Translator: Silver Editor: Namorax
「Thanks Ninja Chiome」
The Holy Leburan Empire city of Kesseck was right in front of us.
With the mountain range extending towards the northwest, the straight and plain surface of the tall walls projected the impression of a rather sturdy citadel.
Since it stood in an important position near the border, the large town gave off an impressive atmosphere, with the small river that flew beside it and the impressive field that surrounded it.
We were coming from the eastern highway that connected Kesseck to Rhoden Kingdom, and under normal circumstances I imagine that the highway would be fairly busy, but the only other travelers were the few survivors of villages recently attacked by monsters.
As we approached the town, the peaceful scenery of the roads around Kesseck was disturbed by people who looked different from normal guards.
Each of them wore light armor in dull colors over long-sleeved uniforms and they carried an atmosphere similar to that of armed forces.
These strange individuals were keeping a close eye on everyone the guards let through the city gates. Since there weren’t many people on our highway, we easily stood out.
Considering that we were a dark elf and a skeleton knight under our hood and helmet, it’d be very bad if they decided to question us or force us to show our faces.
“It’d be for the best if we avoid entering through the front.”
Ariane shared my concerns and nodded.
Ariane and I circled the city in order to find a place with fewer guards and soldiers. Ponta had dozed off a while ago and was lightly snoring atop my head.
The soldiers were mostly focused on the city’s western side, and they would often go in and out of a small fort beside the city. It looked like the garrison had been built rather hastily, because it wasn’t all that sturdy and the city’s fortifications prevented them from seeing what was happening inside.
Avoiding that area, we walked towards the east of the city and used 【Dimensional step】 to first get on top of the wall and then inside the city.
While contemplating how familiar this way of entering places was becoming, I took a look around.
Contrary to the lack of people on the highway, the city was bursting with activity. Mixed among the common people were many soldiers out of armor.
Noticing that there were a lot of adventurers around, I breathed a sigh of relief. In this case I shouldn’t attract too much attention.
“While it’s good that we made it into the city, we still need to look for clues about Dorassos Du Barishimon’s location……”
Ariane gave me a look when I said that. Even if I said we should look for clues, the only thing we’d be doing was asking people around town about it and listening to merchants.
The Empire was different from Rhoden, and from what we’ve heard an elf would be captured immediately if discovered, so we have to avoid raising a ruckus here.
Since we couldn’t be so bold in our search, it’s best if we simply brought up viscount Barishimon’s name to move around out of the guard’s sight.
After stepping onto the main road, we made our way towards the open market.
It was an ideal place to gather information because we’d be able to stop and chat with merchants while still blending into the large crowd present.
Even as the smells of various foods drifted towards us, Ponta remained asleep. After removing the sleeping Ponta from my head and handing her to Ariane, I approached one of the food merchants.
The man was selling walnut-like nuts as his main product. It seemed to be a suitable food for travel and the nuts were sold by the pound.
“One pound please.”
The merchant had a friendly smile as he, in a practiced manner, scooped up some walnuts from a large sack full of them and placed then in a container.
“That’ll be 1 rie, mister.”
I had prepared to ask the merchant about viscount Barishimon when his words made me do a double-take. I couldn’t believe I failed to realize that the currency would change with the country.
I pulled out a gold coin from the pouch tied to my waist and handed it to the merchant.
“Sorry, but will this do?”
“Of course Rhoden gold coins are acceptable. 9 rie is your change.”
The merchant handed me nine silver coins with different engravings than the ones I’ve been using till now. The materials felt the same, but the engravings on the newer coins appeared to have been done with a more refined technique.
If the merchant was being honest, then the value of money wasn’t different from Rhoden, so I could feel a little bit relieved.
“Mister, is this your first time in Kesseck?”
“Ah, yes. In fact, I was wondering if you’ve heard of the Barishimon territory?”
While replying to the merchants, I brought up Barishimon’s name. In Rhoden, the feudal lords shared the name with their territories, so it shouldn’t be too suspicious to ask about the territory while really only being concerned about the noble that ruled it.
However, the merchant looked confused about something as he thought it over.
“The Barishimon territory? Sorry, but I’ve never heard of it.”
“I see, sorry to bother you then.”
After that, I began to ask other merchants in the same manner about the Barishimon territory, but immediately hit a wall.
“Didn’t think that we wouldn’t find anything at all……”
We were off to the side of the main road as I complained and cracked a walnut in my hand and gave it to Ariane. Ariane held the walnut in her hand, so Ponta could happily gnaw on it and she could blissfully pat Ponta’s head.
If you think about it, not every noble would have their own territory. It was also highly probable that the general public wouldn’t know a specific noble’s name, considering how un-communicative this world was.
I was at a loss, and just as I was struggling to find out what to do, someone called us out from behind.
“You seem to be having a bit of trouble.”
When I looked back I saw a familiar person calmly looking in our direction. I last saw this person in the Rhoden Kingdom’s capital.
Her head was covered by a large hat, she had short cut black hair and blue eyes and she was dressed in black clothes that allowed easy movement. Despite her being only 150cm tall, any notions of her being just a city girl were destroyed by her arm- and leg-guards and the dagger on her waist.
“Wha-, Chiome-dono!? What are you doing here?”
It was Chiome of the Blade Heart Clan, a companion in freeing the People of the Plains and Mountains from the capital.
Ariane looked a little surprised when she saw her.
“After parting with you, I returned to the hidden village and received a new mission from the head. I was ordered to find you Arc-dono, so I came here. I thought that this would be the first city you would visit to search for your target, and it seems my hunch was correct.”
Chiome spoke in a monotonous voice.
Although this city wasn’t as large as Lanbaltic, it was still pretty big. I was half amazed and half jealous of her ability to find someone in this place.
“Hmm, do you have another request? Like I said before, my job with Ariane hasn’t ended, so I’d appreciate it if you could wait for a little while.”
Chiome nodded as if she understood what I was saying before looking at Ariane.
“I will save my request until Arc-dono finishes your request, Ariane-dono. However, since time is of the essence I would like to offer my aid to you despite my poor ability.”
When the hand Ariane was feeding Ponta with stopped, Ponta tilted her head and looked up at her.
“I don’t have any objections……”
I turned to Ariane when she said that.
“With Chiome-chan’s help we should be able to finish our mission faster than we would be on our own……”
“No negotiations? Well, I’ve already inspected the territory of the person you’re looking for.”
Chiome said so while boastfully sticking out her chest. Espionage was a ninja’s expertise and she was able to show how useful she’d be right as our search hit a dead-end.
“Hoo, you already conducted an investigation? Where is he?”
When I asked Chiome about viscount Barishimon, she pointed in the northern direction.
“North from here, in the Leibnitz territory, in a city alongside the Shiana mountain range.”
“Leibnitz? That’s an entirely different name, it viscount Barishimon a retainer of the territory’s lord?”
“No, viscount Barishimon is the lord of the Leibnitz territory. In the Holy Leburan Empire, the emperor can have the feudal lord changed with a single order. Since the lord that governs the territory can change multiple times in an emperor’s life, the names of the territory and its lord don’t match often.”
In other words, this country was ruled by an absolute monarchy.
“Furthermore, the Leburan Empire which preceded the Western and Eastern variants was a rather large country, and the names of the territory has remained the same since before the split.”
Ariane and I were listening to Chiome as she gave her explanation when she pointed towards us as if she remembered something.
“That right. Arc-dono and Ariane-dono, you two can’t show your faces in public, can you?”
Ariane and I look at each other before nodding in response.
“Then let’s say I hired you two to be my personal bodyguards.”
I looked to Ariane to find that she was confused by Chiome’s offer.
“Only adventurers belonging to one of the sanctioned mercenary corporations are allowed in the empire. Thanks to that, adventurers only receive light questioning when traveling between cities.”
There’d be no way that we could undergo an interrogation with a helmet and hood on, so we’d be forced to flee and our future actions would be restricted.
It was only natural that plans change in different locations and I was more than grateful for Chiome’s presence, for neither Ariane nor I knew how things worked here.
“Should we depart for the Leibnitz territory right now?”
While patting Ponta’s head, Ariane looked at us and waited, but Chiome shook her head no.
“No, even by carriage it’ll take three or four days to reach the Leibnitz territory. If we left right now I’d only have enough money for half of the journey. Since we’d attract attention in small villages, we’ll need to stick to the large cities.”
Chiome wasn’t necessarily wrong… and besides, the sky was beginning to give way to dusk. Since we spent so much effort getting into the city, we might as well stay for the night and set out for Leibnitz territory tomorrow.
The three or four-day journey should be reduced to half a day at most using 【Dimensional Step】.
“Then, I guess we should look for an inn for the night? Since this is a rather beautiful neighborhood, we should be able to find a nice small inn.”
As I said that, I was looking at the houses that lined the inn, but Chiome shook her head.
“There’s a church of the Hiruku religion in the neighborhood, so it would be better if we didn’t stay here. There’s a decent inn near the slightly dangerous northeastern district. Please follow me.”
She seemed quite familiar with the city’s layout, so Ariane and I followed her since she hadn’t given us any reason to doubt her.
As we made our way towards the northeastern district on the main road, a large solemn building came into view. There was a bell tower on both sides of the large entrance and murals etched into the walls. Above the entrance of the building was the symbol of a Buddhist-like vajra.
The building was better constructed and taller than those around it.
“Would that happen to be the Hiruku church?”
I asked Chiome that question as we walked past the church.
“That’s right. The Hiruku religion is deeply rooted in both the Eastern and Western empires, and it follows a doctrine of human supremacy. According to their teachings, the People of the Plains and Mountains, the elves, and the dwarves are wicked beings whose blood has been tainted by devils.”
That’s quite the violent doctrine. Any place following the Hiruku religion was bound to be unpleasant for Ariane and Chiome.
Ariane knitted her eyebrows under her hood in disgust as she looked back at the church.
“Does the Rhoden Kingdom also subscribe to the Hiruku religion?”
I asked that question in curiosity. The people of the plains and mountains like Chiome were persecuted in Rhoden Kingdom, while the elves were technically on equal footing with humans according to their treaty.
” Rhoden kingdom doesn’t adhere to the Hiruku religion. A polytheistic religion is tied into the country’s founding and the royal family bans Hiruku missionaries even to this day. However, there’s only a marginal difference between it and the Hiruku religion, my people are despised as beasts born from copulation with monsters, while elves are swindlers that deceived the gods to obtain a few blessings.”
“What!? That’s a lie!”
Ariane shouted in indignation at Chiome’s explanation. Chiome quickly pacified Ariane with a hand gesture. Ariane was so angry that she was slightly crushing Ponta against the twin peaks of her chest.
“That’s nothing but jealousy for our longevity and our better skill at handling magic.”
If people believed in blessings of gods, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine that elves had unjustly received some through sly trickery. An all too human view of the world, really.
Chiome did her best to pacify the angry Ariane and we ended our day finding an inn to stay in.