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[Ice Cavern] and the Beast’s Secret
1 – Ice Fox and Rabirim
I called out to Rieza, an Intelligence Department member. Who was blending in with the customers, and asked her for information regarding the animal trader that filed in the request.
Rieza gave me the information in a gossiping manner so as to not let the other customers notice, and to respect my policy.
“I’ve got an interesting story here, but maybe you can loosen up my lips first by treating me to a drink or two. How ‘bout it, Onii-san?”
“What, are you drunk already? If something’s happened, then I’ll at least hear you out.”
“Aright, please do listen. Looks like no other guy except Onii-san here wants to listen to my story… Haaah, I wonder, when will I have a fateful encounter myself?”
It seemed like Rieza wasn’t aware that she had garnered popularity among the male guild members of the guild. Which was odd, but there really weren’t that many males most of the time, so she was probably still single.
Cody considerately gave up her seat to Rieza and moved to the seat beside her.
“This other Onii-san here is so cool that you’re kinda hard to approach. How do I put this, you feel too dazzlingly elegant compared to a commoner like me.”
“That’s not true. I feel great and get drunk from some regular liquor just like that mister there.”
“The others said that this bar’s ale is especially good, but I like this bar’s juice-like liquor more. I couldn’t stop drinking it after tasting it once.”
Well, if that’s the case. I gave my order to Verlane.Rieza was somewhat weak to alcohol, so I gave her a liqueur mix of a fruit called [Violet Jewel] and a lot of Whey1.Whey spoiled quite quickly when not refrigerated, so it was one of the unique menus of my bar.
“Wow… It’s pretty. You really know a lot of things that make women happy, don’t you?”
“Not only women,” I wanted to make her revise what she said, but I couldn’t say it at the moment as I was pretending to be a mere customer. She only said that as a joke because she knew I was the one who ordered it for her.
But she really seemed to like the taste, she brought the glass to her lips and gulped audibly with her white-colored throat, and put the palm of her hand to her cheek in pure ecstasy.
“Haaah, that was great… This is why I can’t stop coming to this bar!”
“It also kinda helps with getting drunk so you won’t stagger along the way home. Bar master, get me some [Refreshing Lemonade].”
It was a drink made from squeezed juice mixed with spring water, it had the effect of making the one who drinks it sober up faster.
It was also low in sugar, so there were many customers who ordered this drink to close off their night. It was a drink devised to make customers handle their work the next day with no problems relating to a hangover, and also made them more likely to visit the bar again. Because of that, I priced it eight copper coins, barely enough to cover the cost.
Cody looked at her, and ordered the same drink. Then she gazed at me with a wry smile.
“I might trouble you if I were to drink until I get wasted, after all. Hnm… delicious. Wow, I never thought there would be liquor with such a clear aftertaste.”
“Mister beauty, is this your first time drinking this?”
“Haha… Responding to that would make me seem arrogant. Anyway, you will let me listen to your interesting story, right?”
Cody acted as the representative today. I was starting to run out of things to do other than getting drunk, but I supposed it was fine as long as that meant there were no difficulties.
I wouldn’t feel so bothered if Cody were a boy, but having a girl help me out so much made me look at her from a different point of view and feel apologetic due to burdening her so much. In order to focus my mind, I lightly slapped my cheeks somewhere Cody couldn’t see.
“So you see, it’s about animals. You gotta buy an animal from an animal trader if you wanna keep one in the capital. There are many problems like contagious diseases if you want to keep an unregistered animal, so the only animals allowed in the capital are ones that have been inspected.”
The Fairy Bird that Mylarka received from the king was no problem as it was inspected when the king gave it to her. The firedrakes me and Mylarka rode on was also fine because Elder Shura from the pasture investigated illnesses unique to the firedrake and made sure they were completely safe beforehand.
“Not only that, keeping animals in the capital is also pretty expensive. The reason why keeping animals as pets is popular in the capital is because the nobles wanted animals that they could care for. But for that, they could’ve just gotten a doggy, a wolfie though it’s somewhat rare, or a kitty-cat… Regular pets like those aren’t too popular. With that in mind, of course animal traders would want to capture the rarer animals.”
“That is… more like selling rare treasures rather than selling pets.”
“I know right? So they started competing for rare animals, and even quarreled with each other. The Animal trading company called Galumdoor is famous, but I heard they focus solely on handling rare animals, and have profited a lot from that. But there’s this bad rumor going around about them, you see…”
Even I knew that much from my previous investigations.
The Weltem Company that frequented my bar also had animals as one of their merchandise. Hence, I asked her for the one who was supplying Galumdoor Company with these rare animals, because my investigations turned up blanks when I looked up their supplier.
The information I had thus far didn’t indicate Galumdoor Company having done any misdeeds.
However, Zect was fixated upon the animal that Galumdoor company let free. Was that because it was a rare animal?—No, I felt that there was something else, a more concrete reason.
“Rieza-sama, what is this ‘bad rumor’ you are speaking of…?”
Verlane urged her to continue. Rieza continued after wetting her throat.
“This is something I heard just today. So a bit ago, Galumdoor just received a shipment of [Ice Fox], and they plan to sell it to a certain noble. But no one has actually seen an animal like that, it’s something like a phantom beast. And that fox’s fur is apparently similar to the fur of a certain beast-human race.”
The conversation became sort of specific, but the other customers weren’t listening to us, so it was all good. Rieza-san likely thought that the severity of the situation wouldn’t be properly transmitted if she continued with roundabout expressions.
“A certain race… do you mean [Foxries]2? I believe that from its name, [Ice Fox], its fur color would be close to the color blue…”
“Miss Manager, do you know a lot about them? That’s what I’ve heard, but I don’t know for sure…”
[Blue Fox-race]. Just from hearing their name, one would likely surmise that they possess fox-like features, and have bluish-colored fur.
“Haah, that’s it for my interesting story. Sorry it kinda dragged on.”
“Not at all, it was a very thought-provoking conversation. Rieza-sama, I will give you a reward ‘as thanks for your interesting story’ afterwards.”
“Really?! Thanks a bunch♪ then I’ll get back to you when I’ve got more interesting stories!”
“Yes, feel free to talk to me even if your interesting story is about finding a male partner.”
Verlane unexpectedly liked those kinds of gossips; she knew far more about the guild members’ romantic relationships than me. I heard once female guild members gathered, they would definitely talk about romance and the like. Even if I invited McKinley and Rigel to a drink, I would probably just listen to the hardships they suffered in their recent jobs, their recent activities, and praise them for a job well done.
Maybe I should hold a mixer sometime, I thought. Rigel, who always called me his Big Bro, could probably arrange that nicely, but the others likely wouldn’t come unless I invited them myself, so I felt miserable.
Well, I wasn’t planning on hooking Rieza up with somebody or anything. I wasn’t in any position to meddle in somebody else’s love affairs—I believed in letting fate decide one’s partner, though that thought might change once I’ve married. Though I was aware that I wasn’t in any position to say something beta like that.
“So… Dick, what do you think about Rieza-san’s story?”
Cody said in a whisper. I was currently thinking about something else entirely, but I certainly did listen to Rieza’s story, and also had a plan in mind.
“It was a pretty interesting story. There really is a big difference between knowing and not knowing. I can’t stop drinking after listening to that kind of story.”
“You’re not even drunk. Your eyes have always reached far more in this bar than anyone else’s, you know.”
“Fufu… Though you do seem drowsy all the time. Seeing you have your eyes open wide would be a sight to behold. Since it’s been a long time since I’ve seen that happen.”
“Do I really look that sleepy…? These are how my eyes normally look, though…”
I opened my eyes slightly wider, but the two of them only glanced at each other and laughed.
Cody went home; I had Rieza invite a certain someone to the guild after closing hours.
The girl who normally stayed in the seventh district’s intelligence department, supervisor of Rieza and the other intelligence department members. I trusted her to the point she could be considered my guild’s right hand-person.
I waited in the back-alley behind the bar as a wolf’s howl resounded somewhere in the distance. Was that wolf also an animal kept after receiving the capital’s permission?—Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t ever have such thoughts.
After a while of waiting, someone’s presence could be felt without any resounding footsteps. The clouds covered the moon, and in the few moments of darkness it caused, she suddenly appeared. She had one knee to the ground and her head hung low.
“…Excuse me for the wait, Master. I, Sakuya Uzuki, have now arrived.”
“Yeah, sorry for calling you this late in the night. Thanks for coming, Sakuya-san.”
White hair and skin, along with rabbit-like ears; she was a [Rabirim]. She had a mole near her left eye, a cold beauty.
Rabirims could erase their presence and hear sounds a regular human couldn’t, so they were a race with extremely fitting characteristics for covert operations. They also had high Magic power compatible with water magic.
Furthermore, they normally had high exposure. Rabirims wore armor with less fabric and showed less shyness from skin exposure when compared to humans
On top of being an irrefutable beauty, her lack of shyness could be said to be a deadly weapon to men—if one tried to lay his hands on her in a joking manner, it wouldn’t be weird for that to be his end, because she possessed the power of an S-rank.
“There’s something I’d like you to do immediately. I want you to investigate a certain place.”
“By tonight, I assume. Understood. Have you received permission for the investigation? Or is this investigation supposed to unearth something to be used as evidence?”
“Sorry, this matter falls into the latter. Sorry for making you do something illegal like this.”
“No need. There has been no occurrences where Master’s orders have been a mistake. I will investigate the suspected place, such is my duty.”
I didn’t have any concrete reason, it was currently a mere guess.
Still, I was confident—there was something in Galumdoor Company. Something that will connect the Foxries and the Ice Fox.
“This matter concerns beast-humans. It might make you feel slightly uncomfortable.”
“There is no reason for Master to feel sorry. You don’t discriminate against beast-humans. Which means the investigation target will be evidence of discrimination against beast-humans, correct?”
“I’m still guessing here, though. If we get some proof, it’ll be a great help in persuading a certain person.”
“Understood. Then, the location… is written on this paper, I see.”
Sakuya activated [Hiding] and erased her presence. Her destination being the Galumdoor Company.
An undercover investigation was quite the heavy-handed method, but I had no choice other than that. If everything goes according to my prediction, Galumdoor should have some magic tool to deal with beast-humans.
“Master… Is it as I’ve thought?”
I returned inside the bar and encountered a waiting Verlane. I told her to rest, but it seemed like she was worried and didn’t go to sleep.
“So you reached the same conclusion as I did. Among the beast-humans, there are those who can reverse into a “beastified” form by their own will. If those beastified beast-humans were made stuck in that form by using some magic tool…”
“Fixed Beastification… I didn’t think that far ahead. I see, a magic tool… I merely thought they had made use of a certain magic to make the beast-humans unable to return from beastification.”
A certain beast-human race—Foxries, with their fur similar to an [Ice Fox]’s. Could the Ice Fox be a beastification of the Foxries? I deduced.
If they were originally a beast-human, they might be related to Zect, someone he was friendly acquainted with; they were someone Zect wanted to deal with on his own without other guilds’ meddling, that was a possible reason.
“Being able to make that magic tool likely means they are no ordinary person. Galumdoor getting their hands on that magic tool must not be a coincidence as well…”
The moment she brought up that possibility, I recalled the figure of a certain person.
The one who taught me how to make magic tools—my most important benefactor.
If it was her, she probably could. However, I didn’t want it to be true. Because that would mean she was trampling on that beast-human’s free will by forcing them to stay in beast form.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t stay vague for much longer. With Selene’s clue, I had already known.
“What Selene brought was likely something the [Ice Fox] had on its body. Based on its shape, it’s a belt… a collar, probably put on one of its limbs. The magic casted on it was [Dominate]… and one other. Some Enhancement magic.”
“So you’ve found that much from such scarce Magic power… Master, where did you learn to do that…?”
“…I was taught that a long time ago. That’s it for now, please don’t ask further.”
“Is that so… I understand. I suppose Master has grasped the full picture of the case.”
I only guessed by sorting through the important information. I did not grasp the full picture. I still felt conflicted on the true identity of the magic tool’s creator.
First, I had to wait for Sakuya-san to report her findings to me. If her findings support my claims, then that would mean Galumdoor Company, though they were the client, committed a crime. It would mean I shouldn’t return the [Ice Fox] to them, even if I captured it.
Then there was Zect. There was a good chance Raia’s party would be destroyed by him if they were the only ones going to the [Ice Cavern]. I needed to evade that outcome at all cost.
Realistically, I should send someone to guard them. Someone that could rival Zect, though the ones I could rely on were limited.
2 – The Elegant Explorer and the Company’s Truth
Sakuya headed for the headquarters of Galumdoor Company on Tenth Street under her guild master, Dick’s orders.
Her job was [Explorer]. It wasn’t a job specialized in covert operations, but it was the best at investigating secret intelligence, even jobs specialized in intelligence gathering couldn’t match it. [The Silver Mug] wasn’t a guild specialized in intelligence gathering, but as an intelligence department member, she put the information coming into the guild in order and sometimes directly did investigations herself.
Rabirims had a longer lifetime than humans did, but her real age wasn’t too detached from her appearance. Her age was unknown; she stopped counting her age as she grew up.
She met Dick four years ago through a certain event, and put herself to work in his guild. Sakuya never had any interest in ranks and the like up until then, but she first found out about the Adventurer’s Strength System when registering in the guild. Her self-defense techniques she learned by herself numbered nearly 10,000; adding up her unique abilities as a Rabirim, along with her abilities from her job: Explorer, her total strength was 32,384, and she had been assigned the S-rank adventurer rank.
The amount of people in the capital with that kind of strength didn’t even reach a thousand, SS-ranks were even fewer, and SSS-ranks were akin to Gods. Sakuya was aware of that, but the people didn’t see things the same way because the Demon Lord Subjugation Team, and Verlane, didn’t abuse their powers.
Though that may be the case, leaving everything to that person is also not permissible.
Sakuya erased the sound of her footsteps and her presence, then wore a gray overcoat to hide her revealing clothes. She didn’t let the late-night liveliness of the bar interrupt her thoughts, and headed to her destination. Nobody perceived her.
She soon left the lively bar, and entered a street ward lined up with shops. Galumdoor Company owned a fourth of the shops in that ward.
There was a two-story mansion with a garden surrounded by a tall fence. Sakuya examined the documents she had at hand, and scanned her eyes through the entries to find that the company recently saw rapid growth due to selling rare animals.
It seems Master’s guess is spot-on. I can smell the unique smell of beast-humans from this mansion, though faint.
After confirming no one could see her, Sakuya kicked the ground and jumped up in one go. She scaled the fence that was twice her height with a reverse somersault.
After landing in the garden, Sakuya noticed that there were dogs near the mansion.
Dogs were the natural enemy of rabbits, but Rabirims weren’t afraid of them. Sakuya ran, held out a hand towards the dogs, and muttered a short incantation.
That magic, basic Illusion magic, showed its effect—the dogs that were fiercely running towards her stopped their rush, lied down, and laid their bellies bare.
Sakuya looked at the comfortable-looking dogs and wore a kind smile. She instinctively found dogs dislikable, but she thought they were quite cute as long as they weren’t attacking.
Having neutralized the dogs, she turned to the back of the mansion. She then aimed her sights on a tree near the mansion, silently ran up its trunk, and easily jumped to the roof of the mansion.
From outside, she figured that the mansion had an attic. Sakuya got close to the window of the attic, and then noticed something unusual.
There were traces of somebody else having infiltrated the place. There were remains that showed someone forcefully tore off the chains that sealed up the window from the outside.
The one who could do such a feat of strength was a beast-human—it wasn’t impossible for humans, but it was unlikely for a human to tear off steel chains bare-handed without Dick’s Enhancement magic.
There is a chance the intruder is still within this residence.
Sakuya felt the risk, and prepared sufficiently to go into combat. She casted Physical Attack-nullifying magic, [Oboro-Kasumi].3 It wasn’t the magic of an Explorer, but a unique magic of the Rabirim.
She opened the window and landed inside without a sound. Sakuya’s red eyes could see even in a state of near-total darkness, and she could fully grasp the state of a room from echoing sounds due to her sharp hearing.
Sakuya’s race had been ridiculed before as having been made to be thieves. But Dick praised her abilities as useful for exploring dark labyrinths and ruins.
—And now, her ability proved its use by detecting a beast-human that was erasing their presence right beside her.
“…Noticed, huh. But whatever, not instantly attacking means our objectives are the same somehow.”
The one sneaking in the darkness was a beast-human—a Wulfrim4 man. He wasn’t young, neither was he old enough to be called elderly.
He looked like a thief, but Sakuya judged that that wasn’t his main job. Thieves generally fought using daggers, but the Wulfrim man appeared to be well versed in martial arts, apparent from his standing posture.
“I never expected someone would infiltrate before me. You also don’t seem to be a robber.”
“Nope, I’ve finished my search. Just knowing what I searched for “was here” is enough… You should go back. I’m going to butcher everyone in this mansion.”
What did the man search for?—Sakuya turned her sights around the room, then gathered the clues to take a guess.
There were several blanket-like items scattered within the attic.
What happened was obvious. Several beast-humans were confined here.
“May I ask you to spare time for us to speak? I came here with a goal in mind. Thus, I cannot simply do what you say.”
“You look smart, so you’ve got a good guess already, don’t you? This company’s merchandise are beast-humans. What I searched for… my daughter, was also here. Either she’s been sold or they were scared of someone tracking them down. Either way, I’ll need to give Galumdoor a payback.”
“Galumdoor Company should be selling “rare animals.” They aren’t selling slaves… Not officially, at least.”
“Yeah, not officially. They sell beast-human slaves to adventurers and bandits who want them. That’s the truth.”
Sakuya drew a certain conclusion from Dick’s guess and the truth.
But to prove that, she needed to get a certain piece of evidence.
“Won’t the safety of your daughter be at risk if you kill everyone in this mansion?”
“Are you telling me to stay calm? They’ve already done the deed, and now I have a reason to retaliate against them. When my daughter took an interest in human towns, this company tricked and kidnapped her.”
“They… Galumdoor Company will receive proper punishment. However, cutting their lives here would be giving them the easy way out. There truly exists a living hell in this world, you see.”
The Wulfrim man opened his eyes wide. Due to the unexpected words that came from the girl he thought to be a pacifist with her soft-spoken tone and physique.
Her words had a far, far deeper hate for humans than his. The man couldn’t ignore that hatred of hers.
“…If I listen to you, will my daughter be more likely to come home safe?”
“Yes. Compared to going on a rampage here and causing them to become more vigilant, letting them run free for now is the better choice. We need evidence in order for Galumdoor to receive proper judgment.”
“Evidence… If you’re talking about traces of them having sold beast-humans then there are many all over this place.”
“Not quite, what they deal in are simply “rare animals”… They should have a tool that would make it look that way. Doesn’t your daughter have the ability to beastify?”
Some of the beast-humans who could beastify tended to hide that fact.
The beast-humans who could beastify resembled their ancestors, who were of “pureblood origin.” They were a target of worship, but at the same time, they were seen as a target of struggle by those in the same village who wished to take their blood for themselves.
“Are you saying the humans have noticed the value of pureblood beast-humans?”
“Beast-humans who can beastify are treated the same as “a rare animal” to them. With that train of thought, their value would skyrocket.”
“My daughter can return to her original form any time after beastifying. There’s no way they can sell her as an animal like that. Even if they did, the fact that she is a beast-human would soon be…”
The man stopped mid-sentence as if he realized something.
“Yes, they should have instantly noticed, but they haven’t, that is why their reputation as an animal trader is still untarnished. The tool that makes that possible is surely hidden somewhere here.”
The man stayed silent, and picked up one of the blanket-like items off the ground. That should be the one her daughter used. He let it go and then placed his fist to his head seemingly in prayer.
“…I’m Gustave. Gustave Wolfgang, a Wulfrim.”
“I am… Sakuya Uzuki.”
Sakuya still hadn’t named her race. Rabirims were supposed to be extinct. Although Gustave didn’t intend to do any harm, she couldn’t disclose her identity so easily.
“Sakuya, eh… Weird-sounding name. Us meeting here is one hell of a coincidence, also, I now know our goals align. I’ll listen to you for now.”
“Yes. We need to investigate this place discreetly, do you have stealth abilities?”
“I may be worse off than you, but regular humans won’t notice me. Though I probably just look like some old guy.”
Gustave had strength proportional to an A-rank. Sakuya judged his stealth abilities to be sufficient, and divided the mansion investigation to both him, and herself.
The guards hired by Galumdoor Company couldn’t see through Sakuya’s [Hiding], and that allowed her to act freely.
—Then Sakuya discovered a mechanism in the company head’s room, and found a hidden room.
…This is… where they keep the records of their illegal transactions, a concealed room… and there are hidden assets as well.
It was likely to be the money he had earned from selling beast-humans as rare animals. While Sakuya thought to suggest to dick about using that money as relief money for the captured beast-humans, she opened a transaction document, intending to check if there was any notable information—and then.
This is… a document of the delivery of the “Magic Tool”. The other party is unspecified… According to the document, one of them should still be unused.
Sakuya discovered a locked safe. With a Rabirim’s keen hearing and her skillful hands, along with the tool called a lockpick, she could undo the lock.
Carefully, but as quickly as possible. Sakuya began unlocking the safe—She could feel it, the dreg-like stagnated malice, causing her to feel sick to her stomach.
3 – Live-alone Ogre Girl and the Beast’s Collar
[The Ice Cavern] is a cave system made up of three levels. In the depths of the third level, there is a lake inhabited by a [Water Elemental], a type of water spirit.
The lake froze over due to the spirit’s influence, and high clarity [Eternal Ice Blocks] can be harvested from there. Because it was frozen over by an Ice Elemental’s power, there is a timeframe where one could easily collect those ice blocks.
Within the heat of the eighth month, where the Ice Elemental’s power is weakened, causing the ice to melt, one could take back several boxes of ice on a wagon, cover it with straws or chopped wood, and bring them back with only about ten percent of it melting.
If the Ice Fox ran into the cave, that meant that my bar—the [Silver Mug] wouldn’t be able to get its supply of ice to maintain its cooling room. But that was just a small problem, this case continued to be an even deeper, bigger case than initially expected.
I didn’t know if Verlane thought this far ahead, but this case originated from Galumdoor Company’s racism towards beast-humans—selling beings that could speak as rare animals.
“Antagonism against a race, huh. The Berbechia Army was like that as well, but I wonder why do people look down on beast-humans? Maybe because they have a power that humans don’t, so in reality, those people might have felt inferior.”
“There are those who feel joy from making people stronger than them submit. The nobles tend to feel that way… Even in my kingdom, there are people who thirst for dominance. Though during my rule, I didn’t let acts of subordinating others go unpunished.”
They made beast-humans beastify, and treated them as rare animals. By doing that, their need for superiority would feel fulfilled—it was despicable, but I was sufficiently aware of that from my “Information Network.” There were still some evil people who brought a request to my guild even after I had them go through a contact person—the more I found out of their thoughts, the more I felt to dig up requests hidden in the dark, and help as many people who were being unfairly persecuted as possible.
Even the SS-ranked Adventurer, Zect was one step behind us in this case. Which meant there was a chance someone who could even toy with an SS-ranked adventurer was helping Galumdoor from the shadows.
Still, my guild could deal with them. Because my guild had the free cooperation of an SSS-ranked adventurer.
“Speaking of which, Master, what did you want to ask of me…?”
“Yeah, wait a bit. I gotta make an instruction note for the party heading to the [Ice Cavern] first.”
I headed to the desk in the office, spread the map that mapped the [Ice Cavern] to a certain extent, and thought up how Raia’s party would move. Verlane placed a cup filled with herb tea in front of me, and gazed at the map while standing beside me.
She was still in her maid uniform, but she took off her headdress, and had returned to her dark elf form. Which meant she was most comfortable in that form, but she rarely showed it to me, so it felt fresh.
“The map is quite well made. Did Master make this?”
“I had the chance to go down the caves once because I needed the ice blocks to make the cooling room. The [Ice Cavern] by itself wasn’t all that dangerous. The monsters that occasionally pop up there can be handled by B-ranks.”
“How does Master view the extent of the [Ice Fox]’s strength?”
“Equivalent to B-rank, was written in the request form. Though that’s probably worthy of some doubt.”
“Taking into consideration that man from [Blue Bowman]… Zect is taking the request, the Ice Fox may very well be equal to him, SS-rank in power, or maybe S-rank.”
“It’s a possibility. I have no other choice but to ask someone who can guarantee the safety of both Zect and the Ice Fox.”
“Hm… Ogre-girl, huh? I initially thought of the Holy Sword Hero, but Eileen would be more used to dealing with magic beasts indeed. That wild movement of hers is astonishing.”
“Exactly. Seems like you can read into most of my thoughts now, Verlane.”
“I am always observing Master and straining my mind in order to propose a plan. Though a praiseworthy result hasn’t come as of yet.”
As she said that, she brought her cup to her lips, and re-crossed her legs. Was it on purpose? Or was it not?—Because she was a creeping beast during the time known as night-time. Thoughts she would never have during the day would wander into her head.
“Gr…. I feel something wicked might happen if I let master leave now… Since if we disregard the tense situation of the matter, this would normally flare up the relationship between a man and a woman.”
“I didn’t think of anything weird while I was giving Sakuya-san her task, did I?”
“Despite what you say, your eyes instantly focused the moment I crossed my legs.”
“Kh… That’s because you crossed them so flamboyantly. I’ll have to consider making the skirt longer.”
“If it is to Master’s taste, then I am always ready to make the change. Fufu… I finally feel like I’m teasing you like the older woman that I am.”
Pleasing Verlane was kind of annoying. It looked like things would go out of hand if I continued to indulge her teasing me, so I started worrying what would happen to me.
Eileen’s house was quite near my guild, she lived in the highest-class housing complex on Twelfth Street.
Though that may be the case, the highest-class people who lived on Twelfth Street were families of information-shop managers and people who offered frustrated couples a night of enjoyment. Being able to interact with them as regular neighbors was one of Eileen’s amazing points.
The housing complex she lived in was built by merging multiple two-story houses together; the house at the deepest end had the nameplate “Shuperia” on it.
She didn’t write it as “Eileen” because she was worried her house would become a public attraction if she did. She had introduced herself as “Eily” to her neighbors, and somehow managed to hide her true identity.
Sounding the bell placed in front of her house’s entrance would trouble the neighbors, so I knocked on the door. I knocked in a “2, 1, 3” rhythm, signaling her that it’s me. Taking precautions for this kind of thing made even me feel like my habit was going out of control.
I intended to repeat it one more time because there was no reply, but the lock opened before I knocked again.
“You can come iiin.”
“Yeah, sorry for coming this late. Actually, there’s something I’d like to ask… WAAH!”
I opened the door and went inside, and Eileen was standing there in a state I didn’t even expect in the least—actually, I smelled something that smelled like soap the moment I opened the door, but I never thought she would welcome me fresh out of bath while wearing a mere bath towel.
“Don’t worry, I knew it was Dick from the knocking. I wouldn’t just welcome anyone wearing this, you know.”
“E-Even if I’m the one visiting, that should be worrisome…”
“Anyway, you came here ‘cause you want me to do something, right? ASAP job?”
Her freed hair that was usually tied up, along with her well-toned healthy skin terribly unnerved me, but she herself was completely unfazed.
Was this what was called an established relationship between a man and a woman? Or maybe she didn’t see me as a man? No, that doesn’t matter, wishing for too much causes people to lose sight of what’s important. A completely unproductive worry for me.
“Stop nagging about that and just come in. I gotta dry my hair now, so wait a sec. Ah! Dick, can you dry my hair for me using magic?”
“S-Sure… I don’t mind. But before that, get some clothes…”
“I’ll sweat buckets if I wear clothes in this heat. Then I’d have to take another bath!”
However breezy that towel was, the area it could cover would be suitably low, it didn’t fully cover her lower regions. If she were to turn around in that state, it would be a disaster.
“Then, can you do it for me over there? It’d feel super nice to have Dick dry me off~, the others also said it’d be nice to have a Dick at each of their homes.”
Eileen twirled around and started walking. Her buttocks, or should I say rear thighs, were visible, my tree that was my sense of reason was being powerfully chopped off with the force of an axe—with her proportions, it wouldn’t be far from the truth to call her whole body a deadly weapon. Below her shapely rear were firm-toned thighs. Though that may be the case, her muscles weren’t bulging at all—it retained the fluffiness of a woman’s thighs; truly, a work of art.
“…Just now, did you see my butt? You didn’t, right?”
“Er… N-No I did not. Maybe just a glimpse, but…”
Eileen, who had entered what I thought to be a living room, peeked half of her head out to see me. If she leaned her upper body any more than that, I would be able to see the bulges of her chest, regardless of her towel.
“O-Oh, right… Dick’s not that interested in a girl’s bare skin. Though you seem interested in Cody’s.”
Eileen retreated her head, seemingly relieved. Cody’s also girl, and so of course I’d be interested in hers, though I decided leaving that misunderstanding of hers alone was for the best.
The method I used to dry hair: cover a comb in Magic power, cast healing magic on it to heal damaged areas, and rid the hair of excess water.
Back during the subjugation trip, Eileen’s almost peach-colored hair took great damage from the harsh environment she lived in before, but it seemed like her hair that I combed through felt much smoother, so she liked it quite a lot. It had been five years since then.
“Dick, that’s enough. Thanks for drying my hair for me.”
“Can you let me do one thing ‘just in case’?”
“Mhm, go ahead… ah… kinda warm. Getting you to massage me right after drying my hair feels amazing… feels like I’m about to fall asleep.”
Because she was going to head to the [Ice Cavern] after this, I casted Enhancement magic that suited the situation on her as a trump card, just like back in the subjugation team days.
As insurance, I casted it two-fold. Regardless of her strength, there was a chance she could be caught up in something unexpected. If this spell served its purpose then, it would all be fine.
Assuming the many things that could happen to her… I won’t ever finish casting magic on her if I secure all the possibilities, huh. Seems like I’m quite the worrywart myself.
“…S-Somehow, Dick’s hands feels gentle… Whenever you touch me, I feel kinda…”
“Just a bit longer and it’s over. Dear customer, it seems your shoulder is pretty stiff.”
“Mhm, I guess. Even just doing stuff normally makes it all stiff. But now it feels all nice. You should do this thing to Verlane-san or Mylarka sometime.”
Those two’s names came up, which meant the topic of stiff shoulders had come up between the people with big breasts—just imagining it made my head feel slightly warmer.
“Today is special. If I massaged everyone and anyone then I’d be seen as someone who just wants to touch somebody else.”
“I-I see… Mmm, I know that you didn’t mean anything with that “special.” But this feels real good, so it’ll definitely feel great to have you do this every day. Just drying my hair every day is enough.”
“E-Every day…? Make it once a month or something.”
“Aiiight. Ahaha, feels like I’m back to being a kid. I got my mom to dry my hair back then.”
I remembered having my older sisters take care of me back when I was a kid. My parents were rarely home, so my two older sisters were like my mothers. Though that was a story from a very long time ago.
I sometimes wondered if my family back at home was doing well, but I never once felt like going home. My family was a group of independent people, our parents’ house was merely one of our multiple bases. Sometimes I was asked whether that felt lonely or not, but I feel that every family has its own thing going on.
“But yeah, probably can’t ask you to dry my hair every time even if I lived with you, Dick. Does Verlane-san unexpectedly have a reserved side to her?”
“I can just imagine Verlane getting ideas if you talk to her about that, Eileen… Well, I don’t mind as long as it’s not every day. More importantly, Eileen. Sorry for springing this onto you right after you finished a job, but I have something I wanna ask you to do soon.”
“Mm, sure. By soon, you mean tomorrow?”
“Yeah. I asked Raia’s party to do this, but another guild is competing with us for the request, and they sent an SS-ranked adventurer to interfere. The guy’s called Zect, I want you to go about this without butting heads with him if possible.”
I showed her documents pertaining to the request as an explanation. Eileen said, “Mmhm” twice while scanning her eyes through them.
“Yeah, I kinda got it. Don’t kill the Ice Fox, but capture it alive, yeah? Will that Zect guy attack us if he meets us before the Ice Fox?”
“It’s possible… But probably not if our side doesn’t attack first. He seemed like he won’t mind as long as he finds the Ice Fox first.”
I explained to Eileen about the [Ice Fox] possibly being a beastification of a [Foxries] and about Zect seemingly connected with it.
“Selling beastified beast-humans as rare animals? Dick, aren’t you gonna teach that Galumdoor Company a lesson? I can’t let them do something so awful and get away with it, y’know.”
“I asked Sakuya-san to investigate it. She should be back soon.”
“Oh, okay. Sakuya-san’s a beast-human too, so she should be angry, maybe she’ll make minced meat outta them.”
“I won’t rule it out, but she should understand. We can punish Galumdoor any time we want, but there’s a proper way to do things.”
“Mhm, as long as they’re getting punished in the end it’s fine. I’m not gonna budge on that.”
Eileen clenched her fists. She had been wearing a towel all this time; did she still feel warm from coming out the bath?
“Eileen, you should probably get some clothes…”
“Oh, right. Sorry, I’ll get changed…”
Be it an undefeated martial artist or an SSS-ranked adventurer, these unavoidable accidents still happen, huh? I thought the moment Eileen stood up, as her loose towel fell on the floor.
Girls with big breasts, like her and the demon lord, should be careful when moving vertically—though it was too late to say now.
Eileen was dazed. I was unable to move nor speak, my mind blanked out as Eileen’s supple limbs that were wastelessly tempered came into view.
Though I heard exercise reduced breast size, maybe it was because of her ogre blood, or maybe it was a special characteristic of hers, but I could not see any signs that her exercise dampened her breasts getting bigger. Even though it should be heavy since it’s so big, her two beautiful, ample bowl-shaped items were firmly stuck on her body.
Normally she would’ve had hidden it while in a panic. But maybe it was because her long hair is hiding her chest, or maybe, she was purposefully showing it—Eileen’s arms were only slightly covering her chest, her attempt at covering herself was so half-assed, even for her.
She had called me that way multiple times, but she sounded different this time around.
She welcomed me coming this late at night. She let me see her while wearing a single towel and said it was fine because it’s me, and now she was questionably calm right now.
It seemed like the same things were going through her head.
The situation would end once anyone said anything.
While I was pondering over what to say, Eileen took my hand.
“…Dick, I… Always, Always…”
Eileen’s hands moved. My hand would touch her body at this rate, but right before that happened,
“…Master, are you in the middle of something?”
“Hyaaaa! W-Wha? Sakuya-san? When did you…?”
Eileen let go of my hand in a panic. As for me, my thoughts were frozen solid—In my confusion, Sakuya-san spoke in a calm voice, though with reddened cheeks.
“I should probably come again at another time… Please pardon my intrusion. I will come again later.”
“N-No, you don’t need to do that. I was waiting for you anyway.”
“…You’re saying that in this situation?”
“A-Ahaha… Uuum, this is an accident, so… Sorry!”
Eileen rushed into her dressing room to put on clothes. She didn’t re-wear her towel, so her behind—No, I saw nothing. Let’s leave it at that.
“…Ahem. I was perturbed by the unexpected situation, but I will consider the matter as an accident.”
“R-Right… Go do that. So Sakuya-san, to get straight to the point…”
“Yes. I will give you the details afterwards at the guild, but first, please look at this…”
Sakuya-san took out a belt-like item made out of leather from within her overcoat. There was a rune carved on it, decorated with something that appeared to be a magic stone.
That wasn’t something to put on humans. It was a collar made for animals.
“So this is the clue you found at Galumdoor, huh?”
“Correct. I luckily found one that was intact within a hidden room.
“Good job. Leave the rest to me.”
“…That magic tool, it’s… a tool made to keep beast-humans beastified, as expected…”
The same as the piece of leather that Selene brought—the spell placed on that collar was one to put somebody else under the user’s control.
The [Ice Fox] escaping Galumdoor was likely because they kept their freedom, even though they couldn’t turn back their beastification due to the collar. Because the magic would get weaker proportionally to the target’s power.
The Ice Fox escaped by following its instincts. Moreover, most of the rare animals that Galumdoor dealt in were beastified beast-humans according to Sakuya-san.
The last remaining question was the relationship between Zect and the Ice Fox. But regardless of whatever their relationship may be, what I needed to do was decided.
“Sakuya-san, thanks. This magic tool should become an important clue.”
“Yes… It is an honor to be of use to you.”
Sakuya-san’s expression was stiff, but she gave a relieved smile to my thanks.
“It feels like Master has grasped everything from the start. There has been no instances where nothing of note happened when I act according to your orders.”
“I just act based on my intuition. It’s not that amazing.”
“Still, this makes me feel once again that I want to continue following you from here on out.”
Sakuya-san was sincerely delighted because things were moving smoothly to save the beast-humans.
I barely knew anything about her past. The Rabirims were extinct; she was the only survivor. Additionally, she loathed humans—that was all I knew at the moment.
Which is why, I thought again. The time to stop the continuous strife between humans and beast-humans has come.
4 – [The Ice Cavern] and Negotiations with the Shadow Chaser
Raia, McKinley, Rigel, the three of them answered Dick’s summon, and headed towards the [Ice Cavern] located north of the capital along with Eileen.
After about one hour on horseback, they neared their intended location. By drinking a drink made out of melted [Eternal Ice Blocks], they possessed enhanced resistance against the cold, which prevented the drop in temperature that came with approaching the [Ice Cavern] from bothering them.
However, starting from the second level, water could no longer stay in liquid form. Having heard of that beforehand, the four of them wore a thick cloak as a countermeasure against the cold area.
“Everyone, make sure to wear them properly so you won’t catch a cold.”
“Yes, Eileen-dono. Though I’m naturally resistant against the cold.”
“Hm, I see I see. By the way Raia-san, did you hear about that from Dick? ‘Bout the Ligres’5 village.”
“Yes, I’ve been informed. That village is my birthplace. I owe Dick-sama yet another great favor.”
Raia was now smiling so much she was incomparable to when she first visited Dick’s guild with Timis. She respected Eileen as a fellow combatant, and the two of them looked just like teacher and student to Rigel and McKinley.
“Big Sis, we wanna show Big Bro our good points too! I look forward to working with you!”
“This guy really doesn’t know fear… Rigel, I told you to stop calling her Big Sis, didn’t I?”
“Ahaha… Dick’s his Big Brother, and I’m his big sis, so it’s fine. If I were the only one being called that way it’d feel weird, though.”
This wasn’t the first time Eileen teamed up with adventurers from the [Silver Mug].
The Demon Lord Subjugation Team didn’t experience this because they were all strong, but Dick, making use of his past experience, paired up high-ranked adventurers with the lower-ranked adventurers to increase their growth rate.
Still, an adventurer gaining five points of Adventurers Strength from several days of adventuring was already a blessing; it wasn’t easy for adventurers to grow stronger. Rigel and the others understood how blessed they were to receive this chance to adventure with Eileen.
“It’ll get cold past this point, so let’s tie up the horses around there.”
“Got it, I will burn some incense to keep other beasts at bay. The two of you, wait here.”
Raia was slightly anxious about leaving her favorite horse out in the middle of the forest, but the [Protection Incense] that Dick prepared for them showed great effectiveness. The horses’ smell was overpowered, therefore beasts didn’t approach them.
“Big Bro really is amazing for having so many things, huh? He said he made this thing too. When does he even sleep?”
“Dick-san is amazing, but his friend, Duke-san is even more amazing. He knows so many things, and even captured a firedrake without breaking a sweat, after all.”
“Duke-dono… I was told I can meet him once I’ve piled up enough results. However, we still lack training… Nevertheless, we’ll polish our strengths, and one day ask him for direct guidance.”
The target of their admiration—Dick’s face popped into Eileen’s mind, and she unconsciously let out a laugh. And at the same time, she blushed due to remembering she showed him her bare skin.
“Big Sis, are you feeling warm? That’s amazing. I’m trembling here even with these many clothes on.”
“Y-Yeah, kinda. I don’t like wearing thick clothes. Well it’s fine, the inside of the cave’s not too…”
Eileen noticed something in the middle of her sentence. If they continued down the road inside the forest, they would find the [Ice Cavern]—However, she heard sounds of people fighting while en route to the cave.
—Sounds of metal, sounds of something cutting the wind, then the shriek of a man. Multiple people were in battle; the other three noticed the situation, and the four of them nodded to each other in silence.
The four of them, having hidden their presences and while hiding behind cover, advanced as quickly as possible. Eileen went ahead, but she didn’t make it before the battle ended. On the white rock wall, a wide hole was agape. That was the entrance of [The Ice Cavern].
In the open field in front of it, several armed adventurers were collapsed. Only a single person was standing—Eileen judged him to be the one who did this.
He had bluish-black hair, and wore hard leather armor. The weapon on his hands was a rounded metal with blades on it, a throwing weapon—a [Slicer].
However, he didn’t defeat them using his weapon, because none except for some of the adventurers were wounded. That meant the man didn’t show his adversaries their unscalable difference in strength, and instead, he defeated them using the least possible strength.
“You’re called Zect-san, right? You came to visit our guild, didn’t you?”
“[The Silver Mug]…? Or another guild? Whichever it may be, you idiots don’t listen at all. Don’t you have ears?”
It appeared he was pissed off, but he didn’t let it show in his voice. Eileen thought it was better than just attacking them without saying anything.
Dick advised her to not go into conflict with Zect. However, having met an SS-ranked partner for once in a long time, her fists ached.
“You look like you’re going to pick a fight. I heard ogres love fighting, and it seems like you’re no exception.”
“Not at all, there’re tons of ogres who aren’t fighters. That’s whatever, are you gonna go in the [Ice Cavern]? We’ve got something to do in there too.”
“…You’re all unrelated. If you don’t want to end up like these guys, don’t do anything unnecessary.”
“We won’t… I was gonna say, but can I ask something? What’re you gonna do once you find the [Ice Fox]?”
Zect was about to enter the cave while ignoring Eileen, but he stopped his feet. Then he turned around.
He will fight with the Ice Fox using that weapon in his hands—and might even kill it. Eileen felt he had implicitly showed that.
“Then that’s a bit of a problem. Galumdoor’s request is to capture it alive, after all.”
“The nobles have nothing to do with this. I don’t know any other way to make it go back to normal.”
He said it…!
To Zect’s words, Eileen immediately reacted.
From his words just then, Zect knew that the Ice Fox was in fact a beastified beast-human. In short, the Ice Fox was likely his acquaintance.
She also understood from his words, “make it go back to normal” that he wanted to save them. However, there was something out of place from Zect’s method of “defeating the Ice Fox.”
Using my head like this is hard. I just wanna leave these kinds of things to Dick as usual…
How would Dick respond? Eileen derived her next words from that thought of hers.
“…I can save the Ice Fox without hurting them. ‘Cause I know how to make them return from beastification.”
“…Where did you…? Did you investigate that in this short time…?”
“Yep. We’re gonna get close to the Ice Fox and take off it’s “collar.” If you can do that, then we’ll just watch. But if you’re thinking about killing them, then I’m gonna annoy you.”
Eileen said that, and openly showed her killing intent. There was no way someone of Zect’s caliber couldn’t sense the difference between their strength.
She also prepared for in case he took that as a provocation. Eileen stuck both her right arm and right foot out front, the basic stance of the Shuperia-style Martial Arts.
Strength entered Zect’s arm that held the Slicer. But he did not throw it, instead, he retracted its blade, and put it back onto his waist, supposedly its holster.
“…Collar, huh? So that’s why it lost its sense of reason… Can I trust you?”
He had not known the reason why the Ice Fox couldn’t turn back from beastification. Eileen relieved herself in her mind, and frantically replied with what Dick said to her.
“We don’t know for sure if removing the collar will turn them back, but we’re sure that the collar’s causing it. If you’re wondering why we know even though we haven’t seen it directly, it’s ‘cause we looked into it beforehand. Our guild’s information department is excellent.”
“…You’re right. It did indeed wear a collar, last time I saw it. That company would get their hands on a magic tool… I never thought of that, I just thought to weaken it and drag it out of the cave. That was the only thing that I could come up with, though stupid it is.”
Zect said in self-depreciation, and lost his will to get rid of Eileen.
The competition had now become an ally. With Zect not posing them any trouble, they could just think up how to capture the Ice Fox without trouble.
“There’s no need to kill or weaken it. It’s important that you only chose that only after putting enough thought into it just ‘cause you knew no other way. Though I don’t really know the details ‘bout the Ice Fox.”
“It ran here after being treated as a magic beast, instead of waiting for it to be exterminated by some random guy, I should just do the deed with my own hands… was what I thought. It seems like my resolve was off the mark, though.”
“Nuh-uh, nobody can get a proper answer out like that. As long as you get to the right track by the end, then it’s fine, I think.”
As Eileen spoke, Rigel and the others showed themselves. Zect looked at them—as if gauging their strengths.
“I’m not in any place to say this, but you guys shouldn’t be on the frontlines when we meet the Ice Fox. Its beastified form is far too much for you guys to handle.”
“Wha, seriously…? Then, Big Sis, is there anything else we can do?”
“You guys go handle the other magic beasts. ‘Cause I’ll be concentrating to capture the Ice Fox.”
“I see… We’ll be able to help if it’s just that. Got it.”
“Eileen-san, I brought sleeping shots and paralyzing shots. Which I think will help in capturing it, so….”
“Mhm, McKinley, if you can, shoot one of those… shoot the paralyzing bullets for starters. Make sure to not hit its eyes, yeah?”
“I’ll aim at easy-to-hit parts. My fingers aren’t feeling cold at all because of the drink I drank yesterday at the bar.”
Last night, Rigel went to Dick’s bar along with Raia and McKinley and drank the Combat power-enhancing “milk” that Dick prepared, in addition to alcohol that that would help enhance their specialties.
McKinley gulped down the [Dwarf Firebooze], which he brought in a small bottle before embarking, right before entering the cavern in order to help him against the cold.
“Drinking before going to crawl a dungeon… What a weird guild.”
“The alcohol’s good to the body as long as you don’t drink so much that you’ll get drunk. At least that was what my guild master said. You should come over to drink once this job’s over.”
“…I don’t know what face to make when I meet him. I’d like to make up for my rudeness the other day if he’ll forgive me.”
Eileen thought that Dick’s purpose, scouting Zect, wasn’t all that unlikely to succeed after all.
If an SS-rank like Zect joined the guild, the range of jobs that the guild could take would be expanded, and it would also take a load off Dick’s shoulders. Though Dick was a calculating person, he always worked too hard without even realizing he was, giving Eileen worry.
Eileen respected him for not treating that as a burden, but she couldn’t let that continue. She wanted him to at least come over to her house to play sometimes, he needed at least that much spare time.
Specifically, she’d like it if he could dry her hair every day. Once a month was too little.
It’s fine asking for that much as a reward, right? You better prepare yourself, Dick.
“Aight, let’s go conquer the caves. Everyone, you done your preparations?”
Rigel, Raia, McKinley replied in good spirits. The party of five then stepped into the cavern giving off a cold air, and made their way as a pack of Frozen Goblins greeted them.
5 – Phantom Fox of the Blizzard and the Essence of a Martial Arts Goddess
There are two types of [Cavern] within the Kingdom of Albein. First is a naturally constructed cave, one that doesn’t have levels.
The other one is one that had over two levels, and is called a “Dungeon.” Dungeons were artificially made, by humans and magic beasts, and there were also spirits that possessed its own will that created dungeons.
The [Ice Cavern] is an underground dungeon made by magic beasts, but after losing its ruler, a water spirit moved in, and restructured the place to its liking.
Since the cave was filled with the spirit’s mana, creatures that suited the environment gathered. The ones that lost its environment desperately searched for a new location to adapt and live in.
There were those who adapted to the environment as well. An example of that would be the Goblins.
Goblins are able to adapt to the environment by mutating into [Frozen Goblins] or [Heat Goblins] and the like. There are those who were unable to adapt and died, but they were vast in numbers, the remaining goblins would simply reproduce until they reached a certain amount.
On the first floor of [The Ice Cavern], goblins lived in numerous herds. They boldly attacked adventurers, but even C-ranked adventurers could combat them, making them not a threat to B-ranks and above. Though they can use Special Attacks such as Poisonous attacks, that wasn’t true for the [Ice Cavern]. Because the [Ice Cavern]’s environment made it impossible to collect poison. If in the case the goblins went outside and inflicted harm, the Adventurers Guild would put up a C-ranked subjugation request against them.
The other creatures living on the first floor don’t spontaneously attack humans, and are mostly left alone. Sometimes Frozen Slimes are sighted, but they are frequently sighted around the east of the [Ice Cavern] along the side of lakes, and are approved as a delicacy by nearby villages. In addition, they are difficult to prepare, therefore amateurs aren’t advised to eat them.
They can be sold, but if one intended to capture them, strength equal to a B-rank’s would be needed, else one would get injured, though one wouldn’t die.
Frozen Slimes, just like regular slimes, eat the equipment of the adventurers they capture. They don’t prey on other living beings; instead, they consume inorganic things; hence, adventurers would get into quite a bind if they got captured by one. If that happened, others should sprinkle salt on the slime to help the captured; regardless of whether they are a man or woman. Because Frozen Slimes hate salt and will run away if they are sprinkled some.
Once one went down to the second level, one would frequently encounter Snow Wolves. Because they are wolves that could breathe ice, C-ranked adventurers risk being wiped out. They always attack in packs of ten or more, hence they would deal a great amount of damage if all of them breathed at once. One should take them down one by one to whittle down their breaths’ destructive power. At least a party of B-ranks and above is required to secure one’s own safety.
The Ice Wolves would not attack targets that they have once failed to attack. Due to that, Snow Wolves would sometimes hunt other monsters instead. In such a case, a B-ranked adventurer is advised to not hunt them.
To subjugate them, one would need a combat power equaling an A-rank before even planning to do that. Because that was a frequent cause of death, the Adventurers Guild would put notes such as “Potential Danger Level: A-rank and above” for requests in the second floor and below of [The Ice Cavern].
[The Silver Mug] conducts regular checks of the [Ice Cavern]’s environment to lessen such accidents, but that didn’t guarantee they wouldn’t still occur.
One every ten thousand meant it would occur to one party out of every ten thousand, one should take to caution.
— Excerpt from the first chapter of [The Silver Mug]’s dungeon capturing document for [The Ice Cavern] —
They encountered magic beasts that were noted in Duke Solver’s document, such as Goblins and Frozen Slimes, but they were able to repel those monsters without much problem.
Eileen and the others continued down to the second level with full caution. According to the documents, monsters called Snow Wolves were highly likely to appear in the area.
…Seriously, it’s scary how everything’s going exactly as Dick said. He’s like a researcher or something, researching these monster ecologies.
As soon as they entered the second level, severe cold air blew from their front. White and cold things that were blown by the wind hit the group’s skins and melted.
“This is… snow…?”
“So it stayed in the second level… You four, be careful. Most likely up front is…”
“Oi oi… wasn’t there only supposed to be one of them? What’s with that size…!”
On the slope going down to the second floor. In the big space ahead of them, a pack of white animals appeared.
—Snow Wolves. They made a circle surrounding something—it was as if they were worshipping it.
“So that’s the Ice Fox… it’s got a pack of Snow Wolves at its side, huh.”
“Looks like it became the boss of this dungeon. I had a feeling it did. Now that it’s come to this, you three gotta work hard.”
“Got it! Big Sis should just focus on the Ice Fox! We’ll handle any Snow Wolves that come!”
“It’ll be hard if they come too close… I’m counting on you two.”
“I know. Getting hit by their breaths can cause frostbite, so please be careful.”
Raia and Rigel readied their weapons. Behind them, McKinley loaded flame ammunition.
“Three, Two, One… Go!”
Eileen rushed, and Zect followed right behind her. He activated Shadow Chaser’s signature skill right before meeting the Snow Wolves—he activated [Shadow Bind], which stopped the movement of his enemies by utilizing his own shadow.
“—Those connected to my shadow, still thineselves!”
“Wow, they completely stopped… You’re not half bad!”
Eileen didn’t change her expression as she praised him. Zect then proceeded to throw his Slicer to mow down the herd—however, the moment his feet left the ground he was running on, a few of the Snow Wolves that passed him pounced to Rigel and Raia, whom they considered as prey.
“They’re fast…! But!”
Rigel flashed his blade and felled a Snow Wolf. Then McKinley shot his flame ammo, as Raia stepped in towards the Snow wolves that flinched due to his flame shot and sliced two of them at once.
Eileen made sure they were fighting at an advantage, then made a big jump towards where the Ice Fox was.
Zect thought Eileen’s jump was too high—but he then understood that her jump was meant to reach the ceiling.
The Ice Fox got its sight on the midair Eileen and shot a silver light. Eileen’s field of view was restricted by the resulting ice blizzard—but at that moment, she covered her body in red-shining mana, kicked off the ceiling with a roll, and assaulted the Ice Fox with a kick.
“Shuperia-style Martial Arts Secret Technique… [Tenhou Hazan-Kyaku]!”6
Her jump caused a crack to appear on the ceiling—She made use of [Shinrai] and directed all that power to propel herself towards the Ice Fox.
“—A strong child. However, that is not enough.”
Eileen felt something akin to goose bumps run through her body.
She felt like she heard someone’s voice. Her kick that she thought would surely hit missed its mark, scraped off the cave floor and caved it in with Eileen at the center.
Was that the Ice Fox’s voice…? No, it’s not. There’s someone behind the Ice Fox… Someone is strengthening the Ice Fox… Just like how Dick buffs us.
“—Don’t let your guard down!”
The next moment, Zect’s Slicer passed by Eileen’s field of view within the blizzard as he yelled that.
Clang, the Slicer was repelled. The Ice Fox that blended itself in the blizzard showed itself for a moment, then vanished itself like melting snow once again.
“There’s no other choice but to rely on everything but your eyes to find where it is in this blizzard!”
Because Zect was acquainted with the Ice Fox before this, he was used to it hiding its presence. However, even he still couldn’t get close to the Ice Fox. His [Shadow Bind] wasn’t a valid method to stop the Ice Fox within this blizzard.
“The Ice Fox is being strengthened using Enhancement magic! It’s about twice as strong as the Ice Fox that you know…!”
“Kh! Behind you! Dodge!”
Eileen tried to dodge out of the way, but the blasted ice breath caused a part of her body to become encased in snow.
The snow had reached her knees, she lost her footwork, the most important part for a martial artist.
“Got you. Now that your leg’s out of the way, we won’t trouble each other for much longer.”
“Again… Ugh, don’t interrupt our battle! This is between me and the Ice Fox…!”
The Ice Fox proceeded to attack Eileen in her pinch. It wagged its tail and froze the snow within the blizzard in the shape of multiple lances, and shot it towards her.
Even if she tried to defend against it by covering her body in mana, they’d pierce right through it. The spears created by the Ice Fox were that powerful—powerful enough to break through the defenses of an SSS-ranked adventurer.
Eileen recognized her naivety, and prepared to receive damage. All the while resolving herself to capture the Ice Fox no matter what may happen. She kept her eyes open as she was about to welcome the incoming pain—and at that moment.
She remembered the feeling of Dick touching her hair. Eileen didn’t notice the Magic power that Dick transferred to her at that time—Still, he was there, he protected her.
Warm… This is his… Dick’s magic…!
— [Heat Protection] —
Eileen had seen that spell before. It was a spell that Dick used to defend himself when Ice Spirits shot magic at him—it became a shield and completely protected Eileen from the Ice Fox’s snow spears. The spears melted due to the heat and disappeared one after another.
“Wh… Magic…? Aren’t you a melee-specialized martial artist…?!”
Zect gave a voice of surprise. Within this cavern that was overflowing with Water Spirit energy, Fire Spirit energy covered Eileen’s whole body, and raised the temperature in a certain area around her body. The white snow covering Eileen’s feet and the ice spears had all completely melted.
“I never thought he would protect me like this… As I thought, I need that guy by my side…”
Eileen smiled. To her smile that exuded more fighting spirit than ever before in this fight, the Ice Fox couldn’t give chase, and stopped its movement.
“You don’t need to help. I told you to leave it to me, didn’t I?”
Zect stopped his hand that was about to provoke the Ice Fox. The essence of the Magic power that was overflowing from Eileen’s body had clearly changed after defending against the Ice Fox’s attack.
—Slowly, the Magic power that was covering Eileen’s body grew in volume.
Her close to peach-colored hair slowly turned a deep-crimson hue. From her eyes that shone red, Zect felt something he hadn’t felt since his childhood.
He absolutely could not let himself come into contact with her. Zect stared at Eileen’s explosively overflowing Magic power while standing still as a rock.
“…Bewitching Demonic Goddess… Eileen Shuperia…?!”
The ice and snow near Eileen’s feet melted. Then as if saying she did not need it anymore, she threw down her coat, revealing her martial arts uniform.
“…Maybe you can reach where we are? Or maybe that’s too hard…?”
The Ice Fox observed Eileen once again, and drew ever-so-slightly back for the first time.
The density of the Magic power radiating from her body was way too high. Red lightning surged from her horn, and the snow in a sphere around here melted away without a trace.
“It would’ve been nice if Dick told me from the start. That I could just melt the ice.”
Eileen wore a calm smile unbefitting of her frightening appearance.
She had been given such a powerful enemy, whom was “behind” the Ice Fox. Eileen felt thankful to both them and the Ice Fox.
“Our Dick’s the best in the world. So I’m not gonna lose, no matter what kind of Enhancement magic you’re using…!”
And then in the time it took for Zect to blink once, Eileen had disappeared and moved to another spot.
The Ice Fox was taken by surprise, then howled in a high sound and shot an ice blade with a swipe of its tail—however, Eileen stopped it barehanded and crushed it to pieces.
The only ones who could land an attack on her would be an SSS-rank, just like her.
The Ice Fox attempted one last struggle—urging the still-standing wild beasts to protect its nest until the bitter end.
However, there was no more need for that. Eileen destroyed the collar attached to the Ice Fox’s neck with a chop.
As Rigel and Raia repelled the snow wolves, McKinley had just loaded paralyzing shots. He fired the paralyzing shot to answer Eileen’s call—when the Ice Fox had attempted to evade, it noticed its legs were glued to the ground.
[Shadow Bind]. Zect had overlapped his shadow with the Ice Fox’s while it was preoccupied with Eileen’s attack, and bound its legs to the ground.
“—I will withdraw for now. But I’m simply giving you additional time.”
“What a sore loser. That’s not gonna work on me.”
Eileen gave a reply with a fearless smile to the voice from an unknown location.
The paralyzing shot hit the Ice Fox. And after a short while, it closed its eyes that were full of animosity to the intruders, and ceased its movement.
Its body was small enough for Eileen to cradle in both her arms. She gave a pained grin to the small animal that had caused such a rampaging blizzard.
“This cute foxy made shivers run around my body… I’ve still got a long way to go, don’t I?”
Eileen was already back to normal. Nobody but Zect saw how she had been a few moments ago—because the blizzard covered the area.
She gazed at the broken-off collar. One of its ends had been slightly chipped off—the Ice Fox had tried to take off its collars before being controlled. Eileen’s chest hurt when she imagined that in her mind.
“…Release your [Shadow Bind]. There’s no more need for it now.”
Zect released his spell, and the Ice Fox lied down on the spot. As Eileen gazed at it, it transformed itself—into a human.
Even while asleep, her face was clearly well featured; her skin was as white as piled-up snow, as her appearance gave off a feeling of youth, Eileen saw her as being a year older than Yuma.
—First things first. Eileen put on the coat that she had thrown away, and asked Zect with a wink.
“…Uum… It was a girl?”
“Do you think she looks like a boy?”
Zect said without a care, and covered the young girl using his own overcoat. Eileen was still gazing at the sleeping young girl in dumb amazement as her mind hadn’t caught up yet.
Rigel, Raia, and McKinley approached them afterwards, and raised a voice in surprise over the beast’s true form, only then did Eileen snap back to accept the reality in front of her.
6 – The Ice Fox’s True Identity and New Comrades
Eileen’s group would soon bring back the beastified Foxries—the Ice Fox. Likely in its beast-human form, but I couldn’t be too sure before witnessing it with my own eyes.
In any event, I thought that I needed to properly welcome that Ice Fox at my bar. Because they could have become untrusting towards humans due to Galumdoor’s act. I wanted them to think that we, unlike Galumdoor, weren’t on bad terms with beast-humans—basically, we just wanted to build a friendly relationship.
I didn’t know whether it would go well. Moreover, it wasn’t like I researched my customers before they even visit my bar to welcome them amiably every single time either.
Even without knowing whether it would succeed, I had exhausted every possible option I could. That was my only job as I waited in the bar, after entrusting Eileen’s party with everything else.
Foxries, huh… It will be nice if I can find something they’ll like.
I walked into a not-too-popular, but reputed grocery store tucked away in a nicely inconspicuous spot called “Cardilla Groceries” on Tenth Street. I thought the store that travelled all over Albein to gather various ingredients would have the thing I was looking for.
Around one hour before it was time to open up the bar’s night shift, Eileen’s group returned with the Ice Fox in tow—along with Zect Crucifer.
“Big Bro, we’ve returned! Eileen-san did it!”
“We’re baaack, Dick. I’ve somehow brought it back. I’ve got its collar off too.”
“Yeah, good work… So this girl is the Ice Fox… right?”
Zect carried a young girl that had a tail. She was covered by, what seemed like, Zect’s overcoat. She was snoring while being carried without even waking up. But her long eyelashes were twitching, which meant she had recovered her consciousness before coming here.
Zect had only now perceived me, who was drinking with him the other day, as the guild master, and slightly opened his eyes wider. Though that was only for a moment, he returned to his usual expressionless face afterwards.
“So you were… the Guild Master? I thought you were just a patron here. Looks like I have holes for eyes.”
“Nah no worries, I’m sorry for not introducing myself properly too.”
“No. I am the one who should be sorry for threatening you. Without this guild’s help, I would probably have done something irreversible. Please forgive me for all of the rude actions that I’ve done.”
Zect deeply bowed as he carried the young girl. I could sufficiently see that Zect and the young girl were on close terms with each other.
“Don’t worry about that, Zect. Thanks to you, we can now prove Galumdoor Company’s wrongdoings. I’m not planning to let them run scot-free.”
“…Do you mean you’ve got your hands on evidence that can prove they are capturing beast-humans and selling them as animals?”
Verlane answered Zect’s question in my stead. She was in her maid clothes, and today she wore glasses—I chatted with her about Mylarka wearing them when I went to the Magic Academy, so it seemed like she became interested in them.
“Based on the results of our guild’s investigations, we have ascertained that the rare animals Galumdoor Company are selling are, in fact, beast-humans. A company investigation should occur once we report them to the officials.”
“I see. So Galumdoor weren’t selling the beast-humans without knowing they were beast-humans, but they captured the beast-humans themselves… They are pretty close to my guild, so I couldn’t question them much. If you found proof, then that means they won’t be able to dodge the problem.”
“What do you mean? What connections does Galumdoor have with your guild?”
Zect lowered his eyes, appearing to be in thought. I could understand that revealing information about his own guild is difficult, but I couldn’t just let that one slide.
—The moment I wondered if the silence will continue. A clear voice tore through the silence.
“Brother, please don’t hide anythin’ more. That man’s the reason I’m still alive.”
Is that the Foxries’ unique way of speaking? The girl’s speech pattern was one-of-a-kind.7 She got down from Zect’s arms while still wearing the overcoat.
The girl was short enough that I had to look down to see her—though she was barefoot, she didn’t mind that, and looked up at me with her rotund eyes. She lowered the coat’s hood, and two fox ears sprouted on her head.
“Brother…? Zect looks like a human, but if he’s your brother…”
“Nice to meet you, my name’s Mizuha. Brother’s my step-brother from a different mother.”
She was polite, bowing to not only me, but the others who were present as well. Zect was still expressionless—actually, it looked like he was looking after her sister, who was bowing around, as a brother. Regardless of that, I was surprised the moment she stated they were brother and sister, as looking at them showed no semblance of that at all.
“…My father’s a Foxries. And my mother’s a human. And because of that, it was uncertain whether I would be born as a human, beast-human, or a half. I was born as the former, though, and I got my hair color from my father’s side.”
“So that’s why it looked kind of bluish-black…”
Though having bluish-black hair was unique, it wasn’t possible pinpointing him as a beast-human from that alone.
Verlane didn’t realize it either, so it was likely impossible to discern that beast-human blood was flowing in Zect’s veins from his appearance.
“However, young lady… Mizuha, you do not appear to have the characteristics of your brother?”
“It’s because my mother is also a Foxries. Among the Foxries, there’re rare cases where an ancestor’s traits will appear… and they’ll have the power to turn into a beast. Eileen-san, I’m sorry for the trouble I’ve caused a while ago.”
“I don’t mind, so don’t worry, really. More importantly, did you get injured, Mizuha-chan? It was the first time I fought someone so strong in a while, so I kinda went overboard…”
“Not at all, I could sense Eileen-san was holding back even during my beast form. When you cut the collar that was on me, I felt all cleared up, and returned to the old me. Before Eileen-san and the others came, I was worried if I could return to my old self at all or not, and slowly lost control over my own body…”
She had been through a lot, as her eyes started tearing up. Eileen got on her knees and hugged her, then rubbed her head while lightly patting her back.
“Our home village is deep in a snowy mountain. Because my little sister was born looking like this and because of her special ability, she hadn’t been allowed to leave the village at all. Even so, she wanted to leave the village at least once, and the chief of our tribe listened to her… but instead of going to the capital immediately, she should’ve reconsidered her options. This would never have happened if she had instead visited some city in the countryside…”
“No, Zect-san, both you and your sister did nothing wrong. I don’t want the both of you to regret ever coming to the capital. Can you spend some time here until you have a clear idea on what to do?”
Staying in the capital after going through something like that would likely be a hard choice for him. However, letting Mizuha, who wished to go out to the outside world, return to the village while disappointed was something I couldn’t let happen.
“Brother doesn’t want to disappoint [The Blue Bowman], who we are indebted to for giving us a night’s meal and lodging. Still, I can’t just stay silent… The one who caught me and planned to give me to Galumdoor Company was [The Blue Bowman]’s…”
“…You mean someone in [Blue Bowman] saw your beastified form?”
“Y-Yes… If a full moon’s out, my body will beastify on its own… and when that happened…”
Zect listened to Mizuha’s words, and closed his eyes.
He never knew—he worked in [The Blue Bowman] because he had confidence in them. Which was why, after listening to his little sister’s story and learning of his guild’s betrayal of him, he was now filled with rage.
“Seems like we’re gonna need to do another punishment, yeah? We might even lose one of our rival guilds after the punishment.”
“…I don’t intend to bother this guild any more than I have. I’m going to ask the guild master of [The Blue Bowman] to tell me the truth.”
“So you plan to take care of it yourself? I personally think you ought to let them be judged by the officials, though.”
“Do you plan to stop me?”
“Nah. We can’t interfere no matter what’ll happen to them before their crimes are revealed.”
A conflict occurring between guilds wasn’t something unprecedented. They were mostly conflicts between individuals, but there were also conflicts between guilds.
If it became known that my guild is in conflict with [The Blue Bowman], it’d cause a limit to be placed on the actions that both guilds could take. Because a conflict between guilds was seen as an event that could throw the capital into disorder.
—Though nevertheless, I couldn’t just do nothing.
“But now that I know the situation at hand, I’d like for you and your sister to stay safe. While you do that, someone from my guild will visit them. At least let me take responsibility in that way.”
“…Responsibility, you say? I had been just one-sidedly impolite to all of you. And even though I’ve apologized and we’ve put it all behind us, there’s nothing that this guild would need to take responsibility for…”
“At the start, we had also intended to capture the Ice Fox due to the request that came in from Galumdoor Company without being aware of their ulterior motives. Now that the request has been effectively annulled, then we, the one who brought the Ice Fox here, should take responsibility for it moving forward, I believe. That is what we of this guild believe to be our responsibility, and is also the Guild Master’s will.”
Zect stared at Verlane with a look of disbelief. That was only natural; even I felt that I was saying things that made me look like too nice of a person.
“Let me lay this straight. I want someone capable like you. Also, I want to create an environment where beast-humans won’t feel discriminated against. I believe that’s possible even without resorting to public politics. The capital will become a place of good memories for your sister. Can you let me do that much?”
“…Ukh, Big Bro, you’re such a…”
“Even though I thought you were just drinking away all the time… you’ve been thinking about something as big as that…”
“As expected of the person being relied upon by Timis-sama’s elder sister… I feel immeasurable debt and a feeling of admiration towards you.”
I wanted to tell Rigel and the other two to not put me on such a high pedestal, but I couldn’t just sway the topic as a joke like that.
I reached out my right hand to Zect. He stayed silent—but after a little while, Mizuha pulled on her brother’s hand, and made his hand clasp mine.
“I’m Mizuha Crucifer. If you would please forgive me and my brother, please let us work at your place.”
“…Mizuha, you’re acting too spoiled. If we think about the things this guild has done for us so far, anything more would be…”
“If you’d like, I want you to work in [The Silver Mug] while you stay in the capital. I can promise a better pay that suits your abilities compared to the guild you’re in right now. I’ll also prepare a room you can safely live in with your sister. Also, I’m not running a charity here, so you don’t need to feel modest.”
Everyone in the room held their breath, anxious whether the negotiations would go through.
In less time than I had anticipated, Zect gripped my hand. The long-used gauntlets that he had equipped told of his rich battle experience.
“I’ll start working in this guild after things have calmed down. Please treat us well, Guild Master.”
Zect wasn’t smiling, but those words of his were as honest as they could be. His little sister, Mizuha looked up at him, and gave a happy smile.
With one mistake, Zect might have injured his own sister without knowing of a way to save her. I would have to take proper measures to punish the people who made them go through that.
7 – Fruit from the Foxries’ Home
[The Blue Bowman] was in support of Galumdoor Company’s beast-human sale.
Mizuha, an actual victim, testified that, and I decided to believe her. I still had nothing that could prove the connection between the two of them, all I had was circumstantial evidence. Even if I reported Galumdoor, I wouldn’t be able to enact a more detailed investigation against [The Blue Bowman].
Which meant I needed some conclusive evidence—as I was brooding over that, Sakuya-san came in the bar through the back door. It seemed like she had been watching over our exchanges.
“Master, there is evidence of Galumdoor having transported the captured beast-humans from their attic, and I have pinpointed the destination of their transport.”
“Good work as usual, Sakuya-san. So, where is it?”
“Please examine this map. It is in this inn, on Eleventh Street. It looks to be a regular cheap inn, however, there has been a witness account of a Galumdoor member bringing large luggage in there. I fear they may have a basement or a hidden room of sorts.”
Having heard of the beast-humans possibly being confined, Zect’s and Mizuha’s expressions clouded. Zect was to be expected, but even Mizuha was clearly angry.
This girl wasn’t scared at all, she planned to fight. She gave Eileen a decent fight, meaning considerable strength lies within her small frame.
“Please let me do something. I’m not just planning to take revenge. I also want to save the captured people.”
“…Put me to work too. I won’t kill them as long as we’re in the capital. I promise to not do anything that will damage this guild’s reputation.”
Mizuha and Zect. The young girl who was a good match for Eileen, and an SS-ranked adventurer. These two were probably enough to handle the mission, but I’d like to have one more person accompany them.
“I will guide them… Is that fine?”
“Yeah, please do. Sorry for giving you more work again.”
“No problem. I myself wish to do this, after all.”
Sakuya-san’s desire to save the beast-humans was properly transmitted. After all, she did continue her investigation until she found the location of their transport; she might even have had thoughts of saving them all by herself.
“Raia, McKinley, Rigel. Your job is done, good work. Go take some rest.”
“Got it! We’d like to accompany you all, but too many people going as a crowd will probably stand out.”
“Make sure to tell us if you guys need more hands on deck.”
Rigel and McKinley answered, and headed back to the guild’s dorms.
“…Guild Master-dono, if possible, let me assist Sakuya-san… I’d like to save the prisoners as a fellow beast-human.”
“Are you sure? You’ve just come back from the mission, so aren’t you tired? Though that problem can be solved by using healing magic.”
“Ah… T-Thank you so much. However, it’s unnecessary for you to worry. I have confidence in my stamina.”
Though she said all that, I casted [Heal Light] to restore Raia’s stamina. Taking the opportunity, I also casted it on everyone—four people’s worth wasn’t too much of a burden on my Magic power.
“I didn’t think you would even heal me… Your kind consideration honors me.”
“Even actual priests hesitate when using healing magic due to its high magic cost… Your heart of compassion moves me every day, Guild Master-dono.”
“…Guild Master, what in the world is your job?”
“No no, Brother, of course Guild Master-sama’s job is Guild Master. Right?”
“Sadly, I don’t have my guild tag on hand. It should be written there, I think.”
I tried to swerve them. Remembering what was written on my guild tag, I definitely couldn’t show it to them.
The job of the one who was admitted as an SSS-ranked adventurer and defeated the demon lord.
If they found out, it would void all my efforts of not standing out all this time.
—Though what I noticed recently was that I was frontlining myself too much, even though my plan was to interfere with the main stage from the shadows.
I’ll need to go back to my roots—as I thought that, Eileen looked at Mizuha and seemed to have figured something out.
“Oh, right. Mizuha-chan, going out with just that’ll probably be cold, do you wanna change first before going out? My house is close by, so I can bring you some clothes.”
“There are small-sized employee uniforms, such as my maid clothes on the second floor as well… which one would you prefer?”
“Can I? Then… umm, I wonder…”
Eileen’s clothes, which was a one-piece dress with a long slit, or maid clothes. Both seemed to be a good choice in Mizuha’s eyes.
“If I’m goin’ to work here, then I’ll be wearing those maid clothes all the time, so Eileen-san, can I borrow yours?”
“Mm, gotcha. Then gimme a bit, alright? I’ll bring them in a flash… Oh, I forgot something. Dick, can you come for a sec?
As Eileen was about to exit through the back door to go to her house, she called out to me. She wants to talk about something in private, it seemed.
“Uhh… about Mizuha-chan, y’see. This is coming from me, so you won’t believe me if I’m not acting serious, so…”
“…Looks like it’s something even you can’t say casually. Don’t worry and say it.”
Though I said that, Eileen was conflicted for a while—was it really something that serious?
“Y’see… I noticed this when I was fighting against Mizuha-chan. I’d probably be in real problem if it wasn’t for your Enhancement magic, Dick. The enemy was also using Enhancement magic.”
“Enhancement magic… What did it feel like?”
“It felt like there was somebody else there looking at me. It feels the same way as when Dick casts Enhancement magic on me… It was probably just my imagination, right?”
The enemy used Enhancement magic, just like me.
I wasn’t the only one in the world who specialized in Enhancement. But still, Eileen said she was in a pinch, which meant the enemy was as good as me at Enhancement magic, or close to that level.
“Oh… Sorry, saying worrisome things like that. It’s fine, I won thanks to you, Dick. I’ve proven that [The Forgotten Dick]’s the strongest Enhancement Magic user in the kingdom!”
“That’s mostly thanks to your own power, Eileen. Still, thanks.”
“Eh…? N-No, there’s no reason for thanking me. I do want you to do something for me as reward for this job, though… N-Now then, I’ll be grabbing the clothes!”
Eileen said, and ran towards her house. She would come back real quick at that pace.
I went back inside the bar, and met a waiting Verlane wearing a complicated expression.
“It would’ve been a source of joy for Mizuha-san to be ready to wear maid clothes around the clock, as she will be working here… This is slightly frustrating, I feel like I have lost to Eileen-sama.”
“I still haven’t decided if she’s going to work in the bar or not. I’ll have to decide on that soon, though. Do you want to be with Zect-san, Mizuha?”
“Guild Master, you don’t need to use any honorifics for me. I’m your subordinate, so there is no need for all that. Though I’m not the one who should say that as you’re my employer.”
“Got it. Zect, then.”
“Sorry, as you can see, Brother is kinda stiff.”
“…My bad, I guess.”
Zect said, displeased, though it didn’t seem like he was actually mad. Mizuha said that because she knew her brother didn’t actually take offense to that.
“Then would you like a bath before changing your clothes? Or would you like to bathe after completing the matter at hand?”
“Oh… S-Sorry. I haven’t bathed in a while, so I’m probably bothering you… w-with my smell or something…”
“That’s not it at all. My coats are odorless, after all.”
“Just because Brother’s my blood relative… I forced myself to wear this smelly coat. How many days’ve you not washed those clothes of yours?”
Adventurers tended to camp out a lot, so they’d get used to their own smell sooner or later, but it would be at times like this when one would be reminded of the importance of a good bathing habit.
There was a time when I dashed through the mountains and didn’t bathe for who knew how many days. Most of the time my sisters caught me and made me take a bath, but now I understand how they must’ve felt. A bath is a good thing, everyone should always take one every day; bathing in warm water was a luxury, though.
“Then Verlane, can you give her a quick bath? A bath might be a good idea considering she’ll be using Eileen’s clothes.”
“May I? I can finally take a bath, after so long… This guild’s real nice. Don’t you think so, Brother?”
“It’s fine for you to be all uppity, but don’t be too noisy. Even I feel embarrassment.”
“She’s such a lovely sister, so let her be a bit tomboyish, will you?”
“Verlane-san’s so nice… I love you, Onee-san. Can I be the only one who gets to live here? Brother can go live outside. I’ll come play with you outside every once in a while so you’ll be fine.”
“Why the hell would I… Whatever. Do what you want…”
Zect was baffled as his sister teased him. Looking at him like this made me forget that he was in fact, an SS-ranked adventurer, but his achievements in [The Blue Bowman] that I had heard via my information network said wonders of his true skill.
With his ability, breaking beast-humans out of confinement wouldn’t be a problem at all. And because Sakuya-san would also be accompanying him, I just needed to sit back and drink in the bar as usual.
“…Master, do you plan to hire Mizuha-san as a mascot for the bar? I believe she has some potential in becoming an Information Department member, though.”
“Ooh, even you’ve got your eyes on her, Sakuya-san. Seems like Mizuha’s quite the excellent girl.”
“Yes she is. For starters, should we take her Adventurer’s Strength measurement?”
Mizuha’s power could possibly match, or even exceed Sakuya-san’s. Since she was stronger in her beastified form, her current strength in her beast-human form would likely match an A or S-rank’s.
As I broke the only measurement device we had, we needed to buy a new one to find out. Maybe I might even bring them to a measurement specialist and measure their strength there.
As Sakuya-san had expected, below the inn that held the beast-humans captive was a hidden underground jail. There were two [Blue Bowman] guards stationed there, but they were both B and C-rank, so Zect and the others had knocked them out before they even noticed what was happening and restrained them.
The prisoners were a Wulfrim girl and Raconian8 man. They both possessed the ability to beastify, and were equipped with a collar to make them stay in their beast forms as they were confined in separate cells.
Being equipped with the collar would cause one’s instincts to return to its wild nature. Once that happened, the collared animal would likely attack animals of different species, which would lead to it being abandoned without proper rearing.
Zect and the others heard that and bore anger, but they punished neither the inn owner nor the guards from [Blue Bowman].
They had the two pieces of evidence needed to expose both of their backing group’s wrongdoings. Hence, Zect and Mizuha had no need to dirty their hands directly.
Zect came back with both of the captured beast-humans on his shoulders, and I had the two beast-humans sleep for the night after I asked an unlicensed doctor to treat them. Sakuya-san had met the Wulfrim girl’s father before, therefore she told the doctor to return the man’s daughter back to him.
—Afterwards, my store was bustling as usual.
Mylarka and Yuma visited, and today I was drinking together with Eileen in a private room. Rigel’s group was spiritedly talking with Raia, who had come back from the mission, about today’s adventures. Raia had never been the talkative type, so she replied with interjections to show them she was listening, and sometimes gave them sharp words as if to warn them.
On one side of the seats at the counter, there was Mizuha who wore clothes similar to Eileen’s and hid her fox ears with a hat, Zect, and lastly, Sakuya-san. Sakuya-san rarely came to drink here, but today it seemed like she was in the mood, as she spoke with Verlane while drinking carrot liqueur mixed with citrus juice.
“Thank you for your great work as usual, Sakuya-sama. It appears you are in a good mood today.”
“Yes. The work I’ve done has always felt fulfilling, but today’s was especially so…”
I was interested in the conversation between two adult women, but I didn’t listen in too long as I needed to direct my attention to Mizuha, who was sitting beside me, and Zect, who was on the seat beside hers.
“I don’t know if it’ll suit both of your tastes, but I’ve prepared these drinks here for the two of you. Drink them if you’d like.”
In front of me was the alcoholic drink I had Verlane make according to my orders and a nonalcoholic drink.
“Hm… This smell is…”
I put the two drinks on the coaster, and slid it in front of them down the counter.
“…Coconobi fruit mixed with goat milk… Why would this be here…?”
Goats were the dominant livestock within the northern districts. Additionally, I found out that there were many beast-humans who kept goats. From there, I assumed that a drink with goat milk would have a sense of familiarity for Zect and Mizuha.
Peel the skin of the Coconobi fruit, take out the white meat of the fruit inside, strain it, and use spice and honey to add taste, then mix it with cold goat milk using a shaker. That would produce the [Coconobi Shake] presented to Mizuha.
As for Zect, it was [Coconobi Rum] which was mixed with rum to give it taste. I didn’t know how much juice I could squeeze out from the fruit within a day, but it came out well in the end.
Coconobi were fruits with blue-colored skin, which wasn’t an appetizing color, but the inside of its skin was white fruit. From mixing them, I found out that mixing it with rum would cause it to slowly change its color to yellow that spread as if covering it.
“Go ahead and drink. I think the taste will suit your tastes, being a Foxries and all.”
“When did you make these? Did you prepare them for us…?”
I didn’t reply. It wasn’t like I expected it all to go according to my plan, as I didn’t know if the taste would suit their tastes or not.
“…Thanks for the drink. Hm… gulp…gulp…”
Mizuha held the glass in both hands, and slowly drank it at first. Then she started drinking it with so much vigor it shook me.
“…It feels like Mother. Like the one that… Mother used to make back in the village… and that’s not all… so Coconobis could become something so delicious…”
Mizuha started drinking yet again. It was possible she never had a decent meal within the [ice Cavern].
Zect also brought the rum in the glass to his mouth. His eyes went wide, and then he gave his sister a sidelong glance before downing a second pour of the glass.
“…I had alcohol once when snow was falling to warm my body. But the alcohol mixed with this Coconobi is… Where did you find out how to make this…?”
“This is a bar. I spare no efforts in getting more drinks to enjoy, and have other people enjoy. If you like it, then that’s great.”
As long as I could secure a good supply line for the ingredients, these two drinks would definitely receive favorable praise. On a side note, Coconobi had the secondary effect of restoring Magic power.
“…A guild master is a really respectable job, isn’t it? Since you’re even making people you’ve barely met like us so happy…”
Tears trailed on Mizuha’s smiling face as she said that. Maybe she was remembering her home village.
Verlane gave her a handkerchief. Then Zect brought his glass along with him as he left his seat and approached me, all the while gazing at his crying sister.
“…This taste takes me back. Guild Master, this may be a bit late, but can I ask you to honor me with this?”
I understood what he meant. Mizuha also brought her glass and held it out towards me.
After I toasted my wooden jockey with Zect’s and then Mizuha’s glasses, I reminded them just in case.
“Treat me as a plain old drunkard when I’m drinking in the bar. Calling me “Guild Master” here is banned.”
The two of them gave each other a look. Verlane was looking over here as she flashed a smile—though she seemed to be amazed, as if I was saying something unimportant, but my ironclad rule won’t bend.
Then after hearing my words, the Foxries siblings both went into laughter.
That was the first time I found out that someone like Zect could laugh. It was probably his true face, one that he normally only showed to his little sister, I thought.
1 Whey is the watery part of milk that is separated from the coagulable part or curd especially in the process of making cheese and that is rich in lactose, minerals, and vitamins and contains lactalbumin and traces of fat.
2 Read as Blue Fox-race.
3 Hazy Mist.
4 Written as Wolf Beast-human Race.
5 Written as Tiger Beast-human Race.
6 Sky-demolishing Mountain Kick
8 Written as Racoon Beast-human Race.