|Author: Tsunose Bun||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 3024 characters|
|Translator: Jiro||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1938 words|
A loud voice could be heard from outside as Merc and the three others were enjoying a good talk after eating lunch. Someone seemed to be yelling beyond Astard’s barrier.
“Should I go check?”
“No, stay here Kena, I’ll go… Who is it at this time, good grief.”
Astard stood up lethargically and walked to the front door, opening it. Merc, whose interest had also been piqued, followed Astard to the entrance, where she saw two armored soldiers standing close to the main entrance.
A carriage drawn by two horses was parked next to them. Who in the world are they?
“We are Duke Lezau’s men. We’ve come to inquire about Count Fonan.”
“Even if you say that, I can’t tell you anything more than what I told you the other day.”
“That is alright. We’d also like to speak with Doctor Glodel’s granddaughter, who we understand is under your care. Would that be okay?”
Astard inquired, taken aback by the unexpected request. He approached the soldiers, though, since he wanted to learn more. He did so because he had no intention of allowing them inside the barrier.
“Tetem is still a child. I’m afraid she won’t be much help.”
“Please do not dismiss her. She is the Empire’s proclaimed Doctor Glodel’s grandchild. The Duke even wants to speak to her directly.”
“Duke Lezau, does? Just why would he…”
Dr. Glodel was a remarkable researcher, but his granddaughter had no part in it. And it wasn’t like she’d inherited his findings.
“To tell you the truth, the Duke intends to adopt her. He feels she has a lot of promise because she is the professor’s granddaughter.” The soldier said quietly after looking around the area.
“So that’s how it is.”
Astard nodded, having been convinced by the soldier’s reasoning. Duke Lezau’s intention to adopt Tetem suggested that he hoped she would turn out to be as intelligent as Doctor Glodel.
“Well it’s not like Tetem has any relatives…” Astard said.
“But what about Tetem’s feelings? She’s grown quite fond of Kena.” Merc remarked.
It would be a wonderful thing if the Duke became her guardian. After all, he was the country’s most influential person, and there were no negative rumors about him. Tetem’s life would surely be carefree.
What mattered most, though, was what Tetem thought. If she only asked for it, Astard and Kena would be more than happy to look after her. After all, that’s what they were going to do before the soldiers showed up.
As Merc and Astard deliberated, they heard Kena’s voice. Then a young silver-haired girl approached from the direction of the voice. Behind Tetem, Kena pursued her, attempting to stop her.
“You came just at the right time, Tetem. You can either stay in this house for as long as you’d like…”
“Alternatively, you can go to this country’s most influential person. Which will it be?”
Astard asked, cutting to the chase and leaving Tetem speechless. Which was to be expected.
“Would it kill you to be more considerate? Explain it properly.”
“What’s the point of lying and trying to fool her? It’s also pointless to beat around the bush.”
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Although Astard’s statements seemed harsh, they were fair. He’d presented the options in a way that didn’t favor one side over the other, leaving Tetem to make her own decision. Even though Merc was aware of this, she felt it was a little much for a little child.
“Tetem. Duke Lezau is interested in speaking with you. Would you like to speak with him?”
“That’s right. You can meet him and decide if you want to live with him or return to live with this gloomy fellow and the big-breasted, ahem, lovely lady. What do you say?”
Despite her anxiety, Tetem responded in a hushed tone with a nod, indicating that she had understood Merc.
“So? How is she going to talk with the Duke? Are you planning on using the Magic Stone at the Guild?”
“No. The Duke wants to see her face and speak with her in person.”
“You want to take her all the way to the Duke’s residence?!”
Astard remarked in a disdainful tone, knowing that this would have an influence on fairness.
The capital, where the Duke’s palace was located, was a long way away. If Tetem were to be taken there and refused, she would almost certainly be unable to return. Astard wanted to avoid that at all costs.
“Of course not. In fact, the Duke has come to personally arrest Count Fonan.”
“What did you say?”
“Unfortunately, the Duke lost the reason to visit this town after learning that Count Fonan had killed himself, so he chose to stay in the town to the west.”
The town to the west of the City of Logholt was none other than Botoe. It was where Astard and Merc went to visit the professor’s house. If one took a carriage, they could make the round trip by today evening or lunch the next day.
It was much closer than the capital, but that didn’t mean Astard could let Tetem go alone.
“How about we go as well? That way you won’t have to worry.”
Merc remarked to Astard, who was frowning. One of the soldiers instantly spoke out when he heard her idea.
“Haha! That won’t be necessary. We’re here to protect the carriage. There’s no need to worry.”
“He’s right. The Duke will chastise us if we let the Great Sage do our work.”
“However, Tetem will probably feel uneasy around strangers. Isn’t that right, Tetem?”
Tetem slid by her and rushed over to the troops, hiding behind them, as Merc asked. It was clear from this that she was more afraid of Merc than of the guards.
“…Merc. What did you do to her?”
“I didn’t do anything!”
Merc couldn’t believe Tetem would trust strangers more than her, despite the fact that they hadn’t spoken much. It was only natural for Astard to have a questioning look on his face.
“Let’s do this then. Take Kena, here, with you.”
Both Merc and Kena were taken aback by Astard’s words.
“Kena is a proficient fighter. She’ll be a good escort. She’s also the one among us who is closest to Tetem.”
“B-But, Great Sage, that’s…”
“Kena. If you can successfully accompany Tetem, I will grant your wish.”
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Kena exclaimed, startled by the comment.
“Merc recommended you the last time we spoke. If you want to stay as you are, I won’t push you; nevertheless, if you want more, you can escort Tetem.”
“Y-You heard about my wish from M-Miss Merc?!”
Astard said calmly, looking at Kena, who was blushing.
“Kena. You want to be my…”
“You want to be my disciple, correct?”
Kena exclaimed, but her delight was fleeting as her expression shifted from one of delight to one of bewilderment.
Kena… What’s that face for? Didn’t you want to become his disciple?
Merc, who had been beaming as she watched the two interact, pondered internally, taken aback by Kena’s expression. Perhaps it was Merc who had initially misunderstood her.
“Do you not want to? I suggested that because Merc told me you wanted to be my disciple… If this is not the case, you may decline.”
“No! I…! I want to become your disciple!”
“G-Great. Then I’ll leave Tetem to you. Whether Tetem decides to stay or return here, as long as you return, you will become my disciple. Is that all right?”
Kena seemed dejected, despite the fact that this was a golden opportunity for her. After some thinking, Merc came to a hypothesis on why that may be.
Did she really believe she’d be able to skip straight to the finish line and become Astard’s lover?
Kena’s behavior surprised Merc, but Astard was partly to blame for speaking in a misleading manner. Merc opted not to say anything while silently giggling.
“Please accept our apologies, but we would prefer not to have any unwelcome guests.”
One of the soldiers replied, appearing hesitant to have Kena follow them, possibly for security reasons. However, Astard simply leaned in closer to him and spoke.
“Then there’s no need to take Tetem with you as well, is there? You’re the ones that approached us. If the Duke is truly interested in seeing her, he should personally come. I have no idea how important Lezau Duchy’s ruler is, nor do I care. I am certain, though, that I will not allow him to do as he pleases. Am I clear?”
“Y-Yes… W-We understand. We’ll allow that girl to come with us.”
Although Astard’s comments and actions were arrogant, he must have thought them through. He’d deftly modified the Duke’s commands and ensured that the troops couldn’t look down on Kena.
It should have made it quite apparent to them that if they harmed Kena, Astard would not remain silent. Astard also made it clear that if they caused any difficulties, he would not hesitate to bring the matter to the Duke.
“The Duke is a busy man. We’re departing as soon as we can. Please have that young lady and the professor’s granddaughter ready as quickly as possible.”
“I-I understand… Please give me a minute!”
After being pressed by the soldiers, Kena assisted the guest of honor, Tetem, in boarding the carriage, then returned to the house, as if recalling something. She reappeared shortly after, a bag slung over her shoulder. It was the same one Merc had given her.
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“That’s the bag I gave you…”
“Yes. I decided I might as well take it with me. Once again, thank you, Miss Merc.”
“Don’t mind it. It would be great if you don’t need to use it, but you never know what may happen.”
Merc stated calmly, somewhat delighted that Kena had opted to take Merc’s drugs with her. Kena, on the other hand, addressed Merc once more, as if she’d forgotten something important.
“Oh yea! I realized what felt off about Tem’s kidnapper’s letter.”
“What? Oh that thing.”
Merc remembered Kena feeling uneasy when she saw the threatening letter. After the case was solved, Merc had entirely forgotten about it, but she was still intrigued in what Kena was about to say.
“The handwriting was similar.”
“Do you recall Tem’s most recent letter to the Great Sage? I received the impression that the sender’s name on that letter and the threatening letter were written in the same handwriting. Phew. I feel better now that I’ve told you about it.”
“The handwriting was similar?”
Kena’s observations, which appeared insignificant to her, sparked Merc’s curiosity.
Doctor Glodel wrote the letters designated with Tetem as the sender. Does this imply that the handwriting of Tetem’s kidnapper and Doctor Glodel is similar? No, that’s not it. The way Kena said it implies something different.
“You’ve already caught Tem’s kidnapper, so it’s probably a simple coincidence. Maybe I’m overthinking things.”
“We’re leaving! Get on!”
Kena swiftly turned around after one of the soldiers called out to her from behind her.
“I’m coming! Please excuse me, Miss Merc. I’ll be going!” Kena said, hurriedly bowing to Merc.
Merc, who had been contemplating the matter, responded with a polite smile.
“Great Sage! I’m leaving! I’ll absolutely return, so don’t go back on your word when I do!”
“I won’t. I keep the promises that I’ve made. Take care of Tetem.”
As the carriage carrying Tetem and Kena hurriedly left, Merc and Astard stood there watching.