Having seen the details of this request… No matter how I thought about it, I’d be in for some sort of trouble.
I turned around to Giorno, probably with a troubled look on my face – couldn’t really tell myself. He only smiled and gave me a thumbs-up.
It wasn’t the case that there were no mages available to take the job, but it was very much possible that none of them fit the criteria.
Though I MIGHT be a good fit, I still couldn’t shake off the doubts I had in my head.
Pochi shouldn’t have gone too far from the Guild. I went out to search for her, and saw that she was having her fur stroked by a boy.
“That’s good! Head to neck! Neck to torso!”
“Now, in a circle on my cheeks! That’s right! You’re getting good at this!”
What in the blazes is she doing?
The dark-haired boy stroked Pochi’s cheek as if he was massaging it; by the time he moved his hands back to her head again, I called out to the latter.
“Sorry for the wait.”
“Ah, Master! Did you find us any work?”
Pochi said, sounding like she was having a good time getting her cheeks stretched.
“Hmm… I did get something, but looks like it’s been left untouched for a long time, so…”
“I think every job is at least worth trying, sir. What are its details?”
“Pretty unusual, this one. Apparently the Fulbright household is looking for a magic instructor for their eldest son. The paper’s been untouched for a long time, though, so the deal feels kinda sketchy.”
“Ngh – Attention! Why did you stop?! Next, from back to tail!”
“Ah – yes!”
Pochi, noticing that the black-haired boy had stopped, pressed him to continue on.
Oh? This boy… I felt like I had met him before. Or was it my imagination?
“How much does it pay, sir?”
“Says here that it pays ‘upon successful term completion,’ no specific numbers. Not really the best choice for us, since our savings will probably last us just around a week.”
“In that case, we can-“
“Attention! You’ve stopped again!”
Good God, the doggo never fails to annoy… Huh. This boy is actually quite the looker. Seems like he could be somewhat of a big deal.
…Also, he seemed to only be in his early teens, yet he was out here, all alone without a guardian in sight?
I know this was right in front of the Adventurers’ Guild, but it still felt dangerous…
“Why don’t we accept it and see how that works out, then? We can never know for sure until we meet our clients – maybe it pays in fixed intervals.”
“Hmm… Yeah, I guess.”
“Then we can-“
“Now, behind my ears!”
“Hey, enough of your nonsense. The boy’s been trying to say something for a while now.”
Pochi slurred like a drunk, eyes closed while indulging in her ear massage – and then got her voice drowned out by a loud shout from behind us.
I knew it wasn’t directed at us, but considering the direction and distance, I could infer that it was calling someone right next to us, so I turned to see who it was.
And then another shout came from behind us, not where we were now looking. A well-projected boy tenor.
“Sir head butler!”
Inferring from the exchange that they were a servant and master pair, Pochi and I turned to each other.
…Open your eyes already, damn it.
The boy separated from Pochi and ran up to the elderly man with swept-back silver hair. Hmm, so my guess was right – this black-haired boy actually was some sort of a big deal.
The man bent his back halfway down to listen to what the boy was saying, then once he was done, glanced at us.
Quite a scornful stare… like he was looking at garbage on the wayside.
Really, what’s that look for?
Now he took his handkerchief and put it over his mouth as he approached us… then stopped at just the right distance, and not an inch closer, for us to hear each other.
He was about as tall as Blazer. His forehead was conspicuously wrinkled, and his thick brows were all white. His neatly trimmed facial hair stuck out the edges of his handkerchief.
His eyes made no effort to hide his hostility, and his groan carried a sense of intimidation.
Observing all that, it was natural for Pochi and me to realize that this old man didn’t take kindly to adventurers.
His appearance, especially the high-quality suit he wore, suggested an association with aristocrats. I wouldn’t have known what his dress was called if not for Melchi telling me what it was. Well, the old man’s jacket had a longer back portion than what I was used to, but I was sure that I got it right.
The boy had a similar getup, now that I paid attention to his. A suit, topped with a lightweight cloak… a nobleman’s appearance through and through.
“Your timing couldn’t have been any worse, adventurer.”
“…Whatever are you referring to, sir?”
I feel like I’m starting to understand his situation now, despite how confusing it seemed at first.
Could it be that these two are-
“That was the best rub I’ve ever had!”
Pochi’s gonna be Pochi. Indulgence over logic… goes to show how much of a beast she is.
Still a cowardly dog, though, what with her staying behind me and nudging me forward by the back of my knees.
Although I had no reason to refuse him, the elderly man’s attitude still exuded a resisting force. Then again, there was the boy, smiling as he looked at us – there was some sort of charm in his eyes that made him hard to refuse.
Good God, I sure hope this doesn’t get us in yet another trouble…
“Wow, it’s huge.”
“Indeed it is, sir~~”
Pochi and I said in agreement as we looked up at the mansion in front of us.
This residence, located to the southeast of Brunnera, had a sturdy-looking main gate, beyond the bars of which was a well-maintained lawn. It’s incredible – this lawn alone covered even more space than the entirety of the Pochisley Agency.
“What is this place, sir?”
The old man didn’t seem to have any intention of answering me.
The black-haired boy, too, hadn’t spoken for a while now, only smiling as we walked along.
Though innocent and devoid of deceit this smile may be, I had a feeling that I’d seen it from somewhere else.
It was a solid three-minute walk from the main gate to get past the lawn, after which we were led into the mansion itself.
The spacious entrance hall welcomed us; behind us to the right-hand side was a staircase leading to the second floor. I would assume that the residents’ quarters were up there. I’d seen a separate building behind this mansion, too – could that be the servants’ quarters?
Following the old man on his way, I took a step forward. At one point, the old man held a cane out to his side – don’t even know where he got that from – to block Pochi’s progress.
The gesture stopped me in my tracks, but not the intended target; Pochi kept walking as if there was no cane in front of her.
C’mon, doggo, you ought to know your manners. Stop.
“The dog. Halt.”
With him voicing the order explicitly, Pochi finally got the signal and stopped all movement.
And what an impressive stop that was. It was as if she was frozen in time altogether.
If she wasn’t still blinking, I would have mistaken her for a stuffed animal.
“This is as far as the dog goes. The young man may proceed.”
“I’ll go up to call my sister, sir head butler!”
“That would be helpful. Apologies for the inconvenience, young master.”
The old man, in a completely different attitude from when he was dealing with me, replied to the boy and bowed deeply; once the boy was out of sight up on the second floor, he raised his head and gave me the usual hard look.
I let out a little puff of breath before following the old man to the room right next to the stairs.
He opened the door, then prompted me with his eyes to enter. I did as told, appearing into a simply-furnished space that did not at all fit the description of a reception room. The old man silently closed the door and then let out a little throat-clearing cough.
…I’ll assume that he was telling me to be seated.
So I sat down on the old-looking yet flawless sofa right in front of me, with the old man sitting opposite to me across the table.
This room, lit only by the sunlight through the windows, gave off somewhat of a strange impression.
Considering the size of the room, at least from what I could see… it was far too small to be at a corner of the mansion.
I hadn’t seen any other room on my way into the building itself. Could it be that there was some space left unused in between the walls, then?
While I looked around, the old man spoke to me,
“What is your name?”
“I am called Poer.”
Despite really not wanting to, Pochi and I had agreed to keep using our aliases. Giorno and Lylia could still be in town, so using our real names might result in inconveniences down the line.
Right as I finished saying my name, I felt a sharp stare coming from somewhere. Like… from inside the wall?
Oh, I see – so that suspiciously missing space was a secret room, from which someone was looking at me right now.
In retrospect, I should have realized that things could have gone in this direction, considering the boy’s appearance and the fact that he had a ‘sister’.
…She’s no ordinary person, that’s for sure. Her power was so great that I could tell from across the wall. Which reminds me, Lylia did tell me of this beforehand…
“Let us ask to be sure. Are you in search of work?”
…That the first daughter of House Fulbright was quite impressive.