「Oh Dalia isn’t here? So who’s that?」
「Well, I’m uhm…」
Layla seemed to be troubled by Sara’s direct and relentless questioning.
I had informed Sara who Layla was, and she had probably already guessed what was going on.
But not asking would be even more suspicious.
「Miss Layla is the personal knight of the young master from the Lambert house you saw earlier. Due to various circumstances, she will be working as my bodyguard for the time being. Dalia is currently hiding in a safe location for now…」
She gave a dubious look but withheld from questioning any further.
Layla looked relieved.
This person was really so honest… well her skills as a knight were first-rate, which is probably why he had left her as my personal guard.
「Okay… well I don’t really mind, but don’t get involved in anything dangerous and disappear or something. It would be a real inconvenience if this store closed down」
「…Was it Lady Saria? I heard that you were working at the Lady Olivia’s estate…?」
Sara looked at Layla with unreserved indifference as she stumbled over her words.
「Oh, so you know me. Pleased to meet you Ms. Layla. As you may know I’m a former explorer. So I don’t have the best upbringing.」
Oh… Layla’s expression seemed to say as she looked a bit relieved by the information.
Well, it’s no surprise. Sara must be a lot easier to deal with in comparison to Galatia.
「That honestly is a relief since I’m not quite adept with manners as well. I have no intention of getting in the way of business, so please don’t mind me and carry on」
「That makes me all the more uneasy but okay…」
Sara said with a bitter laugh, and handed me a slip of paper while opening her bag.
「The list of catalysts. Could you prepare these for me. I just need as much as will fill this bag, and pouch.」
So the contents could not be seen my Layla, I checked the slip of paper while heading to the back of the store.
This was in Olivie’s handwriting…
It was a simple letter, all it said was 「Please prepare enough catalysts to match Sara’s story.」
I wasn’t sure what they were thinking, but it was reassuring even to think that Sara and Olivie had acted independently to help me.
Sara was a spirit tamer, who mainly used a short staff for her spells, and rarely actually used cobwebs.
Why she had come to the store specifically mentioning catalysts, couldn’t be more than an excuse to visit…. Oh, so that’s what this was about.
When I had returned with the bags filled with catalysts, Sara was attacking Layla with an onslaught of questions.
When she saw that I had returned, Sara suddenly approached me and demanded
「What do you mean you guys are living together?!」
… Oh was her anger half serious?
「Well, I mean she’s my personal bodyguard….」
「I would be okay with it if she were still here…」
Sara stopped as if she were choking on her words.
Her expression revealed that she was half serious and half acting as she snatched the bag away from me.
「Elliot, it seems you… are quite popular with women.」
After we had worked for quite some time, Layla broke the silence with a troubled look on her face.
What had Sara told Layla?
「Lady Saria asked me with quite a serious tone with what right was I staying here…. How should I say this… She seems to like you as a man…」
「I mean I don’t really know how to respond to that….」
「Oh, yes, sorry that’s right. After what just happened, I apologize for my rudeness.」
Layla bowed her head in genuine remorse.
Sara had probably wanted to come off as a girl who was interested in me but backed off because Dalia was with me.
It was most likely Olivia who had come up with this arrangement.
She was probably aiming to lessen the suspicion that she was a demon by acting as the girl who had an unrequited love for a man, but had few encounters with him.
They had failed at fooling Rubelio and Galatia, but if I was in the same situation, I would do the same.
「Oh, no, it’s just I’m not quite sure myself. So it’s nothing to bow your head over.」
Not to mention thanks to you, I was able to become acquainted with a big fish.
The Lambert family would most definitely make for a profitable customer, but the situation itself was not really something to celebrate.
「By the way, you really are something aren’t you. It is rare for our master… for Lord Rubelio to speak that passionately about something」
「No, he was terrifying. I kept thinking that I would be cut down if I misspoke.」
With those words, a smile finally seemed to emerge on Layla’s face.
…Layla was usually quite serious and kept quiet so it almost looked as though she were lonely, but her smile brought a sort of youthfulness to her expression.
「Oh, don’t say that. He is someone with immeasurable talent… so he is probably excited to finally meet someone of his caliber.」
That was the first time I felt she was… cute.
「So, I would be so happy if you could continue to have an amicable relationship with him… Oh, I’m sorry I’m giving so many demands… if there is anything I can do, please tell me. Although I won’t be of much use with technical things, every day tasks and brunt work I am able to do.」
Although she was just supposed to stand and watch over me in silence, it seemed like she would turn into a ball of guilt if I didn’t assign her some sort of task.
In that case, I could show her around the kitchen, and have her help with cooking for a bit… I wasn’t sure if I should make a fine knight like Layla do such things, but…
「Well then, I could show you where the tea is…」
As I stood, the unopened letter from Jemma fluttered to the floor.
「Oh shoot, I need to check the contents of the letter」
Though I was sure that it wasn’t anything urgent.
It was an invite to lunch tomorrow. And quite a strange one at that, he said to come if I felt like it. He didn’t even request a response.
What could that old man be plotting now?
「Oh no, you’re the owner of the house, you must sleep on the bed. I’m used to sleeping outside, so the floor will do just fine!」
「Even if you say that… I can’t let a lady sleep on the floor.」
The trouble began that night.
I shut the blinds on the window, and lit a small magic lantern to keep the room bright.
Layla was focused on the light, and then surveyed the room, and she suddenly stopped.
Now that I thought about it, this house only had one large bed. And that’s how we arrived at the conversation above.
Until now, I usually slept with Dalia. Dalia was my demon, and my sexual partner, so there was no need to think about these kinds of things before.
At times, Shiro, Sara, and even Astarte would join us, so in terms of the size it was plenty large, but still, the idea of sharing a bed with a stranger was kind of off-putting.
We debated seriously about it for a long time before finally coming to an agreement that I would sleep on the bed, and Layla would sleep on a large pile of pillows and blankets on the floor.
We had spent so much time seriously contemplating who would sleep where that it seemed almost silly. We both burst out into laughter.
「You finally smiled Elliot.」
「Well, I can’t keep it in. Especially since I’ll be seeing Old Jemma tomorrow… Oh yeah, Ms. Layla. Your Pajamas.」
「Oh no, I couldn’t. I’m already borrowing your floor… I couldn’t accept that much…」
Although she said that, her clothing she had on with her light armor for everyday use was made out of rough, thick material, and must be very uncomfortable.
I had worn something similar when I had been working with soldiers back at the mining village, so I was knew how uncomfortable the fabric could be….At the very least she could not want to wear it to sleep.
She didn’t have anything to change into, so I handed her a pair of Dalia’s. She took off her top without saying anything.
「Well then, thank you, I’ll… hmm?」
Perhaps I had gotten too used to a woman’s naked body.
However, was it my fault for staring, or was it hers for not being more careful.
From beneath her clothing, Layla’s firm but well-shaped breasts became exposed.
I wondered if they had been bound earlier. But now they were completely on show.
They were larger than I had expected.
… Was this perhaps the reason Sara was weary before?
「Oh, … uhm, I’m sorry Layla!」
I quickly looked away, but not before seeing Layla, who was blushing profusely, quickly hide her chest.
「Uhm, well, this is uhm…. A result of my carelessness.. uhm, I’m sorry, Uh, but… from now on it will be a hassle to use honorifics, and I am currently not exactly a guest so… you can just call me Layla.」
Layla sputtered out, and said goodnight before quickly covering herself with a comforter, in embarrassment.
She had completely mixed together formal and informal speech. Was she usually steeling herself?
「Uhmm… Goodnight Layla」
I said, as I dimmed the lights, and drifted off to sleep… well, not exactly.
I was able to focus my consciousness even in my sleep.
And in this state, I was able to switch spirits with my demons.
Thinking back to Galatia’s actions from when she was pursuing Nubia, the fact that she had her servants carry around 「eyes」 made me think it was highly unlikely that I would be detected this way.
However, it was possible that just like how I was able to see Galatia through Diana, that Galatia was watching me through Layla’s eyes.
That was why this was the only time I could communicate with my allies.
First, I was worried about Dalia.
She was most likely at the area where Nem and Nubia were hiding away.
I went inside of Nem’s consciousness… it seemed like she was awake.
「Hmm, Elliot’s inside me?」
It was the opposite of hearing voices in my head.
Since I was inside of Nem, I could hear her thoughts.
「Master, is everything okay?」
「Are ye okay, milord?」
I slowly adjusted my wavelength to match Nem’s, and borrowed her sight.
Light flickered in my peripheral vision, and I saw Nubia bring a latern.
I could not see in the dark, so she had brought it out for my sake most likely.
Alright, I could tell by their voices, but it seemed Dalia and Miyabi were both there.
「Sorry I’m being guarded so I can only communicate with you guys this way.」
Speaking in Nem’s voice was slightly discomforting… but I didn’t care too much about it.
I quickly explained the situation, and told them to either stay in the underground waterways, or Astarte’s cobweb pavilion.
「There are messages from Shiro and Ms. Diana. They said there were at least two people outside of the store that time.」
So there had been one more besides 「Number 3」 who had grabbed my head.
To call them prepared would be an understatement… I wondered how many assassins Galatia had. Now I knew there were at least three.
「I’m sure you didn’t dig too deep… but was there anything you guys found?」
「There was a thin-framed man who moved like a bandit, and a pale woman who looked like she was from the north. They were moving separately, so all they know is that they headed towards the Old City.」
Well, it was a good thing that they didn’t follow them too far.
Unless there was a clear difference in ability, it would be impossible to trace two people with two people.
So as long as Rubelio didn’t change his mind about killing me, my life was safe for now.
That was why I had to make sure to ensure the safety of the members in the underground waterways, and make sure that their secret was safe.
If there was any leakage in information, it would honestly be from either me or my store.
I told them to prepare a hideaway that I wasn’t aware of, and if they couldn’t contact me at any time, to use Shiro to ask Sara or Astarte for directions.
The 「Eden」 that Astarte was preparing was slowly expanding, but the number of people that she had under her control were still few. It would still take some time to get in touch with the person I wanted.
The only secret that Galatia and Rubelio didn’t know, was that we were able to think and act collectively.
Olivia and Astarte could act independently… and now Dalia as well.
「There is not much time left, but it is still uncertain what is to come. I don’t want you guys to let down your guard, but there’s no need to be too tense as well. Also, Dalia」
Dalia reacted in surprise when I called her name.
「I was able to survive this time thanks to you. Thank you… look at you, you’ve grown quite a bit.」
「No, I’m sorry for acting out of line…」
I borrowed Nem’s hand to stroke Dalia’s bent head.
「If something happens, act according to your own thoughts. I order you to do that in emergency situations. Understand?」
I asked for confirmation out of habit.
I order, Dalia receives.
It was a meaningless ritual to reconfirm that she was mine.
「… Yes, Master.」
Sara seemed to have been waiting for me to visit.
She had even prepared communication with Olivia.
「Hey Olivie. They got me this time」
「My heart almost stopped when I heard the news. To think that they would arrive there so soon…. But I guess they would have eventually found out」
「But you were also quite fast to act.」
「I was coincidentally with Sara at the time. Since I can’t trust the people around me, I spend much more time with Sara. Thanks to that people now treat Sara as my lover?」
… even if she said that, what did she expect me to do?
「Should I be jealous?」
「No, I think Sara and I are the ones to be jealous. Since you are currently sharing a roof with Layla.」
「She herself seems like a good person…. But the person behind her is who he is.」
There was a large chance that there would be an 「eye」 hidden in Layla’s belongings that would be sent sometime in the following days.
Seeing as I saw through it last time, probably in a different form…
As we continued our conversation, I started to feel a strange sensation.
This was not Sara’s touch.
Sara had given me control over her body, and it seemed Sara also felt something from my body.
(Elliot, I feel something strange coming from the direction of your body)
At that moment, my focus broke. A small, sweet shiver of pain ran through my body as my synchronization with Sara was broken.
Specifically, I had felt a sensation that Sara would not be able to feel.
…. It was sexual stimulation to my male body part.
I regained consciousness of my body, and confirmed what was going on.
I was sleeping with my chest out, someone had opened the shirt of my pajamas.
The sensation was not from there… in that moment, I understood everything.
It was the feeling of someone taking in my flesh rod with their mouth.
My pants were half taken off, and just that part had been exposed.
Lit by the dim light, I saw a woman’s naked form on my bed.
I could see her eyes glistening in the darkness.
It was somewhat to be expected. Because there was only one other person in this room other than myself.
It was also completely unexpected. Because I did not expect for her to take this course of action.
The person who’s mouth was wrapping gently around my groin was none other than… Layla.