“Oh-ho, you saw through the trick? Impressive as always, Asley.”
“Flattery won’t get you anywhere, Mister Honorable President Warren.”
“Ha ha ha ha… no, that wasn’t meant to be flattering at all.”
“If not for that dry laugh, you might have convinced me.”
“Well excuse me… It’s an old habit of mine.”
“It’s because you’re like this, Jeanne tends to stay out of the Council Office, I say.”
“I fail to see how that has anything with keeping her away…”
“She dislikes you, why else? I’m sure the move you pulled today helped worsen matters even more.”
“My, I fail to see why she would dislike me so…”
“Because you let people struggle even though you’ve seen through all their moves?”
“Oh-ho, now that’s quite a discovery.”
Yeah, that, and how tiresome he’s to interact with.
After the award ceremony was over, I had left the sausage-addicted Pochi in Lina’s care, and headed straight to the Student Council Office with Warren, to prepare ourselves for the heaps of work that would surely catch up to us after the Friendly Match event was over.
Thanks to me being stuck working with Warren in all his fussy glory, over the past few months, I had gotten quite used to talking while keeping my hands working. I’ll admit, he has talent when it comes to employing people.
“Well, in or out of the office, Vice President Jeanne does do her job well. She has quite a lot of practical business skills and is a popular public face.”
“Yes, she’d helped me out from time to time. In fact, she’d gotten an offer for a position in the Magic Guardians thanks to her display during this year’s Friendly Match, so she’s well on her career path.”
“While we’re on this topic, President, is there anywhere you want to be in particular? When you talked with Sir Gaston way back during the quest, it seemed like you’d just met him for the first time, so… Do you want to be with the Magic Guardians as well?”
“The Duodecad guest spectators change every year, you see. Which reminds me… I presume Sir Gaston was a guest this year because he strongly insisted on coming?”
As Warren said that, he pushed up his glasses and turned to look at me.
As if telling me “he was here to keep an eye on you”. Considering that he actually was there, that may very well be the case.
Well, I’m just gonna disregard that. Besides, I haven’t heard Warren’s answer yet.
“Heh heh heh, all right, I’ll tell you. Where I want to be… has to be the upper tiers of the Nation.”
“And to achieve that, you’ll become one of the Six Archmages?”
“No, I’m striving for a higher flag.”
“……So you want to be the Black Faction representative?”
“Oh-ho, you are aware of it?”
“Well, yes… But are you sure you want to discuss this further? You could have declined to answer that, right?”
Hearing my question, Warren folded his hands and leaned against the back of his chair.
However, just as I thought he was caving in, he promptly straightened his posture.
“Hmm… right. I’ll refuse to give you the answer to that, then.”
Here comes another one of his creepy laughs.
“…You can be too much of a troll sometimes…”
“Your nerve to speak of me so bluntly, especially with me right here, is worthy of some praise, Asley.”
“I’m getting déjà vu flashbacks from that statement…”
“From Miss Irene, I assume?”
“Ah, probably her, yes.”
“Heh heh heh. By the way, Asley, do you remember the Ballad Dragon’s remains you said you found? Cuts of equal size, suspected to be done by a skillful hunter?”
“Why this talk all of a sudden? But yes, that was it.”
“I finally understood what that was about just today, you see. It was Sir Charlie, who had visited today’s event as one of the Duodecad guests.”
“Aha, the Thousand Morphing Blade… But how did you even get him to admit that?”
“A little earlier, I’ve discussed a few things with him, and then he just went on about his martial exploits by himself.”
Looks like the Warrior University Headmaster is quite an energetic character.
I’d only seen him from afar, but he’s definitely got the look of a super monster. So much that he made someone as bear-like as Dragan look small.
And Gaston, who stood next to him, looked like a child in comparison.
I suppose that wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for the Six Braves. The location was close enough to Beilanea, and from the look of that old man’s face, he definitely was the kind to pull it off.
“I see. If you don’t mind, I’d like to tell Lina about this some time later.”
“Do feel free. Well then, I’ve cleared up all of my work for now, so I’ll excuse myself. As usual, please return the key to the teachers’ office once you’re done.”
“Yes, of course.”
After saying all he needed to, Warren got up and left the Student Council Office, his shoes tapping the floor with a nice ‘clack’ as he walked.
I concentrated on finishing up my work, and by the time the sun set, the day of the Friendly Match ended in peace.
I went back to the dormitory and snuck out with Pochi. Bruce had been waiting for us at the end of our usual Magic University escape route.
He was there because we had agreed to meet up at the same place and the same time. That, and in today’s case, I needed to inform him of my plans for the rest of the day.
“Hey, Asley. You sure did great out there today.”
“Thank you. And sorry for just bringing this up, Bruce, but something’s come up, so… Ah, if you don’t have other plans, would you mind coming along?”
“Please come with us, sir!”
“Now wait a sec, is it really that important?”
“Well… it’s a sudden appointment with Sir Gaston.”
“Sir Gaston? Why would you want me to go meet someone that important?”
“I’ve planned to ask Sir Gaston for some advice regarding our project, you see.”
“Please come with us, sir!”
Looks like you’re feeling particularly lonely tonight, my friend Pochi.
“Hahaha, so that’s why Pochi wants me to go that much, huh?”
“That man’s eyes are scary, that’s why! I’ll need as many layers of wall as I can get!”
“Hey, you can’t just call someone a wall like that!”
“It was a figure of speech!”
“Well, you gotta establish that figure first!”
“My Master is so noisy, so please come with me, Bruce!”
“How did you even come up with that reason!?”
“All right, all right. I’ll go meet him – that Great Mage of Flame, so let’s get moving!”
There came another one of Bruce’s slaps on my rear. By no means had my buttocks been fitted with special functions, but the slap of his palms had a mysterious effect on the vibe of the air.
Or was that just the work of Bruce’s instincts?
“Ooh, so that’s what you do to get my Master to shut up? I’ll try it next time! With my nails!”
“That’s bloody scary!”
“Hahahaha, that’s gonna hurt! C’mon, Asley, let’s hurry. Wouldn’t want to make him angry!”
Exactly. We must arrive as soon as possible.
Prodded on by Pochi’s shining nails, we made our way to Shinra Banshou.
Once there, we were welcomed by the usual reception man.
And as usual, the paper lantern and watch fires illuminated our way inside. Bruce seemed to have gotten used to it, perhaps due to him having gone to the red light district before.
In the front of our reserved room, the man slid open the door, revealing Gaston, sitting with his arms and legs crossed.
“Ngh – Aren’t you one of The Silver…?”
Before answering him, Bruce and I knelt down beside his seat.
“It’s been a while since we last met, Sir Gaston. I’m Bruce of The Silver.”
“Sir Gaston, I reckon I’ll need Bruce for today’s discussion as well, so I’ve brought him along.”
“Oh-ho… I understand. Have a seat.”
And now that we finally got ourselves seated, Pochi proceeded to sit behind me, as per the usual.
So, two layers of wall for you today, eh, Pochi?
“First, Asley, let me congratulate you for your Friendly Match performance today. Here, have a drink. Surely you’ve drunk at least somewhat, considering your age?”
“Pardon our interruption. Your ordered items have arrived.”
While Gaston was pouring us liquor, a voice came from the other side of the door reporting that his food was being served. Gaston permitted the server entrance, and some appetizer-like vegetable dishes were arranged on the table. They were decorated with thin cuts of fresh meat, making them look quite appetizing.
And I think I just heard some loud sound from behind me. My Familiar’s stomach, perhaps.
“Are you hungry, little girl?”
“Mmm… I’m feeling peckish, but I’ll be fine, sir! Mmm…”
“……Do you want something to eat?”
“Well~~ If you insist~~ then I’ll have no choice but to partake in this meal~~”
Right, I almost forgot that I was the host this time around. We sure kept him waiting, huh.
“Heh heh heh, always an amusing girl. Here, give this a try.”
I put some vegetables on a small plate, and then Gaston took and placed it on the floor beside him.
Pochi, wagging her tails happily, went up to Gaston’s side and sat down.
Yeah, those walls of her were pretty thin.
Afterwards, as the soup, fish, and meat dishes were served, Gaston made sure that Pochi got a taste of them as well.
All the while, everyone chuckled at how Pochi looked so ‘wild’, with her mouth smeared with red sauce.
“Does it look good on her!?”
…That particular joke I cracked made Gaston laugh so hard that he had a coughing fit.
I never quite expected him to be such a good-humored old man once I got to know him better. It seemed that quite a massive barrier had been erected between us at first, courtesy of his social status.
I couldn’t tell whether Gaston was truly entertained, but seeing him open up and smile more made me figure that he must be satisfied in one way or another.
“…Hmm. You’ve gotten good at this, haven’t you, young man?”
“Good for you, man.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Now, to the main topic. You said you had something to discuss with me?”
Gaston took a sip of tea and straightened his face up.
That very moment was when the old man changed back to being one of the Six Archmages. And Pochi, presumably sensing a tone shift for once, stepped back to settle herself down behind me.
“First, Sir Gaston, we have a request to make… That is, for a place that offers employment.”
“At least you got your asking tone right. Still, employment? The only place I can offer is the Magic Guardians. I can’t possibly let all those girls from the District in…”
“In this case, I’m requesting posts only for the particularly excellent ones among them. Not for mages nor warriors, mind you.”
Gaston’s eyebrows twitched.
And in turn, Pochi looked as if a chill had run down her spine.
“All the more reason we can’t take them. The Magic Guardians, employ those who aren’t mages nor warriors? Even if I permit it, the Nation certainly won’t.”
I see, I see… From what I’m observing, Gaston seems to have a positive attitude toward this matter.
“What’re you on about, Asley?”
“I’m sure there will be some who wants to be mages or warriors. But in that case, their specialties will be considered as well. After they reach the appropriate age, they can be enrolled in the Magic or Warrior University. The request I’d like to make is for specialists in other fields. I can guarantee that their physical strength will be above average, at the very least.”
“Specialists for other fields, eh?”
“I plan to train the girls to be office specialists, you see. Considering that their housework skills are a given, I’ll be selecting those with additional aptitude for accounting, troop time management, and combat, and send them your way. I understand that it’s a dangerous place, of course. They’ll be from those, who agree.”
“I see… I’ll admit that our forces are under pretty sloppy management. Having specialists among us would let us focus our energy on combat and expedition. It’s worth considering.”
“Thank you very much, sir.”
“But in the end, that will cover for only a select few, right? What of the rest? And how would you keep providing for them? With the money you made off the old lady, you’ll last no more than a year or worse. And surely you’ll overwork yourself even sooner, won’t you?”