Chapter 3, Part 8
In a single blow, Akari destroyed the door with her hammer.
She had already exhausted her time limit for “Iron-Blood Transformation,” but her normal strength was more than enough for a mere door.
Supposing that the Gundo’s magic was being cast from a fixed location, there was no need for it to adjust according to distance or direction. Taking into consideration that even something as small as a change in temperature or humidity could affect its magic, however, allowed her to narrow down the possible places where the Gundo could be located. Optimally, it would have to be in a place with as little possible interference.
That meant that it was probably in the mansion’s center.
Namely, the room right next to his office—the count’s bedroom.
“Now, where is it?” she wondered aloud. She proceeded to destroy everything inside: the bed, the desk, even the candlesticks. Every piece of furniture in the room was utterly annihilated.
It was clear that the count’s magic was dangerous. Tohru was in his “Iron-Blood Transformation” form, so she didn’t imagine that he would just lose outright. But even so, it was true that the count had repelled the throwing daggers, and he used magic that allowed him to throw things at a deadly speed. Tohru and Akari thought of it as an “invisible hand.” Against something like that, his trusty projectiles and melee tactics would be rendered useless. Tohru had no way of defeating him.
Furthermore, remaining in “Iron-Blood Transformation” beyond the time limit would cause his body to self-destruct, so he needed to deactivate it early enough.
However, doing so would probably get him killed.
Chaika pointed to a tear in the wall that Akari’s hammer had made.
Akari stepped forward, twirling her hammer. She hooked the hammer onto the tear and pulled. The wallpaper came off, and along with it splinters of wood, revealing that the wall had been fake. There, past the wall, was an excessively large object that looked to her like a blood vessel radiating pale blue light.
With a cry, Akari brought her hammer down on the blood vessel-like object. But…
The hammer bounced off with a dull sound.
“Could this be…the same thing that happened with the throwing knives!?”
Thinking it over, though, of course there would be something like this. The magic would be destroyed if the Gundo was, so there was no way the count would leave his Gundo unattended without a few countermeasures.
“Magic…” With a nod, Chaika set down the coffin she was carrying, and with it the Gundo that was fastened on top. She got to work setting it up.
“Magic, will cancel. After that, destroy.”
“Hurry, then!” Akari shouted.
* * *
Basically, this was a “hand.” That much Tohru understood.
It was magic that created a large “invisible hand.” That was how it was able to do things like “block” and “throw.” It could do everything a normal hand could do, which meant that it probably also searched its surroundings by using the sense of touch. That would explain why it was hard for the count to differentiate between an intruder and an ally.
No, that wasn’t all. He couldn’t use two “hands;” he could only use one. That was why all the objects it was carrying had fallen to the floor as soon as he blocked Akari’s throwing dagger. However, the hand was able to perform two or more actions simultaneously, as long as they were the same action. The count was able to throw multiple things at once, after all.
So that means…
He evaded the objects flying toward him, continuing to mull it over.
It’s a matter of his attention… no, his concentration.
However exceptional magic was, in the end, it came down to the wizard’s control.
Concentration was one of the foundations of controlling magic. If something happened to a wizard’s concentration, then they wouldn’t be able to exercise control. They would no longer be able to use their magic freely.
“Awfully restless, aren’t you?”
“And you’re slow. After all, you’re a wizard.”
Tohru countered the count’s remark with another one designed to provoke him.
“Silence, you third-rate saboteur!”
A roar rang out in the air. It was an attack that no regular eye would be able to see, yet “Iron-Blood Transformation” Tohru noticed it from the heat of the friction in the air. He dodged it effortlessly and went for a direct attack.
The count’s hand had probably returned to its master—it had most likely put itself in front of Tohru to block his attack, which bounced right off. It was as he thought—no matter what type of attack he tried he would not be able to reach the count.
And that wasn’t all…
“Now then. This is checkmate.”
The count’s expression suddenly changed to one of absolute elation.
“You realize that you’re cornered, don’t you?”
Tohru remained silent.
But he knew what the count meant.
This was a very long stretch of hallway with no branching points—behind him was nothing but a dead end. He was trapped.
And all the count had to do was send the hand straight at him.
With that, the hand would completely fill the hallway, and the count only had to send it flying forward to slam him into the wall, crushing him.
“Now then, perish. And rest assured, as soon as I’m done with you, that girl I failed to kill is next.”
“By ’girl you failed to kill,’ you must mean Chaika.”
“Chaika? Ah, yes, that was her name, wasn’t it?”
The count smiled sadistically.
“It seems like you came into contact with this girl without knowing about her. How pitiful. After all, you’re a saboteur—just a dog unable to choose his master, completely useless in the current era.”
“You’re basically right.”
“But there’s just one thing you got wrong. Allow me to educate you.”
“This isn’t checkmate.”
The count raised his brows. “What a miserable display of bravado. Very well then, time to die—”
“There’s something you should know about saboteurs,” Tohru muttered. “We’re not like knights or cavaliers or anything like that.”
The moment he finished saying those words, it happened.
The floor underneath the count’s feet suddenly gave way.
Tohru had been cutting into the floor with his pair of swords as he ran. Of course, there was no point to destroying the floor immediately, but Tohru, who had realized earlier that the count was using the long stretch of hallway to try to back him into a corner, was also able to surmise that the count would make the hand as wide as the hallway and try to thrust it at him. It went without saying that such an attack would put quite the burden on the walls, the ceiling, and of course, the floor.
On instinct the count used the hand to break his fall. But there was no need. Even with Tohru in “Iron-Blood Transformation” mode, it was impossible for him to cut all the way through to the ceiling of the floor below. Since the count’s fall had stopped at just the floorboards, it was unlikely to give Tohru a free opening to attack.
In other words, this was merely a tactic designed to catch the count off guard.
The count noticed Tohru’s short sword heading right for his face.
The count sent the hand he was using to support himself up to block the attack.
The sword bounced off and flew into the air, but then…
The count saw another short sword heading towards him.
The first one had been a bluff, and the true one right behind him was traveling nearly the same trajectory. The count had only made the hand block the first sword, so the second one sailed past and stabbed into his shoulder.
“Guuh…!?” the count grunted.
Then, in the next moment, from both the count’s shoulder and the ceiling where the first sword had stuck, the two swords leapt back into Tohru’s hands. Thin threads were tied to both of the hilts, and he had pulled them back.
The two swords fit snugly into his hands.
The unsettling feeling that had been surrounding Tohru suddenly disappeared. The count also noticed it and his eyes went wide.
“It looks like Chaika and Akari were able to break your Gundo.”
“…Impossible! That girl’s a wizard, too!?”
“Huh?” Tohru furrowed his brows at the surprised count raising his voice.
It seemed like this guy knew a lot about Chaika, but he didn’t know that she was a wizard? He had figured they probably come across each other from being in the same line of work, but apparently he had been mistaken.
From a corner of the hallway behind the count, he saw Chaika and Akari appear.
“Retreat, retreat! Mission, accomplished!” Chaika called. She held up something for Tohru to see. It looked like a glass jar.
It seemed like that was what she had been looking for, but…
With just that, Tohru kicked off the ground and leapt over the count, who was in a sitting position, covering up his shoulder.
He seemed surprised that Tohru had not delivered the finishing blow. With an astonished expression, he turned to look at Tohru, but he had already disappeared from the hallway with Chaika and Akari as if he had completely lost interest.
“Let’s get out of here. Akari. Smoke bomb, now!”
With a nod, she took some smoke bombs out of a bag strapped to her lower back.
Together, Tohru and Akari picked up Chaika under their arms and lifted her up as they continued to run with all their might.
* * *
Escaping the mansion took a bit of effort. Through the use of smoke bombs, they deceived the collective gazes of the count’s hired hands while buying enough time for the explosive powder they had set up beforehand to detonate. Of course, they hadn’t been able to mix and prepare a ton of the stuff, but it was enough to divert the attention of the guards around the mansion.
In any case…
“That was something, huh?”
Having run all the way back to the trees without stopping, Tohru let out a deep sigh. He had already dissolved his “Iron-Blood Transformation” along the way. If he had continued to use it, his body would have been destroyed. As a rule, he could only have it active for several minutes.
But that aside…
“In the end, though, we botched that pretty bad. It’s a miracle we were somehow able to escape.”
If it had gone how they originally planned, they wouldn’t have needed to have a face-to-face encounter with the count. It seemed like the count had gotten him confused with someone else.
“…By the way, is that thing there what you were looking for?”
“Yes.” She showed the thing that she was cradling in her arms to Tohru. It was a cylinder, so clear that you could see the contents.
And inside was…
“This…thing we took back.”
Enclosed inside the cylinder that Chaika was so proudly holding up…was a disembodied left hand.