Chapter 78: Sometimes Unconventional Methods can Pull Through. Other Times…
“Whoa-! Hey now-!”
Urol narrowly dodged my out-stretched hand, pulling his hammer away, out of my reach.
Tch. He has annoying instincts.
At the same time, I stomp my foot against the ground and perform a sh○uken-like upper cut, although instead of a fist it was spear-hand.
Urol swings his hammer down on me, but his hesitation causes small openings that he didn’t have before.
A subtle clink sounds, and the front link that helps secures the armor guard on Urol’s left shoulder falls to the ground.
The guard slips off, dangling at Urol’s back.
“Hoy there, that’s some interesting magic you’re using, evading my Canceller.”
“Neutral magic does that.”
Almost like a theatrical fight scene, Urol and I leap at each other, exchange high-speed blows, and then pull back, like now.
Un, well Urol’s a crafty old bastard, so whenever he feels danger he makes an opening to move backwards.
Me? I don’t think I can stop him without killing him, and to be honest, I don’t really want to kill people right now. I mean it’s my own personal desire not to kill plus the fact that Ragnall used to know him… although the second reason might not actually be that important, if Ragnall’s own behavior is any indication.
But more importantly, I don’t want to do that in front of that elf.
She seems delicate and easily traumatized.
If people were killed right in front of her … I mean, I handled my first people-deaths in THAT kind of fashion, and I had set out to kill those guys. After the stress she’s gone through as a slave, it would be better not to trigger some sort of reaction that would make her fear us.
… tte, is she a small abandoned animal or something?
Ah, oops, Urol is saying something.
“Neutral magic you say… There ain’t that much neutral magic that you can fight with. What kind of person are you, huh?”
He tilts his head back and looks at me suspiciously.
“What, you say…”
I stare at my hand, then look at him, flexing my fingers purposefully in his direction.
“… Just a Craftsman?”
“Cra – … ah … hahaha, what the hell? What the hell?! A Craftsman who can move like that?!”
A nasty grin spreads across his face, like he’s found something interesting, as Urol flings his head back and belts his laughter until the sewers echo.
“… Is that really something that funny?”
I’m a little annoyed.
As I glare at Urol, I ready my tanto in a backwards grip in my left hand; my right is set for another instance of Sever.
A pity it can’t cut flesh or living materials, but if I can’t render him unable to fight by knocking him out or disabling him, then what if I tackle it with this method?
“Are you serious? Even a Craftsman wouldn’t fight with crafting spells, you know?!”
With that roar, Urol came hurtling back at me, swinging his hammer down from overhead.
Though my hand scratched the surface of the warhammer, nothing happens to it except a fizzle of unsuccessful magic.
“Do you think any Craftsman could pull off their spells in the middle of the heat of battle?! Of course this is hilarious!”
I dodge his wild swings.
Now that he realizes I’m using weapon-smithing spells, he doesn’t hesitate to swing his hammer at me? Are you serious?
My fingertips brush his chestplate, and Urol grunts lightly as a large crack splinters through the side. The iron burst apart with some force, and the sundered ends rake his sides as they went.
Why does he think it’s so weird for me to use spells that are specifically for molding and manipulating metals in a fight?
Isn’t this useful?
– Is what I thought, but it’s true that most Craftsmen wouldn’t be able to wield those spells like this, with this kind of precision and timing in the middle of combat.
To begin with, forget about moving around while casting crafting spells, most would prefer to be in an environment where there were no distractions.
Ah, yes, I know, I’m weird, I get it.
The problem is …
I’m successfully destroying Urol’s armor with Sever, but it’s dissatisfying.
I don’t know why, but it feels like he’s wearing inferior armor made simply of iron.
It wouldn’t be so easy to deface if it was enchanted, or if it was a magic alloy.
It’s strange that a high-ranking (I assume) mercenary would wear such … well, such crappy armor.
Completely on the opposite end of the spectrum, though, is that warhammer.
A galvorn handle and an adamant-encrusted mithril-galvorn alloy, all enchanted with wind magic and several circuits along the haft, and a nullification magic circuit in the head of the hammer commonly called a Canceller…
It’s got to be over 5 million ecrue. At least.
And that’s a conservative estimate with my crappy sense of this world’s money.
Needless to say, a mere ‘Sever’ isn’t going to work on this thing. At least, not a Sever I can fire off at will while dodging blows.
The enchantments and circuit also disrupt my attempts at using Sever, like the time before as my magic just fizzled out.
I could melt it … but for galvorn and mithril?
Galvorn’s temperamental nature aside, mithril is melted with dragon’s fire, you know?
That’s plasma, you know?
Forcing plasma to form down here, in a small, enclosed sewer, without the quiet, still environment that would allow me to set up sturdy Barriers simultaneously sounds like a really, really bad idea, you know?
Urol’s swings increased in speed.
I don’t know if my repeated successes at using Sever were making him nervous, but he’s using much more liberal amounts of wind magic to manipulate his warhammer.
Even though he shouldn’t have much MP … at least, I don’t think I misread the reason behind the minimalist magic he used earlier.
No, in a battle like this I should rely on my intuition, but also be aware of what could happen if I’m wrong. It wouldn’t be good to be negligent be assuming he’s getting desperate, only to be hit square in the face with a fully loaded spell.
Nn-! It hurts!
My palm stings a little as I catch the haft of the hammer.
Can’t be helped; right now the level of Augment Body I have been using this entire fight would interfere too much with my goal.
A sound you wouldn’t expect to hear came from the hammer’s haft, starting from where my hand was touching it.
Urol’s frenzied grin flickered as he quickly pulled back, but I don’t want to let this fight drag on too much longer, so this time, instead of letting him retreat, I pursue him.
Parrying, or to be more exact, diverting Urol’s hammer swings by swinging my tanto at his hands, my hands tap tap, drum along the haft every second they get a chance.
Even though he’s getting increasingly flustered with my actions, Urol doesn’t let up.
In fact, his use of magic is increasing, and his muscles begin to bulge as he tries to force the hammer to go even faster.
Despite that, his swings are getting slower and slower…
Well, yeah, because I’m interfering with your magic circuits that allowed you to use wind magic to alter or enhance the trajectory and weight of your swings.
This hammer… it’s one of those things that only some people can use, huh?
Dwarven? Is it a dwarf weapon?
Kuuuuu-! To think my first sight of a dwarf-made weapon would be like this, and I’m destroying it with my own hands-!
Damn you, Urol!
My heart is clouded with unjustified resentment.
My tanto narrowly misses Urol’s fingers and he flinches, letting me capture the head of his hammer.
Or to be more specific, the part of the haft that is connected to the head of the hammer.
Un, if you didn’t have ears like mine, you probably wouldn’t be able to hear that creaking sound just now.
I’m only able to hold the hammer for about 10 seconds, but that’s enough.
As Urol swings the hammer grandly out of my hands, prepared to deliver another blow…
The head goes flying off.
Urol stares at the haft of his hammer with a stupid expression.
“… What… was that?”
Not paying attention to him at all, I’m staring at the head, which had gone flying into the sewer’s ceiling.
There, the weight of it had actually embedded itself into the ceiling.
Like, cracked the stone and burrowed in.
It really is an excellent weapon…
“Kuu- Even though the weapon isn’t at fault … to think I had to destroy such a splendid work-!”
I ground my teeth in despair.
“Nonono, this is a warhammer made by Grandmaster Bordeno, you know?! If it could be dismantled like that by some random Craftsman…”
Urol trailed off.
In an instant, he swallowed his surprise and shook his head, shaking it from side to side as if he was stretching his neck and shoulders.
“Ah… I see. This really is not my night. To think I would lose 20,560,475 ecrue just like that… Aiyo, so my bad feeling about this job was about this, eh? Ah, what an awful day… Ah, I quit, I quit. This ain’t worth it at all.”
… To say ‘you quit’ and expect to be able to just walk away…
“You think you can just leave so easily? Where’s our share, oh threat to the city?”
Ah, Ragnall said what I was thinking.
Except what does he mean by ‘our share’?
Without paying us much attention, Urol leapt up, seized the warhammer head, and with a strong pull he dislodged it.
“- ah, so you won’t let me off too easy, huh? As expected of the miser. Fine then. That slave is damn expensive goods, and they won’t let ya guys off easy and they’ll come for her no matter where you go. I mean, the only reason I’m still here fighting you guys is because they want me to get her back. I’ll tell them she got killed in this fight.”
Huh? Eh? Is that ok?
No, to begin with, why is that something he thinks we’ll agree to?
“You want to keep her, right?”
Shit. His smug tone makes it sound like he knows how I feel about it.
So yeah, of course I want to keep her – or actually, I want to keep her away from you guys!
“I’d rather have information about what you guys are doing here, though.”
From behind me, Ragnall intrudes into the conversation.
Hey, hang on a second, you-!
Before I can say anything though, Urol laughs tiredly and says,
“Oye, Miser, don’t get too stingy or you’ll get nothing. Well, I don’t know what’s going on myself. This isn’t a job I WANT to know all the bells and whistles to.”
Ragnall frowns, discarding the tone he’d been using to mess around, and says sternly,
“And that’s okay with you? Aren’t you the one who always says we shouldn’t take jobs we aren’t told anything about?”
“Ha! If you’d seen the digits on the promised payment, even you’d waver a bit, Ragnall! But this just isn’t worth it. I’ve already lost more in this investment than I planned to all in one night … It might be time for me to go solo again.”
“… Would it work? Saying she’s dead. I don’t think they’d believe you.”
Oh, good point, Ragnall.
“Hah-! Saying that she died as an unfortunate side effect to a battle that did THIS to my equipment?”
Ah… the splits in his metal armor are clean. If they assumed someone sliced through them with a blade, what kind of person would have the monstrous strength and technique would be required to do that?
… Ah, sorry. I understand, I did it, although it wasn’t with a blade.
“Well, whether they believe it fully or not is up to you guys.”
Urol turned to leave, and Ragnall called out after him.
“If you’re leaving the group, remember to pick up Dankor. He’s in the cellar.”
Urol just casually waved his hand, still clutching that fantastic hammer head, and retreated into the murkiness of the sewer.
Quickly and quietly, I pulled out a blanket, wrapped it around the elf girl, and helped her to hold on tight as I picked her back up, piggy-back style again.
Even though her breasts press up against me, because I can’t see them, they’re easier to ignore.
… Ah. I think I learned something somewhat distasteful about myself…
I set that thought aside for now.
To tell the truth, I’m really worried about this girl. After she had cried, she remained completely silent. She seems unwilling to talk, or maybe unable to talk.
It doesn’t feel normal to me.
Running through the sewers again, I finally ask Ragnall,
“Is that really going to be alright? Letting Urol go like that?”
I look at Ragnall suspiciously.
“Haaa… who knows… but if it weren’t Urol, I wouldn’t have done something like that. Or like, if it wasn’t Urol who wasn’t fighting full-heartedly because he had bad feelings about the job he was doing, this girl would definitely have been snatched away.”
Ragnall nodded at the elf girl, who was dazedly clinging to my back.
I’m a bit doubtful about whether the elf girl would have been recaptured, but I will admit that it didn’t seem like Urol was fighting with 100% seriousness.
… Even though I wasn’t either, it kind of pisses me off.
“Dankor, Urol, and Tesra seem the only ones with consciences in that merc group. The others are only motivated by money. They probably wouldn’t even bother to think about the fact that we used to work together.”
Ah. I can tell by his tone that, for Ragnall, Urol, Dankor, and that other guy were probably the members of that group Ragnall had gotten closest to.
If it’s like that…
If Masaki had gotten into a bad group that was going to get caught, and Masaki came to me and said he wanted to get out of it because being in that group was bothering him … un, I would let him go too.
Like that, I understand.
“So? What are you going to do with her?”
Ragnall interrupted my thoughts suddenly.
“This girl. Even if Urol tells them she’s dead, if a girl that looks exactly like her shows up, walking around Nyl City, there will be some problems, right?”
“Un… I’d like to ask her some questions, but she seems to be really traumatized, like she’s retreated inside herself, so for now I’ll hide her in Seimei-san’s house to recover, I guess?”
“I see. Then we’re going to go this way.”
Ragnall… why do you know the layout of the sewers so well?
“But if you’re worried about her state of mind, you’re going to want to get those shackles off her somehow, quick.”
“Prisoner Shackles are only designed to restrain and weaken, as opposed to Slave Collars that allow the owner to control the slaves. Since she seems pretty headstrong, I don’t doubt they set the shackles to barely keep her alive. She must be constantly feeling the symptoms of magic power depletion.”
Eh-. What’s that?
Hold on. Let me think that through.
If I think about what Ragnall said, then the Prisoner Shackles are things that leech MP constantly, and those bastards set it to barely above MP depletion.
I only had to experience MP depletion once before I swore to avoid experiencing it again.
In my heart, I was planning various tortures that the elf girl’s former “owners” should undergo.
Sure enough, when we clamber out of the sewers, we come out through the wash-everything-store’s oneesan receptionist’s basement.
If I remember correctly, it’s only a bit down the street from Seimei-san’s house.
“Kyaa – ah? Oh, it’s Ragnall and Jun. You scared me!”
Ragnall got a straw broom to the face as he emerged.
“Ouch. Didn’t you say you didn’t mind me using your basement as an entrance?”
It seems to have stung a bit, as a few tears sprung into Ragnall’s eyes while he protested.
“Jeeze. I certainly said that, but on a night like this, of course I’ll be jumpy-!”
Nn. She has a point. There’s people and monsters rampaging in the streets, weird magic stuff going on, and then suddenly people come crawling out of your basement?
Of course she’d attack.
Although we came out of her basement, we’re not exactly in her house.
It’s one of those houses were the basement has an entrance going into the ground along the outside wall of her house.
As Ragnall apologizes to the oneesan and she apologizes back to him, I’m scanning down the dark streets.
Masaki, Tatsu-san, Midori-chan, and Seimei-san soon come running out of the dark.
“Masaki, we’re here.”
At my tired voice, they spot us before they run past and come over.