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Scarlett looked over some documents that were placed on the desk in front of her in her office in the Hartford family's mansion. These particular ones related to the appraised value of some of the artifacts and relics she'd gathered. Although Evelyne didn't like her much the younger Hartford sister seemed to still uphold her promises and had helped Scarlett with getting in contact with a couple of appraisers as well as one of the local auction houses.

It had been almost a whole week since Scarlett finished dealing with the local criminal organization here in Freybrook and Count Knottley had announced his and her 'cooperative' involvement in the matter. Since then she had been busy with just trying to get a handle on the everyday matters of things, as well as going out on frequent excursions with Kat to look for and clear the dungeons she knew of in the area. So far they had actually found four of them—including the first one—which had surprised her some. She'd only been relatively certain of the location of two of them, after all. But that had been a welcome surprise, even though none of the other dungeons had been Zuverian ruins.

As this was a low-level area in the game none of the dungeons had any loot that was better than what she'd found in the Zuverian ruins, and even most of what they'd found wasn't especially good for her anyway, but she had still hoped it was worth something. As the player, you would just sell low-level equipment like that to some random trader and only get maybe a hundred or so solars—which was the empire's currency—for it, but the game's economy hadn't been particularly advanced or realistic. You could for example sell the bones of the enemies you killed to that same merchant for a dozen solars, or the plants you picked from the side of the road for maybe twice that. It had been a great game, but in the end, she wasn't planning on trusting the appraisals of a system where the only balancing done was probably in regards to ensuring the player didn't grow overly powerful too fast. As such, she had wanted to do some research of her own on the value of some of the game's equipment.

And it was good that she'd decided to double-check these things. Despite being comparatively low-level gear in 'Chronicle of Realms', many of the items she'd gathered were still moderately useful equipment, and some of them were even artifacts. For example, the [Plate of Torn Resilience] was a decent artifact she and Kat had found in an old abandoned troll cave a fair distance away from the city. It was a rare piece of equipment that she was pretty sure gave a decent boost to your stamina in exchange for your HP. Or whatever the equivalent was in this world. Guessing from the description she'd read it just cut into you and made you bleed slightly or something along those lines, although she hadn't bothered to test it.

As nice as it was finding these items, she only wished they'd been more useful to her specifically. The only item she'd actually chosen to keep for herself was a rare [Ring of Umbral Defiance] that heightened her resistance to all dark-type damage. Resistances were another thing she was unsure of how they worked in this world, and it was definitely a matter she should try looking into later on, but right now it was the closest thing she had to any real defense. She should probably do something about that. She had plans, but those were still a while away. At least she had the protection of Kat for the moment.

She moved aside a piece of parchment as she kept browsing through the papers in front of her. She had nine items she wanted to sell all in all, excluding the old Zuverian coins, and even the cheapest of those items had been appraised at a value of 1000 solars. If they were put up to an auction, she'd at a minimum earn 15000 solars just from the equipment even if she counted the cut an auction house was likely to take. And the Zuverian coins she'd gathered—which numbered probably somewhere in the hundreds—were probably somewhere close to that value too. She wasn't certain if they were considered a collector's item or if the material they were made of was just worth that much, but she was looking at earning somewhere above 30000 from just these four excursions she'd gone on since she got here. She still had to do some more research regarding the purchasing power of the local currency in this world, but considering that you could buy a house for 10000 solars in the game she could at least assume that it was a decent amount despite the game's inaccuracies in the subject.

Now, if she were to guess, 30000 solars probably wasn't that much compared to what she had access to as the head of the Hartford family. But these were all loot from just a few low-level dungeons. There had been hundreds of dungeons spread about the world in 'Chronicle of Realms', and the worth of the higher-level items was bound to increase by a lot. Of course, she had to find all the dungeons first, but that was something she had decent expectations about for at least some of them.

All things considered, she was relatively confident in earning money in this world. The real question was what to do with it all. She still barely had any idea of how she ended up here to begin with. Some extra cash probably wouldn't solve that problem. But knowing the kinds of problems that would start popping up in the future, she felt like being prepared in as many ways as she could be was the right choice for now.

That included training. She'd spent at least one or two hours every day the past week training the use of her current magic with Kat. The Shielder had taken to sparring with her—acting with a large handicap—and instructing Scarlett of how to best make use of her Aqua Mines in a fight. The woman had almost seemed borderline masochistic with how she encouraged Scarlett to use them against her. Of course, Scarlett's attacks couldn't really injure the woman as long as Kat had whatever magical defense she used up, and Scarlett had intentionally avoided aiming at any of Kat's barrier's weak points—though she doubted she could hit any of them yet even if she tried—but the excitement that seemed to fill the woman when she fought was weird to see. It wasn't really something Scarlett had noticed before.

But the training definitely had an effect. For one thing, her mana was increasing at a steady pace as long as she kept using it as she did. It seemed to improve by a little under ten or so per day at the rate she was going. Other than that her control of her Aqua Mines was also improving slowly. In the raid on the Grey Dog Gang she had used a few of them basically as bricks to keep people away from her, but that wasn't an efficient way of using them. Considering how she only truly could make full use of them when she used them against an unshielded opponent or against their weak points she still had to get faster at making them and better at aiming. As it was now she doubted she could use them in a real fight just yet. As for the matter of learning spells...There hadn't been much progress. Or none, actually. The lessons Kat had given her hadn't done much to shed light on the matter, unfortunately. She barely knew where to begin with that right now. She had read through a couple of the books she'd found, though that hadn't helped much. But she wasn't about to give up just yet. She was planning on giving those books a more thorough look in the near future.

With that in mind, she turned away from the appraisal documents and looked at another pile of papers that lay to her right. Unfortunately the contents of these documents weren't as welcome. She let out a short sigh and moved these documents closer to look them over again. Despite almost a week having passed they hadn't made much progress in finding a place to send the children. The servants were working themselves tired taking care of the mansion as well as the kids. The original idea of potentially sending them to orphanages in the city had essentially been put to a halt. It turned out that none of the orphanages in Freybrook had many empty slots, at most two or three per orphanage, and barely any of them had caretakers that spoke Voneian.

For a brief moment Scarlett had considered just splitting the children into smaller groups and dividing them between the orphanages but in the end, she couldn't bring herself to do that. She was far from a saint. Frankly, she didn't want to spend a bunch of her time taking care of the affairs of a group of children. There was too much on her plate as it was. She had nothing but a vague and superficial idea of how the noble society and the laws worked around here. She was sure that there was a bunch of things about the whole Count Knottley situation that she was completely missing. And then there was the issue of the Angler Man and the Hallowed Cabal possibly coming after her, as well as the question of whether she would ever be able to find a way back home. There was just too much for her to do and learn to waste time dealing with these children with whom she had barely even interacted with.

But there were still limits to what she could bring herself to do. When her own parents had died, one of her worst fears had been that she would be separated from her younger sister. She had fought and gone through several hardships to stay with her sister and she didn't feel comfortable subjecting other kids to a situation like that, no matter their circumstances. These children might not be related, but they were all refugees who had been kidnapped and gone through terrifying things together. Now they were stuck in a foreign land where barely anyone spoke their language with nothing but each other. Although they all adored Kat and seemed to have opened up slightly to some of the servants there was still a bond between the kids that she didn't want to break. She might be in the role of a villainess, but that didn't mean she always had to fill that role.

She drummed her finger rhythmically against the wooden desk as she looked at one of the large oil paintings that hung on the walls of the office. Evelyne had sent her a message that she was looking into finding a way of dealing with the children but there was nothing conclusive from that end quite yet. At this point it would almost be easier to just establish an orphanage herself just to solve this whole mess. Things would have been much easier if the Voneian delegates she'd contacted had been willing to help. As it was, they'd largely just ignored her letters and turned away the people she'd sent, saying that it was "not part of their purview". She wasn't certain whether they simply didn't care because it only concerned a group of orphans or if they actually couldn't help. Though the thought did occur to her that she might have accidentally caused an international incident by contacting them. Nonetheless, it didn't look like her plate would get much less full anytime in the immediate future.

Perhaps she could organize some kind of crowdfunding or charity for the matter? Or was that even something people in this world did? She knew there existed charities even during the middle ages back in her world, but this was place was different enough so that it was hard to know. Though in any case, setting up something like that sounded like more trouble than it was worth. Especially with the kind of reputation she was bound to have. She probably wasn't known to be kind-hearted enough for something like that. It was at times like these that she actually understood the allure of being a real villainess.

As she sat there and debated with herself whether it might be worth trying to subtly inquire into how large of a wealth she actually had access to, a knock rang out from the office's door. She straightened her back and looked up. "Enter."

The door opened and Garside stepped into the room. His graying hair and black suit were as slick as always as he bowed to her with one arm bent behind his back and one in front. "My Lady, a meal has been prepared for you in the dining hall."

Scarlett raised an eyebrow. "Has it already been that long?" she asked in slight surprise. She glanced towards a beautiful silver clock piece that sat on the left side of the desk next to the gilded mirror that belonged to the original Scarlett. It was already two in the afternoon it seemed. She had asked the clock to be placed there a couple days ago after she kept losing track of time. She didn't know why the original never bothered setting a clock in the office, but considering how she herself kept forgetting it was there she might not be the best person to speak on the matter.

"I took the liberty of ordering it ready myself," Garside said. Then he went quiet for a moment. "...My Lady has been quite busy lately. This is not the first time this has happened in recent times."

Scarlett narrowed her eyes. That sounded dangerously close to an admonishment. It surprised her that he dared to talk like that to her. Most of the other servants would be down on the floor begging if they thought they had said anything that would anger her. One young girl had actually done just that just a few days ago. But what surprised her even more right now was that she barely felt any true annoyance at Garside's words. "...You are right. I have been very inattentive this past week."

He nodded his head at her words. "That is why I have not brought it up yet, but I would like to remind you that you had scheduled an appointment in your calendar for tomorrow the fifteenth."

"An appointment?"

"Indeed. Dame Trista Denholm of the Imperial Solar Knights' wedding."

Scarlett frowned. The original Scarlett was supposed to go to a wedding tomorrow? And that of an Imperial Knight?

"I had forgotten," she said as she tapped the desk. "Exactly when was this?"

"We have already booked a passage through the Kilnstone to Ambercrest at eleven in the morning, my Lady," Garside said in a steady tone. "The ceremony is scheduled to begin at one, although you will likely miss most of the pre-ceremonial gathering. We have also booked a return passage through the Kilnstone at seven in the evening."

So the wedding was in Ambercrest. That was a city closer to the center of the empire, slightly east of the capital. It was quite a distance away. In the game, it would take well over an hour if you walked the whole way and it would take far longer in real life. That's where Kilnstone came into play. They were the 'Chronicle of Realms' equivalence to fast-travel. In-lore they were supposed to be another kind of artifact left by the Zuverians. Most major cities had one and there were a few out in the wilds too. After discovering one the player could use another Kilnstone in the world to travel to it in the future. She knew there was supposed to be one in Freybrook but she hadn't had time to go and check it out yet. Honestly, she would prefer to cancel this 'appointment' and inform this 'Dame Trista' that she was too busy to come. But she couldn't very well do that after she had already accepted the invite. If any of the stereotypes about nobles were true, then that was a one-way ticket to causing a grudge, and she didn't want to create any more enemies than she might already have.

"Very well," Scarlett said as she rose from her chair. "Thank you for reminding me of this matter."

"Of course my Lady," Garside responded and moved to open the door for her as she exited the office.

"Inform Kat of tomorrow's plans as well," she said as she began walking through the mansion's halls with Garside only a few steps behind her. "I do not know if she has any clothing suitable for a wedding."

"The invite was only for one, my Lady. I am afraid Miss Breeden will have to forgo accompanying you on this venture."

Scarlett went quiet to think about it for a moment. "Very well. Inform her that she will still be joining me on the ride to Ambercrest, however." While she wasn't fond of the idea of walking around unprotected, it wasn't likely to become a problem if she were around other people at a wedding. The bride was also an Imperial Solar Knight so there were bound to be many strong people present.

And hopefully the wedding wouldn't go on for too long. It was a bit earlier than what she had planned, but she could probably make some quick preparations. There was a place around the Ambercrest area that she wanted to visit.

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A note from Flameruner

Reached rising stars a couple days ago. Took me a while to notice, but that's neat. Thanks to all who read and comment. It makes it a lot of fun writing.


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