Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama
Following the plan, I headed for Veskoda’s room. It seemed like all the guards in the mansion had already come out to fight me, as I felt no remotely similar ‘presence’ when I entered. The fact that his room was locked didn’t stop me as I just bypassed it by kicking down the door.
My target, who was in pyjamas, greeted me by brandishing his sword. He must have heard the ‘sporting event’ going on outside just now. At any rate, the time to talk about the main topic had come at last.
「Who goes there?」
「I came to save you.」
「What? But my bodyguards…」
「Your enemies bought them off. It might be a good idea to employ bodyguards who can’t be talked to with money next time. If there’s a next time.」
I extended both arms to Veskoda to prove that I had no hostile intentions. Although he still didn’t let his guard down, he at least seemed willing to listen to what I had to say.
「So you came to save me, which means?」
「There are crooks after your life. Might you know anything about them?」
Seeing that he was about to say「You mean yourself?」, I forced a smile.
「It’s kind of a long story」, I replied, starting from the beginning.
I had already known beforehand that Welger & Co. had dealings with the underground guild. What I had wanted to find out was whether the latter was an external branch of the former, or simply a tool.
「Hmm, I see… I know about Welger & Co., obviously. I already suspected that they were up to something shady, but to think that their dealings are this unscrupulous…」
「By controlling the Congress of Vadenhaag, they can effectively bend the entire country to their will. So as you can see, I didn’t come here to kill you. I took up this quest to find out what exactly the relationship between these two parties is.」
I don’t know where or who the underground guild gets their requests from. But since Veskoda does maritime trade for a living, I figured that this assignment had something to do with that. Returning his sword to its sheath, Veskoda sat down on his bed.
「Around two months ago, the Master of Welger & Co. approached me intending to form a business partnership. It sounds good until you realise that it was just his way of sugarcoating what was basically bribery. Seeing that it was designed to benefit only themselves, I flatly rejected his proposal. That’s about all I know.」
「Have you made any other enemies? I believe you have quite a few lovers.」
「Wow, so you’re aware」, chuckled Veskoda. 「If it was one of those girls, they wouldn’t have resorted to such a convoluted method. They’d have come directly at me with a knife.」
「Then that means Welger & Co. must be behind this plot…」
「What will you do with me, then? At this rate, another hired killer will come knocking, no?」
「That’s if I report back with anything other than success. I know a master of disguise personally — if we bring her a corpse, she can work her magic and we can declare that Veskoda Rateau is no longer.」
The kingpin nodded, indicating that he understood.
「I love my work, but it seems like it’s time to set sail… I can’t take my money with me to the other side after all.」
「It’s good that you caught on fast.」
「Won’t you make tons by killing me right here and now?」
「I may be particular about the money I receive being worth my time, but never in my life have I killed for the money.」
「You looked like the Grim Reaper himself, but you’re actually my saviour!」
He changed out of his pyjamas as he continued talking, stuffing clothes, money and a knife into a knapsack. Since this assignment had seemingly come from Welger & Co., perhaps they were the source of the others as well.
I headed back to the garden and picked a corpse that was around Veskoda’s height. Then, I created a ‘Gate’ in a concealed corner of the mansion and blinked to Izalia, bringing the kingpin with me. Unfortunately, the only master of disguise I knew was an elf who talked more than she walked, so I had to lug the corpse all the way to the castle where she was. Ever since she had officially become Meiri’s escort, the room beside the princess’s had been assigned for her personal use.
「Look at the time… surely a good time of day to bring me some cadaver and an old man.」
Grumpy as always, Rodje welcomed me into her room. Promising to explain later, I had her make the corpse appear like Veskoda’s. After using another ‘Gate’ to send Veskoda to Ferland’s royal capital very much alive, I returned to his sleeping quarters and planted the fake in his bed.
Now then, time to report back to the guild.
Before the sun came up, I repeated the milk-ordering process to enter the underground guild again. Taking care to arrive as Slade instead of Roland, I made sure that my aesthetic modelled that of my previous visit.
As I sat waiting in the cubicle, the same employee as before came over, raising an eyebrow in surprise when he saw me.
「I am here to report that I have successfully assassinated King Veskoda.」
「To think that you’d be the one reporting back, Slade.」
「What do you mean?」
「He’s kind of dead right now.」
The employee couldn’t hold back his laughter.
「I see, I see… so Viks finally got done in! Gahaha!」
Seeing me none the wiser, he explained.
「We called him ‘Viks the Traitor’. He had a habit of betraying those doing his quests with him, killing them and taking the rewards for himself. Being able to betray, trick or kill others, though, is a symbol of excellence down here. As long as you get your job done.」
「So he pretended to be humble at first to gain their trust?」
「Spot on. He was good at espionage, but he was a bad feller too — feigning kindness to draw in newbies who didn’t know their right hand from their left.」
That’s how he had gotten me too. The employee not having warned me despite knowing Viks’s methods indicated that they were perfectly acceptable down here.
「So someone finally bit back. Kakakaka」, cackled the employee.
He then told me that the verification that Veskoda had died would be conducted by another person, after which I would receive the deserved rewards. Disguise magic is signature to elves living in the forest, so I doubt a human would be able to see through it.
「I wonder who the requestor was. He must have found Veskoda a thorn in the flesh.」
「Finding that out is forbidden. There’s no reason to know」, he snapped suddenly.
As it was only my first assignment, I left it at that in order not to arouse suspicion.
「Thanks, Slade」, said the employee just as suddenly.
「Why do you thank me?」
「It was a long time ago, but one of my best mates got done in by that Viks too.」
「I hear stories like this often」, I replied matter-of-factly.
「…That’s true. Treachery is bread-and-butter in this line of work… is what I’ve been telling you, but I guess I have something to reflect on now. That was quite a breath of fresh air.」
I’ve always accepted treachery and murder as part and parcel of my work, but feelings are a different story altogether. Having nothing more to do here, I got up to leave.
「I won’t ask who you are. If I have anything good for you in the future, you can have it. Slade… come back sometime.」
I guess it’s inevitable for some adventurers to be popular with the employees. I’ve experienced it first hand, after all.
With a last polite gesture, I turned around and left.