I wonder what this means.
Just now, I had opened the door, and ended up face to face with a surprising scene.
“Oh, a guest? Seeing as how you’re not Larc, a messenger… you don’t look the part. That guy doesn’t keep any men by his side. In that case, did you come here to rescue me?”
A woman sat boldly before me. And around her, two maids stood back.
Her aubergine hair covered one of her eyes, and a bit of it was stuck to her face. It seems she was sweating a bit, but the interior of the room didn’t have any particular smell or anything.
There were torture implements lined around the three women, and seeing one of them, the Third.
『Ah, we had one of those back home.』
Or so he said, while the Fifth kept his mouth shut.
The Seventh didn’t seem to know what to say as he looked at the woman. At 【Ludmilla Cartaffs】.
『She really is pulling that off. I can see what I see… but what’s with this situation? Even I didn’t imagine something like this.』
The Seventh’s surprise wasn’t unjustified. Of all else, Ludmilla-san’s limbs were tied, and she wore black restraining garments that made the lines of her body oh-so evident. Over the clothes stuck fast to her body, there were an excessive amount of belts stretching over her.
The problem wasn’t just with the clothing.
“U-um… that appearance is…?”
When I pointed it out, Lydmilla-san gave a light laugh.
“Oh, my apologies. This isn’t my fetish, mind you. That Larc guy dressed me quite obscenely. Oy, it’s not necessary anymore, so could you be a dear and take these off?”
The two maids unfastened her from her restraints. Having been put in embarrassing clothing and pose, Ludmilla-san spoke to me without the slightest hint of shame.
Perhaps her body was sore, as she turned her head, and lightly stretched around. Every time she moved, her clothes let off a grating sound.
“Um, if you could take it off just like that, why did you stay bound?”
I went right up, and asked what was on my mind. The other party held no hostility. On the contrary, the Skills showed her in the amiable color of blue.
“Because it’s that guy’s fetish. He sometimes drops by as if he suddenly remembers I’m here. If he came at fixed intervals, then I’d only have to be in that pose at that time, but if it’s so irregular, I’ve no idea when he’s coming, you see.”
Not embarrassed at all, she leaned herself against the obscene utensils, looked at me, and began her appraisal.
It was a little, no, I’ll just say I don’t think it’s my fault for being slouched over.
When I averted my eyes from her grinning face, she gave a laugh.
“Don’t be so angry. From what I can see, you’re not a soldier of my country. Though I don’t think it would be bad for a soldier of this land of rules to break those rules and save me alone. Now then, could I have the honor of hearing your name?”
Without correcting my posture, I introduced myself to Ludmilla-san.
“Adventurer of Beim… Lyle Walt. A request for your rescue made it to Beim, so here I am.”
Hearing that, Ludmilla opened her eyes wide, and laughed. Had she heard my name before? It was as I thought that. Come to think of it, when I defeated Tressy, I became relatively famous in these parts.
“I see. So that was you. I heard there was an adventurer who defeated the Trident Serpent, and wanted to meet him. Though I never thought that adventurer would come to my aid. I see, so you’re not might alone. You had the insight to slip into the soldiers, and maneuver around them. Nice. You’re really nice.”
Those eyes I’d equate to a raptor eyeing its prey, were violet, and imbued with a dubious light. She was licking her lips, and when I had come to save her, I saw an illusion of myself being taken captive.
One of the maids spoke to the somewhat excited Ludmilla-san.
“Your majesty, you have already accomplished your objective. I do not believe there be any more reason for you to stay here.”
Nodding, Ludmilla walked right out of the room. But taking a sidelong glance at me, she smiled.
“You… Lyle, follow close. I’m curious about the state of the castle. Where is my weapon?”
She grabbed my arm and pulled me, leading me away from the torture chamber. One of the maids answered.
“It’s being kept nearby.”
Saying that, the maid went into a nearby room, and came out with some clothes, and a sword.
The sword was slender, but long. It looked quite difficult to use. Ludmilla-san drew it, and inspected its edge.
The blade was red, and I could understand from looking at it, that it was a form of Magic Tool.
“… You even kept it maintained. Good work. Now then, even for me, these clothes are a bit much. I guess I’ll change.”
Saying that, still pulling me by the hand, Ludmilla and the maid entered a storehouse-like room.
I freed my arm, while the two maids removed the clothes Ludmilla was wearing. After preparing a bucket, they filled it with water, and heated it to bathwater.
From how they used magic, they were surely the girls of noble houses. And after wiping down Ludmilla-san’s now-naked body, they dressed her in the outfit they’d prepared.
I was averting my eyes, but the Seventh had seen it all, and…
『… That’s not any different than before!』
Taking a glance, it was a black garb snugly fit specifically made to show her body’s lines. While it did take the hips and an overcoat into consideration with its design, it was still practically the same as what she had been wearing before.
And Ludmilla-san stroked her hair.
“How boring. You know, I was intentionally showing you… do you hate women?”
When I shook my head, Ludmilla-san laughed. Compared to me, I got the feeling our ages couldn’t be further than four years apart. As I thought over whether it was alright for a girl of that age to expose her skin so boldly…
“Hmm, you’re surprisingly innocent? But that’s nice in itself. I like you! Become my groom!”
The two maids also nodded.
“Very well. With conduct and wisdom, there isn’t a problem with his strength either.”
“What’s left is the problem of where he’ll get if he trains, but if her majesty supports him, there shouldn’t be a problem.”
… They said something.
Milleia-san looked over Ludmilla-san’s state.
『Kuh, how could it be. When we came to save her, it seems we’ve wandered right into her trap… for her to use Larc to trap us…! There’s the complex web of power struggles and schemes, and that’s fine and all, but I hate how we wandered into a trap!』
It seems I fell for a trap. What sort of trap would that be?
The Third was also vexed.
『Göttinderdämmerung! It’s true it’s a nice development, but it’s frustrating how it feels like we were deceived! Lyle, aim for the turnabout!』
What turnabout? Since it’s the Third, it may just be one off his usual jokes.
… Surrounded by enemies, in a situation where the castle wouldn’t send out soldiers or knights.
Facing Erhart, Larc was in a panic, and from that, he felt fear. There wasn’t a single woman around, and his comrades had been bound in an instant.
He never thought his hand would fall short at this point, and as long as he got into the castle, his foes would have a hard time laying hands on him.
“Y-you all… h-how about you wait a second? Okay?”
Opening his left hand, and holding it upfront, Larc smiled at Erhart, but his face was stiff, and perhaps from the fear, he had broken into a cold sweat.
“I’m sorry. No, I really just wanted to defeat a few to get some achievements and build up status. I didn’t have any intent to kill. So can you let me off? I-if you want, I’ll give you women. How about those women over there? They’re useful as adventurers, and their appearances are pretty, so…”
There wasn’t anyone lending an ear to his negotiations. At the time he attacked, there was not doubt he did it with an intent to kill.
Erhart held his large, chipped sword straight ahead, to show there wasn’t any change in his sentiment.
He truly meant to fight Larc.
Larc looked at the magician Damien, sitting atop a wooden crate.
“H-how about you!? Women, and money as well! I’m close with some rich girls! So I can prepare whatever amount you wish…”
On those words, Damien wasn’t lured in. He even scoffed.
“Say that again after you nab the daughter of the leading merchant on the continent. Can you put out several million in gold? I doubt it. You see… the more I hear from you, the more disappointed I feel. At the start I thought, this guy’s amazing, but I guess this is reality knocking on the door.”
In truth, he had become an upstart with a single Skill, and having heard he was trying to get his hands on the country, Damien had been wary. But after opening the box, he couldn’t help but shatter his previous impression.
Larc turned his eyes to Maksim, but…
“Sorry, uninterested. And you have a bounty on your head. You’ve played around too much with that Skill of yours.”
For Maksim, who seriously had no interest in any woman besides Adele, negotiations were impossible.
Larc held up his large sword in both hands.
“Dammit… making fun of me. I’m going to be king, waited on by beauties, and the continent will… dammit… dammit alllll!!”
Holding that large black sword aloft, he cut at Erhart before him. Maybe due to the Magic Tool part of the sword’s effect, black flames emerged, and wrapped around the blade.
Larc’s movements grew sharper, and his muscles swelled. With such a large movement, if lowered on Erhart, the momentum looked as if it would cleave him in two.
On that strike, Erhart turned his sword diagonally to avert it. His blade let off sparks as it was greatly chipped, and melted away.
He had lost almost all the blade, making his sword much lighter. Gripping the hilt, Erhart struck Larc in the face.
Lightly taking to the air, Larc was shocked by the pain. Up to now, in his body enhanced by Skill, he had never felt pain of this extent before.
Inspecting the cause, he saw the Erhart’s muscles has swelled, and he was letting off heat. Steam was building up around him, and there was no doubt it was a body-enhancement Skill.
“Y-you third rate!!”
But even so, Erhart’s sword was in no state to use. And because of that, Larc thought he could win. Cutting Erhart down, he would make a straight cut through the knights and soldiers, fleeing from this site.
At that moment, Damien sitting on the box didn’t show any signs of movements. But he muttered.
“Okay, you’re surprisingly good. Looks like you’re a better man than I thought.”
There, Larc made a horizontal slash with his blade, but it looked as if Erhart had disappeared from his eyes. Also owing to how he had looked away, he was late to notice Erhart stooping over.
“… I hate to admit it, but it’s just as he said.”
Erhart pulled a dagger from his belt, and stabbed it into Larc’s chest.
As blood flowed out, he lost the ability to use his Skills. His power rapidly declined, and his sword fell to the floor.
When Erhart pulled out the dagger pierced in, he crouched, and frantically pressed his hand to stop the blood flowing out.
“S-someone. Save me! I’m begging you!”
Looking around, he saw his comrades were back on their feet, and approaching. Noticing the one among them capable of healing magic, he felt relieved.
He was saved, he ended up thinking.
Without paying any mind to why their restraints had been undone.
And the woman he looked up at smiled.
“Go die already.”
She said. Larc tried to use his own Skill in surprise. But having lost too much blood, he couldn’t tap into his Mana.
“Eh? Ah… s-save…”
Surrounded by the cold eyes of women, Larc remain crouched… lowering his head as if to apologize, he drew his last breath…
… Night was coming to its close.
Within all that, the adventurer party that had come to Cartaffs in order to attack Lyle’s group couldn’t hide their surprise when a report came from their comrade.
“Lyle’s party took over Cartaffs Castle? They have at least five hundred troops, you say? What is the meaning of this? They’re supposed to have left a majority of their forces at the Labyrinth!”
The leader man stood, and grasped the lapels of the adventurer who had come to report.
The one who brought the info was of the two-man party set to watch over them.
When night came, Lyle’s party made a move and attacked them, bound them, and abandoned them. And when they headed to the castle because of the ruckus, they found Larc’s corpse hoisted.
“T-they really did have those numbers! They were hanging their flag from the castle ramparts, and…”
Letting the adventurer who answer through the pain fall to the floor, the leader held his head, and sat back in his chair.
“… He entered the castle? He took control of it? With only five hundred? How? The information on him… did the information dealer betray us?”
There’s no way Beim’s information dealers would sell info to Lyle, who was set to be cut off from the city.
With the small numbers Lyle had come to Cartaffs in, that had made him certain of it. Yet the result was that he had perfectly completed the surface requested.
“… We’re fleeing Cartaffs at once.”
When the leader said that, the gathered adventurers nodded, and immediately started preparing to flee.
They bragged they had enough force to win against Lyle. But after the foe had gotten the better of them, and taken Larc down, that was a different matter.
Was there a traitor among them? Didn’t the enemy know of them from the start? Or perhaps he got his hands on information, and came to doubt them?
There was much to think about, but for now, it was dangerous to stay where they were. Everyone immediately went into pulling out, and a few were sent to the harbor to secure a boat beforehand. Money was no object. They merely wanted to get to Beim as soon as possible.
With that on their minds, the adventurer party headed to the port, and there was Lyle lying in wait.
Surely enough, the knights and soldiers surrounding them were perfectly equipped, and the ship was off in the distance, preventing them from making a break for it.
Shuffling around, they were surrounded by those well-armed men, and when his count of them exceeded two thousand, the leader gave up on counting the enemy.
And Lyle was smiling. He smiled, and pulled a bundle of papers from the bag in his hands…
The mood in the Jewel was the worst.
The Third even…
『What’s with running is the only option… come at us for christ’s sake. Become food for Lyle’s growth.』
The Fifth sounded bored.
『Does it really matter if we crush them? We chipped away at Beim’s forces. With those sorts of numbers, I doubt we’d have too many casualties. Well, we can just have their main members fight Lyle.』
The Seventh laughed as he praised the adventurers. No, he seemed to praise them as he slandered them.
『Wonderful, is it not? They learned their place, and ran away like rats. Well, let’s just put them to good use… for Lyle.』
Milleia-san also sounded bored. This time, I had brought things in a boring direction for the ancestors, and I really couldn’t feel any motivation from them.
『Hah… Lyle, show me a trump card or two.』
I looked at the adventurer party surrounded at the port, and took a bundle of papers from my bag. It was bound with a string, and quite a stack.
I confirmed it, put it back in the bag, and tossed it over to the leader of the party.
As he didn’t move to collect it, I spoke with a smile.
“Pick it up. I didn’t set a trap or anything. I’m a man to fight fair and square.”
I mixed in some sarcasm as I said that, while the leader turned his eyes to a comrade. It seems he was motioning for him to check it. And after confirming its contents…
The depressed adventure handed the stack of papers to the leader. The leader accepted it in shock. His hands were shaking, and he looked at me a number of times.
“What is the meaning of this? These are Guild documents!”
Guild documents obtained through Marianne-san, to be precise. They really were useful.
They knew full well the unique characteristics of the official forms of the Guild. It wasn’t strange for any adventurer to know them. Their applications and other forms bore a resemblance, and the contents were filled in.
Information only the guild could ever know was filled in.
“You still don’t get it? The one sold out wasn’t me, it was you.”
Hearing those words, the leader shook.
“Bull! We never went against the Guild. We were ordered to kill you, and even made considerable preparations for…”
In a calm expression, I spoke to him.
“And so? How did that go for you? It seems you still don’t get it, so I’ll spell it out… you guys are already over.”
The knights and soldiers made a path, and from there, the ‘official’ requestor, some nobles of Cartaffs came with bitter expressions.
They had put out the requests, and the ones who were dispatched for it were… the adventurer party. It was merely a surface request, so they had taken it too lightly. This Labyrinth specialized adventurer party rarely took this sort of request to go outside. If they were adventurers of the East Branch, they’d at least pretend they were working a bit.
It was a clear failure in personnel selection. They had turned their minds too much towards defeating us.
The nobles spoke.
“Not only did you fail, you hadn’t even the mind to do the work.”
“What cowards you must be to run away. It seems that Beim is making light of us.”
“… You forgot something. Take it. In accordance with procedure, I’ll be excercising the right given to me.”
What was tossed over was a document in an envelope. On it was the lowest 【E】 Rank evaluation, and a form demanding money from Beim for a breach of contract.
What’s more, it was quite a large penalty.
The conduct of the adventurers was listed in detail, and the part of them getting in my way alone was carefully omitted.
They waited for us at a bar, and moved around a place Queen Ludmilla was nowhere to be found. Without even searching, they hadn’t even moved. Overtaken by we, who came much later, and when everything was over, they ran to leave the country.
Even if it was the best decision they could’ve made for me, seen from the outside, they were the worst adventurers you’d ever find.
The woman nearby me… her majesty laughed, and looked down over them.
“So they sent me adventurers who never seriously thought to rescue me. I see, this is a matter more than worth a protest. But in that case, the world will officially know of my own incompetence… hmm, no, that’s fine as well. I’ve grown tired of the queen’s seat. I’ll use this disgrace to take up a husband. So anyways, Lyle.”
I averted my eyes from her, cleared my throat, and continued on.
Damien was giving a broad grin.
“This is it. This is the Lyle I know.”
Maksim was fed up, on the contrary.
“Lyle-dono, when everyone was fighting… you’re the worst. And please don’t get anywhere near Adele-sama.”
Erhart’s party seemed unable to understand what was going on, as they fidgeted.
I looked at the adventurers.
“You’re over as adventurers. It isn’t just the worst evaluation. You’ve made the country of Cartaffs hostile to Beim. Well, the result doesn’t really matter though, does it? Because you were sold out from the start.”
When I waved my left hand, the surrounding soldiers and knights held up their weapons. Thinking it was a signal to attack, the leader tossed his own weapon aside.
He raised both his hands.
“Please wait! We were only sent in on the Guild’s orders! The request had a contract under the surface one, and we did plan to accomplish the main request once we had completed that! Believe me! We were only request to do it!”
On those words, I shot back.
“I’m sorry. I’m working under request right now as well. So there’s no helping it, it’s a request and all. No~ my heart sure aches. But it’s a request, so there’s no helping it. Isn’t that how it is?”
I won’t say any names. But perhaps it was my ancestors, or maybe not. Anyways, there were certain someones who wanted me to get back at the adventurers set to attack us.
And they were going to unleash that discontentment on Beim.
The Seventh sounded delighted in the Jewel.
『Very nice, Lyle! There are still some rough spots, but your skill in riling isn’t bad at all! So more! Give these adventurers even more despair! And from there on is the real game!』
In a situation where they couldn’t run away, the adventurers dropped to their knees, and started pleading for their lives. Seeing that, I lowered my hand.
“… When we get to the Guild, speak about everything honestly. You don’t know who’s an ally, or who’s an enemy, right? If you do that, at the very least, I guarantee your lives. Well, before that, I do have one one job for you.”
Who is an enemy, and who an ally… Beim may have become my enemy, but I’m sure I should have at least one ally out there. Or so they’d want to believe.
The leader listened to my words, and looked at one of his comrades. That individual nodded. He had used his Skill to see through whether my words were lies or not. And he nodded.
“Understood. We shall report everything honestly. So… I beg you. Help us. If you do, we will never go against you. We’ll even write a contract! We’ll present you all the weapons we have on hand!”
If they returned to Beim, I’m sure they at least had their spares, and they were a party with enough power to instantly get their equipment together. Doing something like that wasn’t really meaningful.
“Then I’ll start you on that contract. As a fellow adventurer, I understand the importance of equipment. All I want is for you to speak honestly in Beim.”
Well, I’ll be having them use those weapons, so it’ll be troublesome if they don’t have them.
Everyone was relieved.
And as I threatened the adventurer party like that, Ludmilla-san watched over me all smiles.
What could it be… I feel I’ve been caught in a trap this time around.