An Invitation to Another World – Part 04
Stealth was doing an impeccable job. He made the right choice in putting points on Imperceptibility. The knight was relying simply on his senses, such as smell and the feel of the air. He wasn’t using a Detection Skill.
Lady Luck seemed to be smiling on him too. When the knights mentioned the Count, they glanced behind, which meant the Count was somewhere in that direction.
There was not much time left. When Hikaru heard Roland’s voice saying “twenty minutes” earlier, his heart almost leapt out of his chest. The knights were coming closer then, so he feared they might’ve heard Roland’s voice too.
The knights went along without looking back. As soon as their lamps were far enough, darkness enveloped the surroundings. Lightning flashing through the skylights installed at the top of the hallway provided the occasional bit of illumination.
Hikaru wished he had a Skill like Night Vision. Not that he had any points left to spare anyway.
The darkness was a blessing in disguise. It would make it easier to see lights spilling through doorways. And Hikaru found it—the only room that had its lights on inside.
Hikaru strained his ears right outside the door.
“Hmm? That stupid, pigheaded Baron…”
He heard an old man’s voice. The Count Morgstadt in Roland’s memories was a portly man with a full head of gray hair.
Found it at last. The target’s in here.
Hikaru’s hand trembled as he reached for the doorknob.
He squeezed his hand tight. It’s all right. You’re good. You got this, he told himself. You’re gonna kill him and live on.
Gradually, he calmed down.
Hikaru felt sorry for Roland. He was interested in this new world. His thirst for knowledge reared its head.
But what ultimately compelled him to commit murder was his death in his previous life.
Humans die easily. And in this world, life seemed to be valued even less. This was a world where you had to kill to survive.
The moment he heard Roland’s countdown, Hikaru opened the door. Count Morgstadt, his body facing the door, was sitting at his office desk, reading a document under a lamp.
“Hmm?” The man’s gaze went to the door. He thought he saw it open. “Who’s there? A guard?”
It could’ve also been the butler, but he wouldn’t come here this late at night unless he was summoned. He certainly wouldn’t invite himself in without knocking first either. And the door itself was closed.
“I must be seeing things.”
He turned his eyes back to his hands and looked over the documents.
“All taken care of, huh? Good.”
The document read: “A fire broke out in the estate. Dispatched a professional to put it out.” It was a coded message that actually meant: “I’ve sent an assassin to Viscount Zaracia’s son.”
“Surprised me there. I didn’t expect him to be in Pond.”
The Count received word that Viscount Zaracia’s son was in town. He suspected he might’ve come to kill him. Fortunately, he was able to determine the boy’s location and have an assassin sent to him.
“Like father, like son. They all had to be so pesky. But now the Zaracia family is done. It’s my time from here on—”
Count Morgstadt was caught dumbfounded by the sudden voice. There was no sign of anyone in the room.
He opened the desk’s drawer. Inside was a dull silver bell, and not an ordinary one. It was a magic item used as an emergency alarm. When rung, it would alert every guard in the manor.
But his hand stopped just on top of the drawer. A blade had pierced the palm of his hand.
With the pain came fear. Right beside the Count was someone who was supposed to be dead.
“Roland N. Zaracia. Well, his stand-in actually. I’ll be taking your life.”
Blood dripped from the dagger.
The blade swung down. It penetrated flesh so smoothly, it felt unreal.
The boy plunged the dagger deep into Count Morgstadt’s heart.
He twisted the knife for good measure. Coughing up blood, Count Morgstadt collapsed on the floor.
Hikaru was breathing hard. Before him lay a corpse. A living human being until a moment ago.
His body felt as if it were aflame. He wanted to run and scream.
For a moment, just a split second, Hikaru’s body froze. Roland had tried to take over. He wanted to suppress Hikaru’s will and kill the Count himself.
“You just had to stop me.”
Roland sounded appalled.
Hikaru knew why Roland, despite asking him to murder someone, tried to take over at the last moment. Since he had Roland’s memories, it wasn’t hard to figure out.
Roland didn’t want to burden Hikaru with the sin of murder. All along he intended to finish the job himself.
“Roland,” Hikaru said. “Even if I didn’t come here, you weren’t going to let my soul get destroyed, were you?”
Rejecting Hikaru’s soul was not something he would’ve done. It was not a method that Roland, who grew up showered with love by well-respected parents, would have taken.
Roland choosing Hikaru was a gamble of sorts. If he lost the bet and failed in his quest for revenge, he was going to give up entirely. He even planned to tell Hikaru to run away if he failed and exposed himself to grave danger.
“I never thought you’d do it yourself.”
“I wasn’t gonna let you. I decided that I would do it.”
Hikaru decided to live on. If that meant killing someone, so be it.
It was the warmest of Roland’s voice Hikaru had heard so far, a mix of deep regret and satisfaction.
“This is it for me. I can’t give you wealth or honor, but you may have my body.”
Hikaru felt Roland’s soul leaving his body.
“What’s your name?”
“Thank you, Hikaru. My… The Zaracia family’s redeemer. I’ll be praying for your bright future.”
The last piece of Roland’s soul disappeared.
Hikaru barely felt any sense of accomplishment for fulfilling a promise. The grim feeling of having committed murder was too overwhelming. He wanted to plop down to the floor.
“Did you kill him?”
Hikaru gave a start.
He saw that the door to the room was open. Standing there was a lovely girl with silver hair, blue eyes, and pale white skin. Her beauty was out of this world.
“The bell’s been rung,” she said. “Knights will be here soon.”
Hikaru failed to notice that when he pulled the dagger out of Count Morgstadt’s hand, the man’s fingers touched the bell and knocked it over. It rolled around and tinkled.
He could hear footsteps approaching.
What do I do? What do I do? Can I escape with my Stealth?
The girl raised a finger and pointed outside.
“There’s a rope ladder on the balcony. You can get down to the first floor from there.”
Really? Why is she telling me this?
There was no time to hesitate. Hikaru opened the door to the balcony. The thunderclouds had passed, and while strong winds still blew, the rain itself had stopped.
The girl was right. There was a rolled-up rope ladder lying on the floor, most likely for use during emergencies.
He lowered the rope ladder and climbed over the railing. His trembling hands made it difficult to go down.
He could hear commotion from behind the closed door.
“Lady Lavia, what are you doing here?”
“Does it have something to do with the Count ringing the bell?”
“O-Over here! The Count is down on the floor!”
The uproar grew louder.
By the time the door to the balcony was opened, there was only a rope ladder swinging idly.
“Th-This should be far enough.”
Hikaru was exhausted from all the running. He wanted to take a nap, but he couldn’t return to the hotel. When he went to try retrieving Roland’s belongings earlier, the heavy atmosphere suggested that the assassin’s body had already been found. He also thought about using Stealth to sneak in, but ultimately decided against; he wasn’t sure how effective the Skill was currently.
A shame too; there were many unfinished theses and rare items in that room.
“So this is my body…”
It was probably around four in the morning. It was currently early summer, and the sky was slowly growing bright.
Hikaru saw his reflection on a puddle. A face with dark-brown hair and dark-brown eyes. A little longer and they should turn black. His body would adapt to his soul.
“Man, I’m beat.”
Hikaru had fled to an unfrequented area in town—a graveyard. Leaning against a huge tree, he closed his eyes.
“Right. That girl… Why did she help me escape?”
It was his first sleep in a different world.
And he didn’t dream.
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