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Chapter 122: Silent Murder

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Author: TypeAxiom Original Source: Scribble Hub

“You’re leaking again,” Camilla said, reaching over and whacking Lucienne on the head with the braid of straw in her hand. The sudden movement made the cat hiss.

Regardless of how friendly it acted toward Lucienne and Kagriss for some reason, it was still a feral, untamed animal. Even if it attacked Camilla, the cat would only hurt itself, and then a bunch of troublesome things would happen.

Not wanting to disturb its meal, Camilla drew back.

Lucienne obediently checked on her mana and continued to suppress it completely.

“Don’t you want to pet the kitty?” Kagriss asked. “It’s so soft.”

“…is it now…”

Right now, Camilla didn’t want anything to do with the cat. She continued to glare at it, but perhaps it didn’t truly sense threatening intentions from her, the cat didn’t even look up.

Before long, it polished off the mice it had caught, eating everything, bones and all. All that was left was a spot of blood that seeped into the straw by the time it was done.

Full, the cat splayed out its front legs and raised its hindquarters, giving itself a good stretch while Kagriss watched in wonder. “Wow…animals stretch too?”

“Obviously, they…oh.” Lucienne noticed her mistake and cut herself off before she said anything more that might be offensive. But it wasn’t her fault that both Kagriss and Camilla looked and acted so human…with their mana held in, they even felt no different that she didn’t think she could be blamed for forgetting.

“No, it’s fine,” Kagriss said. “Even Camilla gets things mixed up at times when I have questions that should be common sense, right?”

Camilla nodded.

The worry in Lucienne’s chest dropped away with Kagriss’s reassurance that she wasn’t the only one. But as she worried earlier, her hand that had been running over the cat’s smooth fur stopped.

The comfortable rhythm was broken and the cat looked up at her in confusion. “Mreow!”

“Sorry!” Lucienne said, and reached down again, but the cat had already jumped to its feet.

It didn’t need anyone to pet it! It was an independent cat. To be able to touch it was these humans’—or not-humans’— privilege. And off it went stalked into a corner of the barn, its tail sticking straight up and waving as it walked, leaving Lucienne with her hand held awkwardly in the air.

Camilla smiled.

It grew when Kagriss stood up and walked over to sit down next to her again. Although it didn’t feel good when Kagriss picked the kitty over her, at least she came back. Plus, she knew that if Kagriss really had to choose, Kagriss will choose her over any cat a hundred percent of the time.

Still, it was good that Kagriss liked cats.

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With Lucienne looking crestfallen, Camilla was just wondering if she should say something to cheer her up and put her in a better condition for tonight’s possible mission, she felt something ping on her senses.

Camilla clamped her mouth shut and looked outside the barn into the fields and grasslands beyond. Unlike the previous night where the twin moons “It’s coming.”

“Huh? What is?” “Oh, is it?” Lucienne and Kagriss asked simultaneously.

“You can’t feel it?” Camilla asked Kagriss in surprise. Lucienne she got, but Kagriss was a high mage. “There’s a mana beast approaching. I sense its mana, but it’s faint because it’s so far.”

“Camilla, you forget that I have never really needed to hide my mana before. I’m not that much better than Lucienne in this department.”

“Well, you’ve gotten better in a month than she had in years, so don’t say that.”

Lucienne wanted to retort, but she couldn’t. Even when she was just minding her own business, she was being used as an example and compared to. It was her own fault that she was lazy and didn’t practice past the minimum…

As she stared into space, still unable to feel anything, something seemed to click in Kagriss as well.

Kagriss sat up straighter. “I’m feeling it too. It’s getting stronger, closer. Can you tell how powerful a mana beast is just by its signature like now?”

“You can’t while it’s just running, not to mention it’s next to impossible to get a proper read while we’re blinding ourselves like this,” Camilla replies, shaking her head. “Their strength explodes when they battle since what’s currently in their body isn’t all they can use. Everything around them is their weapon and that’s only limited by their control. That’s why mana beasts are so dangerous and you have to bait them in battle to show their cards before you can truly confront them safely.”

Both Kagriss and Lucienne nodded as they absorbed that tidbit of knowledge.

By now, none of the ease and warmth that were present while they played with the cat remained, leaving behind only the tension from anticipating a possibly fatal battle.

Even Camilla wasn’t immune.

Afraid that the unique nature of her sword might alert the mana beast if she summoned it too soon, she kept it sealed in her blood. As a result, she was a toothless beast, and all she had was her admittedly weak magic if things went wrong.

Compared to her, Kagriss and Lucienne were in much better shape.

Camilla sighed. She clenched and unclenched her fist, trying to calm herself down, but even so, she almost jumped when Lucienne suddenly piped up.

“I feel it, I feel it! It’s really close enough. Less than a hundred meters away!”

“Ouch.”

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“What!”

“A hundred meters isn’t very long,” Camilla said, wincing for Lucienne’s detection range. As Lucienne looked to be about to protest, she raised a hand to forestall her complaint. “Okay, quiet down now. We know where it came from so let’s go and ambush it on its way back going the same way. Quietly now…”

She stood up and stepped outside, feeling the air. “Even the wind’s blowing the right way. It’s as if Fate itself is wanting us to succeed.”

Fate favored them.

Camilla had to admit that ever since the campaign, she had gotten a bit more superstitious, more prone to see omens in little things. She couldn’t help it, after all in hindsight there were so many signs that could be interpreted as harbingers of disaster, yet she ignored them all.

With a sign in her favor, her confidence was boosted by more than a little.

Crouching down low, Camilla darted toward the prairie, trying to keep her footsteps as light as possible to keep the ruckus to a minimum. Mana beasts had sharper senses than their mundane counterparts, another one of their troublesome parts.

A bit clumsier, Kagriss followed, yet fortunately Lucienne seemed to know what she was doing at least. Even weighed down by heavy armor, Lucienne’s steps were barely audible.

It drained mana from the user, but once activated, there were enchantments weaved in between the individual plates to silence them, so that even during vigorous movement, a templar could be silent.

Lucienne even managed to keep her mana hidden while opening a tiny channel to feed the armor enchantments.

The mana beast didn’t even care to be extra stealthy. It’s mana signature flared like the sun compared to everything else in the vicinity, a mass of raw mana stuffed into a much smaller shape than should be natural.

But before it didn’t need to be that stealthy. Why waste the effort when before it revealed itself, it had checked to make sure there were no threats nearby?

For its prey, its magic was enough.

Crouching low, the beast slinked through the grass and fields toward the livestock pens. Cloaked by darkness itself, it melted in with its surroundings until only a vague, fuzzy shape could be seen. Yet, its movements were decidedly feline. Its paws slid over the ground before its pads softened the impact of each step.

The wind blowing toward it brought the delicious smell of human-raised swine to its nose, hiding its presence from its prey in the process.

The strong tastes of the game on the plains simply could not compare to the pleasant, gentle taste of domesticated animals.

Unable to resist, missing it so very much, the mana beast once again decided to hunt and steal a pig, unaware that it itself was being hunted…

Directly downwind a few hundred meters away from the worked fields and a decent distance into the prairie, a certain templar was whacked once again as she leaked mana in the process of deactivating the silencing enchantments.

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Luckily, their quarry didn’t seem to notice the tiny amount that slipped her attention, or perhaps the window was just too short to notice since Camilla was truly fast to warn her.

The mana beast didn’t even turn around. Instead, it was completely focused on stalking its own prey.

Settling down, the three of them began to wait, completely hidden from sight in the tall grass. While the beast was busy, Camilla decided to go over the plan again. Anything that went wrong might turn unexpectedly fatal.

Lucienne and Kagriss both listened intently. Lucienne because Camilla scared her a bit, and Kagriss because of some rather painful and scary memories that she’d rather not repeat.

“Okay. So the goal is to have it show its tricks to us,” Camilla said. “We don’t need everything. Just a basic sense of the mana types it’s attuned to, its limits…things like that. If it gets dangerous, we retreat. Any questions?”

Kagriss quickly shook her head, but Lucienne had a conflicted expression on her face. Confusion.

She raised her hand, wincing as some plates of her armor scraped against each other. “But what if it never gets dangerous and we clearly see its upper limit?”

Camilla thought seriously about her answer. “Well…I guess if we’re lucky we can finish it in one go. But remember, winning in our first is not the goal here. You don’t get a prize for it, okay?”

“Got it.”

“Perfect. So while we have time, let’s refresh. After this, I will hide further back with Kagriss while you face off with it on its way back. It’s a toss up between whether or not it’ll stay and fight, but chances are good it will.”

Lucienne nodded. “Got it.”

“Your goal is to just survive, and when you start having a bit of trouble or the beast looks like it’s going to escape, I’ll join in with Kagriss. I’ll join the offense while Kagriss supports us. Clear?”

“Yes!”

At that authoritative tone, Lucienne instinctively answered as if she was replying to a commanding superior. Meanwhile, Kagriss just calmly nodded, seemingly having mostly gotten over her nerves.

But inside, Kagriss’s emotions were in a mess.

It was her idea to fight the beast. She’ll take responsibility for it and give it her all in the battle, and she’ll prove that even she can take on mana beasts with Camilla. She’ll make it up to Camilla, so that Camilla won’t need to sacrifice herself for her safety.

This time will be different.

Kagriss’s nails dug into her skin, leaving behind deep indentations, although she managed to notice and stop herself before she broke the skin and let out the scent of blood that might alert their quarry.

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With the plan clear, Camilla and Kagriss slinked off, leaving Lucienne alone in the grass, crouching with her hand resting on the hilt of her sword.

Out a few hundred meters, the mana beast finally cleared the fence of the animal pen, landing gracefully and silently with barely a tremor on the ground despite its massive size.

Despite its prey being so easy to catch, being a fat domesticated pig sleeping with its head sticking out of pigsty, it never left its hunting crouch until it finally pounced. It slammed a massive paw down on the pig’s neck and with a dull crack that didn’t even wake the pig’s sleeping friends, its spine shattered into two.

The pig didn’t even have time to squeal as its hind legs kicked once and fell limp. The mana beast closed its mouth over the head of the dead pig and gently pulled it out completely, and all that could be heard was the body sliding over the sandy floor, leaving a bloodless scene behind.

Picking up the body, the mana beast abandoned all pretenses of stealth and charged out of the pigsty, yet still naturally quiet enough that no other creature bore witness to the brutal killing that had just taken place.


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