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Chapter 2: Singer

Singer

... Eva of Nihil.

The third daughter of the tribe known as the Nihil, she took flight from her travelling troupe and ended up in Centralle with the intentions of travelling further away.

Singing her songs to pay her lodging, she was currently spinning out a certain tale.

"The squad lead by Norma arrived in Johnny Village. Thinking it was but a Hippogryph, they had not a hundred men!"

How many times does that make this?

In the can to her front dropped small and normal copper coins. Sometimes, even large coppers were thrown in, telling her of her own tale of success.

"Unable to abandon the village in danger, the one to stand was Norma, head of the force!"

"That Norma did...?"

"Yeah, likely story."

"But in all truth, she did parade in with a Hippogryph."

"And no Gryphon, right?"

Hearing that, Eva spoke on with a smile.

"A highly skilled adventurer who aided the mission. He tried to flee, but Norma held him down! The defeated Gryphon shall belong to you! So pay in advance! Breaking under Norma's earnest persuasion, that adventurer promised his cooperation, and earned the right to buy the beast for five hundred gold!"

Without an instrument on hand, she had asked some nearby minstrels to provide musical accompaniment.

Those around were also aiding in her profits, and there seemed to be no break in the crowd of those flocking around her.

(I never thought they'd get this heated up over it. As I thought, fresh material really is important!)

Rejoicing on how she heard the story first, Eva proudly let the crowd hear the story while wearing her clothing made for business.

She did want to tell it in song, but her song had yet to be completed, so she could only preach.

She had received payment from Novem, and was instructed to spread the details to other singers as well.

In exchange, what Eva sought for was the truth.

(A truth only I'm to know of... I'll sing the hell out of it one day!)

And a large crowd continued to grow around Eva as she chronicled their exploits.

The expeditionary force had just returned, so all over the place were singers imitating the girl after having heard the tale from her mouth.

Having rumors spread was a good thing, so Eva didn't really mind it.

The speech reached its final stage...

"And like that, the Expeditionary Force brought down the mighty Gryphon. Heroes numbering only one hundred... you all have seen them too, have you not? The faces of the great men who slew the beast!"

When the squadron had returned, quite a large number had gathered to meet them.

When the talks ended...

"Oy, come to think of it, I did see a party dragging around a Gryphon at the gate a while back."

"Ah, that one! Then they really did do it."

"That Norma did? I'm still in doubt here, man."

With a smile, Eva...

"If you'd like to hear the stories of individual heroes, then find me here tomorrow!"

It was only for a short while today, but the earnings were several times over her usual amount.

The dispersing crowd seemed to return to their business happily, having gained a new topic of conversation.

Eva paid the fees of the Elf Minstrels she had asked for the music.

She addressed the two tall young men.

"You two have nice voices. Want to work here tomorrow as well?"

"We're thinking of leaving Centralle already. Eva of the Nihil Tribe, was it? Happy we could do business with you."

And with that, she saw off the two with their instruments. She began thinking over what to treat herself to with the day's earnings...

-

-

-

... The Royal Palace.

After turning in her reports on the expedition, Norma made an enervated expression.

Her aide Clark was the same.

"I'm thankful to receive such words of praise from his majesty, but that meeting was much too stiff."

While she said that, she did send joyous glances towards the medal she received.

Seeing her, Clark let out a sigh.

He had received the very same medal, but he couldn't find it in himself to be happy over it.

"What's wrong? Your promotion is now a given. There's nothing more for you to ask for. You'll also be an official decurio soon."

Clark spoke.

"Yes, I'm thankful for that. But a group that large has risen in rank. On top of that, even if they may be without heritage rights, an order of new knights have come to be. You can't look down at the yearly annuity that'll cost."

Norma spoke.

"And that's the job of the civil officials."

Clark responded.

"And you don't think this incident may have been contrived by those very same officials? Just where do you expect them to produce the money to pay such a number?"

Perhaps not wanting to think about it, Norma averted her eyes.

Her spirits sunk at Clark's premonitions of ill fortune.

(What a pessimist. That's exactly why he never got promoted. But, with this, I'll officially be a centurio... Finally back to the starting point.)

Norma had no parents to speak of.

A mother she lost at a young age.

A father killed in battle.

And within her family's plummeting status, and those around distancing themselves, Norma tried to do whatever she could to return the House to its former status.

A small change made a big difference.

Regain the glory of the past, the honor of the House...

With that in mind, she frantically kept her eyes on rising up.

(With this reward, I'll just name my brother my successor, and take my place as legal guardian. My ill repute and all else need not get in the boy's way...)

The Arnette House was still accepted by the world as a military family... that's what Norma thought to herself.

She was merely displeased with the fall of the House's rank.

Because her father, who sacrificed himself for a mission received a negative evaluation for such an act.

She entered a knight brigade, and became knowledgeable on such matters.

That when the Arnette House had fallen, a new house had manifested to take its payroll.

What's more, imperial nobles... a house created for the sole purpose of giving a second or third son something to succeed.

(The king has given me his praise. This time I'll be on the side that takes.)

Seeing the darkened smile on Norma's face, Clark could do nothing but let out a sigh...

-

-

-

"... Why did I do it yet again..."

On top of a bed at the inn, I sat with my arms around my knees. While my stomach did hurt quite a bit, I had received a considerable amount of psychological damage.

Since morning, I didn't want to meet a single soul.

After handing over the Gryphon to the merchant, I spaced out with a dark expression on my face.

Hearing a knock on the door, I shouted out in reply.

"Is it Novem? Come in."

"Pardon me. Lyle-sama, how does your stomach feel?"

I just ate too much.

On top of the pain, I also felt quite heavy.

And perhaps because I felt quite cornered mentally, I'll bet my expression is locked in quite a gloomy one.

"... Terrible. In various ways."

"R-really."

Perhaps Novem understood my sentiment, as she left what she brought atop the room's table.

"I've prepared some soup, so please eat it."

"... I don't want to eat anything."

When I buried my face into my knees, Novem picked up the bowl and spoon.

"Just a little is enough. I've put in herbs that work for overeating. Now..."

Novem made an 'aaaah' sound, and I let the soup come into my mouth.

It went down easily, and tasted great.

"... If only I hadn't been in such high spirits."

As I sat regretfully, Novem made a bitter smile.

"It happens to everyone."

"But never to you, Novem?"

When I said that, Novem...

"Well... my constitution is one where the change is never too prominent."

Hearing her say it quite bluntly, I only got even more depressed.

The Sixth...

[Lyle, you really are a pain in the ass. It's more or less an experience everyone out there goes through. Get over it already.]

There, the Seventh spoke.

[That's right Lyle. That Sixth over there is a man who turned defiant, ran away from the house, came back, and got over it. Normally, they don't come back, you know. But with a calm face, that guy...]

The Fifth too.

[Ah, right, that did happen. Did I tell you that one?]

The Seventh spoke.

[Yes, I heard it from my grandfather.]

The Sixth seemed flustered. The memories of the heads of the past remained up to the point they last touched the Jewel. They didn't have all the memories up to their deaths.

[Don't say it!!]

The runaway delinquent boy. The Sixth.

While it makes for good material to tease him on, I'm here boldly offering up even better material, so there's nothing I can do about it.

I want to forget.

I want to make it so it never came to be.

"Now, Lyle-sama... aaaaah."

"Aaaah."

The spoon came in my mouth, and I drank the soup.

The Fourth spoke in an irritated tone.

[... If you're that depressed, then quit it with the shameless flirting.]

-

-

-

Dinner time.

I endured the embarrassment, came down to the inn's first floor, and ate alongside everyone.

A downhearted Monica held her twin tails in both hands, and fidgeted with them.

The fact that I became bedridden came as quite a shock, or that she was lamenting her own ineptitude, or something.

(Well, it's Monica, so it'll be fine.)

Unlike yesterday, I ate a small portion. I addressed everyone on our future objectives.

"I plan to head on to the free city of Beim. It's known as the city of adventurers, and merchants and goods are found in abundance. After getting our equipment in order, we can take a coupled carriage, but... are there any opinions on the matter?"

Maybe Shannon thought it was irrelevant to her, as she continued with her meal.

Are you really okay with that? Or so I thought, when Miranda scolded Shannon into participation.

"Hey, you listen up too!"

"Don't hit me! I'm properly listening, you hear. Beim, right? The free city of Beim. Even I know of it."

Rather than not being a part of any specific country, it was more that its affiliation was never made certain.

It's best to think of it as a country in itself.

It had its own port, and carried out trade. A large quantity of adventurers and mercenaries resided there.

Clara spoke.

"Beim also holds the Guild's main headquarters. Of course, the number of adventurers and mercenary brigades is high, there are more than four locations usable as receptions desks. I doubt we'll be visiting the headquarters, but it seems you'll have to consider where you plan to use as a main receptionist."

The city couldn't be self-reliant on food supplies, and they bought them from surrounding countries and lords.

Its border didn't come into contact with Bahnseim's, so a coupled carriage would only take us as far as Bahnseim's national border.

While gnawing on a piece of ham, Aria...

"Doesn't it have horrid public order? A party full of women with one lone man... we won't be targeted?"

With her growing manly aura, I was about to tell Aria, 'You'll be fine,' but she glared at me, so I kept my mouth shut.

Novem spoke.

"We've been planning to go to Beim for a while. While we may have few companions at the moment, if the party grows any larger in scale, we'll require a higher maintenance cost. While the probability of us being targeted isn't zero, I doubt it will fluctuate much even if we had a few more."

If it's in regards to money, we've been earning a lot as of late.

I mean, there was a certain noble who put out five hundred gold for a Hippogryph.

About the problem with numbers, if we plan on increasing any further, we'll have to start hiring more support in all actuality.

We'll also have to rotate offense.

Clara spoke.

"This party is superior when it comes to ability, but with its nature, getting a male will be difficult. Even if you want to gather more women, I think that will be difficult within Centralle."

Aria had finished eating, and was reaching her hand out for a drink.

"Should we try recruiting elsewhere?"

Clara shook her head.

"There are a number of small Guilds on the way to Beim. The adventurers working at such places are usually there out of attachment to the location, so it will be difficult."

Even adventurers had the concept of home.

Travelling around, challenging the labyrinths, gathering comrades, and adventuring even more...

It's not like they're all like that.

Miranda spoke.

"Before heading to Beim, we'll have to get our luggage in order. I'll bet they have a better selection of goods there than here... if we buy a ticket, we can get to the border, and after that..."

Novem spoke.

"Rather than looking into it, I just asked Eva-san, but it seems that while in Bahnseim, Beim and some other places make use of coupled carriages, a larger portion of places do not."

Meaning we might be going on foot.

Monica revived.

"Then it's time to roll out Porter! I, Monica will take care of all the modifications!"

Shannon spoke.

"So it's already decided? Ah..."

"What?"

Shannon was looking at me with a face that seemed to want to say something.

"I refrained from asking it up to now, but..."

"Yeah, what is it?"

She spoke to me.

"Just what is the goal of this party supposed to be? They usually have one, right? Like growing to the scale of a mercenary brigade, or raising your name, and coming under the service of some country, or something like that."

Hearing that, I stayed silent.

Miranda...

"... Yeah, I've yet to hear it as well, but could it be there isn't one?"

Aria was...

"I-I want to become first rate as an Adventurer... I don't know about the rest."

Clara.

"Well, getting in experience is important for support, and if I follow alongside this party, I'm sure to encounter quite a bit. I'm thinking of opening up a bookstore in the future."

Novem spoke.

"Lyle-sama's goal is to become a top-class adventurer, and to be surrounded by women. The fruition of such a goal is coming quite close."

I covered my face with both my hands, and turned red to my ears.

"That's wrong. While I definitely said it, I never thought it'd actually get underway."

And as cold eyes began to gather on me, Monica...

"Be at ease, Chicken Dickwad. I shall always be by your side. I'll never part, you hear... I'll definitely never part, so prepare yourself, dammit!"

As she drew closer, I hit her on the head.

"Don't get so excited all of a sudden. You're scaring the children."

"... Kuh, it's a pain that none of my databases work on him. Is this that so-called generation gap?"

I thought.

(While she may be saying something, I'm sure she's wrong.)

The conversation had derailed, so I put all the opinions together.

"Um, well then, we'll be taking care of preparations for the voyage to Beim. Rest a while, and recover energy, while gathering information on the free city."

There weren't any particular objections voiced, so I finalized the trip to Beim.

(Come to think of it, I'll be getting some free time, but how should I spend it?)

Even if I'm to collect info, it's only for the trip.

Like how their current state is, or which roads would be safest.

That's all I need to learn.

(... Maybe I should get a hobby. And messing around a bit doesn't sound bad.)

That's what I thought.