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Chapter 16: The Queen of Cartaffs

The Queen of Cartaffs

As I walked through the streets of Cartaffs, Bahnseim, Aumsaas, Beim... I noticed the difference it had to the places I'd been.

I hadn't felt it in Zayin or Lorphys either. Cartaffs' characteristic air.

The orderly townscape was the same, but the buildings looked much too practical. On top of that, the patrolling soldiers walking around.

The uniforms they wore were unified, and I couldn't see any knights.

The first one to notice it was the Seventh.

[... I heard Cartaffs gathered its personnel regardless of class. I see, so they're thoroughly ability-centered.]

They did have a nobility system, for what it's worth, but that wasn't everything. I think it's a good thing they recognize talent regardless of social status.

But carrying out something like that would generate considerable opposition.

So I must assume Cartaffs' leader has at least enough ability to subdue them. Or perhaps they had to learn to do so, or else.

The Third lay out his own thoughts.

[Bahnseim to the south... Cartaffs is also a large country, but their national powers are too far apart. As this country can't even cooperate with its surroundings, it's thinkable it's been refined by the threat of Bahnseim. But they've become this practical, have they... well, it may just be their character.]

Character, or a geographic reason, whatever the case, there wasn't a doubt it was a strong nation.

The Fifth looked at the town.

[Bahnseim's north... it would be nice if we can get them to help out when Llye makes his move.]

I thought the same, but the current me wasn't significant enough for Cartaffs to take me seriously if I asked for assistance. What's more, as a noble of the country they hate so...

The Fourth.

[But you would never think Cartaffs' Queen was the Queen Eva-chan had sung of.]

I looked at Eva walking beside me.

Even taking an elf like her around, the surrounding reactions were normal. A change from Bahnseim, Arumsaas or Beim, where at times, you could find some prejudice.

Eva looked around her.

"It's quite cold here. I should've brought a coat... even so, when you see demi-humans walking around so normally, it makes one think it's a good country."

I questioned her use of, 'makes one think'. So I tried asking.

"Doesn't that mean they're truly appointing anyone skilled irrelevant to status? It's a good country, isn't it?"

There, the Fourth explained it to me.

[You just don't get it, Lyle. It's best you don't look at nothing but the good side of ability-centric government. To everything, there are merits, and demerits to be found.]

Hearing that, I tilted my head, and after Eva looked around, and confirmed there were no soldiers around, she spoke.

"Look at it the other way, and useless people and demi-humans are looked upon coldly. The reason the Guild receptionist tried so hard to stay out of your way surely because you're a skilled one. I tried asking a few of my brethren, but apparently the gap in treatment is a large one. It may be better than a class system, but it feels there's no room to breathe."

So talented ones were respected, and the rest despised.

The strength of that outlook must also be Cartaffs' characteristic.

The Fifth offered some admiration to Eva.

[Still, having brethren elves everywhere sure is convenient for gathering information. What's more, just saying [Nihil] gets a different reaction. A relatively favorable one at that.]

The Nihil Tribe... it was a tribe that held meaning to the elves.

When it came to gathering information, even within the party, Eva was a skilled one. She had her own information network, and she could easily lay hands on info the rest of us wouldn't be able to touch.

Novem and Miranda were also good at it, but as Eva was easily able to collect info in whatever town we stopped by, she was surely a hard-to-get existence.

When we walked down the street together, perhaps it was a relatively large town, as there were a lot of people around.

There were food stalls lined around, with line ups of rare edibles.

"They have quite a variety of meat. I do get the feeling sweets and the like are scarce, though."

Eva looked at the carts and booths.

"It seems sweets are precious here. Come to think of it, the ship had some sugar loaded as well. The sailors were delighted when they found it was undamaged."

The large load of cargo loaded on the ship was safe, and Vera was relieved. The country was trading for its insufficient commodities with Beim.

And as we were working in Cartaffs, we were exploring the town until the time came. On top of getting acquainted with our guides, we were scheduled to set up our plans today.

I also wanted to learn what to look out for on the terrain.

And once that was over, we would finish up our preparations, an set out.

"... It's right about time. Shall we head for the guild?"

Saying that, the two of us set off for the guild, but hearing some rowdy voices, I turned in that direction. Eva was watching as well.

The surrounding people were walking around a group of feuding adventurers. There were some rubberneckers, but most went right on with their business.

"Could it be a fight? Looks like it's between adventurers."

Eva was curious. Thinking of things as seeds for stories, showing such interest in these sorts of things was her virtue, as well as her flaw.

From what I could see, some middle-aged adventurers were surrounding a party of younger ones.

Looking at them...

"They're the same as us."

The young adventurer party with an extreme inclination in gender ration was surrounded by an elder party of five.

But it seems the one at fault was...

"Hand off the guide role? Are you sure you ain't an idiot!?"

The elder male adventurer confronted the young man. In contrast to the elder adventurer party's orderly equipment, the young adventurers' gear looked unreliable.

But they did have an air to them.

They were strangely calm, and it didn't look as if an oblivious one was trying to pick a fight. Eva had noticed as well, as she quietly watched over them.

The garments they wore had a sense of cleanliness, but their appearances were gaudy. Pierces and necklaces, they also had rings.

The longsword on the man's back alone was splendid enough to put it at odds with his other clothes. His age was perhaps a little over mine?

Gray hair, and green eyes... he was of high stature, and of trained body.

"I heard it. You're guiding a party that defeated a Trident Serpent, aren't you? Ans it seems they've got some pretty ladies with them. I'd like to try and meet them too. And unlike you small fries who needed to call adventurers from Beim to defeat something like a Land Dragon, I'll go and take it out while I'm out guiding."

If he was just an oblivious kid, he's be mocked, and that would be the end of it. But the air he gave off made it feel like he could actually do it.

From the Jewel, the Third let his voice.

[... You'll find unreasonably strong people wherever you go. Faithful to their desires, the type that doesn't think of the trouble they're causing to their surroundings.]

The elder adventurer shot back at the young one.

"And I'm askin' if you're an idiot. This 's an official request from the Guild. If you're complaining to someone, complain to the Guild."

Eva tugged at my sleeve, and pointed around.

"Lyle, look around. The ones who've stopped are almost all women."

"Now that you mention it."

Around us, there were woman staring as if to bite into the young adventurer. There were woman who were different as well, but I couldn't easily tell them apart.

(I guess he looks cool?)

When I looked at the adventurer, wondering if it were a matter of looks, the Fourth spoke.

[Something feels off. And... Lyle, go look into him.]

I used Skills to try obtaining information on him. There, I was able to see the young adventurer was using some sort of Skill.

(It reacts to women... is it influencing their psyche?)

One of the women following behind the man looked at me. It seems she noticed I had done something.

Our eyes met, and the woman pulled at the adventurer's arm, and pointed at me.

"Lyle, you've been seen."

As Eva looked between me, and the young adventurer party, the bystanders that didn't want to get involved opened up a path between us.

"Ah? Who are you? Oh, you've got quite a cutie with you. Hey, is she any use?"

On the words of the young man pointing at Eva, the woman who noticed me nodded. And she even gave him a warning.

"Larc-sama, you mustn't involve yourself. Those two... are remarkable. Nothing like the adventurers you'd find in these parts."

"... Then let's go."

Perhaps irritated by the woman's words, the young adventurer clicked his tongue at us. As the elder adventurers remained wary, they parted from the crowd.

Evaluating the situation, the Seventh spoke.

[What a troublesome fellow. When he hears he can't win, he steps down that easily. Erhart, was it? It's as if a guy like Erhart actually had some skill backing him.]

As the elder adventurers began walking towards us, the Third spoke.

[Cartaffs looked fun, doesn't it? A Queen, and a young, ambitious adventurer... doesn't it sound exhilarating?]

The Fifth painstakingly voiced his opinion.

[Is that so? Let's defeat the Land Dragon, and get back safely.]

The Fourth to the young adventurer.

[I wonder if that guy will raise some trouble. I want a chance for us to have an audience with the Queen. Do you think they'll become the trigger for us?]

And as always, the Seventh let out an anti-adventurer declaration.

[That sort always brings trouble, but I wonder if it'll go that far. How about we hunt down the buds of calamity while we still have the chance? That one's quite dangerous, you know?]

-

-

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... In the Cartaffs' citadel city's royal palace, a single woman read through a report.

Sitting on a splendid sofa, she wore black garb that stuck close to her body. Near her, a long and slender sword leaned against her seat.

Turning to lie down, the woman reading the documents stroked her long, waved, aubergine hair, as she raised the upper half of her body.

Looking back over a passage that caught her interest, she lightly touched her tongue to her red lips.

"Hmm, how interesting. They defeated the Trident Serpent, did they... I heard the Trēs Trading Company's ship had been attacked, but..."

Continuing down the intriguing document, it seems the ones who brought the materials to the Guild were instead a group of adventurers.

"Does logic even work on that lot at the guild? Buy it off, and they could've been the first to research it. I did tell them to collect rare specimens, but I didn't tell them what to do when the specimens were too rare. Do I really have to give another in-depth explanation?"

The fed-up woman reached a hand to her sword nearby. Drawing it from its scabbard, she looked at its bright red blade.

"It's been a while since I last went outside, but... my subordinates won't allow it."

Sheathing it away, she stood, placed the documents on top of her table, and looked through the last item on the list.

This time, her expression twisted in disdain.

"That Larc guy is asking for yet another audience? I told them not to deal with him, but... the one handling the reception was a woman, I see. Then there's no helping it."

She violently tossed only the last page aside, and headed for an extravagant desk in the room.

The woman's name was [Ludmila Cartaffs]... Once called the princess knight, she was now called Queen, as a member of Cartaffs' royalty.

After sitting in her chair, and resuming her work, a laugh came from her lips.

"Still, how interesting. Shall I give a summons to that Trēs Trading Company? And the adventurers that came from Beim... I never thought I'd see the surname Walt come up. How interesting. He may not be of Bahnseim's Walt house, but how curious."

Having been temporarily left the throne from the previous king, she was not an official Queen.

But it was also true that everyone supported her in becoming one. As the princess knight, she had earned much support throughout the country, and she was somewhat a symbol of Cartaffs.

A woman like that was now going through stacks of paperwork.

"Now then, how should I call them out... but first..."

Before the mountain of forms, Ludmila covered her eyes, and brushed away her bangs with one hand to verify it. But when she opened her eyes the same mountain stood before her, just as it had before.

"Nothing will start unless this is out of the way."

Saying that, she got back to work.