“I am Luke Albert, the chief of this village.”
The boy introduced himself and the other merchants began to murmur among themselves.
However, the one most shocked was the novice intelligence officer named Rain.
Even though he was a retainer of the Albert house, Rain has personally seen Luke only a few times before. Each of those instances were from afar too, so he didn’t really know what Luke looked like up close.
Luke should have no knowledge of him either, or so Rain thought.
“Excuse me, but I’d like us to talk for a bit.”
“(What’s he want to talk about!?)”
Cold sweat ran through Rain’s whole body.
None of the previous teams have returned, and if the rumors he heard were to be believed, they suffered a fate worse than death.
“(Shit!? Am I gonna be caught like them too?)”
“What’s the matter here? I’m Seth, the leader of this group. You can talk to me instead of the newcomer…”
Right when Rain began screaming internally, Seth made his way to join the conversation.
“(Aww, the leader cares even for a newcomer like me. Please, go tell Luke-sama I’m not anyone suspicious! Please, please, please!)”
“No, I’d prefer to talk to him for now. Of course, I’d compensate you for the work he’ll be missing. How about this to start with?”
“Oh yes, yes, go and take your time with your talk!”
“Have I just been sold out!??!”
In the end, Rain was pulled out of the merchant group.
Before he knew it, brawny men were by their side, making escape impossible.
“(…i-it’s over…it’s all over…)”
The place he was brought to was an estate.
There, Rain was made to sit in a chair while multiple people surrounded him.
“(How does he know my naaaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmeee!?)”
To not only recognize him, a bottom-ranking retainer, but also remember his name, Rain became terrified of Luke.
“So, mind telling me everything?”
Instead of pressuring him to spill information, Rain was asked kindly.
Rain wasn’t so weak-willed that he would confess right away, especially when his entire family’s future depended on this mission.
After a few moments of silence, a petite old woman appeared before Rain.
“Eheeheehee, if you don’t want to talk, you don’t have to talk. Just look forward to having fun ‘till you drop, ok?”
“Hii! Wait, I’ll talk, I’ll talk!”
…Rain went with what every instinct in his body was saying: yield right away to the frightening old lady.
Rain spilled it all.
However, based on his captors’ reactions, what he said wasn’t anything new. Which made sense to him, since the other teams must have been captured and interrogated as well.
“So…what will happen to me now…?”
“Hmm, let’s see…well, obviously, we can’t let you go back anytime soon.”
“(Like I thought, they’re going to work me to death… or maybe be experimented on by that scary old woman… she really looked like she enjoyed tormenting others…)”
Filled with despair, Rain was brought to a mysterious box-shaped building.
He was escorted there by several guards. Each one looked intimidating, so Rain couldn’t help but be even more worried of what would become of him.
“For the moment, you’ll be living here. Go ask the others who moved in before you for details.”
“By the way, you do realize that there’s no use in trying to escape, right? We will find and capture you right away, after all.”
“But then again, soon enough, you won’t even be thinking of escaping this place.”
“(Because I’ll become so broken, I won’t be able to form thoughts anymore!?)”
Rain shivered with dread once more as he entered the building.
What awaited him inside was, much to his surprise, a pretty entrance.
“Ohh, are you new? Wait, you’re alone?”
The one to greet him in a friendly manner was a rather plump man.
The man had a big smile, as though he was happy about something.
“…sorry, you are?”
“Call me Hanz. I’m like you: sent here to investigate but was captured instead.”
Rain was could hardly believe the man’s unexpected reply.
“I guess you can say this is where all of us are being put to house arrest.”
“A-are we forced to worked to death every day…?”
“Hahaha. We do work, but not to our deaths. In fact, we only work 8 hours a day, and two days off every week. Plus, we get three meals a day everyday.”
“T-then, are we being used for human experimentation by that old woman…?”
“Human experimentation? What are you on about? But well, that old lady does love torturing people… That said, as long as you give her information, you’re safe. Not only safe, actually. Have you been told that our apartment units—that’s what they call our lodgings—our apartment units have beds and its own baths. I dare say, life here’s more comfortable than in the capital.”
The man didn’t seem to be lying.
If he was, there would be no way his skin would be this glossy and his body this plump. The man was healthy, too healthy in fact.
“Luke-sama’s a wonderful person. Normally, our captors would make our lives a living hell even after we give them the information they want. But here, we’re treated as guests. What’s more, Luke-sama’s expressed concern for our families back in the capital. Genuine concern, not just veiled threats. Even to me, someone who was tasked to assassinate him. Can you imagine that?”
“To be frank, he’s completely unlike Lord Albert and Raul-sama who treat us as mere tools. Well, nobles have been treating us like that since the beginning. I guess it’s more accurate to say that Luke-sama’s just the exception. …given the choice, I’d rather not go back to the capital anymore, you know. Man, I sure hope Luke-sama can win against Raul-sama.”
Rain was at a loss of words at Hanz’s almost treasonous remarks.
At the same time though, he felt refreshed. It was as though he had some pent-up resentment that he wasn’t aware of until now.
“(Can this city be…paradise?)”
It did not take him long before he enjoyed his life in the village from the bottom of his heart.