「Well, just waiting isn’t any use, so Hiroshi, any other impressions?」
「This is just the sensation I felt, but for the peeps that are on the receiving end of an attack like that, I think it would really vary.」
True, just being able to move as per usual after maintaining the spell for five whole seconds was no easy feat. Haruna hadn’t been able to understand any of this at all, but Hiroshi conveyed the information quite easily.
「Is that so?」
「This is just what I think though. If ya adjust yer body to it after dealin’ with it several times, ya’d get to where ya can do basic movement without gettin’ any repercussions.」
「And how many times do you think that would take?」
「I dunno that, but well, prolly at least a hundred or so.」
Hiroshi revealed this overwhelming estimation so nonchalantly, and Haruna and Makoto found themselves holding their heads. It was easy for him to say several hundred times, but Haruna couldn’t even move two steps without having to get out of there, and even Makoto wasn’t guaranteed to last long either. Also, before they even discussed that issue, Haruna’s current max magic count would force her to drag this out for days and days if she wanted to reach even a hundred tries. And yet this guy just said it all so casually. As to be expected of a top-class masochist from the crafting geek squad.
「Other thing we gotta examine is how much knockback would decrease once Haruna-san polishes her skill with this technique.」
「You sure it even decreases…?」
「Well that’s what we’re gonna test out in the process, yeah?」
Hiroshi began to say more and more troublesome things. Perhaps he was doing this in retaliation for them using him as a guinea pig.
「I hope you know that you’ll have to do these things as well for the inspection.」
「Ha! I already figured out that it ain’t nothin’ if I try ‘n stay like that for 300 seconds. Bring it on!」
「…You sure like to puff out your chest whenever the topic of the conversation comes to your ability…」
Exasperated, Makoto had no hesitation in commentating on Hiroshi’s two-faced nature. This was just another aspect of his incompetent nature.
「So Haruna-san, how ‘bout that mana?」
「I’d say it’s about ready.」
「Ya ready, Makoto-san?」
「Ready at any time.」
「Ya sure ‘bout this? Ya ready to beg for yer life while coughin’ up blood? Ya ready to endure the impact of yer entire body being crushed to—hey, that hurt!」
「That’s cause you won’t stop trying to scare them.」
As Hiroshi was firing line after line of scary imagery at her, Tatsuya prodded him with his beloved staff in order to silence him.
「But I’m not sayin’ it as a joke, y’know?」
「It’s unsettling, but I guess it’s not far off…」
Makoto felt herself recoil inwardly at what Hiroshi and Haruna were saying, thinking she may have been too hasty. But if she wussed out here than she would be the real incompetent one. Nodding at them as they tried to warn her again, she braced herself for the impact that would no doubt come and assail her.
Makoto was able to keep her body up for about 100 seconds before going down.
「Princess, did you perhaps hear that conversation?」
「Yes. Honestly, how long does that girl intend to provoke me?」
These people were talking at a tea party in the evening. They had made sure to prohibit anyone from entering the room in addition to ensuring that no one eavesdropped. After Katrina, several other people began to assemble, but she didn’t even try to hide her expression of anger and impatience, cursing the adventurers who had brought Aearis back. More precisely, she was cursing that little songstress, the most pesky out of them all.
「It does seem that the rumor about Alfemina-sama falling to the Dark God wasn’t necessarily a lie after all.」
「Yes, didn’t I tell you that numerous times? If that weren’t true, then there would be no way that a twisted, tenacious, tainted girl like Aearis would be chosen. And then she goes so far as to entrust her with some nobody adventurers and give them secret techniques that I even don’t know about. This just cannot be.」
「I wholeheartedly agree.」
Anyone listening to these colorful descriptive words would normally find it difficult to associate them with Katrina upon first glance, but she couldn’t help but spit out her resentment. Her flunky, Barold, nodded in agreement.
「All things considered, things are getting quite troublesome, haven’t they.」
「Those filthy songs of hers are vexing enough as it is, but on top of it, now she has some strange protection…」
「We really must end this somehow…」
As soon as the phrase “end this” came up, silence filled the entire room. It needn’t be said that this was not because they had any hesitation in killing Haruna. They were only quiet because the difficulty was much too high to do anything as of the current time and no one wanted to say anything careless.
In actuality, there was the fact that the information about Haruna gaining some secret technique had yet to be confirmed, as well as the fact that many of the people there feared that they might be stirring up a hornet’s nest, not very eager to act. There were even some among them who suspected this easy leaking of information that was supposed to be top-secret was a trap.
It goes without saying that such caution was accurate. After all, the king’s side intentionally leaked the information about the secret technique. Upon understanding the contents of the spell, they got Haruna’s and everyone’s permission before controlling the information so that it spread as effectively as possible to the people in the shadows, so normally everyone should have been cautious.
「It sounds easy when you say you wish to end them, but…」
「That wench seems to lack the capabilities of an adventurer, but she seems to be quite the manipulator.」
「Indeed. Superficial warriors like that cannot win by fighting fair and square.」
As much as it vexed them, the men had to acknowledge that much. After that evening party, they had boldly set out to investigate these adventurers, but they could only find troubling information. A berserker bear right from the outset, followed by piaranorks and a brigade of thieves, and even a former Level 5 adventurer going for broke failing at a quest. These were truly phenomenal battle results that made them question if these people were actually Level 9 adventurers. Especially in the case of the piaranorks, the monsters encountered in these parts were all the cream of the crop in their strength. Sure, it wasn’t like she defeated them alone, but it didn’t change the fact that she had managed to bring them down. This was the opponent they were dealing with.
In addition, the guard of the thief brigade that she had defeated one-on-one actually had a Level 2 bounty on his head and was quite formidable in combat. Although his attacks were simple and monotone, you couldn’t just laugh at his club that had enough power to smash a cave wall to bits. Sure, his attacks had long intervals between them, but with practically limitless stamina that enabled him to unleash that many attacks and a defense that reduced regular attacks to slight scratches, and even his life force that allowed him to take numerous hits without showing any signs of weakening, his threat level was far above that of some small fry monster.
If they had lived on after attacking people like that, the only way to fight them head-on and win would be with the power of Douga or Julius. If they had that many chess pieces, of course they wouldn’t hide in the shadows.
「Perhaps they made it look like an accident?」
「Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be careless enough to provide an opening…」
This was the king’s palace, with eyes everywhere. Only a fool would try and carelessly set up that sort of trap. There was an interval a bit earlier with the whole Elena and Aearis thing, unexpectedly enough, but…
「Poison? No, probably not going to work…」
「As long as that potion maker brat is with them, it won’t be easy to slip anything in.」
After said person had taken back their idea, Barold supplemented them with words of actual experience. Hiroshi had legitimately foiled Elena’s assassination as well as at the evening party, both times regarding poison. There still hadn’t been any public word of the attempt at the evening party, but of course it wasn’t like no one had realized just because it was prevented. With him being able to identify and purify minor poison like emilrad, there was no way that they could slip in any poison that had a scent to it without him realizing it. They were probably only covering it up because there was no actual evidence left over and they didn’t want anyone to suspect them for forging the evidence and risk causing an uproar.
「Then we should start with that brat…」
「Without ingredients, he is but a mere human. We don’t even need to worry about going so far as to poison him. All we need do is creep up slowly and deliberately.」
They had managed to catch the drift of his gynophobia. However, that only meant that they would be even more cautious and on-edge to make sure that Hiroshi didn’t go alone and interact with some unknown woman. He lacked in the intimidation department, but the difficulty level for targeting him was far too high. Even if he was an opponent to be put down eventually, there was no reason to prioritize him.
「At this point, we may as well just send an assassin as per usual.」
「Be as it may, their guard is like iron right now. We have to isolate them in the courtyard first.」
At the moment, it would be difficult to lay a hand on these Japanese guests of the king. First they would isolate them in an information war and eliminate them in the imperial court. It might be difficult to eliminate the accomplished potion masker Hiroshi and his disciple, Mio, but all they had to do was separate them and everything would fall into play.
「I believe that I know what we can do about assassins.」
One nobleman boasting the title of marquis said that unsettling statement as if it were nothing. Every other participant in the room blinked their eyes as they focused on him.
「We can leave the matter to you, then?」
「Indeed. Therefore, I would like to have everyone assist me in successfully luring them into isolation.」
「It just so happens that the royal family is secretly split.」
「Let us show those country folk how one fights in the court.」
Embracing the marquis’s words, the masses began to stir. The darkness of the great country had begun to forment.