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Elizabeth Sauron’s mother, Amelia Sauron, was born as the eldest daughter of the Taura house of knights. The Taura house was one of the Sauron Duchy’s numerous knights’ houses, and Amelia’s father Orson was an ordinary knight with no outstanding features other than his seriousness.
Unlike the Bearheart house, where Iris was the only child, the Taura house had two children; Amelia and her older brother. And because Amelia didn’t have any exceptional talent for combat, she was raised as an ordinary noble daughter.
Someone of a court rank of ‘knight’ was indeed a noble, but their house ruled no lands, and the pay they received from the lord they served was their main source of income. Thus, it was difficult for most knights to live in large mansions with servants in their employment to take care of all the housework.
George Bearheart, the former head of the Bearheart house, had been known in the Sauron Duchy as a hero; he had lived a far more luxurious life than a poorer baron might. But knights serving poor nobles who ruled over remote regions might even have to join the farmers to work in the fields.
The Taura house of knights served the Sauron house, so it had the money to hire several servants, but not quite enough to live the refined lifestyle of a noble. Thus, when Amelia came of age, she was sent to serve the Sauron house at their residence. This was nothing out of the ordinary for a knight’s daughter in the Orbaume Kingdom.
Having one’s daughter serve their lord as a servant was beneficial for the lord, as it ensured that they could hire a girl from a respectable lineage and maintain their knights’ loyalty. It was also beneficial for the knights, as being a noble’s maid was a desirable status and led to favorable marriages.
Amelia Taura’s life as an average knight’s daughter was derailed after she came under the employment of the Sauron house and Bahnrust Sauron, the head of the house at the time, set his eyes on her.
Elizabeth was in her mother’s hospital room. Her mother smiled as she talked, and she looked energetic.
“Is that so? That’s great. It seems that your new friend is an interesting one,” she said.
Her energetic appearance was likely just because she had been hospitalized for such a long time. She was somewhat thinner and paler than she had been when Elizabeth was younger. But there was no discernable distress in her expression or voice.
“He’s more than just interesting. The things he can do are crazy. He follows me around at school like a duckling, but for some reason, he joins the teachers’ side during training,” said Elizabeth. “He sings weird songs, and he has these strange, beautiful women with him that he insists are his familiars.”
“Duckling?” Elizabeth’s mother giggled. “When I imagine it, it seems kind of cute.”
“… No, Mother. It’s quite the grand sight. His adopted sister and the people that are his familiars come with him, too.’
“That’s the little sister who’s taller than this ceiling’s height, right? You’ve got a lot of new friends, haven’t you, Eli? As your mother, I’m very happy.”
The hospital room that had been provided for Amelia was a private room for nobles, and it was even larger than the detached building of Earl Reamsand’s mansion… the hut that Elizabeth and Mahelia were currently living in.
It had a high-quality bed and carpet. It was furnished with a closet, a dresser, a table, chairs, and even a tea set. The pot was a Magic Item that immediately turned any water poured out of it into hot water.
The windows were made of very expensive glass… but were closed off by iron bars.
“Mahelia, you should sit down, too,” Amelia said to the attendant girl standing behind Elizabeth, gesturing to one of the empty chairs – the one next to Elizabeth. The room had four chairs in total. “I want to hear all about school from you, too.”
“Madam, I –” Mahelia began.
“You’re family, too. There’s only us and Eli here, so it’s fine, isn’t it?” said Amelia, reaching for the pot.
“Madam!” Mahelia protested.
“It’s alright. I’m quite good at pouring tea,” Amelia said.
“Mahelia, do as Mother asks. It’s hard to talk if you’re standing,” said Elizabeth.
Mahelia was the daughter of an attendant of the Taura house of knights, not of Duke Sauron’s house. Thus, she had been raised alongside Elizabeth like they were sisters, since before the Sauron house formally acknowledged Elizabeth.
Mahelia sighed. “Very well.”
She sat down in the chair, and Amelia’s smile grew wider as she poured tea into an empty cup.
There were four cups on the table, and each was now in front of a seat, with steam rising from it.
“Vandalieu-sama is smaller than Elizabeth-sama, but the teachers rely on him. And he is very good at cooking,” said Mahelia.
“Come to think of it, the grilled skewers you brought for me the last time you visited were made by him, weren’t they?” said Amelia.
“Yes. He is much better at cooking than we are. I cannot recall how many times I had to stop Elizabeth-sama from making her own lunches to try and compete with him,” Mahelia said.
“Mahelia! That’s because Vandalieu is getting to everyone’s hearts through their stomachs… Don’t mention such unnecessary things!” said Elizabeth.
Amelia seemed to be enjoying herself as she listened to the two of them talking. She turned towards the chair beside her… which was empty.
“It’s good that you two are having fun. Isn’t it, dear?” Amelia said.
The person that Amelia called ‘dear’ didn’t exist. There was nobody sitting in the chair, and the cup that had been filled with tea and placed in front of it was simply growing colder without anyone to drink it.
Amelia giggled. “You’re right. Being not as good at cooking as someone else isn’t anything to be bothered about. Eli has many other wonderful things about her, after all.”
Although the chair was empty, Amelia could see him there – her ‘husband,’ sitting in the chair and enjoying a friendly conversation with her.
“Thank you, Father,” said Elizabeth.
She and Mahelia couldn’t see him. Nobody could, other than Amelia.
Amelia Sauron’s mind was suffering from an illness.
At first, she had suffered from nightmares and, on rare occasions, visual and auditory hallucinations. She was aware that they weren’t real.
Upon learning this, Dratze Reamsand had pushed her to be hospitalized at a specialized facility… this hospital.
There was no established effective method for treating her mental illness, and there were few who specialized in this field. At the time her mental illness appeared, the Sauron house was in the midst of a fierce struggle for succession. Perhaps thinking that she would be disadvantaged if her mental illness were to become known to Rudel and his advisors, Amelia had decided to do as Dratze suggested and secretly began her stay at this hospital.
Elizabeth had only become able to visit Amelia at the hospital because she had already been defeated in the struggle for succession, so it didn’t matter anymore if Amelia’s condition became known.
By then, Amelia’s ‘husband’ was already living inside her mind, invisible and unheard to any but her.
Elizabeth didn’t know if that ‘husband’ was Bahnrust Sauron. But she believed that it wasn’t.
“But Mother, you’re good at cooking as well, aren’t you?” Elizabeth said.
“I wouldn’t say I’m that good at it. Your father praises my cooking but… well, I suppose. You always talk about how delicious it is whenever I cook, don’t you, dear,” said Amelia.
Elizabeth couldn’t imagine that Bahnrust had ever had the opportunity to eat her gently-smiling mother’s cooking. He had been a powerful noble, and his mansion had a large kitchen with many skilled cooks.
“But you are right, Madam. My lady is better at dancing, it seems. About half a month ago, she observed Vandalieu-sama’s dancing,” said Mahelia, talking about something that had happened before the party at Duke Alcrem’s villa.
Because the dances of the high society of the Orbaume Kingdom were outside even Kanako’s field of expertise, Vandalieu wasn’t very confident despite possessing the ‘Dancing’ Skill, so he’d had Elizabeth check to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong with the way he danced.
“Perhaps because he is the child of an honorary noble, he has not received dancing lessons,” said Amelia. “But Eli, you weren’t very good at it either, were you?”
“That’s in the past! I received my dancing lessons and I can dance now,” Elizabeth retorted.
“Is that so? How splendid of you. I’ve always been terrible at dancing, too,” said Amelia. “Yes, I stood on your foot at that party, didn’t I, dear? But I’m relieved to hear that you have gotten better. I suppose I shall have to thank Earl Reamsand for that.”
Despite saying that, Amelia had never attended a party with Bahnrust. She had been a maid; naturally, there was no chance she could have ever danced with a duke.
Amelia often spoke of other memories with her ‘husband’ as well, but it was impossible that any of them were real, given the nature of her relationship with Bahnrust Sauron.
That was why Elizabeth and Mahelia believed that what Amelia saw was not a hallucination of Duke Bahnrust Sauron, but her ‘ideal husband.’
In other words, Bahnrust wasn’t Amelia’s ideal husband… nor her beloved person.
Elizabeth and Mahelia had never heard Amelia speaking badly of Bahnrust. When Elizabeth was young, she had asked her mother what kind of person Bahnrust was, and she replied that he was an admirable duke and lord. But she had never said what he was like as a husband… or as a father.
When she was young, there had been no doubt in Elizabeth’s mind that her father was an upstanding noble and a good father who loved her and her mother from the bottom of his heart.
But she had come to the realization that this had never been true when she hit puberty and saw Earl Dratze Reamsand’s true intentions in his gaze when he looked at her.
“Yes, you’re right. I’ll convey our gratitude to the earl myself,” said Elizabeth.
When Bahnrust first met with Elizabeth’s mother, he had already had a lawful wife and concubines, and Rudel and his other children had already been born. And most importantly, he was already in his late forties. It was difficult to believe that Amelia, who was just fifteen years old and barely of age at the time, had sincerely fallen for Bahnrust, who was old enough to be her father.
And Elizabeth’s mother did not gain the position of a concubine; she was a secret lover. Their relationship could not be made public, and when she became pregnant, she was returned to her family and Elizabeth was raised in secret. Amelia had received gifts and support from Bahnrust, but that didn’t make up for the hardships they faced.
In addition to that, though Elizabeth had only learned this later, Bahnrust had fathered other illegitimate children in the past prior to her. Considering that, she could only conclude that Bahnrust had been quite the womanizer.
Perhaps because Elizabeth was a girl, she was formally acknowledged as belonging to the Sauron house, unlike her older half-brother Raymond Paris. But that wasn’t a happy event for her mother.
If Bahnrust had made Elizabeth’s mother one of his beloved wives from the beginning, she could have safely escaped from the Sauron Duchy with plenty of guards protecting her.
If Bahnrust hadn’t acknowledged Elizabeth as his daughter and Amelia as her mother, then they would have remained just a knight’s daughter and her child, and the Amid Empire wouldn’t have pursued them so relentlessly, and Elizabeth’s grandfather and Mahelia’s mother might have escaped safely.
In reality, Bahnrust acknowledged Elizabeth as his daughter just a few days before the Amid Empire’s invasion, and not enough guards had been prepared for her and her mother. Most of the guards had been allocated to his children with his lawful wives, like Rudel, and his other children with his concubines.
Amelia and Elizabeth had only been protected by a handful of soldiers, Elizabeth’s grandfather, who had already retired from being a knight, and the servants employed by the Taura house.
When they fled from the Sauron Duchy, the Amid Empire’s army had sent a large number of pursuers to capture Elizabeth, as she was a daughter of Duke Sauron. Elizabeth’s grandfather and Mahelia’s mother died to protect them from these pursuers.
Elizabeth believed that her mother’s illness was the result of the mental scars left behind by this tragedy, and it was something that she couldn’t forgive.
That was why she could not continue to be treated as nothing more than an illegitimate daughter of the Sauron house. As long as she was, there was no hope for her mother.
She did understand that they would never have had to flee the Sauron Duchy if the Amid Empire hadn’t invaded it, and it was the Amid Empire’s army that had taken the lives of her grandfather and Mahelia’s mother. But the Amid Empire had been an enemy since the Orbaume Kingdom’s foundation. It was only natural for the two nations to kill each other’s people.
Elizabeth’s blame and bitterness were directed at Bahnrust, her father, who had failed to protect his own family.
“I’ve talked about all kinds of things, but it seems that I’ve finally overcome the wall in my development, thanks to Vandalieu. Mahelia, Zona, and the others have all grown stronger as well, and it looks like we’ll be able to improve our grades at school,” Elizabeth said.
“I’m glad to hear that. You’re a good girl, Eli, but you never complain, so I was worried that you might be struggling,” said Amelia. “But don’t overdo it, alright? We’re just happy that the two of you are safe.”
A staff member of the hospital entered the room.
“Excuse me. It’s time for your medicine,” he said.
He was pushing a cart with a pitcher of water and medicine placed on a small plate.
“Oh my, is it that time already?” said Amelia. “Could we please have a little more time –”
“Mother, it’s alright. We can visit you again later. So don’t worry,” said Elizabeth.
Persuading her mother against delaying her medicine intake, Elizabeth left the room with Mahelia. Ever since they began their special training with Vandalieu, they were able to make an income by selling the materials taken from the monsters they defeated, so they no longer needed to work in secret at night. They had more free time now, so they could visit Amelia again soon.
“Still… Do you think he’s noticed?” Elizabeth wondered.
Was Vandalieu deliberately choosing monsters that were edible because he knew Elizabeth and Mahelia were selling their materials for income at the Adventurers’ Guild?
“Who knows? He does seem like the kind of person who actually thinks about a lot of things despite looking like he doesn’t think about anything, but he also seems like he really might not be thinking about anything at all,” said Mahelia.
Either was possible.
The next day, Vandalieu would be joining Elizabeth’s party. Meorilith and Randolf weren’t the only ones discussing this.
Elizabeth’s four followers – Macht Hamilton, the tall spearman; Yuzef Catalonis, the bespectacled mage; Taurus Zetts, the plump shield-bearer; and Zona, the Dwarf axe-user – were doing the same.
“… What shall we do? Tomorrow makes it one month since he enrolled, and we still don’t know anything about him,” said Macht.
“… To begin with, is it alright for us to keep doing what we’ve been doing? I know we’ve previously come to the conclusion that it is, but things have changed between then and now,” said Taurus.
“… You’re right. What shall we do? Earl Reamsand is acting strange, too,” said Yuzef.
When Elizabeth and Mahelia looked for party members after entering the Hero Preparatory School, these four had joined them, hoping to take advantage of them and reap the benefits.
After the party was formed, Earl Reamsand had taken an interest in them, and they were now something like spies for him.
“You guys trust that old man? I definitely don’t,” said Zona as she put a piece of candy in her mouth and rolled it around with her tongue, filling her mouth with a refreshing aroma and sweetness.
It was understandable that Macht and the others had become spies for Earl Reamsand. All three of them were nobles, but their families’ court ranks were all viscount or below. Their families could not match Earl Reamsand in terms of wealth or their official positions.
If Earl Reamsand were to send letters to their families saying, “I hope our good relations will continue,” they would have no way of disobeying him.
Of course, none of them had intended to disobey him in the first place. In exchange for their cooperation, the earl had promised that his house would hire them as privately-employed knights or mages.
Because they were born later than their siblings, they had no hope of becoming the heirs of their respective houses, so this was a very attractive offer.
As one could tell from their behavior, their families looked down on commoners even more than the average noble. They were proud of the noble, blue blood that flowed through their veins, and thought that commoners were lowly creatures that were different from them. They lived under the constant belief that it was only natural that commoners should serve nobles.
That was the kind of environment Macht and the others had grown up in, and they feared becoming commoners themselves.
Because they had been born later than their siblings, if they weren’t able to marry into another family or be employed as a knight or retainer of a noble house, they would have no choice but to become lowly commoners. They had made desperate efforts to be accepted by the Hero Preparatory School in order to avoid that fate. Once they became adventurers, they would become commoners temporarily. But once they had some accomplishments to their names, they could become knights or mages employed by nobles… and if things went well, acquire court ranks and become nobles themselves.
But the Hero Preparatory School hadn’t been easy. With their current abilities, they hadn’t been able to keep up with the practical training, and they hadn’t been sure whether they would even be able to graduate.
Earl Reamsand’s offer had been equivalent to a spider’s thread in hell*… though they’d never had the courage or power to defy the earl’s will in the first place, given that their families served him.
TLN: This is a reference to a famous Japanese story, ‘The Spider’s Thread,’ where a spider’s thread is lowered into hell, offering hope for a sinner to climb out.
Still, all they did was give the earl the information he asked for. They hadn’t been ordered to do anything dangerous or anything that would make them feel guilty about, such as directly setting a trap for Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth attempted to recruit Alex to the party, they had been ordered to inconspicuously interfere with that, but that hadn’t even been necessary, as Alex had refused her offer himself.
But now, about a year later, Vandalieu had appeared, and Macht and the others had been given new orders – to gather information about Vandalieu.
At first, the three of them had intended to enthusiastically carry out this order, but now… their desire to do that was gone.
“You don’t trust the earl?” Macht asked.
“Of course I don’t. There are plenty of stories of people getting screwed over because they relied on verbal promises,” said Zona.
She was from a noble family, but her circumstances were complicated. On paper, she was the adopted daughter of a noble family, but her adoptive father was actually her biological father.
This nobleman had lavished money on a Dwarf prostitute to make her his lover, but she had become pregnant, so he’d made her marry one of his servants. And because her daughter had a reasonable amount of talent, he’d adopted her and made her take the entrance examination to the Hero Preparatory School.
That was Zona’s story.
“Incidentally, I’m not a spy for the earl, either,” Zona added.
“Wha–?! What are you saying?!” Macht exclaimed.
“Yeah, I mean, you’ve also –” Yuzef began.
“I’ve never been with you three when you made your reports, have I?” Zona said coolly.
Macht and the others gasped in shock as they realized that she was right.
Earl Reamsand had also made the same offer to Zona, and her adoptive father had told her to do as the earl said. But she hadn’t given the earl an answer, and she hadn’t done anything herself.
“Th-that’s a deceptive way to put things!” Taurus shouted.
“So if anything happens, you’re planning to cozy up to Elizabeth-sama on your own?!” said Macht.
“Yeah, and I’m going to sell you guys out in the process too, of course,” said Zona.
“Y-you’re so sneaky,” said Yuzef.
Despite the criticism directed at her, Zona looked at the other three with a somewhat unmotivated look. “Leaving that aside, what are we going to do?” she asked.
“What are we going to do? About Elizabeth-sama, you mean?” said Macht.
“Umm… Can’t we just keep doing what we’ve been doing?” said Yuzef.
The four of them didn’t harbor any ill will towards Elizabeth. At first, they had been after her abilities and the potential benefits that could come with partnering with her, but after a year of being in the same party, there were some emotional attachments. And she was also one of the most good-natured people that any of them had ever met in their lives.
She spoke and behaved arrogantly, but not to the extent that it bothered them, and given her father’s lineage, it was only natural. She was also considerate and helpful.
They had continued to provide Earl Reamsand with information because this wouldn’t lead to what they considered a ‘bad future’ for her.
They didn’t know what Earl Reamsand’s objective was. But they had sensed that he did not want her to achieve exceptional grades at the Hero Preparatory School and become an accomplished adventurer.
Thus, they had thought that the earl intended to give Elizabeth to some other noble’s house in a marriage of convenience. After all, most noble houses disliked their women going out into society because they wanted to keep them for such marriages.
Zona, Macht and the others didn’t consider this to be a bad thing. In fact, they believed that it would be for Elizabeth’s own good to stop her from making some unwise hostile action towards Rudel, the current duke of the Sauron Duchy.
If Elizabeth’s objective was to make a name for herself as an adventurer and make accomplishments to gain a court rank of her own to begin a new noble family, then they might have earnestly supported her… and if they knew that Earl Reamsand’s objective was to make her his own concubine, they would likely have turned their backs on him and become her allies.
Even in their eyes, becoming a new concubine for a noble old enough to be her father, who already had a lawful wife and numerous concubines, was not a good proposal for Elizabeth.
But the meaning of ‘keep doing as we’ve been doing’ had changed over the past month.
“At this rate… Well, as things stand, it looks like graduating will be possible. Not just for Elizabeth-sama, but for us as well,” said Taurus.
“Yeah. Thanks to Vandalieu,” said Yuzef.
Over the past month, Vandalieu’s training had considerably raised the abilities of not just Elizabeth, but Macht and the others as well. In their more recent practical training sessions, it had previously taken them everything they had just to complete their tasks, but they were now completing them with ease.
This wasn’t just because of an increase in their Levels or Attribute Points, nor because of Job changes. It was because Vandalieu, his familiars, and his friends had taught them all kinds of things.
“I’ve started to get the feeling that at this rate, if I put in the effort, I really can become a knight. Vandalieu taught me how to use my shield and how to prepare myself for battle,” said Taurus.
“Me too… His Zombie familiar called ‘Miha’ is incredibly skilled with the spear, and he taught me all sorts of stuff and told me that I’ve got what it takes,” said Macht. “He won’t tell me what his real name is though, no matter how many times I ask. Maybe he doesn’t want to remember his life before he died.”
TLN: ‘Miha’ is short for ‘Mikhail,’ the ‘k’ in the name is is silent.
“Yeah, and Borzofoy-san taught me the basics of magic…” said Yuzef.
With Vandalieu and his companions giving them instruction, Macht and the others had started thinking that they didn’t need to do as Earl Reamsand said.
“… I’m leaving my family in a year or two anyway, so it doesn’t really matter if I go against them,” said Taurus.
“Even if they kick me out, I can stay in the dormitory while I’m a student at this school,” said Yuzef.
“And… Commoners are a lot less ‘lowly’ than I’ve been told. I get the feeling that I can get by as an adventurer,” said Macht.
Over the past month, Macht and the others had received special training from Vandalieu and interacted with his friends – the Heart Warrior Brigade, Simon, and Natania – as well as his familiars. Their view on commoners had changed.
Zona shared this new view, and even though she had the blood of a noble flowing in her veins, she had been the daughter of a former prostitute and a servant before she was adopted, so she had almost no discriminatory views on commoners to begin with, though she’d gone along with Macht and the others numerous times in the past to avoid conflict.
But that wasn’t the problem at hand.
“I’m not talking about Elizabeth-sama; I’m talking about Vandalieu,” said Zona. “Recently, that old man and the people in my family are all focused on Vandalieu. It’s like they don’t even care about Elizabeth-sama anymore. Are your families different?”
“Y-you’re right!” the three of them said simultaneously in realization.
Vandalieu had drawn so much interest from the royals and nobles of Orbaume that it made the problems of Macht, Zona and the others seem miniscule.
For the past month, their families had been asked to investigate Vandalieu by even higher-ranking nobles than Earl Reamsand, such as Marshal Dolmad, and pressed for any potentially useful information.
These demands for information had grown fiercer after the party held by the Alcrem house half a month ago.
It was said that many nobles who openly or secretly held certain characteristics had attended, and when they left, they had become fervent supporters of Duke Alcrem.
It was said that Honorary Countess Darcia Zakkart was a woman of unmatched beauty, and she was sure to attract a large number of suitors who were after her in high society this year.
It was said that her son Vandalieu was surrounded and served by a large number of beautiful women that were his ‘familiars.’ Among them was a plant-type monster named Eisen, and syrup made from her sap and sweets made with her fruit were exquisite.
It was said that Katie Hartner of Duke Hartner’s house had made contact with Vandalieu Zakkart. Would this trigger the Hartner house to convert from favoring Alda to favor Vida instead, like the Alcrem house had done?
There were countless rumors like these flying around. Macht and the others had been asked to verify whether they were true or not… Earl Reamsand hadn’t lost interest in Elizabeth, and did intend to acquire her in the end, but Macht and the others weren’t aware of that.
“But gathering any more information than we already have is…” said Yuzef.
“How about we join Duke Alcrem’s side, too?” said Macht.
“I was thinking about that myself, but… are you really serious about this?” said Taurus.
“No, I mean… Zona, what do you think?” Macht asked. “He gave you candy. You’re friendlier with him than we are, aren’t you?”
“Me?!” Zona exclaimed. “I… There’s no way I can decide so easily, right?!”
Macht and the others had become somewhat more open with Vandalieu over the past month. And although they believed he was ‘probably about as strong as an A-class adventurer,’ which was very far from the truth, they did have some idea of how powerful he was.
So far, they had only given Earl Reamsand information that anyone could learn with ease. They could sense that gathering further information and passing it on would be a hostile act.
They were reluctant to antagonize Vandalieu. Although the special training he’d been putting them through was extremely tough, their progress during this past month was all thanks to him. They were also grateful to him for saving them numerous times during the training, too.
But even so, it wasn’t so simple for them to decide to become an ally and true companion of his.
Vandalieu… and Duke Alcrem, who was pushing for reforms, were considered to be completely favoring Vida’s races. The extremity of their beliefs was already beyond the point of causing conflicts between factions, which were very common in the political world – to the point that they surprised even the Church of Vida in Orbaume.
The reforms being pushed by Duke Alcrem had yet to spread to Central, where the main nobles made much use of the Church of Alda, including the house of Marquis Tercatanis, which had filled the role of prime minister for generations.
Up until a month ago, many of the low-ranking nobles and commoners had just thought that Duke Alcrem was saying strange things, that he was just making topics for people to talk about because he wanted to stand as a candidate in next year’s election for the king, that he was just grandstanding and making an embarrassment of himself.
But over the past month, news had quickly spread that Duke Alcrem was serious.
That news had spread after the party that had taken place half a month ago, which had caused a great increase in the number of nobles who supported Duke Alcrem’s reforms. And the other thing that had caused this news to spread was the information about Vandalieu that had been provided by none other than Macht, Taurus, and Yuzef.
As more nobles came to support the reforms and information about Vandalieu became more known, the reforms themselves were becoming more well-known as well.
Macht and the others had met Zadiris on multiple occasions, and after speaking with her, they were forced to realize that she was indeed a person.
But even so, it was a big decision for them to become a companion of Vandalieu’s, because other nobles would judge them as supporting Duke Alcrem. In the worst-case scenario, a great number of nobles would become hostile towards them. Macht and Zona were prepared to lose their positions as nobles and become commoners, but even then, they were second-guessing themselves.
None of them had made a major decision in their lives; they didn’t have the determination that Katie Hartner had shown.
“We can’t be at ease without at least cozying up to him a little more, can we!” said Zona.
They were the kind of people to be led by others who were stronger than them.
This was a little less true for Zona than the others, but she didn’t have any significant goal or strong conviction like Elizabeth and Mahelia.
“Really? It looks like you’ve cozied up with him plenty already,” said Macht.
“Stop joking around,” said Zona. “Unlike you simpletons, he doesn’t respond at all… though that’s only natural, since he has people like Eisen and Zadiris-san waiting on him. Well, he did give me this candy. But you’re right in saying that it wouldn’t be good if things continued as they are.”
If they didn’t give any useful information on Vandalieu, all the nobles, including their own families, might consider them to be Vandalieu’s allies. It would be quite dangerous if that were to happen when they weren’t truly Vandalieu’s allies.
Zona crushed the candy in her mouth with her teeth… the candy made from Eisen’s sap. And then she made her decision. “Now that it’s come to this, I don’t have a choice. Even if I have to push it, I’ll cozy up to Vandalieu so we can really be in his pocket!”
“Where’s that confidence coming from?! I mean, Vandalieu has all those beautiful women waiting on him, so even if you cozy up to him, I mean… It’s kind of a pitiful result, isn’t it…?” said Macht.
“Your eyes are already pitiful, aren’t they?! If you’re going as far as to say that, then go try and cozy up to Vandalieu, the people who are his familiars, or Pauvina-chan and the others! You’re men, aren’t you?!”
“Don’t ask the impossible of us!” Macht protested. “The other day, he was mumbling something about the darkness or whatever, like some mysterious incantation!”
TLN: This ‘darkness’ misunderstanding is explained in the next section.
“And those people are in a completely different category from the women we know!” said Taurus.
“Pauvina-chan treats us like small children for some reason, and Miriam-san and Natania-san treat us like actual children… and Kalinia-san is scary,” said Yuzef.
“Then I’ll do it, so shut up and watch… Wait, no, you don’t have to watch. Just wait for me to deliver the good news,” said Zona.
Even she herself didn’t believe that she had a high chance of succeeding, so she didn’t want to be seen if her efforts ended miserably.
The four of them remained completely unaware that Vandalieu was actually quite simple-minded. Although he had thought they were hopeless when he first met them, his opinion about them had changed, and he now believed that they had some good things about them. He had long since begun seeing them as his companions.
And one more thing that they were completely unaware of was that the increase in their Attribute Values was not simply a result of their Levels rising due to the special training – they had also been guided by Vandalieu.
Meanwhile, Vandalieu was having a discussion with Pauvina about the companions that they would have the Tamers’ Guild acknowledge as familiars tomorrow.
Incidentally, the snacks accompanying their tea were manju. They were filled with hand-made darkness… or rather, red bean paste.
TLN: Manju is a kind of sweet steamed dumpling. There’s a Japanese wordplay here: ‘Darkness’ is 暗黒/ankoku, red bean paste (a typical manju filling) is 餡子/anko. This is the source of Macht’s misunderstanding above.
“Van, I want to register Luves soon. He hasn’t learned the ‘Shrink’ Skill, though,” Pauvina said.
“Indeed. I suppose I’ll take Sam, Bone Man, and Oniwaka with me,” said Vandalieu.
“Van, Oniwaka is her childhood name,” Pauvina reminded him.
“Ah, yes. It seems that it’s become a habit to call her by that,” said Vandalieu as he packed something into a box.
He wrapped the box and attached a card with a message written on it.
“Van, what’s that?” Pauvina asked.
“It’s V Cream, as a present for Orlock-san for everything he’s done for us. My apprentice squeezed it out of me, and I thought I was going to lose weight. I’ve truly put my heart into it,” Vandalieu said.
Orlock, the Guild Master of the Tamers’ Guild, would only be facing more troubles, but it seemed that his hair follicles and skin would remain safe.