“For tonight’s dinner, we have fish tartare garnished with herbs as the starter. The main dish is roasted meat served with fruit wine and blackcurrant sauce. After that, we have a salad made from wild forest pickings. I was gifted some choice figs from the dining hall, so I thought to make compote for dessert.”
In her room at the girls’ dorm of the magic academy, milady is sitting at a table full of food I’ve made and served. She stiffly nods with cutleries in hand.
It has been three days since I became milady’s provisional Partner. She was quite shy at first, but she has since then gotten used to my presence. I’ve also moved out of the guest room and into the servant’s room, the one connected to milady’s own.
Ever since milady allowed me to take care of her, I’ve been making use of all the knowledge and skills that the Maid Chief had taught me, especially when it comes to cooking for her. And since milady seems to have been making her own food all this time (even as clumsy as she is), she has been looking very happy these days.
“Lady Sharon, is it not to your liking?”
“No, not that! Letty’s cooking is always the best!”
Milady says, jumping up from her chair. But then she immediately looks back toward the food, looking worried.
“Just… how much did you have to pay for all these?”
From what I’ve heard, the lowlives at her home have been treating her rather coldly, and milady was forced to watch her spending as a result.
The noble children going to this school all have servants with them, courtesy of their families. Yet milady has nobody: no butlers, no maids, not even any cooks. While her esteemed younger brother only brought along a maid and a manservant, they also have the extravagant funds to get chefs from outside the school to make them food.
…maybe I should pay them a visit.
Me? As Foreigners summoned from another world, I and the rest of my class can eat at the school’s dining hall for free until we decide on a Partner. We also receive clothing and other living supplies from the country, and they even give us three gold coins a month as ‘living allowance’.
A single gold coin comes to about one hundred thousand Japanese yen. That means we get three hundred thousand yen a month. Quite generous, I must say.
Well, they did kidnap us through dimensions. I suppose it’s the least they could do.
At any rate, it means that since I’m still just a provisional Partner, I can apply for the three gold coins allowance. But a while ago, when I was about to do that to get the money for our food and other supplies, milady scolded me.
“I expect nothing less from lady Sharon,” I told her then. “Milady is blessed with such integrity that rivals the size of your chest.”
Then she whacked me with her slipper.
Anyway, back to the present.
“Yes, milady, this meal costs almost nothing.”
“…mm???” She exclaims in open-mouthed puzzlement. How cute.
“There is a rather large forest to the west of the city, just a short walk away. It is where I have collected the wild ingredients and hunted the meat for this meal.”
“The forest to the west… wait, hold on, isn’t that the Dark Woods?!”
My? Milady’s face has gone pale. I wonder why.
“T-that place is full of monsters! It’s dangerous!”
“Is that so, milady? It would explain why the strange-looking giant caterpillars and centipedes had been hostile. I was fortunate that there had been so many to hunt.”
“…eh? …then, you mean…”
Milady looks down on the meat she has been eating with unease.
“Indeed, milady. The roast was made from the centipedes and the caterpillars. The tartare was made from fishmen. I made the salad by mincing the carnivorous plants. Of course, I have already done the cleaning of residual mana from the ingredients, so milady has no need to worry.”
There is a lot of meat walking around the city on two legs, but even I know it’s not fit to serve to milady. I’m not so indiscriminate.
By the way, milady has been looking rather green ever since I told her about the perfectly good ingredients I got. She’s holding a hand to her mouth.
Goodness, did the monster meat not agree with her constitution? I hurry toward her to rub her back, but she raises a slipper to slap at me the moment I get close, her eyes wet and her brows scrunched up. The slipper is accompanied with an adorable squeak of effort.
What a relief, she seems quite energetic. However, I can’t just keep getting hit time after time like this.
I let milady’s strike whiff past me and strike a pose like a certain yellow-jumpsuit-clad man. I bounce on my feet, wiping a thumb on my lips even though they aren’t even bleeding, and I wag my finger. Milady releases a fierce cry of outrage and charges at me with slippers in both hands.
Our relationship-building exercise lasts all the way until the next morning.
“I’m going to the dungeon!”
Milady says, after waking up from a nap from morning until noon. There are a few dark circles under her eyes, but she seems quite lively.
There’s no school today. This country is similar to Earth in that they also have seven days in a week, and that one day is set aside as a rest day.
“Understood, milady. I shall wait for your return.” I say, bowing respectfully.
Milady’s shoulders tremble.
“L-Letty…? Are you not coming with me?”
She looks at me like an abandoned puppy.
Although Lady Sharon is one year older than me, she is slightly shorter in height. That means that whenever she gets affectionate, she automatically makes this extremely unfair upturned-eyes look. She doesn’t even seem aware she’s doing it.
“Would my presence be acceptable then, milady?”
“We’re not going to class, it’s fine… come with me, please?” Milady asks, sounding almost like a child begging.
“Understood, milady.” I reply with a nod and a grin veering on being excessive.
And so the two of us stand together to face a terrible threat looming upon us: a lack of food funds.
Dungeons exist in this world. Not only that, they’re even considered to be a crucial aspect of civilization.
The dungeons of this world aren’t ruins, labyrinths, or any sort of man-made structures. They’re simply just a type of monster.
From what I heard, their origin was a sort of ‘hermit crab’ that had transformed into a monster. Upon their births, the monsters called ‘dungeons’ would burrow into the ground, consuming the nutrients and minerals inside the earth to create an extremely sturdy cave system.
The cave system would then release a slight amount of mana to attract other monsters, and in return the dungeon would live by absorbing the excess lifeforce and magic power of the monsters that had come to live inside it. Dungeons themselves were rather benign monsters, all in all.
Then things changed about a thousand years ago.
The humans at the time had known that the exposed minerals and metals generated in the walls of dungeons were of extremely high purity, and they began to kill the monsters in the dungeon and mine the precious metals.
This had brought changes to the dungeons themselves.
As humans fought with monsters inside dungeons, their injuries and deaths would then release lifeforce and magic power of high purity for the dungeon to absorb. The older a dungeon was, the larger it grew.
Dungeons had ‘evolved’, in a manner of speaking. They had even acquired the ability to read the remnant memories of dead creatures inside them, and in time, they began to turn their ‘shell’ into stone hallways as they looked upon the knowledge of humans, creating weapons and other pieces of equipment with forms and qualities that would appeal to humans. Dungeons no longer attracted only monsters; they had learned to attract humans.
Dungeons used items, minerals, precious metals, and other such valuables to lure in humans, getting them to fight the monsters living inside their shells and harvesting lifeforce and magic power.
Humans went inside dungeons to gather not only valuable minerals and items, but also monster materials and even combat experience for their soldiers.
And so it came to be that the humans of this world entered a relationship of mutual benefit with the dungeons. Symbiosis.
Here ended the exposition.
Right now, milady and I are heading for the eastern side of the city, where the Third Dungeon of the Kingdom is.
Milady isn’t wearing her uniform today. She has on a cheap-looking set of leather armor instead.
“Geez, it’s what the school gives me! I can’t help it!”
“Indeed. As financially-challenged as we are, I understand that a new set of armor would be the height of luxuries.”
“…you’re not wrong, but somehow I’m feeling really irritated right now.”
Oh no, I did not mean anything by that. Please believe this maid, milady.
Speaking of which, at first I thought the nobles here would be like the kind I often see in fiction, people who bring along a huge procession of guards and horse carriages whenever they go out. In this world, however, it’s not rare to see nobles coasting around town with just a single carriage and coachman to accompany them. Even people of high nobility do the same thing.
I suppose it goes to show how safe this city is, the slums excepting. It seems it wasn’t because milady was exceptionally poor that she went alone to the commoners’ shopping district.
“…Letty, did you just think something weird?”
“Milady, is it true what they say, that people with bigger breasts are worse at math?”
“What has that got to do with anything?! Geez, come on, look, we’re here. It’s the Explorer’s Guild.”
Distraction successful, it seems.
By the way, readers, do you need me to explain about the Explorer’s Guild too?… fine.
The Explorer’s Guild is a government department that oversees the dungeons. They also buys dungeon items and monster materials. As people entering dungeons can range from individuals to organized mining groups working for a business, supervision is of the utmost necessity.
Lady Sharon, too, has done her registration back when she was a third-year as a part of the school’s curriculum.
One may wonder why a noble such as milady would risk herself so. The answer is that since the noble caste of this country were descended from powerful people of ages past, beside the typical responsibilities expected of them, they also have an obligation to dive into dungeons and bring back for the country items of qualities commensurate to their noble rank.
Milady’s own family, a marquis house, has often been the target of ridicule from the other noble houses, the only exceptions being the rare times they managed to bring back rare items from the dungeon’s lower floors. They’ve lost quite a bit of dignity, I hear. Serves them right.
“Listen up, Letty. Even if we encounter some unpleasant characters inside, remember, our safety is the most important.”
“Yes? Ah, yes, understood.”
We’re a group of two girls. Will some fun happenings be waiting inside for us, then? Like, “Hey hey hey, this ain’t no place for spoiled little brats,” or maybe “Get over here and pour me a drink, girlies.”
No matter who or what may threaten us, I shall swear on my name of Fleurety, the maid lieutenant-general, that they will be reduced to atoms before they could befoul milady with their touch.
We enter the Guild. Turns out the building isn’t the kind that also doubles as a tavern, one that has drunkards lolling around all over the place. Instead, it looks like a modern city hall with its white plaster walls and smooth stone floor.
“Hold on, Letty, why do you look disappointed?”
“I was thinking that the facility seems cleaner than I expected, milady.”
“At any rate, let’s take a look at what’s available. I hope there’s a trading firm somewhere posting mass requests…”
Milady’s shoulders faintly tremble upon hearing the voice. She doesn’t move, so I turn to look in her place and see three boys and three girls, all wearing very familiar attire. They gaze at us with varying expressions.
Aah, I see. Unpleasant characters indeed.
“Hey, Fleurety. Get away from that girl. Your place is next to me.”
The one to have called at me was Karl, that boy who made a fuss the other day.
And the girls, no wonder they look familiar. The three girls wearing the uniforms of that middle school are exactly those classmates of mine who have pushed me down the cliff. “Crap, it’s Kamishiro,” they whisper the moment they catch sight of me.
Is this a group date? Quite poor taste they have, both the boys and girls.
Well, the girls aside, Karl is still nominally milady’s friend from school at least. As her maid, I am required to maintain a certain level of respect.
“My apologies. I am lady Sharon’s maid at the moment.”
“Y-yes, that’s right, L-Letty is my P-Partner!”
Milady’s operating system has finally rebooted. She fire back at Karl, sounding as imposing as a three-year-old with a speech impediment.
“Hah, please. It’s not even official yet. Come on, Fleurety, stop staying with that idiot girl. She’s so poor she can’t even get anything better than those cheap leathery rags. Be my woman and I promise you, you’ll live like a queen.”
…should I turn him into fertilizer?
And he’s even making advances to me despite the three girls still standing right next to him. Does he not notice them glaring at both me and him?
“That’s enough. Calm down, both of you.”
Again? The men of this world just have to be in the limelight all the time, it seems. So tiresome.
So the newcomer is, surprise, his Highness Joel. I didn’t expect to meet the second prince of the country here, of all places… does he have too much time on his hand?
He has along an entourage of several imperial knights, as I expected. He is royalty, after all, and he can’t afford to go without bodyguards like nobles do.
“Karl, I see that several of the ladies are with you. You would do well not to attract any unwanted trouble.”
“Karl! That attitude is unacceptable!”
“Shut up, brother! This doesn’t concern you!”
“Andy, Karl, stop. I am telling you to calm down.”
Apparently that one imperial knight is here too. Honestly, they’re all the same to me, prince or not.
“How about you, Sharon? I understand you might have much to say…”
“…no, your Highness. I have no objections.”
“I see…” His Highness Joel replies curtly, nodding to milady and turning away to walk toward the guild’s reception desk. Karl does a mock spit at milady and leaves the guild, his arms wrapped around the three girls’ shoulders.
Milady’s face is looking quite tense again.
Which reminds me, milady is one of his Highness Joel’s fiancee candidates, isn’t she? Is she being nervous? We should get a move on before she destabilizes and returns to her habit of sounding high-handed again.
“Excuse me, lady Sharon…”
That one imperial knight came back again, and he calls for milady. I suppose they would know each other, considering they’re both of marquis families.
“It has been a long time since we can talk like this, hasn’t it? I apologize for my brother.”
“N-no, please pay it no mind. Besides, I must also thank you for your kindness the other day…” Milady says, her face turning red in agitation. She seems rather flustered…
…oh my? Might it be?
Milady’s heart-to-heart needs no intruder, so I decide to relegate myself to the role of observer. I erase my presence and move away without making a sound, climbing up the wall and clinging to the ceiling to watch over the pair.
Hush now, little baby over there. Don’t point your finger at people, that’s rude. Ssshhh.
And then, to add to the atmosphere, I begin to hum a romantic tune.
“Your birth mother, lady Kyria, had accepted me as her student during her time as an imperial knight. And yet… lady Sharon, if there is anything I can do for you, please tell me.”
“Thank you, sir Andy, for taking such good care of me just because I was her daughter…”
“No, lady Sharon, you are not just her daughter to me. Both I and my brother have known you ever since your childhood, after all. I still can’t believe Karl would take such an attitude to you… and worse still that he would treat you so, when you are a fiancee candidate to his Highness.”
Milady’s expression hardens once again, and she clams up. Sir Andy gives her a bow and return to his Highness’ side.
I stop humming the romantic tune to instead switch over to something more melancholic to fit milady’s current mood. She finally realizes the background music and looks up, her mouth agape upon finding me.
I jump from the four-meters high ceiling and land without making a sound, gracefully dropping into a bow right in front of milady.
Hush now, that staff member over there, I don’t need the applause.
“Letty-why-how were you there?!”
“Because I am a maid, milady.” I proudly answer.
Milady doesn’t seem to be satisfied, for some reason.
“Tsk, that bitch’s getting a big head on her.”
“I can’t imagine why his Highness Joel could have picked her as a fiancee candidate.”
“And what’s up with Kamishiro? Such a stupid look.”
“She’s getting cocky too.”
As the group moved away from the guild, Karl’s two male underlings plus Botan and Denko, two of the middle-school girls, launched into a stream of disparagement with surprising coordination.
Meanwhile, the group leader himself was behind them. Karl walked in silence, every single one of his steps radiating a displeasure of unknown reasons. Nobody dared to be the first to make conversation with him.
Walking next to him was Hina, one of the summoned students. She was deep in thought.
On that day, Hina was the one to have thought of the ‘prank’ to push Kamishiro, the girl who had been a thorn in her eyes, down the cliff.
Hina used to go to the same primary school as Hao. She had looked up to him ever since they were children. It wasn’t even a crush; she liked him the same way one might like an idol on the other side of a screen, that was all.
Upon entering middle school, when she first met the girl named Kamishiro, she saw the face the girl hid behind her bangs only by sheer chance. Hina’s own appearance still made her look a bit like a child, and she longed to have the kind of figure and beauty that Kamishiro had.
Hina was envious.
And it irked her that the target of her envy continued to hide behind that curtain of hair, with head always hung low. And when Hao and Sei started trying to talk to the lonely-looking girl, Hina’s envy turned into hatred.
“Hey… you don’t like that either, right?” Hina said to the boy next to her.
“What?” Karl growled.
Hina almost shrunk back, but she swallowed her nervousness and proposed her idea.
“Then… wanna lend me a hand?”
A/N: The most dangerous threat that the young lady and her maid faced was their food expense.