So… I ended up being the one most surprised by that.
I was about to ask Blazer how he was going to deal with it, but he spoke up before I could, elaborating on his statement.
“We got some help from Miss Irene.”
All right, that did clear up most of the doubt I had.
But wasnt Irene herself supposed to be hindered by the same contract as well
Ill make sure to confirm that point some time later.
“Thats good to know… still, Idéa and Midors, huh… I know its reassuring and all to have University graduates in your team, but dont you think its a bit too dangerous”
“You have a point there.
The Nation is bound to have an eye out for us – for how theybroke free, among other things.”
Blazer affirmed me of my concerns.
“Now, if something comes up over there, well just deal with it ourselves.
Theres no need to worry.”
“Look, Bruce… if we let this go, chances are-“
“Were used to doing this, you know.
Its the usual business, just replace monsters with humans.
That does mean we wont get to power our way through, though.
And you know, youve got… stuff… you need to do, right”
Bruce took a glance at my side.
Man, Ill admit… he really surprised me with his detection skills.
Perhaps this could be considered another improvement my pupil had achieved.
She has become quite an excellent mood maker.
“Im back! -Oh, Chief… and everyones here today”
“Lina~! You wanna check out my fields! Yeah, yeah!”
“Welcome back, Lina!”
Lala and Natsu were the first ones to welcome Lina at the dining rooms door.
Reid and Mana followed with their greetings, but without being loud.
Then Ryan and Reyna smiled at her.
Pochi put her front paws up in a celebrating pose… except she wasnt looking at Lina, but rather at the tray of food that Itsuki was carrying in with her.
See if you can read my mind, doggo – what are you celebrating for Linas return, or the food
“Food is served!”
Once Natsu and Lalas loud welcome-backing settled down, Lina looked back up and at me.
From the way shed sounded, it seemed that shed already known that I was back.
I had planned to go see her at the Magic University if she was stuck there this late, but it looked like shed hurried back here instead.
Well, I still had other plans to head out later either way, so it wasnt like this was messing with my plans or anything.
“Welcome back, Sir Asley! Congratulations on your promotion!”
And congratulations on reaching your Senior year, Lina.”
Lina bowed her head to me.
From today on, she was finally in her last year at the Magic University.
Silence filled the room in the time before Lina raised her head up – silence save for a certain dogs munching noises in between me and her.
“Hello You know that I got promoted to Rank S as well, right, Lina”
“Ah – s-sorry, Miss Betty! Congratulations to you as well!”
“Yeah, sure, Ill roll with that.
Here, have a seat.”
Betty, who had been sitting next to me, stood up and pulled her chair off.
It seemed that she wanted Lina to sit here instead.
Lina thanked her, and then came to stand next to me.
“Thank you, Miss Betty.”
“Its fine, its fine.
I do have some things to talk about with our new faces, you see~~”
Betty, having said that, proceeded to sit herself in between Adolf and Mana.
“Hmm… what do you mean by that”
Lina turned to me, as if asking me specifically.
I urged her to take her seat first, and then proceeded to explain to her the whole story so far.
By the time I got to the part where everyone had joined up with The Silver – from which Lina was greatly surprised by – everyones dinner was served.
And so everyone settled down around the table, and as usual, offered a prayer to God.
Our hearts grateful for all the food in front of us, we proceeded to partake in our meal.
“Is something the matter, Sir Asley”
“Uh, well, nothing – oh, actually theres one thing… so Tifa was sleeping in my room when I came back, you see.
She immediately left when she woke up, though… do you happen to know whats up with her”
Arcane energy instantly filled the air of the dining room.
It was so intense that everyone – absolutely everyone – stopped eating.
It wasnt even hostile.
Just… absurdly… turbulent.
I dont understand why this would be the case, but… the source of that arcane energy was Lina, her glass cup beginning cracking in her tightening grip.
“So… Tifa was… in your room…”
Perhapsgreat impact would be the appropriate word to describe it.
It was enough to compel even Pochi to stop eating, after all.
All eyes were not on Lina, but on me… And Ryan, the only one here who seemed to still be calm, even showed a look of curiosity.
“W-well, I mean… she did look pretty tired… so, yeah, she probably was tired!”
Why would I even say the same thing twice!
I hadnt even known that Tifa was in my room in the first place, so there was no way that Id know the right thing to say, either!
Amid the cold stares, I totally forgot about the food as I, clueless as I was, chucked out one excuse after another.
Gah, Ill say this now… Both mentally and physically, Im pretty sure Im the most exhausted man in the world right now.
It was so surprising how Linas arcane energy just never stopped coming.
As far as being a mage is concerned, shes a freaking genius.
That was the impression Id gotten from her.
Ryan very much appreciated how strong she had become, but Bruce had… expressed a slight bit of reservation.
After Lina had gotten back to her room, Bruce had said to me,
As one would expect, Bruce was promptly put out of commission by Bettys triple combo, his knock-out solidified by Lalas ten-count.
And if my excellent pupil were to be scarier than THAT… well, she would turn out to be quite fearsome indeed.
As we went on later into the night, the dining room grew quieter and quieter.
Only six of us remained here now – me, Pochi, Ryan, Bruce, Blazer, and Tzar.
Betty had gone back to her room earlier because she had been put on breakfast duty tomorrow.
As for Reid and Mana, they were planning to get some work from the Guild tomorrow.
Once everyone else was asleep, we started talking about the incidents that had been happening these past few days.
“So, Asley… do you happen to know something about the Assault Kobold with the black aura”
“There isnt quite enough information to work on, but I think thats not black magecraft.
Its more likely some magic with applied effects of the Reverse-Soul discipline.”
“And what would thatReverse-Soul be”
“”Reverse-Soul… it is the taboo art of raising the dead.
Those brought back are devoid of intelligence and logic, rendering them inhuman.
We have only heard about them from anecdotes Ourselves.””
Tzar took the chance to answer Ryans question in detail.
“Thats messed up, man.”
“Sir Asley, what did you mean by its applied effects”
“Contrary to its name, the Reverse-Soul never involved any actual reviving, you see.
All it does is fill a vessel – in this case a dead body – with powerful arcane energy and control it with sustained magic.
That IS a naturally occurring phenomenon, mind you.”
“Ah… you mean the Ghouls and Zombies and those kinds of monsters, Master”
Those monsters are essentially dead bodies – be it human or otherwise – coming alive after coming in contact with arcane energy in the air.
And by theapplied effect, I meant that it might have been used on a living target instead of a dead one.”
“Then what about the monster corpses that got their hearts gouged out”
“”We were wondering the same.
Could there be a plausible explanation for that, Sir Asley””
“The Reverse-Soul in its original form is quite a dangerous branch of magic, you see… So much so that it could draw out every last point of the users arcane energy.
Which is why I believe this particular user had used bodies of targets on the brink of death – or at least, not immediately dead.
Theoretically, a barely-alive vessel would have some arcane energy left in them.
The caster may have used those bodies residual arcane energy to feed that one Assault Kobolds corpse instead.”
“I see… In short, the caster used the bodies of other monsters as substitutes in order to be on the safe side.”
I nodded in agreement with Ryans statement.
At the same time, Bruce clicked his tongue, annoyed and unnerved.
“That things no joke, man…”
“Considering the timing…that man is a likely suspect.”
“The man who attacked my home… Cleath, was he now”
“But why would he do that, sir If the Reverse-Soul was performed on the spot, then that would mean Beilanea was his target… But in terms of the Kobolds strength, wasnt it just a bit below Rank A Wouldnt it make more sense for him to use some stronger monster”
Bah, leave it to my Familiar to think up scary alternative scenarios.
She was right, though.
“I still dont know what his motives are, but… its likely that his spell isnt complete yet.”
“So that was… a test run, then It would make sense that the Assault Kobold was already missing an arm, and that he used a C-ranked monster instead of something stronger.”
Beilanea is full of personnel able to take down even monsters close to Rank A, after all.
This way, it makes it easier to get rid of the evidence, too.
Even if he failed, some adventurers will probably turn up to take care of things some time down the line.”
“”And this approach would not have worked out if he were to try it near the Royal Capital.
“But you know… if that spell is completed…”
“…Then it would be a big problem.”
Blazers words made the dining room fall into an even deeper silence than it already was.