Going back a little.
When Nick started the briefing session in Sea Anemone, Sem explained what he saw and heard in the abandoned area, and his theories that came from that.
“Nargava is Stepping Man.”
Redd and Ada were taken aback.
“But he seems like such a respectable man, from what I’ve heard…”
“I heard he’s charitable to the poor too.”
But the members of Survivors had a different reaction.
“Karan, Nick, aren’t you surprised?”
“I wanted to say it’s hard to believe… But it kind of makes sense.”
Nick explained to Sem what he heard from Leon.
“…So he would need to have connections with a broker to buy magic items, and Nargava is a strong candidate. Even the ruffians there respect him.”
“What makes you think that Sem?”
“…There was the corpse of a child there that died from disease. I think it’s one of the children kidnapped by Stepping Man.”
Everyone except Bond and Tianna were shocked.
“Bond transcribed the child’s appearance. We passed by Manhunt on the way here and confirmed that it matches one of the missing girls.”
“I see… That means…”
Nick noticed something strange and interrupted himself.
“No, wait. So she wasn’t killed? She died from disease?”
“Yes, Yellow Devil Disease.”
“Could it be that he wanted to cure her?”
Sem neither shook his head or nodded.
“You’re half right. There were signs that she was treated.”
“There would be no need to forcibly take her away if the point was just to treat her. He probably used another patient’s blood to infect her.”
Nick and the others were speechless.
“He was excommunicated from a temple in the capital and wandered into this city, probably half a year ago. But he only appeared in the abandoned area two months ago.”
“So he was living normally until then?”
“…I think he was probably keeping a low profile. He can hide his presence with that magic item right?”
“Hide his presence… So he spread the disease?”
Said Nick, to which Sem nodded with a sullen expression.
“When Yellow Devil Disease started spreading, he started openly working in the abandoned area.”
“So it fits, but why did he start going around kidnapping people?”
“Probably because that was his main goal.”
“Up until that point, he was treating people just to practice. His real goal is to heal people in the same conditions as his daughter. He wants to see how patients are infected and how they’re healed, all to establish preventive measures and a cure.”
“…I feel like I get it but also don’t. What I hear sounds a lot like revenge, but it also sounds like the actions of a proper priest.”
Nick was at a complete loss, and everyone else had the same look on their faces.
“It all makes sense in his mind. I… Kind of understand.”
“So, do you have any proof? The Order of the Sun will investigate something that serious, but you can’t just show up empty handed and say ‘I got him’ without getting into trouble.”
Said Redd, to which Tianna responded.
“It’s not proof, but I heard about this too. A priest whose daughter caught Yellow Devil Disease, which turned into a scandal that led to him being expelled. I don’t really remember the names of the ones involved, but it matches Nargava’s story perfectly.”
Nick understood what Tianna was saying.
“So basically, the man named Nargava was already gone while you were still in the capital?”
“That sounds about right.”
“I’m sure the proof is in his clinic. It doesn’t look like he’s destroying all the evidence. He left a corpse behind without burning it with sacred fire, and was sloppy enough for even us to notice.”
“…So, what now?”
Mumbled Karan, and Sem asked her back.
“What do you mean?”
“If you say he’s the one, I believe it, but how are we going to catch him?”
“You have a point… Should we break into his clinic and catch him there?”
“That would be a problem. It’d be easy for him to get away from that tight space, and it would put us in a disadvantage because we’re fighting as a party.”
Said Nick with a bitter expression.
“I want to catch him while he’s on the move. That way, we can get a hold of him while he’s using that magic item… the Phantom king’s Orb.”
“The main problem is that we can’t do that. Unless you’ve found a way to do it, right?”
Nick smiled at Tianna’s sarcastic question.
“Yes. We can shut down both the magic item that hides his presence, and his light movements. Right Olivia?”
Olivia heard her name, and started talking, seemingly itching for the conversation to turn her way.
“Yeah. I also only caught a glimpse and can tell Nick’s Light Body is wonderful. But that will not be enough to counter Stepping Man.”
“That might be so. What else can we do to even the odds?”
When Nick talked to Olivia, he had already learned how to use Light Body, and how to capture Stepping Man. What he wanted to talk to her about was where exactly to fight him.
“The gap between you two can be filled with locational advantage.”
Tianna asked back.
“We have narrowed down the routes in which Stepping Man frequently appears. If you really want to, you can wait for him here.”
Olivia spread a map on the table.
They added routes that Stepping Man used, so there was even more information written on it than before.
“He uses the scaffolding in this building more frequently.”
“It’s a factory, or rather, it was. It went bankrupt, so now it’s just an abandoned building. The scaffolding around it was put in place to aid in dismantling it.”
Stepping Man took off his hood, and the voice and figure that was always blurry quickly started to take shape.
It was the bald man that opened a charitable medical clinic in the abandoned area, Nargava.
“So it is true.”
Mumbled Nick, while Nargava glared at him.
“You don’t understand. Yes, you discovered my identity, but there are many places to hide in this city, and it will be easy to do so as long as I have this Phantom King’s Orb.”
“Is that what you think? That orb has a weakness you know?”
“It doesn’t distort light and sound, it distorts people’s perception. It’s easy to do that with someone you’ve never met, but it’s much harder when someone’s perception has been heightened.
“…What does that mean?”
“Basically, if I spread rumors that you’re the one using a magic item to hide your identity, the Phantom King’s Orb will stop working. It becomes useless once people can see through it. The moment you carelessly confirmed your identity, you lost.”
Nargava seemed bewildered, but soon started laughing.
“I don’t know if that’s true or if you’re lying, but it seems I’ve been cornered pretty badly.”
“Looks like you understand.”
“Then it’s simple.”
Nargava was once again in a fighting stance.
“Wait wait. We have such a beautiful view in front of us, so how about we take a break? It’s probably your last day out here, so how about a drink?”
Said Nick while taking out a small bottle.
Nick sighed as he looked at a disinterested Nargava, and then drank the contents of the bottle while lighting up the Ignition magic item.
“Wha… What are you…!?”
Nick quickly spit out the contents of the small bottle, and a huge flame appeared before Nargava’s eyes.
It was not magic, just simple flames, but that’s exactly why Narvaga stood still.
There were always signs before magic activates but that was not the case here. Nargava’s eyes were filled with rage, as he realized he was tricked by what was no more than a street performer’s trick.
However, Nick was no longer in front of him.
“It’s just a trick! Take this!”
Nargava looked up, and that was when Nick mercilessly dropped his heel.
That must have been what it felt like to Narvaga, who upon realizing it was impossible to dodge, crossed his arms and blocked the attack.
“Guh, you idiot…! Can’t you see what will happen if you attack with your full weight here…!?”
“Of course, that’s why I did it. It will break… Just as I expected!”
A creaking sound could be heard, until it was replaced by a louder cracking sound.
The roof they were standing on was not made to withstand the weight of two people, and a hole opened, sending the two falling into the factory.