Chapter 18 – The Marquis’ plan
“I have a high opinion of you, Elma-kun. It’s rare when adventurers can survive an encounter with a Wandering Lord, not to mention being able to take one down right then and there. An achievement like that is on a whole nother level compared to defeating it normally. You can’t even make a proper plan, prepare yourself, or brace yourself for what’s to come in a situation like that.”
“…..thank you for speaking so highly of me.”
I don’t really feel happy about this person complimenting me.
I can’t even tell if his previous words of suspicion towards me were intended as a joke or not.
“Also….for a shy person like Snow to want to invite someone of her own initiative, even if they are the people who saved her, well….kukukuh. You have an unusual Class, but your strength is not in question….. From speaking to you I can tell you are also quite intelligent. Would you consider marrying into our family, Elma-kun?”
Marquis Harden spoke something outrageous with a smile.
Isn’t he just trying to get a rise out of me here?
“…..please stop joking, my Lord. I apologize for overstepping my bounds as a simple adventurer. I was just interested since we were part of that aforementioned Raid Quest. Please stop poking fun at me.”
“Nguh! Gawkhgawkhhhhhhhhhh! Khm, ghm!”
Luce started choking next to me as I bowed my head.
Snow glared at her father with a bright, full faced blush and unshed tears in her eyes.
Her voice even cracked from embarrassment.
….I have no idea why it was Luce and Snow who was more shaken by that bomb instead of me, who it was directly aimed at.
“Ha-hahah…..that’s a joke taken a bit too far, my Lord. How could a simple commoner be suitable for ojou-sama, who is the leading candidate for the heirship….”
“Pish posh, even if he was disinherited, he’s still someone from the Edvan Family. With my support behind you, it would be a simple affair to reconcile or even take over the family, Elma-kun.”
Hearing what Marquis Harden said, my words deserted me.
I entertained the possibility of trying to play dumb for a short moment, but there is no use trying to deny it now.
Marquis Harden must have definitive proof to say something like that.
He may have already investigated me a while back after hearing about me from Guild Master Hallein, who’s a relative of his.
“….I had my doubts after seeing your sword skills and the way you hold yourself, but…. so you were really a noble.”
Izabella looked at me with wide eyes.
“I’ve made my peace with my treatment already. Please try to refrain from that subject if at all possible, my Lord.”
“Ooh, I see. I apologize for bringing up bad memories. Hmm….though, you deserve to complain a bit more about that man in my opinion.”
I lightly pinched my brow.
I thought I’ve dealt with this subject already, but I still don’t like when someone unrelated brings it up so bluntly like this.
“Well then, a change of subject…..Let’s move on to the main reason why I went out of my way to meet a simple adventurer like you.”
“The main reason…..?”
“You must’ve heard the rumors about me, right? You know that I’m not the type to go out of my way to thank someone for saving my daughter.”
I thought he just wanted to take a look at Luce and I after hearing about our accomplishments at the Graveyard of Sorrows, but judging from his words, that’s not quite true.
“We are not playing around either. Although nothing concrete, we managed to find out some things about that organization that tried to create a Dungeon Calamity with those creepy gemstones.”
“There was some progress in the Mourning Trapezohedron investigation…..?”
If that’s the case, then by all means I would like to hear it.
However, I don’t know any reason why he would just share it with me, just like that.
“M-my Lord! Wouldn’t it be a mistake to tell an outsider about that…..?”
Izabella interjected, but Marquis Harden did not even look at her.
“I’m thinking that the aim of those people is to artificially bring about a Zork with the help of those creepy gemstones.”
“Zork…..uhm, that’s the second Evolution of a Dream Lord…..right?”
Luce anxiously furrowed her brows and turned to look at me.
It seems she remembered what I said after the incident.
Apparently, Marquis Harden reached the same conclusion as me.
I couldn’t be absolutely sure, but I also thought that the aim of the people operating behind the scenes is to create a Zork as well.
“….to be exact, it’s the name of the Grand Calamity that happens when a Dream Lord undergoes a second Evolution. The Dungeon crumbles and all the monsters within escape into the real world. It depends on the original level of the Dream Lord, but if something like that were to happen in this territory, it could lead to the death of thousands if not dealt with properly.”
“Something that large-scale!?”
Luce was taken aback.
“Hohoh, you really are smart and knowledgeable, Elma-kun. It took me inviting a few scholars who went through a lot of old books to reach that same conclusion….And if I’m right, then you already reached the same verdict by yourself.”
Though I knew it was a possibility, I did not want their aim being a Zork to be true.
“It’s said that for a Dream Lord to reach a second Evolution, it needs to kill a large number of high level adventurers. My guess is that during the Graveyard of Sorrows incident, they tried to make use of the Raid Quest investigation to entrap a large number of adventurers and offer them up to the Dream Lord, creating a Zork in the process.”
…..I see no faults in Marquis Harden’s conjecture.
Last time, with how the maps were modified, I can’t imagine that their aim was anything but getting adventurers killed by the Dream Lord.
“I plan on calling for another Raid Quest that fits the requirements and catch the people responsible. I want to use the fact that their objective is to create a Zork…..and smoke out every fool that thinks that they can do as they please in my domain.”
I looked into the eyes of Marquis Harden.
There were no signs of his joking attitude anymore, he was completely serious.
“That’s…..too dangerous. One mistake and La Colina might be destroyed.”
“We’ll take every precaution. The mere existence of people that are able and willing to try to create a Zork is what’s too dangerous. If those people catch wind of the fact that we know what they are after and we might uncover their identities, then they might just lay low until the trail goes cold. Then, after learning from their mistakes, they will try to finish what they started once again…. We need to catch these people and crush them while we can.”
“That’s… indeed true, but….”
“They will most likely try to obstruct the Raid Quest, just like last time. I would like you two to participate as ordinary adventurers, then uncover the identity of the traitors and beat them down before they could create a commotion. This will most likely be our last chance to catch them by the tail.”
“…..you must’ve consulted other adventurers you could trust as well, but… why talk to us about this?”
“You were the ones that stopped their schemes from coming to fruition, isn’t that right? You are both capable and trustworthy adventurers. I even tried to throw you off balance to see if something came up, but I’ve found nothing worthy of suspicion.”
No wonder he kept pushing against sore subjects for a while now, he must’ve measured my reactions and decided whether to speak to us about this with that in mind.
“And the most important factor was that you saved my daughter’s life. As a parent, I want to believe in you two.”
Marquis Harden’s previous firm expression softened and spoke to me with a wide smile.
….I have no idea if that’s his true feeling or if it’s just an act.
Or perhaps he’s just joking around.
When the Mourning Trapezohedrons that can create Dungeon Calamities popped up, I already had a bad feeling about this, but I didn’t think it would end up in such a twisted situation.
“….please let us think things through first.”
As someone who has a large advantage in the form of knowledge about this world, and someone that was born as a noble with the duty to protect this kingdom, I want to lend a hand to resolve the situation.
However, this case is extremely dangerous.
“Very well, I won’t tell you to decide it right now. If you decide you agree, then simply take part in the Raid Quest that will be announced in the coming days. However, make sure to keep all this to yourselves.”