Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama
Milia was the first to spot the out-of-breath Lyla.
「Ah, it’s Roland-san’s neko-chan! Did you come because you missed your master～?」
She ignored her and came straight over to me. I already knew that something must have happened — for all her confidence, that stupid elf probably hadn’t been able to prevent it. The real Meiri was still here with us, of course. She was watching one of the employees go about his duties, almost like an intern.
「Do you know the way?」
Lyla nodded apprehensively. I obtained permission from Iris to take time off from work and left right away. Standing with her front legs on my head, Lyla told me exactly where to go.
「The enemy’s hidey-hole is one of those houses strewn all over the outskirts of Izalia. They might change it if we don’t hurry.」
「Don’t you know anything about Rodje?」
「Wasn’t she with you guys as an escort?」
「She was nowhere to be seen.」
「In that case… it seems like she lost you.」
「We shifted from the castle to that cottage in an instant, so it probably happened then.」
From the castle to a faraway cottage…?
Even if I were to run at full speed, I wouldn’t be able to cover that distance in the blink of an eye.
「This guy isn’t any run-of-the-mill kidnapper.」
「Mhm. It didn’t feel like magic was used to transport us, though…」
「There is a skill that makes others unable to detect that magic was used.」
「Hmm… perhaps. On top of that, she also realised right away that I wasn’t a normal cat… even though she took me for some kind of monster.」
「How likely is it for her to still be there?」
「It’s not impossible, but she did tell me that kidnapping was just a job for her. There might be others tasked with supervision and security.」
It had been the correct decision to make Lyla stick with the fake Meiri. As a cat, she had been able to deceive people and squeeze through unlikely places. Her ability to collect herself and think logically had also served her well.
「Knowing that alone is enough.」
Our job would be much easier without the perpetrator present.
「That’s the one」, said Lyla from her vantage point.
We were facing the front of an old cottage. It was illuminated by the glow of the setting sun, and grew bigger as we steadily approached it.
「I’ll leave you to beat up the baddies. I’m going back to the guild.」
Since Lyla had escaped from that room directly, she probably had no clue about the layout of the rest of the cottage. When I got close enough, I hid in the shade provided by the nearby foliage and patiently observed the surroundings.
「You can just ignore the fake Meiri, but the usakou that the real Meiri loves so much is still there. Can you get it back?」
「Don’t you see it as a competitor?」
「Not anymore. Though silent, it was a good comrade.」
Guess something had happened in there. Climbing off me gracefully, she stopped and turned around.
「I can scout the interior if you need it.」
「If it’s as complicated as your castle, then please do.」
「Looks like you’re good, then. Kuku」, chuckled Lyla, trotting away.
From my initial observations, the cottage looked like the home of an average peasant. Although I couldn’t see any people inside, my gut told me that the inside was more complex than expected.
I then detected a solitary presence within. It felt like it belonged to a mage.
Remembering Ta’uro hinting at the existence of an underground guild, I wondered if there were others operating alongside Welger & Co. Or perhaps this was just the shady side of that company.
「No point thinking about it now, though.」
Leaving my hiding place, I sprinted towards the cottage at full speed. I had already found a pillar that was in a blind spot beforehand, which I quickly used to climb to the second floor. Channeling some magicka into my index finger, I struck the window in front of me at four places. The sound that resulted was barely audible, and I silenced the shards by dropping them onto my shoes.
I reached inside and turned the lock, allowing me to enter through the door.
I entered the bedroom to find a middle-aged man who looked like a kidnapper on the bed. Having relations with him was a girl marked with the insignia of a slave. Neither of them noticed my intrusion. I couldn’t help but sigh at the utter lack of danger I felt from him — what a lame excuse for the kidnapper of a princess.
Shouldn’t he at least have realised that help would have come quickly?
「In war, the unexpected happens more often than the expected. This should be common sense to a scoundrel like you.」
As he thrust with all his might, I approached him and turned his head a full 180 degrees such that he could see his own back.
「The unexpected can happen even while you’re having sex, you know?」
I had no idea what to do with the girl. Taking shallow, raspy breaths and muttering incoherently, she seemed to have lost her sense of self. She had probably been brought along just for sexual purposes.
Leaving her be, I grabbed a sword that was propped onto the wall and unsheathed it. If I manage to pick them off one by one, nobody will realise that an intruder has entered and I don’t need to worry about any of them escaping.
It’s the technique I’m most familiar with, after all.
There was a knock on the door.
「Oi, you in there. Ya done? We’re waitin’ here, ya know? Just shoot yer shot and come on out!」
I turned the knob and hid in the shadow provided by the door.
「Huh, it opened. Ya could’ve said somethin’ before openin’ –」
It only took a few steps into the room for him to realise that something had happened to his crony, for he was still lying on the bed naked.
「Oi… ya good…?」
I slowly shut the door behind him and spoke as he fretted.
「You’ve kept me waiting. You’re next.」
As soon as he reacted, I cupped a hand over his mouth and pierced his heart with a sword through his back.
Letting out bloodcurdling howls, he was dead before I could count to three. I rested the skewered corpse on the bed and looked through his possessions. Finding a dagger, I decided that it would be useful for indoor purposes.
I pressed an ear to the floor, searching for hints of noise from below.
「Two voices… both male.」
No matter how you look at it, these kidnappers have to be pros. As a former commander of the Demon King’s Army, Rodje had been in charge of those who were tasked with guarding the castle. For them to have been able to give her the slip… I have to keep my guard up as well.
I couldn’t really make out what they were saying, but they seemed pretty relaxed. I detected none of the typical trepidation of people engaged in such activities. Lyla might have been right — the main perpetrator may no longer be within this compound.
One of their voices became further and further away, and I soon heard someone coming up the stairs. Stomping his feet as he walked, he was probably coming to check on his cronies who hadn’t returned. There’ll be only one left downstairs once I deal with this guy, I thought.
I activated my ability in order to sneak up to him from the front.
「Why didn’t y’all come back? Havin’ a threesome, are we now?」
He cackled in spite of having a dagger lodged deep into his chest.
「Huh…? A knife… blood…?」, he muttered, finally realising that something was very wrong.
I caught him just as he collapsed, gently resting him on the floor in order not to make any noise. Confirming that he was actually dead, I pulled the knife out, silently observing the dark red blood that began spilling out.
「One more to go…」