Lyle’s Party Aboard
… While Lyle had departed for Cartaffs, Novem and the others had completely vacated the mansion, and headed off towards the base where they were carrying out Labyrinth Subjugation.
Starting with Novem, Monica and Eva, and finally Clara with some guests boarded Porter.
Miranda was off preparing at the base, and the Valkyries were also mobilized, carrying out development of the general area.
At the stage where Lyle set for Cartaffs, they already knew what would come of the movements of the merchants and adventurers.
Novem turned a smile to the one riding on Porter’s loading tray, Rauno’s partner, and a woman of small build due to her gnomian race, Innis.
“I’m sorry to drag you along like this, Innis-san.”
Innis shook her head, holding up her travel bag as if to embrace it. The bag of standard size looked exceptionally large when put beside her.
“It’s alright. Rauno-san told me to do so as well. And…”
As Novem tilted her head, Innis said it was ‘nothing’, and played the matter off with a vague smile. Seeing her like that, Novem grew a little wary, wondering what ulterior motives she and Rauno may have in assisting Lyle.
But unable to understand why the man would send her to be practically a hostage at the stronghold of potentially dangerous individuals, there wasn’t a trace of information being leaked by some Skill either.
Wary as Novem was, the precision and accuracy of the information Rauno gathered did convince her he was seriously aiding them for now.
However, they didn’t leave room for negligence.
“I’m sure there will be some inconveniences for you at our destination, but if anything happens, just give us a shout. If it’s within a possible scope, we’ll take care of it.”
On Novem’s words, Innis nodded.
Light streamed in from the window installed on Porter. The outside scenery she could see from it made Novem worry for Lyle.
(Is Lyle-sama getting by alright right around now?)
It weighed on her mind how he didn’t have anyone to look after him nearby, but this time’s opponent was the adventurer Larc, who boasted a Skill that displayed high abilities against women. If they was the possibility of being charmed, then regardless of the Guild’s schemes, he should be taken out of the picture, or so Lyle said, so Novem abided by his judgement.
(But it’s not like we couldn’t have left just one person by his side.)
It wasn’t a problem if that someone wasn’t her. The optimal candidate was Monica, but Monica had a job in mobilizing the Valkyries.
That would make Miranda and Eva the runner-ups, yet they also had much work to do at the base, so they couldn’t be left at Lyle’s side.
The Valkyries would leave much to desire in looking after someone, while leaving Shannon, May, or Aria would be more a bother than assistance.
Clara also had work, so regardless of how much she wanted to leave someone, from Novem’s eyes, Lyle’s decision wasn’t mistaken. It wasn’t, but it was true she was worried.
(Even if Professor Damien has his automatons, their priority list has Lyle ranked relatively low. I don’t think they’ll do anything to trouble him, but…)
Eva looked at Novem’s worried face.
“Are you worrying about Lyle? It’s alright. Even like that, he’s surprisingly reliable.”
As Eva glanced over, Novem as well.
“That’s right. Lyle-sama has been looking quite reliable these days, so I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
She said with a smile. Comparing back to when they had started the journey with just the two of them, the current Lyle had matured enough.
Or so Novem decided to believe…
… Around the time Novem’s party set off.
At Beim’s Guild headquarters, in a small meeting room rarely used, a few officials of each branch sat around a table and conversed.
The head of the South Branch spoke.
“It seems he’s made his move. He’s already headed for Cartaffs on a Trēs House ship. A sweeper confirmed it, so there’s no doubt about it. There are also some movements in the Labyrinth we overlooked, but I do believe the time to attack is now.”
Sweepers were a cleaning service. With a special role of cleaning up the adventurers, they were either former adventurers, or specialists raised by the Guild.
The one standing behind the East Branch’s top, Tanya… Tahnia was also a sweeper. And behind each executive, various other sweepers stood.
The South Branch’s executive was all aboard the assault of Lyle’s party. The North Branch was specialized to sea requests, and not particularly interested. As he had to lend out personnel, on the contrary, he was in ill humor.
“Was there really a need to go so far? From what I heard, it isn’t fighting power, but action and charisma that puts him a cut above the rest. You even dragged us into the mess.”
To the pouting North Branch head, the South Branch’s head gave a slight thorny tone.
“… If this time’s attack succeeds, then the ones who benefit from the right to use Galleria and Rusworth’s ports are your people of the North Branch, are they not? How about you hear it from the merchants?”
The North Branch executive shut his mouth. There was a deal cut with Gina of the Trēs House, and as long as Roland was recognized as head, she would abdicate the rights to use both ports. Such talks tied directly to the North Branch, so they couldn’t say it was someone else’s problem.
They carried adventurers that specialized in maritime guard and sea monster extermination, having become passive to matters on the land.
The West Branch’s head ended up sending around loads of men from his own ranks, so he was also displeased. He stuck his glare on the South Branch.
“We had to send out two whole first-rate adventurer parties. On top of a number of our mains. And yet, isn’t there a little too less from the South and East? The South Branch is only sending a single mercenary brigade, is it not.”
At the South Branch, the information that war would drastically decline had spread, and many mercenaries had already begun moving to change their home Guild.
For that sake, the number of brigades participating in this attack numbered only one. They also had to deal with requests of their own, so taking up any more would influence the Guild’s credibility.
“Speaking to scale, it’s a mercenary brigade carrying a hundred capable of battle. It isn’t a problem. Considering numbers, wouldn’t that make us number one?”
The West Branch executive slammed his fist down on the table.
“Cease this codswallop. I’m not talking about your scraped up riff-raff! Our conditions to classify a first-class adventurer are to breach the sixtieth floor. Just how many parties capable of that do you think exist in the world? Even those in our main body are all precious parties. Their value is different than your parties who’d die out in a few days, and those who fall short of second rate. It’s value I say! ”
Don’t group our valuable forces with your mercenaries, the West Branch declared in indignation. The East Branch head listened to that statement, and butted in from the side.
“Well, well, this time was a decision from headquarters. I truly apologize that an adventurer of the East Branch is troubling you all so. As you can see.”
As the East Branch head lowered himself in apology, the others retracted their venom, and restarted their conference…
… Tahnia returned to the East Branch’s Guild, and posed a question to her superior.
The two were the only ones in the room brimming with the scent of the coffee her superior executive sipped.
“… I cannot understand it. What could the Guild headquarters be thinking? If they assassinate Lyle, who assisted in the formation of this four-nation alliance, it is sure to put Beim at a disadvantage.”
On Tahnia’s question, the superior answered as he sipped. He wasn’t behaving any different from usual, and spoke as if to test her.
“I don’t have the authority to overturn that decision. From above the Guilds, and the merchants above that, it’s a verdict that’s come all the way down. Well, if the mediator of the alliance dies, perhaps the talks of unions will flow away. Even if they suspect Beim, there isn’t a country in the area that can live without it.”
That was simply how large the city of Beim was. Even if the alliance was completed, and they went to war, the city was confident that it wouldn’t lose.
It wasn’t just numbers, the quality of equipment was also no comparison. What’s more, for an alliance that had only just formed, how many years would be necessary for it to take power? Would there be any countries who wouldn’t withdraw from it in that time? The four-country alliance had various uneasy factors.
“Tahnia, it isn’t a bad thing to hold feelings, but in your profession, it becomes a problem. Though if it’s feelings as a receptionist, an extent should be fine.”
Recalling her own job, Tahnia focused herself. Her superior put Beim’s movements to mouth.
“Beim holds a large power in this area. If it had the mind, it could destroy a whole country, and in truth, it’s done so before. And maybe that’s why. The higher-ups seem to think they can do something about the alliance, and Bahnseim as well.”
Tahnia decided to listen to his opinion.
“What is your personal opinion on the matter?”
There, her superior laughed as he spoke.
“Don’t pick a fight with those sorts, keep a sense of distance, and persist on with some favorable relations. But from the time he came to Beim, there’s been astounding growth all around. Perhaps there’s a need for caution? It’s my mistake. I should’ve been more wary from the start. He’s got something decisively different from the other adventurers. Something… he’s definitely moving with some goal in mind. It may be the case that Beim’s current state is dancing on the palm of his hand.”
Hearing that, Tahnia tilted her head.
“Then shouldn’t it have gone better for him?”
Lyle could surely have played it better, thought the woman who’d dealt with him as a receptionist. At the same time, because of the mismatched parts of him she’d witnessed at times, she thought he had perhaps made a mistake from his youth.
If he had proceeded more steadily, it wouldn’t have come to this. As she thought that, her superior looked up at the ceiling.
“Hmm… I thought we had cut him off, but perhaps we were the ones being cut off.”
He said in a tone filled with implications…
Aboard the ship headed for Cartaffs, under the light of the moon… granted, using lanterns as well, we were engrossed in conversation.
The experiences of the standard adventurers I didn’t usually come in contact with- Erhart’s party- and Maksim-san’s knight situation in Bahnseim, on top of Damien’s blazing passion for breasts… the bag of seeds for conversation never ran dry.
And it came around to my turn.
“Eva’s, you know, her style, and showing off her body, it’s all part of business, you see. So she seriously looks after her figure. I do think her form is amazing, but on the other hand, she’s completely calm if you accidentally spy her naked. I’m wearing undergarments, so it’s fine; gives off that sort of feeling. Clara isn’t mindful of that sort of embarrassment either, and she’s pretty defenseless, but even if you caution her, her reaction’s just something like, ‘… so…?’ Even if we’re living together, it rarely gets my heart racing. On the contrary, for the ones with high guards like Novem and Miranda, when you occasionally see them when they’ve come out of the bath, that defenseless gap is more effective, you hear.”
Hearing that, Erhart and party also nodded.
“Come to think of it, the adventurers we worked with before were the same. On the first day, I got excited when they loitered around with nothing on top, but after getting used to it, you just start wondering if they feel cold like that.”
“Then why not quit wearing nothing but that tank top up top?”
On those words, Erhart shook his head to the side. The man constantly wore a tank top, and when it came to winter, he simply draped a coat over it. Even so, his lower half had sturdy metal protectors, and even now, his waist and knees were wrapped in metal.
“No way. This is what calms me most!”
But as his surrounding comrades looked at him, they spoke thoughtfully.
“No, I’ll use this opportunity to say it, but… Erhart, I get that you do wear a coat in winter, but when it comes to battle, you strip it off, right?”
“And what of it?”
“It’s feels cold just to look at, and seeing you get hurt there, it makes us hurt as well. I’d really like you to stop that. Let’s harden your defenses on your upper half. It’s scary to watch.”
“Y-you guys! Listen here, this is the style where I look my coolest! When I get famous, everyone’s going to go around dressed like this someday!”
Listening to that, Maksim-san brought the conversation back to where it had derailed.
“No, it’s best you prepare some proper armor for that. Rather, you’re just like those topless female adventurers you were pitying.”
Erhart said he couldn’t agree to that opinion, and stood.
“Why’s that!? Look, I’m wearing a tank top, aren’t I!?”
Damien was being waited on by the automatons, having them pour into his tea cup as he spoke.
“That is a single sheet of cloth. It’s no different than nothing at all.”
As we exchanged such foolish talk, we enjoyed the passage of time.
From the Jewel, the Third let his voice.
『Well, that’s about right for boys of your age. Silly as it may be, it’s a time to have fun.』
After a little silence, the Fifth spoke.
He said. But he didn’t seem quite satisfied, or rather, it felt like he was hiding something. I was curious, but I couldn’t ask at present, so I left it be.
The Seventh spoke, as if reminiscing.
『Back in my day, it was difficult to have these sorts of conversations.』
Milleia-san sounded like she was having fun.
『Well, I guess I can pretend I didn’t hear anything this time. Seems Lyle’s having fun, after all. Even so… Lyle, it’s best you be a be a bit more careful. About Miranda and the others showing a gap in their armor, I mean.』
Her words seemed full of implication, but I was enjoying my talk with Erhart and everyone else.
“Come to think of it, what about that cute Shannon kid?”
I thought back to Shannon, and shook my head.
“Nope, nuh-uh. Perish the thought. That girl has that frail image outside, but in the mansion, she’s extremely slovenly, and getting hit around by Miranda. More importantly, how about you? According to the rumors, you’re getting along nicely with the newbie desk’s receptionist.”
Erhart waved his left hand, plainly declaring that wasn’t happening.
“That’s just a business smile, that sort of thing. I’ve stopped dreaming about Guild receptionists. Right now, I want a staff member I’m on good terms with, but it seems I keep being circulated to her line. Even if I line up somewhere else, that counter over there is open you know, they say… strange, ain’t it?”
“Strange it is.”
I was sure he was still mindful of that matter with Marianne-san. I worried a bit over whether I should tell him how she felt, or to keep quiet on the matter.
Even so… why does everyone keep circulating Erhart to that receptionist called Rühe? I don’t think he’s an adventurer to get newbie treatment anymore?
Maksim-san also found it strange.
“That sort of thing happens? Did you do something to be hated by the other receptionists?”
Erhart crossed his arms and looked down.
“… When I first got here, it’s true I did some stupid things, so that possibility exists. Dammit, I want to punch that me of the past!”
A depressed Erhart and company. Having become adventurers oblivious of many things, they had come to realize just how ignorant of the world they had been.
Damien raised his glasses with his fingertips.
“If they keep pushing you onto a single person, it’s possible that girl is being harassed. Back in my student days, something like that happened, and a few years later, someone told me it was bullying or harassment or something.”
Hearing that, I was surprised such a thing could be happening to that Rühe receptionist.
“… Looks like receptionists have it rough. Erhart, you have to treat her well when we get back.”
Looks like he thought so as well.
“Taken to heart. Her souvenir can be a bit on the expensive side. I see, so she has her troubles too.”
I regretted how I’d witnessed an unpleasant side of the Guild, as I changed the topic.
Milleia-san sounded fed-up.
『… Wow, not a single one of them gets it.』
The Fifth was perplexed.
『Eh? Gets what?』
After he said that, the Jewel went silent. Perhaps the Fifth couldn’t understand why.
『W-what’s all this? Why are all of you looking at me with those eyes!?』
A bewildered Fifth Generation Head. I was also perplexed by the response of the Jewel.