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The young knight and her knights

After the last round of drinks, I made the waitresses tell the customers that we were closing for today. Verlaine came back in the kitchen and gave me Cody’s mug… but behind her, the three girls were still sitting at the counter with their glasses.

“Hey, Dick, don’tcha care about girls~? Do you see me only as a friend~?”
“I’m seriously thinking about making the next step… Hick. Sorry, what is this… hiccup… Hick.”
“Mylarka, I really want to know what do you feel about Dick”, said Manarina.
“I… I hick-ed him since forever… Hick. He’s so nice…”
“Yeah, I agree. He worries about us all the time.”

Mylarka’s embarrassment was somewhat dampened by Cody’s statement.
I didn’t know if I should’ve been glad about her feelings, but if she really saw me like that, it would’ve been a nice change from the usual verbal abuse.

“Aileen, was Dick nice with you?”
“W… N-No? You got that wrong, we still haven’t done that…”
“When I daydream about Sir Dick, he is so romantic… Ah, I shouldn’t do that, but even though we still haven’t become acquaintances…”

As Manarina held her head while talking, Cody decided it was time to leave and stood up.
He then paid Verlaine and walked toward the back door.

“See you guys, let’s meet again. Dick, sorry for asking you this much.”

“Please, don’t mention it.”

“Asking…? Did you have a request for Dick?”
“Well, more or less, but I have to keep it secret for now.”
“Nnn…? Tonight, I kind of felt like helping you if needed… But it seems unnecessary.
You’ll have to pay me back someday.”

I wondered if Mylarka was referring to that last drink.
She was happy about her birthday celebration… but somehow, she didn’t look fragile like a few moments before.

“Zzz… Zzz…”
“Ouch, the Princess fell asleep. Mylarka, can you carry her home?”
“I might be able to, but… Dick, can we use a room for the night?”

I knew it would have ended like this…
They were exhausted after drinking, and now I was left with no choice.

“Master… seems like you will have a lively night.”
“Spare me your nonsense… Anyway, why don’t you just return home? Aileen also lives near, so just help each other and go to sleep.”
“Eeh? I’m tired, I don’t wanna. Let’s sleep together, girls~.”

Aileen gently carried the Princess and started to go on the second floor… of my house. The next moment, Mylarka also stood up abruptly and tried to follow her, staggering.
I reflexively closed the distance between us and supported her body before she was about to fall.

“Hey, be careful. Even Sweet disaster’s lost to alcohol?”
“…T-Thank you… Don’t worry, I’m just a little dizzy.”

Mylarka immediately distanced herself, and tried again to climb the stairs leading to the second floor, but her legs gave in and she fell on her bottom.

“…What did you put in the drink to make my legs so unsteady?”
“Nothing, you just drank too much. Do you want me to heal you? I have to touch you over the liver, though.”
“I-I’m fine… Liver, huh. So you want to touch my belly. Do you do that all the time?”
“O-Of course not. I’m worried about you, so I just wanted you to know that I can help if needed… Whatever. I’ll help you climb those stairs. I don’t care if I have to lend you my shoulder or simply carry you.”
“D-Don’t leave the choice up to me! They’re nearly the same…”
“I shall carry you, then. You don’t have to worry, our past fights are water under the bridge. I’m but a maid now.”
“Ah… I-I haven’t said that I don’t want to be carried by…”

Verlaine embraced Mylarka and escorted her to the second floor. Who knows what got into her… Her strength was admirable, though. Just like Aileen, she could carry someone without breaking a sweat.

Mylarka looked at me bitterly, but since I couldn’t carry her piggyback and feel on my back how much she had grown, I was just as disappointed as her.
I respected our relationship, but even though it’s said that friendship can’t exist between men and women, that scene touched me.

The Silver Aquarius finished its daily business.
I doused the lanterns lit with magic before, checked if someone forgot anything in the bar, washed used plates and glasses along with the Demon Lord, and arranged the necessary for the next day.

Two days later, in the early afternoon, I finished the preparations for Timis’s request, and waited for her in the bar.

The fire dragon still hadn’t destroyed much, and we could say that the citizens living near the forest were nearly forbidden from doing anything about it. It would have been good if the threat wasn’t going to worsen, but the dragon could attack humans if they made him angry, so the access to the forest was restricted.

If the fire dragons’ breeding season was going to end, they would have simply returned to the volcanic region.
But if their territory was lacking food, they would fly to nearby hamlets and start attacking the livestock. Before it happened, it was necessary to deal with them.

While I was thinking about the situation, the doorbell rang.
It announced the “requester,” a female knight wearing a dark brown overcoat, according to Tuesday’s color. She entered along with a female tiger werebeast, and a man who wore a composed expression and looked like an archer.

Seeing the knight wearing an armor under her overcoat and carrying a lance on her back, I sensed… that something about her resembled Manarina.
I could feel her pride from the way she walked with her chest puffed.

I couldn’t not end up admiring the werebeast near her.
She was strong… Her long sword was made by a special forging technique from a faraway place in the East. That weapon’s sharpness was top-notch.
It proved that she was a ‘sword master’ rank.
They glanced at me, but thought that I was just a regular since I was sitting at the counter,. The knight then faced Verlaine.

“Is this the Silver Aquarius? I’m from the kingdom of Albein’s chivalry…”
“Miss, there’s no need to introduce yourself. This is just a place where people enjoy drinking.”

In opposition to Manarina, Timis was way too earnest.
She even tried to introduce herself before voicing the keywords. Not like it was a problem, since I sealed the door with magic so that no one could enter.

“Is there anything you’d like to order?”
“Some milk. Otherwise, if it’s finished, I’d like what I can drink only here.”
“Certainly. Is the special blend of the house okay for you?”
“Yes. Make it just for me, please.”

After that, the knight looked at Verlaine calmly.
When the maid smiled at her, she let out a sigh of relief.

“Thanks goodness. This is the right place, after all.”
“…Miss Timis, we don’t really need help from a guild of the outskirts like this one.
I’ll slay the dragon with a single strike.”
“I agree with you, Lia. That monster wouldn’t be a match for us.”

After hearing the two girls’ comments, I thought… that Cody was really in trouble.
Timis was a C-rank adventurer who wasn’t strong enough to slay a dragon, but she was convinced of the opposite.
Somehow, she also seemed to trust the werebeast.
She was indeed an A-rank adventurer… but it simply meant that her score was around six thousand.

A team of six A-rank adventurers might reach a score of twelve thousand if greatly coordinated. In that case, slaying a dragon would become doable.
But she alone wasn’t barely enough. I guessed that the man who still hadn’t spoken once was a B-rank.

As I watched them, I thought about how frightening ignorance and inexperience are.
Timis herself was overflowing with self-confidence, and they all had the ambition to achieve such a feat with their own strength.

“Miss Timis, what kind of relationship might Miss Lia and that man have with you?”
“Lia and McKinley are my guards, so I brought them with me today. Is there any problem with that?”
“Not at all. In order to accept your request, we have to ask for your party information. Nothing more.”

I didn’t like that she brought someone along, but I guessed that it was unavoidable as the King’s concubine daughter. Since she was the leader of about a hundred people, she had other subordinates, but she didn’t bring them… Was it because she didn’t want to sacrifice anyone?

Still, I had to admit that Lia was remarkable. She wasn’t simply a half between a human and a tiger, but a completely different race. She had tiger-like ears and parts of her body were covered with fur, but she looked like a common human in any other aspect. She was around her twenties, had short hair, and in her calm eyes shone a sharp light.

Tiger werebeasts have the same strength and tough bodies of predators. Her leather armor was composed only of a breastplate, a piece that covered her hips and gaiters. It was a light armor for a vanguard, but I guessed that was in order to not slow her down.
She probably focused on her agility and favored a hit-and-run tactic: inflict the most damage possible and then withdraw. She had an eyepatch, probably because of her work as a mercenary before becoming Timis’s guard.
She looked so talented that I wanted her in my guild.

McKinley was around my age, maybe a little older.
Although he didn’t take off his hood, there was some sort of shadow in his eyes.
He had a medium build and good muscles, and carried a heavy crossbow with him… it was an arbalest. Its arrows were bigger than normal crossbows’ and it could be used even against dragons.

Timis trusted their skills, but she was exaggerating.
I guessed that’s the reason she volunteered for the task… Trusting her companions was a good thing, but if she joined a party like that, she would only hold them back.

“A trustworthy colleague told me that I could find information here, that’s why I came.
I don’t need manpower, but I wouldn’t mind some hints about dragon-slaying, as long as they’re useful.”

That trustworthy colleague must have been one of Cody’s trusted subordinates.
This young knight still hadn’t understood that the army’s general moved for her.

“You don’t have to worry, Miss. Any information you’ll find here is useful. If you really wish to slay the dragon, you have to promise us that you will follow in detail our hints.”

Verlaine stood her ground. Lia’s gaze grew sharper, but she kept silent.
Timis thought about it, but she wasn’t so impudent to come back empty-handed.

“…I have to slay it by any means to meet my mother and father’s expectations.”
“My lady…”

Lia was seriously worried about her.
Normally, she would have told Timis that it was impossible, but fulfilling her lady’s desire was probably that important for her.

“If you’ll do as we say, you will return alive and your victory is guaranteed.
You can accept after I explain half of the plan, but…”
“No, if you speak that earnestly, I shall accept right away. I only need to listen… but information has a price, so I can’t just go away after that. I apologize for being rude.”
“Don’t mention it. I’m glad you said that. Please, sit here. I’ll bring you some drinks.”

Timis was overconfident, but she was also composed enough to listen to advices that would have raised her winning chances.
If she followed the plan, she would surely have achieved victory.

One of Lia’s strikes would have slashed the dragon’s weak point, and McKinley’s arbalest would have made everything even easier.
Those two were a pleasant miscalculation.

Everything would be settled depending on the negotiations that were about to start.
I brought the glass to my lips as I listened to their conversation.

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