Sorry for the delay, the editor had two exams this few weeks, so we couldn’t release the chapters like usual.
Enjoy this way longer than usual chapter! The next one will be a new game sponsored chapter too!
The ashen-colored birdie – Part 4
Mirta’s flushed face and angry expression were the center of attention.
“Get your hands off me, Lord Kiad! I said I refuse!”
“Aren’t you a bit too cold with me? My invitation should make a grown-up woman like you happy.”
She glared at the man in front of her, who was not only enjoying the situation while holding her arm, but also cracking a vulgar smile as he sniffed her blond hair.
He was Kiad Fortesea, the overlord who administered and maintained the city’s military power.
“This buffet is hosted by Her Majesty, and I do not see how…”
“Mh… so what? Her Majesty still hasn’t come, and my father Elvis couldn’t attend this feast, so it would be a waste to not enjoy myself, don’t you think?”
She bit her lower lip, disgusted by his behavior.
The host was Queen Eluria herself, and they were now in the royal castle, meaning that any improper conduct would be interpreted as an insult to the royal family, but Kiad didn’t seem to care of it. The overlords retained the real power in Richtert, after all. The queen’s prestige was a mere decoration.
Those thoughts were evident on his face, and his harassment wasn’t going to end soon. The nearby lords and princes, as well as the guards who were attracted by the ruckus and wanted to check what was going on, were watching at the scene without trying to stop him.
The Fortesea family was so powerful that even foreign countries shook in fear when hearing about their magic knights, and their influence in the city was evident.
They could ruin any noble family if they so desired.
Their leadership was based on sheer power and intimidation. That’s how they earned the suffix ‘valiant’.
“I like strong people. You came all the way here after overthrowing Amberg despite being part of a company of the slums, and then you step into the aquamarine garden with the most influential nobles of Richtert… I greatly value your abilities, you know?”
He spoke those words with a hint of scorn in his voice, and looked down on her with fiery passion burning deep into his eyes, like a beast looking at its prey.
“I can’t stop myself from desiring a gorgeous lady who was able to accomplish even such a feat.”
“As the leader of Suzuran, I am very busy, so I will not change my mind! I humbly refuse your invitation!”
“Is that so? Not even if spending a single night with me, the heir of Fortesea, would bestow my family’s protection on you and your organization?”
Mirta couldn’t keep her repugnance hidden anymore, and openly showed her emotions.
“I already know how skilled my men are, so none of us need that.”
“Hahaha, well said! Perhaps that elf approached us to enjoy my patronage?”
He burst into a loud laughter while eyeing Karin up, and Mirta lost her temper.
“That elf plays a key role in our company, and is one of my most important friends! Take back what you have just said!”
“A friend? Do you think demi-humans are on your level? What a sweet thing to say! They’re but disposable pieces! Elves in particular are just alluring toys!”
Brought to her limit, Mirta freed her hand and raised it to slap him, but Karin stopped her from behind.
“Calm down, Mirta.”
“No way! He dared to insult you and our organization, so…!”
“I appreciate your concern, but getting mad is not your duty right now.”
Karin smiled tenderly. Then, a thunderous, dry sound echoed around, and more guards came running to see what was going on.
Kiad turned to face the source of that bang with a sharp glare, and saw a composed, carefree guy approaching them while the smell of gunpowder wafted in the air.
“Hello. I saw you inviting my leader with enthusiasm, but… what about understanding that coercion does not make you look cool?”
Takumi was smiling brightly while the noble turned pale and brought a hand to the short sword tied at his hips.
“…Did you make that sound?”
“Oh no, how could I? That sound reminded me of a rifle… do you think I am holding one right now?”
The slave merchant provoked him by showing his empty hands.
“Now, trying to force random girls to come into your room is a thing, but unluckily this time you chose Mirta, Suzuran’s leader, and Karin, one of its important employees.
Might you take back what you just said and apologize, please?”
“How dare you speak to me like that… You have no idea who I am!”
“Oh, do I, overlord Kiad Fortesea? I do not think there is someone in all Richtert who does not know you.”
“Hah! So, you do know who you are talking to! I guess you didn’t grasp the meaning of my comment, then.”
Remarked the noble while a triumphant smile spread on his face.
“Is that… so?”
Takumi couldn’t contain his laughter anymore. It sounded eerie, but different from a madman’s. It had a deep meaning.
“As the owner of the magical knights, you retain the influence and leadership to control people… Your abilities are suitable for an overlord…”
Takumi curled his lips into a self-confident smile.
“But that’s it.”
For a moment, none of the presents could understand what he meant.
Even Kiad’s mouth remained closed as his entire body stiffened.
No one could conceive that someone could tell the symbol of the Holy Kingdom, Fortesea, ‘that’s it.’
“Suzuran is a company, and I am in charge of selling its goods. I am interested in valuable things, but… those who abuse of their power are simply worthless.”
“Are you trying to insult Fortesea?!”
Kiad came back to his senses and vigorously unsheathed his sword.
“It never crossed my mind. As a merchant, saying that something useless is actually worth something would only ruin my reputation.”
The next moment, blood-lust gushed out from the noble, who dashed onward and swung his sword at Takumi, but the blade stopped in mid-air.
“This is not good…”
A cheerful, blonde girl had blocked it with one of her black daggers.
“You have to tell me when things get spicy, Takumi.”
Ferocity burned in Kunon’s glare as she wore her usual smile.
The man tried to recompose himself, but when he saw the ears on the girl’s head, he openly showed annoyance.
“You have a lot of nerves to bring here even a filthy fox…”
“I’m a wolf, not a fox! I’ll kill you if you get it wrong again!”
She replied with a cheerful tone, but her golden eyes were dead serious, and killing intent overflowed from her. Kiad’s body froze, but his arrogance didn’t disappear.
“What a big mouth you have, despite being powerless in front of our magic.”
Magic was widely spread in the world, and even the distant island countries knew of it, but everyone recognized that Richtert’s magicians were extraordinary.
Thirty years ago, Richtert waged war against Dämmerung, known to use demi-humans to overpower human soldiers, but Richtert was victorious despite having only several hundred units.
Elvis Fortesea made the magicians be the key part of their battles.
They researched magic since ancient times, so they had the skills, gears and power to reach that outcome in such a dire situation.
Still, Takumi showed a boisterous smile.
“Do you really think that our bodyguard would lose against the magicians you are so proud of?”
“There’s only a way to know it!”
Kiad glared down at Kunon, when a voice reached them.
“Sheathe your weapon!”
Everyone fell silent when they recognized the owner of that voice. After a moment, a person walked through the crowd.
“What might disrupt the quietness of my buffet?”
Eluria’s words were grave, and Elsa, who was by her side, took a step forward.
“Her Majesty issued an order. Any other hostile act from any of the parties will result in their arrest.”
“Tch. Mind your own business, Fairstadt’s tomboy.”
“Silence, undisciplined son of Fortesea. Seems like you are getting ahead of yourself while your father is absent, but are you really going to continue your misconduct in front of Her Highness?”
Despite being both overlords, they didn’t seem to get along, as they glared daggers at each other.
“That ruffian of a slave merchant started this, and I only acted to teach him a lesson.”
“If that is true, he will be severely punished… but we will hear his version of the facts first. Slave merchant of Suzuran, what do you have to say?”
“I showed my contempt about the idleness of Fortesea, and also criticized the power of magic.”
Eluria looked at Takumi, who calmly mouthed those words, and nodded.
“So, are you saying that there was a discrepancy between your opinions? This does not change the fact that you bothered the other nobles gathered in this place with your behavior.”
She then paused for a moment before starting to talk to both of them.
“Therefore… as the leading authority of this kingdom, I propose to set up a place to clear their uneasiness.”
“Oh…? What does that mean?”
“It is simple, Kiad. Our Queen told you to reach an agreement worthy of the title of magic knight you earned in the past.”
“Precisely. You will set your dispute with a match and the royal family will personally oversee it. We will set a date for it, and it will be held in the presence of your companies and all the present nobles. Would it be good for you?”
“Absolutely. I didn’t want to meet them ever again, but I guess I need to teach them what the magic knights are made of… even though I don’t think they will last enough to see it.”
Commented the noble scornfully looking at the merchant, who paid him no mind, with a sidelong glance.
“Her Highness, as Lord Kiad said a moment ago, this fight cannot be fair. To have a chance of winning, might I provide a list of handicaps we should take into account?”
“…I see. Indeed, Richtert’s magic knights are…”
“Let me clarify my words: my organization should have those handicaps, otherwise Fortesea will not have a chance of winning.”
Eluria’s solemn aura dissipated as she stared at him in wonder. Then, she timidly tried to confirm what she had just heard.
“Are you… sure about your decision?”
“Yes. This match would be boring otherwise. Our participants will be our elf Karin, the most powerless demi-human, and Kunon, who will be blindfolded and handcuffed… will this be fair?”
Eluria was baffled, and Kiad, on the other hand, was reaching the limit of his patience.
“How long will you keep to make fun of the magic knights?!”
“What do you mean? If I want to ridicule you, I have to go all out, no?”
Then, Takumi faced him while wearing a taunting smile.
“Checkmate, young master of Fortesea.”
The slave merchant’s irises were pitch-black, like bottomless pits.
His self-confident gaze stood out even more over his firm smile, and the overall pressure he exuded made Kiad’s expression warp for the first time.
“…Fine. Witness your defeat.”
Clicking his tongue, the annoyed Kiad left the place. Now that the commotion had ended, the curious nobles started to talk to each other again, and Queen Eluria, who seemed to enjoy the peace she had restored, smiled while bringing a hand to her cheek.
“Oh my, this will be a headache for Lux.”
“I was trying to meet your expectations, Your Majesty”
“In that case, I am looking forward to your showdown.”
With that, the queen turned her back and walked toward the puzzled nobles, while a dense aura brought Takumi to face someone whose veins popped from her forehead in anger.
“You just can’t be satisfied unless you create a mess, are you?!”
“Hey, the bang you heard earlier came from over there.”
“Where?! Where is the guy who picked a fight with Fortesea?!
“In front of you, duh.”
“WHO ON EARTH CARES ABOUT YOU!”
Elsa started to forcefully hit him on the shoulder, but after a few instants she stopped and let out a brief groan while falling on her knees due to a terrible stomach-ache.
“Anyway, thanks for calling the queen.”
“Huh…? Go thank Crest’s archbishop, not me. I was greeting Her Highness when she called us in a hurry.”
She replied and shifted her gaze toward Lise, who was following the queen while glancing at them as to confirm their condition.
“The guy you’re searching for has already left. Oh, and sorry, but could you bring me Kunon? She disappeared again.”
“What?! Wasn’t she here just a minute ago?!”
“Since she couldn’t fight when the queen appeared, she got bored and went to get some more food.”
“And why didn’t you stop her?! Also, are you planning to make me take care of her again?! You are her master, shouldn’t you take your responsibilities?! Aaah, for Filia’s sake! No matter the problem she will cause, they’ll blame me anyway!”
Takumi turned around, and Elsa dashed away while screaming to bring Kunon back. No matter what happened, the captain of the guards was very diligent.
“Mirta, are you okay?”
“Y-Yes. My arm hurts only a little bit… Sorry, he interrupted me while I was speaking, and things escalated like that. Now our plans are ruined, and I can’t just try to introduce ourselves to influential companies…”
Realizing that she couldn’t carry out her duty, her eyes welled with tears, guilt gnawing at her from the inside.
“Now that I could finally act as a real leader… how could things turn this way…”
“Don’t be sad, Mirta. You did exactly what you had to. Our leader wouldn’t look down on her comrades, who you firmly protected. That was your real duty.”
As he patted her head, he shifted his gaze toward Karin.
“Also, this brought us closer to our true goal… right?”
“I gathered quite a lot of information, and we picked a fight like we planned, so everything was flawless.”
The two of them smiled at each other, while Mirta cocked her head, puzzled.
“Your… true goal?”
“Yeah, we wanted to pick a fight with that imbecile of Kiad. We needed a pretext to fish him, and even though I didn’t start it myself, I managed to arrange a nice table for this game.”
Tapping on his temple, he kept talking.
“Magic is the foundation of Richtert, and influences it greatly. The nobles and the privileged classes use it to keep other countries in check and to mock demi-humans.”
Demi-humans generally lacked magical power. Only elves could beat humans when it came to it, but their knowledge was passed down to their descendants only, and they kept living in secluded regions… or so Karin said.
Even if a demi-human learned magic, it couldn’t live of battles only. Since magic was considered ‘sacred’ for Richtert’s doctrine, the nobles wanted demi-humans, who couldn’t use it, to reside in the worst place possible: the slums.
Thanks to that crooked view, the citizens started to think that demi-humans were simply inferior to humans and developed unfounded prejudices about them.
“I want to destroy that stupid idea of omnipotence.”
Magic was the ultimate power, so the magic knights were unbeatable.
Soon they would have known the huge difference between them and demi-humans.
“Don’t you think it will be a lot of fun?”
He pictured that scene in his mind, and smiled while vacantly staring in front of him.
Karin couldn’t help but poke his back.
“That will be fun for you and Kunon, but do not drag me into this, please.”
“I-I agree! Kunon is a thing, but Karin can’t fight!”
“Actually, I am fine with fighting.”
“Well, as a former slave, I got used to it. I just cannot use the weapon I grew accustomed to.”
She practiced more than anyone else with the weapon that Takumi built for her, but she couldn’t bring it in a match with that many people.
Modern weapons should be researched and developed over a long time. Otherwise, the world’s balance would have been easily destroyed.
“So, Master, you will give me a great reward for making me fight, are you not?”
“A reward, huh…? What about this?”
He faced Karin with a complacent smile.
“If you win this match, I will do whatever you want only for once.”
“…Are you serious?”
“Yes. Anything is fine as long as it is possible.”
“Anything… He really said that…!”
She muttered something in a cute voice, and then nodded slightly.
“We will win, and you will feel on your skin the shame of wearing a dress!”
“Karin… do you hate them that much?”
“Of course, Mirta! I only want to go home and change into my normal clothes…”
Remembering that a lot of people had already seen her, she blushed furiously and hugged herself to hide her body.
“Takumi, it will be my first magic battle, though.”
“I know a few people that might help us, so don’t worry about it.”
“Do you know an expert in magical battles?”
“Yes. She should come here soon.”
Karin wore a doubtful expression as footsteps approached her from behind.
“Captain! Don’t hold me like I’m a bag or something!”
“You’d escape again if I were to hold you in any other way!”
Elsa was holding Kunon under her armpit, and once the guard spotted Takumi, she briskly walked to him.
“Here’s your lost pet dog, slave merchant! And don’t you dare go away without me! You owe me one for this, you heard?!”
“Oh, great job, Elsa. By the way…”
“…What? I am all ears for your apologies.”
“Sorry, but can you be our instructor to win the magic battle?”
“…I must have misheard that. Can you repeat?”
“Overlord Fairstadt, might you be our instructor, please?”
“Oooh. You see, as a Fairstadt, I’m very busy.”
“Oh, c’mon. Everyone in the slums knows you as ‘the guard in charge of the slave merchant.’ We’re friends, so you will help us in this time of need, right?”
“Well, I’d almost want to see you bow and yell ‘my savior’ while I walk away!”
As she let out a dry laugh, Takumi placed a hand on her shoulder.
“We’re counting on you.”
It goes without saying that Elsa fell on the ground due to another horrible stomach-ache.