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 Aquarius’ 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.
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.”
“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.