“The King is gone, huh?”
“You’re not surprised!”
“Well, I was curious why you seemed to do everything. I figured a decision like being made a Viscount would require the King?”
Prince Aberis sighed, shaking his head. “No, I do have the authority to make you a Viscount, but only just. I would have made you an even higher rank if I could have. Of course, the reason for that is simple. It’s a means of gaining your assistance.”
“I take it you want me to find your father?”
“Mmhmm… there are only a few people who know that my father is missing. You are now one of them. Unfortunately, if I get the Adventuring Guild involved, I won’t be able to keep the news from spreading. Our situation with the Imperial Cloud Meadow is on thin ice right now, and the Ost Republic has been testing us lately. All it would take is for Dioshin to start acting up and we’d be facing pressure from every side.”
“That’s why you gave me the wilderness?”
“Well, it’s not like there are people living in the wilderness. However, you have a growing reputation as being kind to the animalkin. You’ll likely placate Dioshin’s worries but also be able to increase our security there. Until now, we’ve depended on the monsters of the region to protect the borders.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, I mean the wilderness. They call it the wilderness because a lot of curses congregated there. There hasn’t been a census, but there is believed to be as many as five dungeons spread throughout the area. These are all abandoned by man, so naturally they have overflowed. Chalm was only safe because of Old Chalm. Every dungeon pulls mana from the earth and carves out an ever-increasing territory. “When two dungeons collide, they block each other. Karr’s Dungeon kept the other dungeons at bay, and the Priest’s barriers kept Chalm from being swallowed by Karr’s Dungeon.
“However, now that the dungeon has collapsed, it’s only a matter of time before monsters from the other dungeons try to make Old Chalm part of their territory.”
“You really didn’t do me any favors, huh?”
“I mean no disrespect, but neither Old Chalm nor the wilderness need to be our responsibility. The Church already erected a barrier that you happened to bring down.”
It seemed that I didn’t just retake Old Chalm, but removed Aberis’s western protection from the curses spreading into Aberis. “S-sorry…”
“It’s fine. Even though giving you permission to claim the wilderness in our name is a risk for Aberis, I decided it was worth it. I just hope you understand, we’re a country, not a charity…” The Prince sighed. “I did what I could for you. I won’t force you to do anything, but I don’t want you to be unaware either. It might take a few decades, but if you do nothing, Old Chalm will be destroyed. However… if you help…”
“I understand. With challenge offers opportunity or something like that.”
“I’m glad you understand.”
“Then, what does the wilderness have to do with your father?”
“A mine was recently found on the border of the wilderness in the north. Unfortunately, a nearby dungeon’s corruption has spread to it, making mining impossible. Thus, for the last few months, there has been an open guild quest to have this dungeon destroyed. Supposedly, a group had broken through to the final level and intended to fight the boss.”
“Don’t tell me. Your father wouldn’t be so reckless as to actually partake in it.”
“Ai… he used to be an S-ranked Adventurer. He’s a bullheaded man and likes showing off. I’m afraid, it’s exactly as you say. Despite warnings, he headed into the battle and attacked the dungeon boss. However, after the men went in and the doors shut, the dungeon suddenly turned extremely aggressive. Everyone who has made it to the bottom floors is either dead or incapacitated. With no one to check the dungeon door, we don’t know the fate of the men who entered.
“After this much time, if your father hasn’t come out…” I started.
“I know…” The Prince closed his eyes tightly. “It is very probable my father is dead. If this is the case, I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep the kingdom together. That’s why I need you. You have defeated several dungeons before and even enslaved a demon lord. Will you conquer the Widow’s Dungeon, and find out the fate of my father?”
“One reason I needed you to be a noble before I told you about this is because of the local lord near Widow’s Dungeon. He locked down the dungeon forcefully and he’s been doing his best to obstruct me. He’s a Count, unfortunately, which means he outranks you. If I could have made you an Earl, I would have. However, as a fellow lord under the direct order of royalty, he won’t be able to obstruct you from entering the dungeon with your party. If I had sent you as just an adventurer, he might have.”
“Ah… another Lord Tibult, huh?”
“Lord Tibult was childish and had a superiority complex, but as far as nobles go, he’s about as loyal as they come. This man, his name is Lord Reign, may be a traitor to the throne. I suspect his recent arrogance is a result of the mine. He sees profit in it and fears the throne is trying to take it away from him. He may even be colluding with an outside source.”
“What kind of mine is it?”
I whistled. “Seriously?”
“Mm… to make matters worse, the Imperial Cloud Meadow border isn’t too far away. If they find out about it, they may attack. That is why this all needs to be handled quickly and quietly. Of course, if you succeed, I will have the King promote you to Count. Since the mine falls on the edge of your new territory, you will also take a cut of the profits and even get access to a small percentage of the orichalcum. That should be more than enough to stabilize the Deekson territory for several decades.”
“You mentioned some trouble with the Cloud Meadow…”
“Yeah, I’m just being prepared. That Slave Master is likely to cause some trouble.”
“Well, I didn’t resurrect him!” the Prince responded with a snort. “However, a man like him assuredly had life insurance.”
That was right. If he had life insurance, then he might have been resurrected only a few moments after his death. If he reported his findings to the government, that would cause trouble. I was already worried about it.
“In truth, I’m not against looking for the King, but I’m honestly very short on money at the moment. I can generate my own funds, but that might take a few weeks.”
“I see… well, it can’t be helped.” The Prince pulled out a bag and dropped it on the table with a clang. “It’s 50 gold coins. That’s actually my personal allowance. Any money I took from the treasury in an official capacity would have to be reported, you see?”
“Oh, I understand… I won’t waste it.” I took the bag quickly.
He looked a bit like he didn’t want to give it up, so I made sure to pocket it out of sight. Well, since it was his own pocket money, it probably hurt a bit more giving it away.
“Then, I’ve already set it up with the Adventuring Guild. Today, a Blue Mage will be able to send you to the city near the Widow’s Dungeon, Alerith.
“Today!” I made a surprised noise.
“I would send you now, but I wanted to give you time to get your affairs in order. Make sure to stop by the Slavers Guild as well. Ah… and it’d be best if you didn’t speak about the mine or the King, even to Lord Reign. I can’t tell you what he knows.”
“I understand.” I nodded.
It looked like I was off to the dungeons again.
“You left me…” A voice suddenly came from behind me as I left the castle.
I felt like my spine had been goosed. I glanced back to see Shao standing there. A few moments later, there was a clamoring noise and I saw the other girls through a break in the crowd coming to meet up with me. I guess they had all gotten lonely waiting in the mansion.
“Where has Master been…” Shao sniffed. “Hmm… smells like that princess.”
“I didn’t even meet with the Princess, though?”
“D-D-Deek?” I glanced to the side to the see the Princess there, with a blush on her face while she held her hands.
The other girls stopped a way off, seeing the Princess and realizing that she seemed to want to speak to me in private. Well, every girl except Shao who glanced at me with a raised eyebrow.
“Ah… well, you can’t hold me responsible for that,” I responded back to Shao defensively.
“If Master keeps cheating…” She walked away to join the other girls, leaving me with Eliana.
She didn’t finish what she was going to say. I wasn’t sure if that made it better or worse.
I took a few steps away from the other women and joined Eliana. She also had a few guards around her who backed a distance away on her order. Although Eliana had taken a quick glance at Shao, she didn’t have any recognition on her face. The guards didn’t even look at her that much. She was the demon lord, though? Actually, that wasn’t the case anymore. For reasons I didn’t understand, Demon Lord was unavailable.
Class: Shadow Magic
Job: Gladiator (Slave) – 45
Unlocked Jobs: Brawler – 25, Shadow Knight – 1, Thief – 10
Unavailable Jobs: Demon Lord – 100
Well, her Demon Lord job unequipped itself and is now marked as unavailable, which is different from unlocked. Actually, Shadow Knight sounded like a good job to have that matched her class well. I might work on leveling it up for her. Well, Priests probably wouldn’t like it, but I had Dark Priest so it looked like we all had secrets we needed to keep from the Church.
“Lord Deekson, I heard my brother wishes to send you into the Widow’s Dungeon,” Eliana responded uncertainly in a whisper, taking care not to be overheard.
“That’s true… you heard already?”
“Mmm…” She nodded. “I was keeping watch, so as soon as you arrived, I made sure to find out what was happening.”
She looked away. “I-it’s not like I’m stalking you or something! W-we’re not even married yet!”
“Are you implying you’d stalk me if we were married!”
“P-please find Father…” She ignored what I said and continued on. “Only he can offer my hand…”
“Ah… you’re worried about your father,” I sighed. “Wait… what was that last part!”
“N-nothing!” She immediately waved her hands. “I said if you’re going to find my father, you’re going to need a hand!”
“Is that what you said?”
“O-of course!” She shot me a look through her long eyebrows. “Rather, I hired someone to meet you at the Adventuring Guild. They are a skilled Dungeon Diver. Have you heard of those?”
“Ah… like that girl in Dirage… huh?”
“Ah, you know! Please use them to remain safe.” She explained. “You absolutely must return! If I lost the person most important to me, my life would end!”
“Ah… so your father means that much to you…”
“Father? Eh… if you can save that old pervert, that would probably be for the best- I mean, yes, absolutely. Father is important!”
I scratched my head. Eliana was constantly changing what she meant and she kept blushing and mumbling to herself. I decided that talking to Eliana was exhausting. Therefore, I promised her I’d return, causing her to blush even more. Looking a bit flustered, she retreated back into the palace with her soldiers beside her. When I returned to my group, I found myself receiving icy looks from Shao and encouraging looks from the other girls.
“Let’s get out of here before more trouble arriv-“
The sound of thudding armor filled the courtyard in front of the palace. Before we could move, a group of twenty men in shiny armor surrounded us. A man in robes stepped forward.
“Deek Deekson?” He asked in a haughty tone.
“We’re the Church. You will come with us!”