Though they were accustomed to infiltrating buildings, there was something they found hard to deal with.
That was barrier magic. Currently, the branch’s windows and doors were sealed off with barriers.
In order to break a barrier, one needed to use the corresponding counterspell to the magic used, otherwise you’d have no choice but to simply brute force it by pummeling it with magic.
However, both of those methods were impossible to them as neither were magicians.
(Should we look for another way in…?)
Though Bard’s thoughts were tinged with irritation, he noticed a single window open while looking around the outside of the branch. It was a hole in the barrier. If they used that, they could get in.
( … )
However, Bard hesitated.
The person of the branch put such a strong barrier up. Would they make that kind of a mistake?
Be that as it may, there was no guarantee they’d find another hole the next day. Something like waiting for another window to be open was out of the question.
The hatchling wouldn’t necessarily be in Lunéville indefinitely.
After his slight hesitation, Bard whispered into Katie’s ear.
They were currently wearing masks that only exposed their eyes while they were sneaking in, so they couldn’t communicate with each other without getting close to each other.
“I’ll sneak in alone. Stand by at the rendezvous.”
Bard was at a loss for words since she didn’t acknowledge it.
“There is the possibility of this being a trap. You will erase all traces of me.”
“… Still, more people is better.”
She was being obstinate.
“… If I’m a nuisance, I’m fine even being a decoy.”
That won’t happen, is what he wanted to shout, but he pushed it back down.
Bard hadn’t thought of a way to argue with Katie, who had never refuted him until now.
“… Got it.”
Erasing all traces of his breathing, Bard climbed the wall first and successfully invaded through the window. Then Katie followed up.
However, the two people who invaded the room gasped.
Because their objective, the hatchling, was sleeping soundly in that room.
More important than that, however, was the thing that completely captivated their sight. The elf girl that was sleeping while holding the hatchling.
The elf girl’s sleeping appearance held a mystique that seemed as though it would disappear as soon as it were touched and held a beauty where not even the smallest distortion was permitted.
They were professional assassins that could kill their emotions, but they might have still been standing there all the way to morning.
Somehow, Bard managed to restore his consciousness and kill his mind and emotions, reaching for the knife at his waist.
Telling Katie to be vigilant of their surroundings with his eyes, he once again turned towards the elf girl.
Without even noticing the sweat running down his face and back, he swung the knife straight for the girl’s neck.
However, the point of the knife that was swung directly downwards and could even pierce a wall.
It touched her skin. But it couldn’t cut it.
Bard raised the knife perplexed, swinging it down towards the girl’s profile for the second time.
However, let alone her skin, even her hair that seemed like it would disappear by a touch couldn’t be cut.
—What is this?
Confused by something that had never happened in all of his experience, Bard retreated a step back.
At that instant.
As Katie began running towards the door, it was forcibly opened.
She wasn’t so stupid as to collide with an opening door.
However, Bard saw Katie fly back and slam into the windowsill.
Looking back at the door, Bard shifted his body as he felt a shiver run down his spine from a piercing blood lust.
Immediately following that, a hammer-like fist scraped by Bard’s cheek.
It was merely a coincidence that he avoided it at the last second due to the shivers.
However, if he took advantage of fighting in close combat in the dark, he would be slightly superior.
The moment he instantly determined such a thing and attempted to hold up his knife, Bard suddenly lost the ability to move as a ballistic shock ran through his skull originating from his stomach.
(Imp… po… ssi…)
He had definitely avoided the attack from that left arm.
However, what he saw in his fading consciousness was the figure of a man slowly pulling back his left arm.
Bard became aware that he was bound. Though he tried to struggle, his body wouldn’t listen to him. Additionally, the pain in his abdomen was almost enough to cause him to vomit.
When Bard groaned, the bulge on the bed stirred.
Slowly getting up, the elf girl didn’t show any reaction in particular even when she saw Bard.
His body shuddered in fear from her gaze that looked as though she knew everything.
Looking away from him as though he were nothing, the elf girl, Ilya, looked towards Frank who’d bound them.
“… I didn’t think they’d show themselves on the first day.”
“There’s a limit to being so carefree!”
With a direct fighting spirit that was completely different from his appearance at the reception desk, his words were sharp. Above all, the gauntlets on his hands stuck out against his uniform.
Next to Bard, Katie had completely lost consciousness.
Seeing the two people restrained, Ilya bowed to Frank.
“My apologies, branch manager. You’ve had to sully your hands.”
Expressing gratitude as though he’d just disposed of an insect that came in, she thanked him for having to deal with it. That was how Bard saw Ilya when she said that.
She was entirely out of the norm. An existence that he could never be a match for.
“S-stay away, you monster…!”
“Please keep quiet. Ah, biting your tongue or drinking poison is useless by the way. I’ll absolutely heal you. Everyone you people attacked are safe as well. Will you believe me with this?”
The beastkin they’d attacked were safe.
They didn’t have any intelligence that said that. If people who suffered fatal wounds were healed, it should have been a topic of discussion. However, he wasn’t confident in the denial that came to his mind.
The reason that the recovery of those dying beastkin didn’t come up as a topic could only be because it wasn’t uncommon for this town.
They didn’t die. There was no way to kill them.
In that case, he had no choice but to defeat them and run away.
But could he?
It was impossible.
He had no way to handle his current situation.
(… It’s useless.)
Bard lost his will to resist.
“That calmness… Ilya, were you planning on being a decoy from the start?”
“Ah, yeah. Though I never would have thought that they’d appear on the first day…”
She made sure they knew the hatchling was in Lunéville by walking the around town.
To show that the hatchling was in her room, Ilya sent the message to Rachelle. The window being left open was of course, also on purpose.
Though Frank understood that now, he didn’t agree with it.
“If I weren’t on alert, what would you have done?”
Of course, I would have captured them.
(Though… this isn’t the time to say that…)
Frank didn’t know about Ilya’s abilities. Seeing Ilya look troubled, Frank sighed, switching the subject.
“I’ll bring these two to the basement. Ilya, wait in the parlor.”
Ilya had no choice but to obediently nod at Frank’s tone of not accepting a refusal.
Likely woken by the turmoil, the hatchling raised its head while half asleep.
As Ilya was lulling the hatchling to sleep once again, Frank told her to would wait in the parlor after changing.
“I said I wouldn’t ask about things relating to your abilities when I hired you so long as you did your job, but I can’t overlook this. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“In order to deceive your enemies, don’t tell your allies…”
“I understand the meaning of preventing them from finding out, but you didn’t need to include me in your precautions.”
Once Frank confined the intruders inside one of the underground storehouses, he immediately turned back to the parlor and scolded Ilya.
Frank himself didn’t realize he changed his phrasing to be about himself.
That was the degree of his anger, but he was also concerned.
“I’m sorry… I’ll be more careful from now on.”
“… You’ll never act as a decoy again right?”
Believing Ilya’s response to be her true feelings, Frank breathed out a large sigh.
When Ilya looked up after feeling that the mood changed, Frank’s expression returned to what one would normally have after dealing with an insect.
“Those two appear to belong to the thieves guild.”
Ilya checked the outstretched registration cards.
“I’ll be interrogating them after this, but is there anything you want to hear?”
“Eh? By yourself… no, it’s nothing.”
Frank would try to get information from them even if he had to use his hands. Noticing that he didn’t want to show her him carrying out a cruel interrogation, Ilya stopped speaking.
(You don’t need to worry about me…)
Though her thoughts were true in various ways, she wouldn’t let the opportunity pass.
“Then, just one thing. I want to ask, rather, I request this of branch manager.”
“I’m fine with Frank. Otherwise you might keep on with the formalities forever.”
Rather than Ilya standing on formalities, it was a habit left over from the characteristics of the vertically structured society from her previous life.
Though she herself was aware of it, it was difficult to explain since it involved her previous life.
(… With how things are going right now, seems like it’d be useless no matter what I say.)
Though Ilya was a little reluctant to refer to her boss so familiarly, Ilya decided to switch her thinking.
“I understand. I’m requesting Frank-san for this, but I want to propose a commission to those two.”
“To disclose all of the information they have regarding the dragon god’s egg. By confessing what they have from their guild, couldn’t we treat them as our spies for the thieves guild? Of course, they would continue to belong to the thieves guild.”
Double agents, so to speak.
The thieves guild utilized a system of independent guild members in various places directly contacting its headquarters. While the structure of its vertical connections were strong, its drawback was that horizontal connections were weak. It was difficult to notice if someone double crossed them.
Fearing that, the thieves guild brainwashed members in their own educational institution, but that wasn’t a problem for Ilya. An eye for an eye. Mental interference for mental interference. If they were brainwashed, her plan was that she just needed to undo the brainwashing.
However, not knowing Ilya’s abilities, Frank couldn’t agree to Ilya’s plan so easily.
“… You want me to turn a blind eye to them?”
“No. Their achievement reward would be to put carrying out their punishments on hold, that is suitable compensation. Since if the dragon god’s anger isn’t settled, we’ll hand them over first and foremost.”
Then, Ilya suddenly realized something.
Seeing that they’d just learned about it, she completely overlooked one thing.
“Those people might not know that egg was the dragon god’s egg either.”
“Are you… sure it’s like that?”
“Yes. Their superiors think of them as sacrificial pawns, or rather just as tools to acquire things.”
Though some would equivocate, Ilya could declare that every person in their management was like that.
Not just the management but also the ones she’d beat up after meeting before, the information she’d received from people who promised to revolutionize the thieves guild supported that belief.
“Please don’t leave me out of the loop regarding the dragon god’s egg.”
Frank stood up, stopping his hand on the door.
“You should get some rest soon. Even if it didn’t wake up from all of that trouble, it’ll definitely be lonely if the owner of that boldness isn’t there.”
Wondering if it became a trauma, Ilya smiled as she saw Frank rub his stomach.
Although she remembered being at a loss with her baby younger sister in her previous life, she didn’t think the dragon hatchling was a handful at all.
It slept well, it didn’t cry at night, and it didn’t throw tantrums.
(Its so cute too.)
With that fleeting thought, Ilya remembered that she was defending herself with a barrier, saying nothing and smiling wryly.
Afternoon the following day.
The scent of tea brewed by Frank spread through the parlor, Ilya and Frank faced each other.
“They knew it was a dragon’s egg, but didn’t seem to know it was the dragon god’s.”
“Is that so…”
“Even so, I believe they’d heard about the dragon god. I got the commission they received this morning.”
Ilya had considered using her [Mind Reading] skill if he couldn’t get information out of them, so she was relieved knowing that it wasn’t necessary.
The [Mind Reading] skill, the kind of thing that would backfire, was improved by her cheat-like abilities. Let alone reading surface thoughts, it could delve into their deep psyche, going so far as to read even their memories. Since it would result in their sense of self collapsing, it was equivalent to suicide.
Besides, although Ilya could remove her barrier to unleash the charming effect, it would completely deprive them of free will and turn them into servants. As far as she was concerned, that was an abominable method.
Understanding that Ilya was put at ease, Frank continued speaking.
“The commission they received was to take back a dragon egg a monster horse had robbed, eliminating anyone related to the egg. They had initially chased after the monster horse as per their commission, it appears they quarreled with someone who was similarly aiming for the egg on the way.”
Towards Ilya’s question, Frank nodded with a slight frown.
“That’s what they said, but… when they first approached, it seemed to be a person. However, it had changed into a yellow-scaled sea snake with a horn before they’d realized. By the time they somehow managed to lose it, it seems the egg had already been taken by those three.”
Hearing the snake’s features, Ilya remembered the Horned Serpent she saw in the Heavenly Palace. 
She was thinking about new questions related to the hatchling: who was the person who first commissioned for the egg to be taken, who was the other person aiming for the egg, and why the qilin was protecting the egg.
(Wow… this is troublesome…)
Reprimanding her dispirited heart, Ilya asked Frank something.
“… How were they ordered to deal with the monster horse?”
“It seems that wasn’t explicitly mentioned. There’s no doubting it since they even met their client.”
Ria couldn’t believe her ears.
The thieves guild was essentially the same as a black company. Its subordinates weren’t humans, but parts. The extremities were just sent the commissions from those at the top. Let alone hear the pros and cons of the commission, they didn’t even meet their clients directly.
“Those two were in a decent position, weren’t they.”
Though Ilya was surprised, Frank didn’t seem to feel the same.
“Yeah. Befitting of their abilities. There’s a huge difference between them and those small time scoundrels from before.”
Though Frank finished it in a single blow, he sensed Katie wasn’t far off from Bard, who had dodged his first attack. Meanwhile, even while Ilya nodded to his words, she didn’t truly agree.
The thieves guild she knew was filled with gerontocracy, a system where blood, not ability, meant everything.
(Allen, aren’t you hurrying to reform the headquarters into a blank slate?)
Since not even a few years have passed since parting with that half-elf, she wasn’t to the point of being impatient. However, if harm reached the outside, she would have to come up with a way to change it from the outside without waiting for it to be changed from the inside.
Halting her thoughts there for now, Ilya returned her attention to Frank once more.
“Did they say anything about the client?”
“Yeah. They said his name was Catoh, though it’s probably a pseudonym. Still, the man’s characteristics are: medium build, slender, shoulder length brown hair, and light brown eyes.”
An appearance you could find anywhere, it very likely wouldn’t be a clue.
“Even so, it seems he had a dark brown scale on his neck. I expect that it’s a species from somewhere, but… do you know which?”
“Yes… I do.”
One scale on the neck.
When returning to their dragon form, their scales would revert. This was proof of a dragon taking human form.
“I see… I understand now with that.”
Although Ilya was composed and nodded, on the inside she was wanting to scream.
The only dragons that could take human form were the dragon god and his kin. The qilin wouldn’t take any actions that would betray the dragon god, it wouldn’t steal a living thing in the first place.
In other words, though it wasn’t good for the dragon god, the person who wanted to use this hatchling and who was obstructing that person were both his kin.
So then, the qilin used her to guarantee the hatchling’s safety. Ilya concluded such.
She seethed in anger from being involved in family troubles.
“Let’s leave that aside for the time being. They should get in contact sooner or later.”
They didn’t have to go to the trouble of heading to the Heavenly Palace. The qilin brought the hatchling here as a diversion, but the hatchling wasn’t at fault for that. She didn’t want to get the hatchling caught up in the trouble.
“Get in contact… not like last night, right?”
It would have been a different story if they aimed for the hatchling before this, but the qilin wasn’t stupid. It always moved before its opponents precisely because it was sensitive to hostility and murderous intent.
She saw the qilin far in the distant sky the day before, its inexplicable actions could be explained assuming it was waiting until the blood lust vanished.
Since it was watching from the sky, it should have seen the assassins were captured and would make its move soon.
Thinking that, Ilya smiled at the hatchling.
“What should I do when it arrives~”
As she caressed the hatchling that was inclining its head, it closed its eyes from the pleasant feeling. If she were told to protect this child, it was important to receive something of equal worth.
(Speaking of the Heavenly Palace’s treasures, I wonder if it’ll be the Dragon God’s Bracelet? No, maybe the Dragon God’s Earrings would be given up?)
The bracelet was a magic tool made from the dragon god’s scales that could use the owner’s magical power to produce a magic barrier. She wanted to put it on the hatchling until it was able to clad itself in magical power on its own.
The Dragon God’s Earrings were made with ashes of the deceased and could turn into a physical barrier. Though the hatchling had a defensive strength that could ignore ordinary attacks at present, she wanted it to have it until it learned how to use wind-type magic barriers.
She’d refused accepting both in the Heavenly Palace previously, but it was a different story if it were to protect the hatchling.
(And since it’s compatible with the dragon element, it’s a perfect fit for the hatchling!)
Not limited to magic tools, she was excited thinking about the hatchling’s future growth.
“Expand your dreams!”
Come if you dare qilin, Ilya thought as she glared looking outside the window.
- A Horned Serpent, also known as a Great Serpent, originates from oral history of many Native American cultures, specifically in the Southeastern Woodlands and Great Lakes areas. Return