「I have no intention of blaming you for being manipulated」
Rubelio finally said.
「It is quite unusual to encounter a half-blood, but that in and of itself is not a bad thing. Of course, if you were using those powers for evil, it would be another story… but that doesn’t seem the case in your situation.」
He was probably even suspicious of my heritage.
I could not detect any emotion from Rubelio’s eyes.
This was not because he was an emotionless person, but it just meant that he had been trained to not reveal any more than what was necessary.
At the same time, it meant that I wasn’t able to read his true intentions.
There was no trace of the interest he had expressed before.
Whether Rubelio still saw me as a partner for negotiation… was still unclear.
But I had the feeling that if he had any intention of killing me, he wouldn’t waste his time with conversation.
Which meant, be it information about Dalia or whatever else, there were still things he wanted from me.
In that case, although we were far from having equal footing, perhaps I still had some leverage?
「I am personally of the opinion that just because one is a demon, doesn’t mean that they should automatically be killed. Of course, that is under the assumption that they haven’t ever harmed humans before.」
「… Was that directed toward me?」
He replied was immediate.
「Partially, yes. I’m hoping the other part will reach her through you.」
… was he planning to recruit demons to be his subordinates?
「Violent demons such as goblins and orcs, which bring harm to people simply by occupying the same space cannot coexist with humans. But if they have the power to mingle among humans, and live as humans, I don’t think it’s a problem to treat them as such, as long as they obey the law…. Although that is something that I could never say to the church.」
His face contorted to reveal bitter amusement at the last statement.
I have heard that the church in this country is even more severe toward demons compared to other countries.
「So am I correct to assume that you’ll keep quiet about me?」
Of course, I had no doubt that was the proposition he was making.
I won’t mention anything about you to the church, and even sure your wellbeing.
So become the intermediary between me and Dalia, and the other demons in the man-eating dungeon…
That’s what he was getting at.
「I have faith in your abilities. As long as you have connections with other demons, I must exert a margin of caution… but honestly, I would like to employ you exclusively before Jemma or Blair make their move.」
Hearing that, Layla’s face relaxed.
It seemed she was nervous that I was going to get killed. How honest, or should I say naive?
「Due to my position, though it may not compare to the explorers who have served for a long time in the military, I have come across a number of magic users my life. Many of them specialized in combat – using spells in the place of bows and arrows. The remainder were mere scholars of magic who could not practice. It is rare to meet someone like you who is both a craftsman and an innovator who uses magic in unconventional ways. 」
…. Perhaps Rubelio acknowledged me more than I anticipated.
「So Elliot, suppose there were two armies sizing each other up from either side of a large river. They’re close enough to land an arrow on the other side, but too far to aim properly. They could try to cross using a horse, but that would just make them a prime target. What would you do in this situation?」
He was probably referring to the long territorial dispute that was going on.
He wasn’t going to use my ideas on the battlefield, was je?
「… it would be another story if you could drastically alter the terrain, but if that’s impossible… I can think of a couple methods. Of course, they are merely ideas that ignore practicality and cost」
I wasn’t averse hypothesizing.
Besides I needed to stall for time… I was assessing my opponent’s moves while waiting for help to arrive.
I pretended to be deep in thought, slowly picked up the hat that had fallen onto the floor in front of me, and put it on.
「Hmmm…. One option is to use ice. Either by creating ice or if you brought together many magicians who specialize in ice magic, it might be possible to create an icy surface on the water.」
It would be a difficult feat in the summer, and it was usual practice to avoid engaging in battle in the winter.
「I think it would be quite difficult to assemble the necessary numbers. We have an abundance of warriors, but we do not have enough magicians. Is there another way you can think of?」
「In that case, what about creating a large reservoir in the opponent’s blind spot?」
「A reservoir? Do you mean to change the direction of the river?」
「I do not know what the terrain is like, and it would depend on the timing and the volume of water in the river, but…I think if even for a short while, you are able to drastically decrease the amount of water, it would be possible to change the flow of the river.」
「….Elliott, what do you mean by ‘a short while’?」
Layla asked hesitantly.
She probably had an idea of where this would take place, unlike me.
Rubelio sat and thought for a while before giving his hypothesis.
「Do you mean to prepare an empty pit and fill it right before you attack in order to change the flow of the river suddenly?」
… he had guessed correctly.
And unlike Layla who looked slightly puzzled, he was smirking.
「… yes, and it would be necessary to have a small levee to control the flow of water into the pond, so you would either have to make preparations beforehand or have the magicians freeze a certain portion of the river. Even so, I would believe that this method would cost less than my previous suggestion.」
「By changing the flow of the river, and filling up the pond all at once… the water levels will go down… and… oh!」
Layla finally seemed to catch on, but this was not her fault per se.
Most likely, Rubelio already had this tactic in mind or had developed this hypothesis to a certain extent already.
That was why he was able to get to where I was at, or perhaps I had been led on by him to arrive at that conclusion….
Or maybe I was being tested.
「However, by reducing the water in the river, all it does is increase your chances for an attack. So long as you do not know the topography of the bottom of the river, you will not have a true advantage.」
There, now how would he proceed?
「The riverbed is deepest at the center as if it has been dug out. It is not ideal for a horse or foot soldier to cross. If it was flat land, one might be able to jump across the valley on horseback, but there are sharp rocks on various parts of the floor which make it difficult to do so.」
An immediate answer.
This couldn’t be a question that he had been meaning to ask me.
It must be something he had been turning over in his head for quite some time and had asked me because the timing had been convenient.
Interesting, it seems Astarte had been correct. The aristocrats truly have a lot on their plate.
「If there is a large ledge, perhaps creating a small bridge would fix that problem? It might be difficult for knights with heavier armor, but if it were just wide enough for foot soldiers to be able to run across, it shouldn’t be too difficult to make. I may be able to be of assistance by making the materials for the bridge lighter, or sturdier.」
「If it was possible, I’d like to send my knights across first… but I suppose some sacrifice cannot be avoided.」
「If you are worried about the rocks on the riverbed, you could create a disposable wooden surface on the ground. Or, it perhaps the soldiers can all wear metal boots. Just by putting on a sturdy boot will make all the difference, I’m sure.」
「…I thought you would try to sell the steel boots to me, but you really don’t have an ounce of greed do you?」
He looked almost astonished, but what did he expect? Was I supposed to try to make a deal in this situation?
「I am in a very precarious position at the moment, so there is no point in trying to make a deal right now」
Hearing that, Rubelio nodded slightly.
「Ah, yes. It’s a good thing that you’re aware. As long as you don’t forget that, I will ensure your safety.」
Layla seemed to relax more than me at those words.
Galatia seemed to have no interest in the conversation, and once she realized that I had stopped trying to make eye contact, she seemed to be cautiously observing my hands and feet.
… She was probably waiting for me to make some sort of signal or any sort of suspicious movement. It seemed she was still on guard in regards to me.
「Now, it seems we’ve overstayed our time here.」
Rubelio stood from his chair and looked around the room.
「Elliot, do you carry any magic swords in this store?」
I brought out a number of swords from the back.
A lightweight one, a sword that sent strong shock waves when cutting into an opponent, one that looked shorter than its actual size so that it is difficult to avoid…
The most popular was usually the lightweight.
「… This one. I’ll buy this one.」
Rubelio had chosen one that Layla had been scrutinizing before. One that could not be bought on the budget of anyone less than that of a well-paid knight.
After I had told him the price, he proceeded to pull out from his wallet a sum of money that many people would never have the chance to see.
To think that he would pay in cash…
「Yes, my lord.」
Layla straightened at the calling of her name.
「I know I have inconvenienced you many times until now, but your loyalty has been unwavering. Once I am the head of the house, I will eventually repay you with land of your own.」
Layla looked momentarily dazed as if she could not process what he said. But she quickly regained her composure.
「Sir, I am unworthy of your words…」
「I will give this sword to you」
He thrust in front of her the sword he had purchased only moments earlier.
Layla accepted the sword in spite of her bewilderment.
「Think of it as a reward for your unwavering loyalty, and forward payment for the task I am about to entrust you with. I will be temporarily releasing you from your duties as a knight. Layla, from today onward, I would like for you to live at this store, and work as Elliot’s personal bodyguard.」
Layla seemed more taken aback than me.
「Wha-what? Stay at Elliot’s store? As a live-in bodyguard? But, my home is not too far from here…」
Galatia looked exasperated as she said to Layla,
「There’s no point in pretending to be innocent. Besides, because his identity has been revealed, this man is in danger of being murdered by a demoness. For that reason, our master is requesting you stay by his side and protect him.」
The bell clanged as the store door opened.
「Elliot, I would like to make a quick order… oh?」
A blue-haired maiden entered the store. Her long hair rippled behind her.
She carried with her two unfamiliar pouches that she had tied at her waist and slung across her shoulder.
「… Oh, you are the magician who was recently employed at the Blair family’s estate.」
It was Sara to which Galatia said in a slightly sharp, yet polite tone.
「You’re… are you perhaps from the Lambert estate?」
Sara said while eyeing Rubelio in blatant surprise.
「Oh, don’t worry we were just stopping by. It’s nothing official.」
「You must be Lord Rubelio from the Lambert family. I apologize for my rudeness.」
「No, we just finished up. If we stay any longer we will just be a nuisance to your business. Galatia, preparations please.」
Rubelio said lightly while putting on his jacket without seeming to care at all about Sara’s presence.
「H-Hello, Sara. What can I do for you today?」
Of course, there was no such business. The items that I sent to Sara were always fixed, and I would send them periodically.
She was a bit late, but Sara had come in an attempt to rescue me.
「Oh, I just ran out of some catalysts. I need them for the next parade. It would be embarrassing if I ran out of catalysts while guarding Lady Olivia.」
She said that, and then shook the bag and small pouch in front of her.
「Wait, where is Dalia?」
Layla also had a troubled look on her face.
…The difference was that mine was an act and Layla’s expression was genuine.
They opened the door, and Rubelio and Galatia made their exit, the door clanging shut behind them.
「Master Rubelio, what do you plan to do with that man Elliot?」
Galatia asked in a small voice.
「Did the Shadows report back?」
The Lord answered with a question instead, but Galatia answered seemingly unbothered.
「The girl from the assassin’s guild came close… what was her name, Dalia? But as soon as she left, they left as well. Also, that girl Lamia who we saw in the waterways, she must be another demon from the assassins guild. It seems the assassins guild has been completely overtaken by them.」
「If only we could locate them first. Is it possible to go after them using those waterways?」
「…it would be very difficult. Currently, all we have is information on the assassins guild, so we would probably be at a disadvantage just in terms of volume of information. Even the Shadows have a hard time manifest their full powers in enemy territory」
「Hmm, is that so」
His reply was deadpan, not so much as revealing an ounce of disappointment.
「Elliot is an interesting fellow. If I can use him as a separate entity, he will prove to be useful. But those were not the eyes of someone who was looking to profit…」
「Is that… so?」
「Either that or if we can use him to get through to the demons of the mining village, that would be worth it… but if there are too many uncertain factors, we’ll have to dispose of him」
Galatia nodded approvingly and answered.
「If we can make a deal with the demons, that would be fantastic. Please leave the guarding up to me. Layla most likely detests the man as well… teehee”」
「Layla does…? Really?」
He said after a short pause.
「My lord, you must really not have any interest in such matters…Layla probably harbors secret jealousy towards that maiden. Toward that maiden who has found happiness unlike herself… teehee」
While Galatia looked amused, Rubelio seemed completely indifferent as he asked quietly,
「Hmm. So it’s like that… So are you going to try it out tonight?」
「Yes, this time even in the event that something does go wrong, it won’t have any consequences. And… coincidentally I just received some good news」
「… About the magician at Olivia’s estate?」
「For a magician to require catalysts, she must be quite inexperienced… But more so than that, it was very unwise of her to reveal her hand like that…」