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Desir called out and gathered his companions before sharing the information he had obtained from Totlina.
Adjest was the first to respond.
“To clear this quest, we have to kill that foreigner.” Romantica followed up.
“And in order to get rid of the man, we must break through the castle defenses where he is staying.”
Excluding Adjest, who always maintained an expressionless face, everyone looked dejected at the scale of this upcoming task. Everyone knew just how difficult it would be.
Although Desir’s Party had so far raided several facilities, most of them being known for extremely tight security, they were on a whole different level to a royal palace.
The place where the king of a country stayed. It was clear that such a place would be so strong that it would be incomparable to anywhere they had ventured in Shadow Worlds before.
They were only four people, regardless of how strong their party was. It was absurd to even imagine contending with an entire country’s culmination of power.
“Since we blew up the lab a few days ago, the patrols have been greatly tightened. It’s almost as if these are the defenses they would deploy during times of war. Look at the soldiers walking around all the time. Outsiders like us can’t even freely move.”
Romantica glanced out the window.
She could see a cold street. Soldiers patrolled in pairs and the citizens walked the streets carefully, glancing sideways at anyone they crossed paths with. The number of soldiers on patrol seemed to be triple the usual amount.
“Get off me!”
They could hear a faint voice from an alleyway on the other side of the street. Romantica locked the window, clicking her tongue in annoyance.
“Altea has changed a lot in just the short period of time, obviously, since we destroyed the lab.”
“I feel responsible.”
“They’re imaginary beings after all. You don’t have to feel guilty about the people here.”
After the second lab was destroyed, the Magic Kingdom began arresting and locking up wizards for various reasons.
If someone showed any sign of disobedience, they would immediately be overpowered and taken into custody. After losing their experimental test subjects again, they were now abusing their power as a country to collect other test material by force.
This was a country of wizards. Wizards were numerous and there was no better place to collect subjects than here.
‘The problem is that we’re mercenaries.’
Most of those who were taken into custody were socially disadvantaged and the weakest largely chose to become mercenaries.
Desir theorized that mercenaries were often targeted since they had no one to vouch for their identity and most of them would not be missed by others. As a result, foreigners like themselves could not venture out recklessly. The city had become so quiet that even the airships that could usually be spotted flying overhead every ten minutes had disappeared.
“In addition, they’ve blocked all borders with neighboring countries. Inside the city, they’re checking everyone thoroughly and the encircling net is narrowing down. They’ll find us here soon.”
They paid the innkeeper a small fortune to keep their secret, but frankly they couldn’t tell how long such an arrangement would last.
Pram seemed a little worried.
“It’s really violent. Even if they’re a mercenary, if anyone is even the smallest bit suspicious, they’ll be taken into custody. Thanks to that, the mercenary guild is starting to form a resistance movement. There must be a lot of tension brewing.”
“Which means it’s not time to show an indecisive attitude.”
Desir drank the water on the desk. The lukewarm water had a disgusting taste.
“It’s so obvious. Taking as many mercenaries away as possible gives them a large selection to pick the best test subjects from.”
Wizards over Third-Circle were not that common. Pureus had not even been able to find an experimental test subject at a level of at least the Third-Circle, even after conducting his research over such a long period of time.
But that’s because Pureus had been limited to working on his research in secret. With a nation state backing him openly, he would have definitely gotten his hands on such material. He would have discarded a safe future though.
But the person who now led the Homunculus manufacturing effort no longer seemed willing to conduct their research from the shadows. They were hauling in experts from the mercenary guilds without any pretext what so ever.
Adjest didn’t understand the behavior.
“If it’s done in this manner, there’s definitely someone who will find it suspicious. A Homunculus may be exposed to the outside world as a result.”
“There must be a reason why they have to take such a risk and complete the Homunculus in five days.”
“No matter what they think, what we have to do isn’t going to change. So, how are we going to proceed with the quest in this situation?”
Desir answered Romantica’s question. “The only way forward is to get Kei’s help.” Grand Master, Kei Hazmaryun.
He was a very powerful warrior and a senior member of the army. He also led quite a few troops directly.
This current situation would be a bit easier to manage with his help. But Romantica immediately expressed skepticism towards such an option.
“There’s no reason for Kei to help us. What would you think from his point of view if we, who are foreigners, suddenly asked for assistance in entering the royal castle? He’d rather take us in for questioning.”
Romantica’s opinion was absolutely right. As she said, a hasty approach would have led to rousing Kei’s suspicion.
“Yes, but he is by no means a man that would accept the present situation.”
It was Kei’s holy spirit that Desir banked on, after witnessing it for himself during his stay on the airship.
“We’ll contact him as mercenaries in the name of protecting the citizens. He’s more than neutral in terms of favor with us. He won’t refuse and he won’t have any reason to doubt.” “That’s a good plan. And then?”
“Then it’s never too late to think about our next move once we hear what he thinks of the current situation.” Desir concluded.
“For now this is the best path we can take.”
* * *
Thanks for reading this on patreon.com/maldfrogsclub “I know of the situation you are faced with.”
It wasn’t that difficult to find the mansion that Kei was staying at. He was a very prestigious figure and most inhabitants of the capital knew where his mansion was.
On the contrary, it was more difficult to avoid being caught as mercenaries while traveling to the Grand Master. In fact, they were almost caught twice.
“It is true that soldiers have recently arrested wizards like you in the country. Under the royal edict, innocent mercenaries are arrested, and all those who help them are severely punished. It’s obviously unfair. And I don’t think that’s right.”
“That’s why I’m asking for protection. We’re facing a serious threat and we need help.” When Desir asked him for protection, he agreed without hesitation.
“Of course, I’ll help you. I truly know that you guys are innocent.” “Thank you.”
“Please stay here until things calm down. The soldiers won’t approach my mansion. But I don’t know when this will end.”
Desir felt relieved in his mind. Up to this point, it was as expected. Now he had to check the authenticity of his assumption about how Kei truly felt.
Just as Desir was about to open his mouth to test Kei, Kei spoke first.
“But you can make a choice. Whether you’re just going to wait for this to end, or follow me and end this mess yourself.”
Desir questioned Kei’s sudden suggestion. “I don’t quite get what you mean.”
“I’m currently gathering people to correct this wrong situation.”
Kei was speaking calmly, but what he said was not just a simple matter. “Do you mean to provoke rebellion?”
“In a way, that’s what it would be. But I understand that you are mercenary and mercenaries don’t care about the right or wrong of a given task.”
“Of course you’re right, but I don’t think this is a simple matter to be reckoned with. Why would you ask us for help?”
“Because I trust you guys very much as mercenaries.”
Kei had once been impressed by the return of Desir and Romantica. He didn’t know them personally, but he felt he could trust them as mercenaries.
‘This is an opportunity.’
There was no need to make excuses and persuade them. Kei had originally planned to attack the castle.
With his aide, they could attempt to clear the Shadow World naturally. Desir nodded assiduously.
“No matter how much mercenaries are driven by money, they don’t accept requests that are destined to fail. What’s the exact request?”
“To protect Your Majesty and punish those who call themselves prophets and mislead him.” Exactly in line with the purpose of Desir’s party. There was no reason to refuse.
“Please be prepared for a reasonable price.”
Kei, who had received Desir’s reply, spoke with a delighted look covering his face. “You’ve made a good choice. I’ll make sure to bring you guys back alive.”
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