It was the second morning since we left for the royal capital.
Ciel and I were chatting and defeating the random monsters along the way, when I felt several presences far ahead of us.
One bunch is slightly nearer to us, and considering their use of the road leading to the capital, they should be either travelers or merchants.
Since there are two horse-like and two human-like presences, they’re probably merchants.

And further beyond them are five, somewhat smaller presences.
I’ve felt several presences similar to these before, so I’m sure that these are wolf-type monsters.
But the problem here, if I had to say, is that the merchants and wolves are about to bump into each other soon.
Considering that there are only two people, it’s highly probable that they didn’t hire any escorts.
Though, there’s also the possibility that one of them is an escort or that they’re strong enough to not need any too, I guess.

『There’s a carriage ahead of us that might get attacked by monsters, but what should we do?』
「Does that mean that we’ll encounter them if we continue walking?」
『That’s right.
It might be better to say that we’ll eventually encounter them if the monster attack makes them stop on their tracks.』
「What choices do we have then?」
『Roughly sorting it, we can ignore them, help them, or observe their situation.
If we decide to help them, we can either choose to do it openly or in secret; while if we decide to observe them, we can then choose to help them or ignore them after that.』
「So, Ain, what’s the thing you’re curious about?」

Ciel puffs out proudly after saying so.
It was as if she just declared that she knows me inside out but since she was actually right about that, I resigned myself to her adorable smug look.

『For some reason, they don’t seem to have any hired escorts.
I’m not sure if they’re strong themselves or only chose not to hire any but, particularly in case of the latter, I feel like they aren’t very decent people.』
「I see.
In that case, why don’t we observe first?
If they aren’t strong, we’ll help them out after.」
『So we’ll save them then.』
「I’m curious about what sort of people they are after all.
I wonder why they didn’t hire escorts?」
I’ll take charge after rescuing them, okay?』

With the merchants likely being men, it’ll be tough for Ciel.
Regardless, since Ciel is interested about that, then I’ll keep her company.
It’s practically my calling after all.

「For now, we’ll have to hurry and catch up to them, right?
Can you do me a favor, Ain?」
『If that’s the case, please keep running until I finish singing.』

This is our fastest mode of movement.
I sing which reinforces Ciel, while Ciel uses her excessive magic power to perform physical reinforcement.
Physical reinforcement’s effectiveness varies depending on the original body’s power.
Well, it is possible to improve the reinforcement by using up a lot of magic power but your body wouldn’t be able to endure the backlash.
And while Ciel isn’t by any means feeble, she is quite petite and doesn’t have as much strength as the people with front-line jobs, so it doesn’t sum up too much.
Because of that, we can’t do any teleport-esque instant movement.
Though with that said, we should be about as fast as a horse, so we caught up to the carriage in no time.

As we arrived, we stealthily examined the situation and saw a seemingly good-natured, middle-aged, married couple despairing as they were faced with wolves.
These types of people, huh.
This could get really bothersome.
Still, I called Ciel, saying 『It might be best to help them.』 and after nodding in reply, she immediately used sorcery.

A sudden gust of wind blew and as soon as it blew past the wolves, their heads fell to the ground.
I switched with Ciel and asked 「Are you alright?」 to the couple who had with their mouths agape, seemingly unable to process what just happened.
Examining closely, the two of them seem to be somewhat too thin.
Then in that case, they might have lacked the money to hire escorts.
Still, that isn’t really worth risking their lives in my opinion.

You saved us.」
「While there are things to talk about, I’ll be dismantling the monsters for now, so please prepare to leave in the meantime.」

Leaving only that, I headed towards the defeated wolves.
Still, even though they said that, why did the look on their faces seem like they weren’t saved at all?…… I guess it’s useless to think about it for now.
I switched with Ciel and had her deal with the bodies.
We once discussed about having me learn how to dismantle monsters before, but with the possibility of our clothes getting dirty and the issue of how much time it takes, we’ve decided to just have Ciel make quick work of it with sorcery.

As usual, Ciel retrieved the magic stone with wind sorcery, washed it with water sorcery, turned the body to ash with fire sorcery, and buried it with earth sorcery.
While Ciel is doing all of this nonchalantly, with all of these attributes she used, people that can do this feat might be a surprising scarce.
As I borrowed Ciel’s body again, I informed her『I’ll do as you request, okay?』before heading back to the couple.
The couple calmed the frightened horses down.
The lady then sat in the back carriage, while the man was looking at our direction.

「Thank you for waiting.
Now, about the reward.」
「Of course, I understand.
But instead of paying a reward, we’d like to hire you to escort us to the capital.」

『Well then, our discussion about the reward for saving them somehow turned into a discussion about escorting them, but what would you like to do Ciel?』
『As for me, I want to observe these people for as long as possible but…』

I absolutely have a bad feeling about this, or rather I feel like things are going to get troublesome, but I assume that Ciel still said that while being aware of this.
They just seem like a good-natured couple at first glance, so this could be good for Ciel to experience.
At any rate, asking people to escort them without telling how much they’ll pay, what are they even thinking.

「Then this will be our payment.
This is all we can pay for now but it should be enough.」

Receiving it, I tucked it away without confirming the contents.
Observing the man with a sidelong glance, I see him with his hand over his chest as he let out a sigh of relief.

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「I never imagined that we’d encounter forest wolves in this place, you see?
We really would have died if you weren’t there.」
「Since they’re called forest wolves, that means that they originally live in forests, right? Do they commonly appear here?」
「While I can’t say that they don’t, it is rare to see them.」

The man’s name seems to be Anicet.
The person with him is his wife Milea-san.
It seems like the reason they didn’t hire escorts was because the road to the royal capital is said to be relatively safe.
It’s not that I doubt them, but while that might be true… I’ll stop retorting for now.
The trouble at present is probably the forest wolves.
I only thought of wolves as just wolves no matter where but I guess they somewhat differ based on the habitat.

「Nonetheless, defeating forest wolves in that age, I suppose it’s thanks to your Job, right?」
「Talking about Jobs is a bit……」
「Ahh, right.
It’s a breach of etiquette, isn’t it?」

With a ‘I didn’t mean to do that’ look on his face, Anicet brought his palm to his head and apologised.
While it is a breach of etiquette, for a merchant who puts trust above all, to ask that kind of question… It’s not that I doubt him though.
In these situations, it’s difficult to judge whether the other party is just treating Ciel like a child or if they’re probing her for some reason because of her looks.
While this isn’t Ciel’s fault, so to say, there’s absolutely nothing we can do about this.

「Come to think of it, what brings you to the capital?」

I guess he wanted to change the topic, so I replied 「Just dropping by.」 to his question.
After all, we are actually just dropping by on our way to see the ocean.
So, it wouldn’t matter even if there isn’t any work for us at the capital, we would simply leave.

「Just dropping by?」
Though as a hunter, I wanted to visit there at least once too.」
「Well sure, you won’t lose anything by visiting once, but you might get surprised if it’s your first time.」

There’s even the talk of having a high probability of getting pocketed after all.

However, considering the fact that I’m already experienced with Modern Japan’s crowded trains, I probably wouldn’t be so surprised after only seeing a large amount of people.
But if I had to say, the sight of the buildings and streets might surprise me.
Since I haven’t seen too many European-style castles up close, it might catch my eye too.
Still, unlike the Japanese castles that act as tourist attractions, this one literally has the royal family residing there, so we probably wouldn’t be able to get close to it easily and, most of all, we don’t have any business with the country’s top-ranking people anyways.

「Since it’ll be your first time, I take that you haven’t decided on an inn, correct?」
「That’s true.」
「Then in that case, I know a good place.
I’ll lead you there once we reach the capital.
That’s right.」
「My, that’s a wonderful idea.
As a girl, it’ll be quite difficult to choose an inn after all.」

Without waiting for my reply, Milea-san’s voice suddenly echoed from the back.
It’s our first time going to the capital, so we naturally don’t know any inns but…
Well, rather than thinking on my own, I’ll try leaving the decision to Ciel.

『What should we do?』
『Ain doesn’t know about any inns, right? In that case, I think having them lead us to one would be easier but…』
『Then I’ll ask them to do so.』

If it’s an obviously suspicious place, then we should be able to avoid it anyway.
Also, I want to think that there aren’t any that bad among the capital’s inns.
Though certainly, finding an inn in an unfamiliar place is pretty bothersome.

「If possible, an inn with a bath would be great, but is there one like that?」

Since I had the chance, I tried to ask them about it and the couple affirmed, giving the inn their stamp of approval.
They’re even guiding us to an inn with a bath, they’re really such nice people~.
While I really doubt that, it would be nice if we can treat this as one of our rewards.
Well, since there is a bath, we should still be able to take a bath even in the worst case.
It’s really been a long time since we’ve had a proper bath, so I’m seriously looking forward to it.

It was dusk when we arrived at the capital’s entrance.
Its gates are the largest amongst the ones we’ve seen before and the walls built around the castle town were much taller than anything and seemed to extend endlessly.
Its size was so large that it even impressed me, and Ciel, being unfamiliar with these kinds of sights, seemed to be absolutely mesmerised and was left speechless.
It was somewhat adorable, I couldn’t help letting out a giggle.
I made sure to tell her 『We’re here.』 after that.

There was a long line in front of the gates, so I imagined that it would take us a long time to get in.
However, we reached the gate’s checkpoint surprisingly quickly.
I guess since there are a lot more people passing through, the know-hows for efficiently handling these people accumulates just as quickly as well.
The merchant couple naturally have their own identifications, so if I just kept quiet, I might have been allowed through with them.
But for the sake of avoiding future troubles as well, I took out my Hunter Card.

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While the gatekeeper was surprised at first, I didn’t really do anything particularly wrong and the card is the real deal anyway, so we managed to enter the capital safely.



Hiya~! Ciel’s first chat with strangers! Or so we expected, but still, progress!

Anyway, new characters, they even have names! lol.
A good sample for our princess Ciel’s human observation.
It was a honestly cute that Ciel found something of interest *and* can pursue it as well.
More importantly, smug Ciel~ And later on, mesmerised Ciel~

So yeah, our new characters seem to be a merchant couple with some money problems.
Ain seems to be on high alert, as Ain usually is, but it’ll be nice to see more of Ciel coming out in the open, no matter how gradual it may be.
After all, if it was just Ain making the decision, she would have probably ran away immediately after offing the wolves.
Also, Ain, lol “Not that I doubt them or anything.” Yup, zero doubt at all.
Very trust.

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