“So, you feel like talking now?”
“Hmph, what’s there to talk about? How about you hurry and kill me off? C’mon, Mister Silver Wolf…”
“Quit playing dumb. You’re strong, but there’s no way in hell you bossed around all these elites by yourself. I’ll remind you that I’m with THE Blazer – and he knows all too well how hard it is to gather talented individuals for a team effort. So let’s start with having you explain those ‘job connections’ you mentioned, just to make sure there aren’t any more dangerous groups around town…”
Bruce interrogated Maüs, holding a sword to his neck.
Maüs put on a facade of calmness as he glared back at Bruce.
Betty stabbed one of Maüs’ arms. That also took all of us, bar none, by surprise.
You’ve got a real scary look in your eyes, Betty.
“It’s die now or die soon, thief – make your choice.”
“Uh, I don’t think that’s going to work as a threat…”
Two years ago, in a similar moment, a strange girl had appeared to the bandit’s rescue, but I wasn’t feeling any foreign presence this time around… wait, no? I don’t think I’d sensed anyone back then, either.
I would assume that girl to be quite a tough customer, having been able to prevent Blazer and Bruce from executing Maüs at the perfect timing. I suppose there was no such thing as being too vigilant when it came to such situations.
“He’s never gonna talk no matter how many times we ask, so it looks like we’ll just have to kill him and be done with it.”
“Your early celebration will be what robs you of your imminent victory…”
Seeing Maüs’ creepy grin, Bruce looked as if he’d also been reminded of what had happened two years ago.
Blazer steeled his nerves, but as one would expect, he detected no foreign presence.
Still, Maüs did not wipe the grin off his face – he sure is good at bargaining his way out. As things stood now, Bruce wouldn’t kill Maüs off. If there was someone hiding around who planned to save Maüs, then he wouldn’t kill Maüs, so as to rat out that someone first. After all, depending on the situation, they may or may not be faced with an overwhelming force.
Immediately following that thought, we were met with the same phenomenon as what had occurred two years ago – Countless knives flew toward everyone, landing around their feet.
But of course, that didn’t mean the outcome was the same, for the members of The Silver could dodge them all this time. Everyone had improved themselves over the past two years, after all.
Bruce successfully evaded the knives while still keeping his blade on Maüs’ neck, and I warded off the ones that flew toward me and Pochi.
Lina had no problem dodging them, either.
“Damn it, again!?”
“Took you long enough, Lala!”
“What a drag…”
I’d expected her to appear – that girl with a face so devoid of life, referred to as Lala by the bandit. No emotion was felt from her voice and expression.
Where did she even come from…? Well, whatever. What’s important now is to make sure no one gets away. Still, her speed is certainly far beyond normal – well, not quite on Melchi’s level, but she’d likely pull off an escape if left unchecked.
I grabbed the arms of the green-haired girl, completely stopping all her movements for a brief moment. Her green eyes, so pure that I took them for emerald, showed a slight sign of surprise.
Then, revealing sharp blades that she had concealed within her boots, she attempted to throw an uppercut kick.
As I’d expected, she was dexterous – the variation of warriors who utilized an abnormal advantage of speed. No matter how repetitive her barrage was, she stopped at nothing to try and get a hit in. Between me and her, she was, in a way, the stronger one.
“That’s ridiculous… This mage can keep up with Lala!?”
“Damn, he’s fast. That’s gotta remind you of old Argent, eh, Blazer?”
“My grandpa’s still faster.”
Oh-ho, so the leader of the Silver General is that fast, huh? Which reminds me, Melchi once said that she’d met Argent before, too. I’d never expected him to be Blazer’s grandfather, though.
“Eh-hem, that finally wiped the grin off your face, Maüs!”
“Ugh, now the dog’s joking at me…”
“Further action infeasible. Abandoning Maüs’ rescue and commencing retreat.”
Ultimately, Lala managed to slip through my relatively straightforward grasp, hopping back to guarantee herself a path of escape.
“Lala! That’s not how our deal goes!! Get your ass over here and help me!!”
(Anna: Is she a robot? She sure sounds like one.)
It took Lala only two cold words to instantly turn Maüs’ face pale. It seemed that she was the only guarantee for his safety, and now, that guarantee was gone.
Not failing to notice an incoming fireball spell from Hornel, Lala swatted it down on the ground, then used the ensuing explosion and smoke to conceal her escape, instantly leaving the radius of our Light Source spells.
“Damn it, there she goes…”
“But that would leave us with…”
Bruce looked in my direction, grinned as he seemed to have realized what I had aimed for, and then turned back to Maüs.
“Now then, feel like cooperating with us yet?”
The sword, reflecting the radiance of the Light Source spells, gleamed in Maüs’ eyes. He shivered, his face was sweating profusely as it cramped up with fear of imminent death.
“What was that talk about your job connections?”
“I-I can’t say anything about it! I just can’t!”
“If I say anything… I’ll be killed!”
I’d thought Bruce’s going back to the basics and outright threatening him would make him spill the beans, but that also proved to be difficult.
Lina hasn’t gotten very used to this kind of situation yet, but she kept a close watch on Bruce regardless.
Pochi sharpened her nails, while standing by behind Bruce, but since Maüs was being held in a position that faced him away from Bruce, the bandit couldn’t see those nails she was so proud of.
Ah, our eyes met… Yeah, yeah, nice nails you got there, doggo.
“…Fine, let’s just get it over with.”
“P-please… spare me…”
“I-I got it! I’ll talk!”
Now that was real murderous intent. Even Maüs would have no choice but to talk in face of that, I suppose.
Bruce stopped the point of his sword at the tip of Maüs’ nose – and the man, having completely lost his vitality, seemed to have aged up a decade in an instant as he let out a whimper of a scream. And then, while still staying vigilant of his surroundings, talked in a low, almost whisper-like voice.
“Ishtar… of the Black.”
The three members of The Silver did not react in any special way, but a look of horror was plastered on the faces of the University students.
And then, it happened.
Maüs briefly screamed before his head, like a fruit plucked off its branch, was blown right off his neck.
Bruce, standing right in front of Maüs, had his face dyed in pure red with the bandit’s blood.
Lina and Idéa screamed. Hornel and Egd were very disturbed by the sudden occurrence, and even Blazer and Betty couldn’t fully hide their surprise.
It was a simple, classical magecraft that activated with the utterance of specific words… the Curse-Word Explosion. A powerful instance too, so the user must have possessed a great deal of arcane energy… is it really Ishtar, after all? According to public information, only Gaston and War Demon Emperor Vaas were able to use magecraft, though…
As it would turn out, amid the dead silence, the one who was most calm was none other than Bruce, despite having taken a direct hit from Maüs’ blood fountain.
“Gah, damn it… I was planning to have myself a tub’a ale tonight, too… this is the last thing I wanted to be covered in…”
“Oh, Bruce, I knew you’d prefer my stomach acid over anything!”
And what in blazes compelled you to try and advertise your acid?
“Pah… Oh, how wonderful…”
“You’ve clued yourselves into quite a conspiracy, haven’t you?”
Suddenly, I heard another nostalgic voice approaching from behind. It was none other than Irene, looking as stern as ever as she stood there with her arms folded.
She glared at me, then turned away with an arrogant groan. Why is it that she’s angry at something almost every time I see her?
“I just came to keep my eye on things since it seemed dangerous, but this turned out to be more… interesting than I expected. Maüs of the Laughing Fox was being backed by Ishtar of the Black… I suppose it wouldn’t be inconceivable for the Black Faction to do such a thing.”
“W-what are you talking about…?”
Midors immediately asked, but before Irene could answer, the two were interrupted by Bruce.
“Hey, before you say anything, how ’bout we get ourselves back to the Guild first? I wanna clean myself up real quick too…”
“Eh – you don’t want my acid anymore!?”
How did you even end up at that topic again?
After all was said and done, we buried the remains of the Laughing Fox members and headed back to Beilanea.
I’d expected something bad to happen in case that my face was seen by Beilanea’s security, but Betty told me all I had to do was temporarily remove my glasses. Well, I believe I’d gotten quite swollen ever since I’d left, and some time had passed since then, so I guess I’d be fine after all.
On our way to the Adventurer’s Guild, Bruce broke away from the group to take care of his business, and Egd only notified Lina before he left, citing that he needed to be back to his room before curfew.
When we finally reached the Guild, Red Duncan – as if his eyes were red with fury – immediately came to take Hornel, Midors, and Idéa away. What in the world did they do this time?
The establishment was silent by this time of the night, with only a handful of other adventurers hanging around. Among them were a few faces I fondly recognized, and others were total strangers.
And one was particular familiar – a beautiful, black-haired young woman, sound asleep with the left side of her face on the round table.
“W-wait, is that… Haruhana?”
To my whisper, Lina responded with a slight nod, and Betty with a grin.
“What, you don’t remember what she looks like, Asley?”
While asking me that, she sat down at a table different from Haruhana’s.
“No, that’s not it… just surprised. What about Natsu and Fuyu?”
“Natsu’s at home. Fuyu, on the other hand, already left to study under Sir Gaston.”
“Whoa, Blazer… is that true?”
“Hey, you guys are gonna wake Haruhana up. Keep it down.”
I briefly panicked when Betty pointed that out, causing Lina to chuckle, and in turn causing some tears to leak from her eyes once again.
And Pochi gave me quite a painfully condemning stare. Hey, don’t look at me like that. Keep it up and there’ll be no snacks for you!
…Now don’t you give me that stray-dog look!
“Sir Gaston happened to visit that house one time, you see. Fuyu’s practical management skills really caught his eye, so he invited her along right then and there.”
“But if he wanted a manager, wouldn’t she still be too inexperienced to start immediately-“
“Gaston’s training her himself.”
Irene spoke up to reinforce the story.
So that’s how it went. For one of the Six Archmages to take notice immediately, Fuyu must have been quite impressive. Moreover, being able to deal with the old man while still busy with her work already went to show that she was deserving of her recognition.
“Thanks to that, it looks like he’s been feeling so young and active lately, too. I’ve heard that he just took down an S-ranked monster by himself the other day.”
“That’s… also wonderful.”
“So, tell me, Asley. Where were you, and what have you been up to? I tried contacting you often, but never got a connection…”
A Red Irene has appeared. Not in her eyes, but rather, on her face. Did she just catch a cold?
I’ve got to remember to boil some Cat monkey livers for her later. That stuff works well for the common cold.
“Ahahahaha, you’re the same as ever, Sir Asley!”
Lina finally, fully laughed… although she’s already an adult now, some childish innocence still lingered in her face.
And really – she’s become so beautiful.
“Asley? Your cheeks are looking a bit red, you know that?”
As Betty told me so, Lina’s face also reddened up slightly.
Looks like people are so prone to catching colds during this time of year in Beilanea. Is the Cat Monkey liver still in supply at the market?
(Anna: Asley’s so dense I can’t believe it!! …but now that I think about it, we’re talking about a 5000-year-old who’s still a virgin and has no clue of what romance is… so I guess it’s understandable?)
(Silavin: Look. Dude has been focus on the arts of Magic. Give him a break.)
“Anyway, I’m also curious. What’ve you been doing these past two years? You’ve become surprisingly fit, so I thought you might have been training to be a warrior, but… surely you had to do more than just that.”
“You can say that again.”
“Oh, done already, Bruce?”
“Yeah – I think I’m still stinking a bit, but our friend’s just come home, y’know. Of course, I gotta hurry.”
Blazer nodded in agreement with Bruce’s declaration.
Man, that really tickled my heartstrings. Maybe I’ll give them a nice scratch later with Pochi’s prided nails.
“You really got your stance and balance in shape, man. Your walking seemed naturally stealthy on our way back, too. Besides, that magic you used…”
Irene, who hadn’t been present to witness the thing in question, now had her curiosity piqued.
“Well, it’s… what’s that called, again? I think Asley said something about it being a ‘Split Invocation’?”
“Professor Irene, Sir Asley invoked six instances of the Recover spell at the same time.”
“Y-you’re kidding, right? I’ve never heard of a way to cast the same spell multiple times while it’s on cool-down!”
Uh, ma’am… you just woke Haruhana up.