Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama
Barbatos Guerrera, a noble planning to start a civil war. I’m sure there’s someone who knows more about him.
「Let’s see what she has to say.」
I walked out without bothering to answer her.
For completing her first quest, the one I had assigned her today, this person had received a thousand rin. It’s not nearly enough to afford a stay at any respectable lodging, so I figured that she must have returned to the castle. I confirmed this with a maid I asked in the corridor.
Right. I haven’t introduced her to Dee yet.
「Look at you, Roland-sama, picking up yet another girl. You’re such a playboy.」
「We met by chance, and I decided to nurture her as an adventurer. That’s all.」
I knocked on the door of the room the maid had directed us to, but received no response. After waiting for a while, we entered to find nobody. There was however a trail of clothes strewn across the floor that led to another door.
「She’s in the shower…」
We noticed a basket containing lingerie and a towel when we opened that second door.
She was humming to herself. Not exactly music to the ears, I have to say.
「Rabi, I need to ask you something.」
I opened the final door. Squinting, Rabi glanced at me, then looked at herself and back at me again.
「Ugyaaaaa!? A peeping tom!? A pervert!? Wait, can you even call it peeping if you just barge in like tha –」
「Calm down. I’m just here to seek clarification.」
「Calm down? You know I’m completely naked, right? Out of all the times you can come to ‘seek clarification’, you choose to come when I’m showering, and you expect me to calm down!?」
Turning her back to me, she squatted down.
「Ara-ara, maa-maa. What a cute girl.」
「And who is this pretty onee-san…?」
「This is Candice. I call her Dee.」
「Nice to meet you, Rabi-chan.」
「Nice to meet you too… but couldn’t you have at least stopped him!?」
「He’s not someone I can stop even if I wanted to.」
She continued squatting there awkwardly with confusion written all over her face.
「B-But I can’t talk to anyone in this state!」, she continued.
「It’s fine」, asserted Dee. 「You can just cover your important parts with the soap bubbles.」
…I’m not sure that’s how it works. A smile had also crept onto the vampire’s face. She’s really playing with Rabi, huh? Fufufu, she chuckled, furiously using Rabi’s bar of soap to generate bubbles.
「On your cute titties, and around your private parts — rub-a-dub-a-dub… fufu… ufufufu.」
Dee could barely conceal her mischievous smile.
「Wow! It’s really working!」, exclaimed Rabi in excitement.
This isn’t a time to get excited, Rabi… please realise that you’re being toyed with. It doesn’t make it any easier for me to decide where to look either — the bubbles are slowly falling to the ground.
「Now you’re ready for Roland-sama. Just let him do the work, and it’ll be the best experience you’ve ever had.」
Enough of this.
「You can stop toying with her now」, I cut in. 「Rabi, sit in the bathtub. I would go to the hardware store if I wanted to look at ironing boards.」
「What did you just say…? And with that smug tone…!?」
Crossing her arms to conceal her chest, she walked sideways to the bathtub with her back turned to us the entire time.
「Obtaining information is more important than catering to your sense of shame. Got it?」
She tried to splash water at me, but not a single drop reached its mark.
「The sheer audacity of you to barge in on a girl showering without batting an eye…」
「All naked women look roughly the same. Only the chest, stomach and leg areas show any significant variation. I knew you were just a kid, but I didn’t expect you to not even have any hair down there.」
「Can someone teach this guy what a ‘delicacy’ is?」
「Rest assured that I have no intention to make the situation indecent.」
「That’s an annoyance in its own way, but whatever. You have stuff to ask, right…?」
Good. We can finally get down to business.
「I want to learn more about your former master.」
「My master… oh, you mean Barbatos-sama?」
「Yes. What kind of person he is or what he does in his day-to-day life. Just tell me whatever you know.」
「Hm?」, said Rabi, looking incredulous.
Nevertheless, she told me all she had to offer.
「I don’t know all that much about Barbatos-sama. But I mentioned that I was one of his prized mages, right? Well, I can’t speak for the other nobles, but he had a lot of mages under his wing.」
Tasked with repelling monsters and overseeing road repair, among other things, Barbatos was a man with many responsibilities.
「There were so many」, she continued. 「Like, two hundred? Running around doing all sorts of things. For a good salary, of course. It was all meritocracy over there — nobody really cared how old or how experienced you are. I started working there at sensei’s recommendation.」
It’s not a rare sight for a noble to employ mages. They’re highly versatile and can serve not only as bodyguards, but also as private tutors or strategic advisors.
The sheer number of mages this Barbatos has, though… now that’s unusual.
‘Expansion of military might’, the exact phrase used in the letter, suddenly resurfaced in my mind.
「There were lots and lots of stray mages with nowhere to go after the war」, added Rabi.
「Did those who fail to complete their assignment get killed?」
「It was never made clear… but most likely yes. If someone messed up, he would disappear soon after without exception. So everyone arrived at that conclusion.」
If they’re voluntarily signing up to work for a baron in order to earn a high, stable income, then they should really just become adventurers.
Rabi continued as if she had read my thoughts.
「Almost every mage takes pride in their profession. Being employed by a noble is a status symbol, you know? I guess that’s why nobody resigns of their own accord.」
According to her, Lord Guerrera was held in high esteem by his people. He used his sea of mages to meet the people’s needs, while keeping his army well paid through it all.
「Sensei was probably under his wing as well. I think she was doing stuff here and there at Barbatos-sama’s request.」
「Is this sensei the person who taught you how to use your skill?」
「Yeah. I was an orphan who had lost my family to war, but she adopted me and taught me how to use magic… I mean, my skill. She showed me a lot of other stuff, too.」
Instead of magic, she had been taught how to use a skill. She had also been adopted and nurtured…
『It’s extremely powerful if you use it well. In other words, how powerful it is depends on how hard you work and how much affinity you have for it.』
『So is it good or bad?』
『It’s not a black-and-white matter. The true nature of it is far beyond your imagination.』
Why am I recalling this now? Is it because Rabi’s backstory is similar to mine?
It was Barbatos that had put a bounty on my head. As a noble from Ferland, it’s easy to imagine that he had been heavily affected by the underground arena incident because of me. Even so, I still had no explicit connection to him, and yet he knew so much detailed information about me.
Someone close to him must know about me. Who could it be…?
「Sensei was really my role model. She was strong, cool and pretty.」
「No idea. Different people called her different things.」
No fixed name, either. At first glance, it just seemed like a measure to anonymise oneself, but if you’re talking about a woman without a fixed name, who could it be other than that certain person?
I had encountered assassins everywhere I went.
Barbatos somehow knew all about me.
And his method of contact — that letter — was typical of an assassin.
If she’s really working for him, then everything adds up.
The ‘Destruction of Ferland’ had been mentioned in that letter. But I believe that goal cannot be achieved as long as one person in Ferland still stands — my pupil, the Princess cum Heroine Almeria.
‘Methods to be taken to achieve that goal’…
Whether Aimée is working with Barbatos isn’t all that important now. If they’re trying to do something to Almeria, though, then the implications are much more serious.
Because she’s not only a Heroine, but also a symbol of national peace.
「Is your sensei still working with Barbatos?」
「Mhm, I think so… what’s wrong, Roland? Your expression became scarier…」
It’s too risky to plant a mole to gather information this time. I’ll have to do it myself.
I remember that conversation we had a long time ago.
『Continue working hard on your assignments, and always strive to improve. If you do that, you’ll have surpassed me in ten years’ time.』
『…I’ll be dead in ten years. Even if I manage to stay alive, I can’t imagine ever beating you.』
『Ahaha. You might think that now, but I’ll be truly disappointed if you don’t.』
『It’s a dream I’ve always had.』
Fret not, Aimée. When the time comes, I will strike you down.