Sorcerer of Forbidden Arts – Part 01

The Tower boasted curved walls that, when viewed from above, shaped the area like a giant L. Its sheer size easily encompassed Pond, the satellite town Hikaru used as his base of operations. Despite housing around a thousand troops at all times, along with approximately two thousand Church members, their families, and servants, there was still ample space to spare.

The vicinity was encircled by a broad moat filled with water, stretching about fifty meters in width. During the night, all drawbridges except the main stone one at the front were raised, with the Knights Templar erecting barricades and turning on the floodlights.

Knights, clad in finely polished plate armor that resembled works of art, stood watch near the barricades.

“The nights are starting to get chilly. Why do we Knights Templar have to take up night watch duty?”

“Well, there were intruders not long ago. Safety first, I guess.”

“But still, we’re Knights Templar, you know?”

“Quit your grumbling, or you’re gonna get it from the Captain. He’s already on edge as it is.”

“Is that so? I heard he was quite eager to become the next archpriest.”

“That was the plan, but you know, the squad he sent to an island in the south got captured by Beastmen. His Holiness gave him quite the scolding for that.”

The knights were relaxed enough to have a casual conversation. Since there were no nearby buildings, just a wide street, it was understandable. The closest building was roughly thirty meters away, and ample lighting ensured that any intruders would be promptly noticed.

They’re a bit too lax. Well, that plays into my favor.

The Quinbrand spy that attempted to infiltrate last time had disguised themselves as a merchant. That happened during broad daylight, and there was significant traffic.

I can’t just waltz across the bridge openly.

Hikaru’s Stealth skill made him unnoticeable to individuals within its effective range. If he walked boldly across the bridge, he might escape the attention of nearby knights, but there was a high chance he’d be spotted from the watchtowers within the Tower. The bridge’s white, well-maintained appearance contrasted sharply with Hikaru’s dark attire, making him stand out even more.

I should go for that. Hikaru put on thin gloves.

Seeking out even the smallest hiding spots, he ran while crouched along the shadow of the railing facing the moat, a blind spot from the watchtower’s view. There were knights ahead, but none of them directed their gaze his way. Under Unken’s rigorous training, he had mastered moving silently.

As he drew closer to the bridge, he leaped over the railing. The knights were now about ten meters away, yet they remained oblivious. He jumped from the railing.

Phew.

Hikaru clung to the bridge’s beam and slipped beneath it.

Ugh, this is tough.

The bridge had a simple structure, featuring a couple of bridge piers and a flat deck on top. To reinforce the deck, three massive steel girders ran through the bridge’s underside, and Hikaru dangled from them like a sloth.

The underside of the bridge was predictably neglected, gathering dust on the steel frames. Marveling at the fact that such colossal steel beams existed in this world, he continued his slow progress. Thanks to the 2 points on his Soul Board’s Muscle Strength, supporting his own body weight posed no difficulty.

After about fifteen minutes, he safely reached the other side. Slipping out from under the bridge’s deck, he found himself right next to the main gate. Given the late hour, however, the gate was sealed shut with reinforced steel.

Next to the gate was a side entrance. Hikaru bounded through it and spotted a soldier dozing in a chair.

Once I’m inside, it’s pretty much game over.

He entered the narrow passage between the guardhouse next to the main gate and the city wall, and took a deep breath. Stashing his dirty gloves away, he double-checked the map just to be certain.

The tree-lined road from the main gate led straight to the grand cathedral. To its left and right were administrative offices handling Tower-related affairs, and shops catering to Tower residents run by merchants. There were even restaurants that served alcoholic beverages.

Regular folks could only enter up to that area, with access beyond restricted to a select few individuals. That was where the cure was stored.

Hikaru made his way towards the back of the guardhouse. It was an area seldom frequented by anyone, yet it was remarkably well-maintained, with not a single weed in sight. He shuddered at their love of cleanliness.

The area facing the inner street was brightly illuminated by streetlights, but the back of the buildings, where Hikaru currently lurked, were significantly darker.

Hikaru’s ears caught the sound of footsteps. Even in the dead of night, knights were on vigilant patrol. A trio of them strolled together through the narrow alley, holding high-intensity magic lamps. Hikaru thought he could use his Stealth and wait for them to pass by, but this alley offered no cover, and the knights diligently scoured the area with their lights, leaving no blind spots.

Should I just place my trust on Stealth?

Hikaru possessed an array of Stealth-related talents: Life Cloaking 4, Mana Cloaking 4, and Imperceptibility 5 (MAX). Furthermore, he had gained the Blessing of Stealth God: Bearer of Darkness from his guild card.

Normally, I should be able to pull this off, but…

While he could save time by forcing his way through, Hikaru recalled the failed infiltration attempt by the Quinbrand Empire spies. It seemed wiser to err on the side of caution.

He retraced his steps and continued toward the tree-lined road leading to the main gate. Though it was well-illuminated by streetlights, the trees offered some cover. However, he was plainly visible from the watchtowers.

Hikaru expanded his Mana Detection to monitor the movements of the guards in the watchtowers. While their figures remained vague, he could at least discern their general orientation.

Two watchtowers fell within his detection range, each manned by three guards. The place felt like a prison under constant 24-hour surveillance.

I still can’t get used to this burning sensation in my head…

Expanding Mana Detection inundated him with a barrage of information, causing dizziness. He wiped the sweat forming on his forehead.

Now.

As soon as the guards’ attention veered away from his position, he set off in a sprint.


There were a total of twenty-five watchtowers in the Tower. Their significant number could be attributed to the Tower’s somewhat unconventional L shape, but security seemed too tight nonetheless.

Each of these watchtowers was manned by three soldiers.

“Yawn…”

“Hey, quit your yawning. You’re making me sleepy.”

“I can’t help myself. Why are we stuck watching this deserted Tower? It’d be a tad less dull if there were some tryst or something going on.”

“Did you forget about the whole flak we caught because of that intruder?”

He was referring to the failed infiltration attempt by the Empire’s spies.

“I thought someone just forgot to lock up.”

“Really? I heard it was because the guards were slacking off at their jobs.”

“There were no casualties. Maybe there weren’t any intruders in the first place.”

“But those guys from Advanced Research are insisting there definitely was an intruder, and if the keys to the side gate of that section were unlocked, then there probably was an intruder after all.”

“Come on, you’re not seriously buying into what those weirdos are saying, are you?”

“Regardless of what I believe, the higher-ups are taking them seriously, so there’s nothing we can do.”

“That place, huh?”

“Yeah, that place.”

“So creepy.”

“You there, no chatting while on surveillance duty!”

The stern voice of their superior officer came through the speaking tube, startling them.

“Why is the boss here so late at night?”

“Higher-ups chewed him out for the intruder mess, apparently.”

“Didn’t that happen in broad daylight? Seriously…”

“Oh!” one of the guards suddenly exclaimed.

“What’s wrong?”

“Uh… I was probably just seeing things.” Rubbing his eyes, he peered through a tube-shaped monocular.

“Seriously, what’s up?”

“Well… I thought I saw someone on the street.”

The other two swiftly focused their own monoculars on the area. The glass within the monoculars was of subpar quality, somewhat cloudy, and with imprecise polishing, causing the field of vision to appear blurry. Nevertheless, these monoculars remained their best tool for looking into the distance.

They scanned the area with their limited field of view.

“Hmm… I don’t see anyone.”

“Maybe you really were just seeing things?”

“Yeah…”

“What’s going on over there?!”

Their superior’s voice crackled through the speaking tube. The three guards exchanged glances.

“W-We should report it, just in case.”

“You’re right. I’d rather not face any blame if we stay quiet and it turns out to be something.”

The guard who had initially raised the issue relayed the information through the speaking tube.

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