About the time when the members of 『Bright Stars of White Night』 left Jimberyl Merchant a.s.sociation\'s building. Ardis sat down on the sofa in Litte Merchant a.s.sociation\'s reception room, and faced against the a.s.sociation\'s president, Marrieda.
「Well well well, Ardis-kun. Have you come to deliver what I\'ve requested~nii? 」
Putting down the cup of tea he\'d been served on the table silently, Ardis looked straight into the woman\'s eyes and replied shortly.
「Then that\'s good. Shall we take a look at the item immediately~nii? 」
The woman had a lovely merchant smile as she stretched her hands. It was like a child getting excited at her favorite candy but, she\'s a capable merchant that had brought her a.s.sociation this far. Getting fooled by her acts would result in pain.
With a sharp gaze, the black-haired young man said.
「I will have my conditions. 」
At the sudden demands, the woman\'s smile collapsed.
「Right, conditions. I certainly have the stuff you want. But, whether I would hand it over or not depends on you. 」
「……Specifically, what kind of conditions? 」
「First you will tell me everything you know. If what you have make enough sense to me, I will only then hand it over. 」
Ardis is basically demanding that Marrieda show her hand before Ardis does.
「Isn\'t that too disadvantageous of me~nii? 」
「I have heard your demands and brought it before the deadline. That\'s already my compromise. Isn\'t it time for you to do the same? 」
「Oh my, Ardis-kun. Are you trying to negotiate with someone whose occupation is a merchant? 」
「Sorry but, I\'m not that straight-forward of a person to take what anyone says at a face value. 」
Although Marrieda\'s still seemed to be smiling, her eyes evidently had the will of trying out Ardis.
Marrieda crossed her arms and lied back onto the sofa.
「Anything else? 」
「You said that it was something indispensable for 『Calming the sword』, right? 」
「Unn, that\'s right. 」
「Let me stand witness when you use it. If you are planning to use it for something bad, then I won\'t be handing it over. If you can\'t agree to these two conditions, then the deal is no more. 」
The conditions that Ardis had demanded wouldn\'t change the end result. No matter the order, Ardis would get the information he wanted, and Nere\'s hair would be handed over.
But just that the fact that Marrieda would have to hand over the information first to Ardis increases the risk that she will take by multiple folds. After all, if Ardis decided to go against their deal after he got the information, she would be the only one incurring losses.
Unlike something tangible, you can\'t take back information once you\'ve told someone.
The fact that Ardis wanted Marrieda to tell him first is proof that Ardis didn\'t trust her, Marrieda must put trust in Ardis to honor his promise if she wants to accept the conditions.
After all, it\'s information from someone who he wouldn\'t even trust at all, Ardis couldn\'t be more careful.
For Ardis, if she wouldn\'t agree to even such conditions, what she has for Ardis shouldn\'t be anything trustable. Untrustable information aren\'t something Ardis needs. Even if Ardis decides to call off the deal, he wouldn\'t get hurt in any way.
「Fuu……. Well, I guess there\'s no way huh. A deal is formed only when there\'s trust right―」
Lightly sighing, Marrieda muttered as if given up while shaking her head lightly. Her grey hair shook along.
「Under―stood. Those conditions are fine~nii. I will compromise for the first condition~yon. For the second one, it didn\'t matter if it was there or not, after all, the plan is to have you with us. 」
Marrieda raised her hands as if surrendering.
「I\'m praying for Ardis-kun to show his honesty~yon. 」
Narrowing her eyes, her conduct suddenly changed as she smiled widely.
「Then, the deal is on now~nii? Following your conditions, I guess I should tell the story first huh. I will answer everything I know without hiding anything~yon. What\'s your question? 」
Ardis immediately asked Marrieda who seemed ready for the first question.
「You\'ll have to answer this or the topic won\'t advance……」
Pausing briefly, Ardis asked.
「Who are you? 」
At Ardis\'s simple question, Marrieda looked at the ceiling.
「Nnn―……. That\'s quite the vague question―. What are you referring~nii? You\'re not looking for my name, age or my family background or my three sizes right~nii? 」
「Of course. 」
What Ardis wants to know isn\'t those kinds of irrelevant personal details. Marrieda understood that as well. She seemed to be pondering for a while to think of a way to explain.
「Hmm――, ……Ardis-kun dreams too right~nii? 」
「……That, of course there will be times I dream. What about that? 」
「I also dream but……, I guess it\'s a little different than other people right―」
「Unn. What other people normally sees in their dreams are things that already happened, or just imaginary scenes but, my dreams shows me 『Incidents that are going to happen』~nii. 」
「That\'s……, something like a foresight? 」
「Mmm……, a little different―? Rather than what I see in the dreams becoming reality, it\'s more like 『What I chose in the dream affects the reality』~nii? 」
「……How is it different? 」
Wrinkles formed on Ardis\'s forehead as he had a confused expression. It was because that he couldn\'t quite understand what Marrieda had said.
「I guess it\'s easier to understand if you take it as a rewind. What happens in the future, and what kind of choices I make causes what kind of result? If the same scenario happens in reality, the result will be the same if I make the same choice~nii. 」
「……Isn\'t it still a foresight? 」
「In my case, I see the same dream multiple times~nii. The result changes if I take different choices in the same dream, right? For example, there\'s a stone on the street and I kicked it away in my dream, and somehow it hit a stray dog, and I was chased after~nii. Then, the next day I would see the same dream again right? This time, I would just ignore the stone, then the kids from behind would kick it and it would hit me, hurting me~nii. And, sometime later, the same scenario would happen in reality―. 」
Marrieda took a sip at her tea as she paused.
「And if I take the same actions in my dreams, the reality\'s result will be the same with my dream\'s~nii. If I kicked the stone, the dog would chase me, if I ignored it, I would get injured. It happens accordingly to the dream. 」
It was an absurd story.
But that\'s the same for Ardis. Even if he understood what happened to himself, he wouldn\'t know if anyone would trust his story.
That\'s why, Ardis hadn\'t trusted nor distrusted Marrieda\'s story, he had just continued to listen silently.
「In other words……, you can make the future to whatever you like huh? 」
「It\'s not as good as you think~yon. 」
Marrieda\'s smile had a shadow to it.
「The dreams aren\'t guaranteed to have things I want to see―. Recently, my dreams were only me in an unfamiliar place. And I wouldn\'t know if that scenario would happen tomorrow or how many years later. Of course, there\'re times that the dream\'s timeline can be predicted to a certain degree. 」
「So the fact that your a.s.sociation is flouris.h.i.+ng with you at that age is thanks to that too huh. 」
「Hmm―. I guess it can be said that it\'s thanks to this ability. Or maybe it\'s exactly because of this ability huh. 」
The woman merchant shut her eyes and muttered in a weak voice.
「So the reason why you\'ve spoken to me like you knew who I am is because of that ability? 」
「Yup, that\'s right. 」
「Alright, I understand your ability now. But having known that, what is your purpose? To instruct Kyrill to get the sword, what\'s your purpose in getting the sword? 」
Ardis still didn\'t know what\'s the woman\'s purpose in doing all this. Her reaction when she got the sword from Kyrill and her interest that she showed in Ardis, all of them didn\'t show what motives that Marrieda had.
「My purpose~nii? Hmm, there\'re three for this time. First is to get the sword. Then the next is to meet with Ardis-kun. And finally, to let Kyrill-kun meet with Ardis-kun~, I suppose? 」
Marrieda answered as she counted with her fingers.
「Me and Kyrill? 」
Two out of the three is still understood by Ardis. But Ardis didn\'t understand the meaning of letting Kyrill meet with him.
「What do you mean? Is there any point in me meeting with Kyrill? 」
「Hmm, sorry. I honestly don\'t know why~nii. But, I just know that it\'s the correct choice. After all, I saw Ardis-kun is with Kyrill-kun in all the versions of the dreams I saw, and that\'s the choice I made to let the dreams end~nii. 」
「End, meaning? 」
「I explained it just now but, the dreams I see isn\'t just a single time. The result depends on what choices I make. And that will just keep repeating. Even meeting Ardis-kun this time, it\'s my effort after repeating many mistakes you know? I\'ve only seen Ardis-kun for the second time here but, I\'ve talked with you for more than hundred occasions in my dreams―. That\'s why it probably didn\'t felt like I\'ve met you the first time before~yon. 」
Marrieda laughed a little.
「Returning to the topic, there\'s only two possibilities for the dream to end~nii. The first is out of time. And the second is to obtain the result that I think is the best. 」
Marrieda faced Ardis, she said while raising her index finger in order.
「This time, I stopped seeing the dreams for this scenario about half a year ago~nii. In other words, it is the best choice that I could\'ve made for me. 」
「That 『Best choice』 and what not includes the act of sending a kid like Kyrill to Corsas Forest by himself? 」
「There\'re no other choices~nii. I tried sending other people at first, even people from my a.s.sociation or mercenaries, all of them failed without encountering with you. If I headed there myself, the a.s.sociation would get taken out by the other a.s.sociation. I tried tens of patterns but, only Kyrill-kun could encounter Ardis-kun. 」
「Even so, wouldn\'t it be better if Kyrill knew about it at the very least? 」
「Of course I\'ve tried it? Although he didn\'t trust it―. In the end, Kyrill-kun wouldn\'t agree to go out~nii. Well, speaking from experience, nothing good happens if I said about the dreams―. Most people wouldn\'t trust me, and even if they did, the result wouldn\'t be desirable. 」
「If so, isn\'t it a problem if you told me about it now? 」
「Hnn―……. It\'s an exception this time, it isn\'t a bad result even if I told you about the dreams. It\'s unbelievable for me too……」
It seems that Marrieda is honestly surprised as well. Her façade smile on the outside softened for a little, showing her true feelings under.
「In any case, Kyrill-kun needed to be the one to go, or else there wouldn\'t be a good result~nii. If I put escorts on Kyrill-kun, they would be wiped out by some demonic beings that appears on the highway for some reason. Then I\'ve put more escorts and Kyrill-kun managed to arrive to the capital safely, but would still be wiped out when they entered Corsas Forest. Even for the travel funds you know? Kyrill-kun would be robbed by some thugs in Gran if I gave him enough, if he had just enough to get some decent escorts to enter the forest, he would never meet with Ardis-kun and arrive at the ruins~nii. Then, they would fail at not discovering the hidden staircase. Then, I\'ve tried to not have Kyrill-kun any travel funds but, naturally, after he arrives at Gran, he could do nothing there. 」
Haa――, Marrieda sighed deeply and continued.
「Do you even know how many times I retried~nii? It might not be over a hundred times but, the choices that were found to be the key after about nearing that number of attempts was to 『Not tell Kyrill-kun about the real purpose』, 『To support the Rovell Merchant a.s.sociation』, and 『To have Kyrill hold on to the bare minimum of travel funds』. And finally, Kyrill-kun can return safely, and bring the sword and you together in tow~nii. 」
(T/L): the dialog, man it was long