Arc 03: Betrothal, and a manuscript of olden gods.
Chapter 35: The Legend of a sea dragon, and the Spiritual Connection.
Rita and I entered the parlor of the villa that belonged to Iris Hoffmeier. In the meantime, Cecyl, Aine, and Leticia had already moved into the detached house.
In the end, I decided to accept the invitation.
The place we were heading to and the place the girl originated from was the same, so even if we wanted to, we couldn’t continue running for long.
Since it was the other side who held an interest in us, I would like to finish the discussion in a single meeting. If possible, it would be helpful to ask more info about that [Living Mail] and port city Irgafar.
The villa was located in ultra-high class mansion area beyond the zone dedicated to inns and across two more rivers. A huge garden was laid around the two-story building, which was then surrounded by a fence.
Cecyl and the rest were the mansion area used by commoners and separated from us by a river. All three of them already finished moving and called it a day.
Right now in front of me and Rita were Iris Hoffmeier, and Ms. Matilda the maid. We were sitting on opposite sides of the table.
The parlor was wide. One of the walls had drawings of boats, orient dragons, and a portrait of someone. A wooden chair with the tall back had carvings modeled after a ship. It was most likely a high-class item, but sitting on its hard surface would cause discomfort to one’s buttocks. Rita was squirming for some time already just by looking at it.
The girl sitting with her back to the said portrait was Iris Hoffmeier, one of the daughters of the feudal lord of Irgafar.
Iris is twelve years old. Despite not having the right to inherit the position of the feudal lord, she is more excellent than her older brothers and sisters. Case in point, she occasionally helps with negotiating the shipping and maritime trade. — That was the info I received from Leticia.
“I am glad to meet you, my name is Iris Hoffmeier” — Iris stood up from the chair and bowed to us in one fluid motion. She had a short build and was steadily watching at us with big golden eyes. The emerald hair was adorned with golden ornaments. She was dressed in a pale green dress.
“Thank you very much for your hospitality. I am Souma Nagi. The one next to me is Rita Melphius, and while she may be a slave, she is an excellent adventurer who saved me multiple times”
“…. H-how do you do”
The two of us rose from our seats and returned a bow. Being polite wasn’t my strong suit, but it wasn’t at the level of ridicule.
Damn, I am nervous. It’s hard to deal with celebrities.
I underwent lots of both practical interviews and even pressure interviews in my former world. I also participated in blitz interviews a lot… If only I could apply that experience right here.
I thought this knowledge wouldn’t be necessary in a different world, but if I could at least pull out this memory and reference it —
[Interview LV5] — a skill to “negotiate” “politely” at “opponent’s territory”.
This skill was the one that I managed to recollect once I tried that. After ten days had passed since I came to this world and my body finally adapted, I somehow managed to recall the skills from my former world. Oh well, I would use what I could use.
“Once again allow me to express my sincere gratitude for saving this Iris from a dangerous situation, thank you very much” — Iris was looking at us from up front. In contrast to her, our side shouldn’t avert our eyes — for now. The line of sight should be slightly downward, and corners of the mouth raised a bit.
I already took off the coat before entering the room and left it next to my chair. The hands were on my knees, and the back was straightened. They say it’s done so one wouldn’t run their mouth too fast.
“We were just unexpected passerby” — so I responded and sat down on a chair after being prompted to do so.
“Saving Iris-sama from the undead was a stroke of luck. It isn’t something to boast about”
“According to the guards’ report, the remains of the black armor were scattered through the highway”
Meanwhile, Iris climbed on the tall chair like she was scaling it.
“I wonder, who in the world could manage to defeat that thing?”
“Wouldn’t that be a passing hero, by chance?”
“That might be so. That person is, after all, said to be in possession of a sword that can expand and contract”
Iris said with narrow eyes as if she was searching for something.
… So she had noticed, huh? She must’ve been awake during the time she was abducted.
Those words meant they most likely wanted to know about our abilities. However, I had no reason or desire to be acknowledged by Iris for my ability or being used by her. The objective here was intelligence gathering and its discussion after the meeting was over. That was pretty much it.
Let’s go with a reply that would usually fail the interview.
“Who knows, I don’t know those whom I never met”
So I tried playing dumb. How will she reply?
“Personally, I wanted to meet them as a daughter of the feudal lord of Irgafar. They should be paid an appropriate reward”
Iris came with a probing question. The implied meaning was about whether I really wanted a reward or not.
“If they wanted a reward, they would surely come with an appeal to Iris-sama directly. Them not doing so might be connected with their wish to not stand out”
“In that case, let us sympathize with their intention”
I continued to feign ignorance, to which Iris decided to respond.
In the end, it was decided that we would forfeit our right for the reward from defeating [Black Armor] in exchange for having our abilities stay hidden.
“While that is so, we still haven’t given you anything for rescuing Iris from the undead. How would like to be rewarded for that part?”
What a strong sense of duty this Iris Hoffmeier has.
A question of a reward came out. Theory said to suggest a value that was slightly below the usual market price at times like that. During the time when I saved Rita from Leviathan, the reward was 200.000 Arusha.
However, this time I didn’t accept a commission of saving anybody. I just did it at my own expense. It was bothersome to give a bad impression to an influential person, so going with the lowest possible amount was good, right?
“Then, I would like to request two things. Is that fine?”
“Please do, Souma Nagi”
“I would like to be introduced to a healer. Do you have someone who is responsible for healing the soldiers who were done in by the undead? ”
“We have. They are currently in the middle of performing recovery on said people”
“May I borrow their power to heal Cecyl, a member of my party?”
“I was indeed told of that person’s bad physical condition. I will arrange for her to receive their attention as soon as the soldiers are fully treated which should finish tomorrow evening. What is your other wish?”
“I would like to purchase common skills of the housework series, provided you have those”
Looks like this one they didn’t expect. Iris blinked a few times in surprise and cocked her head.
“You have a mansion this big, so I thought that you might have a reserve of essential skills for people you hire. I would like to install some of those housework skills in my slaves”
It was a lie though. I just wanted to stock up on skills. The reason behind me asking for skills from the housework series was that I couldn’t possibly ask for battle-related skills after coming to someone’s house. It was like saying to give me their weapons. Wouldn’t hurt to be careful here.
“Of course, I will pay an appropriate cost for those. How much would you like?”
“Souma-sama really has no greed, doesn’t he?”
“Right now I am only an unemployed drifter. What it means is that I don’t even have a place to store any treasure even if I had one”
“Allow me to accept all of your conditions”
Iris laughed in enjoyment while hiding her mouth with the hand.
This girl is amusing. On top of having guessed our intentions, she even came up with various probing questions.
“Thank you very much, Iris-sama”
“I would like to speak with Souma-sama a little bit more”
I felt the same. [Interview LV5] was still active.
The mood became more easygoing. If it was an interview, the next question would surely be “Do you have any questions?”
Now was the time to gather intelligence.
“It’s been a long time since Iris was in such elated mood. Thanks to that [Living Mail] I would even dare say”
“What sort of person was it, by the way?”
“Are you interested?”
“Given how things took place, we kinda ended up being a hindrance to our opponent. Wouldn’t you agree there is a possibility that we are hated now?”
I met Iris’ glance and lightly nodded.
“There is a proverb from port city Irgafar, ‘One is to help their fellow person should they happen to ride on the same ship, even if they are strangers’”
Iris loosened up the tightly gripped fist atop the table. It looked like she managed to relieve some tension.
“However, there is too much which we do not understand”
“… Like what?”
“Irgafar is a port city, and my father — its feudal lord. Shipping, trade, and everything related bring a hefty profit. I would say there are a lot of people who would want to simply damage Father’s reputation by kidnapping me, let alone those with ransom goal in mind”
In other words, Iris felt herself to be the daughter of a merchant. It was often said in my former world that children of very rich parents were kidnapped by scoundrels when they visited their late mothers’ graves.
“Iris holds no value as an individual. The most she does is serving as a shrine maiden during the Festival”
“Irgafar holds an annual festival in reverence of [Sea Dragon Kerkattle], with Iris taking place of its shrine maiden”
[Sea Dragon Kerkattle] … it was the first time I heard those words.
According to Iris, Sea Dragon Kerkattle was a kind of dragon who lived in the sea and was also apparently the guardian deity of Irgafar.
Its figure was depicted in the drawing behind Iris. the depicted dragon was similar to the oriental dragons of my world, an elongated snake-like body with a rugged head, no wings, and four talon-growing claws.
It’s said that Sea Dragon Kerkattle performed a [Contract] with the citizens of port city Irgafar long time ago. Thanks to the dragon honoring that [Contract], the ships of Irgafar were rarely attacked by monsters. As a result, the trade prospered, and Iris’ house developed. Or so people said.
“Will you lose this protection of Kerkattle if you do away with the festival?”
“Yes. Thanks to the festival, the citizens of Irgafar are able to renew the [Contract] with the sea dragon. Everything started with the love story between a human boy and the daughter of Sea Dragon Kerkattle…”
Iris closed her eyes and began talking in a song.
“In the times of old, love bloomed between a human body and a daughter of Sea Dragon Kerkattle.
Having engaged with the sea dragon girl, the boy awakened new abilities and physical strength.
The boy was thus bestowed with a trial, and slew the enemy of Sea Dragon.
Recognizing the newfound power in the boy, Kerkattle performed a [Contract] to keep protecting the ships Irgafar to this day.
And so the spiritual link between the boy and a sea dragon girl was in due form, and the port city prospered in its wake — ”
“So an [Engagement] and [Spiritual Connection], huh? How romantic~”
Rita was being enraptured with the song.
Eh? So it’s a real story? I thought for sure it was a fairy-tale.
“Is this [Engagement] and [Spiritual Connection] different from regular marriage and betrothal?”
“They are quite different, I believe. The marriage is basically a promise to be together until death do you part, right? The [Spiritual Connection] is… a higher version, probably” — Rita whispered close to my ears.
“[Spiritual Connection] ties souls together, it’s a vow to be alongside one another even in the next world, and the ones after that. The [Engagement] fulfills that purpose — surpassing multiple obstacles allows forming a deep, profound connection between people. It is like awakening new skills and boosting the physical strength just by having resonating souls”
“Rita, do you know the method to do that?”
“No, I don’t. It’s an ancient ceremony after all. Furthermore, doesn’t the method differs depending on the race?”
So the ceremony ties the reciprocating souls, makes them resonate with each other, awaken new abilities and greatly improve one’s power… huh…
…. Yeah, that sounds interesting.
“Does Iris-sama have an interest in the ceremony of [Spiritual Connection]?”
Iris covered her mouth with her hand while ms. maid only smiled.
“I lived in the far eastern island country until recently thus I may come as an ignorant person. The ceremony sounds interesting to me. Especially in regards to great recovery effects, and awakening of skills… ”
“It is an ancient ceremony indeed, and short of being in the domain of legends for being a ritual of [Spiritual Connection] between people”
“So you are saying that it is possible to perform this ceremony between members of different species as well, aren’t you? For example, what if one of the parties involved was a slave, would they be able to do it?”
“Wow, you are considering something interesting. I believe that it is possible, but the master-slave [Contract] may not carry over into the next life, you know?”
Yeah, that’s not something I would mind.
“If you want to know about the ceremony in detail, I will lend you the documents later. Will that be fine?”
Iris had a dumbfound look for an instant, but then immediately took a serious expression.
“Please do” — I answered after clearing my throat.
“Thank you very much, Iris-sama. I have learned much, both about the sea dragon legend and my opponent”
With those words, Iris breathed out a sigh.
It looked like she managed to gain some peace of mind out of this discussion, her shoulders were visibly relaxed. Iris was twelve years old, which would place her in the sixth year of an elementary school in my former world.
In hindsight, Iris was amazing — to talk with another first whom she met for the first time just after being attacked by the undead and Black Armor.
Our side relaxed as well. The interview was finished. All that was left was an idle chat.
At present, it was impossible to ascertain what type of “opponent” Iris had. Just by considering rough possibilities, the opponents could be related to rival cities of Irgafar, or underlings of the demon king who wanted to make trouble for humans. If that black armor was created with some cheat skill, it would raise the possibility of the mastermind being an otherworlder.
… Still, whoever they might be, it was very unlikely for them to raise their hands against even our group.
“Some time ago we sent a fast horse to Irgafar” — Matilda-san finally said after staying silent until now.
“An army corp will arrive in order to protect Iris-sama in two days, provided if they are quick. While waiting for their arrival, we decided to go to Irgafar. In the meantime, we are going to employ the adventurers staying in this town who will protect the residence. Soldiers, magicians, and priests specialized in dealing with the undead have already been gathered. The total number we are looking for is more than thirty people”
“….Absolutely perfect defensive preparation, right?…”
Damn the feudal family of Irgafar is rich. I feel like world history taught me that the trade in the Middle Ages was a jumbled mess to yield a profit. Still, what a relief. It doesn’t seem like we would have to play a part in it.
“We too have plans to travel to Irgafar with around the same time as Iris-sama”
I tasted the content of my teacup. It’s long cooled down.
I guess I can’t request a refill to warm my throat. Let’s go back. We’ve exchanged the essential information, and the interview was finished.
“I pray that [Sea Dragon Festival] goes smoothly”
“Please wait a minute!”
Iris jumped the chair, knocking it back.
“Iris would like to request your group to be her guards. Won’t you consider the possibility of you becoming the pivotal group of adventurers and protect Iris?”
Gripping the hem of her dress, Iris gazed at me and Rita.