Commence Operation – Part 04
Hikaru waited with bated breath.
A tiny pinprick from the distance was running towards them, getting closer. It got bigger and bigger until he could make out what it was. Someone riding a horse.
Just an ordinary rider? No, wait…
Hikaru couldn’t believe his eyes. Something totally unexpected had occurred.
It was a knight on the horse. A knight with a huge frame that a standard-sized horse looked small in comparison.
I’ve never seen that guy before!
Hikaru did not see that person. He was present when Lavia was led out of the Count’s house, but he proceeded directly to the gates to wait for the carriage.
In other words, he did not know who East had talked to at the manor.
Judging from the situation, he’s going after Nogusa and his friends. His muscles tell me he’s much stronger than East. Who is he?
If he caught up to the carriage, there was a good chance he would check inside. Once they noticed Lavia was gone, they would immediately start searching for her before the two of them could even get back to town.
Of course with Hikaru’s Stealth, they could hide themselves. But that was all they could do. How would they get food? Freya might even mention how he was asking questions about the Count’s murder.
His plan was to go about his usual routine once he returned. If he stayed close, Freya, upon hearing the news of Lavia’s escape, would share it with Hikaru first before telling anyone else. He believed they were that close at this point. Plus, he planned to take some quests from the guild. No one would expect that the person who helped Lavia escape would show up at the Adventurers’ Guild as usual that day to do some quests.
Hikaru had to be back in Pond before news of Lavia’s disappearance arrived, or he would become a suspect.
If they couldn’t return to town, it would mean a life of wandering from place to place. The authorities could track the name Hikaru down through the guild card. The only choice left, then, would be to leave the kingdom.
That itself wouldn’t be a problem. But Hikaru and Lavia had not traveled great distances before, and they didn’t have the expertise either. Lavia, in particular, had spent her life like a bird in a cage. Her stamina could pose some issues.
I should stop that guy.
Hikaru arrived at a conclusion.
“Stay here and don’t move,” he said.
“Who’s that?” Lavia asked.
Hikaru took out his silver mask and put it on. He then summoned his Soul Board.
I’m glad I saved three points.
He selected the Strength section, spent a point to unlock Weapon Mastery, and put two points on Projectile.
Hikaru already had a point on Muscle Strength, and two points on Weapon Mastery would put him on the same level as an advanced practitioner. Even if Hikaru didn’t have much experience in combat, his Skills should grant him the ability to fight.
He had already considered getting Projectile or Bow mastery beforehand. After Assassination there was Sharpshooter, making for a great match. There were a few reasons why he didn’t go for Bow: it would be difficult to fight with it in a confined space; if he ran out of arrows he couldn’t attack, and the weapon itself was bulky. With Projectile he could basically throw anything. Even the stones lying by his feet.
Hikaru picked up a few and stuffed them into his pockets.
His hands trembled at the unforeseen occurrence. It wasn’t fear. Nervousness, perhaps.
Calm down. You can get through this.
He squeezed the stone in his hand tight.
Commander Lawrence D. Falcon spurred the horse onward.
East and the other knights had told him all about the case. The investigator would ask them questions later, but Lawrence himself wanted to hear it directly from his men.
There were a few curious matters about the case. He thought East was right; something had to be done about the escorting adventurers. Lawrence would need to return to the capital anyway to submit his report to the king.
In that case, he should just join the transport. A logical decision. Unlike East and the other knights, he had no reason to wait for the investigator in Pond.
At this speed, I should catch up with the carriage shortly.
Suddenly, the horse’s right eye spurted blood.
The horse reared, neighing. Lawrence tried to stay on it, but he was thrown backwards, his whole body hitting the ground hard due to the speed he was going. Before his eyes, the horse staggered, then fell over on its side.
Lawrence quickly got up. He might’ve fallen off a horse, but his body, protected by an armor of muscle, suffered only a few scratches.
He wanted to ride light, so the only gear he brought was a narrow, longsword for self-defense. He never expected to be ambushed. Cursing, he drew the sword from its sheath. One sword wouldn’t be enough against multiple enemies—based solely on the weapon’s durability. He was confident—no, certain—that he could easily take down several bandits on his own.
“My name is Lawrence D. Falcon!” he bellowed. “I am a nobleman of this land and leader of the kingdom’s prestigious knights. Whoever you are, know that attacking me means death!”
The commander?! And his name is Lawrence?!
Hikaru remembered the story he heard in the temple.
The Sword Saint himself?! A master of the greatsword—hmm? That’s not a greatsword. What’s going on here? Was he unprepared? Did he get the wrong intel?
Hikaru looked around, but there were no other knights following him. Lawrence was alone.
Calm down. It doesn’t matter how skilled they are, if they’re alone, my Stealth can do the job. But I want information first. I want to see his Soul Board.
Hikaru moved slowly to the grassy area. Lawrence was on high alert, his masterful attention in all directions.
Birds took off all at once to keep their distance from the man.
Intimidating even at this distance.
Hikaru was a hundred meters away from Lawrence, but he could feel a crushing weight on his body. He couldn’t stop himself from sweating buckets.
Maybe I can just leave him alone, he thought.
He was tempted to choose the easy option. He could do just that, but he still needed to check the man’s Soul Board.
If this man could run as fast as a horse—a superhuman feat—Lavia’s disappearance would come to light in no time. The carriage was only a kilometer or two from here.
Let’s do this.
Hikaru stepped forward. He wondered if the crunch of the grass would give me away. Stealth was doing a great job; Lawrence, who was looking around warily, showed no signs of noticing him.
Eight more meters…
Lawrence was standing in the middle of the highway, so Hikaru would need to step out into the open to get into the five-meter range of his ability.
There was almost no grass now.
Two more steps.
Hikaru took one step forward.
Suddenly, Lawrence looked in his direction.
But the man did nothing else.
“Show yourself, you coward!” Lawrence roared.
He… He doesn’t see me.
If he turned off his Stealth here, the man would see him for sure. Steeling himself, Hikaru took one more step and summoned Lawrence’s Soul Board.
【Soul Board】 Lawrence D. Falcon.
Age: 35 Rank: 48
What an absolute freak!
Hikaru instantly backed away.
His 6 points on Greatsword was on par with the Adventurers’ Guild’s guildmaster and national hero Unken’s 6 points on Short Sword. But his 16 points on Muscle Strength was on a whole different level. Strength maxed out at 30 points, but he had never seen someone with more than 10 points on it before. What’s more, he had a stat called Heaven Sword, clearly derived from Weapon Mastery.
A total of 83 points, all spent. He didn’t seem to be able to use magic at all, but he might not even need it. Hikaru, on the other hand, had only a total of 31 points.
What to do… What to do?
Hikaru steadied his quickening heartbeat.
Natural Recovery 8 and Stamina 11. If I don’t stop him, he’ll definitely sprint to the carriage. I have to do something.
He studied the stone in his hand.
What can I do with a stone like this?
He felt a tinge of regret. No. He shook his head.
Without Projectile, I couldn’t have stopped his horse. I chose the best option. No time for regrets. What I need to do now is figure out how to win with the cards in my hand.
While Hikaru was pondering his options, Lawrence cast his gaze forward.
“That way,” he said. “Watching from afar, I see.”
Lavia was in that direction.
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