“So Scott, someone asked you to keep an eye on this place?”
Everyone put down their weapons, and Scott started speaking.
After learning the situation, the grave keeper glared at them while angrily yelling ‘What do you people think you’re doing in a place like this’. In the meantime, Sem finished talking to Nargava and met up with the rest. The fighting mood had vanished completely.
“Someone that couldn’t be saved in the clinic was being sent straight here, but I was asked to come here and watch out for grave robbers. I was told that people that looked a little too fancy for a place like this were especially suspicious.”
“Isn’t that the sort of thing that should go through the adventurer guild?”
“…I hurt my arm here and was treated for free, so I asked if there was anything I could do.”
Scott rolled up his sleeve, and there was no sign of any wound.
The bruise they saw in Manhunt was completely gone.
“Now that you mention it… How did you hurt your arm? We saw a bruise before, and it looked pretty painful. Is that the one you’re talking about?”
“…I’m not going any further into that.”
Said Scott while turning away, but Sem continued talking without taking his eyes off him.
“We’re after Stepping Man, who has been kidnapping children. Did you know that?”
“Everyone in Manhunt knows that.”
“Nick… Our leader, kicked Stepping Man in the arm.”
“In the same spot where you had your bruise. It should be a bruise about the shape of the back of a boot.”
Scott twisted his neck, and after being silent for a bit, he finally realized Sem and the others were looking at him with suspicion.
“Ha, Ah!? Do you think it’s me!?”
“You suspected us too. We’ll explain everything to you as best we can, and you do the same. Let’s be fair.”
Scott thought about it for a while, until he sighed, seemingly giving up.
“…I-I did it too.”
“I saw Stepping Man and went after him! But he appeared in front of me all of a sudden, and kicked my arm to jump super high. It’s like I saw a ghost or something.”
“…You should’ve just said that from the beginning. There was no reason to hide it.”
Sem let out a big sigh.
“I couldn’t just tell you I went after the same bounty to get back at you and got pushed back!”
Tianna and Bond stared at Scott, but said nothing about the way he was defiantly confessing.
Sem continued, while trying to calm him down.
“Now now… He got away from us a few times too, and most importantly, all this time no one had even discovered him, even though he was running around kidnapping people. The fact that you faced him one-on-one and lived to tell about it is good enough isn’t it?”
“That’s not the problem, it’s a matter of pride.”
“Well, I get how you feel.”
“Now’s your turn. What are you doing in a place like this?”
“After looking into his escape routes, we’ve come to the conclusion that he’s probably staying here in the abandoned area.”
“What…!? Ah, no, it’s not that strange. Lots of people with bounties on their heads hide here.”
“No, it is strange, mainly the kidnapped kids.”
“Hn…? What do you mean?”
“There aren’t a lot of children here. Adults that have nowhere to go can end up here and join some sort of group, but homeless children usually end up in a different kind of underground society. So why is there a child’s corpse here?”
“…Ah, that… Over there?”
Said Scott while looking at the morgue.
“…So you think that might be one of the victims?”
“Yes. Ah, I know.”
Said Sem, as if he just got an idea.
“If you think we are grave robbers, how about we check it together?”
Scott was not expecting that.
“We’ll examine it while you keep an eye on us to make sure we don’t steal it. You can even take out your sword and swing it at us if you think we’re guilty.”
“Hey hey, wait! That…”
Scott looked at Sem, Tianna, and Bond, one at a time.
Sem’s expression did not change, and Tianna and Bond said.
“I wasn’t so sure about this when it was just the two of us. Let’s go.”
“Yes. Having more people with us is very helpful.”
They said while smiling cheerfully at Scott.
Survivors met up in Sea Anemone.
It was late, so although her mother was present, Reina was not.
“…Why are you making this place your base of operations?”
“People say that a lot of adventurers are misfits, but you’re especially odd.”
Said Scott the twin blade user and Olivia the magazine journalist.
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Said Nick with a smile, ignoring Olivia’s sarcasm.
Nick felt like his training and his meeting with Leon were productive, and light was being shed on this case that started off completely obscure. However, in contrast to Nick’s good mood…
“Haa, sounds like you had a nice time. We had a lot of trouble.”
Tianna and Bond laid on the sofa while complaining. Nick said nothing about their slovenly attitude, and turned to Sem.
“Was it really that bad?”
Sem smiled bitterly.
His voice did sound tired.
“It makes me sick. Even I’m pissed off at that Stepping Man.”
Said Scott as he sighed with a scowl.
“Is that why you’re here?”
“I’m just gonna come out and say it. I’m not after the reward, I just want to make up for thinking you were grave robbers and attacking you, and to get revenge.”
“I was told there’s weirdos stealing corpses and asked to be on the lookout for them. But it was just to hide a crime, and I was made to help that kidnapper.
Nick looked at Sem as he listened to Scott, as if asking if he might be a spy or something.
Sem nodded slightly, reassuring him that it was alright.
“Anyway, that’s why I’m here. What I want to know is why someone like that newspaper reporter is here.”
“Someone like that newspaper reporter? How rude. They wouldn’t have tracked down Stepping Man without my information.”
Olivia said while proudly sneering at Scott.
“Eh… That’s suspicious.”
“Nick! Are you sure you want this rude man here?”
Olivia pointed to Scott while puffing her cheeks, to which Scott smacked his lips and turned away, making no attempt to hide his displeasure.
“Why do you dislike each other so much…”
“People like her get in the way of our bounty hunting. Every time there’s a case these people have to stick their necks in to cover this and that.”
“That’s because we’re publishing a gossip magazine! Providing information to the world like this is a public service!”
“Leave it at that. If you’re going to make a racket you might as well leave.”
Nick said with a purposefully stern voice, and the two immediately stopped arguing.
“I was a little immature.”
“Alright then… But it really does sound like you had a lot of trouble, Tianna.”
“What, did you have any doubts?”
“No, of course not.”
Nick shrunk back from the glint in Tianna’s eyes and gestured at Redd, as if asking him for help.
Redd then brought over cold drinks and snacks.
“Ah, I don’t need food, just drinks.”
“That’s bad for you. Eat something.”
“I know I know.”
Said Tianna to Nick while waving her hand.
“…So, Sem. Can I assume you found some clues?”
“Yes, I learned a lot.”
Sem’s face seemed very sullen considering what he said. If anything, he seemed to regret his discoveries.
“Explaining it from the start would take too long, so I’ll start from the end. I have more or less figured out who Stepping Man is and why he’s kidnapping people.”