Chapter 3: Those Who Pick Up, Those Who Are Picked Up
Middle Fire Month (8th Month) 26th Day 15:27
After sending the old lady home, Sebas continued on to his original destination.
He came to a long stretch of wall.
Three towers — each five stories tall — rose from within those walls. Their height was made even more imposing by the fact that they were the tallest buildings around.
These towers were surrounded by several long and narrow two-story buildings.
This was the headquarters of the Kingdom’s Magicians’ Guild. They needed ample space for the development of new spells and the training of arcane magic casters. The reason why they could afford all this land despite having practically no national support was probably due to their manufacture and sale of magic items.
After walking a little further, he saw a sturdy gate. The latticed gate yawned open, and on either side of it were several armed guards, stationed near the two-story buildings.
The guards did not obstruct Sebas — although they quickly looked him over— and he passed through the gate.
There was a gently sloping wide staircase before him, and a set of doors which opened into a distinguished-looking detached house. Naturally, these doors were open, to welcome visitors.
Upon entering, he found himself in a small entrance hall, with the building’s lobby before him. A number of magical chandeliers hung down from the high ceiling of the latter room.
On the right was a guest lounge that contained a sofa and several other pieces of furniture. There were magic casters conversing within. On the left was a notice board. Several people were studying it in earnest; some wore robes and looked like arcane magic casters, while others seemed to be adventurers.
There was a counter in the innermost reaches of the hall, and there were several young men and women seated behind it. All of them wore robes, and they had badges on their chests which matched the symbol he had seen while entering the building.
On either side of the counter stood a pair of skinny wooden dolls, of the kind used for sketching. They were the size of actual humans and they had no facial features — Wood Golems, in other words. Apparently, they were being used as sentries. The fact that they had not posted any human sentries inside must have been pride on the part of the Magician’s Guild, the outside sentries notwithstanding.
Sebas’ shoes pounded out a steady beat as he approached the counter.
The young man at the counter noticed Sebas and greeted him with a look. Sebas nodded in return. He was a frequent customer here, so both of them were familiar with each other.
“Welcome to the Magician’s Guild, Sebas-sama. How may I help you today?”
“Yes, I’d like to buy a spell scroll. May I consult the usual list?”
The youth quickly brought a large tome to the counter. He must have gotten it ready when he noticed Sebas approaching.
The pages of the book were made of high-quality paper that was thin and white as snow, while its cover was made of leather. The overall article was of exquisite construction. The letters upon the cover were imprinted in gold, and the cost of this book alone probably beggared belief.
Sebas brought the book over to himself and paged through it.
Regretfully, Sebas did not understand the words written upon it. Or rather, it might be better to say that beings from YGGDRASIL were unable to comprehend them. Despite the bizarre principle which translated spoken language in this world, written text was not translated.
However, Sebas’ master had given him a magic item that could solve this problem.
Sebas produced a spectacle case from his breast pocket and opened it.
A pair of eyeglasses sat within. Its bridge was made of a platinum-like metal, and at a closer look, it seemed to have been inscribed with tiny characters, or some kind of textured pattern. The lenses themselves had been ground out of a crystal that resembled blue ice.
By putting these glasses on, he could understand written text through the power of magic.
Sebas swiftly yet carefully scanned through the pages, and then he suddenly froze. He looked away from the book, at the girl beside the youth at the counter, and gently asked:
“Is something the matter?”
“Ah, it’s nothing…”
The girl blushed and lowered her face.
“I just thought… you looked very handsome.”
“Thank you very much.”
Sebas smiled, and the girl’s face flushed even redder.
Sebas, the white-haired gentleman, was a person who could mesmerize others on sight. He was good-looking, but the way he carried himself was even more striking. When he walked on the streets, nine out of ten women — regardless of age — would turn to take a second look at him. It was no wonder that the counter girls found themselves entranced by him, and it was also a common occurrence.
Sebas found that understandable, and then turned his eyes back to the tome. He stopped at a certain page and asked the youth:
“Could you tell me about this spell… [Floating Board], I believe it is called?”
The young man began his spiel.
“[Floating Board] is a 1st-tier spell which creates a translucent floating platform. The size and carrying capacity of the platform varies with the caster’s magical power. However, when cast from a scroll, it is limited to a surface of one square meter and can carry a maximum of 50 kilograms. The created board moves behind the caster, and can be a maximum of five meters away from him. Since the [Floating Board] can only follow behind the caster, it cannot be made to move in front of the the caster. Should the caster turn around, the board will slowly move to his back. It is primarily a transportation spell and can commonly be seen during earthworks.”
“I see,” Sebas nodded. “Then I’ll take a scroll of this spell.”
The young man was not surprised by the fact that Sebas had selected a low-demand spell like this. After all, just about all the scrolls Sebas had purchased were for unpopular spells like this. Besides, being able to empty surplus stocks was a godsend for the Magician’s Guild.
“Will one scroll be enough?”
“Yes, please. Thank you.”
The youth gestured to a man sitting nearby.
The man — who had been listening on their conversation — immediately rose to his feet and opened a door leading into a room behind the counter, which he entered. Scrolls were expensive items, and even with guards posted, it would not do to pile them up on the sales area.
After about five minutes, the man who had left returned. In his hands was a roll of parchment.
“Your scroll, sir.”
Sebas looked at the scroll on the counter. It was elegantly made, and looked distinctly different from the paper one could purchase outside. The name of the spell was written in black ink on the outside of the scroll, and after verifying that it was the same as the spell he wanted, he removed his glasses.
“Indeed, that is it. I shall take it.”
“Thank you for your patronage,” the young man bowed politely. “As this is a 1st-tier spell scroll, that will be one gold and ten silver coins.”
A potion for spells of a similar level would cost two gold coins, so this scroll was comparatively cheaper. That was because under normal circumstances, spell scrolls could only be used by magic casters of the same tradition. Thus, it only made sense that potions would be more expensive, given that they could be used by anyone.
That said, “comparatively” was the key word here. One gold and ten silver coins was very expensive for an average person; equivalent to about half a month’s wages. However, to Sebas — or rather, his master — it was a trivial expense.
Sebas then produced a pouch from safekeeping. He opened it, withdrew 11 coins, and handed them to the youth.
“I have received the correct amount.”
The young man did not test the money’s authenticity in front of Sebas. Their transactions thus far had earned Sebas that much trust.
♦ ♦ ♦
“That old man’s really handsome!”
Debate broke out among the counter staff — especially the ladies — once Sebas had left the Magician’s Guild.
They were no longer wise women, but lovestruck girls who had just met their Prince Charming. One of the men seated at the counter frowned and his face turned sour, but he too had felt Sebas’ cultured presence and so he kept quiet.
“He must have had experience serving some great noble. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a noble himself, the third son of some minor lord or something.”
It was a common thing for noble children who could not inherit the estate to become butlers or maids. Noble families of higher rank would tend to hire more people from such backgrounds. After witnessing Sebas’ noble bearing, they could accept the fact that Sebas was highborn himself.
“Every little thing he does is elegant, fro mthe way he stands to the way he moves.”
Everyone seated at the counter could not help but nod.
“If he asked me out for tea, I’d definitely accept.”
“Mm! Me too! Me too! I’d definitely go too!”
The ladies squealed and cooed one after the other. They talked about where the good cafes were and then about how he would be perfect as their escort. The men looked at them from the side, and they began talking too.
“He looks really learned. You think he’s a magic caster too?”
“Beats me, but he might be.”
The spells Sebas bought had all been recently developed. That implied a broad familiarity with magic. If he had been ordered to buy a scroll, he could have simply asked the counter staff directly, with no need to browse through the catalogue. The fact that Sebas had paged through the tome was a sign that he was making the decisions on what spells to buy.
This was not something any ordinary old man could do. In other words, they could surmise that he had received a specialist education in magic — that he was a magic caster.
“And then there’s his spectacles... they look expensive.”
“Are they a magic item?”
“I doubt it, they should just be masterwork glasses, right? Made by the Dwarves, I think.”
“Hmm, that’s amazing, owning a pair of glasses like that.”
“I’d like to see the beautiful girl he came with once,” one of the men muttered. The response from beside them was a wave of disapproval.
“Eh, that woman’s probably nothing but her looks.”
“Mm, I felt so sorry for Sebas-san then. She was giving him the old run-around.”
“She looks pretty, but she definitely has a terrible personality. Did you see the disgusting way she was looking at us? I feel sorry for Sebas-san, having to serve such a person.”
The men did not dare respond after hearing the ladies criticize a fellow female. Sebas’ mistress was a ravishing beauty, and she had stolen their hearts in an instant. The ladies beside them had also been handpicked as the face of the Magician’s Guild, but comparing them to that woman was like comparing the moon to a turtle crawling around in the mud. The men wanted to tell the ladies not to be so jealous, but it was clear what would happen if they actually spoke those words out loud.
None of the men was stupid enough to do that. Therefore—
“Alright, enough chitchat.”
The young man’s words cut through their chatter as an adventurer approached the counter. Everyone’s faces turned serious, and they set to work in earnest.
♦ ♦ ♦
Middle Fire Month (8th Month) 26th Day 16:06
After leaving the Magician’s Guild, Sebas looked to the sky.
Sending the old lady home had made him go over his planned time, and the sky was slowly turning a madder red. After glancing at the watch he had taken out of his breast pocket, he knew that it was time to return home. However, the day’s business had not been finished yet. Since those matters could be delayed until tomorrow, should he not do so? Or should he stick to the plan and finish up his agenda by today, even though it would cause him to go into overtime?
He only hesitated for a moment.
The matter of the old lady was his own decision. Thus, he ought to fulfil his tasks.
A seething presence emerged from Sebas’ shadow.
“Inform Solution I will be a little late. That is all.”
There was no response, but the presence began moving. It flitted from shadow to shadow and gradually drew away.
“Alright,” Sebas muttered, and began moving.
He had no destination in mind. Sebas was going to fully familiarize himself with the layout of the Royal Capital. His master had not ordered him to do so — he had simply chosen to move independently as part of his intelligence-gathering duties.
“Then, I shall head over there today.”
After muttering to himself and grooming his beard, Sebas twirled the scroll he was holding in one hand. He looked like a delighted child as he did so.
He headed ever forward, drawing away from the central district of the Royal Capital, where it was still safe.
After turning several corners, the alleys started to feel dirtier, and a faint stench lingered on the air, the stench of fresh garbage and other wastes. It felt as though it would physically stain his clothes, and Sebas walked on in silence.
He suddenly stopped in his tracks and surveyed his surroundings. It would seem he had entered a very secluded back alley, so cramped that people would have to squeeze past each other in passing.
It was hard to move through these narrow alleys, where the light of the setting sun was blocked by the tall buildings all around and the footing was atrocious. However, it posed no obstacle to Sebas. He walked on in silence and concealing his presence, as though he had melted into the shadows.
Sebas turned several more corners as he headed towards an even more sparsely-populated region, and then his confident, unhesitating stride suddenly ground to a halt.
His aimless wanderings had brought him here, and he realised that he had come a long way from his home base. Sebas’ instincts had largely grasped his location, and he mentally traced the route from his homebase to this place.
Given Sebas’ physical attributes, he could have covered the distance in a straight line. It would take quite a while for him if he had to walk normally. Now that night was looming, it was probably time to go back.
He was not concerned about the safety of Solution, with whom he lived.
Even if a powerful enemy appeared, Solution still had a monster in her shadow, much like Sebas had. She ought to be able to buy time to retreat by using it as a meatshield. That said—
“...Should I go back?”
In all honesty, he wanted to continue walking, but wasting time on an activity which was half-leisure would not be permitted. Still, even if he was to return home, he could at least see what was in front of him. He continued walking through the narrow alleys.
As Sebas forged silently ahead in the darkness, he saw a heavy steel door in front of him — about 15 meters away — suddenly creak to life as it opened, and light leaked out from within. Sebas stopped and watched silently.
Once the door had fully opened, someone poked their head out. The backlighting only allowed Sebas to see his silhouette, but the person was probably a man. Said man looked around, but he did not notice Sebas, and shrank back inside.
There was a thump as a large sack hit the ground outside. Illuminated by the light from inside, Sebas could see that the soft object inside had changed shape from the fall.
The door was still open, but the person throwing out the sack like so much garbage seemed to have gone back indoors, and there were no movements for a while.
Sebas frowned, debating over whether to move ahead or go in another direction. Sticking his nose into this would probably lead to trouble.
After hesitating briefly, he continued his silent advance along the dark, narrow alley.
The mouth of the sack sagged open.
Sebas’ shoes scraped along the ground, and he soon drew near the sack.
Just as he was about to pass it, he stopped in his tracks.
Sebas felt something had caught onto his pants. Looking down, Sebas saw what he had expected.
A slender arm, like a withered branch reached out from within the sack, grabbing onto the leg of his pants. The half-naked body of a woman appeared from within—
This was when the sack opened fully, exposing the woman’s upper body.
Her blue eyes were dark, clouded over and empty of life. Her shoulder-length hair was messy, with split ends from malnutrition. Her face was swollen like a ball from beatings, and there were numerous pale red spots all over her dried-out, bark-like skin.
She was a desiccated bag of bones, with hardly any vitality left in her.
Surely that must be a corpse. No — she still drew breath. The hand grasping Sebas’ pant leg was the best sign of that. However, if all she could do was breathe, did that truly qualify as living?
“...Could you please let go?”
The girl did not respond to Sebas’ words. It was readily apparent that she was not ignoring him. After all, her eyelids were so swollen that they were only separated by a thin slit. The cloudy pupils which seemed to be peering at the sky from within could not see anything at all.
All Sebas would have to do was move his leg and he would be able to shrug off those fingers, which could not even begin to compare to dried-out twigs. However, he did not. Instead, he continued asking:
“...Are you in difficulty? If so—”
“—Oi, old man. Where the fuck did you come from?”
Sebas was interrupted by a low, brutish voice.
A man appeared from behind the door. His arms and chest bulged with muscle. His scarred face clearly displayed his hostility, and he glared hatefully at Sebas. The lantern he was holding emitted a red light.
“Oi oi oi, the fuck you looking at, old man?”
The man clicked his tongue with exaggerated deliberation, and then jerked his chin at Sebas.
“Fuck right off, old man. While you’re still in one piece.”
Seeing that Sebas remained still, the man took a step forward. The door slammed shut behind him with a ponderous thud. The man slowly placed the lantern by his feet with an intimidating swagger.
“Oi. You deaf, old man?”
He worked his shoulders and cracked his neck. Then he slowly raised his right hand and clenched it into a fist. He was clearly not afraid to use violence.
Sebas smiled. Coming from an aged gentleman like Sebas, that dignified smile clearly displayed a matchless calm and compassion. Yet, for some reason, the man stepped back as though a ferocious carnivore had appeared before him.
“Uh… uh, uh, what’re you—”
Shaken by Sebas’ smile, the man could not finish the words he was trying to form. He staggered back, without realizing how heavily he was panting.
Sebas tucked the scroll — marked with the sigil of the Magician’s Guild — that he had been holding into his belt. Then he took a single step forward, closing the gap to the man, and extended a hand. The man could not even react to that movement. With a silent whisper, the hand holding on to Sebas’ pants fell to the floor of the alley.
That seemed to be the signal for Sebas to seize the man by the lapels — and then he easily lifted his body off the ground.
Anybody seeing this would surely wonder if this was some kind of joke.
Just going by appearances, there was no chance Sebas could take this man in a fight. Be it in terms of age, musculature, his thick arms, height, mass and the aura of violence around him, the younger man had the advantage.
And yet, this distinguished old gentleman was lifting up this heavyweight with one hand.
—No, that was not the case. Perhaps an eyewitness would be able to sense the difference between the two of them. While humans had poor instincts, they could still sense a sufficiently great difference between two parties.
The difference between Sebas and this man was—
The difference between an absolute superior and an utter inferior.
The other man — who had been lifted completely off the ground — flailed his legs and twisted his body. Then, when he thought to take Sebas’ hand in both of his own, his eyes filled with fear as he realised something.
He finally realised that the man before him was nothing like what his appearance suggested. He also realised that pointless resistance would only serve to anger the monster before him.
“What is she?”
As the man began stiffening in fear, that cold voice bored its way into his ears.
That voice was as clear and quiet as a softly-flowing brook, The sheer contrast with the hand that was easily lifting him up only heightened the man’s fear.
“She, she’s a worker in our place,” the man replied, his voice off-key from panic.
“I asked you what she was. And your answer is that she is a worker?”
The man wondered if he had said the wrong thing. However, it was the most correct answer he could have given under the present circumstances. The man’s eyes were wide in fear, trembling like those of a frightened little animal.
“It’s nothing. It’s just that some of my colleagues view humans as objects, so I believed that you too viewed people as objects. If you held that point of view, then you would not consider yourself to have done something wrong. However, you answered that she was a worker. In other words, you considered her a human being. Am I correct? Then, allow me another question. What were you going to do with her?”
The man thought for a moment. However—
One could almost hear the squeezing.
Sebas’ grip intensified, and the man was briefly breathless.
Sebas tightened his grip on the man, making it harder for him to breathe, and the man gave off a queer wail. Sebas was sending a message: “I won’t give you time to think — answer now.”
“She, she was sick, so I was taking her to a temple—”
“—I do not like being lied to.”
Sebas’ grip grew even stronger, and the man’s face flushed red as a cry leaked out of his throat. However generous he might have been by discounting the fact that he had put someone into a sack for transport, the man’s actions of dumping said sack into an alley did not feel like he was taking a sick person to the temple for treatment. It was just like disposing of rubbish.
The man was having trouble breathing. He thrashed wildly as he realised the mortal danger he was in.
Sebas casually blocked the fist headed at his face with one hand. The flailing legs hit Sebas body and dirtied his clothes, but Sebas was as stoic as the mountains.
—But of course.
How could a mere human’s legs move a massive slab of iron? Even after taking a square hit, Sebas simply dusted himself off and nonchalantly said:
“I advise you to tell the truth.”
The man was unable to breathe, and Sebas narrowed his eyes at the man’s crimson face. He let go of the man just before he had passed out.
With a great thump, the man fell to the alley floor.
The main expelled the last dregs of air within himself as a gasped cry, and then greedily drank in the fresh air in big gulps. Sebas continued looking down on him in silence. Then he reached out for his throat again.
“W-wait… p-please, wait!”
Having personally experienced the terrors of oxygen deprivation, the man scrambled away from Sebas’ hand.
“The tem— that’s right! I was taking her to the temple!”
Is he still lying? To think his will is so strong...
Sebas had thought that the man would immediately come clean out of fear for his life. However, the man might have been afraid, but he did not look like he was going to talk right away. In other words, the danger of letting that information slip was on par with Sebas’ intimidation.
Sebas considered if he should change his plan of attack. This was enemy territory. The fact that the man had not cried out to whoever was behind the door for help indicated that he did not expect someone to rescue him immediately. That said, staying here for too long would only lead to more trouble.
His master had not ordered him to cause trouble. His orders were to blend into society and covertly gather intelligence.
“If you’re taking her to the temple, then allow me to do so. I will guarantee her safety.”
The man gulped and his eyes quivered. Then he frantically tried to cobble an excuse together.
“...There’s no guarantee you’ll really take her there.”
“Then you can come with me.”
“I’m busy now, so I can’t go. I’ll take her later.”
The man seemed to have sensed something from Sebas’ expression, and he hurriedly continued:
“She belongs to us by law! If you step in, you’ll be breaking the country’s laws! And if you dare take her away, that’ll be kidnapping!”
Sebas froze, and frowned for the first time.
The man had played on his greatest weakness.
While his master had said that he could take overt action when the situation called for it, that was only when he was playing the role of a butler caring for his mistress.
Breaking the law would lead to an investigation, and possibly even lead to their disguise being pierced. In other words, doing so might lead to major and obvious repercussions, which his master would not smile upon.
Sebas did not think this brute of a man was very learned, but his voice was filled with confidence. In other words, someone must have taught him a little about the law. That being the case, there might be some factual basis to his declaration.
Since there were no witnesses, the answer was simple; violence. He would simply become another corpse here with a broken neck.
However, that was a last resort; something he could only do in direct service to his master’s goals. He could not raise his hand to strike for a girl he had encountered by chance.
That said, was it right to just abandon this woman?
As Sebas hesitated, the man’s crude laughter filled him with anger.
“Oh faithful butler-sama, are you really going to deceive your master and cause trouble?”
For the first time, Sebas’ brow knitted in visible frustration as he took in the man’s mirthful expression. Perhaps the man had grasped his weakness from that display of his.
“I don’t know which noble you serve, but won’t you cause trouble for your master if things get blown up? And who knows, your master might have ties with our establishment. Not afraid of being scolded?”
“...Do you really think my master could not resolve a matter of this magnitude? Rules exist to be broken by the strong, no?”
That seemed to have gotten through to the man, and fear flashed across his face for a moment. However, he recovered his confidence almost immediately.
“...Why don’t you give it a try, then?”
Sebas’ bluff had not worked on the man. He must have some kind of powerful backing. Judging that this approach was not effective, Sebas decided to change tack.
“...I see. Indeed, it would be quite troublesome in a legal sense. However, there is also a law which states that if someone asks for help, one can render said help without fear of legal consequences. I was merely acting in accordance with that law. For starters, she is currently unconscious, so she ought to be taken to the temple for treatment. Am I wrong?”
“Er… No… this…”
The man muttered to himself as he racked his brains.
His mask had fallen.
Sebas breathed a sigh of relief at the man’s poor acting skills and his slow reactions. Sebas had just told a whopper of a lie. Since his opposition had decided to try and use the law against him, Sebas had in turn thrown a wall of legal mumbo-jumbo back his way.
If the man had continued to argue using the law — even if he was only lying — Sebas and his inadequate grasp of the Kingdom’s laws would not have had an answer for him. However, the man did not understand the law and was only parroting what he had heard, so he could not see through Sebas’ lies.
In addition, his lack of legal knowledge meant that he had no response when someone else used the law to argue against him. In addition, this man was probably someone’s minion, so he should not be able to make decisions of his own.
Sebas turned away from the man and cradled the woman’s head.
“Do you want me to rescue you?” Sebas asked, before bringing his ear close to the woman’s cracked lips.
All he could hear was the sound of faint breathing. No, it was more like the last gasp from a deflated balloon. Did a sound like that even count as breathing?
There was no response. Sebas shook his head and asked again:
“Do you want me to rescue you?”
Saving this girl was completely different from helping that old lady. Sebas wanted to help as many people around him as he could, but saving this girl might incur tremendous hassle. Would the Supreme One understand why he had done this? Was this not a violation of His will? A cold gust blew through his heart as he contemplated that point.
There was still no response.
A faint yet crude smile crept back onto the man’s face.
Given that he knew what sort of living hell she had been through, it was obvious why he was sneering. Otherwise, why would he have thrown her outside, ready for disposal?
Good luck did not repeat itself, because regularly occurring phenomena could not be considered good luck.
Indeed, if one considered her grabbing of Sebas’ pants to be good luck, then she would not have any more.
—In her case, her sole piece of good fortune was the fact that Sebas had stepped into this alley, and it was now over. Everything else all rested on how much she wanted to survive.
That was not luck.
Yes. The girl’s lips moved faintly. It was not the natural movement of breathing. It was a willed, conscious action.
Sebas’ only response to hearing those words was a big nod.
“I do not believe in helping those who can only pray for others to save them. However… if you struggle and strive to live…”
Sebas’ fingers moved slowly to shut the girl’s eyes.
“Do not be afraid. Rest. You are under my protection now.”
The girl closed her clouded eyes, as though wrapped in a warm shroud of compassion.
The other man could not believe what he had just seen, and so he blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
“It can’t be—”
I didn’t hear anything, the man wanted to say, but he was frozen in place.
“Are you calling me… a liar?”
He did not know when Sebas had stood up, but now his razor-sharp gaze transfixed the man.
Those were fearsome eyes.
Those vicious eyes stopped the man’s breathing, as though they possessed the ability to physically crush his heart within his chest.
“Are you saying I would tell a lie for the likes of you?”
“Ah, no, ah…”
The man’s throat croaked, and then he gulped. His eyes moved, fixating on Sebas’ arms. He must have remembered the consequences of getting carried away.
“Then, I’ll be taking her with me.”
“Ah, wait! No, please wait!” the man shouted. Sebas glanced at him out of the corner of his eye.
“What is it now? Trying to buy more time?”
“No, that’s not it. It’s more like, if you take her away, things will be very bad. You’ll be inviting disaster upon you and your master! Have you heard of Eight Fingers?”
Sebas had heard that name during his intelligence gathering. They were a criminal organization which ruled the Kingdom from the shadows.
“So won’t you help me out here? Please pretend you didn’t see anything. If you take her away, they’ll count it as a failure on my part and they’ll punish me.”
Seeing that the man was trying to cajole him now that the use of force had failed, Sebas glared icily at him and spoke in equally frigid tones:
“I’m taking her with me.”
“Come on, give me a break, man! They’ll kill me!”
I might as well kill him now, Sebas mused. The man was still weeping as Sebas weighed the pros and cons of ending the man’s life.
Sebas had originally thought the man was just trying to buy time for help to arrive, but that ought not to be the case given his attitude. However, he could not think of a reason otherwise.
“Why did you not call for help?”
The man’s eyes went wide in shock, and then he hastily answered.
The long and short of it was that if the woman got away while he was calling for help. It would essentially be telling his people that he had made an unsalvageable mistake. In addition, he did not think he could beat Sebas even if he called his colleagues over to help. That was why he was trying to persuade Sebas to change his mind.
Even Sebas could not muster up his motivation in front of that utterly pathetic attitude, and his killing intent vanished. That said, he still did not intend to give the girl over to the man. That being the case—
“...Then why don’t you run away?
“Please be reasonable. Where would I get the money to run?”
“I do not consider money to be more important than life. However… I shall provide in that respect.”
The man’s face lit up at Sebas’ words.
Perhaps killing him really would be safer, but at the same time, letting him flee with all his strength might be able to buy them some time. He had to use that time to treat her and bring her somewhere safe.
More to the point, killing him here might lead others to search for her, since she would be missing.
In addition, it might cause problems for the people close to her, given that he did not know the circumstances which had led to her present state.
At this point, Sebas began wondering why he had even started on this dangerous course in the first place.
The truth was that he did not understand the stirrings in his heart which had led him to rescue this woman. Just about any other denizen of Nazarick would have ignored her to avoid getting involved in troublesome matters. They would have packed up and left this place.
—Saving someone in trouble is common sense.
Sebas decided to ignore that phrase which had inexplicably surfaced in his heart and said:
“Take this, hire an adventurer and flee.”
Sebas took out a pouch. The man looked at it, doubt in his eyes. The sight of such a small pouch was probably not very reassuring.
In the next moment, the man’s eyes followed the coins which fell to the alley’s floor, fixated on that silver-like radiance. Those were platinum coins rolling around on the ground, ten of them in all, each worth ten times as much as gold.
“Run away with all your strength, understand? Also, I have some questions for you. Do you have time to answer them?”
“Ah, it’s fine. I’ve already told them that I’ll be heading out to disp— to take her to the temple. I should be able to spare some time.”
“I understand. Walk with me, then.”
With that, Sebas raised his chin to indicate the man should follow. Then he picked up the girl and strode forth.
Middle Fire Month (8th Month) 26th Day 18:58
Sebas currently resided in a high-end residential district of the Royal Capital with good security.
This particular dwelling was smaller than the mansions on either side, as though it were built as a home for the servants of the families which inhabited the surrounding buildings. However, it was still too large for Sebas and Solution alone.
They had rented such a large place for a reason, of course; since they were posing as members of a wealthy household from afar, they could not possibly live in a run-down old house. For that reason — and because they did not have any credentials to present or any connections — they had to pay several times more than the going price to the builder’s union when leasing the home. In addition, they had to pay in one lump sum, which amounted to quite a large expense.
Sebas received a prompt reception when he arrived at the house and walked in the front door. That someone was dressed in white; she was one of Sebas’ subordinates, Solution Epsilon of the Pleiades battle maids. The house’s other residents included Shadow Demons and Gargoyles, but they were assigned to sentry duties and would not come out to meet him.
Solution cut her words off mid-speech, and she had even frozen mid-bow. She glared at the object Sebas was carrying with eyes that were colder than usual.
“...Sebas-sama, what is that?”
“I picked her up.”
Solution did not reply to that terse answer. However, the air seemed to get heavier around them.
“...I see. I do not believe it is a present for me, so may I ask how you intend to dispose of that?”
“Well now. Could you start by healing her wounds?”
Solution looked at the girl Sebas was holding. Once she understood, she shook her head and stared at Sebas.
“If that were the case, would it not suffice to bring her to the temple?”
“...Indeed. Silly me, I completely forgot about that…”
Seeing that Sebas was completely unmoved, Solution fixed her cold gaze on him. Their eyes met for a second, and in the end it was Solution who blinked first.
“Shall I throw it away, then?”
“No. I’ve brought her back. We should think about how best to handle her.”
Solution was the type who lacked expressions of their own, but her face now could have been used as a mask. Even Sebas could not read the emotions dwelling within her eyes. All he could tell was that Solution was thoroughly displeased with the present circumstances.
“Could you please perform a health examination on her?
“I understand. Then, I shall immediately…”
“Isn’t that too…”
The girl meant nothing to Solution, but even so, giving her a checkup at the front door was hardly a good thing.
“There ought to be a spare room inside. Could you perform the examination there?”
Solution nodded silently by way of reply.
Neither of them spoke as they brought the girl to the guest room. Granted, Sebas and Solution had never been the type for conversation, but that did not explain the awkwardness between them.
Solution opened the door for Sebas, who was holding the girl in both hands. The heavy curtains were closed and so the room was dark, but it did not feel stuffy in the least. The door had been opened many times before, so the air inside was fresh, and the interior was spotlessly clean.
The room itself was lit by thin ribbons of moonlight streaming in between the gap in the curtains. After entering, Sebas gingerly laid the girl down upon the clean sheets of the bed within.
He had infused the girl with ki, and performed some basic healing. However, she remained as motionless as a corpse.
Solution carelessly stripped the girl of the cloth which covered her, revealing a bruised and battered body. That ghastly sight should have made for difficult viewing, but Solution’s expression was unchanged, and she had a dull, disinterested look in her eyes.
“...Solution, I’ll leave the rest to you.”
With that, Sebas left the room. Solution did not look like she wanted to call him back as she began her diagnosis.
Now that he was in the corridor, he should not have heard Solution as she quietly said:
Her mumblings vanished into the corridor, and naturally nobody replied to them.
Sebas stroked his beard without thinking about it. Why had he saved that girl? Even he could not explain why.
Was it pity?
No, that was not it. Why had he saved her?
Sebas was a butler, and he was also in charge of Nazarick’s manservants. His loyalty belonged to each of the 41 Supreme Beings. He owed his faithful service to the Guildmaster who had taken the name of Ainz Ooal Gown.
His loyalty was genuine. He could confidently say that he would gladly throw his life away in service to the Supreme One.
However… if, hypothetically speaking, he had to choose only one of the 41 Supreme Beings to obey, Sebas would pick the man called Touch Me without hesitation.
♦ ♦ ♦
He was the mightiest being in Ainz Ooal Gown, and the one who had made Sebas. He was a World Champion and an incomparable figure of fame.
The guild had primarily flourished by PKing. Who would dare believe that Touch Me, of the Original Nine, had founded the group which predated the guild in order to protect the weak? Yet, that was the truth.
When Momonga had been repeatedly PKed and nearly quit the game in anger, it was Touch Me who had saved him. When Bukubukuchagama could not find anyone to adventure with her due to her looks, it was Touch Me who had reached out to her.
♦ ♦ ♦
The lingering will of that man was the invisible chain which now bound Sebas.
“Could this be considered a curse…”
Those words were terribly rude. If any of the other beings who served Ainz Ooal Gown — who had been created by the 41 Supreme Beings — were present and heard these words, they might have well attacked him on the spot for his lack of respect.
“It is wrong to show pity and offer aid to those who do not belong to Ainz Ooal Gown,” Sebas muttered grimly.
That was only to be expected.
Every member of Nazarick — save those who had been programmed otherwise by the 41 Supreme Beings, like the Head Maid, Pestonya S. Wanko — firmly believed that abandoning those who did not belong to Ainz Ooal Gown was the right course of action.
For instance, he had once heard from Solution that one of her fellow battle maids (Pleiades) — Lupusregina — got along very well with a girl from Carne Village. However, Sebas was abundantly aware that if anything arose, Lupusregina would cast that girl aside without hesitation.
That was not because she was cruel.
If the Supreme Beings ordered them to die, they would kill themselves without delay. If the Supreme Beings ordered someone dead, they would kill them, even if their target was a friend of theirs. On the other hand, anyone who did not understand this would receive looks of pity from their comrades.
Making a decision based on human — in other words, worthless — sentiments was the wrong thing to do.
But what about himself? Had he taken the correct course of action?
Just as Sebas was about to bite through his lip, Solution stepped out of the room. Her face was still a blank mask.
“How did it go?
“... She is suffering from syphilis and two other sexually-transmitted diseases. Several of her ribs and fingers are broken. The tendons on her right arm and left leg have been severed. Her upper and lower incisors have been pulled out. Her organ function is diminished and she has a fissured anus. There are signs of drug addiction. In addition, there are countless traces of contusions and lacerations. This concludes the basic summary of her condition. Do you require a more detailed explanation?”
“No, I think not. The important thing is — can she be healed?”
Sebas had also expected that unhesitating reply.
Healing abilities could even help someone who had all their limbs severed. In fact, Sebas could use ki to heal just about any form of physical injury. The truth was that if he had not been worried about emergencies or the truth getting out, he could have healed the old lady’s twisted ankle on the spot.
That said, while his ki could heal physical injuries, it could not help with poisoning or diseases as well, because Sebas had not learned those skills. Therefore, he had to ask Solution to help in that aspect.
“I’ll leave it to you, then.”
“If healing magic needs to be used, perhaps it might be better to look up Pestonya-sama.”
“There’s no need to go to that trouble. Solution, you have a scroll of healing magic, do you not?”
After seeing Solution nod, Sebas continued:
“Use that, then.”
“...Sebas-sama. That scroll was bestowed upon us by the Supreme One. It should not be used on a mere human being.”
Indeed. He should have thought of some other way instead. It would be best to heal her wounds and stabilize her first, before curing her addiction and disease afterwards. However, he did not know if he had the time for that. If she was dying because of her addiction or diseases, healing her would be an exercise in futility unless said healing was constantly reapplied.
After thinking about this, Sebas handed out an order to Solution in a voice of steel, the better to keep anyone from learning his true intentions.
Solution narrowed her eyes, and a reddish-black flame seemed to flare in their depths. However, Solution bowed her head in acknowledgement to hide that change.
“...I understand. I am to restore that female to a pristine condition — in other words, I will revert her body to the state it was before she engaged in those activities. Am I correct?”
After receiving Sebas’ approval, Solution bowed again.
“I shall do so at once.”
“Then, could I trouble you to boil some water and wipe her down after the treatment? I shall purchase something to eat.”
Nobody here needed to eat and nobody here could cook. Neither did anyone here possess magic items which eliminated the need to eat. Thus, he had to obtain food for her.
“...Sebas-sama. Healing the body is a simple task, but… I do not possess the ability to heal mental traumas.’
Solution paused here and then looked straight at Sebas before continuing.
“If there is a need to heal such traumas, I feel it would be better to ask Ainz-sama to lend his aid. Will you not ask him to do so?”
“...There is no need to trouble Ainz-sama. We will leave the mental symptoms for later.”
Solution bowed deeply again. Then she opened the door and entered the room. As Sebas watched her leave, he slowly leaned against a nearby wall.
How should he deal with her—
The best way was to wait until she had been treated — while the man was fleeing, for instance — and then take her to where she wanted to go and release her. He had to pick a location that was sufficiently far away from the Royal Capital. Telling her to walk out from here would not only be too dangerous but far too cruel. It would be no help at all.
Still, was all this really the right thing for him — Sebas Tian, butler of Nazarick — to do?
Sebas sighed heavily.
If only that would allow him to physically expel the worries that had built up within his heart. However, it did not. His heart was pounding and his thoughts were a blur.
“How foolish I was. To think that I, Sebas, would do all that for a human being…”
But no matter how hard he thought, he could not come to a conclusion. Thus, Sebas decided to stop seeking an answer. Right now, he ought to start by solving the simple problems. It might only be delaying the inevitable, but this was the best that Sebas could come up with at the moment.
♦ ♦ ♦
Solution changed the shape of her finger. The slender digit lengthened, becoming a syringe-like structure that was several millimeters thick. As a Shoggoth, Solution had always been able to make great alterations to her shape, so altering the thickness of her fingers was child’s play.
She glanced at the door, and once she sensed he was no longer outside, she quietly approached the woman on the bed.
“Since Sebas-sama has approved it, I might as well take care of this unpleasant business quickly. You would probably hope for something like that. Besides, it is not as though you will feel it.”
Solution reached inside her body with her untransformed hand and withdrew a scroll stored within herself.
That scroll was not the only item Solution had concealed within herself. In addition to scrolls and other expendable magic items, she also contained quite a number of weapons, protectives and other wargear. This was nothing out of the ordinary considering her body could store several human beings.
Solution looked at the unconscious woman.
She was uninterested in her appearance. Only one thought ran through her mind.
That was — this human doesn’t look like it would taste good.
This body looked like a walking corpse. It probably would not thrash wildly and delight Solution even if she melted at it with corrosives.
“I could understand Sebas-sama’s intentions if he intended to make her my toy after she recovered, but this…”
She was familiar with Sebas’ personality, since he was the leader of the Pleiades battle maids. He would never permit such a thing. After all, he had not permitted her to capture and eat any humans during their journey, save the ones who had tried to ambush them.
“If Sebas-sama had rescued her on orders from the Supreme One, then I would gladly obey… but is it really worth expending a valuable asset from the Supreme Beings on a mere human like this?”
Solution shook her head and dispelled those thoughts.
“...Should I eat her before Sebas-sama returns?”
Solution broke the seal and unfurled the scroll. The spell contained within was called [Heal]. It was a high-end healing magic of the 6th-tier, and it could restore a great deal of health in addition to healing various diseases and other abnormal status conditions.
Under normal circumstances, using the magic of the scroll would require levels in the appropriate job class. In other words, one would need cleric-type class levels to use clerical spells, which were divine magic. However, certain thief-type classes had the ability to emulate a class and use magical devices by “deceiving” them, such as with a scroll.
As an assassin, Solution had levels in several thief-type classes. Thus, she was able to use this scroll of [Heal], which he would not be able to use otherwise.
“Just in case, I should probably put her to sleep. After that…”
Solution used a skill to synthesize a sleeping poison cum muscle relaxant, which she injected into the girl.
♦ ♦ ♦
Middle Fire Month (8th Month) 26th Day 19:37
Sebas returned from buying food just as Solution stepped out of the room. She had a steaming bucket in each hand, each of which had several washcloths inside.
The cloths were filthy and the hot water was black, indicating the unsanitary conditions that girl had been in.
“Thank you for your efforts. I trust there were no problems with the healing process…?”
“Yes. It has all been taken care of, and there were no hiccups. However, there were no clothes for her to wear, so I selected an outfit for her at random. Do you approve?”
“Of course. That will do.
“I see… The sleeping agent should have worn off by now… but if you have no further directives, I will be taking my leave.”
“Thank you very much, Solution.”
Solution nodded by way of response, and slipped past Sebas.
After watching her leave, Sebas knocked on the door. There was no response, but he sensed someone moving inside, so he quietly pushed the door open.
The girl sleeping on the bed had just regained consciousness. She sat up, still drowsy.
She was completely different from how she had been before.
Her filthy blonde hair now glowed with a beautiful luster. Her emaciated features had regained their fullness. Her cracked lips were now a healthy pink.
On the whole, she was beautiful, although her looks might be better described as a soft-spoken prettiness rather than being drop-dead sexy.
Her age was now plain to see. She looked like she was in her late teens, between 15 to 19, although the shadow on her face from her years in her man-made hell made her seem older than she actually was.
Solution had given her a white negligee to wear, but it was plain and unadorned, lacking frills or lace or other such attractive decorations.
“I trust you are completely recovered. How do you feel?”
There was no answer. Her hollow eyes did not seem strong enough to look at Sebas. However, he did not mind, but continued speaking.
No, the truth was, he had not expected her to answer him. That was because he could tell that her blank expression belonged to someone who was distracted and crestfallen.
“Are you hungry? I brought something to eat.”
He had bought the meal from a restaurant, bowl and all.
The porridge in the wooden bowl was made with colored soup stock. It had some sesame oil in it to taste, and on the whole it radiated a mouthwatering aroma.
The girl’s face twitched in response to the fragrance.
“Come, help yourself.”
Seeing that the girl had not yet completely withdrawn into her own world, Sebas placed the wooden bowl and its spoon before the girl.
She did not move, but Sebas did not urge her to eat.
A third party would probably have started to get frustrated at this point. After a long time had passed, the girl’s hands moved slowly; the movements of one afraid of being brutally beaten.
The wounds on the outside had been completely healed, but the pain which had been branded into her memories still remained.
She picked up the wooden spoon, dipped it into the porridge, then brought it to her mouth and wolfed it down.
Normal porridge could be very rich and thick. Sebas had asked the storekeeper to finely slice the 14 different ingredients and then cook them over a slow fire to make something that could be swallowed without chewing.
Her throat worked, and the porridge slid into her belly.
The girl’s eyes trembled slightly. It was a small movement, but it was sufficient to convert her from an intricately-made doll into a real human being. Her other hand trembled as it moved to take the bowl from Sebas.
Sebas supported the bowl, shifting it to a place which was easier for her to reach.
The girl grabbed the bowl to herself, then took scoop after forceful scoop of the porridge as she devoured it.
If the porridge had not been cooled until it was just right, her frantic feeding frenzy would probably have scalded her tongue. Broth leaked from her mouth and stained the blouse of her pajamas, but she did not care. She was more drinking than eating it.
After finishing the bowl with a speed that was completely unlike her previous self, the girl held onto the bowl and exhaled deeply.
With her humanity restored, her eyelids closed slowly and ponderously.
The combination of a full belly, fresh clothes and a clean body combined to soothe her spirit, and she began to feel fatigue kicking in.
However, just as her eyes narrowed into a line, they snapped open and she curled up into a frightened ball.
Was she afraid to close her eyes, or was she afraid that what she was experiencing would vanish like a popped bubble? Or was it something else? Sebas was watching her from the side, but he did not know.
Perhaps even she did not know.
In order to comfort her, Sebas gently said:
“Your body must need sleep. Don’t push yourself and have a good rest. You will not come to any harm as long as you stay here. I guarantee this — when you wake up, you will still be in that bed.”
The girl’s eyes moved for the first time and looked directly at Sebas.
Her blue pupils were dull and lacked vitality. However, those were not the eyes of a corpse, but a living person.
Her small mouth opened — and closed. Then it opened — and closed again. This repeated itself several times. Sebas watched her tenderly. He did not urge her to do anything; he simply watched in silence.
At last, her mouth opened, and several nearly inaudible noises emerged. Then, she quickly added:
“Thank… thank you.”
The first words she spoke were not to ask about her present circumstances, but to thank him. Having grasped part of her character from that, Sebas gave her a genuine smile; not the usual fake one he typically wore.
“It’s fine. Since I have rescued you, I will do my best to guarantee your safety.”
The girl’s eyes widened a bit more, and her mouth began to tremble.
Her blue eyes moistened, and then overflowed. The girl opened her mouth and then wept piteously.
Soon, he could hear the sound of cursing through the crying.
She cursed her fate. She resented the fact that it had ever existed. She was filled with hatred that nobody had helped her until now. Her wrath was directed at Sebas as well.
If only you had saved me earlier. That sort of thing.
After receiving Sebas’ kindness — after being humanely treated, it was as though part of her had broken down under the strain of everything she had endured until now. No, perhaps it might be better to say that after having her humanity restored, she could no longer bear her painful memories.
She tore at her hair, and the strands snapped quietly as she pulled. Countless golden fibers were tangled around her slender fingers. The porridge bowl and the spoon rolled to the bed.
Sebas watched silently as she went mad.
Her hatred and curses was directed at the wrong person. She was clearly looking for a scapegoat. Perhaps said person would be unhappy, maybe even angry. However, there was no anger on his face. His wrinkles were filled with kindness.
Sebas leaned forward and hugged her.
It was like a father embracing his child. There was no malice there, only an unending kindness.
Her body stiffened for a moment. Then, as she realised how different this embrace was from the men who sought only to violate her flesh, her body slowly relaxed.
Sebas repeated those words like a mantra, gently patting her on the back, like he was comforting a crying child.
The girl moaned — and then, as she slowly came to understand what Sebas was saying, she buried her face into Sebas’ chest and cried all the louder. However, the context of her tears was slightly different from just now.
♦ ♦ ♦
She finally managed to stop crying after some time had passed and the front of Sebas’ clothes had been soaked by her tears. She slowly extricated herself from Sebas’ arms and lowered her head to hide her blushing face.
“Ah… I’m… sorry…”
“Please, do not worry about it. Being able to offer one’s chest to a lady for support is a mark of pride for a man.”
Sebas extracted a clean handkerchief from his breast pocket and handed it to her.
“Please use this.”
“But… lending… me… this… clean…” the girl asked nervously. Sebas reached out to cup her chin, then gently raised her face. She had no idea what had happened, but just as she was freezing up with fear, the handkerchief gently grazed over her eyes — and the trails of her tears.
This reminds me of the last [Message] conversation Solution had with Shalltear… Shalltear was apparently quite proud of the fact that Ainz-sama had helped wipe her tears.
What circumstances would have caused his master to wipe Shalltear’s tears? He could not imagine Shalltear crying. While his mind was occupied with futile guessing, his hands worked to clean the girl’s face.
“Come, please use this,” Sebas said as he stuffed the somewhat damp handkerchief into her hands. “It is quite sad when a handkerchief goes unused. Especially when it cannot even dry tears.”
Sebas smiled, and then stepped away from her.
“Alright. Have a good rest. We will discuss the future and other things when you wake up.”
There was nothing that magic could not do. Her body had been restored through Solution’s magical healing, and her mental fatigue had been wiped away. Thus, she could function normally right away. However, she had still been in hell up until a few hours ago. Her emotional wounds might well burst open again after a long conversation.
The truth was that her mind was not completely stable, hence her agonized weeping just now. Magic could briefly salve that spiritual suffering, but it could only treat the symptoms and not its cause. Unlike the physical body, the invisible wounds of the spirit could not be so easily healed.
As far as Sebas knew, the only people who could completely remove her mental damage were his master or possibly Pestonya S. Wanko.
Sebas wanted to let the girl rest, but she hurriedly replied:
Sebas did not know if he should continue speaking to her. However, since she had been the one to initiate conversation, he decided to respond while keeping an eye on her.
“It will not be safe for you to continue staying in the Royal Capital. Have you no friends or relatives to turn to?”
The girl hung her head.
“Is that so…”
You don’t have any? But of course, he did not actually say that.
That was troublesome, Sebas thought. However, there was no need to be hasty. That man would probably not be captured so soon, and learning about Sebas from him would take some time. He knew he was being optimistic, but by telling himself that he did not worry, he hoped that such would be the case. At the very least, he hoped that she would be able to regain her spirits first.
“Alright, then. Can you tell me your name?”
“Ah… I… Tsuare…”
“Tsuare, is it? I have not told you my name yet. I am Sebas Tian, but Sebas will do. I am the servant of Solution-sama, the Young istress of this house.”
That was the cover story.
Solution typically wore her white dress instead of her maid outfit in case they were surprised by guests. However, he would have to remind her to stay in character as the manor’s mistress now that Tsuare was in the home.
“Yes, Solution Epsilon-sama. Although, I doubt you will have much of a chance to meet her.”
“The Young Mistress can be… hard to deal with at times.”
Sebas closed his mouth, as if to indicate that was all he would say on the matter. After a brief silence, he spoke once more.
“Alright. Have a good rest today. We’ll discuss the future tomorrow.”
After verifying that Tsuare was back on the bed, Sebas took the bowl of porridge and left the room.
When he opened the door, he was not surprised to find Solution standing there. She was probably eavesdropping on them, but Sebas did not blame her. Solution did not feel that Sebas would scold her for doing so, so all she did was mask her presence and stand outside the door. Since she had assassin-type class levels, she could have done a better job of hiding if she wanted.
“What’s the matter?”
“Sebas-sama. May I ask how you intend to dispose of her?”
Sebas’s attention went to the door behind him. It was thick enough, but not completely soundproofed. If they spoke here, she would probably be able to pick up on a bit of their conversation.
Sebas moved from the front of the door, and Solution silently followed behind him.
Once they had reached a place where he was sure they would not be overheard, he stopped.
“...You’re referring to Tsuare, I take it. I intend to wait until tomorrow before deciding what to do.”
Solution did not finish that sentence, but she pulled herself together and then spoke again.
“Perhaps I have overstepped myself, but I feel that thing has a high chance of impeding our activities. We ought to deal with it as soon as possible.”
Now what exactly could the words “deal with” mean?
After listening to Solution’s cold words, Sebas thought: as I expected. This was the opinion which a right-thinking, loyal servant of Nazarick — of the 41 Supreme Beings — would have about a non-Nazarick entity. It was Sebas’ attitude towards Tsuare which was abnormal.
“You’re right. If she interferes with the orders Ainz-sama has given us, then I shall deal with her without delay.”
Solution looked surprised, as if to say: “If you knew that, then why did you do it?”
“She might have her uses. And since we’ve picked her up, it would be a shame to just discard her. We need to think of a way to properly utilize her.”
“...Sebas-sama. I do not know where or why you picked it up, but the injuries it has taken indicate that it comes from a certain background. And do you not think the person who inflicted those injuries on that human would be unhappy to know that it was still alive?”
“There should be no problems on that front.”
“...So you mean to say you have already disposed of those people, then?”
“No. That’s not it. If any problems arise, I will take action. Therefore, I hope you will be able to watch quietly until then. Do you understand, Solution?”
Solution swallowed her rising frustration as she watched Sebas leave.
Now that Sebas had said all that to her, she could not say anything even if she was deeply dissatisfied with his handling of the situation. In addition, she really could just sit there and watch if nothing cropped up.
“To think he would use the resources of Nazarick on a mere human…”
All the wealth and resources of Nazarick belonged to Ainz Ooal Gown — in other words, they belonged to the Supreme One. Was it really alright to expend them without permission?
She could not come up with an answer no matter how hard she thought.
♦ ♦ ♦
Lower Fire Month (9th Month) 3rd Day 09:48
Sebas opened the main door. As usual, he had gone to the Adventurer’s Guild in the morning and recorded all the requests on the notice board in his notebook before the adventurers could take them.
Sebas had committed all the information he had obtained in the Royal Capital — even street gossip — to paper and then sent it on to Nazarick. Data analysis was a difficult process, so it was left entirely to the intellectuals of Nazarick to handle.
He passed through the door and entered the house. Several days ago, Solution would have come to greet him. However—
“Welcome… back… Sebas...ma.”
This task was now handed to the soft-spoken girl in the maid outfit whose long skirt covered her legs.
The day after he had picked up Tsuare, there had been a discussion, and it had been decided that she would work in this house.
They could have treated her as a guest, but Tsuare refused.
She said that she felt uneasy about being treated as a guest on top of being rescued by Sebas. While it did not properly qualify as repaying his kindness, she hoped that she could do something to help around the house.
After seeing what her true intentions were, he began to feel uneasy as well.
In other words, she understood that her position here was precarious — that she was a source of trouble for this home — and so she wanted to work as hard as she could to avoid being discarded.
Of course, Sebas had told Tsuare that he would not abandon her. If he was the sort who could discard someone with nobody else to turn to, he would never have rescued her in the first place. However, he lacked the persuasive power to heal the wounds in Tsuare’s heart.
“I’m back, Tsuare. Did work go well?”
Unlike how she had been when they first met, her hair was neatly trimmed and she wore a little white headdress.
“It went… well.”
“Is that so. That’s good to hear.”
She seemed as gloomy as always and her expression hardly changed, but being able to live as a human being had gradually eased the fear which gripped her, and she could speak much more clearly now.
It’s what’s remains that worries me instead...
Sebas walked, and Tsuare walked with him.
Technically speaking, it would be a violation of maidservant etiquette for her to walk beside Sebas — her superior. However, Tsuare had never been trained as a maid and did not understand those formalities, and Sebas did not wish to educate her in such matters.
“What are we having today?”
“Po… potato... stew…”
“I see. I look forward to that, then. Your food is delicious, Tsuare.”
She blushed and lowered her face as Sebas praised her with a smile. Her hands nervously grasped at her maid uniform’s apron.
“You, you are too… kind…”
“No, no, I meant that. I know nothing about cooking, so you’ve done me a great favor. Do you have enough ingredients? Tell me if there’s anything you’d like me to buy.”
“Yes. I… will ask you… when I do.”
Tsuare could move around normally within the house and in front of Sebas, but she still had an aversion to the outside world. Since she could not work outdoors, Sebas had taken on the task of shopping for ingredients and so on.
Tsuare’s cooking was hardly a gourmet spread. She made simple, everyday dishes.
Since these dishes did not require expensive ingredients, they were easily obtained at the markets. Sebas had also learned about said ingredients in the market and the food and beverage of this world, which he considered to be killing two birds with one stone.
A flash of inspiration suddenly struck Sebas.
“...We’ll go shopping together afterwards.”
A look of shock appeared on Tsuare’s face, and then she shook her head timidly. Her face had turned pale for a moment and she had broken out in a cold sweat.
“I, I think… I’ll pass…”
Sebas thought, As I expected, but he did not voice it.
Tsuare had refused to do anything which might involve going outside ever since she had started working.
She had taken this house to be an absolute defense of sorts, in order to suppress the fear within her. In other words, she had drawn a line to tell herself that this place was different from the outside world, which had hurt her. That was the only way she could function normally.
However, if that kept up, Tsuare would never be able to leave the house, and Sebas could not keep her here for her whole life.
Sebas understood that it was very cruel to expect Tsuare to walk amongst the masses given her mental condition. He should have spent more time to help her get used to being around others again, but that naturally required time.
Sebas did not intend to hide here or spend the rest of his life in this place. He was an outsider who had only infiltrated this city in order to gather information. If his master issued the order to withdraw—
He had to continue training Tsuare to give her additional possibilities, in preparation for that day.
Sebas stopped moving and looked directly at Tsuare. She blushed and lowered her head shyly, but Sebas took his cheeks in both his hands and raised her face.
“Tsuare, I understand your fears. However, I hope you will relax. I — Sebas — will protect you. I will crush any and all dangers which draw near and ensure you will not be harmed.”
“Tsuare, please step outside with me. If you’re afraid, you can close your eyes.”
As Tsuare hesitated, Sebas held her hands tightly. What he said next was terribly unfair to her.
“Are you willing to trust me, Tsuare?”
Silence filled the corridor, and time slowly passed them by. In the end, Tsuare’s eyes grew moist, and her tender, pink lips parted to reveal her pearly white teeth.
“...Sebas-sama… you are too cunning… When you… put it like that… how could I refuse?”
“Please be at ease. Despite my appearance, I am quite strong… Let me put it this way. In all the world there are only 41 people stronger than me… well, and a few others.”
“Is… that… a lot?”
The figure he had chosen made Tsuare think that Sebas was merely cracking a joke to reassure her, and so she smiled. Sebas saw this, and smiled back without saying anything.
Sebas began walking again. He knew Tsuare was peeking at his face from the side, but he did not bring it up.
Sebas knew Tsuare had some faint semblance of attraction to him. However, Sebas felt that it was more like gratitude to him for saving her from her torment. It was similar to brainwashing, or the trust she placed in someone who was reliable.
In addition, Sebas was an old man, and perhaps Tsuare had confused her sense of familial kinship with romantic love.
Even if Tsuare did feel genuine love for Sebas, he did not feel that he could adequately return it. After all, he had been hiding so many things from her, and their respective circumstances were far removed from each other.
“Then I shall come to get you after discussing a few things with the Young Mistress.”
Tsuare’s mood turned gloomy. Sebas knew why, but he kept quiet about it.
Solution had hardly met with Tsuare before. At the very most she had glanced at her in passing and left without saying a word. Anyone would feel uneasy about being ignored like that, and in Tsuare’s case she would probably be terrified.
“It’s fine. The Young Mistress is like that to everyone. It isn’t as though she has it out for you… though in all frankness, she can be a little wilful at times. You have to keep that a secret, though…”
Sebas smiled, and after finishing his half-joking words, the unease on Tsuare’s face lightened somewhat.
“She often throws tantrums when she sees cute girls.”
“...I… How could I… I’m nothing like… the Mistress…”
Tsuare frantically waved her hands as if to dismiss those words.
Tsuare was pretty, but she was nothing like Solution. However, beauty was in the eye of the beholder.
“In terms of looks, I would prefer you compared to the Young Mistress.”
“What! How could…”
Tsuare’s face was burning red as she lowered it. Sebas looked kindly upon her, and then he saw her expression change and her brows furrow.
“And I… I’m… filthy…”
Sebas sighed inside as he watched Tsuare’s face fill with dejection. Then, he turned to face her and said:
“Indeed, that is the case with gems. Unmarked ones are worth more, and they are considered purer.”
Tsuare’s face fell even further as she heard those words.
“However — people are not gemstones.”
Tsuare suddenly jerked her head up.
“Tsuare, you seem to consider yourself dirty. But who can judge the purity of a human being? There are clearly defined standards for precious stones… but who will set the standards for a human being’s virtue? Is there some common value to surpass? Some public opinion that must be adhered to? Does that mean everyone else’s thoughts and opinions can be discarded?”
Sebas paused here, and then he continued:
“Every person has a different definition of beauty. If beauty cannot be determined by one's appearance, then in my opinion, we cannot determine beauty by what people have experienced, but by how they are inside.. I do not know what you have been through and I have only spent a few days with you, but what I know is that the person inside you is the furthest thing from being filthy that I can imagine.”
Sebas closed his mouth, and the footsteps echoing along the corridor filled the world. Tsuare seemed to have made up her mind, and she said:
“...If… you feel I am pure… then hug—”
Sebas had already embraced her before she could finish her words.
“You are very beautiful to me.”
Tsuare’s eyes overflowed with tears as she heard Sebas’ gentle words. Sebas gently patted Tsuare’s back, and then slowly let her go.
“Tsuare, forgive me. The Young Mistress calls and I must answer.”
“I, I understand…”
Sebas left a red-eyed Tsuare bowing behind him and knocked on the door. He then opened it without waiting for an answer. As he closed it, he smiled to Tsuare, who had been spying on him all that time.
This house was rented, so it did not have much furniture despite its many rooms. However, this room was filled with stylish furniture, enough to impress any guest who came. However, anyone who knew anything would realize that none of the furniture here was a venerable antique, and that the entire room was all style and no substance.
“Young Mistress, I have returned.”
“...Thank you, Sebas.”
Solution, the false mistress of the manor, had a airheaded expression on her face as she lounged on the sofa in the center of the room. However, that was merely an act. That was because Tsuare the outsider was also in the house, so she had to put on the mask of a haughty heiress.
Solution’s eyes left Sebas and went to the door.
“...She has left, I take it?”
“So it would seem.”
The two of them looked at each others’ faces, and Solution spoke in a normal tone.
“When are you going to get rid of her?”
Solution always asked the same question whenever they met, and Sebas always gave her the same answer.
“When the time comes.”
Under normal circumstances, that would be the end of it. Solution would sigh deliberately, and then drop the matter. However, Solution did not seem inclined to let it go today, and she continued asking:
“...Could you give me a clear indication on when ‘the time’ will be? For all we know, hiding that human might bring trouble upon us. Does that not violate Ainz-sama’s orders?”
“There have been no problems until now… Fearing a human and the problems they might make is hardly the attitude which a servant of Ainz-sama ought to have.”
Deathly silence reigned between them, and Sebas quietly exhaled.
The situation was very bad.
Solution had no expression on her face, but Sebas could tell she was boiling mad at him. This house might only have be a temporary base, but Solution regarded it as a branch of Nazarick, and the fact that a human was living here without permission made her very unhappy.
Solution had not made any move to harm Tsuare until now due to being forcibly restrained by Sebas. However, if things remained as they were, it might not endure for long.
Sebas was keenly aware that time was running out.
“...Sebas-sama. Once that human violates the orders Ainz-sama has set forth—”
“—She will be dealt with.”
Sebas ended the sentence himself without giving Solution a chance to continue speaking. She turned an emotionless look on him, and then nodded to indicate that she understood.
“Then I will say no more. Sebas-sama, please do not forget the words you have just said.”
“Of course not, Solution.”
Solution’s hushed tone hid emotions so powerful that they made Sebas stop in his tracks.
“...Still, Sebas-sama. Should we not report Tsuare (that) to Ainz-sama?”
Sebas fell silent. After a few seconds, he answered:
“I think it will be fine. I am uneasy about wasting Ainz-sama’s time on an insignificant human.”
“...Entoma and the others regularly contact you with [Message] spells every day. Why not bring it up while you are in contact with them? ...Or is there something you wish to hide?”
“How could that be? I harbor no such thoughts. I would never dream of—”
“That would mean… everything you have done is not for your own personal gain… am I right?”
The air between them grew tense.
Sebas knew that Solution was deliberately picking at this topic, and he was keenly aware that he was in danger himself.
Every denizen of Nazarick owed their absolute loyalty to Ainz Ooal Gown — to each of the Supreme Beings. It was certain that everyone felt that way, especially the Guardians. Even the Assistant Head Butler Eclair, who schemed to take Nazarick for his own, felt sincere loyalty and respect for the 41 Supreme Beings.
Naturally, Sebas was one of them.
That said, he still felt that it was wrong to abandon a pitiful being just because he was afraid of danger. However, he also understood that most of those in Nazarick would not approve of that course of action.
No, he only thought he understood. Solution’s attitude from a few seconds ago had clearly informed him of the full extent of his naivete.
Solution had been serious. She might well have turned on Sebas — who was one of the highest-ranking managers in Nazarick and one of the strongest melee combatants in Nazarick — depending on his answer. He had not expected Solution to go to such lengths to remove a problem.
As she saw that smile, Solution’s eyes filled with surprise.
“...Of course. It was not for personal gain that I did not report this to Ainz-sama.”
“Is there anything to support that?”
“I appreciate that girl’s culinary technique.”
“You mean to say… her cooking?”
It was as though there was a question mark atop Solution’s head.
“Yes. In addition, would it not be suspicious if only two people lived in such a large home?”
Solution had no choice but to agree with that point. Anyone would find it strange that such a large house was hardly occupied, for all the money spent on it.
“I feel that we need a few people around. Besides, would it not be bad if we could not serve a single dish if guests arrived?”
“...That is to say, you are using that human as camouflage?”
“But why did you have to use that particular human…”
“I am interested in Tsuare. I feel that even if she has her doubts about us, she would never make them public. Am I wrong?”
Solution thought briefly on the matter and then nodded.
“Just so. This is merely a deception, so there is no need to specially seek Ainz-sama’s permission to do so. For all we know, he might chastise us and say, ‘Figure these small things out yourself’.”
This was how Sebas calmly explained himself to the silent Solution.
“Can you accept that?”
“Then, we’ll carry on like this for—”
Sebas stopped halfway, because he had heard something like two hard objects colliding.
It was a very soft sound; probably nobody but Sebas would have heard it.
That disordered noise repeated itself again, and he was certain that it had been deliberately made.
Sebas opened the room door and stepped into the corridor, focusing his senses.
They froze when they realized the sound was coming from the main door’s knocker. Nobody had ever knocked on that door ever since they had come to the Royal Capital. They had conducted their business in person and they had never asked anyone to come to the house. That was because they were concerned that others would wonder why such a large house was only occupied by two people.
And now, somebody had come to visit this house. Certainly there must be some kind of trouble afoot.
Sebas kept Solution in the room and walked to the main door, where he lifted the cover of the door’s peephole.
He could see a plump man outside, and Royal Army soldiers waiting for orders behind him on either side.
The plump man was neatly attired, and he wore well-tailored clothing. He had a weighty badge on his chest which reflected a coppery light. His sweaty red face was also packed with fat and had an oily sheen to it, probably from too many rich meals.
At the back of the procession was a strange-looking man.
His pale, sallow skin looked like it had never seen the sun before. His eyes were keen and his scrawny face looked like some predator — a corpse-feeding scavenger, in fact. His dark clothes hung loosely about him, and he must certainly have weapons about his person.
He radiated a scent of blood and malice, which prickled on Sebas’ sixth sense.
Sebas had no idea of who these ragtag bunch of misfits were or what they wanted.
“...May I know who is calling?”
“I am Inspector Stefan Havish,” reported the fat man at the head of the group. His voice was shrill and somewhat off-key.
Inspectors were public officials who maintained order in the Royal Capital. One could say they were the commanders of the guards who patrolled the Capital, and they had far-reaching authority. Sebas had no idea why this man called Stefan had come, and it worried him.
Stefan ignored Sebas’ reaction and continued:
“I trust you know that the Kingdom’s laws prohibit the trafficking of slaves… That law was proposed by Princess Renner herself and put into effect after being reviewed by Parliament. The report I received indicates that the inhabitants of this domicile have violated that law. Thus, I wish to investigate the matter.”
Stefan neatly punctuated his statement by saying, “May I come in, please?”
Sebas hesitated as he broke out in a cold sweat.
He thought of many excuses to deny him entry, but chasing him away might lead to greater trouble in future.
There was no guarantee that Stefan was actually who he said he was either. The Kingdom’s public servants all had to wear badges like Stefan did, but there was no telling if he was a legitimate state employee. For all he knew, it might be counterfeit — though the penalty for doing so was very severe.
That said, what harm would it do to allow several humans into the house? If they intended to resort to violence, Sebas could easily deal with them. Indeed, their being impostors would only suit Sebas’ purposes.
There was no telling what Stefan thought of Sebas’ pensive silence. Once more, he asked:
“If I may, could I have an audience with the master of the house? While it cannot be helped if the master is not in, we are here to conduct an investigation. Things will go poorly if we return empty-handed.”
Stefan smiled. There was no sign of humility in that smile. It concealed undertones of intimidation through the abuse of power.
“Before that, I would like to ask — who is that man behind you?”
“Hm? His name is Succulent. He represents the establishment which reported this incident to me.”
“I’m Succulent. Pleased to meet you.”
After seeing Succulent’s cold smile, Sebas’ felt a sense of defeat creeping up on him.
His cold smile was like that of a cruel hunter mocking his prey as it stepped into his trap. He must surely have made all the proper arrangements with all the appropriate parties before strutting up to him, bold as brass. That being the case, Stefan was most likely a proper official. They would surely be prepared for any refusals on his part. That being the case, he ought to see what they had in store for him.
“...I understand. I shall inform the Young Mistress forthwith. I hope you will be so kind as to wait here for a moment.”
“Very well, we’ll wait, we’ll wait.”
“However, please be swift about it. We do not have all day.”
Succulent sneered at him, while Stefan shrugged.
“Understood. Then, please excuse me.”
Sebas lowered the cover of the peephole and turned towards Solution’s room. Before that, however, he had to tell Tsuare to hide inside the house—
He had the soldiers wait outside, while he brought Stefan and Succulent inside. Both of them were visibly shocked when they saw Solution.
Their faces said that they had not expected to see such a beautiful woman. Stefan’s expression slowly turned lewd, his eyes roving between her face and her ample bosom. There was a dark look of lust in his eyes. In contrast, Succulent’s face gradually tightened up, unwilling to relax.
It was clear which of them was more worthy of caution. Sebas bade them take a seat on the sofa opposite Solution.
Solution, who was already seated, exchanged names with Stefan and Succulent, who were just settling in.
“Then, what is the matter?”
Solution’s question brought an exaggerated cough from Stefan, and he said:
“A certain establishment reported that someone had taken away one of their workers. At the same time, I heard that the person responsible had paid a great deal of dirty money to another worker. Our country prohibits the trafficking of slaves… doesn’t that sound like breaking the law to you?”
Stefan’s voice grew steadily more excited and harsher, but Solution’s response was a thoroughly disinterested:
Her tone nearly made the two of them roll their eyes. They were clearly trying to intimidate her, but they had not expected a response like that from her.
“Sebas will handle all the troublesome bits. Sebas, I’ll leave the rest to you.”
“Is, is that alright? If things go poorly, you might become a criminal.”
“Ooooh, I’m soooo scared. Inform me when I’m about to become a criminal, Sebas.”
Solution smiled widely to them as she rose.
“Have fun, everyone.”
Nobody could stop her as she left. In that instant, they realised exactly how powerful a beautiful woman’s smile could be.
Before the door’s latch could slide home, they could hear gasps of surprise as the soldiers outside were startled by Solution’s good looks.
“—Then I shall hear you two gentlemen out on the Young Mistress’ behalf.”
Sebas took a seat before them with a smile. Stefan shrank back as he saw his smile, but Succulent decided to speak up on his behalf to help retain control of the situation.
“Just as well. I’ll tell you then, Sebas-san. As Havish-san told you at the door, one of the people at our… establishment has gone missing. We questioned a man, and he said that he had handed her over for money. I thought; was this not slave trafficking, which is forbidden in the Kingdom? I was unwilling to believe that one of our employees could actually do such a thing, but I had no choice but to report it.”
“Indeed. We cannot condone the filthy slave trade!”
Stefan slammed the table.
“For that reason, dear Succulent here has reported this case even at the risk of staining his business’ reputation! What a model citizen he is!”
Succulent nodded in thanks as Stefan spluttered his lines.
“Thank you, Havish-sama.”
What kind of farce is this, Sebas thought. Meanwhile, his mind worked. The two of them were clearly in cahoots. That being the case, it was almost certain that they had taken ample precautions before launching their campaign. That being the case, his defeat was certain. Still, he had to minimize his losses, but how?
Turning that around, what were the conditions for Sebas’ victory?
As a butler of Nazarick, Sebas’ win condition was eliminating the problem and not letting things pile up. Protecting Tsuare was definitely not part of that.
“I believe the man who claims to have taken the money may have borne false witness. Where is he now?”
“He was arrested on suspicion of slave-trading and is in custody now. After questioning him, we managed to learn—”
“—The identity of the person who bought our employee, who would be you, Sebas-san.”
The man had probably sung like a canary when he was captured. He had most likely bheen squeezed for information useful to them under questioning.
Sebas pondered whether he should act dumb, lie, or deliver a stern and upright rebuttal.
What if he said she was not in the house? What if he said she were dead?
Numerous lines popped into his head, but none of them sounded like they would work, and the opposition would probably not give up easily. It would be better for him to ask what he needed to know.
“Still, what led the two of you to me? What proof do you have?”
That was what baffled Sebas. He had not left any trace of his name or identity. They should not have been able to find any evidence pointing to him. However, the two of them were here. How had they found him? He was always very careful during his excursions and wary of being followed. He did not think anyone in this city could follow him without being spotted.
“It was the scroll.”
A stroke of light flashed across Sebas’ mind.
—The scroll he had bought in the Magician’s Guild.
The workmanship of that scroll was exquisite, and it was certainly no ordinary scrap of parchment. Anyone who could recognize a scroll like that would be able to tell that it was purchased from the Magician’s Guild. After asking around, they would find clues, and a man in a butler’s uniform carrying a scroll would be quite prominent.
Still, that alone would not prove that Tsuare was here. He could also insist that there was someone else who happened to look like him.
However, he would be in trouble if they said they were going to search the house. Indeed, they would discover that only three people lived in this home, including Tsuare.
That being the case all he could do was come clean. Sebas decided to leave his fate to the gods.
“...I did take her away. That is a fact. However, she was heavily wounded at that time, and I was forced to do so because I feared her life would be in danger.”
“In other words, you admit to buying her.”
“May I speak to that man you mentioned?”
“Unfortunately, we cannot allow that. Things would be bad if you were allowed to match up your stories.”
“You could always—”
Listen in while we were talking. Sebas wanted to say that, but he shut his mouth.
In the end, they had planned the whole thing out. Even if he did find that man, it was not likely that the situation could be made to favor him. Continuing with this approach was only a waste of time.
“...Before we go into that, do you not that think that allowing her to sustain such severe injuries while working is more problematic in the eyes of the nation? Are there not laws against that too?”
“Conditions in our establishment are harsher than most. Injury is unavoidable. Consider that working in mines and the like also includes the risk of occupational hazards. It’s the same thing.”
“...I doubt they are the same thing.”
“Hahaha. We’re in the service industry. You meet all sorts of clients there. We do pay attention, you know. Alright, I get your point. We’ll be more careful next time… yes, a little more careful.”
“...Just a little?”
“Ah, yes. Worrying too much about details costs money, you know. Causes problems too.”
Succulent sneered at Sebas’ question.
In turn, Sebas smiled.
“—Alright, that’s enough.”
Stefan sighed. His attitude was one that he used when dealing with fools.
“My duty is to verify that slave trafficking was going on. Employee welfare is another matter entirely. All I can say is that it has no bearing on the case.”
“...Then, can you tell me who are the people who specialize in problems like these?”
“...Hm, I’d like to tell you, but there are some difficulties in doing so. Regretfully, sticking one’s nose into others’ business will only earn you resentment.”
“...Then, please wait until I find the relevant people first.”
Stefan grinned evilly, as though to say, “I was waiting for you to say that.”
Succulent had the same sort of look as him.
“...Ah, I would like to wait for that, but the business has already filed a case, so I must arrest you and begin investigations. It’s out of my hands.”
In other words, he was out of time.
“Given the situation and the circumstantial evidence, you’re clearly guilty, but the plaintiff has said that they’re willing to go easy on you. Compensation will be needed to smooth things over, of course, and destroying the documentation related to the slave-trading offense will also require a bit of money.”
“What exactly do you mean by smoothing things over?”
“Well now. We’d like you to return our employee, and make up for the loss of income incurred while you were holding on to her.”
“I see. And how much is that?”
“In gold coins… well. Ah, I’ll give you a discount. 100 gold coins. Compensation will run you another 300 gold coins, so a total of 400 seems fair, don’t you think?”
“...That is quite a sum. How did you arrive at that figure? How much does she make a day and how exactly is it tallied up?”
“Hang, hang on a bit,” Stefan interrupted. “That’s not all, Succulent-san.”
“Ah, I almost forgot. Since I’ve already made a report, you’ll need to pay to destroy that as well, even if you settle the matter with us under the table.”
“That’s right. How could I have forgotten, friend Succulent?”
Stefan smiled wickedly once more.
“No, it’s nothing,” Sebas quietly said as he smiled.
“Hm, forgive me, Havish-sama,” Succulent bowed to Stefan.
“Destroying the documents costs a third of the compensation fees, so that’ll be 100 gold coins. That’s a total of 500 gold coins, I believe.”
“Does the money I paid when bringing her here count against that?”
“How could that be? Listen, mister. When you reach an accord with the other side, that means you didn’t buy a slave. In other words, the expenses of buying that slave are written off. Just imagine that you lost the money somewhere.”
To think they would actually expect Sebas to assume he had lost 100 gold coins. In all likelihood, most of it had already found its way into their pockets.
“...However, her injuries are not yet fully recovered. If the two of you take her away now, her wounds might reopen. And if she does not receive the proper treatment, she might well lose her life. I believe it would be better for her to stay with me and receive care here. What do you think?”
Succulent’s eyes gleamed in a bizarre way.
When he noticed this, Sebas realised the depths of his mistake. He had allowed them to realise how much Tsuare meant to him.
“I see, I see. You do have a point. Her death notwithstanding, we’ll need you to pay for the money which would have been spent on her. While she’s recovering, how about letting us have some fun with the lady of the house?”
“Ohhh! That makes a lot of sense. If you make a hole, you have to fill it!”
There was visible lust in Stefan’s full-faced smile. He was surely imagining the act of stripping Solution naked.
The smile faded off Sebas’ face, and it turned impassive.
Succulent was probably not serious, but he would probably press the attack if he showed any weakness. Thanks to his exposing his attachment to Tsuare, the possibility still existed that the situation might deteriorate further.
“...Aren’t you afraid of your desires getting you in trouble?”
“How dare you talk to me like that?!”
Stefan’s face was bright red as he shouted.
Sounds like slaughtering a pig, Sebas thought. He stared at Stefan without a single word.
“What do you mean by my desires? All this is to uphold the law passed by the glorious will of Princess Renner! How dare you call it base desire! Show some respect!”
“Yes, yes, don’t get worked up, Havish-sama.”
Once Succulent cut in, Stefan calmed down immediately. His anger had faded too soon, a sign that this was merely a scare tactic and not genuine anger.
What terrible acting, Sebas mused.
“But I say, Succulent-san…”
“Havish-sama, we’ve said everything we came here to say. I was thinking about coming back the day after to see what he thinks. Is that alright with you, Sebas-san?”
With that, Sebas brought everyone to the main door. As he sent them off, Succulent — who had stayed until the end — smiled to Sebas, and left him with these words.
“Still, I have to thank that slut. To think a piece of trash could actually turn out to be a goose that lays golden eggs.”
With that, the door closed with a thud.
Sebas glared at them, as though the door were transparent. There was no particular expression on Sebas’ face. He looked as calm as always. However, there was a distinct emotion in his eyes.
That emotion was anger.
—No, the word “anger” was far too mild to describe how he felt.
“Furious” and “wrathful”; those words would be more suitable.
Succulent’s parting shot was honest, flung at him because he was certain that Sebas was at his wits’ end and had nowhere to turn — that his victory was assured.
“Solution, you can come out now, no?”
Solution oozed out of the shadows in response to Sebas’ voice. She had melded into the shadows with abilities from the assassin-type classes she had taken.
“Did you hear all that?”
Sebas had only asked as a formality. Naturally, Solution nodded to say, “of course.”
“What do you plan to do now, Sebas-sama?”
Sebas could not answer that question immediately. As she saw that, Solution glared coldly at him.
“...What about handing that human over to them?”
“I do not feel that will solve the problem.”
“...Is that so?”
“If I expose a weakness, they will seek to capitalize on it until they suck us dry. That’s the kind of people they are. I do not think handing Tsuare to them will solve the problem. More to the point, the real problem is how much they learned while investigating us. We entered the Royal Capital as traders, but if they look too closely, they’ll see through it — through our disguise.
“Then, what do you intend to do?”
“I do not know. I wish to take a walk outside and think.”
Sebas opened the door and headed outside.
Solution watched in silence, looking at Sebas’ back as it shrank into the distance.
This was all meaningless.
None of this would have happened if he had not picked up that human. That said, it was too late for that now. The question was what they would do next.
As Sebas’ subordinate, she could not simply ignore his instructions, but she felt that leaving things be would only lead to a worse outcome.
If our little sister could move out… if I could take action as one of the Pleiades, we wouldn’t have this problem now.
She was hesitating.
She was waffling. She had never been so hesitant in her life.
In the end, she made up her mind. She raised her left hand and opened it.
Something protruded from it, like it was floating on water. It was a scroll which she had stored inside her body. It had originally been given to her for communication in an emergency — although, thanks to Demiurge’s hard work, there was now a way to manufacture low-level spell scrolls. . Still, Solution did not know of this before she set out, and so she believed that this scroll was only to be used in a dire situation — and Solution believed that this qualified.
She opened the scroll and activated the spell bound within. Once used, the scroll crumbled and fell to the ground as dust, and then even the dust vanished.
As the spell took effect, Solution was connected to the other party. She asked:
“Is that you, Ainz-sama?”
“Solution — hm? What happened? Since you’re contacting me, does that mean there’s been an emergency?”
Solution paused at this point. She had stopped because of her loyalty to Sebas and because she had considered the possibility that she might have been wrong. However, her loyalty to Ainz overrode all that.
In addition, they should have considered the greatest benefits for the 41 Supreme Beings in every move they made. However, everything Sebas had done until now could have been said to have violated that precept.
Therefore, she decided to commend the decision into her master’s hands and said:
“Sebas-sama may have betrayed us.”
“Wha! ...Ah? … No, how could that be… mhm… Do not joke with me, Solution. I forbid you to accuse others without evidence… do you have proof?”
“Yes. Although, it might not quite count as proof…”
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