Translator: Silver Editor: Namorax
「Harbor City Lanbaltic」Part 2
“Sorry for the wait, Ariane-dono. Let us resume our journey.”
When Ariane noticed me coming towards her, she immediately stopped rubbing her face against Ponta’s.
“That was the case.”
Picking my luggage sack off the ground, I gave Ariane a brief answer as we continued to Lanbaltic.
Looking at the sky, I saw that it had been growing dimmer and cloudier than it had been a while ago.
“It might rain soon……”
“Yeah, we’d better look for an inn when we reach Lanbaltic.”
When I expressed my concerns about the sky, Ariane looked up as well and agreed.
After moving quickly for a while, I invoked 【Dimensional Step】 until we advanced beyond several hills and came across one that overlooked a large city.
The city was spread along the coastal shore and surrounded by a large double canal waterway that led into the sea. The canal’s width varied in places and anything from rowboats to fishing ships could be seen traveling along it. The five-meter-high city wall built around the city wasn’t that tall compared to those of other cities, though.
From here, I could see several ships that were anchored in the large harbor that had been built on the coast. I could tell that the sea trade was the lifeblood of this city, but there wasn’t any sight of any large ships, only small- and medium-sized ones.
Sandwiched between the green fields and blue ocean were the contrasting chestnut brown rooftops of Lanbaltic’s cityscape. Unfortunately, the bad weather had drained the cityscape and scenery of its initial vitality.
We passed by a multitude of people and goods entering and leaving the city as we approached.
We soon stood in line for the city’s northern gate. The passage over the stone bridge was rather slow as we had to cross the great canal before we could pay the entrance tax.
The noise of people going about their business rose as a strong wind blew more clouds over the sky. The city was still relatively bright beyond the wall, although it was a little chaotic. Multiple alleyways were set up within close proximity of each other and many people dressed in rags could be seen sitting in on the ground of those alleys. The atmosphere here wasn’t that great despite the peace and order, as the extreme gap between rich and the poor could be seen everywhere.
As we walked along the main road, a large structure at the center of the town came into view. Many street stalls lined the interior of the structure and there were people constantly entering and leaving through the large door. I could even see customers buying and comparing goods at the stalls that lined the building.
This kind of permanent establishment reminded me of a department store. It was a type of open market I haven’t come across before, one that was easier for me to deal with.
The smell of various foods blended into one another, making Ponta struggle in Ariane’s arms when she caught a whiff of it.
“How about we grab something from over there.”
Ariane nodded in agreement after I made the suggestion and pointed out a nearby shop.
There was a stout middle-aged man that ran the shop while acting as a barker. He seemed to be selling a juice squeezed from an orange-like fruit. However, the juice was a red color.
“Excuse me, two please.”
“Thank you for your patronage! That’d be two sek.”
The shopkeeper floated a smile as he picked up a sack of fruit and took out a juicer.
“Two silvers? That’s really expensive.”
“No, Knight-sama. The price is halved if you return the cup.”
After slicing the fruit and putting the halves through the juicer, he poured the juice into a wooden cup.
It appears that the container was included in the price.
“I have a small question, would you happen to know where the lord’s residence is?”
“The Lord’s? If you take the street in front of this market, it should be across the first channel.”
The vendor put straws in the cups of juice and held them out. I paid the two silvers and took the drinks.
“Does your business at the feudal lord’s mansion have anything to do with his rumored bride?”
When I tilted my head after receiving the drinks the vendor was shocked.
“Eh? I thought you came to meet the elven princess that the feudal lord married……”
Ariane and I simultaneously glanced at each other when we heard the vendor’s answer. As expected, her eyes bulged in surprise. Her movement almost caused her hood to fall off but she quickly fixed it.
“Vendor, we’d like to hear the full details.”
“Eh, yes. About a month ago, the feudal lord announced the ceremony to the neighboring lords. I caught a glimpse of her riding a carriage at the event in question, she was rather beautiful.”
The vendor folded his arms and looked out in the distance as if he were seeing that day unfold all the while vigorously nodding his head.
“Was there anything around her neck? Something metal……”
Ariane stepped forward and question the vendor absorbed in his own emotions. She was asking about the 『Magic-Eating Collar』. It was a magic tool that made it impossible for the wearer to use magic. It was an essential device used to enslave elves as it greatly hinders the combat abilities of the magically gifted elves.
“No, she didn’t wear such a thing, did she? She did wear a luxurious hair ornament, though.”
The vendor twisted his head as he tried to remember the details as he talked. Ariane started at the vendor in wide-eyed disbelief, as if what she heard was impossible, but it wasn’t that strange to me.
If she had worn such a boorish metal collar in front of the neighboring lords and townspeople, it would have drawn too much suspicion during the whole event. Either the lord had other means of threatening her, or the elf woman agreed to the marriage out of her own volition.
“Would the name of the feudal lord that married her happen to be Londes De Lanbaltic?”
That was the name that was listed on the elf slave contracts taken from the slavering after all.
However, the vendor gave an unexpected answer.
“No, that was the former lord’s name. It is his son Petros that she married.”
“The lord changed?”
“Yes, about a month ago.”
Ariane and I shared another look with each other when we heard that answer.
A short time later, in a small corner of the marketplace.
I handed Ariane one of the cups of juice that I had been holding. She remained silent as she took it and brought the straw to her lips.
I copied her actions and drank the juice after putting the straw through one of the slits in my visor. Although it was lukewarm, the juice’s acidity and taste closely resembled orange juice, even though the juice was a bright red color and the acidity was rather high.
The fact that I could drink it through a straw with my armor on was convenient.
“Do you think that story was true?”
Ariane was the first to stop drinking her juice and started to talk. In her arms, Ponta was desperately trying to reach Ariane’s cup, but she was completely stuck in Ariane’s tight hug.
We had gone around asking people about the marriage the vendor had talked about, but everyone we asked had given us a similar story.
“The one that seemed to have bought the elf was the previous lord, and said elf is the current lord’s wife.”
I muttered a summarized version of the story and what we know.
The question was if the marriage was a forced one or a willing one. That was our current dilemma.
“It is illegal to enslave elves in this country, so I doubt anyone would have a wedding in plain view of the neighboring lords and townspeople if they were breaking that law……”
If we assume the possibility of coercion…
“Can the 『Magic-Eating Collar』 be attached to the ankle and still have the same effect?”
Even if it’s a collar, if it can function like that there’d be no need to place it around the neck. If an anklet version of the collar could be made, then it could be worn without drawing any attention. Doing so would allow the lord to officially take the woman as his wife and there wouldn’t be anything the country could say about it.
However, Ariane’s next statement denied that possibility.
“When the collar is attached to the ankle it doesn’t work.”
“H〜um, then the possibility of coercion decreases.”
Ariane looked like she wanted to respond to my statement but she silently took another sip of juice. Confusion was visible in her eyes, but that couldn’t be helped.
Anyone would be confused if they were chasing a kidnapper, only to discover that the person kidnapped was marrying her captor’s son.
Even if the two of us were to sit here and try to figure it out, it’d only be a waste of time. In the end, we needed to hear the story directly from the people involved.
That left us with two options.
We could use the regular method of sneaking into the lord’s residence and speak with the captured elf directly. Or we could take the direct approach and ask for a meeting with the wife.
Just like before, if the marriage had been properly initiated, there would be no way for the lord to turn away a messenger from an elf village. Whichever option we choose would be mutually exclusive with the other one.
“What should we do, Ariane-done?”
I outlined the two options to Ariane and asked for her to choose.
She closed her eyes and contemplated our future actions. I am sure that not so long ago she would’ve chosen the former option without any care for the consequences, but right now she was actually considering the latter option. Maybe meeting Casey the other day left an impression on her.
Despite being an elf, Casey lived in a human town and many humans had accepted him there. That had given her a rather large shock.
Eventually, her eyes opened and she started to speak in a steady voice.
“We will act as messengers and ask for a meeting at the feudal lord’s residence.”
“Then I will assume the role of Ariane-dono’s bodyguard like before.”
The corners of her mouth lifted a little after I said that.
When she finished her drink I took her cup so we could return them to the stall. However, a loud shout managed to be heard over the hustle and bustle of the market.
Turning in that direction I saw a middle-aged man arguing with a pair of parents and children. As if to avoid the unnecessary trouble, the people in the area briskly walked away from the situation.
“You dare to try and steal from me!”
“You’re wrong! My daughter was only trying to return something that fell down, she would never steal……!”
“Annoying! That’s nothing but a refugee’s excuse!!”
The middle-aged vegetable vendor’s spit flew everywhere as he yelled at the family. A woman, who I assumed to be the mother, was holding a small boy as she grabbed the girl who was being yelled at.
The parent and children were a little on the thin side and looking somewhat grimy. As the vendor continued to shout, the boy and girl cried, while she lowered her head in apology. The swollen red cheek of the little girl made it obvious that she had been slapped.
I was unable to remain silent after seeing that.
“Was it necessary to hit the girl that hard?”
“Annoying! Whoever said that step forward──!?”
The vendor’s face had been a deep crimson when he’d been yelling, but he turned pale and started trembling when he saw me. If I had to compare it to anything, his complexion was like litmus paper.
My hands were on my waist so that my armor was on full display as I approached the arguing people. Ariane let out an audible sigh behind me.
“N-No it’s not what it looks like…… Knight-sama. That kid stole some of my goods──”
His eyes swam in confusion before he glared at the girl at the edge of his vision.
“How much was the thing she stole?”
I deliberately asked him that question in a threatening tone so that he would focus on me.
“How much was it?”
I asked the question again in a lower more menacing tone causing the vendor to be at a loss for words.
“……No-nothing was stolen……”
When the truth was squeezed out of him, the vendor quickly went to hide behind his stall. When I reflected on the coercive exchange, I realized I didn’t regret it.
I squatted down to match the crying girl’s line of sight and held out my hand as I prepared to cast magic.
Soft lights flew from my hand and burst when they made contacted with the girl’s swollen cheek. The girl stopped crying as she stared blankly at the magic lights.
“Th-Tha-Thank you, knight-sama.”
The girl’s mother offered her thanks and apology while the boy just seemed amused. I offered the mother a brief nod before turning back to the girl and offering a cup to each of them
“I’m giving these to you and your daughter personally. The vendor over there will pay for them if you take them to him.”
I pointed to the vendor we got the juice from, who I saw giving me a wry smile.
The girl looked at the cup in her hand and her mother in confusion, while mother offered her thanks yet again before she took the girl and the cups over the juice stall.
“Arc, I think we’d better find ourselves a good inn.”
Ariane spoke up from behind me as I saw the family off. I saw that the cobblestone road was getting wet and I noticed the raindrops falling when I looked up.
Rain started to fall from the low hanging thick clouds. The people were also walking by at a quick pace.
I sighed at the fact that we would have to put off going to the feudal lord’s residence in favor of finding an inn, despite the fact that we spent all that time trying to reach Lanbaltic.
“You’re right, I guess we need to find an inn before the rain gets any worse.”
Ariane and I walked to the inn district in the light rain and finally managed to find an inn right before nightfall.