I would like to thank my friend BiaT_09 for tanking most of this translation while I was stuck in camp for 10 days. Thanks BiaT_09
The Academy Part 6
Translators: BiaT_09, Frostfire10
It was like stepping into another world.
Although he always knew that this world existed, whenever he visited a noble's residence, this thought always surfaced.
He could see the bedazzling entrance to that world – the gate to the Roberbad Estate – even from a distance.
Underneath the bright spotlight of existence, he could see the smiles of dressed-up noble ladies and the fervent discussions of well-built men. Even from where he stood, he could clearly see it in his head.
He knew. That even these people, the residents of this glorious world too had worries and troubles. Such as when the noble household his mother worked for was destroyed and taken away.
However, compared to him who had to work himself to the bone, the black flame of jealousy flickered in his heart.
One's birth decided one's path in life. If one's luck was good, they would live a fortunate life, if they were unlucky, then their life would be filled with travesties. Those that were born to rich houses, they would receive various forms of support. And for those born in poor families like Jet—
"….Let's forget about it."
Jet forced a lid down on his emotions.
Being fortunate and unfortunate did not require someone to compare to. It depended on how he viewed his situation.
If he felt that he was unfortunate, his heart would twist and warp accordingly. If he believed that he was unfortunate, he would simply do the bare minimum to not sink and drown.
He closed his eyes for a few seconds. And he opened them.
The same gorgeous world appeared before him, but the dark emotions from earlier were suppressed.
And with this new perspective, he made an audible gulp.
He was about to enter a completely different world. He was extremely nervous. Well, any commoner would be. He was about to do something he had never experienced before, and the pressure was monumental.
However, the girl standing next to him seemed to be fine.
Just who was this girl? Who was Ornesty Eizel?
He was extremely grateful that she got him an invitation to this ball, but he was still wondering how she got a hold of it. She had said that 'I know someone who works for a Great Noble, and so if I ask, I think I can do something.'
But there was no way it was that simple. There was no way a commoner could have such a useful connection. It was said that there were 5 degrees of separation from anyone to the Emperor. But in reality, that was impossible.
Because living in a different world meant that there were some barriers that were impossible to cross.
—Speaking of which, I know next to nothing about this girl.
Another question stuck its head out again.
His heart was filled with suspicion. Was it possible that Ornesty's backer was Archduke Ainz Ooal Gown?
The probability that he was being forced down a certain path, but after the arrival of the Great Magic Caster Fluder, he thought that he was but a puppet of the Great Nobles refused to leave his head.
And as a mere commoner, the only noble that was willing to help him was the Archduke. Of course, this was excluding the possibility that Ornesty was helping him on her own volition.
"Ah, it's nothing."
The sudden question caused Jet to reply in a panic.
From his reactions, it was clear that it was not nothing, but Ornesty did not seem to react. She, too, was probably overwhelmed by the extravagance of the noble residence.
"Is…. That so. We'll be heading in now, are you ready?"
"Ah, there's no problem."
Ornesty's gaze seemed to lick Jet's body, moving up and down. And after a few seconds, it left him alone. He probably passed her test. Any imperfections in his clothes would reflect badly on her and it would also reflect badly on the noble who gave her the invitation.
In this place, clothes were a weapon of status. Or rather, social events like this were the battleground of the nobles. Any shoddy clothes or accessories that have fallen out of fashion would lower one's evaluation of themself, and they would be mocked behind their back. To nobles, face was important, and so was glory.
This was true not only for nobles but for commoners as well.
For example, the clothes that one wore during their marriage ceremony would be judged. If one wore poor-quality clothes, then they would be signalling that they were simply a terrible person. That was how it worked.
However, for commoners, it was extremely difficult to prepare clothing that would not embarrass them in balls. It would be a cost to bear for an event that they would rarely be invited to, and it was difficult to keep up with trends.
Then as a commoner, how would Jet choose his outfit?
The answer was simple.
Jet did not have to choose. He had the ace available to all the students of the Imperial Academy of magic: the formal wear.
It was formal wear provided by the Academy.
The students would attend various social events, ranging form the entrance ceremony and graduation ceremony, to the assemblies before the long break, and the ceremony in remembrance of the founding of the Empire. Since Great Nobles would attend these ceremonies, if the commoner students wore terrible clothes, it would be an embarrassment to the Academy. And so, they provided a set of formal wear to each student.
It was not heavily decorated but instead radiated a cool and collected feeling, and so on a stage filled with glamorous clothings, it indeed appeared a bit shoddy. However, as long as he wore these clothes, the nobles would and could not say anything.
Because these clothes were selected by the Emperor from several generations ago, and it had the cultural weight of several decades. One could say that it had a history about it. And even if it appeared shoddy, if one spoke up about it, it would be taken as an insult to the Emperor.
In this age where the Blood Emperor – Jircniv Rune Farlord El Nix – ruled, there was no fool who would try to step on the dragon's tail.
Ornesty was also wearing the same clothes – although it was the female version.
(This is another mystery. If she has connections, shouldn't she be able to ask for a dress? ….Well, she said that she would attend this ball to pay me back. So I'm guessing that she didn't want to impose further, I guess?)
"Then let's go. But should you not remove it?"
"Ah…. This eh? I wonder what I should do."
Jet touched the eyepatch covering his eye. If he went inside with this on, he would truly stand out.
For a few seconds, he hesitated, and then made his decision to remove it. He would remove it at home, and so it was not like he felt unburdened, but as his field of view widened, and the burden on his other eye lessened, he felt reinvigorated.
"….Can I ask? Why are you wearing an eyepatch? There are no problems with your eyes, and you shouldn't need to hide anything right?"
The question was an obvious one to ask. Appearance-wise, Jet's eyes were normal. Despite this, it was strange that he was wearing an eyepatch.
"Yeah. True…. Just looking at it they may look normal, but I have a birth defect, and it's weak to light. And so during the day I cover it. Otherwise it exhausts me, and I may even lose my sight if I expose it to much."
He responded with his usual lie.
It did not feel good to lie to his teammate. And to someone who worked so hard to get him an invitation. But—
(—I was told to hide this eye after all.)
Ever since his benefactor had said this, very few people knew about his eye. Even his friends did not know.
Jet took a quick glance at Ornesty.
She did not appear to have anything layered over her figure. This meant that she was not using illusions, and this was her actual face, and she was as young as she seemed.
Yes. Jet's eye had the ability to see through illusions. Although it could only see through it, and could not break the illusion. He was only able to see through them. While one would think that this would not affect his daily life, there was one reason why he wore his eyepatch, but it was an important reason. And so he rarely removed it.
"Is that so? Sorry about the weird question."
"No, I don't mind it. I get the question often. And—I'm relieved that nothing changed."
Ornesty seemed confused, wondering what he meant, but Jet simply flashed a wry smile.
Either sensing that it was a joke, or that he was not going to answer, Ornesty simply replied with 'Is that so?' and began walking away.
Jet walked up to follow her. In front was the main gate, and standing next to it were armed guards – mercenaries hired by the nobles. There was also a butler.
Seeing the two approach, the guards viewed them with suspicion.
Most of the attendees arrived by carriage. No one walked here.
However, their doubts melted away when they saw their formal wear. They knew that one of the sons of this house was in the Academy. And so his friends – those who were not of high enough status to ride carriages – had arrived.
"Welcome." When they arrived at the gate, the butler lowered his head. "My apologies, but may I please see the invitation?"
From a small bag, Ornesty took out a single slip of parchment.
After recieving the invitation, the butler first checked the seal stamped in the wax, and after breaking the seal, he read the invitation. And then, he bowed deeply.
"I have indeed confirmed the invitation. Welcome. The ball is at a different annex, and so may I please have someone guide you?"
"Ah, it's fine, we can manage on our own. It is over there, correct?"
Taking a quick look in the direction she was pointing, the butler smiled.
"Indeed. That is the annexe. If you hand your invitation over to the person at the entrance, someone will guide you inside."
"I understand, thank you very much."
Taking back the invitation, Ornesty gave a quick curtsey, prompting Jet to follow suit. The portcullis had been opened, and the two slipped past to enter the residence.
Leaving the road, they followed the paved road.
As they headed over to the annexe, Jet sighed. Since this residence was within the Capital, their destination was not that far. If he was slightly louder, the butler would have been able to hear him.
Despite this, he sighed as a sign of relief that he had cleared the first hurdle.
"….Do you mind if we separate once we reach the ball?"
Her voice was more restrained than normal. It was a bit difficult to listen to, and he unconsciously flinched.
"Well…. I don't want to be glared at. Sorry."
This was natural. The number of Great Nobles could be counted on one's fingers, and this residence belonged to one of them. If he caused a commotion, it would be bad.
Jet could empathise with her.
This was their opponent's homeground. A whole other world. It would be foolish to start a fight here.
Even now, the worlds that the nobles lived in, was different from that of the commoners. And if it were in the past, where the gap between them was wider, a noble could easily have a commoner killed for any random reason. Although now, if a noble executed a commoner with no good reason, the Blood Emperor would think 'Oh, just perfect' and then dispose of their family, and so the nobles would not do anything foolish. However, this also meant that if there was a reason, nobles could execute commoners.
He came here because he was worried about his childhood friend, about Nemel, and he planned to keep an eye on her from afar. As long as nothing bad happened, he did not intend to interact with her.
"I don't intend to cause a fuss. If I do, then I will be imposing on the one who gave you the invitation after all."
Jet sensed that Ornesty slightly narrowed her eyes. Or rather, there was a slight change in the depths of her eyes. Her atmosphere changed.
It was as if he was standing next to a dangerous creature.
(Are you an idiot? It's her, the girl that got picked on. And, why did the air about her change? Did I make her angry?)
"Please do not worry about it. Even if you did cause a commotion, I doubt anyone will mind anyway."
"The nobles around here are not exactly on good terms either, so I think some ruckus here and there can be overlooked…. But it might be bad if you lose. So if you were to fight, please do make sure to win."
"Hey, hey, hey"
Jet flashed a wry smile. This was probably one of Ornesty's attempts to support him.
"….I hoped that you were going to recommend to me to not do anything crazy. Anyway, I (ore) — no I'm (watashi) not doing this because I want to."
"Is that so." She took a glimpse in the direction of the annex entrance. "We'll be splitting up after getting in there, but what about when we head back? I don't think going our own ways is really a problem either."
"I also have someone I want to meet. So I don't think I can promise to meet you after this even if I wanted to"
"Understood. In that case let's just go our own ways."
Was that person she wanted to meet related to the one who sent her the invitation? Ornesty was full of secrets.
Although he did not intend to press her on it. Especially when she was selflessly helping him.
Her figure overlapped with that of a certain girl in his mind.
(Ah— That might be it.)
She might be related to the Archduke, or — she might be related to a certain noble lady whose house was destroyed by the Blood Emperor.
As Jet recalled the visage of Arche Eeb Rile Furt, he locked eyes with the maid waiting by the entrance of the annex.
He was guided into a huge dance hall enveloped in music, and filled with well-dressed ladies and gentlemen and their little chit-chats. Thorns were often hidden beneath those rosy faces, but somehow, there was something different here. Yes, there was something off, but still, this atmosphere was almost like that between rivals, or peers of the same circle. But for Jet, who knew so little about the world of nobles, pinning down this weird feeling was an impossible task.
Pushing his brain any further would be a waste of time. The best course of action was to become a wallflower, and so Jet immediately started walking to the nearest corner.
Magic was not the only subject taught in the academy. And naturally, proper etiquette and knowledge of noble crests were part of the curriculum. Manners and ballroom dancing were par for the course in this environment. They would be especially useful if students had graduated as magic casters and were hired by nobles. These were essential lessons.
(Dance was very important. After all, if one could not even dance, they would be looked down upon by others. Although I'm envious of nobles, hard work is still necessary, and any misses would have devastating consequences.)
While lazily thinking about the differences between commoners and nobles, Jet had moved over to the least conspicuous wall he could find.
As an effect, some nobles had paid attention to him, but immediately lost interest as they returned to their conversations.
Leaning back onto the wall, Jet heaved a sigh of relief.
Now, he simply had to find his target.
He looked around the dance hall. Although it was filled with exquisite clothing, he saw no heads or tails of the Academy's formal wear. Although because everything else was so glamorous it should stick out like a sore—
"Hey! Jet, you received an invitation too?!"
He did not notice anyone get close to him until she spoke up. He almost felt his heart leap out from his throat from the shock, and hearing this familiar yet panicked voice, Jet turned to look. And his jaw dropped.
He saw a priceless jewel.
He saw a beauty that could only be called a flower carved out of a gem.
Wearing a dress that the other noble ladies would put far beneath them – although they prefered more extravagant and flamboyant ones – was Nemel.
She was beautiful.
Her face was covered in a thin layer of makeup, and she was emanating a sweet smell of perfume.
Jet instantly felt his face burn red.
If it were the usual Nemel, he would not be this shocked. However, standing before him was not his childhood friend, but a beautiful woman he had never met before.
Certainly, Nemel did not have the graceful beauty of the nobles. However, even without makeup, she did not look bad. So it was obvious that if she dressed up, she would be gorgeous.
Although it was a foolish thought. It was because it was him, and because it was her, that he had this thought. But objectively speaking, contrary to Jet, she too was a noble, although an extremely low ranking one. She would have at least the minimum level of clothing to attend this ball.
Although a small part of his head that remained rational was wondering if Nemel's house was rich enough to prepare for her clothes of this level.
He searched for a topic to talk about. Normally, words would effortlessly flow from his mouth, but he was at a loss for words. It was the shock. So Jet desperately grabbed onto any loose idea.
"Umm, that, ah, that dress, where'd you get it?"
"Onee-chan prepared it for me. Although it was borrowed and so I have to return it…. Am I pretty?"
"Ah, aaah. You look really pretty."
The words unconsciously left his mouth.
Her instinct as a childhood friend was working, and she probably knew that this was not him being courteous or lying. Nemel smiled in embarrassment.
(Oi! Calm down me!)
The moment she smiled, Jet felt his heart start to beat faster, and he yelled at it to calm down.
Nemel was simply happy because the clothes she came in were praised. Yes, that was it.
—That's not true.
To the voice in his heart, Jet shook his head.
Before that, he had things he had to do. Firstly, he had to calm down. He took several deep breaths. And then he saw a man he never wanted to meet but always happened to run into — he saw Rangoburt Eck Waria Roberbad.
(Of course he'd be here. This is a ball hosted by his house.)
As if they were acquantainces, Rangoburt was, with a slight nervousness in his voice, was talking to the man beside him. But the moment Jet saw the man standing there, he felt his heart leap into his throat.
"—Wh, what is that"
There was a monster— a hideous monster.
A monster that resented all life, a monster that would bring death to all. The brilliance of the world instantly faded, descending into a rusted dystopia. That was what he felt.
The face that resembled a dried up corpse made it clear that it was an undead.
The magnificence of this dance party made it stand out even more, as something that did not belong.
"What's going here?! This is— No, is it just him?"
"Eh? Eh? Eh?"
It seemed to be the only thing here that was camouflaging its outer appearances via an illusion. There was no one else. But that, of course, was on the premise that no one was hiding under some invisibility spell. Well, at least this was certainly not one of those areas of death that were filled with undead, Jet could at least find some relief in that.
In fact, if everyone else here were in fact all undead, he would definitely faint from the fear alone.
(Well, with all these nobles cheerfully eating and drinking, the chance of that should not be very high…)
Then this the next question: was the presence of this undead acknowledged, or did he sneak in here?
This place would be a tiger's den if it were the former. But if it were the latter, someone had to alert those unaware about the danger lurking among the living beings that filled this hall.
But as a mere commoner, Jet had no confidence in convincing the nobles. He was the only one here who could see through illusions. To the eyes of others, what was standing there was nothing but a noble man. Common sense would tell him that his words of goodwill would most likely be waved aside as a madman's delusions or the rude remarks of an ignorant commoner.
So what about challenging the undead to a duel?
For one thing, Jet had at least some magic spells up his sleeves, probably enough to win against weak undeads such as zombies or skeletons.
(—This is on a whole other level. Since it can cast illusion spells, this undead was certainly skilled in magic. No, it's nothing like those weak zombies or skeletons. Furthermore, it had the will and the knowledge to suppress its hatred and blend into the crowd here. …Maybe…. I don't want to believe it…. But most likely, this is a lich.)
Liches— high-level undead proficient in magic.
Challenging a lich that could cast even the Third Tier of magic would probably get Jet killed in an instant. And for an undead to blend into human society so well as to attain a position worthy of invitation to a noble's dance party, it must have been a monster of wits. So it was certainly impossible to pull it out into the open and reveal its true identity. It would easily tear apart someone like Jet.
There was not a single thing Jet could do. Then it would be best for him to just escape immediately.
But what was the most important thing to Jet? There was no other answer.
Jet snuck a glance at the puzzled face of his childhood friend.
Standing next to him, there was an extremely important girl that he had to protect at all costs.
He silently apologised to all the nobles in this hall, for the fact that he was going to run away without telling them anything.
(First and foremost, can I be sure that Nemel wasn't invited here as a sacrifice to that undead?)
Having these horrifying scenarios play out in his head, Jet made his decision, and began to brainstorm about possible escape plans.
Dashing off at full speed would draw too much attention. That was too risky. He did not seem to notice Jet, yet. If so, then the best escape plan would just to not be noticed.
With his thoughts spinning in his head, Jet frantically shut one eye.
But, it was too late. The lich was already scanning his surroundings.
There was just one problem with his eye. When it saw through the spell, it would give the caster an uneasy feeling. Against non-living things it would have been fine. But when living beings cast illusion spells, they did it to hide something. Breaking these spells would cause dangerous problems.
—It would be of much help to adventurers when they were exploring ruins, but using this eye in the middle of street would unavoidably invite some trouble. If he wanted to live with his eye, he had to find powerful backing. Otherwise, a mere commoner like him could be executed for some absurd reason like leaking information. The best option was just to not let anyone find out about this eye.
Or so he was warned, by that sister-like figure of his.
And that was the reason for Jet's eye patch, for him to never accidentally see through illusions. Yet, now, at this moment where he precisely had to do so—
(—Shit, shit, shit, shit!)
Expletives spourt out one after another. But that did nothing to improve the situation at hand. There was just one thing he had to do. He had to escape. His head was spinning round and round in thought.
"Eh? What's wrong? You look really pale!"
Nemel's panicled voice brought him back to reality. Yet, he still could not figure a safe way out.
While they could not have possibly heard her voice, Rangoburt and the lich started to walk towards Jet.
(Go away! Go away! Go away!)
Even after praying hard, his wish was not granted. When he opened his eyes, the two of them were already standing right before him.
He wanted to turn his head away from the undead face.
He almost let out a scream. But with all his might, he managed to restrain himself, so as to not expose that he saw through the lich's illusion.
"Oh my…. Look who we've got here. Please tell me how you even found yourself in here, I'm pretty sure uninvited guests shouldn't have been let in…. "
Rangoburt's tone of sarcasm sounded like music from heaven. Jet scrunched his face in annoyance. This was a chance, to take his leave from this place using the excuse of Rangoburt's offense. But, before he knew it, the lich spoke.
"Rangoburt, please don't use that tone. It's quite disrespectful to him?"
Normally, that should have been a positive remark. But in the current situation, Jet felt like he was just shot in the head.
(Shit! Are you scolding Rangoburt, to make sure I don't run away?! Come on, that's too cunning!)
Rangoburt bowed his head to the lich, almost like a servant to his master. The was a clear hierarchy. Jet's eyes darted around rapidly, thinking about the relationship between the two. Depending on Rangoburt's knowledge about the lich's true identity, there would be a huge difference in the actions he could take.
If he knew, this place would be a lion's den, and Jet had to be wary of whatever was going on here. If not, if he revealed this fact to Rangoburt, he might gain a powerful ally.
"Please, you don't have to be so formal. We're a team aren't we? Anyway, could you introduce the two of them to me. Well, at least I recognise this uniform. Wait, no, I know this girl. Nemel-san, am I right?"
Eyes blinking in surprise, Nemel raised the edges of her skirt and gave a curtsey.
"Yes, that's right. It's my pleasure to meet you."
"The pleasure is mine. The dress looks quite good on you."
"Th, Thank you very much."
The lich casually gestured with his hand, as if he were addressing a good friend.
"And the young man here is…."
"….Jet Testania, just a commoner."
"Hmm? Jet? Have we met somewhere before… Hmm… Anyway, your face looks pale. Are you not feeling well? Is it a fever? Do you need somewhere to cool down? How about this, Rangoburt, give me a hand for your fellow schoolmate."
"No! I am— fine!"
Jet jumped away from his hand, to prevent him from touching him.
"What's wrong? ….Are you Nemel's companion? She looks worried too, you know."
"Leave Nemel alone!"
Jet shielded Nemel behind him. He was dealing with a lich, an opponent that could finish him off easily. But even then, he couldn't expose Nemel to danger.
"….What are you even doing?"
Rangoburt said, coldly. His inner displeasure manifested in his restrained voice. As a nobleman annoyed at the bothersome commoner at his ball, his attitude was not surprising.
Jet was fully aware of the foolishness of his actions. But, it was something he had to do nonetheless.
Eyes everywhere gathered towards them. Which should be able to suppress the lich. Since it was covering his identity with an illusion spell, it would never do anything that attracts attention— or so Jet wanted to believe.
"….There's nothing to be so anxious about….Hm? Jet? …Your name was familiar… Ah! I see, so that's why. Your eye."
Jet's heart skipped a heat.
In the lich's hideous eyes, there was a tinge of comprehension. Did he instantly see through Jet's ability?
Liches were undead magic casters, famous for their high intellect. But to uncover Jet's secrets with so little information? That required a different level of intelligence.
"I see, I see. Do you mind if we talk in private? I have no intention to command you, but this probably isn't something you want to let Nemel-san hear."
What did it not want to let her hear? It took all of his effort to control his fear-stricken body.
"I don't believe you. Nothing you say can be trusted."
"Now that’s a problem."
The lich responded with a seemingly surprised shrug. Then, Jet caught a glimpse of him looking at Nemel.
It was a threat.
If Jet did not act according to his orders, it would do something to Nemel. Jet read between the lines. Then, there can only be one way out.
"….I understand…. Nemel, could you wait a while?"
Nemel looked like she was just about to say something. But Jet left her behind with Rangoburt and followed the lich's lead far out of the terrace, where even the music that filled the dance hall couldn't reach here. Finally, some liberating silence and peaceful fresh air; it would always calm him down, if everything were normal, that is.
But at that moment, Jet could only feel himself swallowed by a sense of empty darkness and poisoned by the ominous air that filled the surroundings. Undoubtedly, the source of which was standing in front of him: a lich releasing an aura of death.
"First let me introduce myself, I forgot to do so earlier. My name is…."
The lich's voice faded off into silence. After a few seconds, or perhaps even longer, finally he let out his name.
He had never heard of this name before.
There were several undead creatures who had left their names within the book of history. Besides the obviously famous ones such as "Landfall", there were those who had massacred thousands, those who had ruled the ruined remains of cities, those who had battled with the 13 Heroes and others who had their tales sung out loud by bards. For those who did not have their names recorded, they would normally be considered less dangerous than the ones who did.
But Jet could not rest at ease just yet.
Firstly, there was no guarantee that this was its real name. In fact, the lich—Momon kept silent for a few seconds before speaking up. It was obviouslyusing that time to think up a pseudonym.
Next, Jet's knowledge was at most limited to what he learnt as a student. And he knew how little that meant.
Maybe, in the world known only to adventurers, the name "Momon" might be an exceptionally dangerous name. Similar to the being known as Untouchable.
"And I know your name, in fact I know it well, Jet-kun."
Jet swallowed his saliva in fear. It probably heard it from Rangoburt, was what he thought.
(Because I would probably freak out if it said that it did so because of my eye.)
"There's not much I wanted to call you out here for. I have only one request to ask of you: Don't tell anyone about me. Especially that person on your team."
Thump. His heart skipped a beat.
Jet had a trump card: the elite magic caster Fluder Paladin. He could probably easily finish Momon off. That was why Momon tried to stop that.
(Wait, if that's the case, how much does Momon actually know?! For a lich sneaking into the human world, would it be better to assume that his information network had been established long ago? Or did he get all of the information via Rangoburt's connections. I have no idea! That talk about a familiar uniform, or begin in the same school, was that about Rangoburt?)
Jet desperately tried to figure his way out.
His best bet was to just listen to Momon here, then inform Fluder about this first thing next morning. If news about an undead roaming the streets of the capital city reached his ears, Fluder would definitely do something about it. That would be a better response than whatever Jet could provide.
There was one problem. Would Momon be satisfied with Jet's words alone? Normally, when striking a deal with a party one could not trust, one would want some guarantee.
(—Hostages. Just as how I was brought here! Bastard!)
His experience so far had taught him well about Nemel's value as a hostage. There was no way that he could believe that all of this was meaningless. He had made a mistake from the very beginning.
He had no choice but to nod.
Jet had only one answer. However, he could not accept it. He understood that he had lost, but the fact that he was always losing was frustrating.
Jet was about to ask with a brash and rebellious, "what if I say no—"
"This place is quiet, and there's a cool breeze. The ballroom is a bit stifling, and so I came over here for a change of pace, and I think that I should leave the door open but…. Then the noise would spread over to this place and it would lose its tranquility. What do you think?"
Momon's words caused sweat to bead on Jet's forehead.
Yes, this place was quiet. There was no one else present, and so stating such obvious facts meant that depending on Jet's response, he might be forcefully silenced.
How could he have forgotten. His life, and Nemel's were all within the palms of Momon. Jet could choose between living or pulling everyone else down and dying together.
In fact, the moment he unhesitatingly followed Momon to this location, or perhaps even the moment he was eyed by this lich, his loss was fixed in stone.
And with this understanding, Jet had given up all resistance, and he was only able to give Momon the answer he wished to hear.
"I, I understand. I will not tell anyone about this."
"You did not answer my question…. Well that's fine. As expected of Jet-kun…. Can I call you Jet-kun?"
"O, of course. Please do."
Having an undead act so friendly with him made Jet sick to his stomach. However, he understood that it would be foolish for him to reveal even a smidgen of his true feelings. No matter how much he hated it, he had to completely obey Momon.
"No, I am grateful. We can resolve this without any trouble. Since you did so, allow me to give you something as a sign of my thanks. Do you have anything you wish for? I would be happy if it were something that I can settle quickly with money though."
This was the carrot and stick.
Jet felt the terror of Momon sink into his bones. Just with this fear, and this power, it could force its will onto others and cause them to fail. It was a sign that it clearly knew about humans.
Jet was at a loss.
The correct answer to its question was to refuse it. If he simply accepted it, it might be used as an excuse to force him to repay questionable favours. It might be aiming to taint Jet's heart and cause him to fall into evil. People were weak to their desires. There were many stories of how even the purest of heroes fell from grace after being tempted by mountains of platinum and harems of beautiful princesses.
The only countermeasure was to turn one's eyes away from it completely. After all, one could resist temptation if they were yet to taste it.
However, despite this knowledge, he made his request.
"I do not wish for money. But, I simply ask this of you. In exchange for me keeping this a secret, I ask that you do not harm us. Myself, Nemel, and our families."
It was a shallow and selfish request.
If he were considering the greater good, he should be spreading word of Momon's existence. No matter what happened to him or Nemel. However, rather than the lives of strangers, and the future encroaching tragedy, Jet prioritised the lives of those around him.
"….It's a strange request. Or do you simply have no desires?"
"No, that is certainly not the case. Please. Promise me this."
Jet bowed deeply.
There was no way that he could trust the words of an undead, one who hated the living. And only fools would have faith in a contract signed by such a powerful one. However, Jet had no choice but to grab this hanging rope, no matter how rotten it was.
"I understand. While I do not understand what you are thinking, I shall promise you. Now, if you have nothing else, shall we end this conversation?"
"I have nothing else."
"I see, then you can take your leave. Ah, and since I don't want to meet the other two, if you are alone in the Academy and you happen to see me, feel free to greet me."
Jet had no idea what the context of this sentence was, and so he simply believed he had misheard. Jet believed so. Or rather, nothing apart from that made sense.
"Thank you so much. I shall rely on you then."
Hearing his reply, the lich wickedly smiled. It was the smile of the strong forcing the weak to bend a knee.
"And it's almost time for the Examination right? If you require assistance, feel free to ask me."
"No, that will not be necessary. I will be fine. Thank you for your worry."
"Is that so?…. I see. Well I see. Yes, those two are there."
Momon chuckled. Jet smiled along with him, and quickly hid his clenched fist.
It was agonising irony.
Despite there being someone in his team who could defeat Momon, Jet was unable to tell him. All he could do was laugh.
Please, was there someone out there who could reign in this lich?
Then, Jet recalled a certain figure.
This was his ace in the hole. However, was this the correct answer? In place of chips, it was his and Nemel's life. Was it fine to gamble like that?
Jet bit his lower lip, to the point where blood flowed out.
Seeing the man who had brought off Jet, who looked terrible, return to the ball, she stopped her eavesdropping and paid attention to them.
"He still looks bad…. Will he be returning home?"
Jet's pale face made it clear that it would not be good for him to remain here.
Collecting information was similar to how one checked if there was fish in a lake. Rather than leaving a lake quiet, it would be better to throw a stone in the lake to check for reactions.
The plan was for the boy known as Jet to be that stone.
By bringing him here, she had expected the fish to move.
(And now it's like this.)
This was the proposal she had made to her boss in order to receive the invitations.
And now that she was actually facing the situation, was the girl known as Ornesty able to stay by the sidelines and watch? Since she had used those invitations, Jet was under her protection. So even if he was being extremely rude and was a commoner, he would not be killed. But that was not a certainty.
"I wanted to work a bit harder to find some more decisive information, but that seems to be impossible…. And since I got those invitations, it would be bad for me to return with no results."
There was only one other colleague of hers at this party.
Normally, at a large party hosted by a Great Noble there would be more. However, currently they were busy with numerous other tasks.
Someone at her level was not clear on the details, and several days earlier, there should have been an extremely important meeting. And it seemed that the Archduke had gotten ahead of them. And so they were checking if there was a possible leak.
"A traitor eh…."
Although they said that they were checking, they were cautious about traitors. Their opponent was someone known to be unparalleled in magic, and even the greatest magic caster in the Empire lost to him. And so the upper brass was panicking, and was facing various troubles.
Since she was in a safe place, she could view everything with amusement. But there would be waves that echoed into her missions—
Maruyama: Let us continue with the story! Let's do it! The unimportant details will be cut out!