༺ Secret Store ༻
“Young Master, it’s morning already.”
“Ugh… so soon?”
Time went by after the chaotic birthday party and in the blink of an eye, The first day of the academy’s new term had arrived.
And so, I felt it was best to prepare thoroughly before I returned to the academy.
“Kania, give me a report.”
“Yes, Young Master.”
I rubbed my eyes and sat up in bed with such thoughts going through my mind. Kania took out a notebook from her chest before she started talking.
“First, regarding the Welfare Foundation you mentioned before… We are making steady progress .”
”In a timeframe between a few weeks to a few months, it will be ready to launch. Of course, any connection to you and the Starlight Duchy will be kept confidential.”
Kania responded to my question with a slightly tired look on her face. It seemed as though leading the establishment of the Welfare Foundation had been quite burdensome for her.
“If you had told me earlier, I could have offered some help…”
”It’s for the best if I bear this responsibility alone. If you got involved, it could leave a trace”
“…but isn’t it very troublesome?”
I felt proud of Kania, but at the same time, I felt sorry for her as well. I worriedly asked her.
“Would you like me to give you a massage? I learned a special technique that could help relieve your fatigue.”
“No, I’m fine…”
Kania, who had been mechanically answering me until then, stopped and started contemplating my offer.
“Please do so then.”
After hesitating for quite some time, Kania finally answered with a meek voice.
“Fine, sit here and I’ll start with your shoulders.”
I smiled cheekily and patted the space beside me on the bed. Kania, with her head bowed, timidly sat next to me.
“Th-Then… the second report… uh… Heuh…!”
I started to softly massage Kania’s shoulder. As she was about to make her second report, she flinched and let out a deflating sound.
“Ah, sorry Kania. I used my stellar mana by accident…”
I felt embarrassed for a while because of my oversight. I expressed my apologies immediately upon realizing my mistake of unwittingly utilizing my Stellar mana on her, a warlock.
“It must have hurt, right? I’m sorry. Originally, this massage is supposed to be performed by infusing stellar mana into the person’s muscles, relaxing them in the process. Of course, it can’t be used on you…”
“Just do it, please.”
Kania cut off my words and replied in a low voice as she looked at me..
“I don’t mind if it’s a small amount.”
”I’m really fine. It only felt like a light poke. On the contrary, it will instead increase the massage’s effect as well.”
”Well… okay. If you say so.”
Upon hearing her answer, I immediately nodded. I spread a small amount of the stellar mana onto my hand and began to massage her shoulder again carefully.
“Then… the second report.”
Kania, who was trembling from my touch, looked down at her notebook and calmly resumed her report.
“Yesterday the payment for the contract cancellation was paid to the commoner students in class A.”
From Kania’s words, I could almost imagine their emotional faces as they received the money.
“Thanks to you, students with a sick parent or sibling were able to take them to the hospital, and those who couldn’t afford food can now have full stomachs for a while.”
“Yeah, that’s truly a relief.”
“And, more than anything, they can now buy their own books and don’t need to take turns in using them anymore. It’s all because of the Young Master’s… ahh…”
Kania let out another moan as I continued massaging her neck.
“Is there any way to help the students from other classes too?”
“I’m not sure. I’ve tried to search for a way but… there is definitely a limit, isn’t there?”
I muttered in a regretful voice as I glanced at Kania. When her body stopped trembling, she responded softly.
“Indeed, I don’t know what exactly the limit is, but if we help them regularly, it could have negative consequences.”
“That’s right. So for the time being…”
“But what if there is a solution to that?”
Kania frowned as she saw me smiling while saying so.
“Is there really a way?”
“Conduct a survey on the commoner students for me, focusing on the unfortunate things they have faced such as unfair treatment, poverty, and violence.”
I stretched Kania’s back as I instructed her and then added.
“We can’t be certain if there really is a way. You don’t need to worry too much.”
“…Please be careful.”
Kania let out a sigh as I straightened her back. It was stiff due to her relentless service to me. After answering me, she flipped through the pages of her notebook.
“Then… the last report…”
“What have you written so much about in that notebook?”
Intrigued by the notebook Kania constantly referred to during her reports to me, I reached my hand in for a closer look, causing her to shield it in alarm.
“Why? Are you writing curses about me in there?”
“N-No, it’s just that I jotted down some personal thoughts.”
“Really? I just wanted a quick peek. It can’t be helped then. Continue with your report.”
With that, I leaned back and Kania, her face slightly flushed, resumed her report.
“It is about the incident that occurred at your birthday ball. The Imperial Family has issued an official announcement .”
“What did they say?”
“They deemed it a result of the actions of an unstable warlock.”
I showed a bewildered look at those words, while Kania sighed and continued.
“Given the fact that the perpetrator was the Moonlight family’s Secret Lord, their inability to protect the place where the imperial nobles have gathered, and the close ties between Clana and the two Dukes, it seems that the incident was covered up..”
“Alright, but what about the witnesses? What is their reaction?”
“Since the announcement has just been made, we need to wait a bit longer to see their reactions. Also, there are rumors spreading that you are closely related to the case.”
“So that is why I got so many points.”
I nonchalantly responded to Kania’s somber words. Kania, who had been receiving my massage calmly until then, turned her head and glared at me as she heard my words.
“Ah, what about the mysterious person who appeared?”
“I don’t have any information about that. The Imperial Family is desperately trying to keep this matter under wraps.”
“And what have you heard so far?”
“There are witness accounts being circulated by those who were present at the time, but they only refer to the person as a just individual. There is no further information available.”
I took a moment to ponder, avoiding Kania’s glum expression. My hand remained on her shoulder as I considered her words.
“It’s quite strange. It was hard to clearly see but what they were carrying was surely the sword from one of the Hero’s armors.”
“…it wasn’t stolen right?”
“No, that’s impossible. The Hero’s armor is sealed in the Starlight family’s cellar.”
“Then what the person was carrying must have been a fake.”
She became quiet for a moment, deep in thought, before continuing.
“No matter how I think about it, this kind of thing never happened in the previous timeline.”
“You are right, it never happened. Of course, there were many who claimed to be the Hero, but they weren’t as strong as that individual. Most of them were just bragging.”
With a sigh, I finished organizing my thoughts, lost in contemplation alongside Kania.
“Alright then, you can cease your investigation into the destroyed scroll merchant. For now, devote all your resources to uncovering the identity of the imposter wielding the fake Hero’s armor.”
“Yes, Young Master.”
“Right… then we need to prepare to leave.”
Saying that, I released my hold on her shoulder. She then cocked her head and asked me a question.
“Where are we going?”
”I plan to utilize the jade pendant I received as the reward from the Second Ordeal.”
“There is an item I’d like to ask Rosinante, the legendary craftsman, to make.”
Saying that, I took out the jade pendant from my pouch and showed it to Kania. Her eyes lit up with curiosity and she asked me another question.
“What would you like to request?”
“I just need to have something repaired, that’s all.”
Saying that, I headed to the door.
“Then, I will be bac…”
But when I grabbed the doorknob, Kania suddenly began to let out weird noises.
“Ka-Kania? What happened?”
“I apologize for displaying this unsightly side to you, Young Master.”
Frey was taken aback as Kania clutched her belly and panted heavily.
“No wonder you were flinching so much when I gave you the massage. Is there something wrong with your body? Is it because of the stellar mana I infused…”
“Th-That is not it.”
With a worried expression, Frey approached Kania as he thought it may have been his fault. Kania shook her head and answered his queries,
“Ever since the incident at the birthday party, my stomach has been spasming whenever I see the Young Master.”
“Yes. Even now… Haa…”
Kania lowered her head as she clutched her belly. A look of panic donned Frey’s face as he approached her.
“Do the symptoms match what happened last time?”
Frey frowned as he saw Kania’s intense reaction to his touch on her stomach.
“I’m not sure, but I think the symptoms are similar to a twisted mana circuit…”
“Yo-Young Master… your hand, please…”
“Then, the solution must be the same, right?”
After he said that, Frey started to carefully stroke Kania’s stomach.
Even though Frey attempted to touch Kania’s stomach as softly as possible, the sensation still made her jump in fear. The chill that overtook her was not of a comforting touch, but instead, a bone-chilling one.
“Hm… as I suspected, there is a problem with your mana circuit. Maybe because you were under a lot of pressure recently.”
“Th-Thank you for the diagnosis. So now… Aaahh…”
“Hold on a little longer. If we leave it like this, it will only get worse.”
Kania tried to stop him, as she felt herself becoming dizzy. But Frey, deeply concerned for her well-being, only increased the pressure of his touch on her stomach.
“I… I don’t know anymore…”
A dreadful chill took over her, and in her fading thoughts, she began to recall what had happened a few weeks prior.
‘Is that… the reason?’
At the birthday party held a few weeks ago, she had scolded Rosewyn for trying to seduce her young master and had gone to grab a drink to quench her thirst..
‘At that time, I only thought it was a drink left by the Young Master…
Only then did she realize the cause of the abnormality. But it was already too late.
With the thought of seducing Frey, Rosewyn had put an aphrodisiac into the drink in an attempt to seduce Frey.
But with her Warlock ability that turned any poison or drug into black mana, coupled with Kania’s already disturbed state of mind, the result was nothing short of disastrous.
“…it has been a while since the last time I came here.”
After rubbing Kania’s belly for a while, I soon came to the conclusion that it wasn’t something that could be solved in a day. So, I informed her that I would continue to provide her with treatment from now on and then left the mansion, as planned, and headed for the back alley.
“That… Isn’t that Frey?”
“Shh! Do you want to get yourself killed?”
“He got some nerve… to still be walking around despite all the rumors about him.”
People started whispering as they saw me, so I gathered the stellar mana in my ears to listen in on their conversations. It was no surprise that they were gossiping about me.
“…His face is kind of cute though.”
“Right, what a shame.”
“Even if his power is weak…”
I had no chance to bask in the glory of being shunned by the beggars and corrupt nobles in the back alley this time. Instead, the voices of young ladies who had gathered far away from me, evaluating my appearance, dug into my ears.
‘…It should be here somewhere.’
Withdrawing the stellar mana I had gathered in my ears, I searched the corner of the back alley.
“Is this it?”
I finally found a dilapidated wall covered in graffiti and cautiously infused my stellar mana between the cracks.
Not long after, the surroundings began to shake. The dilapidated wall started to soften and eventually turned into a pudding-like consistency. I stirred it a few times with my hands, then took a deep breath and quickly jumped inside after having a look around.
The scene that I had anticipated instantly came into view.
Scrolls could be found hanging here and there, along with colorful potions and weapons that looked powerful even from the outside. All sorts of magic tools were also visible.
This was one of the hidden places in the game, ‘Dark Tale Fantasy 2’, or more specifically, the secret store.
In the first part of the game, it was said that this item shop owner was the legendary craftsman Rosinante, whose name was widely renowned even to this day. Even I had no idea how a person from a thousand years ago could still be alive.
“Well, it is none of my business.”
I came here today because I wanted to either repair or upgrade the ‘Mask of Deception’ that was shattered in the ‘Ashen Forest’ a long time ago.
This was something I definitely needed in the future. In addition, my body had been itching for a while to do some good deeds.
I also want to heal myself by doing some good things.
“Is anyone there?”
I approached the old-fashioned counter and took out an “ornamental box” from my chest pocket, calling for the shop owner. I had heard a prophecy from my ancestor that if I returned this stolen box, which I had acquired at an auction a few months ago, to Rosinante, an “Easter Egg” would appear. It was something I was definitely looking forward to.“Hoam…”
As I waited expectantly, I heard a yawn from somewhere.
“Eum… who are you?”
After searching for a while for the source of the sound, I heard something again under the counter and leaned over to introduce myself.
Seeing the person perked up with his disheveled look, I froze as I laid my eyes upon him.
“You finally came…”
The scroll store’s owner, who I was diligently searching for, stared at me for a while with a subtle gaze.
He was hiccuping…. This man was completely drunk.