I received an invitation to a luncheon with Jenma Co. a few nights later.
Whether they believed Dahlia was my trusted secretary, or that the two of us were in a de facto relationship, they allowed her to accompany me as well.
Well, the business owners were much more popular than me, so perhaps it was inevitable that they had made that assumption.
From what I had heard, it was something like a gathering of all the prominent business owners in Abrams, and those without a certain level of credence were not invited.
I had been aware of the rumors about the luncheon beforehand, so I was sincerely grateful to have received an invite at all.
But something about the timing made me question it.
I was sure I had made the first move, but there was no guarantee that this was not my opponent’s first move.
However, I couldn’t refuse an invitation from Jenma Co., the firm with the biggest influence in Abrams, on two accounts: I couldn’t risk souring the relationship or missing out on a potential opportunity.
…. So what would I do?
「Oh Elliot, you’re here! Although I was more excited to see Dahlia, I’m happy to see that both you and your store seem to be doing well.」
As expected, from the second we exchanged greetings, Old Man Jenma let the backhand comments fly.
I grouped this person in the same category as Gustav, so I took his words as friendly banter.
Jenma Co. opened one of their riverside warehouses to host the luncheon.
The invitees were either business owners that were based in Abrams or distributors who had relationships with Jenma Co.
It was a place where conversations flowed freely regarding profitable business schemes and consultations on managing one’s business.
I was introduced to several distributors by Old Man Jenma.
There was information that was hard to come by just living in Abrams, like how the demand for paper was increasing in the city of Palmilla to the east, or how the price of steel was expected to rise due to the suspension of mining operations in the north.
Several merchants seemed to have an interest in my store that specialized in magical items.
That was to be expected since, even in a city as large as Palmilla, stores that sold magic goods were rare. And there was an understanding that those stores were only accessible to a small number of individuals such as knights and adventurers.
However, what my store handled were cheap, everyday magic tools.
Of course, the items cost at least twice as much as their non-magical counterparts, but it was still within the range of what an average person could afford.
Therefore, I was forced to stay quite a while after the luncheon had ended, in order to answer a barrage of questions.
「You say it makes an object become lighter… but is it a noticeable difference?」
「It may seem like a marginal difference for some, but for someone who carries the pot every day, there is a noticeable change. And if one were to carry many pots at once, there would be a very clear difference.」
「So the gloves, as you mentioned, are completely waterproof?」
「I would say they are more water resistant – the cloth has been reinforced with magic so that a minor spill of alcohol or rain won’t affect it. I supplied them to a circus performer outside of Abrams just the other day, and it is possible to manufacture them into hats as well. However, the cloth is a bit heavier than regular fabric.」
「Where were you able to get your hands on something like that?」
「Well, that’s a trade secret…」
In sum, I was able to sell about a month’s worth of items in a single day.
I hadn’t brought the account book that day, so I was thankful to have Dahlia with me.
「I was so glad to have you with me. I wouldn’t have been able to handle everything with those many people speaking to me at once.」
「It would have been nice if I had the power to control several people at once like Olivia… since both Master and I are useless at such things」
We carried back with us an unprecedented number of order forms, and a gift from Old Man Jenma.
The sun had not yet set, but dusk was approaching us quickly.
It was the time when the city gradually became busier.
「How about we stop for some tea」
「Are you sure, Master? … There is that cafe we found last time just around the corner…」
If anyone saw us, they would think that we were amicable coworkers, or perhaps even a young couple.
We entered the cafe, passed our gaze around the establishment before sitting down, ordered, and finally relaxed.
「Master, there are three trespassers. From what I can tell they appear to be travelers. One has concealed himself by the entrance, and the other two have entered the store」
It was Shiro’s voice.
She spoke through a magic tool, so I could only hear her voice.
This cafe was a just close enough to where Shiro was staying for the magic item to work.
It was more efficient than speaking face-to-face.
「I’m exhausted… 」
That was all I said before resting my chin in my hands in order to cover my mouth.
This was just in case they were to read my lips as I spoke, though I was probably overthinking it.
It would be a problem, however, if the shop assistant were to notice that I wasn’t speaking to Dahlia. So Dahlia spoke into the air from time to time, as if to respond to a conversation we were having to make it seem natural. Although she was not the best actress, it wasn’t too difficult to pretend to hold an ordinary conversation.
「Shiro, have they shown any signs of noticing the eyes we have in the store?」
「No. But according to Astarte who was also observing them, it seems that they have in their possession, eyes similar to yours, Master.」
…There was no doubt that it was Galatia watching from afar.
I had been correct to obstruct the pathway to the canal.
「So there hasn’t been any reaction? They haven’t found where our eyes are?」
They were hidden in the corner of the ceiling, so it was hard to imagine that they had found them.
It would be a different story if they could walk on the ceiling like Diana.
「I doubt it~. But it was obviously strange because they didn’t take the money till the very end. They were looking through the ledger and inside the desk and bedroom rather than the sale items…」
There was no doubt that they were looking into my identity.
I was being suspected.
I had used up the hideaways that I had prepared across the city for a different matter, and because of that, I had used up a good amount of the money from the store.
There was a danger that my lack of funds would raise more suspicion than, the possibility of them finding what was hidden in the underground canal, or about my connection with an assassin’s guild.
Still, it was terrifying to feel the opponent reach so close.
It was the same feeling I had when Olivia’s expeditionary force was steadily approaching, without even falling for the trap that I had set.
The opponent was much more experienced, and was in a position of power where they could control the city nobles.
And those same nobles were targeting Olivia’s life.
I wasn’t sure how to move from here…
I was jolted when Dahlia put her hand on my hand that was covering my mouth.
Her expression revealed a range of emotions – she looked concerned, but also as though she was trying to comfort me, and like she was going to laugh and cry at the same time.
「… Oh sorry, I’m okay. I was just thinking.」
I still wasn’t sure what to do.
I had just gotten used to living in this town, but I had to think of the possibility of having to conceal myself underground or leave the city for the time being.
「….. So, Shiro, were you able to confirm where the thieves went?」
「They returned to a bar in New Town. I switched places with a person from the assassin guild halfway, so I haven’t been able to confirm who they met in the bar… But the person watching is still there, so I was going to ask them later」
「… No, I want you to get them to leave immediately. There’s a possibility that we’re being watched instead. Can you get them to leave as if they’re following after someone else?」
I lost connection as she moved out of range, perhaps to get right onto the task.
Dahlia asked worriedly.
I forced myself to answer brightly,
「As we expected, it seems like the store’s been broken into. So we’ll need to act surprised when we get back」
「It’s kind of funny that you say that like it’s an obligation」she said, giggling.
Since we weren’t supposed to know about the robbery, we needed to act surprised in order to avoid suspicion. But something about my explanation had seemed to please Dahlia.
Oh well, whatever brightened her mood.
The damage was probably less than if real thieves had barged in and taken everything without reserve.
I returned to the store and proceeded to confirm what had been damaged or lost.
I asked Dahlia to let the neighboring shop owners that we had been robbed, and had her contact the town guard as well.
Before the guards arrived, I needed to confirm the opponents move, and whether or not they would fall for the trap that I had set.
Thankfully they had stolen some of the more expensive looking materials I had bought for creating magic items.
With this, I could determine the location of the robbers, even if only temporarily.
If I were Galatia, and they were my trusted subordinates, I would have told them to return everything to their original positions.
If they weren’t my subordinates, then I knew there would be no meaning in my words because no thief would leave valuables behind.
So it was natural to believe that she had allowed them to take small jewels and materials to avoid them taking anything important that would result in dire consequences.
Of the magic items, it was mainly things that seemed easier to exchange, such as throwing knives and women’s gloves.
They could have taken something larger like a pot, I thought to myself.
But there were some things that the merchants had ordered that had been depleted, which would be a hassle to replace.
Dahlia returned while I was having such thoughts.
…. I was surprised when Lyla came back with her.
「Elliot, are you okay?」
Lyla seemed genuinely concerned.
But the magic pendant on her chest was definitely an「eye」.
….What to do.
「Yeah, I’m at a loss for words. I guess the silver lining is that it happened while the two of us were gone…」
Apparently, Lyla had been on patrol in the city when she coincidentally crossed paths with Dahlia, and the two of them had called for the guards together. I asked Dahlia to take care of administrative things while I tended to Lyla.
… This conversation was most likely being overheard by Galatia.
「Lyla, do you happen to know about anything? Something about this whole thing seems strange」
How much would I reveal? How much would I be able to nullify the power of the eye?
My mind raced as I spoke.
「None of the things that were stolen were of much value… not to say that I’m not thankful but…」
I explain to her that nothing big had been stolen, and it wasn’t as though they took much with them either.
Lyla answered after thinking for a little bit.
「Maybe they didn’t know the value of the things they stole. I’m sure it’s hard to determine the worth of something if you are not familiar with magic items, and it is difficult to sell off things that are too big. Not to mention it’s easier to locate the originator if it is large.」
Hmmm, so Lyla seemed to understand that much.
Because of her situation, she seemed to know enough to predict what was going on behind the scenes.
… That made things easier for me to lead her on.
I would glean information from her by talking to her from the position of a person who knew about magic but had no idea what was going on beneath the surface.
That was what I wanted the person on the other side of the eye to believe.
… Hmmm in that case…
「Speaking of which, Lyla, did something good happen to you recently? I haven’t seen you wear that pendant before」
Lyla responded shyly,
「It was a gift from my master. He tells me to send it back to him time to time, so I’m sure its significant」
There was no doubt that it had been Galatia’s suggestion if Rubelio had told Lyla to keep it.
「Hmmm… I’m not certain because we don’t deal with these kinds of items, but I think it’s a magic pendant that allows the user to see whatever is reflected in the jewel」
「I’m not 100% certain, but I feel some faint magic coming from it…」
I said while gazing intently at the pendant, as though I had never seen anything like it.
My skills in deceit had improved if I said so myself.
It seemed what I had said had struck a chord with Lyla, as she began to blush…
「Lyla, do you happen to bathe with this pendant on…?」
「… My master only told me to wear this while I was patrolling… I was careless…」
I had hit the nail on the head.
But judging by this reaction, did Lyla not harbor any ill will towards Rubelio?
It would be simple if I could just ask her, but we weren’t yet on close enough terms.
Lyla returned home later looking troubled.
But I was cheered up by the thought that I had complicated things for Galatia a little bit.
The guards’ investigation came to a close, and I was finally able to relax that night.
Apparently, word of the robbery had even reached Old Jenma, as he had sent over a gift offering his condolences.
I hadn’t even had the chance to open Jenma’s original gift. How conscientious of him.
Though what had most likely happened was that the Lambert family, who often did business with Jenma Co., had asked the old man to invite me to the luncheon. In order for me to leave my store unattended.
He was probably unaware of that possibility, but he seemed to feel bad that I had experienced misfortune as a result of his invitation.
「Well then, shall I open the gift that he sent」
I had Dahlia bring it to me. Inside the wrapping paper were baked sweets and a single sheet of paper.
Written was a single sentence.
I staggered as soon as I read it.
At the luncheon were merchants from all over this country.
But there was no way that any one of them had known my identity. There was just no way.
….. On the paper, written in Old Jenma’s handwriting was this:
「Where exactly are you from?」
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