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Month of the Lion God and the New Incident
1 – The Silver Mug’s Godparent
The Kingdom of Albein’s calendar were given the names of gods called [Star Gods]. That system was also used in giving guilds a title, my guild was crowned with the name of the God of the Water Bearer.1 Hence, the [Silver] [Mug] came into existence.
The previous guild master named the guild that, not me. She was dismissed from her post three months before I took up her position due to the guild’s poor performance.
It was by no means because the previous guild master was incompetent. It was just that she liked gambling a bit too much.
Even now, she sometimes showed up in my bar.
This was from when I was drinking in the corner seat of the bar counter during night shift as usual.
She, with her glossy long green hair, sat beside me with clothes that made her look like a dancer—she always sat beside me without even asking for my consent.
“So, you came here to borrow money again?”
“Now now, don’t be so cold. Even I bring something else other than… well, along with that, sometimes.”
The name of the girl calmly laughing was Selene Laura. Formerly an S-ranked adventurer, she apparently aimed for SS-rank before, but she ran away from the capital during the night due to her luck that was so bad she was called: [Selene, the Goddess of Misfortune].
I heard her guild’s funds were seized by a debt collector after she heated up and continued to gamble by borrowing money. So as to not cause trouble for her guild members, she chose to resign from her position as guild master and repay her debt on her own.
She suddenly returned to the capital one year after I became a guild master. Seeming to have wandered all over the kingdom of Albein, she nonchalantly lodged in my guild house, and came to visit my bar every few months.
Verlane gave a sullen look the moment she laid her eyes on Selene. The other customers may have not noticed, but I, who looked at Verlane’s face every day, noticed—I wonder why was she mad?
“…Dear customer, may I take your order?”
“Dick’s recommendation, please. Since any liquor he recommends will definitely taste good.”
“I ask of you to refrain from saying another customer’s name out loud like that within the bar. Because that is a rule of ours.”
“Oh, you did tell me that before. Then, because he’s my junior, I guess I’ll call him Otouto-kun.”2
Selene laughed with grace. Though she didn’t listen to what other people had to say, she wasn’t a bad person, so I gave her some drinks for the time being.
“O-Otouto… Well, I guess I am younger than you, but I have never seen you as a big sister, you know.”
I informed Verlane of the recipe by plain eye contact—I should have, but she seemed to be in a bad mood.
Why’re you mad?
I’m not. It is Master’s wish to sit close with Selene-dono, so it can’t be helped.
Uh… S-She has always sat beside me without much thought like this. She just kinda likes me, and…
Just by sitting beside me and facing my way, Selene’s boobs threatened to touch my elbow, and each time it touched me, Verlane’s stinging aura of displeasure would drift towards me.
…Hmpf, I’ll forgive you for now. Because this means if I came to the store as a customer, I would be able to sit beside Master like that.
Verlane was sulking, but she made the drink as I ordered without letting it show on her face.
It was made from deep purple-colored [Purple Dark Fruit], instead of using the viscous and sweet fermented mare’s milk, it uses milk from a [Wise Goat]. Purple Dark Fruit was good for the eyes, and with the enrichment of the mixed alcohol, it had the effect of curing any eye strain at once.
Because Selene was a [Magic Archer], she didn’t cut any corners in taking care of her eyes. I also wanted to give it to the other archers in my guild other than her—Seemingly pleased by the purplish-white mix of alcohol, Selene gave a satisfied laugh.
“Hnm… this nice smell, and the mellow and harmonious taste… I can get into this. Making these drinks for me… Otouto-kun, you expected me to come here again, didn’t you? I’m definitely going to hang around here a lot if you make me something like this.”
“Gh… D-Dear customer. This drink has been a staple of our bar since long before. Though we do not serve this drink other than to a few specific individuals…”
“That so? My bad, guess it was just my imagination. By the way, the bar manager’s changed… Otouto-kun, where did you catch an elf? One this beautiful, at that.”
“I didn’t capture her, a lot of stuff happened, you see…”
No matter how strong her nerves were, Selene would definitely be surprised if she found out that Verlane was actually a demon lord. Because of that, I’d keep it a secret for now.
“But it’s nice that she’s an elf. Because I would need to give her a warning if she were a beast-human.”
“What might you mean by that?”
Verlane replied in my place.
As if understanding my intentions, Selene faced towards Verlane and started speaking with her as if to gossip while drinking her booze.
“I visited some beast-human villages while I was going around the capital’s outskirts not too long ago. Most beast-humans lived on mountains and deep in the forests, but sometimes they went out in order to explore the “outside world,” or more precisely, “the home of other races.” But most humans tend to see beast-humans as ‘demi-humans.’ They tend to not treat beast-humans, who had animal-like features, too kindly.”
“Discrimination towards beast-humans is not permitted based on Albein’s laws. If one were to enact wicked deeds on them, they will definitely be judged, no?”
“Yeah, I guess so. But just keep it in mind. Because shadows exist in places where light cannot reach.”
Becoming restless just because they saw a beast-human—I guess those people wanted their fur or the sorts.
The Berbechia army captured and persecuted the Tigres3, so there must be people within Albein who harbored discrimination towards beast-humans.
“…Selene, did you come here to tell me something? If you’re talking about the beast-humans, then they must be…”
While I was in the middle of saying that, Selene pointed a finger out towards me, and made me hold back my words. If she held it just a bit further, her finger would’ve touched my lips—she was a bit too close at times.
“It’s your principle as a guild master, right? That every piece of information has its own value. And the value I want is… You catch my drift?”
Selene took out two dice and placed them on the table. She liked to decide on matters by gambling—and what she bet was usually something unexpected.
Yes, when Selene had no money to wager with, she wagered “herself.” Her going outside the capital in order to do work was due to her being pushed to marry by the person she borrowed from, which was still the case to this very moment.
Selene, who got fired up when it came to gambling, put herself as “collateral” in order to borrow money in hopes of a big turnaround. She intended to just work to pay her debt off, but her loaner got the completely wrong idea. Because she herself said that in a way that would likely cause a misunderstanding, she intended to leave the capital until things calmed down, but because an adventurer adventuring around was a great fit for her, it seemed like she quite enjoyed her current situation.
“If I win, will you give me a bit of that information? Erm, the thing about the beast-humans.”
“By wagering “myself,” I’ll do as Otouto-kun wants me to. But I’ll have you follow some procedures first before I give you that information. How about a five-rounder?”
“Fine. I’ll accept that match.”
“Dear customer, I am intrigued by the details of your match, but after listening to your conversation, I am slightly worried about your current bill. Drinking without paying will be…”
Troubling, before Verlane said that, Selene let out an amiable laugh, and emptied the contents her wallet onto the palm of her hand. There were only three copper coins inside of it.
“And that’s it… Now, I’m penniless, right? That’s why, I’ll appreciate it if you can let me stay the night here no matter how the match goes.”
I thought that converting the dice made with rare metal to money would somewhat cover her lodging and meal charges, but she probably brought it as an excuse to have a match with me. She had a part of her that honored that “stylishness.”
Verlane was also interested in the dice, so I passed them to her. Then she smiles, looking as if she hit upon an idea.
“Nothing. I thought she seemed to be a troublesome customer, but let me revise that. She seemed to be a lovely woman with a ‘playful heart.’”
“Not ‘seemed,’ I am a lovely woman in present progressive form. Otouto-kun never gives us any chance, so women like us always feel like putting our charms to the test, right?”
“I possess the overwhelming advantage of living together with him, so…”
“Hey, aren’t the two of you kinda hitting it off with each other?”
Without waiting for my orders, Verlane gave a second serving of alcohol to Selene. Selene brought the glass to her mouth with a provocative motion, while giving me a flirty glance—coupled with her dancer-like clothes, she was being far too arousing, so I hoped that she would be more self-reserved.
In Albein’s calendar, a year is divided into twelve months. Currently, it was the fifth month, which is called “Month of the Lion God”—Albein was warm all year long, but the eighth month is especially hot. That was due to Albein being under the influence of the spirit king of fire, and the power of fire spirits peaked at the eighth month.
Though the capital being so densely populated might have had an effect, sometimes the heat lasted until night, and there were days where wearing less clothes would make them easier to pass.
“…Still, doesn’t that expose too much skin?”
After closing the shop, going up to the second floor, I was going to have a match with Selene—but for some reason Verlane, who went through the trouble of changing from her maid uniform, was in clothes most befitting of the situation.
“Fufu… Wasn’t it Master who agreed to gamble with dice? Gambling dice belong in a gambling den, and this outfit is most fitting in a gambling den.”
“Urk… D-Don’t lean in too much, it’s borderline R-18.”
“Verlane-san sure gets it. You’ve decided to go with this ever since you saw the dice, right?”
Selene and Verlane exchanged winks with each other—I didn’t even feel like poking at the fact that they seemed like they’ve been friends for a dozen years although they just met today.
What I should be poking at is Verlane’s clothes. It had too much impact to ignore, after all.
“We’re gonna have a serious talk about beast-humans after this, what’s with your clothes.”
“A gambling den worships the animal of good luck, the rabbit. To that point, I believe this is not the slightest bit out-of-place. And since Selene-dono seems to already be in her match clothes.”
“My, you noticed? Well, it’ll be awkward if Otouto-kun thinks I’m always wearing these kind of clothes. Well, I do, but I cover them under a coat. It’s been hot recently, so I just feel like wearing breezy clothes.”
Selene was wearing clothes that had high enough skin exposure to make me feel troubled trying to look at her, so I couldn’t think of this as anything but Verlane feeling some kind of sense of competition—they were clothes that she couldn’t show to strangers.
Where the hell did she buy that from, Verlane was wearing a headband with bunny ears. And what enveloped her body with lovely curves were clothes resembling a black leather bondage. On her legs were fishnet tights, a rare article in the capital, along with pointed shoes with high heels, which were a favorite of noble women.
She wore white gloves, but that was also weirdly erotic. Rather, she was wearing clothes that fully emphasized eroticism, so of course it would—there were no shoulder straps, it was simply attached to her breasts, it was designed specially as to not let it fall off.
“Where the hell did you buy that from? That uniform, I mean.”
As I asked while being troubled finding where to lay my eyes, seemingly satisfied with my reaction, Verlane returned to her demon lord speaking tone.
“Women have many secrets you see, Master. Don’t act as if you know everything about me just because we live together.”
“You sure are saying that proudly… You should be grateful to my upstanding morals, since I didn’t lay my hands on a freeloader like you although I’m the owner.”
“Fufu… It’s because Master’s taken measures to eliminate the chances of us running into each other in the bath. I noticed, you know, that you didn’t even come anywhere near the dressing room whenever I’m bathing.”
“Ooh, as expected, eh. I needed to warn otouto-kun as his senior in life if he was living like a degenerate, but in that case, then you gotta make him act at least somewhat degenerate.”
“I believe saying degenerate rapidly like that is kind of… W-Well, so be it.”
These two, especially Selene, wondered if I really needed to act like such an upright gentleman, but this way it showed that I wasn’t shameless, and that women were a very hard-to-understand existence to me.
“…Come to think of it, this is kind of similar to my battle equipment. Master took the amulet from in-between my breasts while looking down at me in clothes like these… Even now I still remember the feeling of the talisman rubbing against my breasts.”
“T-That was five years ago… did I impress you that much? Didn’t I only touch you for a moment?”
“You were so calm while doing that, it’s unthinkable you were a 13-year old at the time… Though I’m the older one if we disregard our race difference, my chest has been throbbing ever since.”
“By throb, don’t tell me you got hurt when the talisman rubbed against you? If it did, then I’ll have to take responsibility and treat you… Actually, it was five years ago, too late to do it now, yeah?”
“…T-That is… If Master’s fine with it, then I’d like to take you up on the offer.”
“Alright that’s enough, you two, stop living in your own world. Otouto-kun, how about gambling on guessing whether the combined numbers of the two dice are even or odd?”
“Hm… Now that you mention it, this is the first time I’m “playing” with Master, huh…”
I heard that sometimes Verlane took time off and went outside to do some shopping and eat with female coworkers, but her “playing” with me like this was certainly a first.
“Yeah, this is just a game… so let’s enjoy it to our hearts’ content. Now then, the rule is to take off one piece of clothing each time you lose.”
“…W-What’s with the clothes rule? Or rather, I didn’t challenge you while hoping for that kinda rule or anyth…”
Normally, wouldn’t the girls be the ones embarrassed? I thought, but these two female seniors of mine made me feel like I’m about to be gulped up.
“To think the one called [The Forgotten Dick] from the demon lord subjugation team would decline… or something miserable like that won’t be the case, right?”
Verlane anticipated my response and provoked me. I could have calmed myself down if I wanted to, but I also had some pride in myself.
“Whatever, I get it. That rule’s fine, so let’s just start already. It’ll be too late to regret it now, alright?”
“For it to go this well… and I also got shelter for the night. Tonight’s been nothing but good things!”
Selene would probably be happy even if I admonished her, so I took the currently unused shaker that was placed in the living room as a decoration.
Verlane put the two dice in the shaker, and after she shook it, she brought it down on a plate above the table, loosened the lid, and asked us before she opened it.
“Even or odd?”
“…Even, I suppose.”
“Then we’ll be choosing in turns… Which means I’m odd.”
“Then, you’ve made your choices… M-Master, where do you think you’re looking at?”
I wanna say, “If it bothers you, then don’t wear them in the first place!” So badly right now.
Bunny-ears headband and black leather clothes that would lay her breasts bare if she were to bend forward. Along with her tough-smiling face, it solely emphasized her womanly charms.
“Aah… This turns me on. If I lose here, Otouto-kun will strip me…”
Even with Selene uttering those suggestive words, my heart was unshaken. When I’m focusing on a battle, I could repress all my wicked thoughts—with magic called [Mind Guard].
“—Let us start!”
With a shout, Verlane opened the shaker’s lid. The two dice rolled down onto the plate. Before long, the dice seemed to be coming to a stop. Accelerating my thoughts by enhancing my kinetic vision with magic, I predicted that if the dice continued with no interruptions, their total would equal four, an even number.
Kh… Not on my watch…!
But I couldn’t stop the dice. So I added rotation to it with concealed magic power from below the plate, and sent the dice away.
“Fufu… so our thoughts were the same… Naughty boy.”
Selene reached her hand below the table—and changed the rotation of the dice. Selene was quite the shrewd person, she used her specialty, Water Spirit Magic, and interfered with the rolling of the dice using what small amount of moisture was in the air. Water, even if it wasn’t visible, was always a component of the atmosphere, which was why she could always borrow the power of water even when there wasn’t any liquid around.
Even, odd, even, odd—the dice rolls were dizzying my eyes. That was the under-table battle of magic interference between me and Selene.
—However, in conclusion, Verlane’s Wind Spirit Magic returned the match back to square one. An air current was produced over the plate, and the two dice floated up into the air—the match would never end if we continued, so we stopped our interferences, and left the rest to luck.
“…One and four. Equals five, it’s odd.”
“The first match’s my loss. Verlane-san’s not half bad… The battle under the table was pretty intense too, so it’s fine.”
“No, I don’t particularly support either side, but… if Selene-dono strips, then I suppose I should strip off as well as a form of collective responsibility.”
“Y-You… as soon as you strip even one off, it’ll immediately be R-18. You don’t need to, so just act as the dealer.”
“Thanks for worrying about me, Verlane-san, but as a gambler, I have to properly pay my own bets when I need to… Then, I suppose I’ll start from my shoes.”
Selene took off her shoes—though it may just be her shoes, being able to see her previously hidden bare feet kind of made me restless. Did I have a feet fetish?
“…As I thought, let me strip as well. Think of it as us women having a bout to ourselves along with this one.”
“…Just do what you want. Go from either your shoes or gloves, you don’t need to show sportsmanship in this situation.”
“Otouto-kun, you’re acting all calm, but have you prepared yourself to receive my instant turnaround? I’m strongest when I’m backed in to a corner, you know… fufu.”
Was she aware that if she took off two layers off from her dancer-like clothes it’d be the end? Well, I decided to suggest to her to surrender the match along with the information if it started getting dangerous.
Though certainly, it wasn’t like I was guaranteed to continue to win without losing, so I had to keep my guard up.
—And so, the following matches continued genuinely.
But I forgot Selene’s title until the third match, where I’ve finally remembered.
“Fu, Fufufu… Otouto-kun’s also quite the gambler, huh. To think that I wouldn’t be able to read your expression…”
“I’m not even manipulating the dice rolls, it was completely luck… Can I say one thing, though?”
“W-Wait, Master! Saying that to Selene-dono now is too brutish!”
After having stripped only the same parts that Selene stripped off herself, Verlane said while her bondage was the only thing covering her body.
It seemed like I would see something I shouldn’t if I didn’t tell her to stop sometime soon.
“…Liking gambling even though your luck is this bad, aren’t you fundamentally going about this the wrong way?”
“Fufu… Fufufu. Because I know the pleasant feeling of losing so well, the feeling of pure bliss during the post-victory drinking party is on a completely different level.“
Being able to laugh when driven into a corner might be a good essence to have as a gambler—but another layer would seriously be bad, so I wanted to offer them to surrender.
The fourth dice roll ended as my fourth consecutive victory, and Selene was currently debating on whether to take off her top or bottom. She seemed like she would really strip if left alone, but she at least had enough elegance to stay her ground.
“…T-The real match’s only about to start now. My principles won’t allow me to give up as long as I still have clo… betting chips left. Otouto-kun, feast your eyes. I’ll show you, your senior’s way of living…!”
“Wha… Wa-Wait! If you take more off, I’ll be seen as some scoundrel who loves gambling with women and making them strip! Give me a break…!”
“Hm… That means it’s fine to strip as long as it doesn’t sully your reputation. Then won’t it be fine as long as we keep it a secr…mgh…mmh…mmmmh…!”
Verlane was about to fan the flames, so I stopped her with the use of brute force. I originally wouldn’t want to forcefully shut up a woman’s mouth, but this was the only way to stop these oddly-resolved girls.
“…Otouto-kun, doing that to Verlane-san until she starts tearing up is a bit… extreme.”
“Aah, what a pain in the… Whatever, I’ll strip, so just tell me the information in exchange! If you continue to strip like this, I’ll reach my limit in more ways than one… Anyway, it’ll be troublesome for me!!”
“That’s… the winner stripping themselves is against the art of the game. Stopping the match when we’ve come this far… I’ll feel terrible for as long as you leave me hanging, you know.”
“Hm… leaving us hanging… Master has quite the high-class technique, huh. I myself look forward to it, or rather, cannot wait for it… Calling Master a tease wouldn’t quite be enough.”
“You sure are having fun,” I wanted to say. Though before I knew it, the side that was being stripped by me had more of a problem with deciding who was going to strip me rather than the information—but I guess stepping between them now was way too late.
Anyway, the results of the sincere plea: Selene’s fourth loss would instead be paid with information, the deal was made.
—However, because they did too many rapid hand gestures in the middle of the match in order to manipulate the dice roll, their clothes were slightly disheveled. Even Verlane’s clothes, which held her breasts down with tension, were slipping off a bit, though they were still dangerously holding on.
“W-Well… Since we’ve got a deal, I’ll grab some drinks before listening to your information.”
“Master should take a seat and wait, I will…”
“No, you two, please sit. I know my way around this guild house, so even if it changed a lot, I should be able to at least get some tea…”
The moment the two of them said that and stood up, I saw something I shouldn’t.
Tension around the chest, the clothes, which applied that tensile force that men couldn’t possibly experience to the women’s chest—though them sweating likely factored in the outcome, fell down in tune with them standing up, due to the critical up-and-down shaking caused by their motion.
With reflexes that one would expect from them, Verlane and Selene covered their breasts. But due to the still-lasting effects of the kinetic vision enhancement, I was in a state of accelerated thought where I could analyze information within my field of vision—basically, my kinetic vision exceeded their reflexes.
…The two of them are like a work of art… W-Wait no, this isn’t the situation to rate them…!
“…Di-Did you see…?”
“N-Nah it happened… A-All in one moment, so I, like, couldn’t see it clearly…”
“’Couldn’t see it clearly,’ so you did see… Ugh, such a blunder…”
“I wouldn’t mind showing you if I lost the match, but an accident… Aah, what am I supposed to do? I can’t look Otouto-kun straight in the face anymore now… ugh.”
Looking at the two of them half-lamenting, I thought, “Then don’t propose any weird-ass matches,” but I didn’t put them into words. Because the reason that happened, me getting too into the match, was an unmistakable fact.
“It was a fun match, but I need to make a rule that bans stripping clothes.”
“…That calm manner of yours is slightly irritating, but whatever. Since I also enjoyed the match.”
“But where the hell did you get those bunny ears? Sakuya-san from the Intelligence Department is a Rabirim4; won’t it tick her off?”
“…I-I can’t do anything about it. Because it has been decided by the customers that the girls working in the gambling den should wear bunny ears. It was only a matter of chance that the rabbits are a symbol of good luck; I am not trying to copy Sakuya-dono here.”
“Must be nice talking about your colleagues… Verlane-san really has it good, always being with Otouto-kun… You found a nice place to work at.”
“…Although it has been a while, can’t you still come back? About the debt, you can simply borrow from Master for the time being instead. Though, it’s not my place as his servant to say so.”
“If I do that, I won’t be able to call him “Otouto-kun” anymore. And coming back to a guild I left on my own goes against a rule I set for myself.”
Though it was unheard of, it seemed like she had rules of her own. And, I’ve never thought that she should stay banished from the guild forever—After she pays back her debt and returns to the capital, I planned to at least consult her about my plans moving forward.
“Now then… surprisingly, I felt like I’ve paid back my five consecutive losses’ worth of bets already, but a promise is a promise, so I’ll talk. To be honest, the reason I stopped by today is to show this to Otouto-kun.
“…This is… a piece of leather…?”
It appeared to have been forcefully torn off, a small piece of leather. I took it in my hand and observed it.
“Yeah, seems so. This was something worn by a beast sighted in the forest near the capital. When it tried to attack the domesticated livestock, an independent magician shot magic and tried to repel it, but… The beast ran into the [Ice Cavern], and this was the only thing left of it.”
It was made out of animal leather, so I supposed the beast hunted it itself. In short, the beast made a break for it and tried to attack the livestock due to overwhelming hunger.
“If this was a piece of something, based on the shape… Is this from a belt or something?”
The moment I tried to search inquisitively for remaining clues, I noticed it.
This leather, which contained a small amount of mana, had some kind of magic casted on to it.
However, when I tried to analyze the purpose of the magic, I couldn’t understand it because it had disruption casted on it,. “No matter what kind of magic tool it was, then I would be able to understand its purpose”—I’ve been told that in the past, but this…
This leather… is a part of some magic tool, but the creator applied concealment on it in order to hide their true identity. The only one who could possibly do that is…
“Master… What’s wrong? Do you have an idea regarding this leather…?”
“…Nah. With only this small piece, I can’t get anything clear, but I might have gotten a clue. Selene, my guild will investigate this case.”
“Okay, I’m counting on you. I asked the guilds in the capital to investigate this piece of leather, but Otouto-kun is the only one I can count on…”
“Don’t tell me you plan to ask the village to pay…”
Selene, as if I hit the bullseye, had a wry smile on her face while holding down her ample breasts.
“N-No way, I just stopped by the village by chance, and when I called myself an adventurer, they gave me a request. See, since I’ve got an S-rank tag.”
Selene was acknowledged as an S-rank adventurer while including her position as a guild master, so I believe she should be around AA-rank at the moment, but she certainly possessed high capabilities.
In the end, it seemed like Selene stopped by the [Silver Mug] in order to entrust her request, but—
—I would learn the truth behind this torn leather at a much later date.
I felt it the moment I touched that piece of leather, along with the meaning of that nostalgic magic power.
2 – The Wandering Shadow Chaser and Runaway Animals
Several days after Selene dropped by my guild. At night, a bit after opening the bar, Cody came in.
“Yo, good evening. Your bar’s booming as usual.”
“Yeah, thankfully. Something happen? You seem to be in a good mood today.”
Cody didn’t admit it, but she affirmed herself as a woman. As Cordelia Blannage, she enjoyed the female-oriented alcohol I blended for her—but of course, she didn’t stop cross-dressing.
As the Leader of the Knight Order, Cody Oersted, she—Rather, he would still continue to lead many knights and protect the kingdom. That resolve of his wasn’t shaken, but his laugh was much more natural now compared to when he still hid his true self from me.
“Hm? What? You’ve got a happier face on yourself too, dick.”
“My dear friend, who always looked tired, now finally looks healthy. Of course I’m happy.”
“Thanks. The nobles are starting to handle their handiwork themselves, it seems like I’ll at least be able to take half of Sunday off now.”
“Then I’m glad. Take as much time off as you can, ‘cause you usually work too much anyway.”
“My body will start getting rusty if I don’t train for even a single day, you see. That’s why even on days off, I at least take a few hours to train myself.”
I involuntarily laughed to her usual serious attitude. I always liked seeing her honesty that I didn’t have—using such embarrassing words to describe my best friend was due to there not being any other words to express it with.
“That’s why I wanted to spar with Dick when I do get a day off. If we use the Magic Academy’s training grounds, we won’t damage the buildings that much thanks to the defensive barriers even if we use magic during the combat exercise.”
“They’ll still break when they do give out, though. Anyway, fighting with you would probably make my body scream for the first time in a long time.”
“If it doesn’t, then it wouldn’t be much of a training, after all. For those who have SSS-rank in close combat, it would be a far cry from actual combat if they don’t practice by burdening their bodies appropriately.”
After meeting them, the [Miracle Children], I’ve become much stronger. I believe that I, with my self-taught style, rapidly learnt how to properly wield the blade by watching Cody, who studied the blade.
I wondered how much combat power would I score from sword technique now. I wanted to try gauging it with the measuring device—the measuring device becoming a piece of junk flashed in my mind.
If the measuring device wasn’t good enough, then I could just measure it by how much I could keep up with Cody. Along the lines of that, the thought of myself crossing swords with him had me excited.
“Your eyes suddenly got sharp. Can I take it as you becoming fired up?”
“Yeah, of course. It’s your valuable day off; I’ll take you on until you can no longer move your arms and legs.”
“You just told me to take as much time off as I can, but now you want to do me until I can’t move my arms and legs… If you’re getting that fired up about it, then I’m appropriately excited for it as well.”
“…Ahem. Dear customer, may I ask that you stop your easy-to-misunderstand boy’s talk right there?”
While Verlane presented her honest opinion from behind the counter with her face tinged slightly red, she placed glasses filled with ale in front of us.
“If they misunderstood, then that’s fine with me. Since we’re both boys.”
‘If her true identity wasn’t revealed to the general customers, then that was fine.’ That was what she meant, I suppose, but she was, if I had to say in a moderate manner, lovely, as she toasted glasses together with me.
What I saw at that time in my [Small Spirit] form, was something I needed to wipe from my memory—but Cody’s breastplate, which seemed to be made heavier than the other male knights by comparison, was made that way because she hid his Sarashi-wrapped chest underneath it.
“Then, in the case you have drunk too much, please ask that customer over there to neutralize the alcohol for you.”
“T-That’s… Er, I think it’s still a bit early for that. I can’t change my feelings so suddenly, it’s…”
To neutralize the alcohol, I needed to put my hand over the target’s liver section and use healing magic on it. As for the location of the liver, it was in the inner part of the lowest section of the right ribs.
Basically, it was close to the chest—which wasn’t a place a woman would be comfortable showing a man.
“…S-Sorry. If you’re going to continue with that appearance, then I should act more…”
“N-No. Don’t fret over it, this is normal.”
“Is it not fine because he is your friend? …Is what I will not say, since teasing as such would be impolite.”
Verlane seemed to show some composure as a maid, but she was certainly bold, since she had me grope her breasts some time ago—remembering it made blood rush to my head.
Whether it be my maid or dear friend, I couldn’t be too careless with them. But Cody, who had been reservedly peeking at my face from the side, was clearly different compared to the “male friend” I had up until recently.
“…Can I ask you the next time I get drunk?”
“Y-Yeah. As long as it’s nothing weird.”
“When you decide to do so, please allow me to accompany you. Because looking at the mister’s current state, it is highly likely that he would cause some sort of problem.”
“…Is that so? Dick, you’re fine with someone half-baked like me…”
I had thought that her gestures were slightly charming even when I still thought she was a boy. Maybe I betrayed her feeling of camaraderie for thinking like that.
“You’re not half-baked, you’re thoroughly baked, Cody. I actually think you’re…”
While I was about to say that, cling-clang the door bell rang.
A hard leather armor with a black overcoat-wearing, blue-black haired young man came in. Though he was young, he was a full year older than me.
I recognized him. One of the SS-ranked adventurers currently based in the capital.
The man with a scar on his cheek approached Verlane, and called out to her while remaining expressionless. He had a blessed physique, but his muscles weren’t bulging from his body, it was condensed and trained.
But if I had to say, there certainly was an unscalable wall between an SS-ranked and an SSS-ranked adventurer. What other humans felt was a monster full of intimidation that had to be exterminated; me and Cody wouldn’t feel that much intimidation from them.
“Is this guild’s guild master here?”
“Please excuse me, dear customer. During night shift, we only sell alcoholic drinks…”
Verlane replied without being overwhelmed. The man silently closed his eyes, without a hint of discomfort on his face.
He had a well-featured face, though expressionless, that would pass as an actor’s in the capital. Although he had a scar on his cheek, it only served to improve his impression.
“…Then, at least give him my message. ‘Entry to the [Ice Cavern] is not permitted. In the case that a member of this guild comes there, I can’t guarantee his safe return.”
[Ice Cavern]—After Selene brought over the information about that the other day, I inferred that requests related to the [Ice Cavern] had made rounds to the other guilds from my information network, and asked an acquaintance’s guild to give it to me.
“The beast that dropped that piece of leather ran into the [Ice Cavern]—please capture it,” that request came from none other than the animal trader who let the beast free in the first place.
Why did the beast run away? How was it bred? There were many curious points, but for starters, I just accepted the request; Thinking I should investigate the details of the request, I sent the party of Sword Master Raia and Archer McKinley to complete this request.
Raia’s party had a young man called Rigel in place of Timis, who couldn’t participate due to knight order matters. He was currently B-ranked, but showed promise; I hoped for him to gain experience by acting along with the A-ranked Raia and McKinley in this job.
“Dear customer, if you only talk to yourself like such, I would be unable to grasp the meaning of your speech. Would you care to take a seat at the counter, and place an order?”
“…I don’t plan to stay for long. But I guess there is a rule to conform with it, since we’re of the same trade. I understand, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. However, what I’m trying to say won’t change.”
He was telling us to drop the case.
There was only one thing that a drunkard like me could do to him.
I gave Verlane a signal using my eyes, I told her to give the man ale. The man, still with his typical blank expression, gazed at the ale placed in front of him.
“…Doesn’t seem like you’re trying to make me let you off using booze.”
“Catch your breath first. If you’ve got something to say about this bar, say it after you’ve done just that.”
I called out to him; the man directed a silent glance at me. He really only glanced at me, not even trying to evaluate me, was what his gesture suggested.
“You seem to have something to do with that place called [Ice Cavern]. What’s with that place?”
Cody asked with a lowered voice in order to not be heard by the other customers. The man drank the ale, and directed his gaze to Verlane, not Cody.
He must have suspected her as an important person of this guild. Looking at the current situation, he definitely didn’t mark me as anyone important.
“It’s for personal reasons. I am an adventurer affiliated with the [Blue Bowman]. The client told me to capture the runaway beast even if I had to butt heads with other guilds… But that is a waste of time. I am fine with chasing ‘that’ alone.”
“Excuse me, dear customer, but may I confirm the validity of your affiliation?”
“…Is this good enough?”
The man obediently pulled out his guild tag from under his clothes and showed it to Verlane.
Guild Tags were small steel plates engraved with an adventurer’s affiliation information. Just by glancing at it, one could fully understand its contents.
SS-ranked Adventurer, Zect Crucifer from the [Blue Bowman]. Age 22, Job [Shadow Chaser]. Affiliated with the [Blue Bowman] for half a year.
That meant he worked as an adventurer somewhere else within the kingdom, and only drifted to the capital half a year ago. It’s not my place to say this, but why did he intentionally join a guild with low popularity?
What I especially wondered about was why was he so obsessed about the beast-capturing request. The reward wasn’t tied to the capture, it should have been market-price according to the difficulty level of the request.
“I have confirmed your affiliation. I am unable to grasp the entire situation, but does the [Blue Bowman] wish take the request for themselves?”
“I have my own reasons. This is unrelated to the [Blue Bowman].”
“Then that’s a no can do. You’re an adventurer, aren’t you? Becoming a representative for the guild you’re working with is normal work, you know.”
“Don’t run your mouth, side-man. I said to call the guild master of this place.”
A blunt reply. Cody shrugged his shoulders. It didn’t seem like it would go anywhere at this rate; I asked him a certain question via Verlane.
“That beast, is it perhaps dear to the customer?”
Her voice almost got lost in the hustle and bustle of the bar, but it reached the man—Zect’s ears.
Zect stayed silent, and gulped the ale in one go. Now, with the glass empty, he got up from his seat and left the store.
“No answer. I guess we can take that as his answer.”
Cody’s gaze was sharp, but he brought his alcohol to his mouth without pursuing Zect.
“Well, I guess that’s that…”
I had thought up of several possibilities. First was Zect is a friend of the animal trader, or for a certain reason, he wants to capture the runaway animal himself. Or thinking the other way, he held a grudge against the beast that ran away inside the [Ice Cavern].
They were simple guesses, but one thing I could say for sure was the ones capturing the beast, Raia’s party, would be in quite the risky situation if Zect viewed them as a disturbance.
Shadow Chaser, true to its name, was classified as a support-class job, but a party of A and B-ranks definitely couldn’t win against an SS-rank adventurer.
“A beast that ran away from an animal trader… huh.”
“What do you plan to do? Maybe I can help.”
“Nah, no need. Anyway, don’t worry and drink up.”
This is a problem that I should solve myself. Seeming to understand me, Cody didn’t say anything more.
I would only rely on him when I truly need his strength. This was still a problem in a scope my guild could solve without outside help.
Why did Zect pinpoint our guild as a guild that could possibly compete with him over this request? About that, I really wanted to praise Zect’s own investigation capabilities, but there was something else that caught my mind.
“…For some reason, your face is telling me something good happened.”
“Well, guess so. I got myself a chance to talk with an exceptional adventurer.”
“I could not satisfy the customer from earlier with just ale… was what happened, correct?”
It was exactly as Verlane said. My thoughts as a guild master was that Zect would bring good influence to my guild if I could persuade him.
I didn’t know his reasons for working in the [Blue Bowman] yet, but if I pulled this off well, I could pull him over to our side. The key to doing that was, naturally, this request.
Complete the request while respecting Zect’s goal and without competing with him.
Raia’s party were the only ones in danger, so I would conveniently rely on them, but I wanted to ask “her” for help.
“It appears you need to do some preparations in order to tame that beast.”
Yes—regardless of what Zect may be thinking, there was a single piece of information that we needed to know before deciding our actions.
The origins of that runaway beast. As long as I used my guild’s information department, it wouldn’t be a hard thing to find out.
1 水瓶, which, literally, is a water bottle, the series writes it as “mizugame,” which means a water jug; however, can also be read as “water carrier.” Aquarius is the star of the water bearer. And water bottle/carrier = a cup/mug.
2 Otouto means little brother.
3 The tiger beast-humans’ race is called Tigres
4 Read as Moon-Rabbit tribe/clan.