Sorry for the late release!
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Chapter 0102 Slanzewi
Two days after the ambush from the monsters and five assailants.
The caravan proceeded on the old highway without incident and arrived at Slanzewi, the second-largest city in the East.
If Rho Bridge was fine, it would have taken two days from the City of Rune via the East Highway, but it took six days to detour around the old highway.
As it was the first big city they stopped by in a long time, they booked an inn where all the members could stay in.
It was also the regular inn for Gecko’s caravan in Slanzewi called 『Red Jewel Inn』.
“It’s been a long time since we stopped in an inn. Please take your time to rest. Oh, and feel free to eat what you like at the cafeteria on the first floor. My company will pay for the meals at this inn.”
Hearing Gecko’s words, Ryo and the members of 『Switchback』 involuntarily made a guts pose.
Basically, the trip was a non-stop journey to the Capital city of Aberdeen.
Of course, they would stay at an inn in the city, but they had no plans to trade or buy or sell in the city.
The highest priority was to deliver the items they already had to the Capital city as soon as possible.
Therefore, Gecko told them from the start that even if they stayed in a city, they would only stay for one night.
Most of the towns were new to Ryo, so he had a desire to go sightseeing, but he couldn’t help it since it was a request.
He professionally segregated his work and leisure and decided to stop by when they returned from Aberdeen to the City of Rune.
However, there was also a C-rank Swordsman who couldn’t do so.
Ra was dragged back after being found by Scout Sue when he was secretly trying to escape from the inn.
Where on earth was he going … Ryo had no way of knowing …
However, Ra will later be grateful that he was brought back at that time.
Suburbs of Slanzewi.
There was a group of about ten people in black.
“Shafi-sama, an urgent statement from the headquarters.”
One of the men in black reverently presented a letter.
“What? At this timing?”
The man called Shafi frowned as he received and read the piece of urgent statement.
And he groaned a little.
“Seriously. The idiots at the headquarters. Fine. The third goal will be changed. It will be the assassination of the merchant Gecko who is staying at『Red Jewel Inn』. Regardless of the method. The prior third goal of the destruction of the aristocrat town will be designated as the fourth goal. The fourth goal is to be done by the unit that finishes their first to third goal early.
They had memorized the faces of all the pivotal humans of each country.
Gecko was the Inbury Duchy’s sanctioned merchant and the closest civilian to the Duke of Inbury.
Therefore, they already remembered his face.
2:30 am. Wee hours when even plants and trees were asleep.
Ryo jumped up to a sudden roaring sound.
However, he remembered that he had never encountered an earthquake since coming to 『Phi』.
For now, he changed from the inn’s room clothes to his usual attire, slotted two knives on his belt, put on his robe, opened the window and looked out.
At the end of his line of sight, he saw a large burning building.
“Isn’t that the Lord’s mansion?”
There was an air of unrest.
Jumping out of the room, he ran up the stairs.
On the first floor, Gecko, his subordinates, Max and half of the escorts were staying.
When Ryo reached the upper floor, Max was out in the hallway giving instructions.
“Ryo. Please protect Gecko-san and his group.”
Ryo’s defense seemed to have gained Max’s absolute trust.
Gecko and his men were gathered in the largest room at the back.
Considering that they had already changed their clothes, it could be said that they acted fairly quickly.
“Oh, Ryo-san. It sounds like something serious is happening outside.”
“Yes. I saw the lord’s building burning from the window.”
Gecko was surprised by Ryo’s report.
In Gecko’s room, safety was the highest priority, as it seemed that the shutters on the windows were closed and they had not seen the flames coming from the lord’s building.
In any city, the lord’s mansion was the most guarded building.
It was an unusual situation for the building to be on fire.
As they were talking, there was another roaring sound.
Moreover, it felt like it was bigger than the first one …
It was more like an explosion than a roaring sound.
Ryo opened the shutters on the back window a little and looked out.
“Gecko-san, the stone three-story building on the left of the lord’s building when viewed from here …”
“I think that’s probably the Knights’ building or armory.”
Gecko replied as he soothed his anxious-faced subordinates.
To know such details even for a city in another country, it could be said that information was the lifeblood of a merchant.
“Somehow … it’s exploding rather than burning …”
(Michael (pseudonym) said that gunpowder wasn’t common yet … but that seems like an explosion …)
“Is it something like the Fire-Attribute Magic <Explosion>? Or perhaps from burning 『black powder』…”
“No way …”
Ryo was surprised to hear the term similar to 『gunpowder』.
“The powder, made only in the eastern part of the Kingdom and stored in Slanzewi … Oops, that is confidential. I talked too much.”
Then Gecko grinned.
It was impossible to decipher his intent, but it seemed certain that he spoke intending to let Ryo hear it.
“Although information is the lifeblood of a merchant, that’s still …”
“Fufufu, a merchant is not much different from an intelligence officer. I am free to move around because the Kingdom and the Duchy are almost allies rather than just friends.”
Ryo felt he had a little glimpse into the complexity of the job of being a 『merchant』.
“Gecko-san, the fire has spread near the inn. It will be troublesome if the inn catches on fire. Let’s evacuate outside.”
Max jumped in and made a suggestion.
For the time being, everyone prepared to evacuate with only what was important.
“Finish preparing in 40 seconds.”
Gecko sent instructions to his subordinates.
As for him, he only picked up one shoulder bag and seemed to be ready.
It seemed that he gathered all his valuables in one bag.
(Prepared in 10 seconds … just like the leader of an anime somewhere …)
Ryo was honestly impressed.
“Ryo, I entrust Gecko’s safety to you as a top priority.”
Max approached Ryo and whispered.
“I know Gecko said that the safety of his subordinates is our top priority, but if something happens to Gecko, our country will not be able to persist. Please.”
With that said, Max left the room to instruct the others.
(A 『merchant』 is a complicated job after all … traveling from country to country like an intelligence officer … and to top things off, the fate of the country rests on the shoulder of one merchant …)
Ryo also took his bag and went down to the hall near the entrance on the first floor.
“Gecko-san, I will surround everyone with an Ice Wall. The wall will move with us, so please move in this grouping as much as possible.”
Gecko nodded on behalf of the party.
“<Ice Wall 10-layer package>”
10-layer transparent ice walls covered all directions.
Ryo felt that most attacks would bounce off this 10-layer Ice Wall.
Of course, it won’t be able to do anything against firepower like that of the Akuma Leonor … but that was an exception. After all, it deflected the attack of the Explosive Blaze Magician, who was said to be amazing!
Although it wasn’t completely deflected!
The turmoil outside the inn was pretty terrible.
With such confusion, Ryo’s <Passive sonar> was no longer accurate … because there was too much movement of people and the air.
Therefore, <Ice wall> was necessary for absolute safety.
Prevention was better than a cure.
With Max at the forefront, the escort team led Gecko and group as they confirmed the safety of the surroundings.
There was a plaza in front of the inn, Red Jewel Inn, and not only the guests but also the people living around there evacuated to that spot.
When the Gecko and his group moved to the corner of that square and calmed down …
A throwing knife flew precisely toward Gecko’s throat.
Even after calming down, the Ice Wall was not lifted.
Deflected by the ice wall, the knife fell to the ground.
Ryo looked in the direction the knife came from.
Somebody was in the shadow of the street between the buildings. And … there were three people.
“<Ice Coffin> <Ice Coffin> <Ice Coffin>”
The distance was about 20 meters. In that case, his magic will surely reach them.
The previous time, when he tried to capture the assailant with <Ice Bind>, he was murdered and even his corpse was about to be burned.
If they were the same opponent this time, they might attempt to do the same.
Thus he decided to encase them in an Ice Coffin from the beginning.
It was a crude judgment and action befitting Ryo.
At this point, Max and his three subordinates ran toward the shadow where the assailants were lurking.
They couldn’t resist letting out a small cry of surprise.
Even after seeing it once, anyone would be surprised to find three ice-encased objects at a street corner.
Following Max and the others, Ryo came over to the street.
“Yes, I tried to catch them before they were burned.”
Ryo nodded, saying so.
“But … what should we do? These three probably aren’t the only assailants invading the city …”
“Yeah …. If they fail, another companion will come attacking again … we can’t investigate them in such a place. If others can’t break them too, why don’t we leave them here? We can collect them after everything is over.”
Max also seemed to have roughly the same idea.
“Their companions might come to retrieve them. If they do, we can capture them too.”
There was quite a gap between their conversation and the smile on Ryo’s face.
“The fourth goal of destroying the aristocrat town … Well, this much should be sufficient. Did we kill about half? Hmm? Hey, what happened to the third unit?”
When he realized that the gathered subordinates were missing three, Sharfi asked the captain of the first unit beside him.
“They have not joined up yet.”
“Huh? What are they doing? It should be easy to assassinate a merchant …”
But after saying that, he noticed.
(It’s weird that all three haven’t returned. It’s impossible that all three would be killed … was there a ridiculously strong guy among the escort? Ah shit. This is what happens when a new goal is slotted in right before the operation! The idiots at the headquarters …)
Sharfi cursed in his heart.
However, he regained his calm.
“We’ll survey the area around Gecko for the time being.”
“What is that …”
Three ice square pillars stood in one of the passages leading to the square where Gecko and his party were.
Inside the pillar were Sharfi’s men.
(Is that humanly possible …? I heard that just as a Fire Magician can’t burn an opponent internally, a Water Magician can’t freeze an opponent either … Did they use a powerful artifact? The fact that there are people in it … the ice won’t break easily. We can’t leave them there either …)
Sharfi stared at a place slightly further away from his ice-encased subordinates.
He was observing the turmoil …
While Sharfi was scratching his head, a loud cheer was heard from the city gate.
“Is it the return of the vice captain?”
Muttering and laughing a little, Sharfi and the seven others left.
About 40 knights came to Gecko’s party waiting in the square.
One of the knights spoke to the party.
“This is His Excellency Baldwin, Vice-Captain of the Knights of Slanzewi. I believe you are Gecko, a merchant of the Inbury Duchy. There was a report that you captured suspicious individuals. Hand them over immediately.”
“Wha … don’t …”
Gecko stretched a hand out to restrain Max from shouting and,
“So it has come to this.”
Gecko muttered so softly that no one could hear it.
However, Ryo, who was next to him, could.
“Great work. I’m Gecko. We trapped them in that aisle, so let us show you. Max, Ryo, please follow me.”
Then Gecko started walking toward the aisle.
(<Ice Wall 10-layer release> <Ice Armor>)
Ryo placed an Ice Armor on Gecko to be safe.
It’s not as defensive as an ice wall, but it could prevent a throwing knife.
Then Gecko pointed to the three pillars of ice.
“What is this …”
Exclamations of surprise leaked from the knight and Vice-Captain Baldwin.
“One of my escorts captured them in ice coffins. Please take them away.”
“O-okay. That’s admirable. We will take note of your cooperation.”
Vice-Captain Baldwin nodded generously.
“Then, are you sure you want to release the ice coffin?”
Ryo asked nobody in particular.
“<Release the captured limbs, Ice Coffin release.>”
Ryo chanted an appropriate chant and erased the three ice coffins.
The three fell to the ground.
“Are they alive?”
“Yes. They are alive, so I think it’s better to shackle them.”
Ryo answered Baldwin’s question properly and politely.
The three were shackled and placed on a convoy towed by the Knights.
“And when will Gecko leave the city?”
“I will leave tomorrow morning.”
Gecko answered Baldwin’s question clearly.
“I see. I’ll take responsibility for the investigation of these three people, so be careful along the way.”
“Thank you for your concern.”
Gecko bowed deeply.
Then, the Knights left for the burnt-down Knights’ building.
“Gecko-san, those guys …”
“Yes, nine out of ten, they’re probably connected to those who caused this turmoil.”
Max was angry at Gecko’s composure.
“Max, don’t misunderstand the weight of things. Our top priority is the safety of the people in the company. Next is our business. Everything else falls after that. As long as Lord Baldwin has his eyes on us, he will be able to threaten my subordinates’ safety if we do not step cautiously. Leaving aside the situation yesterday, with the condition of the lord’s mansion, the Lord and the Knight Captain are probably not safe … Currently, the most powerful person in the city is Lord Baldwin. We must leave the city before we are physically harmed.”
Then Gecko turned to Ryo and bowed.
“Ryo, I apologize for handing over the witnesses that you took the trouble to capture without permission. But this is for the safety of my subordinates. Please understand.”
“Of course. Don’t worry about me. I think it is wonderful to put the safety of the people in the company first and foremost.”
Gecko smiled and bowed again.
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