shifting of demi-humans, blocking them in their animal form… am I right, Sakuya?”
“Yes. Luckily, I found one in Garamdoor’s basement.”
“Great job. Have you already examined it?”

Her long ears drooped and her eyes darkened at my question. That showed how cruel were the collar’s effects.

“This thing robs demi-humans of their reason and awakens the beast within them. It’s basically a magic tool that enslaves the wearer.”

The ice fox fled from Garamdoor surely had their shape-shifting ability blocked, but it wasn’t enslaved at all—their instinct commanded them to flee.

According to Sakuya’s words, almost every rare animal sold by Garamdoor was actually a demi-human trapped into their beast form.

Now, all that was left to know was the connection between Zect and this ice fox. No matter how, they were surely connected in some way.
Once the collar was removed, the ice fox could return to their demi-human form, and regaining their reason, they were able to speak again. In that case, they could personally tell us what was their connection with Zect.

“Thank you, Sakuya. Now we only need to go all the way.”
“You mean that we’re gonna make Garamdoor pay for enslaving demi-humans?”
“You will receive your reward right away, but what we received from this job will be way bigger than that. They’re gonna regret asking us for help… this will be a lesson for them.”

Sakuya’s tense expression loosened into a smile.

“You keep denying it, but you really deserved to be a member of the expedition party, Master.”
“I just move according to the situation. I don’t deserve that much praise.”
“Well, this is what I think. I really hope to stay by your side for a long time.”

She was very happy to know that we were acting to save demi-humans.

I didn’t know much about her past. The only things I knew about her were that she was the only ravirim still alive, as her race had been destroyed, and that she despised humans.

That was all the more reason to stop this everlasting dispute between humans and demi-humans… this was our chance to help this reconciliation from the shadows.


1 Long story short: in the light novel Aileen is more aggressive. She takes his hand and pulls it towards her body pretty much saying that she wouldn’t mind if it was Dick ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) then Sakuya interrupts. Guess the LN has more fanservice around.

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3+

Guild Master – Chapter 38

TL note: this chapter is written in third person. Dunno why.


The graceful explorer and the company’s truth

Sakuya entered the 10th Street, heading to Garamdoor’s headquarter as her Guild Master had asked.

She was an “Explorer”. Her job wasn’t covert-operations and infiltration oriented, but sometimes top-secret information were out of reach even for those who expertized in the intelligence field.
Silver Mug’s intelligence department, for example, didn’t have many specialized members, but they all sorted and managed the information and sometimes conducted field investigations.

Ravirims live longer than humans, but Sakuya’s age wasn’t that far from her appearance. It’s only because she had stopped counting that no one knew how old she was.

She had met Dick by chance four years before and for a certain reason she joined his guild. Sakuya wasn’t interested in ranking, but when she registered in, she knew her adventurer score for the first time. Her self-defense techniques alone were worth ten thousand points, and summing them to her abilities as a ravirim and her being an Explorer, her total score was 32.384, making her a S rank adventurer.

In the entire capital, about one person every ten thousand people fitted that category, even less fitted the SS one, and only divine-like entities were classified as SSS rank. Sakuya knew that the expedition party and Verlaine were part of the last category, although they didn’t like to show off.

Still, I can’t always leave everything to him…

Muffling her footsteps, erasing her presence and hiding her tall, beautiful figure under a gray overcoat, Sakuya passed by noisy bars and places filled with life despite the late hour. No one could notice her, and those who did never wondered a thing.

Leaving the noise behind her, she entered a block packed with shops; Garamdoor owned almost a quarter of them.

She walked to her destination, and after some time, she finally stood in front of the high wall that surrounded the yard of a luxurious, two-story mansion. Scanning the document provided by her Guild Master, Sakuya’s gaze focused on the sentence ‘Recently, rare animal trading has made Garamdoor grow rapidly.’

He guessed right… I barely smell it, but there’s a faint trace of demi-humans coming from this mansion…

After the ravirim confirmed that no one was around, she kicked the ground and easily leaped to the other side of the wall with a back somersault.

When Sakuya landed, she noticed that some dogs had started to charge her from the inner part of the yard. Dogs were among rabbits’ natural enemies, but ravirims weren’t that afraid of them, so Sakuya reached out to the incoming beasts and whispered a simple word.

‘Illusion.’

Although it was the most basic of magics, its effect was immediate—the dogs, not having any magic resistance, stopped their ferocious charge in a few instants and rolled on the ground happily, showing their bellies to the sky.

Watching them, she couldn’t help but laugh.

“If your owners disappear, I’ll bring you someplace better. You can have a good life if you live together in a group.”

Sakuya didn’t like the smell of other beasts, so she kept her distance whenever she could. Leaving behind the dogs trapped in their illusion, she approached the building.

Having an inter-racial relationship was acceptable only if bound by a blood oath. That way, the demi-human wasn’t bothered by their partner’s smell anymore.

Still, relationships between demi-humans and humans were taboos.
Races that shared the same origin were different thank to the divine blessings that were bestowed upon them. Some were opposites, like elves and dark elves or wolfrim and dogrim. Still, when it came to humans and demi-humans, they were object of mutual derision despite their similar looks.

Sakuya thought that Dick had surely noticed how she felt about them.
She hated those vile humans who turned a blind eye when demi-humans were used to make profit onesidedly.
But she rejoiced when she came to know that virtuous ones existed.

Even so, I classify them as they do with us. If the world was impartial, we would all see so many different things…

Her thoughts flowed into her mind as she turned the corner and got behind the house, where she saw a tree. She dashed over its trunk and easily leaped on the rooftop without making a sound.

She could tell there was an attic from the building’s look, and it only took her a few instants to find its little window and notice that something was off.

It was sealed by chains on the outside, and she could see traces of people entering, as well as evident scratches and grooves inside, signs that they tried to get out from there later but failed to.

Only demi-humans could have done that… If humans didn’t use Support Magic like Dick, tearing off those chains barehandedly was impossible.

Maybe the intruders are still in this mansion… but they’re not human… not if they did those scratches…

Sakuya knew it was risky, but she was ready to fight to some extent. She cast Hazy mist—one of her skills as a ravirim—to null physical attacks, then she untied the chains and opened the window.

Once inside the room, she scanned her pitch black surroundings with her red eyes, that were able to see clearly even when there was barely any light, then she picked up a muffled, almost nonexistent reverberation with her sharp sense of hearing.

Her race was ridiculed as a race of thieves, but Dick told her that her sharp senses could come in handy when they adventured into ruins or labyrinths.

In that very moment, she sensed a demi-human, who almost erased their presence completely, in the attic.

“…You noticed me? Oh well, that’s fine. If you didn’t attack me right away, we probably share the same goal.”

A male wolf-man was hiding in the shadows. He wasn’t young, but neither did he look old.
His clothes reminded her of a thief’s, but Sakuya could tell that wasn’t his main job. A thief would fight with a short sword, but the wolf-man’s figure looked tempered by martial arts as he stood there with a deranged expression.
Then, Sakuya spoke.

“I didn’t expect someone to precede me. You didn’t sneak in here to steal something, did you?”
“No, I’ve already completed my research. Knowing that she was here is more than enough… you should go home now. I’m going to slaughter everyone in this house, and I really hope you don’t want to get involved.”

Her gaze searched around the room and she started to connect the dots.

In that attic laid blankets, which were probably used and abandoned by someone.

Piecing together the feral grooves and the new information she was acquiring, she could easily imagine what happened in there: several demi-humans had been confined in that room.
She then returned her gaze to the wolf-man.

“Can we talk it over? I have some business here, so I can’t follow your suggestion.”
“You look smart, so I bet you guessed what happened in here. The goods this company is trading are demi-humans. I’m looking for them… and I know my daughter has been here. Garamdoor must have already sold or moved her to another place to avoid being tracked down… but no matter what, I must make them pay for this.”
“As far as I know, Garamdoor is trading rare goods. They’re not selling slaves… that’s only a facade.”
“A facade? They’re buying caught demi-humans to sell them to adventurers and criminals. This is the truth.”

Sakuya went over Dick’s guess and drew her conclusion after thinking about what she had seen. But to confirm it, she absolutely needed that one proof.

“If you slaughter everyone in this mansion, how can you be sure that the person you’re looking for is safe?”
“…Then what? I should calm down? Choose your words wisely. It’s already too late, and I have my reasons to get my revenge. Those bastards tricked and abducted my daughter, who was only interested in the city of humans.”
“No one would tell you that. I’ll let them pay, but killing them won’t make you feel any better. I mean it. There are many living hells in this world—even if you razed this place, you won’t solve anything on the long-run.”

The man opened his eyes wide. The girl in front of him, who spoke in a collected way and looked like a supporter of non-violence, hid vivid hostility and hatred for humans way deeper than his, which he easily perceived in her words.

“…If I do as you say, do you think I can take my daughter back home?”
“It will be more probable, yes. If you kill someone in here, Garamdoor’s vigilance will probably become stricter, but we need it to be loosen. We can show everyone how they’ve sinned, but we need proofs for it.”
“Proofs…? If they sold demi-humans, this mansion should have plenty of scratches around.”
“No, they keep trading rare goods. Can your daughter perhaps shape-shift?”

Only a small part of demi-humans could, and they usually kept it a secret.

Shape-shifting could make them revert to their ancestors’ shape, bringing them the qualities of a pure-blood creature. This led them to earn respect from their own kin, but also made their fellow villagers envy of their blood, making even their friends contend each other to obtain it.

“…Are you saying that humans put a price on pure-blooded demi-humans?”
“I mean that they see shape-shifting demi-humans like rare articles, so they will put an expensive price tag on them…”
“After my daughter shape-shifts, she always returns to her original form. You can’t just mix her for an animal. Even if you sell someone like that, everyone would notice that it’s just a demi-hu…”

His voice trailed off as he realized it.

“People should be able to notice it right away, but they aren’t. That’s how Garamdoor can disguise their demi-human trafficking with an animal selling business. Whatever they’re using for this purpose, it’s surely hidden in this mansion.”

After Sakuya’s declaration, the man fell silent, and after a few instants he picked up one of the blankets… probably his daughter’s.

Once he dropped it again, he held his fist against his brow as if he was telling a silent prayer.

“…What’s your name? I’m Gustav Wolfgang, a wolfrim.”
“I’m… Sakuya.”
“Good. I understood that we share the same goal… what a bizarre coincidence. Let me come with you.”
“Okay. We will investigate this place without being noticed. Do you know some concealing techniques?”
“Not as good as yours, but no human can notice me, although I only look like an unreliable old man.”

Sakuya estimated that Gustav was an A rank adventurer, so cooperating with him would’ve been fine. As they were about to start their investigation, a doubt crawled in the back of her mind.

“How did you deal with the dogs in the yard?”
“I just glared at them. A domestic dog will never match a wolf.”

Despite the rage and killing intent that gushed from him until a few moments before, he was now letting out a soft laugh as his expression relaxed, and Sakuya grasped his kind nature.

May his daughter be safe…

Holding her hand against her chest, she passed her fingertips on the collar she hid under her overcoat.

Being free from persecution and living a peaceful life… that was her earnest dream.

Expressing her deepest gratitude to Dick, who asked her to take part into this mission, she once again confirmed that her master’s guesses were never wrong.
The next moment, Sakuya and Gustav left the attic behind to descend to the mansion’s second floor.


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2+

Guild Master – Chapter 37

TL note: This novel got a manga! Go check it out! The illustrations are super adorable! https://mangahub.io/chapter/he-didn-t-want-to-be-the-center-of-attention-hence-after-defeating-the-demon-lord-he-became-a-guild-master/chapter-1.1


The ice fox and the ravirim1 race

Only one member of the intelligence team, who was currently dressed as a customer, was in the bar—Leeza. She could provide me with some information about the merchants.

I do know something spicy, but treating me to something good will loosen my tongue. Deal, buddy?”
Wait, are you already drunk? What happened? C’mon, tell me about it.”
It’s nooothing! I only happened to find a cute guy in the intelligence depaaartment, but he said he’s not interested in giiirls and didn’t give me his addreeess! Damn my three handicaps! I know I’m a bottomless bit with no sex appeal and flat as a board!”

I didn’t find her that bad, honestly, but given that she was into good-looking guys, they all probably searched very ideal characteristics for a girl.

Actually, they probably didn’t want to mix work and love, as the latter could be found in other places. Even I and Cody, although I believed her to be a man in the past, never approached each other thoughtlessly despite our friendship.

I’ll have something too. Don’t mix drinks up, though. It’s not a wise choice.”
Yeah, I know, but why is that?! Tell me, buddyyy!”
It’s a matter of taste. A drinker should know that mixing alcohol will numb their tongue in no time. It makes you get drunk easier too. That’s the only way for me to get drunk.”
Whaaat? Is that so? I’ll watch out then, but it’s too late for me now.”
We also have drinks that help you overcome the numbness. Master, a refreshing lemonade, please.”

It was spring water blended with lemon juice and enhanced with Healing Magic, a great drink to recover. There was barely any sugar, so many guests ordered it before leaving in order to avoid being sluggish at work the next day. Since it worked very well and cost only eight copper coins, they usually came to drink here again.

After seeing it, even Cody, who looked dizzy, kept ordering the same drink without mixing it with any other. I could have purified her liver if she let me, but I doubt she would have granted me a chance like that so easily.

Now that I thought about it, I started to be conscious of her. It’s said that friendship can’t bloom in a relationship between opposite sexes, but I just couldn’t accept this line traced by who knows who.

Mmmh…! Tastes good. I did not know this could be served as the last drink.”
Pretty boy, have you never had it before?”
Hahaha… Saying I did would sound presumptuous of me. Anyhow, you have something interesting to tell me, right?”

Cody was making things easier for me, although I literally spent my day drinking… but I was still good so who cared about me.

If she was a man, seeing him overly helpful wouldn’t have bothered me, but when I thought that he was a girl, somehow it didn’t feel the same… I ended up thinking about it so often I was starting to feel guilty.

Well, the merchants should’ve bought their beasts from someone in the capital, right? But uncontrolled beasts might spread disease and stuff, so only controlled ones should be kept.”

Mylarka’s fairy bird had been registered and controlled when she received it, and even the fire dragon that we rode together had been checked by Shura, who said it was in good shape.

Now, keeping beasts is really expensive, so beast traders profit from their job only by selling specific animals to nobles. I mean, dogs, wild wolves, kitties… there’s a low demand for them, so beast traders must capture rare animals to keep their business alive.”
That way it feels closer to selling a treasure, right?”
Right, exactly. Then it becomes a race and quarrels start to become daily routine between them. I heard that a certain company called ‘Garamdoor’ found a way to grow really fast, but I don’t trust some of those rumors…”

Thanks to the last report I heard about Garamdoor, I was doubtful too.
Joyce Weltem, a merchant I knew who sold beasts among other things, wondered how that company could have that many rare articles, so he tried to search and reach out to their supplier… but it was of no use.

As far as the public knew, there wasn’t any problem in Garamdoor’s conduct…
Was that real?

Zect wouldn’t have fussed over the fleeing beast if it wasn’t precious…
Still, I felt the problem was probably way deeper than that.

Lady Leeza, why do you doubt them?”
Well, I heard about this only today, but it’s said that Garamdoor has obtained a beast called ice fox that they want to sell. Thing is that no one has ever seen it, and some wonder if it’s a phantom beast or not… but the strangest part is that its fur looks like a certain humanoid species.”

That was very specific… thank goodness none of the customers seemed to listen, so we didn’t need to pretend it was just some rumors.

A humanoid species…? Do you mean the ‘blue fox tribe’? Well, ice is indeed blue, but would that be the same for a beast…?”
Ah, Mister, you know them? I was joking, didn’t you get it…?”

Exactly as the name suggests, the Blue fox tribe was formed by fox-like humanoids with blue fur.

Ahhh… Sorry I couldn’t tell you more. That‘s all I know for tonight.”
I found it very interesting, Lady Leeza. Later I will make you receive a good reward.”
Really?! Thank you~♪ I’ll let you know if I hear anything else!”
Please do. I would be thrilled even to hear about your love life.”

Verlaine loved gossip way more than I did. She knew every guild member’s love story.

Surprisingly enough, even the younger ones kept their distance if they didn’t have a real chance to get closer to each other. For example, probably Rigel’s team would’ve never seen Lia as one of its members’ girlfriend.

Leeza was popular in our guild, given her morals and the right distance she put between her and boys. She was also kind with everyone and a hard worker with a bright personality… probably her only problem was that she was too picky when it came to looks.

Well… I will take one last drink and go back home. Dick, what are you going to do about this?”

Cody spoke almost in whispers. Of course, I was already wrecking my brain to solve this mess.

It was really interesting. Knowing something like this makes a huge difference. It made me want to keep drinking.
Are you not drunk yet? You keep your eyes peeled more than anyone else in here.”
Eheheh… Actually, his eyes are always half-closed. It has been a while since last time I saw them wide open.”

When I tried to open them wide as they said, both Cody and Verlaine started laughing.

◆◇◆

After that Cody had left and the bar was closed, I sneaked out the backdoor while cleaning.

Someone’s there? I need some help.”
Yes. How can I help you, Master?”

Waiting there stood another member of the intelligence team, a werebeast and collegue of Leeza called Sakuya.

Both her hair and skin were white and her rabbit ears were proof of her ravirim lineage. Her kin’s hair was colored, but she was albino. Below her scarlet red eyes was a little mole which boosted her stiff-looking beauty.

Ravirims could cover the traces they left behind, their extremely sharp hearing made them hear what humans couldn’t, and they were perfect for missions that required nimble adventurers. Also, their magic affinity was great, so their spells were usually better than the average ones.

They were eye-catching and given the lack of clothes on their slender bodies, their sense of shame was quite different from a human’s. Letting their beauty in plain sight was a double-edged sword, but in our case, Sakuya was an S rank adventurer, so if some fool dared to lay his hands on her, he would probably regret it in a few instants.

Listen, I need a favor. Can you examine a place for me?”
You mean this night? Yes, I can. Do we have permission to do that or are we going to look for some kind of proof?”
Actually, the latter. Sorry for not giving you more specific instructions.”
Don’t mention it. Your instructions are never flawed, Master. My duty is to inspect what you want.”

My guess was unfounded, but I was sure that Garamdoor was doing something that concerned both the blue fox tribe and that mysterious ice fox.

Demi-humans are involved in some unclear matter… Sorry, does this make you feel uneasy?”
…Why are you apologizing, Master? You don’t discriminate us. If you say that something’s off, I will assist you to find the truth.”
Can you go right away, then? I need to prepare some stuff for a mission that Rigel has accepted. Today another guild threatened to make a move against him.”
Understood. This document should fill me with the details, right? I’ll take my leave.”

She cast Hiding and disappeared before heading to Garamdoor’s company.

This job was a lot of work, but gathering information was necessary. If my guess was right, those guys were using some kind of magic tool to meddle in some way with demi-humans.

Master… do you really think that is the case?”

When I returned to the bar, Verlaine was waiting for me. Only a few chores were left.

Yes. Some demi-humans can shape-shift into their ancestors’ form at will, so if there was a magic tool that could force the process…”
I did not think that far ahead… but it makes sense. I only assumed that some kind of magic could block their shape-shifting.”
If someone could cast a spell like that, we’d need to take precautions. Anyway, we need to gather more information about this matter.”
Who knows what are we going to pull out of this hat2 No matter how we look at it, this job will take an unexpected turn. How will we handle Zect?”
If we do things the right way, we might make him join us. Even if our hierarchy is loosen, he should be fine as long as he keeps growing and improving, don’t you think?”

I didn’t know how she selected people for their jobs when she was a Demon Lord yet, and while she crossed her arms under her chest, she raised one of her fingers.

Strong people are not necessarily good, but we‘re currently missing SS rank adventurers in our guild. If we could have one, we could make them collaborate with fellow guildsmen. It would trigger a nice chain reaction.”
Do you think so too? I agree with you.”
GrrrI know we are often on the same wavelength, butyou are always so straight-laced… still, the more you are, the more I get excited. I noticed it recently, though.”
I’d love to ask you what are you talking about… just stop sneaking into my bed at night. Sakuya delivers me her reports during nighttime.”
What’s with that respectful tone about her…? I am the older one between us. You should respect me more than Sakuya.”
Oh, c’mon, don’t make a big deal out of it. I’ve always treated her like this, haven’t I?”

She pouted again but there wasn’t anything else behind her groan. When I first met that ravirim, who looked like an adult compared to me, I was only fourteen.

Anyway, I had to wait for the report and prepare what was necessary for Rigel.

If the beast they were going to find was a transformed demi-human that for some reason couldn’t revert to its other form, I had to find a way to dispel that block.


1 It’s written “月兎人” (literally “moon rabbit people” ) but furiganas say “ラヴィリム”, so we went for “Ravirim”

2 The original uses a cute expression: “鬼が出るか蛇が出るか” (literally “what will come out, a demon or a snake?”), which probably comes from those jack-in-the-box things. The meaning should go along the lines of “who knows what is awaiting us”, but we wanted to keep this as an idiom. Is there something that fits better?

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7+

Guild Master – Chapter 36

The wanderer Shadow chaser and the fleeing beasts

When I returned to my bar and things started to quieten down, the night shift had already started and Cody made her way in, dressed in her usual male attire.

Even though the General of the Albein’s army was a girl, she didn’t drink like one, and although I knew her secret, her behavior didn’t change.

“What happened? Today you look in high spirits.”

Cody was probably more relaxed now that the King prevented dukes from bothering the army and weakened their power. Even Vinceburg, the noble family that most troubled knights, wasn’t much of a nuisance anymore.

Still, that probably wasn’t the only reason, given how she looked at me with a radiant smile blooming on her lips.

“Recently knights barely moved for nobles’ business, so this Sunday I was allowed to take half the day off!”
“Oh, that’s great. You should rest and take it easy when you can.”
“If I do not train my body every day, it will affect my performance. I should always take some time to train, regardless of holidays.”

Cody was too serious about that, but it wasn’t a bad thing.
My shop was opened every single day, but those who could use Healing Magic hardly felt wary due to everyday fatigue, and sleeping from four and a half to six hours never made me feel tired or worn out.
Even elves, who brimmed with magic, had a very high tolerance to fatigue. They could be fine by sleeping only once every seventy-two hours, but their perception of time was different from human’s. Still, Verlaine, who was sticking to a human’s sleeping schedule, said she felt like being in Heaven.

“By the way, the Magic Academy’s training will be nearby, so I told them we are going.”
“Training with you will make my muscles sore…”
“Yes, but it will probably be the same for me. Still, you can use Healing Magic, so there is no problem, right?”
“What? Shouldn’t I say that…?”

I knew that she wanted to train with me because there weren’t many people who could face her, but my score in swordsmanship was… Let’s say that I remember vividly how the score-measuring instruments exploded.

If it couldn’t be measured, I had to ask someone to create an instrument capable to do so, but then I realized that it was a hassle and that probably none of my former party members ever measured their score again in those years.

“…You seem distracted. Is something wrong?”
“Nah, nothing serious. But don’t worry, I’ll come with you. Just… let’s be careful not to destroy anything.”

Any common weapon was junk in front of the Light Blade’s power, which always allowed its owner to attack their foe, be it from close, middle or long-range.
Let’s not even talk about the extra-long-ranged attacks, which were simply terrifying. They weren’t good for large areas like Mylarka’s Annihilation Magic, but when it came to a simple, linear attack, there was probably nothing better in the whole world.

They easily exceeded all of my spells’ scope and I could never match the speed of one of those ‘bullets’. No matter how hard I tried to reproduce them, I was always slower and almost felt envious.

“Thank you for coming along, then, and sorry for bothering.”
“Don’t mention it, but are you really sure you want to spend your day-off like that?”
“I do not know how to better spend my time. As the head of the knights, training my subordinates alone is boring.”
“Hahaha… You always looked dead tired before. I’m glad your workplace has become livable now.”
“Still, having more time brings a lot of uncalled things to my mind. A middle ground would be a lot better.”

I felt the same way as her. As I chugged down my ale and was about to order the third glass…

Dling dlong~

…the doorbell rang, and a young man clad in a hard leather armor walked into the bar, his dark overcoat fluttering about.

I remembered him. He was the strongest SS rank adventurer among the five who were currently in the capital.

He approached Verlaine with a deadpan expression and a visible scar on his face while I was thinking how impressive his steel-hard, sculpted muscles were. I mean, I could see them clearly from a distance.

Still, the difference between a SS rank and a SSS rank was abysmal. A normal person would have felt a daunting aura coming from him, but neither I or Cody felt any of that, and once he was in front of the counter, he spoke.

“…Is your Guild Master here?”
“I am really sorry, Mister, but we only run this bar during our night shift…”

Even Verlaine was unaffected by his aura and replied calmly. Then the man, without showing any displeasure on his face, closed his eyes.

Both his deadpan expression, perfect like one of the many actors that played in the capital, and his scar were elements that strengthened his powerful aura.

“…Please, deliver this message to him. Don’t come to the Water Cave, as I cannot assure your members to live.”

We usually fetched the Eternal ice in there, which we used to dilute our alcohol when it was too strong. Also, Rigel was going to enter it, as it was the hideout of the fleeing beasts of the quest he had accepted.

“Mister, it is hard for me to grasp what you meant, so might I ask you to take a seat at the counter?”
“…I don’t plan to stay long. But as fellow workers, I understand that this place has rules, so I should follow them. Still, my message should be clear.”

Yes, it actually was: abandon this mission. Now, what could I’ve done as the drunkard I was?

After I and Verlaine exchanged glances, she brought me and the man an ale, and when he looked at the glass in front of him, his expression didn’t move an inch.

“…You won’t buy me with this.”
“Try to take a sip. Your talk can wait for later, don’t you think?”

He looked at me briefly. Strangely enough, his gaze wasn’t inquisitive—he merely looked at me.

“What is your business there?”

Cody asked in a low voice, but the man didn’t turn to face her as he drank his ale. Instead, he stared at Verlaine—the most valuable person of our guild—while probably thinking that I was a mere nobody.

“I’m a member of the guild Blue sagittarius. The quest giver said that no matter how many guilds would compete for this mission, he wanted those fleeing beasts at all costs, but… it’s all a waste of time. I’m more than enough for that.”
“I beg your pardon, Mister, but might I see something that proves your words?”
“…Is this good enough?”

The man showed Verlaine the guild tag dangling from his neck—it was made of steel and carved on its surface were his information.
Zect Crucifer, SS rank adventurer belonging to the Blue sagittarius guild, joined half a year before. Age 22, job Shadow chaser.

So he worked in the kingdom but came to the capital around half a year before, huh? I shouldn’t be one to talk, but why did he join such an unpopular guild like the 11th Street’s?

But more importantly, why was he so obsessed with that hunting request? Not even the reward was noteworthy, since it was just right for the quest difficulty.

“Yes, it is. Thank you for understanding. I cannot grasp the full picture yet, but should I assume that you want to monopolize this request for your guild?”
“…This isn’t related to Blue sagittarius. It’s a matter concerning me alone.”
“That is not good. You are an adventurer, so as a member of your guild, you also act as its representative.”
“…Mind your own business. Also, I only asked to see this guild’s Guild Master.”

Cody shrugged her shoulders at his retort. Since the conversation seemed over, I urged Verlaine to ask something more precise.

“Is that beast special for you?”

Her whisper melted in the bar’s noise, but Zect heard her clearly.

He slurped his ale, and once the glass was empty, he stood up and left without saying a word.

“…Silence means consent, I guess.”
“Well, yeah…”

I could think about several possibilities. Maybe Zect was friends with the merchants, something happened and he wanted to seize the fleeing beasts by himself.

But he could also be acting due to hatred for one of those beasts.

I couldn’t grasp what was driving him to behave like that, but I knew something for sure: if Rigel’s party was to cross his road, it would face deadly danger. Although ‘Shadow chaser’ was a name that gave off a precise image, it was actually an auxiliary job, but it was still impossible for a party of average B rank adventurers to win against an SS rank one.

“The beasts fled from the merchants… huh?”
“What are you going to do? Should I help you?”
“Nah, don’t worry. Keep drinking and make yourself at home.”

This was a matter concerning my guild, and Cody, probably understanding it, didn’t insist any further.
If I really needed her power, I would’ve asked without beating around the bush, but the situation didn’t look that bad.

Why did Zect come to warn us, a rival guild, like this? And as much as I wanted to see what he was capable of, there was something that bothered me.

“…It hurts, seeing you enjoying this so much. You did not make this face when I invited you to train together.”
“Really? I’m looking forward to it, though.”
“This means that… we cannot satisfy and win him over with some ale, am I right?”

Yes, Verlaine hit the spot. But if I could make him join my guild and convince him that I was the Guild Master, Zect would bring a huge impact and influence to Silver mug.

I didn’t know why he was part of Blue sagittarius yet, but that was exactly the key information to solve this matter.

The solution I wanted would’ve made us win the quest’s reward without clashing swords with Zect while respecting his goal.

If I could’ve made him join my guild, I could’ve enjoyed a peaceful life even more… also, my guild wasn’t any worse than Blue sagittarius, so even Zect would’ve agreed to join.

“We shall prepare to tame the beasts.”

No matter what Zect was thinking, there was only one thing that would push us the right way: knowing what beasts we were talking about.
And well, thanks to my information network, it wasn’t hard for me to find out what we were going to face.


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6+

Guild Master – Chapter 35

TL note: heartfelt thanks to Christian Bote and Dona(rg)tions, each of whom donated ten euros for this series!


The Princess’ magic trainer and the special researcher

I let Verlaine take care of the bar in my absence, prepared what I had to and took the wagon to the Magic Academy.

Pollon was sitting again on the other side of the reception desk, and although it was only the third time I saw her, she greeted me with a smile.

“Good afternoon, Mister Duke. Currently, Professor Mylarka is in her room.”
“Hi, thank you.”

She kept calling me that, but I couldn’t just tell her that name was fake, so I let it be. I used it for helping Timis and now many people were aware that this guy called Duke existed for real.

Maybe it was better if I used that name for my research on the fire dragons’ routine. I didn’t know if the Magic academy was interested in it, but I wanted to hear Mylarka’s opinion about it… although she’d probably care only about magic-related researches.

Before I could walk away from the reception desk, I heard Pollon commenting out loud.

“Ohoooh…! How adorable! I can’t believe a man is bringing lunch and sweets to a girl~! I’m fed up with the tasteless food I eat at the academy’s mess hall.”
“Don’t you cook for yourself? If you want, I can make someone deliver you something to eat every day.”
“Really? If you’re serious, I might really accept, you know?”
“Can’t you just take the chance to grab some food from the delivery guy?”
“I’d love to, but I understand that you’re saying it only because you’re kind, Mister Duke.”

It would be normal to request the daily delivery of food, especially if what you eat is tasteless.

“I appreciate the thought, but as tempted as I am right now, if your cooking was really that good, I’d have trouble getting back to normal food, so I’ll pass for now.”
“Let me know when you’d like to try it. I don’t think it tastes great, but I’m sure it’d be great for a light meal, like the snack at three o’clock.”
“That’d be perfect. If you push yourself this much for Professor Mylarka, you must find her very attractive, don’t you?”
“N-No? I can’t deny she is, but we don’t feel that kind of mutual attraction. We only understand each other.”
“Is that so? Oh, I should let you go now. I shouldn’t stop you for long. Enjoy your time here.”

Pollon waved at me and I headed to the laboratory.
The next moment, Mylarka popped out from the hallway’s corner.

She was glaring at me coldly, and I had the feeling that she had been doing it for a while.

“…I knew it. Acting cool and friendly is your style, huh?”
“Well, yeah, but I was talking about business.”
“Liar. Didn’t she tell you that she wants to eat something good because the mess hall’s food is horrible? She’s been interested in your cooking ever since I gave her some of your sweets.”
“I see. So, now the stuff I cook is palatable? That was the first time I gave you something, though. The more I’ll keep doing it, the more the quality will rise. I don’t like delivering the same thing twice.”

Changing the menu every day was one of my obsessions, but I had to abandon the idea after a hundred days. I rotated the seasonal ingredients to come up with something new every time, but I understood that clients were already more than satisfied.

Still, this was only the third time I brought Mylarka food. Compared to the cookies I brought her the first time, the three-layered sandwiches I currently had with me should’ve been better. They contained meat, seafood, cream and some fresh fruit. I thought they might’ve been too heavy, so I kept them small and only prepared two. I’d gladly finish the leftovers once I got back home.

“Still, when we talk about cooking, your eyes shine brightly… did you really want to become a cook this much?”
“It’s only my hobby, and I don’t back down from cooking for my customers at the bar.”
“Isn’t it contradictory? It’s only a hobby but you act like a pro… Right, since today Manarina is coming over, might I share some with her?”
“Of course. I planned to bring home the leftovers and eat them myself, but feel free to finish them yourselves.”
“…Sometimes you’re so kind you’re almost scary. I’d almost feel better if you had a hidden reason, honestly.”
“Let me be frank, I like watching girls stuffing their face happily.”
“Wh…?! L-Looking and not touching isn’t bad in itself, but you do know that feeling happy from seeing someone eating makes you a pervert, right?! Do I have to teach you everything, you donkey?!”

Why did I feel more relaxed now that she used her sharp tongue again? Was I getting used to her insults?

◆◇◆

When we reached the laboratory, Mylarka shared some food with Manarina who was waiting outside. Since she often dropped by my shop, I saw her eating what I prepared plenty of times, but now she was so happy that it made me feel better too.

“How can bread taste this good…? What on earth have I been eating so far…?”

I guessed she was studying until a few minutes ago, given that her brunette hair was tied behind her back. She usually left it down, so it was refreshing to see her in this look.

Even Mylarka had her hair tied in two different braids and it had been a while since I last saw her doing it, although it wasn’t like she never did it. I guessed it was annoying when her long hair hung in front of her or ended up stuck in her books while she was studying.

“Mmmh…! Yum! Mhh… Wait, don’t I look like I’m being fed after working hard like some pet?”
“Well, if you don’t eat, your brain won’t work. There’s also some fruit left for later.”
“Mylarka, I did not know you asked someone to bring you food… Despite it being shameful, I still am envious of it being so good…”
“If I don’t bring her better things, she will soon grow tired of it.”
“Oh my, how scary… I lost myself for a moment back there.”
“I am almost hoping for the next time you will come here, Sir Dick. Might I tag along with you when the time comes?”
“Sure, Manarina. You’re one of this seminar’s students, right?”
“H-Hey, stop accepting clients so easily. I was letting you bring me food as a sign of gratitude…”

Now that Mylarka mentioned it, it had been a while since last time I wrote a new name in my food delivery customer list.

“…Do whatever you want as long as I’m not affected by it, but try to not get too busy, okay?”
“Yeah, sure. I can’t stay away from my guild for too long either since I feel sorry for leaving others doing stuff I should handle.”
“Does this mean that you allow me to benefit from your service? Thank you very much, Sir Dick.”

Well, it was only obvious that I’d have accepted her as a customer, since she was a princess and first heir of this kingdom.

Thinking about it, Vinceburg aimed at the throne again, but I didn’t know if she had an understanding of what happened.

“My sisters, as well as me and my mother, are heir to the throne, but Jean advanced a marriage proposal to my eight-years-old sister… even my father, who wanted to strengthen the bond between our families, was shocked by that. After that, we discovered that Vinceburg’s family was causing a massive problem, and that left a sour taste in our mouth.”

Despite one’s status, someone should choose their soulmate by itself. Manarina knew that she had a duty bestowed on her by her princess status, but I believed that she shouldn’t ignore her feelings, although I understood that was but an immature thought.

“The best is living as you want. When it becomes hard for you, come to me for a new request.”
“T-That is… You already did something for me that I could never repay in my whole life. I cannot keep relying on…”
“Don’t worry, Manarina. Even if you think you’re bothering him, this guy actually loves helping people.”
“I’d spare myself from doing bothersome stuff, but your problems weren’t anything like that, so don’t worry.”

If I could change her life with a request, I wanted to take responsibility to save her again in the future. It was better if things remained calm and nothing happened, but Silver mug was ready to take another request anytime.

“…If that is what you think, Sir Dick, I will not speak any further. I feel so—”
“Dick, Manarina can’t study when you’re around. This might worsen her GPA and it also means that you’re ruining her life. Start to help her now.”
“I’m bad at studying, but magic is my field of expertise, so I guess I can try.”
“Really? I sealed a contract with fire spirits, but I still can’t cast Firefly…”
“This might be due to the lack of exercise. Let me see how you do it.”
“O-Okay. Give me a minute, without my notes I do not remember the spell…”

Did she always do that? And did Mylarka always allow her to? As I glanced at her teacher, I couldn’t help but think that red glasses suited her very well thanks to her blonde hair; instead, on the student’s nose were placed rimless ones.

“O blazing spirits, I invoke you in the name of Manarina Lyra Albein! Light a small flame in front of me…”
“Your magic power isn’t working along with the spirits’. Let’s start from there. I’ll help for once so that you can feel how it should be.”
“Oh… Okay. Thank you in advance, Sir Dick.”

Even some of my guild members didn’t know how to use magic at first, but they only needed to understand what to do.
Although they had sealed contracts with spirits, their magic power didn’t connect with theirs, so they didn’t know the necessary steps or the feeling that led them to cast spells, and many ended up thinking they just weren’t cut out for it.

Manarina was in the same situation. I placed my hand on her head and cast Elemental Rise, a support magic that temporarily rose the target’s affinity with spirits.

“This feeling… I did not know that spirits lived all around us…”
“Yeah, Spirit Magic is founded on a thing called ‘elemental core’, which can be stimulated to raise specific spirits’ power. Try to call it before your spell.”
“Okay… O blazing spirits, I invoke you in the name of Manarina Lyra Albein! Gather in front of me—Elemental core!”

The air was dense with fire spirits and Mylarka, who knew Spirit Magic’s theory but still didn’t learn it, voiced her doubt.

“If she tries to use Firefly now, wouldn’t it explode?”
“Firefly isn’t a strong spell. It will only burn brighter.”

I looked at Manarina, whose expression was tense and nervous, then nodded. She should’ve been able to cast her spell now.

“…O blazing spirits, I invoke you in the name of Manarina Lyra Albein! Light a small flame in front of me—Firefly!”

When she finished chanting the formula, the spirits gathered in front of her hand ignited, giving birth to a small ball of fire that floated and swayed into the air before vanishing.

“I-I did it…! Sir Dick, Mylarka, I used magic!”
“Wah! W-Why are you squeezing me?! I didn’t even help you!”
“C’mon, what’s the problem? It’s not like I’m gonna charge you for this or anything.”
“N-No… I just cannot count on you all the time, yet you helped me again. How could I ever repay you…?”
“If I keep helping you in applying Spirit Magic, will I become one of Mylarka’s pupils?”
“W-Where does that come from…? I can let you help me in my researches if you really want to…”

I already worked with her during our expedition, so I shouldn’t have had any problems.
Then, the girls spoke again.

“As disgraceful as it is to say this in front of you, I am looking forward to it.”
“What are you looking forward to, precisely? Listen, Dick, if you send me any kind of report, you’d become famous. Can you come up with something to avoid that?”
“Yeah, sure. Now I can use this academy’s library and look at your experiments and researches. This sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?”

That’s how a new student—Duke Solver—was added to Mylarka’s seminary registry.

The report I wrote under that name, “magic aptitude’s existence criteria and how to approach magic”, became a sort of sacred book for the students who couldn’t use magic.

Since explaining how I did things my way worked very well, I was asked to teach a course, “Approaching magic”, but I obviously declined. I couldn’t just wear a mask to disguise myself, neither I wanted to use magic to change my look, so I just left my report there and hoped that students could go through it by themselves.
In the end, I wasn’t a teacher like Mylarka, and I wanted to be left alone.

“If you make your study on fire dragons public, I think the royal family would send some scouts to find you and ask you to become their personal researcher.”
“If you say that, I feel like I’ll keep that for myself. Relaxing is the best.”
“…Next time you write something, let me see it. In exchange, I’ll let you see my researches.”

Being present in her lessons wasn’t bad at all.
As I bit my tongue while looking at a thesis that only Mylarka could put into practice, I wrote a report about “calculating large building’s center of gravity and how to destroy them efficiently”. I couldn’t just tell her to research something that anyone could actually apply.


<Prev | Index | Next>

2+

Guild Master – Chapter 34

TL note: sorry for disappearing for this long, but this year has been quite hard for me and my editor.
We do have some great news, though! To avoid sudden and long hiatus like this one, I created a discord server where you can see if we’re still alive ( –> https://discord.gg/nf5k8B5 )! You can find the button at the bottom of our home page! 
Talking about the Disappearence of AcanTL, luckily the first volume of this light novel ends in the very same way of chapter 33, so at least we don’t feel too bad for being away for this long. I don’t remember massive differences between web novel and light novel so far, but there are a few here and there. Maybe one day I’ll create a page about that…
This chapter and the next one are titled “special” in the web novel, but they are necessary for the story (and appear later in the light novel), so we have just considered them “standard ones”.
Anyway, I hope we can get back on track soon!


Invite for a drink and the maid-dressed shopkeeper

The names of the Star Gods filled the Kingdom of Albein’s calendar, and even my guild, ‘Silver Mug’, was named after one of them, the Water Jug God.

The current month of the year, the fifth one, was called ‘month of the Lion God’, but it wasn’t clear under which criteria the Star Gods were related to their specific months.

The climate was mild roughly from the third to the seventh month of the year, and only the eighth one was abnormally hot. It was due to the Lord of Fire Spirit’s non-stop activity, causing the migration of fire dragons to the kingdom.

At this time of the year, sunrise was around 5:30AM.
It was exactly the moment I lifted my heavy eyelids and pulled the curtains open only to be blinded by light—the next moment I pulled them back. I had to wake Verlaine up, who wasn’t the definition of a morning person, prepare breakfast for the both of us, and set things up for the morning shift.

If I wanted to drink in peace, a minimum number of people had to keep entering the bar, so I also had to think about what I’d have to cook for the day, and what rare ingredients and dishes I could use to pique the customers’ interest.
The next step was to decide a new menu and come up with an original name for it. The same went for drinks: high-class ones were stored in the shop’s underground, where the ideal temperature and humidity preserved them perfectly along with the various fruit juices I used.
Oh, I had to confirm the fruits’ freshness before squeezing them too.

I handled my business partners by myself to restock the daily ingredients and even checked the capital’s morning market, where I could directly judge the quality of the products. Making people happy doesn’t come without efforts, after all, so I had to pay extra attention to the ingredients.

The same went for my look. When I was in my bar drinking, I couldn’t just look like a beggar or a rich guy.

The best option was to have only two pair of clothes and switch between them for a week, then rotate with newer ones when they started to look shabby. If rumors about a customer always wearing the same clothes were to spread, a normal person would’ve likely wondered if the place lacked hygienic care.
For the same reason, I took care of my hair periodically. When I was a child, my older sister cut it whenever she felt like it, so sometimes it grew very long, but now I dropped by a trusted shop once a month to let them handle it.

My beard and mustaches hardly grew, but let’s say that I let the barber shave me due to the pleasant feeling of the barbershop lady’s breasts pressing on my head while she did so.

I got used to seeing big breasts, but I never had the chance to touch them. No curse tormented me, though. I simply kept myself collected like a horse whose carrot dangles in front of its eyes.

After I washed my face, I knocked at my office’s door so that Verlaine could forgive me for entering even if she was still asleep.

“I’m coming in.”

I opened the door.
We kept the paperwork in the office, but given how much room was left, Verlaine brought her bed to sleep there. She rearranged the place as she pleased and brought new furniture, but there was still enough room to freely move around.

When I entered, she breathed out deeply while turning over “in her sleep”. If her timing hadn’t been that perfect, I’d have thought she was really sleeping.

“Do you know how many times I’ve called you already? At least greet me properly.”
“…Uff. You’re so cold, Master. Isn’t it normal to take the bait in this situation?”

Honestly, it was impossible for anyone to not look at them.
Verlaine slept in a shirt, which was unbuttoned up to under her chest, and was lying on her back. It was a poisonous sight for a man.
A single mistake now and I’d have had to deal with a lot of troubles.

“I was planning to make you take responsibility if the last button was to burst…”
“I don’t care about seeing you stretching, but you’ll catch a cold if you sleep like that.”
“When I was a Demon Lord and lived in the castle, I used to sleep naked. I already explained to you that I hated the feeling of wearing something while sleeping.”
“Thank you for caring about me, but at least wear some underwear.”
“I do use it… A-Although I joke about it, I’m not an exhibitionist, okay? That’d be bad…”

Then, Verlaine finally got out of bed.
The day she joined my guild, she was interested in the shirts I used as sleepwear, so she occasionally took one from my room. Along with that, she was wearing short trousers that left a lot of her tanned, long, beautiful legs uncovered.

“Wearing them would be better for you… by the way, why don’t you try to wear a proper pajama or something?”
“Thank you, but I don’t want to wear tight stuff even outside my working hours. Now I’m used to it, but wearing and taking off my maid uniform is not that simple, you know? I asked some specialists to teach me, and I ended up doubling their wages after I understood what they had to keep through all day.”
“Well, you could wear clothes that any shopkeeper would wear. I wouldn’t mind it. There should be some ready to use around…”
“Master, you prepared clothes for the barman…? That’s curious. I guess I should try them at least once. Also, if I keep wearing the same outfit, people will just grow accustomed to seeing it.”

Her attitude and look attracted a lot of customers. Some male customers in particular came only to admire her maid uniform, but I could probably increase the regulars if she changed her outfit… no, the flow of customers was already too much to handle, so I had to be careful about it.

She stood up and headed to the bathroom. Verlaine washed twice a day, at night and in the morning, because she liked being clean. There weren’t many people in the 12th Street who did something that luxurious, probably.
But well, she was still a former Demon Lord, so indulging in a little luxury wasn’t that strange for her.

◆◇◆

Thirty minutes later, when Verlaine was ready, we had breakfast together and went to the basement to prepare the various things for the bar. After we decided the menu for the day, it was finally time to open the shop.

The first customer entered… or maybe I shouldn’t have counted it as one, since he was a member of our guild. His name was Rigel, a neat guy with short hair and a medium build. He passed the adventurers’ exam last year and decided to join my guild. A singular choice, given that normally no one would want to work in a bad neighborhood like the 12th Street’s.

He was a B rank adventurer as well as a party member of Lia and McKinley.
Even if his rank was lower than hers, since she was an A rank, I decided that she should’ve listened to him.
What I valued greatly was the experience earned since a member joined the guild. She didn’t look very disappointed from my order, and soon grew used to helping Rigel with his requests. On the other hand, McKinley adored me, so he’d have done whatever I asked him to, but I was sure he knew that it was for their sake, as it helped them grow and develop more self-independence.

“Bro, you look ready to start the day.”
“Hello. You look quite in high spirits. Here, have something to drink, it’s my treat.”
“Thankw! Maaan, I so wanted to drink some ale!”

Rigel had a cheerful personality but was actually pretty serious and diligent. His swordsmanship was also noteworthy, and I estimated that in only five years he could have risen up to be an AA rank adventurer.

Reaching the S rank wasn’t something achievable with time and experience alone, given the huge amount of skills it needed. Even a talented fighter like Lia would stop in front of that barrier, and it would be extremely hard to overcome it.

“By the way, I was asked to give you this, but…”

He placed a piece of paper on the counter and passed it to me.

The words “To our beloved Master, from your loyal guild members” were clearly visible on it.

“…Again? What’s the fun part of drinking together with me?”
“Well, everyone would like to show you some gratitude. I shouldn’t tell it to your face like this, though.”

My guild counted around a hundred members. If I had to estimate how many they were compared to the others’, I’d say that our guild had fewer members than every other guild in the capital. White Goat, the most numerous guild, counted a thousand members, which was more than three hundred members over the second in ranking.

I wanted my members to cover the capital’s borders, and now that we had installed the Transfer Magic system and established the main base, there were fifty of them scattered in the places I indicated. The other fifty were in the capital and showed in the shop only to accept requests from Verlaine or to join a party.

The seats in the bar were seventy in total: eight at the counter and sixty-two at the tables. Meaning that I could convoke the fifty members in the capital, but… if I had to do that, what would be the point of coming here precisely to join parties and accepting requests?

“Mister, is it not good? It has been a month since the last time you joined them. If you want, I can reserve the shop for you in a few days.”
“I knew our shopkeeper would understand~! Bro, how blessed we are to have a beauty like her with us!”
“I’m just a customer, and she’s the shopkeeper. But yeah, she’s quite the beauty.”
“Eheh… thank you, misters. I appreciate your flattery.”

Verlaine, who now looked like a normal elf, simpered at our words. Her humbleness was evident since she started to work here, but ours weren’t words of flattery, we were simply stating the truth.

“Fine, I’ll treat everyone. Bring as many as you want.”
“Really?! Ah, sorry for yelling…”
“By the way, Mister Rigel. Might you be interested in what I heard recently from some customer?”
“Ah, sure! I’d love to hear it!”

Verlaine’s requests sounded like rumors. She wasn’t very busy at the moment, but the kitchen clerk was already at work and people had started to enter the shop.
Since she couldn’t let everyone hear about requests, she made them sound like some sort of daily talk.

“It is about some merchants who had an accident. I heard that the animals they were transporting ran away and shut themselves in a cave nearby…”

Someone brought us this request the previous day.

It was about a group of merchants who were trading rare animals, which were actually uncontrollable beasts that needed to be captured.

Requests like that could make more guilds compete over the same job, but there was a contract stating that only the one who fulfilled it would earn the full reward, while the others would profit only from the advance payment.

“What…? I didn’t know about it. Could you give me more details?
“Yes. Do you have some spare time?
“Yeah, and I can change my plans if needed.

Those were the keywords my guild members used to accept requests. Now that the request’s documentation was arranged for him, he was going to tag along with some of his comrades and depart.

It was better if requests were accepted and completed quickly, and since he had finished my training, we decided that one day was enough for him to accomplish this job. Understanding that, he consumed his drink and stood up.

“Thank you very much! Bro, this night I’ll bring some of our acquaintances!”
“Okay. Come whenever you want.”

He meant that he’d have brought the guild members to drink together before the bar was reserved.

Well, getting ready for fifty people would take some time, but this wasn’t a problem.
I didn’t mind when my comrades came to drink, I just wanted them to have a good time here.

“What are your plans for this night, Mister?”
“Probably some of my friends will come too.”
“Eheh… I see. Recently, they are showing their face more often, are they not?”

She commented with a suggestive tone of voice. Despite being a freelancer, Aileen was like a member of my guild, and Mylarka, Yuma and Cody had started to drop by every now and then.

Yuma, who couldn’t drink anything alcoholic, was impressed by the drinks I prepared for her, and ended up accepting anything I brought her.

Now that I thought about it, I had to go to Mylarka’s laboratory. Last time I brought her something was four days ago, but I had finally managed to have some free time.

“…Sorry, I’ll get out at noon.”
“As you wish. I will not move from here, so take all the time you need.”
“Sorry, it’s always like this.”
“A dedicated wife should be perfectly fine with this kind of things. Please, do not mind it too much.”

She fired such a bold statement because there weren’t many guests.
As I brought the third glass of ale she handed over to my lips, she looked at me with a sunny smile while rubbing another glass clean.


<Prev | Index | Next>

4+

Guild Master – Chapter 33

The peace’s restoration and the butler’s invitation

Kirsch Auguste informed the royal capital about the plan of Vinceburg, that consisted in using two other noble families as a scapegoat to protect themselves. The first to hear her was the prime minister, who tried to request an audience with the royal family before the country could be shaken by such a crisis.

Despite its prestige, Vinceburg started to rotten since Zevias’ generation, and it became evident even for other families. No matter their noble title, both Orlanz—the first ducal family—and Stollen deemed their trying to force a marriage with a princess outrageous, and none of them could stay silent in front of Jean’s debauchery.

Stollen knew that their former mansion now belonged to my guild and had already sent me a friendly letter that stated their reciprocal trust with Orlanz, who took to heart Kirsch’s case and wanted to employ her.

I believed that she could accept their request.
Even Yuma said she’d have helped her indirectly. I’m sure she’d have felt left behind if she was the only one in the expedition party who didn’t help in all this matter.

◆◇◆

Vinceburg was about to be stripped of its status, but things settled down with a generous demotion to viscounts. This outcome was decided after the confirmation that not every member of the family was helping Jean and Zevias, since some didn’t even know what they were up to.

Now that there was an empty spot to become a ducal family, the marquesses decided it was important to choose a new one. As the preparations took a long time before one was selected, the two remaining ducal families sat at the top for a while.

Luckily, when Kirsch started to work for Orlanz, her ability and loyalty for her master and country had conquered them, so she was allowed to keep her remaining subordinates under her authority.
Regarding the reward, she decided to talk it over another day. We told her that we got what we wanted, but she didn’t accept it and insisted.

And so, a week went by.

I invited the other masked saviors to Beatrice’s mansion for dinner, and before sitting at the table, I told Yuma that she didn’t have to do anything for us this time, but she was adamant on contributing to the matter.

“My way to help people who fight among each other is to lead to Heaven the souls of the dead who faced their demise in chagrin. Although such is one of us priests’ duties, if this is what would make you happy, I will gladly make you worry about me.”
“Yuma… you sure have grown. You always said that you wanted to quell all souls.”
“Well, that is what I really want… but controlling myself brought you to help me, and even provided me a place to vent.”

She smiled like only a holy maiden could do, but I perceived something immoral behind her words.

“…Did you vent a little as the masked priest?”
“Y-Yes… It has been really satisfying so far. Still, my dress suggested that I am part of the Holy Church of Albein despite my mask, so the offerings are increasing. But I cannot shake off my head what I felt when I purified the entire city… Ahh… I so want to touch your soul like that again…!”
“I-I see… feel free to do that whenever you want, as long as it’s only touching my soul.”

She blinked her cute, round eyes repeatedly while I struggled to grasp the real meaning behind her words—but my effort was fruitless.

“No. I will do it in your last moments, when your family will take care of an old you. Then, I will accompany you through the path to Heavens.”
“…A family, huh? I should choose a bride before that.”
“W-Well… y-yes. Let me inform you that my parents have high hopes for you, so… I-I might…”
“Mister Butler, Yuma, we’re waiting to take our seats for a while now. Have you done talking yet?”
“Kh! S-Sorry. Sir Butler, let us resume our talk another time…!”

Hurrying over her seat, Yuma sat nearby Mylarka, who looked at me while thinking about something, then smiled and started chatting with her friend.

“Dear guests, would you like a drink before dinner?”
“I’m fine with anything you suggest.”
“Me too! Yuma, you wanna some milk? Can’t break your taboo today, right?”
“Yes, anything but alcoholic drinks will be good for me.”
“I guess I will… have the usual, then.”

The last one talking was Cody, who wore plain clothes and sat nearby Aileen.
He almost asked me directly how he should dress, since he wasn’t the kind of person who cared about clothes, so I introduced him to a tailor I knew.

I wondered if days like that would repeat in the future.

In front of me were the few friends I could talk to sincerely. I didn’t want to lose them, but that was exactly why I wondered: was it better to keep denying what I saw?

Would Cody forgive me if I told him… if I told her what I knew?

Cordelia Blancneige was a name that appeared in the birth records of her hometown.

Thanks to my information network, I didn’t even have to personally move to search for it. I never wanted to pry in my friends’ circumstances, and that was the first time I heard about her birthplace.

Although she kept her brown hair short, sometimes I noticed it was growing longer, and both in our journey and when we sat nearby drinking, I wondered if she really was a girl.

When that happened, I always denied the truth: she couldn’t be a girl, and if I asked her directly, I would’ve lost her trust.

Probably, what I wanted to do would’ve made her angry and tore our relationship apart.

Still, until then I wanted her happiness to last as much as possible, even though she had to keep lying about herself. I wanted to make her relax.

“Let me show you my gratitude for what you did by offering you a special dinner. Sir Cody, would you mind accepting a drink of my suggestion?”
“…? Yes, feel free to.”

I felt my heart skipping a beat.
Even if I kept feigning ignorance while shrugging it off like a hallucination from an inebriated dream, our relationship wouldn’t change.

I knew that it was wrong… it was the first time I was so afraid of something.
I was glad when Cody, a regular, dropped by my bar.

No matter the gender, my feelings would’ve been the same.

“If you will excuse me, I shall present you your drinks.”

Beatrice entered the room while pushing a wagon, over which four glasses were filled with colorful liquid, one for each of our guests: red for Mylarka, blue for Aileen, white for Yuma, and yellow for Cody.

“This is called Rainbow drops, an original blend of Silver Mug.”

Those drinks changed their color into one of the rainbow’s when I added a drop of a special liquid. The original base is made of brandy, liqueur or fruit juice. It already tasted really good, but after I added that drop, the taste was greatly enhanced.

“…Dick, is this…?”

Cody called my name despite my butler’s appearance, as if he didn’t care about it.

Without saying a word, I signaled Beatrice to place the glasses, filled with see-through, colored liquid, in front of them.

I was sure that Cody would have ordered an ale, since I told her that was a common order for male guests, and that’s what she kept ordering.

She probably didn’t want to look effeminate… but her choice was only half right.

She was playing the part only to hide her real gender from me.

That’s why I had to make her stop in a way that words couldn’t express.

“…I mean, probably I worded it poorly, but I would not ask for anything other than rum or ale… with only a few exceptions.”
“This is no exception. I am sure I was not tricked by my imagination.”

Mylarka, Yuma and Aileen’s faces twitched. They couldn’t believe me… but their reaction was normal.

I pretended to be ignorant for five long years until this moment.

Cody tried to say something, and a flash of anger lit her eyes, but…

“…I must question you later. Know that this will cost you.”
“As you wish. Still, there was no error in my preparation. If it is not to your taste, I beg you to punish me at your discretion.”

I bowed deeply while preparing myself for Cody to snap at me.

But the only thing that leaked from her lips the next moment was a sigh.

“…I will ask you what the meaning of this is later, since I am probably the one that needs to prepare.”

As I raised my head, the four girls’ gaze darted on me.
They weren’t looking at me with blaming eyes, but understanding and perceptive ones.

“Why did you choose today, and since when have you known it… I’d love to ask you a lot of things, but I will contain myself out of respect for Cody.”
“I am obliged, Lady Mylarka.”
“Eh? You wanna keep that butler facade? Dick, you’re just ashamed of talking honestly with Cody, ain’t you?”
“…Actually, I do not mind it, as I did not in the past, and I never will…”

Hearing that, Cody flushed up to her ears.
I saw her blushing like that only when I asked her, during our expedition, to take a bath together.

“Thing is that now you lost a male friend, Dick.”
“N-No? Feel free to treat me like a guy, otherwise… i-it will be a problem…”
“Guess you thought pretty much ’bout it huh? Anyways, tonight we driiink~!”
“F-Forgive my rudeness. I appreciate your cordiality, Sir Butler, but alcohol is a bit too much for me…”
“Lady Yuma, although I prepared your drink like the others, yours is alcohol-free, so do not worry.”
“How thoughtful of my Master… despite being alcohol-free, you invented a way to create a flavor that emulates alcoholic drinks. I would love to know more of your recipes periodically…”

Beatrice was now used to be this mansion’s landlord, but if she wanted to, I could drop by from time to time.

Still, the four sat at the table stared daggers at her… her invitation was a subtle way to ask for magic power to preserve her physical form, which I had to provide. But I wouldn’t have done it each time I was here, and neither was she hoping for that.

I felt Yuma and Cody, whose face was still red but preserved her usual smile, looking at me differently.

“We should deal with the flames of jealousy from now on, are we not? This will be hard for everybody.”
“W-Well, we cannot help it. Dick is not self-conscious in the slightest.”
“That’s damn true. He’s the type you must bait, otherwise you can’t pull it. There’s some crazy fishing to do for him, huh?”
“Gh… I am only a masked butler…”
“And I am a masked priestess. If I should express it in a few words, I would be glad if you could look more after me.”

Yuma dropped a bomb on me… but that made everyone smile.
She’s always been like that, like she wasn’t part of this world, but her assertion proved the opposite.

“Dick, do you remember our promise? You’re not getting away easily if you don’t.”
“Ah, so this job was done okay? Why next time don’t we all eat at my house? Feel free to bring Verlaine witcha.”
“Then, since you always postpone it… I want you to spar a little with me.”

They all said what they wanted, and although I only wanted to drink at my bar, they didn’t seem to let me.

“Anyhow, Dick… or rather, Sir Masked Butler, I beg you to start our toast.”
“Why are you all…? I mean, yes, I sure will. My dear guests, raise your glasses… cheers!”
“Cheers!”

The members of the expedition party, which now became the masked saviors, rose their voices in unison.

Nothing had changed from then.

I didn’t set an ending time for our party, so the girls had time to eat until they were stuffed, talk and appreciate each other for some time.

The next day, I’d have been back to my normal life, so I really wanted to enjoy those peaceful moments.

“Sir Butler, what is this drink?”
“Would you teach us how to prepare them? I always found unfair that you know how to do so many things.”
“Ya know, he teaches by making others watch him, so we better pay attention.”
“Uhm… I’m interested in seeing how to prepare this. Show me, Butler.”
“Well, if I may…”

Beatrice grabbed the shaker and then passed it to me. It was a peculiar object that couldn’t be found in the capital’s bars, and also what I had used to prepare those drinks. I was deeply interested in how other countries prepared them, so I decided to buy one.

I put into it the ingredients and started to shake, then poured the solution into a glass, enjoying the curious stares of my beloved friends who seemed to look at a sparkling treasure.


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