Translator: Adam Seacord
After my work was done at the Hidden Temple, I left Astarte in charge and returned to my shop. As long as I couldn’t be sure when they were watching me, I had to keep playing the part of the Magic Merchant Elliot. So, I returned to the shop through the underground waterways. It had become rather difficult to visit New Town as well.
Whenever I did use the waterways, Miyabi usually guarded me. Normally, I would consider it overkill, but at times like these, I couldn’t help but be grateful. I might have spent more time walking with Miyabi, who couldn’t risk being spotted outside of the underground waterways, more than I did anywhere else.
While we were walking a waterway at some distance from both the Assassin’s Guild headquarters and the shop, we came across a small bridge crossing another waterway.
「Master, Master. I have to tell you something. This is my secret spot, and… Look at that, Master.」
Miyabi usually kept herself submerged, but this day she spoke to me on our way back, which was rare. I turn around to see Miyabi reaching out of the water and pointing to the ceiling. Following the direction of her point upward, a ventilation hole revealed itself to me on the ceiling.
All it was, was a hole the size of a small chimney. Neither Miyabi nor I could get through it, and I doubted even Harry or Fred would have a difficult time trying. And yet, the crooked square that I could almost cover with my palm from where I was standing… Illuminated the dark, pre-dawn sky and the shining stars within it. …All the stars far, far out of our reach. The stars above the clouds that even Nem, who could fly, knew nothing about. All the stars looked like a frame of painting on the small canvas on the ceiling of this underground waterway. …I tried to recall the last time I looked up at the night’s sky.
「…You can see the sky form here, too.」
「Those are stars, aren’t they? I don’t know what stars are, but they are shiny and pretty like jewels… Miyabi had told me not to, but I would come here alone once in a while to look up at the sky from that window♪」
「…Only from here?」
「I could have been discovered if I went outside… So, this is my very own secret spot. 」
I didn’t realize…
Since Miyabi kept herself hidden from everyone but Arachne, she couldn’t even be free within the Assassin’s Guild. The only place where she could have any semblance of life was the scarcely populated underground waterways. And that tiny skylight was Miyabi’s only glimpse of freedom. That hadn’t change too much since I came around.
「Daria told me the other day… That there are stars that stay in the sky, and stars that shoot out of the sky. She said that if I see a shooting star, and if I make a wish right away, that it would come true. She told me.」
Did Miyabi find a shooting star that has crossed her tiny skylight? …Since she had heard this from Daria, I understood that she learned this rather recently. Perhaps not enough time had passed for her to find one.
「…Master. You took Cagome from me… But you’ve given me freedom and kindness. Beside, now that I am yours… Well, I thought, I could share my secret with you… And, I wanted to look up at the sky with you…」
…Then, it hit me. This was pretty much extent of Miyabi’s token of affection. And the extent of her wishes.
Miyabi always expressed her adoration for me without hesitation, and always asked to be bedded. I liked her open directness, but it was telling of her lack of bargaining chips. Miyabi, who was a slave to men from a young age, then protected by Arachne, had no opportunity to mature on her own… Without worries, for better or worse, she had no chances to grow. So, the only token of affection she could offer me was her body and heart. And what she asked in return were limited to things in her very narrow perception of life. She had no skills to discern or investigate from our conversations what I wanted or liked, and she didn’t know the majority of pleasures in this world. Even with her resilient body of a lamia, strong enough to take down a seasoned warrior, the range of Miyabi’s desires were tragically narrow. She wanted me to bed her, call her name, compliment her, pat her head, be near her… All very trifle wishes, but perhaps she couldn’t even comprehend any desire beyond those.
…I thought I finally understood why Daria and Miyabi were close. Since Daria was born on an impoverished farm, raised without education nor an option for independence, and had no other option than to become the village’s communal object after her father’s death, she was very similar to Miyabi, who spent her whole life in a cage.
「One day, let’s look at the stars together on a bigger canvas. It could be just the two of us, but… I would like Daria, Nem and Nubia, and everyone else to be there, too.」
「Master… Daria was right. You are so very kind♪」
Miyabi’s tone filled with joy. Even with the small acknowledgement of her excitement, the burden on my heart was lifted a little.
…That being said, what on earth has Daria been telling her?
「Daria said that she was in a cage for so long, just like me. That she knew you for so long, Master, and she always admired you… You were kind to her when she really needed it… That you really saved her.」
Out of all things to… What?
「Miyabi. Daria said she knew me for a long time…?」
「Yes. But that she had only spoken to you after a long time. Then, you taught her how to read and write… I don’t understand all of it, but Daria seems really happy when she talks about you.」
…I finally grasped the source of the tugging in my mind that had persisted throughout this conversation. Daria was beginning to regain her memories from when she was a human.
I couldn’t quite gather my thoughts, but Daria was working hard for me. Besides, there was a mountain of things I had to deal with at the moment.
When I returned to the shop from the underground waterways, Daria was already up and preparing us a light breakfast. The sun wasn’t even up. While Daria was boiling water for us in the small fireplace, I wanted to ask her about her memory through my drowsiness.
Daria turned around with a brush of worry on her expression, and said:
「Master, do you know how exhausted you look?」
Before I could say any more. …True, my body was weighing me down all over. While I used my magic to turn those seven men into monsters, but I wasn’t bedding any women so I didn’t recuperate any magical powers in return. Perhaps that’s why I looked tired.
「Master, it’s not because of your magic. You haven’t had much sleep for a while. The shop will be open again today… Please try to sleep for a bit. 」
I wanted to ask her about her memory, but I couldn’t get my brain to keep running. Besides, although I could open the shop a little later, I had to keep business running. While thinking about Old-Man Jemma gave me a migraine, the orders from the luncheon were undoubtedly real.
I know there were a few things I had to enchant before…
When I came to, there was a bowl of warm soup in front of me. It was the kind that was a combination of condensed soup with hot water, blended to a comfortable thickness and warmth. As soon as the soup hit my stomach, my body was rapidly warmed from the inside out. I couldn’t think. I had to admit that I was really exhausted. Without objection, I let Daria guide me back to my room in the back of the shop, and collapsed on my bed. My consciousness sank into the depths of sleep. In the midst of that, I could tell that Daria held her hand on my head. …But I couldn’t see her expression.
I had a dream. I couldn’t remember any of it, but I feel like someone was calling me for a long time.
「Master. Wake up, Master.」
…With my body being shaken, I emerged from the sludge. I still wasn’t completely awake, but I could see that Daria was panicking. That could only mean trouble.
My sentence fractured by my half-yawn.
「It is time to open the shop… But we have a customer…」
Interesting. While it was high noon, my shop wasn’t the kind to attract customers during the day. I got up, and de-wrinkled my clothes. My outfit wasn’t unfit for a shopkeeper, but I was worried about some sweat odor since I had slept in it. If I had changed, I would have made them wait. So, I decided to deal with the customer before changing.
「I’ll be right there. Daria, could you boil us some water? I don’t know if they’ll be long, but if we get caught up talking we’ll need some tea.」
「Well, it’s Layla-san, and someone else with her…」
Oh, Layla. She would be the one to come at this time of day.
「Oh, I see.」
Layla must have spread the word about my shop like we had discussed. I assumed that she had brought a coworker after her night shift.
「Um, there’s someone else, who I don’t recognize.」
…Daria’s sounded worried. And normally, I would have picked up on it. However, I was only half awake and rushing to get out… And I must have had my guard down, hearing that Layla was there.
「Layla-san, I apologize. We don’t exactly have rigid hours of operation…」
I came out into the store, and stopped dead in my tracks. There was a man in the entrance. He was beefy, almost as much as Nubia, but very toned. His black hair was short and orderly. His outfit was flashy but definitely expensive. His expression was devoid of wary, but filled with confidence and knowledge that, although he was used to looking down on people physically, he didn’t need to do so mentally. Everything about this man exuded power. I nearly fell to my knees, by kept my legs unbent.
Behind the man, there was Layla… And a woman, who wore a cap covering her eyes and an androgynous outfit. Immediately, I recognized her as Gratina. But I couldn’t let them on that fact.
「Welcome. Are you… Layla-san’s… Boss?」
Our eyes met. His eyes were powerful, in a different way from Gratina’s Cursing Eyes. They didn’t contain any magic, but I felt like a powerful force of will was crashed against me. To pull me in, or to shoot me down. Then, his eyes crinkled all of a sudden.
「Guilty as charged. Layla must have told me about you. Anyway, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lubreo. Layla’s master.」
「…It’s an honor to have you. You may have heard from Layla-san already, but I… My name is Elliot. I handle magical items here. But please come in.」
As soon as those words left my mouth, Lubreo stepped into the shop without hesitation. He moved with efficiency. Evidently, his prowess and combat was superior to most. Layla gave me an apologetic glance. Gratina held her eyes on me as if to appraise my worth.
…I didn’t expect them to dig so deep so quickly. I was so distracted by Gratina, that I had forgotten an important piece of information: Luberio, who was next-in-line of House Lambert, was the very man who employed Gratina as her subordinate.
「Elliot, I’m sorry to cut our pleasantries short, but I have questions for you.」
…It looked like I had a long afternoon ahead of me.
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