Three days ago.
"Have you eaten, In-law?”
After visiting the Angel's House and coming to a small cafe to meet Zendia, Duke Asteria sat in front of his in-law, smiled, and replied, "Haha, not yet, In-law.”
Zendia smiled and nodded. "Then let's take our time to eat and talk. Talaria, can you tell the kitchen to bring us some food?”
Zendia spoke at a normal volume, but Talaria on the first floor was able to hear Zendia and answered, "Yes, Father."
The duke showed admiration when he heard Talaria's voice from below. "The Crows have such good hearing. I don't think we would even be able to talk in secret unless there were a lot of soundproofing layers."
"Hahaha, that's true.”
When Zendia nodded, the duke asked with a purely curious expression, "Is there anything bothersome about having such great hearing? I’d assume you can probably hear a lot of unwanted clutter."
Zendia smiled lightly. "It's okay because I subconsciously ignore it when I’m not trying to listen closely."
"Is that so?"
"The human body is a peculiarly adaptable living thing. No matter how disciplined and strong it becomes, sometimes I don't even know if muddy water is splashed onto my body while I'm too focused."
The duke smiled and doubted Zendia. "Ayy, there’s no way that’s true. How can a man with such keen senses not know that muddy water has splashed on him?"
"Hahaha! It’s the truth, especially when I had just left my hometown. In my hometown, even a handful of leaves and soil contain mana, so I can't be unaware of it. But outside the forest, ordinary things don't have mana, so I sometimes let my guard down. I adapted quickly because I’m a swordsman, but since Talaria mastered magic, she took quite a long time to adjust."
"Aha, I'm afraid magicians are more sensitive to mana, so there's nothing one can do about it.” At Zendia's explanation, the duke thought the reason why he didn’t notice the muddy water was also terrifying.
While the duke and Zendia chatted, Talaria served the food. "Enjoy the meal."
Talaria put the food down and went back to the first floor, and Zendia whispered quietly when he saw Talaria descend. "It's not food that my daughter made, so feel free to eat it."
"I can hear you!"
At Talaria's cry from below, Zendia recoiled back. Seeing this, the duke smiled sadly.
Seeing Duke Asteria’s smile, Zendia felt regretful. "I'm sorry."
Knowing the meaning of Zendia's apology, the duke waved his hand. "No, it’s enough for me if Anemone was happy. Besides, she lived longer than initially possible because she went there. I will always be grateful to Doomstone and Mirpa-nim."
When Zendia became gloomy despite the duke's gratitude, the duke changed the topic to the original purpose of their meeting. "By the way, I was quite surprised that you called me all of a sudden."
"Oh, I'm sorry to inconvenience you by calling you so suddenly.”
"No, it was no bother."
The duke and Zendia each cut the steak in front of them and got down to business.
"You know I'm Aquarius, don't you?"
The duke nodded at Zendia's question. "Of course. The Empire has benefited greatly because of you."
"This time, Talaria will infiltrate the interior and find out why Libra, Sagittarius, and Scorpio took the objects they stole from the imperial palace. So, can you help me divert their attention by putting on an act?"
The duke thought for a moment and smiled softly. "What will I receive for doing the favor?"
As soon as the duke heard the story, he was planning to agree without any conditions. However, after a long time, since his in-law asked for a favor, Duke Asteria decided to request that Zendia escort him to Anemone’s grave in Olympus Forest. Olympus Forest was too dangerous a place to go with just the duke’s forces.
Zendia's answer was far beyond the duke's expectations. "How about spending time with your youngest grandson during the act? It just so happens that I need to check my youngest grandson's skills thoroughly."
Duke Asteria was so surprised by Zendia’s unexpected suggestion that he couldn’t help but nod.
* * *
"Ahhhhhk! The deer is flying in the sky!"
The duke was briefly lost in thought when he clicked his tongue at the noisy Debt-ridden Knight’s screams beside him.
"You’re a platinum plate adventurer. Don’t make such a fuss just because it abruptly started flying.”
At the duke's nagging, the Debt-ridden Knight cried out, still holding his shocked and wildly pounding chest. "I'm a swordsman! I don't fly around like a magician! No, people can't fly in the first place; flying in the sky is what’s strange!"
The duke found it pathetic that he had such a coward as an escort. He should have been nicknamed the Cowardly Knight, not the Debt-ridden Knight.
"Your Highness! What are you thinking so hard about?"
The duke shook his head with a slight smile at the gaze of the suspicious Debt-ridden Knight. "It's nothing.”
The Debt-ridden Knight nodded, thinking it probably would not be good to hear anyway.
Having regained some calm, the Debt-ridden Knight tightly gripped the deer's reins and commended his mount. "By the way, this deer is very fast."
"Of course, do you know whose deer this is?" The duke nodded proudly, and the Debt-ridden Knight looked at the duke incomprehensibly.
Then, out of the blue, a strange voice came from the deer.
- HA! HA! HA! MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Following this voice, a very cheerful melody flowed out, and the deer began to sing.
"Ahhh! The deer is singing!" Once again, the Debt-ridden Knight could not hide his astonishment at the bizarre sight of a deer singing.
Right when the Debt-ridden Knight was shocked by the singing deer, a woman wearing a pink mask appeared in front of the two. With the unforeseen appearance of the Pink Mask, the Debt-ridden Knight tried to draw his sword. However, the deer that Debt-ridden Knight was riding suddenly began to move violently.
- Danger detected! Eliminating!
The deer shouted and swiftly started shooting beams from its nose.
"Ahhhh! The deer is bucking around and shooting beams!”
When the Debt-ridden Knight’s deer violently moved and attacked the Pink Mask, the deer that the duke was sitting on turned around and began to flee.
"Ahh! Where are you going by yourself? Your Highness!”
"Hahahaha! I don't know either!" The duke laughed cheerfully and enjoyed the situation. Yet, this was just a series of confusing events for the Debt-ridden Knight.
The woman wearing the pink mask quickly approached while deflecting the deer's beam, her twin swords shrouded in aura blade.
- Freeze Beam!
When she arrived nearby, mana gathered to the deer’s antlers, and a beam capable of freezing everything poured out from the center of the antlers.
The frozen beam brushed by her while she was avoiding the surprise attack. However, she soon grabbed the back of the deer and sat on the saddle. And then she knocked out the Debt-ridden Knight.
- Occupant unconscious. Considered dead. Command code D-1. Self-destruct sequence.
The woman wearing the pink mask was appalled when she heard the voice of the deer. "Denburg, you crazy bastard!"
She urgently poured mana into the deer's head and modified the code Den entered.
- Three, two, one... Passenger's consciousness confirmed. Request for cancellation of command code D-1, accepted.
Fortunately, it was not difficult to recognize her as a passenger since she was "family.” If she were a little late, she would have been caught up in the deer's self-destruction. Looking at the magic circle, it was designed to doggedly follow the perceived enemy and self-destruct. At her level, she may not have been killed, but she could have been seriously injured.
The deer began harmoniously singing Christmas carols again, and the deer that had fled returned from afar.
As soon as the deer returned, the duke mounted on it also returned, smiling and asking, "How did it go? Big Mama, no, you're Virgo now?"
"Yes, I succeeded. And it doesn't matter which name you call me. Please refer to me as whatever is convenient. But first, let's get down."
Talaria controlled the deer and approached the ground.
After landing, Big Mama got off the deer and pulled out a large mirror from her pocket space. "I set up a magic tool that sends videos near my father and my youngest nephew. Would you like to see how good the youngest nephew is?"
When Talaria asked, the duke nodded as if saying, of course. In the mirror, Den was surrounded by hundreds of birds and was summoning a golem. Their voices could not be heard, but the masked Zendia and Den were glaring at each other piercingly.
"Do you happen to have peanuts or jerky?" The duke asked, watching peacefully.
* * *
Why is Grandpa here? I couldn't understand and just stared blankly.
Grandfather scratched the back of his head as if he was in a bind. "Ahahahaha! It wasn’t part of the plan for you to discover my identity.”
I frowned at my grandfather's words. "So you know it's me. Did Aunt tell you?"
That's weird. I'm sure she can't talk about me recklessly because of the contract.
"She already told me before signing the contract.”
My aunt found me when I was at the training center, and I wrote the contract with my aunt right after I was assigned to the adventurer's guild, so she had plenty of time. My aunt had already made a loophole in my contract since grandfather revealing my identity wasn't defined within it.
I made a mistake. I should have remembered my grandfather, but I didn’t think of it because I was blinded by the fact that my aunt led the Big Mama Information Agency.
"Hahaha. I can hear the cogs turning in your head from all the way here," my grandfather smiled kindly and said.
"Don't worry. I'll keep my mouth shut. Can't you revise the contract since my identity has been revealed?”
That’s right. As my grandfather said, I could just force him into the contract. But is my grandfather the only exception? Since there was already an exception, it was not possible to know if there would be more in the future.
My grandfather laughed cheerfully as if he had guessed what I was thinking. "Even if your aunt uses me as a loophole in the contract, Talaria is not stupid enough to provoke your anger. Wouldn’t it be easy to bring down what your aunt has achieved so far if you truly wanted revenge?”
I nodded at my grandfather, and he smiled playfully and continued. "It’s just like how you didn't include yourself in the contract’s curse. If you didn't keep your promise, your aunt would cause trouble for you with all her might."
"Hahaha, you already knew that?”
Grandfather nodded at my question. "Yes, your aunt is not a pushover. It was your aunt who resolved all the international incidents committed by your father, Doomstone. Talaria is more amazing than you think."
My aunt certainly wasn't a pushover. She was a monster similar to Hestia noona. By the way, if the situation was now fixed, this meant the duke was on the same side as my grandfather.
I sighed and frowned. Crack! "Oh, I guess the durability is up."
The mask I was wearing broke and fell off my face. Actually, it was praiseworthy that it did not break when I was slammed into the ground by my grandfather.
My grandfather took out a new blue mask and put it on before looking to the left. "Darn, if you have another mask, you'd better wear it now."
In the direction that my grandfather was staring, powerful mana was quickly flying here. Is this the dragon king and the great elder of the Butterfly Tribe’s mana? I let out a weary sigh and took out a white half-mask from my pocket space and put it on.Previous Chapter Next Chapter