Logo, home button
test alt

The Golden Lion and the Sword Saint:
Riot in Flanders


The room was saturated with the smell of blood. To be precise, rather than the thick stench of fresh blood, it was more that of the stain it left behind; a lingering smell that could never be washed away.

Without exception, every single person gathered in this room had lived a life bathed in the blood of their victims. Consequently, the smell of it was ingrained into their very beings, and its persistent presence dominated the atmosphere. The way they stared at one another hinted towards the hostility beneath their gaze—the kind of tension that kept their blades sheathed but their hands on their hilts.

In this place, where imposing men and women had gathered, several gave off a particularly prominent smell of blood. They shared an impervious gleam in their eyes—evidence that they shouldered duties and self-awareness befitting their positions.

This should come as no surprise, for the group assembled here controlled Flanders, one of the kingdom’s five great cities, from the shadows. In other words, the underground elite.

“This is the sixth occurrence this month… Give me a break... I’ve had enough of this.”

What had cut through the blood-swelling atmosphere was the sweet scent of tobacco smoke and the languid voice of a woman. The woman, nubile and relaxed in her seat, was reclining to reveal the slit in her skin-tight dress, exposing most of her thigh, a golden tobacco pipe nestled between her lips. With skin the color of sun-warmed wheat, her voluptuous body was rich in feminine charms. Such devilish good looks could entice men and women alike to give in to their passions with a single glance. She was also known as the Wicked Temptress—a truly fitting name.

This beautiful woman—in fact one of those who gave off a particularly thick stench of blood—was Toto, the proprietress of the Flower Prison Garden.

When Toto, who had started the conversation, saw that no one followed suit, she took in a long drag of her pipe, gave a sidelong glance to a man at the back of the room, and then sent smoke his way, followed by her words. “Not saying much today, are you, Manfred? Which way is The Scales leaning? Cowardly opportunism? Or perhaps you’re unable to speak because you decided to place that precious tattoo of yours directly on your tongue?”

“Shut your trap, you shameless woman. If you insist on running your mouth over trivialities, I’ll gather all the women in your place and turn them into lap dogs. Then I’ll train you thoroughly and present you to my boss.”

The one who had responded with vicious words to Toto’s provocation was a slim man leaning against the wall. He was tall, bald, and wore long robes, but the skin exposed on his head, neck, and even his face was densely packed with tattoos of balance scale motifs. It was likely that they extended even underneath his robes.

It was one of The Scales’s rules that every member had to be tattooed with balance scales where they were visible, and he had more such tattoos than any other. This was an obvious sign of loyalty in the eyes of the organization; therefore, he won their favor, and they gave him an executive position in the organization in Flanders. The name of this young wolf, here to represent The Scales, was Manfred ‘Tattoo Face’ Madison.

The proprietress of the Flower Prison Garden and the representative of The Scales; between them, they represented two of the three big factions operating the underworld syndicates in Flanders.

And then, the third and final leader of the underworld, the head of the Black Silver Coin, spoke. “Did you gather here just to have a childish dispute? Know your place, you pigs.”


A deep, solemn voice reverberated throughout the room, and the two who had been bickering shut their mouths instantly. What the owner of that voice inspired was not fear. Rather, it was a subtle kind of awe. Fully aware of that, discontented expressions were etched onto the faces of Toto and Manfred.

Despite having the power to silence the two powerful syndicate leaders, the speaker merely sat in a cramped chair in the rear of the room, impassive. “What, no witty retort? —Not even a ‘You’re the one who’s a pig’?” the large man said as he shrugged his large shoulders, sounding bored.

“…Good luck to you, if you’re willing to risk your life to joke around the Pig King,” said Manfred.

“As for me,” added Toto, “I simply have no intention of going along with such an unamusing joke, Mr. Doltero.”

Having provided excuses for their silence at Doltero’s interjection, Toto and Manfred appeared mollified. At their rebuttal, the giant man clasped his wide fingers together above the table. “Good luck to those who crack jokes, huh. Well said.”

“—? It sounds like you’re referencing something specific. Something you’d like to share?”

Despite his grumbling, the large man only frowned in silence at Manfred’s provocation. He approached two meters in height, his thick and mighty width a good match for his height. His limbs were as large and tough as tree trunks, and his physique was like that of a great tree in comparison to Manfred’s, which was like one that had withered away. In contrast to his powerful body, he had blond hair that was combed back and azure eyes that anyone would find attractive, giving off a certain distinctiveness within the pig race that was known for its ugly appearances.

He was the Pig King, Doltero Amule, leader of the Black Silver Coin—the largest faction of the underworld syndicates of Flanders—and the most feared man in the city.

Even the Wicked Temptress and Tattoo Face would not lightly go up against the Pig King. This was a reflection of just how long-lived and influential Doltero’s power over the city truly was.

The representatives of the three major criminal syndicates of Flanders chose a basement tavern on neutral ground in order to meet face-to-face. One couldn’t wish for a more suitable place for holding secret meetings, and they had made ample use of this venue to hold these regular meetings.

The purpose of these regular meetings, centered around the Big Three and attended by the entire underworld society, was to reaffirm precarious peace treaties as well as re-establish the balance of power. Though the three syndicates had originally been true enemies in battle, they were nonetheless business rivals now, so not once had they tried to move towards building an amicable atmosphere at these meetings. However, even following the general conventions of a regular meeting, the tension in the air today was abnormal. The reason for that was…

“—Stop dilly-dallying. Have you figured out the identity of the criminal…of that scum?” Doltero fired off that question, bringing up the source of this meeting’s bloodthirsty atmosphere.

In the last couple of months, there had been a number of injuries and deaths in Flanders—none of which were unusual if looked at individually. Though unfortunate, incidents that resulted in casualties seemed to be a rather commonplace thing; however, for the people present—who understood the connection—this wasn’t something they could ignore.

“If all the victims are related to us, the situation is quite serious. Who is attacking us?” Doltero asked.

“Who knows?” Toto replied. “I was certain, for my part, that we had been invited to gather here in order to make that clear. Perhaps to receive a formal declaration of hostilities. Right, Manfred?”

“In general, I never trust the word of a harlot, but in this case I think so too,” concurred Manfred. “I was expecting something similar. That’s why I can put up with the feminine stench in here, which stinks more than usual.”

After exchanging murderous glares, Manfred and Toto settled back into an uneasy, silent war. Among the Big Three, they were the only two who had actually crossed blades with intent to kill, so there was certainly no love lost between them. Unfortunately, when the leaders of two vicious, rival syndicates got heated, it made sense that their subordinates would take that as a sign to be ready for anything.

The fighters from The Scales began shifting restlessly, and the flowers from the Flower Prison Garden eyed them with penetrating glares. Before they thoughtlessly went at it, however, Doltero crushed the armrest of his chair.

The iron armrest was deformed, as if it were being molded like candy, before being twisted off the chair. Then, without the slightest sign of distress, Doltero flung the detached armrest to the floor. “If you want to end up like this armrest, then by all means, keep dithering. Time is short for the elderly. Don’t waste it.”

“Even though you are just as on-edge as the rest of us?” Toto retorted. “What an insufferable man, trying to pretend to be the only mature adult in the room... Don’t you think so as well, Miss Golden Beetle?” Having smiled sweetly in the face of Doltero’s warning, Toto tried to draw the third party out, the golden pipe still nestled between her lips.

“Oh? You want me to take sides? I wouldn’t be much of a peacekeeper if I did that. More of a fire-starter.”

The one who’d frowned at being called upon was a petite woman who hadn’t spoken once until now. She sat at the corner of the table, skillfully avoiding detection since the start of the meeting, wearing a well-made black suit. Along with her black suit, she had been thorough enough to wear a black tie, gloves, socks, and shoes. She also had green hair of a shade so dark that it looked black depending on the light. A woman of ambiguous age, her hair was tied into a knot on either side of her head, and her faint, pasted-on smile was clearly designed to conceal her intentions.

Upon noticing her, Manfred raised his finger and said, “That’s right. Why the hell’s Helaine the Golden Pest even participating in this meeting, huh? This woman shouldn’t even have the qualifications to participate in the regular meetings.”

At the matching hostility from both Manfred and Toto, neither of whom bothered to hide their feelings, the woman in the suit—Helaine—scratched her cheek absently. “This lowly one surely cannot fault your logic… Ah, and the name is Golden Beetle, not Golden Pest, Mr. Manfred.”

The one who had extended a helping hand to Helaine was none other than Toto, who was still mildly puffing out tobacco smoke. As if trying to emphasize her voluptuous breasts, she crossed her arms. Giving Helaine a sidelong glance, she addressed the room. “It was I who invited her. That should be a good enough qualification to join us, yes?”

“It’s nothing but unpleasant to see these women hanging around each other, one reeking of blood, and the other of metal. You must’ve been prepared to be shunned since you bothered to show yourself here.” Clicking his tongue, Manfred threatened Helaine as he touched the tattoo on his face. “You have something to share, don’t you?”

To this vicious but hypocritical threat, Helaine broke the ice with an, “Actually…” This garnered the attention of the room. “As I am sure everyone is aware, our company has received the patronage of this city for a long time. This gift was only possible because of the daily assistance of everyone involved…”

“Enough with the pleasantries. Get to the point,” commanded Doltero.

“—Our company’s office was attacked, and the precious lives of my employees have been lost. We took for granted the harmony that your organizations grant the city, and for our under-preparedness in the face of a crisis, I can only express my shame.”


None of the Big Three took Helaine’s humble, self-deprecating words at face value.

Though Helaine was ashamed of not being able to protect it herself, she was by no means as sorry as her words seemed to suggest. She was what they called a “moneylender,” belonging to a company called the Golden Beetle. Her being able to participate in the regular meeting was simply a result of her having a lot of clients from the underworld.

Of course, their clients included personnel involved with the Big Three, and the Golden Beetle was an inviolable domain thanks to their patronage. No fighting and no aggression against them were unwritten rules, so if the Golden Beetle was ever threatened, these syndicates, including the Black Silver Coin, would do everything in their power to crush whoever was responsible.

And now, the guarantee of security that had been implied in that unspoken agreement had been ruptured.

She continued, “Whether it be money or human lives, we would like to avoid any further losses. And, as one who can serve as a representative of private citizens, I’d like to humbly request the swift intervention of this esteemed gathering.”

“What an obvious lie,” Manfred spat. “Calling yourself a representative of private citizens.”

“I implore you to make haste in restoring our sense of security and peace of mind,” Helaine went on. “Otherwise, the trust that has been cultivated between us and all of you will be in jeopardy.”

Even as Helaine was politely lowering her head during her explanation, even Doltero couldn’t help but feel disgusted by her words. The existence of the Golden Beetle itself was like a type of magic in Flanders, after all.

The Golden Beetle lent money to the underworld organizations to guarantee the safety of their operations within the city. If they were unable to do that, it was only reasonable for them to resort to methods that allowed them to get the money they had lent back.

Not a single soul here was foolish enough to brush her outlandish remarks off as being those of a mere moneylender.

“To sum it all up, the scoundrel in question brought disgrace to us, and laid hands on something that should have never been touched,” Toto began. “Vengeance must be vicious and thorough. Any objections?”

As ash fell from Toto’s pipe into the silence of her suggestion, Manfred took up the lead of the conversation to propose a course of action. “Fine by me,” he said. “We’ll find them and carve balance scales on their eyeballs. More importantly, there really are laudable idiots in the world, to try something like this. On our turf; in the Pig King’s territory, no less.”

When he’d finished speaking, Tattoo Face sent a meaningful look Doltero’s way.


Nothing. It’s just that now we’ve got a guy who’s not afraid of the Pig King himself, who makes villains tremble in their boots. Perhaps times have changed? Maybe you aren’t as feared as you once were?”

“You seem to be in a hurry to have your head crushed before that scumbag does.”

“That’s what I’m talking about.” Manfred did not back down at Doltero’s dangerously low voice, sneering at him. “If you were truly still the man in the legends, you’d have crushed my skull before bothering to threaten me, right?”

As the meeting derailed, Toto’s scowl continued to deepen. Finally, she barked, “That’s enough!”

The one who raised a black-gloved hand to politely insert herself into the conversation was Helaine. “Now, now, please calm down, you two. Fighting like this will not result in profit for any of us. Please consider it as allowing us to save face…”

Doltero roared, “Why should I allow you to save face and let this insolent piglet off the hook?”

“That’s…ah, that’s right. I have some good news! It may even have something to do with the incident that happened recently.”

In the face of Doltero’s increasingly intimidating air, Helaine placed her hand in her breast pocket and pulled out a piece of paper.

“And what would that be?” Toto asked.

“An investigative report,” Helaine replied. “In order to do something for the surviving family members of the employees that passed away, we determined that we couldn’t simply wallow in despair. We worked tirelessly to investigate what happened.”

“Did you find anything?” asked Manfred.

“This is not yet confirmed, but…there is a possibility that this crime was committed by someone who does not know how the city works. And this reminded me of Hakuchuri’s Sword Saint.”

“…Hang on, you’re serious, aren’t you?” Manfred muttered.

The second those words had left Helaine’s mouth, chaos began to roil among those present. Even Manfred, Toto, and Doltero were no exception. However, although it seemed that no one noticed this, Doltero’s surprise had a distinctly different air to the rest of those in the room.

Hakuchuri’s Sword Saint was a disaster that even the people from the underworld trembled to mention.

Seeing that there was a possibility that this criminal had a part in it, everyone went into an uproar, prompting Helaine to quickly wave her hands. “Oh, please do not misunderstand me. We need not concern ourselves with the Sword Saint himself, but rather the young lady he brought home with him.”

Young lady… So, that royal selection candidate, then?” Toto inquired.

“The selection battle for the throne… You mean that young chit who’s just there to make up the numbers?”

Realizing that the disaster wasn’t at the center of what was going on, Toto and Manfred seemed happy enough to throw themselves back into the conversation.

The royal selection was currently the biggest matter of interest for the people of the Kingdom of Lugunica. Since every member of the royal family had died due to an illness, the kingdom had announced the start of the royal selection in order to select a new ruler. One of the candidates had a base of operations in Hakuchuri, a town near Flanders. Unfortunately for her, however, she didn’t even have a proper sponsor. She was just a pitiful little urchin found to make up the numbers to start the selection—common knowledge for the people of the underworld, who were sharp-eared for that kind of information.

Helaine, however, threw another piece of information into the pot, one that was worthy of causing a stir. “If this report is accurate, then it seems the aforementioned young lady has met with the Black Silver Coin.”


Bringing her hands in front of her slender chest, Helaine declared cheerfully, “It also revealed that she had been extremely discourteous towards you, Mr. Doltero. If that is really the truth, then I can only call her a fool eager for the grave, but… Perhaps this was all a ploy to earn herself some popularity?” In clear contrast to the content of her speech, those listening were unable to maintain a similar state of calm.

In particular, Doltero found himself suddenly expected to explain the situation.

“Is what she just said true, Mr. Doltero?” Toto asked.

“…We had some altercations, yes. However, I’ve already taken care of it.”

It was no different than telling them plainly, “I have no responsibility to explain the details to you.” However, upon hearing that, Toto and Manfred’s eyes flickered with hidden emotion as they exchanged knowing glances.

“If it’s true that she had a dispute with the Black Silver Coin, the Golden Pest’s words aren’t something we can simply laugh off. The presumptive loser may simply be looking for a last chance at glory, reviving her candidacy by cleaning up the underworld. It’s possible.”

“It may only be the cute, naive rashness of a child, but this one does have the capacity to actually pull it off.”

“The Sword Saint…” uttered someone in a low voice, gulping as they did.

Toto and Manfred’s attention remained shifted over to the young selection candidate, ignoring Doltero, who suddenly had little to say. Never mind whether they saw her as the one responsible for their present circumstances, or whether they were interested in her on a more personal level.

“Credibility aside, shouldn’t we first talk with the girl, at least?” Toto posed. “Especially since the girl in question is only a town away, and…well…she was rather cute, as I recall. A diamond in the rough, I’d wager.”

“Ugh, there we go again,” Manfred replied. “Your appetites repulse me. That said, we’d be remiss if we didn’t pay her a visit, huh—what was she called again?”

“Hmm, let me see… If I’m not mistaken—”

Manfred absently touched the tattoo on his face as Toto gave a captivating smile, then looked at Helaine, who tilted her head at that—stealthily looking Doltero’s way.

With that gesture alone, it was as if the tendrils of Helaine’s nefarious nature had worked their way into his skin.

Then, without bothering to bring him up by name, Helaine smiled softly and answered, “—Lady Felt. That was her name, I believe.”


“—Lady Felt!”

The instant she realized she wouldn’t be able to evade the inevitable collision, she heard the dulcet tones of a male voice echoing toward her. Before she could react to that cry in any way, however, something collided with her forehead. With a light “plop,” it sprayed her forehead in a shower of red liquid.

With the spray of red, her slender figure toppled backward. Then, without anything to break her fall, she crashed straight into the wooden crates behind her, smashing them to pieces in a large cloud of dust. Having fallen into the scattered wooden crates, the girl miraculously landed in the only spot she’d remain unharmed.

On her back, gazing up blankly at the clear, blue sky, her crimson eyes revealed no emotion. Instead, her usual air of implacable tenacity, as well as her dainty, refined features, were overtaken by the mass of red splattered over her forehead. Her gold hair, which seemed to shine like the rays of the sun itself, was also stained by it, and one couldn’t help but avert their gaze at the terrible sight.

In fact, many had already averted their eyes, their shoulders giving off a slight tremble. Among them, however, was one who could not look away.

A quick burst of wind vaulted the gate to swirl around the fallen girl. No, not quite the wind, but rather a young man who had bolted toward her so quickly that one could easily mistake him for the wind.

“Lady Felt…” said the youth, down on one knee, peering at the fallen girl’s face. He had a striking physical appearance—deep red hair that seemed to burn as brightly as a flame, blue eyes that seemed so clear as to have swallowed the whole blue sky in a single breath, and a handsomeness so heavenly that not even a sculptor with a lifetime of experience could replicate it.

The handsome young man’s shapely eyebrows distorted with remorse as he kneeled beside her and murmured, “My deepest apologies. I…was unable to reach you in time…”

His voice was tinged with sorrow, revealing his feelings of regret and responsibility for what had happened. It looked so excessively tragic that, if put into a painting, it would be a timeless masterpiece capable of making anyone who saw it weep.

Within that scene, which seemed so detached from reality…

“—Reinhard.” As if by some miracle, the girl managed to murmur the word from amid her state of distress. And the arm, which had fallen limply to the ground before, began to rise, and little by little, her fingertips approached the face of the young man. As the young man watched with bated breath, her fingers drew inexorably close until the moment…she pinched his nose.

“Lady Felt?” came his now slightly nasal voice.

“Hey, you! Haven’t I told you to stop doing stuff like that—it totally puts me off my groove!” replied the irritated girl as she continued to pinch his nose. From that position, she stretched out her legs, brought them up, and then swung them down with enough momentum to bring herself upright. After that, she wiped off the red stuff that had stained her face with her hand. “Whoa, it’s sweet. Now that’s pretty cool. Didn’t expect that at all.”

“I am not sure if it is sanitary to lick the stuff on your face, my lady…”

“The hell you say?” she replied. “Are you implying that my face is dirty? I’m gonna kick your ass for that!”

“No, my lady’s countenance is extremely lovely. Though loveliness and hygiene are not exactly the same…”

“Ugh, enough, enough!” said the girl rudely, covering her ears. The girl—Felt—then sprang to her feet, brushed the dirt off her clothes, and hummed in thought as she looked around. “So? I gather the reason you barged in like that wasn’t just because you’re a total airhead.”

“That is correct, my lady. Though it pains me to say it, your team has lost.”

Propping a hand on her hip, Felt smacked her lips, accepting her defeat. “Hmph. Can’t be helped.” The young man—Reinhard—gave a wry smile at the sportsmanlike behavior, then passed her a cloth to wipe her face with before stepping into the middle of the square.

He then announced in a sonorous voice, “The winner of the Harvest Festival game this year is the team from the West District!”


After a heavy moment of silence to take in this announcement, the crowd burst into an explosion of cheers. The town of Hakuchuri wasn’t all that large, but it was still amazing to see nearly every resident gathered in the town square. While wiping her head, Felt’s expression relaxed at the sight of everyone embracing each other and cheering.

“Ah, I lost, I lost, damn it!” And then, after a pause, said, “And some of you guys still have the nerve to turn your faces away!” Felt scowled in the direction of the spectators, sharply thrusting her finger at them. Everyone she was pointing at had turned away, their shoulders trembling, when she’d taken her fall.

Felt suddenly narrowed her crimson eyes at them. “Don’t bother holding back your laughter. Look at me! I look ridiculous, right?” she admitted, proudly showcasing her tometo-covered self.

And with that, a roar of laughter seemed to envelop the town square, reverberating without reserve throughout the town.


To the southeast of the Kingdom of Lugunica lay Hakuchuri, a town governed by House Astrea. House Astrea was famous for having produced a great number of Sword Saints, but in contrast to the Sword Saint’s clear value to the kingdom, their house received very little in the way of rewards from the royal family. The situation was related to the governing style of each generation’s head, as well as whoever bore the mighty title of Sword Saint.

In brief, as a sign of their allegiance to the kingdom, House Astrea would not use its might for anything other than serving the kingdom in times of peril and would never gain more power than was necessary to do so. And so, although they were a vital martial force for the kingdom, as far as being nobility, the territory they governed was rather unremarkable.

Hakuchuri was an ordinary town without any particularly striking characteristics. Its primary industries were agriculture and animal husbandry, and it relied on earth dragon-related jobs, which were in great demand in the nearby city of Flanders.

On this day, in the unremarkable town of Hakuchuri—as a part of celebrating their successful harvest—the traditional annual Tometo Festival was held.

During the Tometo Festival, the town split into four teams: east, west, south, and north. They would then grab tometoes from the baskets placed in the center of the town and throw them at each other. Those who got hit were out, and the game continued until only one team was left standing. In other words, this was the source of Felt’s unfortunate tometo-splattered face.

And so Felt, playing for the eastern team, had been defeated in a final decisive battle with the player on the western team, concluding the Tometo Festival with the western team being declared the victor.

Felt, as the last one left standing on her team, could not help but feel frustrated. Well, it’s not just because I’m annoyed by my loss, but…

“What do you think secured your victory today?” asked the mayor.

“Daily training and strict adherence to a healthy life of service,” came the small voice of one of the western team’s winners.

“Meanwhile, you stayed up all night, Lady Felt…” Reinhard lamented softly.

“Oh shut up!” she retorted. “It was the night before the festival; there was no way I could sleep! So what?”

Standing up on the winner’s podium, receiving the Tometo Medal from the town’s mayor, were the twin girls who’d led the western team to victory with Felt’s crushing defeat. They had pink hair, their bodies even more childlike than Felt’s own small frame. The two girls, still in their early teens, were called Flam and Grassis—chamberlains of House Astrea, who had taken the pissed off Felt in. To make a long story short, it was a case of “subordinates overthrowing their masters.”

Felt had been on track to win the Tometo Festival at the end by utilizing her talents, but had suffered defeat at the last moment thanks to the twins’ killer technique.

“What the heck was that last move?!” Felt demanded. “Are there three of you?”

“Certainly not, my lady. It was simply a matter of me moving back and forth with great speed, you see.”

“The Reverse Flip Sideways Jump-Back.”

“I can’t believe I lost to such a ridiculous move…” Felt lamented.

After them, Felt received a Consolation Medal from the second-place platform with drooped shoulders, feeling crestfallen. Though she was feeling a sense of defeat right now, it would be fair to say that the Tometo Festival itself had been a great success. She got a sense of accomplishment from looking down at the townspeople from her high vantage point on the podium.

The success of the town’s small festival was truly a cause for joy. At first, there had been a lot of controversy about whether members of House Astrea, including Felt, would participate. For over ten years, the town’s ruler, House Astrea, had seemingly distanced itself from it, forgoing any participation in any of its festivities. And yet, just as it seemed to be business as usual this time around…

“Hm? What’s wrong with that? It sounds fun. Why don’t we do it?” Felt succinctly said when it was explained to her. And so, after an absence of 10 years, House Astrea decided to join in the festivities once again.

The festival didn’t really have any strict rules originally, but because Felt and company were participating this time, they had to make some changes. In particular was the division of teams; typically, participants broke up into four groups based roughly on where they lived on the town map. However, since House Astrea didn’t really fall into any of them, organizers weren’t sure where to place them. So, they eventually decided to divide the members of House Astrea among each of the four teams: Felt in the east, Flam and Grassis in the west, Old Man Rom and Rachins in the north, and Gaston and Camberley in the south, making it a fair enough division to start the festival.

“Well, the condition was that Reinhard couldn’t participate. If he did, no one would have stood a chance… Which makes sense, considerin’ what he did last year.”

The Sword Saint, with his overwhelming power, would have annihilated anyone in his way at the Tometo Festival. With him in the mix, the city’s inhabitants would have quickly been covered in tometoes, bringing the festival to a swift end. That would have been a major deviation from the festival’s main purpose, for people to relax and have a good time.

“Anyway, after all the fuss about participatin’ or not, it’s a good thing we did, right?” asked Felt, glancing to the side with a wry smile, simultaneously wiping away her sense of defeat along with the tometo.

Reinhard nodded in agreement to the girl with the prominent fang at his side. “I was honestly worried it would make things awkward and cause needless problems for everyone…”

“You were worried over nothing,” chided Felt. “Listen to me more carefully next time.”

“Yes. But next time…no, nevermind.” Reinhard stopped mid-sentence, as if reconsidering what he was about to say.

Perturbed, Felt glared at the tall man. “What were you trying to say?” she pressed. “If you have something to say, just say it. It feels gross when you keep it to yourself.”

“...I’d appreciate it if we held the next one in a format where I can also take part. Just watching makes me feel a little…”

“...lonely?” Felt supplied the answer casually, but Reinhard’s eyes remained downcast. Her eyes widened as she took in his words. It was surprising because it was him who had said it.

Even if he was kept out of the loop, he would have just watched with a smile, she thought, reproaching herself for having had such a selfish impression.

However, as if to directly contradict Felt’s reflections, Reinhard shook his head and said, “No, I’m just not the type of person who can be content just watching. I’d really like to move my body too.”

“You’re just a sore loser, aren’t you? You were the one who suggested that you shouldn’t take part. So next time, do you wanna participate with your hands and feet bound in chains and make it a rule that you can’t touch any tometoes with your hands?”

“That’s it?”

“What do you mean ‘That’s it’? That’s psychotic! And if you want to join, tell me beforehand. This year’s festival is almost over, ain’t it?”

In any event, Felt was at a loss due to how bad Reinhard was at articulating his desires. When it came to snide remarks about her daily attitude, he had no problem doling them out one after another.

“Oh…?” Amid her foul mood, Felt raised her eyebrows at something she saw in the corner of her eye. At the back of the crowd of city dwellers surrounding the podium, there was a familiar mother and daughter. The mother, beautiful and young, was holding a baby with golden curls. The two were Kalifa and Ilya, whom Felt’s party had met two months ago because of a certain incident. The mother and daughter had moved to Hakuchuri to escape a difficult situation, and Felt had arranged for them to live and work at a ranch there. From the looks of it, it seemed that they had not taken part in throwing tometoes, but their expressions suggested that they were enjoying the festival nonetheless.

However, what caught Felt’s eye wasn’t that heartwarming sight. It was…

That Gaston… Looks like somebody’s enjoying himself,” Felt muttered.

Not far off from the pleasant picture of Kalifa cradling Ilya in her arms was a large man with a perpetually fierce expression—Gaston. He was a man under Felt’s employment, but his face as he spoke to Kalifa displayed shameless devotion; his fondness for her was amusingly transparent. Nevertheless, it appeared to Felt that Kalifa was not averse to it.

“Come to think of it, Gaston worked pretty hard for the southern team today.”

Reinhard had noticed the same scene and gave his opinion, having acted as a referee for the festival. “Unfortunately, he didn’t make it to the end, but he did quite well. He’s gradually learning the Flow Method, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in the future.”

“Is that what you’ve been teaching them recently?” questioned Felt. “So, how did Camberley do? They were on the same team, right?”

“Quite soon after the event began, Camberley was thrown headfirst into a box of tometoes. It is a rare thing to see someone covered so entirely in tometo juice. ”

“Oh. Right.”

Though on the same team, the results of Gaston and Camberley were like night and day. But the difference could probably be attributed to one having someone they wished to show off to.

“I guess you could say my defeat was due to Old Man Rom being on a different team,” Felt said primly.

“I think you’re giving Master Rom a bit too much credit…but I’m sure having him in our camp will prove to be beneficial for the royal selection.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah. Old Man Rom is amazing. You’re startin’ to get it now, ain’t ya?”

The essence of the story aside, Felt was in a good mood after hearing praise for her Old Man Rom. If the Tometo Festival could finish here, on such a good note, and move on to the closing ceremony, that would be great, but

Reinhard’s hushed voice cautioned, “Lady Felt.”

“...I know. I can see him.” Felt crossed her arms and drew her chin back in defiance. In an instant, the atmosphere between the mistress and knight changed as they caught sight of something.

An uninvited visitor, out of place in this lively festive atmosphere.

“Let’s move somewhere else,” ordered Felt. “Leave the closing of the festival to the mayor.”

“As you wish, my lady. Please leave your personal safety to me.”

Rolling her eyes, Felt stepped down from the podium, not letting her inner frustration show on her face. Then, with Reinhard in tow, she strode off to a place away from the hustle and bustle of people, eventually arriving at an empty meadow.

“Look, there’s no one around, so hurry up and show yourself.”

“I’m sorry to have interrupted your fun. But the quicker we talk, the better.”

In the meadow on the outskirts of town, the figure appeared at Felt’s call.

The man in the slender black suit had a sharp, serpentine look about him—Felt recognized those creepy, snake-like eyes.

“You’re from the Black Silver Coin, right? Your name was…”

“My name is Safis, and I’m very sorry I didn’t have time to say hello to you the other day,” the snake-eyed man—proclaiming to be Safis—greeted them politely, causing Felt to snort. She was mocking him rather brazenly, but in truth, no love was lost between them. After all, this man was the mastermind behind the incident involving Kalifa and Ilya two months ago.

“Didn’t you die when Pig-Nose punched your lights out last time? Good job surviving.”

“I was saved by the generosity of the Boss. Now I’m working like a dog to regain the trust I’ve lost. Naturally, I also lost my position as an officer.”

“That’s great. It would’ve been even better if you had lost your head too,” Felt barked without remorse.

“That’s going too far, my lady. Although I too have my own opinions about him,” said Reinhard, always quick to rebuke his mistress’s speech and conduct, though he himself had little positive to say about their interloper.

“Mr. Safis, the relationship between you and Lady Felt is far from good. Even if Master Rom and Mr. Doltero are on friendly terms, I personally can’t condone having a lengthy conversation with you.”

“I’m already aware that you both dislike me. That’s obvious. But I did not come to harass you two. I have a message from the Boss.”

“From Pig-Nose…?” Felt pondered Safis’s words, whose veil of superficial politeness had yet to break.

The Pig King Doltero—Leader of the Black Silver Coin syndicate—was in fact, Ilya’s birth father. However, to distance himself from Kalifa and Ilya, the man declared that he had no wife or child. That was why Felt despised him enough to never forgive him. But that was just her personal opinion. If he had something to tell them, she had no right to stop him—

“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this message has nothing to do with a certain mother and child.”

Disappointed and irritated on their behalf, Felt snapped, “Tch! Then what is it? I have nothing left to say to you.”

Safis seemed unconcerned by her anger and merely continued, “Now, now, don’t say that. Lady Felt, are you aware of the events currently causing a ruckus in Flanders?”

“No idea. I haven’t been in Flanders since I was with you guys.”

“I am aware of your efforts in the past few weeks, Lady Felt. The way the inhabitants of Hakuchuri treat their lord has improved considerably. For better or worse.”

Folding her arms, Felt curled her lips in annoyance. “Quit speakin’ like everything has a profound meaning behind it.”

For the past two months, she had been actively making contact with the residents of Hakuchuri, not only at the Tometo Festival, and showed a willingness to get closer with them. It certainly sounded calculating when said that way, but she was ultimately just doing what she wanted, regardless of the impact on her reputation.

“Not that I’m soft-hearted enough to be creeped out by it, but you’re still a perverted bastard for spying like that, you know?”

“Spying, you say? Hardly. After all, if I had any kind of malicious intent—even a dirty look—it would not have escaped the attention of the Sword Saint. Am I wrong?”

“Exactly right,” Felt said haughtily. “So, if you’re done playin’ around, may I ask what exactly is going on in Flanders?”

“Hmmm... I can only say that several organizations have been targeted, including the Black Silver Coin. Anything more than that, you’ll have to find that out for yourself.”

Despite the arrogance in his speech being a clear attempt to rile her up, it conversely helped Felt regain her composure. Having grown up in the slums of the royal capital, she was sensitive to these petty tricks. The fact that Safis’s words had a slight hint of anger and a dab of truth behind them was also quite clear to her.

At any rate, it didn’t seem he had come here for idle chatter. She decided to investigate his implications on her own later.

“Well, fine. I’ll bite. So, what’s the message?”

“Including the recent contact with the Black Silver Coin, Your Ladyship’s reputation isn’t great within our circles. In particular, besides the Black Silver Coin, the Flower Prison Garden and The Scales have been wanting to learn more about you. I’ve been told by the Boss to inform you of a possible courtesy visit from them soon.”

“By ‘courtesy visit,’ you mean…”

Safis merely narrowed his serpentine eyes in response to Reinhard’s question, giving no other answer. That alone was enough to tell them that the “courtesy visit” was not all it seemed to be.

“In the end, you’re saying that that Pig-Nose’s underlings are coming after me because they don’t like me? I don’t know why you’d warn me instead of stopping them.”

“The Boss also has his position to think of. Just like last time, it won’t be a light thing for him to give his support to the cause. Besides, the two organizations I just mentioned aren’t subordinate groups of the Black Silver Coin. Sad though it is to say.”

“...For now I’ll just listen to what you have to say.” Felt waved her hands vaguely in response to Safis’s reasoning, perhaps because it was the way things were done in the underworld. Then, as she clenched her hand into a tight fist, she said, “I’ll accept Pig-Nose’s…Doltero’s advice. You go back home to your menial job. If some douchebag comes to say hello, then bring it on.”

“I’ll protect Lady Felt, no matter what tricks they throw at us,” Reinhard boldly announced by Felt’s side.

In response to these words, Felt straightened, suddenly an imposing figure in her own right, even as she made no move to deny Reinhard’s vow.

Despite having the strongest Sword Saint at her side, her stance did not indicate the slightest trace of dependance on the martial prowess he possessed.

“I see. The number of chinks in your armor has certainly decreased. It seems that the boss was right,” said the man, who stared at the two figures while licking his lips with his long, slender tongue.


“Oh, you wanna know what’s happen’n in Flanders? Everybody knows that. They’re all sayin’ that the Black Silver Coin or Big Three or whatever are gettin’ the crap beat out of ‘em.”

The man who answered Felt’s question with his tongue sticking out was the slender-faced Rachins. Like Gaston, Rachins was under Felt’s employment. Considering the competition, he could be considered quite clever, but only when compared to Gaston and Camberley.

This exchange between Rachins and Felt took place at Astrea Manor after they had retired from the Tometo Festival. Back in the mansion, where each resumed their daily routines, Felt called Rachins into the lounge and began her story over a game of Shatranj.

Rachins, the wisest of the Three Idiots and a frequent visitor to Flanders, lived up to Felt’s expectations beautifully. Satisfied with his response, she moved a piece on the board and urged him to continue his story. “What are the details?” she asked.

“Well, for the past month or so, big shots from those syndicates that run Flanders on the down low have been offed one after the other. Nobody knows who did it or why, but the word is that when the culprits are caught, there’ll be hell to pay. Hard to believe there’s someone crazy enough to stir up that viper’s nest.”

“So that’s what you mean when you say they’re gettin’ beat. But I don’t understand why the Black Silver Coin warned me regardin’ the incident.”

“The Black Silver Coin warned you?” Rachins repeated with a heavy dose of skepticism.

Move your pieces, and try to steal your opponent’s pieces. Win by invading the opponent’s camp and toppling their king. These were the basic rules of Shatranj.

As they talked, Felt fiddled with the pieces she had taken with her fingertips, while Rachins contemplated something at length. It most likely had nothing to do with his next move in Shatranj, but rather careful deliberation over the content of their conversation.

Sitting cross-legged on her chair, Felt patiently waited for an answer. Then, after a few minutes, Rachins dropped the hand he had been holding to his chin and said, “Hey, Boss Lady. You’ve got yourself a big ol’ problem.”

“A problem?”

“If you’re not careful, they’ll suspect you of havin’ tried to set ‘em up the last time. You’ve had tussles with the Black Coins before. They’ll be liable to think that you’re out to get ‘em.”

“Huh? What’s with that accusation… That was all about Ilya before, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, and Doltero prob’ly knows that, but it’s not somethin’ he can make public. That’s why he’s tryin’ to be smart about it by givin’ you a heads-up.”

“Draggin’ us into it isn’t being smart about it.” Scratching her gold hair nervously, Felt had a sudden awareness of the awful situation she had been put in.

Rachins raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“What?” asked Felt.

“Oh, nothin’. Just thinkin’ you actually believed me. You do understand that all of that was just guessin’ on my part, right?”

“I was the one who asked you. If I asked your opinion and then gave you shit about it, it would mean that I have a really bad personality… Anyway, it makes sense, doesn’t it? I’d be more surprised if you were just makin’ this up as you go.”

If he can make up such a convincing story on the fly like that, he should just use his talent to write a book. But looking at him leaning back in his chair and resting his cheek on his hand, it seemed safe to believe that he wasn’t making it all up.

“So what are you gonna do? How is our royal selection candidate going to explain it to these guys?”

“Why do I have to be the one to make excuses? In the first place, I don’t have anything to make excuses about. I also can’t talk about Ilya and her mother.”

“That’s why they warned you to find a way somehow.”


Felt pursed her lips and made the most unpleasant face she could muster. Seeing this, Rachins puffed out his cheeks and moved a piece on the board. “There you go, checkmate.”

“Ah! Oh, you’re kiddin’ me. Even though I was winning?!”

“I was just makin’ it look that way. You think too straightforward, boss; you should try an’ hide your plans a bit better.”

A strike by Rachins had left Felt’s King with no escape route. Standing up, she looked at the Shatranj board from different angles, but she was trapped. It was a complete defeat.

“As if I’d admit defeat to someone who’s just started learnin’. Though I’ll admit that y’er a quick learner.”

“Heh heh heh… Just remember this. Next time, I’ll have you beggin’ for mercy.”

While Felt lamented her defeat and idly envisioned her King being burned at the stake, the winner, Rachins, got up from his seat in a thoroughly good mood. “I’ll never say no to whippin’ you at Shatranj, but you need to think about how you’re gonna get through this. You should also bear in mind that their ‘courtesies’ are seriously dangerous.”

With these words, Rachins waved his hand over his shoulder and left.

In the lounge, left with some advice and a defeat, Felt scratched her nose. “If they send a greeting my way, then I’ll have something to say to them: Don’t drag us into your fuckin’ fight.”


Having collected the evidence regarding the incident in Flanders and listened to Rachins’s opinions, Felt was practically chomping at the bit for this “courtesy call.”

If a fight was going to happen, Felt would always rather be the one picking it. This was something she had learned in the slums—when the helpless got bullied, there was a reason for it. In most cases, Felt had learned, it was because they never got a win. Therefore, she would win, no matter what.

With such strong resolution, she was raring to go to get this “courtesy call” over with, but...

“Nobody’s frickin’ here!”

On this peaceful afternoon several days following the Tometo Festival, Felt’s anger finally exploded. In the room she had been confined to—otherwise known as her office—there was a mountain of reference books. These were handpicked by Reinhard every single day. As a candidate for the royal selection, it was undeniable that she was inferior to the other candidates in terms of knowledge. And it was true that she would have to work hard to catch up. However, no matter how many books she finished reading, there was always another. It was entirely reasonable that even the ever-ambitious Felt would throw in the towel. But precisely because the selection was so important, a “courtesy call” from an underworld organization was her biggest concern at the moment. And yet, no matter how long she waited, there was no sign of it happening.

“Day in, day out, I sit in my house starin’ at books… My head’s going to start growing mold.”

As Felt was pouting her lips in frustration, a soft, tutting voice sounded from behind her. “Such language. What’s not to like about uneventful days? Now me, I’ll take a boring day over an eventful one every time, with open arms.”

In response, Felt leaned back against her office desk and let out a purr.

Normally Felt, who was harsh to everyone, only showed a softer response to either those younger than her or otherwise to old and trusted acquaintances. And with the exception of young children, those lucky enough to receive her favor were naturally limited.

Sitting on her desk, Felt tilted her head and said, “You know what they say, if you’re bored for too long, you’ll grow senile. Are you sure you’re okay with that, Old Man Rom?”

Even while sitting on the floor, his head still sat level with hers. The bald giant waved his hand dismissively. “Are you pullin’ my leg?” he asked with a chuckle. “Don’t you worry, I’ve been swamped with work nonstop since I came to this house. It seems that the mayor has been in charge of the estate in the absence of the young Sword Saint.”

“You do like to beat about the bush, Old Man Rom. You tryin’ to say he’s abusing his position, doing something evil on the sly?”

In Felt’s mind, the image of the mayor on the festival platform came to mind. He had a heavy build with a kind face—certainly not the sort of person who would line his own pockets.

“The opposite, actually. Apparently, that family is too good-natured and are taken advantage of all over the place. And it’s not the first time either…both the previous head of the family and the one before that seem to have been too kind-hearted for their own good.”

“The previous one, you mean… Reinhard’s grandfather?”

“No, the one before him…his great-grandfather. The head of the family is still supposed to be that young one’s father. That’s another thing that gives me a headache…”

“Great-grandfather… Now that you mention it, Reinhard said something about that before. Something about respecting him or what not.”

Felt was relieved that, according to Old Man Rom’s words, there seemed to be no need to doubt the mayor’s goodwill. However, it would be pretty terrible if he heard that he was being referred to in private as a bit of a doormat.

The documents that Old Man Rom was going through one after another were filled with reports and figures and so on, and were nothing but gibberish to her. He was now working with Reinhard and the mayor, and doing his best to improve the situation somehow, but…

“The Black Silver Coin is a matter of concern too, of course, but our own house needs your attention. If we don’t have at least one person who can manage our internal affairs properly, it’s only going to get harder from here on out.”

“Why not you?”

“Unfortunately, I’m too underqualified. Even if it’s just a desk job we’re talking about, it’s still different from my field of expertise,” replied Old Man Rom as he stroked Felt’s lowered head with his large palm. Closing her eyes in contentment at the familiar touch, Felt quietly puzzled over what was going on. If Old Man Rom is complaining about it, then it’s obvious that there’s a problem with the so-called internal administration. It all came down to a need for more personnel, but Felt didn’t know how to deal with that.

It would be wrong to pick them all off the streets, like what she did with Rachins and the rest—although for a moment, she thought she might have found the right answer with the ‘streets’ idea.

“Ah, I don’t get it! Why can’t my problems just come one at a time, damn it!”

“Watch that mouth, now. You’ll have a lot to think about from now on, but at least your appetite never suffers. That hasn’t changed since we were in the slums.”

“That’s true, but… I’ve got an idea!” She had been pouting at Old Man Rom’s sermon before her eyes suddenly lit up. She kicked her chair enthusiastically and leapt lightly over the pile of books on her office desk. Her petite body landed on the lap of the surprised Old Man Rom, and she looked up into his face from below.

“Don’t startle me like that. Well, what brilliant idea did you just think of?”

“I’m talking about how I’m an idiot! This isn’t the time to be complaining about too many problems at once. Why are we just waiting so patiently? All I have to do is go there myself.” Pressing the back of her head against Old Man Rom’s chest, Felt laughed at her bright idea.

She assumed that she had to wait because she was told in advance that there would be a “courtesy call,” but that was her first mistake. Why should I wait patiently at someone else’s convenience? she thought. “If they want to ‘visit’ me, I can just go and approach them myself. Wouldn’t wanna make those busy folks come all the way out here, now would we?”

Old Man Rom made a face at Felt’s aggressive idea. “Hmm… If you were going alone, I’d tell you to reconsider.” He may have been emotionally opposed to the idea, but he couldn’t find any reason to hold back his bold granddaughter.

In between feeling sorry for causing worry and the feeling of satisfaction with being cared for, Felt said one last word to make the final push to Old Man Rom. “I know it ain’t safe to go to their hideout. That’s why I’m takin’ Reinhard with me. I mean, I’ll still go on my own if he refuses, but…”

“For goodness sake… I sometimes wonder exactly who you take after.” Sighing with resignation, Old Man Rom plopped his hand affectionately on Felt’s head once more.

They had known each other for a long time, after all. When she had this look on her face, he knew she wouldn’t budge no matter what. When that happened, the most Old Man Rom could do was to help pave the way for her. In this case, it was to persuade a certain someone to keep her out of harm’s way.

As if to express just exactly how much he opposed the idea, Old Man Rom’s sigh was long and deep.


“Try to avoid doing anything dangerous. Do not leave my side unless absolutely necessary.”

“I got it, jeez. I’m getting an earache, for cryin’ out loud.”

Reinhard, her escort, had repeated the warning so often that she could almost see it in her dreams. He told me the same thing when we visited the hideout of the Black Silver Coin before, but where does he think I grew up? The slums of the royal capital weren’t exactly the safest of places, either.

“Every city, every land has places where normal laws don’t apply. I’m not saying you should avoid those places specifically, but…please refrain from lowering your guard just because you’re used to them.”

Taking in how little Felt seemed to be interested in heeding his warnings, Reinhard let his lecture falter off. He had no intention of insulting her, of course, and she could see nothing but concern for herself in his blue eyes. Chastened, Felt reluctantly grunted her assent.

Felt and Reinhard were currently on their way to the Earth Dragon Capital, Flanders.

After following Safis’s advice to wait patiently at their residence for this elusive “courtesy call,” they had grown tired of that and decided to take matters into their own hands.

To be honest, she had her suspicions that the whole thing was a fabrication by Safis, and that this was his way of getting back at her for exposing his previous plots. But after some probing, Felt found it to be true that her reputation wasn’t the best within the city’s underworld.

In order to find out what was going on in the area, she tried probing around Flanders, but…

“Heeey, what are you doing? A regular to this place has come all this way to show you around. Quit gettin’ yourselves lost and follow me!” exclaimed Camberley, giving a wave as he looked back at Felt and the others who had been left behind.

The last of the Three Idiots—the tiny Camberley—was indeed a regular visitor to the city of Flanders. He and Rachins frequently traveled to a certain district within the city, as it was only a half a day away.

And that district was precisely where Felt and her team were heading.

“But, man, never know where life’s going to take ya. To think that I’d be bringing a knight and his mistress to the red-light district,” Camberley said nonchalantly, his arms folded behind his head.


Hearing his declaration, Reinhard gave a strained smile, which amused Felt.

“...Lady Felt, what have I done to deserve that look?”

“Hm? Oh, nothin’. I just thought it was funny how the great knight among knights makes such an awkward expression whenever the red-light district is mentioned. Ironic, since I bet that face of yours would be very popular there, after all.”

At Felt’s impish grin showing her fang, Reinhard merely kept his silence with a world-weary sigh.

They were taken by Camberley to a section of Flanders that was classified as a nightlife district—commonly known as the red-light district. The streets were full of lasciviously dressed women, and men who ogled and scoffed at them.

In a nutshell, the red-light district was a district of brothels, interspersed with scenes of customers who desired such services and the prostitutes who catered to their needs, interacting in front of their shops.

Fire Time had already ended, and Water Time was about to begin. As the full-blown night approached, the streets of the red-light district were filled with the glimmering light of crystal lamps. Men intoxicated with the decadent, out-of-this-world magical ambience were lured to bed for a single night’s dream.

However, it was not only the male clients who were dreaming in the red-light district tonight.

Idly, Reinhard murmured, “I often wondered why Camberley and the rest frequently vanished off to Flanders.”

“Well, that’s just not bein’ very observant,” Felt retorted. “Since Gaston never went with them, you can easily imagine what they would be coming here to do. But still…”


The well-mannered Reinhard seemed oblivious to it, but Felt was already getting sick of all of the intense stares being directed at them.

Many of the gazes directed at Reinhard were by those same women who were the stars of the red-light district. Every day, these women captivated many men with their beauty, but at Reinhard’s appearance, suddenly their positions had been reversed.

The sight of Reinhard’s leisurely stride, taking in the atmosphere as he went, seemed to have an allure that made it difficult for the veteran night flowers to take their eyes off him. And because he was standing beside Felt with even greater vigilance than usual, the reproachful glances directed at her were also quite intense.

On rare occasions, Felt also seemed to catch the eye of men who had come to find a lover. For this, however, she had a simple response.

“Grrrrrrr,” she growled.

When she poured her disgust and enmity into her glares, that was enough to scare most of them away. But as there was no real harm beyond making Reinhard a little uncomfortable, he had no choice but to put up with it.

With Reinhard in such a complicated state, Felt left Camberley to lead the way and headed towards the interior of the red-light district. After all, they hadn’t come to this street for fun.

“But is the leader of an organization like the Black Silver Coin really in the red-light district?”

Camberley scoffed. “You don’t get it, do you, Miss? In any town, it’s a given that the big movers in the underworld take charge of the upkeep of the brothels. The Flower Prison Garden is just the one in charge of this red-light district, that’s all.”

And this Flower Prison Garden that Camberley talks about is one of the Big Three, just like the Black Silver Coin, huh.

Although she was still a bit incredulous at this explanation, Felt had no choice but to follow the guidance of Camberley for now. After all, he was a frequent visitor and knew his way around. In fact, his boasts about being a regular here were seemingly not lies, as he was often approached by prostitutes on the street.

“You’re a dwarf, aren’t you? No offense, but can you even satisfy a partner?”

“Of course. It all depends on your technique. They don’t call me the playboy of the red-light district for nothin’.”

“And…you want them to call you that?” Felt was taken aback when the boastful Camberley responded in such a way, his small nose raised with pride.

Reinhard, meanwhile, remained silent with a difficult expression on his face. “You sure know a lot, Lady Felt. In the slums, did you…”

“Even in the royal capital, brothels exist. When I was a kid, the prostitutes used to give me food and their kindness. Though…it got harder to stay close with them as I grew older.”

Even if the women in the brothel had no intention of doing so, the shop owners carried suspicious glints in their eyes for fresh meat. If the prostitutes who had treated her well there had not secretly told her of the unspoken danger she faced, she might have been forced to join their ranks. In that sense, the red-light district of Flanders was much more well-ordered. In the royal capital, perhaps precisely because the leadership was too concerned with appearances to ever get their hands dirty, they kept turning a blind eye to it, and lawlessness was allowed to reign there.

“I see. If so, I am glad to hear it,” Reinhard replied, appearing relieved at her response.

What the hell was he thinkin’ to make him feel relieved? thought Felt.

“We’re here,” Camberley said after coming to a stop, before any further conclusions could be drawn. “This is where the proprietress of the Flower Prison Garden sets up shop.”

The sight that greeted Felt and her friends was the most luxurious brothel at the far end of the red-light district. Even from the shop’s interior, you could tell that it was of a different class from the other brothels from the stately arrangement of its alluring exterior.

Although the woman in question could not be seen from the outside, it was possible to perceive the presence of the kind of wicked charm that could easily seduce and beguile. A strong man stood guard in front of the shop, on the lookout for tactless people who might be drawn to it.

“...Right. This is actually pretty impressive,” commented Felt. “Shall we just go straight on in?”

“We are uninvited guests,” replied Reinhard cautiously, apparently hoping to dull Felt’s enthusiasm. “Since we are unlikely to receive a warm welcome, we should be careful…”

But their conversation was interrupted in the next moment by a voice that came between them.

“Wh-...wh-wh-what? Y-Y-You are! How can you be here?!” The cracked voice was trembling with surprise, anger, and inexplicably a certain degree of joy as well. It was high-pitched, partly because it had cracked, but that slight heaviness of the voice was certainly that of a man.

While a man’s voice ringing out in the street wasn’t exactly welcomed in the red-light district, what was even more undesirable was the action that immediately followed it.


At his sudden shout, Felt turned to see the man—or rather, dwarf—who had appeared at the entrance to the brothel. The figure was roughly the same height as Camberley, with a sharp countenance and an outstretched finger thrust in their direction. Felt saw a faint light concentrate on his outstretched fingertips, distorting the air around them. It was at that moment that she realized he was using magic.

“Lady Felt!” cried Reinhard from her side, moving quickly to place himself between her and the threat. Then, just as the dwarf man was blocked from Felt’s view, a light exploded.

And with that, the air of the red-light district of Flanders rang out with a cacophony of panicked screams and shouts of rage.


The moment the light exploded, Felt’s eardrums were assaulted by screams and hollers from all around. Still crouched where she had ducked to avoid the blast, she clicked her tongue in irritation.

“What the hell just happened?”

Straining her eyes in the twinkling white light, all she could see was an array of confused, fleeing figures with their heads in their hands—all men who had come to the red-light district to buy a dream for a night.

In the confusion that erupted from the sudden burst of light, sending men scattering in the illuminated streets, the prostitutes who resided here remained unfazed. These were women for whom sensual pleasures were tools of the trade, and trouble was common—none of them even batted an eye.

Some dropped down on all fours, some ran into the shop, and some skillfully used nearby men as shields. In this respect, Felt saw obvious differences between the sexes in their ability to comprehend and react to sudden dangerous situations.

In fact, Felt would also like to praise herself for handling the situation much more admirably than her companion Camberley, who simply stood stock-still as if waiting to be bowled over. However, her achievements faded when compared to Reinhard, who had the source of light grasped in the palm of his hand, shielding her from possible danger. “Are you alright, my lady?”

Felt looked up at the red-haired knight standing before her. “Yeah, I’m fine. Seems like you’ve learned your lesson from the Tometo Festival,” she said with a smirk, referring to the way he’d overreacted at the harmless tometo in the past.

Reinhard let out a wry smile, but despite his apparent humility, that movement was by far the fastest Felt had ever seen him perform. That scene must have been that shocking to him.

“Excuse me, my lady, please wait here for a moment,” he said, and upon confirming Felt’s safety, his figure instantly blurred.

In the blink of an eye, the knight appeared ten meters away and leapt at the dwarf at the entrance to the brothel—the culprit behind the magical attack.

The small man gawked at his frightening speed. “Wai-, what? Ah! W-Wait! I haven’t done anyth—”

“I’m sorry, but you made the first move. So I’m going to have to take you down,” Reinhard informed him in a cold voice he had never used with Felt.

Gunu! That’s true, but… Ei! Then at least!”

Seeing Reinhard’s indifference to his pleas, the small man’s face reddened and he thrust both hands out toward Reinhard. A moment later, powerful mana swirled around his hands, attempting to warp the natural order of the world…

“Huh? Wait, what the… My mana’s formation is unraveling… Aahhhh!”

With the desired effect not taking place, Reinhard knocked the bewildered man to the ground. As he was even shorter than Felt, it looked to all the world like an adult bullying a child.

Even so, Reinhard mercilessly twisted the small man’s arm further.

“Ouch! Ouch, ouch, ouch! Wait, wait, wait, it’ll break! It’s going to break!”

“In that case, I would rather you stopped your vain attempts at resistance. The fact that you attempted harm upon my esteemed lady will not change, but I still have no desire to hurt you.”

“You think I’m going to believe you when you’ve got me pinned by the elbow, neck and wrist?! In the first place, what just happened with my mana…I see! You have an inborn ability to circulate excess mana…?!”


Reinhard was taken aback by the odd, complex terminology coming from the small man while his arms were locked. Taking note of his reaction, Felt butted in. “Hey, let’s hear him out,” she said. “Just keep him restrained for now, Reinhard. He didn’t actually hurt anyone, right?”

“True, and I'm sure things will settle down momentarily as his spell was just a cheap parlor trick.”

This earned a slightly bitter scowl from Felt. “Coming from you, I’m sure it was ‘just a parlor trick’, but let’s not say that right to his face, huh?”

From Reinhard's perspective, it was true that anyone with less mana or strength than him may look like vermin, but even vermin had their own pride.

But at Felt’s rebuke, he shook his head. “Excuse me, my lady, but I did mean ‘parlor trick’ in the sense that it is a common tactic designed to confuse and deceive. There was no killing intent behind that spell just now.”

“You mean that glowing light was just a scare tactic?”

“Yes, my lady. But that doesn’t mean I can ignore the act of malice committed in your vicinity…”

Satisfied with Reinhard’s explanation, Felt nodded in acceptance. With her assent, the Sword Saint looked down at the back of the small man’s head, ready to hold him responsible for his reckless action.

“Yeah, that's right! Don't let him get away with it, Reinhard! Make that ungrateful bastard sorry he ever woke up this morning! Go get him!!”

The one yelling in their direction so assertively was Camberley, who had finally managed to come to his senses in the wake of the chaos.

Despite having been like a scarecrow during the initial attack, he seemed to have recovered completely. Even so, Felt couldn’t approve of his jumping straight into the conflict only to act like a petty small-time villain. She then noticed something. “Hey, Camberley. You just called this guy an ‘ungrateful bastard.’ So I take it you know him?”

“Hmm? Oh, yeah, I know him. You’re real sharp, Miss,” Camberley replied with a sour expression as he crossed his arms. “I think it was, hmm…about ten days ago. I saw this guy wandering around town, penniless. And we’re both dwarves, right? I thought, hey, this is probably some kind of fate, you know? So I got this good-for-nothing set up with a sweet job. And then, look at how he acts, after all I did! Can you believe that?”

Clearly harboring a grudge, the small man scowled relentlessly at the sour-faced Camberley. “I was only penniless in the first place because you got me drunk till I passed out and took money from my pocket to pay for the drinks! And after all that, you tricked me and abandoned me here in the red-light district!”

As to which side of the argument was more credible, there seemed to be no need for debate—this was a can of worms Felt thought she was better off simply not opening.

“In other words, it was Camberley you were after, not me?” Felt ventured.

“Naturally—I have no idea who you are. Although it is of course my fault for surprising you like that. It was unmannerly of me…”

“And there you have it,” said Felt, idly rubbing the back of her neck, as she saw no need for further punishment toward someone so meek and honest. “Let him go, Reinhard.”

Reinhard gave a quick utterance of “My lady,” in assent and released the small man's arm.

The attitude of the lord and her retainer astonished both Camberley and the small man.

“Wha... You’re going to let me go?”

“Yeah, man! What’s with you two? Didn’t you hear what I said? I’m telling you—he’s a bad guy!”

“You’re the one who’s clearly bad here. I actually feel sorry for this guy,” Felt snapped at her errant retainer, indicating the small man as he got to his feet.

Felt sympathized with the small man. He was extorted by Camberley and offered a job he did not want in the red-light district. His resentment had been building ever since, so it’s no wonder that he lost his cool the minute Camberley appeared in front of him.

“But what’s done is done. You caused all this mess, so what do you plan to do about it?”

Although he had escaped a severe punishment from Reinhard, the fact that he had been a nuisance to the people of the red-light district had not changed. Naturally, it had probably had an impact on the business of the surrounding brothels, too.

“Ugh…! I-I understand. I, too, am an adult who can take responsibility for my actions. I'll fix the mess I’ve caused here somehow and return the town to its usual atmosphere of deplorable hedonistic lust and depravity!”

“Would you mind your tongue? What a rude person, you are,” came a lilting voice from within the brothel.


The boisterous enthusiasm of the small man was snuffed out in an instant. It was the sight of the figure standing in the entrance to the brothel—the owner of such a sweet voice—that stopped him in his tracks.

“...Wow.” When Felt turned around and saw the person, she couldn’t help but let out an unconscious murmur of stunned appreciation.

The character that had appeared was a stunning young woman, suffused in a sinfully enticing aura and possessed of an unparalleled beauty. She wore with utter confidence in her lush, alluring body, a dress that boldly exposed her shoulders, chest, and back. The combination of smells that wafted from the smoking pipe in her mouth and the perfume she wore felt like poison to Felt, with her good sense of smell. She felt that smelling it for too long would make her brain melt.

Indifferent to Felt’s reaction, the beautiful woman gently placed her hand on the petrified small man’s shoulder and said, “Mimosa came to me with tears in her eyes, saying that her teacher had caused a commotion on the street.”

“I-I’m sorry… I have no excuse. I apologize.”

“My, how obedient,” she cooed.

Tilting her head flirtatiously, the beautiful woman raised a shapely eyebrow at the small, meek man. Then, inhaling deep from her pipe, she blew a puff of purple smoke into the near-evening sky and said, “Girls, I will buy you two candles. Go ahead and call all your guests to your bedchambers.”

Although she did not raise her voice at all and gave off an air of nonchalance, the reaction from the prostitutes standing nearby was dramatic.

One by one, they got hold of the men who had been so shamelessly fleeing a moment before. Each of the prostitutes used the means at her disposal, whether a skillful play of words or the equally skillful application of feminine wiles, to coax each man back into the brothel, encountering minimal resistance along the way.

In a matter of seconds, every male customer involved in the commotion had been sucked into the brothel.

“Being too eager to get a sale will get you hated…at least, from what I’ve heard,” commented Felt.

“Surely, that applies to flowers only capable of providing wilted dreams. Unfortunately, I’ve made it a rule in my garden to pluck off any such flowers of such low quality.”

“Is that so?” said Felt with a begrudging smirk at the deftness with which this impressive person had nipped the commotion in the bud. “Well, I shouldn’t be surprised that the woman managing a place like the Flower Prison Garden would be so well-spoken.”

At these words, her red lips relaxed, and she gave a respectful bow. “The feeling is mutual.” Then, with a magical smile that even the same sex would be charmed by… “It is an honor to meet you, Lady Felt. It is truly a privilege to meet one of the five who are now in the most exalted positions in the Kingdom of Lugunica.”

By exchanging their identities this way, they had each played their first card.


After being guided into a VIP room at the back of the brothel, Felt’s eyes widened at the softness of the sofa. She had been steadily acclimating to the disparity in living standards since her time in the slums—first at the Astrea’s mansion in the capital, and then at the one in Hakuchuri. But now all her hard work had been undone.

The sensation of her hips sinking, her back supported, and the back of her head enveloped—this is the devil’s chair. If it were to become Felt’s office chair, there would be no chance of her ever being able to read or study again. This is definitely the type of sofa that can corrupt people, she thought.

“As expected, there’s no expenses spared when it comes to the VIP room of a high-class brothel.”

“Lady Felt, please don’t accidentally fall asleep. This is the building of the Flower Prison Garden, and we are here to give our greetings.”

“I know. I came a bit close, but I'm not going to fall asleep.”

With a sour expression on her face, Felt defended herself against Reinhard’s nagging. Unfortunately, the man waiting beside her had no notion of the sofa’s power of corrupting people.

Nevertheless, Felt pulled herself together, understanding how problematic it could be to be too relaxed in semi-hostile territory.

The VIP room not only had the sofa but was filled with a large number of high-end-looking furnishings. It might be beneficial for them to be lectured on the principles of frugality, but then again, it was nothing compared to the somewhat poverty-stricken House Astrea.

While looking around such a splendidly decorated room, Felt—who had sunk deep into the sofa—turned the conversation to the small man standing in the entrance to the room. “So, are you going to keep me company in my spare time until the proprietress comes back?”

Upon closer look, he was a rather neat-looking figure. As a dwarf, he was half a head shorter than Felt, but his short limbs made him well-proportioned. Many of the dwarves looked young, and so—with no way of knowing their actual age—he gave off an air of an intelligent, handsome youth. His hair was grayish-brown and neck length, and he stood out with his rather pretentious dress code and oversized cloak.

Having already introduced themselves to each other on entering the brothel, they already knew his name.

“Mr. Ezzo Cadner, was it? Please excuse me earlier.”

“N-No, I was at fault for that. Considering the position of the woman accompanying you, I'd say your attitude was justified. You have nothing to apologize for.”

Reinhard apologized to him for bending his back and locking his arm, but Ezzo felt nothing but shame.

Placing a hand to his chin, he said, “Nevertheless, I didn’t think I would get acquainted with a candidate for the royal selection like this. It annoys me, but I guess what that man said wasn’t entirely untrue.”

“Umm, I’m kind of scared to ask this, but what exactly did he say?”

“In short, all he said was that he was working for a great person. He didn't give me any specifics, but when I heard that someone like that was offering me a job, I was…I waaas…!”

“Seriously, Camberley is always troubling me.”

Felt and Reinhard sighed in unison at the violently trembling Ezzo’s testimony.

Camberley was not present on this occasion. Taking advantage of the proprietress’ kindness, he had cunningly slipped into another brothel after the mess at the brothel's entrance had been cleared up.

Although he had fulfilled his duty when he led Felt to the brothel, he clearly had more energy to spare. However, it was interesting to note that the prostitutes’ delight at being chosen by him was different from that of those they had chosen themselves for business. Perhaps his nickname as the red-light district’s playboy was not as ridiculous as one might think.

“So you got led around by Camberley’s words and that’s how you ended up working in the red-light district. But if you're going in and out of the brothel owner’s room, then she must be relying on you a lot.”

“It’s the result of a shortage in manpower and education. To begin with, being a guard in a brothel is not something that should be done using the noble power of magic. But despite that being the case, since it was introduced to me as a job, I thought that I shouldn’t be so arrogant as to let my abilities weaken over time, possibly causing trouble for others.”

“I see… How diligent. You seem so different from a certain someone I know.”

In short, Ezzo had a tendency to take on responsibilities. Otherwise, he would have most likely run away as soon as he realized he had been introduced to a job he didn’t want to do.

As he muttered, Ezzo searched for a compromise between his dissatisfaction with his circumstances and his sense of responsibility. As Felt’s cheeks relaxed at such a sight, Reinhard also looked at him with a similar expression.

And so, it was while they were killing time in that fashion that a devilish beauty appeared and opened the door to the VIP room. “Apologies for keeping you waiting,” she said. “It took me a while to fix my makeup.”

The woman, who had changed into a more lascivious dress and shrouded herself in a new fragrance, was the proprietress of the Flower Prison Garden—Toto.

She looked at Felt, who had sunk deep into the sofa, and Reinhard next to her, with a beaming smile. “You are our special guests. So I have to be prepared when entertaining you, don’t I?”

“Well, I'm the one who came to see you out of the blue. We’re lucky we didn’t get turned away at the entrance—I hear it's hard to meet popular prostitutes in brothels.”

“Hmmm, that’s true. But I haven’t worked in the shop since I reached my current position, you see, so I've been surprisingly free… Today was a pleasant surprise!”

With a strong charm to her smile, Toto sat down in the chair in front of Felt. The way she crossed her long legs, and the exact angle of her smiling lips and eyes—everything had been done with purpose.

To come this far, every movement of Toto’s body had been subconsciously ingrained with the seductions of being a prostitute. Although she said she had not been working in the shop, her top-class abilities working as such had not diminished in the slightest.

“Is something the matter?”

“...Oh, it's nothing. I like people who’ve lived a tough life. So I was just thinking that you and I might get on better than I thought.”

“...Oh my, to think you’re seducing me.”

Perhaps surprised by Felt's response, Toto put her hand over her mouth and chuckled. Her gaze then shifted towards Ezzo, who was standing at the entrance. “Ah yes, I’d like to apologize for the impudence of our people. Although, knowing his character, I believe he has most likely already apologized and expressed his remorse…”

“Yeah, that’s right,” said Felt. “He got the message across—it was just an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

“No!!!” cried Ezzo. “There are definitely reasons to defend me, but for the most part, the situation was caused by my hasty decision and short temper. In light of that, I would like you to decide how you’ll treat me from now on.”

For better or for worse, Ezzo’s diligent attitude made Felt make an exasperated face as she poured out her words. “That’s such a troublesome thing to say…”

“Anyway, now that the initial rift between us has been filled…may I ask what I can do for you?” Toto inquired.


“It’s definitely no small matter for one of the candidates bearing the responsibility for the kingdom’s future to visit such a shady place. And even more so when they’re accompanied by the greatest knight of all time, the Sword Saint.”

Toto’s flirtatious glance turned to Reinhard. At her gaze, the red-haired knight looked towards Felt next to him—for confirmation as to whether he should speak up or not.

Felt let out a sigh and shifted in her seat, lifting her body back up from a sunken position. Then, she pulled an item from her pocket—an insignia—and showed it to Toto. The emblem with the dragon jewel inlaid in it was proof of eligibility to participate in the royal selection, and the emanating light from the dragon jewel, which only shone when held by a certain person, was proof of Felt’s position as a candidate.

“I don’t like the method of tryin’ to sound each other out, so I’m going to be straight with you. As you said, I’m one of the candidates for the royal selection. And as a result, I’m doing various things over here in Reinhard’s domain. Today was just a courtesy call to say hello.”

“...You don’t really like playing by the book, do you? But even then, ‘various things’, huh?” Toto tilted her head suggestively, rolling her pipe between her fingers.

It was clear from the way she said ‘various’ that she was suspicious of Felt, but that was exactly the kind of thing Felt came to dispel. “I told you, didn’t I? I still have my hands full with this domain. That’s why…”

“‘That’s why’?”

“Don’t get me involved in your mess. I ain’t interested.”


Felt made it clear she had no connection to the incident that had caused such a stir in Flanders, and Toto’s eyelids fluttered ever so slightly at the declaration. She most likely had her own plans, but Felt wasn't someone who’d act according to another’s plans.

When she had declared this, Felt pointed to Reinhard next to her and said, “To begin with, if I really wanted to destroy you, I could have just sent Reinhard after you. Don’t you agree?”

“If you say it like that, then I have nothing to say in reply—I am just a simple brothel owner.”

It may have sounded absurd, but Toto's words did not sound like a disagreement.

In fact, if one had heard the rumors about Reinhard, then they would know it would be ridiculous to have him as an enemy and back off. Even more so if they knew that the rumors didn’t do him justice.

And that's exactly what Felt had done, having been the one to decide against his participation in the Tometo festival.

“Ummm, Lady Felt, what’s the matter? You seem rather upset.”

“It’s nothing. I'm just angry at myself for something that has nothing to do with this. You don’t have to worry about it. I mean, don’t.”

“Lady Felt, I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but I think you should concentrate more on this situation…”

“Shut up! Whose fault is it that you think it is? You, you bastard!” Having been scolded by the man in question, Felt lost her temper and bared her teeth.

Reinhard was bewildered. “I don’t understand...”

Toto narrowed her eyes at the exchange between the mistress and her servant. “...You two have an interesting relationship. It doesn’t look like a normal mistress-servant relationship.”

“Sorry about this. I’m still in the process of learning what ‘normal’ is.”

“It is an honor to hear you say so… However, I beg you not to take what Lady Felt just said lightly.” After letting out a small smile, Reinhard turned towards Toto, his face now void of any such thing. Although he didn’t seem particularly conscious of it, the pressure of his gaze was so strong that any normal person may very well hyperventilate just by seeing it.

The proprietress of the Flower Prison Garden, however, paid no mind to that level of gaze. “Yes, of course. It is self-evident that Lady Felt’s opinion is reasonable… Besides, it’s not like she doesn’t recognize our value… Right?”

“Talking about whether or not I recognize someone’s value makes me sound like a snob. But everything that runs well has a reason behind it, and I’m not childish enough to bring my personal likes and dislikes into the mix.”

Waving her outstretched hands, Felt expressed her lack of hostility towards Toto.

As she mentioned earlier, Felt didn’t hate Toto. In fact, if their relationship persisted long enough, she was certain she’d come to like her—but only if it persisted long enough, that is.

Reading Felt's inner thoughts, Toto smiled softly. “Well then, I will do my best when entertaining you in order to make that happen.”

“In that case, I’ll make sure to inform you in advance next time, so make sure you have some good snacks ready. That would be easier for you, wouldn’t it?”

“As you wish. In fact, if you wish, we can even entertain you with our expert services… Although I am a little afraid of the Sword Saint.”

Despite the assessment, Reinhard’s expression did not alter. He was probably used to being described as ‘scary’.

Toto exhaled a cloud of purple smoke. “Oh kind and beautiful lord. In your presence, the flowers that make their living by selling dreams may end up caught in a dream themselves. So cruel, is it not?”

“—Uhh.” Struck so unexpectedly, Reinhard choked on his words and turned his blue eyes, filled with bewilderment, towards Felt. They seemed to be asking for help.

Felt flashed Toto a broad smile. “As I thought, I think we’ll get along just fine.”


“My lady, this may not be something I should say as a knight, but…”

“Oh, what is it? Say it.”

“...I don’t think I’m very good at dealing with the lady we just met.”

“Hahahahah, I thought so! You were totally losin’ your nerve, especially at the end there! It was satisfying seeing something as rare as that, though,” Felt replied, slapping her knees in good humor.

Having safely finished talking with Toto, Felt was about to leave the Flower Prison Garden’s brothel. Reinhard seemed to have been so effectively brought down a peg by Toto that he remained silent even when Felt burst into laughter. “She was complimenting you by sayin’ that all the prostitutes would fall for you, ya know? You should be happy, my dear Reinhard.”

“The sentiment itself is nice, but I also have my position to think about. It’s just troubling for me.”

“What? Are you looking down on prostitutes?”

As a person who had been taken care of by several prostitutes during her days in the slums, Felt was not amused by Reinhard’s words. But after she had snapped at him, he shook his head. “You’ve got it wrong. It's not because it’s the relationship between a knight and a…woman from a brothel. It’s because I come from a family of Sword Saints and am the current owner of the Divine Protection of the Sword Saint.”


Lowering his eyebrows, Reinhard solemnly explained his position. “The Divine Protection of the Sword Saint is a divine protection that has only existed in the bloodline of the Astrea family for generations. There’s a possibility of it manifesting itself even in indirect descendants. Therefore, I can’t do anything carelessly.”

Felt narrowed her eyes at his story and responded only with a short “Is that so.” I see, the more I ask, the more I realize that he is seated in a troublesome position. According to the story, Reinhard was also forbidden to travel outside the country—he was treated more like a disaster than a human.

“Tch…” Clicking her tongue in irritation, Felt decided not to delve into the subject further and walked out of the brothel. As they had separated from Toto in the VIP room, their guide up to this point was someone else.

The figure opened his hands, gave an exaggerated sigh, and looked back at the two of them. “Well then, we’ve reached the entrance. This is the best brothel in the red-light district. If a man and a woman were to quarrel here, it would damage the name of the establishment,” Ezzo said, flipping his cloak in an exaggerated manner.

It was all very dramatic, but Felt shrugged her shoulders at his concern and said, “Hurting the name of the establishment? Are those words really comin’ from a man who cast magic on the street?”

“Ugh! Well… Yes… As you said…”

“Casting magic with that many people around, I guess that half-elf lady was also rather guilty.” Folding her arms in front of the mumbling Ezzo, Felt recalled an event from a few months ago.

That half-elf Emilia’s sure done some pretty reckless things while pursuing me after I stole her royal insignia, Felt thought to herself. Shooting magic in the street was just one such example.

Looking back, it was that request that had brought her to where she was today. Fate is such a strange thing—to think that I am now competin’ with the very same Emilia in the royal selection.

“Even so, it was quite an interesting discussion. I would say it was the second most significant event for me since I started working in the red-light district.”

“Now that you mention it—what kind of work do you do? Are you really a guard?”

Felt compared Ezzo with the strong-built gatekeeper standing at the gate in her head. Of course, Ezzo’s specialty was probably not in hand-to-hand combat, so his appearance may not be a correct gauge of his ability.

“There are definitely those who judge people by their appearance. Even I can recall meeting some.”

“Of course, there is no end to such shallow people. But they soon realized that I was a man who should not be messed with. Hahahah, Ha-ha-ha-ha!” Ezzo was smiling broadly, puffing up his small body to its fullest, as though he was very confident in his magic skills. It was great that he did not mull over his defeat against Reinhard. As proof of that, he pointed a finger at him and said, “You, too, mustn't get carried away by a single victory. Let me make this clear—I wasn’t serious and I still have a lot of room to grow. Besides, the higher the wall, the more it is worth climbing.”

“—. I see. I’ll bear that in mind, Sir Ezzo.”

Without the slightest hint of false bravado, Ezzo Cadner spoke of his future as though it was a given. Reinhard straightened his posture at Ezzo’s admirable attitude, and finally let out a faint smile.

As she watched, Felt grinned and folded her hands behind her head. “Well I’m sure if you’re an actual magic user, there’re a bunch of employers who’d want you. Toto’s probably feelin’ like she won the lottery, too.”

“Though I don’t enjoy being treated like an object, I do agree with you. But perhaps the reason behind Miss Toto’s positive attitude to my employment was due to the identity of the person who introduced me. She must have known of your relationship with my detestable kin.”

“You mean she knew that Camberley and I were friends? Does that mean that it was indirectly thanks to us that you were hired there?”

“I’m merely saying that it’s possible. However, there is no doubt that I would never have visited the red-light district without that person. Ugh, I get angry just thinking about it.” Ezzo’s fingers trembled as his anger rekindled.

“All the unscrupulous ones, whether the people of my race or affiliation, always block my way…! Seriously! Such insolent people…!”

“You seem to have got a lot bottled up inside. Do your best.”

Ezzo was turning purple from anger as he talked about Camberley and various other things all mushed together. Felt sympathized with this attitude, but—

“—Ma’am, you forgot something.”

The voice that interrupted her came from a woman who had appeared at the entrance to the brothel.

She was around 20 years old, wearing a dress that was not too revealing but clearly showed off the curves of her body. She looked rather innocent for a woman working in the red-light district, and her somewhat timid eyes had the kind of feel to them that tickled men’s hearts.

“Hmm, it’s you, Mimosa. Has Mistress Toto sent you here?”

“Yes, Teacher. She told me to give this to our guest.”

The woman called Mimosa gave her greetings to Ezzo and then turned to Felt. She then gently presented something wrapped in a white cloth to Felt. What was hidden inside was—

“Oh, the insignia. My bad, I forgot.”

“Lady Felt? Do you understand just how important that item is…”

“I know, I know, I’m sorry. It was sticking into my butt when I was sittin’ on the sofa.” Scratching her head, Felt accepted the insignia that Mimosa brought her. While putting it back in her pocket, she suddenly glanced between Mimosa and Ezzo. “Now that ya mention it, you called him Teacher, is that what you would usually call a guard?”

“No, Ma’am. Teacher teaches me how to read and write, and how to do calculations. That’s why I call him Teacher.”

“Reading, writing, and calculations... Is that also a guard’s job?”

As Felt seemed perplexed by their story, Ezzo put a hand to his chest and explained himself. “I'm hired as a guard, but this area is already well-regulated by the Flower Prison Garden. At the very least, I’ve not really come across any problems since I started working here. I was uncomfortable with accepting so much money despite that, so I started doing this to keep myself busy.”

“Thanks to Teacher, some of us girls can read now. Everyone is grateful to him.”

In contrast to the boastful Ezzo, Mimosa’s look of respect was genuine. Seeing this, Felt nodded to herself. Ezzo mentioned earlier that his meeting with Felt and the others was the second most meaningful thing that had come out of his arrival in the red-light district. The first and most meaningful thing was clear from his face and lively voice.

Ezzo’s logical nature was very obvious. The presence of his pupils must have been very encouraging.

“How admirable. Keep up the good work, Teacher. It definitely suits you.”

“It is the duty of a good person to teach and guide well. It’s also my vocation.”

“Heh, you’re right… Well then, we’ll be on our way.”

Raising her hand, Felt, together with Reinhard, said their goodbyes to Ezzo and the others. But Ezzo suddenly stretched out a hand. “Wait, wait, wait,” he said. “What about my kin who was with you? Are you leaving him behind?”

“Yeah, I’m not waiting for two candles worth of time. I’ve done my job and he’ll probably go back on his own even if I leave him be.”

Toto offered two candles for the disturbance caused by Ezzo. A candle in the red-light district was a sign that a customer had bought the time to be spent with a prostitute. The prostitute will show the customer a dream until the candles burn out. At most, only one candle’s worth of time had passed by.

“Speaking of which, Teacher. Mistress Toto said that she was going to pay for tonight's candle out of your stipend.”

“What…! No, that was certainly my fault. But the payment for that ancient document is…”

Shocked by Mimosa’s words, Ezzo had paid the price for his temper. This time, Felt and Reinhard waved and finally took their leave of the Flower Prison Garden.

“They were interesting people, weren’t they?”

“You've recovered very well for someone who said he was bad with them. Well, my impression is still the same. The Flower Prison Garden’s people aren’t as hostile as I thought they were. They even returned my insignia to me.”

Felt and Reinhard walked side by side as night approached the dimly-lit, red-light district. Smiling, Felt lightly tapped her pocket.

At this gesture, Reinhard looked a little surprised. “Did you forget your insignia on purpose?”

“I was just wondering what they would do. I didn’t think that everything they said in that room showed their real intentions. So I figured I’d test them a little.”

To prove that it had not been switched, Felt moved her hand to the insignia in her pocket. A faint glow leaked through her clothing.

Now either they’ll think I’m some kinda moron or be more alert. Felt quietly assessed how her opponent would view her after her little stunt. Well, either is fine.

“After all, they are the ones who started the fight. Besides, we did our part to show respect by comin’ here today. They won’t be stirrin’ shit up anytime soon. Let’s move on. Next up is…”

“It’s an organization called The Scales that runs the gambling quarter. This place also requires special attention, for reasons different from the red-light district. The Scales, along with the Black Silver Coin and the Flower Prison Garden, also don’t have a very good reputation. Please take extra care not to leave my side.”

“Yeah, yeah. As Sir Reinhard commandsss.” Felt responded in a light tone, but Reinhard's eyes were full of worry. He doesn’t seem any more nervous or anxious than usual, but I wonder if he’s even had a chance to rest at all since he came to Flanders, she thought. “You look as though you’re gonna collapse from worry any moment now.”

At Felt’s tone, which seemed almost like someone else’s entirely, Reinhard gave the biggest smile he could muster.


The gambling quarter was another name for the eastern part of the city of Flanders, a section of the city where gambling activities were permitted. In the first place, there were no strict laws on gambling in the Kingdom of Lugunica, but such activities were often associated with crime and violence. Before legalizing it became possible, the problem lay with improving the environment it was in. As a result, such problems were addressed by an organizational deterrent that outweighed violence committed by individuals—an organization to operate the gambling dens.

Licenses for gambling activities were not issued by the Kingdom, but by the organizations in charge of the gambling dens in each city. And in the five great cities of the Kingdom of Lugunica, it was always The Scales in charge of managing these gambling establishments—no matter the size or form these places manifested.

In this city, too, The Scales controlled the gambling quarter. Together with the Flower Prison Garden, which controlled the red-light district, and the Black Silver Coin, which controlled the rest, they made up the Big Three.

Felt had decided to go and give her greetings to the representative of The Scales.

“Unfortunately, the Boss says he won’t see anyone without an appointment.”

The large man had a face like a crushed frog and gave a bow to Felt as he spoke.

The place was a large one-story building known as the Grand Casino in the gambling quarter. Despite it being the time of day when night began to draw in and the temperature began to cool, the atmosphere in the area was getting rather heated. With its business hours reaching peak times, the traffic coming in and out of the gambling den had increased enormously. Similar to the red-light district, the places that came alive at night were packed with people, who could be seen cheering and screaming here and there as they played various games.

In the midst of all this, Felt and her companion walked proudly through this gambling frenzy to visit the leader of The Scales, without any prior appointment. So, it was no wonder that they stuck out like a sore thumb.


Slowly, a group of men with a solemn presence surrounded Felt and Reinhard. A man in front of them—who introduced himself as Mozolite—was silent, waiting for them to speak first.

So Felt scratched her gold hair roughly. “I know, I know. You don’t have to be so tense. I’m not gonna do anything… Although…

Felt was about to add ‘I’d welcome a fight if you’re gonna turn me away,’ but Reinhard cut her off as he took up position in front of her. He stared Mozolite down, with a somewhat puzzled Felt behind him. “I understand that this is an abrupt visit. But if you have a representative present, could they please make some time for us? This person here is...”

“A royal selection candidate. The Boss knows that, too. He still refuses to see you.”


Interrupting Reinhard’s words, Mozolite refused to yield. Being aware of Felt’s identity, he must also know that the one in front of him was the Sword Saint. He certainly had some nerve.

Looking at Mozolite’s expressionless face, a tattoo of scales could be seen on his eyeballs—rumor had it that all members of The Scales were required to have a tattoo of scales on a visible part of their bodies. In fact, they could see tattoos on every single one of the men surrounding them, whether it was on their arms, necks, or other parts of their bodies. It did seem to be a special exception to have them on their eyeballs, however, for better or for worse. That alone just goes to show Mozolite’s loyalty to the organization.

“Reinhard, stop it. You’re the one who said we won’t be welcomed here because we didn’t make any appointments beforehand.”

“That’s true, but is that fine with you, my lady?”

“We came to say hello. While we’ve been turned away, the fact that I've come by has already been noted. So, it's not that bad of a deal. You’ll pass my words to him, won't you?”

Felt shrugged her shoulders while Mozolite raised his eyebrows in slight surprise.

“Yeah… Your message has been delivered, together with the fact that you greeted the red-light district’s proprietress before the Boss.”

“Don’t tell me that’s the reason he’s being difficult. If I’d done it the other way round, would it have been the proprietress who refused to see me?” Felt’s shoulders slumped in disappointment. The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that the two organizations are in balance.

The power of each organization was kept in a perpetual balance, but the cooperation between the Big Three was on thin ice. She’d heard enough about this from Old Man Rom and Rachins beforehand. The disagreement between Toto and Manfred, the man in charge of The Scales, was also a well-known story.


Seeing as Mozolite was silent on the matter, Felt felt that her guess might not be far off the mark. However, her intuition kept her from wanting to continue the conversation. The Scales knew that I was here. Then we’re done.

“I’ll make sure to bring a gift and make an appointment first next time. Sorry to interrupt your business.”

With that said, Felt decided to end the conversation early. Reinhard was surprised at how easily she withdrew and quickly followed her as she left. Following Mozolite’s gaze, the men around them also made way for them.

Felt quickly made her way through the crowd and headed towards the exit. “That place was no good. It smelled a lot more sinister than the red-light district.”

Reinhard, who walked beside her, made a strange face at Felt’s mutterings.

“A more sinister smell?” he asked.

Surprisingly, Reinhard did not have a nose for danger. There was no one who could make him feel endangered in a literal sense, so it was not surprising that he lacked the ability for it. But more than just the threat to one’s own life, a sense of danger could account for the harm to others, their property, or a multitude of other things.

This exact sense was what alerted Felt to the unique and dangerous scent of the gambling quarter.

“It’s not like I’m too scared or anythin’, I just got a bad feeling about this place. Either way, this guy’s gotta be the most uncooperative one so far.”

“I trust your intuition, my lady, and I agree with you in that they were not the most cooperative.” Reinhard then looked around alongside Felt, who had stopped in her tracks. Around him in the Grand Casino were various spaces for gambling, and everywhere seemed to be packed. There was a certain madness in the eyes of customers who sat here drinking with women at their beck and call. This type of excitement in the air was not something Reinhard was accustomed to, and he became rather timid.

Looking at his face, a sense of mischief began to grow in Felt’s heart.

From the standpoint of someone usually subjected to Reinhard’s nagging, it was a nice surprise that his weaknesses had been exposed in both the red-light district and gambling quarter in rapid succession.

“I’d never thought the day would come when I’d enjoy seein’ that face of yours…”

“I’m honored to hear that, but I don’t think it was a very pleasant process.”

“Isn’t that just your imagination? Besides, it’d be a shame to leave so soon; let’s take a look around.”

Fortunately, they had already put quite a distance between themselves and The Scales, including Mozolite. Of course, there were members of the group dotted about the place, but the sinister scent seemed to have weakened somewhat.

At Felt’s smile, Reinhard hesitated for a moment before nodding, and together they decided to take a quick tour of the Grand Casino.

Gambling here still mainly involved using cards that followed a basic set of rules. Some of the games were unfamiliar to Felt, but while watching others play, she was able to get a vague idea of what was going on. Once she knew how to play, she observed wins and losses, and the strategies involved. Having done all that, she discovered that gambling was surprisingly fun to watch.

One, in particular, caught Felt’s eye. “Oh, there’s a Shatranj board. Can you make a bet on that, too?”

Felt’s gaze fell on a game being played on the edge of the Grand Casino, with a Shatranj board in between the two players. From the looks of it, there was no difference from the Shatranj board she knew, and compared to the other gambling games, it seemed far quieter and more modest. However, there was definitely a kind of quiet intensity there.


The two men locked in battle at this board wore serious expressions filled with a sense of urgency, each looking as though they were about to reach out and cut each other. The spectators surrounding the two also exuded a different sort of atmosphere compared to the rest of the crowds there.

“I guess that means there are one-on-one bets like that too.”

“Your Ladyship also studied Shatranj, did you not? What do you think of those two?”

“Ah, it’s impossible for me. I’m no match for them. The way they use their heads is very different from how I use mine. The me right now wouldn’t be able to do anything. I’m certain I’d lose.” Shrugging her shoulders, Felt honestly raised a white flag. Hearing such a blunt declaration of defeat, Reinhard let out a small chuckle.

“What are you chucklin’ about over there? You aren’t supposed to be happy if I lose, right?”

“That’s true,” Reinhard said. “I was surprised when you declared there will be times we will lose, after meeting with Mr. Doltero. But just as I am capable of gaining new perspectives, I am also capable of noticing things about others.”

“Like what?”

“Your Ladyship said ‘the me right now’. That’s good enough for me.”

At Reinhard’s cheerful words, Felt pursed her lips and fell silent. Even though she was amused by his unusual weakness, she was not amused by the unexpected counterattack. With such feelings, Felt looked away. “Aaa, damn, I’m done with the tour! Come on, let’s head back to…hm?”

As she turned around and was about to head for the exit, she felt a hard sensation on the sole of her shoe. When she lifted her foot, she realized what she stepped on was a coin. “A fake coin… A coin used in this gambling den?” Felt muttered with some disappointment at the fake coin, which, for a moment, could be mistaken for a gold coin.

“Well, would ya look at that. It’s your lucky day, lil’ missy. Why not try your luck at a game?”


The person who approached Felt with the object she found was one of the owners in charge of the gambling business. He was a tall, thin man with an unhealthy, sickly complexion. The game he was in charge of was a famous betting game called “Oka” in which players guessed numbers. There is a disk with holes and numbers on it that spins, before the owner throws a small ball, about the size of a fingertip, into the disk. The game is as simple as guessing which hole number on the disk the ball will fall into.

On a separate table from the disks was a table with numbers on which participants placed their bets. There was no upper limit to the number of participants, and the most interesting part about Oka was that it pits the owner against a large number of other participants.


With so many customers already at the table, there was no reason for them to bother bringing in Felt, who only had one coin. Felt's cheeks curved upwards at the pretense.

“Ha! A weird game with a lost coin. How fun. I'm in.”

Sniffing, she took her place proudly in front of the man who had invited her to play. Staring at the numbers on the table, with the written choices from one to fifty, Felt challenged him to a match.

“Let’s go.”

In response to her enthusiasm, the man spun the disk. He tossed a small ball sharply in the opposite direction of the disk's rotation, which was so fast that the numbers appeared to melt into one another. When both the disk and the ball have momentum and the ball falls into a hole, that's the end of the game. So long as the disk and the ball are still spinning, the customer can place their bets on the table.

“Lady Felt, with that momentum, the place it’s likely to fall is…”

“Hold it; I wouldn’t be surprised if you could see the balls and the rotation of the disk and know where they will fall, so shut up. This is my game!”

“Wasn’t it just supposed to have been a coin you found… Nevermind. Sorry, I’ll keep my mouth shut.”

Reinhard kept his mouth shut, but he didn’t deny that he could see the spinning.

Either way, she put the matter to the back of her mind and stared at the disk. Then she glanced up at the man who, having thrown the ball, crossed his arms and gave her a snide smile.

“One or fifty…”


“But which one...ah, I don’t know, so fifty!”

And, after much deliberation, Felt forcefully placed the coin on the fifty on the table. Immediately after, the betting period ended, and all that remained was to watch the fate of the disk and the ball. Slowly, the disk decreased in speed, and eventually, with a clatter, the hole that the ball fell into was…

“—! Oh, damn! It was one!”

“That’s too bad, my lady. But it was a close game—you did narrow it down to two numbers. How did you manage that?”

With her prediction being off the mark, Felt held her head in frustration. As Reinhard’s question hit her from the side, she cleared her throat and let out a, “Huh? I was torn between choosing the most auspicious number or the biggest number. If there’s a choice, I gotta be number one or the biggest number there is; either way, the middle ain’t for me.”

“I see. I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Why’re you so serious? There’s no need to remember such things.”

Pursing her lips at Reinhard’s response, Felt left the table with a simple, “Oh well.” It was also the etiquette of a gambling den to leave promptly after losing a game.

Watching Felt’s gracious defeat, the customers around waved her off pleasantly. Though she couldn’t deny the feeling that she had contributed to the gambling den after seeing the rest of the customer’s enthusiasm to try and win in Felt’s place.

“But I gotta say, even though I’ve fulfilled my goal of sending my greetings, things ain’t going as smoothly as I’d hoped. Even if I say it’s fine as long as I win in the end, I still need to get my edge back.”

“...By the way, Lady Felt. How would you like to pay your greetings to the Black Silver Coin?”

“We got them real good before. That should be enough. I know it’s my fault for taking a detour, but it’s gettin’ dark already, so let’s head back to the mansion.”

The town of Hakuchuri, where Astrea Manor was located, was a few hours away from Flanders by dragon carriage. If we leave now, I wonder if we can make it to the mansion before daybreak, Felt wondered. “Nah, let’s stay here tonight. We can just return to the mansion during the day tomorrow.”

Unexpectedly, Reinhard shook his head at Felt’s suggestion.

“Haaa? Why? I admit it’s a little rushed, but it’s not too late, and with you around, walkin’ around at night shouldn’t be an issue. What’s the problem?”

“Well… I’m worried about your health if you stay up too late…”

“I’m going home.”

Felt asserted her thoughts strongly with her eyes at Reinhard, who she knew was telling a blatant lie. She continued pressuring Reinhard with her crimson-eyed stare to tell the truth, and after a few moments of endurance, he let out a sigh and said, “I will tell you tomorrow, I promise. So, will you please listen to me just for tonight?”

“Hmph, you pompous prick. All right, tomorrow, then. Since that’s decided, it’s time to find an inn. Let’s look for a place with good food!”

“Please rest assured, I have already found a place to stay.”

“You were plannin’ to stay the night from the get-go, weren’t you!”

He had indeed been planning something before coming to Flanders. Felt looked at Reinhard’s profile, trying to get a read on him, but somehow only caught a hint of relief and anticipation in his face, and stopped there.

“Well, I guess it’s fine.”

Unlike life in the slums, whatever Reinhard was up to would not directly affect Felt’s life or death, nor would it humiliate her dignity.

To that extent, Felt placed her trust in her knight.


Mozolite saw Felt and her companion off and then turned back to the Oka gambling parlor. “You okay with letting them leave like that, Boss?”

“It’s fine. I just wanted to take a look at her for today. I also got them back for meeting with that vixen before me by messing with their luck at gambling,” said the slender-faced man as he stood up from the dealer’s seat at the table Felt had just left. “Besides, we got what we needed, didn’t we?”

When a different person came into the gambling parlor to fill this seat, the slender-faced man brushed a hand over his own face as he calmly walked through the Grand Casino. And with that, his face came off. What appeared from beneath was a bizarre face covered in tattoos. It was the master of the Grand Casino, Manfred ‘Tattoo Face’ Madison.

“So that bodyguard is the Sword Saint. He isn't as great as the rumors suggest. He is oblivious to things other than pure animosity… It shouldn’t be difficult to fool him with a bit of trickery.”

Mozolite, his right-hand man, followed him without saying a word. He wasn’t looking for an answer or any sort of reaction—the young wolf’s monologue was directed at himself. “But, the candidate girl has a better hunch. On top of that, she was able to correctly narrow the choices down to two.”

“Are you saying that if she had two coins then she would have won by fluke?”

“—No. If that girl had two coins, she would have placed them on the same spot both times. Money isn’t her concern, it’s about the way she conducts herself.”

Manfred’s murmur had a hint of joy and expectation. It was like a child getting a new toy or like a predator finding easy prey. His voice was practically seeping with bloodlust.

“Seems like you’re in a good mood, Boss.”

“Yeah, I don’t feel bad for a change—don’t let them out of your sight, Mozolite,” ordered Manfred, a menacing grin on his face.

“Yes, sir,” replied Mozolite with a low voice, bowing his head.

Held within the hand of the large, bowing man was a coin. Looking at that out of the corner of his eye, Manfred licked his lips. “Alright, show me what you got, royal selection candidate. Whether you end up as a mere insect in a bog, or you become something more, it will be worth watching.”


As the sun rose, bringing forth a new day, Reinhard led Felt to a certain place.

Having stayed the night in Flanders because of her knight’s stubborn request, Felt enjoyed the food served at the inn and slept in a soft bed. Early the next morning, she was woken up by Reinhard and drifted between being in a really good mood and a really bad mood. Nonetheless, she went with him without resistance, but...

“Your ass is mine if this ends up being a waste of time.”

“Very well. If that comes to be, then you may berate me to your heart’s content. It would be a failure on my part, after all.”

Reinhard’s attitude while replying to Felt was somewhat strong, which Felt found suspicious, but they soon reached their destination.

And, what awaited Felt there was…

“It’s the earth dragon I told you about before. It belongs to the brilliant Diana species.”

“Woa, woah, woaaaaaaah—ah!” Felt’s eyes sparkled in excitement at the sight of the bright red earth dragon standing on the other side of the wooden fence.

The place Reinhard took her to was a ranch situated south of the city of Flanders—a place with a lot of earth dragons that roamed around freely in the grasslands within the vicinity.

Reinhard had arranged for the rancher to bring one particular crimson earth dragon, which was now subjected to Felt’s admiring gaze as its gallant form rose to stand before her.

“Earth dragons from the Diana species are rare; they are a toughened earth dragon species that can give their fullest, no matter the landscape or climate. As it is a gift for Your Ladyship, I took my time, but...”

“Amaazing! It’s big, coool! This, is it fine for me to have it?”

Though Reinhard politely explained, Felt was crowing like a rooster without hearing any of it. Reinhard smiled and nodded. “Yes,” he said. “I have arranged it for you, Lady Felt. Please, accept it.”

“I don't like it when it's your shitty plans that make me happy, but, well, that doesn’t really matter. Alright, then.”

Her emotions changed hastily and Felt jumped across the fence. And just like that, the girl went in front of the crimson dragon. The sharp glare of the dragon was pointed at its master candidate. Yes, she was still only a candidate for being its master.

Earth dragons are all friendly with humans, and there are times when even a child can easily ride on them, but the Diana species were an exception to that. Along with their superior ability, their pride and obstinance is great, rarely accepting others as their master.

The one Reinhard had arranged for Felt was especially hard to please.


The rancher panicked at the sight of Felt facing the earth dragon and tried saying something, but Reinhard gestured with his hand to stop, nodding to reassure him that he’d intervene if necessary.

As Felt got closer to the earth dragon, they watched with bated breath. “It’s really sudden,” she began, “so it would be difficult to accept me immediately, but you’re my earth dragon from today. Let’s get along.”


As Felt spoke and reached her hand out towards it, the earth dragon lowered its long neck and started to sniff around as if to tickle her. “Oh, you…haha, it tickles! You’re a friendly one, aren't ya!”

Reinhard gave a short sigh looking at Felt jerking her body around in laughter.

“I am baffled that that girl is being so tame…at her first encounter.”

Even the rancher couldn’t hide his awe at the sight of Felt and the earth dragon mingling.

After that, Felt took the earth dragon since it accepted her as its master and was about to return to Flanders triumphantly. However, her way back was far from smooth. Since…

“Uh, woah?” Letting out a small scream, Felt panicked, having lost her balance on top of the earth dragon. Reinhard rushed to her side and supported her with his hand, pushing her back.

Felt somehow managed to get into the right position and let out a sigh of relief. After that, she looked at Reinhard. “The hell did you mean when you said they are easy to ride! It’s a handful even sittin’ on it! Where is the divine protection of the earth dragon!?”

“Please endure it, my lady. While it’s true that the earth dragon’s Divine Protection of Wind Evasion is excellent, you’ll lose control once the protection expires.”

“Argh, you may have a point, but…”

“I think you will be able to ride immediately if you learn the ropes. But until then…”

Stopping Reinhard in his tracks before he could say something like practice makes perfect, Felt cried out in excitement as if to say it was a brilliant idea. “Oh yeah, Reinhard! Show me how it’s done.”

Reinhard frowned to figure out her intentions behind that.

“Come onnn.” Felt slapped the saddle on the earth dragon and continued. “Riding alone is dangerous, and there ain’t no way I can learn the ropes like that, right? But then again, I can’t learn by watchin’ other people ride either…so I think it would be quicker doing that here.”

“That’s…I see, you have a point.”

“Right? So hurry up and get your ass over here.”

Reinhard respectfully followed the instructions of Felt, who had jerked her chin up at him. He made brief eye contact with the earth dragon and leapt onto its back.

Reinhard sat behind Felt, inevitably embracing the small girl from behind. While in that position, he held the reins in her hands. “Now, with all due respect, allow me to demonstrate. Please watch carefully, memorize the sensation of moving the reins in your hands and how you focus your sight.”

“Alright, I’ll be depending on you. I want to be able to ride Romy here and there as soon as possible.”

“So, it’s Romy…I think you should discuss the name with Master Rom before naming it that.”

“Shut up! It’s fine! Hey, hurry up and show me how it’s done!”

Felt’s cheeks turned red and she shouted to hide her embarrassment since the origin of the name was found out in an instant. While listening to her voice, he waved the reins with vigor.


Slowly, Romy the earth dragon began running towards the Astrea Domain. Turning off the divine protection intentionally, feeling the pleasant wind against her, Felt let out a shout of joy.


Hearing that up close, Reinhard also smiled happily.

And just like that, the Felt Camp had finished paying their respects to the city of Flanders’s underworld. By making their point clear, they had shown their standpoint that they were not related to the incidents happening in the Earth Dragon Capital in any manner, but a flame once lit from the past wasn’t going to let them go so easily.

Things took a drastic turn a few days after Felt’s visit to Flanders.

It all started with the bad news brought to Astrea Manor by the Black Silver Coin’s Safis, who had once again come to them as a messenger…

The news was that Ezzo “The Gray” Cadner was on the run after burning down a brothel and that Camberley had been taken into custody as his accomplice, making it an unprecedented emergency.


Peace, meaning her routine life going uninterrupted by odd occurrences, never lasted long for Felt. The leaders of the underworld suspected her of being behind things she didn’t even do, so in order to prove her innocence, she paid them all a visit—going here and there for several days—even though she didn’t want to. It wasn’t like she was all relaxed thinking that everything was fine, but at least she’d made her point clear. With this, she hoped she could enjoy a brief time of tranquility. However, things seem to have been worsening a lot faster than she had expected.

“—What did you just say?” asked Felt with her elbow on the table, cheek resting on her palm. Her fang poked out as she grimaced at what she’d just heard.

The one at whom her question was directed at was Safis, the snaked-eyed man who had been led to her office, the messenger from the Black Silver Coin.

Safis was also the one who had visited them during the Tometo Festival as the messenger of his leader, Doltero. This time, however, he visited them early in the morning without warning. Felt would usually send a rude visitor like that packing due to being in a bad mood and sleep-deprived, but there was a reason she couldn’t do that this morning. And that was…

“—Sorry. This is our blunder.” Rachins mustered up the words in frustration next to their visitor, Safis.

He was in terrible shape. He was bruised all over, and it was evident from the smeared blood on his face that he had tried to rub the blood from his nose. His clothes were covered in blood and dirt, looking as if he’d been beaten to a pulp—no, it wasn’t as if he had, this was definitely the appearance of a guy who had been punched and kicked by a mob.

Leaving Rachins next to him, Safis bowed respectfully. “Lady Felt, allow me to give you my report once again. Last night, there was a fire in Flanders and a building owned by the Flower Prison Garden was partially burned to the ground; some of the guards and prostitutes were unable to escape and burned to death. We know who the arsonist is, but as for the one who assisted in his escape…”

“You’re tryin’ to say that it was Camberley, right?” interrupted Felt while ruffling her hair with a serious look on her face. She had a feeling Safis’s explanation was just contempt masquerading as politeness. Her nerves had started to settle down from when she first heard the unbelievable news, but it wasn’t something she could easily accept. She then directed her crimson eyes at Rachins, who was hanging his head. “And, you also assisted the culprit in his escape… Is that right?”

“I don’t know if he’s the culprit or not, but it’s true that I assisted Camberley in helping someone escape. And when I was getting beat on by that mob chasing us…”

“We, the Black Silver Coin, took him in. He might have been killed by the ruffians if we hadn’t stepped in time. The dwarf got taken away by the Flower Prison Garden, however.”

As a result, Camberley remained captive in Flanders, and only Rachins was brought back to Astrea Manor to report the news to Felt.

She was still drowsy and not fully awake, but after hearing the report she had a rough idea of what was going on. However, there were still a few pieces missing from the puzzle.

“What are we going to do, my lady?” asked the knight by her side. Felt was deep in thought, her arms crossed. Sitting beside her, Reinhard showed no signs of being sleepy or worn out despite it being quite early in the morning. The stately Sword Saint turned his blue eyes towards Rachins, who was hanging his head. “The situation demands that we pay a visit to the Flower Prison Garden to explain ourselves.”

“Why should we have to explain ourselves? And why the hell did you and Camberley try to help someone who was tryin’ to escape out in the first place? What is the relationship between you and…”

“Ezzo Cadner.” Safis cut off Felt’s interrogation as he gave a cold smile. Both Felt and Reinhard’s cheeks stiffened upon hearing the name he uttered.

The name instantly rang a bell in Felt’s mind. On top of that, it was a name closely connected to Camberley. “Ain’t that the name of the bouncer teacher that Camberley brought to the red-light district?” she asked.

“And if that’s the person who committed arson in the Flower Prison Garden’s domain, then…it is understandable that Camberley would be caught up in the incident,” Reinhard added.

The dwarf magic user’s earnest-looking face came to Felt’s mind. He was robbed of all his belongings by Camberley and fell to the position of bouncer in the red-light district, but if he’s bein’ suspected as an arsonist, Felt thought, there must be some complicated issue at play here.

“Is Camberley safe?” she asked.

“Even we aren’t sure how the Flower Prison Garden is treating him,” Safis answered. “But that proprietress of the red-light district isn’t a short-sighted person. It’s hard to imagine she would do anything that would cause her to lose the only lead she has connecting to the culprit.”

“You still believe there’s a possibility of her doing that, it’s just that you think she won’t.”

Safis smiled gently at Felt, who was complicating things. But she could infer how bad of a situation Camberley was in from that attitude of his. Being Camberley’s patron, she couldn’t just ignore the dangerous predicament he’d gotten into.

“Of course, we at the Black Silver Coin believe Your Ladyship has no connection to this. But it won’t be so easy to calm the other two organizations down…especially the Flower Prison Garden, whose reputation took a hit.”

Felt swung her legs up and down and leapt out of her chair, then glared at Safis at the other side of the desk. The snake-like man living in the underworld showed his long tongue in response to her glare. “Worry not... I’m sure their demand is simple,” he said with a provoking smile, as if he was enjoying the sight of them being cornered.


“My demand is simple, Lady Felt… You just need to hand over the arsonist your subordinate helped to escape.”

“...I thought so.” Felt snorted at the aroma sweet enough to melt away any man’s rationality and sank into the soft sofa with a bitter look on her face. She was unhappy, as Toto’s demand was just as the snake-eyed man had expected.

They were now in the manager’s room of the Flower Prison Garden’s top brothel. It was located in the red-light district where they had gone to greet her the previous day, but the atmosphere had taken a dramatic turn; the flower paradise that was supposed to give men a dreamy night had a dark shadow cast over it.

But then, the night flowers weren’t so mentally frail that they would give up just like that. If the red-light district became gloomy, the women would address it by changing their makeup and attire to match the tone. As a result, men who came to enjoy the night continued to do so and business in the red-light district was prosperous as ever. However, this was only a facade for those looking from the outside.

“The building that burned down was on the street we crossed on the way here, right?”

“Yes. The partially burned-down building is still there, yes? The culprit has yet to be apprehended, so we don’t have time to repair it yet… Good grief, my ability to judge a person’s character has grown weak. I hate myself for that,” muttered the proprietress of the Flower Prison Garden listlessly before blowing purple smoke out from her pipe.

“Miss Toto, are you also of the thought that Mr. Ezzo was the arsonist?” inquired Reinhard, a painful expression on his face due to the tragic event.

“Obviously,” replied Toto with one eye closed at the Sword Saint’s anguished expression. “If Ezzo was innocent, then he should have stayed behind and helped put the fire out and made an effort to prove his innocence. I am not so dense that I would deny someone their right to give their side of the story. Ezzo likely knows that as well. Nonetheless, he fled the scene.”

“Which is why you believe that Ezzo is the one responsible for burning the building down and causing many people to lose their lives?”

“Yes, that’s right. Ezzo Cadner is a murderer…and a coward who fled after turning his student who admired him as a teacher into a charred corpse.”


Reinhard furrowed his eyebrows at Toto’s heavy words of denunciation against Ezzo. Felt also took her words with a sense of bitterness.

It’s been confirmed that there were a few prostitutes and guards, as well as male customers, inside the brothel when it burned down. One of the pitiful victims was the prostitute that Felt had talked with, Mimosa. Though lacking in seductiveness, she was a girl who showed signs of being a naive hard-worker... She had addressed Ezzo as “Teacher” and learned reading and writing from him, but her future was now forever lost, stolen away by the inferno.

Normally, prostitutes are hired with a term limit. Once they fulfill their terms, they are released from their duties. Most prostitutes enter this profession to pay off a debt, or to settle some sort of deal of various kinds, and when this is also fulfilled, most of them lead a normal life afterwards. So, after learning how to read and write, Mimosa definitely had a different life waiting for her as soon as her term ended, but not anymore.

“Regular customers from both the Black Silver Coin and The Scales were inside the building as it burned down. So, for the time being, I think that Ezzo is working as a pawn of someone unrelated to the big three.”

“Which brings us to the top of the suspect list, right? Can’t say I can blame you,” said Felt.

At the moment, the most logical conclusion would be that the Felt Camp had sent their pawn—Ezzo—to the Flower Prison Garden and successfully tarnished their reputation. And the fact that Camberley and Rachins had assisted in Ezzo’s escape made it nearly impossible to dispute this accusation.

“That has nothing to do with us though,” declared Reinhard. “Shouldn’t you, the citizens of Flanders, solve the city’s problems yourselves?”

“I can’t believe that those cold words were spoken by the knight among knights, the Sword Saint. However, I can’t deny that after causing such a blunder. Since it is a fact that we let someone scheme and have been unable to catch them to this day.”

Toto smiled charmingly and raised a white flag at Reinhard’s assertion as she had no objections against it.

“But then,” she continued, still remaining in a submissive posture. “ What are you going to do about Master Camberley? Surely you aren’t thinking about abandoning him, are you? Or am I mistaken? Are you saying that that dwarf thug who is all talk has nothing to do with you? That he is unrelated to you?”


Reinhard’s aura sharpened a bit at the cruel choice Toto had suggested. Felt glanced at him out of the corner of her eyes and heaved a short sigh. I see, the proprietress of the Flower Prison Garden is smart. In short, she’s saying that we don’t have to go through all the trouble of proving our innocence for shit we didn’t do if we sacrifice Camberley, who is nothing but a mere thug without any sign of productivity and hasn’t made any contributions so far.

If Felt did that, then she’d be cleared of all suspicion and everything would be water under the bridge.

“Ha, it seems like we’ve been underestimated.”

“My, in my opinion, I’ve thought of your position as a candidate for the royal selection and made a huge concession.”

“And what am I going to pay in return for being able to escape from the trouble? Becoming indebted to you, being looked down on by my knight, spat at by my stupid companion I abandoned, and worse, turning into a coward, the very thing hated by my family that I respect…Don’t mess around with me.”

Felt stood up from the sofa she was sinking into and looked down at Toto, who was elegantly crossing her legs. Toto’s eyes widened slightly under her long lashes after seeing those crimson eyes peer into her.

“Remember this.” She pointed her finger at Toto’s well-defined nose and declared, “Camberley belongs to me. I am his mistress. His liabilities are half mine too. And I am my own master. I don’t intend on bein’ bossed around by anyone.”


“In addition, I am his mistress too. He’s ready to bite anyone if something happens,” Felt said with vigor while pointing at Reinhard, who was standing right behind her.

Reinhard deeply bowed after hearing her words and said, “Yes,” before nodding. “If it’s by Lady Felt’s order then I am always ready to bite into the throat of her choosing.”

“I was thinkin’ of an ear or finger. You’re…really scary…saying throat…”

“My lady…” Reinhard dropped his shoulders as if he had just been betrayed.

Toto went silent for a moment at their exchange and then placed her hand over her mouth. It was a graceful gesture—moving in such a way so that she wouldn’t get any lipstick stains on her hand—but it was definitely a movement following the urge to smile. “...Fufufu. Oh my, how boorish of me, and to call myself the proprietress of the red-light district… My apologies, Lady Felt. It appears I’ve underestimated you.”

“Yeah, and don’t you forget it!” Felt said, proudly puffing out her chest.

Toto nodded while still smiling. “Understood.” Then, shaking the pipe between her fingers, she let the purple smoke flutter in the room. “If that is Your Ladyship’s resolve then I have nothing to say… Though we have the dwarf who assisted Ezzo Cadner in his escape in our custody.”

“You aren’t gonna let us meet him easily, will you?”

“At least not until we get him to start talking. We are quite desperate,” replied Toto with an expression showing no signs of being desperate. Camberley was alive, at least if her words were to be believed, but it was clear that there wasn’t much time left. The terms for his release had already been made clear and tensions were high.

“If we find out who burned down your brothel, will ya hear us out?”

“Yes, of course, as I believe that culprit would be the same one behind these many incidents occurring over the past few months. It would be a great help to me as one of the representatives of this metropolis to settle this situation.”

“Don’t say something you don’t mean.” Felt ruffled her hair after listening to Toto’s words and smiled. “I can’t wait to see how you’re gonna thank me after we solve this whole situation,” she declared with a fierce smile without the slightest hint of fear.


“We weren’t able to meet Camberley, so what are you going to do now?”

“I guess we could roam around the city or something, but…what good would that do?”

After ending the talks with Toto in the Flower Prison Garden, Felt pondered while walking around the city with Reinhard. To convince Toto and make her release Camberley, we need to capture the arsonist. For now, Ezzo is the prime suspect and the Big Three are desperately searchin’ for him. I can’t imagine that we, as outsiders, will be able to get to him before they can, though.

“Do you have a divine protection that helps you find someone you’re lookin’ for? If you do, spit it out right now.”

“I truly want to be of assistance to you, my lady, but I can’t claim to have a divine protection that doesn’t exist. Nonetheless, if Your Ladyship orders me to search around the city without anything to go on, I will have no other choice but to obey…”

“That would be a waste of your existence. Seems like we alone can’t come up with a solution.”

Disappointed and somewhat relieved to learn Reinhard was not almighty, Felt swiftly crossed the street and walked towards the rendezvous point. Only she and Reinhard were allowed into the Flower Prison Garden to meet with Toto. The rest of her companions who couldn’t join them at the brothel were waiting at the charred remains of a building—the scene of the crime in question.

“Lady Felt, Young Master, we’ve been waiting.”

The one who had rushed across the street to greet them was a timid-looking pink-haired young girl, Flam—one of the twin chamberlains at Astrea Manor. She usually moved around with her other half, Grassis, but the sisters were acting separately today for a certain reason. Which was…

“So, how’d it go? Were ya able to meet Camberley in the brothel?” said the person leaning forward and inquiring about the outcome—a suspicious-looking man covering his head with a scarf and his mouth with a piece of cloth.

“Calm down.” Felt waved her hand at the hasty query of the suspicious man. “Stop bein’ so loud. You’re gonna blow your cover. You promised you weren’t gonna cause me any trouble, remember?”

“Yeah yeah, but how d’ya expect me to stay calm…!” the man—Rachins—spat, stomping on the ground out of frustration, before looking up at the sky. He was in disguise, hiding his identity because he was also suspected of attacking the Big Three alongside Ezzo and Camberley.

He had helped Ezzo escape and was nearly beaten to death by ruffians. So, whether to take Rachins to Flanders or not was a subject of much debate in the mansion. In fact, Old Man Rom and Reinhard were against him accompanying Felt. Nonetheless, Rachins insisted that he be allowed to join them and would not back down in the slightest. Felt couldn’t help but respect this tenacity and commitment to see his friend.

As a result, Rachins accompanied Felt to Flanders, but she made him follow a few conditions. The first condition was that he keep his identity hidden in disguise; additionally, he must always remain with a guard since he could not fight very well on his own. That guard was Flam, who remained by his side.

“All things considered, Mister Rachins, aren’t you ashamed of being protected by a young girl like this?” Flam asked with a shrug.

“Shut up! I had no choice, ya know!? I wasn’t allowed to be here without you!” Rachins cried angrily at her. Either way, she was stronger than him, so his angry shout didn’t really pack much of a punch.

As expected from someone serving the Astrea family, Flam and Grassis’s fighting abilities were extraordinary despite the way they looked. Even Felt would be no match against the twins in a serious bout.

Felt interrupted them. “Well, we can leave that aside. As for everything we’ve learned…ah, Reinhard, I’ll leave that to you.”

“As you wish. Flam, Rachins, I want you to calm down and listen.”

Like that, Felt tossed aside the long explanation and Reinhard thoroughly informed them both of the things discussed in the Flower Prison Garden.

Hearing that, Rachins narrowed his sanpaku eyes annoyingly and said, “So I have ta catch the guy I helped escape…”

Reinhard nodded. “Camberley’s safety won’t be guaranteed if we don’t do that. But it isn’t a good idea to search around the city blindly. Does anything come to mind? You guys know the city better than we do.”

“What’s that supposed to mean...nah I guess you weren’t tryna start nuthin. Shit, this is why I hate people with good upbringin’s…” Rachins clicked his tongue at Reinhard’s question and started pondering something. “It ain’t like there isn’t somethin’ that comes to mind,” he continued after placing his hand on his thin jaw. “It’s real weird that the people here still can’t find him after searchin’ around. There ain’t no way they wouldn’t be serious about searchin’ after bein’ so dang humiliated by all this.”

“Yeah, right,” Felt said. “The Flower Prison Garden is probably hunting him down as we speak. So there’s really no point in searchin’ for him ourselves.”

“Yeah. Others are already doin’ that and they can’t find ‘im, which means that…”

“Could it be that he has already left the city?” muttered the young girl after hearing Rachins’s inference.

“No,” Rachins replied, shaking his head at her words. “Remember how the woman Gaston is hittin’ on and her kid were found in Hakuchuri? Escaping from them ain’t an easy task with the kind of influence they got. It’s impossible for him to escape on his own. And if it’s possible he isn’t alone, then…”

“...There is a possibility that someone is giving him asylum,” blurted out Reinhard.

“Bingo,” Rachins said with a snap of his fingers before pointing at Reinhard.

“I get it now,” added Felt, also feeling satisfied with the conclusion.

“He’s someone who has caused such a big mess.” Rachins faced the charred remains of the building and continued. “So giving ‘im asylum would require great resolve… But I think I might know someone who’d be stupid ‘nough ta do it.”

“Is it someone who’s close enough with Ezzo to want to protect him?” asked Felt.

“Not quite. If we’re talkin’ about how close they are, they ain’t that close. It’s simply that it ain’t that difficult to receive their protection,” replied Rachins while putting on airs and looking around at everyone. He then nodded at the three of them, who were frowning, and continued. “...There is a moneylender in this city known as the Golden Beetle.”


“Well, well…if it isn’t the most talked about person in the Kingdom now. I am most humbled that you came to visit someone like us.”

Felt received the green-haired woman’s greetings and squinted her crimson eyes. Black suit, twin tails, and a polite demeanor. The woman, armed with qualities that made her seem like a true professional, made Felt tense up like she had when facing Toto. She had previously come to this city to greet the Flower Prison Garden and The Scales, but forgetting to visit this place was a matter of deep regret.

“My apologies that I couldn’t go to greet you… To say that we were extremely busy would be nothing more than an excuse, but nonetheless, I am ashamed of my shortcomings.”

She slyly mentioned the other day as if she had read Felt’s mind. A bitter taste arose in Felt’s mouth at the mention of this and she shook her head. “Aah, enough with the pleasantries. My name is…”

“...Lady Felt, correct? We are the Golden Beetle, I am Helaine, the one in charge of the office in Flanders. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

The woman who introduced herself as Helaine bowed repeatedly and escorted her visitors to the parlor. According to Rachins, the Golden Beetle is the biggest loan shark in Flanders, in addition to being active throughout the entire Kingdom. In this city, they’ve been able to run smoothly and maliciously under the protection of the Big Three.

Protection or not, the Golden Beetle had also been a target during the past months. One sales office, separate from the one Felt and her group were visiting, had been attacked just the other day. With all of these disturbances, they were certainly in a position to want this solved quickly as well. Felt took a lesson from Safis this time and paid a visit to Helaine without any prior appointment. However, her response was quick and flexible, almost as if she’d expected them to visit.

Flam spoke up suddenly. “Young Master, there seems to be a problem.”

“I know,” Reinhard said. “We’re in the dark here with no idea what this woman may be planning. We must be ready for anything…”

“It’s not that. The cost of this cup of tea is equal to the cost of an entire month’s worth of our tea back at the mansion.”

“...Flam, I’m glad you’re enjoying these luxuries, but please be on your guard.”

While listening to the leisurely conversation between the two standing behind her in the parlor, Felt glared at Helaine sitting in front of her.

Helaine shrugged her petite shoulders after being exposed to Felt’s glare. “So, what brings you here? Considering we’re a mere nobody around here, I don’t know how we could ever meet a royal selection candidate’s expectations, Lady Felt.”

“Are you hiding a guy named Ezzo Cadner?” Felt asked.


“Sorry about that. I ain’t that good at negotiating.”

Helaine went quiet at this blunt question. The faint smile she’d worn since the beginning was now cast in a slight shadow. While normally concealing her intentions, Felt caught a glimpse of Helaine’s true nature beneath that smile.

“My my, what a strange thing to ask. If I’m not mistaken, that’s the name of the dangerous criminal who’s been ravaging the streets in our fine metropolis. For us to hide someone like that would certainly jeopardize our position…”

“Let me make this clear,” Felt interrupted. “We ain’t here to snitch on you. And, the guy, Ezzo, may not even be the culprit behind any of this.”

“So Your Ladyship believes the reality of the incident to be different?” Helaine asked.

“Nah, I’m not sayin’ that I know what really happened, but the person who got caught after it all happened is from my camp. So that’s something I can’t just ignore.”

“I see. So your driving force lies in your captured subordinate…” Helaine stopped there and rubbed her chin with her black-gloved hand. “Speaking of which.” She looked behind Felt. “The person over there has been staring daggers at me for a while. Do you know why he is doing so?”

Her query was directed at Rachins, who was standing next to Reinhard and Flam. His gaze was sharper than usual, not able to conceal his animosity at all. Felt waved her hand between Rachins and Helaine as if to block his gaze. “It’s nothing. He’s just being grumpy so don’t worry about him. But if you want, I can make him wait outside.”

“No, it’s fine. I was just worried if there had been any discourtesy on our end. As long as that’s not the case, there’s no problem.”

“Seems like you’re used to being glared at, huh?”

Helaine nodded. “Yes, since our reputation is immensely bad among people who are prudent and aren’t in dire financial crisis.”

More than mere moneylenders, they were loan sharks with deep ties to the underworld. Violence and excessive interest rates were standard in their line of work. Felt, however, had no intention of criticizing their business. More often than not, the ones borrowing money are the ones at fault, she thought.

Felt continued. “So, I haven’t gotten your answer yet. Where’s Ezzo Cadner?”

“Haven’t I given you an answer?” Helaine retorted. “The person at the center of this is said to have opposed the Big Three. Our position would be in danger if we protect someone like him.”

“I’m sure that’s true, but if you find the risk to be worth the payout, then that’s a different story. Right?


“I don’t intend on meddlin’ with how moneylenders work, and you can do whatever side business you have. But if it comes in my way, then I’m free to try to move it out of my way, right?” Felt moved away from the backrest of the chair and joined her fists in front of her thin chest.

For the first time, Helaine’s smile completely disappeared. Felt’s words could easily be taken as a declaration of war. The atmosphere in the parlor grew tense, as now all eyes were focused on Helaine. Without any chance of assistance from other members of the Golden Beetle, she was all alone. It was obvious enough that a physical altercation would be hopeless for her, but not every altercation had to be won through physical means.

“We are moneylenders…so the way that we settle things around here should be clear enough,” she said, reaching a hand into her pocket.

“Stop. If you try anything…” Reinhard warned.

Felt stopped Reinhard, who was now on high alert. “Don’t move, Reinhard. She ain’t that stupid.”

Helaine nodded at their exchange and took a missive out of her pocket. She spread it on the low table in front of Felt. The content of the missive was…

“...This, would be master Camberley’s IOU.”

“Wait, wait, wait! That rascal had debt in this city!?” Felt screamed at this surprising turn of events.

“Yes, and it is quite a sum…it would be quite a financial blow to us if we aren’t able to retrieve it. And now that he’s been captured amidst all this commotion, we find ourselves with numerous options on how to retrieve the money owed.”

At a cursory glance, the IOU seemed genuine and without any errors. She hated to admit to herself that all of her studying for the royal selection came in handy right now; as a result, she knew that if Camberley’s blood seal on the missive is real, then the missive is valid.

Flam frowned at Helaine’s suggestion of gruesome retrieval methods.

“...Numerous options, you say?”

“Turning the human body into capital isn’t just through the red-light district or slave traders, young lady.”

Flam murmured to herself, “...I can’t let Grassis hear this.”

It looks like Flam decided to keep this unpleasant social studies lesson a secret from her sister. Looking at that from the corner of her eyes, Felt speculated the reason behind Helaine taking out the IOU at this particular moment.

If things remain the same, then Camberley will literally be dismembered in order to pay off his debt. Helaine’s conscience won’t be hurt by that since it is her job to retrieve the money they have lent. In that case, to make her back off from dismembering Camberley with means other than guilt would be

Felt began to speak “...This IOU.”

“It is a huge sum of money for unknown use. Master Camberley often mentioned that he was serving a person in a prominent position… What are you going to do?” Helaine inquired, looking at Felt, who had picked up the IOU.

The question gave little detail, but Helaine’s intentions remained clear as day.

To be honest, this feels like repeating the negotiation with Toto in the Flower Prison Garden. Camberley is making me really exhausted. I’ve been told continuously to let him go, give up on him, that he is no good, that he is a lump of debt and a womanizer. And I can’t deny it if someone were to tell me he’s my camp’s burden. But…

“Please,” Rachins implored. “I beg of you, don’t abandon him.”

Despite Camberley’s reputation, the man pleading for his salvation by putting his forehead on the table with the IOU did not bad-mouth him. Felt could tell that Reinhard and Flam had gasped slightly at that sight. The disguised Rachins had put his forehead on the table between Felt and Helaine, kneeling and pleading for Camberley. It was evident from his stance he was serious about what he wished for.

Come to think of it, Rachins has been desperate from the start. He’s been giving all he has for Camberley.

“He’s my friend. Only Gaston and Camberley helped me when I was on the verge o’ death and couldn’t do anything! So, please…” Rachins’s words trailed off in despair.

“...So?” Felt replied. “What does that have to do with me?”

“Nothing! You don’t have to tell me. I know it’s got nothin’ to do with you!” Rachins lifted his face up and shouted at Felt’s cold query. “I know we jus’ been a burden on you! It’d be no loss for ya to jus’ abandon us here either! But it’s the same as back in that alley. You could’a jus’ left us there too, but ya took us in!”

Rachins was referring to the time when Felt first met the three friends in a random back alley. She was on her way back from the remains of the loot house after having just declared that she would take part in the royal selection when she found them. The three of them were down on their luck and on the run and when she welcomed them to her camp. Back then, it was even Rachins who sneered at her initially. Reinhard complained that she should reconsider, and Old Man Rom just heartily laughed it off.

But now Rachins was here pleading desperately for mercy for his friend, his face on the verge of oozing with snot. Reinhard hadn’t changed his position of waiting for Felt’s decision, and Old Man Rom had stayed in Hakuchuri, so he wasn’t here.

Seems like the tables have turned within just a few months, thought Felt, amazed. “A sum as big as that can’t be arranged right away. My walking wallet doesn’t have that much, right? Am I right?” Felt teased.

“If by walking wallet you mean me, then it is as you say,” Reinhard replied, unamused.

Felt closed an eye and looked over Rachins’s head to Helaine.

The lady from the Golden Beetle smiled faintly and pointed at the IOU on the table. “Of course, I am not asking you to return all the money immediately. It would be of great service to us if you could do that, but I understand the sum is quite large. So for starters, how about a down payment?”

“Down payment…”

“It will be a guarantee to show me that you intend on returning the debt, though it would not hold any weight unless it’s worth something to you. Thus—”


What’s she going to say? Felt had a bad feeling about what Helaine was about to say, but she urged her to continue. The Golden Beetle’s Helaine was an unrivaled negotiator despite her young age. She deepened her smile as if she was testing Felt’s resolve and said, “The red earth dragon tied to the dragon carriage outside…it would seem to be worth quite a hefty sum, am I correct?”


“Taking advantage of my situation, that damned Golden Pest…I’ll make her pay next time.”

Without intending to do so, Felt correctly used the standard derogatory term for the Golden Beetle, and clicked her tongue at the content of their negotiation. As tough as it was to say, they had achieved their objective safe and sound. Thinking of her dragon, she couldn’t help but object at how safe it had been, but they had received a near-perfect response nonetheless.

She had to make a great sacrifice, but this yielded much for their efforts; as such, there was no time for them to slow down or stop now. However…

“What are you so giddy about?” Felt spat over her shoulder. “You’re as deep in this shit as I am. Get your act together.”

Confused and startled, Rachins meekly replied, “Oh, yeah…I know that but…”

Rachins had been acting like this since the negotiations with the Golden Beetle.

It wasn’t like they couldn’t understand Rachins’s confusion.

“Excuse me.” Seeing as Rachins had trouble putting it into words, Flam interjected to speak on his behalf. She then stood up straight, and looked back at the Golden Beetle's office. “Are you really okay with that? Romy was a gift from the young master, not to mention you had a deep fondness for it.”

“No, it isn’t fine. It ain’t fine at all!” Felt shouted back. “They took my precious earth dragon as collateral! There’s nothing fine about that at all. I’m definitely not gonna let this slide.”

Her face grew closer and closer to Flam’s as she babbled to the point where the young lady was bending backward. Felt caught Flam by the shoulders to keep her from falling and let out a deep sigh. Her anger was understandable since the collateral Helaine demanded was her crimson earth dragon, Romy.

It had only been a few days since Reinhard gifted the earth dragon to Felt, but it was clear that Romy had become completely attached to her. The two of them were eager to spend more time together. That was real precise harassment, Felt thought. I could have rejected the offer, saying the conditions weren’t something I could agree with, but…

“She wouldn’t be nice enough to let us off any easier. If I said no, she’d probably be a lot more unreasonable, too, so what we got is the best we’ll ever get.”

Reinhard nodded. “But, you will definitely get it back. That’s what I’ll believe, my lady.”

“Obviously. And I’m not saying that ‘cause it’s a gift from you. It’s because Romy is my precious earth dragon already. I don’t intend to rest my ass anywhere other than Romy’s back,” Felt declared.

Reinhard gave a deep, trusting smile and nodded. He probably didn’t object to her decision because he truly trusted her. After all, the only person who did not object to Felt immediately accepting Helaine’s condition wasn’t Flam or Rachins, but Reinhard.

He continued, “It really was quite unexpected that she’s been hiding Mr. Ezzo.”

Felt agreed. “I thought she just might know where he was hiding, but I got a bit spooked by just how involved she was. Rachins was right for saying that we should go to her first.”

Reinhard nodded in agreement. Being given Romy as collateral without any resistance appeared to deeply satisfy Helaine’s code of honor as a moneylender. She confessed everything—leaving aside whether it being true or not, but she gave so much information to Felt and the rest that they felt like she’d shared everything she knew. She explicitly detailed where to find Ezzo Cadner, who’d been hiding out since last night after burning down the brothel.

“We are acting together with the Big Three of Flanders, but we aren’t their complete ally. Our profits are of utmost priority.”

That was what Helaine had to say, and they did not intend on telling it to anyone.

“Why is Helaine going on such a dangerous path?” Felt wondered.

“...She just cares about reachin’ her end goal, no matter what.”

She looked at Rachins. “Her end goal?”

“The Golden Beetle’s public stance is that they’re nobody’s ally. So if ya look at it from a different perspective then it means they wanna put on a good face for everyone. You bein’ a candidate is included in that everyone.”

Rachins hadn’t fully snapped out of the mood he was in, but his explanation here showed he was getting back to normal. After hearing that, Felt came to a late realization that Helaine had considered her position as a candidate. In short, she wanted to have something on the candidate for the royal selection, so she collected information on Camberley and Ezzo just in case.

The reason behind that was—

Felt was confused. “Are they suspecting us of planning to eliminate the people of the underworld?”

“No idea. But their doubts are growing I s’pose. We didn’t even visit ‘em last time we came here, so they couldn’t know what we were up to unless someone talked.”

“Aah, shit, what a drag.”

Felt was fed up with all of the unwarranted suspicion directed at her and the barrage of consideration she didn’t ask for. It had been two months since she decided to take part in the royal selection. When facing the desk in her study, she felt like she’s learned a lot since then, but in reality, she lacked experience in the practical application of her newfound knowledge. She was irritated at her complicated position.

“What should I do with this irritation now…”

“With all due respect, it would be nice if you would find some comfort with me on the task.” Reinhard joked with Felt, whose grumpy face wouldn’t let up. The slender figure leading them had stopped, which meant that they had reached their destination.

Ahead of them was an old Western-style house on the outskirts of Flanders. According to Helaine, the building was confiscated as collateral for another man’s debt. She hadn’t heard what happened to him after his mansion got confiscated, but she wasn’t that interested in that, either. There was only one thing she was interested in at the moment.

Reinhard stepped forward. “Flam, please protect Lady Felt and Rachins in my stead. I will break in.”

“Understood, Young Master. Please be carefu…be careful not to kill him.”

Reinhard smiled wryly at Flam, who had rephrased her words into something more considerate for his opponent. The Sword Saint then knelt in front of Felt and gazed up at his mistress. “My lady, I’ll be leaving your side for a short while. Please forgive me.”

“Alright, alright, just don’t let him escape. And no killing either. I wanna hear what he has to say.”

Reinhard turned around towards the mansion after hearing Felt’s apathetic instructions. With his graceful side profile and heroic gaze, a mere search in this rundown mansion seemed like an act from a great epic poem. Reinhard, with an air about him like that of an epic scene that marks the beginning of a grand tale, walked toward the mansion. He carried with him the great Dragon Sword, which he could not unsheathe.

Reaching the front door, he took a short breath and without any hesitation blew the door open with a front kick.

Felt chuckled. “He’s oblivious to words like ‘sneaky’ and ‘infiltration.’”

“That is how the young master is.”

Felt and Flam exchanged their remarks as Reinhard broke into the mansion and quickly entered. Just as they thought he would begin his search, he unexpectedly shouted out—

“Mr. Ezzo Cadner, I know you’re here! Please show yourself!”

Even Felt and Flam were baffled by his ridiculous act.

No way someone who’s suspected of arson, running around the city would appear just by being called. But Felt’s assumption was shattered immediately by the dwarf who appeared from one of the mansion’s backrooms.

“...Who would have thought that the Sword Saint himself would pursue me? It would seem that I am quite popular.”

“Huh, is he for real?” Felt muttered with a husky voice, having witnessed something unexpected. The person who had appeared there was undoubtedly Ezzo Cadner himself, distinguished by the gray-brown hair, intelligent look, and clearly short stature. His appearance was a bit of a mess due to being on the run, but the fire in his eyes hadn’t faded one bit.

Reinhard looked at Ezzo’s appearance and then pointed an empty palm at him.

“Mr. Ezzo…I would suggest that you surrender for your own good. Considering you’ve shown yourself so quickly, can you confirm the charges against you are some sort of misunderstanding?”

“Are you saying that you’ll give me a chance to explain myself if I surrender? I’m not such an optimist to believe something like that. Nor am I a fool oblivious to his own sins, either,” Ezzo dejectedly muttered, slowly shaking his head.

Reinhard furrowed his brow. “Your own…sin?”

“That’s right,” answered Ezzo before lifting his arms. “An unforgivable sin which demands atonement. This meager tribute to Mimosa is all I can do—what I must do, to atone for the severed future of a bright young girl who looked up to me..”

“Mr. Ezzo!” shouted Reinhard, sensing a change in the air. Ezzo, however, kept his arms raised to shoulder height, showing no signs of budging. A complex magical formula mingling in red and blue projected from both his raised palms…

“Your consideration is most appreciated! However, there is something I must do! I refuse to turn myself over to you before that has been accomplished! Even if the one standing in my way is you, Sword Saint!”

Reinhard glanced briefly at Felt to his rear. The reason was clear—it was to ask whether he should restrain Ezzo by force or not. Of course, he had no hope of getting past Reinhard, but even so, it was true that he had some level of ability, so…

“...Reinhard! Just do it!”

“As you wish…” Reinhard gave a short response to Felt’s order. Then in the blink of an eye, the Sword Saint exploded forward, the ground at the mansion’s entrance erupting behind him. Immediately the empty-handed Reinhard was close enough to reach for Ezzo’s shoulder. It was all playing out the same as that night in the red-light district, with Ezzo helplessly pinned on the ground…

“...You underestimated me, Sword Saint.”

“Wha?” Reinhard exclaimed in surprise as a purple shock exploded into his chest, sending him flying backward. Reinhard widened his eyes at this unexpected impact. He looked down to see that two buttons had been blown off his white shirt.

“Behold! A countermeasure to your inborn ability to circulate excess mana!” shouted Ezzo with a satisfied smile on his face, both hands stretched out, blood dripping from them. The backlash of casting on Reinhard appeared to be great; he’d lost a few nails and he now had cuts all along his arms where his sleeves had been rolled up.

However, he’d managed to land an attack. It was the first time Felt had seen Reinhard get hit by anything—let alone magic.

“Did you really believe no magic user could harm you!? That would be true arrogance indeed, Sword Saint!”


“I have created a distortion in the normal conduction of mana by rearranging the magical composition! Make no mistake, it is no easy feat! It would take a lifetime for an average magic user to even be able to change the composition of a spell while executing it! But I have done it!” shouted Ezzo as he ripped off a barely-attached nail, ignoring the pain. Though it didn’t do much, it was a blow nonetheless. Reinhard had no equal in combat skill, but his strength was not only derived from his extraordinary physical abilities. The Sword Saint possessed an innate ability that was said to nullify incoming attacks—particularly magic attacks—almost entirely. This had just been proven wrong.

“Let me thank you, Sword Saint Reinhard van Astrea! Thanks to you, I’ve proven that my hard work can overcome even an inborn ability to circulate excess mana such as yours! Now all that is left is practice!”

Ezzo’s bleeding hadn’t stopped yet, and neither had his elemental assault. Bursting from his outstretched hands came a stormy gust and a torrent of gushing water, clashing into a muddy stream right before Reinhard’s eyes. The area was then blanketed in a heavy fog. Providing this cover for himself, Ezzo chose to flee. Making a preemptive strike, preventing his opponent from making a move, then fleeing was the best possible move for anyone in his situation.

…Unfortunately for him, this opponent couldn’t be stopped so easily.


Reinhard stepped forward. The shockwave from this simple motion instantly cleared the fog with such force that water droplets bore holes into the mansion walls. He lunged forward and immediately caught up to Ezzo, giving him no chance to flee. Reinhard had already underestimated this dwarf once. There wouldn’t be a second time.


He grabbed Ezzo by the nape and smashed him on the wet floor using a combination of power and skill. The force knocked the wind out of him and broke his focus, stopping him from composing another formula immediately.

“It is over now. Continuing would be…”

“No! We aren’t done yet!” Ezzo screamed.

He refused to admit defeat even in this position. He glanced at his pinned right shoulder and a quick, sharp gust cut straight into it, causing blood to splatter and gush out. Reinhard was speechless, taken aback by the gruesome scene. Taking advantage of this surprise, Ezzo was able to squirm away and put some distance between them, his arm barely hanging from his shoulder. The arm would have been detached entirely if Reinhard hadn’t let go immediately.

“You’re soft, Sword Saint. I highly doubt that you would be able to protect your noble lady like that.”

Stunned, Reinhard uttered, “That wound…needs immediate treatment. Why do something so reckless…”

“I told you. It’s for my atonement!”

Ezzo grit his teeth, clutching what remained of his shoulder with his remaining hand. Blood flowed from his wound, undeterred by his tiny palm. Due to their small stature, it’s clear that dwarves don’t have much blood to begin with. His blood loss was fatal.

Ezzo roared at them without care for the danger he was in, his face pale.

“You people have plans of your own! I know that! But, there is something I need to do!” His voice trembled in rage, pain, and sorrow. “...I must avenge my student and answer for her stolen future.”

This wasn’t adding up for Felt. This dwarf’s tragic cries were inconsistent with the confession of a sin. What it meant was…

“Mimosa was not a smart girl... She was not literate, had poor manners, and wasn’t a fast learner, either. But she was earnest! She may have been slow, but that did not detract from the noble will to learn. And she didn’t have a choice, her parents sold her to the red-light district. After all that, she wrote her very first letter to me with words she’d just learned. She asked me if it was weird for a girl who sold flowers at night to dream of being a florist. That’s the kind of girl she was…”

His words became staggered, and the passion in his voice grew listless. He suddenly dropped to one knee, the wound taking its toll as he shook his head back and forth.

“No one can laugh at Mimosa’s dream. I will not let anyone laugh. A prostitute in the corner of the red-light district having a small dream for the future, what’s so weird about that…”

His once booming voice had now become a faint whisper, hardly audible to his audience.

Ezzo’s heavy eyes were cast down struggling to stay open as he lifted his head up. He saw the silhouette of a thin girl before him and looked deep into her eyes. “Mimosa…” he muttered with a husky voice. “Nobody has the right to laugh at your dream. Neither the blood flowing through one’s veins nor the place one grows up is relevant. I, the Gray, will prove that. So…”


“Someday, the day I get the titles, I’ll pin a flower from your shop on my chest…”

His feeble voice drifted off as the strength left his body, falling limp in waiting arms. But it wasn’t his dear Mimosa who held him gently, embracing his tired body; it was Felt.

“He lost consciousness. He pushed himself too hard and lost too much blood,” she said. Pursing her lips, she looked down at the unconscious Ezzo. Blood continued to gush out from his wound. She ripped the cape from his back and tied it tightly to his shoulder to stop the bleeding.

Flam walked up to the girl. “Lady Felt, there’s blood on your clothes.”

“I can always get new clothes, that’s not important. Flam, can you fix him up?”

“Yes. As a chamberlain of House Astrea, I have learned well from my grandmother.”

With that, Flam gently took Ezzo from Felt and quickly began tending his wounds. Her movement and technique were brilliant, as expected from training with her Grandmother Carol.

I guess there’s no need to worry now that Flam is taking care of him. As for this guy…

“You look super gloomy. I feel like I’m seeing you like this a lot lately.”

“I am ashamed of myself,” Reinhard muttered. “Honestly, I did not think that he could ever counter me like that…”

Felt nodded, “Yeah, that was unexpected for all of us. He’s more impressive than I thought.”

Gaining the upper hand on Reinhard even for a moment isn’t something even a hundred normal people could pull off together. Ezzo definitely proved he’s more than just talk. And that’s not the only thing strange here.

“Rachins, aren’t you going to say, ‘Let’s turn him in’?” she said, teasing him.

“...You don’t gotta be like that. Even I can see it’s more complicated after that whole thing.”

Annoyed, he clicked his tongue at her with a scarf still wrapped around his head. His gaze was fixed on the thick pool of blood Ezzo had spilled on the ground. Only with extreme determination could someone do this to himself.

Delirious and at the cusp of death, Ezzo still howled sharply as if he were still engaged in battle. Felt could not possibly fathom that any of this was merely an act.

“My lady.”

Felt responded with a somber nod. “I know.”

She could hear the concern in Reinhard’s voice regarding the now unconscious dwarf. Ezzo’s critical condition and the mystery surrounding his actions left them with only one answer.

“Someone else is behind this, and Ezzo’s taking the heat for it.”

Seems like this is more than just simple arson. Felt looked up at the sky, lamenting the dire situation they’d become involved in. Annoyingly bright little clouds littered the sky in stark contrast to the grim, sinking feeling in her heart.


Standing in the pasture, Gaston felt a mixture of emotions after hearing that something was amiss. Earlier that day, he learned that Rachins and Camberley had gotten into trouble with some underworld syndicates after a night out in Flanders.

Gaston cursed himself for not keeping in touch with them lately.

He knew that Rachins and Camberley had a tendency to go overboard and lose control, but he had always been there to steer them in the right direction. However, now that he had let his guard down, they had found themselves in a dangerous situation. It was clear that they needed to stick together if they wanted to avoid any more trouble.


“Oh, aah, sorry about that, Kalifa. I spaced out for a bit.”

Gaston suddenly felt a disapproving gaze boring into him from the side, and he quickly apologized with an expression oozing with love to the person looking at him. After receiving his apology, the gray-haired lady—Kalifa—smiled gently. He had become acquainted with this mother and her daughter a bit more than two months ago by a curious turn of fate. Kalifa was an admirable woman who, despite being young, raised her daughter diligently. Gaston had been getting along well with her and taking care of her all this time. She lost her voice due to a wound she received in a certain incident. This made her day-to-day tasks much more difficult to carry out.

They’d gotten so close that she doesn’t get angry at him even if he calls her ‘Kalifa’ without any honorifics.

Ironically, it was Gaston’s relationship with her and her beloved daughter Ilya that kept him from joining Rachins and Camberley’s night out. On top of that, their past relationship with the underworld stopped him from leaving their side, which furthered the irony.

“...They might get dragged into the Black Silver Coin’s mess, huh,” he pondered.

It was something Gaston didn’t want to think about, but that was the reason why Gaston didn’t accompany them to Flanders. Gaston and Camberley were childhood friends who grew up in the royal capital together. Obviously, he wanted to take part in saving his friend from a dire situation, but he was advised to stay out of it. According to Felt, there’s no guarantee that Kalifa wouldn’t get dragged into trouble as well if Camberley’s situation was related to the incident that wounded her.

If that were to happen, it would be up to Gaston to protect the two, considering his position and abilities.

Status-wise, Gaston was a servant at Astrea Manor, but he was continuously being taught how to perform various tasks and new skills as if being idle there was unforgivable. Among those, Gaston had quite the talent when it came to learning a systemized technique known as the ‘Flow Method’ and was being trained rigorously under Reinhard.

He used to give up quickly at the beginning, but things changed after he got to know Kalifa and found a reason for motivation. He could now take pride in himself that he had become somewhat better as a person.

“It’s not like I really believe Felt when she says that bottom-dwellers like us are going to turn the kingdom upside down, but...”

Felt had boldly made that claim with a big smile the day she picked up Gaston and the other two as they were pursued for a huge blunder. They had the option to flee, sneering at her that it was a stupid ambition. But in the end, they didn’t run away and found themselves gradually getting dragged in. Before he knew it, he had more reasons to stay than to leave.

Kalifa suddenly pushed the baby in her arms into the pondering Gaston’s thick chest.

“...? Woah, woah, is it alright for me to hold her? Are you going back to work?”

It had become his routine to have lunch with Kalifa, a live-in worker at the ranch in Hakuchuri. After this, Gaston would normally take Ilya to the rancher while Kalifa took care of the grazing livestock and then leave after some small talk, but Felt had given him an order to lay low today, no matter how worried he was about Camberley, so he wanted to stick around here for a while.

“We’ll stay here and watch you work. Ilya, you can cheer on your mommy as she works. You can do that right?”

Gaston held Ilya’s small hand and waved it at Kalifa, who burst into gentle laughter. He smiled sweetly at that and sighed. He was happy here with the two of them and wished these little moments wouldn’t end.

And then, it all changed…

“...Kalifa, hold Ilya and step back.”

He noticed they were suddenly surrounded by suspicious men. Gaston clenched his big fists and held his ground, shielding the mother and daughter behind him.

There were eleven men he could see, all with their identities concealed by cloth wrapped around their faces. But the air around them wasn’t that of an amateur and they didn’t bother to make useless threats. These men knew exactly what they came here to do and weren’t going to play any games.


Gaston let out a deep sigh in concentration. He extended his consciousness to the corners of his body and envisioned complete control over himself. The basics of the Flow Method were first to completely control one’s body. Despite what many believed, humans were terribly ineffective at controlling their own bodies. Understanding that limitation and breaking through it was the first challenge in acquiring the Flow Method.

He had gone through hellish days of training full of indescribable pain and torture. But I’m glad that I was able to survive that hell. I’m glad that I’m able to stand firm here. If I was the same old wussy, half-assed coward, then I wouldn’t have been able to fight for Kalifa and Ilya like this. So, I’m glad… All I have to do now is prove myself.

“I’ve stayed here while my buddies are in trouble, so I gotta make the ones who kept me around here believe they made the right choice.” He thrust his tightly clenched fist forward and stepped toward the men. The sole of his shoe, infused with the Flow Method, carved the earth beneath him as the men tensed in anticipation. With tremendous force, Gaston struck his mighty fist before him.


With Gaston’s war cry, a man was punched into the sky.


“So, why don’t you tell me what happened? Maybe we can help,” Felt said as she took a seat on the dusty staircase steps, her clothes still covered in blood.

However, the small gray-brown-haired man to whom the question had been directed made a sour face. “Thank you. I appreciate the sentiment, but…”

“But?” Felt tilted her head at the hesitant response. “But, what? You got something you wanna say?”

“Of course I do! I appreciate that you haven’t reported me to anyone before giving me a chance to tell my side of the story, but what is it with this treatment? What did I do to deserve this!?” the small man exclaimed as he swung his legs around.

He could swing his legs like this because they weren’t actually touching the floor. They had bound and suspended him from the second floor of the mansion.

“Well, we still gotta be cautious. There’s no telling what a magic user might try to pull if given the chance. But if you try something up there, you’ll at least hit the floor first before you can do anything. That'll make it easier for us to deal with you.”

“What do you have to worry about when you have the Sword Saint with you!? You’re just having fun hanging me!”



The name of the man responding to Felt’s words was Ezzo Cadner—a dwarf magic user and currently the most wanted man by three of the largest underground syndicates in the city of Flanders. His charges ranged from arson, murder, and various other offenses.

“I am aware that I’m a criminal awaiting judgment, but this treatment is too cruel! I demand immediate relea…ugh.”

“Mr. Ezzo, please remain calm. We found the rope in this old mansion, which could snap at any moment, and you yourself are gravely injured.”

Turning his pale face up, Ezzo glared at Reinhard, who held the rope. “That’s… something you should be telling your mistress, Sir Sword Saint…”

“Good point.” The Sword Saint nodded. “Lady Felt, I must agree, this treatment is a little uncalled for. I also don’t feel comfortable treating a magic user as skilled as Mr. Ezzo like this. If you are only fooling around, maybe it’s time we stop…”

“Don’t say anythin’ more, Reinhard. Felt ain’t just foolin’ around. Jus‘ like you said, he’s a skilled magic user, and since we can’t cover his mouth, we gotta at least tie ‘im up so he won’t be able to move. Just ‘cause you can take him on, don't mean you should underestimate yer enemy.”


The one who opposed Reinhard’s request on behalf of Felt was a delinquent-looking man—Rachins. He sucked his teeth at the sight of Ezzo hanging below his feet. “I went through hell ‘cause of you. Camberley is goin’ through it as we speak. You better start talkin’ now, or I swear Imma make you go through the same thing.”

“Camberley… I see, my dwarven brother is...”

Ezzo’s vexation and exhaustion seemed to fade at hearing Rachins’s spiteful words. His face regained some color and showed more composure as he let out a deep sigh. “I understand. Though many parts of it may sound unbelievable, I will tell you everything I know.”

“Why so cooperative all of a sudden?” asked Felt.

“He’s in danger as a consequence of helping me. If I don’t do anything to return the favor, even a little, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”

Felt narrowed her eyes at this dramatic statement, initially skeptical, but she could hear the earnestness in his tone. She then signaled Reinhard with her eyes, and with that, he lowered Ezzo to the floor and unbound him. Finally free from his bindings, Ezzo examined the wound on his right arm. Though there was gauze wrapped around it, he could see that his injury was dire nonetheless.

“This is a treatment done by a very skilled individual. Who did this?”

“One of our twins. She went out to get me some new clothes, so she ain’t here right now. If you wanna thank her, do so later yourself.”

“New clothes… Right, that blood on you is mine. My apologies.”

“Don’t worry about it,” she said, brushing off his apology. “You said you’ll tell us everything you know, right?”

Ezzo’s face grew solemn as he continued. “First, you may not believe me when I say this, but there’s something I need you to know. The arsonist who burnt down the brothel of the Flower Prison Garden and killed so many…that…that wasn’t me!”

“Oh, yeah, I know. You can skip that part.”

“You know?” Ezzo froze at Felt’s blunt words.

Reinhard walked over to Felt and looked as though he was about to criticize her for her bluntness. “My lady…”

“What?” Felt bared her fang at the knight’s presence. “We ain’t got the time to be wastin’ on something that’s already happened. We already decided we’re lookin’ into this matter based on his innocence, right? Then we gotta move on from that.”

“I agree with your splendid decision, Lady Felt, but…how do I put this… You’ve glossed over such a large portion of our side of the story, you’ve caused Mr. Ezzo a bit of confusion.”

At Reinhard’s comment, Felt looked at Ezzo with disappointment. “Confusion? What’s there to be confused about? I thought all magic users were supposed to be intelligent.”

Receiving attention from both of them, Ezzo placed his hand on his head. “Wait wait wait. So what you’re saying is that you’re asking for my side of the story and not my defense? And that you’ve already decided to trust me and are willing to help me catch the real culprit?”

Felt widened her eyes. “Ah, uhm…? Yeah, I guess?” she responded, perplexed by Ezzo’s speedy rational assessment of his own situation. Reinhard was also astonished by his accurate ability to objectively see the whole picture.

Ezzo, however, grew suspicious of the story that sounded too good to be true for him. “Why? Why would you trust me so easily?”


“You and I have only met once in the past. I can’t even say you were particularly on good terms with my kin who helped me. So why would you hear me out, even when it defies the will of the Big Three?”

None of this makes sense. Ezzo’s skeptical eyes pierced at Felt.

From his perspective, there was no telling who was on his side or not—no, there should have been no one on his side. There were only enemies. It was obvious he’d be immediately skeptical if anyone appeared and claimed to trust him.

Felt also had no intention of nosing around to find the truth of that disaster in the red-light district initially, but when she came and saw Ezzo in person—

“There must be a part of you that still thinks…I’m a cold-blooded killer who burned many people alive.”

“Nah, there ain’t. At least not after I heard your desperate cry.”

“Desperate…cry…?” Ezzo furrowed his brows, apparently unaware of what Felt was saying. The blood loss seemed to have made him forget about what he said before losing consciousness: his raging vow to avenge his student.

It’s stupid to even suspect him after hearin’ something like that, Felt thought.

So if there was anything she needed to ask Ezzo, it was one thing—only one. “I don’t care for complicated shit. We already made up our minds. So you’re the only one left. Are you in or are you out?”


“I can kinda guess the shit you’re in right now. You ain’t able to make a move while bein’ hunted by the Flower Garden Prison or the Black Silver Coin and whatnot, right? And I also get that you’re probably still rattled from gettin’ caught by us with all that goin’ on—but if you don’t accept our help right here, right now, then this discussion is over.”


“Just so you know, I don’t care either way.”

Ezzo’s expression changed as though he was struck by lightning when he heard Felt’s firm position on the matter. She had already made up her mind.

With Camberley caught, Felt was driven to solve the case. All that was left was for Ezzo to decide whether he would be there to witness her solve this case or not.

Yet, if the anguished words he howled from a pool of his own blood were genuine, there could only be a single answer for Ezzo—

“—I kneel before you and ask for your strength, Miss Felt. I, the magic user Ezzo “The Gray” Cadner, swear on my life that I will repay my gratitude.” Ezzo dropped to one knee before Felt at the base of the stairs. She tried to mask her relief when seeing his completely sincere face looking up at her. Reinhard, however, admiringly gazed at his mistress’s face from the side. Whether he could understand their trust in him or not, he accepted their help. Kneeling before this mistress and servant, Ezzo continued in his booming voice. “—Please, help me avenge the death of my beloved student, Mimosa.”

With that, Ezzo Cadner bowed his head and started talking. He told them everything he knew about what happened to him and his student on the night of the fire.


“As you already know, I had been working as a guard in the red-light district after being tricked by your comrade…my kin. Well, on that night, after I finished my normal patrol, I headed over to my students’ rooms—the girls I’d been teaching to read and write—to collect their homework. Then brought all of it back to my sleeping area to grade them.”

Felt and Reinhard had already heard about this side job of his the other day when they met at the Flower Prison Garden, completely aside from his contract there.

Dissatisfied with his workload as a guard, Ezzo had voluntarily started teaching some of the prostitutes. He became quite popular for doing this and once mentioned he gained great satisfaction from it. He also noted one particular student of his who dreamed of opening a flower shop one day, the young girl Mimosa.

“My sleeping area was in the building that burned down. Even though it was operating under the name of the Flower Prison Garden, that brothel was relatively cheap compared to other places… So it also attracted rude customers who caused trouble.”

Ezzo was placed in this brothel in case such problems arose. Evidently, his presence alone significantly worked as a deterrent and the usual trouble here became almost nonexistent. Ironically, less trouble meant less work to keep him occupied, but he wasn’t one to complain about peace. So, once he finished grading all the homework assignments, he was ready for a late bedtime as usual—and that’s when he noticed something.

“Once the flower and her customer enter their room, it becomes a place almost detached from the real world, if you will. Usually, it would be insolent for an outsider to intrude in such a place, but on that night I had an eerie feeling I couldn’t shake off, and before I knew it, I rushed into one of the rooms. Unfortunately, when I arrived, the customer was already dead, and Mimosa, who was supposed to be attending him, was…” Ezzo stopped his words and pinched between his brows. He became silent, but that was for no more than a few seconds. He quickly put back on a serious face, with regret and grief showing only in his eyes, and continued. “—Mimosa was lying on her side, gasping for air. I rushed to her and attempted to heal the wound on her chest. But my healing magic didn’t activate… All I could do was press on the wound to stop the bleeding—but it was too late for her.” He paused. “Her lung was ruptured and air was leaking out,” he added, weakly.

He added that he found a short sword thin as a needle lying next to her, which he believed was used to impale her.

“I couldn’t do anything for Mimosa. She kept apologizing deliriously. That girl was in agony till the very end. All she could do was keep scratching her pathetic teacher’s chest until…she stopped moving.”

It was a miserable death. Mimosa died, gasping for her last breath,” Ezzo added. “It was an unforgivable sight. But what was more unforgivable was what came after. I was too distracted by Mimosa’s death and failed to notice the assassin hidden in the room.”

As a result, Ezzo failed to dodge the assassin’s strike from behind and received a blow to the back of his head. He attempted to strike back, but his magic was once again inactive and he lost consciousness.

When he regained his senses—

“The building was on fire, and I was right in the middle of the burning brothel. I instinctively carried Mimosa’s body and the thin short sword, and made my escape outside. That’s when…”

“—The people from the Flower Prison Garden found you,” Felt finished his sentence.

“You may think I could’ve surrendered and waited for my chance to explain myself… but I couldn’t. If I did, the assassin might have gotten away while I wasted time trying to prove my innocence. I just couldn’t let that happen.”

Ezzo, face covered in black soot from the smoke, quickly analyzed the terrible predicament he was in. The customer who died in the room was a member of the Black Silver Coin. Many members from The Scales were also in the building that night. He deduced that whoever was behind this was going to frame him for both Mimosa’s murder and setting fire to the brothel.

“If I stuck around, I feared there would be no way to avenge Mimosa,” Ezzo said, remembering his feelings that night. “I just, couldn’t, allow that.”

A sinner must be punished appropriately.

This was an unwritten code amongst demi-humans; a bloody oath etched deeply in the soul of anyone with tainted blood running through their veins. Ezzo had always despised such philosophy, arguing it to be barbaric, but that night he could not deny the irrepressible bloodlust he was feeling.

Retaliate! his blood screamed. Retaliate! his soul commanded. Retaliate! he howled.

“Before I knew it, I broke out of the people circling me, and made my escape out of the red-light district. That’s when I ran into my kin and him right there,” said Ezzo, referring to Rachins. “I’m here today because of them.”

“Then, you asked that shady-ass Golden Beetle bunch for help and ended up hidin’ here. Am I right?”

“Exactly. Miss Helaine from the Golden Beetle can be trusted so long as we share a common interest. Besides…”

“...Besides?” Felt prompted Ezzo as he suddenly stopped his words. Ezzo, however, hesitated to continue.

Irritated by such an indecisive attitude, Felt was ready to open her mouth, but before she could have the chance… “Mr. Ezzo, we have already made up our minds. We’re not going to back out now, no matter what you tell us,” Reinhard chimed in, using Felt’s words. He then glanced at his mistress, to which she huffed sharply through her nose and nodded.

“You’re right…” Ezzo sighed at the unwavering resolution of this mistress and servant, and continued. “I couldn’t rely on anyone other than the Golden Beetle. The assassin is someone from one of the Big Three… And they’re also connected to the recent incidents happening in the city.”

“—! You serious? This better not be a lie.” Rachins’s face twisted in shock as he processed what Ezzo had just said.

Rachins’s reaction was natural for anyone. It was generally believed in the city of Flanders that the Big Three was being attacked by a third party. Ezzo’s testimony, if true, would overturn this premise and even shift the balance of power within the metropolis.

Rachins held his head in confusion. “But, everyone thinks it’s a third party, right? Since all three groups were attacked?”

“It’s so they can act like a victim too,” Felt said. She began to feel sick at the culprits’ underhanded tactic. “Who’s your source?”

“Mimosa,” answered Ezzo. His short, one-name answer only made her feel worse. He made a bitter face. “Mimosa kept apologizing even as death loomed before her. She said she lent a hand in a plan that could endanger me, her close colleagues…and even the city itself.”

“Lending a hand in a plan… So you think they killed her to keep her from talkin’?” Felt asked.

“She wasn’t the deceitful type. I’d like to believe she was just being used without even knowing.”

“Whatever it was, people died because of her,” she retorted. “It’s way past the point of just being used…but—”

How did a mere prostitute like Mimosa get such sensitive information like that? Her face soured at these newfound revelations. It’s not like I’m gonna back out now after all this, but…

“I really don’t like that things are turnin’ out exactly like that snake-eyed asshole Safis predicted. We’re gonna end up going against the underworld for helpin’ Ezzo, right?”

“I suppose there’s no way around that,” Reinhard agreed. “However, if we are to take Mr. Doltero and Safis’s warning into consideration…”

“We can scratch off the Black Silver Coin from the list of suspects,” Felt replied, finishing Reinhard’s thought. “I also want to scratch off the Flower Prison Garden’s name too, since it was their building that burned down…”

“I’m afraid that wouldn’t be wise. The Flower Prison Garden would have had the most opportunity to use Mimosa and, as much as it hurts to say this… She was…expendable,” Reinhard said painfully. He looked distraught at the thought of treating human life as a mere tool. Felt and Rachins, on the other hand, were not so fazed by the whole ordeal.

They understood better than Reinhard that Mimosa’s death was perfect for the Flower Prison Garden to obtain victim status, and that a mere prostitute’s life was only a toy to certain sinister people.

Rachins appeared to finally process the situation. “I get it now,” he said as he turned to Ezzo. “But how can you avenge ‘er bein’ cramped up in a dump like this?” He then gestured at the mansion and narrowed his sanpaku eyes. “Hidin’ is fine and all, but how’re you gonna look for anyone ‘ere?”

“I asked the Golden Beetle’s cooperation for that, as well,” answered Ezzo. “The enemy has killed their confidant to keep their secret and found me to blame everything on. Their next move would most likely be to escape the city, so I asked them to notify me if they saw anyone from the Big Three try to leave the metropolis.”

“That bitch didn’t say anything about that to us…” Felt seethed as Helaine’s condescending, fake smile popped up in her head.

“Helaine from the Golden Beetle, huh…” Rachins muttered to himself, looking like he was deep in thought.

Glancing at him from the corner of her eye, Felt scratched her head in frustration. “That’s one more thing we gotta go and ask her.”

“She’ll probably demand an information fee when we do…” Reinhard added.

“If she does, I’ll just offer her a Sword Saint and get Romy back for the price difference.”

Reinhard let out hesitant laughter, unsure of whether Felt was joking or not. It was at that exact moment—

“───” Reinhard’s expression completely changed. His piercing blue eyes focused on the main entrance to the mansion as if to look beyond the door. He narrowed his eyes and spoke in a low voice. “Lady Felt, we’re being surrounded. There’s at least 100 of them.”

The door was closed and the outside was out of their view, but Felt widened her eyes at her knight’s report. “What?”

Rachins sucked his teeth and rushed to the window. “Shit! He ain’t lyin’! I can’t tell the number but…they’re members o’ the Big Three!”

“Members from the Big Three? You mean, it’s a group of members mixed together? Why are there so many people here…”

“They must have found out that I was hidden here,” Ezzo muttered at Felt’s question.

Felt’s mind wandered to Flam, who was out on an errand. Did something happen to her? Did she give this place up?

“Lady Felt, Flam is quite competent.” As if to read her mind, Reinhard jumped to defend the young chamberlain. “She would have never allowed us to be ambushed like this if she had known. I believe this is unrelated to her.”

“Then who the hell did…” As if struck by lightning, a thought jolted Felt before she could finish her question. The face of a sketchy woman in black clothes popped up in her head. “That disloyal bitch!!!”

She was the type of woman who would sell anything for the right price. If someone had asked for information on Ezzo, the first thing she would have considered was the cost-benefit analysis.

“Yo yo yo yo yo, the hell’re we gonna do? The Big Three are all out there! No way we could talk ourselves out of this if they find us!” Rachins screamed in a panic.

Felt began to brainstorm ways to escape.

Irrelevant to Helaine’s intentions, the situation was unfavorable. Felt’s party had no chance to persuade this entire squad from the underworld to back off, not once they were seen together with Ezzo. They would be apprehended on the spot, and worst of all, the real culprit would escape out of the city while they try to prove their innocence; the fate Ezzo had feared the most.

Should we just go out before they come bargin’ in and try to negotiate with them? Felt considered a preemptive move. No, they wouldn’t even consider a negotiation unless we threaten ‘em with somethin’ equally or more damagin’ than lettin’ us go…

“Lady Felt.” Reinhard called out her name from the side as she racked her brain.

He said no more, but Felt understood right away what he wanted to say: use my name and reputation.

Reinhard’s martial might was known to all. The only thing Felt needed to do was hide behind his status and the people outside would be more than willing to negotiate.

Simply put, Felt had always had the upper hand. A simple command from her and Reinhard would have dismantled the entire underworld in less than a day. His name was more than enough to force their way out of this situation.

—That is, if she was willing to take advantage of Reinhard’s overwhelming power for her own agenda and walk the path of a tyrant.

“Heh, as if. There’s no way in hell I’m gonna do somethin’ that lame.” Felt stood up on the steps and looked down at Reinhard. This was something unusual for both of them for their height difference.

Reinhard had a puzzled look on his face, awaiting what he thought would be an order from Felt. She secretly enjoyed this expression on him.

“We can’t have them find us together with Ezzo, right now. We gotta do something to get out of this mess,” Felt declared.

“You say do somethin’ but that’s exactly the problem! The hell’re we gonna do? They’re professionals when it comes to cornering their target. Not a single cat can get away under their watch!”

“Rachins is right. Lady Felt, please use my name this once…”

“And I’m sayin’ that I don’t wanna do that… Wait, that’s it!” Felt snapped her fingers.

It was true that if she used Reinhard’s reputation, the people outside would have no choice but to falter. What she feared was if she allowed herself to resort to this method once, she would do it again and again until she saw this red-haired young man as nothing but a masthead. So, when she came up with an idea that would avoid using this method, she couldn’t hide her excitement.

“Yo, Gray! You’re an advanced magic user, right?” Felt asked with a wide smile that showed her fang. The men looked at her skeptically. “Then can you make a mask strong enough that it won’t break in a fight?”

Her eyes were sparkling with enthusiasm.


—This was the exact moment when death suddenly became all too real to the men surrounding the old mansion.

Every one of the men there held a weapon and stood ready to attack and capture the wanted dwarf supposedly hiding in the building. More than 200 members had been gathered for this mission. That dwarf had tarnished the names and reputations of the Big Three that ran the city. Normally they would never stand side by side, but on this particular occasion, they stood together with one goal in mind.

None of the 200 members expected the capture of a single dwarf to be a difficult task. The only thing they had in mind was who would be the one to capture the fugitive, and which syndicate would take the credit.

—But now they stood frozen in place, even forgetting to breathe.

“I don't wish to hurt any... I don’t wanna hurt no one, but I have a favor… You better do what I tell you to do,” said the young man who stood tall and proud at the entrance of the mansion. His voice resonated across the area to every gathered man. He neither wielded a weapon nor was heavily armored, wearing only light, white clothing that exhibited a slim, toned body... Were it not for the funny-looking mask tightly covering his face, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the young man.


The young man’s strange appearance and his awkward speech pattern would normally have been an invitation for the men to attack, but none of them dared to make a move. They lived in the world of violence long enough to know not to make an enemy out of the young man.

One mistake, and we’re dead. They instinctively understood the monstrous danger the young man posed.

“This presence…and red hair…? Are you…” One of the men spoke up in a shaking voice.

The young man nodded to his question. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is… I’m..”

The men gulped, eager to hear his next words.

“I’m the Masked Knight Veltol,” proclaimed the young man, holding a hand to his mask. An overwhelming presence emanated from him as he spoke.

“...What?” One of the men voiced exactly how everyone was feeling.

The men were all bewildered by the unexpected name they were given. With his presence and appearance, there was only one name they expected.

“W-Wait! Aren’t you…aren’t you the Sword Saint?”

“Nah, I’m the Masked Knight Veltol.”

“The Masked…Knight?”

“I have no idea what you folks are referring to. However, if you want to confirm my identity, come and try to unmask me.”

The men were stunned into silence. This was partially due to confusion at the inconsistency of the young man’s speech pattern, and largely due to his glare; they felt completely paralyzed, as if trapped in a never-ending nightmare.

The Masked Knight shrugged his shoulders at the men incapacitated by his gaze. “One more thing: though I feel bad about doing this, I’m going to have to knock each and every one of you out… Hope you understand.”

“The hell are you sayi…” As one of the men voiced his objection to the Masked Knight’s absurd declaration, he suddenly felt as though he was losing consciousness. “What the…?”

Though the man managed to pull himself together before completely blacking out, the same could not be said about the person next to him who was on the ground with his eyes rolled back—in fact, he was not alone. One after another, men collapsed all around, with only a little more than half of the 200 men remaining standing by the end of it.

“—More than half of you remain. I’m impressed. You possess a much stronger core than I expected,” muttered the Masked Knight to himself in surprise after knocking out nearly 100 people just by glaring as he looked around at the men still standing.

“U-Uwahhhhhhh!” One of the men suddenly charged at the Masked Knight with his weapon raised. This last comment acted as the final nudge for him to lose his mind, along with several others who followed this insanity.

“Guys, at least go in with a plan…!” cried out one of the members who managed to remain composed, but it was already too late.

The man charging in front swung his broadsword down at the Masked Knight, only for it to be stopped with a bare hand. The men watching could not comprehend what they’d just witnessed. The rest of the men who charged followed suit and swung their weapons one after another. Echoes of clashing and shattering steel cut through the air as their weapons broke to pieces. Again, none of them were able to comprehend what had just happened.

“Hmph!” The Masked Knight exhaled sharply as he forcefully stepped on the ground. The shockwave from his step blasted his attackers away, knocking a dozen men out cold.

The men on the sidelines looked at the Masked Knight who hadn’t moved a step from where he started. They tried to process the idea that all he did so far was step on the ground with some force.

“The truth is, I have been feeling guilty,” the Masked Knight suddenly muttered suggestively.

Feeling guilty about what? the men wondered. About your absurdly broken, unfair strength? Or about using some ridiculous alias like ‘Masked Knight’?

“There’ve been many moments recently where my existence has caused my friends a great deal of trouble. I’m deeply embarrassed by my powerlessness to do anything about this. I must reflect on it accordingly.”

The men were dispirited to learn their speculation was far off the mark. His shame had nothing to do with them. More than anything, they were dispirited by the fact he called himself ‘powerless’ in the wake of this domination. He stood among more than a hundred men he’d knocked out while barely moving his body. Nothing made sense anymore.

“...Yo, all of you, attack him on my cue,” one of the members called on the others. There was no telling who was in which syndicate at this point, but none of that mattered anymore. They were all in this together.

“You serious? Isn’t it better to look for an escape…?” another member asked.

However, the man who suggested an all-out attack made a bitter face. “You really think we can run away from this monster?”

“Impossible,” another member answered. “But it’s not like we can do anything to that thing even if we all attacked together.”

Only the hardiest of members were left standing and they could accurately assess what was going on. They knew well enough it was time to leave their egos aside. This was a war between a group of rats and a monstrous tiger.

“Yeah.” The first man nodded, well aware of the situation. “But imagine…just imagine if we manage to land even a single cut on him and live to tell the tale… That’ll be a story to tell for the rest of our lives.”

“Nice… I like it… I’m in,” one of the members answered; all the men smiled vulgarly and nodded in agreement.

A moment later, they all charged.


Countless attacks flashed towards the Masked Knight as he was quickly surrounded. He let out a faint smile at this and prepared himself for a counterattack.

—A few days later, one of the survivors spoke about the event in a bar. “Walking on air is just too unfair, man.”


“You don’t wanna use him as a bargainin’ chip, but you got no problem usin’ him to knock everyone out, huh? I really don’t get you sometimes, Boss Lady,” Rachins muttered as he ran with a horrified expression. He was taken aback by witnessing the aftermath of Reinhard’s actions. The entire group of 200 enemies lay defeated on the ground, out cold as the party fled. They had been running ever since they escaped from the mansion.

“It’s fine,” Felt responded as she stuck her tongue out. “Now, even if they accuse us of anything, we could just say the Masked Knight did it. They can’t prove we were there or that Reinhard did all that.”

“What if they say only Reinhard is capable of doin’ somethin’ like that?”

“They can say whatever they want. Like I said, they have no proof or witnesses. Why do you think I made him wear a mask? Right, Mr. Masked Knight?

“Yes, I believe I was able to deal with the problem without anyone seeing my face,” Reinhard answered, fiddling with the mask in his palm as he spoke. It was a mask created by Ezzo’s magic, which effectively hid his identity.

Felt had taken advantage of Reinhard’s overwhelming abilities, but without relying on his reputation.

“It’s lame to threaten people with Reinhard outright, but it sure feels good to deny using him.” Felt was amused by this whole situation and glanced at Reinhard, who ran beside her. “You looked like you were enjoyin’ yourself too. Maybe we oughta bring Masked Knighty back out every now and then.”

Reinhard shook his head at Felt’s proposal. “I’m glad to have assisted in your plan, my lady, but there will be no next time—my powers are far too dangerous to use anonymously. That’s a dangerous way of thinking.”

“───” Felt realized she was getting carried away and restrained herself.

“...So where are we going now? Is there a place you have in mind?” Ezzo chimed in from the back. His face grew more pale as he struggled to keep up with them.

Although they managed to escape from the surrounded mansion with Reinhard’s—The Masked Knight’s—hard work, their situation remained unfavorable nonetheless. Their first course of action was to find a new hideout for Ezzo as soon as possible and avoid being seen in public with him.

“I guess the safest place right now is the Black Silver Coin,” Felt responded to Ezzo’s question. “Let’s tell ‘em what we know, ask ‘em to hide you, then go talk to that Golden Pest again.”

“Kinda awkward to go and ask for their help after all we did…” Rachins muttered.

“Shuuut up,” Felt spat in frustration. “The Masked Knight did it. So you apologize, Reinhard.”

Reinhard nodded. “Sure. I will apologize on behalf of that masked gentleman.”

Despite a slight detour from the main topic, they continued to plan their next move. By the time their discussion came to an end and they decided to visit the Black Silver Coin, they came to a halt in a back alley, hidden from the public eye.

Then suddenly… “Lady Felt! Young Master!” someone called them from behind. They quickly turned around and saw the silhouette of a young girl approaching them. Flam had found them once again after they fled the chaotic scene at the mansion.

“Flam!” Reinhard called her name. “I’m glad you’re okay. Are you unharmed?”

“Yes, I’m glad to see you’re all doing well too, Young Master… But there’s urgent news you need to hear.” She was clearly panicked and cut the greetings short. Felt was surprised to see her so flustered. Flam had always been so composed in every situation, despite her age.

Reinhard placed his hand on her shoulders and lowered his eye level to hers. “Flam, calm down. Just tell us what happened, okay?”

Flam slowed her breathing and collected herself in the wake of his words. As expected from someone who’s known her for a long time, Reinhard knew exactly how to calm down this young chamberlain.

As her breathing normalized, her expression grew solemn. “I received a telepathic message from Grassis back at the mansion—she said Mister Gaston and the rest were attacked by an unknown assailant, and Miss Kalifa was taken.”


—The Divine Protection of Mindspeak is the unique power the twin chamberlains of Astrea Manor, Flam and Grassis, possess. This divine protection allows them to send a verbal message to each other once a day, unimpeded by the physical distance between them. Thus, the emergency at the mansion was relayed to Felt and the others.

Felt grit her teeth at Flam’s report. We’re always a step behind.

According to Grassis’s message, though not life-threatening, Gaston was critically injured and unconscious. He resisted fiercely against the assailants and managed to protect Ilya, but Kalifa was kidnapped.

There’s no way this raid and the recent attack on the Black Silver Coin aren’t connected. Felt quickly interpreted this as an attack on the Black Silver Coin. It was evident to her that Ilya and Kalifa were the targets, and not necessarily Felt’s party. But these two were family to her, and she had no intention of sitting idly by and doing nothing. Her patience had officially reached a boiling point, and her motivation peaked.

“...Your nerves of steel truly astound me,” Safis said as soon as he walked into the drawing room to greet the visitors he’d been informed of. There was a hint of shock in his tone and demeanor, a stark contrast from his usual cold impression. “After you took in a fugitive, you single-handedly dismantled a large number of our forces. Now you come to see us as if nothing happened. Please, would you be so kind as to tell me your secret on how to be so audacious…guoh?!!”

As he finished the venomously sarcastic breakdown of events, Felt grabbed Safis by the collar and shoved him against the wall. She was in no mood to humor his sharp tongue.

“What are you…doing…?”

“I don’t have time for your snarky bullshit right now. So listen carefully and just answer my question. Are you the one targeting Ilya and Kalifa, again?”

Safis paused. “I see. No wonder you are so worked up.” As suffocating as it was to be interrogated like this, Felt’s question allowed him to connect the dots. “I’m afraid I’m unrelated to this matter. As attractive as the idea is to again be the target of the Boss’s anger…there’s no point if I am also endangering his status.”

Felt continued to glare at Safis, gauging the authenticity in his words.

“My wish is for the Boss to reign over the metropolis as long as possible. No more, no less.”

Felt sucked her teeth. “Fuckin’ pervert.” She spat out her words in disgust and let him loose.

“Now,” started the snake-eyed man as he rubbed his neck and fixed his suit. “Based on your little outburst there, I assume that the mother and daughter in question were attacked? And that something has happened to them?”

“You really are keen,” said Reinhard. “So much so that it makes your last testimony suspicious.”

“If only I had the courage to attempt deceiving the Sword Saint after all this.” Safis raised his hands at Reinhard’s accusatory suggestion. “But, I see…that mother and daughter has… This is why I told the Boss many times that they’d be a liability.”

Felt stayed silent as Safis continued to babble. Despite her knowing that Ilya and Kalifa would constantly be in danger, she’d chosen to take them in and vowed to protect them from all harm. But now, she’d broken her vow.

“So this would mean the enemy’s true target is the Black Silver Coin… Were the attacks on the other syndicates merely a distraction?” Safis speculated. “By the way, how are you two intending to explain the ruckus you caused at the mansion?”

“The mansion? I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about. We have nothin’ to do with the Masked Knight.”

“I can’t believe you’re actually using that as your defense… Does this also mean you have no intention of explaining your relationship with the fugitive? And, if that’s the case, am I to assume that you’re working against us?” Safis asked in a cold-emotionless voice as he glared at Felt and Reinhard.

His eyes lacked any sign of the playfulness seen there a moment ago. Only pure hostility remained in this assessment of their allegiance.

Felt pursed her lips at his gaze. “Don’t start. Remember that we can kick your ass any day if we were to fight head-on.”

“Her Ladyship wishes to maintain balance,” said Reinhard. “Think of the Masked Knight as a gesture of her intention. Just imagine if he wasn’t there and it was me who had fought…”

“An all-out war would have been unavoidable, right?” Safis finished Reinhard’s thought. “But surely there must have been other methods…”

“I’m pretty sure I chose the most effective yet peaceful method.” Felt crossed her arms and smirked unapologetically.

Safis sighed and shook his head, having lost his animosity at the sight of her cheeky smile. “If you’re going this much out of your way to cover up for that dwarf… You must really believe he’s innocent.”

“He was framed by the real culprit behind all this. He’s in our custody right now and pumped to punish the real culprit.”

“Interesting. For being framed?”

Felt paused. “Apparently his favorite prostitute was murdered before the building went up in flames.”

She answered in a way that might cause a misunderstanding, but explaining Ezzo and Mimosa’s relationship would be too complicated in one sitting. She figured this simple explanation would suffice.

“Revenge.” Safis let out an eerie smile. “Nice, it’s my favorite type of motivation.”

“We get it, you’re a pervert,” said Felt. “Anyways, that’s the whole picture.”

“I understand. I will make sure to keep my subordinates off of the fugitive. Moving on to the mother and daughter, are they…”

“The daughter is safe. The mother was kidnapped.”

Felt decided to share all the information she had at the moment with Safis. As much as she hated to admit it, he was the only person in the Black Silver Coin who had the most updated and accurate grasp on Doltero’s life. He understood that Ilya and Kalifa were Doltero’s pressure points, and they had to be rescued at once.

“That’s strange,” muttered Safis after hearing Felt’s report.

“Strange? Is there something that bothers you?” Reinhard asked.

“There’s no doubt the kidnapper is going after the Boss considering their target, but the information about them isn’t known to the public. I haven’t heard of any leaks, either, so why were they targeted?”

“That’s…true,” Felt said.

“Besides, if they managed to get ahold of the mother, they should have made some sort of threat to the Black Silver Coin right away. The fact that we haven’t received such a thing is strange.”

Despite his sick personality, Safis was an intelligent man. Felt agreed with his line of reasoning and scrunched her brows at the opponent’s unclear intentions. They each pondered a moment about why the kidnappers hadn’t taken advantage of their first move.

“It’s almost as if they don’t know the relationship between Doltero and the two of them,” Reinhard muttered.

It was merely a thoughtless comment, but Felt widened her eyes. “Maybe that’s it.”

“What?” Reinhard raised his brows at the unexpected response.

Felt looked up at him. “If the kidnappers knew Kalifa and Ilya were Doltero’s wife and kid, they would use them to blackmail him. But they haven’t done so ‘cause they don’t know their relationship.”

“But then why target them in the first place?” Safis questioned.

“They might not know the exact details of their relationship, but it was fine as long as they knew Ilya and Kalifa had somethin’ to do with Doltero,” Felt answered. “Say, Safis, didn’t one of your members die in the fire?”

Safis paused for a moment. “Yes. One of the old members did. I heard he went to buy a woman and was caught in the fire.”

“You know the name of the woman he bought?”

Safis remained skeptical at Felt’s line of questioning, but sensing she was on to something, he jogged his memories to find the answer to her question.

“He said something about receiving a letter from her. Something she had just learned how to do. I believe her name was…”

“Mimosa.” Without waiting for Safis to answer, Reinhard arrived at the same conclusion and said her name.

“Ah.” Safis nodded. “Yes, that’s the name of the prostitute. I heard she also died, but… I see,” he said, as that rang a bell for him.

Felt and Reinhard stared intently at him. Safis let out a small sigh. “The man who died didn’t know about the Boss’s relationship with the mother and daughter. He was, however, standing guard at the mansion the night when you came and visited the Boss with them.”

“In other words, he may not have known the exact nature of their relationship but…”

“He knew they were related to the Boss in some way or another. It’s certainly possible he may have leaked it to some prostitute during their pillow talk. What a pity I can’t kill him twice,” Safis said in a cold rage, cursing his subordinate who unforgivably leaked classified information.

That guy woulda experienced something way worse than death had he not died that night. Seeing Safis’s face up close as he talked about his subordinate, Felt couldn’t help but praise the dead man’s luck.

“In any case, now we know why Mimosa kept apologizin’ to Ezzo,” Felt said, remembering Ezzo’s recount of her last moment. “She was probably collectin’ information from her customers in that fashion and sharin’ it with someone.”

“We would need to talk to Mimosa’s employer…the owner of the Flower Prison Garden to understand further details,” said Reinhard.

“Kinda like goin’ in circles, huh? Although I can’t imagine they’ll be easier to see than the people here.” As she gained a better understanding of the whole picture, Felt considered the possibility of not being able to secure a meeting with them. Unlike the Black Silver Coin, who they shared a secret with, they remained neutral with the Flower Prison Garden—actually, their relationship worsened after the incident at the old mansion.

“By the way, there’s only the two of you here today… Where’s the fugitive in question? It must be nearly impossible to find a hiding place in the city right now.”

“Ah right, there’s that too. I wanna talk to you about that later, but he’s fine for now.”

Noticing Felt and Reinhard alone had come to see him at the headquarters of the Black Silver Coin, Safis grew suspicious at the whereabouts of the dwarf in the middle of all this. Felt agreed with his sentiment. Having lost the old mansion as a hideout, Ezzo was in need of a new refuge.

“We couldn’t bring him here while we still suspected you of targeting Ilya and Kalifa, but now we can,” Felt said.

“Well… I’m so very sorry for being so suspicious,” Safis apologized half-heartedly.

“If you’re gonna apologize, just retire,” Felt retorted as she glared at him. “Anyways, we’re split into groups for now to stay discreet.”

Felt looked out the window. Ezzo was hidden away with Rachins somewhere for the time being, thanks to some of Rachins’s connections.

“There’s nothin’ to worry about at least for now. He lived in the slums before, too. I’m sure he’s doin’ fine,” Felt said about the absent dwarf. A small smile grew on her face, exposing her fang.


“My, my… How unexpected to see you here.” The woman in black with navy-green hair in pigtails smiled faintly in surprise; she turned to face the one who called her from behind.

“Yes, I’m sure even a woman of your caliber couldn’t anticipate my coming to see you, Miss Helaine.”

As her name was called, Helaine from the Golden Beetle narrowed her eyes. The person facing her was the most wanted man in the city—

“Mr. Ezzo Cadner, isn’t it dangerous for you to be walking in public like this?” Helaine said as she cautiously glanced around. “I’m afraid it is rather difficult, even for us, to provide you with real estate as discreet as the one we’ve already provided for you.”

The two were standing on a bustling street corner in the busy gambling quarter. Although it was not uncommon to see people standing and talking there, Helaine and Ezzo’s conspicuous appearances inevitably drew attention from passersby.

“Not to worry,” said Ezzo. “I’ve magically altered my facial features and controlled the wind to redirect attention from me. It’s nearly impossible to recognize me without conscious effort.”

“...Well well. As expected from Ezzo the Gray.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment. Also, about the property that you provided… Unfortunately, a bunch of guests who I don’t remember sharing my address decided to drop in, cutting my residence there short. I’ve been very curious as to where it could’ve leaked from…”

“Oh, if that’s what you want to know, I have great news for you. I can give you that information right away—it was us,” Helaine said unapologetically, making Ezzo’s cheeks stiffen.

A moment of potent anger flashed through Ezzo, but he quickly released a deep sigh and regained his composure. “So, you decided I’m no longer of any worth to you?”

“Your worth hasn’t changed. It’s just that as a businesswoman, when presented with a choice, I have to make the decision that yields the least losses. Have you come to harbor a grudge against me?”

“I’ve always known you were that type of person. To be honest, I’ve asked for your help in the past, relying on that particular trait. I’d be a hypocrite to criticize you just because I’m on the receiving end of it now.”

“That’s certainly an admirable attitude. But then you should know, we can no longer provide any assistance to you, Mr. Ezzo—so why are you here?” Helaine tilted her head in confusion as she learned Ezzo was not there with ill intent.

“Right.” Ezzo nodded slightly. “I’m here as a middleman and insurance. That’ll be my sole role for today.”

Following Ezzo’s words, a young man appeared beside him.

“And I’m the one who’s got business wit ya today,” the young man said in a strong-willed voice.

Facing straight at this newcomer, Helaine’s eyes widened slightly. He had light-pigmented hair, displeasing sanpaku eyes, and the overall stature of a ruffian that could be found anywhere.

“My, it’s you. I remember you from the office from the other day,” Helaine said. She faintly smiled, raised a finger on each hand, and waved them amusingly. “After you left, I got curious and did some research on you. You’re one of the servants Lady Felt brought from the Kingdom of Lugunica… There are at least two more servants similar to you, but unlike them, you have a hidden past.”

The ruffian stared silently at Helaine as she unveiled his life. Ezzo had no idea what was happening, so he simply stood back and continued to assess the situation.

“Rachins Hoffman. The eldest son of Rickert Hoffman, head of House Hoffman and Royal Tutor of the Kingdom of Lugunica,” Helaine declared. “What is a runaway noble such as yourself doing in a place like this?”

“The Royal Tutor…” Ezzo quietly uttered at the surprising revelation. He was thrown off by the significance of this casual narration from Helaine.

The Royal Tutor was a title given to those who had the authority to educate royalty. This position was usually passed down from the current generation to the next within a noble family. Being the eldest son of such a family effectively ensured his right to inherit the title.

“You’re one talkative woman alright. How’s it feel to be so fuckin’ condescendin’ talkin’ about someone else’s family he cut ties wit?” The eldest son sucked his teeth in irritation and made a sour face. “Besides, what good’s a tutor when all the royals’re dead? Fuckin’ ridiculous. It’s jus’ an empty title now.”

“...I see. You’re not very fond of your family. That was rather insensitive of me to bring up then. So, what business do you have with me today?”

“The fuck do ya think? If I’m talkin’ to a filthy moneylender like you, obviously I’m ‘ere to make a deal,” Rachins said, intending to intimidate his opponent.

However, Rachins’s aggressive demeanor caused no apparent change in Helaine’s expression. As a moneylender, she was used to dealing with hostile individuals.

“Very well,” Helaine said indifferently, then bowed her head. “However, it is currently outside of our business hours. We will be happy to schedule you for an appointment and have you at our office at another time…”

“Can’t say that’s a wise choice.” Rachins interrupted. “You sure the branch manager o’ the Golden Beetle’s ready to ignore a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?”

Helaine paused. “A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, you say?”

Her already squinting eyes narrowed even further at Rachins’s proposal. She furrowed her brow as she took note that his mistress and her knight were nowhere to be seen.

“Miss Candidate and her knight aren’t here… Can it be that your deal involves them?”

“Truth is, I’m fed up wit them. Nothin’s gon’ right ever since I’ve been wit ‘em. Now my two buddies been dragged into their mess, ‘n I’m gettin’ real tired of it. I want out.”

“So you’re telling me you want to sell them out? I am not so naive to easily believe a story like th—”

“That’s why I’m here as insurance,” Ezzo jumped to Rachins’s defense as Helaine was about to decline his offer. “I’m also fearful for my life. It’s true that I once wished to punish whoever framed me, but I can see that’s not going to happen. Fortunately, with your help, I can still find a way to escape.” He meant this to explain his reasoning for cooperating with Rachins.

“And why would you think that I would help you? It is wiser to simply hand you over to the Big Three. Not to mention, it’s also the most natural course of action.”

“In that event, Rachins will refuse to negotiate with you. Consequently, you'll forfeit a prime opportunity by opting for the safer choice. A shameful decision for the Golden Beetle, I must say.”

Despite his small stature, Ezzo boldly pumped out his chest to which Helaine placed her hand over her mouth. “Oh, you’re good.”

With that, she fell completely silent and deep into thought. All signs of emotion disappeared from her slanted eyes. The sound of beads resonated in her head as she calculated the pros and cons. She explored a multitude of diverting paths in a complex web to evaluate whether to take the deal or not.

After considering all possibilities, she resurfaced to the real world and faced her opponents. “It’s certainly an interesting proposition, but I’m still unsure whether it’s worth the risk.”

“...So, that’s a no?” Ezzo asked.

“It’s more that I’m swaying between the two options…” Helaine said mischievously. “So, Mr. Rachins, would you be willing to up the ante?” she suggested in a soft voice and clasped her hands together in front of her chest.

“Up the ante?” Rachins pursed his lips.

“Yes, yes!” Helaine raised her voice. “You want to make a deal with me and sell out your current mistress, as you don’t see a future with her. Would you be willing to add the family you cut ties with as part of that deal?”

“...There ain’t much I know about them.”

“That’s fine. I don’t ask for much in this part of the deal. Let’s see… How about one letter? You send your family just one letter of what I ask you to write.”

Just one, but more than none, Rachins thought. Although he cut ties with them, he was still anxious as to how the letter would affect his family. He couldn’t even begin to imagine how cruel a letter written by someone from the Golden Beetle would be.


Rachins’s face started to cloud over as he considered her new condition. Seeing his hesitation, Ezzo tried to speak up, but before he could…

“Of course!” Helaine interjected. “It would be an embarrassment as a moneylender if I didn’t offer any interest after asking so much. So allow me to offer you another condition, which greatly works in your favor, Mr. Rachins.”

“Another condition?”

“Yes. By some luck, we are coincidentally in the gambling quarter, so…” Helaine spread her arms and gestured at their surroundings. The gambling quarter’s madness, enveloped by money, violence, and insanity, deepened her insidious smile. “Play a game with me. If you win, Mr. Rachins, I’ll make a deal including only the first condition. But if I win…” Helaine calmly closed the distance between them until they could feel each other’s breath. “You follow through with my second condition. How about it, Mr. Rachins Hoffman?”

Helaine stared at him with eyes of insanity. Rachins, trying his best not to be intimidated, forced a smile.

“Sounds interesting. I’m in,” he answered.


—The sudden resurgence of liveliness in the city of Flanders indicated the night was near.

“The night is coming. The time for us flowers to bloom and dance…”

The enchanting beauty Toto, head of the Flower Prison Garden, leaned on a windowsill overlooking the red-light district. She held her pipe in her mouth as she blew a puff of purple smoke, basking in the night air. Women in charming attire lined the street below, illuminated by the flickering magic lamps that aroused hope and excitement in the darkening city. Soon, men with bloodshot eyes of lustful desires would fill the red-light district, seeking to tear the aromatic flowers to pieces with their own hands. Toto found such a view to be incredibly pathetic.

The men must believe they are liberating the flowers, Toto thought. She knew better, though. Most men were manipulated by these flower petals, captivated by their honey, and exploited.

Toto had once been among the many flowers that bloomed in these streets. The only difference was that she possessed an immeasurable amount of talent as a woman, almost to the point that it was sad. Although her talents did not bring her happiness, they did allow a girl who came from nothing to rise up and rule one sector of the city.

She was ignorant to regular happiness and unhappiness. She was born with a congenital numbness that caused her body to almost nullify pain, agony, pleasure, fatigue, drugs, or even poison. They were all foreign to Toto. However, this allowed her to always have the upper hand in the bedroom, never having to stop.

“Miss Toto, you have a guest,” called a prostitute who had entered the manager’s room. “It’s Miss Candidate and Sir Sword Saint.”

“Ask them to leave. I already have an appointment tonight,” Toto ordered.

She had already heard about the incident at the mansion where a large force from the Big Three was obliterated.

They might have come to explain themselves, but I can’t let them have the initiative. The Flower Prison Garden must also make a move.

“If they don’t want to be cooperative, then I’ll just do what we do best.”

She tapped out the ash from her pipe, then put on a dress tailored for entertaining guests. This dress was not meant for facing guests as the owner, but rather explicitly to exploit someone, whether man or woman.

As she prepared herself, the woman once hailed as the Hundred Flowers of the red-light district began to make her way.


I need to plant poison. In order for the Flower Prison Garden and I to always come out on top no matter what happens. I will protect my flowers from ever getting bent again. I must be ready for anything. And if taking on the painful role of a woman is what it takes, then so be it.

“Are you ready, my dear customer? I, Toto of the Flower Prison Garden, will be your companion for the night.”

As she opened the door and let herself into the room in a fluid motion, the man bound to the bed vigorously shook his body in dismay.

The man had the signature small-statured body of a dwarf. He was a servant of a royal selection candidate and a perfect target to plant poison in.

The charming woman once called the Hundred Flowers smiled with cruel seduction, like that of an irresistible poisonous flower.


The gambling quarter, with its array of tempting games and high-stakes wagers, was overseen by The Scales, a formidable presence among the three major gambling organizations. An unspoken decree held sway even among organizations of similar standing, such as the Black Silver Coin and the Flower Prison Garden, who abided closely by its unwritten code. Not even the Golden Beetle was exempt, despite their position of privilege within the city of Flanders.

“That’s why I can assure you, without a shadow of a doubt, that you can wager with confidence, even against us.” So professed Helaine, the enigmatic woman of dark green locks, as she narrowed her eyes and offered a profound bow. Rachins clicked his tongue at her condescending demeanor.

Ever since his family was brought up in their conversation, Rachins’s mood had been visibly sour. What made it even worse was that they were brought up to exploit him and undermine the deal. However, if the deal were to crumble in light of such circumstances...

“If that were the case, there would be no reason for us not to hand over the wanted man, Ezzo, to The Scales right here and now,” she remarked sharply.

“You bastard...” Rachins muttered under his breath.

“Then, Mr. Rachins, you would have nothing left, correct? You’d never learn whether your friend was safe or not. All you’d be left with is the wicked rumor that he betrayed his master. A painful position for you to be in, I must say,” she said with a hint of satisfaction.

Helene touted the worst possible outcome with an audacious flair. Her unabashed attitude, devoid of any trace of remorse for the calamity her words could bring about, revealed a chilling lack of humanity. It all boiled down to position. Rachins had long anticipated that this would barely amount to a negotiation between equals.

“You’re a greedy bitch, ain’t ya?” Rachins spat with evident disdain. “Hope ya ain’t expectin’ a respectable death.”

“People don’t have the privilege of dictating their own demise,” she replied coolly. “However, at this moment, there’s an unmistakable disparity between you and me regarding which of us is closest to their demise. Now, once again, I ask: what would you like to do?”

Rachins raised his gaze, eyes narrowing as he observed the figures flanking him. Amongst them stood Ezzo Cadner, a man of the dwarf tribe, and a subject of fervent discussion in the city. His fate now rested solely in Rachins’s hands. He must feel like his back’s against the wall. With that in mind, Rachins tried to gauge the tension in the man’s intellectual, slack-jawed countenance.

“Stop with your gratuitous threats, Miss Helaine,” Ezzo cautioned, crossing his stout arms, displaying no inkling of vulnerability. “It only diminishes your self-worth. For someone entrusted with matters of finance, undermining one’s own value is utterly unacceptable.” A momentary silence hung in the air as Helaine absorbed his words.

“What painful words to heed. I shall bear them in mind as valuable words of wisdom.”

Whether the reason for his fearlessness was confidence in his own decision, faith in Rachins’s judgment, or conviction in something entirely different, it remained shrouded in uncertainty. Yet, Rachins couldn’t help but release a measured sigh of anticipation.

“Backin’ out wasn’t an option from the start,” Rachins asserted. “And even if we end up losin’, I couldn’t give two hoots ‘bout which way the house leans, so long as that bastard of a father is there. My answer is the same—I’ll take the damn bet.”

“I think you should have more consideration for your family,” Helaine responded. “Nevertheless, I gladly accept your wager. Now let us ensure that our terms are fair.”

“Fair? How so?”

“This is the gambling quarter, Mr. Rachins,” Helaine explained. “Bets of all kinds are waged as far as the eye can see, so it is your choice alone to decide what you will contend for. I shall readily oblige.”

Helaine gestured to the bleak and bustling view of the gambling quarter, leaving the task of selecting a game in Rachins’s hands. After a quick survey of the surrounding gambling scene, Rachins’s sanpaku eyes, inherited from his parents, caught sight of one corner of the amusement center.

Amidst the games of chance that dominated the district, there was a handful that relied on one’s skill. It was within this subset that a particular game captured Rachins’s attention.

“How ‘bout a round of Shatranj?” he suggested, pointing toward the game in which two players vied to capture the other’s king.


A mediocre move. Such was Helaine’s assessment upon observing Rachins’s moves against her. Positioned at opposite ends of the Shatranj board, they deftly maneuvered the other’s pieces, aiming for their opponent’s king. With the watchful presence of The Scales’ overseer, the two players adeptly navigated through the initial phases of the match.

Rachins’s offensive moves appeared rather simplistic from what he had shown thus far. Not that they were bad. On the contrary, relying on the fundamentals could easily overwhelm opponents less familiar with the intricacies of the game. After all, the best way to improve was by learning from the book.

However, when dealing with more advanced opponents, adherence to the basics was tantamount to announcing your strategy. And Helaine was an extraordinary player who had mastered a myriad of techniques.


From behind her narrowed gaze, Helaine felt a profound pity for Rachins, sitting before the board with a vacant expression.

Prioritizing self-preservation over selflessness by abandoning his mistress with no future in sight is a natural decision for a commoner such as himself, Helaine surmised.

But for a man with the hand to dominate the board of the city of Flanders, involved with the royal selection candidate and organized crime, his actions were subpar, to say the least.

This is the best a man who was born into a wealthy household but ended up in the slums can hope for, I suppose.

Here was a man who, despite being fortunate with the opportunity to acquire various talents through formal education, failed to take advantage of his small but privileged gifts.

In return for divulging information about the royal selection candidate, Rachins demanded Helaine to fulfill his wish.

Although initially caught off guard by his unexpected approach in the gambling quarter, Helaine quickly understood that the implications of his proposition spoke volumes of his mediocrity, and that he must have run out of options. So, without a moment’s hesitation, Helaine opted to exploit Rachins.

He pleaded to Helaine for a modest fortune, and that was the end of his luck. Helaine had enticed him into the gamble under the guise of fairness. However, the truth was that no one could surpass Helaine in the games of the gambling quarter. For she was an extraordinary gambler with an intimate understanding of every game that permeated the town.

This wasn’t attributed to past experience. Helaine had never been an avid gambler. She simply invested her blood, sweat, and tears, combined with meticulous research, into the art of betting, all in anticipation of the day a big game would finally reveal itself before her.

It was this unyielding mentality, verging on insanity, unburdened by the constraints of conventional efforts, that led Helaine’s superiors to recognize her outstanding abilities and entrust her with the management of the Golden Beetle in this bustling metropolis, dominated by the notorious Big Three of the underground world.

Rachins gradually found himself outmatched on the board, driven into a corner from which he saw no escape.

I’ll stay true to my words, Helaine thought. I’ll provide you with a refuge, I’ll even prepare you an escape fund. In return, you’ll give me valuable information on the royal selection candidate, as well as the means to contact the family of the Royal Tutor. I can almost see the delight on my superior’s faces with this unexpected accomplishment…

“Intriguing turn of events,” a voice interjected. “I’ll take over the supervision of this game.”

At that moment, a man adorned in an array of countless tattoos on his face and body leaned in, observing the game as it progressed.

“Sir Manfred...”

“Looks like you’re in a good mood, Golden Pest. If you’re going to be naughty, at least let me get a piece of the action, scoundrel to scoundrel,” Manfred “Tattoo Face” Madison, the leader of The Scales, retorted with a sneer. Helaine’s voice caught in her throat as Manfred’s expression distorted the countless scales etched upon his face, creating the illusion of the scales tilting backward.

Sporting a sly smile, Manfred relieved his subordinate of his duties, where he had been presiding over the game. Taking his place, he positioned himself strategically for an unobstructed view of the Shatranj board. Right beside him was Ezzo, who had transformed his face with magic.


At this spectacle, Helaine’s heart danced with a frantic rhythm. Should Manfred see through Ezzo’s guise, the game would come to a swift and disastrous end. Ezzo would be captured without delay, and the agreement with Rachins would be off the table. While Helaine herself had little to lose, there was a tantalizing prize on the line, too precious to surrender without a fight.

“Your turn, bitch,” Rachins jeered, gesturing at the playing board.

Helaine, who was engrossed in her calculations to protect her gains, shifted her attention back to her opponent. “My, you certainly have a way with words, don’t you?” she remarked calmly, moving her piece one step closer to victory.

With a thump, she advanced the ceramic piece into her opponent’s territory. Seeing this, Manfred spoke with a hint of intrigue. “By continuing, that means you acknowledge my position here. So, for what exactly are you two competing?”

“ I have no objections to the change in supervision,” Helaine acknowledged calmly. “No one is more trustworthy than Manfred for a fair game in the gambling quarter. As for our wager, we have struck a deal.”

“A deal, huh?” Manfred asked curiously. “What kind of deal might that be?”

Slightly widening her eyes, Helaine watched Manfred as he continued to trace the tattoos on his face. The role of Game Supervisor was to ensure a fair and orderly match. He had no need to delve into the details of the participants’ wages. His sole responsibility was to draw the line between winner and loser.

Helaine had the right to remain silent regarding that answer. Despite her silence, however…

“It’s simple, sir. The winner gets the opportunity to meet the guardian of the loser,” Rachins responded in her stead.

“So I see,” Manfred remarked, interest piqued. “A meeting of guardians. That’s a rather interesting proposition for me, too.”


Helaine’s smile froze at the casual tone of his voice and the content of the conversation. She normally made a conscious effort to disguise her emotions behind a mask of stoicism. However, beneath this facade, now on the verge of shattering, one could almost hear it beginning to crack. What in the world did they just—no, did Rachins Hoffman just say?

“Mr. Rachins,” Helaine began, her voice steady, “were the terms of the deal with us not a request for money?”

“Now hold on a sec,” Rachins responded. “When did I ever ask ya for money? I said I had a favor to ask, y’know? However ya interpreted these words ain’t my concern… But, it’s too late for you to back out now.”

“───” Helaine went silent.

“Your smile’s gone, ain’t it, bitch?” Rachins sneered. “What’s eatin’ at ya? Somethin’ wrong? Huh?” As he spoke, Rachins revealed his elongated tongue and playfully flicked the ornament adorning its tip with his finger. A faint click echoed through the air. One click, then another, a total of six clicks.

Six clicks of his tongue. At that moment, Helaine’s realization struck like a lightning bolt—she had been set up, and she knew it.

“I hate to say this,” Ezzo interjected, shaking his head sympathetically at Helaine’s stern expression, “but it was you, Miss Helaine, who started the off-the-board battle first.”

Although she had only been in contact with them for a short period, Helaine had a keen eye for people. In her assessment, Ezzo appeared to be a decent man. One might even say he was too good, with the capacity of acting like an upright man.

However, there was something more driving him. Revenge lingered in his heart, even if it meant compromising his personal convictions.


She had plotted the course, chosen her tactics, thwarted actions, and driven hope into the ground, confident of victory. In fact, the Shatranj board showed victory as irrefutable. At the very moment she allowed Rachins to choose his bet, Helaine’s victory had been all but guaranteed. However, there was one final move remaining before that gap could be closed. That was when…

“The royal castle’s full of power and deceit,” Rachins explained. “There, ya gotta shape yer opponent. Even if ya got the basics down, it’s the ones who can put ‘em to use that’ll come out on top. Now, your move, bitch.”

“Ah,” Helaine squealed as Rachins slid one of his pieces across the board, knocking one of her pieces down. With it now being her move, Helaine watched through widened eyes as her lips quivered involuntarily. Rachins, Ezzo, and Manfred fixed their gazes upon her.

Through their timing and their breathless demeanor, Rachins and Manfred communicated a silent understanding to each other. Almost as if the two had struck a deal of their own before encountering Helaine in the gambling quarter.

It was Helaine, not Rachins, who made the initial misstep. She should have seized the opportunity to escape, without hesitation, the moment she crossed paths with him. Instead, she had underestimated the lowly commonor’s desperate plea for a small fortune, which they now used as leverage to block her escape. The result of the game of Shatranj no longer held any meaning at all.

“You can win and have your secrets exposed, or lose and suffer a great loss,” Rachins sneered. “Take yer pick.”

“Wai…” Helaine hesitated, weighing her options.

Upon being presented with those terms, Helaine realized she had underestimated him—she underestimated the breadth of his knowledge and experience. Not just as a royal advisor, but also with the influence and authority that came with the position.

So, Helaine bowed her head, forehead toppling the pieces on the board as she pressed it against the table. Grinding her head against its surface, she made a desperate plea, begging him not to pursue the defeat of anyone but herself.

“I lost, I lost. We’ve... no, I lost,” she confessed. She offered to divulge everything she knew about the city’s implosion, taking full responsibility for her actions.


“I’m back and I won!” Rachins exclaimed with a wicked grin plastered on his face as he swaggered back to the Western-style mansion.

Felt applauded at the sight of him looking so happy. “You managed to keep your limbs intact,” she congratulated, “and not a single finger was lost! I’m impressed!”

“Don’t say scary shit like that, man! Ain’t no way I’m crossin’ a bridge that big!” Rachins protested, rejecting Felt’s words of admiration.

“I mean, the bridge you just crossed was pretty damn close,” Felt said, scratching her head, disappointed by his reaction. “I was just givin’ you a compliment.”

The location was a Western-style mansion on the outskirts of Flanders, once a fierce battleground. Fortunately, the Big Three’s forces were all sent to a treatment center, making it now one of the quietest and safest places around. In that haven of tranquility, Felt anxiously awaited, her exasperation swept away by Rachins’s triumphant report. Learning the outcome of the game in the gambling quarter, Felt nodded deeply and asked, “So you’re saying that narrow-eyed lady confessed her involvement in the incident?”

“I mean, she jus’ confessed that she connected the main suspect and the hitman,” Rachins replied. “Tryin’ to play nice an’ soak up the sweet juices of the city… so she says.”

“So she made up an excuse while her own people died. What a nasty woman.” Folding her arms, Felt scorned Helaine’s attitude. At the same time, she couldn’t help but admire Rachins’s astuteness in sniffing out Helaine’s involvement and informing her of it. Rachins, who had boldly confronted Helaine, had made good on his lofty promise. Although Felt was taken aback when he proposed using Ezzo as bait for his plan.

“So you actually pulled it off for real,” Reinhard complimented. “I’m impressed, Rachins.”

“I could say the same ‘bout you,” Rachins returned. “You just let me go ahead without botherin’ to ask what the hell I had in mind! Didn’t ya consider the possibility that I might’ve sold ‘er out and switched sides?”

“I wouldn’t say that possibility never crossed my mind, but,” said Felt, glancing at Reinhard, who was standing beside her, “people in the slums got a keen sense of smell, y’know? Why would they go out of their way to take a dangerous road just to get hurt? That’s absurd.”

“I swear. With Reinhard here, ya have nothin’ to worry about,” Rachins expressed with frustration, covering his head in his hands, to which Reinhard let out a bitter smile. If it’s just a matter of winnin’ or losin’, it’s pointless to make an enemy outta Reinhard.

Felt, observing the exchange, turned her head and said, “Well… Even if Reinhard hadn’t been in the picture, I still would’ve left it to you.”

“Why?” Rachins asked, puzzled.

“You bowed to me and said your buddy’s life was on the line,” she replied. “Ain’t that enough?”

Originally, Felt and her crew became deeply entangled in this case because Camberley had been captured by the Flower Prison Garden. It was in this urgency to catch the real culprit and save him that Rachins bowed to Felt. That was enough to make his real intentions clear.

Recognizing his sincerity, Felt saw no need to inquire about the trump card he held to squeeze the truth out of the Golden Beetle. He made a promise, and he delivered.

“Well then, I guess there’s no point in diggin’ further,” Felt remarked. “I’m not so stubborn that I need every damn detail to trust someone. Just tell me what’s necessary.”

“In that case, Rachins, it was enough that you were a friend.”

Hearing the exchange between mistress and servant, Rachins stood stunned, mouth agape. Felt closed a single crimson eye, paying no heed to his reaction. Just then, it occurred to her that Rachins had returned to the Western-style mansion alone. “So, I guess that means there ain’t no Ezzo…” she said with a sigh.

“Nope,” Rachins replied. “The bastard went to get what he came for. Even Manfred of The Scales, who did the most, promised us the best forerunner.”

“I see. So, forget about Ezzo’s revenge, what about us?” Felt asked.

“We ain’t lettin’ ‘em get away, that’s for damn sure,” Rachins replied, flashing his long tongue and a roguish grin.

Seeing that smile, Felt also grinned, baring her fang. “Super. Flam, you’re up!” she called out, summoning Flam from the reserves. The young attendant quietly emerged and bowed before Felt’s crimson gaze.

“As you wish,” Flam replied, looking back at her master with eyes devoid of emotion. “We can only perform this once per day, but I will make sure we fulfill it.”

“What a cute thing to say. Well, we’re counting on you to do your job. Let Grassis know.”

Flam bowed her head reverently at Felt’s command. With the power of their Divine Protection, the twins Flam and Grassis could communicate their words to one another once a day, regardless of distance. Through its power, Grassis sent word that Gaston, Ilya, and the others had come under attack in the town of Hakuchuri. And now, it was time for the counterattack.

“So, what’s the message?” Flam asked.

“Tell Old Man Rom who’s with them,” Felt began, “and tell him there’s someone I want him to contact.” With those words spoken, Felt turned her attention back to the fiery-haired Reinhard standing by her side, who met her gaze. He dropped to one knee for this long awaited moment. Felt couldn’t help but chuckle at his dramatic gesture, finding it a tad excessive. With her hands on her hips, she puffed out her chest and declared, “And now it’s our turn. So let’s give it all we’ve got!”


The moment he returned to his base, the man’s instincts tingled, sensing an eerie shift in the air that made his throat constrict. To survive in this business, one required a keen nose for danger. Grudges abound, and to that effect, the base was fortified with various traps, ensuring that only he could access it.

But those traps had been disarmed. The presence of an intruder was glaringly obvious. Yet what unnerved him the most was the unmasked hostility that thrust itself at him as he stood at the entrance.

Another man’s voice pierced the darkness at the far end of the hall, carrying a hint of intelligence and arrogance. “I’ve selfishly taken the liberty of paying you this unwelcome visit. But you mustn’t mind, as it was you who played dirty in my establishment the other day. You might even call it a brazen act of thievery.”

The sound of this voice was familiar, though last time it was tinged with a sense of urgency and anger. Slowly, the other man’s figure came into view from the far end of the hallway. There was no mistaking it.

“The guard from the Flower Prison Garden?” he uttered in surprise. It was the dwarf man he encountered in the burnt down brothel. Rumors had it that he was a formidable guard skilled in the art of magic, which meant he posed no real threat to the man. After all, the man possessed a natural talent to manipulate the essence of the mana that surrounded him.

“I’m merely a foolish man who failed to safeguard what I should have,” confessed the dwarf. “The other day, I couldn’t even put up a fight against you.”

“And you think you can beat me today, magic user?” the man retorted.

“Is that…the inborn ability to circulate excess mana?”

“As a magic user, you don’t stand a chance. On top of that, I’m a hired hand.”

“That’s true. The inborn ability to circulate excess mana is a natural enemy of magic users,” the dwarf continued. “And it wouldn’t be right for me to retaliate against you for just doing your job, while I couldn’t even fulfill my own duties. I get it.”


In the darkness ahead, the magic user nodded. Yet despite claiming that retaliation was off the table, his eyes, his hostility, and his determination to fight only grew stronger. His mana itself practically screamed that he had no intention of backing down.

Without waiting for the dwarf’s next words, the man took the initiative and made his move. Although the magic user had no moves to make in the first place, it was best to not give him a chance to react. In their previous encounter at the brothel, the man had only spared the dwarf’s life to frame him as the culprit. But this time, there was no other choice but to take him down. Brandishing the small sword concealed in his pocket, the man attempted to cleave the magic user’s throat with a single, slick blow.

“You failed to finish me off that night. You missed your chance, and that’s why you’re going to lose now.”

“Gah… guuuhh…!?”

In the next moment, a searing heat came from nowhere and erupted against the man’s torso, blasting him backwards with a painful cry. Burning agony coursed through his chest, rendering his limbs numb. Unable to move, he collapsed. His thoughts wavered and clarity faded away. With widened eyes and twitching limbs, he struggled to comprehend what had just happened.

“It’s the ability to circulate excess mana, patterns, and countermeasures...plus lots of practice and improvement.” The fallen man’s vision reflected the face of the dwarf looking down at him. He displayed his blood-stained hands as evidence of his attack on the ability to circulate excess mana, carried out through some mysterious method. How and where he had acquired this particular method remained unclear.

“It’s a misplaced vengeance. The dead won’t feel a thing, even if you retaliate. But my soul cries out for justice. So I decided to compromise.”


“It’s not about revenge; it’s about proving something. That one can achieve the impossible if they just keep walking. That even a dwarf man inferior in Od could win a ‘color’ title. And that a girl selling flowers in the red-light district could build a future with her own flower shop!”

It was proof that what was deemed impossible, was indeed possible. The defeated man exhaled at the realization that he had lost precisely because of that. Ridiculous. That’s why he wanted to overcome this wall? A wall no one had dared to challenge before, all for that reason?

“My name is Ezzo Cadner, the Gray, and I have at last avenged Mimosa.”

“I’m not…dead yet…no…” the man gasped, desperately clinging for life.

“I will not take your life,” said the magic user, Ezzo, with a flip of his cloak. “I don’t think she would want that either, for she knew the joy of nurturing flowers.”

At his words, the man caught a glimmer of hope, clinging to the possibility of survival. However, in that moment of hope, another figure emerged.

“Unfortunately, we don’t fall into that category,” came the chilling response. “We are a bit more savage.” The man’s throat tightened with grief as his gaze met the inked visage of Tattoo Face of The Scales, obscuring his view of Ezzo’s reflection. In swift succession, multiple individuals appeared and seized the man’s limbs, forcibly dragging him outside. Despite his futile struggles, his body, having been weakened by a vicious blow, refused to obey.

Interrogations carried out by The Scales, and those by Tattoo Face, were notoriously ruthless. It was widely understood within the realms of the underground that no one ever emerged unscathed, much less kept their mouths shut.

Thus, the man cried out, desperately clinging to a sliver of hope. “W-Wait… I’ll t-tell you… anything you want to know… about my employer,” he desperately appealed.

“Well, well, you sure talk fast,” Tattoo Face replied, his features contorting in a twisted smirk.. “That’s very helpful. Very helpful indeed.” The man’s eyes widened in sheer horror as the subtle shift in expression tipped all of the scales in unison. “I’m sorry,” Tattoo Face continued, “but unfortunately, I don’t put faith in tales from people I haven’t had the pleasure of torturing.”


“Take him along. I will personally attend to him later.”

Tattoo Face’s subordinate quickly and quietly fell in line with his directive. Unable to resist, the helpless man was dragged outside, never to see the light of day again. He only left behind a cacophony of despair, echoing in hopelessness that shattered his very core.

“So you’re satisfied, avenger?” Manfred called out to Ezzo, his gaze fixed on the departing hitman, before tending to his own injured hand. Ezzo examined his fingers and sighed, shaking his head in response. There was only one way to answer.

“I can claim no sense of accomplishment. How can I fill this void in my soul, knowing I allowed her to perish? It was my own foolishness that brought about her demise. A remorse that will forever haunt me.”

“You’re quite the poet,” Manfred remarked. “Not that I disagree. But then why did you go through with that plan?”

“I already told you,” Ezzo replied. “I did it to prove a point. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Manfred shrugged, not pressing further on the matter. Instead, he continued in his own distinctive tone. “Even so, you’re quite talented. It’s a shame that you’re employed by the poison lady of the Flower Prison Garden.”

“As expected,” Ezzo continued after a brief pause, “I can’t face Miss Toto after what has transpired. No longer can I call myself the guard of Flower Prison Garden.”

“In that case,” Manfred offered, “are you willing to accept The Scales’ invitation? Anyone with a chip on their shoulder is welcome.”

Ezzo’s eyes widened lightly at Manfred’s provocative words. Then, the Gray magic user shook his head loosely and replied, “I’m sorry to say… the one to whom I have entrusted my allegiance already has prior commitments.”

“I see,” Manfred responded with a hint of regret. “That’s unfortunate. If that’s the case, then I’m sorry to hear that.”

Upon the rejection of his invitation, Manfred touched the tattoo on his face as if to convey he had anticipated Ezzo’s response. Ezzo squinted at the gesture, when Manfred twisted his expression once more, tilting the scales on his face. “How disheartening to lose both a promising individual and the forerunner for revenge to that young lady,” he muttered, his words tinged with a sense of resignation.


Mozolite was keenly aware that the scales had shifted in an unfavorable direction. As the trusted confidant of the Tattoo Face, Manfred, The Scales’ second in command, he himself did not know what he had done wrong that had driven him into such a position. With my special eyes, I should’ve been able to discern the movements of all the important people involved.

Mozolite was blessed with an extraordinary ocular ability known as the Divine Protection of Distant Vision, granting him unique eyes. These eyes allowed him to see the precise location of a target, or to determine and closely observe targets that fulfilled specific conditions.

Mozolite was supposed to have used his power to observe the leaders of the Big Three and their entourages, the young royal selection candidate and her Sword Saint knight, the dwarf man who had taken his place, and even the conniving Golden Beetle woman, with whom he maintained a tenuous alliance. He never let his guard down, and yet, the tables had turned. An irrevocable collapse was all that greeted him.

“Now is not the time to dwell on the cause of this failure,” he thought. “More importantly, it’s time to get out of here.”

Although his involvement had not yet been exposed, he knew it was only a matter of time. And often, the success or failure of escape hinged on how quickly one took their first step.

With that in mind, Mozolite departed the city before those around him had the chance to raise any suspicions.

Aligning himself with the Golden Beetle, he orchestrated attacks by assassins on the Big Three. Leveraging his position as a manager within The Scales, it was easy for him to facilitate such maneuvers. The rest was a ploy to strategically advance the situation, undermining the influence of the Black Silver Coin and Flower Prison Garden. And ultimately, to hold Manfred, who had long been a thorn in his side, accountable, thus replacing him. To this end, Mozolite had spent a significant amount of time meticulously crafting and executing this well-devised strategy.

“Where did the cogs in my plan go astray…?” Mozolite pondered aloud, voice tinged in frustration. Using his getaway plan he had prepared for emergencies, he had already departed Flanders, and intended to flee the country entirely. He would remove the organization’s tattoos, alter his face, and seek refuge in the countryside until everything quieted down. From there, he would embark on a fresh start within the shadows of the underworld.

“Sniff, sniff, sniff…” At the dragon carriage stop, where Mozolite waited for the dragon carriage to arrive, he felt something against his shoulder.

“Huh?” Startled, he glanced over his shoulder, only to discover a kitten girl nuzzling against his arm, sniffing curiously. Mozolite’s blood boiled in irritation at the sudden intrusion, but he managed to restrain himself. This wasn’t the time to cause a scene.

“Hey, Little Miss! I don’t know what you’re up to, but I’m busy. Where are your parents?” he demanded.

“Hmm, no good, no good at all. Old man, you smell like a bad guy! A verryy bad guyy!” the girl derided as she stared at him with her cutesy eyes, to which Mozolite could only gulp in response. At the same time, he noticed that this young catgirl before him carried a finely crafted walking stick while exuding a strong sense of fighting spirit. This realization sent a shiver down his spine.

“Bad Mimi. I told ya to keep quiet and watch!” A girl with flowing light purple hair materialized at the station entrance. Adorned in white, furry attire with a collar, she was a beautiful girl with a presence that seemed rather out of place.

“Ahh, Missy!” Mimi greeted the familiar girl. “I forgot! You did say that! You did!” The familiar girl was none other than one of the royal selection candidates who had recently become the talk of the kingdom.

“I’m hopin’ yer smart enough to realize it ain’t some coincidence we jus’ happened to cross paths,” she said with a glint in her light-blue eyes, causing Mozolite to jolt back instinctively. The cat-girl attempted to grab his sleeve, but he wriggled out of the way to escape, causing the fabric to tear as he stumbled away. Rolling over, he swiftly dashed off with all his momentum.

“Ahhhh! He got away! Hetaro! Tivey! Run run run run run!” the cat-girl shouted behind him. Mozolite activated his eyes, scanning for the hostile gaze as he wove through the winding streets, evading it.

It was like looking down at a map. Mozolite could perceive the actual location of any person searching for him. With this power, pinpointing targets and fleeing pursuers was a breeze. It was this very skill that made him invaluable to Manfred, and at the same time, what fueled his own ambitious desires.

Sure, there had been some minor setbacks, but Mozolite remained resolute in making a fresh start once he could elude his pursuers. I will reflect on what I did this time and do better next time. I will definitely get back at the ones who got in my way. If I can only just escape from that royal selection candidate’s underlings in the city and go to another land…

“Huh?” A moment later, Mozolite was briskly knocked off his feet and sent sprawling with a great impact.


My back is bruised and I can’t catch my breath. What the hell just happened? He looked at his feet, only to find them drenched in a vibrant shade of red. His right leg also emitted a fiery glow right around the knee.

“Ugh… ah…” The wound looked fierce, yet he felt no pain. Perhaps his brain had simply resigned itself to the incomprehensible injury.

In that case, it was worth it. I’ll prioritize escape for now, for as long as my legs will carry me. With this in mind, he took a step forward, when a sudden jolt struck his waist, causing him to collapse. Again, the wound erupted in a burst of red. Struggling to regain his footing, it was a relentless onslaught—my shoulder, my side, my leg, my hip, my foot, my arm, my leg, my hip, my shoulder, my stomach, my waist, my chest, my leg, my arm, I’m hit, I’m hit, I’m hit

“Hey, w-what the… huh? What the hell…!?” Mozolite exclaimed, his entire body now inflamed in red. He couldn’t comprehend the assault he was enduring. Desperately opening his eyes, he searched for the person who was aware of him—or rather, the person who was mercilessly attacking him. And before long, his opponent came into view.

Far away, on the other side of town, a young man raised his arm toward Mozolite. There stood the red-haired Sword Saint, holding a bright red tometo in his hand.

“This is ridiculous,” Mozolite muttered with a sense of incredulity. No sooner had he spoken when another tometo exploded right in his face, with an impact that shattered his awareness into oblivion.

“Lady Felt, he appears to have fainted,” Reinhard reported.

“Hmm, I see. But look…” Felt motioned curiously.

“Hm? What’s the matter?” Reinhard asked, a basket of red tometoes sitting beside him, from which he continuously picked them out and tossed them into the distance.

Felt’s lips curved into a frown as she watched the scene unfold. Grabbing a tometo from the basket, she pressed it against her lips and took a bite, savoring its fresh flavor. With a twinkle in her eyes, she turned to Reinhard and suggested, “For next year’s Tometo Festival, let’s make it a competition between you and everyone else in town.” After all, it would have to be that much to even be a match.


Mozolite awoke to darkness, his throat tightening as he realized his immobilized state. He was seated in a rigid chair, limbs rendered motionless. He cautiously attempted to make sense of what had happened with his hazy mind. And then, a presence emerged.

“I see you’ve come to,” came the voice of the most terrifying man in existence, resonating through the pitch-black void. Mozolite’s memories flooded back—the encroaching tometoes, his failed escape from pursuers, the revelation of his plan. He was in the midst of fleeing the organization’s pursuers when his scheme was exposed. However, his escape had failed, and he found himself ensnared once again.

“Oh, Boss…” Mozolite uttered weakly.

“Oh, you still have the audacity to address me as ‘Boss’? That’s a surprise.” Manfred’s throaty laugh sent chills down Mozolite’s spine.

Mozolite attempted to open his eyes, searching for a glimmer of escape in the darkness. Searching for a way to survive, even if his life was a meager one. However, he was met with disappointment. His eyes would not open. He remained shrouded in darkness, unable to see a thing.

“Your eyes were indeed precious,” Manfred spoke with amusement, “but perhaps you relied on them a bit too much. Even I made a few misjudgments, but… This time, your focus was too misplaced.”

Desperation filled Mozolite’s voice as he pleaded, “Hey, I can’t see a thing! Boss… I can’t see anything! Please, let me explain…”

“The Pig King and the Hundred Flowers, myself and the royal selection candidate, even the Sword Saint,” Manfred continued. “You had your eye on Gray and Golden Beetle, too. You were cautious. And yet, you were still defeated by a mere foot soldier.”

Mozolite could hear Manfred’s footsteps drawing near. And yet, he could not see him. Am I blindfolded? I can’t see him. He should be right next to me.

For Mozolite, who had lived his entire life relying on his Eyes, this was an unbearable fear. Yet, despite Mozolite’s fear, there was a trace of twisted satisfaction in Manfred’s voice.

“To be honest,” Manfred continued, “the recent incident has ruined The Scales’ reputation. I was betrayed by my trusted advisor, and my name has been put to shame. However, amidst all this, there is a silver lining. That young golden-haired girl is truly a remarkable find.”

Manfred’s words resonated from such a distance that Mozolite could feel his breath run down his neck. Just then, Mozolite felt something being placed in his hand, still secured to the chair. It was a soft, round object, unfamiliar to him.

“Gah… Boss, is this…? Ugh…”

“Don’t drop it, Mozolite,” Manfred cautioned. “That object represents the risk you took. That you’ve gambled with your life and lost.”

Mozolite, unable to speak due to the foreign object in his mouth, opened his eyes wide, only to be met with darkness. Empty, eye-less sockets. And what used to occupy those sockets, was now nestled in the palm of his hand.

“The retribution of The Scales is harsh,” Manfred explained. “You have brought disgrace upon our organization and robbed six comrades of their lives in pursuit of your selfish ambitions. Your crimes must be accounted for, in the name of Typhon, the bearer of the scale.”

“Nn-n-n-n!” Mozolite’s attempts to protest were futile. Manfred grabbed the jaw of the terrified man as he writhed in his seat. A slender finger, with the force of a vise, crushed Mozolite’s jaw on the spot. In pain, Mozolite let out cries of agony, wrenching up blood from his throat. His wailing continued, an agonizing struggle that persisted until Mozolite’s life eventually came to an end.

And thus, the life of the mastermind behind the incident in the Earth Dragon Capital, came to an end.


“So, I guess we can say yer problem’s finally all taken care of, eh, Felt?”

“Yeah, that’s cool,” Felt said, replying with a smile. “Sorry for putting all that pressure on you, my loudmouthed sis.”

Anastasia Hoshin, the guest sitting across from her, returned the smile. They were in the parlor of Astrea Manor in Hakuchuri, where they had at last returned after the the Big Three’s attack in Flanders, the Earth Dragon Capital of the world.

With the incident resolved and various issues taken care of, Felt finally felt at ease in the residence. And now, having invited the people who had helped them to the mansion, they were able to relax, enjoy the fruits of their labor, and appreciate everyone’s hard work.

“But let’s be real, we ain’t really do much ‘til the end,” Anastasia remarked. “That ain’t much of a contribution… But Felt, I’m sorry hearin’ ‘bout all the troubles ya went through.”

“No kidding,” Felt replied. “I’ve been wondering, do all royal selection candidates have to go through crazy stuff like this?”

“I dunno. At least my place hasn’t been all that busy,” Anastasia admitted with a laugh, tilting her head at Felt. Felt frowned in response as Anastasia continued, “But even if it’s true the situation was dire, how’d y’all decide ya needed our help? Normally, ya ain’t supposed to show weakness to yer competitors.”

“I ain’t scared to take risks so long as it’s not my people’s lives at stake,” Felt said. “Besides, I chose you, didn’t I? I figured you’d be the most level-headed of all the candidates.”

“So ya mean ya think highly of us?” Anastasia asked.

“Nah,” Felt replied. “Just thought if we were gonna strike a deal, it wouldn’t be too complicated and messy.”

“Well, ain’t ya an honest one?” Anastasia responded, now in a good mood thanks to Felt’s answer.

Truthfully, when Felt considered the four royal selection candidates as potential allies, she thought Anastasia would be the best person to approach. She felt each of the other three would be a tough sell for various reasons. So, through Flam and Grassis, she reached out to Old Man Rom to establish contact with the Hoshin Trading Company. After that, Anastasia and her crew acted swiftly and efficiently, allowing them to successfully hunt down and capture Mozolite, the fugitive criminal, through their tactical maneuvers.

“But when I heard that half of the mercenary group we were counting on couldn’t move, I got a bit nervous,” Felt admitted.

“Sorry ‘bout that,” Anastasia apologized. “I reckon our guys got a bit carried away earlier. Now I got ‘em lookin’ after the trading company, so I’m a bit short-handed.”

“No wonder,” Felt said with a shrug. “You’ve been dealin’ with all sorts of baddies like the White Whale and Witch Cult, haven’t you?” Felt recalled the most recent topics that had shaken the kingdom only recently. This very girl, Anastasia, who sat before her, had also succeeded in defeating the White Whale, a troublesome witchbeast that plagued the world for years, as well as a leader of the nefarious Witch Cult, together with the camps of two other royal selection candidates.

The royal selection had just begun, but Felt, who had been preoccupied with internal matters, found herself trailing behind.

“But looks like yer jus’ gettin’ started,” Anastasia said.

“Actually, isn’t that how it is?” Felt responded. “If you snatch someone’s wallet and make a run for it, you’ll run outta steam real quick if you go all out right off the bat. It’s about knowing how to make a clean getaway and when to catch your breath.”

“Maybe that ain’t the best analogy, but I reckon I catch yer drift,” Anastasia nodded repeatedly. Felt, sitting cross-legged on the chair, watched her reaction perplexedly. But then, Anastasia timidly extended her hand, to which Felt grew more reluctant as she took in her white, slender fingers.

“Felt, let’s become pals! I mean, I know I been callin’ ya a competitor an’ all, but truth is, I kinda like ya.”

“I don’t mean to be rude, but that sounds so fake,” Felt bluntly replied.

“Aw, don’t be so mean, I’m serious!” Anastasia insisted, hand still outstretched. “I’m still in the business of honesty, y’know.”

It’s hard to tell if she’s serious or joking. At the very least, I can’t imagine an honest person succeeding in business, so her words just now obviously ain’t sincere, but…

“Well, alright then. Let’s give it a shot,” Felt conceded. “Alright, loudmouthed... I mean… Anastasia.”

“Then, shall we shake on it?”

“Well, it’s not like I’m losing’ anything, and you did help me a lot… and it’s not like I hate you, so...” Felt gave in and took her hand. Upon releasing their grip, Anastasia glanced at her own hand and let out a soft sigh of relief.

“I’m awfully glad,” Anastasia said. “I don’t got many friends my age. Let’s be good pals, alright?”

“Same age, huh?” Felt snickered. “From what I’ve heard, you’re one of the oldest candidates…”

“Oh, oh, I can’t hear you! I can’t hear ya! I can’t hear ya. Nope, don’t hear ya at all!” Covering her ears like a child, Anastasia blocked out the conversation she least wanted to hear. Chuckling at her childish gesture, something you typically wouldn’t expect an adult to do, Felt grabbed a tea cake and chomped on it. Not bad. Flam and the others must have gone all out with the treats when they heard who the guest was. Though even if that hadn’t been the case, we still got a lot of gifts from the people we helped. That’s about the only thing we gained from this incident.

“By the way, did that lady in yer party who got kidnapped make it back safe an’ sound?” Anastasia inquired.

“Yeah, she’s alright,” Felt confirmed. “They seriously couldn’t figure out a use for her, so they just kept her locked up in the bad guy’s hideout, but…then the angry Pig King came knockin’.” Indeed, anyone who offended the Pig King, the one man in Flanders one should avoid offending above all, found themselves with a one-way ticket to the afterlife, courtesy of his iron fist.

So Kalifa was rescued and made it safely back to Ilya. However, Felt had mixed feelings about the fact that yet another contact was made between Doltero, Kalifa, and their daughter.

“Well, Gaston stepped up to the plate to protect Ilya, so I’d like to think he’s got a good shot,” Felt commented. I mean, he went all in, risking his own life and everything. I’d even feel bad for him if nothing pans out after all this. Although, there’s probably nothing to worry about seeing as Kalifa’s been visiting him nearly every day ever since she came back. “Gaston has manned up, and Rachins pulled off some clever work, too.”

“Hey, wait a sec,” Anastasia interrupted, “ain’t we missin’ someone? Ain’t you and yer weird servant s’posed to have a three-man team?”

“Oh, that’s the best part,” Felt said with a laugh, rising from the chair in a huff. She walked over to the window and beckoned Anastasia to join her. Curiosity piqued, Anastasia followed and peered out the window beside her, gaze falling upon the well-maintained garden below, shaded by the surrounding trees.

“Oh, there he goes!” Anastasia pointed out. “In the corner of the garden with an awfully fancy lookin’ lady.”

“Oh, that’s the proprietress who runs the red-light district in Flanders,” Felt explained, holding up her pinky finger with a sly smile. “She ended up with Camberley, of all people.”

“The proprietress of the Flower Prison Garden? Ain’t that a kicker!?” Anastasia exclaimed, taken aback by the unexpected revelation. For there in the garden of the mansion, sitting side by side in the shade of a tree, sat a rather unconventional pair—a far cry from what one would call picture-perfect.

At one time, Camberley was confined in the brothel of Flower Prison Garden, clinging to life by a thread. Rachins went to great lengths to rescue him, even taking on a high-stakes gamble with Helaine. However, as Rachins waged that battle of his own, Camberley managed to escape from his confinement by himself. But one question remained. Just how the hell did he pull off such a daring escape, anyway?

“How’d one of the most seasoned gals on the streets get so bent outta shape like that?” Anastasia asked.

“The Divine Protection of Bedroom Wiles,” Felt replied matter-of-factly.

“What?” Felt’s short answer stunned Anastasia.

Responding to Anastasia’s reaction, Felt continued. “Like I said! It was his Divine Protection of Bedroom Wiles. His infamy as a playboy of the red-light district really wasn’t for nothing. I’ve never heard of a prostitute in a brothel giving a customer their money back!”

“Felt, yer one of ‘em gals who collects all sorts of peculiar subordinates, ain’t ya?” Anastasia asked, putting her hand to her head and shaking it in disbelief. But it was all too true.

Once Camberley had escaped the clutches of Toto’s poison and returned from the red-light district, he requested that she be forgiven. He even vowed to make up any losses with his own labor if necessary.

Upon hearing this story, Toto also shared more about Mimosa, the unfortunate prostitute who had met a fiery end. Mimosa, the young girl with dreams of becoming a florist, had apparently hailed from the same hometown as Mozolite, the mastermind behind the incident. The whole story was as follows:

The girl had left her hometown in pursuit of her dreams, and found solace in a man from her hometown whom she had befriended in the past, entering the red-light district of this great city. She then innocently complied with his requests, unknowingly becoming a source of information herself. And so, she fell victim to the man’s ambitions, meeting a tragic end before achieving any dreams of her own. Such was the truth of the unfortunate woman’s death, and the end of her unsalvageable dream.

Having had it all explained, Anastasia asked Felt, “Are ya feelin’ regretful?”

“Me? Don’t be an idiot,” Felt retorted. “I grew up in the slums. I’ve seen lots of people die in the shittiest ways. And I’ve seen lots of people die after being taken advantage of by other people. So…”

“So?” Anastasia urged her to continue.

“I’m frustrated and pissed off,” Felt continued, brows furrowing in anger. “I’m so damn frustrated and furious... I’m gonna go crazy!” Yes, yes. That’s exactly it. I’m angry. I’m pissed. I’m absolutely furious! I’ll be damned if I go around tryin’ to save every naive and clueless soul out there. But I sure as hell won’t stand by and watch good folks being preyed upon.

Felt never really liked do-gooders. She felt as if she were exploiting their kindness and mooching off of them. That’s why I’m gonna change it. I’m gonna change everything. And that’s why…

“Hehehe…” Anastasia let out a mischievous chuckle.

“What the hell’s up with you?” Felt asked with surprise. “Quit actin’ creepy. Why are you smiling at me?”

“Oh nothin’,” Anastasia replied. “Jus’ thinkin’ that I really do fancy ya after all, Felt.” Anastasia’s expression relaxed, and she swayed her shoulders in amusement. Felt rested her cheek on her hand. Although they shook hands earlier and made a verbal pact to be friends, with this off-beat attitude, Felt had a feeling she might regret that promise sooner rather than later.

“Oh, but don’t think for a second that I’m givin’ up on the royal selection,” Anastasia asserted. “I ain’t concedin’ my victory in this contest.”

“Couldn’t agree more,” Felt said with a nod.

Felt and Anastasia exchanged knowing smiles, a flicker of camaraderie forming between the two royal selection candidates.


While the two royal selection candidates engaged in friendly banter downstairs, an upstairs room in the mansion served as a makeshift office, where one individual held his head in great distress. This man, short in stature, found himself surrounded by scattered ledgers and letters. After a quick glance through them, his normally intelligent profile turned bright red, and his eyes practically bled in frustration.

“W-W-What in the world is happening? How is this domain even being managed?” Ezzo stuttered, agitation bubbling over. This must be some kind of mistake! And yet despite the messy contents, the details of these records are written in such neat, meticulous handwriting. In essence, its tidy appearance is only masking a ridiculously haphazard approach to managing the land!

“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait! This is the most absurd thing I’ve ever come across!” Ezzo exclaimed. “Before relocating the base here…no, wait! Wasn’t this the main Astrea residence from the beginning?”

“Yes,” Rom confirmed with a nod, “but it appears it was always in this state. From my perspective, it was evident the economy was in dire straits, but getting a grip on the situation wasn’t easy.” Old Man Rom hunched his massive body over, stroking his bald head as he stood before Ezzo, whose eyes were widened in disbelief.

“But, old timer, leaving it in such a condition seems utterly hopeless,” Ezzo remarked, his voice filled with frustration and concern.

In the unusual setting of a room in which a giant and a dwarf had gathered together, the atmosphere indeed was a bit peculiar. However, the matter at hand demanded their attention.

“B-But, I certainly didn’t anticipate such a worm-eaten state of affairs…” Ezzo said. “Could it be, these are all false documents fabricated to test my abilities?”

“I’m afraid I haven’t the time to waste so much effort for you,” Rom stated bluntly. “This is the harsh reality of this mansion…or rather, our camp.”


Ezzo’s mental state seemed to crumble as he sank to his knees, sitting there for a moment. He then lifted his face to meet the stern gaze of Old Man Rom, towering above him.

“Anyway, I’d like to hear from the person who’s been in charge of these tax revenue matters,” Ezzo continued, regaining his composure. “These records indicate a complete lack of understanding. However, so long as one possesses the will to learn, that can change. Who in the mansion was responsible for these affairs?”

“Well about that, it seems that the people of the city of Hakuchuri were in charge,” Rom explained.

“Tax revenues managed by the very citizens being taxed? Why on earth?” Ezzo questioned, perplexed.

“Who knows…” Rom shrugged, his thick arms folded as he tilted his head.

Ezzo dropped to his knees on the floor, his face belying frustration and disbelief.

Sloppy management at its finest here. What’s even more astonishing is the absence of any attempt by the citizens to cheat their taxes. In other words, it’s a miraculous shortage of internal affairs management by a group of ignorant good people all leaning on each other.

“Bu-bu-bu-but, now that I have joined the camp, I refuse to accept this subpar state of affairs!” Ezzo protested. “First, we need to set proper standards and hire the right people… Yes, Mr. Rachins seemed to have his wits about him! Let’s get him on board! Alright, it’s settled!” Ezzo laughed hysterically, jumping up and down.

This sudden wave of energy dispelled the previous air of frustration, leaving Old Man Rom raising his eyebrows at the rapid change. With an exhale, he let out a contemplative “Hmmm.”

“Positive and capable is exactly what we need right now,” Rom acknowledged. “If you can do that, you’ll be in great demand. But why did you choose Felt?”

“It seems you have a lot on your mind, old timer,” Ezzo responded to Rom’s inquiry, his expression stiffening as he turned to face him. Their eyes met, one low and one high. Then, Ezzo spread his cloak wide and confidently puffed out his chest, looking up at the huge man above him. “I am very grateful to Miss Felt, to the Sword Saint, to Mr. Rachins, and to everyone else who helped in this matter,” he began. “They helped me seek justice for Mimosa. I want to repay them for their kindness. Such is my premise.”

“Well, if that’s your premise, what are your real intentions?”

“I see a great talent in Felt, one that is worthy of serving. Part of it has to do with her current title of Royal Selection Candidate, of course, but Miss Felt has the capacity to lead others and the flexibility to utilize their strengths. She also has shown genuine concern for people. I believe that this, too, was a chance encounter.”

Ezzo extended his small palms. “I am indebted to you for aiding me in breaking through this impasse,” he spoke sincerely. Yet, it was Felt’s eyes that held the greatest significance. Locking gazes with her, he lowered his head and found resolve. If he was going to fight, if he was going to challenge, if he was going to face off, this was the right place to do it.

“Just as Miss Felt is competing in the royal selection, I too have an opponent I must confront,” Ezzo revealed. “Coincidentally, that opponent is also in a position to be closely associated with the royal selection. An unavoidable circumstance for me, as well.”

“So you’re implying you want Felt out of convenience?” Rom asked.

“No, I consider it to have been fate,” Ezzo asserted without a moment’s hesitation.

Reassured by Ezzo’s resolute response, Old Man Rom seemed mildly surprised. He scratched his bald head with his finger, and commented, “I see, so you’re an eccentric person yourself.”

“A girl from the slums with the Sword Saint as her knight; how could you expect a normal crowd to gather when the core master-servant relationship is this odd? Isn’t it exciting?”

“There’s one thing I should mention,” Rom cautioned. “Felt hates the word ‘fate’, so be careful not to alienate her with such terms.”

“I appreciate the advice! I’d be delighted to learn anything else you can tell me, old timer.”

Old Man Rom shrugged his shoulders in response to Ezzo’s sincere explanation, his movements constrained by the cramped space. He began tidying up the scattered ledgers and miscellaneous items on the floor. That’s when another thought struck him.

“Speaking of which,” Rom began, “I heard you mentioned some peculiar conditions for joining the camp... What in the world did you request?”

“Oh, that,” Ezzo responded with a chuckle. “I simply requested permission to visit the red-light district in Flanders twice a month. I have a group of students currently learning to read and write.”


“The will to learn is precious,” he continued. “I don’t want that to cease. That’s my revenge.” Ezzo stepped to the window, and as he fixed his gaze on the outside scenery, his expression softened. Towering above, Old Man Rom’s cheeks also lifted into a smile, mirroring Ezzo’s sentiment.

Outside the window, Reinhard ascended the hill to the mansion, accompanied by a crimson earth dragon. The return of the earth dragon, previously confiscated from them after being offered as the price of their agreement, was a notable sight. A golden-haired girl raced toward the knight and the earth dragon. Felt’s unwavering figure, running straight ahead without hesitation, brought an unexpected sense of tranquility.


And so, the problems surrounding the Earth Dragon Capital came to a close. With the exception of one thing, that is. The final scene unfolded in a stone room, stark and cold. Helaine surmised that it was somewhere in the basement of a nondescript building in some obscure part of Lugunica. The loss of the Golden Beetle in Flanders, coupled with her own failure, was too much to compensate for. The Golden Beetle’s standing within that city plummeted, and Helaine, stripped of her administrative role, was relegated back to the royal capital.

The reason why she hadn’t been handed over to the Big Three in the city was not due to any mercy bestowed upon her by her superior. She received no such generous compensation. In a sense, she may have even preferred her fate to have been entrusted to the Black Silver Coin, The Scales, or the Flower Prison Garden.

Of course, if this had been done, she would have faced severe torture or been subjected to their insatiable desires for a woman. Yet for Helaine, even such outcomes may have been preferable to being stared at with such indifference by the person before her.

“Let’s hear your explanation, Helaine Gatness.”

“Yes, of course,” she acquiesced. “The unforeseen circumstances have dealt a severe blow to our plans of infiltrating the city of Flanders. The Golden Beetle’s…false identity has also severely undermined its voice within the city.”

Hanging her head, Helaine’s gaze grew dim as she confronted the consequences of her own actions. However, she could not afford to falter and disregard what the other party had to say.

The magnitude of her blunder could not be erased. That’s why, at the very least, I must atone for it with every fiber of my being.


Listening to Helaine’s explanation, a man sat before her in a chair, his cheek propped on his hand, which in turn rested on the armrest. Even his gestures exuded an air of sophistication, and the way he regarded her stirred something deep within her.

Helaine was so captivated by the man before her, the word “captivated” alone failed to describe what she felt in its entirety. She was so enamored by this man that she would willingly forfeit her life should he ask her to die. However, such a notion seemed of little concern to the man. Wasting valuable resources was not an option.

“You said you planned to infiltrate Flanders. However, did I ever order you to do so?” the man spoke. “There existed a delicate balance amongst the three organizations in that city. Had you remained silent, there would’ve been no issue at all.”

“There was an ambitious man, easily swayed, who possessed an unwarranted talent…” Helaine spoke with a tinge of frustration. “I believed that if I placed him in a leadership position in that organization, he’d have been much more manageable.”

“You had to contend with the interference of the royal selection candidate, and your plan failed,” the man admonished. “On top of that, your own involvement was exposed, nearly reaching the higher echelons. A complete fiasco.”

“The eldest son of House Hoffman is now under Lady Felt!” Helaine’s words grew increasingly frantic as she raised her voice, stumbling over her words. “So our...”

The man rose from his chair, interrupting her as he slowly approached her. “Rickert Hoffman’s son, huh?”

In the darkness of the basement, a tall man emerged into view, illuminated by the flickering candlelight. He was a man around 30 years old, with long, golden hair and a carefully trimmed beard. His blue eyes were filled with intelligence and reason, and he was known for his outstanding competence, which belied his appearance.

Most people probably perceived his position as that of a representative of the royal capital’s Merchant Guild. However, the reality of his position was far more significant than something so trivial. His decisions, actions, and statements had the power to influence the entire kingdom, and the importance of his role was comparable to that of the Council of Wise Men.

If it were the Council of Wise Men that ran the kingdom’s government, it would be his role to protect and support the very backbone of the kingdom. Forty years ago, after the Demi-Human War, a secret defense mechanism was created out of necessity to defend the Dragon Kingdom of Lugunica from within.

The Six Tongues. An organization of which the man standing before her, Russell Fellow, held the esteemed position of leader. And so, Russell advanced and stood before the kneeling Helaine, who gasped as the tall man looked down on her, anticipating his words as every nerve stood on edge.

“With the addition of the Golden Lion, the balance in Flanders has been fortified,” he began. “While we have fewer means to intervene on our side, there is no doubt that we have resolved a number of pressing matters.”


Helaine remained silent. Russell continued, “However, with the kingdom reeling from the royal selection, the Golden Lion and the Valkyrie, the half-devil and the Bloody Bride, and the Merchant of the West, we must be thoughtful in our response. Regrettably, you have proven lacking in this regard. Therefore, you must be punished.”

“Y-Yes, sir!” Helaine lowered her head to the ground with such force, her forehead collided violently with the floor. She unbuttoned her suit on the spot, exposing her undulating white skin. Russell’s palm slowly crawled down her bare back. As he did, the curse mark etched into her skin made her blood boil, the intense pain staining her vision white. “Kaa… ku… aah!”

“Having to withdraw competent pawns back is indeed troublesome,” Russell remarked, without so much as a glance at Helaine, writhing and weeping tears of blood. Lost in his own contemplation, he continued. “Nevertheless, should we consider it a gain to have assessed the potential of the Golden Lion, initially shrouded in uncertainty at the start of the royal selection? No, it is unacceptable to have the son of the Hoffmans aware of our involvement. Perhaps it is time to revise some of our plans?”

Russell’s mind teemed with an array of strategies and an army of pawns, all of which he’d utilized with utmost efficiency without a shred of selfish desires. His ultimate selflessness was the precise quality that allowed Helaine to pledge an unwavering allegiance to him.

Yes, indeed, that is why I must overcome all this suffering so that I may serve him again soon, she thought.

“Ah, ah!” Helaine’s anguished screams pierced the air, and as Russell listened to the agony in her voice, a tinge of concern washed over him for the future of the kingdom. The royal selection had already begun, and whatever the outcome, it would undoubtedly bring about a resolution. Russell hoped that the days to come would hold a glimmer of hope.

To realize this… That is the sole purpose of Russell Fellow of the Six Tongue’s existence, he thought with conviction.