Chapter 168: Underground, undiscovered, part 5


Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama


So this was Warwick Ze’ev.

His face was sickly pale, but he carried himself with the unique grace of a vampire.

「Ara-ara. If you’ve been lurking since the start, you could’ve just said so.」

「When someone invades your house, do you not observe them before making your move?」

Looking at the unconscious lizard on the floor, Warwick sighed.

「It was doing well. What a terrible way to go.」

He didn’t seem to have his guard up, possibly because he didn’t think that we would harm him. I wouldn’t say I have no interest in what he’s doing here, but it’s also not what I came for.

「My name is Roland Argan. I take it that you invented this collar?」

I took the collar out of my breast pocket and showed it to him.

「Ah, that thing… it brings back memories」, he said as wistfully as a man who had found the toys he played with as a kid.

「It broke recently, and we’d like it repaired if possible.」

「It was a little project of mine, you see. Fetched a good price when I sold it off before leaving the demon realm all those years ago.」

「The wearer’s magicka becomes the reciprocal of itself, correct?」

「That’s correct.」

From the jovial way in which he spoke, I felt that he wasn’t a villain at all. He instead gave me the impression that he pursued whatever interested him.

He took the collar and continued explaining.

「The user can channel magicka into it and convert the wearer between their original form and a feline form — I had a phase where I enjoyed doing trivial stuff like that. No harm in that, but now, I’ve optimised it and only kept the essential machinery. To prevent it from unintended use, it’s also been designed to self-destruct upon the wearer’s death.」

I assumed that the finished product had been used on his pet monsters.

「So can you fix it?」

「But who do you want to put it on?」

「The Demon King.」

Warwick blinked in disbelief.

「You mean Lylael Diakitep, the Demon King?」

「None other」, replied Rodje with a pout.

It was evident that she still objected to the idea of collaring her master.

「Could you possibly… have defeated the Demon King?」

「Not quite. It’s more accurate to say that I put this collar onto her.」

The inventor roared triumphantly, clenching his left fist.

「That’s… fantastic news. Is that why you have only one arm?」

「No.」

「Hmm… it was an epic showdown, was it not?」

It was barely a scuffle, I have to say. For some reason, I felt that Warwick was an independent but rigid thinker that tends not to listen to others. He looked at where my right arm should have been with melancholy. The appreciation he gave told me that he was truly a member of the anti-pure blood faction.

「The demon realm has accepted that their ruler is dead, though there were rumours saying otherwise for a while. It’s all thanks to you, isn’t it?」

「…It was the collar that sealed the Demon King. And I still want to use it.」

「If the collar’s here, then… wait. Where is she…?」

「Lylael-sama’s living a quiet life in a nice house on the outskirts of a nearby town」, answered Dee.

「The one and only…?」

His reaction gave me an inkling of the public image Lyla had had in the demon realm.

「I still have mass-produced collars like the ones on my pets. Those will self-destruct when the wearer dies. No more useless features like turning the wearer into a cat, either.」

How about that, I said, looking at Lyla’s ‘Shadow’.

『Erm…』

「That’s a no-go」, said Dee. 「It’s not like Lylael-sama wants the collar so she can stay with Roland-sama. She wants the old collar fixed so she can become a cat too!」

『Mm, exactly!』

Her voice was more high-pitched than usual. Dee spoke more loosely when she saw Lyla’s reaction. Could she be doing it on purpose?

『B-but. If it’s the only option, then I’ll take the mass-produced collar! I’m fine with it, I am!』

She really wants it, huh.

「…Where’s the Demon King’s voice coming from?」, exclaimed Warwick in surprise.

「It’s Lylael-sama’s spell, known as ‘Shadow’」, explained Rodje. 「It allows her to transmit her voice all the way from her house.」

「I see. Staying in her normal form might stir up trouble from those in the demon realm who learn that she’s still alive, right?」

It’s already happened, I thought, looking at Rodje.

「I don’t know about the army, but she’s still a popular and influential figure in the streets.」

『Really?』

「Wow, that’s amazing, Lylael-sama!」, applauded Rodje, playing the sycophant as usual.

「Back to business」, said Dee, trying to steer the conversation back on track. 「Can you fix it or not?」

Warwick examined the broken collar again.

「I think making a new one will be more efficient than trying to repair it. It’ll certainly take less time… although it still took a while back then because of the cat conversion mechanism.」

The ‘Shadow’ sighed in relief.

『Sounds good. I’ll take it. How long will it take?』

「Three months.」

That’s… quite a long time.

「On another note –」

Warwick put the collar to one side and examined my right shoulder, looking at the arrangement of muscles and where my arm had been severed.

「You can be stronger than you are now.」

「What now?」

「How does a right arm sound?」

I couldn’t give an immediate answer. I’m okay with not becoming stronger.

But, at the same time…

「You sealed the Demon King while she was alive and kicking. It would be a great shame to leave you without your right arm.」

I tried thinking of reasons to reject his offer.

「I can do my work just fine with one arm. Thanks, but no thanks…」

「Really?」

「I’ll take care of Roland-sama forever, so he’ll be fine without his right arm. Even his left arm… y’know?」

Dee was laughing, but it was terrifying for me to imagine. Losing both arms would definitely make my work much harder.

『I have his arm preserved in perfect condition. Are you able to reattach it?』

「I’m not interested in boring stuff like that.」

He finds something even Lyla can’t do boring, huh. For all his faults, he’s an interesting guy.

「But I can make you something better than what you had before.」

The inventor told us that he had devoted himself entirely to his R&D in this underground laboratory.

「Adventurer mages love my collars. They always pay a pretty sum for them.」

I can see why — not only can they control monsters easily, but they can also make them ‘evolve’ at will. Until the need arises, the monsters can be kept at an easily manageable size, just like the Spiky Saurian. He continued by explaining that the profit he earned from his sales went into expanding his research facility, and answered my questions readily.

「When your lizard became a dragon… what was that, exactly?」

「Its natural growth was sped up tremendously, keeping its physical features but causing its power to exponentiate. You might find it a stretch, but think of it as drawing its innate, dormant power out in an instant with an incantation. And giving it a body that can withstand the sudden power surge is essential.」

「It can be activated anytime?」

「Yes. If it has a collar, then only if the owner says so, of course.」

I had believed his research to be more unethical than it actually was. Letting them roam about was more of training than anything. There are no monsters of note in that forest, so he had deemed it to be a safe training ground.

「Please find a more remote location. Your monsters have caused quite the stir as of late. It’s a personal request from me, as a guild employee.」

「Okay, sure. I’ll do that. I didn’t intend to cause trouble at all. It’ll be problematic for the pets I raise to end up being culled every time too.」

He shrugged jokingly.

I told him that we would return in three months, then left using the directions he gave us. We walked along a passage and up a flight of stairs, emerging in a single house on the outskirts of the capital.

「That’s good news, Lylael-sama!」

『Mhm. It was on my mind for quite a while.』

Prisoners usually want freedom, but whatever.

『I guess that vampire doesn’t think that he’s helping us.』

「It’s as you say.」

As master and servant conversed, I thought about how impressive the Spiky Saurian’s evolution had been. Can you imagine the amount of brain power that went into researching, developing and executing the technology to do that?

Also…

『How does a right arm sound?』

Try as I might, I was unable to stop thinking about his offer.



2 Comments

  1. Am I Un-Dead Yet?

    Just say no. The options will be giant 🦀 crab claw, or octopus 🐙 tentacles.

  2. Give Roland a robot arm. Then he can do a Rocket Punch. Warwick seems like the type who would specifically make an arm just so it can do that.

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