Unraveling the Plot — Part 2
Editor(s): Joker, Speedphoenix
According to the governor, the crime that he was guilty of, and the crime that he’d assumed we’d arrested him for, was the violation of trade sanctions. He’d exchanged goods with an enemy territory against which the crown had imposed a strict embargo.
His motive had not been profit, nor anything else even remotely self-serving. He was driven by something much more righteous and just: his duty. The events that had transpired in the capital had led to a major disruption of Allysia’s supply chain, and Poezahr had it worse than most other places, given its lack of farmland and reliance on trade. Abel knew that, with the economy ground to a halt, his people would starve if he failed to take action. So he did.
Left with no other choice, he broke the rules. He began doing business with a country with which his own had remained on hostile terms for many long years, a country that hadn’t seen an Allysian diplomat in decades. Unlike his land, the foreign nation was home to many a spice, for it was where the warm, southern winds blew. He invested many of his personal funds into acquiring a large stock for a cheap price, which he traded for food in yet another nation. The spice trade was just as lucrative here as it had been in the Middle Ages, so the endeavour allowed him to accrue the resources he required to feed his people.
What left me even more impressed was that, while his motives were just, he had no intention of getting away with the crime should it be discovered. He knew that he’d violated one of the king’s decrees. He knew that actions had consequences. And he was ready to bear the ones that came with his.
He had been completely unaware that his butler had secretly been working for another noble. Uhhh… wow. Dude does this much for his people, and the only thing he gets in return is his butler trying to frame him? That’s fucked up, man.
Fortunately, Carlotta’s top tier interrogation skills allowed us to clear all the pirate-related suspicions from the good man’s name. She was so terrifyingly skilled at extracting information that she’d quite literally broken poor Kurwa in both mind and body. He’d divulged literally everything, with the most important point being that he had only chosen to come to Poezahr for the sake of keeping an eye on the dungeon.
In other words, the draugr’s “friend” had known about him all along. He’d known that the man he screwed had become a demon lord. And he’d done nothing about it but set up a way for him to cover the incident up. All so that his crimes would never be laid bare. But then the unexpected happened. We came by, conquered the dungeon, and wrenched his greatest fear from the realm of nightmares to that of reality.
The scummiest part of it all was that he’d opted to attempt to eliminate us even though he didn’t know his secret was out yet. As a villain by nature, he’d simply determined that it would be the safest choice and had the butler order the pirates to sortie the moment he caught wind of our success. Apparently, this was because they assumed that we would’ve been weakened after having exhausted all our energies in order to defeat the demon lord. Unfortunately, for the backstabber in question, he’d miscalculated. And on two fronts at that.
The first was that Carlotta, our commander, was not the incompetent idiot that she would have needed to be for their plan to succeed. She was more than flexible and thoughtful enough not to get stuck on the Abel-framing cover story the butler and his true master had prepared. Their second miscalculation was that we failed to struggle with the demon lord. Both Nell and I still had our batteries edging on full. They wouldn’t have been able to take us down no matter what they tried. The friend killer had been destined to taste judgement the moment we stepped into town, and our actions, which included capturing the butler and forcing him to divulge everything he knew before he could make any reports about the fact that the evidence had not been destroyed, only served to worsen his situation.
“Would you mind if we took this dunce with us?” Carlotta shoved the prisoner she was holding towards the man he had once pretended to serve.
“…No. I wouldn’t.” Abel paused for a moment to try to compose himself, but gave up and instead continued in a venom-filled tone. “He’s not one of us anymore. I don’t care what you do to him.”
“Shut up, dolt!” He hollered. “I’ve told you countless times, the most important thing between men is trust! And now you’ve gone and stepped all over mine. Get your ugly mug out of my sight, and never come back!”
The muscular ex-sailor slugged the younger man so hard that he sent him flying through the air. He was red faced. His breaths were coarse, and his brow swollen with rage. At first, I thought he was so pissed that he was going to step forward and beat the butler to death without another word. But he didn’t. He instead composed himself by taking a couple deep breaths and then re-entering his manor.
We’d long untied the governor because Carlotta had decided to more or less overlook his transgressions given the good intentions and extenuating circumstances. That said, he wasn’t getting off scot free. She was far too shrewd for that. She’d instead opted to get him to agree for a deal that she found much more favourable than he did. It wasn’t unilateral, of course, as an agreement that only benefited one of the two sides was sure to lead to resentment and effectively set one’s future self up for failure. Still, it benefited Carlotta far more than it did the once sailor.
She had, on behalf of the church, sworn to provide his city with aid in the case of any future economic downturns, whereas he had promised to fully cooperate with any of the church’s endeavours going forward. Effectively speaking, she’d put a leash on him, and all because one of his associates happened to turn traitor. That said, he didn’t seem to feel particularly terrible about the deal, despite it not being in his favour, as he was still planning on personally buying the ships that we’d captured.
The price they fetched was beyond just a pretty penny or two, so he was going to be paying us later on as opposed to handing the cash over up front. As such, I was going to have Nell grab my share. And keep it too. I had no need for human currency, and could always acquire as much of it as I needed by beating up some of the Wicked Forest’s monsters and pawning off their corpses.
“Well, it looks like your guardian has given us his blessing. I hope you enjoy your stay in prison,” said Carlotta. “Take him away.”
The butler, who was now just a broken shadow of his former self, groaned in frustration as a pair of paladins hoisted him over to the prison wagon parked just outside Abel’s manor and locked him away.
“Now, I would love to say call it a day, but we’ve still yet to address the man behind the curtain,” she said, as she watched her men cram the butler into his wheeled cage.
“Mind if I leave you guys to handle that part without me?” I asked.
“Of course not. Arresting individuals like him is one of our regular duties. And as we’ve already secured all the evidence we need to proceed without any further investigation, I suspect we’ll manage even without your skills,” she said. “Letting him get away after all we’ve already done would require an abundance of negligence.”
“Alright, if you say so.”
Well, looks like I’ve done my part, draugr dude. The baton’s in Carlotta’s hands now, but your grudge is good as settled, so feel free to kick back, leave your dungeon to me, and head straight up to heaven.
“Now you can start using that dungeon without having to worry anymore,” whispered Nell.
“…Is it just me, or did you totally just read my mind?”
“It’s really easy to tell when you relax,” she said. “And as one of your wives, I’ve at least got to be able to read some of your emotions, right?”
I couldn’t help but smile, in part because I was happy, and in part because I was embarrassed. God damn, that was a critical hit.
“Let’s move onto the next order of business,” said Carlotta, as she turned to someone that had yet to be included in any discussions. “Guildmaster, I’m sorry for making you go out of your way to join us.”
“It isn’t a problem. I understand that there are extenuating circumstances at hand,” said the man who’d made his way over to the manor shortly after we’d arrested the butler. “Here is the reward we agreed upon.”
“Thank you,” said Carlotta.
“Please, feel free to sell us any of the materials that you retrieved from the monsters you slew at any time,” he said. “Speaking of which, would you happen to have the dungeon’s core in your possession?”
“Unfortunately, it was destroyed in the battle with the demon lord. However, we were able to retrieve some other materials that you may find rather valuable…”
As the two began talking business, I turned to face the other three associated with the guild.
“So, I’m guessing you three are adamantite now?”
“You got it, mate,” said Reyus. “We rank among the big boys now.”
“I’m not sure we deserve it. We barely contributed…” said Lurolle.
“Hey… y’all had better knock it off with all that negativity. It’s depressing,” groaned Griffa.
Each of the three had a completely different expression on their faces. Reyus had a cheeky grin, Lurolle had a wistful smile, while Griffa just looked plain old exhausted.
“You guys are thinking too hard about it. Sure, having someone like the grandmaster around made it easy as a piece of cake, but a promotion’s a promotion,” said Reyus. “And me, I don’t see why we’d ever pass on one.”
“It’s not that we’re thinking too hard, it’s that you’re not thinking hard enough.”
Lurolle rolled her eyes and heaved a heavy sigh, and with good timing, at that. It just so happened that the guildmaster had finished speaking with Carlotta, so he used the lull in the conversation to jump in.
“Have you ever considered registering as an adventurer, Wye?” he asked. “We’d welcome someone like you with open arms at any time. In fact, I’ll even use my authority and bump you straight to mithril.”
“Rating someone like him at mithril is absurd, mate,” said Reyus. “If he’s not orichalcum, then no one is.”
“Oh behalf of the jury, I agree,” said Lurolle.
“On behalf of y’all, the court, I also agree,” said Griffa.
“Orichalcum…?” The guildmaster frowned. “Unfortunately, I can’t do that with my authority alone, but if the three of you really insist, then I can at least bump him up to adamantite.”
I stuck out a hand and waved it from left to right several times to get them to stop.
“Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve got no intention of joining anything,” I said.
“That’s too bad,” said the guildmaster, as if he’d expected it the whole time. “The offer does still stand if you ever change your mind.”
Admittedly, I did think about it. Being an adventurer would certainly be fun in its own right. But if anything, I was the opposite of an adventurer. I was the type of big baddie that people paid adventurers to kill. Hell, I already am technically an adventurer, albeit a bronzie. And honestly, I’d much rather keep it this way. The way I am now, I don’t need to do jack shit. But if I got promoted and whatnot, they’d probably throw all sorts of different responsibilities at me and force me to do all sorts of things I don’t want. Yeah, fuck that. I’d rather just stay home and chill than solve other people’s problems, even if it does sound kinda entertaining.
“It would’ve been fun for us to be in the same line of work,” said Reyus, in disappointment.
“Yeah, but it’s not like this is the last time we’ll ever get stuck on a job together,” I said with a shrug. “I’m sure we’ll run into each other again eventually anyways.”
Working with them had led me to the realization that they were actually incredibly capable adventurers, despite going on and on about feeling completely useless. They were proficient guides, had plenty of knowledge to spare, and all in all, seemed like real professionals who deserved to be known for their skill and experience. And Carlotta was every bit as aware of this as I was, which meant she could very well request them if she ever needed to do something that required an adventurer’s toolkit. The chances of us getting to work together again seemed pretty high, given all that.
“Alright, looks like we’re all wrapped up.” I glanced at Nell, who confirmed my suspicions with a nod. “So we’re going to be heading straight home.”
“The sun’s already setting,” said Carlotta, with a cocked brow. “It’s getting a bit too late to depart. I don’t think you’ll be able to find yourselves any coaches or carriages.”
“Yeah, but with Nell and I around, it doesn’t really matter if it’s day or night. It’s just as safe anyway,” I said. “Plus, I’ve got me a top secret way to get us home in the blink of an eye.”
Warp crystals quite literally made the entire process instant and barely cost me anything. I saw no reason to hang around the city and sleep in some random inn when I could pop one, go home and bask in the comfort of my own bed.
The explanation I’d given them didn’t really amount to much of an explanation at all, but oddly enough, it seemed that everyone that had accompanied us along the way seemed to accept it nonetheless.
“Well… I suppose you would have something like that up your sleeve,” said Carlotta.
“Right? Knowing him, I kinda want to think he’ll just fly off into the sunset,” said Reyus.
“I’m more inclined to believe that he’s capable of warping the fabric of spacetime and teleporting himself over,” said Lurolle.
Ding ding ding, we have a winner!
“Well, whatever the case, you’re free to stay home for about a week, as it’ll take us a few days to reach the capital, and I was planning to give all of us a few days off upon our return,” said Carlotta. “Make sure you rest well.”
“Thanks Carlotta. I will!” replied the brunette.
Carlotta nodded, then turned my way and handed me a bag.
“Masquerade, here’s your portion of the reward we earned from conquering the dungeon. As we discussed earlier, we’ll hand Nell what we owe you for the ships at a later date.”
“Sure thing,” I said. “And feel free to tell Nell to give me a shout if you ever need me for anything. I don’t mind tagging along if she’s involved.”
“You never do change.” She brought fist to her chin and chuckled heartily. “Then I’ll plan to do just that, if the need ever arises.”
Likewise, I also laughed a bit while chucking the coin-filled leather pouch into my inventory.
“Well, it was fun guys. See ya.”
“Bye everyone!” said Nell.
“Yeah, see ya again, grandmaster,” said Reyus. “And you too, hero girl.”
“I’d love it if you told me more about your love lives next time we meet,” said Lurolle.
“Y’all better stay safe, y’hear?” said Griffa.
Once all our farewells were out of the way, Nell and I left the manor and soon strolled straight out of Poezahr’s front gate. We walked a bit more, chatting about whatever random topics came to mind as we did, before finally finding ourselves an isolated spot to the side of the road. After confirming that no one else was anywhere even remotely nearby, I grabbed a pair of warp crystals from my interdimensional pocket and handed one to my dear wife.
“You remember how to use this thing?”
“Mhm. I just have to channel mana into it, right?”
“Yup. It’ll activate on its own once it’s got its fill,” I said. “Alright, to home we go!”
And so, we vanished, as if melding away into the darkness of the night.