Chapter 3, Part 7
“Magic. Gundo , mansion itself, most likely,” Chaika said, her arms linked with Tohru’s as he carried her.
As they ran through the mansion, Tohru had filled them both in on his brief confrontation with the master of the house. In the face of such irrational magic, Tohru had wanted to hear what an expert on the subject had to say.
“The mansion itself?” Though Tohru muttered it reflexively—
“I see.” He actually understood.
The count hadn’t been chanting anything, and he wasn’t carrying any sort of Gundo.
Naturally, if his Gundo was the mansion itself.
Though it was called a “Gundo”, the truth was its form didn’t have to be that of a cane or wand. (1) As long as it included all the functions of one, it didn’t matter what it was shaped like. In fact, it was easier to make it larger than smaller.
And so, it was indeed magic. Tohru had initially thought that the count had been using magic on each item individually to throw them, but that was incorrect.
He was simply using magic to create an “unseen hand”, one that moved according to his will.
Of course, such magic required a particularly long period of startup, so a suitably large Gundo was required; however, after all this time that was probably no longer a problem.
“And he hadn’t chanted anything either…”
Along with controlling how effective a spell was, chants were used to set up and adjust the aim down to the smallest detail; however, he mansion didn’t move and everything inside it was within effective range, including the count himself, so he could simply stand in a fixed position and activate magic without even having to aim at anything. Since that was the case, adjustment wasn’t necessary in the first place.
“In other words, perhaps the mansion and that guy are one and the same…” Tohru muttered.
Now that uncomfortable feeling he was having made sense. The scope of the count’s magic, his “unseen hand”, probably covered the entire mansion. The magic was what had made him feel so strange. Naturally, since Tohru and the others were technically running around in their opponent’s body, so to speak.
“No, wait a minute.”
Suddenly, Tohru stopped running.
“Nii-sama?” Akari stopped as well and turned to look at her brother.
“There’s nobody else in the mansion… and also, a bit ago…”
There hadn’t been anybody else in the mansion—or at the very least no one had bothered to come running to respond to the uproar that Tohru and company had made. And that was most likely because it was difficult for the count to distinguish between a trespasser and an ally.
“So I guess it really is a ‘hand’.”
It couldn’t see or hear; all it had to determine Tohru and the others’ locations was its sense of touch.
And that meant—
He can only do one thing at a time…
The count only had one “invisible hand.”
If that wasn’t the case, there wouldn’t have been any reason for the items thrown at Tohru to fall to the ground once the hand had caught Akari’s throwing knives in midair.
Or perhaps the count had just reached his limit with the magic. When all the objects were floating in the air, they were probably being scooped up all at once rather than being thrown one at time.
“If you were in the count’s shoes, where in this mansion would you put the core of a Gundo?”
“As for location: outer area, little effect.”
“So the center of the mansion then,” Tohru muttered. With that, Tohru set Chaika down.
“Akari, take Chaika and search for the count’s Gundo. I’ll keep him occupied. As far as his current means of attack is concerned, he can probably only attack one place at a time. At the very least, he can’t use two “hands” at once. While I’m dealing with him, you two sever the source of his power.”
Akari gave a nod of confirmation, and with that, Tohru turned a corner and dashed away, leaving the two of them behind.
* * *
Count Roberto Abarth was none too pleased.
He had been so close to wiping out that thief once and for all, but despite his best efforts he had failed.
“And after the trouble I went through to set ‘it’ up for use. This isn’t amusing in the least.”
During the wars, he had tasted the bitterness of ridicule at the hands of knights and cavaliers.
Sure, a wizard’s magic was flashy, but because their abilities could only be used from the rear, taking the vanguard position was out of the question. And so, fighting without help was basically impossible—and for that, many knights and cavaliers and the like viewed wizards in contempt. Even the general public often equated wizards with being “knights’ valets”, or even merely “weapons in reserve.”
To begin with, the legacy of wizards was shallow compared to that of other warriors.
Until the Gundo, which allowed for the abbreviation of rituals and chants, came about, the mere act of standing on the battlefield was no small feat for them. And the first nation to implement the Gundo was the country of the Emperor himself, the Gaz Empire. In short, from the onset wizards were often given harsh treatment.
And from the start, the Abarths had been a military family.
Within their long history, many of the heads had accumulated feats of arms. Of course, not all of them throughout the years could exactly be called “warriors”, but in general being an Abarth meant that you excelled in martial arts. Their creed was that a person was to be raised by his environment.
Naturally, Roberto too had been drilled in martial arts…at first.
But then… one day when he was ten, he had shattered the bone of his right arm at the elbow.
Thanks to medical treatment, it didn’t impact his daily life and he was able to move his arm, but the doctors told him that he would never be able to swing a sword again.
That day, Roberto’s own hell began.
His father, mother and even his attendants stopped putting their hopes and expectations on him and regarded him as completely useless. Their general behavior towards him stayed the same, but the slight difference in their actions and wording made it easy to tell.
He would no longer be able to wield a sword.
In that case, he had to attain some other form of military might in the sword’s stead.
So he thought he’d try his hand at magic. He thought that if he could achieve success as a wizard, he might be able to retain his military honor even without a sword.
And that was why he had desperately participated in that last battle—to attain military accolades as a wizard.
To be honest, he had many brushes with death in the process, but he managed to survive and in the end, even procured a special reward, bestowed upon only a select few.
And that reward—the very thing connected to the control center of the Gundo that was now placed inside his bedroom like a family heirloom would be—was something he had used to magnify his magical power through this whole mansion.
With his own hands (and the magic literally did take the shape of a hand), he had finally acquired the power to strangle all those knights and cavaliers. On top of that, he could do it at close range. In order to be able to use it to his heart’s content, he had informed his servants that they were no longer needed. Any allies who hung around would actually be virtually indistinguishable from enemies.
The girl that had been standing behind that thief. She was supposed to be dead. She should have been killed.
No, that wasn’t all. Even if by some miracle she had somehow managed to survive, it had been five years since then. Why did she look like she hadn’t grown at all? For someone of her age, five years was quite a large gap, yet her appearance hadn’t changed in the least—why?
“No, that’s not important right now…” Roberto muttered, forcibly smothering the growing anxiety inside him. “At any rate, if I failed to kill her then, all I have to do is finish her off properly this time.”
Of course, she had to be dead though. Rather, if he hadn’t finished her off, that would pose a problem.
And so he saw no issues with killing her for real this time.
He walked through the hallway, his cord dragging along the floor.
“This time I’ll crush you, you thief.”
The thief stood in front of him in the hallway.
He didn’t hide or run away.
To Roberto it even looked a bit like he was hanging his head in resignation.
“—When faced with my enemies, I will not hesitate. I am a weapon to destroy them.”
The thief seemed to be muttering something incomprehensible, and his hair was—
Roberto raised his eyebrows in surprise.
The thief’s hair had turned completely red.
Red, like the color of blood.
He had heard of them.
A cavalier’s honor, a soldier’s pride—these things meant nothing to them. They lived solely for the sake of battle itself. It was their reason for existing. The jacks-of-all-trades that lived on the battlefield, the saboteurs. One of their secret skills was calling out a “keyword”, a few sentences that when chanted would power them up.
“You’re a saboteur!”
The thief, exhaling sharply, leapt right at Roberto.
1. The kanji used with the word “Gundo” include the kanji for “cane”, or wand. I think that Chaika’s rifle is also considered a wand in that it is a conductor for magic. So “wand” here doesn’t necessarily mean “stick thing that shoots out magic”, just something through which magic is fired.