Translator: Adam Seacord
「…So, you’ll lend me weapons to use, for me to advertise…?」
Nubia spoke our language. His minimalist response seemed less of a symptom of learning the language but more of his own personality.
「…I don’t speak well. I won’t be good.」
「 Well, you don’t need to do anything special. All I want is to put my shop’s crest on your weapons and armor. The better you do in battle, I’ll get more customers automatically.」
「Elli boy, you’re looking like a businessman now… Hey, you want to put something out for our circus, too? We’re all about the customers, and we could always use more.」
「Ooh, Nubia, you’re getting new armor?」
Urgh, this is a lot to handle.
I was really glad that Daria was there to listen to everything.
「Okay, let’s go through this. Gordon…」
「Gordon-san said he would welcome you as a sponsor for the circuit.」
「That’s right. I’m not all that rich, but I can definitely help out with items. Even if you could advertise just while you’re performing here, that could bring in a lot of business for me.」
After discussion, Elliot’s Magical Items would become one of the backers (I wouldn’t consider it a sponsorship). I would provide items with practical usage, and detailed jewelry for the show. They were not actually made of jewels or precious stones. The request was to see if I could lighten the jewelry to be attached to costumes (glass or metal shards), and make them more reflective. This would be more in the territory of an alchemist, but I was confident that I could handle changing the refraction of the materials. Altering small pieces of material would not cost me much magical powers, which meant I could mass-produce.
To be honest, I had never thought that there could be demand for such a thing. Come to think of it, accessory without any practical use could be a new market.
Well, the brightness of the accessory would be its function, I suppose.
Another request was for a completely practical item: a sturdy, thin rope. The ropes used for the trapeze act are quite thick, in consideration of safety. They think that if the ropes can be thinner, it would look like the dancers were actually flying.
「If we can make a new with that kind of thin string, we can breathe easy if something happens in front of customers.」
He said. They place a large mat on the floor during practice, but they couldn’t do that during performances to preserve the visuals of the show. Naturally, an accident would mean a serious injury, or even death. That seemed to be the root of Gorgon’s worries.
「That net would be like a spider’s web, right? I have an idea, so I’ll look into it. 」
Actually, if that was all, I only had to ask Diana, who was now an Arachne.
It may be difficult to mass-produce, but I’ll figure it out. …Come to think of it, I haven’t slept with Diana in a while. I had asked her to research something, too. I’ll go see her soon.
As for Nubia, I was to introduce him to the mercenaries and adventurers in town through Gustav. In addition, I didn’t have too many weapons or armor that would suit his stature, so I was going to make them to order.
While I’m there, I would try to sell my items to the adventurers. I hadn’t been too assertive with my sales pitches in fear of exposing Shiro’s identity, but now that both Shiro’s and Lily’s appearances have changed so they look no different from humans, I wouldn’t have to worry too much.
Both of them were working as prostitutes at the Spider’s Web, but it may be useful to have them adventure on the side, like they used to do. Both prostitution and adventuring are about traveling, so they that might just work. The thing was, even if some adventures sold their bodies from time to time, I thought it would be rare to find anyone who would evenly split their time between the two lines of work.
…It may be useful to have them back as adventurers, advertising my shop’s weapons and armor.
「Hello, hello. Your face is thinking hard.」
When I arose from my thoughts, Nem was grabbing my face. I might have been partially responsible for letting my guard down, but she just seemed to have no guard up at all.
「Oh, hey, Nem… Sorry about that.」
Nubia apologized, slightly shrinking his giant stature.
「Oh, I don’t mind. I think I did the same thing to Gordon, back in the day.」
「I wish, Elli boy. You would run away with mine or Gustav’s weapons when you had the chance. 」
Gordon chimed in without missing a beat, drawing a few chuckles. Some members of the circus looked somewhat intimidating, but all of them were happy-go-lucky people, which was reminiscent of Gordon’s old mercenary. However, Nubia was the exception to that. He may just be too stoic. Even as I could see him trying to blend in, he let a solemn expression seep through. It would take me a while to learn the reason for all of this.
「Master Elliot. What are these papers? …An invitation?」
Astarte curiously observed my handmade invitations.
「That’s right. To bring more business to the shop, I just need more customers to come in. They’re just like flyers.」
「Ah, I see… I think it’s a good idea to advertise the business, but how and who are you sending the invitations to?」
Invitations are meant to be given to those who you trust, and exists above a certain threshold of class. In contrast, the ones I had prepared, while slightly adorned, were not even sealed with wax. Very simple letters hand-written on parchment.
「I’ll hand them out. At the bar, at the circus. Of course, I’ll only give them out to men, I think.」
To be honest, my handwriting was sub-par. While it wasn’t filthy, it was the writing of a businessman that emphasized legibility above all. I didn’t have a sophisticated writing hand like a priest or noble. Except, some of the people on the receiving end of these letters may not even know how to read. The simpler the better.
「If you are handing these to people of all classes, it might be better to include a picture… As well as a map, perhaps.」
「A map… You’re right. I hadn’t thought of that. Old Town is expansive, and the shop is a little bit off of main street. A clear map would help a lot.」
Astarte rarely had a creative idea. I had learned that fact over the year and change I had spent with her so far, but more importantly, I had begun to realize that she was very talented in supporting somebody else’s thought process and logic. That being said, either because of her long stay in the magical realm, or her previous upbringing, she had a somewhat detached sensibility from worldly things, which made her supplemental thought process less practical.
「…I do have an idea.」
Astarte suggested. This was a rare occurrence.
「What is it?」
「The prostitutes at Spider’s Web are frankly, of random quality. A few members, including Dora, would only require some pointers before they could work at a higher-end brothel. On the other hand, those who are less easy on the eyes, those without much talent, and those who are getting too old… I know the Assassin’s Guild wasn’t managing this place very well, and while the situation has been improved by turning the girls into monsters, about half of them don’t match up to the current quality of the brothel.」
「Right, I could see that. That’s why Dora had worked hard to keep them united.」
「Yes. Even looking at who the regulars request, Dora is still at the top, but most of them only request one of the top three girls there… Although, recently, Shiro and Lily have been gaining requests as well. 」
That was an issue I could not ignore. Spider’s Web was comprised of almost a dozen girls, which meant that 70% of the girls there were not getting much work.
「I understand the predicament. And your idea is…?」
「Master Elliot, fortunately, we have some savings. I have heard that business at the bar next door dwindling, and the owner is willing to sell it.」
…Astarte was one of my subjects, but in a strict sense, I did not turn her into a monster. If she had turned the owner of the bar into a monster, I would, more than likely, not notice that. Although, while she may have been controlling him with charm, there was no point of turning him into a monster. I decided not to consider that possibility.
「You think I should buy the bar?」
「Yes. Then move Dora and the other top girls there and treat them as high-class prostitutes. In the meantime, I think you should lower the prices at Spider’s Web to attract a larger customer base. Once business grows, you can even hire the older prostitutes who want to retire as barmaids.」
Oh, that’s what she meant.
I assumed that she had considered the growth of business and profit margin to a certain point. Still, Astarte’s motivation was undoubtedly the last reason she gave. She wanted to protect the older and less-desirable prostitutes who would have nowhere to go once they couldn’t make it in that line or work anymore.
…I had to consider how this idea would play out. Did it have enough potential to bring in long-term profits, regardless of a short-term loss? Or, did it have potential for me in other areas? It’s not that I didn’t sympathize with Astarte’s sentiments of wanting to protect the aging prostitutes, and I wasn’t one to cast any judgment on that.
Both Astarte and I had made a living out of killing, back in the man-eating dungeon. We would kill when we considered it necessary, and spared their lives when we wanted to. Morality had no place in the realm of our selfish desires. Astarte simply desired this to happen. It was up to me to squeeze any profit out of it.
…Some murky thoughts would cloud my mind, then disappear. After some moments of consideration, I began articulating those incomplete thoughts. I trusted Astarte to fill in any gaps.
「…You will also move with Dora and the others.」
I thought of our actions up to this point. The people we smuggled in through the dungeon, the merchants in town, the nobles.
「I don’t mind. You had mentioned that when we left that dungeon.」
「Right, but that’s not it. I would also have Daria… And Sara, even Olivia, make an appearance.」
Astarte looked quite surprised.
「Master Elliot, what are you…?」
「An invitation. No one gets in without one… But as long as they have an invitation, there’s no questions asked. We won’t let anyone ask…」
「Although Abram is a large city, only those with considerable social standards could afford a high-class prostitute. If anyone saw each other, they would recognize them. They won’t be bonafide high-end prostitutes, maybe reasonable enough for a shopkeep to…」
We give each other a look. Who could afford this luxury, but didn’t want anyone to know it? People with social standings and power… Priests, major business owners, and of course, nobles.
「They’ll have to wear a mask. Anyone can enter the bar out front. Inside, we’ll create a hidden bar with the prostitutes.」
Astarte seemed to catch on to my impromptu idea. Her logic had shifted from presenting her own ideas to supplementing mine.
「They’ll need a trustworthy referral to enter the hidden bar.」
「Right. We’re not the only ones with secrets in this city. Their identity never leaves the bar. Even if anyone recognized each other, no one will say it. While they wear a mask, everyone’s a stranger… Maybe I can tinker with the eyes of the mask to really make them indistinguishable.」
「If you could enchant them with a hallucination spell…」
「Then I could reverse that. If I use a specific mask to cast a spell, I could have people recognize the person wearing that mask as someone completely different. …Of course, while maintaining the ostentatious rule of secret identities. 」
I can do a lot with this.
Of course, I had no guarantee of success, both in this scheme and the business itself. Still, it was worth a shot.
「…If I could set it up where Earl Abram, who had come to the brothel in secret, witnessed his heir prostituting herself…」
As soon as those words left my mouth, I felt something hot curdle in my lower abdomen.
Maybe I want her all to myself…
「The young nobles of Abram would surely be interested.」
「…Does that mean you will everyone think that the girl wearing the enchanted mask is Olivia-san?」
「…I have the desire to invite the real Olivia, too. Oh, right. I could make her wear a different mask, so she could get the scoop on the nobles.」
「…Master Elliot, you have really become resilient… No, villainous.」
Astarte, her eyes moistened, stood up from her chair. I had a rush of lust watching her walk away to prepare a drink. Perhaps I had riled myself up, too. I would wait until tomorrow to see if this idea was polished enough.
「Astarte, stop right there. …Take off your clothes.」
Right now, I want this woman.
I wondered when the day will come, when I could turn Astarte mine from the bottom of her heart.