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When we asked the toad man where the other children were being held, he just told us to look for them ourselves.
Eleanora-san was mad that he refused to cooperate, but we had plenty of ways to look for them.
I could use detection magic or have Swaying Bear and Hugging Bear sniff them out. Just as I was about to tell that to Eleanora-san, a short-haired maid in her early twenties raised her hand.
「I know where the children are.」
The toad man scowled at the maid, but Eleanora-san just doused him with some more water to make him shut up.
「You know where they are being held?」
「Yes, because I prepare their meals for them.」
「Ruufa, you know what will happen if you betray me, don’t you?」
「Please, stop making your crime worse. I will properly atone for mine.」
「Don’t you dare. Who do you think is paying off your parents’ debt after they ran off and left you with it?」
「What do you think you are doing, then?!」
As the toad man cried out, Eleanora-san summoned a big tide of water and completely soaked the toad man with it.
「Ranzel, would you mind covering up his mouth with something? His breath stinks, and I can’t stand it anymore.」
Ranzel-san covered up the toad man’s mouth with some cloth as instructed. The toad man groaned for a while but eventually went quiet.
「Emm, Ruufa, right? Just ignore what Gerardo said. You’re saying you can take us to where the children are?」
「Yes, I can.」
Eleanora-san took a quick glance around her before turning to Ranzel-san.
「Ranzel, ask the servants how many of them are missing and their names. Then, once Cliff arrives, leave this place to him and go search the residence for those remaining servants.」
Once Eleanora-san finished giving orders to Ranzel-san, she turned to me.
「Sorry, Yuna-chan, but could you come with me?」
I didn’t mind, so I nodded.
「Also, it would be really helpful if you could leave one of your bears behind to act as a guard.」
「Sure. Swaying Bear, please stay here and make sure they don’t try to escape.」
Swaying Bear cried softly in reply.
「What about you, Misa?」
「I will go with you, Big Sis Yuna.」
Misa said, grabbing onto me.
「That’s fine, I guess… but promise me that you won’t stray from Yuna-chan’s side, okay?」
Eleanora-san pushed Misa onto me, but it wasn’t like I really minded.
I lifted Misa up and put her onto Hugging Bear’s back.
「You’ll be safe here.」
Misa nodded and grabbed onto Hugging Bear tightly.
「What a gentle bear.」
Ruufa-san was surprised to see Hugging Bear letting Misa ride on it, but there was clearly some fright in her expression.
「It won’t do anything as long as you don’t try to harm it.」
「I wouldn’t do something scary like that.」
Still, it was okay to be less nervous about it.
Ruufa-san then started to lead us down a hallway.
Both Cliff’s and Gran-san’s mansions were quite big, and this one was no different. There was no way all of these rooms were being used.
「Eleanora-san, is the kidnapping of these children not going to be considered a crime?」
「The problem is that their parents have signed a contract that allowed Gerardo to keep their children.」
「So, he’ll be considered innocent?」
「Hmm, not quite. It’s a difficult situation. Of course, from my point of view, he committed a crime. However, if he really does have a contract in place, he might legally be in the clear. Sometimes, merchants do hand over their children as collateral when they are loaned large sums of money. Still, in this case, it’s obvious that they were threatened to do it.」
「So, this should be considered as a crime, then.」
That was all I needed to know.
「Yes, the possibility of it being considered a crime is quite high. We have yet to get a full statement from the parents. It’s still possible that they indeed made an agreement with Gerardo and did pass their children to him willingly. I don’t really mean this, but before you came along, it was better to side with the Salbert family rather than the Faren Gramm family. Even now, it all depends on the contents of that contract.」
She was right. If they sided with the toad man rather than Gran-san, it was possible for them to earn a lot more money; more than enough to change their minds.
Still, what did she mean by ‘before I came along’?
The way she put it, it sounded like I was responsible for the downfall of the toad man’s noble family.
「Your expression is telling me that you don’t quite understand why. If you didn’t go to the capital and bring Zelef here, Gran-san’s party would have failed. Then, they wouldn’t have resorted to kidnapping Misa, and you wouldn’t have raided the mansion, meaning we wouldn’t be in this situation. Not to mention, if you didn’t drop by the capital, I wouldn’t be here right now. You’re the cause of all of this.」
When she put it that way, it really did seem like everything had happened because of me.
「If so, then it’s all thanks to Misa for sending me an invitation to her party.」
I praised Misa, who was comfortably riding on Hugging Bear.
If Misa hadn’t sent me an invitation, I would never have come here.
Going out in the world and meeting people had quite the impact on things. I would have never experienced something like this in my former world where I would surely still be a hikikomori.
「Ruufa-san, why are you working here?」
Ruufa-san seemed like an upright person, so I found it weird that she would work for someone like the toad man.
「My father left me with a big debt, and I’m trying to work it off.」
「A big debt?」
「Yes. My father was a merchant and needed money to run his trade. Gerardo-sama lent him the money he needed, but the business ended up failing, making him lose all the money as a result. To prevent my father from running away, Gerardo-sama took away my citizenship card and made me his hostage. My father worked as hard as he could, but it was not an amount that could easily be repaid. Then, one day, my father went to buy some things from another town and never returned. So, I had to start working for Gerardo myself in order to pay off the debt my father had left me with.」
What she just told us was inexcusable.
「Eleanora-san, couldn’t she just have the card reissued?」
「Well, if this was a normal case of where the card was lost or stolen, she would just have to pay a fee and get it reissued. However, her card was taken by a lord of the town, so things aren’t that simple.」
Eleanora-san said with a slightly surprised expression.
「I think you should already know this, Yuna-chan, but you need a citizenship card or guild card to go in or out of a town. If you get your card taken away by the authorities, you will be unable to leave the town you’re in.」
「So, getting the card reissued is not an option for her because of her debt?」
「Yes. Gerardo most likely made it so that she cannot get it reissued to make her unable to flee the town without repaying it.」
「It couldn’t be helped. My father borrowed money he couldn’t return and then ran away, so there’s no way Gerardo-sama would just let me go.」
「Still, that’s not…」
「My father was just a terrible businessman.」
Ruufa-san answered bluntly, making everyone go quiet. All we could hear were the footsteps of Eleanora-san and Ruufa-san.
My Bear Shoes made no sound, of course.
Hmm, I couldn’t hear Hugging Bear’s footsteps, either. Were its feet as soft as mine?
We headed into what appeared to be a secret garden area where Ruufa-san took us to a building that looked like a small storage shed.
「From inside this shed, there are stairs that lead underground. The children are down there.」
Ruufa-san used a key to open the door and led us into a small room.
There were many tools inside the room, ranging from cleaning supplies to pots as well as random things I had never seen before.
Ruufa-san proceeded to pull a rug off the floor and revealed a hatch.
She then opened the hatch, revealing stairs that led underground.
「The room is underground to prevent sounds from leaking out.」
Since there was enough space for even Hugging Bear to pass through, we all went down together.
「Is this a dungeon?」
「Yes. I myself have been held down here when my father was still in town.」
There was a hallway at the bottom of the stairs, with about five doors on each side.
Ruufa-san finally stopped at one of the doors.
「This is the room.」
She unlocked the door and opened it wide so we could see inside.
There were three children: two boys and one girl. They all looked like they were in the early years of elementary school.
The eldest of the group, the girl, spoke up.
「Everyone, someone is here to take you away, so you can come out now.」
「We can leave?」
「Is nobody going to hit us when we try to leave?」
「Yes, you don’t have to worry about that anymore.」
Eleanora-san and I both flinched at what the children said.
That toad man had told us that the children hadn’t been harmed in any way.
「My name is Eleanora. Your father asked me to bring all of you back home. You don’t have to worry about getting hurt anymore.」
Eleanora-san kindly explained the situation to them.
However, the children weren’t looking at Eleanora-san but rather at me, who was standing behind her.
The children approached me but noticed Hugging Bear behind me when they reached the door.
They fell on their butts in shock, but the girl didn’t waste any time and stood in front to protect the boys.
Only then did they notice Misa on top of Hugging Bear.
「There’s a girl on top of the bear…」
「It’s not scary. Hugging Bear is really nice.」
Misa tried to reassure the children and hugged Hugging Bear.
「This bear will not harm you so you can feel at ease around it.」
Thanks to Misa and Ruufa-san, the three of them calmed down a bit.
「Okay, you three. Please join Misa on the Bear-san and we’ll get you out of here.」
I gently spoke to the children to get them to ride the Hugging Bear.
However, four children turned out to be a bit too much for the size of its back, so we had the girl walk instead.
The children were afraid at first but calmed down with the help of Misa. In no time, smiles appeared on their faces, and we embarked with Hugging Bear leading the way.
Following behind everyone, I overheard Ruufa-san whisper something to Eleanora-san.
「Please check the other rooms afterwards. I believe the keys should be in Gerardo-sama’s room, so please search there first. However, please, please, don’t bring the children with you as you search.」
Okay, we should be able finish up with the next chapter.
We’ll just leave everything to Eleanora-san, Cliff and Gran-san. w
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