Chapter 76: When the Victim is Sneaking Through a Forest in the Darkness and Steps on a Stick and Alerts the Murderer, I Always Wonder; What Would the Murderer do if He Runs After it and it Turns out to be a Bear?
When we emerge from the chute, we’re covered in cobwebs.
Even if it was a garbage chute, it appears that this building had been vacant for quite some time before it was recently purchased, and the purchasers didn’t care to make the building livable.
Who were the purchasers?
I don’t know who they were on paper, but there’s little doubt that it’s this mysterious group of no-gooders.
… I am covered with cobwebs.
It feels like my skin is crawling, with these things stuck all over me, and I can’t calm down. If that’s the case.
With a slight glow and the blink of an eye, I separate the cobwebs from me and fling them off.
Ragnall looks over.
Although we’re keeping quiet at this leg of the infiltration, and despite the fact that I only barely know the basics of Lorwian, I can tell that he’s mouthing, “How the heck did you do that?!”
‘How’ … it’s with Light Magic, I mean, Aether, I mean…
Dammit all. There are some differences here and there, but it’s basically qi.
That’s something I’m understanding more and more, while being subjected to this hazy feeling.
Light Magic is a magic that manipulates what you could call ‘vitality’, or ‘life-force’.
Even though I don’t know any of the spells that people have developed with Light Magic, just understanding it’s basically qi, well…
Somehow, a lot of things are falling into place.
Like, why I can easily manipulate magic, or why it’s so easy for me develop new magics without having to chant…
If it’s because I appeared in this world as the one who is most intimate with how to use and manipulate qi, it almost seems like it should be obvious that I could manipulate magic easily as well.
Though, the more we stay in this Light Magic infested place, instead of neutral magic, I’m beginning to cast through Light Magic more.
Even though I couldn’t even think of how to cast through Light Magic before, now I’m finding it easier and more effective than when I used neutral magic.
To be honest, this progress is a little scary.
If we weren’t pressed into an emergency-like situation, I’d call a time out to re-examine myself and try to figure out what’s going on.
Most of the building is completely “an abandoned house”, especially the eating(?) area we came through.
Um… Is this an eating area? There are large, shallow stone troughs embedded in the center of the room, and channels cut between them…
What kind of place was this?
Well, whatever it is, a thick layer of dust covers the entire room; although here and there are footprints indicating someone has passed through more recently, it’s obvious this room is rarely used.
However, light and voices come dimly from the doorway to our left.
Although the building is separated into rooms by sturdy wood-and-stone walls, the walls are rectangular while the ceiling is slanted.
There’s a triangular-shaped opening running throughout the building above the walls.
Looking it over, Ragnall and I have the same idea.
Although both of us could probably land on top of a rafter just by jumping, we’re mindful of the noise – and the potential of rotted beams – so instead we quietly climb a nearby wall and get above.
Maa, it only took us a few seconds to scramble up, even with us being cautious.
But now that I’m touching it … I cast Reinforcement on the beams.
Yosh, with this, as long as we’re not too careless, they shouldn’t creak or wobble and drop dust everywhere.
By the way, Reinforcement has replaced Metal Reinforcement on my Status. It appears to be because I learned how to reinforce wood and stone, making me understand the theory behind reinforcing most materials.
Although I think I could do it even more efficiently with all the qi – I mean, Light Magic – in the room, I don’t think this is a situation where I should experiment too much.
Anyway, with my Light Foot passive I can run swiftly with a light step, barely disturbing the dust. Although he has to be more cautios, Ragnall isn’t falling behind much either.
Like that, the two of us draw closer to the room with the bright lights and voices.
There’s a group of men below. About 20-30.
It might just be instinct, but I don’t think they’re any sort of organized forces, like a militia or anything.
But even though they look like a random group of guys, somehow, I get they’re strong.
Instead of the carefree feel of Adventurers, these guys definitely feel more like “mercenaries”.
In the center of the room, a tower of Aether is accumulating and stretching towards the ceiling. It’s bright glow is worlds brighter than the altar down in the Water Corridor.
That was an altar to touch the world of Aether, while this is to bring Aether to this world. So that’s why there’s so much “compensation” needed. To send your mind into the Aether stream, your own Light Magic is all that’s needed, but to do whatever kind of summoning they’re doing, they need the Light Magic equivalent to thousands of the living.
What nasty hobbies these people have.
In front of the “altar”, a tan man with light colored hair is sitting there, glowing brightly.
He’s a Light Magic user, huh?
He seems to be using qigong breathing to circulate the Light Magic filtering in through his body.
So basically, he’s meditating.
I sense that 6 of the fake spirit trees’ Aether is being funneled into him.
6 by 6 for a False God. 7 by 7 for a Sanctuary.
… Though I thought that, what’s the significance of those ominous sounding words?
“This isn’t funny! Why! Why is it not working?! Why?! We’ve followed the ancient texts exactly!”
A screech trembles through the building.
Uuun… if the man we met in the cellar is “Intellectual Villain-san”, then that man next to him right there, screaming like a child and stomping his feet, is “Mad Scientist-san”. No, that’s too tame. “Scientist-who-has-lost-his-sanity-san”.
Intellectual Villain-san calmly waits until the crazy one has worn himself out with his screaming.
“Clearly because something didn’t go ‘exactly’, or the ancient texts were wrong.”
… Intellectual Villain-san, while that observation probably isn’t technically wrong, did you need to be so sarcastic about it?
Sure enough, the Mad Scientist’s eyes bulge and the veins pop out of his temples and he shrieked like a crazy person, stomping around the room.
“No, my reconstruction is perfect! The altar, the vessel, and yet, why hasn’t the Avatar descended?!”
Although he steps back a little, Intellectual Villain-san doesn’t even try to hide the eye-roll and sigh he gives. But he doesn’t say anything, even though written on his face is, “Well, obviously it WASN’T perfect.”
From this interaction, the Mad Scientist character is the chief and Intellectual Villain-san is the reluctant assistant?
Ah, no, before that, the “vessel” and the “Avatar” are things that are kind of troublesome-sounding…
Both Ragnall and I inadvertently leaned forward a little to try to hear more of the Mad Scientist character’s raving.
“No, no, NO! We’ve replicated the standing altar, Hurondale is a more than proficient enough Light Mage, and we’re even amplifying his abilities with more of the Light Magic we’re drawing! The requirements to become the Avatar of Light Magic was to be the one closest to Light Magic, and yet why?! Why is there no result?!”
“Perhaps the procedure is wrong…”
Intellectual Villain-san kind of sarcastically muttered that under his breath. He’s standing there, looking bored, as the Mad Scientist character throws a tantrum.
“No! We have to have the knowledge that only comes from becoming the Avatar! We can’t let this fail! Noran, troubleshoot!”
“Perhaps the procedure is wrong.”
Ahh, he said it out loud after all.
“Haa… Then, someone else in Nyl City became the Avatar.”
“Impossible! With a high-ranking Light Mage like Hurondale and amplified with the Spirit Trees, how could there be anyone with a higher affinity than him?!”
…Hm? Just then, didn’t the Mad Scientist character say something that kind of bothered me?
Um… to become the Avatar of Light Magic … one has to be the …
Wait wait wait.
I don’t know what the “Avatar” is supposed to be, but um…
… I’ve been having this weird feeling since a while ago …
… and I suddenly understand a lot of things that I didn’t before…
… but no, it’s impossible. Right? I mean, if it’s something as grandiose as “Avatar to all of Light Magic”, then there should be more of a “Wow” or a “Bam” feeling, right?
This is just, this is just … right, magic intoxication?
Ragnall glances out of the corner of his eye at me, as I let the soft sound out of my lips.
I have to have a weird look on my face.
I mean, this is all just so… I kind of want to laugh out loud, but I kind of don’t want to believe it, and at the same time I feel like I should be apologizing for all their wasted efforts.
It doesn’t take Ragnall more than a few seconds to figure it out.
A kind of hilarious look of realization crosses his face, and he points at me, mouthing,
It seems that I have successfully thwarted their plans!
Nonono, that’s not for sure yet, that’s completely not 100% certain.
Even though I’m in complete denial, my gut feeling about the situation is opposing me…
… Ah, I can’t even laugh at this situation. I just want to yell, “I don’t know anything” and run away, but…
A-a-anyway, even if it IS true, which I don’t think it is (maybe), nothing’s changed. They’re still a group of bad guys sucking the life out of the area and they need to be stopped … ah, we still don’t know who they are, technically, either.
Intellectual Villain-san sighed at the Mad Scientist character’s outburst.
“Then if it’s not that, is it because there’s not enough Light Magic coming to the altar?”
“That must be it! Check the circuit! I will attempt to increase the output of our Spirit Tree Stones!”
Eh? Hang on!
No, well, ok, I did reduce the flow of Aether from their fake spirit trees, because I tampered with the formations in the cellar a little, but if they’re going to increase the flow, uuuun…
The changes I made to the formations might break and be rendered unusable, and my brilliant handling of reducing the Aether being drained out of the city and the surrounding earth will be completely destroyed.
I mean, it was only a temporary solution to begin with, and since we want information as much as we want to stop their plans, it would be No Good to do something that gets their attention right away.
Other than that guy, Dankor, lying pinned to the floor in the tunnels, the Intellectual Villain is the only one who knows that Ragnall and I are here, and he thinks Ragnall’s dead or close to it.
And I guess he thought Dankor could take me out easily … well, whatever. I’ll make him regret it later.
Ah… dammit! I should have done a more thorough job of restricting the Aether from accumulating at this place.
If my temporary measures break under their increased drain, Nyl City could really be in danger, you know?
Even though the people here call it ‘Light Magic’ or ‘Aether’, it’s basically ‘lifeforce’, you know?
I think you can understand how this can get seriously bad…
And yet, why is Ragnall holding up a hand, telling me to wait?
No, I actually do get it.
We might know WHAT they’re doing, but we don’t know WHY.
Does he think we’ll be able to get that “why” if we wait a little more? How long should we wait until it’s better to give up and prevent the loss of the city?
I don’t have the experience in the sort of operation. Fine. I’ll leave the decision to Ragnall for now.
But if things get seriously bad, I’m just going to go for it, ok? Don’t complain to me later!
“Don’t do that, if you dry out the surrounding area before we finish, it really will be over for us.”
Ooh, Intellectual Villain-san stopped Mad Scientist-san from increasing the Aether output.
My panic subsides somewhat.
Intellectual Villain-san sighs and continues.
“Then the other choice would be that Hurondale isn’t enough to draw the Avatar’s interest.”
“-! That’s right! There was that plan too! You over there, bring the slave! Ah, Hurondale!”
The tan man lets out a deep breath from the pit of his stomach, and I could feel the qi receding from him.
He opened his eyes, and piercingly stared at the Mad Scientist.
“There is no change thus far, so what could you want?”
The tan man is visibly irritated.
I get the feeling that everyone’s here for a common goal, but none of them are happy about working with each other.
“If it’s not working, we have to try something else, so we will hook up a slave, and then if the Avatar descends onto her, we will transfer the Avatar to you.”
Both Ragnall and I tilt our heads.
Mad Scientist-san, you make no sense.
The tan man glares angrily at the Mad Scientist-san.
“And just what makes you think that the Avatar would enter a slave if it doesn’t come for me?”
Right? I mean, you have one of the leading users in Light Magic down there…
The tan man’s voice is edged with a really aggressive, angry tone, and he’s glaring daggers at the Mad Scientist.
By the way, Intellectual Villain-san had wisely evacuated away to stand near a group of the mercenaries and was now standing there as if to say, “This has nothing to do with me.”
Without seeming to notice that he’s being glared at, the Mad Scientist continues raving.
“They say elves are the race closest to Light Magic, and this slave has been prepared as a prime subject in case this happens. If she manages it, we just kill her and the Avatar, already summoned, will have to find a new host.”
“Although there’s no definitive proof of that…”
Intellectual Villain-san, even though you muttered that under your breath, we can all kind of hear you…
A huge commotion sounds as several of the mercs dragged up a girl in chains.
Long, slender limbs, a thin waist, a moderate chest, and long, dark teal-blue hair.
From behind her hair peeked out two long, thin elf ears.
She struggled violently as they dragged her up, crying out,
“No, no! Let me go!”
“Get over here now, stop resisting!”
Her chains are different from a regular slave’s. Or like, a regular slave would only have the Slave Collar on.
This girl has a thick iron collar and thick shackles on her wrists and ankles and they’re all connected with chains.
Or like, why don’t they just order her to move over there?
Ah, not like I want them to succeed, it just seems odd.
Oooh, she’s pretty strong. A merc just kind of went head over heels from a kick from her long legs.
Because he could take advantage of the commotion going below, and knowing my hearing is pretty exceptional, Ragnall takes the opportunity to whisper.
“I see. I was wondering why they put her in Prisoner Shackles instead of a Slave Collar. She doesn’t speak the language, huh? The chance of the Slave Collar mistaking the situation and strangling her for defying an order was too high. She seems pretty expensive … they really have money.”
I see. That’s why she’s in these bulky, horrible looking chains instead of just a collar.
Eh? Hold on.
“What did you just say?”
Ragnall looked at me.
“Huh? She doesn’t know Lorwian, so they can’t –“
I was so shocked that I didn’t really keep my voice down.
“What was that?!”
Ragnall glares at me a little bit.
But I mean, I mean, there’s no way I could keep calm!
That elf is speaking Japanese!
“You started it, dammit!”
With that parting retort towards Ragnall, I dropped from the rafters, landing in front of the mercs with the elf.
“…You! Who are you?!”
Bash. Smash. Krash!
Ah, these guys are at least at Dankor’s level, if not over.
Although I kick and punch them aside, they’re able to regroup. If it was the average Adventurer in Nyl City, they’d be out cold.
“Dammit, get her-!”
As one of them yells out and moves towards me, my blade flashes as it sears through his wrist.
The nauseating scent of blood sprays through the air as his hand goes flying.
No time to feel sick about it; I can only swallow the sick feeling in my throat and continue onwards.
As quick as I can, I scoop up the elf girl.
The chains and shackles on the her neck and limbs are heavy, but with the upgraded version of Augment Body, that is, using the Aether/qi instead of neutral magic, it’s nothing to worry about.
I guess everything happened too fast for her, because she struggles a little more, but soon,
She realizes I’m a girl and doesn’t show the explosive power she had before.
In fact, she’s obediently letting me hold her in a princess-carry.
… I feel conflicted about this.
“Are you alright?!”
I ask as I dodge the blades here and there. Umm… I can’t fight off all these guys while princess-carrying an elf girl, Ragnall!
The elf girl nods in response to my question. She has kind of a blank look on her face.
The Intellectual Villain from before stares at me with wide eyes.
“You! You’re that girl from before, with Ragnall!”
“Ah, yeah, she is. By the way, thanks for your care, before-!”
Ah. Ragnall just dropped down behind him, spun him around, and straight up punched him in the face.
As the Intellectual Villain reeled back in a daze, Ragnall grabs him by the waist and then turns to look at me.
Eh, eh? What? Even though I moved by myself, you want me to detonate? NOW!? Fine, it’s out of my hands now! Don’t die!
Distant sounds like fireworks sounded around outside, and the tall, tan man, the Light Mage, gave a shriek, as if it was very painful.
Ah, it probably is very painful.
I mean, the backlash from over-riding their fake Spirit Trees in reverse … well, anyway, he just had a ton of Aether ripped out of him by force.
The ground shook as the Light Magic tore through the magic circuits, over-flowed them, and started destroying the ground.
See, this is why you shouldn’t use anything other than neutral magic for circuits. If there’s over-flow, if it’s neutral magic, it will just get released without damaging non-organic materials.
… I should stop thinking about it and run! The building is coming down!
The elf girl clings tightly to me, so I’m able to dodge the debris coming down here and there without worrying about dropping her.
Her breasts are kind of pressing up against me and her tattered one-piece outfit keeps riding up so it’s a bit distracting, though.
Even though I’m a girl now, why do I still have the weakness a boy would have?!
… Or that’s just a sign of how easy it is for me to escape the wreckage, if I have the leisure to notice those types of things.
I follow Ragnall, dodging the debris easily as if I knew where the debris will fall.
To be honest, because of the Light Magic running rampant, I kind of do.
I can sense everything in this room clearly, how they move and where they’re going.
Dodge a rock, go around the spot where the beam is falling to, elbow a bad guy in the face…
Almost methodically, I move through the room while following Ragnall, and we disappear from the building before the others knew what happened.
“It stinks! Ragnall, where the hell are we?”
“Sewers. That building’s an old winery, so it’s got a lot of places that connects to the sewers.”
Eh? Really? Is that how it works?
Well, we don’t really have much time to discuss the finer details.
There’s no time, if we want to get away. Actually, in the distance, I can already hear,
“Fuck! Ragnall got us! He’s gotta be moving though the sewers, come on!”
But well, I have Augment Body, so even though I can hear them, they’re actually really far behind.
“So? I know you’re soft-hearted, but that girl…”
Ah, he must mean when I forgot myself and spoke too loud on the rafters.
“No, I was just surprised. She speaks the language from my home country.”
Ragnall stops suddenly, and I run into him.
The elf girl gives a tiny squeak as I accidentally squish her against him.
“What?! You serious?”
Ragnall looks the elf over.
The elf girl’s voice trembles a little as I carefully set her down in order to readjust my grip.
I look down at her.
“A-are you … Japanese?”
Ah. Just when I was wondering how to ask her about this topic, she asks me instead.
“Y-yeah, I am.”
When I say that, her shoulders tremble a little, and suddenly tears spill down her face.
Ah! I don’t know what to do!
Suddenly she throws herself into my chest, crying as if her heart was broken.
Watching the scene before him, Ragnall says softly,
“Well, first of all, if you can, cut her chains.”
<A/n: Thanks RS and anonymous for your donations!
*Cries* I don’t care if this is a spoiler, goshdarnit, I have been waiting FOREVER to introduce this character. She’s one of the first characters I’ve designed for this story, second only to Jun (or, the person who would become Jun, I guess). And maybe Ragnall. Hard to tell, they were kind of developed around the same time. But then a lot of things changed, and her introduction kept getting pushed further and further back…
Fun fact: climactic fight still to come. Even though I tried to cram it into this chapter.>