Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama
I quickly got used to my new arm.
Over the past week, I had been channeling magicka into the bracelet the same way I activated ‘Magic Regus’, integrating the arm into my daily life as necessary. Its inventor, the vampire Warwick Ze’ev, was a researcher that had received an invitation to join the Demon King’s army from Lyla herself. Due to his anti-pure blood beliefs, however, he had turned her down.
Truth be told, I had only looked for Warwick to see if he could fix Lyla’s collar. It was surprising to learn that he was behind its conception — something I had never even considered. Anyway, he had concluded that building a new one altogether was less time-consuming than trying to fix it, to which we agreed.
While working on Lyla’s collar, he had also developed the bracelet — an invention in which he took massive pride — purely for his scientific interests.
「It’s great to see you with a prosthetic, Roland-san…!」
Milia made some sort of comment on my new arm whenever she saw me performing my duties the way I used to.
「You should show him how much you appreciate it.」
「To him, I think using it is the greatest display of gratitude.」
「Is it? What a strange fellow」, said Milia with a hint of surprise.
Warwick was indeed quite the oddball. A spring from which endless curiosity flowed, he conducted research on whatever interested him. He was doubtlessly a gifted individual, even if rather quirky. I had already tried to thank him once, but was told that giving him feedback on how it felt and the improvements that could be made was, to him, the greatest show of thanks.
The magic arm that was, in Milia’s words, a ‘prosthetic’, was translucent and of a turquoise hue. Knowing that I would have questions to answer, I had placed a black arm cover stretching from my shoulder all the way to my fingers. It greatly limited the flexibility of those fingers, but I quickly got used to it and was now able to write with that hand.
I simply told my peers that I had gotten the arm from a prosthetist. The plan had been to find a way to reattach the original that was being preserved by Lyla’s magic. Unfortunately, it had been stolen, although I had no idea who could possibly have wanted it. Seeing it would make a normal person scream their head off.
And as we know, Elvi, a member of the Heroes’ Party, had come looking for me shortly after its disappearance to inform me that King Reubens had been assassinated.
I overheard a conversation between adventurers that were waiting in line.
「There’s been news of King Reubens’s passing recently, isn’t there?」
「Yup, allegedly from an illness. Passed without having decided on an heir, and now things are looking rough.」
It was as Elvi had told me. The public had been told that the king had been taken by an illness.
The truth — that he had been assassinated — had been kept under wraps.
The assassin had snuck past Elvi’s security, which was a derivative of my own as I was the one who had taught her the basics of protection. I had agreed to her request for me to inspect the scene, and followed her back to her kingdom. After examining the circumstances, it became clear that due to its inherent difficulty, the only person who could have done the job was myself.
…But who suspects himself?
Well, that ‘myself’ had carried Lyla off to lure me out. For some reason, he had intended to kill me and take my place in society. And thus I ended up in a fight against, quite literally, myself.
The doppelganger’s career proved to be short-lived after I used Warwick’s bracelet in a test run against him. Thanks to the new techniques it allowed me to use, he was captured within minutes. As for the doppelganger, it was no exaggeration to call him a carbon copy of myself. We looked identical, had the same thought processes and even used the same skill. Despite my best efforts to find out his motives after his capture, he had refused to speak at all. Elvi had also made multiple attempts, but to no avail.
But that is quite a me thing to do, I thought when I heard that he had been sent to the gallows thereafter. Which, for the record, made me feel rather uneasy. Not only that a clone of mine had been executed, but also that he had taken the secret of my right arm’s disappearance with him.
Just… think of the possibilities that can arise if severed arms can grow into perfect clones of the original.
「Roland-san?」, asked Milia. 「It’s lunchtime! Shall we?」
I remembered that Lyla hadn’t prepared a lunch box for me today. While I was perfectly fine with skipping lunch, going for the break part that comes with it seemed like the ‘normal’ thing to do. On top of that, forgoing both lunch and the break to focus on work also seemed to go against the ‘normal’ life that others led.
「If you wish to, then we shall.」
「You were the one who asked, weren’t you?」
「I mean… yes, but I wasn’t expecting you to agree!」, replied Milia. 「Just a sec!」
Darting over to the adjacent desk, she straightened her hair, checked herself in the mirror and snorted with her purse in hand.
As we headed for the back door, a loud harrumph from behind immediately caused Milia’s expression to cloud over. She knitted her eyebrows and reluctantly whirled around to face the source of the noise.
「…Yes, chief?」, she said.
Iris was standing in front of her office, also with a purse in hand.
「Going for lunch?」
「Saw your chance, chief?」, asked Milia.
「Well, it’s lunchtime for me too.」
「But you wanted to join us, didn’t you?」
「If you’re okay with it.」
「See? I knew it! You watched us walk before your office and hurried outside! What’s that you always say — oh, “I don’t take lunch breaks. Since our breaks are on rotation, I’ll be the last!” And you were so smug about it…!」
「Sometimes, you know?」
Milia puffed her cheeks.
「You spotted me and decided to barge in without so much as reading the atmosphere!」
「I did. So, shall we?」
And that’s how the branch chief ended up joining us for lunch.
Iris led us to a restaurant that she recommended.
「Isn’t it great?」, she said. 「It’s on me, so you can save today’s lunch money.」
Most of the diners present were pairs of ladies and gentlemen that carried a refined air about them. It seemed that feisty adventurers rarely came to a place like this. We were shown to our table and given menus. While browsing the contents of mine, I spotted an adventurer seated at a faraway table, drinking alone. I had seen him on multiple occasions, but had never served him before.
He looked rather out of place in the restaurant.
「Stein Macrooy… D-ranked, I think?」
「He’s been here a lot lately」, replied Iris in a low voice.
「So that’s where Stein-san has been… drinking in a fine restaurant like this.」
It wasn’t exactly rare to see, so Milia paid no particular attention to him. I wondered if we hadn’t seen him lately because he wasn’t showing himself.
「Perhaps he isn’t adventuring?」, I asked.
Iris smiled bitterly.
「Sure doesn’t look like it.」
「Many of your clients are ambitious, driven and resolute individuals」, added Milia. 「Sad to say that people like him account for the majority.」
She may be right, I thought. Some adventurers found ways to curry favour so that they could pass the entrance examination or receive higher-ranked quests despite being below par. The success of these depended on the individual as well as their ability.
For that reason, many of my clients wished to become stronger and climb to higher ranks. I naturally accorded them more difficult quests so that they could achieve their goals.
Going by looks alone, Stein was probably in his late forties. In other words, he peaked around two decades ago and had been going downhill ever since. All that remained was his track record (of low-ranked quests, no doubt) and the experience accumulated over the years.
「‘Scuse me. I’ll have another glass, please」, said the adventurer.
The manager that attended to him sighed.
「Stein-san, I’m afraid you still have unpaid credit. We closed an eye because you were a regular, but we don’t do credit in the first place. I apologise for the rudeness, but if you would please leave… no money, no service.」
「Rude?」, muttered Stein. 「It’s my bad… my bad.」
He placed a few pieces of loose change on the counter and left.
「That doesn’t begin to cover it…」, sighed the manager.
「Has Stein-san been drinking here without paying his bill?」, I asked.
「Aye, employee-san… he has. He used to come here with his friends. Quite well-off, he seemed. Cheerful bunch, always drank a lot.」
「Mhm, though I haven’t seen them recently.」
「Wonder what became of them.」