After returning to the mansion, I began moving to protect the children from the slums in earnest.
First, I summoned a maid and instructed her to have them washed, while in the meantime, I wrote a letter to the master for permission to hire them.
I put the reason for it being that they could become teaching materials to help educate Lady Sophia in the ways of understanding human nature. This might sound terrible, but without permission we wouldn’t be able to keep them here either way.
By the time I finished writing the letter, the maid returned with the children to my office.
“Cyril, I washed the children just as you told me. I couldn’t tell at first because they were really dirty, but they’re quite the hidden gems.”
Behind the maid, the two siblings were curiously inspecting the surroundings. The clothes they were wearing were probably borrowed from one of the servant’s children.
Although it wasn’t possible to completely hide the poor upbringing shown in their appearance, they both had the potential to shine if polished.
“Thanks for your hard work. I’ve told the chef to prepare some confectioneries, so you should go down and take a break.”
“Are you sure? As expected of you, Cyril. Please let me know if you ever have trouble sleeping, I’d be happy to keep you company at night.”
“…because they’re baked sweets, you should probably leave before they cool off.”
I ignored the maid’s teasing and expelled her from the room.
Since I graduated from my apprenticeship and had officially become my lady’s exclusive butler, I was now the highest rank among the servants here. However, since I was still only twelve years old physically, I had to constantly deal with the hubris of my older subordinates.
As a result, while my official orders may be accepted respectfully and dutifully, they still treated me like a child in other aspects.
The things they did were on a similar level to what that maid had said to me just now.
But putting that aside– I stood up and moved in front of the siblings.
“I’m Cyril, twelve years old, and you are?”
“I’m Roy. Eleven years old.”
“I’m Emma, ten years old.”
Although they were a little awkward, they both answered without looking away. While they seemed somewhat anxious about the situation, it didn’t look like they had shy personalities.
“Then Roy, Emma, here’s your first lesson, ‘My name is Cyril. I am twelve years old.’ Now try repeating your self-introductions.”
Roy’s eyes were already spinning confusedly. However, Emma started muttering to herself, before whispering, “M-my name is Emma. Umm… I am ten years old.” in a reintroduction.
“You were able to say it properly, that’s great.”
I gently petted Emma’s head.
Her eyes opened wide for a moment before narrowing in joy. Roy looked at that sight in envy, before twisting his face in an effort to remember the lines.
“Roy, the sentence is ‘My name is Roy. I am eleven years old.’”
“Oh, yeah. I-I’m… wait, isn’t ‘I’* the word that girls use?”
“When used with formal language, it becomes a word that isn’t exclusively used by women.”
“I-I see. Then… M-my name is Roy. I am eleven years old?”
“Why did it turn into a question at the end? Next time, try saying it with confidence, it’s the truth after all.”
I said that, and then ruffled Roy’s hair a little roughly. Just like Emma, his eyes opened in surprise before narrowing in delight.
They were both starving for affection.
Considering their circumstances, it wasn’t unreasonable with how they’ve been separated from their parents at this age.
And yet those very parents were willing to sell one of them off.
But somewhere deep in their hearts, they might still be trying to deny that reality, or even start wishing to see them again.
Now that I had sworn to protect them in the name of my lady, I would need to remove these feelings of theirs.
“Okay, I won’t mind what kind of language you use, so tell me about the dark guild.”
Anxious expressions appeared on their faces. They must still fear the idea that they may be brought back. With that in mind, I placed my hands on their heads to assure them it was all right.
“Don’t worry, I promised to protect you in my lady’s name, but in order to do that, I need to understand the situation.”
Currently, the Rosenberg house was in possession of a runaway child that was sold as merchandise.
Even if that description was crass, it was the truth.
If we just left the situation as it is, we’ll end up damaging the dark guild’s reputation.
I didn’t think they would go as far as to lay their hands on my lady, but even they have their rules. If a noble decided to break them of their own volition, they would undoubtedly retaliate in turn.
In order to prevent such a scenario from occurring, there were a few things I needed to do.
–later that day, I visited the slums.
Under the dusk sky, a child dressed like a butler was walking through the ghetto alone. It’s no wonder that I was quickly approached by a thug.
“Hey kid, you don’t look like you belong around here. Are you lost? If you hand over your valuables, I’ll bring you somewhere safe.”
“My apologies, but all of my current belongings are actually the property of the Rosenberg house. I don’t have anything I can arbitrarily give away myself.”
“What? Don’t screw with me brat, you should just go and play with your stuffed toys!”
The thug then reached his arm out to grab me.
Deflecting it with the back of my hand, I tripped his legs as I passed him by and threw him to the ground. Taking care not to injure him, I made sure to kill the momentum the instant before the impact.
His eyes were closed in fear of the collision, but at the next moment, he seemed to realise what had happened and stood up with an angry glare.
“Brat, it looks like you want to see a world of pain.”
“–when you were thrown, I hoped that you’d understand that this wasn’t a normal situation and back off, but… I guess it can’t be helped.”
Although I’ve studied self-defense techniques in order to protect my lady and had magecraft that’s been refined by my previous life’s knowledge, my physique was still that of a twelve year old child.
Being careless could be fatal. Therefore, I wasn’t going to go easy on him and put myself at risk. I was going to finish this now.
I slightly lowered my center of gravity, and used magic to improve my physical abilities.
But a sharp voice suddenly resounded out. At the same time, a giant of a man had appeared from the darkness of an alley. His presence brought a visible reaction out of the thug, so he was definitely someone involved with this world’s darkness.
“S-sir, this isn’t my fault. This kid was being really cheeky, you see!”
“Shut up. Did you forget the rules of the slums? Now screw off before I get angry.”
The thug ran away with his tail between his legs.
Seeing his back slowly disappear, I turned to the giant man.
“…would it be appropriate of me to thank you?”
“Don’t misunderstand. People like you hanging around here always brings trouble. I just wanted to prevent that. You’re an eyesore, so go home.”
“I understand your circumstances, but unfortunately, I have business with the dark guild.”
“…the dark guild? What does a kid like you need with them? Do you even know who they are?”
He released an intense amount of blood lust to intimidate me.
An ordinary child– no, even fully grown adult would tremble under this pressure, that thought came to mind as I pondered my answer.
From his reaction and killing intent, he was probably a member of theirs, one of a considerable position at that.
With that in mind, the easiest thing for me to do would be to bring up the matter with the sold child. However, I’d like to confirm the strength of their organization beforehand if possible.
So should I bring up Roy and Emma’s names here?
“I’m a butler of the Rosenberg house. Does that clear things up a bit?”
The man narrowed his eyes at my question. The light of understanding flashed in his gaze. He knew why I was here.
–in other words, the dark guild not only knew that the fled children had been put under the protection of an aristocrat, they knew that it was the Rosenberg house that had taken them in, and spread that information in only a day.
Incidentally, it didn’t look like he had any doubts when I named myself as a butler. It seems like he’s already been told that a child servant may be making contact soon.
Its difficult even for trained servants to investigate, make contact, and report immediately. This was because of the psychological fear that came with taking account for the failure of one’s actions.
However, it looks like the person in charge of this case accurately communicated that the children they were chasing were taken away by a kid dressed as a butler.
…this was the power of the dark guild, the infamous organization I knew from the game.
They wanted tags kept on Roy and Emma to keep them within reach. When considering the safety of my lady and I, it might be better to just cut them off, but I had contingency plans ready.
That’s what I thought as I began immediately revising my current course of actions.
“I’m here to talk things out. Can you introduce me to someone I can discuss this with?”
“…I don’t think it’s worth negotiating with a kid like you. Wasn’t it that young lady who took our girl into custody? If she really wants to resolve this through conversation, she should be here herself.”
“My lady is a busy person, so could you come to the mansion instead? Ah, but too many people might surprise her, so please only send a representative if possible.”
I could never bring my lady to a dangerous place like this– no matter how much they insisted, this was something I wouldn’t concede on, ever.
As a result, I made sure to establish this position by making the same request to the other party.
“…tch, you’re a clever brat, ain’t cha? However, your negotiating skills are legit… okay, I’ll take you to the guild master. I won’t be able to guarantee your life though, understood?”
“Oh? Do you usually assure others of their lives? If that’s true, then you’re actually a lot kinder than what your outward appearance suggests.”
“Geez, no point in acting cute now, kid. It’s fine already, so just shut up and follow me.”
He’s the one who brought that topic up first– but I wasn’t immature to the point that I’d bring that up, so I complied to his order. Eventually, we arrived at a small bar.
From there, we passed through a hidden door in the back. What I entered into was a solid room that seemed out of place for the slums, but had the suspicious atmosphere appropriate for the dark guild’s hideout.
On a luxurious sofa, a muscular man wearing excessive accessories was having a bewitching woman wait on him, and standing behind them was a gentle-looking man with only one-eye.
Taking just one step in, a scent that was both soft yet sweet tickled my nose.
This was… incense. The smell told me it was of a variety made to have a mild-stimulating effect.
There shouldn’t be any side effects or any strong consequences from being exposed to this. They probably combined this with the skills of the lady to shake the other party’s spirits to carry out negotiations in an advantageous manner.
Incidentally, I had come here in the evening for the same reason.
Twilight, also known as ‘dusk’ was when people’s mentalities tend to be the most vulnerable. It wouldn’t have any effect to those aware of it, but this would give a slight mental advantage against those who weren’t.
…unfortunately, it looks like they did know at least this much.
“Oh? It really is a kid. I’m the guild master, Unnamed.”
The muscular man gave me a fanged grin.
“How unexpectedly polite. My name is Cyril, and I serve the Rosenberg house’s young lady.”
“So I’ve heard. Well for now, sit.”
I lightly complied and placed myself down on the opposing sofa, but instead of looking at the muscular man, I turned my gaze towards the gentle-looking person behind him.
The unnamed man who rules over the dark guild is the one-eyed man in the back. The muscular man was just his body double and guard. He was Unnamed’s right-hand man.
In the game’s setting, Unnamed was a former noble who was stripped of his position after being framed.
He’d receive instructions from the insane villainous daughter to do harm to Alicia, but he ends up betraying her and reports the truth to the prince in the end.
It was the decisive blow that sent us to be executed.
However, he only betrayed Sophia because she was abusing her power to trap the heroine– a girl of a lower class of nobility.
As he was framed by a great noble for a crime he didn’t commit as well, he was a gentleman thief that was hostile to those that brandished their power unreasonably.
In other words, he wouldn’t become an enemy as long as we didn’t impose things through our position. To circumvent the execution end, it was necessary to resolve the matter of us forcibly taking Emma from them.
“There’s nothing left to say. We’re protecting the girl who ran away from you.”
“Oh? Is there no chance of you returning her if I ask politely?”
“No. My apologies, but my lady has already promised to take care of her, so that’s not possible.”
“So you’re telling us to give up her up?”
“That’s wrong. Please don’t misunderstand, we have no intentions of interfering with your business of human trafficking. Now then, is my current understanding that Emma is presently your property, correct?”
Although it wasn’t recognised by national law, the slave trade was common in the underworld. My lady wouldn’t approve of it, but it was a reality you just couldn’t get rid of that easily.
This situation was one of such examples.
Emma’s family wouldn’t have been able to survive without selling her. Assuming that was that truth, then its only because human trafficking existed that the rest of her kin could avoid destruction.
Well… it was still a dark topic, so it wasn’t something that could be accepted that easily.
But it was okay not to accept it. What was important wasn’t what was right or wrong about this situation, but the fact that we couldn’t forcibly take away something they had already purchased according to their laws.
“So what? Are you saying your going to buy that girl?”
“No. Aristocrats don’t partake in the slave trade. I’m only here to ask you to give us Emma’s ownership as a gift, in exchange for a monetary sum as thanks.”
“…haha, that’s just sophistry. How is that any different from just buying her?”
“Does the dark guild really care about little details like that?”
When I practically admitted it was the same thing, the body double snorted.
“This world is one that will take advantage of any weakness shown. I understand that well, but I also understand your intentions of not wanting to cause any friction with us. So let’s begin the negotiations then, the price for us to let the girl go is thirty gold coins.”
Slum kids weren’t worth that much.
Emma’s parents had probably received less than even one of those coins.
“What, are you going to start complaining about the price? She’s the girl I bought, so I get to decide how much I sell her for.”
“Don’t worry, I have no objections whatsoever.”
I pulled out an old leather bag and placed it on the table.
Unnamed’s body double then grabbed it and dumped the contents out, confirming the thirty coins before cursing, “creepy kid.”
“You said that you were a servant of the Rosenberg house? What are you going to do with those siblings?”
“Will that really matter once you’ve given up ownership?”
“It does. We have rules too. We buy and sell people because its necessary for the slums. If you want those siblings for an outrageous purpose, then we won’t let them go.”
“…are those, Unnamed’s thoughts?”
I turned my eyes back to Unnamed himself, not the body double. He was expressionless, but his double nodded.
Lifting up the edge of my mouth, I muttered, “I see, not bad.”
“We plan to raise them in service of the Rosenberg house. As faithful followers who will never betray my lady.”
“…I see, there’s no problem with that. Then the deal has been finalized. We’re giving up our claim of ownership to that girl. Do with her as you like.”
“Yes, I will do so.”
Now that negotiations were finished, I stood up.
No contract was required, or should I say that we couldn’t make one? This was all just to set aside any resentment that might’ve built up from our actions. No children were officially bought here.
If they try to manipulate us through force, we’ll just retaliate in turn. I thought that as I was about to leave, but the body double stopped me as I turned my back.
“Wait. The girl’s parents still owe us.”
“Really? Didn’t the thirty coins I paid you earlier cover that?”
“Huh? What are you saying? That money was just the base price to let go of her ownership.”
“Do you really think I’m ignorant of your plans?”
“…and what would those be?”
Unnamed was unresponsive. The body double’s expression didn’t change either. However, the woman serving the double twitched in reaction. She knew what I was talking about.
The cheap trick they employed to shake my psyche had backfired.
“I didn’t ask the siblings about their situation because I was worried about them, but to make sure they met my expectations to make my plans feasible.”
Emma and Roy currently only had ill-will towards their parents.
However, if they grew older and learned that there were unavoidable circumstances behind their actions, and that they wouldn’t have been able to survive otherwise, then they might regain their affections for them.
Those parents would then become justification to interfere with the Rosenberg Marquis house.
–so before that happened, I was going to instill the idea that they were servants before all else.
It was an ambiguous plan that heavily relied on assumptions, a scheme highly unlikely to work, but if it did, it would become a powerful card for them to use. That’s why I was going to crush it here.
“I told you that I would turn them into faithful followers who would never betray my lady. I thought you could discern what I meant by that– or have I overestimated you?”
Did he really not understand, or was he just looking down on me because I was a child? Not interested in the incompetence that he had shown, I turned a cold gaze his way.
The body double let out killing intent, but Unnamed grabbed his shoulder before he stood up. That was probably of his own will.
Seeing that, the body double exhaled before sitting back down on the couch.
“Okay, we’ll accept the deal as it is.”
“Thank you. I hope to continue a long and mutually beneficial relationship with you.”
I respectfully bowed and left the place quietly.
◆ ◆ ◆
“…what a cheeky brat.”
“Really? I thought he was pretty cute.”
After seeing Cyril leave. Unnamed’s body double– Quincy, sighed while Irene laughed at him.
But Unnamed himself was making a troubled face.
“Guild master, what’s wrong? I thought we did pretty good? If this goes well, we’ll have a connection to a Marquis!”
“…yeah, that’s true. However, now our plans have changed.”
When he heard that a noble’s daughter took some slum children into her protection, Unnamed made a plan. He was going to use the children’s parents as gateways to get information about the Marquis.
The parents might’ve sold them, but they were still their children. He thought that if he was able to successfully manipulate their emotions, they might begin seeking out their affection again.
Of course, he didn’t know if the noble would hire the siblings, nor did he know if the kids would really feel compassion for the parents that were willing to sell them. The success rate of this plan was never high.
Still, he still thought it was worth trying when considering the benefits received if it worked.
“That kid, he saw right through us.”
“Really? Wasn’t he just bluffing?”
“No, you’re wrong. Remember how when you asked for thirty gold coins, he pulled out that leather bag as if he were expecting that offer from the very beginning?”
The girl was actually originally sold for less than a single gold coin. Even if they didn’t know her original selling price, no one would ever think she was worth thirty of them.
Preparing multiple bags of smaller amounts would still be reasonable, but there was still some level of expectation needed for that as well.
“Come to think of it, he also said that he expected the payment to cover the parent’s debt. Its a line that wouldn’t have come out unless he knew that we were going to take them in under us.”
“–if that’s true… then the plan’s a failure?”
Quincy’s face twisted in regret.
“No… maybe not completely.”
After Cyril explained that he knew everything, he went on to remind them that he’d turn Emma into a faithful follower that would never consider betrayal.
The first thing that comes to mind is that he’d get rid of her parents in secret, but instead of abandoning them, he implied that their debt should be covered with the money he provided.
The conclusion drawn from there is simple. Cyril was telling the dark guild to protect Emma’s family so that they wouldn’t be used by anyone.
There was no real advantage for Cyril to gain from a connection with them. However, as long as they sheltered the parents, the dark guild would have a definite contact within he Rosenberg house.
“What, does that brat really think he’s clever with just this much? We just need to break our end of the deal and its the end for him.”
“If he was just a normal kid, it’d be that simple.”
Unnamed recalled the interaction with the boy and scoffed.
Cyril– who always spoke in polite tones throughout the transaction… had empty eyes. It was as if he could see through everything, to the point that even Unnamed felt pressured.
Unnamed had never seen a kid with those kind of eyes before– no, he was unique even among the sly adults that he met during his time as an aristocrat. The boy named Cyril was a monster wearing a child’s skin.
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s just as he said. He was going to create allies that would never consider betrayal. Even if we tried to use the parents, he was confident that he could educate the girl to stay faithful.”
“Huh? Then, doesn’t that mean there’s no reason for us to take the parents in?”
While agreeing, Unnamed started to grin.
If he was confident that they wouldn’t be used, then there was no need to worry about the parents at all. It would’ve been just fine to just cut them off and leave them in debt.
Nonetheless, there was still one reason as to why Cyril directed Unnamed to protect them.
“Even if he understands the darkness of this country, he still values compassion. Since he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty, there isn’t any need for him to raise those kids as the liabilities they may pose… I’ve actually taken a liking to him.”
Having been framed for a crime he hadn’t committed, Unnamed hated high nobles. Even though he would take any chance to destroy arrogant aristocrats, that butler and the master he served seemed to be an exception.
“This will surely become a long relationship indeed.”
Thinking about the fun times to come, Unnamed’s grin grew even wider.
*Roy is referring to how Cyril’s making him refer to himself using ‘watashi(私)’ which is how women usually refer to themselves in normal speech.
Written by Scarlet Rain (緋色の雨)
Translated by KuroInfinity at slothtranslationsblog.com