Translator: Adam Seacord
「…So, you’re just recuperating your magic until morning? I would have given you a room if you’d came to me.」
Dora said with pity. It had been awhile since I had visited the Spider’s Web, and my first time coming to the annex. More accurately, this was the shop I had bought following Astarte’s suggestion. It was slightly smaller than the Spider’s Web, but it contained some tasteful décor and larger rooms. I was on the second floor, above the cute and roomy bar down stairs.
「I didn’t have the time. Daria’s been working almost non-stop, and worst case scenario, I’ll have to leave the shop to you guys and make a run for it.」
I tried to sound nonchalant, but my stomach was aching. I wouldn’t have had the time to come to the annex at all, except that I wanted to confirm something, since the opening of the annex was happening before turbulence hit. …I had slim hope of grasping a trump card.
「Master Elliot. You seem tired.」
Astarte emerged from the back. I haven’t explained much to the women of Spider’s Web. Dora knew a little about what was going on, but other than Astarte, no one was aware of my current situation.
Astarte was wearing what looked like a nun’s attire that I had first seen her in, but more titillating and immoral. I would have called her a priestess to the god of lust.
「Hey, I knew you’d look great in that, sis.」
Dora exclaimed in glee, while her outfit, unlike her usual and more revealing ones, clung to her body without showing much skin. They both wore a mask that covered their face from the nose-up. On the foreheads of the mask, there were the magical gems I had created… To prevent anyone from recognizing them.
「I wouldn’t call the masquerade a noble’s game… But the richer they get, more people want to have secret conversations with their identities hidden.」
It all started when Astarte said so. Wanting to conceal one’s position and identity was a familiar feeling to me. That was bound to be something that, not only nobles, but the merchants and townspeople would have demand for. Especially, if their secrets involved activities in bed. Anyone with a family or in public eye would want to avoid any nasty rumors.
The Hidden Temple… That was the name of this place. The annex of Spider’s Web had a different sign out front as to not tip off that it was run by the same owner as Spider’s Web. On the surface, it was only a high-end bar, where anyone could enter. However, there were two things that set it apart from an ordinary bar. The interior was dimly lit, partitioned like a maze, and small lanterns illuminated each table. The other were unique house rules.
When a customer enters the bar, they are given two rules. One is to wear a mask at all times while inside. The other is to address others by the name on their mask, and never by their real name. …Most people would only take it as a little theming.
The bar on the first floor was referred to as The Chapel. Many of the employees in the restaurant were ex-prostitutes who couldn’t work at the Spider’s Web any longer, whether by illness or any other reason. It all started when Astarte and Dora proposed this to provide a livelihood for these girls.
Towards the back of The Chapel were a few small rooms called the Confessionals. These each had an exit to the street some distance away from the building, and were soundproof. These rooms were only open to regulars who needed to discuss deep secrets. They cost a lot to rent out, but with luck, these were going to bring in considerable revenue. These were all the amenities open to the public.
A customer with a referral, or some customers from Spider’s Web were allowed to enter the room behind the Confessionals. After climbing a tight sets of stairs, there is a room with a small metal plate that reads Cathedral on the door. There, the customers were given special masks. These masks contained the magical lenses I had created in the eyes. The cathedral was veiled in near darkness, where no one could see anything without wearing these masks. Through the eyes of a mask, they could see the oval room adorned with extravagant décor. …The Spider’s Web annex, complete with our prostitutes of the highest caliber.
In The Cathedral, customers are addressed as worshippers, and the prostitutes are addressed as priestesses… Playing on the prostitution that took place in temples, historically. Naturally, all women there were carefully selected from the top tier of Spider’s Web. The initial customer base only consisted of the regulars whom these girls trusted, and their guests. The capacity of customers was a maximum of eight at a time. This was in consideration of the size of The Cathedral and its alcoves, along with the number of people I was able to influence with my magic at once.
In The Cathedral, the rule was to never address someone by their name, even if one recognized the other. This also applied to the entire establishment in order to conceal the customers’ identities… That’s where I would set my trap.
The gems implemented in the masks had another feature than to allow the wearer to see in the dark. Anyone wearing the mask could be misidentified as someone else… With my magic, I would control their recognition. For example, by attributing a certain mask to Astarte, no matter if Dora or Shiro or anyone else wore the mask, the customers would recognize that person as Astarte.
Of course, this trap was far from perfect. I could manipulate the recognition of voice somewhat, but I couldn’t meddle with the conversations themselves. If two people who knew each other well would meet, they would easily see through the deception. But, what if they didn’t? What if they saw someone whose face they knew well, but didn’t know them personally?
The Hidden Temple was not only a place to farm my magical powers, but also the grounds for these kinds of experimentation. Still, because I had rigged up settings throughout the building in order to establish this spell, it only affected The Cathedral. Even with all this, this was pretty much thrown together however I could. It was nowhere near its completion.
The mask I wore was Number 0, titled “Bishop.” A blank half-mask with a horn on only one side of the face. While inside of The Cathedral, one could only vaguely recognize the sex and body type, as well as voice, of whoever was wearing this mask. So, if anyone else wore this mask, even when I wasn’t there, people would think I was. …Of course, I had no intention of divulging who the Bishop of the Cathedral was.
「Master Elliot. It’s almost time.」
Astarte told me, as some hustle and bustle could be heard from the floor below. We couldn’t have possibly expected any customers on opening night without a marketing strategy. I had sent out invitations to the regulars of the girls from Spider’s Web who now worked in The Chapel. I advertised a cover of two silver coins per guest, but offered to credit their own tab if they came with three or more guests. Spider’s Web was never a high-end brothel, and neither were its customers. Still, thanks to Shiro and Lily’s advertisement in part, we had some adventurers and mercenaries come in to form a relatively diverse crowd.
Normally, adventurers and mercenaries do not have much of a relationship with citizens who live in the city. Still, it seemed that the masquerade theme was able to close that gap somewhat. I needed to extend the customer base to the wealthier crowd eventually, but a diverse crowd meant that each customer’s identity would be further protected, so I had no intention of losing any customers.
「Smooth sailing, it sounds like.」
I was relieved to hear the initial success in the voices down stairs.
「Not all of the girls were happy to sell their bodies. Elli- …Right, you’re the Bishop here… I’m grateful for you.」
My conscience was pricked a little from what Dora said. In truth, I had no right to be thanked. I had turned the prostitutes into monsters without their knowledge so I could control them as I pleased. Even the girls downstairs were under my control enough for me to peak into their minds a little bit. As for Harry and Fred, who running around as waiters throughout the hall, I had completely turned them into monsters.
「I’m just using them to my ends. If that provides them a livelihood, I’m fine with that.」
「For a heartless monster, you sure are a softy sometimes.」
Dora laughed with spectator’s glee.
「We’ll have some customers at The Cathedral, soon. Don’t you crash until you finish your spiel.」
We had seven customers that day. None of them were rich, exactly, but a few of them were in position of reasonable power within the city, like a castle guard and an inn’s bookkeeper. The men, each wearing a mask, are guided in by Harry and Fred. They sat on comfortable sofas in a mixture of nervousness and anticipation.
「Welcome, my seven invited guests. Please call me the Bishop.」
The men looked confused, and I couldn’t blame them. Before them stood an androgynous stranger, instead of the woman who had invited them.
「The women… The priestesses that protect this cathedral are preparing themselves to welcome you. In the meantime, allow me a short sermon as to our establishment.」
It did feel slightly weird to be mindful of androgynous diction, but I was used to sales pitches. I continued without pausing:
「This evening is a merry one. The doors to our cathedral have been opened for the first time. As you may already know, no fees whatsoever will be charged to you tonight.」
Nearly half the men nod in hearing this.
「In exchange, I ask of you a small favor. Please, tell your friends and neighbors to spread the word about our establishment… Only to trustworthy characters, of course. I ask you to adorn the deacon’s robe and go on a mission to spread the word of our temple. If you would indulge me in this favor, please show your agreement in your silence.」
With that, I gestured toward the bedded sofas. No one said a word.
「Then, our contract is complete. Let us call the priestesses to anoint our deacons.」
I rang the small bell I held in my hand. Astarte and Dora bring in the five prostitutes, the top five of Spider’s Web, into the room. Hushed cheers emerge from the men, along with a whistle or two.
「Thank you for your patience, my seven chosen deacons. Allow me to introduce myself as the head priestess.」
Astarte carried herself so well that I felt like I was listening to a sermon in a real temple. Still, her tone veiled a titillating ring that tickled men’s desires. That may have sprouted from her nature as a succubus, or just her nature.
「In memorial of the opening of the secret cathedral in this hidden temple, you were chosen. As deacons who serve the god of this cathedral… Flood these priestesses with your seed and consummate in this immoral ritual.」
「…And that the spiel. Have fun. Like we’ve said before, it’s our opening night, so have whoever you want as much as you want, tonight only… But make sure to spread the word, okay?」
Dora complimented Astarte’s words with a more realistic reminder. These seven customers were invited tonight to advertise the business to various classes of people around the town, and that’s why the women were free that night… That was the spiel.
「D-Dora… I gotta ask you something.」
「You have to call me the Cat Priestess, here.」
Dora reprimanded a customer. Even under the guise of play, we had to keep the house rules strict in order to make it second nature. Otherwise, it would be pointless.
「Cat Priestess… When you say ‘as much as you want’… Does that include you, and that… Head Priestess…Too?」
「Of course♪ Just play nice with the other customers. Try not to fight over anyone.」
「Deacon. If you so desire, several deacons may enter a ritual with one priestess, and vice versa. You may take your favorite girl to a room, or you may spring to action right here as if to show off the ritual… Now, choose your priestess. 」
Each man took the hand of the girl of their choosing, and pulled them close. The women handed over chalices, and poured drinks into them. Sheepish petting began.
At the same time, I retreated into an alcove in the back, and lit some aphrodisiacs. A thin veil of sticky sweetness filled the rule, and lust began to flare in the men’s eyes.
The room could not be seen from The Cathedral, but I had prepare water in it, so I could surveil The Cathedral, the Confessionals, and the Chapel out front. This was the depths of the temple. I was sure that there would be no trouble as long as Astarte was there, but I could never be sure. After double-checking my steps, I began the ritual.
With my introduction, I had already consigned them to the contract. In their silence, they had already agreed to become deacons who will serve the temple. Amidst the smoky aphrodisiac, they will bed the women whom I had turned into monsters… And without even knowing it, they would be under my control.
Under my control, but under the delusion of free will, they will bring to the temple the most powerful person they know. The most I could turn at a time was seven, and on average, I assumed that I could only turn about three a day. Still, if I could weave my way into people in power at various sects of the city… My spider’s web would soon encompass the Waterway City of Abram. Then, and only then, will my dungeon be erect on this town.
The only question was if I could accomplish it in time.
More than anything else, I needed time.