Important A/N below

Chapter 29

Beta: Worldbringer of Joseun

Cover: LousGndiner

It had been a strange past few days.

Ever since the revelations brought forth by the Sage of Miral Lake, Waver had been feeling somewhat… cautious as of late. Though, by no means was it the fault of his compatriots.

After that meeting, Shiroe had opted to keep his mouth shut on matters regarding magecraft. He wasn't sure if the others were prepared to learn of it– of how a return home might bring them to ruin. His Assassin assistant followed his lead, but he could sense that she was still pensive.

She had the same face that many of his previous students wore at times.

Speaking of students… Waver's thoughts had recently trended towards his wayward apprentice. It had been quite some time since he had thought about her. With him having been gone for approximately 2 months, he'd imagine that she was running around headless. Reines included. Though, with the hypothetical time dilation between their worlds, it was well within reason to assume that they had only just begun to look for him. It was a shame that he could not even send them a single sign that he was alright–

Once again, he had gotten lost in thought. Waver sighed as he took out his smoking pipe. It was best to refocus with a little leisure.

The day after that meeting, the young Einzbern had awoken early to request a leave of absence. The nearby forest was filled with all manner of fabled creatures, so she had chosen them to become her `stress relief` as it were. Naturally, the Landers were suspicious of her intentions.

It was a shame that, despite the others having earned a good reputation with those around them, Illya hadn't been doing as well in that regard. She might very well be monitored from afar by some of Saraliya's `friends`. Though, considering that Illya had been spying on them in turn, it wasn't really a problem for them.

All in all, apart from the few social gatherings, it was an uneventful few days. Plenty of time for the mind to wander.

"I see that this balcony is occupied," a voice pricked Waver's attention. A glance revealed it to be Rin's little colleague, Ferlna. "I apologize to have disturbed you."

"If you had, I would've let you know," he mumbled somewhat irately from a lack of sleep. "But feel free to use this safe space as you please. As long as you do not mind the smoke, that is."

"My father used to partake," she said. "It isn't that odd for Nobility to fumigate a few weeds every now and then."

"I'd imagine that they didn't take well to it being called weeds," he snorted as he made to leave. "Have a nice day, Lady Ferlna."

"A moment," she called back to him. "I'm certain that you understand that I didn't come here for the breeze. Correct?"

"Hence why I tried to leave," he said, this time a tad bit more irate. "Out of respect for our mutual colleagues, what do you need?"

"Rin informed me of what happened that night," Ferlna started. "While the subject of how an adventurer functions will greatly interest me, I find myself needing answers in regards to your world's own magical system."

"And I assume you chose me because Lady Tohsaka was too busy?"

"Rather, you are her senior, and as such, much more knowledgeable by default," Ferlna continued as she took out her notepad. "Not to mention, your previous background as an educator. Rin is a talented Sorcerer, but as a teacher, she has yet to hit her stride."

Waver simply snorted.

"Fine, but if I'm doing this, then the stray behind you should speak up first," Waver rolled his eyes. "I'm going to be very busy for the next few minutes. If you need something answered, then speak up."

Ferlna blinked as she looked behind her, towards a ruffled piece of curtain that hung around one of the nearby pillars. It was likely to close the balcony, much like a shower curtain. More importantly, Ferlna refocused on the small diminutive form of another adventurer with a raven black ponytail.

"... How did you find out?"

"Bounded Field," Waver let out another smoke. "You can consider it an Overskill that those in the Emiya Family can use freely. You've already seen it in action."

"... That is extremely frustrating."

"And what did you want to ask of me?"

Akatsuki looked to the sole Lander between them before turning back to Waver.

"... The same as her. My Lord is both clueless and curious, but he is too busy to indulge as of late," Akatsuki answered. "Therefore, I requested to aid him."

"And you are not actively performing your duties as an Assassin because…?"

"Those birds replaced me."

Waver withheld a snort.

"Very well," he turned to take a seat on the balcony. Even if he fell, he knew a spell to reduce his fall damage to nothing. Very convenient. "Do you have a notepad?"

As Akatsuki nodded, Waver settled himself in to do as he had been doing for years.


It was an hour after Illya had awoken, quite late if she might add, that she received the invitation.

An invitation to have lunch with the Cowen family. She knew that it wasn't something the other nobles were privy to, mostly thanks to her familiars, but she also felt that it made this invitation a little odd.

Had they come to some sort of consensus over the course of these past few days? Was it an informal meeting before an actual one with the other nobles? Would Illya need to do something drastic in response to a similar drastic measure?

In the end, Illya had no idea. She was pretty sure that the Cowens were somewhat divided on their opinion of them. Langrissa was fond of them and what they could bring, a new age of living. Saraliya and her husband Phenel saw them as a potential risk to their dukedoms, a threat to the people. Lastly, Sergiatte himself, who Illya knew to be neutral but biased towards cooperation.

But recent happenings could change all of that. She only knew what they talked to each other about. There's no telling whether or not they were putting on a show and had agendas that they were willing to keep from even their own family.

But that was just the monstrous magi part of her brain telling her to second guess them and their intentions. They had done nothing more to rock the boat recently…

Illya huffed as she nursed her headache, which had become somewhat manageable ever since she slaughtered a couple of local monsters outside the city. Naturally, she had been monitored the entire time by Saraliya's `friends` but that was to be expected. However, just as the sage had said, she'd need to fight in a war or something to get rid of these aches entirely, or at least for another month or so.

… The only question was what type of war would she be fighting?

And more importantly, with whom?

Following the maid to the dining hall, which was different from the banquet hall as it was smaller and merely had a single rectangular table large enough to fit them all, Illya took note of how there were more of their guards roaming the surrounding halls, seemingly within their normal patrol routes. She'd have believed it if it weren't for how their equipment seemed to be very new. It was as if they were prepared to be used.

Not a good sign, but it could just be Saraliya being precautious again.

As soon as they reached the hall, Illya turned to look at the others. Shiroe, Krusty, and Michitaka were wearing their Round Table uniforms. Of course, Illya wasn't excluded from that. However, they were all that was in attendance from their side. The Cowens hadn't listed anyone else, nor had they mentioned an allowance of plus-ones. It would've been rude to just assume that to be the case, so everyone else had been left behind to their own devices… and to their own tasks.

"Presenting the envoys of the Round Table– sir Shiroe, sir Krusty, sir Michitaka, and lady Illya," the maid said after she knocked on the door. Upon hearing a vocal approval from the other side, she opened the door to reveal the Cowen family… sans their children.

Despite it being an informal meeting, it looked like they truly were planning to talk `business`. From Shiroe's mild grimace, she could tell that he thought the same.

"Welcome," Sergiatte greeted, as he was the family head. "I am overjoyed that the Round Table has granted my selfish wishes. I hope that our selection does not displease you. Please, make yourself at home."

"We thank you for your hospitality," Shiroe returned with a smile. Illya would've said a little more, but in regards to this little gathering, Shiroe had said that he wanted to handle it. Illya agreed but kept an eye out for her colleagues.

She could trust Shiroe. She could trust Krusty, who seemed to have some background maneuvering in high society. She even trusted the former section chief salaryman. However, she didn't trust them collectively enough when someone else was at the table.

"Wonderful," Sergiatte smiled as they got seated. Notably, they were guided to sit at the edge of the large dining table, which was opposite to where the Cowen family had sat. "Now, before we begin, I'd like to introduce my daughters. I'm sure you've met before, but I'm sure that was only in passing."

He gestured to his left.

"This is my eldest daughter, Saraliya Tsuleu-Arte Cowen."

… a certain someone that still had her friends watching their every move.

"–and beside her is her husband, Phenel Tsuleu-Arde Cowen," he continued. "And last but not least, my second eldest, Langrissa Cil-Arte Cowen. I'm certain that you are at least acquainted with her."

"Yes, we've met at the meeting with the scholars of academia," Shiroe confirmed. "She is quite the headstrong and marvelous woman."

"I am pleased to hear that," his eyes strayed to the aforementioned daughter, who only snorted and looked away. "It was quite the surprise to see that she had become so interested in scholarly activities."

"So this is a recent interest of hers?" Shiroe prodded.

"It is, and she does not appreciate being talked about," the daughter frowned further. "It's in the past. It matters little, does it not?"

"Perhaps," Sergiatte ceded. "Though, it was fortunate you ceded the lifestyle."

"Yes, the life of a mere nun is unsuitable for our family," Saraliya smiled. However, Illya could feel very little joy from it.

"A nun…" Michitaka found himself muttering. Though, it was very much audible. "... That reminds me, there were mentions of a Cowen being heralded as a Saint, wasn't there?"

"Perhaps in the past," Langrissa deepened her frown.

… There was a story there, but Illya knew it'd only sour their relations if they got curious. She sent Shiroe a look, but he had already changed the topic.

"My apologies, lord Sergiatte," Shiroe spoke. "But are we not famished? It seems lady Langrissa's mood has worsened. Perhaps a filled stomach should remedy that?"

After looking over him with a discerning eye, the duke nodded. "Very well. Perhaps it was ill-mannered to have said as such," he then raised a small wine glass. "Enjoy our little feast to your heart's content!"

Tohya felt his chest rise and fall in minor exhaustion as he dragged the rest of his limbs through the exercise, even though his classes for the morning had already ended. He supposed that he could've taken the time to eat lunch like his other classmates, but with the events that occurred over the course of the week… food was somehow the last thing on his mind.

Overskills, a power uniquely available to himself.

A childishly appropriate glee erupted from within, pushing the boy forward to continue the training exercise. Truth be told, there hadn't been anyone that told him to do so, but he just couldn't sit still like the others. Not when he had sat still for so long in real life.

These training exercises were something that Emiya, their Overskill elective instructor, had given them to do while they weren't sparring. Apparently, it was similar to what real-life boxers did. They imagined an opponent and fought as if said opponent was actually there. Emiya said it would help develop muscle memory for basic forms and techniques.

Due to their instructor's background in real-life swordplay, he saw the way that everyone else used their weaponry to be insulting to their weapons. This included the other instructors, who he sparred with once to show how inadequate their techniques were. True, their previous MMO knowledge helped to close the gap, but having their opponent parry and attack in one fluid motion, without the help of passive skills, was almost like a wake-up call.

They rigidly stuck to their MMO mindsets because it was familiar, and didn't realize that they could branch out both their techniques and skills toward unfamiliar territories. Perhaps they would've done so, give or take a month or two.

Tohya shook away the distracting thoughts and focused on his imaginary foe, Naotsugu-nii.

Emiya said that imagining someone familiar was easier, so Tohya chose the Guardian which helped show him the ways of being a man. It was only fitting. He could've chosen Shiroe… but he didn't use weapons so their imaginary battle would just consist of Tohya dodging make-believe spells.

However, in the midst of his thoughts, Tohya slipped. His overactive imagination urged his image of Naotsugu-nii to take advantage of it, to swing down his blade as Tohya wouldn't be able to block or counter.

Tohya raised his katana to block an invisible strike, but in the end, it only looked like he stumbled with his blade up towards the sky.

"I lost again…" Tohya sighed. "Why is it so hard to imagine myself winning?"

Maybe it was because he just knew that Naotsugu-nii, even within his imagination, could easily take any attack Tohya sent his way and that any attack from the Guardian could easily overwhelm him. Should he try imagining someone else?

A new image formed, but Tohya only grimaced in response to a scarred face.


It was irritating that, next to Naotsugu-nii, the one who Tohya ended up paying the closest attention to was that man, the one responsible for so much in the early days of their time in Elder Tale. However, considering that Tohya had been in a party with him more times than he could count for the sake of `raising` their levels… he supposed it was only fitting.

An argument came to mind, that he wouldn't be able to spar with this image, much like his image of Shiroe.


Tohya picked himself up and raised his blade, almost snarling at the image's arrogant snort.

… maybe he was due some stress relief.

The man was a Summoner, so naturally, Tohya knew that he had to prevent him from summoning anything. A Summoner was notoriously weak without their creatures to protect them. It was almost common knowledge that a Summoner's stats were miles below the others, which was made up for by their variety of playstyles, so Tohya had no problems imagining himself punching his stupid face in!

He pressed forward and ignored the image's attempt to ward him off with a short slime. It had a slowing aura so Tohya halted his steps in turn, but with its short range, he closed the distance easily. It helped that he had imagined Schreider to be standing within a short distance.

He parried the man's staff, and upon remembering how Emiya could transition from attack and defense seamlessly, Tohya sought to emulate it. His parry twisted in on itself until it became a thrust. Even if it was a mere image, he found some satisfaction in twisting his blade within Schreider's gut.

Tohya poised himself to cut that asshole's image down–


–the image faded, and only the sight of a sliced-up log took his attention.

… He sometimes cursed his overactive imagination.

"Yeah, no problems here," Tohya let out a short sigh as he sheathed his blade. He wasn't feeling the urge to continue anymore. He turned behind him to the one who interrupted his… training.

Only to blink in surprise.


"Good afternoon," she smiled. "I was out for a walk, but the sounds caught my attention. Were you training?"

"I was," he answered honestly as he looked around. "If you don't mind me asking, why walk out here? There's nothing but trees."

"Raijuu likes it away from other people."

Raijuu? Tohya blinked as a dog walked out from behind her and barked. It kinda looked like a dire wolf, but he put the thought at the back of his mind.

"Sorry, was I being too loud?" He found himself apologizing. Naotsugu-nii always said that a man was respectful to others. "I can go somewhere else?"

"No, it was my fault for interrupting. I should have taught Raijuu better," she apologized. However, she looked at his makeshift training field, which consisted of broken and sliced logs, and frowned. "But… are you alright? Maybe it isn't my place to pry, but you seemed a little angry at the end there. Could I help with that?"

"You saw that?" he muttered with some embarrassment. "People tell me that I have an overactive imagination sometimes."

It was all he could do while everyone else had fun.

"So you were doing that imaginary opponent thing?" Her ears, which he somehow just noticed – was it flat against her head most of the time? – twitched in recognition. She smiled afterward. "Am I right to assume that it was a hard-fought battle?"

Tohya's smile wrinkled at that.

"I'd like to say yes… but I was pretty much just venting. I haven't made much progress on making an Overskill," he admitted. So much for his overactive imagination. "I know that it's supposed to take a while, and not even the other teachers have one yet but…"

"You feel like you need to rush yourself?" Sakura concluded with a nod. The dog by her side barked a bit before crawling into the surrounding underbrush. "Why the impatience? There's still a month or two until the classes finish. That's plenty of time."

Tohya scratched his neck in a slightly awkward manner. "I don't know. Nao– someone I know always told me to trust my gut. Right now, my gut is telling me that I need to learn an Overskill as soon as possible."

"There must be a reason," she said as she took a seat on a wooden stump, patting the vacant space beside her. It was large enough to seat both of them, so Tohya obliged even if his legs weren't that tired. "If you want to tell me, then maybe I can help with it."

"It's… nothing big. I just want to get strong," he said. "If I get stronger…"

He needed to be stronger than he was now. He needed to level up and be able to take on the players that wanted to hurt his friends, which he knew there would be. Shiroe drew a pretty big target on himself, and they'd be caught in the crossfire by association.

He needed strength to protect his sister… and he didn't intend to fail.

Not again.

"So it's a means to an end?" She surmised. "That's good. If you have a goal, then you'll naturally push yourself to reach it, but if you're this impatient to reach it… is it important?"

"Yeah," his sister was almost his world– practically had been his entire world for his entire life before Elder Tale. "It's so important that I want to protect it."

Even at the cost of himself.

Ah, that wasn't a good thought. Naotsugu-nii said that a man doesn't put himself down, because then he'd burden others to pick him back up. Tohya moved to correct himself, but he caught sight of Sakura's own widened eyes.

"Did I… did you hear that last part?" Tohya wanted to crawl into a hole.

"Sorry," she all but confirmed. "But there's nothing wrong with that! At least in my opinion. It's endearing, but if what you want to protect is a person–I'm just assuming here–then they'd probably be sad to see that."

"Someone told me that before," Tohya once again recalled Naotsugu-nii. "I get that, but I can't help it."

Even in this world, where he finally felt freedom, he had to stupidly take it away from himself and his sister. He had to make amends, even if his sister didn't or wouldn't agree.

"That's perfectly fine. Our feelings shouldn't be ignored. It's only when you let it take control of you that it starts to hurt," she smiled. "You remind me of a person dear to me. I'm sure you've met before."

"Have I?" Tohya quickly thought back to people he could resemble, but it came up blank. "If I did, then it doesn't ring any bells."

"The resemblance is almost uncanny, I admit, but in his younger days, he'd put others before himself," she then frowned and looked away. "Or rather, he still puts others before himself. I've learned to accept that about him, and even if he pretends or says otherwise, I know how he truly feels deep down."

After a moment of consideration, she turned back to Tohya.

"This is just my suggestion, but opening up about these feelings to those you consider important is probably for the best. Keeping things buried deep, especially feelings like those, will hurt more in the long run," she said. "It might even help you find out what kind of Overskill you want to create."

Would it?

He looked away and down towards the windswept grass. He didn't want to burden everyone else with his worries, especially when they were already busy with everything as it is. They're already doing so much to help train him. One more worry to the pile would just bog them down.

"Think about it," Sakura smiled. Her dog popped up from the bushes with a… is that a bear being dragged from its snapped neck? "Oh dear… looks like I'll have to help prepare it so it doesn't go to waste. Looks like I'll have to cut this short, mister Tohya."

"Yeah…" Tohya had wanted to say more, but he honestly didn't know how to. It was usually Minori that talked to others. He could hold his own, but she seemed to connect with others more. "Thanks for the advice."

She smiled as she walked away. The dog, Raijuu, barked before it heaved a fallen bear with nothing but its deceiving strength. Normally, he'd wonder where that'd come from, but it seemed like the furthest thing from his mind.

Tohya idly found his gaze drawn to his friend list as his finger hovered over where Naotsugu-nii's name was. However, he scrolled past it and looked at his sister's name instead.

Nothing wrong with it, right?

"If I might ask," Sergiatte suddenly spoke up after minutes of silent eating. Perhaps it was too quiet for him. "What are the general sentiments of those living in Akihabara? How do they feel living alongside so many adventurers? The concept is somewhat foreign to me."

The question was simple enough, but Illya sensed a confidential inquiry.

Do they feel safe in Akihabara?

"I believe we've already gone into detail about the deals we've hashed with the locals on the first night," Shiroe said. "Was there something unclear about it?"

"No, but a refresher is always welcome," Sergiatte smiled. "I'm not as young as I used to be."

"I suppose that makes sense," the Villain-in-Glasses fixed his spectacles. "The local population has graciously allowed us to live alongside them. Though, it was not without some controversy. A few people were attempting to sabotage relations before they truly began, but I heard it was handled internally."

Illya kept her smile fixed.

If they answered poorly, then the Cowens would have an excuse to deny connections with them, which could eventually become just cause for war once the Knights of Izumo resurfaced.

"The first few days after the announcement was somewhat chaotic. It is not easy to round up adventurers, many of whom might've been busy outside Akihabara and her walls, but eventually they got the memo. We would be enforcing a strict policy in which harmful treatment of Landers would be considered a felony, especially if it leads to the loss of life. This, alongside countless other legislations, has eased the minds of the locals, which in turn led to Akihabara's current prosperity."

"I assume this abbreviation is accurate?" Saraliya finally broke her silence as she daintily wiped her mouth with a napkin as she spoke. "As applaudable as thy actions have been, we've come to realize that there are a few problems with how you've handled it."

Shiroe's smile strained. "Such as?"

"The declaration of rules and legislations is power only gifted to those who rule the region," Langrissa supplied somewhat grumpily. "No matter your intentions, such an act is, objectively, a direct transgression of Eastal's sovereignty."

Shiroe frowned, as did many of the other Round Table members. However, Illya inwardly felt relieved. The Round Table had already known that this topic would eventually be brought up, and thus, were further prepared.

"We understand that," Krusty said as he seized the opportunity. "However, we believed that this was the best course of action. We did not want to risk a conflict with the locals, as it would only have disastrous results. We could not await instruction or news from the true lord of the region, of which there is none."

Thanks to Illya's familiars, she was able to get a solid idea of what the Cowens wanted to talk about. Saraliya had, on numerous occasions with her family, worried about their willingness to act in independence. In a world like this one, where emperors and lords still existed, it certainly fits with the image. The problem was that it was exactly what they were working towards, an independent Akihabara free from the troubles of the outside world yet ripe to pilfer its benefits.

"Of course, we would be more than happy to cooperate with Eastal to ensure a mutual benefit…" Krusty smiled further. "That is if Eastal and its gracious lords deem Akihabara worthy of their time. Forgive me for bringing this up, but was it not Eastal's discretion to keep Akihabara without a lord? A situation in which the region would end up self-governing… surely the wise lords should have foreseen this scenario?"

"Sitting on our laurels for months hasn't been the League's wisest course of action," Langrissa pointed out. "However, the decision to forgo a lordship was logical. The region of Akihabara shares a border with the Holy Empire of Westelande. Claiming the region risks the would-be lord's wellbeing. Leaving it unclaimed would also make the empire more hesitant in possible invasions."

"Because the adventurers would serve as a perfect buffer?" Michitaka frowned.

"I imagine it is more for the former reason rather than the latter one," Shiroe eased his friend's irritation. Though, he was likely feeling some of his own. "Though, by your own words, the decision was logical. I cannot see that. Would it not be more logical to bolster the region with a lord so that its people would not fall to your previously mentioned hypothetical invasion?"

Langrissa answered with a question of her own.

"Have you ever wondered why your local Landers always receive their news from merchants rather than official couriers? I imagine they even did so during your early chaotic days or possibly held a little council with each other?"

"Yes, that did happen, but is it not because of self-governance?" Krusty asked. "Are you saying that you expected this from the Landers, and relied on said self-governance, but not of the eventual self-governance of us adventurers?"

"Back when you lot proved to be as emotionally and intellectually capable as a brick?" Saraliya raised a brow as she spoke in continuation. "I'd assume it was a given, but I digress. My dearest sister is right. Back when Akihabara had nothing, there was little harm in letting its populace do as it pleased– especially because of its populace."

Yet another reminder of how their sudden appearance in this world shifted the status quo… but that last line…

"Do the nobility have something against Akihabara's populace?" Illya asked, going straight for the throat.

Saraliya smiled politely.

"Would you denounce me for seeing vagrants for what they are? Vagrants."

"I… do not follow," Shiroe muttered.

"It is another reason why none of the existing lords wished to claim Akihabara, and the main reason why we did not wish to go with your option about uplifting a local to that of a lord," Sergiatte explained. "Those in Akihabara are, as my daughter ineloquently put it, vagrants. Akihabara is lordless, and because of it, it is a region that has no taxation. While they are not so destitute as to lack filling their stomachs, they're generally seen as vagrants taking advantage of this fact by fleeing there. It is also filled with criminals who fled capture hoping to make a new start."

Illya blinked.

Hmmm, was that why they were so easy to incite toward violence?

"I see… in that case, why did you ask about their well-being at all?" Shiroe asked. "Was this topic not brought up because of concern?"

"My daughter's opinions are not my own," Sergiatte said, eyes momentarily drifting towards his said daughter. "They are still people of Eastal. I have a duty toward their well-being."

"If her opinions are not your own, then may I assume that your opinions on our well-meaning transgressions are not as ill-intentioned as lady Saraliya painted it?" Shiroe reasoned, to Illya's inward approval.

"Indeed. I have faced my fair share of conflicts and thus know the harsh realities involved with choice. Especially choices that can influence the lives of many," his eyes journeyed to his son-in-law. "Phenel, my son-in-law, knows well of this harshness. I'd imagine that he does not see these acts as transgressions on our authority."

Phenel seemed to share a glance with his wife, who remained seemingly unaffected by her father's blatant disapproval. "Yes, this is similar to what I feel. Though, that worry does still exist in the back of my mind."

"Then we will endeavor to prove that it will not be at the forefront," Krusty smiled. "Perhaps a change of pace shall do us some good?"

"Yes, but only after I have answered your friend's inquiries," Sergiatte's gaze lingered on Shiroe. "Though my daughter was correct in there being problems with your self-governance, it is ultimately simple enough of a problem to solve."

As Illya watched Shiroe's smile rise, she winced as she also noticed Sergiatte's fall.

"Though, it may not be an ideal solution for you and your fellows," he continued. "You had given us three possible solutions upon our first meeting. However, none are suitable due to vastly differing reasons."

"We cannot allow each other to open an embassy in each other's realm," Saraliya spoke suddenly. "While it might be possible to open one here in ours, none from Eastal wishes to take up a semi-permanent residence in yours."

"That reasoning is also why we also cannot assign an overseer of our choosing," Sergiatte continued. "It is also our belief that the overall choice must be unanimous. If we went with a majority vote, that leaves room for the minority to undermine our decisions moving forward."

Considering that the Cowen family was the Clock Tower equivalent of the Barthomeloi, there must've been plenty of hungry wolves ready to pry that position from them at the first sign of weakness. Idly, Illya recalled the few scandals involved when Lorelei Barthomeloi first took her position as Vice Director. However, she also recalled how quickly they were dealt with, which likely contributed to her ruthless reputation.

The Cowens must've done something equally ruthless to keep their position as de facto head of the league. Illya would need to consult an Elder Tale lore enthusiast like Shiroe later to find out.

"It is unfortunate that none of our suggestions thus far are accepted," Shiroe frowned sadly. "Then would I be right to assume mutual exclusion is also rejected?"

Illya watched Saraliya's expression, one of careful jubilation. So this is what they were discussing back when Illya was preoccupied with the Sage of Miral Lake… this might be troublesome.

"Indeed," Sergiatte smiled. It let them know that the League of Free Cities, or at least Sergiatte, was still interested in establishing relations. Illya shared a glance with Shiroe. At least their initial suggestions had worked to ensure this outcome. "It is because of this that I offer the Round Table, and Akihabara as a whole, an option that was crafted under careful consideration…"

He cleared his throat.

"... We will instead accept the Round Table as a part of the league, without a lord or overseer."

A slight look of alarm came over much of the table.

Surprisingly enough, some of it came from even Sergiatte's daughters.

"... Might we please ask for elaboration?" Shiroe furrowed his brow.

"Yes, please do elaborate dearest father," Saraliya smiled, though it was easy to see the veiled irritation on it, at least for Illya. "I'm certain that your phrasing leaves much to be desired."

"True," he rubbed his beard, seemingly unflinching at his daughter's animosity. "The League of Free Cities was initially formed out of necessity. With the late Emperor's unfortunate demise, and the subsequent conflicts with the Westlande Empire, the remaining lords of Eastal banded together to protect their domains. It was we, the Cowen family, that spearheaded this development. As such, it was we who created the laws that many citizens of Eastal follow to date…"

"... and it is we who can renege and change these laws," Langrissa continued from her father. "There is no current law that states that every territory must be ruled by a lord of noble background."

It was then that a lightbulb flashed in Illya's mind.

Langrissa Cowen… She had somehow managed to convince Sergiatte of this idea, without Saraliya's knowledge. Hell, it was even without Illya's knowledge. When could this have happened? A short moment of thought reminded Illya that she had spent a short day relieving her stress as it were. Could it have been then?

Nevertheless, the situation had turned greatly in their favor, and Illya knew that it would take a miracle for this to end badly for them. As far as the Round Table was concerned, they had won their independence.

"Father-in-law, is this not unprecedented?" Phenel asked after noticing his wife's demeanor. "Such a thing cannot be done lightly. What have the other nobles said about this decision?"

"When given the choice between a possible rival house obtaining the right to oversee the adventurers and letting none of their rivals have that right at all? Even if the benefits aren't as much as the aforementioned option, options such as trade agreements and other such exchanges are still possible," Langrissa noted. "The only thing stopping us from taking this step… is tradition."

Illya withheld a smile.

"Tradition…" Shiroe muttered. "... Would this have anything to do with our meeting with the Academic Guild?"

"Perhaps," the Ice of Eastal said. "It matters little. What matters is that, if a decision can be made to greatly benefit our country, then it should be taken without hesitation."

"I see…" Shiroe said. "Truth be told, this offer is very tantalizing. I fail to see how this, and I quote, `may not be an ideal solution.` If anything, this seems to achieve exactly what we've set out to accomplish."

"If it was our… original suggestion, then perhaps," Langrissa eyed her sister. "Previously, we would've agreed to a mere ceasefire. This would've continued indefinitely, or at least until the situation at the Ezzo Empire resolves itself. This way, our people could tentatively acknowledge each other's efforts in amity should they exist."

"Which could've allowed either party to cancel and isolate themselves at their leisure– at any moment in time," Shiroe nodded.

It was a simple thought.

If both sides were allowed to interact with each other, yet do so with hesitation, it would make it incredibly hard to foster closer ties. Not that it wasn't impossible, merely that it would've taken a longer trial period. However, it would've given Saraliya and those like-minded the ability to stall.

Time was a precious resource. The best window that the Round Table had to hash out a deal was during this conference, of which there was only one more day left. Once the conference ends, it would become incredibly difficult to gain another meeting with the Cowen Family. Stone-walling any further attempts would be trivially easy, at least on Saraliya's side.

They had only gotten an invitation in the first place due to Sergiatte's generosity and curiosity, both of which were sure to have been sated over these six days.

The fact that Langrissa managed to prevent that was nothing short of a miracle.

The seeds that Rin had sown were already bearing fruit.

"But perhaps not without careful consideration," Saraliya frowned. "Perhaps we should reconvene–"

"Why not hash out the details here? As soon as possible?" Langrissa similarly frowned. "We've already delayed our response for almost an entire week. To do so any longer would be discourteous to our guests."

"Can we truly be sure that these guests are as courteous as we assume?"

"How hurtful," Krusty laughed lightly. "And after we've been so kind to you and your daughter?"

"No ill will intended, sir Krusty," Saraliya reciprocated. "However, no matter how commendable your conduct has been thus far, the same cannot be said of your fellows."

"Is this about their mysterious absence a few nights ago?" Sergiatte raised a brow. "Again, the venerated sage has already proved they mean no ill will."

"I do not mean to neglect the sage's confidence, but as a noble responsible for those within our reach, I cannot wholeheartedly agree in good conscience," she explained. "There are several factors, most of which I've only verified and came to my attention recently. Rest assured, my misgivings do not refer to the Round Table currently in attendance."

Illya frowned.

… She had an inkling as to what the matriarch had in mind.

"Dearest daughter, perhaps a little elaboration is in order?" Sergiatte raised a brow.

"Of course," she replied with a placating grin. "The first misgiving I have has already been brought up. The minority that does not wish to integrate with the adventurers – which we shall call traditionalists – will eventually become a problem. Even if this decision to accept them as a revised form of territory comes to pass, the traditionalists will still see it as a betrayal to tradition."

"Ah yes, how problematic," Langrissa rolled her eyes. However, after getting a chastising look from her father, she looked away with frustrated acceptance.

"We've already considered this greatly," Sergiatte said. "We've prepared ourselves to appease the traditionalists through improved trade and additional protection from our eager soldiers. I'm sure sir Krusty can testify for their abundance in enthusiasm."

"Indeed," Krusty smiled. "If it helps, I'm certain that the Round Table will be able to offer a recompense of our own. It wouldn't fare well if a fellow city of the league would see us as adversaries."

Implying that they were already a part of Eastal's League… He did know how to play the game, which Illya complemented internally.

"It can certainly be arranged," Shiroe raised his glasses. "We initially had plans for our younger adventurers to protect merchant caravans as a learning experience, but I'm sure that `field trips` to these domains will be equally beneficial."

"A way to spread your influence perhaps?"

"A way to protect our allies, of which you are all included."

Her false smile, while hidden to common eyes, gained an ever so slight hint of sincerity. "Then I will lay this misgiving to rest, at least for the time being," she said as she looked back at the rest of the Round Table. Did her opinion of them change?

No, Illya maintained a neutral expression as Saraliya's gaze caught hers. What little sincerity she had died at the sight of the magus.

"My second misgiving, however, is not so easily appeased," she continued. "Father, I had wished to discuss this privately, hence why I requested we reconvene at a later date, but if we are to proceed as we are now, I request that the Round Table allow my full elaboration… without interruption, of course."

Here it comes… Illya steeled herself as Shiroe nodded in their place. Whatever Saraliya had in place, it was something that she never shared with her trusted family. This meant that Illya would've never had the chance to eavesdrop on Saraliya with her familiars.

"Approximately four days ago, we lost contact with our northern villages," she started. "After confirming this with other lords from neighboring regions these past few days, it would seem that they've also lost contact from their northern regions."

Her eyes traveled to the Round Table.

"Coincidentally, the Round Table sent one of their guilds, led by a black-armored Guardian, towards their northern regions. I've received reports that they have not retreated, but pushed further inwards, almost skirting our region," she explained. "Of course, I looked into it personally. While this particular branch of the Round Table is stationary in one of our northern villages, the same cannot be said of their other branches."

Illya, naturally, narrowed her eyes as the others reciprocated. While she was not privy to their thoughts, she at least felt the confusion and worry in their minds.

"These villages that we lost contact with had all been destroyed. Their crops were burned, homes were torn down, and most importantly… their inhabitants are missing. This mystery puzzled me for the past few days but one piece of evidence remained certain, as it was evident in every village struck," she said. "The lingering presence of adventurers."

You've gotta be kidding me?

Shiroe furrowed his brow in thought.

Not good at all.

Shiroe already knew that they weren't the cause of such destruction, but he could easily find numerous excuses that pointed it toward them. If he said that it was not them, it could be seen as a lie, especially since Saraliya wasn't inclined to believe otherwise. They could try to appeal to Langrissa, as she was more inclined to help them, but that would be a bit too obvious.

"Perhaps an explanation as to why your fellows are encroaching on our territory would be appreciated," Sergiatte asked. There was caution in his tone now. Shirou felt his stomach churn.

"Isaac and his guild are merely a punitive force to deal with Brigandia's advances," Krusty offered. "We felt that having active combat close to our base of operations would be detrimental in that it might jeopardize the livelihood of the locals."

Good response. It appeals to a morally ethical stance, which Shiroe was all for.

"Be that as it may," Saraliya continued. "Your actions, as commendable as they were, have likely been the cause for our recent troubles. While we were finalizing our `alliance` these past few days, our enemies have likely assumed it has already come to pass. Your conflict with Brigandia is not our conflict. You are fighting a war on our soil yet it is we who stand to lose far more than either side. It does not help that Brigandia and their ilk, as vile as they may be, were not the instigators in this conflict."

Shiroe's mind flashed as a worried frown took hold. Illya would be berating him for that later, something about him wearing his emotions on his sleeve.

Serara. The instigating incident that Saraliya was referring to was likely back when Shiroe, alongside Naotsugu and Akatsuki, went off to save the young Crescent Moon Alliance druid… and Shiroe already knew that Demiqas was the type to hold onto a grudge.


It doesn't feel right. Demiqas was petty, that much was inarguable, but was he that petty? Petty enough to start what was essentially a war? Even if they, as adventurers, could not lose their life, was he not still a man born and raised in Japan? Did he not have the values and sentiments of a common Japanese man, who was strictly against war as a tool to settle disputes? Did being in this world change him that much?

Shiroe frowned and looked toward himself.

Did this world change himself to that extent without him even noticing?

He mentally shook the distracting thoughts away.

"You are right that it was our– my actions that have antagonized Brigandia to this extent," Shiroe admitted, much to his colleagues' surprise. "However, I could not, in good conscience, ignore the pleas of a dear friend, especially while knowing the conditions of Susukino while under Brigandia's control. I could not simply abide that my friend's guild member was being oppressed. My actions had consequences, as virtuous as they were, but we are willing to do what we can to make up for it."

All Shiroe could do was plead to the noble sentiments that Sergiatte was sure to have. A noble cause, as Shiroe had learned, was something they looked at highly. The ends justify the means was a prevailing mentality throughout Theldesia's limited recorded history, so he hoped it would help him here.

"To safeguard a companion is not an unfamiliar motive," Sergiatte nodded as he looked towards his son-in-law. "Phenel, surely there have been moments throughout your career that mirror such thoughts. It feels as if it was only yesterday that you had done the same."

"And I ended up antagonizing several of the Holy Empire's leading families," Phenel frowned. "That is not a story for now. More importantly, such intentions change nothing. Northern provinces have been ransacked and their people spirited away. What does the Round Table intend to do about this?"

Shiroe could tell that the man agreed with his actions deep down, but when they had the responsibility over thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, of mortal Landers… it was enough pressure to break a man. More so when it was clear that he had already failed that responsibility, if the destroyed villages were any indication.

... Which reminded Shiroe, he needed to figure out what truly destroyed those villages. He had two likely subjects in mind. One was Brigandia, but Shiroe still had his doubts about that. The other was the Goblins from Seventh Fall. That would make sense, as the location was north of Eastal… but that wouldn't explain the presence of adventurers in the slightest–

Shiroe blinked.

Wait a minute…

'Michitaka' Shiroe sent a mental message. He had opened up the channel long before they entered the dining room. 'Have we ever gotten any news about the goblins?'

'Now that you mentioned it…' Michitaka trailed off in his thoughts. 'No, no we haven't. Is this a problem?'

'Not right now… but it is troubling.'

Shiroe had been so focused on the Landers, and on Brigandia, that he hadn't focused on the Goblin threat. He had assumed that they'd attack relatively soon and that he could use that situation to their advantage by making them a necessary ally to the league… but their absence confused him.

"Right now, we intend to aid in recovery and relief efforts," Shiroe ended up saying. "To solidify our stance as an ally, we intend to aid in locating the missing locals. In addition, our many carpenters, smiths, and masons should be ready and willing to rebuild the northern provinces stronger than ever."

And they'd do it too. The people are bored in Akihabara now that the initial economic boon is starting to wear off. If they spun these efforts as a quest of sorts where the reward was increased reputational standing… it could work.

"The Marine Organization will be willing to shoulder all of the resources needed to do so," Michitaka added. "Our warehouses have been stockpiling materials over the past few months. We should have enough to guarantee the restoration of all affected regions. Will this be enough to prove we had no hand in their destruction?"

"Perhaps," Saraliya mutely nodded in appreciation. "But I believe an alliance should be postponed until the aftermath of said relief efforts has come to pass."

"That leaves us too much time to dawdle," Langrissa frowned further. "Keep in mind, dear sister, that we cannot take too much time. Moreover, is it not shameless to entirely rely on the Round Table when our resources should be capable of aiding them?"

"Agreed," Sergiatte nodded. "While the help of adventurers is wonderful, there needs to be a Lander supervising to ensure that the living spaces are tailored towards their needs. I'm certain that adventurers have different priorities and focus than the average Lander. We should avoid such complications."

"We have no problems with that," Michitaka smiled. "My boys have been raring to get their hands dirty."

"Then it is settled," Sergiatte nodded once more. "The Round Table will collaborate with the league to help repair the destroyed northern regions as a sign of goodwill. Afterward, the league will welcome the Round Table as one of our own with open arms. Are there any objections?"

Shiroe kept silent. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with that, so he was willing to–

"Only one, lord Cowen."

His eyes snapped to Illya.

"While we are fully willing to help with the relief efforts, that does not answer the problem entirely does it not?" Illya raised a brow. "What exactly caused these tragedies up north… we still do not know. If possible, we would like to help in determining the cause. Perhaps even offering some ideas as to the culprits?"

Shiroe widened his eyes slightly as he realized her plan.

"Yes, I suppose we got ahead of ourselves there…" Sergiatte rubbed his beard. "Forgive me. My old age seemed to have gotten the better of me. Very well, thine aid will be greatly appreciated."

From the tight smile on Saraliya's lips, it looked like she wasn't pleased with that particular outcome. Shiroe didn't want to acknowledge it, but there was a chance that she'd be sabotaging their efforts and prolonging their alliance… wait a minute.

Shiroe narrowed his eyes.


Why was Saraliya denying their alliance in the first place? From what he knew about the Lander, she was focused wholeheartedly on the prosperity of Eastal and the protection of her family. If anything, she should be pushing for this alliance.

It had slipped his mind, but from the start, Saraliya had disliked them, or even had a negative opinion of them. Why? Why was that so? Moreover, why was Sergiatte not strictly berating her? Wasn't his opinion as lord more important than hers? Did he hold Saraliya's opinion higher than his own? But then why would it appear as if he was stonewalling her?

So much just didn't make any sense.

He thought back, desperate to find an answer… Was it because they stonewalled her information-gathering efforts? Come on! There had to be a reason.

No, he was too focused on her reasoning. What was she after–?

Shiroe's brow twitched.

"Speaking of possible culprits…" Phenel muttered. "What or whom do you have in mind?"

Illya stole a glance at Shiroe, to which he nodded slightly. Right, before he had become distracted by Saraliya's disposition, Illya's plan had to come to fruition first. He'd have to help her out with that.

"We have two suggestions. The first would be Brigandia," Shiroe offered. "However, we think that this is unlikely. Their leader is petty, but not indiscriminate. Demiqas would rather focus his aggressions on active threats to his rule rather than passive ones like Eastal."

"... We are of the same opinion," Langrissa looked towards her father for approval, which she got. "We've sent scouts to look into Susukino's newest leader. His mannerisms are exactly as you described. However, we have noticed an uptick in his forces heading south. Whether those forces are the source of our tragedies has yet to be seen, but it is still a possibility."

"It is still possible that Brigandia is doing this as a preemptive strike against us, who they see as your allies," Saraliya reminded.

"But that, as of this moment, is mere speculation based on hearsay," Michitaka interjected. "Until concrete evidence is found, might I kindly ask that you look at us more favorably? We are already offering our people and resources. The benefit of the doubt can go a long way."

"Granted," Sergiatte eyed his daughter. Again, with little to no beratement. "Now, the second suggestion?"

Shiroe turned to Illya and nodded.

"Up north lies Seventh Fall," Illya started. "I'm sure that this is a very well-known location, yes? Does the league know the history behind it?"

"It is a fortress many Landers tell their children to avoid," Langrissa frowned. "I assume that there is a reason for this?"

"Time and time again," Illya said. "It is the location that the Goblin King rises to command and unites all the goblin tribes."

Sergiatte's eyes widened before narrowing.

"I see…" he started as he shared a look with his daughters. They looked similarly troubled. "That is troubling. I assume that you have proof of such claims?"

Illya opened her inventory and dropped the parchment from it. "My guild and I encountered this note while subjugating a known goblin cave. It may appear as a bunch of scribbled rubbish, but to goblins, it is a sign that the Goblin King's rise is imminent, and that they should gather at Seventh Fall. I obtained this somewhat over a month ago, which means that the goblin clans should've already banded together by now."

"And you have not informed us of this because…?" Phenel said with narrowed eyes. "Lives could have been saved had we reacted in time."

"Because our forces have not encountered them in the slightest," Shiroe said. "We did not want to cause a panic."

"Isaac was sent up north as a subjugation force for the goblins once they left Seventh Fall," Krusty said. "However, we have not heard of any goblins, even when we had the area surrounded by their fastest Assassins. If these goblins were the cause of the destruction up north, why were the crops burned? Where are the corpses? It is for this reason that we also doubt their involvement."

"But it is their absence that heightened our caution," Shiroe amended. "At the very least, we can assure you that if the Goblins make a move towards Eastal and her people, we will be able to handle it. Of course, we'd have an easier time doing so if we were allied territories."

"Reasonable," Saraliya mused. "However, if it was not the goblins, not Brigandia, and not the Round Table, then pray to tell… what is the cause?"

Shiroe asked himself as well.

"Well," he muttered. "There is one we haven't considered yet."

"Who?" Saraliya raised a curious brow.

"Perhaps we'll learn soon enough," Illya raised a brow and looked towards the other Round Table members. "It looks like we'll be interrupted."


It was then that a soldier stormed into the dining room, his helmet dented and spear chipped at the edge.

"Lord Phenel! There are unidentified adventurers spotted at the bridge!" he shouted. "They're attacking!"

"Do we know what guild they're from?" Krusty asked as he rose from his seat, armor appearing on his form.

"Huh? Me?" The spearman blinked.

"No," Shiroe answered as he rose from his seat, also equipping his staff.

"Ten combatants breaking into the castle, three on the bridge, and two left behind at the front," Illya said as she donned her armor.

"How do you know that?" Phenel demanded as he took a step in front of his wife. "What trickery is this?"

"No trickery sir," Shiroe smiled. This was a fortunate turn of events. "But this is somewhat fortunate."

"In what way!?" Michitaka shouted as he looked out the window.

"I have a feeling that the culprit up north just arrived at our doorstep."

And with it… answers.

A/N: My apologies for the cliffhanger, truly, but I haven't written this specific chapter in this particular month. This had been sitting in my Google Drive (which was good and I'll get into that later) and I've finally been able to find the time to upload it.

Here's a rhyme for your pleasure.

You're watching your friends graduate while you stare in defeat with requirements not met, slowly coming to realize that their lives are beginning and a chapter of theirs is finally closing. You're dragging your feet in shame and regret, as there'll be yet another year of online course browsing.

An opportunity comes around to visit parents you haven't seen since a disastrous plague befell the world, which you grasp at with glee. However, not long after, your laptop shatters suddenly. Months go by without a solution in sight, stress flooding without delight, but as the New Year's bell starts to unroll, a favor from your parents begins to unroll. Fly the skies to their foreign abode, but the trip will be upon an uncertain road. This is your last chance, they say, your chosen profession wasn't as good as others, they wanted to convey.

A late chance was given but gleefully taken. Weeks of classes had gone by but not a laptop was yet in sight. On new year's eve, a device was repaired, but the files within were deleted and thus you despaired. Weeks went by and stability was achieved, but one chance mistake and your soul bereaved.


TLDR of shit I went through; I failed college and need at least another year. Went to a foreign country to live with my parents under my father's visa, but still need to attend online classes. My fucking laptop decided to blue screen and seppuku, so we needed to repair it, but that took like 3 months, hence why this chapter took so long to come out.

I honestly don't know when I'll have free time to write again, so you might end up going without anything for another few months.

There is an alternative, however. I had like two side stories written months ago, before even this chapter, in the background while I was writing my other stories. They aren't long, around but they're something to read. One is similar to Bladed Horizon and the other is a `Familiar of Zero` fic, and if you read my profile then you'll know what they are. If I can't upload a new chapter of `My Ideal Academia`, I'll be uploading that story slowly onto the site.

Sounds good?


Peepeepoopoo I don't have another option for you that doesn't cut into my college time so go commit a crime or something if you're bored (for legal reasons, that was a joke).

Until next time,

Aware TrollDespair AnkaraMessi Joel