“Yep, I knew it. Red looks good on you. Your white skin and hair really make those blood-red eyes pop out.” Seeing me in a complete ensemble, Tiz nodded in satisfaction.
“…thanks.” I replied tersely.
Twenty-two days of borrowed time left.
When we arrived at the station in Trestan’s capital last evening, we were greeted by over a dozen of Tiz’s subordinates and knights.
If the whole group had gone, they would’ve had to rent out the entire train. Looked like whoever handled the whole thing knew how much was too much. Which meant it must have been the butler, not Tiz.
The day after, which was today, the clothing arrived at the high-class inn we were staying at. No one had even come to measure my sizes, yet they all fit perfectly.
I was wearing a high-quality-looking white peasant blouse, with a black, knee-length pleated skirt and black leather ankle boots.
And covering all of them was a snug hooded coat in a calming dark-red shade. No matter how you slice it, I was pretty much Red Riding Hood here.
How had things come to this? I recalled the events of yesterday, when I was still on the train.
Tiz had gotten bored being cooped up in a train for a whole day, which meant I was in his guest room for his entertainment. Salia was still standing guard in front of the door. On papers, I was his ‘servant’, but I didn’t care to change my attitude, and Tiz hadn’t said anything about it either. Which was the last straw that pushed Salia over the edge. She snapped at me.
“How long do you plan on hiding in that rag? Show some respect. It’s sweltering just seeing you still inside that coat even indoor.”
I wholeheartedly agreed. But it wasn’t like I was wearing this because I liked it. If Tiz found out about my ears here, he’d probably burst into laughter and then promptly proceed to enslave me as his toy.
Normally if that happened, I’d just have to evaporate all the train’s passengers, but Tiz here had nearly 800 combat power. Even silly Salia had around 400. The other knights had around 200 power too, so fighting them head-on would be quite messy. I supposed the crux would lie in how fast I could deal with Salia first…
I looked at her in my deliberations. She jolted in a bit of fright.
“W-What’s that look for?! I only spoke the tru-”
“Stop it, Salia. You too, Shedy. If it actually comes to blows, I’m not going to stop you two, but you should know she’s a magic knight. Despite what you may think, she’s quite capable.” Tiz interrupted in an attempt to mediate.
“Is that so…”
So she was more magical than martial? I supposed her weapon did have some powerful enchantment. She might prove to be a lot more troublesome to me than I first thought.
I showed no signs of wanting to make amends, and the same went for her. Then Tiz started speaking, looking like he just thought of a new game.
“That reminded me, you have quite high magic too, Shedy. And judging from your combat power, you use that magic for spellcasting, right? I didn’t think a little girl traveling alone would be weak. Perhaps there’s a secret hidden in that coat?”
He threw a sharp gaze at the part of my head I’d been hiding.
I sighed and began my prepared excuse. I pointed to his arms.
“Hmm? What do you mean by that?”
“My skin’s too white, I’m weak to light. Even this much light indoor’s already enough to hurt my eyes.”
The lack of pigment made me quite sensitive to all sorts of light. Unlike before, it was only a trivial problem now, but the lighting in this train – were they magical too? – was about the same brightness as modern Earth’s.
After a few moments thinking, Tiz nodded and promptly rang the bell near his hand.
“Gramps, make sure there’s a hooded coat when you prepare her clothes. A blood-red one would be good.”
Was he messing with me…?
He was some sort of big-shot noble, right? Would this be within his means?
Right now, I was helping out with the preparations for tomorrow’s auction. I was managing his luggage, which was one of the responsibilities of his servants. Even if I was just one on paper.
“Shedy, can you hide weapons?”
“Yeah. The official rules said you’re not allowed weapons in. However, there’ll be incognito nobles from other countries like me at the auction, plus people from the underworld too. And you can ban weapons, but you can’t ban magic. There’ll be quite a few attendees secretly armed.”
“…as long as it’s not too big. By the way, which country’s noble are you?”
“Hah, curious? I’ll tell you if you become my servant for real.”
“Not really… just thought you’re quite young to be the… what was it… the current head, right?”
“Mmm, well… I supposed. And I’m already twenty-seven, I’m not that young anymore. It’s not an uncommon age for a family head.”
“…I really thought you were younger.”
“Is that so? …right, I see. So there’s this thing I heard, that apparently high magic tends to make you age slower. This probably happens less often in commoner families, though. Also, kids grow up quickly, so maybe that’s why I thought you suddenly looked older.”
“Umm, yeah, must be…”
Tiz began comparing the sidearms the knights brought over. Midway through, he seemed to have gotten bored. He picked a few daggers with small magic stones inserted.
“Let’s just get whatever. Pack these, Shedy.”
…I was running out of bandit daggers, so maybe it was about time for a resupply. Well, with my Rank-up, it’s not like I needed weapons anymore anyway.
[Shedy] [Race: Mistral] [Lesser Demon (High-Rank)] ・The demon of bewitching mist that dances upon the northern seas. A canny spiritual lifeform. [Magic Points: 1100/1100] [Total Combat Power: 1210/1210] [Unique Skill: <Reroll> <Cyber-Manipulation> ] [Racial Skill: Fear] [Simple Identification] [Humanoid Form (Master)] [Specialist Packer]
My power hadn’t changed a bit. I hadn’t had a single fight after entering the town, after all.
And even after booking rooms in the capital’s inn, I was pretty much on light house arrest. The only exceptions were whenever Tiz got bored and called for me.
His group rented out the whole top and near-top floors, while I was given a room in the floor below those two. My room wasn’t as opulent as theirs, but it was still pretty much heaven compared to the slum that was the orphanage’s room packed with bunk beds.
I always had an accompanying knight to, as they said, ‘watch over’ me. On Salia’s or the butler’s orders, perhaps. Their trust did not come with Tiz’s approval, it seemed.
Sure, I could disperse into mist and escape from the third-floor windows. However, I thought doing what could be done at the moment was better than simply hunting thugs at night, which would just cause a commotion and make the security even tighter than it already was.
Sharp, around three-centimeters claws grew from my fingertips. Their red coloring might be due to me imagining them coming from my body. This discovery came as a result of my experimentation with my mist form, and one of the things I tried was to see if the arms I created while dispersed could have sharp tips or not.
I believed these claws came to be because I had wanted a way to fight in human form when I was Ranking-up.
I said ‘house arrest’, but I had my hands full with important things like power experimentation and playing with Blobsy, so I didn’t mind. However, whenever I came out for food or because Tiz was bored, Salia was always there to glare at me with killing intent. Irritating.
…was she jealous?
The next day, the day of the auction. Tiz’s group was going to leave in the morning. With me, obviously. Tiz would still have his bodyguards until we get inside, where he would be allowed only three other accompanying people.
Those three were the bodyguard Salia, the butler, and finally, me. Salia was expressing her disagreement about my inclusion even until now, which earned her another scolding from Tiz. Then she’d glare at me again. So annoying.
The auction was held in a public hall. It looked sort of like a concert hall. I could see the royal castle from here.
“Don’t get yourself lost, Shedy.”
We headed right for one of the second-floor personal booths. Tiz sure was made of money. Right after we sat down, he started talking with the butler about their bidding plans.
“The yellow magic stone can’t be the main show.”
“Indeed. In the end, it is but an unusual magic stone. Likely, it would not be all that expensive. I believe we should focus on getting the Quarancinq-made elixir instead.”
“And we don’t need the artistic stuff. Let’s see, what’s good among the magitools… hmm? Shedy, you wanna see too?”
Tiz noticed me reaching on tiptoes to see the list of items being auctioned. He gave me a spare list.
So the yellow magic stone would be… the second one in the afternoon. The third one seemed to be a magitool with an interesting effect. I was a bit curious. Salia looked curious too, since she was sneaking peeks from behind me.
“…hey, you. Take it over here, it’s brighter.”
The hall’s lighting were off, perhaps to create atmosphere. The tables all had stylish-looking candles instead.
“…why not just turn on the light? They should have kept them on until the auction started. Are they skimping on magic?”
“Hah, what a bumpkin. This is a royal capital with a Sapling, there’s no reason to be stingy. Especially this place. The hall has a direct magic pipeline from the castle, it’d never have a blackout.”
So the Sapling was in the castle, then… If I remembered correctly, 99 countries formed around the 99 Saplings, right? Perhaps the humans had a method to extract and distribute the magic from the Sapling everywhere throughout the country. It’d explain the abundance of magical energy that I saw.
“But that’s enough of that. Get us our weapons. Being unarmed makes me jittery.”
We’d handed over our weapons at the reception. Salia was fidgeting. Instead of the new weapons, I gave her one of the dingy daggers I took from the bandits. She scowled, but still took it reluctantly.
At that moment, a spotlight shone on the stage. An announcement rang out to signify the beginning of the auction.
“The magic sword from the Labyrinth of Segal had gone to number 56 with a bid of 10 large gold coins and 1 silver coin.”
That last silver was really petty.
There were a lot of people in the hall, but only around a hundred was participating. Morning bids were generally rather calm. The auction would only turn into a true arena for the rich in the afternoon, after lunch break was over.
People in normal seats either ate in the dining room or outside. However, apparently booth seats like ours can order food at the dining room to be brought to the table.
I couldn’t really eat, but my [Packer] level was high enough to store water. I could pretend to chew, then store the food instead.
The stored food would be set aside for Blobsy later on.
After finishing the meal, I left my seat.
“Shedy, where are you going?”
Tiz dismissively waved me off.
Both Salia and the butler weren’t showing any signs they’d follow me. They weren’t that obsessive, it seemed. I was finally free to act.
I walked out the bright hallway, skipped past the restroom, and went to the back of the hall’s ground floor. There, I saw stairs leading to the basement, and another hallway going deeper.
Which was the right path? I checked out the path leading deeper first, which led me to a metal door with two spear-wielding guards standing in front.
They stared at me, then knocked the butt ends of their spears on the ground.
“No one allowed after this point!”
“We won’t hold back if you approach any further, guest or not!”
I see. Indeed, security was strict. Seeing a kid didn’t loosen their vigilance in the least. I acted fearful and turned back. It seemed the basement was the right choice, instead.
If I forced my way through back there, it’d just raise a huge fuss. So I should do something about the strict security first.
The light dimmed as I went downstairs. I saw three shadows deep inside. They were playing cards, perhaps slacking off.
“There, a straight. That’s my win.”
“Aww hell, you gotta be kidding.”
“Hold on, are you cheating?”
“Like hell I am. Come on, gimme the five silvers.”
“Come on, man, it’s right before payday here. I’m broke as fuck.”
“Then how about this? You know we have a few chicks in the slave pen, right? Bring ‘em.”
“Whoa, you sure?”
“No one would know. Worst case scenario, if they get noisy, we can just off them. It’s just going to be an apology letter at most.”
“Alright, then I’ll-gah!” “Urgh-” “-argg!”
I snuck close in the cover of darkness and choked the men out in just a few moments, draining their life.
I saw words on the wall reading “Magic Routing Control”. Blobsy was left behind to clean up the corpses, while I ran in deeper.