On the return trip to the capital, we had taken a great interest in our new companion and now retainer of the Faulkner family. At the moment, we were contemplating just what Ludmila could do to earn her keep.
“Maybe something that takes advantage of her speed?” I thought.
Given that she was only 11, there were a limited number of things we could have her do. Her current level was also low, so we couldn’t bring her along as a combatant yet. After I had watched her be ingested by the dragon, it would be a while before I would be comfortable seeing her on the battlefield again.
“Being discreet about her ability would be best. Electi aren’t exactly common,” Saki advised us.
Ludmila had mentioned before that people came after her, leading to the death of her previous master. Since only the three of us knew about her speedy movements, it would be best to lay low until she became more used to the world. Guess we’ll have to tell people that we randomly picked up an orphan during our travels.
“A servant would be ideal then. We can take our time to give her the training that’s needed. I’m sure Pietro and Carina would love to help…,” Eryn started to say, but then paused after she had brought up Ludmila’s status menu.
“What’s wrong?” I noticed her trailing off.
“Oh…it seems that her Dex stat is the low one.”
Picking up on my lack of understanding, Eryn explained to me that the Dex stat represented the proficiency of your body control. Fighters with a high Dex were able to fluidly move and juggle with their opponents in battle. The stat was representative of grace and maneuverability. In contrast, having a low Dex meant that the person would be clumsy.
“And?” I repeated.
Now, Eryn was the one that stared blankly this time as she had no idea what was left to explain.
“I mean, a clumsy maid is attractive to many men in the world that I’m from.”
Personally, I thought Ludmila would be cute as a maid. A clumsy one would only serve to enhance that cuteness.
Eryn facepalmed as she took in that statement. Moments such as these reinforced her perception that otherworlders were strange beings. She looked over at Saki questioning if my statement was true in her case as well, but Saki just crossed her arms as if saying ‘no comment’.
A different thought came to my mind as I stared at Ludmila’s stats. Unlike mine which read ‘999’, which appeared to be maxed out from the start, Ludmila’s best stat had a much lower number next to it. Furthermore, though her Dex was lower than normal, it was not the crippling number that mine had been for Atk and Mag.
When I pointed that out to everyone, Saki was the first to answer my question.
“That should be normal. That’s the case for my own stats as well.”
Having been summoned as an Electi of Attack, Saki had attack power far superior to anyone else. Combined with her high level, her blows carried the force of a wrecking ball. However, her Def stat didn’t make her fragile as glass to compensate. It was lower than a normal person’s, but her expensive equipment made up for it. It was not at all like my situation in which nothing I equipped would improve my worst stats.
“So, I’m the weird one?” I came to that conclusion.
“There certainly hasn’t been a recorded case in which an Electi possessed a stat that was fully enhanced from the beginning.” Eryn looked up, searching her brain for any memories pertaining to that possibility.
Somehow, it felt like there was still a lot that people didn’t know about Electi, but that was not important at the moment.
My thought was cut off as we arrived back to the capital of Engelberg.
Saki parted ways with us to return back to the Chancellor, bearing good news. Having been away for over a week, Eryn thought it would be best to check in with the guild and trading company first. She handed me a bag of coins to go clothes shopping with Ludmila.
“You mean, I can make her a maid?” I smiled back at her as Ludmila and I got off.
“Yeah, yeah. Whatever.” Eryn rubbed her temples as she hesitantly entrusted me with the task. She rolled away by cart towards the guild. Saki planned to hop off when she got closer to the castle.
With only Ludmila and I left behind, I started to walk in the direction of the marketplace but immediately felt a tug on my shirt.
“Hand,” a small voice said behind me.
I looked back to see Ludmila reaching her hand out for me to grasp it.
As I gently took her hand in mine, I wondered if this was what it felt like to have a little sister. In any case, my urge to spoil her grew.
“Alright, let’s go get you something nice to wear.”
Hand-in-hand, I led the small, curious girl through the streets of Engelberg, looking around for the clothing shop that Katsys showed me once. Finding the shop in question, I looked around a bit before I realized that the clothing here seemed a bit too high class. With nowhere else to turn to, I asked the shopkeeper if she could direct me to a suitable shop for servant uniforms.
Looking curiously at the young girl wearing oriental style clothing, she eyed me questionably for a moment before realizing who I was.
“Oh! You’re that Demon Cleaver, aren’t you? Found yourself an apprentice?”
“Not exactly. Just an orphan that my master decided to look after. Thought it would be best to give her some work to do while staying with us,” I said, being careful not to divulge too much about Ludmila.
“In that case, take a right and head down a few blocks. You should see a sign with a dressed-up chicken. That shop should have what you need.”
A few minutes later, we stood in front of the shop in question. While the sign read ‘The Spiffy Chicken,’ I couldn’t help but cover my mouth to stifle the laughter that boiled up. The sign had a chicken wearing a necktie.
Though it wouldn’t have been funny to anyone in this world, the current picture looked remarkably like a certain meme from mine.
“Master…What wrong?” Ludmila shook me to catch my attention.
“No…it’s nothing.” I slapped myself to reset my system. “Just that it’s a ‘hentai’ shop.”
“No, forget what I said.” I ruffled her hair as if playfully erasing that part from her memory.
Upon entering, I could immediately tell that I would be able to find something here, particularly since the shopkeeper had been wearing a maid outfit. Though, as she turned around, her looks left something to be desired.
“Ah, welcome! Interested in snazzy new kitchen apparel? Or perhaps the young miss has awoken to servitude?” The maid/shopkeeper bellowed at us.
I meekly pointed over to Ludmila, who had started hiding behind me in fear.
“Ah! Little girl, I have just the thing for you. You like frills? Of course, you do!~𝅘𝅥𝅯𝅘𝅥𝅯” She pointed to herself as she spun around. “I can have you looking spiffy like yours truly.~𝅘𝅥𝅯𝅘𝅥𝅯”
My patience had already been wearing thin. “Something simple please. For a maid trainee.”
“Oh, no, no. You’s a boring man~𝅘𝅥𝅯𝅘𝅥𝅯 A flower such as her must FLAUNT it!”
“Okay, time to go elsewhere.” I turned to leave with Ludmila attached to my side.
“No wait! I apologize! I tend to get overly excited about these things.” The shopkeeper bowed, reflecting on her actions.
“Then something simple, PLEASE.”
Without responding, the shopkeeper dashed away. Moments later, she returned with a few outfits. I had to admit, the outfits themselves appeared to be high quality and fashionable.
Looking over at Ludmila as the shopkeeper stretched each outfit over her body, I was convinced something would look good on her.
“Go on. Try them out.”
Hesitantly, Ludmila went to one of the side rooms to change. Minutes later, she sheepishly peaked out before presenting herself. Though it was a simple maid uniform that consisted of a black dress that went down to her knees and a white apron with a small number of frills, I thought it looked perfect on her.
“Yes, you’re very cute.” I gave a thumbs up.
A smile shone through her doubts as she hurried back to try on the others. Though it may have been my inexperience with fashion, it seemed that everything suited her. The price was good too, so I didn’t hesitate to get several of the outfits.
“Oh, how about an outfit for traveling? One that gives good mobility.” I thought it would be good to get something specifically designed for her speed. “Something…outdoorsy.”
My hands reached over to a tunic and a set of trousers that made me think of elven ranger clothing. Checking that they looked right, I handed them to Ludmila to try next. When she came out, her appearance looked very boyish.
“So… Mr. Customer has those kinds of tastes~𝅘𝅥𝅯𝅘𝅥𝅯” The shopkeeper looked away skeptically.
“I’m not sure what you mean, but no.”
Taking everything that Ludmila had tried on, I paid for them. Honestly, if it weren’t for needing to get her new clothing, we would’ve been long out the door.
With Ludmila embracing her bag of new clothes, I hailed a carriage to take us back home.
Before I had the chance to open the front door to the Faulkner home, it quickly swung open, revealing Pietro with a glum expression.
“Not the young miss…no matter. Sir Claude, if I could have a moment.”
This was not the usual Pietro. I had never seen him with an expression like that. I looked over at Ludmila who slunk back in fear.
“No need to worry about the girl. I’ve already been informed, so Carina will look after her. Quickly, to the living room.” Pietro guided Ludmila forward to Carina who was waiting down the hall.
Afterwards, Pietro stepped outside and closed the front door.
“What’s going on? Is Eryn not back yet?” I looked at him, a bit nervous.
“She is likely still at the trading company.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. So nothing happened to her. However, the next moment hit me like a ton of bricks.
“Her uncle has passed away, leaving the business in disarray.”
“WHAT! HOW?” I looked straight into Pietro’s eyes, hoping that what I just heard had been wrong.
“He was attacked on an errand outside the capital. There were no witnesses. A passing traveler found his body and brought him back not long ago.”
Tears crept to the corner of my eyes. He was a man that gave me a sense of dread whenever he smelled the opportunity for profit. He was a man that worked me harder than I had ever done before. Despite that, I knew of the warmth he had for Eryn, for his staff, for those around him.
He didn’t deserve an end like this. And what about Eryn? What would she do now that she had lost her remaining blood relative?
“I need to go by her side,” I said in a trance-like state. In my heart, I was hoping that I would be enough to support her.
Running straight to my room, I grabbed the levi-board before racing out of the house. The chilly wind beat against my face as I zoomed towards the trading company, not knowing what state Eryn would be in.
With my thoughts running wild as to what I should do, the building of the trading company soon came into view. However, nothing seemed normal about the state of the surroundings. I skidded to a stop before reaching a wall of soldiers who had placed themselves around the area in front of the entrance. Looking behind them, I saw Eryn with a glum expression, the Duke grasping her by the arm as if dragging her along. That was all that I needed to see.
“Hey! What are you doing to Eryn!?” I approached the soldiers with my knife drawn.
The soldiers wore thick metal armor, leaving hardly any exposed skin. Honestly, I didn’t know how I would be able to fight such opponents, but I didn’t care.
Hearing my voice approaching, Eryn turned towards my way. The Duke whispered into her ear, which made me grip my knife tighter. A moment later, he released her arm and let her walk forward. The soldiers parted ways to allow her to pass.
“Eryn, are you okay? Did he do anything to you?” I walked up to my master with worry in my eyes.
“I will be marrying the Duke.”
“I will be marrying into Duke Charlemagne’s house, where I will then become the Duchess. A status upgrade any noble would dream of. Because of that, I will be retiring from the guild. I no longer need your services anymore as the kingdom’s army will be my guard. You are hereby free to do as you wish from now on.”
“No…what are you saying?” At that point, all my emotions fell away. I felt hollow as the one person who stayed by my side since I came here suddenly decided to let me go. My knife clattered to the ground as I no longer felt it in my hand.
“Why?” I reached forward to grasp her shoulders. Eryn simply turned away from me.
“Why? After all we’ve done! After all we’ve been through! How could you-“
Eryn looked up, her eyes boring holes into me.
“I NEVER CARED FOR YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE!”
Her scream rang loudly in my ears. My shaky hands slowly separated from her shoulders as she looked down again.
“Just go,” she whispered, looking away with a pained expression.
As I rigidly turned to leave, I remembered one last thing. Opening my Item Box, I reached in and grabbed a single bag that I had prepared days ago. I tossed it to the ground at her feet before picking up my knife and walking away. Hopping on my levi-board, I took one last look at my former master before gliding away.
Moments after my back could no longer be seen anymore, Eryn slowly bent down to pick up the bag, a tear rolling down her face. She shoved it into her pocket as the Duke lifted her up to lead her away.