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In order to reveal the person tailing him and Set, Rei had entered the complex back alleys. While waiting at a dead end, a single person appeared with a wry smile.
「Seriously, I was really confident about my covert actions. If you don't mind, could you tell me how you noticed me watching you?」
The person, a woman who seemed to be in her early twenties, tilted her head to the side as she asked Rei.
「Why I could, I won't tell you.」
While watching the woman, Rei grasped the knife inside the Dragon Robe carefully, making sure that she wasn't trying to do something tricky.
The clothes she wore made it easy for her to blend it with the residents of the city. It wasn't much different from the clothes ordinary women would wear in winter. If a difference had to be said, it would be that the clothes were padded in several locations, but that by itself wasn't that rare.
She looked to be in her twenties. Although she looked good in her own ways, she wasn't a beauty that would turn heads. She had black hair, tied behind her head, the so called ponytail hairstyle.
「You seemed to have been eagerly watching since this afternoon, what business do you have with me?」
At that question, the woman frowned subtly.
「It seems I was noticed after all. Should I say as expected……I'm losing some of my self confidence. How about it? Will you keep me company for my training next time? It seems you would make a good training partner.」
At the woman who said that with a smile, Rei gave a snort without any particular interest.
「You weren't monitoring me for such a pointless thing right? You wouldn't do something that whimsical with the weather this cold. I want you to get to the point right away.」
「……Seriously, you're a completely heartless person. Even with all that, I had felt confident in my appearance.」
The woman glanced at Rei flirtatiously while pouting.
However, in this case, it could only be said that her opponent was a bad match up. After all, there were a lot of beautiful girls above the average standard around Rei. There was Lenora and Kenny, the guild receptionists. Furthermore, there was Marina, the guild master, and Elena, the General Princess. Outside of them, adventurers in the city of Gilm who were better dressed were not few.
Even if she was a woman with some pride in her figure, if you asked Rei, comparing her with the rest, she would probably end up in the category of ordinary woman.
(But, there's no doubt that this woman is serious in trying to tempt me. Perhaps it's a bit of a side show before the main subject.)
「Would you say that your introduction has been good enough? I have no spare time for idle stories. Get to the point right away.」
Rei prompted the subject while preparing to throw the knife in his robe at any moment.
Seeing Rei's att.i.tude, she realised that if she delayed the subject any longer, it would only dampen the mood. Eventually, she gave a smile with a serious expression and started speaking.
「Rei-san. We value your talent highly. Your high level of combat skill and huge magic power is something even leading mages cannot rival you in. And you are someone that even a rank A Griffon obeys, you should be appreciated more. I never expected that such a talent would simply end up as an adventurer……won't you come under us?」
「……The Bestir Empire.」
Rei's murmur was soft, but in this back alley, it was loud enough to reach the woman's ears.
The woman didn't change her expression even after hearing that and waited for Rei's reaction. But although there was expression of unease on her face, her fingertips trembled. Rei didn't miss that slightly motion. Normally, that brief moment of movement would never have been noticed, but it was enough for Rei.
「I see, as expected. ……It's a skillful method. If you take me in, since I've been causing you so much trouble, the strength of the Bestir Empire will increase while the power of the Mireana Kingdom will decrease. Two birds with one stone.」
「Two birds with one stone?」
As expected, the woman hadn't heard the idiom before and frowned suspiciously.
While looking at the woman, Rei paid attention to his surroundings after he had said the words Bestir Empire.
(There are two. The top of the roof on the right and the corner of the pa.s.sage behind the woman.)
Looking at Set, he stayed silent and looked back at Rei, as if to confirm that.
「Don't bother, it's an expression from where I grew up. Rather than that, can I a.s.sume then that you're an underling of the Bestir Empire?」
「……That is correct. It seems I was seen through from the beginning and there was no need to hide it. By the way, can I ask how you knew I was from the Bestir Empire?」
「It's not a complicated story. I just thought about who was in this city and who would bother me.」
「Isn't there also the n.o.bles and Royal factions? If they knew that there was a gem like you in Rowlock's region of the Neutral faction, I think that it wouldn't be strange to try to draw you out.」
「The n.o.bles faction will use some sort of go between.」
「A go between?」
The woman asked questioningly, but Rei ignored her and kept speaking.
「Of course, I know that within the n.o.bility, their opinions aren't necessarily united. Besides, the Royal faction has yet to actually try to contact me.」
「Well, there's no clear reason. However, I thinking about the power most troubled by me at the moment, the Bestir Empire is the top candidate. After all, even a few alchemists and Demon Soldiers where caught because of their interactions with me.」
The woman was silent in response to Rei's words.
In fact, for the Bestir Empire, the incidents that had taken place around the city of Gilm where nothing but failures. The a.s.sa.s.sination of Elena, the symbol of the n.o.bles faction, one of the biggest factions in the Mireana Kingdom, had failed. The alchemist Postguerra, who had taken a long time to get close to Bolton, the head of Azoth Firm and an influential person in Gilm, had been captured. The two Demon Soldiers that had served as his guards were now also in the hands of the Mireana Kingdom.
Because Gilm was a frontier city, it took a long time for information to reach the Bestir Empire. By the time they realised the situation, Postguerra and the Demon Soldiers had already been escorted to the Imperial Capital and were impossible for them to recover. Therefore, as a result of investigating, it had come to light that Rei was a D rank adventurer with A rank combat power. They came to the conclusion that Rei might even reach rank S in future.
In addition, Vel Sails, who had betrayed the Mireana Kingdom for the Bestir Empire, had not been able to give any information about Rei. As a result, they resorted to other ways to find out more information.
「So, leaving here for the Bestir Empire, is it. I'm fully satisfied in this city. What could I benefit from doing that?」
「You already know, but by next spring, the Bestir Empire will declare war on the Mireana Kingdom. If you know the existence of the Demon Soldiers, isn't it clear whether the Mireana Kingdom will win or not?」
「I see, so it's in my interest to survive? ……But I'm an adventurer, not a soldier or knight employed by the kingdom. When the time comes, can't I just leave this kingdom?」
「Since you've hindered the Bestir Empire badly, do you think this will be easily overlooked? A war will start next spring. At that time, you will definitely become a target of the Bestir Empire. Even if you are not on the battlefield, there's no doubt shadows like us will come out. But if you come over to the Bestir Empire before it's too late, there will be considerable rewards promised. Money, woman, n.o.bility. ……Oh right, you have the hobby of collecting magic stones and magic items. Is it enough that I can guarantee those rewards?」
He would be doomed if he stayed with the Mireana Kingdom as it was. The woman presented the rewards he would get if he turned to the Bestir Empire. If Rei was an ordinary adventurer, he might have changed sides. But……
「I'm sorry, but I'll have to refuse. I've been an enemy of yours up until now. I also have emotional attachment and a sense of obligation to the people in this kingdom. And above all, I don't want to be part of a country that would pull in a guy like Vel.」
For Rei, those rewards weren't desirable enough for him to give up his current place.
(Well, the magic stones and magic items are a bit regrettable though.)
Thinking to himself with a wry smile, Rei felt the atmosphere given off by the woman slowly getting dangerous.
「Yes, it's a pity. However, just because you've refused doesn't mean you can just go back. In addition, considering your combat strength, you will become someone difficult for us to deal with. Because of that……」
By the time woman had spoken up to there, the sun was already setting and the lighting was dim. Rei heard the sound of something flying towards him from his right.
Raising his Dragon Robe to the right where the sound was heard, the next moment, there was a high pitched metallic sound of something bouncing off.
「Impossible-!? Uruipuka's needle was blocked by a robe!?」
The woman had an astonished expression after seeing what had happened before her. Not caring about that, Rei quickly threw his knife in the direction the needle had come from.
Even for the person who threw the needle, it was unexpected that the needle he threw would be blocked by a robe. The knife pierced his body and he fell from the roof to the ground.
The most unfortunate thing for those three people was that they were up against Rei. The attack of the needle that would even penetrate plate armour, was impossibly defended against by a robe. Furthermore, the powerfully thrown knife pierced through leather armour made by the alchemists of the Bestir Empire, many times stronger than ordinary leather armour.
Set gave a ferocious cry as he dashed forward, jumping off the wall and wrapping around the woman in triangular jump……
Maybe she felt fear towards Set, she immediately turned around tried to take a rod out from inside her coat to face Set. However, all she could see was Set's back, wings and tail.
She gave a cry at Set's unexpected behaviour, she immediately realised Set's goal and was about to shout to her friend hiding in the corner when a voice was unexpectedly heard at her ears.
「Taking your eyes off your target, there's a limit to being careless.」
After that, the woman felt an impact on her neck with that voice and her consciousness faded.
The moment she fell to the ground, she saw Rei, who should have been 10m away, swing a palm to her neck.
At her voice, Rei glanced towards the woman who was completely unconscious after falling to the ground. The next moment, there was a sound of a heavy strike.
Turning to look over, he saw that a man in a black costume had been smashed by Set's forefoot, blasting him away and destroying a wall.
In addition to having extraordinary strength as a Griffon, Set had also been boosted by a magic item. It was easy for Rei to predict that and ordinary human would be unable to endure the attack and be blasted away, destroying a wall in the process.
「It seems their estimate of Set and my strength was naive.」
Rei said that towards the woman who had fallen to the ground unconscious.
As Rei said that, Set came back carrying the man dressed in black he had blasted away in his beak.
「Next, so that's the guy who threw the needle. Set, I'll watch him so bring the man I took down by throwing a knife.」
At Rei's request, Set gave a cry before heading over to the fallen man.
Seeing Set walk off, he then remembered.
「That reminds me, the needle……」
Rei looked at the ground. The sun had already set and the area was completely covered in darkness, but it wasn't so difficult to find the needle with Rei's good night vision. Rei picked up the needle that had been blocked by the Dragon Robe and fallen to the ground.
「……I see. So he's a shadow, or should I say, a spy.」
Seeing and picking up a 20cm long needle, Rei muttered in surprise.
The needle itself was painted black and the person had thrown it at a speed that no one would normally be able to react to it.
「It's possible to evade it to some extent from the sound it makes. However, if it even scratches me……」
The tip of the black needle was wet with some liquid. Rei didn't know what effect it had, but it was obvious that it wasn't something that had a good effect on the body.
After that, Set brought the man wearing black costume and with a knife in his belly over with his beak. Because it was clear that he would die from his severe bleeding, as more prisoners were better, Rei decided to take out a potion from the Misty Ring to stop the bleeding.