After parting ways with Yuuya, Owen and the others returned to the royal castle to tell the king that Yuuya had promised to visit the castle. Last time, Lexia was attacked by an assassin, but this time there was no attack except for the monsters because Owen and the others were more vigilant.
“──Raise your face.
Owen replied briefly, then turned his attention straight to the figure sitting in front of him. An elderly man with blond hair and blue eyes sat quietly in a high, opulent chair, dressed in glittering clothes. Owen’s body naturally tensed up in front of his gaze, which conveyed a sense of compassion and dignity.
──Arnold von Alceria.
He is the current king of the Alceria kingdom and Lexia’s father. At present, the royal castle’s audience chamber in this royal capital of Montres has only the appearance of the king, Arnold, and Owen.
“So, did you meet him? The aforementioned young man.”
“Ha! Just as Lexia-sama said, we were able to make contact with him in the Great Devil’s Nest.”
“U-umu… It was unexpected in that Great Devil’s Nest… And he’s from a foreign country, was he?”
“Yes. His name sounded very different from ours. In addition, his appearance was very prominent in this country, with dark hair and dark eyes.”
At Owen’s report, Arnold nodded quietly. Watching the situation, Owen continued.
“Even so… Your Majesty, please somehow reprimand Lexia-sama. When she met the young man in question, I was astonished because she suddenly asked the young man to marry her… Ah.”
Owen said that much and hurriedly pressed his mouth down… it was too late. He turned his gaze fearfully toward Arnold, where an expressionless Arnold was staring intently at him.
“What did you just say?”
“N-no, it’s nothi…”
“What did you say?”
“What did you say?”
Owen had no choice but to answer truthfully. It wasn’t because Arnold silently began to pull out the national treasure [Slash Sword Greacle] from its sheath. Eventually, he ended up reporting Lexia’s series of actions since her reunion with Yuuya. In the end, Arnold started brandishing his national treasure in a fit of rage.
“Who’s thaaattttt!? The bastard who seduced my cute Lexiaaaaa!”
“Ahhhhhh! Why is royalty such a pain in the ass!?”
Owen tries desperately to calm Arnold down, partly because of his own verbal slip.
“It’s here, huh…”
It’s at the royal capital, Montres.
In the alleyway of the block where the vagrants and pickpockets live, there is a hooded-robed figure. The figure, concerned about his surroundings, reaches an alley and holds out his hand against an empty wall. And then, with a gesture as if he were switching on a dial, the wall disappeared, and a single path emerged.
He checked his surroundings for the last time and then walked in, and soon the walls were back to normal. As he proceeded inside, he finally reached an ample space.
Only a few lamps dimly lit the space, and the inside was made to look like an encampment. There are a variety of people; some dressed in a robe like a person himself, some wearing masks, and others hiding their identities and enjoying drinking.
──However, as he can see from the looks and the atmosphere around them, they don’t just enjoy a drink. This is a place to buy and sell various information and a place to request “work”.
“If I take a feat here… My Cornes house’s position will be unshakeable…”
The person moved in a straight line to the counter, where he called out to the man who was washing dishes, cups, etc., expressionlessly.
“I want to request a job.”
“… The content?”
“Investigation and killing of the target.”
The man’s expression at the counter didn’t move at all at the disturbing contents of the request. This is because the entire exchange of requests here is from the illegitimate underworld. The man at the counter paused to wash his dishes, then pulled out a parchment bundle from under the counter.
“…Here’s the list of people who are available at the moment.”
The client man is immediately checking the backgrounds and status of those on the parchment and the money requested. Then he noticed a piece of paper.
“Huh? Don’t tell me… he’s free right now?”
“…Yes. In that sense, you’re lucky. He’s still here, but as you know, he’s popular. What about it?”
“T-this guy! I want this guy! It’s fine, right?”
The client man looked impatient as he asked, but the man at the counter was expressionless as ever, he pulled out a parchment with a description of the person and pointed to one of the rooms.
“…Go over there. He’s in there.”
Following the man’s words, the client man went to a private room at the far end of the tavern. The client man came to the front of the room and eventually went in.
“──A request, huh?”
If he had to describe the person there in one word, it would be “black”—a dark green hooded robe and an eerie black mask covering his entire face. Blue eyes glinted under the mask’s eyes.
The client man was almost swallowed up by the overwhelming feeling that overflowed from his body, even though he was just sitting there.
“A-are you… the [Head Hunter]?”
As if answering that question, something is shimmering around the neck of the client man.
“The answer is already around your neck, you know?”
”Hmph… if I had gone one step further, your head would have been flying instead of answering.”
Something shiny disappeared from the client man’s neck at once as the dark figure lightly moved his fingers, and he caught his breath, drenched in sweat.
“Hah, hah, hah…!”
“I guess I’ve threatened you too much. Well, now I don’t have to introduce myself, do I? I’m the one they call [Head Hunter].”
“Ah… I-I am…”
The client man who had managed to catch his breath was about to open his mouth, but the dark figure controlled him with his hand.
“No, I only need to be paid. I’m not the least bit interested in your own information.”
At the dark figure’s words that he didn’t care from the bottom of his heart, the client man frowned for a moment but quickly returned to his original expression.
“So you’re here to ask me a request, right? …Do you understand it? Hiring me costs a lot of money, you know?”
“Yes, I know that! Still, there’s someone I’d like you to erase!”
As the client man said that, he took a sheet of paper from his pocket.
“Here’s a rundown of what’s been going around lately.”
Once he received the paper, the dark-skinned figure skimmed over it.
“…Oh, you mean in relation to the attack on that first princess. In the Great Devil’s Nest, those attackers lost their lives, and the princess was saved…”
“Ah, yeah. The assassination of the princess was quite a bit of work, but more than that, the environment of the Great Devil’s Nest was even more dangerous. That’s how only the princess survived…”
”Humph… everyone knows that Great Devil’s Nest is dangerous. Forgetting that, the moment they go after the princess, they’ll know what they’re up to…but certainly, you’re right, it’s unnatural that only the princess survived. Looking at this content, it seems that Owen, the princess’s escort, was also away at that time. If the princess is the only one who survived in a situation where Owen isn’t there… it’s very likely that someone else was.”
“Therefore, I’d like the [Head Hunter] to assassinate the princess. However, there may be an existence nearby that is said to have protected the princess. Keep that in mind.”
“I see… I understand the contents of the request. I guess it’s mostly about making the first prince happy…”
“Huh? Wh-why do you say that…?”
At the client man, who was clearly shaken, the [Head Hunter] sighed in disbelief.
“You… you’re not cut out to be a nobleman. With such a face, how can you get along in the noble society that is more chaotic than that Great Devil’s Nest?”
“Sh-shut up! I’m aware of it without being told!”
“…Well, whatever. Anyway, I understand the request. As you say, I will undertake the job to assassinate the princess.”
“Then, let’s deal with 500 gold coins as a down payment, shall we?”
After the client man left the room once to prepare the advance money, the [Head Hunter], who remained in the room, leaned far back in his chair.
“…I wonder how long I’ll have to keep doing this…”
──The dark guild.
It is a group of criminals who have a lot of illegitimate requests. The people who belong to them are all dangerous people, such as those who have dangerous ideas or are born evil… but there were certainly some people who belonged to them unavoidably.
The encounter that will change the fate of [Head Hunter] is just around the corner.
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