<A/N: I suppose this would be volume 2. Not that splitting it into volumes has any meaning; this is purely for self-satisfaction nyahaha.>
Chapter 16: It’s Easy to Forget that Difficult Things are Difficult When You Can Do Them. Also When You Don’t Know About Them.
I woke up quite early and the morning mist is still lying about thick and heavy.
I had noticed it while traveling; the closer we drew to Nyl the thicker the morning mist got. It’s certainly quite thick here in the city.
I’ve gone too long without my morning suburi sword swing practice, but even though I have time now and am no longer traveling in a wagon I have no sword.
It didn’t feel right to request one from Jericho and the others.
So this morning I’ve taken out one of the bolt/spears from my inventory and am trying to practice some fighting staff moves.
I move fast trying to drive the morning chill from my hands and feet. It’s fun to swing the makeshift staff in the mist, swirling patterns through it and at the same time tracking how I handle the spear.
It works the best if I imagine shadow opponents in the mist; how they would act, where they would strike at my weaknesses … Ah, but I do feel a bit like a chuuni like this… don’t mind, don’t mind, this is actually serious practice! It’s a different world after all!
By the way, where am I you might ask?
I’m in the small back lot of The Queen Mary’s pleasure parlor. It’s very small, but it’s enough to swing a spear around without hitting anything as long as I don’t move too far from my starting point.
I have to take care not to hit the well or the small table set out in the lot too.
Maa, I guess I can say it’s just more practice for control.
Last night, among the commotion of the celebrating onee-sans and some of the more friendly customers, I understood the basic idea behind those unsavory men.
They are from a group called the Dark Wyverns. From what I understand they’re basically a new group of gangsters who are trying to muscle in and force their influence into Nyl Labyrinth City. They’ve been trying to mark their territory by threatening all the shops that aren’t already under other groups, leeching funds from the shops.
They’ve come by The Queen Mary’s several times already, but it seems like they get more violent each time.
Even if I hadn’t aggravated the situation, they might have tried to burn down the shop this time anyway as an example to the other shops in the area.
That’s basically the situation.
The oneesans told me about it as everyone celebrated having driven the Dark Wyverns off with a drinking party. Several of the customers had loudly announced they were paying for everyone’s drinks.
… Though it’s called a pleasure parlor, it’s more like a cabaret call-girls bar than a brothel. Customers ask to be served alcohol and cheap snacks by a girl they choose, with an inflated bar tab because it includes the girls’ company.
It’s just that sometimes a girl or two would disappear into the back with a customer for a while. That’s also charged, of course.
It seems like The Queen Mary’s is the only shop with this sort of entertainment in the city.
Now I understand why they need girls like Torinelle who serve the customers with drinks and chat with them if the girl they had selected is busy. It serves as training for the business, so it’s very much like a geisha-in-training system after all. Just much less refined.
It seems it got quite late before I thought to go, and the oneesans insisted that I be leant a room in the living quarters. They told me most of the inns wouldn’t take new customers after a certain time of night, since the manager would be asleep by now.
I am grateful not to have to sleep out under the stars, and though the room is a BIT narrow, there’s no bunkbed. Safe.
By the way, I took the opportunity to ask the prostitute onee-sans about whether there was any magic for gender change.
“Mm… lemme think. I know you can change the appearance, though it’s pretty expensive even if you find someone willing to enchant you, but you don’t actually become a guy, right?”
“Yeah, that’s true. Even if you add a ####, it won’t be usable.”
… Woah. It always surprises me how blunt these girls are. Even if they act all cute in front of their customers …
But, well, it’s like that, huh?
Like in our world, you can only go so far to change gender. In the end you’ll be trans.
If it’s like that, maybe I’ll give up.
Not that I have anything against trans, but if I’m going to go through with changing my body I’d like to change it back to the one my parents gave me. Otherwise I don’t particularly have an urge to undergo the process(es?).
“Poro-san said something like that is as impossible as turning lead to gold.”
Erina-sama said that. Apparently Poro-san is an alchemist-mage customer of Erina-sama’s. A regular.
Hm, so the alchemists didn’t manage it in this world either, huh?
I guess I understand, but at the same time I don’t. Is it because you have to have an exact image when manipulating magic? For things like “boy” or “girl”, there are more than just the physical parts you can see, after all. In changing lead to gold you would have to mess with the atomic structure – though I doubt anyone from this world knows that.
But those types of differences aren’t easy to grasp clear images of.
Certainly I can sense that I could manipulate color or weight, but I have a strong feeling that I can’t change material traits or gender.
Perhaps magic doesn’t like to work on a more scientific scale, like down to the atoms and numbers. It has more of a “picture it to do it” type feel. In any case, the scientific way of thinking developed in my world’s schools has no bearing on what magic is.
Is it a particle or is it a wave? I’m reminded of that question every time I use magic.
Like light, magic seems to have no form, size, or weight. But you can fill something to capacity with magic.
… Let’s just leave it at that.
While I like to think logically to calm myself down, to be honest I’m fundamentally much better at operating on intuition.
My logic sequences usually list all the options, and then I’ll systematically go down the list and find fault in every single option until I’m dissatisfied with everything. I’ll end up just choosing at random after all.
At least if I make a decision based on instinct I’ll be satisfied with ONE of the options.
Since I had woken up so early, long before the oneesans have slept off their hangovers, it’s only now that the sun has risen enough to begin melting off the mist. There’s no clock, but maybe it’s been an hour? Or more?
Swinging the makeshift staff has lost a bit of its novelty now that I can no longer draw patterns with it, so I stop. It’s been a long time since I could just lose myself to morning exercise without worrying about time, even in the other world, so this is probably sufficient as morning training. Also…
“You’re awake already, Solyana-san?”
I had noticed her when she came out earlier, but thinking she was just seeing what I was doing I hadn’t said anything. It’s best to let the morning pass in quiet until the sun fully rises, right? But she had sat down on the steps, watching me, and as time went on it got more and more awkward to say hello.
I’m pretending that I’ve only just now noticed her because I was too engrossed in my practice.
I’m sorry; I’m not good with awkward situations.
At my greeting she stands, dusting off her skirt. Right now she isn’t wearing seductive clothes so I don’t need to be careful with my line of sight.
“If you have a moment, Maryiste said she’d like to speak with you.”
Ah, oops. It was probably bad to ignore her then.
Solyana leads me back into The Queen Mary’s back room, through the hall, and down into another room.
It looks like a waiting room and, like the rest of the place, it’s tastefully decorated for being in the red light district. The walls are a warm shade of red-orange, and the couch and coffee table are simple pieces made of a dark wood. The couch is lined with a simply-patterned dark red cushion.
There’s an older woman seated in a chair of the same make as the table and couch, across the table from the couch. With wavy hair, she’s probably in her late 30s or early 40s. She’s stout, but not obese, and has an intelligent face. There’s an air around her that makes it feel like she’s seen lots of things and done lots of things. She has a presence that deserves respect.
This is Maryiste, the owner and Maitresse of The Queen Mary’s.
She’s doing something on a slate with chalk, then carving it into a tablet of wax … inventory? Budget?
I can’t read the words so I’m not sure. I’m a little frustrated that I can’t read it. It’s strange that I can understand speech but not text, isn’t it?
So I thought, but … well, after I thought it somehow a “No, that’s about right” feeling came instead. (Translate) probably uses magic to transmit the intentions behind the words. It’s useless to transmit the intentions of a piece of paper.
I file that away for now, since Maryiste stands up to greet me.
“Good morning. I’m sorry if our girls were a little loud last night.”
“No, it was fine.”
I can’t say they weren’t loud; the party lasted late into the night. Maryiste has a slightly sentimental smile as she talks about the prostitute oneesans. I think she is probably a good boss for them to work under.
Maryiste gestures for me to sit down as she sits down again.
“I’d like to ask you for a favor.”
Hahaaan… Yeah, I figured as much. I stay quiet and listen.
“We would like to lend you a room in the girls’ living quarters. It’s not big, or really very comfortable, and you would be surrounded by those loud girls, but there won’t be need for any rent. There’s no length of time specified either. Just that, when you’re around the shop we would like you to keep people like the Dark Wyverns away.”
I’m a little confused.
To be asked if I could stay and guard the shop, that much I expected and had prepared myself for. But aren’t these terms too strange? Like this I can quit without warning, and if someone shows up while I’m away I can say, “It’s not my responsibility.” But they will still have to provide a room for me. There’s almost no benefit for The Queen Mary’s.
Well, of course if I accept I will do my job properly, but I think it’s very strange. From the other side’s view, there’s no guarantee that I’m that type of person.
“I believe you’re an honest person with a strong sense of justice, and that’s why I think if I said, ‘Please guard our shop until we’re safe,’ you would probably do it. Though, this may be presumptuous of me.”
… She found out somehow.
“However, in the long run I don’t believe it will be beneficial for either us or you to tie you to the shop. To be honest, if we weren’t in such a dangerous situation, I wouldn’t ask you to do this. It’s like asking a lion to guard an ant hill.”
I’m not convinced.
“You are a young and powerful adventurer who came to a Labyrinth City for your own purposes. Even if you are so inclined to help now, there will be a time when a responsibility like guarding a shop will become a hindrance. And, to be honest, it’s the first few weeks that are most important for an adventurer to establish herself in the city. We will lose our honor if we, knowing that, still tie someone we owe a debt to down to this shop.”
“Further more.” She cut in before I could say anything else. “Furthermore, it is disadvantageous for us to hire too strong of a guard and attach her to our name. Your magic abilities will draw attention. I have experience fighting the powers of the slums and red light district, but I am completely unprepared to fight against Noble-samas or the Guild if it came down to it.”
… I think I understand. If it were strictly up to her, Maryiste wouldn’t ask me to the guard the shop. Not only does she consider it impolite, she’s also considering the dangers it would pose to the girls. But this is an emergency situation, where she doesn’t feel like she has much of a choice. Just knowing I’ll be living there is probably a strong enough deterrent for the Dark Wyverns.
There’s just one thing …
“Was it noticeable that I have strong magic abilities? I didn’t think I did too much yesterday.”
Just that reflective barrier and then a staring contest, if I remember correctly.
“Balil is one of the strongest officers of the Dark Wyverns with a magic strength where it wouldn’t be surprising if he was an officer of an army. We’ve probably only survived so long because they never sent anyone like that before. To have repelled his attack, that sort of thing will draw notice.”
I think about it. If I remember correctly, Old Man Harulf said something like stronger magic triumphs over strong magic. In the case of an attack versus (Barrier), an attack without magic is always defended, an attack with less or equal magic is more or less usually defended, and an attack with more magic can’t be defended against.
Basically, a strong mage will defeat a weak mage. The stronger spell will overpower a weaker spell. That kind of theory.
… Oh. So … did I accidentally stand out?
It wasn’t just defending against an attack; I flashily sent it flying back.
Sorry Lor. I’m properly reflecting on my mistake.