Translator: Le Umbono
What should he say in this situation? The silence was deafening. Roughly clapping his hands together, Matoba said.
「Good job, kid.」
Her Krége hanging from her waist, Tilarna looked down upon the remains of the man once known as Dennis Elbajhi. While this was the first time Matoba had lain his eyes on him, it appeared as though she possessed some sort of connection to the youth.
「This feat was not accomplished through my own power, but through the techniques entrusted to me by my master.」
「Don’t really get it, but you’ve definitely got skill. If it were me, I’d have run away with my tail between my legs the second I saw him. Scary motherfucker.」
「That is for certain. This is the first time I have had to face such a fearsome opponent.」
「Still, a single lead bullet would’ve done him in…… ugh.」
Matoba surveyed his surroundings. The fire in the catacombs was steadily getting larger. If they hang around any longer, they would become steak before long.
「I have plenty of things to say to you, but for now that’ll have to wait. That thing rolling on the floor — that’s our fairy, right? Grab it. We’re getting out of here.」
Spying the glass cylinder rolling on the cobblestone floor, Tilarna gouged out the wires connecting it to the machine. Inside the cylinder, it was possible to see a small figure floating about.
「Is this it?」
Tilarna shakily approached the fairy. Kneeling in front, she tilted her head to the side in irritation.
「This is not it. This is a fake……」
「What the hell?」
「Whilst it may not be obvious to the untrained eye, this is merely a doll. I cannot sense the branii of rahtena anywhere. Elbajhi believed it to be genuine as well. I thought it impossible, and yet…」
「Where the fuck is the real one then?」
Closing her eyes, Tilarna sharpened her senses.
「It is getting further and further away. I do not know the direction.」
「Someone must’ve taken it away in all the confusion.」
Matoba clicked his tongue.
Aboveground, the sound of police sirens could be heard, followed by several gunshots and cries of 「Don’t move! It’s the police!」. Backup had arrived, it seemed. SWAT was probably coming in full force right about now, apprehending or gunning down the remains of Elbajhi’s men. However⸺
「Is it still getting further away?」
「That is correct.」
「I find that hard to believe. SWAT’s here. They should have a clear view of the temple grounds from the outside; there’s basically nowhere to run. If there was anyone trying to make away with the fairy, they’d be caught for sure.」
「That may be true…… no, wait.」
Appearing to recall something, Tilarna dashed towards the catacomb depths. Compared to the coffins Matoba had seen, rows of exquisitely-crafted sarcophagi lined the entire breadth of the hall. While he had no knowledge of Semani burial practices, these tombs most likely belonged to the likes of nobles and lords of ages past.
「……This is an ancient Gravanian temple. If that is indeed the case, those fleeing the oppression of their lord would most likely……」
Brushing off the cloud of dust from the sarcophagi, Tilarna continued mumbling on. Analyzing the engravings, tilting her head, so on and so forth⸺.
「This is it.」
Tilarna placed a single hand on the foot of the sarcophagus.
Looking closely, one could make out several faded handprints on the lid of the coffin. Tilarna pushed on it using both hands. Given her slender arms, one would not think it possible for her to move such a heavy object. And yet, move it did, sliding seamlessly onto the floor. With a loud bang, the contents of the sarcophagus were revealed. Although he expected a mummy to come tumbling out of the coffin, nothing of the sort presented itself.
In its place, there lay a stone staircase that led further below.
「A secret passageway, constructed by believers in order to escape. There is no doubt it connects to somewhere aboveground.」
「What are you,『Indiana Jones』?」
「There are footprints. As I thought, he escaped through here. That red magician, along with the『Spirit Bomb』. Most likely, Elbajhi had been deceived as well.」
「Red magician? 『Spirit Bomb』?」
「I shall explain along the way. Let us give chase, Kei!」
Tilarna descended into the darkness of the sarcophagus. Matoba followed suit.
「Yeah, yeah. Kei, huh?」
「What is the matter?」
「It’s nothing, Tilarna.」
He chuckled. Finally realizing the situation, Tilarna gave a light snort.
「I understand that adding Bo¹……『Miss』to my name is troublesome for you. That is fine. I will make a special exception for you.」
「Then, you can call me Kei. Special exception for ya.」
Giggling, Tilarna glanced at her longsword. With a hint of hesitation, she spoke.
「And…… thank you for the Krége earlier. It helped.」
「Don’t sweat it. While we’re at it, mind if I ask you something?」
「What is it?」
「You……what’s up with those clothes?」
Matoba cheekily fixed his eyes on her body. She was wearing a rather revealing outfit; a skin-tight miniskirt, with both her feet and shoulders exposed. Moreover, she was covered in soot from head to toe, the tears on her clothes revealing portions of her pale-white skin. It would not be an exaggeration to dub her current appearance ‘lascivious’.
「D-do not stare at it me like that!」
Red-faced, Tilarna shouted as she twisted her body in embarrassment.
「I don’t really mind it, y’know.」
「I’ll have you know that this is no hobby of mine! I am simply imitating the undercover investigations you bolice undertake……!」
「That’s all fine and good, but you really shouldn’t take O’Neill on his word. Come on, let’s go.」
Pushing her back, Matoba delved into the depths of the hidden passageway.
They advanced in pitch-black darkness. The only proper source of light they had was the Maglight² he had handed over to Tilarna. Damp, cold air blew through the corridor. Even though they had walked over 200 meters by now, the end was still nowhere in sight. Given their lack of vision, their steps were unsteady; running was definitely not an option.
「Spirit Bombs, huh?」
As they ambled onwards in the dark, Tilarna had given him a general summary of events thus far. Matoba could not help but groan.
「Don’t get the theory behind it, but I do get that that’s probably how the guys from 22nd were done in. Basically it’s a powder-based chemical explosive, right?」
「If they were to use the high fairies as parts, such a bomb would possess unimaginable power.」
「You’re dead if you’re hit. That what you’re trying to say?」
「Not exactly. Most likely……it would subject a tremendous radius to the influence of rahtena. In the worst-case scenario, it is possible that the people living in this city would all become ‘corpses’ as a result.」
「They were able to make something that dangerous? Fuck…」
「That 『Red Magician』⸺ the man called Zelada ⸺ holds such an object in his hands. If he intends on using it somewhere, a great catastrophe would occur. Would your people still claim that the disappearance of a fairy equals that of a mere cat or dog?」
Tilarna coldly said.
「……Look, I feel bad saying that. I really do. But it couldn’t be helped. Your people wouldn’t understand the importance of uranium or plutonium either.」
「They are the toxic materials that make up a nuclear bomb, yes? I have heard of that much.」
「See, you’re not seeing the bigger picture. Anyway, the problem now is⸺」
The fleeting glimpse of a silhouette.
In the direction of a loosely-curving corridor. Spotting the light being emitted from the Maglight Tilarna held, the man pointed his gun towards them.
Tilarna immediately got down on the ground. The man shot his pistol. The sound of gunfire echoed throughout the dark corridor. As it ricocheted against the stone wall, sparks were formed out of the disintegrating bullet. Tilarna shined her Maglight towards their opponent. Aiming his shotgun, Matoba let loose two shots straight at the target.
They hit. Staggering, the man crumpled to the floor.
「He the magician you were talking about?」
「No, this is a ‘corpse’. Be careful……!」
Just as Tilarna warned, the collapsed man immediately stood up, firing another round at them. With a loud bang, the bullet bounced about in the air.
「Got it, it’s a zombie.」
As Tilarna hunkered down for cover, Matoba fired off another two shots. The man shook violently to the side. That was it for the shotgun. Switching to his pistol, Matoba rushed to the front.
Lowering his gun, the man ⸺ a Semani ⸺ stared at him. He trembled as he raised his gun once more, steadying his aim. Before he could do anything, Matoba readied his pistol and drove his 9mm straight into the man’s head.
One shot. Two shots. Three shots.
He bent backward, before falling flat on his face, unable to move.
「You dead already? Asshole.」
Kicking away the pistol from the unbreathing man’s hand, Matoba turned around. Tilarna had finally caught up to him on her small feet.
「None. I am merely disoriented from the sound of your gun…… Dorini weapons are simply the worst.」
「You’ll get used to it eventually. Let’s hurry.」
「The fairy is right ahead.」
This was no time to gingerly step onwards. Fortunately, the floor had become flat before they knew it. Matoba and Tilarna continued running along the underground passageway, advancing a further 200 meters in the process. Dry air drifted inwards from beyond. They had abruptly come to the end of the road, arriving in a narrow, stone hall.
They were in an ancient-looking hokora³. Within this limited space, there lay a plain altar. The two of them had come out from behind said altar. It had most likely been constructed on a slope a distance away from the main temple.
A man appeared from the shrine’s exit.
His whole body was covered in red. It was the magician ⸺ Zelada. In his right hand, a staff. His left held a glass cylinder implanted with an instrument of some sort.
Aiming his gun at him, Matoba shouted. Zelada’s steps came to a complete halt.
「My, what a shame. It seems you have caught up to me.」
With his back towards them, Zelada said.
「Drop the stick and the bomb on the ground, old man. Slowly.」
「As you wish. ……Oh? My, oh my. If it isn’t the detective from the other day. What a pleasant surprise.」
Just as he had been ordered, Zelada placed his staff and the Spirit Bomb on the ground. Even now, he still had yet to make eye contact. He had recognized Matoba from his voice. From what little he had heard from Tilarna, it seemed that the man was completely and utterly blind.
As he continued pointing his gun at the magician, Matoba declared as he descended the altar.
「Nice to meet you, you fucking alien. This is for Rick. I’ll put you in jail for the rest of your fucking life.」
「Dear me. That is most troublesome.」
「Do not let your guard down, Kei. This man is dangerous.」
Following him from behind, Tilarna whispered.
「I know that. ……Now, put your hands up and get on your knees. I don’t mind if you resist. I’m just itching to put a bullet in your ugly mug.」
「You appear to be most angry tonight, good sir. However…… Hmm? My, what a coincidence. You are……」
Jumping out of the hokora, Matoba delivered a flying kick to his back. The magician fell flat on his back, a small groan escaping his lips. Driving a knee into his back, Matoba grabbed the nylon cuffs he kept as a backup. Unfortunately, he had used his normal pair of handcuffs on the guard keeping watch on the temple.
Avenging Rick was a given, of course. And yet for some reason, he felt a distinct contempt, a strange feeling of discomfort towards this man. It was the same sensation he felt as Rick lay dying in that alleyway. A memory hidden deep within the recesses of his heart. In these past few days, he had kept telling himself that it was impossible, silencing his doubts over and over again.
⸻⸻Could it be? This guy?
Although Matoba wanted to send the guy flying, he settled for binding his wrists with the nylon tape.
「My, such cruelty towards this blind, old man. Your anger is most just, I assure you. At the very least, please grant this poor, old man some semblance of mercy⸺」
「Keep talking, asshole. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.」
As Matoba reminded the suspect of his rights, another man slowly approached them.
- Referring to Bona, or ‘Miss’ in Farbanian.
- A brand of flashlight produced in the US.
- A hokora is a miniature shrine dedicated to folk deities. Usually found in the context of the Shinto religion. However, in this case, it refers to the Semani deities.