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Chapter 1: Letter

Letter

The one waiting for me when I returned to the inn was Alette-san.

She belonged to the knight brigade of a small country known as Lorphys, but was the captain of a force carrying out a strange tradition of training in Beim.

I've even heard rumors she was promised the position of vice commander once she returned home.

And such a person had dropped by to visit me.

"... I never thought we'd meet again so soon."

When I said that with a dubious expression, she gave a smile that seemed to have extra shadows looming in it, and dropped her shoulders.

"Same goes for me. I know we both need a little more time between us. But I have to talk to you now, no matter what."

Alette-san had come by the inn with her trusty adjutant.

When I tried to confirm the details, she invited us out for a meal.

"... Anyways. Could you free up some time? I do feel sorry for this, but I can't help but be busy right now. I'll treat you all at dinner."

The one dealing with her was Miranda.

She sat in a chair, crossed her legs, looked at me, and nodded.

(So my decision on the matter is fine. I'd better tell her about how much May eats.)

If we were just going to listen to what she had to say, it shouldn't really be a problem.

"We'll gladly accept a meal. But one of our members has quite an appetite. I recommend you resolve yourself for the bill."

As I said we'd listen to her, Alette-san seemed relieved.

"That's a big help. Well, we all have our appetites, be we adventurers or knights. There's a restaurant I happen to like, so I'll treat you there. The matter at hand is about the same congratulations I offered you before. But we aren't so rushed on that one. Our main objective is about a letter of introductions. Well then, we'll send someone to get you in the evening."

A letter of introduction? To whom? I thought, but there was one person that seemed to fit the terms.

Alette-san left the inn, and Miranda stood from her seat to come over to me.

I had headed to the guild with Aria, but she noticed I had returned alone.

"I'll notify the other members about the dinner matter. More importantly, weren't you with Aria?"

I had taken Aria to the guild to teach her about it, but on the way back, she had gone off to retrieve some equipment, so she would be returning a little later.

"Her equipment was scheduled to be done today, so she went off to pick it up. If she came with me back to the inn, she'd have to go out again."

After hearing that, Miranda looked towards the door Alette had exited through.

"I think this is probably about professor Damien. If it's a letter of introduction from you, Lyle, then perhaps he might show some interest. Will you write one up?"

My acquaintance that Alette-san seemed interested in was a professor at Arumsaas' academy known as Damien Valle.

He was an odd ball known as one of the academy's seven great.

In fact, he was the one to get Monica operational after excavating her from the Labyrinth.

And at present, it was widespread knowledge that he had used his golem magic to develop the baggage carrier golem [Porter].

To be more precise, I had been the main developer, but Damien was the one who taught me the magic, and consulted with me on the matter, so it was something of a joint venture.

"Porter is convenient, after all. Since she's attached to a knight brigade, I guess she can't help but want a unit. I did deny teaching her, so..."

Seeing my atmosphere become gloomy, Miranda gave a bitter smile. She crossed her arms, and leaned a little of her weight to the table in front of her.

"Hey, it was the right decision, wasn't it? Spreading the information to become rich would be nice, but I honestly doubt its viability for our end goal. So will you write up a letter?"

From the Jewel hung around my neck, I heard the aloof voice of the Third Generation Head.

[How about writing one to get her in your debt? And get her to pass on that matter with Monica, and what's happened up to now... it's thinkable that Celes may become interested in Damien, so it's best you put him on his guard while you can.]

The latter half of that was said in an earnest voice.

I gripped the Jewel to signify my agreement on the matter.

"I'll write one. I want to inform him of this and that. As his former student, is there anything you want to pass along?"

Miranda laughed.

"I doubt he even remembers my name. That's the sort of man the professor is. Now then, I'll go notify the others. To leave their evenings open."

I saw her off as she headed up the stairs, and began thinking up what to tell Damien.

(Write a letter of introductions, and... yeah, I can't leave Celes out of it. And what I learned in the Labyrinth. Perhaps he'll be able to give some insight?)

Recalling the words of the automaton who named herself Monica's sister, I began writing to Damien.

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The dinner Alette-san treated us to was good in both quantity, and quality.

She reserved a room, and perhaps to thank everyone for the success of the Labyrinth Subjugation, her subordinates were there as well.

With the place rented out, we were able to talk about quite a few things.

I also met with the knights who would be leaving for Arumsaas.

As we were returning back to the inn, Monica carried a sleeping Shannon over her back. She walked over to my side, and made a rare request.

"Chicken dickwad, once we return, I will plead something to you with upturned eyes, so please listen to my request."

As she said that, she looked quite reluctant. I looked around.

May looked satisfied as she talked with Aria about the meal. Which one was good? Ah, I didn't get to try that one! I heard that sort of conversation.

Eva was asking Miranda about the events in Arumsaas, and taking memos.

Clara was talking to Novem.

The road back was still cold once night sent in, and I looked at them, and thought.

(Are they getting along better than before?)

I returned my eyes to Monica, and decided to see what I could do.

"If it's within a feasible scope. Well then, what is your request?"

Monica supported up Shannon's body with one hand, as she used the other to produce a black, small, and slender board from the pockets of her apron.

"... What's that?"

"A memory stick. It's loaded with information readable by automatons. Could you put it in the letter, in a way he's sure to notice?"

When I took it, she shifted Shannon back to both her hands.

What I took in my hand looked like a smooth and small plank.

"It's probably best I hand it over through a different route. It's Damien we're talking about here. Perhaps he won't even check the contents of the letter of introduction. I'll write another letter, and put it in there."

I'll leave it with the knights headed for Arumsaas, and ask them to deliver it as well.

But there was something I found a bit curious.

"Contents automata can read... weren't you at odds with the three units at Damien's place?"

Was there something you wanted to say so late into the game? When I thought that, she made a serious expression far removed from her normal one.

"... Of how I met our sisters, and of how I, Monica, am reaching my final perfect form, I only mean to brag of it to them. Of, this isn't just any boast, mind you. I've recorded what happened back then in detail, so it overlaps with your intentions."

"You've been especially ill-natured as off late. But alright, I'll put it in the letter."

Even if it was just the braggings of an automaton, there wasn't anything to be lost in sending it over. And wait, I thought.

(Monica... those three at Damien's place are the only ones of her kind we know of still operating in the world, aren't they. I wonder if she feels lonely.)

I carefully put the black board away in my pocket, and continued down the road back.

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The next day.

I gathered everyone, and went over the requests we would be taking. And when everyone dispersed, Clara remained in my room.

Clara Bulmer was a temporary worker at Arumsaas' library. What's more, she had a beneficial Skill towards that job.

Novem and Miranda were both present, and Monica brought in some tea.

With her deep blue hair, Clara held her staff as if to embrace it. Her drowsy eyes were usually half closed, but she was giving a sharp stare, narrowing them even further.

Her red eyes looked as if they were glowing, and it felt as if her entire body was glowing as she stood in the center of the room.

To Clara's final stage Skill [Walking Library], I posed a question.

"A question regarding the vile courtesan the led the kingdom of Sentras to its ruin three hundred years ago."

"Yes. There are numerous theories, but she was a woman that made her appearance in the closing years of the Sentras kingdom, and it has been recorded that she has enamored many a man. At present, she is thought of as a single product of the internal decadence of the kingdom before its collapse."

More indifferent than usual, Clara responded in a voice without a hint of emotion. And her will itself wasn't in it.

Even when it was her own Skill, she was unable to put it to effective use on her own.

And that was what Clara thought of as her defect.

"The one to defeat her was the first king of Bahnseim, correct?"

On my question, Clara indifferently...

"According to the recorded documents, and stories, such has been registered. But one portion of them suggests that the existence of another party has a relation to the matter."

... Yes, that much was common knowledge. The problem is what's to come.

"How did the first king of Bahnseim defeat the beautiful courtesan? How did he fight the kingdom of Sentras?"

When I asked two questions, Clara closed her eyes. And she opened them again.

"The internal decadence had worsened, and the future king, who was but a provincial lord at the time sought out the assistance of those around him, or so the records have left. Even now, many of those in power are the descendants of those that lent their power to the king. However, while the result of said courtesan being defeated remains, no such data has been recorded towards the means."

Having read anything she could find that looked remotely like a book, Clara had read through almost all the books in the giant library of Arumsaas.

And every time she found a new book, she would read it without fail.

There were some books she was prevented from reading, but those were the ones forbidden for anyone to browse.

Novem sitting on the sofa looked down a bit, and put her hand to her chin. She seemed to be thinking of something.

On the other hand, Miranda was sitting on my bed, and she posed a question to Clara.

"Is it that it was never recorded how she was defeated? Or that Clara has simply never read such a thing?"

On that query, Clara disinterestedly...

"The possibility exists. But Clara Bulmer has used her Skill to read between eighty and ninety percent of the great library of Arumsaas. Conclusion: in the extent that a civilian can read, there are no further records to be found."

After saying that much, Clara began acting strange.

I stood from my seat, walked over to her side, and supported up her shoulders.

"That's the end of it. Let Clara lie down and sleep."

Monica placed a pillow on the room's sofa, and I lay Clara down. She was small, and lifting her up wasn't much trouble at all.

"Now then, do you think there is no record of that courtesan's defeat, or perhaps there wasn't a need to record it to begin with... which do you think?"

On my question, Miranda crossed her legs.

"Who knows? Well, even if she seduced men the same way as Celes, I can't say her skill level is greater or lesser than the woman of the time. Personally, I can't make a decision."

Novem looked at me.

"I think the queen who carried out her heinous acts must have been skilled as well. We've confirmed the extent of her actions last we had Clara use her Skill. To accomplish all of that, it's definite that she had a level of ability of her own."

Cruel and extreme. It was as if the beautiful courtesan quite literally walked her way up on a road of blood.

We confirmed it with Clara's walking library, but her actions were the same as Celes'... no, even greater.

The unnerving stories that came from Clara's mouth made me want to cut her off part-way.

But there were many unknown spots in regards to her abilities.

Whether she had a technology to turn people's heads strange, or she was doing it herself, or if she had her subordinates carry it out... the details of it all would change by the book, and Clara's Skill was unable to affirm anything.

What was certain...

"The way to beat her was never passed down. If it was due to a lack of need, then that's well and good, but this does feel quite contrived."

I felt like complaining to the Bahnseim King who didn't leave behind such information.

But within the Jewel, the ancestors were also raining him with jeers.

[Useless, right? This is why you can't trust people of the royal line.]

[It sure is suspicious. At the very least, the end of the woman who put so many people through hell... it wouldn't be strange at all for such a things to remain. Of how she was defeated, or perhaps she could have even been tortured for it all. Or could it be that the one who did it used their own life, so nothing could be...]

[It couldn't be written down, or they simply didn't. Whichever the case, perhaps there's something they wanted to bury up. Most nobles have something like that, more or less. When it goes all the way up to the royal line, anything is possible. ]

[The Bahnseim king of the time defeated her, as a representative of the lords who participated in the conquest, or so I learned... well, none of those concerned are alive anymore, so is the truth buried in darkness?]

[How useless.]

On the Seventh's useless statement, the Third offered a revision.

[You're not talking about Clara-chan, right? The useless ones are the royalty, right? Right?]

The Seventh sounded a little troubled.

[O-of course.]

And responded as such.

(I thought to use some precedent as a model for taking Celes down, but I guess it won't be that easy.)

Seeing Clara fast asleep from using her Skill, I put my hand to my head, and began thinking up a different means.