16-36. Earl Seryuu's Foster Daughter (2)
Satou here. I tend to see a lot of foster girls and adopted children in news and fictions, but never from people I'm close with. It's probably not something that happens a lot.
Yukel-kun came to talk to me after we park the wagon and horses near the castle gate.
"Are you really, with Aneue--" <TLN: lit. "elder sister", formal.>
Another knight who was accompanying us interrupted Yukel-kun.
It kinda feels like they don't want to let me talk with Yukel-kun.
Let's ignore the mood here and make the initiative to talk to Yukel-kun myself.
Another voice interrupted me at a bad timing.
"--Your Excellency Earl."
Of all people, it was Earl Seryuu.
I can't exactly ignore him and talk to Yukel-kun instead here.
We may be of the same rank, but as he rules over a City Core, his position is higher than mine.
Earl Seryuu seems to have been from an excursion, he's riding a splendid looking white steed.
"Pardon me for my long absence. Earl Seryuu."
"I've heard that you've been very active like always, Earl Pendragon."
Earl Seryuu who got off of his horse invited me to his castle like we had been friends for 10 year after hugging me in an oddly friendly manner.
Make me all the more suspicious for his ulterior motives.
The way Earl Seryuu act right now seemed to be a rare occurrence, servants and bureaucrats who caught sight of us lowered their head with surprised looks on their faces.
"--First of all, I would like to express my gratitudes. Thanks to your assistances, the matter with labyrinth management will likely start in earnest by new year time."
Earl Seryuu said so once we settled down in the castle's parlor.
It's probably about how I helped his subordinates to be made into Explorer Guild's assistants at the labyrinth city, Selbira.
"Please think nothing of it. It's all the results of your excellency's subordinates blood and tears."
"Oh stop with 'your excellency' stuff. You'd remind me to call you that yourself, being a cabinet minister and all. Just call me Ros."
Earl Roswald Seryuu requested for something unreasonable.
"That's still too cold but acceptable. Mind if I call you Satou-dono?"
I give my consent to Earl Seryuu.
"Satou-dono, as for the reward I promised you, we have 2000 demi human slaves currently working to build facilities for the labyrinth management. However, due to the number and all, the office folks told me to ask you around half a month time for the transfer period."
"Then, allow me to make arrangements for the airships needed to transport the slaves. Since I think that we will get our airship allotment turn within a year, I will be sure to dispatch a delegation from Muno Marquisdom early on."
Let's forward all the responsibilities for this to Consul Nina of Muno Marquisdom.
I'm sure she'd happily welcome them with open arms, as the territory lack the manpower needed for the towns and cities recaptured from monsters, including the city I'm managing, Brighton.
I plan to release them all once they've become self-sufficient.
"Airships to transport demi human? Can't you just have them walk to Muno territory."
"I cannot even begin to fathom the expenses needed for such method."
I replied back in kind to the earl who asked in amazement.
I'd hate to hazard the number of victims that would show up if I were to let 2000 demi human slaves, whose levels are mostly at single digit, walk to Muno Marquisdom.
"I've also put out a ban on demi-human discrimination just as I've promised."
Earl Seryuu looks proud somehow.
But despite that, the attitudes in Gate Inn and stuff felt the same as always.
"Fumu, judging from your displeased looks, you must want to say that discriminations still remain even now, don't you."
His eyes kinda look like a teacher admonishing a kid who did a poor job.
"Of course, we've not only issued an edict, y'know? We have soldiers who regularly patrol around the city and punish anyone who throw around unjustifiable violences on demi-humans."
Apparently, there were even citizens who got executed for breaking the ban.
"The sense of discriminations within the citizens is deep-rooted. The complete abolishment of discriminations in its truest sense probably won't happen for a long time."
I guess that's only natural.
There would be no hardships if discriminations would disappear simply by having the statesmen ban it.
Even with the law in effect, it probably only means a shift of locations to where the eyes of statesmen don't reach.
The reason is similar to why bullying at schools hasn't disappeared.
Even so, a prohibition from the statesmen is still necessary as the first step to dispel discriminations.
And I think there is only one path to that, a path where people have to learn to change the perception from "bad things" to "things not worth doing."
Afterwards, having the demi-humans show that their existence bring benefit to everyone is also effective.
"As for the other reward--"
Earl Seryuu changed the topic.
Now, he's probably going to check the matter about making Miss Auna my wife, and Zena-san my mistress.
"About your engagement."
"So when are you going to take my daughter, Auna as your wife, and Zena of Marientail House as your mistress again."
He's coming at it straight huh.
Earl Seryuu raised his hand to stop me while I was hesitating.
"So you really do not wish for it."
"His Majesty and the prime minister have given me a stern warning. Do not force you to have a marriage you do not wish for, they said."
Oh, PM and King, good job.
"Please call off the matter about my engagement."
"Very well then."
Earl Seryuu consented willingly.
Phew, another load off my shoulder.
"However, were I to withdraw a reward I have promised, the jabbering old household nobles at the Royal Capital would force me to wear the miser stigma around."
Earl Seryuu words reached my ears as I let out a sigh of relief.
"In exchange, I will raise the number of magic cores that will be provisioned to Muno Marquisdom from our labyrinth."
Earl Seryuu put up three fingers as he said that.
"By my own discretion, I promise you to accommodate three times the planned amount. I will prepare the documents later. Do deliver them to Marquis Muno."
I didn't realize at this time, but by Echigoya Firm's manager's account, the amount is comparable to the amount the earldom pays to the kingdom.
"Have you ever talked with Zena's little brother?"
"No, it was my first time meeting him earlier."
I talked a lot with him as Kuro, but only made a greeting as Satou.
"He might not be at the level of Satou-dono, but he is quite a knight himself."
Earl Seryuu began to boast about Yukel-kun.
Apparently, Yukel-kun's peerage rank will be raised as a commendation for his feats in the fight against the greater demon and in the Labyrinth Hazard defense war.
And it's not just to Baronet that's just above Chevalier--.
"Baron, is it. That's wonderful."
"Umu. He's the first to climb to Baron since me, and accumulating feats enough to propel one from Chevalier to Baron hadn't been done since the days of my grandfather."
Unlike in my former world, as the nobles in this world aren't given land to govern, letting a noble by blood to ascend the peerage means way higher fixed cost for the lord of said noble.
"--Silver Knight Air."
Earl Seryuu spoke that name with a suggestive tone.
"That was what the knight who slew a greater demon as she flew in the air called herself."
"I wonder if she is related somehow to Hero Nanashi-sama and his Golden Knights?"
With the help of Poker Face skill, I ignore past Earl Seryuu's bait.
"I'm in the same opinion. She wielded a holy sword that could fly in the sky not unlike the Claiomh Solais."
Looks like Earl Seryuu bore witness to that fight.
"Someone amongst the people who witnessed that fight told me. That there is a girl whose fighting style resembles that of Silver Knight Air in my territory."
I have a feeling that Earl Seryuu is aware that Zena-san is Silver Knight Air.
Since Zena-san is weak at keeping secret, she'd probably spill it out the moment he interrogated her.
Well, I'm not too worried even if he knew.
"What about you, Satou-dono. Do you know anyone who fights like Silver Knight Air?"
"Unfortunately, as I never saw how the Silver Knight Air-dono fights myself."
"Is that so. Sorry to ask for the unreasonable. Getting back to the topic at hands--"
Earl Seryuu easily pulled back at my excuses.
Doesn't look like he's trying to ascertain Silver Knight Air's identity.
"We will be holding a ball to celebrate Sir Marientail's promotion tonight. It would be my pleasure if Satou-dono could participate. Of course, your subordinates are invited too."
According to Earl Seryuu, it's OK for the beastkin girls to come to the party, but I wouldn't want to expose them to the inevitable inquisitive glances.
I did check with everyone to see if they wanted to participate, but in the end, only Arisa is going to come with me.
I was planning to go back to the inn once, but the time for the ball approached while I was arguing with Earl Seryuu about whether the labyrinth should be managed by himself or not.
"Hmmm, first time coming here, but this Earl Seryuu's castle is really designed for wars unlike the Royal Castle isn't it."
I'm heading toward the ballroom with Arisa.
It seems the majority of the entrants have entered the venue, there's only the two of us in the passage asides from the busily coming and going servants.
High-pitched shrieks resounded the moment we got into the venue.
Fair noble girls of the Earldom come to my side one after another.
It's like the entrance of a famous actor or singer.
"Earl-sama! Please tell me all about your adventures!"
"Earl-sama! I do not have a fiance!"
"Earl-sama! My house is famous for being the most fertile in Seryuu city!"
The beauties who are encircling me make their appeal.
Fertility being an appeal point seems to be common in Shiga Kingdom.
As they're dressing more brazenly compared to the girls at the Royal Capital, lots of the beauties emphasize their cleavage, truly a sight for sore eyes.
"Master's popularity is to the point of being sickening isn't it. I should have brought Mia along--Hey, you there! Don't feel on Master as you please!"
Arisa attempted to guard me from the beautiful noble ladies, but she's way outnumbered.
Noticing a glance, I turn around and see a butler gazing here.
The butler averted his glance like it was nothing while I was paying attention to Arisa, opened a door and announced the entrance of the territory lord and his family.
"Hueh? Why'd Zena-tan come out from over there?"
Just like Arisa said, Marientail siblings came out of the door along with the lord's family.
"Wasn't this Yukel-kun's celebration?"
As if affirming my words, Earl Seryuu praised Yukel-kun's feats and announced his promotion.
The moment they heard that, half of the beauties who were surrounding me turned their interest over there.
"In addition, Sir Marientail will take my daughter, Auna, as his wife."
The people in the hall make a stir when they hear the earl's announcement.
Yukel-kun and Miss Auna bashfully smile at each other.
Zena-san looks happy too, but her smile looks lifeless.
"It kinda feels like Zena-tan is forcing herself, doesn't it."
I agree to Arisa's whisper.
Zena-san's smile is usually like a blooming sunflower.
"Quiet down. I am not done yet--"
Earl Seryuu silenced the people.
"I am happy to introduce the second wife of my eldest son, Badowald!"
Crisis Perception is alarming me for some reason.
"Sir Marientail's elder sister, Zena will be taken as Badowald's second wife."
The hall was filled with even more commotion than with the announcement earlier.
"Master, did you know about this?"
"No, first time I'm hearing it."
Arisa asked me in whisper.
Zena-san didn't talk about it when I talked with her last night, and it didn't feel like she was hiding it either.
Earl Seryuu probably brought the subject to her all of a sudden today.
Zena-san is hanging her head down, I can't see her expression.
"Geez, she's really a good girl..."
<TLN: If you're reading this novel at any other site than Sousetsuka .com you might be reading an unedited, uncorrected version of the novel.>
"No helping it."
Arisa scratched the back of her head and used space magic as she stood next to me.
『Zena-tan. Does Zena-tan really agree to that engagement yourself?』
Arisa's Telephone is connected to me through her connection as my Familiar.
Zena-san replied while covering her mouth.
『Not because you can't go against your lord's order?』
Zena-san sounded stiff.
『I see, there's some kind of reason behind this--wait, no need to even guess huh.』
『You don't want to be a hindrance in your brother's love life and career, do you.』
Zena-san remains silent.
In other words, the answer is correct.
『Since both of those would be called off if you were to refuse the engagement forced on you by your lord?』
『...Yukel and Auna-sama had always no choice but to hide their feelings to each other. And just when their wishes were about to be fulfilled--』
Hint of tears are mixed in Zena-san's voice.
Arisa glanced up at me.
Her eyes are expecting something.
I brushed Arisa's head, and took a step forward toward the ring of people that encircled Badowald-dono and Zena-san.
I step forwad toward the crowd that encircle Badowald-dono and Zena-san.
At the other side of the crowd, Zena-san raised her head.
Her eyes moist with tears are looking at me.
"Oh, Satou-dono! Demon lord slayer-dono is going to congratulate the new member of my family--"
Earl Seryuu is all smiles, but his eyes remain sharp.
He's probably foreseen what I'm gonna do here.
A blank space has been created in front of Badowald-dono and Zena-san.
"I'm very honored to meet you. I am the eldest son of Earl Seryuu, Badowald Seryuu."
"Nice to meet you, Badowald-dono. I'm Shiga Kingdom's Tourism Minister, Earl Satou Pendragon of Muno Marquisdom."
I stop with my formal speech pattern.
I extend my hand toward Zena-san after the greeting.
Zena-san is looking at the hands I've presented to her with eyes full of expectations.
"Sir Pendragon, what are you--"
Badowald-dono sounded perplexed.
Zena-san is reaching out to my hands, reacting to my calling.
For some reason, Yukel-kun who was slightly away from this place rushed out to position himself between me and Zena-san, instead of Badowald-dono who was standing next to Zena-san.
Sorry, but you're way too late.
"Excuse me, Zena-san."
I quickly catch Zena-san's hand and pull her to me.
Since I was about to bump into the rushing Yukel-kun, I twirl around like dancing and took a distance away from him with her in my arms.
The women in the dance hall let out a shriek, while the men made a commotion.
"W-what is the meaning--"
Earl Seryuu stopped Yukel-kun who was going to question me with his hand.
I somehow get the feelings that he was dragged in the plot, but there was never a choice to abandon Zena-san here, so I'm not going to let him complain.
"Let me hear your excuses."
Earl Seryuu quietly asked.
"I'm taking her for myself."
If Zena-san wished for the engagement with Badowald-dono herself, I would congratulate her as a friend.
But I cannot abandon her if they're looking to make use of Zena-san as Silver Knight Air, not as herself, to benefit Seryuu Earldom.
"In other words, you're going to deprive my son of his fiancee?"
Kinda feels like I could hear Earl Seryuu's inner voice.
I look at his eyes and nod.
"This isn't a joke you know? Do you realize your and my positions here?"
In short, he's demanding something that exceeds Zena-san.
I stare at him with sincere eyes.
"As a neighbor, I will promise you this."
As the lord of the Dragon's Valley.
"If a being appears to threaten Seryuu Earldom, I will eliminate them regardless of what they are, once, I will also assist in the effort to restore the damage incurred."
If I didn't place a limit, it'd be annoying if I were dragged into wars with the neighboring countries and lords after all.
"From any being? Even if you're up against a greater demon--or even a demon lord itself, do you mean that?"
That must have been exactly what he wanted to hear.
Earl Seryuu grinned and laughed.
In many cases, demon lords tend to be revived in the vicinity of a labyrinth.
Demon lord disasters that had always felt like something distant and not his problems must feel really close now that there is a labyrinth smack dab in the capital of his territory.
Well, even without this promise, I'd have come to exterminate rampaging demon lords anyway.
"Even if I'm up against a demon lord. I swear by the title of Demon Lord Slayer--■■ Contract"
I took a vow by using Contract skill.
"That is still not enough. Give me two more conditions."
As one would expect from a politician.
He'd keep pushing me on even if I refused here.
"Don't make that face. It's nothing big."
Is it really?
"First, take Zena Marientail not as your mistress, but as your formal wife. I will not question her position in the hierarchy."
"The rank of Marientail house as a baron must be a bit insufficient. The second condition is for Zena to become an adopted daughter of our Seryuu Household when the time comes for you to take her hands in marriage."
I see, he's going to make us related through that huh.
Looks like he's really eager to tie relationship with me no matter what.
"Very well. I agree to those two conditions."
The Contract skill earlier formally activated the moment Earl Seryuu declared so.
Right at the same time, the nobles gave their applauses, and as if informed by that, the other people also congratulated me by giving handshakes.
Looks like Earl Seryuu has prepared shills among them beforehand.
Yukel-kun's expression that looked like he didn't get what was going on turned perplexed after Earl Seryuu whispered something to his ear.
On the other hand, Badowald-dono seemed like he didn't find this amusing, but he's not flustered at all.
Badowald-dono was probably a conspirator in Earl Seryuu's scheme and Yukel-kun was made to dance in it.
Right when I turned around to Zena-san who whispered into my ears, I felt something warm on my lips.
Looks like Zena-san gave me a kiss the moment I turned around to her.
An innocent junior high school-like kiss.
The slight pain from our teeth clashing kinda feels nostalgic somehow.
『I'll overlook it this time.』
Arisa's voice that felt kinda sullen reached me through her Familiar connection.
While patting Arisa's head with my free hand, I lowered the blushing Zena-san who was done with the kissing on the floor.
I send Zena-san off to a circle of female nobles who've come to congratulate Zena-san, including Miss Iona.
Earl Seryuu approached me instead.
"--The matter this time will be spread as a side show in Yukel-kun's promotion party. I have no obligation to help other nobles in their scheme after all."
Earl Seryuu and his grins annoyed the heck out of me.
But well, you have my thanks for your considerations.
Although there's nothing to worry with Marquis Muno, Duke Oyugock and the king, there's no guarantee that other nobles won't follow the same scheme.
Arisa speaks to me when Earl Seryuu has left.
"Hey, Master, have you noticed?"
I gave an affirmative to Arisa's question.
Zena-san who's surrounded by her friends has gotten a new title.
Well, considering the situation....
I check my Log.
> [Plunder] skill acquired
> Title [Plunderer] Acquired.
> Title [Love Hunter] Acquired.
> Title [Soulmate] Acquired
I got some slightly objectionable titles and skills.
Well, maybe I'll leave the last title be on the Alternate Column for a while.
※ Next Update is planned for 2/25