“Maybe they were acting on the Count’s behalf…?”
The room went dead silent.
Lihilt and I exchanged glances.
Laura stared at the carriage ceiling, speaking to no one in particular, “I think the spell they used to turn all those stones into boulders was Earth Ball. It’s a difficult spell to cast—even I can’t use it. Do those bandits really have such skilled magicians in their ranks…?”
Noticing the tension written all over our faces, however, was enough to snap Laura out of her trance. She tried laughing it off, “Aha, AHAHAHAHA! J-J-Ju… Just kidding! What am I saying, of course that isn’t true!”
Lihilt and I remained stone-faced, however.
We both had the same thing in mind, I’m sure:
…that this was all entirely possible.
Our high-speed carriage arrived at the Count’s domain.
“W-Wow… Another huge castle…!” Laura murmured, noticing the castle smack-dab in the middle of the city.
It was quite a bit smaller than the one in Luminous, but a stout and sturdy castle it was nevertheless.
We reached the Count’s castle a little while after.
Once we descended from the carriage, a thirty-something-looking man dressed in servant attire approached us and bowed his head. “I am the butler of Sir Glade Emghis, the feudal lord of these lands.”
“I thank you for bidding us welcome,” Lihilt responded, calm and collected.
The whimsical Lihilt I was so used to talking to was nowhere to be seen. For him, however, this was enemy territory. He had to take this seriously; he couldn’t afford to be written off as some bumbling idiot.
“This here is Sir Albert, eldest son of Marquis Luminous, as well as his companion, Laura.”
Laura and I bowed after Lihilt introduced us, and we were guided to our rooms.
“I hope that you have a relaxing stay, confined as it may be,” said the maid who led us the way. “I also have a message from the Count,” she carried on politely, “You are welcome to stay, but please refrain from roaming about the castle grounds.”
The maid pointed at a floor plan of the castle on the table. “Furthermore, we have numerous guards patrolling the castle at all times. Should the need ever arise, we may have them ask you to return to your rooms. We hope for your understanding in this matter.”
“…Why would that be necessary?”
“I am forbidden from providing further explanation, so I cannot say.” The maid bowed and left the room.
…What was that all about…?
Are they being cautious of something? I’m not really sure, but I guess for the time being, all we can do is comply…
That night, the three of us were served dinner in the dining hall…
…or at least, that’s what I thought would happen.
“…Are you sure about this, Lihilt? Blowing off our dinner with the Count doesn’t seem like such a good idea…”
Instead, we were eating out at a restaurant in town.
I was under the impression we would make acquaintances with the Count during our meal with him.
“Blowing off? Why, we were never even invited in the first place! There’s nothing to blow off!” Lihilt thundered, his irritation as clear as day. He sunk his teeth into a slab of meat on the bone.
I thought providing proper reception was basic manners as a noble, though.
“Really! I might as well not exist to him! But even you? Don’t you think that’s, I dunno, going a little too far?! You’re a marquis for crying out loud, a MARQUIS!”
“…Well, I’m not the main guest here, so…”
This was pretty strange, though. Nobles always respected other nobles. While there was some amount of rankism, at the end of the day, this was an unspoken rule.
That’s just how nobles are.
…And even if he really is that busy, I find it hard to believe he can’t even find the time to give us a proper greeting…
“I almost forgot, Lihilt. Did you greet Miss Nastasia yet?” I asked, remembering her name being mentioned.
A member of the royal family was staying here—it’d be a crime not to give her our regards, at least.
“No, not yet. I hear she isn’t here right now.”
“Yeah. She only visited to participate in some festivities taking place here as a representative of the royal family, and she left for the same reason. Plus, she’s doing some sightseeing on top of that, so I don’t think she’s gonna be back for a while.”
…I guess our greeting can wait if she isn’t here.
“But seriously,” Lihilt said, “the Count’s behavior is completely unprofessional! It’s driving me nuts! Though I guess it’s not all bad, since otherwise, Laura’d be all by herself!”
“Huh? I would…?” Laura replied as she covered her mouth. She’d been eating quietly up until now.
If we were to have a meal with the Count, Laura’s commoner status would make it difficult for her to join. And while I don’t know what kind of person Glade Emghis is, there aren’t many nobles as easygoing as Lihilt.
Laura swallowed down the food in her mouth. “I appreciate your concern for me! But I understand, this is just part of the job! When the time comes, don’t mind me! Just do what you need to do!”
“You’re such a good kid, Laura!” Lihilt said, holding back tears. “ALRIGHT! Today’s my treat! No, scratch that—this entire trip will be my treat! Go on, don’t be shy! Eat to your heart’s content!”
The next, next day…
Lihilt and I were scheduled to meet Glade Emghis.
We were going to discuss the discrepancies in the Heavy Mithril yield, which Lihilt had brought up time and time again.
I hear that was actually supposed to happen yesterday, though.
Not only was it canceled out of the blue, but we weren’t even informed when it would be taking place, if at all. Enraged that he wasn’t being taken seriously, Lihilt fought tooth and nail and managed to have it rescheduled for today.
There were 5 men gathered in the conference room.
On one side, it was me, Lihilt, and his manager.
On the other was who I assumed to be the Count’s manager, as well as…
“I am Glade Emghis,” said a fifty-something-looking man. He had a mustache and the eyes of a hawk.
The man himself.
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