Chapter 65: Marina’s Side — A Visit to The Baron

Marina

“That idiot! He should’ve asked me for help or something! Aren’t we friends anymore?”

The man currently in front of me slammed his fist to the table, causing the entire thing to shake. A mixture of grief and anger were displayed on his face.

He was none other than Baron Eriol. I had decided to give him a visit in the end.

We were sitting in his study—me and Erika. She refused to leave my side, so I had to bring her along to this conversation. She was currently sitting right beside me, with a glum look on her face.

She had been like that ever since we left our home back at Karla. And I couldn’t really fault her for that. I imagine my face is pretty glum as well.

“I swear, if I could make those stuck-up sloths on the capital move from their high and mighty thrones and listen to me at once, I’d tell them to send Glinda along with him.”

“Glinda?”

“Our court mage back at the capital. She’s a Master-level mage, so she would no doubt be useful for your rescue mission.”

“That would be seen as an act of aggression on Marchen’s part though.”

“…Yeah, you’re right. Argh, politics! Damn it all to hell!”

If a stranger was to listen to this conversation without seeing them, and without taking notice of the difference between their voices, they would probably think Marina was the adult and the Lord being the naive, hotheaded youth.

“That’s why Father hadn’t informed you. He wouldn’t want to trouble you.”

“And that’s why he’s a damn idiot! What are friends for if not to be troubles to each other? He’s a trouble when he first got here, you know. He got a beautiful, pregnant wife out of nowhere and he begged me for a job that wouldn’t require him to leave her. And so I gave him his knight status and assigned him to the most backwater and peaceful village in my territory that I could find.”

He took a swig of frustration of his wine cup before continuing.

“So, you really are going all the way to the northwest? Just the two of you?” He scratched his chin with a concerned look.

“Yes. I know very well that Marchen wouldn’t be able shelter us if the Magocracy demands our heads.”

He chuckled dryly. “You’re right. I was about to offer you a job to be my personal mage but I guess that offer is out of the window now.” He gave a sour grin, before taking a deep sigh. “Our military capability is just no match for them. All this time, we could only keep our autonomy simply because they didn’t see that it’s worth their time and effort to conquer us.”

I stared down at my own cup of wine. Now that I think about it, I never drank alcohol before. I never like drunkards, and I would never want to end up like them.

It was night time, so I guess he found it fine to serve wine for both of us.

“I apologize… for not being more of a service,” he spoke again with a more subdued tone, interlocking his fingers together as he sighed once more. “Oh, I know! Why don’t you take one or two of my maids? I’d hate to be separated from them of course, but—”

“That wouldn’t be necessary. I wouldn’t want to drag them into my problem. They would become fugitives as well. And they already seem to be happy with you.”

Judging by the genuinely happy smiles they seem to always have in their faces when they received me, I could tell that he had treated them right. No need to ruin their happiness.

“Then, how about money? You surely will need some for the road.”

“I already stole a bunch of valuable jewels and other objects from the Ice Witch’s mansion. So money wouldn’t be an issue either.”

If I were to be frank, I never liked receiving help from others like this without me giving anything in return. It made me feel like a beggar. And I suppose my proud soul couldn’t stand that.

“Heh, glad to hear that you’re clever enough to do that,” he replied with a grin. “But have you sold them yet though?”

“I haven’t. I was planning to tomorrow.”

“Then, at the very least, let me help by recommending the jeweler that would give you the best price for them.”

I nodded. This kind of help though—I didn’t mind it so much.

“Oh, Alan told me that you’re a Master-level mage already, right? Then you should really seek the position of a court mage. You’re talented enough for it, even with your young age. It pays really well, and you’ll get your own mansion complete with maids that would obey your every command. Well, usually anyways. If the king is a penny pincher, you’d probably only get one of his castle’s towers as your home.” He gave a chuckle at his own joke.

“No, I don’t think I will,” I answered straight to the point with a firm look.

“Eh? Why not?”

“Because I would get involved in court politics. And I had enough of that—of ruling figures trying to control and manipulate me to do what they want. I just want to live a peaceful life with Erika away from those miserableness.”

“…Heh. You’re just like Glinda, aren’t you?” He leaned back on his seat. “You know, she too hates court politics. In that sense, she’s my only ally in the capital. Doesn’t approve of my taste though, so we don’t get along that well.”

His taste? I believe I know what he meant by that, judging by how there were only hobbit maids working here.

“Ah, here’s an idea. Why don’t you pay her a visit while you’re at the capital? You’re going through Duskglow Plains, right?”

“Yes, we are,” I replied. “It’s either that or circling around to the west and south, which would add many unnecessary days to our journey.” Duskglow Plains was located in between two mountain ranges, The Gordillis Peaks and the Ligurita Range. If I don’t go through it, then I would have to circle around the Ligurita Range all the way to the southwest. Oh, and by the way, Karha Mountains back home were technically part of the Gordillis Peaks, but the locals preferred to call it with their own name instead.

“Be careful.” He warned me with a grim look. “I heard that place had been overrun by strong monsters for a good while now. Merchants who couldn’t afford hiring high-ranking adventurers would just take the southern route instead.”

“We would be fine,” I replied. “I’m a Master-level mage, remember?”

“Well, if you’re anything like Glinda, then you shouldn’t have any problem dealing with them. They’re around C to B ranks, although rarely, an A rank could appear as well.”

“A rank?” I paused, my mind reminiscing back to that mountain lion I failed to win against. “I have to be careful then.” I then decided to ask a question I had been having in my mind for a while. “You seem to know a lot about this Glinda.”

“Well, of course! She’s my little sister after all!” He patted his chest with a gleam of pride in his eyes.

Well, that was a surprise. I thought she was his old lover or something.

“And that’s why I can get you to meet her if you want. I’ll write you a letter that can get you inside her mansion. With my name and seal on it, she would grant you an audience without a doubt.”

“I apologize, but I have to refuse. We don’t have any time to waste. And we risk of getting arrested by her guards if we arrive after the news of my deed reaches her ears.”

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that.” He smiled. “She’s not that kind of person. She’s not like the other cowards in the capital who kowtow to the Magocracy as if we’re their vassal kingdom. She dislikes the Magocracy, you see, even though she’s a graduate of their academy. So that’s another point the two of you share.”

“We wouldn’t gain anything by visiting her.”

“And that’s where you’re wrong.” His smile got wider. “She’s a dual-casting mage. And she learned it all on her own too. Aah, my cute little sister is really amazing, isn’t she?” He now grinned. He really is proud of his sister.

But Dual Casting… I want that. No, I need that if one day I’m going to fight against the Magocracy once again.

 “…Then, I’ll take up on your offer.”

“Excellent! Tomorrow morning, I’ll hand you the introductory letter. But tonight…”

Suddenly, he clapped his hands twice. Immediately a hobbit maid entered into the room, standing near the doorway. It was the same hobbit that he told to leave when we arrived.

“Janet, why don’t you lead our guests here to one of our guest rooms? Give them the best one—the one right next to the gardens. And tell the chef to cook them a full course meal.”

“Certainly, Milord.” She bowed.

“Apologies, but you two arrived on such a late hour that we already had our dinner. So the food would have to be delivered to your room instead.”

“We would prefer that.”

And with that, it was decided that we would stay here for the night.

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——

I grabbed Erika’s little hand and guided her forward, following the hobbit maid in front of me. It didn’t take long until we reached our room.

It was indeed a luxurious one, fit for a Marquis or a Duke. The bed was large, and there was more than enough space for us to sleep together on it.

Our dinner was a complete five star dinner in every aspect, from presentation to taste. Even Erika in her current condition couldn’t resist finishing her plate. I too ate a lot that night, to the point that I shamefully burped at the end.

Erika finally mustered a smile from that though. And I would be perfectly willing to burp a thousand times if it could make her return to her cheerful self.

We slept together, naturally. Unfortunately, once again, nightmares assaulted her in her sleep, resulting in her wetting the bed once again. Thankfully, the maid that came to invite us to breakfast didn’t seem to mind at all. She even offered us to take a bath to clean, which we took, of course. And, as if we were royal guests, they also helped cleaning us in the baths. I couldn’t help but blush, as I had to bare my naked body to a group of strangers I knew nothing about. Erika, however, was more averse to being touched by people she didn’t know, so I had to be the one washing her.

We then went straight to breakfast afterwards, after the maids dressed us up in the clothes given by the Baron. At first, I said no, as we really had no need for fancy dresses like these, but the head maid won us over, saying that it would help getting a higher price for the objects we were about to sell.

“Miss, it helps being thought of as one of the higher class if you go to fancy stores like that. And looking at how beautiful you two are, you definitely can pull off the “noble lady” look just fine!” She smiled as she put on my gloves.

I sighed once I looked at myself in the mirror. I really am not suited for this kind of clothing.

Erika though, it perfectly suits her. If only she would smile with it…

We were then escorted to the dining room by the maid, where the Baron already waited. Well, him, and who I assume to be his wife and daughter.

The moment I sat, the daughter gave me a glare.

…Oh no.

It was clear as day that the Baron wasn’t getting along with his wife and daughter in the slightest. They barely talked with each other, and the latter two kept sending me dirty looks.

They probably think I’m his mistress or something.

I didn’t bother correcting this misunderstanding though. I knew better than to shove myself into the crossfire. He did introduce us, as the daughters of a friend, but they didn’t seem to buy it.

After we finished, he told me to visit him back at his study, which we promptly did.

“Here. The letter.”

I took it from his hand and stored it inside my dimensional storage right away.

“Ah, how convenient.” He commented. “Much better than lugging a bag around.”

He then told me the address of his little sister’s mansion. Thankfully, it was right at the capital city, so there was no need for us to take a long detour.

“You could go there right away the moment you arrive at the city. There would be no need for you to pretty yourself up first in an inn. That letter says you are my honored guest, and you have an urgent need to meet with the court magician as promptly as possible. They would receive you kindly and you would be able to rest there until she returns from her duties,” he explained.

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“Also, the address of the jeweler that would give a good price for your *ahem* goods. Or should I accompany you instead?”

“There would be no need for that.” I replied. “You’ve already done too much for us, Lord Eriol.” I gave a little curtsy. After all the hospitality he had displayed, I couldn’t help but feel bad for not addressing him in the proper manner.

“Oh please, I despite formalities like that.” He made a sweeping motion with his hand. “I might be a ruling baron, but deep down, I’m still just a vulgar adventurer that loves women too much.” He grinned.

I can already guess why his family despised him so.

“At the very least, let my driver take the reins of your stagecoach so you would arrive with style to the jewelry shop. It wouldn’t do to let a young lady like you to be the one directing the horses now, would it?”

Once again, I reluctantly agreed.

——

Like we were daughters of a noble, or a rich merchant with servants, Erika and I sat together inside the carriage while the baron’s man drove us to the jeweler. It didn’t take long for us to arrive, and, like a true aristocrat, our door was opened by him and he offered his hand to help us descend.

“Oh, welcome! Welcome! What can this humble personage help you with today, Miss?” The shopkeeper immediately greeted us with a bow. He was an elderly man, but I could tell just from how his eyes sharpened the moment we came in, he was a shrewd and cunning merchant.

“I would like to sell for a fair price,” I answered, reciting the cover story the baron had suggested to me. “Father believed it was time for me to start learning how to manage our household’s finances so he sent me to sell the jewelries, plates, and cups that we no longer need.”

Like the baron suggested, I was to keep eye contact with him at all times. Even if I might be a mere 15 year old girl, I must be as imposing and regal as a 25-year old adult.

“Very well,” he replied. “Then please, if you would, Miss…”

The transaction went smoothly. I took out all the goods I was to sell on his long table, earning a clear awe on his face. After letting him examine them all for several minutes, I then asked, “How much?”

“Let’s see here… they are certainly quite ornate, and I could confirm that the gems were real… I would take them off your hands for 100 gold coins, Miss.”

And there he goes. Lying on the price. I had shown the goods to the baron, and he said that I should at least get 200 gold coins for them.

“Ah, that’s regrettable. My father wouldn’t be happy in the slightest if I sold them for a mere 100 gold coins.” I returned with a smile. “Always keep smiling as you bargain”, the baron has told me. “Then, I would have to take my business elsewhere.”

“O-oh, a-apologies. It seems my eyes have gotten bad lately. These should be 150 coins instead, Miss.”

“150? I believe I can sell them for 300, if I was in a bigger, more respectable establishment. Alas, Aarom is a small city. It’s nowhere near as prosperous as the capital.” And there I said it, a slight, indirect insult. That’s how you’re supposed to badmouth the people you don’t like in the world of nobles.

“200! I’ll take them for 200!”

“Very well.” I decided, still maintaining my dispassionate smile. “I have decided to be generous. This shop certainly could use some renovations and I would love if you would use the profits you earn when you resell those trifles towards such design.”

And that’s how you do it.

——-

Afterwards, with the fresh pouch of 200 gold coins safely stored in my pocket dimension, I returned back outside and climbed back into the carriage with Erika on tow. I was thankful that she remained silent throughout the whole exchange.

The deal was for the driver to take us outside of town, before we resumed our journey on our own. So, after making sure that all the curtains were closed, we began to change back out of these stuffy dresses into our loose dresses more suited for the long trip we were about to endure. After I undressed myself, with only my green panties and bra remaining, I helped Erika change out of her clothes as she naturally struggled with it. Only after she was well-dressed again that I wore my white one-piece and green light jacket again. It wasn’t easy, changing in the middle of a moving carriage like this.

“Here we are, Miss,” the driver announced, before climbing down from his seat and opening the door. “Good luck and may the Saint be with you two.” He gave a deep bow after he took off his hat.

And just like that, we were alone on our own once more.

“Well, Erika?” I smiled at the blonde girl. “Ready for a journey to the capital?”

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