Chapter 3, Part 6
Moving from one inconspicuous place to another, Tohru reached the mansion at last. Inside, he made his way around with the aid of a blueprint that he had drawn up beforehand based on the mansion’s exterior.
The mansion’s internal structure ended up falling within his expectations. However…
“…?” Tohru raised his eyebrows. This place was strangely devoid of personnel.
There had been a standard amount of guards outside, but in here almost all of the lights were already out and there was nothing to suggest that anyone waspatrolling around. Come to think of it, the only thing keeping him from entering in the first place had been a lock-and-key setup—the absolute minimum level of security—which Tohru was easily able to bypass.
What is up with this place?
Something felt strangely off in here. What was it? Tohru couldn’t exactly put it into words, but he had a vague feeling of discomfort. Truth be told, this was actually the first time he had set foot in a house belonging to anyone wealthy, let alone nobility, so it was possible that his unease stemmed simply from not being used to the environment.
Regardless, there should definitely be people here… It felt almost as if he had been swallowed by a large creature.
Now’s not the time to be concerned with that, though. Tohru gave his head a little shake as if to shake off his uncomfortable feeling.There can only be so many places where something valuable would be kept.
Since it wasn’t a work of art or anything, it was unlikely to be kept in a warehouse or storage room. But it probably wouldn’t be put up as a decoration in the hallways either.
So that left…
The center of the mansion. His own bedroom or office, or perhaps a room he can get to from there quickly.
Those kinds of rooms were generally located around the same area.
…So, around here then.
Though Tohru wasn’t completely sure, he headed toward where he thought the cluster of rooms must be, the center of the mansion.
Come to think of it, Akari and Chaika should be entering the mansion right about now, he realized.
Tohru went into a room that looked like an office. Of course, there weren’t any lights on since it was late at night, and all the windows were shut, so there was no moonlight coming in either. It was completely dark. But…
In the next instant, Tohru whirled around.
He had sensed a sign of life. Someone was here.
Light filled the room.
The light wasn’t from a candle or a gas lamp. In an instant, it was bright enough to blind Tohru, and that could only be the work of magic. There was probably such a device somewhere. Though it would be unthinkable for commoners to have one, they would occasionally show up in houses of nobility and royalty.
“A thief, is it? My, my.”
There, in the center of the spacious office, stood a single middle-aged man.
He was large, with blonde hair. He had a broad-shouldered physique, elegant facial features and his ornate pajamas accented with gold and silver thread made his pedigree quite clear.
This had to be Roberto Abarth, owner of this mansion.
“Here I had asked you to leave, and you couldn’t even go a day without resorting to theft. As I thought, countryside nobles have no class.”
Tohru was confused. He didn’t understand what this guy was talking about at all.
“No matter. I was just thinking that having nothing to use my precious treasure on was getting a bit boring. You might be a lowly thief, but to be able to creep in this far must mean you’re not a complete amateur. Am I right?” The count walked across his office as he spoke. There was a hint of amicability in his voice.
On the count’s neck was a collar that he was clearly trying to keep hidden, but Tohru noticed it anyway. Something that looked like a thin cord came from the collar and ran down the count’s back and crept along the floor towards one of the office walls, where it passed through the wall and seemed to cut off somewhere else.
To Tohru, he looked like a dog on a leash.It was a bizarre sight. However…
Tohru prepared himself.
But—there was something he didn’t understand.
This uncomfortable feeling.
He had felt that something wasn’t right, and the instant the count had shown himself, that feeling had shot up to its peak.
The count’s strange, incomprehensible behavior had made him wary of any guards that might have been around, so he had been prepared, but even so it was mostly due to complete luck that he had managed to dodge it in time.
Something had come flying off the wall with an incredible amount of force.
In an instant, he had bent his body downward, dodging it by a hair.
It had grazed past him, ripping off the mask he was using to hide his face.
Jumping out of the way to avoid another possible attack, Tohru took a moment to look behind him at what had flown by, and he realized that it was a long sword that had been hanging on the wall only mere seconds ago. Most likely it was intended for display purposes and not actual battle—on its hilt was a decoration that looked way too over-the-top to actually be taken seriously in a fight, and above that was a blade so brittle that it would probably break immediately if used in combat. This long sword was now embedded in the wall, still trembling from the impact. But—
“What the hell!?”
There was no one in the direction the sword had come from.
Of course, it had been a different place from where the count was standing. And it had been in a place that the count wouldn’t have been able to reach, even if he stretched out his arm.
So how in the world did he execute an attack like that?
“I see. This is quite the situation. Now that I get a good look, where did you accumulate all that training at such a young age?”
Not good. The count had seen his face.
But—there was no time for Tohru to be unnerved. As for why…
“Well then, how about this?”
At the count’s words, all kinds of things from inside the room suddenly flew straight at Tohru.
A vase, an ashtray, a pen, a picture frame, a candlestick, some cutlery, and other such objects. The count never laid a hand on any of them—one by one they rose up abruptly of their own will and flew towards Tohru at a murderous speed.
Tohru unsheathed the pair of comblades at his waist.
The tattooed design on his palms synced up with the design on the hilt of the comblades, and Tohru’s senses were heightened. He grasped the comblades, which had now intuitively and literally become a part of him, and knocked away the items that were flying at him.
“…I get it.”
At that moment, Tohru realized something.
The count had a collar. That could only mean—
“You bastard—you’re a wizard, aren’t you?”
“Of course I am. You didn’t think that only swordsmen could attain military accolades, did you?” he sneered.
Yes. The count was a magic user. That collar he was wearing was probably a device to connect himself with his Gundo. It had to be magic that was making the items in the room fly one after another.
How is he using magic like this?
No matter how many times they were knocked down, the objects rose up into the air and then attacked Tohru once more. There was no doubt that this was the work of magic. However—
Where’s the spell-chanting? No, first off, what kind of magic is this!?
Magic was something that required the positions of both yourself and your opponent to be clearly defined, and things like range, direction, temperature and level of humidity also had to be considered, for they could greatly influence a spell’s effectiveness. For that reason, wizards could not fight on the front lines. To swordsmen specializing in front-line combat, wizards that had to sluggishly register and adjust their magic must have looked like they were merely humming a tune.
But the count wasn’t chanting any spells.
Furthermore, he wasn’t even taking the distance between himself and Tohru, or anything else, into account. He was attacking much too early for that. And how was he able to continuously attack?
“Haha, a swordsman being overwhelmed by a wizard such as I in a face-to-face encounter? Truly superb.”
The count laughed.
His voice, filled with prideful scorn, like that of a cat teasing a mouse, caused Tohru’s expression to distort dramatically. This guy was convinced that he had already won. He was probably thinking he could kill Tohru at any time he wanted, so he wanted to play with him for a little bit longer.
“Don’t take me so lightly!”
With a spin he knocked away the count’s projectiles, sunk down to the floor, and in the next moment, sprung at the count with all his might. However spacious the room was, it was really only a room, so with Tohru’s leg strength he could close the distance between his comblades and the count in a second. However—
Tohru met with some resistance in the air.
Something he couldn’t see stopped his attack, and sent him flying backwards. By twisting his body Tohru was able to land on the wall, which stopped his momentum and let him get down on the floor. If he had not assumed ukemi (1) and crashed into the wall instead, he probably would have broken a bone—or several.
“…What was that just now?” groaned Tohru.
However, contrary to his utterance he had now realized a few things.
There hadn’t been any guards inside the mansion to begin with because they weren’t necessary. With that kind of strength, the count could instantly finish off any regular old intruder all by himself. No…in fact, the reason why there were no other people showing up because they would only be a hindrance if they were to get involved. A bit ago when the count had been making the items fly, Tohru had been his only target, so he didn’t need to have very good throwing accuracy. If someone else were to carelessly enter the fray, there was a good chance that person would end up getting mixed up in it.
“My, aren’t you stubborn. Though I would expect no less.” The count nodded.”But, how about this?”
The items that until now had been thrown one after another all rose up in the air at once. Tohru was completely surrounded.
“Now die, thief.”
A sadistic smile spread across the count’s lips.
In that moment—
A shout rang out, and a single throwing knife came whistling past.
It headed straight for the count, but then in the next moment it stopped in the air—all of its momentum died and it fell to the floor, useless. At the same time, all the floating items also fell to the ground with a loud clatter, as if their strings had been cut.
“Stay back, Akari, this guy’s dangerous!” Tohru shouted as he turned toward the room’s entrance and retreated.
Akari had another knife ready in her left hand and her favorite hammer ready in her right.
“Nii-sama, what is he?”
“A wizard, probably—but he’s trouble. He doesn’t use a wand, and he hasn’t chanted even one spell.”
In an instant, Akari seemed to have grasped how strange this situation was. It was magic that allowed the user to execute a throwing action over and over again without the use of a wand and without needing to chant spells. Was there even any sort of magic like that?
“Wizard?” Chaika popped out from behind Akari’s back. She had reacted to Tohru’s words, probably because she was also a wizard. But—
“Don’t show yourself!”
Tohru simply didn’t have the leeway to protect the dim-witted Chaika. Up until now, he hadn’t even had the time to chant the keywords for “Iron-Blood Transformation.” No, even now, if he chanted them here without thinking, a sword or something else would definitely come flying—
No. Nothing was flying at him.
On the contrary, Count Roberto Abarth had a stunned expression on his face, and even staggered forward a step.
He appeared to be gasping for air—this wizard who up until now had looked down at Tohru with an arrogant demeanor. Now, that had crumbled, and his mouth opened and closed like a beached fish as he stuttered.
“Ridiculous…you…you’re supposed to be dead!”
Who was he directing those words to?
Certainly not Tohru or Akari.
Was it this girl tilting her head quizzically, Chaika Trabant?
“This is insane. Back then…back then, you were definitely…!”
With that scream, the items inside the room rose up again.
“Everyone, let’s run!” Tohru shouted.
He picked Chaika up in his arms, and he and Akari ran out of the room and down the hallway.
1. “Ukemi” is the “art of falling safely.” A technique to minimize injury when you fall. In this case, it’s “when you get smashed against a wall.”