“Is this the place?” I let out a question after my guide, Eryell, ceased walking. We are all alone if we didn’t count the two Rangers who were hiding themselves under the heavy thicket of leaves on top of us with their weapon at the ready. Even without looking at them, their feeling of worry was clear for me. In fact, the only feeling I could sense hanging on the air is only anxiety. I could really understand the reason very well after hearing Eryell’s explanation along our way to this very place.238Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡbu3Cgny9PN
It seems that the founding of the so called disturbing remains just came in less than an hour ago. After noticing every squad to increase their vigilance, Eryell immediately returned to the headquarter to warn the squad responsible for the town’s interior security. At that moment, the idea of asking me for help surfaced in her mind and she immediately walked toward my workshop only to find me in a heated ‘conversation’ with her older sister. At first she didn’t realize the content of the conversation, but she then felt a slight feeling of uneasiness and she also spotted my two assistants cowering on the farthest end of the room. That was evident enough that the conversation was anything but pleasant and she decided to intervene. What a nice girl she is.
“Yes, this is the place.” She then moved to a certain direction and then the sound of her tapping something entered my ear. From the sound, I could recognize the object as a slab of stone. “This is the remains I was taking about. Come closer.”
After moving closer I tapped my walking stick to create a constant sound. It then bounced at my surrounding and a ‘view’ is created on my mind.
“Hmm? This is…” I put my hand on the slab of stone. The surface felt smooth on my finger. I could also feel a small crack that ran along to the edge of the slab as I traced it with my finger. “This is… a part of a Arcane Puppet, isn’t it?”
“I see that you have the same prediction as mine.” But is something like this can be found in the middle of the forest? I traced my finger on the edge of the slab and found that it has a size as big as a regular shield. The edge also felt smooth on one side where the crack ended but felt jagged on the other side.
“This is just a small part of a bigger one, isn’t it?”
“If that is true then the problem might be much more serious than we expected.” A ‘tsk’ sound entered my ear after Eryell said that. She folded her arms and then shifted her head toward the broken piece of Arcane Puppet on the ground. “How did something like this escaped our patrol? That is just unbelievable.”
“Yes, it is. Either the patrols were careless or the perpetrator is much more careful than we expected. It just that–, “I stopped my mouth after I found something else on the slab.
“What is it, Nerva?”
“Melted?” I could hear her voice was dripping with confusion. I couldn’t blame her since I myself also felt hard to believe what I’ve just said. “Are you sure, Nerva?”
“Let me see…” I chuckled mentally after saying that. I can’t see, you know? I pushed that thought aside and concentrate on my current task. As my finger arrived at a certain part of the slab, I’m convinced that it really has melted. “Yes, look here.” I beckoned her to get closer to the place where I had my finger stopped. As I could feel her getting closer, I pointed to that certain part. “Look here. It is not cut like the other, but it is melted.”
“You’re kidding, right? Do you know how much magic it needs to melt stone?”
“I know it needed to be at least cast by multiple mages at once. My dear, this is getting stranger with each founding.”
“Tsk.” She clicked her tongue again, a clear sign of her frustration. “I really don’t know how the outer line patrol squad missed something as clear as this.”
I can’t really blame her for feeling that. This has gone beyond mere careless. It could even be said that they have literally let intruder entered the forest with open arms. And that is not something that the town would like to see anytime soon. But somehow in the back of my mind I felt that something really important is missing. It seems I need to be more attentive. Because of that, I tapped my walking stick to the ground repeatedly while I crouched down.
“What is it, Nerva?”
“Quiet for now. I need to concentrate.” My words seemed to make my companion’s worry increase. I could feel from her figure. But I decided to ignore that as I keep tapping my walking stick. With each hit I get a clearer ‘view’ of my surrounding. At first I could not find anything wrong. But after a few more seconds, a slight abnormality appeared. “…So many.” I muttered softly.
“What do you mean by that?” It seemed that I have not muttered soft enough as my companion apparently picked up my word. I then pointed my finger to a certain direction while still crouching.
“Eryell, you search under the bush between the two fallen barks. After that walk farther away, about two or three steps near the leaf mound there. Search the places around them. But whatever you do, don’t move whatever things you found there. Just keep it there.” After that, she nodded at my request.
“Got it.” The sound of her boot that made scrunching sounds as she walked away from my position told me that she had understand my direction. And next I could hear rustling sound from the bush I pointed to. Now as she is busy with her work, I need to do my own part too. Instead of tapping my walking stick, I flicked my finger twice.
“Tsk.” I clicked my tongue as the ‘view’ came into my mind. I stood up and then moved to a certain location not far from my current one and then flipped away a stone. Under it, a certain object could be found. I picked it up and put it into my pocket. After that I moved to a stone next to it and moved the stone aside. I tapped my walking stick again and I could ‘see’ a similar fragment as the first I inspected. As I traced my finger around the fragment’s edges, I noticed the whole piece is melted terribly on the edge. A similar crack could also be felt running onto the other edge.
“Nerva! I found a lot of those around here!” At her shout, I walked toward her. “Look there.”
“My dear Eryell, you ask me an impossible task there.” At first I could sense her confusion at my reply. And then a jolt from her shown that she understood my little joke. And together with that I also sensed her emotion turned to anger.
“This is no time to joke!” And an expected reply came from her. But facing her anger I only let out a calm smile. “Why are you joking around in this situation!?”
“Because you are getting impatient, my dear,” I said as I walked toward the object she wanted me to see. “W-What!?”
“Getting impatient in this kind of situation will not do you any good.” I traced my finger on the fragment she found and found the same characteristics as the other one. “You will risk yourself becoming careless, thus making your job much more difficult.”
“…Darn you.” I smiled at her reply. That means she understood what I mean and will try to calm her mind. I really like her honest trait.
While facing something unknown like this, people tend to get panicky, making them unable to see the real threat. The risk is even higher if the one panicking is the one leading. The result will be disastrous. As the leader, she needs to be the calm one or she might risk her subordinate. That’s the last thing we need at the moment.
I know that I might not be the most suited one to speak remembering that I lost my calm not long ago as I faced my two assistants, but someone has to do it. On her shoulder rest the security of the town. One single mistake might lead to the end of all of us. And I will make sure that will not be happening any time soon.
“Okay, I’m calm now.” Lies. Her heartbeats showed that she was still impatient. But that was perfectly understandable. I guess I shouldn’t tease her more or she might really blow up. “So, is it the same as the other one?”
“It is.” I gave my opinion with a sour expression my face. “This leads to at least two possible situations.”
“And that is?”
“Either we are dealing with plenty of small to medium sized Arcane Puppet or we deal with a single huge Arcane Puppet.”
“You’re kidding right?” She is anything but pleased after hearing my predictions. “And who controlled them in the first place?”
“Err…” I couldn’t say it.
“…Don’t tell me…” Ah, she seemed to read my reaction spot on. It seems that I have to say it either way.
“…There are at least two possibilities for that too,” I said as I put two fingers up.
“Either they are controlled by an army of mage.”
“Or the Arcane Puppet is a rogue one.” I felt the mood plummeted down even further after I said that. Her heartbeats also increased together with a change in the feel she emitted. A rogue one is much more dangerous than a group of controlled ones since it made the construct behaved unpredictable and wild. With a controlled one, subduing the controller will be more than enough to stop the construct. For the rogue one, the same solution can’t be used as it has no controller. The most effective way is to look for its core that supplies the whole body with magic and then either destroy it or rearrange the flow of the core. Either way, it is a very dangerous and deadly task that no sane man would like to have.
“…Great. Just great.” I could hear the sound of her slamming her palm at her face. “Just damn great!” And it was followed by an angry remark. In this situation, I couldn’t really blame her. Hearing bad news isn’t what anyone in this situation would really appreciate.
“Calm down, my dear Eryell.”
“I am calm, Nerva!” Ugh, that is not a display that I can exactly call calm. “Just…just let me think for now.”
“May I give a suggestion?” I heard a sigh came out of her mouth as I said that.
“What is it?” She said with a tone that clearly lack any evident of calm. “Let me say this first. Not one of your witty remarks, I hope.”
“No, not this time, my dear Eryell.” And just when I was going to tell her to calm down with a joke. I guess I’ll set that aside for now. I’ll go with a simple suggestion for now. “For now, I think it is better to tighten the security inside the town and the circle of patrol nearest to the wall.”
“Do you think I haven’t done that?” A slight annoyed reply came from her almost immediately. It would really help if she could be a bit calmer than this.
“If you’ve done that, then the next thing to do is to collect information. How many informant the company has deployed?”
“In my opinion, the next thing we need to do after tightening the security is trying to really know what we are dealing with. And, sadly, at this moment we know absolutely nothing about this.” I scratched the back of my head after I said that. At that, what her sister said not long ago came into my mind. “Just to make sure, when I said that this fragment is a piece from a Arcane Puppet, you said that you have the same thought, right?”
“Yes, what about it?”
“Why, if I may ask?”
“Hmm…I guess it is the first thing that came into my mind. Why?” She returned the question.
“Because imagine that this is just a fragment that come from a single Arcane Puppet, how large do you think the whole construction is?”
“Well…that would be large. At least larger than the ones we fought recently.”
“See? So why did you said that it came from an Arcane Puppet?” I pressed on that question.
“Ehm…I guess…..Err…” I could hear her started to fidget around. It is a sign that she herself is anything but understand her own reason. “…Instinct?...Maybe?”
“…Really now?” I half expected her to say that. But to actually say that? “That’s the best reason you can give?”
“Hey now! Are you insulting me!?” And another angry remark flew toward me. “So what’s your reason then? Tell me a better one!” She really needs to calm her temper. This fiery girl really needs to learn how to control her anger much better. Or is it my fault that she got angry over and over again? Maybe my remarks were…too blunt? Let’s put that aside for now. I will talk with that with her later on.
“I actually have…heard a disturbing piece of information from Lady Constie”
“My sister?” I gave a nod to answer her question. Her heartbeats immediately changed to a calmer one, although it also told me that her worry had increased the moment I mentioned her sister. “What is it?”
“Uhm, come closer.” I beckoned to her with my hand. I don’t think sharing this information on the open like this is a good idea. But at least I can try to keep it between the two of us. Although, Lady Constie never really did tell me to keep it in secret? She didn’t, right?
A slight rustling sound was produced as she trampled the leaves around me and crouched down to my height. I gestured to get closer. After she was inches away from me, I started explaining what I heard from her sister.
“Quiet down!” I pulled her head down again as she was going to stand up and raised a ruckus. I know it is impolite of me to do that regarding our rank, but it was an emergency. “Didn’t I tell you that you need to keep it down for now?”
“A-Ah, yes, sorry, sorry. It’s just the news is…rather too coincidental with our current situation.”
“I know, I know.” I nodded several times. “That’s why the first thing that came into my mind is that.”
“I see, I see.” She also nodded several times after I said that. “But this just makes it much more difficult to actually found out what we’re really dealing with.”
“Don’t you think that it is actually not the other way around?”
“Huh? Isn’t the fact that a member of the royal family will limit our movement?”
“And that’s why I said that we need informant. Listen.” I took a breath before starting to explain. “If the royal family really is going to get here, then there should be abnormality in this town, right? Ask the informant to look for abnormality that happened at least in the last two weeks or so. That is enough for a start.”
“Oh, I get it. Then we can also try to find what kind of character has come into our town as the royal family is certainly going to send a dozen or so of their own informant, right?”
“Yes. That in itself is a fact that we can use. Tail them and try to look what they are looking for. Also the fact that this news of visitation is a sudden and rushed one is probably going to make those informants careless. Although, the same thing could be said about the ones on our side if not careful.”
“I guess we have to enlist our most trusted man to look at this, right?”
“And the most skilled too.” If they are just to the extent of trusted but are not skilled enough, it will not only bring danger to them but also to the whole town. “And, if we can persuade the higher ups to spend a few more coins for this operation, try to buy the service of the many information brokers inside our town. Oh, also place a few of our informants in either the tavern or the gate to see ongoing gossip and rumors. You never know what useful information we might get from people’s chattering.”
“…How did you even know that there are information brokers?” Oh, she didn’t expect me to know that? Really now? After all these years?
“Well, my dear Eryell. You’ll be surprised what people said in front of this frail and weak looking blind man.” I let out a chuckle as I remembered the times when people just open their mouth and say whatever they think without any restraint when I’m around. It seems that besides blind, they all thought that I am deaf too.
“…You are anything but frail and weak.”
“That, my dear Eryell, is not something people would agree on their first look at this blind man.” A mischievous grin appeared at my face. I’m sure combined with the fact that I’m wearing a blindfold, the grin really made me terribly creepy and weird looking.
“I get it, I get it.” She just dismissed my joke as she stood up. “I’ll get to that straight away. I’ll get back to the headquarter to report this and to enlist a few of our informant as soon as possible. I want them to get useful information as early as tonight.”
“Difficult task you’ve given them.” I also stood up and dusted away my clothes. “But not impossible. Seeing the current condition we are in right now, even if it is impossible, we need to do it. We must do it no matter what. The fate of the town rest on that.”
“Agreed,” said Eryell as she nodded at me. “I just hope that in the end this thing is not as horrible as we all thought.”
“I doubt that it will be what we hope. I’m sorry to say that.”
“Don’t be. I prefer to hear the bad news right away so that I can prepare myself to handle it.”
“Good mindset. I like it.” I said to her with a smile on my face.
“So shall we get back to the headquarter now? Or do you have any other plan?” Ah, she has seen my expression and able to deduce that, eh?
“I’ll stay here for now. I want to look for a few more clues.” I then chuckled slightly after realizing what I just said. “Well, not ‘look’ as I can’t do that. You get what I mean.”
“Yeah, yeah.” I heard her rather annoyed reply with a swishing sound from her head as she shook her head at hearing my statements. ”You and your horrible jokes.”
“I can’t really help it. It just came out that way.” I shrugged my shoulder as I said that.
“Whatever. See you back at the headquarter. Be careful.” She waved at me as she moved walked away from the forest. I wait for a few minutes and then I also felt that the two Rangers have moved away from their previous location, probably trying to get a better position for their ongoing patrol. I heard a few rustling sound around me but I didn’t found any heartbeats that belong to any kind of humanoid creature. I guess it is safe to say that I have been left alone for the moment. It is an opportunity that I gratefully welcome at the moment.
Just to make sure, I tapped my walking cane a few times, producing the same sound over and over again. After being convinced that the condition is just as I wanted, I pulled out the object that I picked up moments ago.
“Tsk! As usual. That fellow is very flashy.” I muttered out a complaint at no one in particular. As I rubbed the small object, I was convinced enough that it was just as I predicted. After letting out a groan of annoyance, I put the object back into my pocket. I then walked back to the first fragment that Eryell asked me to identify.
A few thumping sound was made as I hit the large fragment with my walking stick several times. I then transferred the stick to my left hand. I walked closer to the fragment again and then put forward my right hand. A few snapping sound was made as I snapped my fingers a few times.
“…How flashy.” I muttered yet another complaint as the ‘view’ appeared on my mind. But this time the ‘view’ is not from the bouncing sound. “Too much magic inside the fragment.” Yes, it was from the resonating magic wave from the magic wave that stay trapped inside the fragment. I put my palm toward the fragment and felt the smooth surface and also the crack vine that ran from edges to edges. “Haaa….” I let out my breath and then a warmth feeling started to build on my palm. If one could see my hand at that very moment, they would noticed that my hand have let out a dim glow. Although I couldn’t see, the feeling of resonating magic has told me enough.
After a few seconds, I pulled my hand and then curled my hand into a fist in one swift movement. From that move alone, the air around me moved, making a gale that disturb the tranquility of the forest and replacing that very silence with a few rustling sound from the moving leaves.
“…Good grief.” I then waved my hand away, letting my warm hand cooled down. “This is going to get troublesome soon.” I then headed toward the direction of the town. “Very soon, I’m afraid.”238Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡCiILMi6L1Vns 188.8.131.52da2