Chapter 167 Suspicious Four
Edited by: Kanaa-senpai
On the night when the members of Shouhyou’s hand spear arrived at the settlement, the members gathered in a room in the barracks, and Alex was discussing their plans for the future.
”――So, for night patrols, we’ll generally use this combination. Any questions?”
Looking around at everyone’s faces and confirming that there were no questions, Alex declared the meeting adjourned.
”That concludes this week’s meeting. From now on, we’ll have regular meetings at the beginning of each week, so make sure to attend. Luck, Shaina, and also Kasta, you three can stay a bit.”
One of the young men who was about to leave the room upon Alex’s words raised his voice.
”Oh? Alex, why me too!?”
”Hey Kasta, did you mess something up again?”
”Well, no, I haven’t done anything special, if I had to say, I overslept and was late for today’s gathering, and I tried to sneak away when I saw a brothel during the tour, and then I asked Gaadhir-san if there were any black histories of Alex and the others, and—”
”Alright, alright, you’ve spilled enough. Just come quietly and take your scolding. I’ll even help you pick up the pieces.”
”Oh, come on!”
Leaving behind the dejected Kasta and as one by one people were exiting, a large man stood by the entrance, gazing intently at Alex and the others.
”What’s up, Ouza, do you have any questions?”
”…Nah, it’s nothing.”
In response to Alex’s query, the man called Ouza replied, then left the room and closed the door. As the footsteps faded and all signs of people disappeared completely from outside the room, Kasta, who had been slumping his shoulders, suddenly straightened his posture. He turned around to face the other three with a serious expression.
”Ouza-san wasn’t suspecting us, was he?”
”Well, who knows? Ouza’s always strangely perceptive, so he might have sensed something off about your act. By the way, can’t you be a bit more discreet?”
”I’m just sayin’, as a newcomer to Shouhyou’s hand spear, it would be suspicious if I wasn’t intentionally creating reasons to be called out by you three, who are experienced and often together.”
”Yeah, yeah, that’s more than enough. Just come quietly and take your scolding, really, Gaadhir, he’s just… Gaadhir, blurting things out in public…”
”Kasta, Shaina, let’s cut the chitchat, enough of that. Alex, what’s our plan moving forward?”
At Alex’s command, the two fell silent, and after confirming this, Alex moved on to the main topic.
”We have successfully infiltrated the settlement as Shouhyou’s spearmen. According to the information from Melgis, we are the only successful example.”
”So, does that mean it’s just us here? On the surface, we’re working as Shouhyou’s spearmen, but behind the scenes, the four of us need to investigate and gather information, right? Wow, that sounds busy.”
”Don’t mock it. Alex, what are our plans for the future?”
”For the time being, we’ll continue our duties as Shouhyou’s spearmen. Melgis-san has also instructed us to avoid careless actions.”
”That’s quite cautious. Well, if we’re the first successful example, then a failure would mean starting from scratch. It’s only natural to be careful, I guess.”
”Exactly, that’s why we need to be cautious and avoid probing too much for now. Gaadhir has also given us warnings.”
”You think I’m bothered by that? Honestly, I’m not scared at all by his threats at this point.”
As Shaina scoffed at Gaadhir’s warning, Alex reiterated his words.
”Gaadhir isn’t intimidating. If he meant to threaten, he would’ve said ‘It won’t end for free’ instead of ‘It won’t end freely.’”
”Speaking of which, he did say something like ‘It won’t end freely.’ I see, so his ‘kindness in his own way’ means that, as a member of the settlement, he was doing his best to warn us not to leak secrets to outsiders. Ah, yes, if we mess around with this settlement, it seems like there’s something we won’t get away with for free, even for us. With Melgis-san’ orders as well, we’ll keep observing for a while.”
”Alright, if you’ve noticed anything or have any concerns about the current situation, let us know.”
”Things I’ve noticed or concerns, huh?”
In response to Alex’s inquiry, Shaina showed a pensive look.
”If you’re concerned, it’s probably about that farmland and crops, right? They say the harvest can be done in about a week. A significant amount seems to be harvested every day, and on top of that, they’re being traded for about fifty percent more than the usual crops, right? Originally, they were selling for pretty much the same price, but as soon as they became famous, they raised the prices. Oh my, oh my, even though they’re rumored to be altruistic, they’re still nobles at heart.”
”Shaina, I know you dislike nobles, but don’t let your personal feelings get in the way.”
”I’m not letting my personal feelings get in the way. I’m just stating pure facts.”
”Then let me ask you this. If products of similar quality were being sold at the same price, which one would you buy?”
”Well, obviously the higher quality one, but isn’t the way they raised the prices too extreme, considering there are many buyers?”
”Do you know that when the settlement’s crops started becoming famous, the crops from the rural areas stopped selling?”
”Huh? Are you saying that because the settlement’s vegetables were better, nobody bought regular vegetables anymore? That’s news to me.”
”Exactly. Because the prices of the settlement’s crops increased before that problem became significant, the demand for other crops was protected.”
At those words, Shaina visibly frowned.
”Are you implying that nobles raised the prices to protect the livelihoods of commoners?”
”If they were only seeking profit, they would raise prices gradually. Drastic price hikes can alienate customers and pose a risk of losing them. Can you think of any other reason for enforcing a rapid price hike, taking such a risk?”
”Narrow-minded thinking can lead to misunderstanding. I’m not telling you to discard your grudge against nobles, but don’t confuse means and ends.”
”I already know that without you telling me… ‘We exist for the Empire,’ right?”
Seeing Shaina answer with dissatisfaction, Alex didn’t say anything more.
”Kasta, do you have anything?”
”Well, if there’s something I’m curious about, it’s that servant who guided us. She’s piqued my interest.”
”Oh, that’s something I’ve thought about a little too. I don’t know what the countryside is like, but she never even heard of the name Kouen no Chokken (Dagger of Light Flame), let alone its titles. I wonder what kind of uncivilized place she lived in.”
”And, how should I put it, I feel like she’s lying.”
”Is that your intuition as a former actor?”
”I’d immediately recognize it if it were a farce. It doesn’t feel like that kind of lie, so this can’t be attributed to my intuition as an actor.”
”…Luck, what do you think?”
Asking Luck, who had been closing his eyes and meditating-like, without joining the conversation thus far, Alex watched as the man slowly opened his eyes and mouth.
”That woman, she appears to have a delicate physique at first glance, but she had a well-toned, good build. The way her muscles were shaped isn’t consistent with the way muscles develop through ordinary training. It would take years, or perhaps decades, of running through fields and mountains to develop that kind of muscle tone. Her stride is small, using her entire sole, and her characteristic shows even in the way she shifts her center of gravity while walking.”
Listening to Luck’s words, where he read information from the opponent’s physique and gait and smoothly shared his speculations, the three were captivated. In the relatively short time they had received guidance, they were impressed that so much information could be inferred from someone who had just been walking ahead. While they were amazed, Luck suddenly narrowed his eyes and lowered his voice.
”But what caught my attention isn’t that.”
”W-What caught your attention?”
Kasta asked with bated breath in response to the serious-looking Luck, and Luck answered.
”Huh? Her butt?”
”Though she had a slim, well-toned body, that butt still exuded a certain presence. Without a doubt, she’s an attractive woman.”
Behind the flabbergasted Kasta, Alex and Shaina exchanged glances that seemed to say, “Here we go again.”
”I thought you were looking at her way too intently… I can’t believe it, you were just looking at her because she’s a woman, right?”
”I don’t like any and every woman’s body. I’m only interested if it’s a good-looking woman’s body. By the way, for Shaina, third is the ass, second is the belly, and first is the groin.”
”That’s gross!! And wait a second! When have you ever seen my groin area?!”
”When you were returning from the troll subjugation request, and before you returned covered in blood, you insisted on bathing in the river.”
”Oh, that time! So you were peeping on me!”
”Peeping is rude. I was just watching over you while you were defenseless in the middle of bathing, making sure you wouldn’t get attacked by monsters or bandits. By the way, if you had a little more meat on your chest, I would have preferred it over the butt. Also, grooming the hair down there—”
”Die, you perverted freak!!!”
With a furious shout, Shaina unsheathed her sword and lunged, but before she could reach him, Luck had already leaped away and dashed out of the room.
Chasing after the fleeing Luck, Shaina rushed out of the room, leaving Kasta, who couldn’t keep up with the rapid turn of events following Luck’s statement, with Alex placing his hand gently on his shoulder.
”Was this the first time you heard Luck’s way of speaking?”
”Y-Yes… So, that’s how Luck-san is. Surprising, or rather, I guess you could say he’s a bit different from what I thought.”
”But his ability to observe and analyze people is exceptional. Despite his personality quirks, he’s an incredibly talented individual. Besides his personality quirks.”
Alex seemed to emphasize this repeatedly, as if he acknowledged the drawbacks of that personality.
”Is it okay to just let that continue?”
”It’s something that happens occasionally. Let it be. More importantly, there’s more to discuss.”
”What else is there to discuss? Once those two are gone, there’s nothing left to do.”
”No, there’s something else to do. Just you and me.”
Saying this, Alex began to apply more pressure to Kasta’s shoulder.
”I still have a lecture to give you.”
”Huh…? Well, that’s just a formality.”
Despite Kasta’s attempts to escape the increasing pressure on his shoulder with cold sweat, Alex never relented.
”As a former actor, you should know. Mixing some truth into a complete lie makes it harder to detect than an outright lie.”
An unforgiving death sentence. Kasta resigned himself, thinking that he should have held back a bit more, as the door to the room slowly closed. An hour later, the companions who shared the room with Luck and Kasta searched for the two latecomers. They found Luck tied to a tree with a battered face and Kasta lying in the corridor of the barracks, completely white and burned out.
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Edited by Kanaa-senpai.
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