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    Boom! Rumble!

    As the commotion grew increasingly intense, Romandro finally stood up from his seat. Then, pressing his ear against the door, his eyes darted around. It was clear from the curses and loud noises that the situation was chaotic.

    Romandro called out to Ian with a grimace.

    “Th-This is definitely Beric, right?”

    What if it wasn’t Beric but some other problem that had arisen? What if the slaves were escaping and fighting? Wouldn’t even their own safety, as they sat in the office to purchase slaves, be in jeopardy?

    However, Ian calmly rummaged through the office desk and drawers, nodding his head.

    “It should be. The mana has disappeared now, but I definitely felt Beric’s presence.”

    “Th-Then that’s a relief.”

    Kwang! Clank!

    “Aaaaargh!”

    At the same time, the door swung wide open. Romandro was startled and fell backward with a thud. The one who opened the door was Beric, his hair disheveled. He grinned broadly at the sight of Romandro and Ian.

    “IanIanIan!”

    “Oh, Beric. Long time no see.”

    “Ah, I really went through hell! It was completely exhausting!”

    “You bastard! Die!”

    “As soon as we get back, roast a whole pig for me.”

    “Sure. If you thoroughly clean up here, that is.”

    Smack!

    Behind Beric, a member of the slave caravan swung his sword. However, Beric naturally dodged by tilting his head to the side and seamlessly created a rotational axis to drive his fist into the man’s face.

    “But Beric, why did you call for us? It doesn’t seem like you have any trouble handling this on your own.”

    “Ah. That’s because of Hasha.”

    -Sir Ian! Sir Ian!

    Thud!

    At that moment, a white dog dashed between Beric’s legs and leaped into Ian’s arms. Ian put down the documents he was reading and slowly stroked the dog’s neck as he held her.

    “Hasha. Are you unharmed?”

    -Sir Ian, I apologize! I accidentally spoke human language in front of these morons! I thought they might overlook it if I panted like a dog, but guess what? I was caught right away! Grr, I’m so furious!

    “Easy. Calm down. As long as you’re safe, that’s all that matters. Hasha, I have a lot to tell you.”

    -I do as well. Ian. But before that, the reason I asked Beric to call for you is…

    Along with Hasha’s words, about five or six people appeared at the door. They had blue hair and pointed ears. Ian instantly recognized them as Astanians.

    “Beric, quickly clean up this place. You can kill them all, but keep the caravan leader Fakens alive. Do you know his face?”

    “Yep yep. I know.”

    “Good. Astanians, all of you come in.”

    “I’ll be back! Ian!”

    Creak. Kwang!

    At Ian’s gesture, the Astanians timidly entered the office. They all had shackles on their feet. Beric closed the door as if entrusting everything to them, and Romandro grabbed a broken wooden stick as a weapon, guarding the outside.

    ‘The Astanians were captured here, so Hasha couldn’t escape alone. Even if Beric killed everyone and unlocked the shackles, if these foreigners with slave status were caught by the guards, they could be handed over to another slave trader.’

    “Hasha, you did very well by calling for me.”

    At Ian’s praise, Hasha’s tail wagged, tapping the floor. They needed an imperial citizen with authority who could handle the situation.

    “And don’t be too shocked to hear this. Wesleigh is dead. To be precise, it’s more accurate to say she self-destructed.”

    -What did you just say?

    Hasha’s tail abruptly stopped. The person who had completely upended Hasha and his grandmother’s lives with the research on forbidden command magic was dead? It was unbelievable.

    “…The mayor of Karenna sent a letter.”

    Ian slowly stroked Hasha’s back. Then, starting from the beginning of the incident, he explained in detail how Wesleigh had met her downfall.

    Although he had the appearance of a dog, it was evident what emotions he was feeling. The Astanians, who didn’t understand the Bariel language, grew restless at the ominous atmosphere and held each other’s hands.

    “So, Hasha. From now on, you’re safe. There’s no one in Bariel who can threaten you. Wesleigh is dead, so if you have any lingering resentment, use it as a driving force to move forward and live to the fullest. That is the final way for the living to take revenge on the dead.”

    At Ian’s consolation, Hasha lowered his head. Slowly, following Ian’s touch, he nuzzled his muzzle softly against his hand.

    Tears dripped down.

    Ian willingly wiped them away with his sleeve.

    -…Thank you.

    “If you wish, I can send you back to Astana soon. Will you go?”

    Wesleigh’s death itself was evidence of the forbidden command magic. Otherwise, Gale would never have made such a decision. Now that things had turned out this way, there was no need for Hasha to directly intervene.

    -I was going to talk to you about that anyway. Do you remember? My grandmother was the leader of the largest faction in Astana.

    Hasha had been filled with questions about why his own grandmother didn’t return to her homeland to escape from Wesleigh, and why her family in Astana didn’t search for them. But he finally realized.

    -I heard there was a major earthquake in Astana while we were on the run from Wesleigh. These people were also displaced by the disaster and captured by slave traders. Moreover, the power struggle between factions reached its peak, taking advantage of the chaos. I need to hurry back and pass on my grandmother’s spirit.

    “There have been more earthquakes across the continent in the past few years. I also went to the reconstruction work of the Great Temple due to an earthquake before going to Bratz, I mean, Hielo.”

    Romandro, who had been quietly listening, added a remark. Hasha’s black eyes were glistening with tears.

    -When I return, even if it’s not my original body, there should be a way to transfer my soul into a human form. Ian. I beg you one last time, please send me and the Astanians back to our homeland.

    Hasha bowed his head. When he conveyed something in the Astanian language, the other people also prostrated themselves, pleading with Ian in their respective languages.

    “Hasha. I have already made a promise once before. Since that remains in your memory, how could I say anything different? Enough of that and compose yourself.”

    -There’s something else I need to tell you. The Fakens Caravan is the one that traded undead to the Karenna thieves. But no matter how much I think about it, I couldn’t understand why they used my corpse for necromancy. Listening to the Astanians here…

    When the displaced Astanians were captured by the slave caravan, they were repeatedly asked about their origins. And they emphasized whether they belonged to a faction capable of using necromancy.

    -It seems there’s a necromancer who provided knowledge of necromancy to these people. That person is probably in the imperial palace. I don’t know if their motive is simply to make money or something else, but it would be wise to find them and keep a close eye on them.

    Kwang! Bang!

    At that moment, a loud noise erupted. Then, silence. The sound of someone approaching could be heard, and the Astanians lay flat on the floor, their hands trembling.

    Creak.

    “Aaaaah!”

    “Aaaaargh!”

    The Astanians screamed once at the sight of Beric, drenched in blood, and again at the sight of the scalp he was dragging. In contrast, Beric grinned broadly and threw Fakens forward.

    “Ian, this is the leader, right?”

    “Yes. Well done. What about outside?”

    “I think they’re all dead.”

    “…All?”

    “Yeah. It just happened.”

    Judging by the way he was glancing around, it seemed he had done it deliberately, not by chance. When Ian narrowed his eyes and stared at him, Beric just chuckled. After all, it had been a week since they last saw each other. He probably thought Ian wouldn’t scold him.

    “…Alright. Good work.”

    “Wow, Ian. I had a really hard time, you know? When I followed the compass, I hit dead ends, and when I turned around, the path was cut off. I couldn’t even eat properly for a week.”

    “Couldn’t you have climbed over the walls or something?”

    “I did. That’s why I went further to shake off the guards. You told me not to kill the guards. Ah, it was really, really annoying!”

    “…I can imagine.”

    So that’s why it took a whole week. Considering it took Ian only a few hours to get here by carriage from the imperial palace, it was an astonishingly impressive work performance. Ian thought he should never entrust Beric with pursuit-related tasks in the future as he opened the last desk drawer.

    -The brooch!

    “It’s best for Hasha to always wear it before going to Astana.”

    Ian fastened the brooch around Hasha’s neck, then looked at the unconscious Fakens. Since all the caravan members were dead, he was pondering how to deal with this man.

    “It’s the guards. We’ve been dispatched after receiving a report of a disturbance, gasp!”

    “Hey! Is anyone inside?”

    “What’s going on here? Oh my god, they’re all dead.”

    “Is there anyone alive? If someone is there, respond!”

    It was the guards. They were entering, stepping over the bloodied corpses. As Ian was about to step forward, this time Romandro stopped him.

    “I’ll handle it. Ian, aren’t you on the verge of becoming the minister of the Ministry of Magic? If any noise gets mixed in, it’ll be troublesome. Leave it to me! I may not be able to wield a sword like Beric, but I’m a man who has lived his entire life in the imperial palace with just a pen!”

    “Ooh, that’s cool, Romandro!”

    “You, wipe off the blood! The guards might mistake you for a monster and charge at you.”

    Beric giggled and rubbed his face. The bloodstains smeared, creating an even more bizarre atmosphere.

    “We’ll discuss the details when we return to the residence.”

    -Right. That would be best. What about Fakens?

    “We’re taking him with us. I have questions for him, and he might be useful. Beric, cover him with a cloth and carry him on your back.”

    “Will you roast the pig as soon as we get back, Master? Actually, I’m really hungry right now. I think it would be better to just drag this guy.”

    Beric deliberately staggered and groaned. The Astanians glanced at each other and offered to help. They would carry him instead of Beric.

    “…I’ll give alcohol to the one who carries him.”

    “Out of my way!!”

    At Ian’s words, Beric instantly swatted away the Astanians’ hands. And as if he had never groaned before, he slung Fakens over his shoulder and stood up. Hasha, who was about to take the lead, paused and looked back.

    -Ian. But there are more slaves in the basement. What will happen to them?

    “Slaves?”

    The Astanians were a tribal nation that lived in harmony with nature. Although they were aware of the slave system, it was their first time encountering it culturally. However, what was imprisoned behind bars was not just humans, but their dignity.

    Just as Ian was about to say something, Romandro’s voice came from outside.

    “Hey, don’t go inside! A highborn from the imperial palace is in there. If you see their face, you’ll be the ones in trouble, I’m telling you.”

    A guard who was about to enter the corridor leading to the office stopped.

    “There were people who became slaves illegally, and there was a dispute while verifying them. Are these people authorized slave traders in the country?”

    It was highly unlikely that those who interacted with thieves would have permission. Moreover, if traces related to undead were discovered, it wouldn’t be a big issue even if a few caravan members died here. Above all, they all seemed to be foreigners.

    “Uh, we’ll have to investigate that separately.”

    “You call yourselves the guards of Bariel, yet how did you fail to notice until a noble’s servant was kidnapped by an illegal slave trader? This is a clear mistake! Give me your names and affiliations.”

    “No, Advisor. With so many illegal immigrants here, how can we pay attention to every single one of them?”

    “I know, I know!”

    And he slipped them some money. If they were demoted and assigned here, it meant they were guards who had caused quite a bit of trouble. Most of them were likely involved in bribery. The guards exchanged glances with each other while looking at Romandro’s identification and surveying the surroundings.

    “Then, please submit a report to the guards as soon as possible. We will also verify the legitimacy of the caravan. You mentioned there were illegal slaves?”

    “That’s what I’m saying! And they were kidnapped too!”

    “Hmm. I understand.”

    Even though people had died, their attitude changed after receiving a few coins. Romandro’s heart was pounding as he handed over the money. The guard scratched his head and asked,

    “Were all the illegal slaves members of the Advisor’s household?”

    “Huh? Y-Yes! They were!”

    “I understand. We’ll provide a carriage for you. Please take the victims and return home for now. We’ll report to you after the incident is resolved.”

    All the slaves? Romandro turned around in bewilderment, and Ian simply shrugged his shoulders. As if asking, what are you doing?

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