Going back a little.
After Nick said goodbye to his partners in the guild, he got dressed and headed to the park.
A charity concert to fight poverty and crime was being held, and rumors were circulating that the idol Agate was a last minute addition.
Bond would be joining Nick. He had the mischievous intention of wanting to laugh at Nick’s disappointment when she didn’t show up, but the rumors turned out to be true, and he had to put up with idol otakus wildly dancing.
Agate’s performances were much more powerful recently, and the otaku, Nick included, were all feverishly excited.
Nick was feeling well financially, so he made a generous donation and bought merch,
When the sun set and night came, a blissful Nick and a tired Bond made their way home.
“That was so much fun!”
“Nick, you turn into an entirely different person when idols are involved.”
Mumbled Bond with a straight face.
“You are not aware of it are you? And what is it with that hanten?”
“I’m wearing a hanten with my idol’s color. It makes it easier to tell who’s a fan of who during live events.”
“I do not understand people of this age… Well, I am thankful for having people by my side who do.”
“Haha. I’m the same as you.”
Bond let out a deep sigh.
“Leaving that aside, I am hungry. I want to eat something and go home.”
“Hm… We don’t have the ingredients to cook anything, and the only things open at this hour are the taverns.”
Nick then chose a slightly shabby path. He was too liberal with his spending that night, so he did not feel like indulging even more, and decided to pick a cheap place. He wasn’t as knowledgeable as Karan, but he knew about restaurants and taverns from the time when he would accompany his penniless former partners.
But then, he noticed Bond’s puzzled expression.
“Something is not right, Sem’s heart rate just shot up.”
“Sem? Wait, how do you even know that?”
“He is within three kilometer radius of me. He is probably in battle.”
“…Where is he?”
“East from here, around the entrance to the south-eastern part of the city.”
The eastern part of the Labyrinth City was basically a slum, and since it was adjacent to the southern part, where a lot of adventurers lived, the south-eastern part was a frightening place where roughness met poverty.
A lot of buildings were abandoned as well, and a lot of vagrants and adventurers hung out there and established their own businesses.
Being in a fight there was bad news, even for an adventurer.
“W-wait! Do not run blindly, I will guide you!”
Nick grabbed Bond under his arm and ran, following his directions.
“…There he is! Over there!”
“What is that!?”
Nick saw Sem cornered by something.
Had he not heard he was in battle, he would have wondered if Sem was just drunk, but there was an injured person next to him, and Sem’s expression was solemn, so Nick knew right away that it was an abnormal situation.
“That is… A perception obstructing technique! Think of it as being cornered by an opponent you cannot see!”
“Like a shadow wolf!?”
“More crafty. Spreading suggestions so people around them are not aware of their presence… But I am. I am going to tackle it!”
“Idiot, it’s too far and you won’t make it on time! …Ah!”
Nick ran as fast as he could, and mumbled like he just thought of something.
“What is it?”
“Bond, go back to being a sword for a bit.”
“Do you have an idea?”
“Yeah, leave it to me.”
Just like Nick said, Bond returned to his Sword of Bonds form.
“Alright. Adjust the trajectory yourself, and turn back to your human form while you’re mid-air.”
Then, Nick stretched his left arm forward, and his right arm that was holding the Sword of Bonds back, as though he was throwing a rock or a dart.
“H-hey Nick? Adjust? Are you…”
“I’m good enough at throwing darts to be banned from gambling with them… Go!”
Nick threw the Sword of Bonds as hard as he could.
This throw was a basic technique among short sword techniques. With enough training, it was very easy to throw a sword completely straight like Nick did.
The Sword of Bonds turned back into its human form mid-air, but kept its momentum and crashed into the mysterious enemy.
“And that was it.”
“Can you handle me a little more carefully?”
“Sorry sorry, but we saved Sem thanks to that right?”
Nick explained what happened, and Sem lowered his head in gratitude.
“You really saved me. Thank you very much… By the way…”
Sem looked to the side, where the injured woman… Ada, the drunk, was, and next to her was her daughter Reina, looking as though she was about to cry.
“I just finished giving her first aid, but we can’t leave them here.”
Nick agreed, but both himself and Sem looked troubled.
There were not many places where they could take an injured person at that time of the night.
“What should we do? Jump into a cheap hotel?”
“Should we try?”
“It’s hard to check in at this time of night, and they’ll probably refuse us because they’ll think we’re bringing in trouble for them.”
“Yes… And I need a better place to treat her wounds. So…”
A place where they could take an injured person in the middle of the night.
Nick could not think of one but it seemed the same could not be said for Sem.
“I have an idea.”
“Hmm, Sem and Nick? Just because we don’t help criminals, it doesn’t mean we’re running a charity here.”
Said Redd with a sigh, as he stared at Nick and the others after they stumbled into the transvestite bar Sea Anemone.
“We thought about going somewhere else, but they’re all full of drunk people at this time of the night.”
“Hmph, we don’t have a lot of customers anyway! Business was terrible today! Some idiots got into fights too so we have medicine and bandages!”
Said Redd in a huff, but still threw them a wet towel and bandages, which Nick carefully caught without dropping.
“And you. You’re a girl, so you need to make your face look pretty.”
Redd handed a wet towel to Reina, who gratefully lowered her head.
But her expression looked vacant. She had more important things on her mind.
“It’s alright. She lost blood, but her life is not in danger.”
“Ah, thank you so much!”
The girl stood up and ran towards Sem, but… Nick and Redd stopped her.
“Don’t do that.”
Reina did not understand at all what happened, but Nick sat her down and told her not to worry.
“First of all, what is your name?”
“Ah, sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. My name is Reina.”
“Reina… Are you her daughter?”
“Who attacked you?”
Asked Nick, and Reina looked down.
“Nick… Don’t interrogate her like that. You’re scaring her.”
Redd said while shrugging, and Nick flusteredly rebutted.
“I-I’m not trying to scare her or anything!!”
“Still, she’s cowering from you. She just went through something very scary.”
Naturally, Redd was right.
No matter what caused it, she had just witnessed her mother being attacked. There was no way she was going to be able to stay calm and talk.
This was a bad habit common among adventurers. If someone had some sort of ability, natural physical strength, or were smart, they would treat them as an adult and an adventurer, even if they were children. They did not really see children as children, and it was Nick’s first time noticing this.
“…Sorry, you should eat and rest first. I will be paying for it.”
Redd stood behind him nodding, but Reina resolutely raised her head.
“M-my mom was fighting that person that kidnaps people under the cover of the night….”
“That weird person that can vanish?”
“The… Stepping Man…!”