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A note from Belgianfri

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With the Duke's support secured, I could now rest a little bit easier. A few more days had gone by, and the other hunters were getting anxious to return to their guard duty and quests. The spire wasn't exactly a homelike place and there wasn't much to do here but train either.

Still, an event that I had been looking forward to for quite some time was about to take place. We were seated around a small throne room in the centre of the spire. The Duke and Cerion were seated in the centre, while a haggard-looking man was brought in.

It was Ralston's previous Mayor.

This rat had sent mercenaries after me and even gotten his hand on a tier 4 poison out of spite. I wouldn't be able to get revenge with my own two hands, but watching the Duke kill him would bring me some satisfaction.

 

The guards brought the mayor forward and made him kneel on the ground in front of the Duke. The Duke was handed a scroll by an attendant, which I supposed listed his crimes.

"You are the man known as Sertal?"

The haggard man didn't reply, until a guard kicked him in the stomach. He heaved before replying.

"Yes."

"You were the previous Mayor of Ralston?"

He lifted his head, showing the desperate, pleading look in his eyes.

"You can't do this to me! I served you for more than two decades! I did everything for Ralston's prosperity!"

The Duke gave him no quarter, however.

"Are you, or are you not the previous mayor of Ralston?"

"I -I am."

"To the man known as Sertal, the previous mayor of Ralston, you are charged with several counts of bribery, fraud corruption, conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder through transfer of intent. How do you plead?"

"Not guilty!"

The duke placed the scroll down and looked Sertal in the eyes.

"The evidence supporting these charges is immense and enough to prove to me that you committed them, yet you plead not guilty? You should remember that since you are my retainer, I hold full control over your fate. There is no official trial for you."

The mayor started sobbing. "I had no other choice! That brat would report me regardless of what I did!"

The Duke sighed deeply. Maybe he was disappointed in a man he had previously trusted, maybe he was disappointed in himself for not being a better judge of character.

"Sertal, where did you get the tier 4 poison?"

He didn't hesitate to reply. "The black market."

"I doubt that. The black market doesn't sell something as dangerous as mana poisons, and even with all of your corruption you wouldn't have been able to afford a vial."

Sertal stayed silent.

"Where did you get it?"

"..."

The Duke turned serious. He released some kind of aura that made everyone in the room tense up. It felt like I was being pressed on by water from all sides, like the pressure would become too much for my body to bear at any moment. Sertal must have been having it even worse.

"Answer me!"

"...A witch..."

The duke released his pressure.

"Speak up."

"It was a witch, I tell you! That, or a necromancer. She came to me after the brat killed the necromancer from the area."

"She gave you the mana poison? For free? I find that hard to believe."

"She wanted the poison that the brat had stolen from the necromancer! I just had to get it and give it to her in return, I promise it's the truth!"

The Duke looked over to me for answers. I coughed a little before replying.

"As you read in the report, the necromancer was brewing a strange poison in an enchanted cauldron. The poison is now in the hands of the Reito witch hunters' guild, though our alchemists haven't been able to identify it yet."

The Duke wordlessly nodded and turned back to Sertal.

"Regardless of the circumstances, you are still guilty of the aforementioned crimes. My judgement is as such: You will undergo a forced memory retrieval by one of my retainers. Afterward, you will be executed by me."

One of the men wearing a mage's robe walked forward and placed his hand on Sertal's forehead. He was screeching maniacally as the verdict was pronounced.

"YOU CAN'T DO THIS TO ME!! I've done everything for your lands! Curse you, you filthy lowborn commoner bastard! Curse you and all your offspri..."

His words were cut off as his eyes glazed over. His memories were being extracted, I supposed. After a moment, the mage released him. Sertal's body dropped to the floor.

"Did you manage to retrieve his memories, Andoir?"

"A part of it, your grace. Most of his memories were lost in favour of keeping his memories of the meeting with the witch. I shall have them transferred into a memory crystal to preserve them."

"Please do."

The retainer bowed and left the hall with hurried footsteps.

The Duke lifted himself from his chair and drew his sword. With a simple slash, Sertal's motionless body was cut in half.

"Cremate the body. Court adjourned."

With a final command, the servants shot into action to clean up the body parts. The spectators, including myself, stood up and hurried to leave.

In the end, it hadn't been quite as satisfactory as I had hoped. Apparently, I had another enemy to worry about now. Would I forever need to sleep with one eye open?

 


 

"What's that?!"

"That's a lantern. It keeps the streets lit up at night by using magic stones."

"What's that building for?

"It's a clothing shop."

"What's that statue for?"

"...That's just for decoration..."

"Oh! And what's..."

 

I sighed as I rubbed my temples. I had known Cerion was a sheltered child, but could never have imagined it was to this extent. On the road back to Reito he had asked a question what felt like every five minutes, but now that we were in Reito, his rate of asking questions had reached another level. I searched for help with Doran and the party, but they weren't helpful.

"The Duke saddled you with the heir, so he's your responsibility," Garrett had said with a shit-eating grin on his face.

I figured Cerion was even worse than Michael on that front. Speaking of Michael, he had started staying with the orphanage permanently when I had left for the Duke's palace. Now that I had returned I decided to go visit him a little bit later. First, I had to get Cerion settled in and report to the guild master.

Something about this situation felt familiar. Arthur, caretaker of lost children. It was going to become my moniker at this rate.

Cerion kept looking around wildly at the various buildings, people and objects on the street. Reito was a busy place and there was a lot to take in on a first visit. Still, Cerion wasn't helpless. I wouldn't need to protect him from thugs like I had Michael, if worst came to worst.

Our group took the scenic route to enter the city. We travelled through the main street on horseback, which was, for obvious reasons, one of the most well-decorated streets of the entire city. Well-kept bushes and expensive lanterns, people cleaning up whatever trash accumulated 24/7,... It gave off a fairy tale image, which Cerion responded well to.

A few minutes later, we arrived at the guild. The guild leader was waiting on us outside. We had sent a letter ahead, so he knew of our impending arrival.

As we approached him, he greeted us with open arms, walking up to shake Cerion's hand first.

 

"You must be the young Duke. I am Andross, tier 5 [Eruption Halberdier] and guild leader of the Reito branch of the witch hunters' guild! I would like to welcome you on behalf of all members and staff of the guild."

He gave Cerion the standard meeting that he had given me when I first showed up in the guild. Old men certainly knew how to brown-nose others. Old politicians, I should say.

To his credit, Cerion abandoned his child-like demeanor and replaced it with a calm smile that was more in line with a noble's attitude. It seemed that, just because he didn't act like a stuck-up noble, didn't mean he couldn't, when he wanted to.

"Nice to meet you guild leader Andross. My father has told me a lot about you. Feel free to call me Cerion."

He shook Andross' hand politely.

"Let's head up to my study, so that we can converse comfortably. Arthur, since you seem to get along with Mr. Rass, why don't you come with us as well?"

Cerion replied for both of us.

"I would like nothing more, guild leader."

Ugh. Their 'noble speak' was already starting to get on my nerves. The two kept their polite but empty smiles as we were led to the guild master's office.

Once there, we sat down and the guild master crossed his arms.

"So young Duke, what brings you here? I trust that the sword was delivered successfully?"

"It was. My father wasn't pleased that it had to be this way, but was happy to hear that Sir Oscar was buried following our customs. As for what brings me here, I would like to sign up as an honorary member of the witch hunters' guild and form a party with my new friend, Arthur, for a time."

If this development surprised the guild leader, he didn't show it.

"I'm happy to hear that the Duke received some closure. As for your honorary membership, I would be more than happy to instate you as an honorary member. I'll have the papers drawn up by tomorrow. Still, I am confused by your desire to go questing at this time. Doesn't the royal tournament take place in three months? I would have expected you to be in the middle of preparing for it."

 

Royal tournament? Cerion was already participating in the royal tournament? Those happened only once every five years. I had never planned to participate in this edition because of its proximity to my awakening ceremony, which limited how prepared I would be. The royal capital was at least 3 weeks' travel away from here on horseback. That meant that Cerion would have, at most, two months to quest with me.

"I have practiced plenty for the tournament, though I thank you for your concern. I intend to gain some levels out in the wider world for the next few months, after which I will participate in the tournament."

The guild leader leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin, thinking about the implications of what Cerion had said. Eventually, he spoke up.

"So your father intends to have Arthur participate as well, doesn't he."

Cerion's polite smile turned frosty.

"Indeed. My father intends to strengthen his connection to the Royal faction through Arthur's uncle."

At this point, I shot up in surprise. It seemed I had already been involved in politics so quickly.

"What do you mean, my uncle?!"

Both of my companions looked at me a little weirdly.

"Well, with your uncle being the captain of the Royal guard and one of the kingdom's tier 6 warriors, is it such a surprise that my father would try and create a personal interest?"

My jaw hung on the floor. That sneaky uncle of mine had kept quiet about this! What had happened between my father and my uncle? The difference in status was just too large.

Noticing my confusion, the guild master laughed.

"Don't tell me you didn't know? I thought you receive an affinity crystal from him?"

"I did receive a crystal from him, I just didn't know he was a higher-up, okay?! I thought he did grunt work around the palace or something."

The two laughed out loud at my comment. I suppose the idea of a tier 6 doing grunt work was rather absurd.

I, on the other hand, was mostly confused. On some level, I had known that he was stronger than he had let on. Royal guards don't just leave their post to give a gift to their nephew randomly, nor do they get a title like [Royal saviour] that easily.

Still, I felt a little betrayed by my parents. We had had a ticket to freedom with my class this entire time, yet they hadn't told me and instead sent me off into the wider world. Whatever had soured the relationship between my dad and my uncle better be significant.

I took a few minutes to wrap my head around the situation. The Duke was giving me support, but only because he wanted to gain political power in the palace. My uncle was a tier 6 and part of the Royal faction, yet didn't get along with my father anymore. Finally, in three months I would need to participate in a tournament that the entire country paid attention to, showing off my affinity and political support in the process.

Crap.

 

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Belgianfri

  • Your holiness

Bio: I like fries. The belgian kind.

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