“Excuse me? What is the meaning of this!” Pait growled.
It was truly odd that the aristocracy would go to this effort. They already provided them a small mansion with a cursed nature, now they weren’t going to let them into the festival. What was Aberis trying to do? Were they trying to start a war?
“Not you!” The guard said, shifting his eyes to me and my girls. “You five aren’t allowed in!”
“Huh? But I have the tickets right here. We’re in the top 100…”
“Your position in the top 100 is being… reevaluated. It’s claimed you pulled out the money and bribed off various people during the competition, so how could we allow someone like that be a noble?”
“Geh…” I shook my head. “It was a bet to free a slave, and both parties and the judge agreed!”
“Well, once Lord Tibult heard of your transgressions, he naturally disagreed with your actions. He is the one who is the final judge on all matters regarding the competition!”
“T-Tibult!” A sound like a strangled cat came from Lydia’s lips.
Instantly, the name I had heard before came back into recollection. Lord Tibult was the man who had owned Lydia and sold her just to spite me. He had also left Lydia and inadvertently myself for dead by collapsing the dungeon staircase and trapping us there. He was a fat, arrogant man who took pleasure in his slaves. Although, if I remembered correctly, he had more interest in males than females, which was the only reason Lydia had managed to escape unscathed.
“I’m sorry to hear you’re having problems, my boy.” Pait shrugged. “I’m just going in to get a bite to eat, and then after we can head back to my place and…”
“Ahem!” His servant Dav made a noise in her throat and then shot Pait a pleading look.
He sighed. “Oh, very well, I suppose I’m not that hungry after all. Since they won’t let you in, and we came with you, we won’t go in either.”
One of the guards snorted. “You say that like we would have let you!”
“What was that?” Pait spun on the man angrily.
“Of course an Esmere would keep cheaters as company! You suffer with the company you keep! No entry!”
“Why… you arrogant son of a-“
“Wait!” A voice called from behind the guards.
He came running up from inside the party. He was a nondescript man that appeared to be wearing a red and black livery that I didn’t recognize. Actually, I didn’t recognize any livery at all. Lord Tibult’s colors appeared to be purple and green, and he had an insignia that looked to be a sparrow and a sword. At least, that was assuming that these guards belonged to his house. The man whispered a few things to the guards, who’s frowns deepened as their faces turned red. When he was done whispering, the man bowed.
“Actually, my Master has taken an interest in your party. After hearing you were barred from it, he immediately ordered this to be rescinded. You may come in as is custom. As for the competition, he said that if you were truly deceivers, the truth would be revealed in tomorrow’s match anyway, so there was no sense in evaluating the situation. I had hoped to fix this issue before the guards were involved. I apologize for my delay.”
The man bowed deeply. The guards looked at each other and then stepped aside, no longer willing to meet our eyes now that they couldn’t act arrogantly.
“That’s more like it!” Pait responded arrogantly, immediately pushing his way through like he expected the door to close a second later.
The rest of us could only look at each other, shrug, and then enter the Mansion of Lord Tibult. However, I knew now that this was the Lord who clearly had a vendetta against me. I suspected this wasn’t the last trouble he was going to give me.
“Might I ask, just what is Lord Tibult’s rank here? His house is one of the larger ones, so I assumed he’s a noble with some repute. However, I met the man once, and he didn’t seem like he had that much power.”
He was trying to become a Hero and a Dungeon Diver by defeating Mina’s Dungeon that popped up near the village of Chalm. He was looking for recognition and power. He also only had two slave fighters and a pack woman. At the time, I hadn’t thought about it much. However, after experiencing a couple dungeons, I considered how dangerous they were and how ill-equipped he was to handle it. It always left me wondering if he was just arrogant or perhaps stupid.
“The mansion belongs to the entire Tibult family.” The steward who had let us in answered. “High Lord Tibult is Lord Tibult’s father and part of the council. He has three children. The oldest is in line to take over the family. He is currently away at Fort Detrimix, protecting the country from skirmishes caused by the Ost Republic.
“Their daughter is visiting Jespain on a diplomatic peace mission. The youngest, Lord Otto Tibult, would be the one you met. Naturally, his claim to the Tibult estate is exceptionally low. I’ve heard he has made numerous expeditions in an attempt to defeat a dungeon and become a Hero. It would give him a great deal of prestige in the city.
“He was put in charge of this competition?”
“It’s his first year.” The steward shrugged. “Most higher-ranked officials are too busy to handle something as inconsequential as this.”
The picture that was Lord Tibult, or should I call him Otto, was starting to come into focus. He was a man used to the luxury of a high noble, coming for a noble house, but as his father gets older, he realizes he needs to forge his own destiny, or get cast out as useless. Volunteering to do this might even be another way. After all, whoever won the competition would become a noble as well, and they’d probably never forget the man who gave them that favor.
“What of your lord?” I finally asked. “Who is he that has more say than Lord Tibult in his own home?”
The steward’s back straightened. “Well… of course, there is only one family in all of the city who would have enough power to refute Lord Tibult. I’m sorry, but I must return at once. They’ll want a report of what has happened here.”
He spun and disappeared in the crowd smoothly. We had been led into a somewhat crowded hall with dozens of groups formed of fancily dressed people talking to each other. Not skilled with crowds, I barely could get past one group before the steward was out of sight. I had wanted him to answer more questions. He’d been the most informative guy I had spoken with. For a steward to have this must knowledge, his master must be pretty impressive.
Wait? Only one family in the whole city? Wouldn’t that be the Aberis family? I had been noticed by the King? Before I could finish processing that, a voice shouted from behind me in a loud enough tone that most the people around us quieted down.
“So, they were right, It’s you!” An angry noble bellowed. “I will have your slaves!”
“Eh? Who are you?” I asked, looking at the woman who was pointing at me.
She was very pretty, with curly blond hair, a modest bosom, and a long, pretty dress. Her face was filled with anger and her cheeks were bright red.
“Wh-who am I?” She took a step back. “How dare you act like you don’t even remember me!”
“I seriously have no clue who you are!”
She suddenly blushed, lowering her head as if she was suddenly depressed and touching her fingers together. “You don’t even remember… after violating me in such a matter. It meant nothing to you!”
Why was everyone in the audience suddenly looking at me darkly? I was expecting my girls to take it wrong too, but when I looked at them, they were nodding thoughtfully! Lydia raised her hand and waved to the strange woman.
“Hey, Eliana! I didn’t know you were a noble!”
“Eliana?” I tapped my fingers on my lips and then snapped them. “That’s right! Bathhouse girl!”
“Oh, now you remember!” She said indignantly.
“Well, to be fair, you were wearing… less… before…”
Her cheeks blushed again and she unconsciously covered her chest. “You ghoul! How dare you! Now that we’re here, you must sell me your slaves immediately!
“Huh? Are you still on about that?” I shook my head. “Didn’t you change your mind?”
“Th-that… that was just a lapse in my commitment!” She shook her head, a fearful look for a moment. “However, I won’t let light petting demotivate me any longer!”
“Geh… nevermind that! I have the money in my spatial ring. I even have several one-use slave removal spells. Let us do this immediately.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t!” I bowed.
She let out a noise of surprise. “Wh-what? How dare you change your mind all of a sudden!”
“You’re one to talk!”
“Rather… why are you reneging on the deal? You were willing to sell the slaves before?”
“It’s not that I don’t wish for them to be free…” I sighed. “It’s just… we’re in the middle of a competition right now. I still need them fighting alongside me.”
“Hmph! Are you saying they wouldn’t fight beside you if they weren’t your slaves?”
“Something like that.”
I didn’t really want to explain to her that I was a Slave Master and that being my Slave included several status bonuses I didn’t want them to lose. While it was true, I was always worried they’d leave when they didn’t have to fight for me anymore, I was more concerned about them being hurt. After the competition, once I was a lord, I’d be more willing to work on seeing if we could break this curse. At this exact moment, it was a bad time.
“It’s even more reason I must have your slaves immediately!” She declared.
“What? That doesn’t even make sense?” I sighed.
“Since people are making claims on slaves.” A sneering voice caused us both to turn. “That slave of his is truly mine!”
The person who spoke was none other than Lord Tibult, and the person he was pointing at was none other than Lydia. She grabbed my shirt immediately. I could feel her hand shaking in fear. A frown began to form on my face. This might get ugly.