“I’ll cut right to the chase… Haruhana, how would one usually get themselves out of this line of work?”
“There is a system in place called ‘buyout’.”
“Workers here were sold into the business. So in reverse, they can be bought out of it, huh…”
“…Ofuyu, Onatsu. We are out of liquor, so go bring out some more.”
Haruhana instructed them and saw them off as they left the room. Then she continued the discussion with an even quieter voice than she had been speaking with up to now.
“The ‘kamuro’ can be bought off with twice the amount of money paid when they had been sold into the business. In my case, however, twice the amount of my yearly income is needed. Moreover, all that depends on whether our employer would permit the transaction…”
“There’s no particular issue for this place’s boss, when it comes to that last one… So, Asley? Have any bright ideas?”
“Well… if I had some more funds, I could… no, I’ll need some time. Please let me think things through.”
“I see, I see! Sorry to ask all this of you, man, but I’ll be counting on you.”
Bruce’s bashful smile felt strangely pleasant, though I wouldn’t say that I wanted to see him like that. Well, it was like that expression was what reminded me of how nice of a guy he was. Those like him, who spent their mundane days treading the fine line between life and death, were most often the kind to be sympathetic toward others’ woes. I should learn few lessons from him in that regard too.
With the heavy talk out of the way for now, we proceeded to enjoy our time drinking together, accompanied by Haruhana’s singing, and as they returned, Ofuyu and Onatsu synchronized dancing. It was that very hour that made me wholly appreciate their art of entertainment and how they provided a performance far above their pay grade.
~~The Next Day, Magic University Coffee Lounge~~
The Magic University provided the service of several eating establishments within its grounds. The customers were the students who stayed for more work after school or boarding students looking to hang out, relax and so forth.
Currently, Pochi and I were in one such establishment, spending some free time from our research hours.
“So, that’s the story, yeah? …Hey, what’s up with that face you’re making?”
Pochi gazed with disgusted look as if she was looking at a piece of litter on the wayside, branding a figurative sinner’s stigma on my body.
“Y-you’re gonna buy off the kids…? I never thought you were ‘that’ kind of person, Master! Yes, ‘that’! Your mind is deprived of all common decency!”
“Hey, you’ve just shut your brain right when I told you ‘I went to the Colorful Food District’, didn’t you!? Listen to the whole story first!”
“So, Master, you’re…”
“Gonna buy off the kids.”
“And like I said, you already got it wrong. What I meant was, I want to do something about the young ones being forced to work there.”
“That’s simple. Evacuate the people out, then burn that place to the ground!”
Wow, what an avant-garde idea. So scary that I might have been petrified for a second there.
“I know you’ve put a lot of thought into that plan, doggo, but… rejected.”
“Whatever are you two talking about, Sir Asley?”
“Oh, Lina, you and Baladd did great yesterday! I couldn’t talk to you since the whole class was forming a mob around you, so this might be a bit late, but congratulations on advancing to the main Friendly Match.”
“Ah – thank you very much!”
Lina slightly bowed her head.
I haven’t had the chance to talk with her through magecraft because of what I had been doing last night, and considering her fatigue after the fights, I had refrained from initiating the call.
“If you have some time, why not sit with us and have some tea?”
“If you have some time, please sit with us and keep my hopeless Master company.”
“Yes, I’d be glad to!”
Which of us did she reply to, though? I’d like to ask but if I did that, Pochi will probably make fun of me again.
Lina went to the lounge assistant and ordered tea, then sat herself down in the seat next to mine. Yes – as one might have guessed, it was because Pochi already occupied the chair opposite to mine.
“Umm, so… what were you two talking about?”
“Master said he was planning to buy off some kids.”
“Hey, stop trying to ruin my reputation. Look what state you brought Lina to!”
Shocked by just heard, Lina’s expression was now giving out a complete confusion.
“But wasn’t I right? You’re gonna buy off the kids, find them good jobs and living conditions, and set them on the path to a bright future?”
Hmph, pretty good follow up for Pochi. But wait, that sounded like she had actually been listening to my story. With her being so human-like when it came to inappropriate timing of jokes, I’ve always had trouble reacting to her.
“What’s the meaning of this?”
Lina asked, and this time I explained the whole story to her. After that was done, Lina smiled as if she was reminiscing about something.
“Uh, is something wrong?”
“Heheh, I was reminded of all the things you’ve done to help us back at Faltown, that’s all…”
Even with makeup on, I could still faintly see her childlike bashfulness each time she smiled. Ngh – perhaps I have to fix my habit of analysing things like this… wouldn’t want to go too far in this direction like Dinéya. The definitions of ‘too far’ in this case was vague in the first place, so I suppose awareness of it would be of most value in our relations.
“So what’s your take on this, Lina?”
“Well… I’ve heard some stories from Idéa about this line of work but since the issue has been brought so close to me now, I’d like to do something for them… Or, no – I want to do something about it… would be the correct way to put it, I think.”
“Hmm, options, options…”
“I think you should just do it the way you want to… I mean, isn’t that how you’ve always done things? Besides, it’s not like you’ve made any mistakes so far, either.”
This girl never ceases to amaze me.
She didn’t look to herself for the right thing to do, but inferred it from the information available externally. However, although I’d never made a mistake in front of her, I’d made quite a lot before her days. Basing the correctness of my choices from my past results wasn’t quite the right choice here.
Still, I felt that Lina was putting her trust into the results she’d seen, reassuring that my choice on this matter would be correct as well.
“Er… Sir Asley?”
I realized just now that I had hung my head down in a gesture of shame, and Lina tilted her head in question of that act. Almost as innocently as Pochi, which was already the very definition of innocent.
“…Yeah… you’re right.”
“You realize that he’s made nothing but mistakes in the old days, right?”
Never mind. My compliment was wasted.
“If there’s any way we can properly help them, then it’s always worth a try. I’ll help, too.”
“At the present, it’s better to go through with the transaction than to try and run off with them, sir.”
“Right, I wouldn’t want any bad rap on my name over there, and in the case that we failed, the consequences are potentially too high.”
“So the issue is…”
No way around it, then. I didn’t want to rely on our grandmaster but at this point, we had no choice but to try asking her.
~~The Next Day, the Office of the So-called Grandmaster~~
“You need to make a large amount of money?”
“Yes, in a way that’s faster and more efficient than A-ranked adventurer work. Do you happen to know any?”
Grandmaster Irene would surely be able to come up with a good way or two… Now, let’s hear it.
“…I’d like to know, too, if there even is one, but… do you have any solid numbers in mind?”
“I reckon I’ll need as much as ten million Gold.”
“Ten million!? Are you kidding!? Even with my pay, it’ll take two whole years to save up that much!”
“Please give me two years of your life, professor!”
“Wha – eh – wait… whuh – what’re you even talking about?”
And why was she blushing?
Well, since it’s still in its planning stages, I’m sure there wouldn’t be any problem in discussing the matter with her now. And so I did, explaining to Irene in detail our situation up to now.
“Asley, you… I wouldn’t care if you just broke the school dorm’s curfew but going there is pushing it, don’t you think?”
“It was unavoidable. So, what is your take on this matter?”
“I’m obligated to be against it.”
I was met with an unexpected reply.
“Could you tell me why?”
“I can’t say this out loud but the proceeds from the Colorful Food District is a precious source of income for Beilania. That area is taxed quite thoroughly, you see. It’d be perfectly fine to take out one or two workers but since your plan aims for a larger scale of condition betterment, it’ll cause significant amount of issues no matter what approach you take. Labourers would end up overworked and the town’s income would plummet, and the blame would naturally be put on those two kids. Besides, isn’t your idea just a temporary measure?”
“…And what if it is?”
“If it’s not permanent, then just helping out a few would achieve the no effect in the end. Moreover, even your body wouldn’t… Uh, I mean, it’s nothing.”
No arguments against that. She was reasonable.
Perhaps I had been taking it as a too simple issue. Still-
“…Doesn’t look like you plan on giving up, though…”
“You realize that kids even smaller than you are on their way to a bleak future, yes? Even putting their predicaments aside, I just couldn’t turn a blind eye in the face of a greedy force of evil coming after someone.”
“I didn’t make my body like this because I like how it looks, I’ll have you know… Bah, for the love of…”
Irene heaved a deep sigh. Then she tapped her fingers on her own face and stood there pondering things over, seeming quite troubled.
It seemed that she was taking this seriously, at least in one way or another.
“…Asley, I could come up with two ways for you to make that much money.”
“First, with your extensive knowledge… Sponsor a magecraft program.”
“At the Nation’s magecraft research facility… or not even that, if you cooperate with us the Magic University, you could get those funds rolling eventually. And the other way-“
“Not something I’d recommend, but you could gather materials in Danger Zones.”
“Oh, that would sell for a lot of money, yes.”
“If the Adventurers’ Guild were to issue a job, it would be Rank S Difficulty, no buts. And since you’re set to participate in the Friendly Match next month, as a professor… no, as a representative of the White Faction, I can’t grant you the permission to go there.”
Rank S Difficulty… at that level even a party of A-ranked adventurers would have to go fully prepared to die.
Nothing would be achieved with my death. Besides, I don’t want to die yet.
“How about you stop with your naive ideas and make a name for yourself in the Friendly Match, then get yourself a sponsor? That would be a clean way to go about it, don’t you think? The competition will be spectated by the heads of large companies and aristocratic households, after all. I think you’d eventually make the money when you get yourself on a post-graduation career path.”
“That would be too slow…”
“You’ve put this matter into your hands for even less than a day. How is it too slow?”
“It’s according to my calculations after putting my personal matters aside, that’s all. Regardless, thanks to you I’m starting to see some hope. Thank you very much.”
I ended the conversation and excused myself from Irene’s office.
Now, what should I do? What should I do to get the money…? But either way, I was very thankful for Irene’s weighing my available choices. I should prepare some gifts for her next time.
The Magecraft program was one thing I’d like to avoid, no matter how much I considered it. Offering only the magecraft formulas would never cut it, so that was out, too. Offering myself to the life of a lab rat wouldn’t save Haruhana, Ofuyu, Onatsu, or anyone.
The next day, I visited Irene’s office once again.
“……What might this be?”
And she uttered while shivering profusely, as she examined the paper that I had passed to her.
“I’m thinking about auctioning off the formula of my Teleportation spell. Since you’re one of the Six Archmages, Miss Irene, I would like your handwritten signature of approval.”
In contrast to my invigorated smile, Irene’s face looked as if she had just busted a vein. Now that was amazing – first time I’ve seen her like this, I suppose.
“There’s a limit to how hasty your decision can be! You have all the rights to do this, of course, but if you run this through the proper channels and contribute it to the Nation, you would make a lot more over time than what you would get instantly, not to mention the status and fame! Honestly, this is nothing but you being foolish!”
Irene sprung up from her chair, unleashing a flurry of scolding that weren’t only venting, but also sensible arguments. This time it was a topic that I was self-conscious of, so I didn’t plug my ears.
Irene, seeing that I took all of it head-on, calmly sat herself back down.
“…Hah, didn’t you say that you would like to take it slow with the Teleportation magic? Well, I guess I can’t blame you for wanting to go this way. But why Teleportation specifically? You must have invented many more magic and magecraft than that, right? Shouldn’t you be able to make quite a lot of money if you sold off a few of those?”
“You see… I’ve decided beforehand to offer it to the Nation. So there wouldn’t be a need to bring out the other ones, would there? Most of them were just by-products of my hobbies, anyway.”
“…Looks like you’ve already made up your mind.”
“My stubbornness is one of my redeeming features, ma’am♪”
“Oh, for the love of… Well, anyway, you can’t do this ‘anonymously’. An auction can’t be held if the name and background of the one contributing the spell aren’t made known. Not even with my endorsement. It’s the law.”
Well, that was one thing I feared. Good thing, I’d already anticipated this.
“Then would you like to process the transaction yourself, Professor Irene?”
“…That’s a creepy grin you’ve got there. Are you cooking up some evil plot or something?”
“You sound like you’ve got something nice in mind as well, am I right, Professor?”
“I’ll listen to what you have to say. Whether I’ll follow it through, I’ll decide thereafter.”
“But of course.”