Translator(s): Yomigaeru Editor(s): Yuzuha Proofreader(s): Yomigaeru
A few minutes later.
…Somehow or other, I had a feeling it would end up like this. But I also predicted that there would be trouble if it did.
The garden of the lord’s mansion. A single no-contact match with wooden swords.
–The result was… Yuel standing over a fallen Astel, holding a wooden sword to her throat.
Astel, down on her butt, glares intensely at Yuel.
…You ended up winning, Yuel-san. You ended up winning against the sage’s spy who has the same amount of interpersonal combat training as a knight, Yuel-san.
「Master! I won!」
Yuel approaches me jubilantly. Then, as if wishing to be petted, she holds her head in an easily accessible spot and starts wiggling it. I’m worried about how Astel will react, but I’ll pet her anyway.
Staring at Yuel bashfully getting her head petted, Astel makes a facial expression that no child ever should. Eyes half-covered in tears, biting her lower lip, glaring furiously at Yuel.
…So it ended up like this after all, huh? I wanted Yuel to win, but it was clear that this would happen if she did. I mean, as the saint’s escort, Astel seemed to be highly conscious of her professional status and all.
…But it’s not like I can’t understand Astel’s feelings. Astel most likely beats Yuel by a mile when it comes to combat techniques. And yet she completely lost in terms of specs; that’s the kind of match-up it was.
Astel’s attacks mixed with clever feints were completely overcome by Yuel’s reflexes. Even when she deftly moved into Yuel’s blind spots, Yuel twitched her ears to pinpoint Astel’s location and continued accurately swinging the wooden sword towards her. Yuel ended up covering the difference in technique with her body’s ability. Imagining the potential once Yuel has properly honed her combat techniques, my expectations for her future prospects have risen, but this result is a little cruel for Astel.
Or maybe I should ask, with Astel being so vexed, will she even teach Yuel her combat techniques properly? Even under normal circumstances she has an attitude like she hates Yuel. I’m concerned about Astel’s mental state.
Even from the perspective of the saint, this result was most likely beyond her expectations when she gave Astel her orders. If Yuel can win against the spy used by the saint, she’ll most likely trample over ordinary enemies. Surely, unless it’s one of a handful of big shots who are stronger than Astel or have skin too hard for her knife to penetrate like the Armor Ogre, nobody could win against Yuel.
But such things probably don’t matter to Astel. No matter how strong Yuel may be, as the saint’s spy, Astel lost to someone of the same age, and furthermore someone with barely any combat training. As far as she’s concerned, it would invariably be humiliating. She’s glaring at Yuel as her eyes fill up with tears, and involuntarily trembling.
「H-Hey, Astel, this is…」
I’m feeling a little sorry for her. When I try to find the right words to comfort her,
「I-I lost because it was a practice match. I-If this had been a serious fight, and I had dipped my weapon in poison, it would’ve been my win. If it was a real fight I would have won!」
Astel turns to Yuel, nearly crying, and insists that. Somehow, it looks like she’s claiming that even if she lost the match she wouldn’t lose in a serious fight. Well, if Yuel just goes along with it, as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter who would win or lose. And they’re both young girls, so it’d be a shame if Yuel aggravates her and makes her cry.
The rest depends on Yuel’s reaction… and Yuel nods deeply at Astel’s words.
「Yes, if it had been dipped in poison, I might have lost.」
Then Yuel says that, echoing Astel’s assertion. Did she read the atmosphere?
No, now that I get a good look, there’s a small scratch on Yuel’s right shoulder. I didn’t notice it, but Yuel might have failed to dodge Astel’s attack. A strike of that degree could hardly be called fatal, but sure, if her weapons were dipped in poison for real combat, Yuel might very well have been immobilized.
「I am Saint-sama’s spy! I pursue Saint-sama’s enemies, gather information, and now and then use poisons and chemicals to render my targets helpless. That’s my job. Of course direct combat skills are essential, but there are more important things than that for a spy!」
Yuel keeps nodding in agreement with Astel’s speech. Then Astel starts slowly lining bottles up before her eyes.
「I wasn’t sure what I should teach you, but let’s go with this. These are all poisons that I concocted myself.」
「A-All of these…? A-Amazing!」
Bottles of poison, lined up in a row. When she sees them, Yuel makes an astonished voice and compliments Astel. With a twitch, Astel’s drooping dog ears shake.
「I-I choose which of all these poisons to use depending on the situation.」
「D-Depending on the situation… even though there are so many? Amazing!」
Yuel praises her further. Astel’s dog ears shake again. Did she regain her enthusiasm? Her ears have perked up a little.
「Not just poison, even antidotes, I can prepare them all!」
「That’s amazing! I haven’t ever used poison. It’s incredible that you can use all of those, and even make the antidotes!」
Taking a long hard look at the poison bottles, Yuel exclaims in admiration. Astel’s ears shoot straight up. Then they start waggling.
「A-As long as you understand!」
Before I knew it, the tears have disappeared from Astel’s eyes and she’s stopped trembling. Yuel is looking at her somewhat gently, too. I thought I should say something to console her, but looks like she already recovered.
…This kid is pretty simple, huh. Yuel seems to be lavishing her with praise naturally, though.
「First, this one is nerve paralysis poison. And this one is lethal hemorrhaging poison. These two are mainly used to coat weapons.」
Is Astel in a good mood now? She’s giving Yuel an explanation of the poison bottles.
…But man, poison, huh? It’s not that scary to someone like me who can use healing magic, but to a normal person, when poison is used a mere scratch can be fatal. Since Yuel’s the type that has to do a lot of work to make up for her low power, it may be just the right thing for her.
「…And then this one is sleeping powder. This one is absorbed through the respiratory organs. Since it takes effect immediately and there are few side effects, it’s perfect for when you don’t want to kill your opponent.」
Astel continues explaining her poisons. In the middle of her talk, there’s something that piques my interest.
「Oh…? Sleeping powder, huh? Nice. Mind sharing some with me?」
Sleeping powder. The risks are apparently low, and even I should be able to handle it. I daresay sleeping powder is well-suited for me. I’ll try negotiating with Astel.
「S-Sage-sama!? E-Even if you’re the sage, you can’t just put women to sleep and have your way with them!?」
「T-That’s wrong! N-No, look, you see, in my case, I could fill up the room with it and keep curing myself, and I’d be able to perfectly incapacitate any enemy, right? If I had it, and I needed to fight someone, I could end it before it turns into a brawl.」
By merely expressing interest in the sleeping powder, I’m subjected to some unjust accusations. Just what kind of person does Astel think I am? Or rather, something tells me my reputation has suffered considerable damage from the knights who were guarding the front gate.
…I wonder if it’s because so many people were watching when I ended up being easily tempted by the succubus. Now I’m extremely worried about what has happened to my image among the people here in this mansion.
「I-I see. However, Sage-sama, can you promise me you won’t use it for evil purposes?」
After all, I’m not that kind of villainous person.
「Saint-sama is currently in an exceedingly delicate position. Depending on Shiki-sama’s conduct, her position may very well hang in the balance. Please, at least promise me that much.」
However, Astel emphasizes it further.
…How low is her confidence in me? I’m the magnificent person known as the Sage, aren’t I? Wait, hold that thought,
「Hm… the saint is in a delicate position? What does that mean?」
this is the first time I’m hearing that the saint’s standing is unreliable. She seems busy, but I haven’t especially asked her about it.
「……Saint-sama was unable to prevent the succubus’ revival despite being present at the location. In the raid by the succubus as well, she succeeded in defending the city, but she allowed the succubus herself to escape.
…It’s a huge opening to take advantage of. And Saint-sama has so many enemies.」
When I try asking, Astel tells me like it’s not particularly a secret.
「She has a lot of enemies?」
「Yes. As a descendant of the past Sage, Saint-sama possesses a strong sense of responsibility.
…In recent years, corruption such as D’arnaud’s has become rampant within the church. In the past, Saint-sama purged numerous corrupt priests and those connected to the church who committed injustices. That’s why there are many who see Saint-sama as an enemy… especially within the church.」
When I hear the story from Astel, I remember.
…Now that she mentions it, the saint expressly came from the royal capital to purge D’arnaud, didn’t she? Well, this time D’arnaud did snatch the jewel that the succubus was sealed in, but if she’s been continuously carrying out such purges every time she uncovers corruption, that would certainly create enemies within the church. If I become archbishop and start doing as I please, it sounds like I’ll be purged immediately. I’d better be careful.
「Saint-sama has been exhausting all of her power to correct the church’s decay from within, in order to aid the weak.
…Just like when she saved me from being a slave.」
Astel looks at me and puffs out her chest as she says that. Her eyes are totally pure; I can’t feel any shadow or gloominess within them. They’re telling me just how deeply Astel adores and respects the saint. I’m pretty sure that being so liked by one’s attendants is not very common.
…Yeah, the saint even gave a ring to the blind girl at the orphanage as charity. The matter of the shills made me think she was somewhat conniving, but when I try thinking about it calmly, perhaps she’s a surprisingly kindhearted person.
「Y-Yeah. I won’t misuse it. Absolutely not.」
「Very well. In that case, there’s no problem. Here you go.」
「Um, Astel-san, well, may I have some too?」
When I put away the bottle of sleeping powder, Yuel approaches Astel as if she can’t wait any longer. Her ears are waggling. Looks like she wants to try using poisons. Personally, I wish she’d get excited about more girlish things, but poisons really seem to have captured her interest.
「Sage-sama is an expert at healing magic, so there’s no problem for him. As for you, I’ll teach you how to make the antidote first. Handling poisons comes after that.」
Yuel’s ears lower in disappointment. Well, Yuel can’t use healing magic yet, after all. But, even though I wasn’t sure it would work out at the beginning, Astel’s stormy attitude from back then is nowhere to be found now. The meek Yuel unexpectedly has a good affinity with Astel and her strong sense of pride. Having the two young girls make friends with each other warms my heart. If I ignore the fact that they’re holding poison.
And, as I’m watching the two of them.
「Shiki, so you were here after all!」
From the direction of the mansion, a voice calls out to me. When I look back, I see Ruruka waving to me.