Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama
After hearing what Victor had to say, I brought the tsunorabi back to the guild. Rodje and Lyla were there, learning various tasks along with Meiri.
The elf averted her gaze the moment our eyes met.
「Guuu…」, she murmured, lowering her head. 「…sorry.」
「It’s fine. At least my insurance paid off.」
I handed the rabbit over to a pleasantly surprised Meiri, who immediately hugged it tightly.
「Wow, you brought rabbit-chan along?」
「Yeah, it seemed like it wanted to meet you」, I replied, patting her head.
I needed to get word of this to Leyte. Seeing she had said that I could visit whenever I wanted to, I headed straight for her private chambers and knocked on the door.
「It’s Roland. I have something that requires Leyte-sama’s immediate attention.」
「Please, come inside.」
I entered to find her staring at documents of some sort.
「Is it inconvenient for you right now?」
「Spare the formalities. It’s just the two of us」, she said with a smile.
That’s right, I replied, agreeing to forgo the honorifics.
「I’ll get straight to the point — Meiri… no, Alias has been kidnapped.」
「Eh –!? But she was just…」
「I knew beforehand that they were going to make a move, so I took the necessary countermeasures. To be precise, they abducted a copy of Meiri.」
I gave her a thorough rundown of what had happened.
「To think all of that happened within an hour… I must thank you, Roland-san. You prevented a tragedy.」
「I need no words of gratitude.」
「No, no, allow me to thank you properly. If it had happened for real, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything… I would have been completely mentally drained.」
「Don’t mention it. That girl is… an important person to me.」
Dee was right — this was a much easier way to put it.
「Fufu. A lot of people are partial to Alias.」
If Victor could be believed, they would not aim for a target that they had already failed to abduct once. Since we’ll be more vigilant from now on, it’s much more convenient for them to go after someone else altogether.
Of course, prevention is better than cure, and the necessary precautions must still be taken.
「She may not like it, but aside from Rodje, I would like to have more bodyguards protecting Meiri. I think she’ll prefer people who don’t seem like professional bodyguards, so I’ll arrange for adventurers I know to take up this job.」
Leyte agreed to my proposal. It was decided that we would rely on those bodyguards’ protection within the castle, and add some knights when she has to leave. The Pretty Girls’ Squad immediately came to mind as suitable candidates. Though relatively weak on their own, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with once they get to work with the others. They’re also good friends with Meiri on top of that.
‘Protection’ can come in a few forms. One involves repelling enemies’ advances, while another involves ensuring the safety of the protected even if the repulsion fails. Of course, there are many ways to go about each type of protection.
「One of the kidnappers, Victor, told me a few things.」
Already having received some information from Dee, I now had the full picture after Victor spilled the beans.
「There are two different parties involved in this abduction. We have the previously mentioned Welger & Co.’s black market team, and the capable individuals they recruited.」
While Bale belonged to the corporation, Victor was a recruited ‘adventurer’ from the underground guild. To the best extent of his knowledge, Victor believed that the person who had done the actual abduction was also one of those ‘adventurers’.
Same went for those I had slaughtered before reaching him.
According to him, his job had been to safeguard the abductee from any hopeful rescuers.
『The person who spirited the princess away was a young lady who introduced herself as Maria. You would think that it was best for her to have stayed behind, right? Well, so did I, but apparently the contract changed halfway. She’s kind of egotistic too. Saying that she only accepted because it seemed fun to her, then dropped the assignment finding the protection part boring.』
Maria… that’s a new name.
It’s been four years since I joined the Heroes’ Party and left my old life behind, but even so, it might be a new name on the market. Many of those in the underground with excellent credentials never change their names, not even mounting a pseudonym. The longer you stay in the profession, the more value your name carries, after all.
When dealing with people I couldn’t trust, I frequently changed names just as my Master had. I did not have a constant name, and neither did I know what the others referred to me as.
『They call me ‘…’. I was the one who killed ‘…’.』
None of the most prolific killers do that. Even if there are some out there, I’ve never heard of them. Many names just stop being mentioned after just half a year anyway, so I never saw the point in remembering them.
Depending on their significance, many memories have been systematically wiped from my memory of my own accord. Remembering them only serves to put myself in more danger. People who try to hide what they remember and people who don’t remember at all — their actions are completely different. Therefore, forgetting is the best camouflage.
Even seeing the faces of my previous clients meant remembering those I have killed.
「I have also conducted my own investigation into Welger & Co. The source of up to forty percent of their amassed capital is unknown. It won’t be easy to crush them… as they have many merchants under their wing.」
「We’ll have to see how deep their roots go. We don’t have to crush them from the get-go.」
That’s true, said the queen, nodding.
「Victor belonged to a company acting as a middleman, so the folks we’re dealing with clearly know what they’re doing. He said that with the number of activities the association is dabbling in, similar people will show up in due time.」
「In due time, huh…」
「We will continue observing the situation and aim to prevent it from getting worse.」
「Thank you, Roland. It’s a big favour to ask of you.」
With that, I had told her everything she needed to know.
As I walked back to the guild, I thought of Victor again. To my surprise, he had told me almost everything he knew.
『Is it really okay for you to be telling me all this?』
『It’s fine. After all, you’re probably the only person on this planet that can kill me.』
『‘Absolute Defence’, right? In all honesty, it’s a pretty convenient skill.』
『Right? And you said you were from the… adventurers’ guild? Man, I’d like to work there. Sounds more fun than what I’m doing right now.』
『It won’t pay as well.』
『Doesn’t bother me.』
Victor was not the one behind the kidnapping, and he hadn’t even gotten the right person anyway. While he had been tasked with preventing Meiri’s rescue, he had no reason to kill or even fight with the fake now gone.
『Come to the guild in the capital if you’re interested. We could do with a person like you』, was what I said before making my leave.
Unlike me, Victor could very well be a kind person at heart. For that reason, I waited patiently for his arrival at the guild in the days after our first encounter.
Victor never made it to the guild.
Lying near a lake, his corpse was found a week later by a fisherman. After some inspection, he was determined to have been assassinated — stabbed once in the chest with a dagger or some weapon with a short blade. But whatever the weapon used, the technique was awe-inducing. He had probably been dead before he knew it.
I guess you can call it the silver lining in the cloud.
For all his faults, Victor had been blessed — or cursed — with a skill so powerful that he came to trust it with his life. His ego may have been impenetrable, but his ‘Absolute Defence’ certainly wasn’t.
When it comes to defence, nothing is, or ever will be, absolute.
I guess he got what he deserved, I thought, before reminding myself that the underground society isn’t such a fairytale in the least.