Now then, how many hours have passed since then?
With the sun already down, I’m starting to feel the want to cast a light source magic spell.
After confirming that the rock door still exists, we had decided to close it and wait outside instead.
Even if it’s a hidden passageway, it’s still technically inside the castle. If we were to meet Sagan in there, he probably wouldn’t talk to us… because we’d be seen as intruders.
“Ugh, It’s getting cold.”
“We’re still barely out of winter, after all… Should we start a fire, sir?”
“Hmm… But wouldn’t he be alarmed if he came out and immediately saw someone making a campfire?”
“What about the opposite, Master? Wouldn’t it be more alarming to be greeted out of nowhere, in the dead of the night?”
She has a point there.
Hell, it’s already suspicious that we’re waiting here for Sagan to appear. Since it’s going to be bad either way, we might as well take the less bad choice.
“What’s wrong, Master? If you don’t hurry, he might pop out before we’re done.”
“…This is bad, Pochi.”
“What do you mean?”
“We… don’t have firewood!”
“Huh!? Didn’t you have some stocked up in the Storeroom!?”
“I used them to repair some buildings back in Sodom!”
“What now, sir!? There’s nothing around here that we can burn!”
“Damn it…! We have no other choice!”
As I said that, I crouched down in front of Pochi.
“Oh! So you do have a solution– Hmm? What are you doing, Master? What’s with those hands?”
“Well, I’m thinking your scarf will burn pretty well, you see? –OUCH! What the hell, furball!?”
“Why my trademark accessory!? If anything, your mantle will probably be better for this, Master! Come on, take it off!”
“Why my trademark accessory!? If anything, your fur’s probably better for this!”
“Oh, I’m sure it’ll release a nice smell into the air, sir! BUT I REFUSE!”
We were glaring at each other, but the voice prompted us to turn that way instead — first to the man, then to what’s behind him.
“What is it, Master…?”
“Why’s the rock door open?”
“Because someone opened it, I think?”
“Well, of course it’s…”
Our lines of sight shifted to our front.
Yup, that’s a man.
With a prominent stubble.
And wavy, long, light brown hair.
He’s wearing light blue clothes with silver and gold threads woven into them, making them look quite high-class.
“Who are you?”
The man narrowed his eyes.
He’s got somewhat of a majestic aura about him.
Unable to stand being stared at, Pochi and I turned away from the man and started whispering between ourselves.
“Hey, did you even hear the rock door move?”
“Not at all, sir.”
“All right, then we’re both at fault here.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll take four days’ worth of the Deluxe Tropical dish.”
“And I’ll have you help me with my magic experiments four times.”
Pochi and I shook hands.
“Who’s that guy, by the way?”
“Shouldn’t he be Lord Sagan, sir?”
“Should we ask him to introduce himself first, before we introduce ourselves to him?”
“But what if he’s actually the War Demon Emperor? We wouldn’t want to come off as rude.”
“That what should we do?”
“We wouldn’t want to reveal our real names right off the bat… And saying we’re Poer and Shiro wouldn’t fly in this era…”
As we racked our brains over what to do, we heard groaning coming from behind us.
“Would I be right to consider you two… suspicious?”
With that, the man drew the long sword from the sheath on his waist.
Man, that’s one fancy ornamental weapon. Itsuki would be drooling right about now if she was here to see it.
“P-Pocchie Maaask… hath arrived!”
Pochi struck a pose, sporting the sunglasses that she had pulled out from… wherever.
And she was in such a hurry that her sunglasses are upside down.
Huh? Why’s my body moving on its own…!?
“L-Leole Maaask… hath arrived!”
I opened up the Storeroom in the man’s blind spot, pulled out Leon’s sunglasses, and put them on.
As for why I borrowed the owner’s alias… well, it was the only one I could think of.
…And I just realized I should’ve used the Appraisal Glasses before switching it out for the sunglasses.
“Two prowlers, then. Be at ease. I shall swiftly send you to the afterlife.”
“Ahaha… will you be sending us off on that side, then?”
“Oh, thinking you can manage a draw? Such overconfidence… against ME!”
Yup, now I’m sure. This man is Sagan.
But we totally botched our introduction. Now it’s just making him angry.
“Whatever could have riled you up so, Your Majesty? We were just…”
“You were just…?”
Oh no. I didn’t think about what to say.
“We were just fighting over whether or not to make a campfire here!”
And she’s right, but man, she should’ve made it sound a little better.
“Be reminded that this is private property. Make a fire here, and you are nothing but prowlers.”
Sagan bared his teeth.
Man, looks like we have no choice but to fight.
I really didn’t know that this was private property. Well, I guess there’s the hidden passageway, and it IS within the Nation’s territory… so it shouldn’t be all that surprising.
“Don’t do anything, Pocchie Mask.”
“Heh… I’m counting on you, Leole Mask!”
God damn it, she’s actually happy to pass the whole responsibility to me.
Is this transforming hero schtick really that fun?
He’s fast. By adventurers’ standards, he should be Rank A or S.
Still, I could block his swing with my Drynium Rod just fine.
“Hah, hah, hah, hah… hah!”
Now this is a sword fighting style I don’t see often… so elegant, fitting for an emperor.
“Hah! Ha! RAHHH!!”
Man… He’s got some awesome stamina.
He wielded his long sword as if it was a part of him, accurately aiming for my vital spots.
As one would expect from the War Demon Emperor, he’s good, but…
“There! Eat this! I won’t stop! Damn you–! See if you can dodge this!”
And now Pochi’s taking notes.
Is she saving all of Sagan’s hammy shouts to use in a stage play’s script later?
“Hahaha… Ngh–! Now try THIS!”
How persistent. He’s been swinging non-stop for twenty minutes.
He’s tired and bored to tears. His brows look like they’re about to stick together… Oh, they stuck together.
“Hah hah… Hah hah……”
Finally, he’s exhausted, unable to even raise his sword.
In adventurers’ terms, his swordplay and speed are at Rank A, and stamina at Rank B… Impressive, considering how young he looks.
My guess is that he’s still in his twenties.
Unlike someone like me, he’s got talent.
“…Shall we keep going?”
“Ngh… how are you so powerful!?”
“I have… trained and fought a lot.”
“…Well, now I know that you are not hostile. And that you have business with me…”
Holy moly, he can tell that kind of thing, too?
“It felt as if you were testing me. What an unpleasant character you have.”
Of course he’d say that.
“Well then, I’ll start talking–“
Sagan held his hands forward, interrupting me.
Whatever could he want me to wait for?
“Come back here tomorrow.”
What’d he mean, come back tomorrow?
Does he not have the free time to listen to me now? After wasting so much time trying to cut me down?
“I will not ask how you knew about this place, a place known only to the imperial family. However, you knowing it makes me obligated to hear what you have to say.”
“I will grant you the chance to earn that favor from me. The talk can proceed from there — what do you say?”
Heh, he’s great at negotiations.
It’s quite rare to see someone use their social status so effectively.
Empress Idïa’s way was more like an abuse of power, but Sagan’s way feels different.
Looks like I wasn’t the only one measuring the other person’s worth.
“Right here, same time tomorrow. Don’t get it wrong, Leole Mask…”
Sagan grinned, hinting at an ulterior motive, before sheathing his long sword and disappearing into the hidden passageway.
And so we managed to meet Sagan without too much incident, but now… I wonder what sort of unreasonable demand he’ll make tomorrow.