Chapter 3, Part 5
They decided to start the mission in the dead of night.
Aside from the obvious reason that attacking in broad daylight would be way too reckless, Chaika had to bring her coffin with her Gundo inside to cast magic. Carrying that out in the open would draw attention, and there was nothing to gain from that. For that reason, Tohru’s group opted to move after most of the town had fallen asleep.
“Now then…” he muttered.
The wealthy part of town was surrounded by a row of trees. He was standing on top of the roof of a house about the same height as the trees, focused on the count’s mansion.
As the crow flies, the distance between the two buildings was about a hundred meters. Moving along the rooftops, Tohru could cover that distance on foot in four breaths—approximately fifteen seconds—even when carrying his entire arsenal of equipment and weapons. If he used “Iron-Blood Transformation” he could cut down the time even more, but, since he couldn’t stay in that form for long, using it immediately wasn’t a good idea.
“No changes around the mansion, it seems. We’ll proceed as discussed.”
With a nod, Akari reached out her right hand and pulled someone up from the edge of the roof. It was Chaika, wearing a collar like a kitten’s. Tohru had already pulled up her coffin, and it now rested at his feet.
“…Do we really have to bring this thing?” Tohru looked down at it, nonplussed.
It didn’t have to be on her person at all times, but whenever the coffin was out of her sight, Chaika seemed to panic. Tohru had suggested putting the Gundo’s components in an inconspicuous bag, but she had stubbornly refused to listen.
By nature wizards were already unsuited for close combat, but Chaika’s movements were all the more restricted due to the burden of the coffin, not to mention that she was petite to start with. It would be much more preferable for her to stay behind and support them from another location, but then they would have no way of confirming what the item they were to supposed to take actually was. So, she had to tag along.
“At the very least, taking it into the mansion is gonna be tough. Why not—”
“No.” Chaika glared at Tohru sharply. “Other options, none.”
“…Any way you look at it it’ll definitely make our job harder,” he muttered.
Tohru went over their strategy in his head.
Their task was ultimately to seize a “certain thing” from the count’s mansion. They weren’t required to assassinate the count or take down the fortress or anything, so the difficulty of this mission was relatively low. However, the problem lay in the fact that Tohru and Akari had no idea what that “certain thing” even was.
To be more precise, the problem was that they didn’t know how it was being stored, much less what it looked like.
It was like trying to pin down a cloud.
Based on what Chaika had told them, it seemed to be something related to magic. It could have been a part of something else, or it could simply be shut up in a vault or a safe.
In the end, there was no choice but to have Chaika, a wizard, go to the scene herself to check. If it was left up to the uninformed Tohru and Akari, they could very well end up taking something that wasn’t related at all. There was also the possibility that the Count Roberto Abarth was the cautious type and had prepared a decoy.
Tohru and Akari would have to raid the mansion while escorting Chaika with her coffin in tow. Of course it had been Chaika herself that had hired the two of them, which meant that she understood her own weaknesses. In addition to being somewhat slow-witted, her skill set was not in any way suited for thievery or close-combat. Whether it be breaking in and swiftly snatching the object or stealthily carrying it away, Chaika was completely the wrong class for both—and so she needed some help.
“…Well, whatever. Let’s go. Akari, I’ll be counting on you here.”
“Understood,” she replied with a nod.
With that, Tohru kicked off the roof.
His boots were covered in soft resin to prevent wear-and-tear, and that together with his flexible knees ensured he made virtually no sound as he moved. He headed straight for the count’s mansion, leaping from building to building in almost complete silence.
Thanks to last night’s reconnaissance, they knew how the guards were stationed.
There were watchtowers to the north, south, east, and west of the mansion. They overlooked the grounds, and the spots the towers weren’t able to reach were covered by guards that patrolled the area on a fixed schedule. As far as crime prevention systems for nobles go, it was a pretty standard, elementary setup.
Because the estate had probably been designed to hold upwards of a hundred servants,it would be wise to consider them as potential threats and parts of the mansion’s security. Thanks to the long period of wars, it was common to find people who were well-versed in martial arts.
Of course, the idea of defeating all those servants—was unthinkable.
Instead,Tohru’s plan was to narrow down the places where the item could be based on the structure of the mansion, and then secure a safe route where Akari could bring along Chaika.
He had on the battle outfit he hadn’t worn in a long time.
He was equipped with the weapon he almost never used.
Armed with these things, Tohru could feel his spirits lifting.
The Acura village was constructed for the purpose of battle, and had continued to serve that purpose.
Tohru, who was born and raised there, was also built for the purpose of battle. He lived for it.
People had died in the middle of their training, even before going out and experiencing real combat. Swords that would never be wielded, hat had rusted and broke without even being unsheathed from their scabbards. To Tohru, the thought of that was fear itself.
Humans would, someday, die.
And so he wanted to make his mark on the world—some kind of proof that he had lived.
A purpose for being born—accomplishing that goal was his reason for living.
Accomplishing that, and then dying…that was the way to live life.
“But, this isn’t a battlefield,” Tohru muttered in self-mockery.
This was simple thievery.
Tohru leapt into the air.
He took out a tiny mirror from his bag and waved it behind him.
Twisting his body while in the air, he released a thin chain that was fitted in the cuff of his sleeve. There was a weighted claw at the end, and when he threw it it sailed over the high wall surrounding the mansion and latched onto the peak of one of the watchtowers.
Nn! A sharp noise passed over Tohru’s head.
Actually, it was the exact opposite of a noise.
A vacuum with the capability to forcefully cut off all sound from around it stretched out in a narrow, squiggly line and hit the watchtower directly. Tohru was able to hear the “noise” because all the troublesome faint noises in the watchtower’s vicinity, like the night wind or chirping of crickets, were also extinguished.
He traced a large pendulum in the air and grappled to the middle section of the watchtower.
He stole a furtive glance above him.
He couldn’t tell if any guards were moving up there or not.
Because of the magic vacuum, any sounds that Tohru’s chain might have made were completely absorbed into it. Needless to say, the magic was Chaika’s doing. According to her, it was some kind of void magic, named “The Sucker,” that sucked most noises into it.
Having confirmed that he had all his weapons and tools, he began to climb up.
The guards patrolling the area only came around about once every hour.
Conversely, that meant that if he could silence the guards on the watchtower within that hour, he wouldn’t be discovered.
There were two of them atop the watchtower, and that area was already small enough to not be conspicuous to anyone else. For better or for worse, it was a place that was designed only for watching over the surroundings. If there hadn’t been any railing, just the slightest shoulder bump from a comrade could send someone straight off the edge.
“It turns out it didn’t go too well for the merchant’s little brother.”
“I’ve already heard this one, man.”
Two middle-aged men were leaning against the railing, engaging in idle gossip.
Tohru saw his opportunity and quickly pulled himself up on top of the watchtower—
Tohru struck one of the guards’ vital spots from the back, silencing him, and the second guard only had time to let out a short scream before he was struck in the same way. It was quick work—it only took an instant.
By the way, Tohru had dealt with the guards without using his weapons. Not out of the goodness of his heart, nor some manifestation of moral sensibility; it was simply that the smell of blood drifting from this area would alert the other guards to foul play, so killing would have been a rash action.
The two middle-aged guards were sitting in place, unconscious.
Tohru deliberately brought one to his feet, and by connecting his body to the fence and post with a thin string, was able to give the impression that the guard was still on watch.
In order to prevent enemies from invading, most strongholds had strange, complex structures within their walls—because of this, it was easy to go into hiding. The purpose of a watchtower was to spot these hiding places from above.
It was true that the count’s estate had four watchtowers, but now one part—a blind spot in the area that the four towers looked over—had been created. With this, it was possible for Akari to come through and bring Chaika along the path. Without delay, Tohru began to search for the shortest possible route to where the important thing might reside. If, during the raid, someone saw him, he would put that person to sleep as well, which would further increase the blind spot.
“Here we go.”
He descended by hanging the chain down and coming down the same way he went up.
Then he continued towards the mansion, this time moving undercover.
* * *
From the watchtower shone a reflection of the moonlight. That was the signal.
Akari nodded to herself, and then gave a nod to Chaika.
Chaika had the coffin on her back as she clung to Akari.
“Hold on tight.”
Akari. Chaika. And the coffin.
The coffin itself was actually empty, but still looked quite heavy—however, Akari was carrying both Chaika and the coffin effortlessly, without a single change in expression.
“I am steel.”
She began to chant the words to activate “Iron-Blood Transformation.”
At the same time that all of her muscles contracted, her hair, flowing out behind her, was tinged by the color of blood.
“Steel knows no fear. Steel knows no doubt. When faced with my enemy, I hesitate not. I am a weapon to destroy them.”
In an instant, Akari had doubled her muscle strength. She kicked off and began to run down the roof.