The next day.
An opportunity for Hermes to do his job at the Trakia household came immediately.
“Now then, Herm. As a reminder, your job today is attacking the labyrinth together with me.”
After a relatively short carriage ride from the Trakia house, they arrived at a mountainous district on the border between the Trakia territory and another fief.
Katia pointed out what seemed to be the entrance in the corner of a mountain.
Basically, the job of a noble entailed managing their territory, as well as protecting the citizens who lived in said territory.
Furthermore, excluding other humans, there were two major threats to the safety of a territory’s citizens: Monsters, as well as the base of said monsters—labyrinths.
How monsters were born, what their objective was, and why they attacked humans were all but unknown as of yet.
According to some theories, monsters were the result of some kind of magic going out of control, but no one knew the truth as of yet.
At any rate, as long as they attacked people and were a threat to humanity, nobles skilled with magic bore the responsibility of subjugating said threat.
In addition, there were merits to attacking a labyrinth.
If one were to skillfully defeat the monsters inhabiting it, they could obtain valuable raw materials and use that as a source of revenue.
Above all, it was unknown whether it was due to a labyrinth’s inherent nature or the monsters’ behavior, but—rarely, one could find and obtain rare magic tools guarded by powerful monsters or hidden in secret rooms; this was one of the bigger merits.
As such, Katia was going to carry out an attack on a labyrinth as part of her duty as a noble and for the potential profit.
Hermes had thought it was better for her to stay at home for the time being after everything that happened yesterday, but it seems like they needed to attack immediately.
At any rate, Hermes tagged along as one of the bodyguards for the labyrinth attack.
…That’s right—he was one of the bodyguards.
“Lady Katia, I am opposed to this!”
Besides Hermes and Katia, there were up to five Trakia household knights that came along.
They were most likely the previous guards during labyrinth attacks before Hermes showed up. One of the knights looked at Hermes suspiciously and raised his voice.
He had a toned physique and a chiseled face; he truly gave off the impression of a powerful knight with a strong sense of justice.
“I heard someone was hired as an exclusive bodyguard, and just what kind of person do I see? An unbelievably thin, weak-looking child! Do you imply we knights are unsatisfactory!?”
The other knights didn’t voice their objections, but they directed much of the same looks at Hermes.
“Upon asking, I’ve been informed that this person is the Lady’s childhood friend. Listen well! This labyrinth attack will turn into a battlefield! Are you aware of just how burdensome it is to have such a—”
“…Well, I had a hunch you’d say this.”
Katia listened to what the knight said with a sigh and responded calmly.
“Let me just say this in advance—I have no complaints with your abilities as bodyguards. Moreover, his presence will remarkably increase the efficiency of our labyrinth attack. Such was my thought process, so I hired him—that’s all. It’s not like I hired him because of my… personal feelings.”
That strange pause at the end was a bit eye-catching, though.
“…Anyways, Herm. That’s how it is. I’ll be putting you as our main attacker for today’s attack. Show us what you’re capable of.”
Katia reaffirmed their plan of attack. Just when she attempted to step foot into the labyrinth’s interior—
“Oh my~? By any chance, might you be that rumored Miss Defective?”
From the entrance of the labyrinth came the exceedingly shrill voice of a man.
Everyone there turned around and saw a middle-aged man.
His physique was stout, enough to make you wonder how he managed to get through that cramped entrance; his face was completely spherical, completely burying the space between his neck and chin with layers of fat.
Depending on how you wanted to view it, he was so round that he nearly looked cute, but it was highly unlikely anyone would think that after getting a look at his scornful expression.
Katia murmured the man’s name in a small whisper.
“They’re the Trakia’s neighboring fief. This mountain is located right between our borders, you see… What business might you have with us, Count?”
“Surely, it’s obvious. Do you not see my knights?”
In response to Katia’s question, Eldridge, who had brought around 10 knights, replied haughtily.
“I shall be attacking this labyrinth henceforth. You’d best step aside at once if you understand.”
“Wh-… Surely, you jest. This labyrinth is under jurisdiction of the Trakia territory; we should have priority in using it.”
“Hmph! I’ve long forgotten about such a mold-ridden contract!”
The count scornfully laughed off Katia’s rebuttal and looked down on her.
“According to the rumors I’ve heard, this labyrinth has been infested with powerful monsters, and legendary artifacts from ancient times lie dormant within! I cannot entrust such a dangerous labyrinth to someone such as you, Miss Defective! I am expressing my willingness to assist you with the labyrinth attack out of the compassion of my heart! Shouldn’t you be sobbing tears of gratitude? Hmm?”
He asked Katia and co with an unpleasant smile.
It was obvious he had no intention of actually “assisting”. His main aim was undoubtedly the ancient artifacts, which he had heard from the rumors. He planned on finding them before anyone else and snatching the glory for himself.
Magic tools were already considerably valuable, especially if it was an ancient artifact that couldn’t be reproduced with today’s magic—its value would only skyrocket. Just discovering one was a great achievement, enough to receive a reward from the royal palace.
Just the mere existence of such rumors was plenty enough reason to merit further investigation.
“…Ancient as it may be, a contract is still a contract. I have plenty reason to report your conduct as a breach of authority.”
“Do as you please! I doubt anyone would take your grievances seriously, anyway!”
Thereupon, the count exaggeratedly spread his arms and declared in a mocking tone.
“Isn’t that right, Miss Thrown-Away-by-the-Heroic-Prince-and-Can’t-Even-Use-Magic-Properly Defective!
“…Can’t use… magic?”
In actuality, Hermes hadn’t been told any of the details about Katia.
Their conversation about her broken engagement with the second prince last night ultimately ended with Katia going silent, so he didn’t know anything more than what she told him.
She must’ve not wanted to talk about it.
If she didn’t want to, then Hermes wouldn’t force her to.
…Nevertheless, putting that aside.
For the time being, it was as plain as day that this ugly, obese man was currently slighting Katia.
“You’re the disgrace of a prestigious duke household, forsaken by even that heroic prince—who do you think you are, continuing this sham and pretending to be a noble? Stop with the trivialities and obediently entrust this matter to me, a magician chosen by the gods—!?”
Count Eldridge, who had been blabbering on and on, abruptly twitched, his mouth frozen in place.
The reason being—
—a fireball flew past his droopy cheek with tremendous force.
Retaining its momentum, it flew past the gap between the guard knights—
—and directly struck a wolf monster that tried sneaking behind the count and his men, turning it to ashes in the blink of an eye.
“Wh-… a monster!?”
“Impossible! Since when!?”
“D-Did that kid shoot it just now?”
“That fireball was considerably powerful… That said, when did he chant…?”
The first two people who spoke were the count’s knights, and the other two were Katia’s knights.
Then, Hermes, who fired his magic and instantly dealt with the monster—
“Aah, I beg your forgiveness, Lord Count Eldridge. I believed that monster posed a threat to your esteemed self, and as such, I have ever so presumptuously provided my assistance.”
—spoke with an unnatural level of politeness and smiled sweetly.
“I have interfered with your speech; do continue. What exactly, pray tell, would happen if we were to entrust this matter to a self-proclaimed magician chosen by the gods, who failed to even notice a surprise attack of such level?”
When he lived with his master Rose, he was often unable to stand his master’s sloppy lifestyle and admonished her for it.
When Rose thought back to the times he did, this is what she said:
“Damn, when people who’re usually gentle get pissed off, they’re real scary—scarier than I imagined.”
But I digress.
“Do continue, I insist. You are going to benevolently unveil to us your oh-so revered opinion, are you not?”
The pinnacle of hypocritical courtesy.
The count took the full brunt of Hermes’ words, which mysteriously packed quite the punch.
“Wh-…Wh-…Wh-… WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM!?”
With spit on the verge of flying out of his mouth, he fired back at Hermes, his face becoming bright red from a mix of shame and anger.
“Some lowly servant brat dares to oppose me!? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!?”
“As I am rather ignorant, it appears I know not of you. I am appalled to know that you think I was opposing you; rather, I was assisting you. Shouldn’t you be the one sobbing tears of gratitude?”
Hermes intentionally repeated what the count said earlier word for word right back at him.
Unable to come up with a comeback, the count’s face became as red as an apple—that’s including the shape of his head, too.
“~~HMPH!! I’ve remembered your face, you little shit. I’ll teach you in full what happens when you affront someone such as I in the future!”
With a clichéd parting remark, the count stumbled away to the insides of the labyrinth with his knights in tow.
“You’ve all been slacking, too! It’s you knights’ job to protect me from attacks such as those! I’LL FIRE YOU ALL, DAMNIT!”
The count’s angry voice vanished into the labyrinth’s depths. A brief silence descended upon those remaining at the scene.
“…Ah, Miss Katia, I apologize. I got a little carried away and lost my cool.”
After regaining some of his composure, Hermes realized he went a little too far and bowed his head to Katia.
“Huh-… No, y-you don’t need to worry about it.”
She accepted his apology and hurriedly waved her hand in front of her chest.
Afterward, she averted her eyes from Hermes with an embarrassed look.
“…Rather, I should t-thank you for getting mad on my beha—”
“I APOLOGIZE, YOUNG LAD!! I MISUNDERSTOOD YOU!!”
Just as she was about to say something or the other, someone came from the side and apologized extremely loudly.
“YOU DISPLAYED MAGNIFICENT ABILITY IN MAGIC, AS WELL AS THE COURAGE TO LASH OUT AGAINST THOSE WHO SLIGHT YOUR MASTER, BE IT A COURT OR NOT! I AM NOW FIERCELY ASHAMED OF MY IGNORANCE AFTER HAVING MADE LIGHT OF YOU SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU LOOKED LIKE A SMALL CHILD!!!”
“Huh, ah, yes.”
Next, the knights who had been against Hermes coming along a short while ago raised cheers of praise, their voices booming.
It seems like that knight was a little prone to having the wrong impression of people, and was several times more intense of a person than Hermes had thought.
“Once again, I apologize for earlier, young magician lad!”
“I-It’s alright. You were simply concerned for Miss Katia’s well-being, so doubting me was only proper. I’m not angry at you, so…”
“What a broad-minded young lad you are! Let us protect Lady Katia together henceforth!”
The knight extended his hand forward with a snap. Hermes understood he wasn’t a bad person all things considered, so he responded in kind and shook his hand.
“…Can we get a move on?”
This time, Katia came from the side and interjected the heartwarming—though it was slightly questionable if heartwarming was the best word for it—scene.
“I’m delighted to know you’ve gotten to know each other. Let’s proceed at once.”
“Ah, yes. But Lady Katia, for what reason are you in such a bad mood?”
“I’m not in a bad mood. Come on, you’re leading the way!”
“Y-Yes! …Might you be in a bad mood, after all?”
And so, with the exception of the miffed Katia in total silence, they all stepped foot into the labyrinth in a reasonably good mood—albeit a bit late.
Had a lot of fun translating this one. Was supposed to be finished yesterday, but had to deal with school stuff. I’ll try and get a magic arrow chap out later today. See you guys then.