Noloty Malche sneezed.
“Did you get a cold?”
A man near her asked. He was a young man with a gun hanging from his waist. Noloty answered him while rubbing her nose.
“Can’t be. I never got one.”
“But it’s still March. Aren’t you cold wearing that?”
“I dress like this even during the winter.”
She answered while pinching her clothes. However, just as the man said, Noloty Malche’s attire seemed to be a little too light.
She wore a white undershirt and a sleeveless jacket on her upper body. Her pants were cut just above her knees. Although the limbs extending from her clothes were slender, they didn’t seem weak at all. Her tan was like a toast, reminiscent of a wild deer dashing through the mountains.
The strangest thing about her getup was the straw rope wrapped around her limbs. It was around both knees, both elbows and both of her fists. That rope was wrapped tightly enough to bite into her skin. She didn’t wear it as fashion or on a whim. It was made to protect her body that she used as her weapon.
“So you don’t feel cold?”
“It’s because of my training.”
Noloty was inside a wide office of about twenty square meters. This room, filled with tables with several dozens of legs orderly lined up inside, was permeated by the smell of men working with the smoke of cigarettes around them. Among them, only Noloty was sitting on the sofa at the corner while spreading a newspaper. She was reading the advertisements column. A large ad was published inside.
“Looking for information about the Book stolen from Toatt Mining Town.
Any informant will receive 1000 kirue.
The provider of information that will lead to the resolution of the incident will receive 10,000 kirue.
Noloty sighed deeply while looking at this ad.
“Hey, Noloty-san, you came back.”
At that moment the door opened and a man came inside.
“Thank you for your hard work.”
“Thank you for your hard work.”
Voices called for the man who came inside. He was the sheriff of Bujui city. Different from the Armed Librarians who worked on a global basis, his job was maintaining the security in his region. Noloty was in the sheriff’s offices used by him and his men.
“Didn’t you find some informant?”
The sheriff said while stroking his mustache. He was old enough to be Noloty’s father, but talked politely to her. Her position was superior to his.
Noloty answered as she folded the newspaper.
Her voice was gloomy. It was a big difference from how she was in high spirits during the morning when she went out to meet the informant spoken of.
“So it didn’t go well?”
Seeing Noloty wasn’t answering, the sheriff’s face became stiff.
“Well, it can’t be helped there would be some frauds…”
He tried backing her up while sweating. She replied to him in a gloomy voice once again.
“They escaped with the money…”
The sheriff lost his words. Noloty once again sighed deeply.
“I might have to pay those 1000 kirue from my own pocket…”
“We’ll somehow take care of this, so don’t worry.”
“…Thank you very much. I’ll work hard.”
The sheriff broke into cold sweat as he tried to somehow comfort the crestfallen Noloty. She feebly nodded.
She threw the newspaper onto the rack she took it from and stood up.
“I’m going out for a bit. I have the key to the office, so don’t worry if I don’t come back.”
“Just going to get some fresh air.”
Saying this, Noloty tottered towards the exit. From behind her, the sheriff raised an encouraging voice.
“Err, Miss Armed Librarian… Remember you can rely on us.”
Noloty, who was just about to push the door and leave, turned around and answered,
“Thank you. Strictly speaking, I’m not an Armed Librarian… but I look forward to working with you.”
Noloty said and left the office.
She was in the commercial town of Bujui. It was a port town located in the west coast of the Ismo Republic. Products such as cotton, wheat and corn from the plantations to the south, as well as coals and Books from the mines to the east were gathered in this town.
It was the central town to the west of the Ismo Republic. Noloty was walking in its crowded streets.
Just as she said before, she wasn’t an Armed Librarian. Noloty didn’t yet have the bronze emblem that was the object of envy and awe for many people around the world.
She was an Armed Librarian in training. She was enrolled in a school teaching aspiring Armed Librarian and underwent combat training. Noloty was a so-called Armed Librarian trainee.
For trainees like her, undertaking an actual job was a chance to be promoted to an Armed Librarian. If she could safely resolve this incident, there was the possibility of her being promoted immediately. But, if she were to fail…
Once more, Noloty sighed.
“If I fail now, I might get expelled…”
She was an Armed Librarian trainee for a year already. She kept failing so she feared for her position.
This current incident was her biggest chance as well as her last.
Noloty sighed again for the umpteenth time. She was walking through the main road.
What would happen to her if she were to fail this job? She was thinking about this while walking around. She started imagining the faces of her seniors who were wearing the emblem she longed for.
First, Noloty thought of her direct superior, Mirepoc. Her cold face, that put any mission above her personal feelings, rose to Noloty’s mind.
After looking through the report, Mirepoc will say to her,
“So you didn’t find the Book.”
And then throw it away.
When Noloty would lower her head to apologize like usual, Mirepoc will probably say,
“Why are you apologizing?”
“Umm… Because of the mission…”
“How many times do I have to say this? Being incompetent is a crime by itself for us Armed Librarians. Can you make up for your incompetence?”
Noloty was able to vividly imagine herself mumbling in such a pitiful way.
“What’s done is done. What I want to know now is how you’re going to make up for your incompetence.”
Mirepoc would then continue her preaching in such an indifferent yet persistent manner.
Noloty will just say “I quit” when that happens.
It was scary. Too scary. If she were to quit, she would at least like that to happen in a nice way.
Thinking of a nice person, it was now Ireia’s face that rose to Noloty’s mind. Despite being nearly sixty, the old Ireia was still in active service.
But that wasn’t good at all, Noloty decided inside her head. Ireia was scary in a different way than Mirepoc. She will probably not get angry. Despite this, she would say the following towards Mirepoc while standing next to her:
“So you didn’t find the Book. What shall we do, Mirepoc-san?”
“I will go to Bujui and request an urgent cooperation between the Armed Librarians and the Republic’s search party.”
“Yes, I also think that is good.”
“I think we should also report this to the Director and ask for instructions.”
“Yes, that’s a good idea. As expected from Mirepoc-san.”
And then, Ireia will point at Noloty while smiling and say,
“By the way, just who is this young lady over there?”
That was scary. It was far scarier than Ireia being angry at her. Noloty’s shoulders trembled.
Another kind senior would be Mattalast. He seemed easygoing, but he could be relied upon.
After indifferently reading Noloty’s report, that man will surely say,
“I see. By the way, how about we go and drink a little afterward? I found a good place recently. Do you drink alcohol?”
With a wide smile on his face. That’s the kind of person he is.
And he will add the following while laughing,
“Because you’re going to get fired. You have my best regards.”
He would say this in an unbelievably calm manner. But that was also painful in a different sense.
Noloty kept imagining what kinds of scary words her seniors would send her way. Meanwhile, as she walked in the middle of the road, she started muttering to herself. The various people heading for their homes on the streets were avoiding this strange girl.
The senior Armed Librarians in Noloty’s fantasies kept throwing terrible words at her. Her fantasy kept escalating until it finally reached the worst-case scenario. What would happen if she would anger Acting Director Hamyuts Meseta?
The Director might not even read Noloty’s report. She would then expose her terrifying smile, like that of a carnivore beast in a good mood, and walk towards Noloty.
And, she will say the following while grabbing her face with narrow fingers:
“What should I tear off?”
Noloty will then raise a scream. That person won’t have any problem saying things like that. No, she will definitely say that. Noloty was even able to imagine the tone of Hamyuts’s voice.
“Oh, there you are, Noloty.”
She had no choice but to escape, Noloty thought to herself. There was someone who once said that it wasn’t shameful to run for your life. But if she were to escape, something even scarier might happen.
Noloty, immersed in her delusions, didn’t notice that voice. She kept walking around while muttering to herself.
“Hey, can’t you hear me? Turn around!”
Then, something hit the back of Noloty’s head. When she turned and looked down, she saw a small pebble rolling on the pavement. She turned around wondering who hit her. Noloty then raised a muffled scream.
She saw a woman picking up the stone from the ground. That woman was the Acting Director of Bantorra Library, Hamyuts Meseta.
Hamyuts put the stone inside her pocket and walked with her body swaying towards Noloty.
“Didn’t you hear me? I was calling you pretty loudly.”
At that moment, Noloty understood the feelings of a mouse that was swallowed whole and then melted in a snake’s stomach. She didn’t even think about wanting to get rescued or running away. Noloty experienced a state where her brain refused to function.
“Why are you so stiff?”
Hamyuts looked into Noloty’s face. She waved her hands before her eyes, pinched her nose and pulled her ears.
“Sorry, Acting Director!”
She somehow managed to say this with her shaking voice.
“Are you all right?”
Noloty violently shook her head up and down. Hamyuts raised an eyebrow and scratched her cheek.
“Such a strange girl.”