|Author: Tsunose Bun||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 3024 characters|
|Translator: Jiro||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1541 words|
For the average adult, the town of Botoe, west of the City of Logholt, was less than half a day’s walk. One could easily be there by noon if they departed in the morning.
The road that connected the settlements linked up a number of affluent towns and cities. The road had been leveled for easy walking, and it posed no problem for Merc, who had spent her whole life as an adventurer. The same was presumably also true for Astard, who, although being a researcher, had undertaken many difficult journeys.
Both of them arrived very early in Botoe, which was to be expected.
“How is it?”
As they entered the town in the midst of a fairly huge throng, Astard questioned Merc in hushed tones. Merc gave him a brief glance before shifting her attention forward.
“From what I can tell there haven’t been any strange movements of Mana. I didn’t see anything noteworthy, either, so we can assume we aren’t being watched.”
“My observations are the same. Well, it was only yesterday that they attacked us. They’re most likely still hesitant and won’t do anything.”
They had just turned back a number of Count Fonan’s assassins in the Dungeon, as Astard indicated. It wasn’t like they had an endless supply of forces stacked up, so it was only logical for them to be lying low.
“Well? Where is this oh-so-important professor’s house”
“It’s in the area to the west of here. It’s a house with a blue roof, according to the description. Apparently, it’s the only house with a blue roof in that area.”
“That so? Oh, by the way…”
Merc involuntarily frowned and rubbed the back of her neck as she stared in the direction that Astard slowly pointed at, namely west.
“Is something wrong?”
“My neck hurts.”
“Huh? Ah! It might be best if we hurry.”
As one could expect from such a long-time acquaintance, Astard instantly understood what Merc was hinting at. A solemn expression settled on his face.
It was generally an indication that something bad was going to happen when Merc’s nape ached1. Of course, her perceptions were off at times, but this was a well-known truth among Gust of Wind’s members who had traveled with her for a long time.
They eventually came to a slightly forlorn corner as they walked westward at a brisk pace so as not to draw suspicion. It was completely silent. The commotion they had observed when they originally arrived in the city now seemed to be a mirage. The area they were in appeared to be a cluster of empty houses.
“Blue roof, blue roof. Over there!”
“I see it. Still, to think that he’d live in such a deserted place… Even if there was a ruckus here, no one would notice.”
“The professor is an exile after all. He didn’t want to arouse any suspicions… So, how is it?”
Astard, as he had done previously, glanced at Merc for confirmation when they were around fifty meters away from the blue-roofed house.
Merc returned his stare with furrowed brows, holding her aching nape.
“Why are you asking me? Can’t you judge for yourself? Aren’t you the Great Sage?”
“I sensed there were no indicators of Mana within the house. So I wanted to get your opinion as well.”
“Same here. I don’t think there’s anyone inside, but it wouldn’t hurt to go in and check.”
As the swordsman, Merc covered her body in Mana Hardening and carefully opened the front door of the house, followed by Astard.
Merc stepped cautiously into the professor’s room, which appeared to have already been ransacked. It appeared that someone had searched the residence, based on the scattered documents, clothing, as well as what appeared to be a magical catalyst.
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“We were late, it seems… By the looks of it, the professor has already been kidnapped. Here, look at this.”
Merc frowned as she looked about the room before turning to look at the envelope Astard picked up from under the desk.
The sender’s column of the envelope had blood stains on it, with the word Tetem written in peculiar calligraphy. The blood wasn’t much, but it wasn’t insignificant enough to be caused by a paper cut.
“I don’t think the vandals could have injured themselves like this. This blood is most likely the professor’s or his granddaughter’s.”
“Were they the Count’s men? Just how did they find this house…”
Astard’s expression became serious, and his forehead wrinkled as he spoke in a quiet, meditative tone.
“It would not be hard for the Count to track down this place if he knew that I and the professor were cooperating because of intelligence from the empire.”
“Naturally, the Count most likely had his men keep an eye on my house. It was then that he must have noticed that several letters were delivered to me. It wouldn’t have been hard to guess that the letters were from the professor.”
“Still, weren’t those letters delivered by an adventurer? There’s no way they could have seen what was inside.”
“If they did their job properly, determining which Guild branch the adventurer was commissioned from shouldn’t have been difficult. After that, all they had to do was keep an eye on the branch until the professor showed up. Given that Botoe has just a small branch that handles minor requests, it must have been obvious that the professor was submitting them from there. Which is how they’d first found him and then this place. That is the obvious conclusion.”
Astard’s speculation was entirely plausible.
Naturally, the Count’s men would have only aroused unwarranted suspicions if they had questioned the adventurer, assigned with delivering the letter, about the sender’s name or address. And it wasn’t as if the adventurer would tell them in the first place.
However, if they didn’t mention the letter and just questioned the adventurer where he’d come from or where he’d last accepted a commission, they could easily get the answer. While getting a response from a tight-lipped adventurer could be challenging, that wasn’t to say there weren’t those that would talk readily. It was definitely something worth considering.
“What should we do? The letter was delivered yesterday. In other words, not much time should have passed since the professor’s abduction…”
“That’s right. We must keep in mind that the Count will go to any length to obtain information on the Falgaro. I don’t think the professor is the sort to speak up readily, thus he’ll almost certainly be interrogated harshly… We must save him as soon as possible.”
“Are we going to storm in?”
Astard stared up in the air as though pondering, then shook his head lightly after one look at Merc, who made the same proposal as last night.
“For now let’s head back to Logholt and think about what to do on the way there. Worst case scenario, we might have to storm in.”
Astard’s expression was much more solemn than normal, indicating that he was taking the matter extremely seriously. After all, Astard had a strong sense of responsibility. He likely believed that he was partly to blame for the professor’s abduction.
Merc, too, had a restless feeling in her heart as she gazed at Astard, but then she discovered something strange at his feet.
She warily picked up a small rectangular green candy-like item from beneath Astard’s foot. After examining it, it turned out to be just what Merc had imagined it to be.
“Astard. Was the professor sick?”
“Huh? Not from what I know.”
“What’s that? Is it some kind of medicine?”
Astard, who was a novice in medicine, inquired of Merc, who was inspecting the candy-like thing with a blank expression on her face. Merc gave a modest nod of approval.
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“Yea. This is most likely medicine for heart disease. It contains blasting powder in its basic components and has a unique odor.”
“What? Blasting powder?”
“Still, it’s only a very small amount. It doesn’t cause any harm. And although I said it had a distinct odor, only those with trained noses can distinguish it… Regardless, this is bad.”
“If this is the professor’s, it means he has a cardiac condition. If he has a seizure, he would need to put this under his tongue right away because it may be fatal… If left as it is, he’ll surely die.”
Astard’s brows furrowed and his eyes widened in astonishment. Even if Count Fonan meant to keep the professor alive, he would succumb to the illness at this rate. This meant they couldn’t spare any time in saving him.
“We can’t stand around here! We must go back to Logholt as soon as possible!”
Astard hurriedly exited the home, and Merc was ready to follow. However,
An ever-increasing ache shot up Merc’s neck at that precise moment, and she came to a complete halt. A faint sound came from behind Merc as she clutched the nape of her neck.
Even though it came from a place where there was no trace of Mana2 and no one was supposed to be there, the sound echoed quite clearly in Merc’s ears.