FPS 71

A request to escort someone as Shaft was delivered to me by Malta-san. I had a hunch that it was impossible to turn the request down when I heard.

“No need to worry about me, but I will stop getting in touch with you if you turn this down.”

Malta-san said. As one of the prominent merchants within the capital, and one with the right to purchase the goods from the harvest festival; there was no way a mercenary like me couldn’t take the request. Still, I was worried about this request, even if she had put it up. Malta-san said the client wasn’t the duke himself, but the third daughter- Lapitirica-sama – I believe.

Lapitirica-sama… Or should I call her Lari-san? She was a friend of mine who had walked through the, now destroyed, Emerald Demon Labyrinth with me. If she was the daughter of some unknown aristocrat, I’d only mind Malta-san. But she wasn’t a stranger at all. 

“Understood. For now, let’s listen to the story about Shaft as we go. Two days later, I’ll go to the company as Shaft. Please convey the message to the Lord.”

“Certainly. Please, do all of the preparations here.”

Malta-san bowed his head deeply as he spoke. I figured I’d listen to the story, and mostly refuse, depending on the situation. As I’ve decided, I’d return to the inn for the night.

The next day, I departed from the Fort City of Barga as Schwartz, spent a day walking to the south. When dawn came, I returned to Barga as Shaft. Even though it was early in the morning, I returned to the Marida Company. As it came into my sight, I saw some people on a wagon delivering goods to the warehouse. And as they were unloading, a guard came around the wagon.

“Ah! It’s Shaft!” 

If you raise your voice and shout “Ah!” like that, guards around you will draw their swords, you know. The one who saw me was the silver-haired fox beastmen, Silvara.

“It’s alright, he’s a guest of the company’s chairman.”

The one who calmed the guards was her golden-haired sister, Alm. 

“Looks like you’ve been doing well as an escort, huh?”

“It’s all thanks to you.”

“Yep, thanks to you, I can live like this.”

“Fu, while you’re at it, I’ve just unlocked the door. Leaving that aside, is Malta-san here? I came because I heard he called for me.”

“Wait for a bit, please! Nee-san, I’ll call the leader in a second.”

Amongst the guards guarding the company’s wagon, only Alm and Silvara knew of Shaft. The rest had no idea who he was. After a while, the Branch Manager, Bill-san appeared from the store. I hadn’t told him about switching from Schwartz to Shaft, but I may get the opportunity to tell him.

“Please, come inside. I’ve been waiting for you.”

Bill-san backed away slightly from how intimidating the Tactical Kevlar Mask I wore was. It’d be best if I told him about it soon…

“Good morning, Shaft-sama. I’ve been expecting you.”

“I’m sorry since it’s early in the morning. But would it be alright for the Branch manager to come with me?”

“Eh? M-Me?”

Bill-san, who was normally gentle and calm, showed confusion I’ve never seen to my question. Malta-san seemed to have caught the intention of my proposal and moved aside. Bill-san sat in front of me timidly. Malta-san smiled… This person was enjoying the situation, wasn’t he?

My map and sound sensor displayed that no one was outside the room. After I confirmed that no one would hear our conversation, I removed the mask.

“Sch-Schwartz-san?!” 

“Bill, tone it down. This thing about Shaft-sama is also Schwartz-san’s secret that you cannot tell anymore.”

“Good morning, Bill-san. I’m keeping this a secret for a variety of reasons. Thinking of the future though, I think it’d be best for Bill-san to know too. And that you’d follow along.”

“Is that so? What’s the magic tool do you use to change your voice? Now I get why the Chairman fully trusted Shaft.”

“Yes. Not only did I change the mask, but also the voice.”

To get my voice back, I needed to change the communication setting in the TSS. It didn’t take much to get used to, I think.

“No information about Schwartz-sama Shaft-sama may be published.  Either way, I don’t believe you’d just spill it out.”

Upon saying so, Bill-san promised he wouldn’t reveal what I’ve said. After that, Bill-san went to Lord Barga’s home to report beforehand. I couldn’t resist the castle suddenly. I had Malta-san check on things around the duke. I also checked whether or not there were any taboos and a few other things. 

Bill-san returned and told me it’d be best to go around noon. Meanwhile, Malta-san and I decided to spend the time before that to confirm the job.

◆◆◇◆◆◇◆◆

As our appointment came closer, Malta-san and I stayed at Bardage castle, the white building at the center of the citadel city. Bardage Castle composed of a large castle at the site’s center, and four spires around it. Several one-story buildings were also on the premises. After informing the guards at the game of my appointment, and confirming my ID, I went inside. 

We left the carriage with Bill-san as we went inside under the sentinel’s guidance. The duke was said to be in the middle of his duties, so we were taken to his office. I strengthened my wariness with my black mask. The guard guided us, and from behind, I could feel another two join us. My sensors caught a voice saying “Please, come in” from the office. When prompted by the guard, Malta and I went in by ourselves.

“Excuse me, I’m Malta from Marida Company.”

“I’m Shaft from the Mercenary Guild.”

The office was wider than I had expected. There was an office desk and bookcase to the front. To the side, there were two sofas facing each other with a table in between. A space for visitors. Those who were already sitting on the sofa was a man, in his prime, and Lapitrica-sama; the Third Daughter of Duke Barga.

Lapitrica-sama didn’t wear her priest-like robes from when I met her at the Emerald Demon Labyrinth. Now, she wore a long yellow dress that matched her short blonde bob hair instead. The man next to her was the Duke. In his mid-forties, you could see his brown hair mixed with a few white hairs. When I entered, I could feel him gauging me with his mustache and thin, sharp eyes. 

Was that an escort knight behind the sofa? A young man with a face that vaguely resembled the duke stood there. His armor, full silver plate mail shaped like the other knights in the western part of Barga. However, the design was painted with blue lines. I could infer that this meant he was higher than regular knights.

“I’ve been troubling you, Malta. And you’re the black-masked Shaft, right? Well, please sit down for now and discuss the matter, shall we?”

“Yes, if you’ll excuse me.”

Duke Barga was a man with a surprisingly gentle demeanor; completely different from what I thought he’d be like. Since I’d been offered a seat, I thought it’d be better for me to sit and listen. 

“You, could you please take off your mask in front of his Excellency?”

The knight standing behind the two called out to me.

“I’m sorry. Because I have a scar left on my face, it’s not something worth exposing, especially in front of Lapitrica-sama.”

“No worries, since it’s Lari-sama, you need not worry. Just take off the mask and show us your face.”

This knight- did he just call Lapritica by her nickname in front of the duke? Was it because of his high status?… Or were they perhaps related? I noticed Malta-san had become restless now. Certainly, this development was as expected. According to nobles’ way of thinking, it seems these high-ranked people wouldn’t continue with my mask on.

For this reason, I- -put my hands on the mask, and took it off. 

 

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