“Puppet Monarch…? First I’ve heard of it. Miss Irene and Sir Gaston never said anything along those lines, at least. So… what about that man they call ‘Grey’?”
“Oh-ho, you sure know a lot for a first-year dropout… I assume you’ve heard it all from Miss Irene?”
Right, Irene did tell me most of it. Both the subject matter and the fact that they’re only taught around the sophomore and junior years.
Since I’d been dropped out toward the end of my freshman year, I reckon Warren had planned to explain that to me as well.
Also, by this time, Jennifer has begun to examine the muscles along my spine.
“Simply put, War Demon Emperor Vaas is being manipulated by Grey. Many factors play into the big picture, but in general, Grey is far too powerful and influential for anyone to stop him. The Nation’s current running system is ridiculously well-ordered, as you can see. The general populace has no particular dissatisfaction, and governing officials only have to turn a blind eye to a petty transgression or two to go on peacefully with their lives. The Duodecad Conference acts as a symbol of trust for the people. The duty of governing falls to Ishtar of the Black and Lloyd of the White. The governing functions carried out by their subordinates could be considered sufficient, too.”
“Then why? This might be insensitive on my part, but doesn’t the Nation sound perfectly well-off even with Grey as the actual ruler?”
Warren responded to my question first with a readjustment of his glasses.
“Have you not realized it, Asley? If all the things the Nation has been hiding were made public, the Nation would collapse overnight. The system runs on the mindset of ‘all that matters is that things are fine now,’ and that exactly is what brews greater fear for the future of those in the know. It is the case now more than ever…”
In other words, Grey is the one running the Devil King’s advance party?
Still, the way he spoke… sounded like he was hiding something and trying to persuade me.
What are the chances of Warren being aware of the Devil King’s imminent resurrection? Did the Devine Messenger appear to him as well?
If that were the case, the Warren should’ve already known of all this two years ago.
Did he… get all this knowledge via other means? How in the world did he…? Or am I just misinterpreting this whole thing…
Gah… I don’t get it.
I scratched my head through that train of thought so much that I thought I would grow an idiot antenna. Despite that, Warren proceeded to elaborate on this point.
“Regrettably, there is not quite enough time to explain everything… But it is clear as day that there is something you must do – no matter what, Asley.”
“And… that is…?”
“Just once is fine… please head to the place of your beginning. I have… plans to be carried out there.”
The place… of MY beginning?
Now hol’ up a minute… what about the Rank-up Evaluation that I was originally here for? From how Warren spoke at first, I’d expected him to do something about it, but now it sounds like he’s telling me to ditch the thing?
If that is so, then I’d have to think up some other plans for myself… Man, I sure have been screwed around with so much in just a single day.
This time, Warren passed a sheet of paper over to me. From how white it was and how it glowed, I could immediately tell that it was not just some household parchment.
“An Artifact I crafted. Use your magic to copy your request paper onto this, and it’ll automatically complete your quest. That’s all it can do, but if mishandled, I reckon it could turn the Guild’s quests system upside down.”
“Well, this thing does sound quite convenient…”
“Not quite. The most we could do is see beforehand when the request for our subjugation is issued. If the ones who come aren’t our enemies, then it is part of my job to make it so that neither parties are hurt. Well, we could do away with the more… simple subjects with some gold, but this time, our opponent is out of our league, so to speak. Considering that the Duodecad Conference is moving forward for our destruction now, we’ll have to relocate as quickly as possible. We plan to depart shortly after you leave here today, Asley.”
“I know your headcount is low, but why? Don’t you have any other place to hide?”
“All will be revealed at the place of your beginning, Asley.”
Warren only repeated that as his response to my questions.
What in the world could be there? While I pondered it over, Jennifer pointed her fingers at my eyes, ready to poke them – and then I stopped her at the last second.
“Ugh, can’t touch this, huh.”
“Seriously, Warren, what’s the deal with this woman?”
I turned to ask while holding Jennifer’s hand away, and saw that Warren was speaking with the cook, asking him to write down a copy of the stew recipe.
He even remembered to fulfill that request for me. Now that’s the kind of workplace integrity I’d expect from him.
Huh, Jennifer’s fist…… feels solid? Like, bony solid…? Bone… Fist… Jennifer… ah!
“Are you… Jennifer the Bone Fist, by any chance…?”
“What, you just realized that?”
Now this is a damn big deal! Jennifer, the Bone Fist of the Six Braves… just about anyone would know that name.
I’d heard that she’d once risen up in rebellion, but… oh, I see. Now that makes sense since she’d joined up with the Resistance.
But… then this would mean… huh?
“You’ve successfully voided your contracts with the Black and White Chain, haven’t you?”
Naturally, I had to ask them that first.
The Black And White Chain had established such a thing, and they did enforce it fully.
It was primarily so that no traitor would elude their sights. That was why I’d taken measures to avoid the contract, and got Lina away from it as well.
“You remember that I was the Student Council President, yes? I was the one to deliver every contract sheet to the Duodecad Conference. At the end of the day, all of them are kept in the Magic University. The door to them can’t be opened from the outside, but as the Student Council President, I was in charge of the place. That’s why I could search for our contract sheets and tear them up – plain and simple.”
“And that’s that! Anyways… sounds like you helped out my li’l bro quite a lot back in school, kid. Lemme thank you in his stead. “
“Ah, yes. You’re welcome.”
Huh, never would have thought these two were siblings… I mean, they’ve got the same black hair and fashion sense, but… they’re like, the complete opposite of each other.
Jennifer proceeded to sit herself on the table and pet Pochi’s head. With her foot.
Damn it, Pochi. You’d always get angry at me when I did that. Are you seriously just gonna let her do it?
“The knowledge is all open to the public now, but hardly anyone discussed it back when I was in school, you see. It’s only natural that not many would know at the time. Now, Asley, you ought to make the copy while you have the time.”
In accordance with the reminder, I used the Letter Edit spell to copy the contents of the request paper onto the white sheet. When I was done, the sheet glowed even brighter and turned into an identical copy of the original to its left.
Now THIS is an amazing Artifact. It actually became a pre-completed request paper. But…
“Looks like you still have reservations about this.”
“Of course I do. Wouldn’t it be dangerous if this got caught as fake?”
“There will be no issue, I assure you. We’re only tricking the Adventurers’ Guild, not the Duodecad Conference. Although it looks and works the way it does, the Guild is actually an independent organization. Not even the Nation’s Duodecad Conference can pry into their business that easily. Even if this were to reach Ishtar or Lloyd, they would write it off as a trifling matter and never make a major move… not just for this, at any rate. Simply report to the Adventurers’ Guild, and all will be fine, Asley.”
This guy sure has a way with his words. Still, if he’s THAT confident in what he says, then that’s probably how it’ll be. Telling lies is one thing he never does, after all. Some parts omitted, yes, but never outright lies. I rolled up the new request paper – and also the stew recipe – and stood to leave. The whole conversation had taken a few minutes under an hour. It was just about the right timing for me to return.
(Anna: I want that recipe too!)
First I notified Jennifer, who seemed quite satisfied at the sight of sparkling-‘clean’ empty stew plates courtesy of Pochi’s licking, before grabbing the half-asleep doggo by her neck and notifying Warren of my leave.
“One last thing, Asley.”
“…What is it?”
“We may live like this now, but it would do you good to know that we were of aristocratic origins. Quite a long-standing household, as a matter of fact – but it all collapsed ten-odd years ago.”
“Fulbright. I ask that you remember our name.”
The Fulbright household… I still have no idea what he meant to tell me, but sure, I’ll remember it.
It had been an hour that gave me more questions than it did answers, but I did feel a stroke of nostalgia upon my long-awaited, albeit unexpected, reunion with Warren. We went outside with Jennifer, who offered to see us off, and then I apologized to the six guards – who were now back in perfect shape, for the record – before leaving the Resistance’s hideout behind.
Astride the gigantified Pochi, I asked her the biggest question I had in my mind as we were on our way.
“Say, Pochi, you got any idea what he meant by ‘the place of my beginning’?”
“Wouldn’t that be where you set out on your journey from, sir?”
Aha…- wait, that’s it?