“Is it hard on you?”
After exiting Right Solia, the mother and son pair were on their way back to the hotel in Left Solia. They held a conversation as they crossed the main plaza.
“No? It’s not exactly like that… Why?”
He caressed his mother’s hand that he held as he shook his head.
It wasn’t hard, not exactly.
“It looks like there are many interesting things but you don’t seem to be showing any interest, so I asked.”
Because of the swordsmanship tournament to be opened the next day, the main plaza was bustling with people. It was more crowded than it was during the day.
As if to belittle the darkened night sky, there were lights of orange or yellow hues everywhere on the street to shine light upon the people passing by.
Riley was paused at the end of his sentence as he looked around each street vendor, but he finally answered his mother’s question.
“I feel like there’s a lot that had happened.”
It was as he said.
Today was quite full of various incidents and events.
“I even went to a temple for the first time in my life.”
In Solia Temple, he ran into an existence they called a priestess, a wench that he did not want to meet. When he went there, Riley was actually worried he might recieve yet another divine message like he had in his past life. Fortunately, nothing like that happened.
“I also went to the Magic Tower.”
At the Magic Tower, he even had the mana measurement done per request of everyone, including his mother.
Because of the Blessing of Blades that he received in his past life, Riley was able to gather mana in a way that was a little different from the method others used.
Riley was concerned that the amount of mana he actually accumulated could be discovered by that tiny orb, but perhaps it was thanks to him minding this, he was able to get it over with and not have his true mana capacity exposed to everyone.
“Well, anyway, nothing in particular happened, so that was fortunate.”
“It is not like you have been going to places where something could happen, right? Ian and Sera were also accompanying you.”
Nothing in particular?
Iris asked as she tilted her head.
Riley acted like he was busy with something else and dropped his fake smile.
Now that he thought about it, it is not like he went to Lower Solia that he was warned about, so it would have been weird if anything in particular happened today.
“Ugh! Mr. Ian, please get a grip!”
“Huugh… How could this be? There is no way I was just seeing things…”
The mother and son pair, who were holding hands and enjoying their time together, turned their heads after hearing voices from behind.
A maid approached with an old man as she struggled to support him. He had a blank look on his face as if he had just lost his soul.
“It looks like Ian was the one most disappointed by the result earlier.”
When Iris made suppressed laughing noises and looked at Riley, he smiled and asked,
“Mother, weren’t you disappointed? Because your son is ordinary?”
“Hm? Riley, I am relieved to know that you are ordinary.”
Riley’s mouth opened wide as if he were dazed.
He was expecting it, and he was hoping for it all along, but having received the response he wanted so promptly, it seemed as though Riley could not hide his joy. With a satisfied face, he asked his mother,
“Really? Of course.”
The mother and son duo chuckled as they continued their walk.
“Mother, would you like to stop by over there? I can smell something delicious in that direction.”
* * *
“Hey, Beta, what if we get busted from continuing to do this?”
“I know it’s getting riskier! That’s why I said we are going to stop performing the ‘Prince! Please Save Me!’ scheme. Now it is time to go back to our original trade, the original.”
“What, our original trade isn’t thievery? It’s the same deal. What if it goes wrong?”
“It will be alright. Just fine! It’s not even midnight yet, right? Also, you do realize what day today is? If we miss this day, we have to suck on our thumbs until the next festival!”
In the main plaza of Solia, these two homeless people who were pretty famous in Lower Solia, the Hamil and Beta couple, were lurking around to find prey.
“Oh, that guy looks good. He even the tint of his clothes look different, don’t you think?”
“Can’t you see the massive number of knights sticking to the man? At the minimum, those guys are from a Count’s household. If you tried to take a bite out of them, you will really get your jaw torn apart. Pick another brat.”
Of all the people in the area looking like little fishes swimming around the sea, Beta was constantly moving her eyes in search of a prey that was the right size for her. She opened her eyes wide and said,
“Hey, Hamil! What about that one over there?”
Hamil looked carefully toward the direction that Beta was pointing to and then cringed.
“Aren’t those the pricks from the day before yesterday?”
“Yeah! Those pricks! The ones that completely ignored us like it was none of their business when they saw a fragile little girl who was about to be dragged away by rotten men and get raped!”
“It looks like a naïve young master, a noble lady, and a maid with a weak old butler dragging his feet added to the bunch. That’s only four in total.”
It appeared Beta found her target.
Beta wetted her lips as she flicked her tongue.
“So, are you going to go for those people?”
“Of course! For those heartless ones, we need to give them punishment! This is not a wrongdoing, but sending down a divine punishment from the heavens! Even Irenettesa would forgive us!”
Hamil looked at the group that Beta pointed out.
On the surface, it looked like nothing could go wrong.
It was just a noble lady and a young master who came to see the Capital’s Swordsmanship Tournament.
Also, there were only two escorts.
It was a piece of cake.
On the surface, it sure looked that way.
‘…I have a bad feeling about this somehow.’
Hamil rolled his eyes for a quick glance at Beta.
Beta appeared to be fully charged with the hearts for carrying out the score. Her fingers were squirming.
‘Haah, if I told her that I have a bad feeling about this, she will just say a woman’s intuition is better than that of a man and so on and she will get all sassy with me.’
Watching the loving mother and her son, Beta was staring at them with eyes full of desire.
It looked like she could not hold it anymore.
Hamil, as if showing that he was giving in, said,
“…Ok. Let’s do it.”
“That’s how you should be!”
They calmed their breathing, squirmed and checked their fingers by practicing movements, and approached the target carefully past through the streams of people.
Their target was the funds that the group must be carrying.
‘If we fail, we’re going to bounce right away, got it?’
‘I got it.’
The two exchanged gazes.
They had a rendezvous point already chosen in case the attempt failed.
They had prepared for all sorts of possibilities.
Even so, Hamil’s throat felt like it burning.
He really had a bad feeling about this.
It was three steps to the front.
Now, the target was right in front of their noses.
Beta chose the young master and the noble lady.
Hamil chose the maid and the butler.
It was in case the maid and the butler had the wallet or other valuables, and it was also to buy Beta some time when she grabs things from the young master and the noble lady.
Hamil, who was counting the numbers in his head, suddenly opened his eyes wide.
Before he could even put his hand forward, the butler, who looked so weak that he appeared he might die soon, was instead looking at Hamil with eyes filled with murderous intent.
‘Oh no…we have been found o-…’
Hamil was gasping for air. Before he could even finish thinking about the fact that they have been found out, his body was rapidly bent forward by some force.
Unlike his upper body, which was bent over because of a blunt pain on his stomach, his mouth was wide open.
One of his eyes was crushed and closed by itself.
With his left eye, which he had barely managed to open, Hamil looked for the cause of the pain.
It was an elbow.
It belonged to the old man wearing a black butler suit.
His elbow was planted on pit of Hamil’s stomach.
Before Hamil could get a hold of himself, he was forced to straighten his back, and his right arm was suddenly pulled up.
It was the old butler, with a violent look on his face, who grabbed Hamil’s arm and pulled it up.
Out of desperation, Hamil locked his teeth, and while trying to ignore the pain, he tried to kick.
However, a question mark floated up to Hamil’s face.
It was because his legs would not move for him.
‘What? My legs?’
While his right arm was constrained, it appeared that backsides of his knees were kicked on. Hamil’s legs were just hanging there lifelessly. He could not put any strength into them.
“You runts. Who are you?”
The old man gave an aggressive stare at Hamil’s eyes as he asked.
Overwhelmed by the old man, Hamil’s eyes darted about.
It was to find a way out.
Looking at the side, before he realized, the maid beside the butler was long gone.
The maid that disappeared was already in the distance and had finished neutralizing Beta.
Beta’s state was even more gruesome than Hamil’s situation.
Perhaps it was a retribution for attempting to lay hands on the young master and the noble lady. Beta’s right hand was bent in a strange way, and she couldn’t even scream because the maid had used her hand to plug Beta’s mouth.
‘And I thought I had a feeling about this.’
Hamil firmly closed his eyes.
As he thought, in the end, they got busted.
“You runts. Where are you from?”
“You dared to lay your hands on our Young Master from Iphelleta.”
‘Did he just say Iphelleta?’
Hamil’s face turned completely pale.
If it was the Iphelleta family, the name belonged to the nobility that had earned the rank of Count from their swordsmanship alone.
* * *
“I thought I saw your face from somewhere. You were amongst that rotten bunch from a few days ago. Young Master’s words were indeed correct.”
At the back alley of Solia’s main plaza, two women stepped in to this place where hardly anyone was passing by.
One was Sera.
The other was Beta.
Sera asked as she tossed Beta to the ground. She still had her wrist bent the wrong way.
In Sera’s chilled gaze, it appeared that there was a sliver of murderous intent. To an ordinary person, her gaze alone was enough to instill fear in one’s mind.
As if her lips were frozen solid from fear, or perhaps it was to keep the code among the thieves for her partner’s sake, Beta couldn’t voice anything.
“Well, that’s fine.”
Sera moved in a step toward Beta, who was on the ground on her stomach, and Sera sniffed the air to catch a scent.
As if she figured it out, Sera reopened the eyes she had closed a moment ago. Sera asked,
“…You are from Lower Solia?”
“Looks like you are wondering how I figured it out. It’s because you smell rotten.”
“Th-that can’t be? I masked it with perfumes?”
Beta, with a look that strongly showed her state of panic, buried her nose into her arm.
No matter how many times she sniffed at herself, she could only smell the scent of the perfume. There wasn’t anything like a rotten sewer smell coming from her.
“Since I’m indebted to that place for my childhood, for the old time’s sake, I will let you live this once. However…you must pay the price for attempting to lay your hands on my master and my lady.”
The heel of Sera’s boot was raised.
“N… No! Please!”
Sera’s boot was aimed toward Beta’s left hand.
Beta’s right hand was already twisted in shambles.
If she hurt her left hand as well, Beta was going to lose her ability to make a living.
The heel of Sera’s boot, which was layered with mana, crushed Beta’s left fingers.
With that sound, which would make anyone cringe, Beta bit her lips and tightly closed her eyes.
“We are not going to give you lectures for pick-pocketing other nobles, but next time, it will serve you better if you picked your target more carefully.
Beta rolled around the ground in pain.
To Beta, who was letting her face scrape against the ground due to not being able to use her hands, Sera continued her words and then turned herself away.
“My master despises being bothered.”
* * *
Riley, who had his hands full of various foods from the street vendor, turned his head.
As he licked off the sauce that was on his lips, Riley asked Ian who was following behind.
“Ian, where’s Sera?”
It was because he couldn’t see Sera.
Ian shrugged and casually answered.
“She said she would be relieving herself for a restroom break. She will probably come back soon.”
“Is that so?”
“Young Master, do you need to go as well?”
“No, not exactly. I was just curious because she suddenly disappeared.”
Knowing that he managed to keep the master from finding out, Ian sighed in relief and looked around the surroundings.
It was because he judged that the other members of the runts, which they had just given a serious beating to, could target Riley and Iris.
“Um, while we are at it, perhaps it would be best to make certain…”
Ian, who was in middle of looking around the surroundings and not able to properly hear what Riley just said, tilted his head in confusion.
“Come again Young Master?”
“No, it’s nothing. Ah, mother! That one looks delicious!”
“Okay. Okay. But first, please properly wipe off the crumbs on your mouth.”
Fondly exasperated, Iris smiled toward her son. She was just about to wipe Riley’s face around his mouth. At that moment,
They could hear something being shot.
A red ray of light that was shot from the ground exploded splendidly, and it started to form the shape of a beautiful flower.
“…Finally, it feels like this is the beginning.”
Sera murmured as she watched the fireworks decorating the night sky. As if she just returned from her business, before anyone noticed, Sera was standing next to Riley and Iris.
“Ah, Sera. Welcome back. But…what is it?”
Iris welcomed Sera who just came back and asked Sera as if she was confused.
Sera smiled big and responded,
“It’s about the Capital’s Swordsmanship Tournament!”