“What’s going on?”
“He appears to be thinking about something.”
It was early morning and Karan, who made her way to Nick’s room, was confused by what she saw.
Not only was Nick doing a handstand, but he was doing it with one finger.
Karan very lightly chopped him in his flank.
“Uoh!? Don’t scare me!”
Nick almost fell, but flipped over his body and landed.
“You’re using magic. That’s not fair.”
“It’s still not easy to balance myself with one finger. Ada told me this was a good way to train.”
“Still, it’s pretty rare to see you doing this kind of training so early. You usually go out jogging or practice your swings.”
“Ah… I heard of something interesting.”
And then, Nick told her what he heard from Olivia.
Olivia’s true identity, the awakening of the evil god, and what Olivia said before leaving. Karan was just as shocked as Nick was, but calmed down once she realized it was not a problem anyone could solve right then and there.
“So… Why did Olivia mention my old party’s fighting style?”
“All Martial Arts is the name of your old party right?”
“Yes, and the name of the fighting style.”
“Olivia’s been alive for a long time, so does that mean she was involved with that fighting style? I mean…”
“Why don’t you ask…”
Karan was going to ask Nick why he did not just ask his old party about it, but stopped after she saw the look on his face.
“I know what you mean… But it’s awkward…”
“I was kind of expelled, remember? Oh well, I’ll just train my own way. Ada’s been teaching me some things too.”
“Yes. I hope you can keep going all the way into becoming a hero.”
Karan looked at Nick with a strange excitement in her eyes.
“Well, I guess we can save the world together if we have some time to spare.”
“But we have work to do first. Do you have everything ready?”
“Yes, and I’ve decided on what to bring too.”
Bond then looked at them and tilted his head.
“Where are you two going?”
“We have a meeting… And I want to get it over before lunch. ”
Bond realized what he was talking about, and calmly nodded.
“You sure are a caring man. You have no such obligations to the man you captured, you know?”
“I guess… But I did tell him I would go there again.”
“Fine fine. The path to becoming a hero starts with simple virtuous deeds. It would be a problem if they suspected me, so I will stay here reading a book.”
“They boil sweet potatoes from the south and crush them, and then cook them with butter, milk, and sugar while stirring. Then they put dried fruits and berries in it, and stick it in the oven. People look down on it because of the potatoes, but if cooked right they become a very good sweet.”
“…Sounds classy. Not bad.”
“It keeps for about five days. It feels your stomach pretty good too, so it’s a good thing to take on adventures.”
“Adventures… What a pain. I like staying in town.”
Leon yawned as he reached over for the sweets he was handed.
It was Nick’s third visit.
“So, I figure you’re not just here to give me a present.”
“I promised I’d come.”
Leon was surprised by Nick’s honest answer, and was quiet for a while.
“…Ah, I see, thanks.”
He mumbled quietly.
“That’s it? No further questions?”
“You’re not the type to lie for no reason in a place like this. And even if I can’t read your face, I sure can read the girl behind you.”
Karan was annoyed, but she became aware of her own expression and tightened her face. She became self-conscious of how easy she was to understand at times like these.
“…Am I easy to read?”
“No, that’s not it.”
“You’re trying to hold back anger, but that’s probably not for you. When people think about killing the guy in front of them, or how they would kill him, or when they’re pretending to be weak so the guy lets his guard down, they vent out their emotions through their expressions and movements in different ways.
Controlling your emotions isn’t about holding back, it’s about deciding for yourself when to release them, and that’s especially true for races that show how they feel through their ears and tails.”
Karan felt something in Leon’s words, and looked at him with sincerity.
“Why are you telling me that?”
“Thanks for the sweets. Do something about that yourself later.”
Nick on the other hand, looked a bit exasperated.
“Who are you to talk?”
“You gotta put yourself on a high horse if you’re gonna live here. I’m not gonna stay here for long though.”
“Didn’t Redd tell you? The trial officially starts next week. I don’t know how long it’s gonna be, but I do know I’m gonna be locked up.”
Strangely enough, there was not even a drop of anguish in his voice.
“Do you want me to bring anything?”
“Well… Books would be nice, like adventure novels.”
“You read books? That’s surprising… I guess it isn’t.”
Nick remembered that Leon was more knowledgeable than he appeared.
“I was talking to the guy in the cell next to mine and it seems writing could be an avenue to look into. He told me I could make money with this when I go to prison. Problem is, I can’t just keep talking about my experiences because I’ll run out of material.”
“…So you’re still in business uh?”
“Of course. Do I look like the kind of guy that stands around doing nothing? By the way, who was Stepping Man?”
Nick summarized the events surrounding Stepping Man to Leon.
He obscured some things, especially about Olivia, but in the end Leon was more surprised about White Mask than Nargava.
“Y-you defeated White Mask…?”
“I see… I guess it’s possible with the power of that sword.”
“Was he that famous? You know about him?”
“I heard rumors about a dark holy man, but I don’t know a lot about him. In my head, he’s a bandit that specializes in magic items.”
“Yes. Adventurers that specialize in finding old artifacts despise him. He wrecked ruins and killed adventurers for their magic items… He doesn’t leave obvious evidence behind, but sometimes, we would find dead people like crushed frogs. That was definitely his doing.”
Said Leon with a sullen expression. He probably knew someone among those was killed by White Mask.
It made sense that his victims were found crushed, since White Mask’s weapon resembled a sword, but was more like a giant hammer.
“But if that guy destroyed himself, that’s good news to me. Good job.”
“…I just hope that’s true.”
“What do you mean?”
“He said something that stuck out to me, that his turn as White Mask is over.”
“What’s that mean?”
“I don’t know, that’s why it stuck out to me.”
“…What did he look like? What kind of weapon did he use?”
“A black longsword, but apparently it’s been folded from its original shape, and it’s actually a giant hammer. Do you know about it?”
Leon put his hand on his neck and started thinking.
“There’s magic swords and axes that boost the user’s strength, so I guess it works the same way? Those things have an effect that makes them heavier for just a second when the blade connects with the target.”
“…So basically, the weapon itself is not different from a normal one, but its effect is really strong?”
“I don’t know how strong though.”
“I see… That’ll be helpful.”
“I don’t mind helping, but that will cause you problems.”
“What do you mean?”
“You took down someone as big as White Mask. Those black market magic item dealers aren’t one entity or even just one organization, but you still weakened them. That place I talked about before might get raided soon.”
Nick looked at Karan.
“…Sorry for putting it off. We’ll go there now.”
Leaon: “Did you report the thing that was stolen? Maybe it’ll actually be found and returned to you. Maybe it won’t be so bad.”
“I want to take back what’s mine myself.”
“…Makes sense. Go on then.”
Leon gestured as if he were telling a dog to go away.
Nick and Karan got up and made their way towards the exit, but before they closed the door, Nick said something without looking at Leon.
“I’ll be back when the trial is over. Don’t go picking fights with dangerous people in prison and get yourself killed.”
“If there’s a leader of the prisoners or something I’ll be sure to say hi. You’re the one that’s crossing a dangerous bridge and might end up falling off.”