Translator: Adam Seacord
It wasn’t that unusual for the men in the circus to buy a woman for the night. I didn’t disclose that I was the backer of the establishment, but I gave them invitations to advertise Spider’s Web. Sometimes, I guided them through a hidden route (that include the underground waterways) to keep the fact hidden that they belonged to the circus. All for business.
Of course, I had discussed it with Gordon. As it turned out, in order to keep members of the circus from getting into salacious situations…Especially with married women, he was looking for some kind of situation to take care of the men’s urges.
After Gordon asked for my advice, I had recommended Spider’s Web as a brothel less likely to cause any trouble. In exchange, I had the circus members advertise Spider’s Web and distribute invitations, through Gordon.
So, it was only natural that Nubia would be one of the customers at the Web.
Now that he was working as a mercenary and adventure on the side, I assumed that he was doing pretty well for himself. He was single, and there was nothing unusual about wanting some action out of his daughter’s knowledge.
However, rather than being introduced to the brothel through Gordon, Nubia had come to me directly, in secret. He wanted to keep his visits to the brothel from the other members of the circus. So, I ended up navigating him there. Nothing unusual. Yet, a thorn was caught in my mind.
As Dora had divulged to me later, Nubia had requested a small… Frankly, a very young looking girl. Dora had presented him the shortest and most underdeveloped girl, but I had no obligation to wait around while he has his prostitute. My rest of the day was consumed by returning to the shop to finish off work, and returning after a while to guide him back to the circus, and receiving a significant amount of payment from him.
Nubia made a habit of visiting Spider’s Web nearly every other day, and the girl who we had had complained that she couldn’t go on so consistently, which resulted in other girls helping out in bed to service Nubia.
After a week, I had heard a rumor of Nubia in a different situation.
「…You know the country to the east we’re in war with right now?」
Sara mumbled as she looked up at the ceiling, to break the lazy silence that had fallen in the room. After I had discovered a route through the underground waterways to get to the house Sara had been given, I made sure to always take that way other than the times that I needed to deliver merchandise.
This day, Sara had invited me when I delivered some items during the day, so I had returned at night.
In the breezy, post-coital exhaustion with Sara, I heard this story from her while lying next to her. A noble from a neighboring country had set a bounty for a large Southern man. Apparently, the bounty had still not been claimed after two years. Some adventurers would venture across national borders, and so would merchants. Some trade and interaction resumed, even in the middle of a war… Which led to this kind of information spreading.
「…What are the odds it’s Nubia?」
I pulled Sara, who was about to get up, back down on the bed to ask her this. After a beat, Sara continued as she doodled on my chest with her finger.
「This man was bought by a big-name noble as a gladiator, as a gift for his daughter, although she was already married, so she was the lady of the house. Then, one day that man killed the lady of the house, and ran away, taking the lady’s young daughter with him. In the commotion, he apparently killed a dozen soldiers or so.」
Nubia’s, and Nem’s faces came to my mind. While they looked nothing alike, they seemed like a loving father and daughter to me.
「The noble, the father of the murdered lady, put a bounty on his granddaughter’s safe return and the man’s head. The man escaped across the border, and hasn’t been captured for over two years, now…」
「Sara, you saw the circus, didn’t you?」
「There was a large Southern man in the circus. And a little girl. Even the countryside court of Abram, these things are known. It’s a good hiding spot, considering we’re at war with them, but…」
I got her drift.
「It has nothing to do with the adventurers, and for the safety of civilians, the soldiers would have to be cautious…」
「I doubt that the circus itself doesn’t have a few secrets… You know the ringleader there, don’t you?」
Oh, I see.
Sara was implying for me to look into this somehow, or else, get Gordon on our side. My guess was that Olivia was pulling some strings for me.
Well, Olivia knows Gordon, too.
「So, you want me to look into it.」
「It’s bugging Olivia. Besides, some of the nobles in the city may try to use their private soldiers to snag the bounty for fame… Even though they couldn’t possibly claim a bounty from a country we’re at war with. After the monster in the Man-Eating Dungeon disappeared, they just want some big story and popularity on their side.」
Why would the nobles be seeking attention now?
It had only been a month since I… Well, the Monster of the Man-Eating Dungeon had been defeated. Earl Abram seemed to be sitting easy for now.
As for the war, the soldiers had returned to base to prepare for summer. That being said, the fight over the border was across a large river, and I had heard that no major events had taken place in the past few years. Making a name for oneself on the battlefield seemed quite difficult to do.
「House Lambert is leading this fight for Olivia’s hand in marriage. All the birds in court are chirping about who Olivia will be married to before the soldiers leave for battle again this summer. 」
I must have looked really displeased.
「You really are jealous. Especially when it comes to Olivia.」
You stumped me there, Sara.
「I’m surprised by it, myself… Also by how I feel about you.」
I wrapped my arm around her waist, and pulled her close. Sara let out an exhausted sigh, and leaned into me for a cuddle.
「How many girls’ hearts are you going to steal like this? …Really, I got hit by a quite a thief here.」
A day had passed. I asked Gordon about it, and like I had heard before, he confirmed the story that Nubia was an ex-mercenary who joined the circus late, and Nem was his daughter he brought along. They joined the gang a little over a year ago.
「Nem was light on her feet, and she already knew how to dance and stuff like that. Nubia’s dead wife must have taught her… We’re all tumbleweeds here, no one likes their past dug up. So, no. I haven’t looked into it.」
It was mid-day, and we were in the office of the Acrobatic Horse Riders before the show. Everyone was running around trying to prepare for the show, so I didn’t even need to request to be alone with Gordon. Although, I did double check around the tent.
The tea that Gordon had poured for me delivered a pleasant scent. The tea, which I was told came from a farm down south, smelled fruity.
「I’m not a good liar, so I’ll tell you now. It’s a rumor I heard, and it hasn’t spread yet…」
And so, I abbreviated what I had heard from Sara. Gordon contemplates with his brows tugged together.
「You heard this from… Well, I can guess it, but I won’t say it. Give my thanks to whoever. Still, all I can do is pretend I don’t have a clue… Nem climbed right up to be one of the best acrobats, and songstress, in the circus, and he doesn’t much in his repertoire, but it’s not like Nubia isn’t liked. He was a mercenary to begin with.」
「Right. There’s nothing I can do about it, but I just wanted to let you know. Some noble might jump the gun and start a fight.」
Which was probably Olivia’s top concern. First of all, notifying Gordon of the danger in this situation was not a bad thing, and if I could earn his trust, it would make it easier for me to look into things. But I didn’t expect Gordon’s response:
「…Actually, Nubia wants out of the circus after we’re done showing here.」
「He wants out…? So he’ll go back to being a mercenary? What about Nem?」
Come to think of it, it didn’t seem unnatural. Nubia wasn’t an entertainer, which was why I was asked to connect him to mercenary and adventure work, as well as set-up an introduction to Gustav.
「I haven’t asked Nem herself, but Nubia wants to leave her with us. Sure, Nem’s still young, so she’ll have at least a few more years of making a living out of trapeze… She won’t like it, though.」
「Nem seems like a daddy’s girl.」
I remembered Nem following Nubia wherever he went.
「Elli boy. You’ve got to learn a little more about womanhood, alright?」
「Well, I guess you barely know Nem…」
Gordon was cut off there. Some clanking was heard from outside of the tent, and a familiar, booming voice came bursting in.
「Hey Gordon! Still breathin’!? Ooh, Elli Boy. You’re here, too. I heard you were in Abram, but Astarte’s not with you today?」
「Ah, Gustav. You old geezer, you must have really turned off Lady Death, huh? So, who’s this Astarte? Not Olivia, eh? And that’s not the girl that watches our shop, either.」
Gustav and Gordon used to be in the same mercenary team, and each of them has been the lover of my dead mother at some point. Only Gustav knew that I had been a dungeon master, but I generally didn’t have much power over men who looked after me when I was a kid.
「Olivia? …Oh, wasn’t she your only friend when you were wee? Hey, you found each other again?」
That’s right. Gustav was on the battlefield, so even though he knows about Daria and Sara, he doesn’t know about Olivia.
「Um, well. She’s Earl Abram’s heir…」
These two men, each of them in the dawn of their old age, seemed to have chosen me as their first entertainment for their reunion party.
「Ah, well. It sucks there isn’t much time until the show.」
「Well talk later.」
「「About lot’s of things, now, won’t we?」」
I was relieved that I had chosen to meet Gordon right before his show, but I ended up being interrogated for another hour… What a day.
I had explained the situation to Gustav and Gordon, and asked them to look into the matter without causing too much of a ruckus. On top of that, I had asked them to, if they see fit, to keep Nubia and Nem on the circus rather than firing them.
There was a good chance that the wanted man Sara told me about was Nubia. If that was the case, Nubia was most likely attempting to head to the battlefield as a mercenary to hide out any pursuits. He couldn’t take Nem out to the battlefield. As long as Nem was separated from Nubia, who would catch anyone’s eyes in this country, she would most likely be safe. Nubia’s decision was a logical one.
I had let my thoughts wonder, it was nearing dusk already, although the sun had been staying up later and later as summer approached. Gordon and Gustav were about to drink through the night, but I wasn’t about to be dragged into that.
Even by the time Layla left the store after a day’s work, it wasn’t dark outside. It was around dusk when Nubia came to the shop.
「…Can you take me through the pathway.」
I had been taking Nubia to Spider’s Web through the basement of my shop. Of course, it was a separate way from the one I usually used. I placed a small candle in a holder, and lit it from the fireplace in the kitchen before handing it over.
I watched as Nubia scrunched his large body and squeeze down into the basement, and closed the opening behind him. After two hours or so, I will reopen it since Nubia will be coming back. That was all I had to do.
Maybe I should ask him…
A knock at the shop’s front door.
It’s pretty late for a customer…
Although it was unlikely, it could have been a soldier in pursuit of Nubia, so I looked out of the Eye at the entrance of the store. I wasn’t expecting this particular call.
「Nem… Isn’t it? What are you doing here this late?」
Nem was standing outside of the door. Her alabaster skin reminded me that she most likely was not related by blood to Nubia. At this point, I wasn’t even sure if she was his daughter at all.
「Elliot-san… Umm, where’s, Nubia?」
Nubia was followed…?
「Nubia? Wait, what are you talking about?」
I tried my hand at denial, but Nem kept her gaze straight at me. In her big eyes, I saw a gleam unbelievably bright compared to her usual self.
「Nubia’s been going to bed women, isn’t he? I know. But…」
She was clenching her hands. She forcefully pursed her lips, then continued:
「I don’t want Nubia to sleep with other women. I’m going to be Nubia’s woman. So I want to see Nubia!」
Her voice wasn’t loud, but it rang with determination. I didn’t know any details about their lives, but I was sure of one thing.
Her determination is taking her down a path where no one has a happy ending… And she knows it.
And yet, she spoke those words. I finally understood what Gordon was trying to say earlier in the day.
What crossed my mind, was the song Nem was singing in the circus performance I saw, and Gordon’s narration over it.
「The woman and her daughter had become evil. They had long lost their humanity and the law of the gods. Oh, pity them! The one man they both lusted over was once her husband, and once her father!」