Chapter 41: A woman named Caria
The fragrance of alcohol. She must’ve become accustomed to the bitter taste of the ale from the local Guild. Caria took the drink to her private room. She drank from the bottle slowly.
「True. It looks like we have a rainy sky today. You were right about that, huh. 」
Caria’s words were softer than usual. She described the weather as she drank from the ale. Her expression was serene and her smile was gentle. Both of us sat on rusty chairs that made some noisy cracks as we moved back and forth. This scene reminded me of a pleasant dream. An everlasting feeling. Caria shook her silver hair in a gracious manner. Or so I thought.
At first glance, her voice was cheerful and her words were gentle. But, it was too good to be true. We were talking about Caria after all.
「What a mistake. You went on your own and set up the terms as you wished. Then, you came back and brought gunpowder. Hey, Lugis. What should I make of this situation? Should I give you a different name? Perhaps, a pet name? Since you always do as you please.」
Suddenly, the mood became bad like the changeable weather.
The silver-haired girl abruptly stood up from her chair. She spoke with anger towards me. It was such a nasty scene. She had the habit of stabbing people with her tongue.
I knew why she was angry with me. But, I always knew this side of hers. Actually, that was obvious. I was the one that understood her the most. In the past, most of Caria’s rage was directly towards me alone. She treated me like her enemy.
Still, the reason for that anger was vague. However, everything changed on this present timeline. I had no knowledge back then. I was naive and foolish… But not now.
「Keep it down. There’s no need to get mad like that. You’ll just dry up your throat. You know what. I had to make a deal. I had to do something to avoid getting tangled by that woman’s threats.」
Caria suppressed her temper and took a sip from the ale. Then, she just sighed in frustration. This woman still had long ways to go with her hasty behavior. But, of course, the current situation was much better than before. At least no violence was involved on this timeline.
The eyes of the silver-haired girl winked nervously. I stared fixedly at her. Soon, her rage and mockery disappeared, and were replaced by snobbishness.
Her gaze made me feel somewhat idiotic.
「I had no other choice but to swallow the other party’s conditions. Therefore, accepting a cooperation with the Heraldic people was the wisest thing to do. In addition, that girl became involved in this somehow.」
Caria thought the following. “That girl. He probably meant Filaret La Volgograd. I feel like I have a mix of stupid expressions on my face. I didn’t think that they were that close. At least, they weren’t, based on what I saw during our last expedition.”
「And, I think that you’re overreacting a little bit. I don’t think those people are the worst of their kind.」
Caria moved her shoulders while I spoke to her. She looked at me with a suspicious gaze. Then, I toned down my voice to convince her.
「Besides, it’s just a cooperation. I just need to do my part and be done with it. 」
I scratched my eyelid while I spoke to Caria. I did my best to soften the mood.
That’s right. Actually, I wasn’t sure if cooperating with the Heraldic people and Largud Ann was a good idea. They probably didn’t trust me, and neither did I trust them. Having a great sixth sense would’ve been perfect for this type of situation. However, I only had the knowledge from the past. Who would trust such shabby people? Well, I didn’t grow up with the word “trust” to be honest. I got along with dishonest people throughout my whole life. I used to trade with them. To learn from their evil deeds. But, these people were different. What could I do to move unsuspiciously among them? What was needed in order to gain their trust?
Based on the exchange between both parties at the underground temple, I thought that I’d be useful. At least for a short time. That’s right, useful until the fall of Garoua Maria. That Saint woman won’t discard me until she gets what she wants.
It happened, then there’s nothing I could have done to avoid this fate. Yes, it was what it was. The bitterness of the strong ale passed through the throat. Soon, my throat ached as if it were about to vomit the whole fluids.
「…If they want to use me, fine. I’ll use them too. That’s the reason why I won’t back down from this.」
I placed the bottle of ale on the table without making a noise. It stood between Caria and me.
「The plan is to invade the walled city and capture their beloved Maria. That will be our crucial point too. If their plan is successful, we’ll have to be ready for an eventual crisis. We’ll have to go up against them if necessary.」
I narrowed my eyes while pressing my fists.
There’s no choice, but to do this now. Still, the battlefield was the most convenient place for an ordinary person to gain recognition. Luckily for me, I was taking part in their vital plan. Therefore, I should use this situation to my advantage. Even though my brain was still processing it all.
Great. It was great conditions after all. I shall take this opportunity and use it well. I’ll just fiddle on the balance of the pendulum* with my own fingers. I wouldn’t mind stepping into danger for Ariene’s sake. Yes, I’d risk everything for her.
「Huh, I see. And, what about that woman. Why did you put Filaret on this “evil carpet”? Do you need a woman to give you the emotional support you need?」
Don’t be stupid. Emotional support? Just thinking about touching Filaret gave me the shivers. I almost thrown up. The ale that I drank came to my throat and almost spilled from my mouth. It came back and forth several times just because of this nauseating talk. Bitterness filled my whole mouth again. It made me feel gross.
I coughed badly. Then, I slowly opened my lips to respond to Caria’s silly question. She lost her composure once again, and stared at me from across the table with hatred. The mood became sour again. Strangely, my throat trembled slightly.
「Filaret is someone with undeniable talent. Just like you. 」
As soon as I spoke those words, Caria’s eyebrows lifted quickly. I see. This was the best approach to take in order to appease this woman’s feelings.
「I don’t know if she feels okay about all of this. But, her role in the cooperation is relevant. Because of her family name and experience with artifacts, she was put in charge of collecting Heraldic crests at low prices.」
After that, Caria spoke as if she was talking about a betting opportunity.
「All right. This might turn out to be a good bet for both parties. We shall take 50 percent of these earnings. Filaret really has to do this. And, we have to make sure of it…」
That’s right. If there’s an “extra hand”, we had to take it to our benefit. After all, using the excellent comrades we had for this cooperation plan wouldn’t be a bad idea. There would be more pros than cons. Caria let a big sigh while grinning at me. Then, she shook her silver hair from behind her shoulders.
「And then, what do you want to tell me? You must have something you want me to do.」
I touched my chin. Well, of course I did.
I called a house cleaner and asked her to bring us another bottle of ale.
「I would like you to go to the ministry of self-defense of the city-state. I want to know everything about that organization. If possible, I would like you to create a bond with them, so that we could use them for our purpose. That’s something only you can do, not me.」
The house cleaner brought another bottle of ale. However, the bitter taste remained the same. Caria drank immediately from the bottle to moisture her lips.
There was a self-defense ministry in the city-state of Garoua Maria. This organization defended the nation from external threats and brought internal protection. Unlike other countries where the nobles and knights were the chosen classes to held high positions in the military and political sphere, Garoua Maria had a very different system. The citizens held the power of its defense mechanism.
Any citizen could belong to that organization. Yes, everyone could become a shield that protected the city-state. Unlike ordinary nations, the citizens of Garoua Maria replaced the knights and nobles to become national defenders. Therefore, the public voice was very strong in Garoua Maria.
Therefore, it was fundamental to make a connection with this organization. The people of the self-defense ministry were very strong in the sense of fellowship and compatriotism. Even though they were citizens, they weren’t ordinary citizens per se. I wouldn’t be accepted to meddle with them. After all, it was quite visible that I was a mere rat. They would kick me out from there immediately. That was a fact that I knew too well.
But, Caria was different. Caria was a former knight. Moreover, a knight from the traditionalist Gharast Kingdom.
Even though the self-defense ministry deny it, its members took three things seriously up to their hearts. Tradition, history and dignity.
This was an obstacle for those who wanted to enter the self-defense ministry even though this organization officially recruited citizens as members.
Members with prestigious families and origins were the only ones that brought dignity and tradition to the organization. However, the foundation of the self-defense ministry were the citizens. If word were to spread about their true colors, the foundation would likely collapse. It felt like the organization was made of mud that could fall at any time. Even so, they regarded this prestigious aspect a necessary part of their motto. Therefore, they must’ve yearned to have the existence of a knight on their inner circles before.
Aside from her pedigree, Caria was certainly someone beautiful. If they knew that she was a former knight, and if she used her words well, the self-defense groups will definitely accept her.
They might not even care if she had strategical experience or not. Just the fact that she was a knight from a prestigious family would give her an easy access for the ministry.
Yes. That’s the reason why I told Caria to do this and made Filaret do something else.
It was fine for Filaret to accept such a task because of my future goals. But, Caria was different from her. That’s why I had to explain everything for her. I truly believed that she could do this type of job without a hassle.
My throat ached the moment I finished talking. Caria looked serious as if she was immersed on her own thoughts. She was probably thinking to herself either to accept it or not.
“…I refuse it. Was he misunderstanding something here? I was not a pawn to be used for his convenience, or did he forget that?”
Caria’s thoughts were cold, somewhere emboldened with anger. I finally understood what she had on her thoughts when she bit her lip.
Caria’s expression. Her silvery eyes stared at me with a strong gaze. Her pale lips showed a slight smile. Yes, that ironic smile of hers. But, this time was different.
This was the second time I saw this particular expression. She was once like this when I rebelled against her words during the journey of salvation.
To see this expression again made me so terrified and confused than what I used to feel before. The shivering didn’t stop. It was as if it crawled from the tip of my feet to the depth of my spine. This awful and terrible feeling spread throughout my body. It climbed to my head. This expression didn’t just frightened people, but also attracted people somehow. Yes, something attracted me to this nasty woman. Maybe it was because of her beauty.
Now that I thought about it, I felt rather strange this time around.
Surely, I was feeling it correctly. What happened with that girl, Filaret, was too good to be true. My plan went far better than I expected, and that was something that I wouldn’t have accomplished in my past timeline. But, I made a mistake. I thought everything was going according to plan, but my assumptions were wrong.
But, I felt hits of betraying feeling that went against all of my assumptions and thoughts. Yes, I felt this feeling coming from the silver-haired woman that smiled ironically at me.
*Pendulum is a weight hung from a fixed point so that it can swing freely. However, on this context, it is used to refer to the tendency of a situation to oscillate between one extreme and another.
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