Chapter 3 Part 4
And so the next evening.
I was having dinner with Anastasia at the mansion.
The room is large enough to hold a banquet for about thirty people, and there’s a very long dining table in the middle.
There are also maids waiting in the corner of the room.
As I cut into my beef tenderloin steak with my knife and fork, Anastasia, sitting opposite me, watched me from beneath lowered brows and tried to speak up.
“Hmm? What’s the matter?”
Anastasia continued to look at her meal but then looked up as if she had made up her mind.
“Er…I’ve always wondered…whether it’s okay for me to have dinner with you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Uh…I’m still a slave. It is customary for slaves to eat their meals on the floor…and…we even eat the same dishes…”
“Don’t worry about it. Slavery is just that, a status, and I don’t pay much mind to it”
“…Also, I still think it’s strange that…Master and I go to the same academy. It is as if Master has an unusual relationship with Merlin-sama, to begin with”
“You’re still just a child. You need to get a proper education and be able to stand on your own two feet someday”
“Er…I think that’s…weird. Um…it’s like an adult lecturing a child…. Anyway, I also feel bad for the generous hospitality I’m getting now”
I still haven’t told Anastasia that I’m Ephthal of the Four Emperors.
She wouldn’t understand if I told her, and the situation is different with Merlin, who realized it from experience that…well, it can’t be anyone else but me, after exchanging magic in the duel.
“You don’t have to feel bad. It is said that I’m a relative of Merlin’s…so it’s too late for me to turn back, too”
Hearing that, Anastasia became teary-eyed.
“…You’re kind. Master…”
Well, I’ve always had a habit of picking up odd things.
In the decisive battle at the Demon King’s castle, I even picked up the Demon King’s daughter, Merlin, who was still a baby, after all.
“Hey, the food is getting cold, so we’d better eat quickly, okay?”
“Hmm? What is it?”
“…But still…as I thought, I don’t think I should stay like this without returning the favor after being picked up by Master”
“As I said, you don’t have to worry about it”
“I am really…really glad that I was picked up by Master. That’s why I have to return the favor in any way I can…”
“That’s enough. Let’s not talk about that anymore”
And so I took a sip of my glass of red wine, Anastasia then said with a determined look.
“U-U-Um…er…I-I-I…I am…a virgin. I think there’s nothing I can’t do…as a sex slave. I…can go to Master’s room…tonight…, i-i-i…-is that okay with you?”
Hearing that, I spit out the red wine with a “Bfffwww” sound.
With a cough, I choked on the wine that had entered my trachea.
“Just because you have a slave crest on you…doesn’t mean you should treat yourself that lowly, you know?”
“Um…er…I’m sorry. But, Master is really kind. That’s the kind of Master you are, so…I thought that it’s fine, too”
Then Anastasia, who had turned a bright shade of red, lowered her gaze.
“What is it?”
“Er, I’ve been thinking for a while now…but Master is very powerful, right?”
“Well, you’ve seen it all so far, haven’t you?”
“Uh…such a powerful Master…what would you do if you were faced with something beyond your ability?”
To ask such a question, she must have some thoughts about the special slave crest.
Apparently, she doesn’t think I’m aware of it.
“Then I’ll just try not to let it get out of hand”
Anastasia looked dumbfounded for a moment and then gave a small, fleeting laugh.
“The answer of the powerful. Does that mean…you think that there’s nothing you can’t handle?”
“Well. That’s not what I meant. I’ve had my moments of helplessness, too. Just like…times where you can’t help but fall into the depths of despair”
When I found out that I had no aptitude for magic, it felt like I’d been plunged into an abyss.
“However, I stood back up and here I am now. I overcame the impossible…no, I’m here now trying to get over it”
“As a result, I think…it’s a problem that could be worked out”
Anastasia said, still fleeting.
“What do you want to say?”
Then she shook her head.
“I’m…I’m sorry. It’s nothing. I think I’ve had a little too much red wine and became more talkative”
For a moment, I was about to say something about the special slave crest, but…on second thought…I shook my head.
── Not yet.
As long as she doesn’t ask for my help, I don’t think it’s something I should intervene in…until there’s a definite problem, that is.
“What is it?”
“Um…it’s true that M-Ma…Master picked me up, I’m glad. Please believe me on that”
said Anastasia with a sorrowful smile.
The next day ──
In the ruined treasure vault, Merlin and I were holding our heads in our hands.
Incidentally, the gatekeeper, Lamp Genie, is not functioning right now due to Merlin’s scrupulous punishment.
“Was it Anastasia?”
After thinking for a moment, I shrugged my shoulders and said.
“She stole a few artifacts, including the Raikiri. She probably won’t be coming back here”
“…I see. Well, that’s the fate of that type of special slave crest, I suppose”
There are two common types of slave crests.
Namely, the slave labor crest and the sex slave crest.
Just because they’re slaves, it doesn’t mean that their masters can give them any orders. There are rules for handling slaves.
Naturally, they can’t give orders that would be in violation of a crime, nor can they give orders that would take the lives of the said slaves.
It’s just a type of commercial contract for labor and prostitution. Binding them with a slave crest is to prevent them from escaping or labor strikes.
However, Anastasia’s slave crest is disguised.
At first glance, it looks like a sex slave crest, but…to the trained eye, you will know that it’s a special slave crest of black magic.
── A dark slave crest.
It is a nasty binding that even committing criminal acts must be obeyed if ordered by the master.
Even back in my life, it was considered a crime to apply the crest, and it was also convenient for some crime syndicates and religious extremist organizations.
There are also ranks among the special slave crests. Some of them could force you to commit murder, so it’s not difficult to imagine that it was really convenient for such organizations.
And what was engraved on Anastasia is the crest of stealing.
Perhaps that’s why she was with the guy from the Edwards family when she first met me. It’s probably because they were targeting Duke Edwards’ household treasure vault.
“So, what do you plan to do now?”
“I picked her up, knowing that this would happen at some point, and then we ended up getting involved with each other. I could cry myself to sleep, but…that wouldn’t solve anything”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure someone is forcing her to steal. She’s not the kind of girl who can just nonchalantly betray me…. I can’t leave her alone”
“The special slave crest’s technique…is not available for commercial use. You can’t transfer the ownership of a slave in any way, even with money, you know? Because it was originally used to show the absolute hierarchy of the mafia, and the resolution of believers to obey God, after all”
“Well, I know that. Even if transferring ownership is possible…for example, if it were only to replace a mafia boss or a cult leader, then there should be a way to do that. Outsiders probably wouldn’t be able to get in there and have access to that knowledge”
“Then, isn’t a basic solution impossible?”
“You know that all contracts are secured by the power of God, right?”
“A contract beast. It is still fresh in my mind that a small country was trampled by a God decades ago due to the annulment of a contract”
“Well, if we can’t annul the special slave contract the usual way ── then we’ll have to do it in a unique way”
Hearing that, Merlin grinned.
“…I see. You’re as flamboyant as ever, aren’t you?”
“Well, I’m the one who came up with the idea, after all”
“However, are you sure it’s ok to have your Raikiri stolen, even if it’s only temporarily?”
“I placed tracking magic on Anastasia”
Hearing that, Merlin gasped with an “Ah!”.
“Did you let her go free from the beginning?”
“Wouldn’t it be idiotic considering that the absence of the Lamp Genie was unexpected, after all?”
“Yeah, that’s true”
Merlin chuckled, and I gave a small nod as well.
“I suppose it’s probably about time she delivered the loot to her real master. I couldn’t know where the mastermind was just by being with her. That’s also why I purposely showed that child, who was supposedly targeting the Duke Edwards’ household treasure vault, a replacement ── in other words, the Raikiri. Well, I could say that it all went according to plan, too”
“But…she betrayed Ephthal-sama, didn’t she? Why did you go to such lengths for that girl…?”
“It’s the same as when I picked you up, Merlin. I’ve always had a habit of picking up odd things, and once I’ve picked them up, I’ll take care of them until the end”
Merlin then laughed exasperatedly, but certainly gently.
“Right, I suppose so. That’s the kind of person you are”
“I’m sorry for the trouble”
Merlin stood up and opened the treasure vault door.
“Where are you going?”
“Armaments…I mean, I’m going to get ready”
“I’ll be fine on my own, though…?”
“I have decided not to leave Ephthal-sama’s side…to the best of my ability. Also, I would hate to see you wander off to somewhere…like you always do”
*Haha!*, I laughed and shrugged my shoulders.
“Well, it’d probably be quite hard on my own. It’s also true that I’d like to have a brilliant mage with me. I appreciate it. Thank you”
“Did you just describe me as…a brilliant mage?”
Merlin then, brimming with tears, bowed her head.
“Before, I didn’t feel anything when anyone praised me for my brilliance, but when Ephthal-sama praises me…as I thought, the words carry a different weight. Well then, I’ll hurry up and get ready”
“I’m sure your unsuccessful master will continue to inconvenience you in the future, but please do take care of me”