047 Scarlets' Research 1 p.2

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Victor explained, trying to fill the silence. Ninon breathed out a sigh of relief at his words, glad that the topic was diverted.

Not catching the hint, Gerald commented.

“I see what you mean. With such preparations, even if a rebellion were to occur…Aah! By the way, what's the story behind this armor? I'm curious!”

“Umm, yes. This armour was gifted from Baron Arlez.”

“A gift? Your relationship with the other noblemen is not as bad as rumoured huh―”

“You! Please, just shut up already!”

Thus, every time Gerald opened his mouth, she would scream.

“Hehehe, Ninon’s troubles seem never-ending. By the way, Cedric. What do you think of this armour?

“No interest! My armour is surely better.”

“Hey! Cedric, don't say anything unnecessary!”

“...Please enjoy yourselves and have some tea until the Lord arrives.”

Victor wiped his tense face with a handkerchief and urged the noisy guests to calm down.

Most adventurers were eccentric. Rather than keeping up with their pace, it was better to just focus on what was important. As the butler, he decided that was the best way to get on with it.

“Delicious! These baked sweets are really good! I'm not too sure about the tea though!”

“Shut up, Cedric. Try to have some class, like me.”

“Well, aren't you two pretty much the same when it comes to class? Please stop embarrassing yourselves...”

“Don't be too stiff, Ninon. We've been told to relax, so why don't we just do that?”

The four adventurers who were ushered into the reception room were even noisier than they had been in the hallway. Perhaps it was because they were sitting on the comfortable sofa and relaxing with a cup of warm tea. In other words, they were already trying to be considerate earlier.

Nobody watching was overly dismayed at their constant unbecoming behaviour. Victor had gone to call his master. In his place were slaves dressed as maids who had been tasked to serve them.

Normally, slaves were not supposed to be shown to guests. However, the Lord of Marlan, who placed great importance on pragmatism, chose not to employ or have his talented vassals be used for just serving food. Therefore, it was customary in this mansion for such roles to be filled by slaves. Victor and Laubert must have had many bouts of headaches thanks to this. In fact, at the banquet held to commemorate the completion of the mansion last year, they had informed their Lord of this matter, but nothing had changed from then.

Of course, since they would be seen by outsiders, only the better-looking slaves were chosen for this role. Although the master, Tullius, was not concerned at all about this aspect, his subordinates were more careful on this point. As much as their budget allowed, they tried their best to improve whatever outwardly aspect as possible. They, as in, Laubert, who was in charge of purchasing slaves and Uni, who instructed and trained slaves. However, this was not the case for slaves that did not need to be shown to the public.

Of course, the person being entertained had no way of knowing such circumstances. They would simply think that they had a lineup of beautiful slaves.

“Another helping of tea. Crunch, crunch...This snack is tasty, but the crunchiness is making me thirsty.”

Gerald lifted his cup and called for a slave. There was cookie residue around his handsome features, making him somewhat less attractive than usual. As he repeated the motion of chewing, bits of the cookie fell out from his mouth. If he hadn't moved his mouth, he would have looked dignified, but now he was nothing more than a large kid.

Ninon sat next to him, her cheeks red with shame as she repeatedly wiped the cookie residue from her armour. Her armour was expensive, and staining it with sweets would make her a laughingstock later. She wriggled her mouth and was gesturing with her hands — probably to chide Gerald. She didn’t raise her voice, perhaps because she felt she would be ignored as usual.

A slave maid, oblivious to the scene unfolding, held up a teapot respectfully.

“Yes, sir. I'll pour it for you right away.”

In a graceful motion, she poured a reddish-brown liquid into the cup. Even though this was his second cup, the temperature of the tea and the degree of steaming were as precise as if she had carefully measured and chosen them. It was hard to believe that this was the work from a slave. Of course, an expert tea-brewer might be able to come up with a few complaints, but this was still impressive for the house of a Viscount.

“Mmm? I'm kinda sorry, but it’s okay not to rebrew the tea from scratch. As long as the tea can wash out these crispy bits…”

“Mister Gerald, it's called the ‘last drop’. Oh, you don't know that, do you? How embarrassing.”

It was probably more vexing to be called out like that than to not actually know it though.

“Heey, lil’ miss. You're such a looker and your tea is delicious! How about it? Won’t you come with me? I could discuss it with your master.”

Gotsch said, lowering his ape-like face. In other words, paying her out of bondage. The custody of a slave can be exchanged for money. So, if her master accepts the offer and the price is paid, this female slave could even become his property by today. Gotsch shamelessly took the maid's hand and tried to sweet-talk her.

This time, Ninon said nothing. She just looked on as if to say, “Here we go again”.

“...Are you jok—.”

“No, no, I'm serious. If you want, I can promise to take off your collar.”

“Thank you for your kindness, but master has been very nice to me. I do not intend to ask to be freed…”

She politely declined. That's the way it has always been with Gotsch and his friends were well aware of that. He slumped his shoulders and frowned dejectedly.

“Oh, that's a shame… T-Then, how ‘bout just one night—”

“Stop with the nonsense! It's outrageous to be so easily charmed by the allures of women! You haven't trained your body and mind enough!”

The heavy warrior shouted at the reluctant thief. It would have been a more convincing act if he hadn't sent the residue of the pastry flying while shouting.

“I'm really sorry for the trouble my people are causing. You may not believe it, but we're all good at what we do - well, more specifically, only good at what we do. But we will make sure to do our job well, so please forgive us.”

“No, we do not mind at all, guests. Please raise your face.”

“Your words are too much for my humble self. I greatly appreciate your sentiments.”

The maids offered words of comfort to the nun who apologised for the rudeness of her party. However, their facial expressions and tone of voice were as flat as cogs in a machine, so it was difficult to discern their true emotions. In particular, it seemed as if their hearts were not even there.

Gerald watched the exchange from the side, sipping his tea.

“Ah, I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting.”

An aristocrat, served by his attendants, entered the room with a soft but somewhat light voice.

He was a young man with brown hair and a well-formed yet lacking face. An unwrinkled shirt could be seen from under the fine vest he was wearing. His pants appeared to be made for ease of movement as can be seen from the expensive looking, soft fabric.

He was basically just a harmless and mild-mannered young man. However, everyone knew that he was not such an easy person to deal with.

In the royal capital of Broussonne, he was abhorred as a “slave-murderer“ and a “man-eating snake“ and was heavily involved in a case last year, when a certain count lost his position. He was said to have survived an attempt on his life by Marquis Lavallee, the most powerful man in the kingdom.

Such a person introduced himself in a gentle manner.

“Greetings, I am Viscount Tullius Shernan Oubeniel. Welcome to my residence. I hope you have enjoyed the stay.”

He even bowed.

It was unexpected. The nobles of the Kingdom of Arquell were very prideful. It was probably the same for every country, but this country was even more so. After all, they were only second to the Omnian Empire in terms of history and the wealth in the continent. He should show more pride in himself. However, this man who was rumoured to have committed slave murder did not show such pride. It was rather odd.

“...Yeah, we enjoyed it.”

Gerald's evasive reply was not the attitude of a commoner towards an aristocrat, but he was allowed to do so. Tullius accepted it without any signs of concern.
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