Voice: See ya next month!
“Of course, Alicia. It wouldn’t be called ‘Bell’ Conglomerate in another world if we aren’t still the owner,” Ronald said jovially, cutting up the discounted chicken meat on his plate. “Besides, we wouldn’t want to think the managers own their branches. They’re just that, ‘managers,’ after all.”
“Um, how does that work exactly?” Alicia asked confusingly, her knife and fork froze in place. “Do people know who you are, father?”
“Correct,” Ronald nodded, surprising her daughter who threw that question not seriously. “It is basic knowledge that the Bell Branches all answer to me, Ronald Bell. Soon enough, it’ll be you, my daughter.”
“Is that alright?” Alicia asked skeptically.
“Yeah! Ain’t that breaking the secret!?”
“No worries, ‘let none witness you‘ only applies to our secret as Court Wizards,” Ronald explained. “So Ronald Bell, the owner of Bell Conglomerate can be known to other worlds so long as it does not trace back to the Court.”
“That is true. Back then, it was Alan whom we knew was the owner of the Conglomerate in Spiri Raia,” Alicia’s mother remarked as she took a sip from her tea. “He was quite the enigma for those trying to dig into the Bell Branches.”
“Grandfather?” Alicia tilted her head in curiosity.
“Yes,” Ronald nodded. “When dad set about the Bell Branch concept, he decided to play as the elusive man behind the Conglomerate, maintaining a mysterious persona in the large scheme of things. He would be this person only the managers know personally and will never be in one place for long, always moving from one place to another while establishing more branches.
“That way, he could leave very little traces that could lead curious eyes to the Court while getting them interested in the Bell Branches at the same time. When it was time to put himself on the negotiating table and perhaps extend the circle of trust when necessary, he can just appear at the most opportune time and take over for the manager.”
“Yes, none of the managers were ever known to divulge any information about the owner of the Conglomerate. It was to the point where some doubted he even existed!” Irene cupped her cheek. “Even father thought the Bells were all made up for marketing until you revealed yourself, Ronald. No one even knows where the ‘main’ branch was.”
“And they will never know,” Ronald chuckled.
“M-Miss Bell!?” the manager exclaimed in surprise as Alicia placed herself between him and the noble.
“How dare you interrupt us, woman!” Doug roared in anger being so close to corner the manager only to be stopped. “Who do you think you are!?”
While this was going on, Owen and William got down the stairs and hid behind the counter where Maria was. Jonathan took the initiative and stood behind Alicia to back her up just in case.
“I will be taking over, mister Davis,” Alicia told the manager. “This has gotten personal.”
“…Very well, miss Bell,” the manager nodded before retreating.
“Wait, Bell?” the noble muttered in realization, having caught onto Alicia’s surname.
Alicia then turned to the noble. “Yes, my name is Alicia Bell, daughter of Ronald Bell the owner of Bell Conglomerate. I am also the heiress of the company,” she declared with her arms crossed.
The plump nobleman raised his eyebrow in interest, “Hoh? So the Bell family truly exists. And you are the heiress you say?” Doug examined the red-haired girl incredulously, his fingers rubbing his chin. “You do not seem like much. Are you sure you are not just some pretty face?”
“Noble immediately insults her.” Behind the counter, William muttered with a scowl. “Unsurprising.”
“Will miss Bell be alright?” the receptionist whispered worriedly.
“Eh, she’ll be fine.” It was Owen who assured her. “Watch.”
Alicia stood there unamused, ignoring the noble’s remark, and asked back,* “Although I have already heard of it. I will ask again: what business do you have with the Conglomerate? As the heiress, I speak for the company.”
“Hmph, your lackeys have been committing crooked business,” Doug boasted, imitating her crossed arms never mind crushing his ‘evidence’ in the process. “And I am here to bring them to justice!”
Alicia tried hard not to cringe in front of the noble’s gaudy speech, but his talking trash to the manager and employees weren’t something tolerable either. “First of all, do not call my employees ‘lackeys,'” she lectured. “Secondly, if you want to bring ‘justice,’ should you not report it to the authorities? Why are you not bringing any guards with you?”
“U-Urgh!” The noble visibly stumbled back. It looked like his defenses weren’t that prepared. But like the shifty noble he was, he bounced back. “Why, I am here for negotiations! Yes, I am sure your company would like to keep this under wraps, it would be a shame for it to go under for something as trivial as this,” he reasoned, shaking his papers. “So I was providing the means to do it before you came along!” the rebutted aristocrat excused. “Besides, I was going to bring the guards later if it does not work anyway!”
“So blackmail.” Alicia deadpanned.
“W-What!?” Doug lurched back dramatically.
“I mean, what you are doing is making demands on my manager under the threat of the guards,” Alicia summed it up. “So blackmail,” she repeated.
“Pah!” the noble made a weird noise as he was being transgressed. “Do not address this as though I am the villain!”
“You are the villain here,” was her nonchalant response.
“W-What! You dare mock me!?” the noble fumed. He would’ve tried to assault the heiress but Jonathan standing behind her menacingly made him think twice about it.
Yeah! You go, girl!
“Incredible,” the receptionist gasped in awe. “She has pushed him back!”
“See?” Owen smirked relaxingly.
“How did she suddenly become like that?” William asked Owen.
“You do remember what her dad’s like?” Owen asked back rhetorically.
“…Right,” William realized.
“Put her in this kind of situation, it’s like she’s become a different person,” Owen remarked.
“You will need to do better than that to threaten my manager,” the Bell heiress taunted back at the fuming noble.
“Oh really!” Doug growled. “Your manager has broken the law under your watch, what are you going to do about it?”
Alicia rolled her eyes, this noble was still insisting on his narrative. “Will you stop slandering him, please?” she said unamused.
“Now why should I do that for a lowlife like him?” the noble smirked, projecting himself. “I bet your father picked this senile old man up from some filthy alleyway, his kind are unscrupulous!”
“My father does not pick up unscrupulous people to be his managers,” Alicia stated, taking a stance. “We, of the Bell Conglomerate, uphold honesty and integrity in high regard – the light blue cloth in our emblem represents that. We pick those with such traits to be given the position they deserve and we have never been wrong with our judgement. That is why mister Davis has done none of the things you accuse of.”
“Okay, I’ll admit her dad has been good at picking managers for these places,” William remarked. “But sooner or later, there’s gonna be a manager who’ll backstab us. It’ll be stupid to think all the managers you handpicked wouldn’t turn on you.”
“Eh, you’re right there,” Owen admitted. “But it’s that kind of thinking that got all of us here.”
“Yes!” Maria exclaimed enthusiastically.
“I know,” William nodded. “I won’t deny that.”
“Yeah,” Owen nodded too. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
“Whatever! I have the evidence here!” Doug argued. Back at the scene, the noble pointed the bundle of ‘evidence’ towards Alicia while fuming. “So everything I accuse is-”
“Thank you!” Alicia practically sang.
The Bell heiress swiped the ‘evidence’ off from the accuser’s grip all so suddenly as if she was planning for this moment. “So this is the pile of ‘evidence’ you speak of,” she muttered, looking at the bundle of papers, sifting through its contents.
Y-You!” Doug’s face was red, he had never been humiliated before in his life. “Give that back!” he growled as he tried to seize his parchments back.
“Back off.” Jonathan lunged past Alicia, his glare still fixed on the noble which backed him off, allowing Alicia to read the papers peacefully.
“Grr!” the noble grunted. He probably would’ve already ordered his men behind him to attack, but Jonathan’s intimidating looks and imposing posture made him think twice.
“So these parchments boil down to two things,” Alicia concluded with her checking the evidence. Much like spoken language, the writings on the papers were understandable to her thanks to her maneg soul. No wonder Owen was able to ace his language exams at school. “So the first is the tax report; just from glancing at it, it does suggest the Bell Branch has been fraudulent.”
Hearing this, the noble recomposed himself and smiled. “Quite a serious offense, is it not?” he taunted, trying to recover any shred of dignity.
“But at a second glance, it looks too exaggerated,” Alicia then said, having a look of disappointment. “No tax paid for twelve consecutive months? Is this even possible to write on a tax report? Someone would have noticed this sooner. Who made this report?” She scanned the paper, looking for a name. “Collin,” she found.
“Collin?” Someone from the lounge spoke up. It came from a middle-aged man with black hair in a green suit and wearing a monocle on his right eye. The utterance of the name seemed to have caught his attention as he stood up from the watching crowd and went to Alicia and Doug.
“Tch! And who are you from the rabble!?” the noble demanded, not liking having another interloper butting in.
The monocled man kept calm and introduced himself with a small bow, “My name is Reygard Millers, a tax collector.”
“And what is a tax collector doing here!?” Doug retorted, putting his hands on his waists.
“The tea and biscuits are good, so I often come here to relax after work,” the tax collector shrugged. Turning to Alicia. “I have heard the name of the tax collector who made the report which piqued my interest. May I see it?”
“Sure.” Seeing no harm in it, Alicia handed over the tax report to Reygard. Jonathan still made sure Doug wouldn’t get into any ideas.
With that, Reygard examined the report carefully. “Hmm… This seems real,” he reported. “The paper is of the same material and the seal is authentic. I can also confirm this is Collin’s handwriting and he is a fellow tax collector.”
The noble smirked at victory, thinking the tax collector ended up helping his case. But that look on his face was soon wiped off when Reygard said the next thing.
“However, Collin was under suspicion of embezzlement and accepting bribery over the past few months, and just today, those accusations were proven to be true,” the tax collector continued with a sigh.
“W-What!?” Doug’s eyes widened.
“This report seems to be created shortly before his arrest, and there is no doubt Collin had taken a bribe to forge this document and a sloppy one too. I need not explain how some of the numbers are in the wrong places,” the tax collector sighed again. Before anyone could ask, he confessed, “truthfully, he was a close co-worker of mine, so it was quite a surprise to find out he was engaging in corruption. I was here to wind down after the shock of his arrest before I held this report.”
“I see,” Alicia nodded in understanding. “My condolences.”
“Thank you, miss Bell,” the tax collector smiled. “Anyway, may I hold on to this document? This needs to be added to Collin’s charges.”
“Sure,” Alicia replied, seeing no harm in it, and watched the tax collector pocketing the false report.
The noble looked like he wanted to shout some of the lines of “That belongs to me, mongrel!” but realized that would implicate him for being involved in forging a false tax report and refrained from doing so. Then, he realized the other party would bring it up to him regardless and tried to change to subject.
“What of the undercut wages!?” he proceeded, fixing his stance to look with the position of authority. “It is still an egregious offense.”
Unperturbed, Alicia took the challenge. “Let us see about that,” she said. She turned to the manager and told him, “can you take a look at these documents, mister Davis?” while handing him those documents.
“Sure. My thanks, miss Bell.” The manager accepted the testimonies and began to read them. “Hmm… Carl, John, Paul…” he listed before raising his eyebrow. “Why, these are all the employees I fired a few days ago!”
“Aha! You admit having done injustice against your employees!” Doug pointed his finger accusingly with a huge grin. “After extorting their hard work with little pay, you kicked them out to hide the fact!”
Alicia internally groaned at the noble trying so hard to sling dirt on the manager. She doesn’t feel like explaining the unfair reality of companies being able to lay off workers for little reason with no major repercussions, not that her company would do it. Sometimes, some businesses aren’t doing well and can’t afford to keep as many employees as they used to.
“Why were they fired?” she then asked the manager to let him speak his side of the story.
“They frequently harassed the female employees, I still have their written complaints in my office along with sufficient proof,” the manager explained. Turning back to his granddaughter. “Maria, can you fetch them? It should be on the desk.”
“Of course, grandfather,” the receptionist bowed a little and eagerly dashed to the stairs, leaving the two boys behind the counter with to the dust. She really wanted to get out of there.
“While we wait for her, I must inform you that they were given multiple warnings for their conduct, but they didn’t listen,” the manager then explained. “As per the contract, I had their pay docked for the first few offenses. When they proved unchangeable, I laid them off.”
“I see, you have a justified reason for what you did,” Alicia nodded in understanding. “Do you have the documents for their resignations?”
“I still do yes,” the manager confirmed. “It’s in my office, I’ll have to tell Maria to go back and fetch those too.”
“I have the documents, grandfather.” As if on cue, the receptionist came back down with piles of parchment in hand. “I also brought their resignation papers with me,” she added.
“Ah, thank you, Maria. I was going to ask you to get those too,” the manager said as he received the papers from his granddaughter. Taking quick glances to confirm them, he then gave the documents to Alicia. “Have a look,” he said.
Taking the papers, Alicia flipped through them as she read the contents. “So multiple accounts of catcalls, peeking up skirts, and other kinds of harassment all from the former employees you mentioned before,” she said with a frown. “I am not going to even read the details out loud.” Pulling out one of the testimonies and one of the resignation papers, she showed it to the noble. “I believe this is proof enough that the testimonies you have obtained are false at best and slander at worst,” she said nonchalantly.
“Grr…!” Doug growled.
With Jonathan keeping watch, the noble didn’t even dare to yank the documents off Alicia’s hand as she did. He scowled squinting his eyes at the words, silently admitting their validity.
Pulling it back, Alicia gave all of the counter-evidences back to the manager. “And that is two accusations proven false,” she then said to the noble with a calm smile, infuriating him even further.
However, as a testament to being the slippery noble that he was, Doug, even being enraged by Alicia, still got out of the situation, as if he had already prepared to in case this failed. “Tch, I will admit I may have gotten… overzealous with my conduct. After that incident,” he excused, eyeing the receptionist who shrank back as he did so. “I have gotten curious about your company, so I have asked my men to do some digging. When they came back with that report, I was enraged with the supposed misconduct happening and led myself here. Rest assured, they will be reprimanded for bringing such false items.”
And just like that, the noble dodged all responsibility.
“This guy can’t be serious,” William grumbled. “Bastard acts like he did nothing wrong.”
“No way!” the receptionist gasped in horror. “Is he going to get away!?”
“Seems like it,” Owen frowned. “There’s no way he’s coming here without being able to worm his way out.”
Alicia, too, thought the same way. “You cannot expect us to believe that,” she deadpanned.
The noble, in turn, didn’t even try to hide it. “Tch! And what are you going to do about it? Just because the damned new king stripped our rights does not mean you get to tell us what to do!”
“Now he’s acting like he’s the victim,” William grumbled. “If this was before this new king took their privileges, he’d be flaunting how he’s a noble and can’t be touched by mere commoners like us.”
“Yes,” the receptionist nodded. “I’m afraid of what he would have easily done if it were the time before the new king.”
“You can report me to the authorities all you want, but they will not be able to arrest me!” the noble boasted. “You can go ahead and make a fool out of yourself, little girl.”
Alicia wanted to call him out for bluffing, but she had a feeling he was right. She looked to the manager who shook his head, telling her it was not worth it and he probably has a point. The noble was able to avoid arrest thus far, there was no reason for him to get sloppy now.
“Fine,” she sighed. Before the noble could gloat in victory, she continued, “I suppose these papers are useless then.” Alicia bundled up the false evidence and held them with her two hands.
Tore them in half, and tossed them behind her while the pixie in her Maneg Soul, Voice, burn these papers.
Right away ma’am!
“So this is how we give Orders with loyal maneg?” Alicia wondered in awe.
On the plain of ashes, an elaborate red pinata in the shape of a donkey floated about above the red-haired girl. Only, this pinata wasn’t made out of the usual materials, but rather out of Alicia’s loyal maneg.
“Yes, you have performed a Vague Order,” Rose silently clapped with a smile. “As loyal maneg reflects yourself being your true soul, you will not need to use traditional ordering. Just let your imagination, or in this case, telling Voice what you want will simply suffice.”
“Hehe! Bask in my genius!”
True to the vampire’s word, all Alicia did was ask Voice, who was boasting with a huge smirk on her face, to form a pinata in the shape of a donkey. It was the most elaborate thing in mind that would have required a very long description if she did it the normal way.
“By willing them to my command, it is how I can use my loyal maneg to help me walk with my crippled legs,” Rose continued. As she said, she was currently standing on her own two feet with her loyal maneg wrapped around her legs. “It is the same process with Cherished Armaments once you obtain one.”
“I see,” Alicia nodded. “But I am guessing I am still sticking to traditional Orders for now?”
“Yes,” Rose confirmed. “It is still for formalities, but it is still good to know how we are intended to give Orders. The experience would not be the same for you since you only possess loyal maneg, but disloyal maneg Orders always use the minimal amount unless you specify it. That way, you will not exhaust yourself of maneg too quickly.”
“And Vague Orders are different?” Alicia guessed.
“Correct. With how vague it is, no pun intended, the amount of loyal maneg used is entirely on your subconscious. I have to carefully control how much loyal maneg goes to my legs,” Rose explained, wiggling her reinforced legs for a bit. “Even though Voice can regulate how much you use your loyal maneg, you could still pour too much if you are not careful. Loyal maneg out of your body is still lost maneg.”
“Right,” Alicia understood, remembering what happened when she broke up Hanz and Blaze’s quarrel.
WHOOSH CRACKLE CRACKLE
In a move that shocked everyone, the papers burst into flames behind the Bell heiress while she crossed her arms with a nonchalant look. If the noble was going to get away, then Alicia will make sure he didn’t get the last laugh. You can forgive her for being a little petty when he tried to mess with her family’s company and got away with it.
“We are allowed to give Orders openly there?” Alicia tilted her head in wonder.
“Yes, taking the first rule in the strictest sense would constrict us, after all,” Aqua explained. “In general, if the world has a magic system that looks similar to ours, we can pass off our Orders as that world’s magic. Qantasia even allows ‘silent chanting’ to boot.”
“Y-You are a mage!?” the noble gasped in surprise. “And you are capable of silent chanting as well!?”
“I am,” Alicia nodded, putting her hands on her waist with a serious look. “Now, I assume you have no more business here.”
“Why you…!” Realizing the slight, the noble tried to get his hands on the girl, but Jonathan gave him another glare, stopping him in his tracks.
“Leave,” Alicia commanded, crossing her arms.
“Grr…!” Doug growled in frustration. He turned his back and raised his fist. “You have not seen the last of me!” he shouted looking back. After saying one of the most generic bad-guy quotes, he stormed off the building in a huff. His goons, whose presence was entirely forgotten, followed after him.
“Well, good riddance to him,” the tax collector remarked, watching the noble slamming open the door on his way out. Turning to Alicia, he congratulated her, “I must say, miss Bell, that was a splendid performance against SaltWaters. It was quite a surprise to see you burn the papers in the end.”
“Thank you, mister Millers,” Alicia replied. “But if you had not stood up on our behalf regarding the tax report it would have been more troublesome to deal with.”
“You flatter me,” the tax collector chuckled. “But you’re welcome.”
“I must thank you for saving us from him, miss Bell.” Back in the office, the manager bowed deeply to Alicia. “I don’t know what would happen if I had to deal with him myself.”
“Y-You are welcome,” Alicia stuttered, surprised by the manager’s bow. “P-Please, no need to bow.”
“I see you unused to it,” the manager chuckled, straightening his posture. “Worry not, it won’t feel as bad in time.”
“Um… What?” Alicia blinked. Glancing at the others, she saw Owen giving her an amused look like this was going to happen every day from now on. “O-Okay then…”
“Anyway, what will you plan on doing with SaltWaters now that have your first encounter with him,” the manager continued. “He will not stop now that you have humiliated him. In fact, he will try even harder.”
“Yes, you are right…” Alicia muttered, rubbing her chin. It was one thing to rebuke the noble at the moment, but stopping him entirely was a whole other story. He wouldn’t be like the schoolyard bullies she used to tell off.
“It’s obvious,” William spoke up. Crossing his arms as everyone else paid attention to him, he continued, “now that we know who’s messing with us, we take him down.”
“Like assassinating him!?”
“Voice!” Alicia exclaimed, shocked by the pixie’s morbid conclusion.
“Eh, don’t worry. We usually investigate and find evidence then secretly give them the authorities to get the guy arrested,” Owen quickly assured her. “You know, the legal way so no one gets suspicious.”
“Is that so? Thank goodness.” With her impressions of the Otherworldly Court so far, Alicia thought the other way around would’ve been the standard.
“If it doesn’t work!?”
“Then we ruin the guy like screwing his businesses or something long enough that he’s no longer a threat to us,” Owen immediately replied to the pixie.
“If even that doesn’t work!?”
“…Then we’ll kill him,” Owen hung his head.
Well, at least it was the last resort.
“So then, we are going to do just that?” Alicia asked. “The first one, mean.”
“We are,” Owen nodded. “Just one problem.”
“Huh?” Alicia tilted her head. “What is wrong?”
“We still have school.”
Azhure: I got stuck writing the very last scene as I’m cringing myself reading through what I wrote years ago.
Voice: Yeah! You made Alicia say weird stuff!
Azhure: I also have no idea why having two pieces of false evidence automatically makes the rest the same. I’m going to just have just those two pieces of evidence the only ones as canon.
Azhure: So, what do you all think of this sub-chapter? Is it good? Are there any problems with it? Any reviews or feedback is appreciated as long as they’re not plain insults meant to blow off your stress.
Voice: Don’t do that to people! Not even on the internet!
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