Chapter 42 | The Unaccounted 2
The next day, Jeromy was ready to head out in the early morning. There was plenty to do while the rest of his mercenaries were in the hospital was resting. The nurses insisted he take the week to recover but were amazed by his quick return to health. A few hours meditating in bed could do wonders for the body especially when one was as skilled as he was with internal magic.
The first order of business was the security of Lue Quinn. He went to Elise’s house on the other side of the New District and braced himself as he knocked on the door.
The door opened and revealed a very angry elven woman. She grabbed Jeromy’s sleeve and pulled him inside before casting Zero Sensory on the entire two-story house. “Jeromy! You will tell me everything right now!”
Jeromy was immediately driven into a corner. As Prince Lue slept upstairs, they talked for an hour about the situation in Grethenia, the siege at Teizen, and the attack from the Guardians. She was shielding a very important person for an alliance to determine the fate of the world. The truth was the least the Phoenix should provide. A lot of what he said about the Guardians were being remembered by her which was a testament to the bond she shared with Alisha as a reincarnated.
Elise was becoming close to a break down when Jeromy finished his story. The only reason she hadn’t was because of the strength she knew Jeromy and the Phoenix had. She never imagined her trust in him would be tested in this manner. “W—What is stopping them from destroying Riverside as they did in Teizen?”
“We know that Riverside has some strategic importance to them. They cannot risk an attack in the town. From now on, they’ll have to tread very carefully.”
“And if you are wrong?”
“We’re not wrong,” Jeromy said simply.
“…When I first met you and Anna, I thought that you were both god-sent. You helped me so much through the toughest time in my life. You saved my family today but what about tomorrow? Am I to live in fear forevermore that my family would be taken from me again?!”
Elise cried as her arms tried to cover the large drops coming from her face. Jeromy hugged her tightly and comforted her helpless state. This was his fault and he knew it. He didn’t mean to put everyone in this kind of danger but they were in it now and there was no turning back.
“We’ll make sure they’ll never hurt us again.”
The Guardians would certainly try to make their move while they monitor Riverside for weak points for an attack. For now, they had to lay low and hope the Phoenix reinforcements arrive in time.
Although it was only a day, Prince Lue seemed to have accepted his new residence. This was one of Selina’s better suggestions. Lue and Elise got along immediately and were already discussing play dates with Yuli. Someone might need to remind Elise that her niece was eleven years old, twice Lue’s age.
Jeromy and Selina made their way to the Alton manor on horseback for a formal reunion. They didn’t need to knock. Julie already opened the door as they dismounted. Yuli ran to Selina and leaped into her arms. She had to swing around to slow her down to catch her firmly. Yesterday, Selina felt conflicted but now, she was certain. No matter what, this was her sister in front of her.
They both hugged each other tightly as Selina shed many tears, “Sister, is there something wrong?”
“No, Yuli. Absolutely nothing at all,” she smiled widely while choking her tears back.
“It is so good that you made it back okay, Selina,” Julie said while wiping her tears on her sleeve and joined the hug.
Jeromy was warmed by the sight of Selina’s clarity. She had spent so much time in doubt that a scene with such determination showed him that there was nothing more to worry about. He turned to see a fluff ball with ears and a tail by the door. He knew that it was the Devil Slime, Alisha. After the three sisters were done with their hug, they all went inside. The head butler, Hans, led them into the guest room where Lord Benas was already waiting.
Hans bowed and left the room and Alisha wanted to leave too to go into town with Yuli and Reinold. “Not you.”
A shiver ran across Alisha’s spine. Lord Benas wasn’t using her name to address her, he was upset with her. Alisha quickly morphed into her human form and appeared with a difficult face as she sat down on the sofa across from Selina and Jeromy. No one spoke for a while, a deliberate tactic by the Merchant Lord to display stature without the need for words.
Alisha’s gaze avoided her father figure and glanced at both of two newcomers taking a seat. This was the first time they’ve seen Alisha and they both stared at her with interest. It was kind of embarrassing. She could tell they were both different from the inhabitants of this world. This was the first time in this world that she had seen people like them. They weren’t reincarnated but they also weren’t part of the Network like the others.
She could also tell that they were talented casters. They were both probably mages. Alisha wasn’t surprised by Selina’s aura because of how many times Yuli would talk about how strong her older sister was. However, Jeromy’s aura was on a whole other level than anything she could imagine. He was probably several times stronger than the meathead. They were both hiding their auras well but nothing could go past her superior senses.
Jeromy’s impression, on the other hand, was a lot less technical. She simply looked like a child who lost her way and was found by the Altons. However, just because she didn’t have a strong aura, didn’t mean she was weak by any means. Monsters relied on their internal magical abilities.
Alisha looked like an ordinary child curious about the world.
Lord Benas finally broke the long silence, “Sir Jeromy, I want to thank you personally for your actions at Teizen and thereafter. Without you, many thousands could’ve died in the Elven Forest.”
He responded, “Thank you for your acknowledgment, my Lord. But I was only doing my job.”
“Yes, of course. However, were you acting as a Captain of the Association Mercenaries or an agent of the Phoenix?” Benas’ tone was almost accusatory and he was right to be a bit upset about the situation. He had already been briefed on the truth behind the attacks on the expedition.
“The two roles I bear are becoming increasingly blurred.”
“That’s not an answer. If you were acting in the sole interests of the Association, you would’ve returned from your expedition as soon as possible but instead, you took an extra five days.”
Jeromy remained silent.
“I have to wonder what about the Phoenix you aren’t telling me. If the enemies of the Phoenix could cause the sky to blacken, I’m afraid there’s no hope for any of us.”
“I’m sorry, my Lord. I cannot tell you.”
“I am sorry. I also cannot tell you,” Selina repeated the line that Jeromy had said so many times to her. But now she knew the reason.
Benas was getting annoyed because they weren’t telling him, a powerful Merchant Lord, what happened to his town. Just when he was going to put his foot down, Alisha interjected, “No, Benas. It’s because they cannot physically tell you. Please don’t mean it as any disrespect.”
“Is this some kind of secret only reincarnated can share?” Jeromy and Selina weren’t reincarnated but they were in the same vain.
“I’m sorry but it is,” Jeromy answered.
“Fine. But Jeromy, I want the Phoenix to do everything in its power to prevent such destruction to come to Riverside. So far, you have failed. What guarantees can you give me?”
“Whoever was responsible for the blast won’t harm Riverside. I guarantee it.”
“Good. I will hold you and the Phoenix responsible if they do.”
Jeromy bowed slightly while in his seat, “Yes, Lord Benas.”
“And Alisha, is there something you would like to tell me?”
“I don’t know. Whatever do you mean?” She said unconvincingly while fidgeting.
Benas smiled as he gave her a deathly glare, “I overheard you talking to Yuli and Elise in the triage.”
“Impossible! I wasn’t even talking out loud!”
“Someone can overhear you if they knew what to look for.”
“Spying on people is bad!”
“Not another word!” Lord Benas said sharply. “You will leave the matter of the refugees to the Empire. Do you understand?”
Alisha nodded weakly.
“Go on now,” he said in a gentler tone. Alisha quickly exited the room and the manor. Lord Benas continued with Jeromy and Selina in the room. “I apologize for the questions but as you saw, the protection of the people is my number one concern.”
“We appreciate the candor, Lord Benas. I would like to request the cooperation of the Alton family for this matter I want to discuss.”
The Merchant Lord of Riverside would know every transport to and from the town. Knowing that he also didn’t appreciate the search and seizures, Jeromy counted on Lord for help. Benas knew of the disappearances and also suspected traffickers due to the patterns of isolation and poor protection for the carriages.
What made them believe it was traffickers, and not bandits, was a witness that escaped from an attack a few months ago. Since then, security had increased because of the Devil Slime. Since there was some time between the present and the last kidnapping, one would think that the traffickers moved on but there were no similar attacks or disappearances in the surrounding townships.
They must assume that they were still operating in the area.
Alisha’s first impression of Sir Jeromy Powle was a strong one. He had the type of resolve that could survive in this world while fighting the Guardians. She had yet to discern the exact nature of what transpired in the Elven Forest but something told her that Jeromy could hold his own against almost anything. From what Jack told her, it seemed that the Phoenix was unaware of the exact nature of the Network. Both sides had information the other side needed. She hoped they could work together in the future.
Back at her dungeon, progress was made for several projects. One of the more important projects was the chemical and materials laboratory. It was critical to designing and preparing new weapons and tools. Her knowledge from Earth was finally going to pay off.
Giving Guide a crash course on physical and biological chemistry was paramount to teaching to a petulant infant. Even dungeon entities had their limitations on what they could do. More abstract concepts seemed to be beyond him. Perhaps she was not a good enough teacher. Alisha could only get Guide do the very basics as her laboratory technician. That meant she had to devote a lot more time to run the actual laboratory rather than just directing what she wanted to be done.
Teaching Guide about science was going to be a challenge.
A few days later, at the tavern, it was only Yuli and Elise at their dinner table. Reinold, Alan, and Lycus went on a quest in the western forest to lay more traps for her. Reinold was being quite nice to her recently and he went on the trip for her. Of course, Alisha was grateful but showing her appreciation to him of all people felt weird. She didn’t know why.
As someone who was as self-aware as she was, Alisha was a little distressed. “Is something wrong?” Yuli suddenly asked.
“Nothing at all!” Alisha dug her snout into her meatballs as if ending the discussion.
“Do not fret. Reinold will be back. They are only running a bit late,” said Yuli while holding a teasing smile.
“I’m—!” Alisha couldn’t look her in the eyes but calmly replied. “How did you know I was concerned about Reinold in particular?”
“It is written on her face and aura,” replied Elise.
“What face?! I’m a wolf at the moment! Elves are scary!” They both laughed. Yuli lifted Alisha and cuddled her in her arms while trying to soothe her. The childish feelings in her started to surface as she tried to fight back but was ultimately subdued her. After a few months with Alisha, they both got to know her very well.
“I am sorry, Alisha. But you are so cute that we want to tease you every day!” Yuli said while stroking her furry head.
As Alisha was sulking, another slime outside the tavern in the back ally spotted something curious. “Madam, something is happening at the back of the tavern,” said Guide.
Alisha took a look at the recording the slime made. It showed a drunken girl leaving the back of the tavern. The girl had a pretty face with chestnut hair and was being followed out by a man, seemingly a freelancer given his attire. She immediately knew what was going on.
Guide expected his Madam to take action, “What should we do?”
Then another man stepped in front of the girl and grabbed her. The man who followed the girl ran to help restrain her. They put a piece of cloth to her mouth and nose which prevented her from screaming. A few seconds of struggling and the girl was unconscious.
The two was now dragging the fainted girl on her feet to the awaiting carriage at the end of the alley.
Alisha couldn’t just watch this unfold and do nothing. She yelled in her telepathy, “A girl is in trouble at the back alley!”
Alisha didn’t have much time to think and immediately conjured her human body with a spy slime in the alleyway while her wolf body was still in the tavern. Neither of them had a lot of mana to work with because her main body was back in her dungeon. There was little magic she could cast because of the minimalist design of her slimes in town to avoid detection.
They were never designed for combat and thus only had a limited reserve for operation. Alisha had to consider the possibility that they might escape with the girl and thus she had to have her slimes follow them and get her main body from the dungeon. However, that might not be a good idea until they were outside of town.
Whether the case, she had to stop them here or the girl might be killed or worse. Elise and Yuli weren’t going to get there in time. There was no time to call on anyone else. She had moments.
Alisha formed into her human body and ran straight for the abductors at the end of the ally. She grabbed a metal pipe from some maintenance building materials and quickly bashed the one closest to her with full force. His partner turned around to see a young girl do a front flip and landed to face him, blocking his path. She lunged forward with the pipe and hit the man right in his trachea. He dropped the unconscious girl to the ground as he took a step back to get his bearings.
The men’s shield spells prevented any real damage since Alisha wasn’t using any magic. Her blows were superficial. But she only needed to distract them from her real goal. She used her backhand to strike the other man’s hand again with her pipe. She grabbed the criminal freelancer’s pistol and immediately shot the man in the head as he was reeling from her blow.
Alisha then turned the gun on the other man and shot him in the chest, immobilizing him. She made sure not to hit anything vital. Through her Monster Sight, Alisha saw the cabby about to shoot her so she turned the cylinder of the revolver to another enchanted bullet and fired. This bullet was fired at the carriage itself and launched it a few feet before overturning it in the nightly street. It rolled over its top before it came to a stop. The fight ended in five seconds.
Inside the tavern, they heard three blunt strikes and three gunshots in quick succession followed by a huge crash. Freelancers, mercenaries, and servers stopped what they were doing and many went out to the alleyway with their weapons. Her human form quickly turned to slime and hid from the approaching humans.
“What happened!?” Yuli said, concerned. She wanted to follow the crowd and ran to the back door before Elise could do anything.
“Yuli!” Elise shouted as she saw her niece run into danger.
Alisha replied calmly, “Aunty, please just let her see.”
“We cannot allow Yuli to get into danger!”
“I’m the one who fired those shots.”
“I can explain…”