Updated: Mar 17
Hans takes steps towards his nefarious plan, while Tara gets an unexpected summons.
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Episode 126. Around 10 months (3)
At the same time. Hans was in a village near Tandra Forest, at the [The Strong Man’s Fiery Weapons Manufacturer].
As the name of the store suggested, the owner who was dealing with Hans was hot-tempered and rugged. Next to him stood a gray-haired man, polishing some arrowheads.
“This sly bastard's mouth must be cracked from his blabbering. Hey, Old Man Max. Did you hear that? This guy said that he would spare my life as long as I do what he says."
Old Man Max raised his eyes and glanced at Hans, and then looked down again, as if he wanted nothing to do with him.
“You're not as smart as you look. The mission is simple. All you have to do is follow my orders and do your best. And if you do, you’ll get more money than you've ever seen in your entire life. And, of course, I'll also let you live."
"What the hell does that mean? If you're here to buy weapons, buy weapons. There are all kinds of crazy people out there."
From the owner's point of view, such a scrawny looking man did not belong here in the least.
He looked like the kind of person who stayed inside all day reading books, yet this man said such outlandish things out of the blue that the store owner kept wanting to check his ears in disbelief. And he did it all while standing there with a smile on his face.
Hans clasped his hands together politely and pulled his face into a friendly smile.
"… Your granddaughter was so cute that I almost wanted to bite her cheeks. Hahaha."
“What kind of nutcase are you? Granddaughter? How old do I look? A granddaughter? Here's an idea, how about you buzz off before I get angry and kill you?"
The owner suddenly leapt forward and grabbed Hans by the neck. Hans looked at him as if to say, 'Oh, my, you should really let go.' As if he fully intended to keep challenging the owner.
“What did I say? I tend to have a hard time remembering names. What was it, Jay? Jane? Ah! Jane Pal–! Ow!"
Unbeknownst to him, Old Man Max, who had been methodically cleaning his arrowheads a moment earlier, had moved and wrapped his arms around Hans's neck, his elbow pressing his face into the counter.
“You dirty bastard. What have you done to my granddaughter?”
"Kekekekekekeke…kek. I... I... I can't tell you… It's impossible… for me to explain… like this. Keuk keuk."
Surprised by the sight of Old Man Max, the store owner took a step back.
"Hey, old man, who is he talking about? Granddaughter? You mean Jane is your–?"
“If you don’t tell me, right now, I’m going to slit your throat here and now. Tell me. Where is my granddaughter?"
Hans smiled, despite the fact his face was stained red with blood.
"Ah…Ha… Wooo. You're going to have to let me go, huh? Since we're talking.”
The air inside the store was cold and leaden. The weapon store owner, realizing that things had headed off the rails, ran to the store entrance and locked it.
"I thought it was strange that he came in here alone. Let's hear what he has to say first, old man. So we know what's going on."
The owner grabbed a two-handed sword that was hanging next to the door and brandished it, passing it back and forth from hand to hand.
Max, his jaw clenched, hoisted Hans up by the back of his neck and pulled him to his feet.
"Tell me now. If you try to make a fool out of me, I'll kill you and rip up what’s left!" He growled.
"I knew I came to the right place. Your granddaughter, Jane, is in my care. Her mother had a slight bout of madness and fainted after a few blows, but I assure you she’s probably still alive."
Hans took out a rabbit-shaped wooden doll the size of his palm from his pocket and showed it to them. It looked like it had been played for quite some time, as if it had been worn down by a child’s hands.
"Here! Is this enough proof for you? Hah. And if you attack me again, you'll never see your daughter or granddaughter ever again."
Max's heart instantly stumbled, and he slumped into a chair.
“What do you want?”
“'The Assassin of the Black Night.' That was your professional name. Well it has been about five years since you gave it up.”
"Huh! Old man?"
The store owner looked at the old man with a stunned expression. That name had once dominated the underground contract killing industry.
The store owner examined the old man carefully.
Now that he mentioned it, the old man's gaze was unusual, as well as the muscle on his arms and body.
'Oh my god. I've been using the famous Black Night assassin as an assistant for two years. No wonder he handles weapons so delicately!'
“I will return your granddaughter and daughter within a week. So don't feel too discouraged. Ha ha ha."
"You never saw this today, alright?"
When Max jerked his chin towards him, the owner immediately understood and closed his eyes tightly. Then he started to hiccup.
"I was never here today. Hic! I didn't see anything! Hic!"
"… You know. What to do."
The man’s eerily gleaming eyes and low tone of voice only made the owner's hiccups worse.
"Yes. You were never here today. Forget you ever heard this request, forget you ever saw his face. You know the rules of the trade, and that you'll always have to watch your back if it ever gets out. Leave now. I'll lock the door."
"Ah. Yes. Old man."
The store owner returned the two-handed sword back to its original location and quickly unlocked the door. Then he ran straight home without looking back.
"... Who am I supposed to kill?"
"Oh, my. That sounds like too much trouble. I want you to try and avoid a fatal wound. Well, it can't be helped if they happen to die, hahaha. Instead, I want the arrow to fly exactly where I want it to."
Max's lips hardened when he read the note that Hans handed him. The place, time, and target had all been written down.
He knew this might happen one day. So he had hidden himself in the countryside and falsified his identity.
Nevertheless, his work had finally caught up to him. Unexpectedly, he was paying for the many lives he had stolen, it was karma.
“As soon as you complete the mission, I'll tell you where your granddaughter is. So you'll have to wait until the task is finished. Oh, by the way, if you're thinking of getting rid of me after this job, you'll have to consider that idea carefully. If you ever try to kill me, old man, I'll know about it in advance. And remember, I've already kidnapped your daughter and her child once already, so I can do it again at the lift of a finger."
Based on his experience as a killer for hire, Max had learned to categorize the people who came to him into four types.
Those who were ignorant and impulsive. Those who were ignorant, but able to control their emotions. Those who were wise but impulsive. And those who were wise and able to control their emotions.
This man was in the fourth category. These kinds of men were often willing to employ any means to reach their desired ends, and tended to be both despicable and surprisingly diligent.
Additionally, they tended to paper over their evil deeds with hypocrisy, and were rarely punished by the standards of society.
Since they were smarter, meaner, and more motivated than average, it was best not to stand in their way.
'I’ll remember this slimy bastard’s face.'
"Also, leave the Empire when the task is complete. I'll pay you enough.”
Hans smiled and left the weapons shop as slowly and leisurely as he had arrived.
I was having lunch at the restaurant in Tandra's annex.
A temporary office had been set up in the annex for the personnel dispatched from the Palace, and meals were also being served out of the annex restaurant. I had been assigned quarters on the 4th floor of the main building.
Since it was nearing the end of lunch, there were only a few people left at the restaurant.
I had about 40 minutes left until my afternoon shift.
I glanced at the clock on the wall and focused on the meal again. It was a grilled chicken leg with a stir-fried noodle dish.
It was served with an abundance of spicy sauce and tasted delicious.
I slowly savored the remaining half of my food, opened the notebook next to me and reviewed the section with an asterisk beside it.
Tillyoo? Tilly? Thyllize? Tiltoo? Tilapu? Tillis? Trillus? There was a valley that was named something similar to that.
Still, I wondered why I couldn’t remember it. Since it was a local name, it should be possible to discover the correct name by asking around.
No matter how much I tried to recall details, I couldn't remember it having anything to do with House Elias. However, the lack of details left me feeling uneasy.
So, I had decided to look for it, if only to find out if it had anything to do with the Elias family.
Bernard arrived and walked up next to me, then started recounting the information he had managed to find.
"... There’s a place here called Tillis Valley. Now, make sure you eat another chicken leg."
I nodded my head vigorously.
"Oh? I can't believe you just told me to eat more, Bernard. I'm touched… Hehe. It was called Tillis after all. Is there anything located near the valley?"
"The terrain of the valley is rough, so it's difficult to reach. It's about 4km from Tandra Forest. Shall we find out for ourselves?"
"Oho. Bernard, don't you ever find this stuff bothersome?"
"My Master's needs are my needs. Isn't this all in preparation for you taking the position of family head?"
The noodles stuck in my throat. I nodded, touched by his words.
“Truly, remembering you was the best thing I ever did, Bernard.”
"Oh, I misspoke. I meant to say 'find'. If there are any houses near Tillis Valley, please find out who lives there. Don't do anything dangerous."
"Ah… Yes, My Lady. In that case, I'll see you this evening."
"Yes, have a safe trip.”
Bernard left for the valley. After saying goodbye, I turned back to the notebook.
I had begun nibbling on a chicken leg as Bernard had instructed me to, when Beth rushed in, breathing heavily.
"Huff... Huff... Miss!"
Looking at Beth holding her waist as she tried to catch her breath, I knew something unusual had happened and slowly stood up from my seat.
"What? What's going on?"
"The Count needs to see you urgently. He told me to bring you back as soon as possible.”
"I'm on duty in about half an hour. I'm sure Father must be aware."
"The Count said you have to come right away because it's urgent, even if it means you have to return to work late."
"Oh, my. What? What's going on?"
I ripped the rest of the chicken leg off and started heading straight towards the main building of Tandra Mansion.
“I don’t know the details, but he was visited by a high-ranking person from the Palace. He wants you there immediately.”
"Do you happen to know what their position was?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, Miss. I only know this much. Next time I'll make sure to get as much information as possible."
"Don't apologize, since it happened so suddenly. It's fine. But Beth, if this happens again try to find out as much information as you can, within the scope of possibility. Can you do that?"
“Yes. Alright. Let's go see why he wants to meet me so badly."
I nodded and began walking swiftly.
A high-ranking person? Who could it be? Even if I knew who they were, I could think of dozens of possible reasons…
The only possibility I could think of was that it had to do with the patent rights. However, if it was related to that matter, we already had plans firmly set in place.
Were there additional requirements for the patent? Or had His Majesty the Emperor changed his mind?
I couldn't truly know the true reason until I learned it. He'd called me even though it might interfere with my working hours, and that meant it was a situation that needed my opinion immediately.
I arrived at my Father's quarters, my skirt fluttering from running to get there.
And as soon as I heard my father's explanation, I realized that my family was indeed faced with a rather tricky situation.
"The Consul came to you and told us to take the initiative and set an example at the banquet? What does that mean?"
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