|Author: Kobayashi Homare||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 3005 characters|
|Translator: Nomad||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1442 words|
“So in other words, you’ve been watching over me, and been in cahoots with Sepia from the start?”
“Precisely. From the moment Her Highness left the castle, we’ve been watching over you from the shadows.”
Her face clouded over. I could not blame her, she had left the castle expecting to live independently, so it was impossible for her to be amused knowing she had been watched and guarded secretly. Karin and Ciel looked at her worriedly.
“…How many are there apart from you?”
“There are quite a few others, though I can’t give an exact number.”
She turned to look at Ciel after asking that, but Ciel shook her head.
“I can’t find anyone else inside the radius of my Detector Magic. They’re either somewhere outside it, or they didn’t come here this time.”
Detector Magic?! That was the first time I heard that name! Though the name was straightforward enough to let me understand it searched for the location of people around the caster… Was that something all of Lapis’ pupils learned?! But that also meant that no matter where I hid, they would know I was there, which meant very bad news for any spy! But as surprised as I was, Her Highness Luvias appeared to be deep in thought.
“We can’t really tell you to go back now, and you still have your duty to report to my father…alright, you can come with us.”
“If you sneak around you might just get in the way, so it would be much better if you come along with us. Or do you two have other suggestions?”
“I don’t mind, as long as he isn’t planning on hurting you.”
“Same here. And it’ll also be easier if he supports us.”
Thankfully Her Highness Luvias allowed me to go with her. They were already aware of my presence, so that decision was the best as it would at least allow me to fulfill my duty as a guard. But I also noticed something else…these two girls treated Her Highness Luvias in an extremely casual manner…which felt incredibly brazen, if not borderline rude. That was something I would never be able to do myself.
§ § §
Together with me, the group moved into the forest in a straight line without hesitation. That they could do that without worries was probably thanks to the Detector Magic Ciel mentioned earlier, but I still felt like it was different from how any regular adventurers would do it. I thought this trip was supposed to give Her Highness Luvias an idea of how regular adventurers acted, but now I was not too sure they were still thinking about that.
“Just in case, normally it wouldn’t be this easy. A regular party would have one member designated as a scout, who would move forward alone and investigate the best path to take. That takes a long time and the party can move only small distances at a time. Then if the party encounters a lookout group, they would kill everyone leaving only one member alive, who would either be forced to lead the party to the hideout, or spill everything they knew.”
“I see. And exactly what do you mean by making them spill everything…?”
“Well, by hitting them and kicking them? Though apparently there are also ways to do it with magic, but Ciel can’t do that yet. Lapis probably would know how.”
“Ohh! Our master can do anything after all!”
Hearing these girls talk so casually about torturing someone, I began getting worried about Her Highness Luvias’ future. Was it really a good idea to leave her under the wing of Lapis? Maybe she would be indoctrinated in barbaric ways and disappoint the king.
“We’re getting closer, let’s be more careful now.”
Ciel suddenly stopped. There was an enemy nearby who she had sensed.
“Let’s go over the hand signals just in case. If we’re too far apart to talk to each other, we need them to communicate after all. First, this sign means to move forward, this one to stay still. If you spot enemies you can raise your fingers like this to show how many there are, and if there are more than five of them you curl your fingers like this. This means to start attacking, and this to retreat.”
Ciel explained everything while holding her hand up for example. Her Highness Luvias mimicked her movements while striving to remember them all.
“Try not to get so impatient, always keep your guard up. Let’s go now.”
With Ciel’s signal, we all moved forward. We moved in a line, with Karin at the front, followed by Her Highness Luvias, Ciel, and me in the rear. Karin was very careful with each step she took, attempting to raise as little noise as possible. When the vegetation was too thick to cross easily, she would cut the plants down to make it easier for us to follow her. They were probably already used to working in that way.
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Eventually, we arrived at a small hut with the presence of people inside. Maybe it was a lookout post, but there was no one keeping watch outside. So maybe it was a momentary lodging for woodcutters? Karin had the same thoughts as me, so she nodded and approached the hut with careful steps. She held her ear against the walls and checked for traps near the door. With that done, she returned to us carefully but quickly, just like when she went.
“There are three thieves sleeping inside.”
“I’ll keep watch outside. You two go with Karin and take care of the thieves.”
Karin unsheathed her sword while Ciel held her staff ready. Luvias held her sword ready, visibly nervous, and followed right behind Karin. I was between Ciel and the other two, so I could support either one if needed. Karin slowly reached for the doorknob and turned it. Surprisingly enough, it was not locked. We entered the hut as silently as we could, holding our breaths even. There we saw the sleeping thieves, two men and a woman.
Karin hurried further inside and swung her sword at them, though not in an attempt to kill them but hitting them with the flat side of her sword, rendering them unconscious. She hit two of them, who woke up for an instant only to have their lights knocked out of them. The third one slowly woke up and before he could comprehend what happened, he was tied up.
“W-who do you think you are! What are you doing here?!”
“Shut up. If you reply to our questions we might spare your life. How many comrades do you have? Where’s your main base? How many lookouts do you have?”
“Like hell I’d tell you! I’d never sell out my-ghah?!”
Karin’s powerful fist stopped him before his confident sentence could finish. Even if this was her first time interrogating someone, she knew what she was doing. As Karin repeated her questions, the rest of us began tying up and restricting the movements of the remaining thieves. Since we did not know what kind of concealed weapons they might have, we stripped them down to their underwear, then tied their hands behind their back so they could not resist by force, then tied them against the trees outside.
“Karin, did you find anything out?”
“Yes, there are around ten remaining members, and that they never kidnapped anyone. Also, the two you have there are apparently the con-artists Lapis mentioned.”
The last thief lay unconscious next to Karin’s feet. He had spoken everything we needed so he was taken out as well. As far as the con-artists she mentioned went, it probably referred to a couple that tricked people into giving them money in the city.
“Karin, what do you mean by capturing someone?”
Her Highness Luvias tilted her head, given that there was no mention of kidnapping in the request. But I could not blame her, she probably believed a gang of thieves only stole money and valuables. Karin struggled to find the words to explain things to her.
“Well, you see. The term thief gang isn’t only used to describe people who steal money and items from others, but who also capture people themselves. Either to get a ransom, or to treat them as slaves, or reasons like that. So every time there’s a request like this one, we have to be careful to not harm any hostages they might have.”
“I see…I really lack a lot of knowledge. I never knew groups as scummy as that could exist…”