Chapter 70 : The Crime of The Earl and The Unusual Phenomenon of The City
「… We couldn’t find them anywhere.」
Their party returned to Gladdstone in low spirits.
Even Stella couldn’t muster up her usual liveliness.
Out of all three, Aria seemed to be the one despairing the most.
(Where did you girls run off to…)
「OH! If it isn’t Aria-chan!」
Someone suddenly called out to her, making Aria turn around. She saw some people with armor and helmets waving at her.
They were the Knight Brigade of Labyrinth City. Namely Kenny, Dany, Howard, and Marietta. However, Captain Cedric didn’t seem to be accompanying them…
「Dany-san? Everyone is here too… What’s the matter? 」
「We came for joint training with the Knight Brigade of this city.」
「We already passed through several cities for the same training.」
The joint training of the Knight Brigades of Gladdstone and Labyrinth City occurred several times a year.
Kenny and Marietta were the first to notice that Aria was looking around in search of Cedric, their Captain.
「The commander is handling some business in another city right now.」
「Maybe it’s another confidential mission.」
「By the way, Aria-chan… Who’s the pretty girl over there? 」
「Come to think of it, I have yet to introduce her to everyone. Her name is Stella-chan, the newest member of our party.」
「He~… New comrade, huh! Best regards, Stella-chan.」
Dany and the other knights warmly introduced themselves to Stella, who replied awkwardly to them.
「And that shield… Could it be the Mega Shield from Vulcan-san’s store?」
「Come to think of it, Vulcan-san said that shield belonged to her former party member, Sakura. Sakura-san was your former commander, right? 」
「Yeah, it’s as you say. I never thought I would see another person using that stupidly huge shield.」
「It’s almost time, Dany.」
「Oops! Thanks for reminding me, Howard. See you later, Aria-chan. We have to go to joint training now.」
「Yes, please do your best.」
Aria and her group saw Dany and the other knights off. However, meeting acquaintances in that kind of place made her feel a bit concerned.
The group made their way toward Reis’s firm to sell the loot they acquired in the labyrinth. Namely, the material from the Treant Drake.
But the firm was closed for the day.
「EH? Reis-san is taking the day-off today? In that case, we’ll rest for today as well.」
Although the city’s guild also handled the purchasing of raw materials, they required a commission fee for their services.
Selling to the guild meant lesser profits so Aria and co decided to visit Reis’s firm again the next day.
Upon their return to the inn, a middle-aged man called out to Aria and the others. His appearance suggested he might be someone from a noble house.
A butler, perhaps.
「Excuse me, are you Aria-san? 」
「Yes, it’s me…」
Aria replied to the butler with a bit of nervousness, which was natural. After all, she couldn’t help but associate the nobility of the city with that infamous Earl Joey.
「Hmm, that’s great. The lord of this city, Earl Gladdstone-sama has invited you to his mansion. Make sure to come.」
Naturally, the butler was one of that Lord’s subordinates.
He ordered her without even batting an eyelash as if it was natural for her to accept it and immediately obey. It seemed like the rumors about Aria’s beauty had already reached the Lord’s ears, despite their short stay in the city.
The other guests around the inn looked at Aria with sympathetic looks on their faces. They were probably aware of the fate of the women who caught the Earl’s interest.
Tama caught on to that and glared at the butler with a fierce expression.
(Like I’ll let you hurt my master!)
The butler faltered for a moment under Tama’s gaze but quickly recovered, thanks to the Lord’s authority.
「…!!? You-you can’t refuse this! If you don’t obey the city Lord’s orders, you’ll be judged as a criminal!」
「And the girl over there is a beauty, too. You come along with her! Earl-sama will be extremely pleased with you.」
「Though I don’t know what in the hell you’re talking about, I REFUSE.」
Stella completely disregarded the butler’s order with her usual arrogant tone.
If she was still the Earth Dragon, she would’ve gotten rid of the butler the moment he started annoying her with his orders.
However, she had mellowed out a lot after being acquainted with Aria and the others. She wouldn’t attack anyone without provocation.
「Let’s just play along for now, Stella-chan.」
「NYAN?! (MASTER?!) 」
Even Tama was shocked by Aria’s declaration.
But the moment he looked at her face he understood her intentions.
(Oh, so that’s your plan!)
In any case, if they refused the invitation, they’d be regarded as criminals.
They just needed to play along with the Earl’s wishes until they confirmed the truth about the rumors. Then, they’d deliver judgment in the name of justice.
Aria, being a clever girl, knew she’d succeed since she had a trump card for the situation.
Tama had arrived at the same conclusion as his master and stopped glaring at the butler, settling on hugging Aria obediently.
「Good. Then, please get on the carriage that is waiting in front of the inn.」
The group obediently entered the carriage as per the butler’s orders.
Stella had been against it but, with another promise of a full course meal, Aria was able to force her compliance for a bit longer.
It didn’t take long for them to arrive at the Earl’s mansion.
They entered and were guided toward a guest room, where they waited until a pig-like man appeared. His gaudy robe displayed his rotten fashion sense.
It was none other than Earl Gladdstone, the man who disgraced so many girls and the source of the misfortune of many people.
「Hohou! Such beauty! This is the first time in my life I see such beauty! 」
「It’s nice to meet y――」
「FOOL, SCRAP THE GREETING! DRINK YOUR TEA FIRST! 」
The Earl rudely interrupted Aria’s greeting and demanded they drink the tea. He wasn’t even bothering to disguise that he had something planned from the moment they were invited.
Aria was on high alert as she raised the teacup to her lips. She snuck a glance at Tama and whispered to him.
「Tama, I’ll leave this to you.」
Her loyal knight had also prepared for the situation.
The moment Aria’s lips touched the teacup, Tama invoked his 《Divine Protection of Lion King》.
Seeing Aria suddenly wrapped in a golden light, the Earl shouted in alarm.
「WHAT THE HECK!?」
Aria took a sip of the tea, completely ignoring the Earl’s shouts.
「Fufufu, this is delicious. Earl-sama.」
He was even more surprised by what she said.
Aria sent a piercing glare toward the Earl.
「Unfortunately for you, I am resistant toward the poison you added in this tea. This must serve as an aphrodisiac and probably induces hallucination too, right?」
The tea had truly been spiked by the Earl. But it was no match for the 《Divine Protection of Lion King》. Thanks to the blessing’s side effect, she managed to determine what kind of poison was inside her tea.
「W-WHat the hell you are talking about! I would never do something like spiking your tea with poison!」
「In that case, how about you try drinking the tea yourself? 」
「… Kuh! 」
The Earl was cornered by Aria.
(I got you now!)
Aria was convinced of her victory…
… Until a servant barged into the room, looking horrified.
「EARL-SAMA, THERE’S AN EMERGENCY! 」
「What happened? Of all times…!」
「The undead! An army of undead suddenly appeared in the middle of the city! 」
「WHAT!? What do you mean!? 」
The servant’s words made the Earl anxious, but it was already good that he didn’t try to run at the first sign of danger.
「It’s an emergency! Tama, Stella-chan, let’s head toward the center of the city! 」
「Nyan! (Aye Aye, Master!) 」
「Though I don’t know what you mean, I SMELL A SCENE WHERE I CAN GO WILD AS MUCH AS I WANT! 」
The Earl had been cornered, but an even more urgent task had appeared.
Tama and Aria had a strong sense of justice. They couldn’t overlook the people who needed their help. Stella just followed behind them out of curiosity.