༺ Homecoming (3) ༻
“H-Has the Young Master returned?”
“The Young Master has returned?”
“Is that really true?!”
Herman barely suppressed a sigh that tried to burst out and gestured to the maids who were gathered around, indicating that they should stop their chatter and focus on working.
While watching the maids dispersing with a hand placed on his forehead, a slightly amused voice mixed with laughter came from beside him.
“It seems like that Young Master’s karma is quite deep. I wonder if he can handle it.”
“He has been clever since he was young, so I think he’ll manage on his own, Hana.”
“He has always been an outstanding person. However, I still didn’t expect him to bring such individuals with him.”
The Head Maid, Hana, spoke while gazing beyond the window where the carriage was visible.
“Margrave Kendride and Duke Tristan. How incredible. Have you already reported this to the Baron?”
“Right now, it’s a bit… you know? I heard that Viscount Goldic just arrived.”
Herman’s tired demeanor was completely understandable to Hana as well, as she gave out a bitter smile.
“…Count Chester has been showing an unusual amount of interest in our territory lately. The Baron must be having a hard time.”
If one were to ask who was the most powerful nobles within this area, Count Chester would be mentioned without a doubt.
Viscount Goldic was merely that man’s lackey.
“It is indeed a strange occurrence.”
“Count Chester has been here a few times before. He was ambitious, but he at least held some amount of decorum. I doubt he would try to forcefully take someone else’s land like this.”
“I don’t know what’s come over him. Maybe there’s some problem within his territory.”
“Well, it doesn’t seem like the time for us to worry about someone else’s territory.”
After saying that, Hana looked out the window once again.
“Especially when such prestigious households bring their carriages to our territory… Normally, this implies something, right?”
Herman accurately understood the hidden meaning behind her words and couldn’t suppress a sigh this time.
“…They won’t go as far as proposing a marriage.”
“You seem quite certain about this, hm?”
“Both families are in such a high position that just the hint of a marriage proposal would cause a political storm. If such rumors were circulating, the heads of the households themselves would have attended.”
Herman’s words made Hana’s bitter smile even more noticeable.
Meanwhile, Herman’s expression was one of inexplicable unease.
“Have you read this before? It just arrived via a magically engineered carrier pigeon.”
Hana handed Herman a letter.
“Perhaps these two households are more serious than we thought.”
What was imprinted on the envelope was a divine emblem. Even among them, an emblem with 3 wings indicated the highest authority; Excluding the Pope, only two others were qualified to use it.
The Archpriest, head of the Great Temple, as well as the Saintess, the representative of all devotees of such a religion.
And the contents written were…
“Could this be a forgery?”
“It doesn’t seem like a lie, Herman. Unless they were utterly insane, no one would ever pretend to be the Saintess. The authenticity of the divine emblem has also been confirmed.
A dizzying sensation momentarily enveloped his entire body, but it didn’t take too long for him to regain his composure.
In any case, both Hana and Herman were veterans in their line of work. They were used to unexpected situations erupting out of nowhere.
Still, it was the first time for them to experience an event of such a great magnitude.
“…Gather all available personnel. We need to be very well prepared.”
If what was written in this letter was true…
The Saintess herself would also be residing in this territory. This alone was already a big deal.
However, the other individuals would become an even bigger deal than that.
Unlike the Sainteess, who was highly regarded in a ‘symbolic’ way, these ‘two individuals’ held true power that was counted among the top in the entire continent.
“For now, make sure to alert everyone. At least for the next few days, no incidents can happen within the territo–”
Just as he was about to give such an order…
The sound of an explosion came from the office upstairs.
Following it was the sound of someone getting beaten.
Do you even know who I am, blah blah blah…If you mess with me, Count Chester won’t stay quiet, yada yada yada.
For a moment, such screams were accompanied by squeals akin to a pig getting its throat cut.
Then, it suddenly quieted down.
His previous words felt like a jinx since a terrifying incident had occurred. Moreover, it took place in the very place where an incident must never occur.
At this moment, Viscount Goldic was supposed to be having a conversation with Baron Campbell. Both of them were undoubtedly the most valuable people to their territory right now.
While thinking this, a pale Herman was about to rush upstairs, but his body stiffened once again.
“…I never knew a person could be this heavy with just an abundance of fat. It’s almost commendable that he was lazy to this extent.”
“Well, wasn’t it good since we could beat him up a little longer? He held up better than we expected, didn’t he?”
As such words were exchanged…
Two women were descending down the stairs while dragging a bloodied Viscount Goldic.
Seeing this, Herman and Hana fell silent at the same time. Meanwhile, Dowd approached them with a gloomy expression.
“Herman, please prepare a carriage.”
“If he rides the fastest one, it won’t take long to get to the Goldic Viscounty, right?”
“Young Master, I will gladly follow your orders, but I at least require an explanation. What in the world happened…?”
“It’s just… Ugh…”
Dowd held his head with both hands.
“There’s a possibility that his territory will be possessed by a new owner, something like that.”
“Well, that’s all you need to know.”
After hearing such an explanation, Herman couldn’t bring himself to ask anything else.
The interior of Viscount Goldic’s castle was so heavily guarded that it was almost unbelievable that his territory was a mere Viscounty.
Of course, since the territory’s primary industry was mining, there were always plenty of sturdy men compared to territories of similar size, making it easier to mobilize them as military resources. However, in cases such as today, where ‘special guests’ arrived, its defenses were even more pronounced.
“Since the Viscount himself has gone, everything should be finalized by the end of today. Please do not worry too much.”
The administrator of the Goldic Viscounty was sweating profusely as he spoke.
Sitting across him was the Head Chamberlain of Chester County, who sat with a discontent look on his face.
Power could be quite ironic.
They didn’t want to do the dirty work themselves, so they forced such tasks onto neighboring territories. Yet, they maintained an attitude that the Goldic Viscounty was somehow indebted to them.
After all, they didn’t want rumors to circulate that the Count himself had actively carried out such villainous acts.
Obviously, everyone knew the truth, but even if there was a rebellion against him, unless some big name nobles personally came forward, as long as they kept proclaiming their innocence while keeping themselves quiet, Count Chester wouldn’t be hurt by some measly rebels.
“That Baron does not have any powerful connections after all. Count Chester will quickly obtain the land he desires.”
“That better be true.”
The Head Chamberlain of Chester County replied with a cold-blooded expression.
“The Count does not like to be kept waiting. If this matter is not wrapped up by today, your territory will turn into a wasteland.”
As the Head Chamberlain spoke, a knight in massive armor exhaled a fierce breath behind him.
It was an automaton, the most popular product among the unmanned weapons developed by the Magic Tower. Type ‘Drive Knight’.
Let alone purchasing one, just ‘renting’ it required an astronomical amount of gold akin to a mountain. Even so, the weapon was famous for its overwhelming firepower.
It was not an exaggeration to say that even the Goldic Viscounty, a territory made up of questionably trained locals, could be wiped out by just one of these.
The real reason there was no rebellion against Count Chester’s gangster-like acts was mainly influenced by the existence of these weapons.
“Y-Yes, of course.”
As the Goldic Viscounty’s administrator replied with a forced smile, the door to the reception room bursted open.
The administrator, who was about to fiercely reprimand the soldier for such a discourtesy while he was entertaining guests, was stunned when he saw the soldier’s battered figure.
He looked in such a bad shape that it would’ve been less shocking for the administrator if he was some rebel soldier that rolled in from the middle of a battlefield instead.
“…What happened to you? Is there some problem?”
“The territory is being attacked!”
Both the administrator and the Head Chamberlain had stunned looks.
‘An attack? What do you mean attack?’
‘An attack in this peaceful area where there are no bandits and thieves residing?’
There was no lunatic that would attack a countryside village like this. Even if the culprit was a noble, the Imperial Court wouldn’t allow a war between nobles without a formal declaration and a permission.
“What on earth are you talking about? An attack? Who would dare to do such a thing?”
The soldier hesitated for a moment.
It was evident from his expression that he felt embarrassed to speak the following words.
“The assailants are two girls and one boy, all dressed in academy uniforms!”
A truly dreadful silence spread throughout the reception room.
“Halt, halt, halt! If you move another step, we will attaaaaaugh!”
The soldier aiming an arrow at us while saying such words was hit in the forehead with a stone and fell flat on the ground.
It was the result of Iliya casually kicking a rock from the side of the road, as she strolled peacefully.
I guess they thought they were safe since we were only armed with swords and we were at least a hundred meters away from them. However, it seemed that even an ordinary stone could be deadly in the hands of the Hero Candidate.
“Raise your shield! No matter what happens, we cannot let them enter the castleeEEEHK-!”
As the ten-man-commander shouted such words of encouragement, he and his soldiers were suddenly blown into the air.
It seemed like they were swept away by the sword gust created by Eleanor, who had swung her scabbard nonchalantly.
A bell rang loudly and screams of panic and despair echoed in the surroundings.
And in the middle of this chaos, there were two people casually strolling around.
“Oh. A powder keg exploded.”
Iliya spoke while deflecting several arrows shot at her.
Some of the arrows she deflected ended up in unfortunate places, leading to a massive explosion.
People were madly running around as fires erupted everywhere. Some people couldn’t even move as they just screamed in a fetus position.
“That should be counted as twenty points. There seem to be quite a few incapacitated soldiers, right?”
“No way. That’s ten points at best.”
“Oh, c’mon, you’re being stubborn again. Well, even if it’s only counted as ten points, I’m still five points ahead, you know? I’ll be sleeping in the room next to Teach’s, okay?”
“Hm. We haven’t even entered the castle yet. The real deal starts then.”
On top of such a conversation, a strained voice spoke out.
“…I’m pretty sure I asked you to be reasonable.”
“Isn’t this reasonable enough?”
“Yeah. No one died, right?”
Even my feeble protest was quickly dismissed by them.
Well, their words were true. Despite the shitshow they caused, no one actually died. Hell, there weren’t even anyone seriously injured.
Goldic Viscounty’s standing army could be considered at the level of a trained militia, but…
These two were monsters that were capable of such ‘control’ even while expressing such nonchalance.
‘…Why are they so strong?’
There was no gap for me to even intervene. There was also no need for me to give orders as I normally would.
The two girls were completely sweeping away the entire territory by themselves.
Even though I had activated the Image World skill to supply buffs, Desperation was only at an E-Grade. Basically, the buff didn’t mean shit.
Putting aside Eleanor, Iliya’s current combat power was somewhat hard to understand.
In the original scenario, she should have been much weaker than this.
[Isn’t it obvious?]
[She’s a genius. No, she’s a genius among geniuses. What did you even expect would happen when you continuously thrusted her into battlefields?]
[It’s not just Iliya either. That Miss Eleanor is also quite remarkable. Both of them seem like they haven’t even reached half of their growth potential yet, you know?]
Since I activated the Image World skill, Soul Linker was also activated while sharing my divine power. Inside it, Caliban spoke with a hint of laughter in his voice.
[You seem to be quite loved by such monsters. How impressive.]
“…Don’t make fun of me.”
[No, I genuinely think it’s impressive.]
“What are you even saying?”
[Those two would do anything you ask them to. Isn’t that right?]
I sighed as I took another step.
I was too tired to even respond so I chose to remain silent, but Caliban, whilst laughing, continued, remaining undeterred.
[The only person that can ‘manage’ those two powerful girls in this world is you. When I said it was impressive, I did not speak empty words.]
“You seem incredibly amused while talking about your sister like she’s an object.”
[Of course, it’s amusing. From an older brother’s perspective, is there anything more entertaining than watching your younger sister clinging onto a man?]
[It’s not like you’re some rash guy who throws himself onto girls. As long as you resolve the aftermath properly, there will be no problems. For now, all I need to do is enjoy the show.]
And this guy was supposed to be a Holy Knight…
As I pondered that thought, a window popped up in front of me.
[ You have made great contributions through the buff you applied to your ‘Party Members’! ]
[ AP received! ]
[ You can use AP to increase the proficiency of a desired Mastery! ]
At least I could calm myself down by looking at this.
Wasn’t this the reason I kept Image World activated even though it had zero practical effect?
I decided to invest all my points into a single Mastery.
[ Proficiency has increased significantly! ]
[ Mastery Grade has been upgraded from ‘Basic’ to ‘Common’! ]
Mastery: Forbidden Sorcery – Basic
Description: You can carve Tattoo onto your body by sacrificing mediums. Depending on the shape of the Tattoo, you can generate Arrays with different effects.
[ ■ You can only use living beings as mediums. ]
[ ■ You can currently carve a maximum of 6 Tattoos. ]
[ ■ The power of the Array increases with the number of Tattoos carved. ]
[ ■ Increasing proficiency will allow you to carve more Tattoos and generate more type of Arrays. ]
This should be enough to meet the basic requirements needed for me to drag out Valkasus later and learn Forbidden Sorcery from him.
No matter how great Forbidden Sorcery was, calling him over to teach me how to use it with only 3 Tattoos was like killing a chicken by dropping an atomic bomb: an utter waste of his prowess.
As I finished organizing my thoughts, something else was attached beside the window where I invested my points.
[ ! Unconfirmed Record ! ]
[ Target ‘Gideon’ has unlocked a skill under your influence. ]
[ ‘Tristan Style Swordsmanship: Zandatsu’ is added to the target’s skill set! ]
[ Ability is added to ‘Skill: Guidance’! ]
Seeing that it was labeled as a log and not a message, it seemed that this had happened a while ago. It must have automatically surfaced after not being checked for a while.
Checking the timestamp, it popped up around the time I was fighting Valkasus. I was probably too preoccupied to notice it.
‘He did it.’
I chucked while reading through the contents.
This meant that he had faithfully completed the ‘homework’ I gave when I lay met him; the next step of the Intangible Sword.
The problem was…
[ The favorability of the target ‘Gideon’ is skyrocketing! ]
[ A related event will be generated soon! ]
This was also attached to it.
A terrifying thought crossed my mind.
Based on my past experiences, whenever this game mentioned something like ‘related event will be generated soon’ or whatever, it usually meant that the event would come literally days later.
But, the problem was that there was another guy that also popped up besides Gideon.
[ Target ‘Margrave Kendride’ has begun to take interest in you. ]
[ A related event will be generated soon! ]
Gideon and Margrave Kendride.
If I were to rank pairs of nobles within the Empire who were on bad terms with each other, these two would undoubtedly be number 1 of such a list; they were practically cats and dogs.
And I had events generated ‘simultaneously’ regarding both of them.
Furthermore, it was heavily implied that it would happen soon.
If I were to make a wrong move…
Duke Tristan and his daughter.
Margrave Kendride and his foster daughter.
There was a possibility that I had to deal with both combinations at the same time.
With me right in the middle.
‘…Just the thought of it…’
Made it hard for me to breathe.
This wasn’t a joke. If it really came to that, it wouldn’t be surprising if the situation escalated to a point where they just declare war on each other.
Their relationship was just that bad.
‘Well, surely it won’t go that far!’
Even among all the nobles of the Empire, they were considered the most high-ranking nobles! What were the chances that they would personally come to this remote villa–
“Nice. We finally reached the castle. Let the real game begin from now on.”
“Hehe. Are you ready to give up?”
[ An event related to ‘Margrave Kendride’ has occurred! ]
– Margrave Kendride has taken significant interest in you. Although it’s mostly unfavorable, the Margrave is a person who only believes what he sees!
– Try to leave him the best impression possible while in the Goldic Viscounty’s castle! Something good might happen if you do so!
Okay. For now, one thing was highly likely.
I was going to see at least one of them in this place.
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