Chapter 77 – Freeloader

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Author: Tsunose Bun Original Source: Syosetu Word Count: 3024 characters
Translator: Jiro English Source: Re:Library Word Count: 1538words
Editor(s): Robinxen

The sun was beginning to set.

Merc arrived on the outskirts of Logholt, guided by Astard, exactly as she had heard.

A modest home nestled in the midst of a barren land overrun with weeds. That appeared to be Astard’s present home.

“Oh, yea. Wait for a moment.”

Merc was about to step onto the barren land when Astard extended his hand to stop her. Astard’s palm released a bit of Mana, which surrounded Merc’s body.

“Approval!”

Astard’s spell gave Merc permission to enter this magically protected land.

Merc had the sensation akin to passing through a radar, as she and Astard were able to securely access the premises.

“Um, Ester… Wait, you go by Merc now, right? It’s probably best if I call you that in front of others, no?”
“Yea. I should also be cautious about how I address myself. It would be strange for such a beautiful girl as myself to speak like an old man.”
“To think you’d call yourself a beautiful girl… To be honest, calling you Merc makes me feel rather uncomfortable.”
“Oh, drop it. Still, you should be able to call me Estert now. After all, you do live alone, right?”

Astard averted his gaze, as if he was having difficulty explaining himself. Finally, without saying anything, he knocked three times on the house’s door in a rhythmic manner.

Huh? There isn’t anyone here. Why is he knoc…

“I’m coming!”

From within, a bright woman’s voice could be heard, accompanied by the sound of light footsteps approaching them.

The door was suddenly opened from the inside, and a woman in her early twenties appeared, much to Merc’s astonishment.

Her waist-length hair was pale gray, and her eyes were a similar dull tint.

She exuded a calm demeanor, yet the pleasant smile on her face revealed that she was a lively young lady. Merc felt she resembled someone else.

“Welcome back Great Sage… Um, who is this with you?”

The woman who smiled as she greeted Astard glanced at Merc with a puzzled expression on her face.

“Oh… This girl’s name is Es… I mean Merc. She’s an old friend of mine.”
“What? A friend?”

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The woman cocked her head, a confused expression on her face, at Astard’s somewhat clumsy introduction. Merc realized she couldn’t mislead the girl in any other way, so she smiled and spoke as if she were following Astard’s narrative.

“Despite the way I look, I am undoubtedly Astard’s friend. And who might you be?”
“I-I’m Kena. It’s a pleasure, Miss Merc.”
“The pleasure’s mine. So, Miss Kena, what’s your relationship with Astard?”

There’s no way she’s his spouse, right?

Merc internally shook her head at the notion of this possibility, which had momentarily entered her mind.

In any case, Astard was thirty-five years old, no matter how youthful he appeared. This meant that the girl in front of Merc would be over ten years younger than him. The thought that Astard had managed to marry someone this younger than him made Merc jealous. Kena also packed a decent package, so Merc couldn’t accept it.

She simply couldn’t.

“My relationship with the Great Sage? That’s…”

Merc snapped and glared at Astard when Kena turned her head somewhat ashamed.

Astard shook his head exaggeratedly as he flinched.

“P-Please wait! It’s not what you’re thinking. I found Kena collapsed by my house so I just took her. She had evidently collapsed due to hunger.”
“Huh?”
“T-This is so embarrassing…”

When Merc saw Kena suddenly conceal her face with both hands, she believed Astard was telling the truth. Nonetheless, Kena’s reaction was a strange one.

“So you’re saying you took care of her after you found her collapsed next to your house? Are you being serious?”
“Hm? What do you mean?”
“It’s nothing…”

Count Fonan and others were after Astard’s research.

Merc felt it was strange that Astard would let such an unknown person in his house, but Astard merely gave her a suspicious look. Merc could see Astard didn’t have any hesitations about Kena.

“Eitherway, let’s go inside. Kena. We’ll be in the room in the back, make sure not to bother us.”
“What? By the room in the back you don’t mean… I will…”

Astard, who had entered the home with Merc, remarked to Kena casually. Kenna nodded slightly after seeming perplexed by his statement.

“Merc, this way.”
“Okay.”

Merc felt a cold stare lock onto her as Astard instructed her to accompany him.

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“…?!1

She quickly turned back and noticed that Kena, as imagined, was looking at them. Kena bowed deeply to Merc with a shocked expression on her face. Merc was caught aback as well, and she offered a slight nod.

What was that just now?

“Is something wrong?”
“No. It’s nothing… Let’s go.”

Following Astard’s prompting, Merc resumed walking. This time though, she didn’t feel any eyes on her. Merc, on the other hand, was certain that Kena’s face, which she had just seen, had been unmistakably glaring at her.


“I’ve cast a soundproof spell on this room, so we can talk freely.”
“I see.”

The room in the back which Merc was led to wasn’t that large. To be precise, it was rather spacious, but it appeared to be small due to the numerous scattered documents and unidentified items that appeared to have been used for research.

Merc deduced that this was most likely Astard’s laboratory.

“My real laboratory is in the Kingdom of Sphinia, so I don’t have much here, although I do have a few Falgaro-related research papers. That’s why I don’t let outsiders in, but since it’s you I suppose it’s fine.”
“That Kena girl hasn’t been here?”
“Of course. Kena is also not allowed to enter.”
“Astard, just who is that girl? We’re talking about you here. You’d never help someone like that.”

When Merc questioned him about what had just transpired, Astard purposefully gave her a puzzled look.

“Oh my. I’m not sure I get what you’re trying to say. Is it really that unbelievable for me to help someone?”
“No, it’s not. It’s just that Kena seems perfectly fine to me. There should be no other reason for you to allow her to stay in your home.”
“You’ve got this wrong. She, herself, expressed a willingness to assist because I had saved her. And because I don’t normally stay here, I just left her to look after the place.”
“You did what?”

Astard stated it so casually that Merc couldn’t help but be taken aback.

“Don’t make such a scary face. Your beautiful face will go to waste.”
“Are you aware of what you’re doing? For the love of God, you’re researching the Falgaro? She may be a spy hired to investigate that research.”
“Kena?”

Astard had a surprised expression on his face, as if he had never considered that possibility before. However, there was no way he hadn’t done so.

There was no way this man, who was far wiser than Merc and was even known as the Great Sage, hadn’t considered this possibility.

“There’s no way she’s one. From the time I’ve spent with her I’ve noticed that she’s quite awkward and naive. She couldn’t possibly be a spy.”
“It might all be an act!”
“Now, now. What I’m more concerned about right now is whether or not Count Fonan’s men will attack her. They could see her as a potential hostage because she’s been in my house.”
“……”

While Merc had major doubts about Kena’s identity, Astard was concerned about her safety. As one could assume, Merc was mortified by the scenario.

“Y-You… Have you fallen for her?”
“What? What are you saying? The age difference between us is far too great.”
“I know that, but still…”

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Merc’s statements were met with a casual rejection from Astard. To begin with, Astard was a man who had dedicated himself entirely to Iriem, the Saintess. Merc was well aware of this. She had just asked him to confirm it.

“I would have left her in the hands of others rather than caring for her if I had known Count Fonan was after my research. However, Count Fonan’s men attacked after she had already moved in. It caused me a lot of trouble.”
“Can’t you have her go somewhere else?”
“They’re already aware that Kena exists. I can’t think of anywhere else that is safer than this house right now. There’s also the possibility that the risk she faces will grow as she gets further away from me.”
“Still, that doesn’t mean you can keep her locked in here forever.”
“Whenever she goes out, I have my familiars protect her. However, as you just said, I can’t keep doing that forever… It seems I really need to take care of the Count.”

Merc couldn’t get rid of her reservations about Kena. However, Merc realized that there had to be a reason why Astard didn’t suspect her in the least.

Merc couldn’t trust Kena, but she could trust Astard, who appeared to trust her. That’s why Merc chose to put away her suspicions of her for the time being.

“Phew… So? Will you finally tell me about this Count Fonan?”

Merc enquired again after she had relaxed and renewed her determination.



References

  1. Robinxen: Ah a woman’s scorn.

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