Translator: Kell | Editor: Weasalopes
For a royal family room, the place was austere. Spacious, but no decorations, nor works of art displayed. A high-quality yet plain carpet lay spread out on the floor. Similarly, a high-quality yet simple bed sat in the room.
The Emperor, Kaglai G. Quinbland, lay on the bed big enough for five people to sleep on side by side. He slept not at the center, but on the edge. And he always took the same spot. The maid had to regularly change the mattress.
「Who goes there?」
Kaglai opened his eyes to a dark room. Moonlight streamed in from the balcony. Dawn was still long hours away. Forestia was chilly right about now, but summer still lingered in Quinbland.
Kaglai got up the bed. Floating before him was a silver mask. Rather, it seemed that way, as the person was wearing black clothes a black cloak. His eyes simply couldn’t tell since he just woke up.
「Oh, you’re not going to make a racket?」the person said in a mocking tone.
Kaglai snorted.「Only children do that. I ask you once again. Who art thee?」
「Good grief. That’s some outdated language you’re using. You don’t need to know my name, do you? I just came here to carry out a job.」
The silver mask—Hikaru—took out an envelope from his pocket and tossed it onto the bed. Wary, Kaglai neither got off the bed, nor went to pick up the letter.
「No need to be so cautious. Unken asked me to deliver that to you.」
The emperor’s attitude completely changed as he got down from the bed and scampered towards the letter.
「Your Majesty? Are you awake?」The voice of an Imperial guard came from the hallway.
「I just had a dream. I will go back to sleep soon.」
Kaglai took one deep breath and walked calmly, picking up the letter. A bed that’s too big can be a problem too, huh? Hikaru thought.
「Are you sure about not calling the guards?」Hikaru asked as Kaglai opened the envelope.
「It is fine. If Unken entrusted you with something, then I will have some questions. Hmm?」
Hikaru didn’t know what was written on the letter. As soon as Kaglai finished reading, he went over it again, then looked above and closed his eyes.
Watching him, Hikaru guessed what the contents were. Unken most likely put his life at risk.
「What is your name?」Kaglai asked once more.
Apparently Unken didn’t write the name of the messenger, Hikaru. Unken was probably being thoughtful.
「Call me Silver Face.」
「Very well, Silver Face. Unken stated you are not an enemy. I do not know how you got here, but it seems you are capable enough to hand me the letter directly.」
Hikaru shrugged. This castle probably had magic traps all over the place, but they wouldn’t be in places the knights patrolled. He could see the traps with his Mana Detection and they wouldn’t activate as long as no one was nearby.
He simply used his Stealth to get all the way here. The moment he turned it off, Kaglai woke up.
「Hey, I wanted to ask you something.」
「I will answer if I can.」
Hikaru’s rudeness didn’t even bother the man one bit. He was starting to like the emperor. His original plan was to hand the letter and then go back, but now he thought he could stay for a conversation.
「Unken received a letter of gratitude from the King of Ponsonia, right? As a reward for his efforts, he became a guildmaster. But the tyrant, Balzard… Ah, right. He’s your father. My bad.」
「Do not worry about it. I asked for the man to be assassinated myself.」
「Hmm, you’re right. So he was successfully assassinated thanks to you. What’s Ponsonia got to do with anything?」
「Do you know what I did after I took the throne? Restoring diplomatic relations with Ponsonia. The previous king was a very respectable man. The ceasefire treaty was settled easily. Then we sent Unken to Ponsonia, on the pretext that he was seeking asylum, being a relative of the previous emperor. It was Unken’s wish as well.」
「And then what?」
「Killing his relative weighed heavy on Unken’s mind. The village elders said he should not worry about it. Nonetheless, Ponsonia accepted Unken. That was when he became a guildmaster.」
「The kingdom put him under surveillance by making him a guildmaster.」
「You are sharp. It was probably the Ponsonia’s higher ups’ idea. But the king was different. He sensed that Unken did an admirable feat. That is why he sent the letter.」
Jill almost got everything right. The only thing she got wrong was who sent the assassin—it wasn’t the King of Ponsonia, but the Crown Prince of Quinbland himself.
「Silver Face. If you wish, I shall give you status in the Empire.」
「I don’t need it.」
「I see. That is unfortunate.」
Hikaru thought the Emperor was a nice, frank man. He couldn’t really guess Kaglai’s age since he was a Man Gnome.
Wait a minute. I can just check his Soul Board.
【Soul Board】Kaglai G. Quinbland
Age: 72 Rank: 38
It was quite the impressive Soul Board.
He can use weapons and magic. He’s charismatic and has a talent for music. What is this? Is he some kind of a protagonist from a story? I’m really curious about that Heroic Nature. Judging by its name, I’m guessing it’s something like aptitude to be a hero? I don’t know if it showed up because of his solid overall stats or if it’s something solely from Charisma… Natural Talents sounds like it refers to inborn gifts. Eh, I don’t really have plans to develop my arts-related Skills.
「What are you staring at?」
「Ah, well, you look like you have combat experience. I just couldn’t imagine the Emperor fighting himself.」
His Soul Rank is 38 too. Hikaru’s rank was 42—a result of fighting monsters, clearing a dungeon with Lavia, and even fighting an Earth Dragon.
「I am a Man Gnome. I have lived longer than you. And back in my village, it is important to learn how to fight at a certain level.」
Their village sounds scary. This guy is strong enough to be an adventurer and is even charismatic. But Hikaru didn’t know what Charisma was exactly. He couldn’t check its description along with Mental Strength since he himself hadn’t unlocked Willpower yet.
「I have a question. Wouldn’t it be a good idea for you to take command in the battle against Ponsonia?」
「I wanted to, but they strongly opposed the idea. I do not have an heir. If I knew this would happen, I would have made an effort to have children.」
「It’s not too late to do that.」
「Really now? Are you saying Ponsonia will refrain from attacking us for a while?」
「It’s in Unken’s letter, isn’t it?」
「He said it is not confirmed yet. So “he will acquire confirmation”.」
「Hmm, I see…」
If Unken managed to kill the king, the invasion would surely cease. So Unken took action to “acquire confirmation”. To make sure it actually happened. Hikaru scratched the back of his head.
「Fine, I’ll tell you. Ponsonia won’t make a move for a while. Margrave Grugschilt is challenging the throne, insisting that Gafrasti N. Valves is the true descendant of the royal family.」
Hikaru didn’t need to tell him that, but he felt somewhat interested in Kaglai, a hero in the making. The Emperor’s Charisma and Appeal might’ve influenced his decision, though.
「What? I did hear that Grugschilt is not part of the leading faction…」
「When Count Morgstad died, many nobles started siding with the Margrave. The Captain of the Knights, Lawrence, is also in contact with Grugschilt. They want to give the throne to Princess Kudyastoria, not Austrin. The Princess is apparently a distant relative of Sir Valves.」
「Of course, if Unken managed to actually kill the king, that would be good in and of itself. But…」
It won’t be that easy, Hikaru thought. Kaglai seemed to agree as well.
「I thank you for the information, Silver Face.」
「Confirm it first.」
「I do not think that is possible. The kingdom has always thwarted our agents’ operations. Unken had been training them once a month. Either way, your information is of great help. What we should do is invest for the near future.」
Life filled Kaglai’s eyes. I’m glad I talked to him.
「I want to pay you for the information.」
「You don’t have to. I just told you out of respect for Unken.」
「That will not do. You came to deliver this letter out of respect for him, correct? Unken wrote that you took the job out of pure goodwill.」
He wrote that, huh?
「The delivery is between you and Unken. You providing information is between you and me. I do not want to owe anyone.」
Hikaru sighed.「Does a country cornered by Lawrence even have such luxury?」
「This is not between you and the Empire, but solely a personal matter between you and me. Am I wrong?」
He’s right. He’s quite stubborn, too.
「Fine. What will you give me? I prefer something not too bulky.」
Kaglai didn’t like owing anyone, and he wanted to compensate Hikaru fairly for the information. Needless to say, not a lot of people in this world were fair and just. Hikaru liked Kaglai even more.
「I will appoint you as supervisor of the Empire’s secret agents and confer you noble status. How about that?」
「Please don’t test me.」
That’s too bulky!
「Gold coins will be too heavy… I know. How about this?」
Kaglai walked over to a huge dresser and from a drawer took out a long and thin box about twenty centimeters long. Its surface was a dull black, with a lid that popped open. The lid itself was tied up by a string.
「I would’ve preferred something not too bulky.」
「This is far from bulky. It’s called a Dimension Dragon Letter Box.」
「I’m sorry, a what?」
What is this thing?
The box felt surprisingly heavy. The name suggested it was used to hold letters. Hikaru removed the lid… and saw nothing. Literally. Not even the bottom of the box.
「Wait, don’t tell me…」
「Put your hand in there.」
Hikaru inserted his finger cautiously. There should only be two centimeters until he touched the bottom, but it kept on going—his fingertips, joints, palm, and even his wrist, went in like some magic trick, even though his left hand was holding the bottom of the box from the outside.
「They say a Dimension Dragon is a creature that defies logic. Records say one was killed in the past and this box was created from its stomach. There are only about ten of these in the whole world.」
「An item box…」
「Hmm? Item box?」
「Ah, it’s nothing. How do you take things out of it?」
「Just turn it upside down.」
「Turn it upside down.」
Hikaru did as he said and papers dropped on the floor. They looked like letters.
「It is quite inconvenient, however」Kaglai laughed as he watched the pile of letters. The box felt lighter now.
「So it just expands space, but the weight is still the same.」
「Can you put living things in here?」
「Why, of course. Your hand went inside.」
It was quite different from item boxes found in games. It was safe to assume it was only connected to a huge space. The weight remained the same, and time flowed in there as well. Nevertheless, it was no doubt a convenient item to have.
「Can I really have this?」
「Yes. I am sure you will put it to good use. It is not bulky, too.」
「I would’ve preferred if it was half the size. I know that’s asking too much, though.」
「That is indeed asking for too much.」
Kaglai looked Hikaru in the eye and smiled. Hikaru smiled back.
「All right. I gotta go.」
Then Hikaru disappeared, as though dissolving into the darkness.
「He is gone.」
He appeared out of nowhere and disappeared just as sudden. Even though Kaglai watched him, he had no idea how the boy vanished.
The Emperor thought it was all a dream, but the letters scattered on the floor suggested otherwise.
Drowsiness left Kaglai’s body. He made his way to the desk to write down what they had to do from here on.
The skies were painted a dark blue outside the balcony. Dawn was breaking.