Chapter 4, Part 3
Alberic Gillette and Vivi were easily able to secure the severed hand. They figured it would be somewhat difficult to find since it was night, but they were able to spot it unexpectedly well. The candle street lamps placed along the road at fixed intervals gave off a dim glow, and the clear container gleamed in the light.
“Do you think this is it?” Vivi stared at the severed hand with great interest.
“Probably, although I can’t tell for sure. We’re going to have to consult with Mattheus or Zita,” Alberic said. He took a cloth out of his bag, covered the hand with it and then tied it to the side of his waist not occupied by his sword.
“Come to think of it, where’s Nikolay?”
“It looks like he stayed behind to take care of that saboteur,” Vivi said.
“‘Take care of’, huh…”
“Gillette-sama. Even though that guy looked young, don’t forget he’s a saboteur. He’s definitely capable of throwing out a fake to deceive us.”
“That’s definitely a possibility,” Alberic said with a sigh.
Alberic had made it a point to try to not involve any unrelated people in this matter. That boy might have been a saboteur or whatever, but it seemed to him like he was merely being employed by someone and thus didn’t have the whole picture.
“Let’s go back for now. If all goes well, I’ll be able to stop Nikolay.”
“Gillette-sama…”Now it was Vivi’s turn to sigh. The bona fide assassin looked put out with Alberic’s amiability.
But the truth was that neither one of them had even an inkling of doubt that Nikolay would win. This was Nikolay of the comblade, whose strength had no equal. With his comblade he specialized in mercenary sword skills utilizing his entire body, and executed them with the utmost precision. Against him, even Alberic wasn’t confident he’d be able to win.
They had returned to the place where the saboteur boy had been captured a bit ago.
“Nikolay!?” Alberic shouted, shocked. Vivi ever so slightly stood at the ready.
Their strong comrade, who they thought could never possibly lose to anyone, was lying on the ground. His legs were tied together, and the saboteur boy was sitting on top of him.
“You—you defeated Nikolay?”
“Well, more or less.” The saboteur boy looked largely unconcerned. “For your information, he’s still alive.”
“…” Alberic’s eyebrows went up.
Saboteurs weren’t choosy about their methods to achieve victory. Of course, that meant that murder was definitely within their vocabulary. The saboteur boy had defeated Nikolay, so of course he could snuff out his life just like that.
“It’s this you want.”
Alberic undid the tie attaching the severed hand to his waist and held the hand out.
“You got it. Sorry to have you go through the trouble of finding it and bringing it back to me,” the saboteur boy said. He continued to scowl as he said it, so no doubt it was intended to be sarcasm. “If you consider that thing to be more important than the life of your comrade over here, then by all means, keep it, and I’ll kill this guy. It might be a pain, but to be completely honest, if it came right down to it it’d be easier than twisting a baby’s neck.”
Alberic heard Vivi emit a brief moan.
But this boy was—
“You don’t understand,” Alberic said, choosing his words carefully.
“What do you mean by that?”
“About that girl. The girl who hired you. Right now, you don’t even know her name, do you?”
“…” The saboteur’s eyes narrowed as he looked at each of them.
“I don’t know how much that girl told you, but let’s stop with the ridiculous facade. Nothing good can come from working with that girl. Do you want to make an enemy of the entire world?”
“You say that, but you’re just spouting vague, abstract bullshit. How about coming right out and saying it?”
Alberic and Vivi looked at each other. This saboteur boy really had no idea.
This was confidential information of the highest degree…however.
“The Gaz Empire,” Alberic said. “This severed hand belongs to the one and only Emperor Gaz. ‘The Demon King’, the ‘Taboo Emperor’, he has many names, but he was the strongest wizard of them all. Arthur Gaz.”
Atop the saboteur’s scowling face, his eyebrows went up.
He probably didn’t believe him.
Arthur Gaz was an incredibly powerful man. None of the legends, tales, or achievements attributed to that man were any exaggeration. There were many who even said he was inhuman. At any rate, his was an existence so incredibly large that to the average person, he would seem unreal.
“And that silver-haired girl you’re working for is…”
As he continued, Alberic tried to get a feel for the boy’s reaction.
“Chaika Gaz—the Emperor Gaz’s daughter.”
* * *
The man was called many things: “Taboo Emperor”, “Demon King”, “Immortal King”, “monster”, “Great Sage”, “Ultra Emperor”, “Lunatic of War”…the list went on.
They were all correct ways to describe him, but at the same time they were all wrong. That was because summing up such a large and complex existence in several words was impossible. He was the likes of which the continent of Verbist had never seen before throughout its entire history, and to tell the truth, it could even be said that based on his astoundingly long life and overwhelming strength, to describe the man as an “individual” was wrong; he was simply “the king of the Gaz Empire.”
During his iron-fisted rule over the northern countries he invented a great number of magical arts and techniques as a great sage, and all throughout the long,constant maelstrom of the warring period, he was a tactician who continued to lead the major powers of the continent around by the nose.
In particular…there was no question that Arthur Gaz was the one to lay the groundwork for the existence of magic, and taking into account the fact that magic was prevalent in many fields, there were many scholars and sages who said that without the Gaz Empire, civilization would be at least a hundred years behind. They also said that the Empire would be what guided humanity forward.
But on the other hand, there were no records whatsoever of Arthur Gaz before he built the Gaz Empire…he was a complete enigma. So there were also those who said that the whole Gaz Empire was just one big swindle.
At any rate, that was just how much influence Emperor Gaz had on the continent of Verbist, and the records alone show that for almost three hundred years the man continued to have a profound influence on the world.
However…with the advent of freely accessible magic rituals, the immortal “Demon King” who had ruled over the Gaz Empire for nearly three hundred years was rumored to not be so immortal after all.
And during the battle at the Empire’s imperial capital, Arthur Gaz was killed. His men soon followed, and it brought an end to the chaos in Verbist at last.
In other words, Arthur Gaz was the very symbol of the warring period itself.
It goes without saying that his influence is still widespread today.
* * *
“The Demon King’s…daughter?” Tohru raised his eyebrows.
This was not what he had expected to hear at all.
It had definitely caught him off guard. He feared that he actually let the surprise show on his face, which was an incredibly poor way for a saboteur to conduct himself. The cavalier Gillette nodded at Tohru’s reaction and continued.
“That’s right. And five years ago, during the battle at the imperial capital where Arthur Gaz himself was killed, his daughter was the only one to survive.”
“…Wait, the only one?”
Any way you looked at her, Chaika had to be in her mid-teens, which meant that during that battle five years ago she would have been about ten. It was hard to imagine a girl of that age being able to escape a scene like the death of the monster Gaz all by herself. But if she had the help of her retainers or something, then why weren’t they by her side now?
Perhaps they had died after using up all their strength.
Perhaps they had abandoned Chaika and ran away.
‘Impossible! Y-You’re supposed to be dead!’
Come to think of it, the count had said something like that upon seeing her, which meant that it was probably due to some miraculous coincidence that she was still alive.
“The exact circumstances elude us as well,” the cavalier said. “But regardless, we cannot simply let this girl do as she pleases.”
“Why not?” Tohru asked.
As far as he could tell, Chaika was nothing more than a dim-witted girl who was able to use a sparse bit of magic. She definitely didn’t seem like the kind of presence that would warrant the likes of a cavalier, mercenary and assassin to track her down as a group.
But apparently, there was more to her than Tohru thought.
“The emperor Gaz still has many loyal to him, even now. The alliance formed to storm the Gaz Empire’s capital was nothing short of a miracle to begin with.”
Technically speaking, the powers of the world being able to form a temporary alliance against the Gaz Empire was due to many things lining up at the right time, which had led to the attack on the capital. Even if the Gaz Empire was somehow resurrected, that alliance would probably never happen again. That was what the cavalier Gillette said, anyway.
“At any rate, the Taboo Emperor’s influence is still widespread, even after his death. There are even people that want his daughter, Chaika Gaz, to take over and restore the Gaz Empire.”
“At the same time,” Gillette said, turning his gaze to the clear cylinder in his hand, “it is doubtless that the remains of this monster said to have lived three hundred, no, even five hundred years, came to possess incredibly potent fuel for magic. As a matter of fact, the quantity of magic contained within is immeasurable. Combine that kind of magic with a Gundo and you have a weapon of absolutely no equal.”
The driving force behind magic, in other words ‘magical power,’ came from a person’s thoughts.The corpses of intelligent lifeforms housed the residual thoughts accumulated throughout their lives. As long as the appropriate steps were followed, it was possible to extract these thoughts and turn them into magical power. Many magic institutions would use methods like fossilization or covering the corpse with grey wax to give the thoughts physical form. This was a commonplace way to extract magical power, and metaphorically speaking, using a wizard’s thoughts as an ember would create quite the explosion.
In many cases, the fossils of Feyra were used—however, through preservation techniques it was also possible to use human body parts.
Like, for instance, that severed hand.
“…I see now.”
That Gundo back at the count’s mansion had been large enough to cover the entire range of the building because it was being powered by the severed hand of the powerful wizard, the “Taboo Emperor,” not because the Gundo itself was so large.
That meant that the remains of Arthur Gaz had been divided, and most likely scattered all over the place. What kind of magical weapon could be created if all the parts were to be brought back together…no, what would happen if those that wished for the revival of the Gaz Empire were to get their hands on it? No doubt, that was what had the people behind the cavalier Gillette so scared.
“You understand now, don’t you?” Gillette said. Tohru could sense the slightest hint of impatience in his voice. “Chaika Gaz is a calamity waiting to happen—an existence that will jeopardize the peace we’ve attained at last, and will throw us back into chaos once more. We absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, let that girl collect her dead father’s remains!”
* * *
“Chaika Gaz is a calamity waiting to happen—an existence that will jeopardize the peace we’ve attained at last, and will throw us back into chaos once more. We absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, let that girl collect her dead father’s remains!”
The cavalier’s raised voice reached Akari’s ears, who was hiding with Chaika a bit further away.
Devoid of expression, Akari turned and looked at Chaika.
The daughter of the “Taboo Emperor” bit her lip and hung her head slightly.
“Is what he’s saying true?”
Chaika didn’t respond.
But her fingers around her Gundo’s grip, the Gundo that she had set up on the roof of this house in order to protect Tohru, had turned a sickening shade of white.
That basically confirmed it.
“The daughter of the “Demon King”…”
That was all Chaika uttered.
Her speech was not in the main language of the continent, but in Laike, the language used up north where the Gaz Empire had been.
“I just…all I want to do is…gather the remains of my father…and give him a proper burial…that’s all…just that…it’s something I have to do…”
Akari was silent.
But she couldn’t imagine that Chaika was affiliated with any survivors or supporters of the Gaz Empire. There wouldn’t have been any reason to hire her and Tohru otherwise.
Akari was an orphan. In the Acura village, there were quite a few who had never known their family. For them it was traditional to pick up orphans,raising them to be saboteurs.
So Akari couldn’t understand how Chaika felt. She could only imagine.
How did Tohru feel about this?
Narrowing her eyes, Akari waited for her honorable brother’s response.
* * *
“That’s fine with me.”
Tohru muttered it. But even so, it seemed like Gillette and Vivi behind him were both able to hear. Both of them looked puzzled.
“Throwing the world back into chaos? Sounds good.”
Tohru smiled, showing his teeth.
Gillette’s eyes went wide, and he groaned. Vivi glared at Tohru like she was looking at a despicable lowlife.
Tohru didn’t care, and continued on. He was a saboteur and a jobless deadbeat, so he was used to abuse and scorn.
“Chaos? Bring it on. With that, we can go back to the warring period once more.”
“You…!” Gillette’s expression warped, like he had just seen a monster belt out an incomprehensible chant.
“I’m a saboteur. This peaceful world can just go to hell! Not being able to do anything, not able to leave anything behind, just dying pointlessly and not being able to change anything—I don’t need any of that!”
The memories of his youth passed through the back of his mind.
Jasmine, whose life had ended while she was holding her child.
He had wanted to change the world.
He had wanted to etch his own existence into it.
Not just be born to simply die, but for there to be a meaning to why he was here. That was what he wanted. A reason for his birth, and a reason for his death. That was what he wished for with every fiber of his being.
“Then…you wish for chaos!?”
“You’re damn right I do!” Tohru flashed a vehement smile.
Though to be honest, that wasn’t the whole reason. There was something else.
So that’s her purpose for living…
Chaika. The daughter of the “Taboo Emperor.”
The lonely princess carrying around her coffin…running around trying to collect her father’s remains.
All by herself, in the center of this despairing world, with everyone her enemy.
But even so, she continued to move, heading straight for her goal.
No matter how fruitless it was, the girl never wavered from her path…to her, it was the meaning of her life.
And that was…
I want to grant her wish.
Tohru thought from the bottom of his heart.
She was different from him. Even if the world changed, no, precisely because the world changed, she had a will that would not bend.
And for Tohru, that was something incredibly dazzling to witness.
As he shouted her name, he jumped.
As he charged at them with incredible force, he closed his eyes.
The cavalier and the assassin went on guard.
Both were skilled in their respective fields. There was no way that Tohru as he was now could win against them, even rushing straight at them.
An intense light ripped through the air between Gillette and Tohru.
It was magic that Chaika had prepared beforehand.
“The Blinder.” A spell that used luminescent illusion magic to an extreme degree.
Naturally, anyone exposed to this defenseless would be blinded within seconds.
On top of that, moving in the cover of the night was a saboteur’s specialty. Moving silently without a trace in the darkness, Tohru had techniques available to him that did not require being able to see, using reflexive sounds and going with the flow of the atmosphere instead.
Of course, though his opponents were blinded they wasted no time in attacking.
Gillette unsheathed his sword and swung, but the light of Chaika’s magic had already removed his ability to see, and so his movements were all over the place. It was the same for Vivi. As an assassin, she probably had some of the same techniques for moving around in the dark that Tohru had, but since the light had come without any warning, she hadn’t had any way of shielding her eyes.
Even so, both of their attacks were still dangerous.
Gillette’s sword made a wide circle and Vivi’s needles went flying towards him.
But, since their sight had been compromised, both their techniques were a far cry from being flawless. Tohru raised his comblades and blocked both attacks in an instant.
“Ku…!?” Gillette groaned.
Tohru hurled himself at him.
“I’ll be taking that back.”
Tohru forcefully snatched the severed hand out of Gillette’s grasp.
“W-Wait!?” Gillette looked left and right as he shouted, confused. Vivi reflexively prepared another needle—but she didn’t throw it. She was probably afraid that without being able to see she might accidentally hit her comrade.
Gillette continued to shout, but Tohru, looking straight ahead, was already behind them, running.
* * *
Right now, he was carrying almost nothing with him.
He had his favored weapon and his tools. Other than that, he had the clothes he was wearing, and just a little bit of money. It was no exaggeration that everything could be put in a bag and carried, save for Chaika’s coffin.
“I’m all done packing on my end.”
Akari had packed her things in much the same way.
His non-blood-related sister nodded at him, and Tohru once again checked just to make sure.
“I’m going to ask this just in case, but you do know you don’t necessarily need to come with me, right?”
“What a ridiculous question, Nii-sama.” Akari shook her head. “I will go wherever you go.”
“Nii-sama ,” Akari said quietly, with a carefully stoic face, “if you go and die in some unfamiliar place, how else am I going to be able to stuff you?”
“Then I hope I die in a grand explosion,” Tohru groaned. He gave a sigh, and left the house.
Dawn had not broken yet, so it was still quite a dark morning. The girl with a coffin on her back stepped out into the chilly air, all by herself.
“Well then, shall we go?”
Chaika turned around, bewildered.
“Tohru. Akari. Why?”
“Well…I got my face seen by the count here.” Tohru shrugged his shoulders. “So that means I can’t be in this town anymore.”
Not only had he snuck into the count’s mansion, he had actually fought him. And in the end, he had even squared off against a group of people that had received a special task from the major powers of the world. It wasn’t impossible to stay in Del Solant after all that, he supposed, but he had no reason to.
“So I figured I would join you on this journey, and help you out with your ‘work.’ That’s reasonable, right?”
He didn’t have anywhere else to go anyway, so he didn’t mind going in the same direction as Chaika.
Also, it seemed like she was somewhat loaded…he also had the selfish ulterior motive of “if he went with her, at the very least he wouldn’t have to worry about going hungry.”
“But. I.” Chaika hung her head.
As he thought, she was still worried about her lineage.
“‘Taboo Emperor, daugh–”
“I told you already,” Tohru said in a chiding tone. “War is fine with me.”
“If we go with you, the world will probably change. I don’t want this worthless peace to keep up, I want something that will change the whole world. That’s what I wish for.”
It was a lot better than dying pointlessly.
Even if he was called a demon or continuously insulted.
He wanted to carve some kind of proof that he lived into the world—
He turned to the silver-haired girl and extended his hand.
“I’m going to move forward. What about you?”
Chaika looked at Tohru. Then she looked at Akari.
“Hm.” Akari nodded.
Smiling brightly, she took Tohru’s hand.
The daughter of the “Taboo Emperor”—Chaika Gaz.
The saboteur siblings, Tohru and Akari Acura.
That day, they left Del Solant at the break of dawn.
On their journey to plunge the world once again into chaos.