"Before I start the meeting, I want to know — was there a need for us to make that grand entrance?" Onii examined his Wolf-Kabuki mask as their hiatus for the past months had been peaceful. "I would have preferred it if we remained missing."
"I thought some of the theories were rather amusing," Amae giggled and lifted her left hand up in the air. Her crystal-glass ring gleamed under the warm chandelier light. "I like the one where Yin and Yang got married. Quite romantic like a fairytale story, don't you think?"
"If only they knew."
Onii smiled and held onto his sister's lifted hand. Once their fingers interlocked, both rings shimmered brightly into a whole as if the items were agreeing to that statement.
"Actually, I wanted to address this issue first."
Mari let out a sigh — it seemed to be troubling the Guild Master for some time now.
"Some of the rumors are overly exaggerated, it's becoming ridiculous. For instance, a few people said that Yin and Yang had become mercenaries for hire. Another one was that Duality started working for The Dark Triad with the reasoning being you two weren't getting paid enough."
Amae instantly furrowed her brows.
"If it's about the pay then we wouldn't have become adventurers in the first place."
"How stupid of them to think so," Onii shook his head in disbelief. "The things some people say. It's actually concerning how ungrateful people can be."
"You can't please everyone, big brother."
"Exactly. And if something isn't done, eventually, these rumors could tarnish the Guild's reputation."
The maid was right.
The Adventurer's Guild was an international institution, built upon by a prestigious set of humanistic virtues such as helping others in need and serving to protect. Its famous motto being 'be an advocate for humanity'.
Since Duality contracted themselves with the Guild, in a sense, whatever was said about them would tie back loosely.
It was also important to consider the sibling's ranking. Yin and Yang were revered as humanity's backbone ever since the Ancient Dragon Incident. If the living legends were to disappear forever, it would definitely cause backlashes for both Duality and the Adventurer's Guild, seeing how they have decided to abandon their tasks of protecting the world.
The fear. The anxiety. Sometimes, it was a nightmare being at the top because every single action could lead to something disastrous.
With great power comes great responsibility, even if it was unwanted. This was the double-edged sword of being revered adventurers.
"What do you suggest?" Amae tilted her head. "Rumors are actually part of the experience being an adventurer and you can't necessarily silence people."
"Yes, that is true. While we can't stop rumors from spreading, we can guide people into thinking a certain way."
The Guild Master pushed up her circular glasses, presenting the signature Mari smile. It was a cunning smile filled with hidden intentions and careful calculations. Seeing this reaction too many times in the past, Onii knew their grand entrance in the lobby was preemptively planned by the master tactician.
Amae chuckled as she surmised her hypothesis.
"Here's my guess — by having us appear tonight, the adventurers here would think that we returned from another quest."
"Precisely. A God-tier quest is a reasonable explanation for the amount of time you two were gone. Not only that, the news will ripple from Libertea and eventually across the four nations."
"How will the people know it was God-tier?"
"I had a few of my vassals did some work earlier"
♦ ♦ ♦
"I wonder what they are doing here...?"
"They said they're here for a quest, did you not hear? I bet you it's another God-tier quest."
"Oh my god, that was freaking Duality... In. The. Flesh!"
"That must be why they disappeared. They were questing all along!"
"I still ship the two together, did you see how close they were walking?!"
♦ ♦ ♦
Everything connected. Onii had heard some adventurers making claims of God-tier quests while they walked towards Mari. To think they were actually her agents on a secret mission left him quite speechless.
"That made sense," Amae nodded. "As expected of Mari, you're as manipulative as ever."
Mari presented an innocent smile.
"It's not exactly a lie either. Since Yin and Yang are currently on a quest to investigate Temple Academy."
"Well, it's more of an espionage mission."
"It's still assigned by the Adventurer's Guild."
Mari's aptitude for information manipulation and her keen perspectivity for the public was always at a genius-level. Back when she was a representative ambassador, the Dojo prospered astronomically under her reign.
Now putting her experiences and talent into the working world, this explained why she stormed through the ranks, becoming a Guild Master at such a young age. Most of the others were beyond their late thirties or forties.
"Now then Onii, what did you want to see me for?"
He placed his AI on the table while Mari studied the exterior with a curious look.
"I can tell from your expression that they didn't have this back when you attended Temple Academy."
The maid nodded and carefully examined the device as if it was a fragile piece of artwork.
"This is called AI — a personal gadget that contains personal information such as a student's background, elemental affinity, magical stats, repertories of spells, and so on."
Amae placed hers down beside Onii's. It appeared to be a customized Rose-gold color, most likely a special privilege given to the Potentials.
"My instructor, Doctor Lirin, told me that you can use this to communicate with your peers through The Online. But it seems to be a private interweb, only accessible to enrolling students."
"Lirin...?" Mari paused, widening her eyes as her voice trailed off into a soft whisper.
"Do you know her?"
"Can you tell me more?"
Mari nodded slowly as her eyes seemed to sparkle with nostalgia.
"We were close friends. No, maybe more like rivals? That's not exactly right either. Frenemies? For our 5th-year expedition, we chose to partake it with the Adventurer's Guild. We ended up traveling to the Far East with a guild called Noble Team because we thought it would be a good idea to enjoy the thrills of adventure before settling down with our careers."
"You talked about this before," Amae said softly. "But never went in detail."
"Some things are better left unspoken."
There was a mysterious tone behind her voice. Although they were close to the Guild Master, there were certain boundaries that should never be crossed.
"Does that mean Lirin was with you when you uncovered the Katana?"
The sheathed sword beside his waist was a gift from Mari. It was a special present when he was promoted to Master-tier.
"Yeah, she was there for everything. From the first year to graduation, she was my classmate the whole way through. I was glad to call her my best friend."
Onii thought back to Lirin's reaction. That may have explained why his instructor had such a surprised look on her face during the class introduction.
Still, this link could expose his identity as Yang of Duality. Doing so could jeopardize years of careful work and concealment. Given that Katana only had twelve of its kind, it would be challenging to explain without a reasonable story.
He had purchased it at the Grand Exchange? Quite impossible because Legendary-tier swords were typically not for sale and often collected as prized possessions.
How about a gift? That was the truth but he could not state outright it was from Mari and declare their relationship, especially since the two seemed to be close.
It seemed like he will have to consult with them later.
Onii had underestimated how small the world can be.
"I want to know if Doctor Lirin can be trusted. Having an ally like her would increase the progress of our mission, especially since she's an authority figure."
"That's also a question I would like to ask her myself," Mari muttered softly to herself. "To think she actually became an instructor because of him..."
Judging from Mari's fond yet melancholic expression, Onii could assume that the two were extremely close. Her eyes continued to twinkle with memories, something often found in veteran adventurers when they shared stories about their past.
"What do you mean by an instructor? She wanted to do something else?"
Mari opened her mouth but stopped herself.
"I am not in the position to talk about her private life. That would be disrespectful to my old friend. All I can say is that she originally wanted to work in the Adventurer's Guild with me. But something changed her mind during our 5th-year expedition."
Something unspeakable must have happened during their quest. This commonality happens to all adventurers. Through the newfound situation, people change. And when people change, feelings change.
It was possible that the quest had altered their relationship or in the worst case scenario, destroyed it.
Respecting their privacy, Onii moved on to a different subject and opened the device's list of application.
"Interesting..." Mari scrolled through the menu, "To think that the Head Instructor was able to construct this invention and assemble it for the entire student body."
"Is that difficult to do?"
"Yes. Based on the interior design and software complexity, I can at least assume that the Head Instructor is at least a Doctorate-level in Science. No... possibly beyond that. No ordinary scientists would be able to create something as intricate as this."
Amae cupped her chin with one hand, tilting her head slightly.
"So our Headmaster is a genius inventor?"
"I don't doubt it since I never met the Headmaster before."
The Headmaster was indeed the epitome of a mysterious character. It was unsure whether it was a man or a woman. Heck, a demi-human would also be a possibility. There was simply too little information regarding its identity.
"I'm not sure what the intentions are. For now, I would be wary of including your personal information since all the information you input on AI will be documented. As you know from adventuring, the less information your enemy knows, the better."
"Understood, we will only use it if needed."
"Onii, we have a potential lead right here so I would like more time and analyze your device, you mind if I take this to my private team?"
"Unfortunately, I can't go back inside the Academy without it." Onii opened an app that depicted a picture of him with the school logo, "They use the device for student verification."
Mari frowned and locked eyes with the siblings seated before her, possibly thinking of an alternative solution. Within a few seconds, the maid's hazel-brown eyes lit up.
"Alright, give me two hours and I'll find something useful. In the meantime, you two can rest here or the private chamber. If you need anything, shoot me a「 Message 」Amae and I'll have my vassals attend to your requests."
"Sounds like a plan. Let us know if you run into trouble, Mari."
"Don't overwork yourself as well, we can always come back on Earthenday or Sunday if needed, dearie."
"Thank you two for accepting my selfish request."
In a swift motion, Mari grabbed the two devices and left the conference room.
Knowing their comrade, the siblings already knew there was no stopping her when she was in the mood to quench her intellectual curiosity. Her passion for solving mysteries and finishing tasks in a speedy manner was a superlative combination, making her a fearsome tactician to those against her in a game of wits.
"Looks like she completely forgot about the maid outfit, big brother."
"That's our Mari for you. Always a hard worker."
"Speaking of maid outfits, her outfit reminded me of the one I wore back in Temecula."
"I remember... four years ago. But instead for a party, it was for an assassination. How have times changed."
"You say that now but you were so rough with me after we finished our quest."
Onii instantly turned his head, averting gaze. Sensing an opportunity, Amae began her assaults.
"To think you pushed me against the wall and then made me get on all fours to pleasure you."
Amae followed his eyes with her own, maintaining gaze as if she was hunting him down. The delight on the little sister's face showed how much she was enjoying the role reversal.
"And you even spanked me when I didn't call you Master."
"Well... I thought we were roleplaying."
"Fufufu... But you were so into it, I couldn't even tell anymore." Amae let out a mischevious giggle. "Who knew my older brother was such a pervert when it came to cosplay?"
By this point, Amae was completely dominating the conversation while Onii's face gradually grew uncontrollably red. Seeing his physiological reaction, the little sister pecked her big brother's glowing cheek and then twirled back around playfully.
"Well, it's not like I don't enjoy that side of you." Amae gleamed with a pair of innocent puppy eyes and muttered softly. "Since I'm a pervert too."
The little sister giggled as she went inside the wardrobe and grabbed her maid costume. "And I love wearing these type of outfits. It's amazing how Mari makes them super duper cute and comfortable to wear. And big brother, do you want to know a secret?"
Onii raised his eyebrow, it was very rare that his little sister hid secrets from him. While he completely trusted her, curiosity still lingered in his mind. Knowing Amae's personality, it has to be something trivial and possibly even whimsical.
But what could it be?
"What is it, little sister?"
She leaned into his left ear and whispered in a dulcet voice.
"The secret is... during the「 Message 」earlier, I told Mari to prepare a maid outfit for me."
Onii widened his eyes, genuinely surprised. In fact, he was amazed at how fast Mari finished Amae's request in a mere hour. No. That would not be humanly possible. It was more likely that she had a wardrobe of cosplay outfits ready.
"I figured I needed to get you back for last night."
Placing the maid outfit on the table, Onii could only admire his little sister's beautiful body as she stripped down into her seductive midnight-black lingerie. Her body was curvy, fit from all the intense physical training back at the Dojo. Her bare shoulders and stomach gleamed magically under the warm chandelier and her dark thigh-high socks only accentuated her sexiness into an ineffable level.
Amae was absolutely gorgeous. No, that would be inaccurate. She was beyond gorgeous.
Right in front of him was a world-class beauty.
"Now then," Amae's rose-pink lips blossomed into a coy smile. "What would you like to have your maid do for you tonight, Master?"
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