Translator: Kell | Editor: Weasalopes
The Orb and the Wakizashi
Half-asleep, Hikaru dug into his breakfast—a sandwich. The bread was tough, mixed with dried fruits, although the part grilled over butter was soft. The fat flowing from the meaty bacon coupled with the saltiness and the tomato made for a heavy meal overall.
「I can’t take it. I’m too sleepy.」
Still, Hikaru finished everything, downing the last piece with a sweet and sour fruit juice.
「My, what were you up to last night?」the portly innkeeper asked.「Anyway, you’re skinny, so you should eat more. Want another sandwich?」
「N-No, thank you.」Hikaru declined politely.「Is there a trip to Eingunstadt today?」
「Yes, there are two trips today. One at nine in the morning, and another at three in the afternoon. Are you leaving?」
「I just have a little business to take care of. I’ll be back. Can you reserve my room?」
Hikaru thanked the lady and left the inn.
The carriages station was quite packed. Eingunstadt was a town in Einbeast, and the closest one to Ponsonia.
Hikaru planned to enter Einbeast once to check the Drakon Ball Staff, which would mean taking it out of the Dimension Dragon Box. If Hikaru stayed in the Kingdom and Ryver looked at the compass at the same time, he would know that the staff was still in Ponsonia. If he was in Einbeast instead, no doubt that Rising Falls would go back to the country first.
「All right. Time for some shut-eye.」
A morning nap, to be precise. Hikaru had managed to slip into a carriage and was on his way to Einbeast.
Upon leaving Leather Elka, the guards performed thorough luggage checks. One Mage’s staff, in particular, was carefully examined. They must be looking for the Drakon Ball Staff. He made it through without a problem, of course.
「Those beasts stole the staff! I’m sure of it!」
「I keep on telling you. That’s not true. I even chased after the thief with Sir Ryver.」
「You were probably just pretending to help!」
In the conference room, Caddie lashed out at the members of Polar Tiger. But their leader, Gotthold, just brushed her off, sighing.
Igloo of the party Rising Falls, on the other hand, had recovered from his hangover, and wore a frown. Not a trace of his confidence from yesterday could be seen from him. Batros didn’t seem to particularly care, while Ryver was silent as always.
Rank A adventurers, huh…
Gotthold eyed his party members. They were starting to get pissed, having been on the receiving end of Caddie’s accusations since this morning. They would’ve gone berserk by now if Gotthold didn’t deal with matters calmly.
「This uhh, staff, was it? I believe we can offer you a first-class item from Ponsonia’s treasure house once the capital falls. Right, Your Majesty?」the grand chamberlain mediated, and Austrin nodded.
Caddie turned her gaze on them.
「There’s no way Ponsonia has a better staff than that! Are you stupid?!」
She might be a rank A adventurer, but insulting royalty was outrageous. Faces red from anger, both the chamberlain and Austrin didn’t say anything in return. They desperately needed Rising Falls’ power in the upcoming battle.
「There’s nothing but idiots here!」
Caddie was at wits’ end. A compass with no graduations sat in front of her, its needle constantly spinning, not pointing at any specific direction.
Is that a tool used to find the staff? Gotthold guessed, but he didn’t feel like asking.
「Let’s talk about the theft some other time.」Gotthold said.「I think we should discuss our advance to the royal capital, Lord Austrin.」
「Y-Yes. You’re right.」the Prince answered.
「Sorry, but we can’t go.」Igloo said.
「What?」Gotthold was surprised.
「The thief could be nearby. We can’t go into battle with a guy like that around.」
「Yes! Ah, Big Brother’s the only one who gets me!」Caddie muttered, her words falling on deaf ears.
「Igloo, do you even understand what you’re saying? This battle is a direct request from the His Majesty.」
「Which is why we can’t go. Wait a sec. Did His Majesty gave the order to steal the staff?」
A member of Polar Tiger snapped, but Gotthold kept him in check. He himself was fuming after Igloo insulted the man he loved and respected. But if he gave in to blind rage now, everything would be ruined. His sense of responsibility, to carry out the King’s orders, was the only thing keeping him composed.
「This must be the enemy’s plan. Steal the staff to make us fight each other.」
「I-I see.」Austrin said.
「So Kudyastoria, fearing the rank A adventurers, resorted to such clever schemes.」
「Clever? More like awful.」
「How the Princess has fallen.」
The nobles commented, trying to suck up to the Prince as much as possible. Igloo alone wore a grim… no, a pale look.
「Say what you want, but we’re not coming until Caddie gets the staff back.」He was obstinate.
Gotthold frowned. Why is he so stubborn about this? Does he really think we stole the staff? No, wait. Is the staff actually powerful enough that without it, they can’t fight? I did sense something extraordinary about it.
Gotthold didn’t have any Detection skills, but he knew the staff was a rare item from the powerful mana it exuded. In different terms, he felt its “aura” or simply “a mysterious force”.
「Miss Caddie.」Ryver opened his eyes and pointed at the compass.
Caddie screamed, drawing everyone’s attention on her.「Look, Big Brother! The compass is pointing at the staff’s location!」
After spinning endlessly for hours, the compass’s needle finally pointed at a fixed direction. Igloo’s eyes widened. It was clear to anyone that it pointed at Einbeast.
「So the enemy really is from the inside.」Igloo’s words were heavy.
Hikaru made it across the border just before noon and arrived at the town of Eingunstadt. He soon realized there were more demi-humans than usual. The standard races milled about the town—therianthropes, elves, dwarves. But that wasn’t all. There were even half-reptiles, and fiends, creatures with demon blood flowing in their veins.
They look no different than actual monsters…
They appeared to be monsters that could understand human speech. Then again, monsters were defined as beings that bring harm to man. There wasn’t a clear distinction. Killing humans even raised one’s Soul Rank.
Einbeast was a dry country with deserts, located south of Ponsonia.
The streets were a bit different as well. There were more fences made of sandstones. The residents used white monster scales as roof tiles. There were only a few tall buildings, and most structures were wide, unlike Forestia, where houses huddled close to each other.
「Alrighty, then. Time to buy food and go someplace quiet.」
Hikaru searched for a place where he could take out the Drakon Ball Staff from the Dimension Dragon Box. He bought mashed potatoes and some food sprinkled with chopped boneless rib. He walked around, digging through his meal with a spoon. Many like him strolled around with food as well, and since the streets were wide, it didn’t really pose any problem.
While warmer than Ponsonia, winters were still cold here. The steam belching from the food stands stimulated one’s appetite greatly. Can I even finish a large serving of mashed potatoes?
「This spot should be good.」
Hikaru had his gaze on a temple. This world only had one religion. There were temples and churches where men and other beings were taught about the gods.
The temple Hikaru ended up in was huge and thriving, and the back of the building was spacious. Other taller buildings around prevented anyone from seeing him.
The warm rays of the sun shone on the place. Hikaru lay his half-finished mashed potato on the side and sat down. He dug into his pockets for the Dimension Dragon Box, removed the lid, and flipped it upside down. The Drakon Ball Staff fell on the ground.
The compass should be pointing at where he was right about now. However, Hikaru had no way of knowing that Caddie and the others were in the middle of a meeting.
「Hmm… Even in broad daylight, I can clearly see the spark.」
As always, the spark ran around inside the orb. It really looks like the Holy Mana Ball.
「Does this thing have something to do with drakons, then? Like maybe there’s a drakon sealed inside it too…」
Hikaru fiddled with the wood covering the orb. Surprisingly, he managed to remove the orb with ease.
「I can see a bit of mana on the staff with my Mana Detection, but nothing compared to the orb itself.」
Then, Hikaru felt the wakizashi on his waist rattling. He failed to notice it last night because he was running at the time.
He set the orb aside and unsheathed the wakizashi. With his Mana Detection still on, he could see the mana coiling around the weapon.
「Looks like there’s less of it.」
It seemed like the weapon’s mana had diminished, perhaps from when he killed the Giant Rock Vipers. Or maybe even before, but he just didn’t notice.
「I have a hunch something will happen if I struck the orb with this wakizashi…」
It was probably his Instinct talking. But Hikaru also somehow felt the weapon’s will.
「I don’t think I want to return a damaged staff. Heck, what if the orb also explodes like the Holy Mana Ball? I sure don’t want that to happen.」
It felt like the orb and wakizashi were watching him.
Even staring at him intently.
「Okay, maybe just a little. I’ll hit it a bit with the tip.」
His words might’ve sounded indecent taken out of context. Hikaru stood up, readied the wakizashi, and pointed in at the orb.
He saw mana pulling at each other—the mana from the wakizashi’s tip seemed to be fusing with the mana from orb.
「Here goes nothing.」
The moment the weapon’s tip touched the orb, a blinding light enveloped Hikaru. He couldn’t open his eyes. Ten seconds later, the light slowly faded.
Before him was something white and fluffy rolled into a ball. Then it stretched out about eighty centimeters long. It looked like a fur scarf worn around the neck.
「It’s alive?!」Hikaru leaped backwards and readied his weapon.
It talked! Hikaru fixed his gaze on it.
『I smell something good!』
The white, fluffy creature lunged at the mashed potato Hikaru left on the side. It shoved its head into the bowl and started devouring the food.