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Chapter 2: LYLE

LYLE

... In the Guild's changing room, Rühe looked at her own uniform.

Its skirt was a little short, and it had been made flashier than what the other receptionists wore.

Taking it in her hands, she breathed out a sigh. Around her were other female receptionists changing their clothing.

Those near her wore not the chest-emphasizing clothes Marianne had worn up to now, wearing exceedingly normal ones in their stead.

Taking a sidelong glance at them, Rühe looked back at her own uniform.

"That's right, my breasts may not be big, but... did they really have to give me a shorter skirt to compensate?"

Letting out complaints, she slipped into her receptionist uniform.

After she finished changing, she headed for the reference room on her way to the counter. It was to confirm the data on the adventurers she was charged with. And taking the data on their request success rate and evaluations, she was to make use of them at her desk.

Exiting the reference room, Rühe made her way to the room the Guild Cards were stored. In it, the cards for the adventurers designated to newbie training were kept separately.

She checked each one, and made sure their silver cards didn't have a single blemish on the names. Since the adventurer she got along with had perished, Rühe had made it a habbit to commute to that room.

With a load of data in her hands, she turned to leave the room, only to run into Marianne at the doorway.

"... Ah."

With Rühe's small build, she had to look up see her.

"Oh, did you come to check them?"

Keeping her smile, she lowered her head to Marianne, and left. For all she'd made fun of her, she couldn't look her in the eyes anymore.

She had bragged of how she got along with a proficient adventurer, yet Marianne was stuck with newbies... what's more, she had made fun of the very fact Marianne was in charge of the guild designated new recruits.

When her acquaintances' party had suffered a heavy blow altogether, leaving only one survivor behind, the talks came to her about training fresh recruits herself.

And after brooding for a while, Rühe had accepted the offer.

Hurriedly showing her face behind the lines of counters, she greeted the supervisor on duty.

"Good morning."

Her superior looked at her, and smiled.

"Yeah, Morning. You're a little early. Your counter isn't vacant yet, so why not talk a bit before you take over?"

"S-sure."

Whenever the counters rotated shifts, there was a rule among receptionists to take over the previous station's work. There was still a little time before that was to happen, so her superior had called her to a halt.

She showed her a number of documents.

"The truth is, there are a few new adventurers I'd like you to look after. They're young, but there are quite a few parties of twos and threes. See, our neighbors are in a bit of a panic since Bahnseim rushed in, and there are quite a few people who ran our way."

In a land that was once a neighboring country, Bahnseim's army was already stationed and governing. After subjugating the monsters, they were busily moving around with surveying the land.

Within all that, those that had lost their places to be. And those that lost their statuses had flowed into Beim.

"T-this many?"

Of the numerous pages, one of them detailed the present state of the neighboring country.

All the others were tightly packed with the small-print names of the new adventurers who had signed up at the East Branch.

Her superior offered an explanation.

"No, at the start, you just have to offer an explanation. We'll also do an introductory meeting, but there are plenty of youths who'll get tricked by the big city, and find themselves rolling in an alleyway by tomorrow. Have them work a few times, and we'll get some parties short on hands to call out to them. Anyways, just know you won't need to look after all of them."

When she heard the entire force would be dealing with them, Rühe felt relieved. The adventurers she already had under her were already beyond her, and she couldn't look after such a large addition.

"That's a relief. Anymore will be..."

Looking at Rühe, the superior nodded.

"Well, with all their insufficiencies, managing newbies is quite a trial. The managers also have to consider a lot when they send jobs around to them. Do your best. If there's anything you don't know, just ask Marianne."

After giving a bitter smile, Rühe parted with her superior, and headed for the front counter...

-

-

-

... After lunch.

Having finished her break, and returned to the counter, Rühe faced adventurers who'd returned from a request.

Making sure not to let her smile die out, and taking many good looks at her opponents, she dealt with them.

"T-that's no good. Abandoning a request part-way through. In that case, the Guild can't offer a reward, you know?"

In her head, she wanted to apologize to the requester for sending the request to such useless new adventurers. The fact she would likely actually have to go apologize on her next day off made Rühe's head hurt.

The two-man adventurer party before her eyes sat in their chairs with the grime still on them. Putting an arm on the counter, one spoke in regards to her.

"Even if you say it like that, it's just troubling. We did half of it, so fork over half."

As they sluggishly demanded the reward, the adventures lined up behind them began branching off from her line, and moving to different counters.

The flow of people was completely different around Rühe's counter alone.

(What not? This isn't going smoothly at all. They're all going off to other counters...)

Just because she was the newbie charge, that didn't mean she wasn't to deal with other adventurers. If it was busy enough, she would work with them, and if she was free, it was only natural she would help. Keeping adventurers waiting, and getting behind on work was troublesome to the Guild as well.

Her opponents were youths who had become adventurers a few months prior. Younger than Rühe, but their tones were as if they were looking down on her from above.

"Hey, can't you be just a bit more flexible? We don't want to be here anymore than you do. Hand off half, and it all ends, right?"

With many instances of troublesome behavior, they had been placed under newbie rearing. At the start, they had worked normally, but perhaps having come from the countryside, after getting a little bit of money in their hands, they had gotten to playing around with it.

"If you don't fulfill the request, you don't get the reward. Be it half, or eighty percent, there are some things they simply aren't allowed."

No matter how many times she explained it, the two of them weren't satisfied.

Their voices gradually became rougher.

"You're supposed to be in charge of us, right? Then do your job properly."

"And let me just tell you today's requestor was the absolute worst. He kept sending strange jobs around to us. And he kept shouting, 'take this seriously,' and 'don't rest,' never shut up."

To the two who had started standing out with their troublesome conduct, Rühe desperately explained.

"And isn't that natural if you sit down and stop working outside of break times..."

When her tone got a little rougher as well, one of the adventurers clicked his tongue.

"Che, the hell's this. When it's our money that's putting food on your table. Hah, the last newbie instructor was a huge-jugged beauty, yet we get stuck with a shorty like you? Just doesn't motivate me at all."

Rühe hung her head.

Long ago, when she herself was a newbie, she recalled how her paperwork was slow, and there were times the adventurers would yell at her.

(Come to think of it, back then, the one who helped me was him.)

She remembered the adventurer who'd died.

As that was going on, the surrounding receptionists approached to follow through for her. But before they could, a voice came from behind the adventurers.

"... How long you going 'ta lounge about there? When I thought I found an empty line, you guys just keep hogging it, saying the same things over and over again. I'm in a hurry here. Why not think for a second?"

Behind them was Erhart. In the same tank top as ever, with a large sword over his back.

The two stood, and glared at him, but Erhart had his comrades. His party members gathered, their equipment on a different level from the party of two.

"What, you want to fight?"

When Erhart threatened them, the adventurers hurriedly left the counter. In the first place, they had failed at their request, and therefore hadn't brought the necessary paperwork.

When they left the guild in a rush, a staff member approached Erhart's party.

"This is troubling. Personal strife between adventurers on the Guild's premise is strictly forbidden."

When the bespectacled male receptionist cautioned him, Erhart scratched his head.

"S-sorry for that."

But continuing on with his reprimand, the receptionist...

"In that case, finish up your business here."

Without blaming him any further, he released Erhart's party at once. The male receptionist approached Rühe.

"I apologize for not making it in time. When you have those sorts come in, step back, and rely on a receptionist with a scary face. Also, could you handle their paperwork?"

"Y-yes!"

When Rühe gave her reply, Erhart talked amongst his comrades, and parted to go to the counter alone.

Taking a seat in front of her desk, it seemed he had borrowed the Guild's showers. He handed a report over to Rühe.

Accepting it, she confirmed its contents.

(Monster subjugation around Beim, and an odd job request. The given evaluation is[B].)

The report of Erhart's party, who'd returned from outside the city, was filled with relatively favorable assessments.

"Um, your evaluation is[B]. Splendid work. I'll prepare the reward at once, but what will you do about the next request?"

There, Erhart didn't show and signs of thinking particularly hard over it

"Battle was considerably rough this time around. We've got equipment inspection to take care of. But we've done two requests, so won't we be fine for a while? If equipment maintenance will take a while, I'll come and take some odd jobs within Beim. Yeah, I'll drop by again in the next three days."

"That would be a great help to us. What about the renewal of your Guild Cards?"

"I'll leave it to you before or after my next request."

When Rühe prepared the reward, Erhart took it, and confirmed the sum. He stood to leave.

"Thank you."

As he said that, and returned to his comrades, Rühe watched off his back...

-

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-

When I dropped by the East Branch, the atmosphere of the first floor lobby was a little restless.

I wondered what it was, but thinking I could just find out by asking someone, I decided to proceed to the third floor with Clara.

It seems Clara had sensed the Guild's off air as well.

"It seems somewhat fun down there."

I nodded.

"Right. When we confirm our requests, how about we try asking?"

I entered a free room on the third floor to find Tanya-san waiting.

We sat in our seats, and confirmed the contents of the available requests in that private room. But Tanya-san explained them with a relatively serious look on her face.

The gaze she gave beyond her glasses felt sharped than usual.

"Thank you for making your way here. You've come at just the right time."

Even if you say that, from our point of view, I could only think we came at the wrong time. Clara looked at me, and told me to, 'refuse if she brings up a strange request'.

"Did something happen? Another Labyrinth?"

Tanya-san shook her head to the side. Her silky black hair swayed.

"Unfortunately not. Rather, we're still in the middle of subjugating some at present. Before your party left, another one came out. The South Branch was a little perplexed, but we didn't have enough adventurers on hand."

That must be rough. I thought, but we had our circumstances as well. Accepting any request she suggested would be impossible.

"If it's a request we can take, we'll accept it."

"Yeah, it will probably be alright."

She gave a sarcastic smile. When I asked the situation...

"Transport?"

"Yes, from Beim to Galleria, and to Rusworth, the transport of cargo. Our last shipment, with the preparations for that defensive war, we weren't able to carry all of it. If you'll take up the guard and transport as well, you will receive a bonus."

Looking at the figure she displayed, Clara nodded.

It wasn't a bad amount.

But with the distance, we would have to be away from Beim for a while.

From the Jewel, the Fifth let his voice.

[Two warring countries receive care packages from Beim. Could our cargo be weapons?]

She just said cargo, but the contents was likely commodities. I didn't have a problem with the cargo itself, but I did have an interest in the two countries.

"You won't use a sea route?"

Tanya-san spoke.

"They've only got small ports between them. And neither country wishes to construct one."

With their proximity to Beim, two whole countries without much coast is rare. Could it be they can't secure good locations?

I took the papers in hand, and told Tanya-san we'd take it up.

"Understood. We'll accept the request."

She looked relieve.

"Thank the goddess. Your place is able to carry large loads of cargo, after all."

It does seem she looked into the large-scale Porter. It stood out at the very point Damien drove it to Beim, so there was no helping it.

Clara looked over the documents.

"Are we the only adventurers taking part?"

Tanya-san nodded.

"I doubt there would be many to lay hands on shipments to those two countries, but it's a relief if we can put proficient adventurers on guard. Also, if it's you, Lyle-kun, it's possible you'll get some accommodation while passing through Lorphys."

So the fact I was there held meaning.

(Come to think of it, up to this point, they had to commute through Selva, right? If I made a route, did they think they'll get favorable accommodations henceforth?)

I could use it to boldly enter both countries, so I decided not to mind it.

(... After this, should I hit a bookstore, and then a café? But that isn't any different from usual, is it.)

Finalizing the request, I mulled over where to detour on my way back with Clara.

-

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-

... Inside the Jewel.

Milleia opened the door to Lyle's room of memories, and walked in.

It was the room Lyle had once been confined within the Walt house mansion. The bedroom had a toilet and bath attached, life complete in that room alone.

A bookshelf occupied one full wall, yet unable to contain the influx of books, they were spilling onto the floor.

Closing the door behind her, Milleia looked over the room.

[As the room of the next head, it isn't quite...]

Suddenly sensing a presence, she took just one step forward.

[... Appropriate. Did I get it right?]

She heard the voice of a child. Turning, and looking down, she found the form of a young boy looking up at her.

Blue hair, and blue eyes. Pale skin. It wasn't the matured form she was used to looking it, a childish body.

That boy was looking up at her face with a smile, standing behind her before she even realized it.

[Predicting a person's words and saying them before they can is quite rude. And appearing behind them before they realize it is also distasteful. Now then, why did you do such things... Lyle-kun?]

The young boy's name was Lyle. His age was perhaps around ten? Smiling, the boy put his hands behind his heads, and spoke.

[Because I had interest in the contents of your skirt. It's just the mischief of a child, so won't you forgive it?]

Seeing the boy say that with such a cute face, Milleia was a little bewildered.

[It's not like I didn't know, but your personalities are too different.]

Leaning forward to meet his eyes, she lightly flicked his forehead.

[Is it no good? I'm serious here. I seriously want to see what sort of panties you're wearing. It's something I can only ever do in my child years!]

[Hah... it's no good. You mustn't do such a thing. While I'm at it, you're only taking on the form of a child, aren't you, Lyle-kun?]

[... You've got no openings. Well, you telling me not to just makes me want to even more. I shall definitely flip that skirt of yours someday.]

Seeing child Lyle's face brimming with confidence...

[Why are they this different? Rather, you're much too different from Lyle's actual child years as well.]

When Milleia said that, Lyle ran off to prepare a chair in the room. He wiped off its top with a handkerchief, and brushed off the dust, before offering it to Milleia, and taking a seat on the bed himself.

Milleia said her thanks, before lowering herself into the chair.

[Now then, will you be teaching this and that to Lyle now?]

The child Lyle gave an intrepid smile atop the bed.

[If he asks, I'll answer. And I'll even give him advice. But my true goal is...]

Light streamed into the room from a window, but everywhere else was dim.

In that dim room, a childish Lyle let his eyes shine, his mouth form the shape of a crescent moon, and showed off his white teeth.

Milleia felt something strange run through her.

[... To discern him. The current Lyle shall be discerned by LYLE, and if I find him no good, I'll be snatching away his 'self'. Well, to be more precise, I'd really be returning it to him.]

A young Lyle... no, LYLE gave a delightful grin...