“Do I, do I really have to?”
“Yes, I’m sorry about this.” I lowered my head and accepted the ring the emperor gave me. Lucia could’ve threatened me with anything like my life or my livelihood, but she had to use such an underhanded method of targeting my secret books! “These were Cain’s orders.”
“You mean Lucia’s, right?” the emperor asked.
I coughed and turned my head. “No, they’re Cain’s.” Lucia’s pet predator growled, and I jumped half a foot into the air. “Y-yes, Mrs. Wuffletush! We’ll move onto the next person right away!” I know Lucia left behind Mrs. Wuffletush for our protection, but that’s like sending a lion to guard a flock of sheep! I’ve had dozens of near-death experiences while journeying with Lucia, but this, this is unreasonably scary! A predator could kill me in its sleep, and Lucia expects me to wield it as a tool to extort people. At least everyone’s cooperating. Even that angry, stew-hating lionkin didn’t say anything when he handed over his interspacial ring. And the people that didn’t have interspacial rings gave up everything except for their underwear. I feel like a villain. But I’m acting under orders! My dignity is at stake here; I can’t be expected to sacrifice myself for the good of everyone else, can I? It’s not like I’m enjoying extorting people of their valuables. I’m a victim too!
“Sorry, Father, but you too.” I’m an unfilial child. “Please, I don’t know what Mrs. Wuffletush will do to you if you don’t hand something over.”
My father sighed. “Very well,” he said and handed over his interspacial ring. “I suppose it’s a fair price for my life.”
Mrs. Wuffletush stuck her chin into the air and snorted twice. Then she looked at the two trembling elves beside my father. “You too, Mrs. Marilyn. And Mirta.” Mirta looked at me with wide eyes while hugging her sword. “Lucia will return your sword to you when she gets back.” Maybe. Don’t quote me on that. Knowing Lucia, she might not. Mirta pouted as she handed me her greatsword. Before I could take it, Mrs. Wuffletush grabbed it and ate it in a single bite.
Mirta cried out, but Mrs. Wuffletush swallowed and tilted her head to the side. The expression on her face said, “What? You got a problem? Fight me.”
“…I’m sure Lucia will help you get a new sword.” I’m a liar too. An unfilial, lying extortionist, that’s what I’ve become. Lord, where did I go wrong? When was I led astray? Who am I kidding? I already know the answer is when I met Lucia. If only Teacher didn’t have those stupid traps set up to capture beasts. He could’ve waltzed outside his laboratory, went to the desolate mountains, and subdued some beasts there, but no. He insisted on leaving traps in the southern pass instead.
Hah…. Anyway, moving on. It didn’t take too long to collect the rest of the interspacial rings and other various protection taxes. When is Lucia going to return? I don’t like the way Mrs. Wuffletush is staring at the people around us. If she ate someone, Lucia would probably pretend like it didn’t happen, but I’m not going to tell Mrs. Wuffletush that. I’m just afraid she’ll figure it out on her own. Why is she so smart? It’s bad enough for Lucia to own a predator, but owning a smart one too? Not to mention she just ate a sword.
“I’m back!” A giant portal appeared in the air as dozens of people streamed into the coliseum. Lucia appeared at the very end…, holding onto a rope with four unconscious predators attached to it. “Ilya! Stuff!”
I ran over to Lucia and handed her the spoils I gathered. She looked at Mrs. Wuffletush and asked, “Did she extort everyone?”
Mrs. Wuffletush nodded.
“Nice,” Lucia said and patted my shoulder. “You’re the best accomplice someone can ask for.” I’m not an accomplice; I’m a victim! Don’t slander me in front of everyone! “At least that’s one good thing that came out of this.”
One good thing? Did she not get what she wanted? “Is everything okay?”
“Look at them,” Lucia said with a scowl. She pointed at the four unconscious predators. “Do you see anything wrong?”
“I see four creatures that can kill me if their legs twitched the wrong way. That’s pretty wrong.”
“No, it’s not that,” Lucia said and grabbed one of the predators. She flipped it over onto its back and spread its legs apart. “Now do you see anything?”
…What. “Um, no?”
“Exactly!” Lucia said. “That’s the problem. None of these predators have penises! How am I supposed to have an army of predators without any males to make babies?”
“Ah! Lucia! Help!” thankfully, someone cried out so I didn’t have to respond to Lucia’s nonsense. It was Reena, the bunnykin that was Snow’s relative.
“Snow!?” Lucia shouted and ran over to Reena, pulling out her sword. “I finally found you, you bastard!”
“I’m Reena! Reena!” the poor bunnykin shouted, covering her ears with her hands while lowering her head and crouching. She pointed at the group of stunned men behind her. “But they know Snow! They mistook me for him and tried to give me a report!”
…Are Snow’s subordinates idiots? Well, maybe Reena really does resemble Snow that much.
“I know you’re looking for him, and they’re his underlings,” Reena said. “I did well in reporting them to you, right?” Her eyes twinkled as she looked up at Lucia. Her ears were twitching, and her bouncing tail was practically saying, “Praise me.” Do all beastkin behave in that manner? I’ve seen Lucia act that way to Durandal before. Wait, don’t tell me Reena subordinated herself to Lucia. That doesn’t make any sense.
The men behind Reena exchanged glances with each other. Then they looked at Mrs. Wuffletush. They dropped to their knees and placed their hands over their heads. “Please, don’t kill us! We’ll tell you everything you want to know!”