“Pochi! Listen and be amazed! They’re finally out!”
“Bah… again with that, Master? They’ll be out every morning if you fix your eating habits and exercise more, sir…”
It’s because I’m human that I’m annoyed at Pochi’s nose-blocking gesture, I’m sure.
“Not that! They’re finally back out! My tears!”
“They come naturally when you yawn, sir…”
And me wanting to punish Pochi for not understanding why I’m so emotional… it’s a human impulse to fulfill one’s emotional desires, I’m sure.
“Wha-!? What’s this all of a – Aha, ahahahahahaha! Stop, Master!!”
“-Mm-hm, ‘humans tend to feel irritated when they can’t properly convey their emotions’… there.”
“Hah… hah… hah… D-did something happen, Master? Hah…”
“Hmm? Nothing, really.”
“You’re looking quite refreshed for having nothing happened to you, though?”
“Hahahaha, it’s been piling up on me for so long, that’s why!”
“Huh… Oh, did you get the message from Miss Irene, sir?”
“Yup, that’s why I hurried back. And looks like everyone’s already here, so go call them to the dining room.”
Sending Pochi out of the room first, I then took my staff and stood up.
“…Rise, A-rise, A-rise, A-rise-“
~~Pochisley Agency Dining Room~~
Nighttime, half past seventeen… Haruhana, Natsu, and Fuyu had already started cooking dinner in the kitchen.
As per the request I had Pochi pass to them, the Silver trio gathered in the dining room.
“Sorry for calling this late. I assume you’ve already heard from Pochi about Miss Irene’s message. How does it look, everyone?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary for me, but looks like Blazer saw something happen?”
“Is that true, Blazer?”
“Yeah. I stopped by the District on my way back, and saw that security was excessively tight. Especially around Kanchou Fuugetsu, no less. Didn’t see anything strange with the shopkeeper and the girls, but from the mood of the place, I think we ought to stay away for a while.”
“What do you mean, the mood?”
Betty asked, and Blazer continued in quite a heavy tone.
“The shopkeeper made eye contact with me, and if I’m interpreting that look right, it was suggesting that I ‘run away’.”
“Run away… in what sense?”
“From that physical location… or not, from this place…”
That’s quite worrying. Haruhana, Natsu, and Fuyu wouldn’t just run away and leave the other girls back there. Gotta figure out what’s the deal with all this.
“It’s still unclear why any of this is happening, but we ought to not forget about the Kanchou Fuugetsu Boss. I propose that we take some steps back for the time being.”
“Please leave a portion of our business funds and move away from here. The plan is to put you in charge of the rest, so to speak.”
“Got it. We’ll look into hiding ourselves in one of inns in the town.”
“But what about Haruhana and the girls, man? If the security really is taking action, we wouldn’t be able to move around in large groups, right?”
“Haruhana, we need to borrow you for a bit!”
I called for Haruhana, and she promptly rushed to us, her dress fluttering about. She must have realized immediately that this was an urgent matter.
“What is it?”
“This is important – so listen carefully to what I’ll be telling you, all right?”
“Yes, I understand.”
“All right, then… Here you are, Bruce.”
I passed a roll of parchment to Bruce.
“Gotcha. And what’re you gonna do, Asley?”
“Pochi and I will be waiting to see how things go. We’re technically the owners of this place, after all.”
“Yes, I am!”
You do remember that I couldn’t sign the registration documents with a Familiar’s name, right, Pochi?
Didn’t change the fact that Pochi had done various things around the agency, of course. That was precisely why, after quite an extensive dispute, the agency’s name had been finalized as such.
“Got it, man. Don’t push yourselves too hard!”
“Be careful, all right?”
“Mm-hm, now, it’s about time we went on our way.”
After seeing the Silver trio and the girls off, Pochi and I sat ourselves down in the chairs of the first floor counter.
The clock will soon strike nineteen. It’s already dark outside, and the direction of the clouds suggest that it’ll be raining.
Thinking about it now, today had been quite hectic. Mediating the argument Lina’s group got into, then helping her out together with Melchi, and then being given a helping hand by a philosopher’s pupil that I had just met.
I gently petted Pochi’s head while I pondered things over, up until the moment I heard thunder in the distance. This very moment a knock came through the door, though the business for the day was already closed.
“This is Strug, Security Officer! Open up!”
“Right away, sir.”
Pochi got up and headed for the door. She skillfully unbolted the door and turned the knob. The door was swung open with so much force that it seemed like trying to knock Pochi away.
Several guards rushed in immediately. They closed off all the exits of the building, and three of them surrounded me.
Moreover, they pointed their spears at both me and Pochi.
“Wh-what are you doing!?”
“I’ve got no business with a Familiar! You’re Asley, right!?”
“Yes, what is it?”
“Human trafficker Asley! We’re arresting you on charges of using counterfeit currency in multiple human transactions! Come along now!”
…So that’s how it goes.
Establishments of the Colorful Food District, having run out of claims to deter our operations, have banded together to try and destroy me.
Not an honorable method by any means, but certainly a method those of the legally vague businesses would employ.
“My Master did no such thing! The most he would do is draw a labyrinth map with his saliva!”
That later detail was unnecessary.
“Behave yourselves – for your own safety, yes?”
This stern man called Strug, notable for his hefty full beard that went all the way to his sideburns, raise his chin as a gesture to his subordinates, and they poked the base of Pochi’s neck with their spears.
Pochi ruined the moment, in more ways than one, with her suggestive whine upon contact with the spears’ tips, perhaps since they were cold to the touch.
And this man… I must have bribed him some time ago. Despite that, he still came to arrest me, which would mean the bunch at the District must have paid him an even higher amount. Goes to show how much difference financial muscles can make, I suppose.
Ahh, that’s not fun at all.
“Pochi, looks like we’ll be better off not resisting and go along… So what will happen to her?”
“Nothing. Our only order was to arrest you. Hey, take him away!”
My staff taken from me, I was then pushed outside while surrounded by several guards, right as the rain started pouring down.
The townspeople, in quite an uproar gathered around outside. Among them was Irene, and I could see Bruce and Blazer in the distance, too.
Oh, c’mon, Irene… No need to look at me with so much worry, yeah? I’m leaving Pochi in your hands, ma’am… Ah, now she’s making a face of disagreement.
I heard my Familiar’s call from behind me as I was taken away.
As the crowd’s outcry flooded over me, I grew more and more irritated at the guards’ overbearing grips on my arms.
And so I was brought to the garrison.
Every town’s security forces, no matter where, had been dispatched directly from the Nation. That sounded like it would work well enough in theory, but I wouldn’t consider it feasible in practice.
The security officers here carried out criminal acts with a straight face, a fact that the townspeople had long caught on to. Some decent ones could be found among them, of course, but I had heard quite often that it was not the case for the great majority.
My likely hypothesis was that those who had taken up employment as town security were those who had failed to move up the hierarchy of the Nation. Not stronger than the average soldier, yet possessing worse character than the average bandit. Quite a troubling notion indeed, but since things were done in accordance with orders from the higher-ups, it seemed that the Nation did know what it was doing, at least to some extent.
Limiting the scope to just Beilanea, there were still the Magic and Warrior Universities here, along with at least some of the Six Archmages.
Most guards wouldn’t want to be involved in any big incident, so not many of them would carry out criminal acts in the open, too. Moreover, the adventurers here were quite reliable.
Afterwards, they cuffed my hands and transferred me to an imprisonment camp in Beilanea’s eastern district. The place had been allocated for especially powerful criminals.
The perimeter walls were quite bulky and tall. And as I considered my chances of forcing my way through, I discovered that the cell bars were composed of special alloy – I don’t think even S-ranked warriors can bust through those.
But of course, mages weren’t without possible methods of escape. Magic could be used to transmute the alloys or dig holes in the earth, and I could even make keys from the soil if I wanted to.
Which was all the more reason for them to put these handcuffs on me.
They were a type of Artifacts that applied special Spell Circles to the arms they restrained. They suppressed the flow of arcane energy, making it quite inconvenient for me to invoke spells.
“Get in there!”
The room had a rocky structure and was cold as all hell. They probably knew that I was A-ranked, so this was lighter security than I had expected – but at the same time, they totally knew that I was a mage.
Chances are, considering my physical strength, they thought I wouldn’t be able to do anything here.
Containing not even a chair, the room only had a crude bed and a blanket. No windows, either, so the only source of light around was the fire at the end of the corridor, at which I could sense constant human presence.
Things probably would still be fine even if the jailer loafed around while on duty.
But the first and foremost issue I had was-
“When is food served?”
“You thought you’re getting any?”
Wait, so he’d been paid to kill me off as well?