“It is an honor to meet you, count.”
“Denied. You should be aware that I do not wish to be addressed as that here.”
“Then, what should I call you?”
“…Call me Shadow.”
The one known as the lord of Marcade called himself that and shot a glare at Lizel and Gil.
They were brought to a dim restaurant that was built to resemble a cave. It certainly didn’t look like a high-class one a count would visit.
However, as Shadow was dressed like the average merchant, he didn’t seem out of place in this environment.
The way he drank his wine before their meals were brought out was like that of a veteran merchant. It seemed that he didn’t at all want to affirm that he was the lord.
He was probably the same age as Ray. But, the two were like opposites. Shadow had black hair that absorbed all light and prominent dark circles under his sharp, red eyes.
This look couldn’t be described as good by any standard, but his features were beautiful enough to eclipse that.
Although both men’s faces had the unique appeal that came with age, Ray’s was a cheerful beauty viewed positively by all genders while Shadow’s was a cold beauty women of all ages would glue their eyes on.
“Beauties gathered around each other,” Lizel quietly thought as he recalled his former student.
“He’s Gil the One Slash?”
With the sharp glint remaining in his eyes, Shadow looked over at Gil sitting beside Lizel.
Gil merely narrowed his eyes in response and sipped the same wine.
His already boorish face became more unnecessarily terrifying, but Shadow wasn’t the least bit affected.
“I heard that he formed a party, but it doesn’t seem like his personality has softened.”
“As expected, your information is up to date.”
“Denied. I have no need for compliments.”
Lizel wryly smiled at how moody this man was and reached his fork out to the food in front of him.
The beautifully arranged pasta dish hinted that this restaurant was no ordinary establishment.
When he twirled the pasta around his fork and brought it up to his mouth, he sensed how impressive it was from how the right amount of spices tickled his nose.
This meant that this restaurant offered great food despite the slightly high price.
Lizel had assumed that Shadow must know the location of every store as he personally approved each application, but it appeared that this was indeed fact.
Bringing Lizel straight here without any hesitation after being instigated by the man was enough proof.
This was the finest of places as the three of them didn’t stand out in their current outfits. It appeared that despite Shadow’s annoyed look, he was genuine in his apology.
“Gil, this meunière is delicious. Please make it next time.”
“As if I could. Hey, another bottle of this.”
In that case, Lizel had no need to hold back and enjoyed heartily chowing down on the food in front of him.
Gil also sensed this and ordered more alcohol to his heart’s content. No matter how much money the two had on their person, having someone treat them to a meal was appreciated.
And, they didn’t seem to care that the noble in front of them was glaring at them with murderous eyes.
“…Hurry up and tell me what you want.”
“I’m fine with this being what we came for.”
Shadow’s grimace filled his entire face, so Lizel smiled and handed over a letter.
Shadow didn’t accept it. Instead, he glared at it and looked like he wanted to say something.
Lizel calmly smiled in response and flipped the envelope over.
Shadow’s brow further furrowed upon seeing the red wax seal. Only then did he take the letter.
“How did you ingratiate him?”
“I accepted a request to deliver a labyrinth item to him, and I seemed to have pleased him with the wrapping I had done for it.”
“That man is truly an idiot…”
Lizel didn’t deny that he had ingratiated Ray, so Shadow raised a brow slightly.
Shadow and Ray were old friends (although Shadow completely denied this). He was aware that Ray hid his name whenever he requested labyrinth items from adventurers and that Ray wasn’t that much of a fool to let folks easily ingratiate him.
Shadow pondered why Lizel didn’t deny getting Ray to hand him a letter to come into contact with him.
One possibility was that Lizel had cleverly hid his motive to Ray.
Although Ray had that kind of personality, he was still someone who operated within the high-class society of the capital. He should be perceptive against lies and deceit.
If someone could deceive this man, then they must possess exceptional acting skills.
Another possibility was that Ray noticed Lizel’s intentions but condoned them. Did Ray decide that he wanted to make this capable person his even after noticing the person’s motives?
In either case, both proved how “definitively superior” Lizel was.
“(Then, will this letter tell me to win this guy over? …Ugh, how annoying.)”
“Hey, do ya sell this type of wine? I’ll take a bottle.”
“Is that really that good? Oh, I’ll take one for this marinade.”
“It’s fine, ain’t it? I mean, we’re gettin’ treated to this.”
Shadow’s hand holding the letter involuntarily tensed.
Presently, he only knew that the rumored “One Slash” and Lizel weren’t acting reserved in front of him.
Shadow glanced at the wine Gil ordered. It was clearly a vintage wine, and when he asked about the price, it easily exceeded ten gold coins.
Even though Lizel said that he was going to be killed, there really was no danger to his life. As such, Shadow really wanted them to be more reserved with what they ordered.
He clicked his tongue, took the letter out, and opened it.
[Don’t make an enemy of him.]
That was the only thing written despite how Ray always prattled on about his prized labyrinth item collection before discussing the main topic in his letters.
There was only that sentence, and it was in the middle of the page.
The handwriting certainly belonged to Ray. It was exactly because of this firm conviction that Shadow couldn’t believe what was written.
Not to make this man an ally but to simply avoid making him an enemy.
In other words, this man was either too dangerous to keep by their side or too great that even doing so was impossible.
According to the information Shadow had gathered, Lizel was an adventurer. His appearance and mannerism certainly overflowed with class, which was why he was mistaken for a noble and attacked.
However, Lizel was undoubtedly not a member of nobility in any country, and the only rank he held was that of an E-rank adventurer.
Besides, Ray would have handled Lizel long ago if he was a nobleman from some country.
“What is the matter?”
“How did you figure out that I am the lord?”
Shadow couldn’t let Lizel know the contents of the letter. He quietly stuffed it back inside the envelope while bringing up this question. This was his intention from the start.
The only ones who knew that Shadow was the lord were the close associates who had always served him.
This was to curb the overly immense influence the title had garnered since the previous two generations as well as to allow an escape since matters dealing with money and business tended to easily escalate to trouble.
“First would have to be your appearance, as expected. There was a description about the previous lord written in a certain book.”
Lizel took out a book.
It had The Rise of Marcade written on its cover and detailed the exploits of the previous lords before the country was known as Marcade.
While the work of a single person was prone to exaggeration and bias, it should still be based on reality.
“Sleek, jet-black hair and blood-red eyes decorated his terrifyingly beautiful face. Whenever he appeared, the air around business transactions completely changed—”
Lizel had begun to recite a line from the book without opening it, but Gil stopped him.
Since he knew that if he didn’t stop Lizel, the man would continue talking and even gush about his comments on the book.
By the way, Gil would run away as soon as Lizel attempted to gush about anything, so Lizel was constantly starved for a conversation partner.
Lizel glanced over at Gil, who was silently going through his alcohol at a constant pace, and reluctantly put away the book.
“Denied. Just knowing my appearance is not enough to conclude my identity.”
“But, it is still a huge factor.”
Shadow’s statement was correct. People with black hair and red eyes weren’t common, but these features also weren’t unique to him.
He didn’t know how many people had read The Rise of Marcade, but there had to surely be at least one person who read it and passed by him by now.
Despite Shadow’s stern, quizzical gaze, Lizel maintained his smile.
“The other factor would have to be the circumstances, I guess.”
“I’m referring to the commotion before. You were watching from afar in the beginning, but as soon as I was mistaken for the lord, you stepped forward.”
When Lizel added, “I thought you would at least show up if there was an uproar in your land, and several people who matched your appearance had fixed their eyes on me,” Gil was utterly astonished.
Lizel’s life was on the line, yet he decided that this was the perfect time to find the lord.
Gil merely felt astonishment before dropping the matter because he was used to this. However, Shadow’s vigilance only intensified at this, and he looked at Lizel.
It was true that Shadow was nearby at that time to find out the reason behind the commotion and watch it from a distance.
He didn’t hear their conversation since there was quite a distance between him and the center of the commotion, but he drew closer upon hearing the crowd gossip that the crazed man was taking revenge against the lord.
During that time, he confirmed that Lizel had properly denied being the lord, eliminated the possibility of his name being abused, and understood that the crazed man had made a complete mistake.
Of course, he also witnessed Lizel gaining support from the crowd, provoking the crazed man, and making himself the target of the man’s anger.
He also sympathized with Gil at that time for how reckless Lizel was to quickly settle the matter.
“The only one looking at me and not at the one making the racket was you.”
Lizel smiled and pointed at Shadow, causing the man to loudly click his tongue.
It was true that he had no interest in listening to Lizel continue to go off-topic, but he was still interested in Lizel for continuing to try to associate with him.
He hadn’t received any notice about someone noble-like visiting, so he had absolutely no clue about Lizel. Also, the way Lizel acted in such a relaxed way wasn’t normal.
Now that he knew that Lizel was an adventurer (although Lizel still didn’t look the part), Shadow assumed that Lizel must be confident in his skills. And, while he comprehended that he didn’t need to be concerned as “One Slash” was next to Lizel, he didn’t think that Lizel was that rumored eccentric adventurer.
“Were you planning on observing my reactions in our conversation later?”
“Denied. I don’t recall making such a readable reaction before.”
“You can say I have a talent for spotting them. After all, expressly coming forward demonstrated how concerned you were.”
“Denied. Curb your wild imagination.”
Even if he became the center of the issue, the lord wouldn’t do something as foolish as to approach danger.
Rather, things would have been properly settled if he immediately called for the police as the lord, but Shadow was already near the center of the commotion.
That was exactly why Lizel was rather convinced, but if the lord himself denied, then Lizel would keep his mouth shut.
“All that was left was to talk and have you confirm.”
“Denied. I’ve said nothing.”
“Don’t you have the unique air of a nobleman?”
There was no way an adventurer would know of this unique air.
Shadow couldn’t grasp a single hint of Lizel’s true intentions and was thus irritated.
It went without saying that he knew nothing of Lizel’s true identity, and now that he thought about it, he also didn’t know Lizel’s purpose in calling out to him.
Lizel surely wasn’t a man who would attempt to ingratiate someone to simply speak to someone else. Because Shadow understood this, it made things more confusing.
The more you talk to someone, the more you will understand them. However, this was the opposite when dealing with Lizel. The more you talk to him, the less you understand.
“So, what is your purpose in coming to talk to me?”
“Let me see… First is the letter. I was told to use it if necessary when I was given it, but wouldn’t you also find it a bit awkward to hold onto something like that forever?”
Hearing and understanding this, Gil flashed a faint glare.
In the first place, when Lizel attempted to come into contact with the lord, he should have been able to contact the lord even without the letter.
Your average adventurer would never have the chance to meet such a noble in their life, but this was possible for Lizel. Gil was certain about this.
Also, this situation didn’t call for the letter to be used. He didn’t know if Lizel deliberately avoided owing Ray a favor or if he had another goal in mind.
Nevertheless, did he bring out the letter to relieve Shadow of his wariness or the opposite?
“So, what is your true goal?”
Shadow also considered this as he appeared to comprehend that the goal just mentioned wasn’t the main one.
Lizel gave a wry smile, believing that it was more or less a fine reason, and put down his fork.
Gil also glanced at this action from the side and chugged his last, full glass of wine—a clean way to drink fine wine without leaving a single drop.
“We will be staying in Marcade for three days, but there is so much to see.”
“Denied. What does this have to do with me?”
Shadow’s eyes indicated that he wanted to say, “Why the hell are you wasting my time?” but Lizel only grinned.
“Is it wrong for me to enjoy a delicious meal when today is my commemorative first day here?”
Lizel bowed, thanking Shadow for the food. Then, he stood up and left together with Gil.
The only ones left were Shadow, who remained dumbfounded for some time, and the glass of vintage wine Lizel received from Gil and left in front of Shadow.
He slowly reached for the wine and gulped it down like Gil did.
The extremely rich flavor gradually made its way to melt his frozen brain.
In short, Lizel had Shadow act as his sightseeing guide.
He had the one most familiar with this country show him to a restaurant that would naturally serve an amazing meal.
For the simple reason of wanting to eat delicious food, Lizel sought the lord of the land, Shadow.
Shadow wanted to be furious at such indignation. But, he couldn’t because at that moment, he suddenly realized the true meaning of Ray’s letter.
“……Denied. Even if he didn’t tell me, I don’t intend to make an enemy of him.”
He wondered what his friend was saying about a mere adventurer.
If it concerned fighting, then Gil would have been a bigger threat. He wanted to chuckle out loud at what Lizel could possibly do by himself.
But, even if he understood that, he was unconsciously on full alert against Lizel.
He could only see Ray’s action of trying to befriend Lizel as brazen.
Such was impossible for Shadow who felt terrified upon looking at this supreme being as he left.
Shadow’s beautiful face distorted as he guessed Lizel’s true identity.
Seeing that he didn’t think Lizel was the type of person to go out of his way to ingratiate Ray, he was determined to figure out the reason for their meeting.
He pondered on how much he could gather from the information network here in Marcade.
He had no intentions of making an enemy of Lizel, but he also couldn’t leave Lizel to his own devices.
“Shall I take away the dishes?”
“Give me the bill too.”
Shadow crushing the bill with enough force to kill someone is another story.
“You pushed him quite a bit. Purpose?”
“I thought that I should leave an impression for our first encounter, so why not be impactful with it?”
“You don’t need to do that to leave one.”
“You think so?”
Lizel was an adventurer who closely resembled a nobleman. And even though Gil knew other adventurers who pretended to be nobles, he understood that Lizel wasn’t pretending. Lizel’s true nature forced him to understand.
By the way, Lizel believed that he was a fine adventurer, so he didn’t notice this.
He simply felt that his behavior was rather polite for an adventurer.
“I understand that people don’t know his face, but didn’t you think that it was dangerous for the lord to be taking a stroll all by himself?”
“He had someone with him.”
“Eh? I didn’t notice. Were they strong?”
The two casually made their way to the inn.
Despite it being nighttime, the main street was flooded with lights and bustling with people coming and going.
However, the clientele here was completely different. The establishments using voluptuous ladies dressed scantily in tight clothes to attract customers were those so-called “adult” stores.
The number of food stalls decreased while the souvenir ones increased.
“But I don’t understand what your ‘fairly’ means.”
“They’re weaker than me, but they won’t lose to the folks here.”
If they were stronger than Gil, Gil would have shown interest, but that didn’t seem to be the case this time.
Gil’s attention already moved onto the surrounding stalls, and even though they just finished eating, he looked at the warm soups.
“Hey there, young men. You two have such beautiful faces. What do you think? Want to have a good time with us ladies?”
Since this establishment was also managed by Shadow, it probably didn’t infringe considerably on any public morals.
Despite that, their inviting voices sounded very questionable.
Gil completely ignored them, but Lizel watched them invite customers as he crunched on the fried vegetables inside the soup he ordered.
Seeing how they wore beautiful clothes despite their questionable nature, they were most likely a proper establishment.
“Gil, you know you can go.”
“I’ll take a stroll around before returning.”
Lizel had inquired about what Gil was like before the two met from Studd.
Gil didn’t deny anything when Lizel asked him if he had any woman problems, so based on that, it appeared that Gil had occasionally played around with women although not to any extreme degree.
However, ever since encountering Lizel, it seemed that he hardly went out at night, so Lizel thought that Gil must have wanted to have some fun by now. But, then again, Lizel probably wouldn’t have noticed at all if Gil snuck out, so maybe he already had some fun to unwind.
Lizel soaked the crunchy vegetables in the warm, steaming soup as he quietly observed Gil.
In response, Gil showed an utterly disgusted face and chewed his vegetables while looking at Lizel.
Does such a man, who would enthusiastically tell another man to go womanize, exist?
Gil was definitely not the type to idolize women like this manner and enjoy drinking alcohol with them. If anything, he wanted to drink in silence.
It would be another story if he wanted to spend a fun night together with these professional ladies who were standing on the streets and wouldn’t cause him any future headaches. But, Gil couldn’t find any enjoyment in having loud women talk to him while he drank, nor could he validate the high cost for the drink which was most certainly cheap.
“Join us next time!” The ladies reinvited them. Their voices could only be described as resolute.
Lizel finished drinking his soup, returned his bowl to the stall, and began walking again.
He was occasionally drawn to the secondhand books being sold, but this really only slightly delayed their arrival at their inn.
While they spotted the inn while walking through the small alley, they also noticed several people standing in front of the door.
“Ah, Mr. Lizel!”
The voice calling him was slightly restrained since it was nighttime, and its owner ran over with his tall body—it was Judge.
As Lizel wondered why Judge was here even though they had just parted ways this morning, the men dressed in a familiar police uniform approached him from behind Judge.
Lizel understood and nodded.
“Oh, I guess we did walk away from them.”
“Ah, from that mess?”
They recalled the police who approached and told them to stop when they were caught in that commotion before.
Lizel had casually told them “Next time” to escape into the crowd, but it seemed that the police refused to overlook this matter.
“Um, I heard that someone suddenly tried to attack you, but are you okay…?”
“I’m fine. But why are you here, Judge?”
“I got worried when I heard that someone resembling a nobleman was attacked, so when the police came over and asked if I knew your whereabouts… I think it’s because you two came here together with me.”
“I apologize. I still ended up intruding on your family time.”
In response to Lizel’s strained smile, Judge shook his head side to side.
Fortunately for the two, the worried Judge had continued to hesitate on whether or not to go check on them.
He had believed that they would be uninjured, but only upon seeing their unscathed appearances did the tension in his shoulders finally relax.
Lizel patted Judge’s arm and thanked him before turning to face the police who had come to question him.
“Is there perhaps a problem that necessitated you to search for me this late into the night?”
“…No, we are required to hear both sides of the story to ascertain the truth.”
Gil muttered, “How annoying,” causing Lizel to smile wryly.
The two probably didn’t have any more new information to divulge. The spectators who watched the whole thing unfold, from beginning to end, should have already told the police that Lizel and Gil had done nothing wrong.
Lizel assumed that the police must be looking for more as he took out his guild card again.
“I am Lizel, an adventurer. I was unfortunately mistaken for the lord of this country. That is the whole story.”
“I see… I mean, I’m sorry for the trouble.”
One of the two police officers dropped his shoulders in relief.
In short, they were suspicious that Lizel was actually the unidentified lord.
The police probably weren’t lying when they said they came here to confirm the facts, but if Lizel really was the lord, then they must promptly confirm his identity and properly carry out their duties.
They most likely wanted to restore the police’s reputation since they arrived slightly late to the commotion.
“I understand your situation, but I must criticize you for involving Judge this late into the night,” Lizel said.
“M-Mr. Lizel… I’m fi—” Judge responded.
“Shut up,” Gil curtly stopped him.
“Normally, you arrive at this inn until tomorrow morning if this was a standard matter, yes?” Lizel continued.
Lizel glanced at Gil who was pressing down Judge’s head before returning his eyes to the police.
He didn’t want to impede the few days Judge has with his beloved grandfather again. Even if this was out of his volition, he didn’t think it was right for Judge to be involved with his and Gil’s circumstances.
Although, if the matter directly involved Lizel, Judge probably wouldn’t complain at all.
“It can’t be helped since we had to promptly handle the issue.”
“Did you only promptly handle it because you had already ascertained everything about the situation?”
Then, the police officer was at a loss for words.
While it was standard to ask for both sides of the story when settling a dispute, it wasn’t always imperative.
In the first place, it was normal to listen to only the restrained perpetrators without having to ask for both sides since it was clear who was responsible.
This also applied here. Despite a knife being involved, there was no damage, so there shouldn’t be any need to ask for Lizel’s side of the story.
Especially so as Lizel was completely caught up in the man’s circumstances. Rather, you could say that it was Lizel who wanted to know the situation.
Judge blinked in confusion, surprised at how Lizel was pressing the other side.
Although, Lizel wasn’t pressing them because he wanted to. He merely thought he should speak his mind about their treatment of Judge.
There was one cause of this. He looked at the other person who was standing behind the police officer who had been currently giving an explanation to Lizel.
“…You were only being protected. Don’t get full of yourself and spit out complaints,” the man said.
The police officer who had been giving the explanation quickly shouted in response to the younger officer’s harsh remark.
The young officer had been intently glaring at Lizel the whole time, and his look remained unchanged even after his senior scolded him.
“What’s with him?”
“I’m your fan. You know that you’re very popular.”
The young officer had been glaring at Lizel before, but when he casually looked over at Gil, his eyes were filled with respect.
Lizel assumed that the young officer was probably one of those people who had occasionally picked a fight with him after he formed a party with Gil.
But it appeared that he wasn’t like those lowlife adventurers who wanted to party with Gil to take advantage of him to rise in the ranks, but the ones who genuinely admired Gil’s strength.
Lizel thought, “Oh youth, how they come lunging forward with a little instigation,” and stopped the senior officer who was still scolding the younger one.
“Anyways, is that all that you want to ask me?”
“Ah, yes. We just need confirmation. And, we would also like to confirm: are you uninjured?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“There’s no way he’ll be injured with One Slash with him.”
The young officer muttered, causing a blood vessel in the frowning senior officer’s temple to bulge.
Lizel understood that this young officer must be a handful to train, so he lightly shook his head and smiled, not minding the remark.
But, the young officer was still glaring at Lizel from behind the senior officer.
“You know that Gil hates people who bring personal matters into official business.”
Lizel said to tease the young officer, and in response, his shoulders jumped and he looked at Gil.
Gil didn’t even cast a glance at the young officer. He seemed bored as he continued to hold Judge’s head down. He playfully used some strength, causing Judge to be on the verge of tears.
Lizel didn’t know what the dumbfounded young officer was thinking when looking at this, but this probably changed his attitude a bit.
The senior officer appeared to be grateful for this, so Lizel tilted his head and smiled.
“Hey now, Gil, don’t tease Judge too much.”
Freed from Gil, Judge drew closer to Lizel, so Lizel patted his head to comfort him.
As Judge accepted the head pats, he once again looked at the young officer who had begun to glare at Lizel again after Lizel (had appeared to have) reprimanded Gil.
It appeared that the young officer didn’t open his mouth to complain again after Lizel’s statement before, but his eyes revealed that he still saw Lizel as the enemy.
As Lizel’s palm touched Judge’s fluffy hair, the soft touch soothed him. In his daze, Judge suddenly opened his mouth.
Despite how meek Judge was, there were times when he felt angry at others even if no business nor customers were involved.
“I won’t forgive you if you do anything to Mr. Lizel, got it?”
The area instantly froze.
When the two police officers arrived at Judge’s home, they were already aware of who his family was.
Judge’s grandfather was a tremendous merchant who could represent Marcade.
So, a declaration from Judge, whose grandfather held that much power, became an order the police stationed in Marcade must obey.
Even if he was younger than them and enjoyed having his head patted.
Even if he was on the verge of tears despite his age for having his head grabbed.
“Judge, you shouldn’t say stuff like that.”
When Lizel removed his hand, Judge noticed the surrounding gazes focused on him, blushed, and looked downward.
Although the reason for the people’s focus wasn’t because of that, it seemed that Judge himself didn’t realize.
By the way, Lizel thought that Judge was joking, but Judge was sincere and serious.
As proof, the two police officers hadn’t moved at all. And, Gil had a serious face, thinking that Judge could now make quite the powerful declaration.
Why didn’t Lizel notice this? It was because he wanted this reserved and honest younger man to remain a reserved and honest younger man.
“Then, please make sure you escort Judge safely back.”
“Um, good night, Mr. Lizel, Mr. Gil.”
“Yes, good night.”
The three calmly bid the other farewell and hadn’t noticed that immediately after Judge’s declaration, the police had been ignored by the three and were pleading with their eyes.
However, if these police officers were afraid of this clearly weak-looking young man, they would lose their dignity as police officers.
After Lizel and Gil watched Judge waved at the two of them with the dark clouds in the background, they finally entered the inn.
It appeared that the young police officer faithfully performed his duties afterward, but no one knew the reason for this change.
Lizel had properly shown respect to Shadow more or less (again).
Since his way of showing respect wasn’t honestly accepted last time, Lizel tried a diagonally-upward approach, but he was once again misunderstood.
This might have been why he chose this approach over being forgotten due to leaving a faint impression.
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