“What are your plans with us?”
Those were the first words Lepard said after he was brought to Renya’s mansion’s audience hall with his hands bound behind his back by a rope. It went without saying, but if Lepard desired to and actually used his superhuman strength, he could instantly tear off the bindings, even if instead of rope it were chains.
Lepard not doing so was because he was worried about Kaede who was loosely stretched out on a sofa alongside the wall, laying there limp after having drunk too much alcohol, on top of his official position which he couldn’t escape from, but reality was actually different.
“Fufun, oh hero, are you so worried about thine future ~nano?”
Even now Frau clad in a black robe laughed scornfully while making sure to look down on Lepard from her seat of honor. Her appearance as she crossed her legs while sitting on her chair and leaning on the backrest was the very definition of a villain pose, but since the chair had unfortunately been built with Renya’s stature in mind, its size didn’t fit Frau. Frau luffed her crossed legs which weren’t able to reach the ground.
“As long as Kaede is safe…I don’t care what happens to me.”
Once Lepard said so meekly, the corners of Frau’s mouth twisted, “Fuhahahaha! What an admirable resolve, hero ~nano!”
“Frau-sama…Kurz-sama is going to wake up if you’re so loud.” The one calmly retorting Frau was Keith, who was standing behind her.
Once Frau looked towards a section along the wall, Kurz, who had been peacefully sleeping on the sofa there while holding the two beasman priestesses on both sides, revealing a slightly peevish expression was reflected in her eyes. Frau’s figure on top of the seat of honor collapsed alongside a sound similar to space being faintly torn apart.
Lepard and Keith were about to become confused, but immediately noticed that only the peeled-off black robe was laying atop the chair. When they wondered just where the robe’s contents had vanished to, they saw Frau in her apron dress next to Kurz trying to lull him back to sleep while gently caressing his head.
“Nothing less of Frau-sama.”
Frau properly confirmed the changes on Kurz’ expression to make sure that he was calmly sleeping at last while being watched by Lepard, who raised his voice in astonishment, and Keith who expressed his admiration of Frau. She then returned to her chair with the same speed that she used when she left it, and quickly changed back into the black robe.
“Fuhahahaha~… What an admirable resolve…hero ~nano!” Frau restated with a voice that barely reached Lepard’s ears.
“You’re resuming from there?” Muttering that with a sigh while dropping his shoulders in disappointment, Lepard noticed Albert, who was still laying on the ground without moving at all, and Grün who was watching the situation with great interest, sitting on another sofa.
“I recall you said something about gathering all four heroes since there’s an order from Renya. What does he intend to make us do?”
“You see, master has apparently negotiated with the katurul ~nano.”
As Lepard reflexively yelled out loud, Frau raised her index finger in front of her lips, instructing him to stay quiet. It was an instruction out of fear that Kurz, whom she had put to sleep at great pains, would wake up again, but probably because she had just lulled him into sleep, Kurz slept with a carefree, happy expression when Frau and Lepard turned their eyes towards him.
“What are you going to do if he wakes up ~nano…?”
“Ugh, sorry…but, isn’t it kind of normal for me to raise my voice when I get surprised?”
Even while feeling apologetic, Lepard at least tried to defend himself from Frau’s remark that sounded as though she was blaming him.
Lepard, a beastman, also knew about the existence of the katurul. There existed port towns on the beastmen continent as well. Limiting the fishing to a small area once it was deemed safe from any harm by the katurul could be seen as a commonly shared rule across all continents. Even the beastman warriors, who had many battle maniacs among them, had enough common sense to avoid a battle instead of looking for one when the opponent was on the global scale.
“If you’re going to be surprised about each and every one of master’s actions, it will be bad for your heart ~no.”
Lepard smiled bitterly at himself for running counter to his surprise, and agreeing with Frau’s comment, which seemed to shred common sense to pieces. Keith seemed to think something similar. Keith having a smile on his lips could be seen from Lepard’s location.
“Well, I suppose you’re right. Leaving that aside, was the katurul a being one could negotiate with?”
“Even Frau doesn’t understand that part well, and the letter didn’t explain any details either ~no.”
“Letter, eh…? Wait, can I ask something I want to know?”
Frau tilted her head in puzzlement as to what might be so interesting about a letter after seeing how Lepard reacted to the word. Lepard confronted Frau with a question he had suddenly come up with.
“Was there any mention about capturing the heroes in the letter?”
“It said to give the four heroes the following orders ~no.”
Once Frau honestly answered Lepard’s question, his eyes became slightly glassy. Frau, who didn’t grasp the meaning behind his change in expression, waited for Lepard’s explanation while puzzled.
“It doesn’t mention anything about a capture operation, right?”
“No, it doesn’t ~no. That’s why we talked it over properly with Grün and Kurz ~no.”
“How about an explanation for the treatment Albert and I received then!?”
“It’s the result of a free interpretation of the letter’s content and because of your usual behavior ~nano. Any objections?”
Being asked back, Lepard was about to reply with a loud voice, but remembering Kurz, he held back his words, mumbling something under his breath, and didn’t object in the end. It’s because he fully understood even before protesting that it would be pointless, on top of the fact that no arguments came to his mind at all. Lepard had understood that he would just be wasting his breath and time by doing something so futile.
“Now that I got you to understand, I will formally inform you about master’s order ~no.”
“Yeah…I got it already, so please remove the rope…it ain’t like I’m a criminal in the first place, right? I won’t run away anymore either.”
Once Lepard requested this while putting a full dose of resignation into his voice, the rope binding Lepard’s hands slid to the ground with just a glance from Frau. It’s not like it had been tied tightly, but Lepard still breathed out in relief, seemingly relaxing a bit now that he could move his arms freely again, but seeing the cut end of the rope on the ground, a shiver traveled down his spine. It’s not because the rope had been untied, but because he could see such a sharp, clear cut on the rope that he felt a chill.
“You…aren’t you deviating more and more from what a normal fairy is?”
“How rude. Frau is a cute silky-san ~nano!”
Frau protested while clenching her fists with a cute gesture of puffing up her cheeks, obviously showing her deep-rooted unwillingness to consent here, but no one showed even an inkling of the intention to support her case.
“…Do you object ~no?”
Once she released her clenched fists, crossed her arms in front of her chest and lifted her head in haughtiness, everyone present in the audience hall averted their eyes very quickly due to the oppressive coercion suddenly ruling the place. It was everyone except Kurz and the two beastman priestesses who were sleeping. Even the bound Albert rolled his body over while in a state similar to a caterpillar, trying to escape Frau’s gaze.
“Since I feel like the talks aren’t getting anywhere, wouldn’t it be better to shelve this issue for the moment and have us hear Margrave-dono’s order?”
It was Grün who threw a lifeline at this point since Lepard couldn’t speak up since he received the full brunt of Frau’s coercion seeing how he was standing right in front of her even after averting his eyes.
Grün, who tried to not stand out at all on top of being calm and mild-mannered to begin with, taking the initiative to join the conversation for a change was apparently because he considered Lepard’s current situation as that dangerous.
Frau showed a somewhat displeased expression due to Grün’s mediation, but since there was absolutely no sign of the conversation going anywhere at this rate, she stopped folding her arms and released her coercion, seemingly having judged that she wouldn’t be able to convey Renya’s order to the heroes otherwise.
“Master’s order is for you to dig a shaft at a designated location ~nano.”
“Shaft? How deep?”
Holding back Lepard, who was about to say something, with a hand, Grün asked while walking up next to Lepard from near the wall.
Lepard was very likely going to complain about being ordered to do public works again, but seeing that it’s Renya’s order, Frau won’t pull back, no matter how much he tries to complain about it, Grün judged. In that case, it’s pointless to speak up here. Based on what I have heard of the orders’ details for the time being, I think it’s more constructive to make an effort in clarifying the objective and improving the work conditions.
“It looks like it should have a diameter of 100 meters and a little depth of 30 meters ~no. It’s not all that difficult ~no.”
“I still think that it’s a fairly difficult task, though…”
“Going by the initial plans, there were talks about digging a tunnel until the port town master is currently visiting ~no. Compared to such a task, this much is a breeze, I believe ~no.”
Lepard became dumbstruck after being told about the initial plan. Even for Grün there was no way to simply agree here, but he limited it to showing a troubled smile. And both of them were almost simultaneously relieved that it hadn’t come to this.
Assuming they had fallen into a situation where they had to dig such a tunnel, both fully understood that it wasn’t difficult to predict that they might not have a choice other than continuously digging an endlessly long tunnel until that port town.
“It’s a job where you will precisely set up a facility after flattening the bottom of the shaft, and piling up stones ~nano.”
“What are you going to use something like that for? Is it for a ritual to extol the katurul or such?” Lepard grumbled while assuming that even the task of piling up stones would be allotted to them.
In response, Frau continued with a detailed explanation which she apparently didn’t intend to hide, “We will use it for a transfer device that will be connected to the port town. Frau will handle the connection to the katurul and the set up on the transfer, so that part will be fine ~no. I’d like you heroes to also build the architectural structure on the surface once you’re finished digging the shaft. ~no.”
“Is it fine to consider it as a temporary storage facility for the goods that will be moved through the transfer system while adding something that won’t allow the transfer device to be exposed to wind and weather?”
“As expected of you, Grün. You get it quickly ~no. Lepard, you should follow his example as well ~nano.” Frau bobbed her head in approval upon Grün’s question.
For the time being it seemed as though he had been praised, but Grün wasn’t sure whether it was fine to accept her praise.
Lepard, who had been used as a comparison target, clicked his tongue while looking sullen, but then straightened himself in panic after being glared at by Frau.
“Keith, use the soldiers and start building a paved road connecting Klinge and the facility ~no. You don’t have to worry since we will request the arrangement of the materials from Mayria ~no.”
“As you order. However, it’s very likely that Mayria-sama will file a complaint.” Keith said while bowing respectfully.
In response, Frau took off the black robe, and casually tossed it on the floor while returning to her usual apron dress appearance.
“The management of Klinge and the rest of the margraviate should be more or less on track ~nano. She shouldn’t be so busy right now ~nano. However, since I would feel bad about placing a burden on just Mayria-ane-sama, I will give my consent if she were to request an increase of personnel for her office ~nano.”
“Increase the number of our helpers as well!”
If we leave her to her own devices, we’ll definitely be forced to do everything from the shaft digging to the stonework with just the four of us. No, since Frau probably won’t make Kurz do anything too strenuous, we’ll have to actually do it with three people, thought Lepard, and desperately yelled out.
“Even if I were to assign ordinary people to the heroes, they would simply become hindrances as they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the work speed ~nano.” Frau declared, audibly snorting through her nose in amusement.
While once again holding back Lepard who was about to complain, Grün said to Frau after thinking it over for a bit, “It’s certainly as you say in regards to digging the shaft, but I don’t think it really matters whether we or specialized laborers pile up the stones. Can’t we have you increase the manpower, even if it’s just for that side of the work?”
“Oh my, Grün, you’re quite skilled at negotiating…but, sure, that kind of work doesn’t seem to be particularly related to the heroes ~nano. Rather, craftsmen might be more suited for it ~no. …Okay, I will assign several helpers for that part ~no.” Frau said very, very slowly, as if putting her thoughts in order while speaking.
Grün’s fist silenced Lepard, who was about to snap at her, by stabbing into his flank.
He was very likely on the verge of saying something along the lines of excluding it from our workload if she can send helpers anyway, Grün assessed, but it wouldn’t be very funny if Frau canceled dispatching helpers after getting displeased by Lepard’s imprudent remarks.
Watching Lepard, who had received a fairly strong blow to his unguarded, soft flank, collapse while having difficulty breathing with a disinterested look, Frau clapped her hands seeing that Lepard had gone completely silent.
“Okay, now, that finishes the talks. I won’t ask you anything unreasonable like start to work right away. Everyone’s work will start tomorrow ~no. Got it ~no?”
“As you command.”
Kurz’ group was still sleeping, and Lepard had dropped out moments ago after being knocked out. And except for Albert, who was still rolled up, everyone in the hall bowed while confirming her order. This was the end of the meeting to pass on Renya’s orders.