Chapter 2, Part 4
The residence of Count Abarth was a lord’s mansion located in the center of the fort town of Del Solant.
The Abarths had a military background, and as a result he had many subordinates and all sorts of knights at his disposal. The end of the long campaign of the warring era—in other words, when the Gaz Empire of the north was obliterated—owed a lot to the present head of the family, Roberto Abarth, who had played a large role in the Gaz Empire’s demise and was often called a hero as a result.
It was said that nowadays he devoted himself solely to calling over engineers specializing in magic for the restoration of Del Solant and expanding the influence of the Abarths. Originally the they should have been nothing more than a group of rural nobles, but their pedigree was such that they were a hot topic even within the Couvre Empire.
“Dearest guests, welcome to my humble abode.”
Inside a vehicle named “April”, there were several people. They had traveled to Del Solant to visit his estate, so Roberto Abarth himself came out to greet them at his doorstep with an amicable, charming smile.
The April belonged to Alberic Gillette, a knight who represented his home of the kingdom of Vemac while traveling incognito to Del Solant under the pretext of “martial arts training”—at least, that was the story the Abarths came up with.
In other words, the Abarths believed that this could turn into an opportunity to form a secret alliance with neighboring nobles, useful for expanding their influence within the kingdom.
“I am Roberto Abarth.”
Said the blond-haired man with all the makings of a hero as he bowed.
He definitely looked like a noble—his sophisticated and well-groomed face sat atop a lean, well-toned body with broad shoulders. Though physically both Roberto and Alberic had the appearance of nobility, Alberic gave off the sense of being somewhat plain when compared to Roberto—Alberic’s unrefined nature made it seem like he was from a military family.
On the other hand, Roberto, the one lauded with the title of “hero”, looked flashy, almost to the point of discomfort. His garments were laced with plenty of gold and silver thread, and incorporated the Abarth family crest as a design—from head to toe he looked extravagant; much closer to royalty than nobility.
“I am Alberic Gillette,” Alberic said, returning the bow.
Accompanying him from the rear were two people that seemed to act as his attendants, named Zita and Vivi, two unintimidating teenage girls. Among the personnel inside the April, this pair looked the most harmless, but Alberic chose them precisely because they wouldn’t seem threatening to any important people he met with. Of course, when Alberic made his visits he often ended up giving others the impression that the girls were his “special servants”, but there was no helping that.
Both Alberic and his two female attendants followed Roberto towards the parlor.
Passing by a seemingly endless number of works of art lined up in the corridor on the way, Alberic began to study the current head of the Abarth family’s nature.
It’s pretty clear that this guy craves the limelight.
The works of art were things like paintings depicting Roberto himself smiling and many sculptures based on his image. Sculptures of historic heroes and famous paintings also lined the corridor, which gave the impression that the value Roberto put on himself was equal to that of the heroes and paintings.
But…did he really come from a military family? Is he really a hero?
Alberic was also a knight. By observing the way Roberto walked—not to mention his appearance from behind—Alberic was able to grasp a sense of his true ability. His movements were…well, he didn’t get the feeling he was well-versed in martial arts. Actually, they were closer to that of a complete amateur.
However, there was no doubt that in the last war Roberto had been named a “hero”.
If that wasn’t the case, Alberic and company wouldn’t have visited his estate to begin with.
Perhaps it’s just that his ability dulled over the five years…?
He was the region’s feudal lord, and he had been crowned with the title of “hero”. Now, he seemed fine with the idea of not forging his body further or accumulating any more deeds of arms.
“Please, come in.”
Roberto invited the three of them into the lavishly-decorated parlor and sat down on the cushy-looking sofa.
They dispensed with the standard few obligatory pleasantries that were exchanged when nobles talked with other nobles.
“Now then. What’s your objective behind visiting the estate of the great Count Abarth?”
In that instant, Alberic hesitated over how exactly to begin.
Normally, nobility and royalty inviting Alberic’s group in were amicable up to this point.
But even so, he spoke—
“Count Abarth. While I am aware that such an impromptu visit exceeds the limits of propriety…I have something to ask of you.”
“I would like to borrow something from you may have unofficially obtained from the imperial capital of the Gaz Empire.”
Roberto’s eyebrows went up.
It was a natural reaction. In an instant his demeanor changed from that of welcoming a guest to being cautious of an opponent.
“You want to borrow that?”
Roberto didn’t even ask what it was he wanted to borrow.
Truthfully, Alberic and the others originally had no idea whether or not Roberto actually had what they were looking for, but now there was no doubt.
“It is as you say. I can’t divulge the details, but we of the kingdom of Vemac are currently in the process of accomplishing something rather special, thanks to the efforts of the post-war reconstruction agency Kleeman, which cooperates with and builds up various regions.”
Roberto’s eyes narrowed, looking at Alberic, and then behind him to the two girls, Zita and Vivi, who were standing in the back, partially obscured by the sofa.
“The Couvre Empire is also affiliated with the Kleeman organization. Therefore, if you’d rather think of this as a request not from us but the emperor of Couvre, that would be fine.”
“If you’re telling the whole truth,” said Roberto. “Why do you all want it?”
“That I cannot disclose,” replied Alberic. “The conditions of our special goal deem it necessary that I not answer.”
Roberto screwed up his face, glaring hard at Alberic and the girls.
He rose from the sofa and issued a command to his one of his maids, who were stationed around the edge of the room.
“Our guests will now be leaving. Please show them to the front door with the utmost courtesy.”
Alberic gave a deep sigh, and stood up.
This was pretty much what he had expected. If you thought about it normally, what Alberic was asking for was very strange. He might as well have been asking someone he had never met before to hand over a family heirloom.
As he was being shown to the parlor entrance, Alberic turned back and spoke.
“Naturally, I understand why you would not want to hand it over. But this is a matter that threatens the peace of the entire continent of Verbist.”
Roberto didn’t reply.
He merely fixed his blue eyes on Alberic and the others silently.
Alberic sighed, and left the parlor behind.
* * *
It was roughly half an hour after Tohru and Akari’s “fight”—the examination to determine Tohru’s true strength.
Inside their ruined house, Chaika had explained the mission they were being hired to take on.
“True heart.” (1)
Chaika affirmed and nodded, like it was completely obvious.
She seemed to have an unexplainable amount of self-confidence, but—
“No matter how you put it, that’s impossible.”
Chaika shook her head, her long, silver hair fluttering about.
“Necessary. At any cost. If so, is possible.”
Tohru and Akari looked at each other.
Naturally, even Akari seemed to be surprised at what this request turned out to be. Perhaps Barton had already known the gist of it, and that was why he had been so quick to dismiss it with only “this matter is unrelated to the guild,” and left without even hearing a little bit of the details.
“Feudal lord’s house, will attack.”
Chaika said decisively.
“Then, take it back.”
“Take what back?”
“Very important, thing,” said Chaika after a moment of hesitation.
1. This is literally what Chaika says. There just wasn’t a better way to put it in Chaika-ese. The point is, they’re being asked to do something that requires their full dedication because it’s something way above the requests the guild normally issues.