One of the assassins who attempted to attack Laptiricia-sama was killed after he’d fled. The identity of the mastermind aiming for her life is unknown. But we did manage to get information from the one assassin we captured. The first bit was the name of the Dark Guild that’d been hired which was called ‘Cactus’. The second part was carried out by one of its subordinate clans, ‘Styphnolobium’. The last bit of information was that Styphnolobium carried out this mission with a single member of Cactus overseeing it.
No further information could be extracted from the prisoner. But me and the escort commander had deemed it enough. The biggest catch today was knowing which group was targeting our charge.
First of all, the raid last night was done by this Styphnolobium… Or japanese pagoda trees usually seen in botanical gardens and parks. It’s a tall tree with deciduous leaves and bell-like white flowers. And Cactus… It was an organization that acted like a General Guild for existing dark clans. It organized various criminal requests and allocated them to its subordinate clans. Although there were actually a lot of these types of organizations, only Cactus had been named.
As for me, I just felt odd when I heard the name ‘Cactus’.
The next morning, Ashley and Laptiricia-sama discussed the information gathered. We concluded that it wasn’t over yet. However, it wasn’t possible to change our schedule now. Today, Leptirica-sama would visit famous companies within Veneer, attend a tea party held by the city lord in the afternoon, and participate in a banquet at one of the best ballrooms in Veneer at night.
The captured member of Styphnolobium was taken by the escort commander to the guard station; along with three dead members I killed. Afterward, it’d be left to Veneer’s administration. After breakfast, we’d begin the day’s events… Veneer, the so-called Red Light District city, had it’s center surrounded by walls. It made me wonder why people gathered in this city with such a huge disparity between the rich and poor? What kind of pleasures did the city provide?
Each company that we would visit today had their own trading houses. They were also staffed with entertainment facilities, and among them gambling areas, an indoor theater, a dancing strip, an arena, and even a luxurious brothel. It was like I was in Las Vegas. I thought this as I listened to the conversation between the Chairman and Laptiricia-sama. At this point, we’d visited 4 companies by now. And from what I’ve heard as I stood guard nearby, no political matters were brought up.
It’s not like we’re here for actual business, so it was just a simple cordial discussion. I don’t know much about the political matters of this world, so I could only hope that this would help Laptiricia-sama in her future.
After finishing the visits, our next destination was the tea party being hosted by the City Lord’s wife. I couldn’t actually stay with them, so I had to stay with the other male escorts in a special area away from the party. I could only leave escorting to Ashley here. While looking at the map displayed on my kevlar mask, someone approached me from behind.
“Yo, Black Mask. It’s been a while.”
When I turned around, I found a middle aged brown haired man. He was short and thin, and his mouth was crooked with a loose smile. Coupled with his droopy looking eyes, he gave off a sense of unreliability.
“ —- Who are you?”
“Oi oi, are you trying to bust my other knee!? It’s siegfried from the mercenary guild!”
“— Still no idea.”
“I was there when you took your entrance exam. Do you really not remember?”
Entrance exam… Siegfried… Knee… Ah, now that he mentioned it, I took the exam in the capital. I only had a vague memory of it. This Siegfried was probably one of those people.
“Apparently you recognize me now. The Mercenary Guild has been trying hard to contact you, but you never really returned. It’s been difficult because they asked me who was the one who participated in the exam alongside you, just to try and get in touch with you.”
“I didn’t know the Guild was looking for me.”
“Normally, they wouldn’t specifically look for you, but you’ve been quite the hot topic in town lately. You see, people in the capital love fresh new things, and your appearance was like a new toy to play with.”
“A toy you say…”
“Either way, there are some companies and nobles who are interested in your capabilities. You may still be busy with Duke Barga’s request, but there will be more things like this in the future. So stop by the Guild from time to time.”
“I’ll think about it.”
I mean, my plan after finishing this request was just to make Shaft disappear for some time. I wanted to busy myself with conquering the Wolf Fang Dungeon.
“By the way, what are you doing here today? Escorting someone?”
“Nah, I’m here on a different assignment. When I came to see the City Lord, I heard that Duke Barga’s daughter was attending, so I figured you’d be here as well.”
“You curious? Wll, since it has nothing to do with you, I guess it’s fine. Do you remember the ‘Otokoeshi’ clan? The one who also took the escort request from the Marida Company?”
“Yeah, I remember them. Although, I forgot their name.”
“The clan leader was Maximillian, along with two others, Volkasier and Gotthart.”
“What do they have to do with your assignment?”
“I’m here to chase after them. They’ve been found guilty of breaching the contract and falsifying IDs. If you happen to see them, please arrest them or inform the guards.”
“—- I’ll keep that in mind.”
Siegfried left afterward. Wasn’t that guy just an employee at the Mercenary Guild? Or was every employee of that guild tasked with tracking criminals? However, what bothered me most at the moment was those ‘Otokoeshi’ guys. Those three were the first to escape without helping when we were attacked at the rest area west of the capital. I’d completely forgotten about them due to the conflict with the Yagoche Company. I figured it was something that the guild would resolve. That said, this would be the final night of our stay in Veneer. The chance of encountering them should be small.”
The party was over without delay. What was left on the schedule was to attend a banquet later tonight. Many other nobles visiting the city would also attend. Since there would be a lot of noble men attending, male escorts were allowed by the ladies. The banquet would be held in the largest ballroom in Veneer – a building fashioned after rose petals named Lavian Rose. Following the dress code, I donned a black tail coat while replacing my skull mask with a bat mask that had an opening for the mouth to allow me to drink.
“Shaft-san, that mask doesn’t seem to go with the tail coat. Do you have another mask?”
However, the design didn’t fit well. Thus, Laptiricia-sama urged me to switch it out. I didn’t want to embarrass her, so I ended up taking time rummaging through the masks in the avatar menu. Finally, I went with a venetian mask similar to that to what the ‘Black Shaft’ actor wore in the play in the Capital.
The mask only hid the upper half of my face, its design based off a black panther’s head. It was made from a black and shiny material with a silver thread decor. Neither Laptiricia-sama nor Ashley complained about it, so I figured I’ll be wearing this mask if I had to follow this kind of dress code again.