Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama
In the northeast of the Kingdom of Ferland stands a nameless mountain, at the bottom of which a forest grows.
A forest which we were in.
「Huff… huff… haa… oi, are we still gonna walk…?」
「We are. If you’re already complaining at this point, it simply shows how little exercise you get normally.」
「Do not make fun of Lylael-sama, human!」
「Shut up, hentai elf.」
Gasping for breath, Lyla was trying her best to keep up with me. Her loyal servant, Rodje, was by her side. I briefly considered bringing up what I had come to call the “Lyla’s panties incident”, but decided to speak of it on another occasion instead.
To be fair, we had traversed a mountain pass and were now trekking in a forested area of the mountain. It’s not surprising that Lyla, whose physical strength had become akin to that of a regular human, was tired out by now.
「I was in the mood for a picnic… this is nothing but torture!」
「Didn’t I re-iterate multiple times that we’re not here for a picnic?」
「Lylael-sama is exhausted. Can I request for a break?」
「You just want to eat, don’t you?」
Walking across terrain without a clear path was more tiring that I expected. On top of that, all the trees looked the same. A person who has never done this before would constantly feel uneasy, making the entire experience mentally draining as well.
It had all started when Lyla and I were having a drink at dinner.
『I’ve been living like this with you the whole time… but I still know nothing about you…』, she muttered with tears in her eyes, more or less because of the alcohol.
She snuggled over to me on the sofa and wrapped her arms around me. While I wasn’t drunk by any means, the alcohol had certainly made me speak a little more loosely.
『Want to have a look? I’m not sure if it’s still there, though.』
By ‘it’, I meant the house in which I was born and raised. She had nodded profusely then, but she’s clearly regretting her decision now. Every time she brought the topic up, I had dodged the question. However, I decided not to do that this time, and it was thus decided that we would head for the northeastern mountains at daybreak.
I hadn’t expected her blind devotee to tag along, but I was somewhat glad that she was around to take care of her troublesome master. Lyla had brought along items like bento boxes, hats, water bottles and a mat, but they proved to be more of a hindrance than a help.
『From here, it takes two days to get to the capital. Two. It really isn’t that far, you know?』, my Master had once told me.
I had accepted this as normal, until I realised that it took a normal person a day to find his way out of the mountains and another four to reach the royal capital. It had been a painful lesson, too — my first trip took me four days in total, and I thought I had made good time. It was only when I received a good whipping that I realised my Master had meant two days to go there and return.
Despite not having been back here for a long time, the forest was essentially unchanged. The training grounds and hunting grounds I was familiar with were still there, and the teachers who taught their students how to provide for themselves in the wild were still going strong.
「Can you slacken your pace a little? You’re not being considerate to Lylael-sama at all!」
「You’re welcome to leave.」
「The audacity of a human to say that…!」
I doubt Lyla wants to be accommodated. She probably doesn’t want to be a burden to me.
But at the end of the day, ideals are ideals.
Figuring that she couldn’t hold up any longer, and also wanting Rodje to stop her yapping, I let them take a short break before going on the trail again.
Allowing for short breaks periodically, we reached our destination a little past noon.
The dense forest gave way to a clearing overgrown with weeds, in the middle of which stood an old house covered with ivy. Even the door wasn’t spared from the lianas. I had considered the possibility that thieves had made this place their hideout, but now it seemed like nobody had set foot inside in a long time.
Her interest piqued, Lyla ran around the cottage. After observing every inch of its periphery, she returned to the front. On the contrary, Rodje scanned the surroundings and simply muttered:
「Looks like there’s nothing here. This place is kind of lonely.」
「Perhaps the forest inhabited by elves is of a different nature.」
「My forest is… never mind. Shall we enter?」
We shall, I replied. While the sun was only a little past its highest point, the forest would begin to grow dark soon. Making preparations to stay up the whole night might be a good idea.
As we parted the vines with our hands, memories of my childhood inevitably resurfaced.
How many years has it been, I thought to myself.
I had left the day I turned fifteen, when I was deemed to have become an adult. After that, I was constantly on the move, living in the shadows of many different regions and countries. When I did return, it was to use the place as a safe house for about seven days each time.
「Cough, cough. This place is really dusty… Rodje, open the windows.」
With her usual fanatical enthusiasm, she flung open the windows one by one.
「In order to let Lylael-sama be at ease, I, Rodje Sandsong, will take it upon myself to clear this place of dust!」
Seemingly overjoyed to be able to be with Lyla away from home, the elf was more energetic than usual. Equipped with a living room, three smaller rooms, a kitchen, a dining room and a bathroom, the house I had returned to was about the same size as my current one.
「Hm. So this is the place where young Roland spent all his time training?」
Sitting on the sofa, Lyla looked out the windows that her loyal servant had opened. Although the ground outside was now obscured by weeds, that didn’t change the fact that it was the place where I had learnt the basics of assassination and combat (both armed and unarmed).
「It wasn’t just me. I believe my Master also spent her childhood here.」
「Your Master… a woman, right?」
「Ah, so you’re aware.」
「I simply mentioned the less preferable possibility」, said Lyla with an expression that I couldn’t quite read.
We gathered some firewood, which I whittled with my knife before starting a fire. Seeing that it was getting too large, we threw a few more logs into it.
「What is it that you so wanted to know?」
I felt that nothing much could be learnt by coming here. Most of it can simply be related by mouth, after all.
「I wanted to see what you saw with my own eyes.」
「Never took you as one for poetry.」
I’m personally not a big fan of retelling the past. Some of my memories I had erased deliberately, and others had also been wiped as collateral damage.
「As the daughter of my father, the previous Demon King, I was a child loved by Magic itself. You can think of it as a position similar to that of Almeria.」
That analogy allowed me to comprehend her point more easily. Both were princesses, but hailing from separate worlds. The sheer difference between them and a recluse like me probably made them interested to know more about my life.
「I don’t care what kind of past you had. All I want to know is how you lived back then, and how it eventually allowed us to cross paths.」
The flames of the bonfire started licking the cracks of a large piece of firewood.
「…As a child, I was often made to tend to the fire. My Master was the one who raised me, a budding assassin, every step of the way. While she cooked, I was tasked with keeping watch over the fireplace, adding more firewood and stirring the embers when necessary. She probably found it a hassle to deal with a kid running all over the place.」
Lyla giggled softly.
「Even you can be cute sometimes.」
She pulled the cork of a bottle of wine with a satisfying pop. Taking out a few glasses from her saddlebag, she poured some for us and then quickly emptied her own glass.
「That’s why your luggage was heavy.」
「I brought it of my own accord.」
As if she felt the need to bring up some of her own past, she continued:
「When I was five, I learnt to execute spells up to third-order ones easily, including the ‘Dispel’ and ‘Shadow’ I taught you. Although I couldn’t do so indefinitely, I was still able to cast such spells without breaking a sweat.」
「Fifth-order at most. Even for my father’s attendants and other high-ranking warriors, only half of them were able to master spells of the third order. I was nine when I learnt the forbidden necromancy spell ‘Raise’. That made my father blow his top, though」, she said, giggling as she reminisced.
I remember her mentioning that she had once raised her cat from the dead.
Perhaps it’s my turn to talk.
「…We would receive requests from that door over there.」
Due to the lack of a functional receptacle, every letter we received would slide to the floor with a rustle.
「Upon hearing the rustling of paper, I would pick the letter up and hand it to my Master. There were a few ways for us to receive requests, and each one exchanged hands a few times before ending up here. None of us knew who the people that had come into contact with the requests were. All we knew was that once we opened the letter, our very lives would be in danger. Thus, on such occasions, we would vacate this house for days or weeks at a time. By order of my Master, I would continue training in a suitable forest or plain no matter where we went.」
With a glass in hand, Lyla stood up slowly.
「Hm? Is that a letter I see…?」
「Yeah, there is. It’s the same colour as the floor, but… is that a new one…?」
Picking it up, she handed it to me.
「Aren’t you reading it?」
「I have left that life behind.」
Lyla grabbed the letter just before I could feed it to the flames.
「If that’s the case, then let me inspect it. That’s fine, right? Since you’re tossing it anyway?」
「Do as you like.」
Tugging at the wax seal with all her might, she ended up tearing the envelope. She took out the letter, which was still intact, and read its contents.
「Hmm. This Aimée… was she your Master?」
「Yeah… hold on, it’s addressed to an ‘Aimée’?」
「Mhm, that’s what’s written on it.」
Just like ‘Roland’, ‘Aimée’ was a name used to address trusted recipients.
Actually, no… I had been taught that the name simply made our work more convenient.
I wondered if she had been using this cottage as a safe house too. Or perhaps the sender didn’t know where to find ‘Aimée’ and had sent the letter here…
「Huh, I really thought it was addressed to me.」
「There are some portions I can’t make out.」
Taking the letter from her, I placed it above the bonfire and words began to materialise.
「Now it can be read.」
「Ooh. I see…」
I handed it back to Lyla, who peered at the contents again with a serious look on her face.
「A request to assassinate…」