CHAPTER 52: STALKING, UNMASKING, AND GUILD MASTER
『It seems that the forest was abandoned after the change to the current Guild Master.
Assuming that the forest changed two to three years ago, it’s likely that the forest wasn’t ignored immediately after the guild master got into position, but rather was gradually neglected instead.』
『But, if the place where the potion ingredients were harvested is nearby, it should be that forest, right They’d neglect that』
While sensing that the stalker is following close behind, I began talking to Ciel.
This isn’t really a topic to discuss while being chased by a stalker, but it’s also not a topic I’d particularly reserve until we get back to the inn, so I decided to continue talking regardless.
『While we don’t know how it was in the past, they don’t seem to be worried about the shortage right now, so it’s probably not a priority for them.
While I do think that neglecting the forest is a problem for the country, whether this is the kingdom’s fault or the Hunter Guild’s fault, I can’t tell for sure.』
『Reacting only after something happens would already be too late in my opinion.』
『While we could say that from an outsider’s perspective, since organisations have their own agendas, everything doesn’t always go too smoothly.』
Even from a historical standpoint, things straying off course due to politics isn’t particularly unusual to see.
And while I’m not sure if the same applies to this world, I at least think that this kingdom doesn’t have a good risk management system.
Is it that they can’t mobilise unless something has already occurred Or is that even if they have noticed something’s about to happen, they’re too busy passing the blame around to make any progress
『In that case, I don’t want to be in an organisation.
After all, I don’t want to think of anything else other than you and me, Ain.
I suppose I should quit being a hunter too.』
Ciel said so with a joking giggle, but I also wouldn’t mind if we quit the hunter gig after we escape from Estock Kingdom.
Though we currently don’t really have any reason to quit in particular, so we’ll probably continue on until we do find one.
『Let’s do that at least after we have already left the country.
Back to our topic, considering the royal capital, it would be better to report the information about the stampede sometime soon.』
『They’ll need time to prepare after all.』
『Since there’s still a very slim chance that we might be affected by the stampede, informing the guild about it should prevent us future troubles.』
『Still, you don’t want to tell them about it, right』
『Not really, I think that it’ll be better to inform the guild eventually.
However, passing the information just before we leave the royal capital should be our best option.
Having a letter or something delivered for us seems like less trouble.』
『If we say 「A stampede might happen.」 or something, we’d just stand out after all.
Rather, they might not even take it seriously.』
Sadly, as Ciel said, a 12-year-old girl’s words would be quite hard for people to believe in.
There are lots of people that quickly change their attitude once they learn that we’re a C-rank Hunter, but convincing people that we really are C-rank would take time and effort as well.
At worst, it’s going to be a match spree all over again.
Rather than going through that kind of trouble, just silently going away is a lot better.
And since this might backfire this time, we could choose to inform them by letter in the worst case.
It’s the Compassion is not for the good of others thing.
Well, maybe in some sense.
Also, there’s one more reason why I don’t intend to give the information until the very last moment.
『That’s a fair point as well.
Also, I want to keep it as a trump card against the guild.』
『Trump card What does that mean』
『In simple terms, blackmail material.
After all, the possibility of a stampede happening should be the responsibility of the guild master for neglecting the forest, likely to no small degree.』
『So, as insurance then.』
『That would be correct.』
If we don’t need to use it, then it’ll be better that way.
However, while we’re in the capital, there’s still a chance of having friction with the Hunter Guild.
While it would be for the best if things don’t reach that point, there’s also no particular reason for us to waste this advantage.
『By the way, how’s our pursuer』
『Still keeping a moderate distance.
Even after we showed an intentional opening, it’s as if he doesn’t plan on making further contact, it’s fairly eerie.』
『So it’s confirmed that he’s following us then』
Considering that, I think we should try heading to the guild since I’d hate it if our inn was discovered.』
『It’ll be awkward to enter for non-hunter people after all.』
『Besides that, if there are other hunters around, I imagine that we’ll almost definitely get hounded on, and if that happens, it should cause some sort of stir to our current deadlock.
I don’t know if he’ll pick a fight or just casually approach us though.』
While I’m still very conflicted on why we have to go through this much effort, our inn is going to be exposed if we don’t do anything, and we won’t be able to relax at night.
If the stalker doesn’t come before us even after we go to the guild, I might have to ask Ciel to directly confront him.
『If that’s how it is, then should I switch from the get go』
『Considering that we’ll likely get hound on, that’s a safer choice.
I’ll entrust this to you.』
『Sure, leave it to me.
I’ll show you what I can do.』
While feeling a tinge of unease after seeing Ciel unusually hyped up, I still decided to entrust this matter to Ciel since we have no other options left.
We arrived before the Hunter Guild.
To make sure somebody would pester us this time, we intentionally arrived at a time with so-so hunter traffic.
Still, even while we were killing time, the stalker didn’t leave us at all.
Really, what does he want At this point, I’d be relieved if he just attacks us.
And so, since there was no change at all, Ciel switched with me and headed to the Hunter Guild’s building entrance.
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She opened the wooden outswing door and went inside.
In inns and some other places, the doors would open inwards.
I heard that the reason why most Hunter Guilds have outswing doors is that inswing doors by themselves cause troubles to increase.
It goes something like: A newbie would enthusiastically open the door, which then hits some ruffian of a hunter.
We’ve never hit anyone when we open the doors but even so, just entering lands us the stares of many people.
Like the stalking, isn’t this something people could call the police for in my past life
Though if this was like my past life, that would mean that I won’t be able to use our quick hunter-oriented problem solving method since I vaguely remember there to be laws against duels as well.
After entering the building, Ciel heads to the C-rank request board for no particular reason.
This is probably, like, a habit by now.
Being a hunter, one looks at the request board when going inside the guild.
It’s a normal, completely natural, behaviour.
That’s only in the case of people that look appropriate for their rank, however.
Having someone immediately call us out was, for this time, quite lucky so to speak.
As the voice came from a man with ragged clothes, unkempt hair, a contemptuous vulgar look that makes it hard to figure out that’s just his face being ugly to begin with or not, and a repulsive gaze; I can’t really call this lucky though.
Ignoring the man’s voice, Ciel asked me a question.
『Has the person in question entered the guild』
Since that didn’t cause any commotion, he’s probably related to the guild.』
『Where is he now』
『Around the entrance.』
As Ciel glanced at the entrance, a thin young man was staring at us from there.
While I can say the same for us, he doesn’t look like a hunter at all.
Since he was following us ever since we left the authorized pub, I suspected that he might be a guild member but…..
If not that then, he might be a staff personnel.
He’s not wearing a uniform though.
「Missy, what do you think you’re ignoring me for, eh」
As the guy who approached us said so with an irritated tone, Ciel answered with a short reply.
Seemingly back into groove after getting a reaction from us, the man returned to his previous condescending tone.
「This isn’t a playground.
「I’m a hunter.
Mind your own business.」
「Then you’d be over at the low-rank area, right
You don’t even know that Then I won’t mind guiding you closely by hand, feet, and hip, you know」
The person accompanying him mockingly say 「You’d settle with that runt」 and so on, but the man replied 「I’m going to raise her while she’s young!」 defensively.
It seems like a discussion is about to start, but as we don’t have any reason to wait for that, Ciel cuts into their exchange and shows her card.
「I’m a C-rank hunter.
I fit here.」
「You, C-rank The card looks authentic but falsifying cards will get you a permanent expulsion, so you better cut that out.」
The man laughs loudly, and the people with him do so as well.
「It is real, but it’s not like you’d believe it anyway.」
In the same tone she uses when talking to me, Ciel muttered so.
She seems to be quite dumbfounded, or rather fed up of this already.
Seemingly overhearing this, the man’s eye shone with a hint of intelligence.
It looks like he’s thought of some worthless idea, but I unfortunately can’t read his mind.
「If you’re C-rank at that age, then you have a pretty good Job, don’t you Say it.
I’ll take your word for it then.」
「I don’t have any obligation to tell you and I don’t even need your acknowledgment.」
「That’s a problem, I’m just saying this from the goodness of my heart.」
It seems that his goodness is of a different definition to mine.
As the man grins as he intentionally blocks Ciel’s way, we’re at a point where it’s now acceptable to get rid of him in a hunter-like fashion.
However, I’m waiting for the stalker to make his move this time.
Also, Ciel seems to be pondering on what to do as well.
Just when I began to doubt the chances of anything happening, a voice saying
「Miss Song Princess.」 came from behind us.
Looking at the origin of the voice, it was the stalker as expected.
Still, this development was definitely far from what I was expecting.
Ciel’s Job isn’t Song Princess, but there’s absolutely no issue with people having that misunderstanding.
However, having someone’s Job exposed in a situation where there’s an innumerable number of people, like now, can be fatal to a hunter’s career.
Especially when it’s a “Song Princess”.
In that case, there’s a risk of this being fatal for that person’s life as well.
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After all, while we weren’t there when it happened, we were almost lynched at the town of Sannois just for being accused of being a Song Princess.
「It’s your Job, miss.」
The stalker seems to have some sort of conviction behind his words, he’s not backing down.
Then the reason he was following us might be because he thought of getting rid of us after identifying that I was a Song Princess.
But considering that, he should have had many other chances to do so.
Leaving that aside, like fishes thrown back into the water, the stalker’s words ended up energizing the pestering hunters.
The man’s voice was loud to begin with, but this time he spoke louder so that everybody in the guild can hear.
「You heard that A C-rank hunter with the Job of Song Princess, she says!
Don’t even mention C-rank, she probably can’t even do G-rank requests properly!」
As though to answer the man, snickering echoed from around us.
However, the reactions of other people are pretty varied, from those that agree with the man’s words, those that show scorn towards the man, and those that continue on without concerning themselves with what’s happening.
A staff personnel went to the back of the guild as well, probably to call the guild master or something.
I could’ve sworn that I heard of the capital’s guild being also kind to disappointing Jobs as well, but this man is awfully loud considering that.
I guess Song Princesses are an exception to that, huh.
A Song Princess was the cause of the capital’s ruin in the past after all, so it shouldn’t be unusual that there’s a different level of hate for them.
Still, the original reason why that even happened was exactly because there was discrimination against Song Princesses in the first place.
The man hounding on us gleefully talked to us once again.
Messing with us earlier, eh」
「I’ve said nothing but the truth.」
「Don’t you play around with me brat.」
I can’t tell if he was just acting or if he was actually angry, but the man suddenly came to grab us.
However, Ciel dodged with a light step, and, to top it off, kicked his leg as he passed by her.
Losing his balance, the man made a loud noise as he fell to the ground, and as that happened, Ciel drew the knife hanging on her waist and held it against the man’s neck.
Seeing Ciel’s smooth and flowing movement, the people around us suddenly fell silent.
The man on the ground was dumbfounded, likely not comprehending what just happened to him, but he then glared hatefully at Ciel as he gradually understood the situation.
Come on, losing to Ciel who wasn’t even using sorcery.
There’s a limit to how much someone should let his guard down.
「Then you, who lost to a G-rank, is weaker than a normal person.」
「With how weak you are, what are you being cocky a-…… GyAaaAa!」
As the man attempted to power his way out of the situation, Ciel slashed at his arm.
With her strength, it’s impossible for Ciel to hold the man down in the first place, so this was a natural course of action.
The arm seemed to be his dominant one, which I don’t know if it was an intentional choice or not, so this should decrease his combat capabilities to a great extent.
As the man squirmed and yelled from having his arm cut, Ciel looked at him with an icy stare.
Still, I guess that’s only natural since he’s crying so much just from that little cut.
After all, Ciel has endured through more terrible wounds compared to this.
However, letting him bleed out like that would probably be bad.
Just when I thought that, 「Oi, Valbar.」 a man who seems to be his companion approached and kneeled beside the wailing man.
It would’ve been great if he just tended to Valbar’s wounds, but for some reason 「You brat!」 he shot a glare at Ciel.
Ciel wouldn’t even flinch from that at this point, so she simply chucked the knife to the kneeling man in reply.
The knife brushed against the man’s hair, and bounced off the ground as it landed.
This should be the end of Ciel’s role.
After all, after going to this extent, anybody should be willing to listen to what we say.
With that said, 『Please switch with me.』 I asked Ciel and switched with her.
I don’t know where I should go from here on, but I suppose we can ignore the hunters engraved with fear for now.
I glared at the stalker who just went silent after making the situation worse.
The sin of standing silent after exposing Ciel to danger is extremely heavy.
Also, the exposure of an individual’s Job is normally a subject for punishment.
If he only attacked together with the Valbar, Ciel would have beaten him up and that would have made me feel somewhat better, but instead, this man quietly remained inside his safety zone.
I’ll make sure to at least have a word with him… is what I thought, but the staff personnel who went somewhere returned with a middle-aged man in tow.
The grizzled man, while not to the same extent as a hunter’s, had great strength behind his eyes.
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You, what trouble did you cause this ti…… Heck, what just happened here……」
The seemingly dignified man was left speechless as he was faced with a girl not even of mature age standing before a man wailing as he’s drenched in blood, another man next to him sitting blankly on the floor, and another different man cowering in fear as he’s being stared by the said girl.
Heya~! AinCiel is trouble! And ruffians… That were shot immediately as they inflated their ego powered hot-air balloon.
What now, stupid stalker What’s your next plan, fool
Back to our princesses, Ciel is sharp and swift as cold steel this time around.
And Ain, lol, pretty angry with the stalker of his Ciel endangerment.
I’d say, the fool probably isn’t a part of the people that have heard of *the rumors*, so he’s definitely not a hunter, and if he is, definitely not a competent one.
Speaking of competent hunters, another example of one, is the fool writhing on a pool of his own blood.
Oh, did I say competent I mean incompetent.
At the very least, this fool didn’t go strong until he was sure that Ciel was a hunter.
Actually intelligent of him, to be honest.
Only slightly though, as his self-inflated ego made him crash horribly into self-destruction, lol.
Still, actually quite cunning of a ruffian, only he wasn’t cunning enough to know when to back down and be satisfied with his bullying.
Still, the guy that mocked Valbar for *settling with a runt*, lol.
You should really reflect on yourself if one of the boys is criticizing your actions, man.
Ya lucky we can’t sic Chris Hansen against ya.
And now, the enigmatic Guild Master has appeared.
Completely dumbfounded by the situation, lol.