Translator: Adam Seacord
Diana’s body began to slowly paralyze. I forcibly jerked her right hand in front of the eyes to shut out the leer. I could have been over powered soon, or even captured, if Gratina decided to call some henchmen. I didn’t want to result to violence… I had to change my approach.
「…You’re quite aggressive, Miss Housekeeper.」
A jarring shift of tone in the words that came out of Diana’s mouth, although they were still in her voice. Gratina looked surprised for an instance, but immediately wore a pleased smile.
「…I was hoping you would come out to play.」
She’s bluffing. I just have to raise her.
「This body belongs to me, and although I have several more, I would be a little inconvenienced if you left with it. Let’s see… May call you Gratina the Witch?」
I presented some information to make her think.
「I prefer that strangers didn’t call me by my name. In any case, you should be the one to introduce yourself. I don’t even know your name.」
「Ha ha ha, how intriguing. I thought it was you who had been snooping around the Assassin’s Guild. Was I mistaken?」
I didn’t mind giving her a name, but I wanted to see how much she knew. I was in luck if she made a false assumption, but all I had to do was not confirm any of her suspicions. Gratina’s expression grew stern for a moment.
「Oh, by the way. Your Cursing Eyes are quite impressive. Did they teach that in the Academy, too? Or else…」
Her expression flickered again. This time, in anger. It wasn’t something you would learn at an academy. She was probably born with it. The tide had turned. If she decided to change the subject, that was my chance.
「Not too many are as prolific as I am, but… I don’t think we were talking about me.」
I could see that she didn’t know much with certainty. She was less eloquent, and seemed desperate now. …Of course, I was desperate, too.
「Who am I? I’m sure you have guess, Gratina. There are only so many places I could have come from.」
I reinforced her suspicion. If she was going to confirm it anyway, I was going to use this opportunity to corrupt the details of the information.
「You’re the monster from the Grandle mines… The Man Eating Dungeon. I would have never expected you to show up here. 」
I wonder if she thought that she had snatched a confirmation to her suspicion from what I had said.
「Well, it was a bother to deal with the army every time they came to visit. I decided to meddle in the civil war a little.」
I wasn’t lying, but I wasn’t telling the whole truth, either. There were many possibilities roaming through her mind, and Gratina had not deciphered my powers. I was hoping she would overestimate them.
She wasn’t stupid. She wouldn’t be standing here if she easily underestimated people in optimism. That’s why I wanted to guide this negotiation to create a mutually agreed upon distance between us. Gratina took a moment to think, and before she could speak, I threw in more information to rattle her mind:
「Oh, you’re thinking about the Southern giant.」
She seemed to be thinking of something else, but her mind was trapped, now. I had seen Gustav or Old-man Gemma use this trick every now and then. Gratina seemed the type who had always had the upper hand in negotiations. Her defense seemed lackluster.
「What a shame. If I had known more back then, I would have loved to have him.」
That was a lie. But by sprinkling some truth, lies are more difficult to prove.
「At that time, I hadn’t finished devouring this girl, yet. I knew she was watching you, and something was going on. But there was nothing I could do.」
I sprinkled in some misinformation here. “I hadn’t finished devouring” implied that it took time for me to control others. It was also a lie that I couldn’t do anything. It was partially true that Diana was looking into House Lambert.
I was sure that she wouldn’t take these at face value, and I was ready for her to know that it was a lie that I couldn’t have done anything about the events in the underground waterways. It was natural for anyone to try and conceal their powers from potential enemies. But my number-one priority at this time was to plant misinformation about me in her mind. I wanted her to think that I was a monster who could take over people’s minds, rather than turning them into monsters. That way, her attention would be directed towards people, rather than objects.
…As Enchanters, I estimated that she had the upper hand. I supposed that the jewel Arachne was holding was created by Gratina. I couldn’t create something like that. I could create Eyes and Ears, but if Gratina were to inspect it closely, she would see right through them. I had to convince her that she couldn’t possibly know where my other half was.
「It’s an apt name, “Man Eating Dungeon.” No wonder no one knows who you are… Does Earl Abram’s daughter belong to you, too?」
She threw this one at me, out of the blue. She was grasping for information.
「She nearly did…」
I said, regardless if she would believe it or not. If she believe that it would take time to overtake people, this explanation would make sense?
「I thought I had a chance during the parade, but I couldn’t get close. If I have a chance, I’ll swallow her up.」
Then, I glared at Gratina, aggressively. I could tell that her body stiffened for just a moment. She might have felt the possibly of being devoured, and thought of a method to defend herself.
「So, Miss Housekeeper. Why do you work for House Lambert? Someone like you could… Well, already have it under your control…」
It was my turn to interrogate. It was possible that Gratina was already in full control of House Lambert.
「Oh, please. I’m only the housekeeper.」
That was a miss. I only gave her time to collect herself.
「The Lamberts are such wonderful people. I considered them worthy to provide my services to.」
Her expression was calm, and had a hint of acceptance of a defeat.
「Oh, excuse me. I’m not as well acquainted with the human society as I should be. You can’t rise to power with skill alone. I see. It’s somewhat tragic…」
Gratina was, albeit low-ranking, of noble birth, and was talented enough to graduate the Academy. I would have expected her to be the Court Magician of Palmira. There was a reason why she was instead a mere housekeeper for a noble in a city (much farther in the country compared to Palmira). I assumed that it was because of a disadvantage she was born with… Her Cursing Eyes.
In Gratina’s left eye, small red patterns dusted her rick golden eyes like stars in the night. If she was born with that eye, she had no chance of living a normal life as a woman of noble birth.
「…I have no desire to take over this town to begin with. I just want an environment where I can have what I want, with no one telling me what to do. Let men deal with politics.」
I guessed that, against her better judgement, she let a part of her true feelings out in that statement.
「Then, can’t we form a reasonably distanced alliance? I want to live out my life without the hustle and bustle. Of course, you might notice some casualties… But it won’t cause a scene.」
I, in turn, delivered her a mixture of truth and lies.
「What do you, a monster, want with this town? Won’t you enlighten me for future reference?」
Gratina had relaxed somewhat. She looked like she identified me as someone with whom she could at least negotiate, even without trust.
「Let’s see… I don’t need to feed on too many humans. One or two a years is plenty. Rather… I would like to use ten or so prostitutes and run a small brothel or something. My needs aren’t too deviated from that of a man.」
I responded with a mixture of lies, bluffs, the truth, and informational traps hoping to extract information from her.
「If need be, I’ll just create another dungeon here. I’m only lazy, so I prefer not to do anything I can get away without.」
「If need be, you can call upon monsters…?」
Gratina’s eyes gleamed. Sparks were flying here without a single spell of magic being used.
「Sure, it will take me some time to prepare a large horde, though. Would you like me to conjure a horde of skeletons outside the city?
「No. No need for that, yet. But I may need to ask you of that favor, soon.」
「When the time comes, contact me through this girl, although she doesn’t remember much of me.」
「Well. They say ignorance is bliss. She finally made it to the top of the Assassin’s Guild. I rather have her working with enthusiasm.」
I could feel Diana’s small cry of disdain from inside of me. Of course, she wasn’t stupid as to let herself show, so she remained quiet. I gave Diana an order, and turned to Gratina again.
「Then, I’ll be going. You carry on with this girl.」
「Oh, before you do. What’s your name?」
「…You can call me the Man Eating Monster.」
With that, I returned Diana’s body to her. The hypnotic paralysis had already worn off. To my delight, without me having to tell her so, Diana resumed the conversation they were having before I took over.
「You knew… I killed it.」
Gratina responded after a few seconds.
「The Snake Princess was uncooperative to the change in leadership… It was a shame we had to lose it from our arsenal.」
Diana continued to act as if no time had passed. I presumed that she was attempting to make sure what Diana was saying. She should end up at the conclusion that the master of the Man Eating Dungeon killed the snake princess, and the Assassin’s Guild had been manipulated into remembering that they had killed her. Gratina could only imagine how many bodies in Abram had become the avatars of the Man Eating Monster.
「…Yes. I would like to continue to our humble business as before with your organization.」
With that, Gratina slowly rose.
「Thank you for seeing me today. It was very insightful.」
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