With all the Murder Tigers within the range of my spell, having them group up before the Fire Walls, I unleashed Gravity Stop, the same spell that I had used against the Laughing Foxes bandits.
Signalled by a brief sound cue, blue and red lights wrapped around us and the monsters, respectively.
The very next instant, the Murder Tigers bodies were pulled down by intensified gravity.
“Th-thats amazing, Sir Asley…”
“Heh, interesting spells youve got there…”
Which reminds me, I dont think Id ever shown this to Lina.
And from Melchis reaction, I would assume this was new for her, too… whoops, no time to mess around now.
“Now, wipe them out!”
“You got it!”
After that opening, it took no time at all to sweep the rest down.
Midors and Idéa finished off the Murder Tigers that had been weakened by Hornels Thunderbolt.
Baladd twisted her Murder Tigers neck as if wringing water off a dust cloth, then came back to us with a smile on her face.
As expected, Lina pulled a wry smile in response to that.
Bloody hell, that was scary.
“Heh… w-we did it…”
“Really saved our hides there, Asley.
You knew that we would be coming here ourselves anyway, right”
Id anticipated that you would pull something like this right when youd been refused by Duncan, after all.
“Nah, just some random hunch, really.”
You showed some pretty good moves there, Lina.”
“Master Asley, do you want this”
No, Id rather you not throw the monsters remains at me like it was some doll.
“Thanks, but I dont want it.”
Now then, looks like their vigilance was quite slack.
Although I wouldnt quite consider the clash back there to be enough to take eight of a cats nine lives, I suppose they hadnt had many chances to go against such formidable foes.
“Are you just gonna keep quiet, Ash”
“No, that would be dangerous.
Do you sense anything”
“I see… best not to rush in, then.”
While Melchi and I talked, Hornel interrupted us, our exchange perhaps rubbing him the wrong way.
“What are you talking about, Asley Whats dangerous”
Doesnt seem to be the case.
I suppose it was more of a simple curiosity and a little vigilance.
“Hahaha, did you even accept the hunt with the intention to complete it Shouldnt we count the number of Murder Tigers weve taken down”
“Yeah, what she said.”
“So… the target number is six – hope you remembered that.”
“Wah – thats right! I completely forgot!”
“Yeah, thats it – goes to show how yall are still inexperienced.
The fact that youre not fully vigilant when out of town is a problem in itself.”
Although being Rank B would put one among the higher-end adventurers, ones age and maturity were also important factors.
Goes to show how important social studies can be.
Then again, Hornel seemed to have high enough capacity for adaptation, so hell soon be able to fight on the front lines, I guess
“What is it, Hornel”
“Well, I… Ive brought Lina along into a dangerous situation, so… Sorry.
And thank you.”
What a surprise.
Hed emotionally m.a.t.u.r.ed, more or less.
It was only expected for him to apologize, what with me being Linas guardian of sorts, but he made sure to express his thanks toward me personally as well.
He did turn away immediately as he was done talking, though – I couldnt help but crack a smile.
And Lina, observing us from a distance, was smiling quite delightfully.
But as I said that, a small silhouette approached us from high on the sky.
Isnt that… Hawk Sent on an errand by Irene, perhaps
“Oh, there you are, maggots! Ive got a message from big sis! Listen up!”
The sparrows throaty voice rang in my head, sending harsh berating words at the party of four behind me.
“You four are in for a week of detention, damned fools! Oh, she didnt saydamned fools, by the way.
Think of it as me spicing it up! There, one message down! And next, you!”
“What is it”
“Theres trouble at the Colorful Food District! Be extra careful next time youre looking to buy off a girl! Damned fool!”
“Trouble… All right, please tell herI got the message.”
“You got it! Later, maggots!”
Now then, trouble in the Colorful Food District… whats that supposed to mean Did Irene catch wind of some shady stuff Ill have to look into that later.
I first sent Hornels group on their way back to the town and then went with Melchi to finish the last Murder Tiger of our quota.
Remembering Duncans tip that the number of the Murder Tigers was uncertain, we searched the area for a while longer, but we didnt come across any more of them.
On our way back, I bothered Melchi with the same question that I had asked a while ago.
“Melchi… Who are you, really”
“Right – guess we can talk now, with the others already gone and all.
But in exchange, Ill also have you answer my questions, yeah We have a deal, Ash”
“As much as I can, yes…”
“Nuhuhu, its fine, its fine~~ Now, lets start with my identity.
Im an infiltrator of sorts, sent by a faction not affiliated with the Nation – thats right, a spy.”
“Looks too open for a spy to me, though.”
“Well, well~~ Im not necessarily hostile, you know~~ My main task is to investigate the object-space-transference magic that had recently been developed in Beilanea.
Im technically still in training like that rich boy and his pals, but got sent here by my mentors order, you see.”
Its hard to imagine a mentor of someone this strong.
I mean, Melchi here might even be on the level of the Six Archmages, I dare say…
“And so, since its close to the Royal Capital, I went to Beilanea to catch myself some skilled individuals at the Guild, and thats when ya got roped into my business.
Went there because I heard the spells creator frequents the place – you know, the Irene lady But looks like I ended up hitting the right target~~”
“The… right target”
“Looks like youre the subject Im supposed to investigate, Ash.
That being a Hermit Candidate with eternal life, you know”
That sent chills running down my spine.
Melchis blue eyes flared up, wriggling and flickering as she stared at me, as if looking to squeeze my heart out.
Seeming to have understood something from my title, Melchi shot me quite an innocent-looking grin.
Her gaze was neither weighty nor aggressive, but those eyes saw through everything, revealing to her all my true properties… Could it be…
“T-the Evil Eyes…”
“Correct But to be precise, artificial Evil Eyes.
Got em transplanted after my eyes got taken off.
Boy, my mentor sure was pissed at me back then~~”
I cant even imagine how sophisticated her nervous system is.
“Those Appraisal Glasses of yours are good and all, but they got nothing on activating the Evil Eyes with Information Disclosure magecraft.
Oh, and the statistics sheet you saw from me was made with a temporary Information Blockade magecraft, by the way.”
“You can use magecraft… very ancient ones, at that… so you were with a Dark Elf”
“Yup, Im human, but my mentor is a Dark Elf.
My mentors super awesome, yknow.
CalledPhilosopher of the Far East and all that – now in hiding for some reason or other, though.
“A Philosopher… Which means youre…”
“Nuhuhu, thats right, Im a Philosophers pupil! Eh-hem!”
Melchi openly boasted about what she was proud of, as appropriate for her apparent age, but this girl had presented me an outrageous piece of information.
Philosopher of the Far East… Ive heard of that name before.
But not recently – not this time period, for that matter.
They were random rumours from around 4,000 years ago, long before I had even met Pochi.
Of an individual who had transcended everything.
“All right, got all the pieces together now Then thats enough talking for me.
Gotta honour your end of the deal, yeah, Ash”
“Youre the one who created the fixed-position-type Teleportation spell, right I really dont think someone like Irene can make it that far, you see.
But a Hermit Candidate might just pull it off, right Heheh…”
“Looks like theres no use in hiding it…”
“Nuhuhu, just take that as me wanting to confirm my suspicion.
Oh, but if Im wrong, make sure to point it out, all right So you, who lived for such a long time, now want to investigate something – something that concerns the structure of this world… in other words, the Nation, right Mm-hm, good — thats the expression Im looking for.
Your face is doing all the answering quite well.
Which reminds me, you seem to be the talk of the town lately.
Dawned on me when I heard that talk about the Colorful Food District.
Youve got good intentions but its a bit disappointing.
You realize that the seams will start to show up no time, right”
“…What do you mean”
“Dont underestimate humans – thats what I mean.”
…This is getting creepy.
I should hurry and head back.
“Now then, seeing that youre in such a hurry, Ill ask you one last question.”
“Im genuinely curious about this.
Not a suspicion or anything like that, I assure you.
Ash, why did you enrol in the Magic University Even if went to the Royal Capital, you would still have had many other ways to gather information, right So why”
“…I dont know.”
“Thats one easy way to answer it.
That, or you could have claimed it was for Linas sake.
You could have excused yourself after getting Lina in, but you didnt.
Thats it – it was because you wanted to get in.”
“I wanted… to get in”
“You wanted to put your power to the test.
To reassure yourself of your position by comparing it with others.
To be treated nicely by Lina and serve her as a reliable figure to lean on.”
“Oh, but yes.
Its all deducted objectively and analyzed from your personality – Would you deny any of those You wouldnt, right”
“What do you even know about me”
“Hahahaha, I dont need to know anything about you, Ash.
Its always theresults that give out the answers.
Just think – what are the things that have occurred around you as results of your actions That rich boy – Hornel, was he What do you think is the reason hes so jealous of you Its because he feels hes being compared to you.
The boys self-importance did that to him, of course.
But the issue doesnt lie in the process.
Like I said before, you are formed by theresults around you.
All I did was derive my answers from them.”
“W-what are you even trying to tell me…”
“Nothing It just seemed like you were suffering, so I just took it upon myself to speak for you”
“Speak for me…”
“Ash… you once thought of yourself as not human.
Not for long, but the feeling was real – and strong.”
True… Back at Faltown, I had felt that I was devoid of emotion.
Right, that was it-
“But dont worry.
There are many people like that – its in human nature.
All that stuff I said earlier wereresults that can only be formed into humans, too.”
That was what Id always wanted-
“Thats right – no matter how long you live… youll always be human.
Its an undeniable truth – a fact established right when you were born into the world.”
-for someone to tell me that Im human.
“Well, would you look at that… you do shed tears, after all.”