On the afternoon of a certain day. Bard was in the third floor’s office.
The reason why his expression was obstinate as he sat on the leather chair was because Frank was sitting in front of him.
He was being thoroughly beat down.
However, the cause of this heavy feeling was Frank’s duty as head of the Lunéville branch.
Frank put the paper he held in his hands down on the table.
“Do you have any justifications this time?”
“… No, none.”
If one were to talk about height, Bard was taller. However, right now his figure seemed even smaller than Frank.
“Bard. This failure of yours endangered people losing confidence in not only the branch, but the association as a whole. No matter how much effort we make, we cannot recover that once it is lost. Am I understood?”
The other day, Bard committed a grave mistake.
While registering a commission when the branch was packed, in a rush, Bard misunderstood and ended a registration before it was finished, returning the registration cards and commission chart.
Today, this came to light. The commission completion request could not be processed by the registration book. When the problem was looked into, the mistake was detected.
And thus the office staff were in a panic.
If a completion wasn’t registered and someone received the commission in another location, the great efforts of the guild members that came to report completions would be wasted.
As a result of their swift examination of the problem, since the commission hadn’t yet been accepted in other locations, they somehow managed to avoid much trouble. However, in the case that a commission is accepted at the same time as it has been registered as complete, it is necessary to make a report that summarizes the reason in order to prevent fraud.
Since it was a serious matter this time, Frank would prepare the report himself as the branch manager.
It’s not like Bard didn’t understand that he was being covered by his superior.
However, he wasn’t satisfied either.
Because the presence of whether or not something is registered was on the registration card as well, guild members that have accepted a commission aren’t responsible for their negligence at all.
So even though Bard’s mistake could be summed up as primarily due to his inexperience, one of the primary factors was also the expectations Ilya placed on him.
Bard, whose concentration dulls when in crowded situations, couldn’t properly asses guild members’ abilities that well. And so, unable to predict the results, took extra time.
Guild members would get irritated by that and rush him.
In his haste, Bard would often return registration cards and commission charts without verifying them.
Bard thought that Ilya said too many unnecessary things, but that simply showed his immaturity. Therefore, Bard obediently admitted his failure.
Seeing him like this, Frank nodded in understanding and reclined against the back of the chair, giving all his body weight to it.
“So then, what will you take care to do in the future?”
“… Verify them properly.”
“Entirely confirm its registration. And?”
“Properly concentrate on my work.”
“Alright, if you can properly do those two things, you probably won’t make the same mistake again. If you don’t forget about this failure, you’re likely to never do it again and grow more used to it in the future.”
Although his tone was gentle, his gaze was harsh. Because even if this was something minor this time, Bard was made to understand that that wouldn’t always be the case.
However, Bard had no intention of exposing such a miserable side of himself again.
Gritting his teeth, he somehow managed to endure Frank’s gaze.
“Alright. Take care. You can go back.”
“… Eh? Oh, yes.”
After replying, Frank’s attitude immediately took a one eighty as though he lost interest. Unable to keep up, Bard responded cautiously.
“… There’s… no punishment?”
“You properly reflected on your actions. Of course, if you continue to make mistakes you’ll be sorry.”
Even if he took it as a joke, this wasn’t the kind of situation where the other person could laugh it off.
Unable to understand not being punished for failing, Bard was puzzled.
Frank looked up from the report he was trying to write, smiling at Bard. More so than feeling kind, his smile felt reliable.
“Clerks, receptionists, waiters and waitresses, cooks… even though the branch exists because of them, why do you think the branch manager exists?”
“… To keep them in line, right?”
While saying that, he realized it wasn’t a correct answer.
“Well, that’s half right. To take responsibility for them, that’s the other half.”
Bard couldn’t understand. In the thieves guild he used to be in, the responsibility for failure would always land on the person themselves. No superior would stand in for their subordinates’ failures.
For taking responsibility, the closest parallel would be people pushing their failures onto their subordinates.
However, Frank’s words were implying that superiors should sacrifice themselves and take responsibility. It was the complete opposite idea.
“The world isn’t just the thieves guild. They desire power to obsess over gaining more power. However, it’s normally different. One holds power for the sake of taking responsibility. Not just you, I will take responsibility for everyone’s sake… Even though I say that, there are a lot of people that attempt to abuse their positions and line their pockets with the hard work of others.”
Although Frank spoke with a wry smile near the end, his eyes were sharp as though to express his immense willpower.
Responsibility. For Bard, this was something he had only for himself.
However, would he take responsibility if Katie died?
Recalling the thing from the other day, Bard once again realized the weight of his actions.
This was something that he had absolutely never been self-aware of before when he was full of pride for his abilities.
“There’s no point in giving you something like a sermon. Just go to the office to apologize and thank them, properly alright?”
“… Got it.”
With a small bow of his head, Bard left.
“… Next is his language huh.”
Not quite catching the mumble, Bard descended to the second floor, continuing down to the first floor and quickly passing through the kitchen.
Without entering the reception desk, Bard, who had come in front of the office door, stopped for a moment with his hand raised slightly reaching for the door. He took a deep breath and sighed before slowly opening it.
Gazes focused on Bard. Although Bard normally didn’t pay it much attention, this time it felt like he was being overwhelmed with guilt.
“Oooh? Whatever could the matter be~?”
Claude came with a smile. Seeing that he was jesting, he most likely sensed Bard’s feelings of guilt.
Although Bard almost glared back on reflex, he held back his childish irritation and bowed to not just Claude, but Desiree as well.
“… For giving you trouble, I’m sorry… And, you… saved me.”
“It was nothing.”
“Take care next time okay?”
They blamed him. Or maybe they were ridiculing him. He thought that, but the two were smiling.
Nothing about the way they looked implied derision, nor was there any sarcasm.
“It was nothing this time anyways. You apologized properly and showed your gratitude, so we’re even.”
“You understood everything Frank-san said right?”
“Then in that case, there’s nothing else for us to say. Do your best.”
Saying that, the two of them returned to their work. Bard was dumbstruck. Did Claude know what was said?
“If you’re still regretting it, hang out with us after this.”
Claude grinned with a laugh seeing Bard’s questioning face.
“You drink, right? Sa-ke.”
When it stops functioning as a branch, the dining room’s atmosphere becomes completely like a bar’s.
In the second floor’s private room, Claude, Bard, and Desiree were opening some sake.
Claude and Desiree chugged down some of the ice cold beer, and while the two were letting out some of their tension, Bard lifted up his mug. Seeing the way he looked, Claude grinned.
“Nervous since it’s two to one?”
“Wasn’t it the same when you were at reception? Today.”
He was urging him on. He couldn’t let it slide even though he knew it, so he gulped down his mug in one go.
Claude let out a strong voice of admiration and Desire stood up and applauded him.
Bard, who slammed his mug down on the table as though to say something, felt great. Desiree filled Bard’s mug back up.
Like this, it didn’t take long for him to get hammered. It didn’t take long at all.
“So, hey. You getting used to the branch?”
Claude asked while sticking some snack into his mouth.
“How cood I!”
Though he definitely replied with a negative, his expression didn’t look unpleasant.
“I can’t doooooo it! Hate gettin’ emplooood… the heck’s with thaaat!”
“I don’t think Ilya-chan is a child that would employ someone without thinking about it~”
With a bit of red showing on her cheeks from the alcohol, Desiree spoke with a smile as she drank more fruit wine.
“Thas’ wat ya all say! Always with the smilin’… I’m jus’ tryin’ to live!”
“Well, we’re definitely easygoing.”
“The people in this town are all like that.”
Smiling wryly to Bard, who was agreeing in a pout, Claude continued.
“Easygoing, gentle, warm. That’s why everyone can smile. Do you dislike that?”
He didn’t hate it. However, he envied it.
He couldn’t get it himself. This branch’s members had the thing he couldn’t get, and he envied this town’s citizens.
Although he should be able to join them, he just couldn’t. It was painful.
“Even you could do it too you know?”
“… S’no use.”
Bard looked down to the table.
After all, he was a murderer.
In addition to that, even when he saw Katie break, he was a man that didn’t question his way of life.
It was thanks to Ilya that they could be in the branch, it wasn’t something they did at all. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t do something though.
A wall made of guilt. Before he realized, Bard parted with his consciousness.
“… Oh, he fell asleep.”
Desiree tried pulling on Bard’s ear, but there was no reaction.
While minding the sleeper, Desiree turned her half-open eyes to Claude.
“He drank too much.”
“Eeeh. But you’ve just been egging him on.”
“Well~ now~, maybe he’s a bit weaker than expected?”
“I thought he’d say a bit more though~”
Him saying things would be an indirect improvement even if he didn’t remember due to the sake, or just a plain improvement if he did.
Although that was those two’s plan, it didn’t go that well.
“That aside, these appetizers Ilya made are just evil!”
“Cooome to think of it, those are all gone. How about getting some more?”
“I’ll get some sake too! Ah, toilet first!”
“Make sure you get there, alright?”
Giving that simple response to Desiree, Claude headed for the first floor.
The first floor’s dining room was overflowing with liveliness and smiles.
Recalling the scene of how dead the branch used to be, Claude stored Bard’s wry smile as he complained in his memory and collected some more sake.
He might pretend to be depressed, but he expected that he’d open up soon enough if it was left to Desiree.
He returned to the second floor at a quick pace.