New Game – Chapter 39

What was of the man who opened the birdcage – Part 1

Two weeks after Lize had become property of the Queen, Lux called Takumi to see him in his office. It was within the castle.

“Hi, slave merchant. This time you’ve really met my expectations in a positive way.”

Lux looked totally different from the last time as he spoke in a good mood. On the other hand, Takumi let out a listless yawn.

“Yeah, whatever, I’m glad to hear that… Have I ever mentioned that seeing you Fairstadt in a good mood kinda pisses me off? Because it does and it’s strange. Maybe I’m getting why Kunon gives her worst when she’s around you.”

“You could’ve spared me your dumb remark and avoided pissing me off too. But well, thanks to you the Queen has dragged me into her plan, so I’ll turn a blind eye for now.”

“Thank you. Why did you call me all the way here, anyway?”

Lux straightened himself, a sour expression on his face. He knew their conversation wasn’t going to be pleasant.

“Let’s start from the good news. The Queen has assigned your knight subordinates their territory. It’s the place you asked for.”

As he spoke, Lux took out a document from his desk and handed it over.

“Finally… now many things are going to be easier.”

“Many things, huh…? I can’t let my guard down when you’re involved… What are you up to this time? Don’t go too far, or you’ll have to face a bothersome guy.”

Lux squinted his eyes slightly as he pushed the conversation on.

“Elvis has acknowledged you as his enemy. It would be better if you don’t draw his attention too much.”

“Do you think I’ll stay put only for this?”

“Of course not, but he’s surely the most bothersome person in the entire kingdom. What I’m about to say goes for you too—the scariest people are those who are hard or impossible to read.”

Lux propped his chin with his hand while tapping repeatedly on the desk with a finger.

“He wasn’t only behind Archbishop Crest’s law formula’s experiments. I heard he was in contact with many major companies of the northern districts during the former empire, and he also has contacts with Denmerg. He must be searching for something and hiding his true objective… but gathering information about him doesn’t help to piece everything together.”

No matter how inexperienced Lux was, he was still an Overlord with all the privileges it included. This meant that if he couldn’t figure out what Elvis was planning despite doing his researches on him, the Fortesea’s leader was particularly good at covering his actions up.

“The only thing I’m sure about is that he’s planning something from the shadows. Keep your eyes peeled, okay?”

“Yeah, sure. So I should also find a way to gather information about him and share them with you?”

“I knew you would’ve gone straight to the point, but I don’t want you to do anything reckless. To be honest, it would be a hard blow if we were to lose you now.”

“…Meeting your expectations brings as many fruits as problems, you know? Nobles have been sending me petitions since our official fight was announced.”

Takumi shrugged his shoulders lightly while Lux’s grimaced, patting his stomach.
The nobles saw magic as something peerless and none would’ve expected for mere demi-humans to squash that one-sidedly. The obvious consequence of such an absurdity was a lingering feeling of distress for those who had been looking down on demi-humans for so long.

“On the other hand, we’re now heroes for the slums, aren’t we? This is the first time in history that some demi-humans earn the title of knights.”

“Well, you’ve been heroes for a while now. The heroic major company that fights injustice, the heroic knights who ascended from the slums… and the heroic monster hunters, I guess.”

Lux handed over an envelope to the slave merchant.

“Let’s get to the bad news. Elvis Fortesea ordered the new novice knights to exterminate some monsters.”

Takumi scanned the documents in the envelope quickly while Lux filled him with the details.

“They’ve been assigned to Renunt Village, which it’s been attacked by monsters. Kunon and Karin are to eliminate the monsters and improve the village’s morale. This way you will also shut the skeptical nobles down by showing them your abilities.”

The next moment, Takumi made a sour expression.

“…You’re kidding, right?”

“Can’t you see Elvis’ official stamp down there?”

“I don’t care if it’s authentic. Can’t I just burn this down and go home?”

“Congratulations, you’ve been accused of treason. The jail will be your new home now.”

Lux smiled bitterly in front of Takumi’s deep sigh.

“Don’t worry, Renunt Village is nearby the foot of Meld mountain range in the North. That’s probably why we get report of minor monsters attacking the village. That shouldn’t be a problem for you guys, right?”

Monsters were living creatures in their world.
Sometimes the magical power on the earth made some beasts outgrow. These oddities were called ‘monsters’, as they were usually dangerous, and there was often need to eliminate them.

Still, the minor ones weren’t that dangerous.
As for the few times that one of them outgrew, even a strong man who grasped the basis of martial arts or a woman who knew how to build and lay traps around could capture them without much effort.

“Well, your order from above is essentially to make a good impression on your boss. Now, no matter how minor these monsters are, we received a lot of reports about their attacks. It might be hard to deal with all of them without a magic knight if there are too many, but try to deal with it and protect the village.”

“…How many reports did you receive?”

“Perhaps dozens? None of the nearby village reported serious damage, though.”

Takumi’s expression warped in an instant, hearing those words.
Then, his usual smile returned to crack his face.

“…Well, as long as we don’t have to hunt some major monster or have to deal with insane requests, everything’s fine.”

“Where is your usual ‘it’s gonna be a piece of cake’ sort of arrogance?”

“I mean, as long as we have to deal with minor monsters or middle class ones, it might only be a hassle… but the major ones can use magic, you know?”

The middle class monsters had humongous bodies, but it ‘merely’ took several men to defeat one.
On the other hand, the major monsters not only had humongous bodies, they could also use magic. This meant that their size usually placed them at the top of the food chain, and their magic simply confirmed that position—they could literally be man-eating giants.
The worst part was that monsters not only feasted on humans, but on their magic formulas too, which meant they had to be vanquished as soon as possible.

“If one who can use advanced magic was to appear, this country might be done for.”

“You’re right. We handled them the few times they appeared, but I remember some years ago the majority of the magic knights had been deployed to bring one down. Probably only the heroes in the west city-states could have faced it alone like us.”

“Yeah, fighting a monster like that would be a huge pain in the ass. But humans are still scarier than monsters.”

“I agree. Elvis sent you this directive for a reason. I’m sure he’s planning something… and you should consider Kiad taking his revenge too.”

Lux crossed his arms on his chest, wearing a sour expression.

“I heard he has changed in a bad way. The guards in the upper layers said his arrogance is gone and he always looks tired and almost emaciated. He hasn’t set foot outside his mansion once yet.”

“Oww, poor thing. I did something horrible.”

“Please, I know you don’t feel sorry at all… honestly, he deserved it. He was rather unpleasant to see, so you have my gratitude.”

Lux shrugged his shoulders, then faced Takumi with a sharp gaze.

“Anyhow, just be careful, okay? You still have lots of things to do.”

“Yeah, sure. Guess I’ll cut my subordinates some slack for once, then.”

“…Excuse me?”

Lux was even more puzzled to see Takumi’s merry expression.

“I mean, Renunt Village has some hot springs, right? We got assigned there, so we could take a breather and enjoy a bath for once.”

“…Don’t tell me you asked for a place in the middle of nowhere like that only for this reason.”

“What, is it so wrong? I like bathing and I love hot springs. The reason I accepted the Queen’s request has been half for Lize and half for the hot springs.”

“I don’t know why I feel like that’s not all there is to it… also, I think I’m getting why you’re this happy…”

Lux felt all his strength drain away while Takumi put all the documents in his bag.

“I’ll take my leave now. I have a guest today.”

“A guest…? Oh, Archbishop Crest?”

“Exactly. I heard she was ordered to get along and deepen her friendship with the major company Suzuran by the Queen. Our chief is in high spirits since this morning.”

“Oh… Mirta is? That sounds good, doesn’t it?”

A bitter smile thinned Lux’s lips as he recalled Mirta when they were younger.

“By the way, can I borrow Elsa for a bit?”

“Sure thing. If I let her handle you, my stomachache will surely get better.”

“Don’t force your stupid stomachache on each other, siblings.”

“I don’t want to hear that from its living cause. Go have all the fun you want.”

Takumi exited the room the next moment with light steps, closing the door behind him. Lux could finally let out a soft sigh of relief.

“I can’t read you at all…”

His words were directed to the door the bothersome slave merchant had just closed behind him.


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2+

New Game – Chapter 38

The birdie’s tears – Part 6

The approaching evening darkened the sky, dimming Takumi’s path as he walked through the aquamarine garden. The glossy marble under his feet kept reflecting a faint light even in the sunset.

“Why, are you not a bit late?”

Eluria’s words reached Takumi when he entered the gazebo. Her gaze was wandering in the darkening sky.

“I’ve had to babysit your article and now she’s taking a nap. Do you mind it?”

The Queen looked at Lise and smiled happily as she stretched her hand to caress the child’s sleeping face.

“Ehehe… She is adorable even now, is she not?”

“Yeeeah, whatever. Let’s get down to business.”

Takumi lay the child nearby his customer and took a document off his breast pocket.

“This is Lise’s contract. I usually want the buyer to treat their slaves like human beings, but since this is quite a special case, there’s more stuff you’re bound to follow. Read this carefully before accepting.”

“There is no need to, I already understand what this is about. It goes along the lines of ‘this contract binds Queen Eluria to ensure the safety of Lise Crest and her mother Serena Crest. She also have to take care of the latter’s medical treatment fees’, right?”

She tittered and Takumi shrugged his shoulders.

“Do not worry, it was my intent from the start. Now that Lise belongs to me, I will do whatever it takes to protect her and her family. This is my moral duty, and if someone will dare to tarnish my vow, I shall act brazenly.”

“Right… the overlords hold the real power of the country in their hands, but they fear your dreadful amount of political power. However, as the embodiment of the city’s symbol and direct descendant of our Goddess, you can’t move around too much… but with Lise, now you can work around the problem.”

“Exactly. No matter how a showpiece of a Queen I am, I cannot let my country twist without lifting a finger.”

Her beaming grin betrayed the flaming rage in her eyes.

“I was enthroned when my predecessor, my mother, perished. Given my age at the time, the power of the country had to be split between the three overlords… thus I was robbed of my freedom.”

She didn’t own any executive power despite being the city’s living symbol and its Queen—her current condition was the mere product of the plan a third party had put into action.
No matter her authority or influential speeches, the overlords had the last word on the majority of the decisions.

“However, I shall now act through Lise and Lux. Especially against Elvis, that crafty man. Otherwise I will never be satisfied.”

“Good. Let us know if we can help. You can use Lise now, so stop sending us secret letters and strange invitations, okay?”

A request was written in the invitation to the buffet addressed to Suzuran: save a certain someone. That short message was the reason behind Takumi’s actions since the day he had read them.

“By the way, is Lux gonna join us too?”

“Yes. He is afraid of the power Fortesea is gathering, so we are collaborating to keep them under control.”

“Well, I made a profit from it last time, so I don’t mind it. By the way, can you answer one of my questions?”

Eluria nodded at him as he slightly changed his tone of voice.

“How did you notice that Kiad was mirroring information like that?”

The Archbishop would have never betrayed Kiad by telling someone the truth.
If Lise, who had magic tools that could mirror information with her, was to talk to Eluria, everything she’d hear would’ve been mirrored.

“You sent me a letter because you couldn’t ask it out loud, huh? And you even took into consideration that writing too much would’ve alerted the listeners by the prolonged sound of the brush on the paper, that’s why you kept the message short, right?”

“Exactly. I knew someone as observant as you could get what Lise was going through… after all, you have based your information network on the slaves you bind with those contracts, right?”

The slave merchant squinted his eyes—that was a top-secret information.
Only Takumi, Karin, Kunon and a part of the demi-human unit knew it. None of their closest and most intimate friends did.
The specific words ‘information network’ were just too specific even for someone like Killfer, who was very sharp and also part of the web. Only someone who already knew about it could have been that precise.

“The contracts you created are very interesting. The letters are positioned in specific ways, the overall layout is constant, everything is within edges or frames, you use different kinds of ink for different kinds of paper… there are various reasons behind it, right?”

She looked straight at Takumi, who had lowered his head lost in thought, as another titter slept from her lips. She had just addressed the true essence of his contracts.
A few instants later he reached the answer to his question and rose his head back, then faced the Queen’s gaze.

“I see… You got everything from looking at the law formula I created, huh?”

“Eheheh, you get full marks~! Or rather, I wish you had, but you only got half right.”

“I guess the other half is gonna be a secret, right?”

“It sure will. In exchange, no one will know the truth behind your contracts. Sharing a secret with your Queen sounds fun, does it not?”

“I’m about to ask you to spare me this link, oh wicked Queen…”

“Why, older women do not fit your taste?”

“They absolutely do. I’m still in time for a certain slave quite some times older than me, though.”

“Aww… not even I can match the beauty of an elf, huh…?”

Takumi couldn’t help but smile wryly in front of the dejected Queen who sadly brought a hand to her cheek.

“Anyhow, you did great this time. I really think you did, so do not doubt my words.”

“Well, that’s somewhat a reward. I mean, I’ve picked quite a hard fight for a single child.”

He pointed at Lise and Eluria stroke her head gently.

“She is not very different from me… used by adults since our childhood, left alone as our heart is worn down by loneliness… I want to save her from all of this.”

The sweet smile on her face was pure like the words she was speaking.

“Also, she is sooo adorable! Look! Look how she mumbles in her sleep! Her very existence is soothing for my heart… ugh!”

“Keep fooling around and she’s gonna wake up. I got that you’re like her stupid soft-hearted doting parent, but can’t you behave like a proper queen for once?”

“Why, are you not the soft-hearted one? You even put aside your objective to fulfill my request and save this child.”

Eluria squinted her eyes slightly as she took a deep breath.

“You planned to make magic lose its worth to strip Richtert of the deterrent keeping the other countries at bay… and no one have noticed any of this.”

Takumi shrugged his shoulders in silence.

“I only included Lise in my plan because I thought it’d be fun in the future.”

“Oww, you do not need to be that embarrassed.”

“I’m not saying this to hide my embarrassment. Also, it’s evident that I’m soft-hearted.”

A smile cracked Takumi’s face as he looked his Queen in the eyes.

“I am the Soft-hearted slave merchant, after all.”


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2+

New Game – Chapter 37

The birdie’s tears – Part 5

As the match was declared over and the arena emptied, silence fell on the plains and the royal castle…

Fuck it! Shiiit!”

Kiad’s room was the only exception.
He bashed the wall to vent the rage boiling in his stomach.

Defeat… that word was clinging at his mind like a parasite. He’d been unrivalled until then, but now… he had ultimately been defeated.

He was born the eldest son of the Fortesea and, unlike his younger brother, he had been blessed with the strongest magic… or so he had believed.

He had scouted the best wizards and greatly increased their abilities with the best magic tools he could provide them with. They should have been able to crush anything standing in their way, and yet… they had lost.
And to make things worse, he was defeated the moment he entered the arena to settle the score. The lowest human on the planet, some guy that couldn’t even use magic, had him in the palm of his hand from the start.

No… I didn’t lose…!”

Even though Kiad had lost the match, his defeat was never officially declared. But even just trying to find any sort of justification for himself was pissing him off.
What he needed to do was sending that damn slave merchant straight to hell. And if he didn’t… he was afraid that something within him might break.

He tried to drive that feeling away and headed to the royal castle’s laboratory, when, at the end of the corridor, he saw a little girl walking towards him—her silver hair tied up into twintails.

…Are you awake, Lord Kiad?”

The tone of her voice was as flat as ever.

…Lize, I was looking for you. The magic tools you’ve created were so bad they made Boris and Castells lose. I want you to start working on better ones now, as they’re the main cause of all of—”

Sorry, I cannot help you.”

…What did you say?”

I have been in the laboratory to destroy all the prototypes and law formulas I created. I even blocked the magic that allowed you to hear whatever I could.”

She lowered her gaze while facing the man.

I will not help you in your experiments anymore.”

The man’s expression twisted unsightly at her words.

YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE SHIT! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU’RE SAYING?!”

Smacked by his roar, her body jolted and froze.

WHO PICKED YOU UP AND LET YOU STUDY WHEN YOUR FATHER DIED?! WHO’S THE ONE WHO WORKED HIS BUTT OFF TO GET YOU WHERE YOU ARE NOW AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE?! WHO DO YOU THINK IS KEEPING YOUR SICK MOTHER ALIVE?!”

Squashed by his burst of rage and his mad gaze, Lise felt her eyes water, but she bit her lower lip to suppress her fear and firmly stared back at him.

I am grateful for your kindness, Lord Kiad. Thanks to you and the Fortesea family, I became a holy warrior and earned my title. But…”

Trembling, she let out the feelings she had locked away for so long.

I didn’t become who I am to do this kind of stuff! I’m glad I could help people with my magic tools! I’m proud I could save people like my father, who’s fallen in battle, from certain death!”

She was forced to warp her researches slowly: some of the law formulas she entwined were harmful to people, and yet she had to experiment them on human test subjects. Due to that, a constant sense of guilt tormented her and gnawed at her heart.

Despite being a child, she knew it very well—what she was doing was absolutely wrong… but she was forced to do it. Locking her heart away was her only way to keep it together—not to make her sanity crumble to pieces.

I’ve had enough… I don’t want to hurt any more people with my work!”

Her jumpy voice was clear despite her shaky legs.
She had finally squeezed out of herself the words she most feared to say in front of Kiad.

Is that all, Lise Crest?”

The low, heavy sound of his words was stained with murderous intent.

My pet dog still bit me even while chained and with its tight collar on, huh?”

As rage started to blind him, he slowly closed their distance.

You don’t get it at all… You can’t even dream to be free.”

His gaze seemed to look at some unnecessary piece of trash as he towered over her.

LET ME BRAND ON YOUR BODY WHAT BITING ME AND THE FORTESEA ENTAILS!”

He charged his fist to vent all of his rage on Lise when a sash of light sprouted from the darkness and coiled around his arm. Many others bound his body until he found himself completely blocked, and then he snapped, unable to contain his rage anymore.

I KEEP GETTING THWARTED EVERY SINGLE FUCKING TIME! I’M A FORTESEA, AND NOTHING CAN STOP ME FROM DOING THE FUCK I WAAANT!”

His lunatic scream roared in the hallway as his eyes became bloodshot.
Then, the clacking sound of approaching footsteps started to reverberate over his voice—a self-confident grin filled the calmly approaching man’s face.

…Can I ask you not to lay your filthy hands on my best article?”

Hearing that voice, Kiad twisted his neck to watch behind him: there stood Elsa, whose Binding Magic was restraining him, and Takumi.

Slave merchant…!”

Yes, it’s me. I came here to get my article and here I find you on the verge of beating it to death… I can’t allow it.”

…Takumi, you never know when to speak appropriately, do you?”

Elsa commented almost shocked, and Kiad started to scream again.

FUCKING FAIRSTADT! I DON’T GIVE A SHIT IF YOU’RE AN OVERLORD, I’LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR THIS!”

Neither will I forgive you, Kiad. I’ll let you know I was ordered to escort this slave merchant to his new article by Her Majesty.”

STOP SPITTING OUT BULLSHIT! WHAT THE FUCK IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!”

Takumi’s grin broadened when Kiad’s glare shifted from Elsa to Lise, who was still standing in front of him.

Lise Crest, we’ve come to retrieve you as this slave merchant’s belonging.”

Takumi took a document out of his breast pocket and waved it on Kiad’s face.

That brat asked me for a huge-ass sum of money a few days ago, but since she couldn’t pay it back entirely, I made her become my slave.”

SPARE ME YOUR BULLSHIT!”

This isn’t bullshit. She couldn’t pay me back for the super expensive ingredients we put in her apple pie, which would be around… like, a thousand holy silver coins.”

Takumi was obviously joking, but the document he was holding in his hand was absolutely authentic, and the name of Lise Crest was scrupulously written on it.

They must have found a way to keep in touch with her without him knowing, that’s why she holed herself up in the laboratory until today.
Still, the only contact she should’ve had with people was with the maids that brought her food and checked her body up to see if anything was off… which means that they could’ve used only one way.

I-It can’t be… I crushed it, there was nothing—”

That’s mean. Did you really crush my leader’s pie? She put her soul into it… although it was only a snack for Lise.”

Takumi gasped as he waved the document in front of him.

Did you forget that Suzuran is a company of the slums? We’re the lowest craftiest scum around… and our way of doing really do us justice. We know a lot of ways to contraband stuff, and it’s very easy when we speak in coded language between comrades.”

Cooked sweets meant that they were going to smuggle something, the basket was the way they were going to perform it, putting the sweets in the basket meant that the contract was somewhere in there, and doing it for Lise meant that she was involved with the contract.

Our former leader loved to come up with this kind of tricks. If you do the right things in the right order, the basket’s handle comes off and reveals that it’s empty inside.”

Vatel Famille came up with that.

If one didn’t wrinkle the thin paper in the basket and peeled it off slowly from the one beneath it, they’d see the memo showing how to activate the mechanism, then they’d find the hidden contract and message in the basket’s handle.

That basket is like a printed list of instructions. There’s no point in shelving it.”

How can someone understand how that works without explanations?! That’s uselessly risky!”

Risky? What are you saying? I leave nothing to chance.”

Takumi said that while laughing from his nose.

I knew Lize would understand it. I made sure she would do the right things, since I observed her personality, behavioral principles, the people around her and what she thinks about them.”

That’s why he had prepared the letter and the contract for her.
Lise had been enslaved due to the huge debt she had with Takumi: since she couldn’t pay him back with money, she had to pay him with her life.

I… I CAN’T ACCEPT ANY OF THIS!”

Who cares if you don’t, the law of this country allows me to enslave her.”

Takumi tapped on his temple.

Holy text… law section, article twenty, line eighteen: ‘If a debtor cannot pay up their debt to their creditor, the debtor can be enslaved by the creditor, who will then own the debtor’s fortune and human rights.’ I’m legally enslaving Lise Crest.”

That law had almost been forgotten… but law was still law.

If you try to prevent me from having what I rightfully own, you will be publicly exposed as a criminal. Then, as a criminal, the law would force you into slavery despite you being an overlord.”

Takumi’s cruel smile resembled that of a wild beast.

It’s a shame that Lise has become a slave, but I already found someone who would pay a lot of money for her. I’m going to meet the buyer after I’m done with you.”

He didn’t specify the name of the buyer, but it was obvious who it was.

Now… I’ll tell you as many times as you want—checkmate.”

That was the same word he told him at the buffet.
He had planned everything up to that moment.

You’ve never been able to change anything in my plan. No matter how much you squirm, there’s nothing a worm like you can do.”

Takumi locked on Kiad’s eyes—a shade of fear was painting them.

I’ve never even looked at you. Whenever someone tries to, they see a mere shadow of Fortesea. You are so insignificant that you’re not even worthy of anyone’s attention.”

As Takumi said that, Kiad’s eyes started to shake violently—those words were like knives slicing at his heart.
Then, Takumi took another document from his breast pocket. This time it was tied up with a thread.

And yet, insignificant as you are, you’ve always been so pushy and pompous… that’s why I’ll make you fall to the perfect place for you.”

The perfect place for me…?”

You’re gonna fall in the most hideous and loathing place you can imagine.”

When he unfolded the document, Kiad goggled his eyes.

He grasped that the list of complex symbols and codes in front of him was a law formula, but it was the first time he saw that language. There wasn’t anything like that in Richtert… it could’ve even been a variation of some type of language.

When I studied magic, law formulas were the thing that most interested me—I don’t have magic power within me, so I find magic and magic tools useless, but law formulas make use of other people’s magic power.”

With a smile plastered on his face, Takumi waved the paper in front of Kiad.

Law formulas are very interesting… they can active so long as the used language and symbols make sense. They could work even with something that isn’t part of this world.”

That law formula was written with the language he had learned in his previous world, so it was something that shouldn’t have existed in their current world.
That’s why it might bring unexpected results.

Kiad, tell me… what happens to a human when they get stripped of their magic power?”

Slowly, Takumi brought the paper closer to his target, who was shaking his head violently.

That’s impossible! Humans can’t rule over magic!”

The next moment, his instinct shrilled to get away from there, but he couldn’t move.

Fall to hell.”

Mouthing sharp words, Takumi pushed the document on Kiad’s chest, and the paper squirmed as it was alive, assaulting the man’s body.

STOP IT! I’M PART OF THE VALIANT FORTESEA, THE STRONGEST—”

He felt like his inner self was getting teared to pieces by an intruder. His dignity, his pride, his power; everything that was part of him was getting destroyed.
Takumi looked at him coldly.

…Is that so? I didn’t fight you, so I can’t tell you are.”

A few seconds later, the light bindings coiled around his body had vanished, and he was left staring at the air with empty eyes, shivering and clattering his teeth.

Why… Why is my power… what I inherited from the Fortesea…”

He was powerless—his heart had been torn to pieces and his condition was now a living hell. Takumi, after observing him for a brief moment, lost any interest in him and faced Elsa.

I’m done here. I’ll bring Lise to her buyer and leave the rest up to you.”

Okay, no problem. I don’t think I’ll have anything to do with Kiad like that.”

Her expression stiffened as she glanced at the man who was hanging his head in a trance.

Takumi… I trust you because we somewhat collaborate, but… tell me again, what are you? What are you aiming for?”

She squinted her green eyes ever so slightly.

You siblings look alike in the most strange places…”

Remembering that not that long ago even Lux asked him the same thing, Takumi smiled happily.

I only want to see how far my abilities can bring me. I’m aiming for… let’s say something big, like world peace or world domination.”

Tch, I knew it. You’re the kind of guy who’d answer like that.”

Thank you for understanding. Rest assured that I won’t do anything bad, anyway.”

I’m not worried about that… you’re the ‘Soft-hearted slave merchant’, after all.”

He faced a shrugging Elsa with a bitter smile, then turned to approach Lise.

Howdy~! You really tried your best there.”

…Yes, I tried my best… and I have a favor to ask you.”

A favor? What is it?”

…My legs are shaking so much I cannot move.”

Reaching her limit, her legs caved in, and she composedly fell on her bottom.

Jeez… I’ll piggyback you, get on.”

Stop treating me like a child! No, I never said I was not getting on!”

With her cheeks flushing red, she climbed on Takumi’s back, who had bent over, then he started walking to the garden where the buyer was waiting.

For a short while they were silent as Takumi’s clacking footsteps resounded in the stone-paved corridors.

Thank you, Takumi.”

Lise’s few words sounded like a distant whisper.

I could find the courage to say it only thanks to you. That I have had enough. That I do not want my work to hurt people…”

You said it because you wanted to. Even if you didn’t tell him a thing, I still would’ve brought you to our Queen.”

Even so, you never turned your back to yourself like I did, and you successfully defeated strong magicians like Fortesea’s… if you did not show me that, I would have kept those words to myself alone.”

She talked slowly as she clung to his shoulders.

I kept pretending not to see that what I was doing was hurting people… That is why I had to act the opposite of what I wanted.”

Her words were a firm declaration—I can’t forget about those I hurt with my actions, and I can’t forget about trying to find a justification about it.

She let out a soft yelp when he cocked his head to his side and hit her nose with the back of his head.

Ih huhss…”

I mean… children shouldn’t think about stuff that complex. Just face sincerely what you really want to do.”

What I really want to do…?”

Be glad of what you accomplished. People always see the bad part in everything, as if it’s the only part that leaves an impact… but you accomplished way more than that.”

He started to speak about her accomplishments with a warm laughter.

The law formulas you invented can be used in a lot of different ways. The binding magic we’ve just seen is just one of them.”

…Right. Lux asked me to create a law formula that helped guards to seize people without hurting them. It’s useful to arrest criminals or to quell riots.”

You live in this part of the city so you probably don’t know it, but those magic tools are used quite a lot down in the slums. That place is a mess and there’s very poor public order, you know?”

Since the slums were filled with violence and criminals, the guards’ equipment was provided with defensive barriers and seizing magic tools just like Elsa’s. They were used frequently.

With them, even a simple quarrel can end with people being unscathed, and there isn’t much risks for guards to face criminals, since they have their defensive barriers. Also, Elsa told me they can be used in many other ways.”

He took a brief pause before resuming his talk.

Let’s take Binding Magic for example. When it rains very hard, the water flowing to the slums becomes very muddy and its current becomes fast and powerful like a rushing stream, so it isn’t rare for kids to get hit by a wave or something and fall into water, where they usually drown. Still, some times they’ve been saved thanks to those magic tools.”

Saving them has been very hard, but it’s been possible only thanks to Binding Magic.

It’s even been used for rebuilding a destroyed church. Bringing logs of wood that high requires quite a lot of attention, but thanks to Binding Magic, they could speed up the process and once more provide a shelter for those who’ve lost a place to sleep.”

As he spoke, he felt Lise trembling, but he pretended not to notice and kept talking.

That’s the same for those defensive barriers. Before, when something caved in, people had to pulverize the rubble with magic, but that could hurt the survivors who were buried under them. Now the soldiers can just jump on people, saving them right away as the barrier activates. Yeah, those who decide to do that have balls of steel, but it’s all thanks to magic tools if they can do stuff like this. They’re all happy to have them.”

He could hear Lise trying to stifle her sobbing.

I bet you thought only about the bad things you’ve done, but many other people are grateful to you, as they could save someone or be saved by someone with the tools you’ve created.”

Lise let out a soft lament as her tears started to stain Takumi’s overcoat.

That’s why you shouldn’t deny everything you’ve done. Even though you blame yourself for what went wrong, you should be proud of your achievements.”

Unable to hold back anymore, she started to sob out loud.

You did great by yourself so far.”

She pressed her face on his back as her little body trembled. Her tears streamed from her eyes as if to wash away her sense of guilt—a reaction fitting a child her age.

Takumi didn’t speak another word, and after buying a little time with a couple of detours, he headed to the garden where Eluria was waiting them.


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2+

New Game – Chapter 36

The birdie’s tears – Part 4

Takumi and his comrades were now in front of the nobles’ seats, their heads bowed.
The most powerful people in the Holy Kingdom of Richtert—the overlords and the queen Eluria Richtert, symbol of her country, were just a few steps away.
She was wearing something simpler than usual, trying to balance comfort and looks since she knew that she was going to reach the arena at some point. The ceremonial sword tied to her hips reminded everyone of the official status of the match.

“It has been… a wonderful match, Suzuran’s members.”

After hearing her words, the three of them rose their heads.

“Lord Elvis extolled your brave fight, and I can do nothing but agree with him and approve of his choice. Today, we will also hold the ceremony to baptize you winners as knights.”

Takumi glanced at Elvis, who sat a few steps behind Eluria, but couldn’t read any concern on his face.

“I am deeply delighted by the words Her Majesty has addressed to my subordinates. Their victory was blessed by our Goddess Filia, thus they should aim to become our Queen—Filia’s closest entity’s—sword.”

“Eheheh… Hearing you mouthing wise words is hilarious…”

“…Your Highness, please, refrain from murmuring something in the middle of your talk.”

“Why, are you in a bad mood, Lux?”

“I am not. But whenever that slave merchant does the impossible, I receive a lot of exhortation, so my stomach is hurting a little.”

Lux, who sat behind her, managed to smile despite the twitching of his cheek.
Nearby him, an old man adjusted his glasses on his nose.

“Ohohh… It looks like you are going to rack your brain, Lord Lux. That man you have set your eyes on is earning a title, so should you not be happier?”

“…I am obliged for your observation, Lord Cramer. I envy how you avoid problems and hardly have to deal with any.”

“Ohohh… Dealing with problems and discord is the way of doing of the harmonious Administer. Whenever we find a lull sea, we never know what boils deep within it.”

Cramer Administer, the overlord who carried Richtert’s national politics on his shoulders as the prime minister and also controlled the cabinet ministers, replied to Lux’s cynicism while shaking his mustaches.
He was a crafty man who acted to maintain harmony and stability in his country.

“Forgive this old man for butting in your conversation, Your Highness. I am sorry.”

“Well, you better be. We are in the middle of a public speech.”

“Ohohh… I did not expect to be rebuked like this…”

“…Can any other unnecessary conversation stop now? None are worth these people’s time.”

Maybe afraid that their talk would last too long, Elvis cut it down with a sharp voice, and pushed the Queen, who looked at him with a wry smile, to go on and face Takumi again.

“Lord Lux will notify you with the details of the lands you will be put in charge of after your subordinates become knights. I also have a personal matter I want to discuss with you, slave merchant.”

As Eluria mouthed those words, she exchanged looks with Lise, who was still standing behind the throne—her usual sour look plastered on her face.
The child took a step toward Takumi while tightly pressing her lips together.

“…I cannot believe you really won.”

“I was hoping to hear ‘I believed in your victory’, though.”

Hearing him joking around, she squeezed her staff tighter along with her lips.

“I should not believe… that is why I gave up.”

After crushing her personal beliefs, the only thing that was left for her was to obey.
She gave up because she believed that she could’ve never won that fight.
It couldn’t be helped—that justification was what helped her bear her current life.

“Did you like the apple pie, Archbishop Lise Crest?”

“…Yes. It was so delicious it made me feel better.”

His simple question cleared her face from any shadow as she answered with a beaming cherubic smile.
Takumi nodded in satisfaction.

“I heard Her Highness’ words clearly. I will abide by Lord Lux’s details once I receive his notification.”

“Look forward to it. Now… we cannot let people wait any more. As a boring ceremony, Let us hold it right away.”

Saying so, Eluria stood up and unsheathed her sword, the symbol of the royal family—the blue of its blade was clearer than the sky’s and deeper than the sea’s—and lowered it on Kunon and Karin, as they both kept their heads bowed.

“In the name of Eluria Richtert, your queen, I hereby grant you the title of knight. By the power vested on you, I ask your loyalty to my country.”

The flat part of her sword touched their shoulders, and once the queen finished the ceremony, thus marking the official end of the match, Takumi’s comrades, silent until that moment, rose their heads again.
The audience bursted in excited cheers for the last time that day.


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1+

New Game – Chapter 35

The birdie’s tears – Part 3

The next moment, another roar burst in the arena.

This time not only the slums’ people were cheering, but also those who were ever-so-slightly interested in Suzuran. The slums’ company fought bravely and achieved the impossible, that’s why even those who couldn’t follow the current situation were excited.
On the other hand, the nobles were awfully silent. None of them dared to mouth a word. But that was obvious, since Suzuran’s victory hid a deep meaning: magic could lose.

It was the trumph card that led them to victory in the great war between humans and demi-humans that ravaged a few centuries before, and it also became the cornerstone of their firmness in time.
Even thirty years before, during the ex-empire’s war, Richtert’s magic was crowned as the strongest weapon. That was why the privileged classes like nobles had an unshakable firmness.

Still, that firmness crumbled the moment that Suzuran won.
Magic could be faced even by mere demi-humans who couldn’t use any, so even the strongest weapon known thus far had a flaw, a weak point.

“C’mon… it’s better if you act now, you know?”

Takumi’s whisper melted in the bedlam’s roars as he watched the audience’s reactions.

A ‘magic killer’ wasn’t someone who could neutralize magic, but someone who could plunge its authority into the abyss.
From that very moment, what was believed to be ‘absolute power’ wasn’t ‘absolute’ anymore, and if it was to be neglected, Richtert—that embodied the core of magic—would have sank.
Now that those two magic knights were defeated by Kunon and Karin, the authority, peace and order built thanks to that very power was likely to get threatened.

That’s the reason why in such a situation, that person would have surely showed himself.

“…What a wonderful show, Suzuran’s members!”

A clear voice cut through the boiling excitement and echoed in the arena, slowly quietening the audience while its owner—Kiad Fortesea—walked to the center of the stage.

“Let me express my respect for your feat! As a magic knight myself, who is also part of the gallant Fortesea family, I want to challenge you!”

His declaration was followed by glaring at Takumi while a murderous intent seeped from his wicked smile.

“Takumi, slave merchant of Suzuran! You, who taught those demi-humans how to counteract magic, are praiseworthy! Accept my challenge and show me your true abilities!”

The merchant silently watched him while the audience started to stir.
Kiad had spied Suzuran through Lise, so he knew that Takumi didn’t have any magic power and that he was punier than a demi-human.
He was the weakest human ever seen.
If someone like him was to fight against a magic knight in a one-on-one battle, he would have died for sure.

Still, Kiad phrased his declaration in a way that people would perceive as ‘you, who are strong enough to teach those demi-humans how to counteract magic’, so if Takumi was to flee from his challenge, people would have understood that even the strongest wouldn’t beat Fortesea’s magic, thus the value of magic itself wouldn’t have swayed.

One thing was clear: if the merchant was to accept that challenge, the noble would have toyed with him until his death.
Any of those choices lead to the very same conclusion—magic’s value would be the same as before, and Takumi’s plan would have went up in smoke.

In that case, the best choice for him was to decline the challenge and save his own life.

“Allow me to gladly accept your challenge, then.”

Takumi’s quiet reply reached everyone’s ears.

“But let’s put up a great show!”

He then spread his arms wide while the audience, faces mixed with perplexity and excitement, stared at him.

“Knights who lose against demi-humans and former slaves don’t deserve their title, so if I win, I want my subordinates to earn it! And if I lose… I offer you my head as token of my impoliteness so far.”

As the audience burst again in thunderous roars of excitement and bewilderment, Kiad’s face was puzzled.

“…Did you come here to waste your life?”

“What a nice way to say that I’ll lose.”

Takumi folded his arms on his chest while his smile shone with confidence.

“You must have forgotten what I said.”

“As if I could ever remember the words of an inferior nobody like you. You lost the moment you accepted my challenge. I let you gather information from Lize to let you come here… I won’t lose.”

Takumi tapped his finger on his temple.

“Let me tell you something that I’m not even trying to hide. I don’t have any magic power, so both magic and magic tools are useless for me… Without that, I’m the weakest man in the world.”

Magic was what brought people a step above the rest. Thanks to it, they could face demi-humans’ absurd abilities, but Takumi didn’t have any inside of him… and exactly for that reason, he could kill magic.

“I proved that demi-humans can win against magic depending on the situation. What will happen when a weak human who can’t even use magic like me wins against you?”

“Hahaha! Do you really think you can beat me?! The worst, weakest man in the country beating Fortesea, the strongest magicians?!”

“That’s what your knights thought too. Have you seen how they ended up, though? I guess you still haven’t noticed it.”

Takumi’s smile was brimming with self-confidence. Losing was inconceivable for him.

“My goal was to bring a certain someone out on stage from the start.”

No matter the gap between their power, his behavior was the same.

“Destroying the law formulas, attacking magic knights without them noticing, finding the flaws in your magic tools… I came up with all of this, so do you really think that my chances of winning are zero?”

He bent over a little to look at Kiad from below.

“I accepted your challenge because I will surely win. Even thought I’m way weaker than a demi-human and can’t even use magic, I will end your life. Then, I will become the magic killer.”

The next moment, the noble started to hear some comments from the audience.

“C-Can he really win against Lord Kiad…?”

“He offered his head as a token for losing… He must have some tricks up his sleeve.”

“Well, he did teach the demi-humans how to defy magic, didn’t he? Probably he knows how to nullify other kind of magic…”

“So he’s really convinced to win this challenge…?”

Those doubts spread in the audience like an illness and soon infected the nobles and the magic knights who were tutored by Fortesea. A whirlpool of insecurity traveled in the air and descended on Kiad, who started to conceive the chance of losing.

Although he could see many worried faces, he tried to rationalize what was going on.
The man in front of him couldn’t use magic—he was the weakest, worst human existing. On the other hand, Kiad was a member of the Fortesea, the family with strongest magicians in the country, and as a powerful magic knight himself, he couldn’t affort to taint his family’s name.
Still…

“…What’s up, strongest magic knight? You look afraid.”

He stood frozen in place while pondering as the slave merchant peered at him.
Although he was abysmally stronger than his foe, he still had to put up a facade… but soon Kiad smiled wryly.

“No matter the foe… Fortesea has defeat everyone so far.”

He then erupted in a crazy laugh and unsheathed the short sword he had tied to his hip.

“Do whatever you want! I’ll crush you with my gallantry!”

Almost screaming, Kiad raised his short sword over Takumi, who, for the first time, let his expression crumble and rose his eyebrows.
The next moment, after the sword started to swoop down on his target, Kiad was hurled away as if punched by an invisible, powerful hand.

“Gh… Gwah…!”

His anguish leaked from his lips in formless words while the sound of his bones cracking and snapping within his body reached his ears.
While Takumi glared at him from a distance, tick—a high-pitched sound echoed in the arena.

“…I will not allow you to speak my family’s name while showing that shameful behavior.”

The voice of a middle-aged man grew closer and heavier with every word.
His expression was as hard and cold as steel and furrows wrinkled his face while his presence overwhelmed the audience—his cane stabbed the ground as he approached the two man in the arena.

“Although you do not deserve to be part of Fortesea, we are still blood-related. I tolerated this unsightly show so far, but if this continues… I, Elvis Fortesea, will purge you.”

The end of his sentence was marked by the ticking of his cane.
Kiad’s expression twisted as he tried to squeeze out a reply to the voice of the man who led magic to its current authority thirty years ago.

“Why…? I was going to show to everyone our gallantry—”

“What can an idiot like you show to others? That slave merchant proved that magic has flaws, which was very significant to witness.”

Elvis, his gaze sharp like an ice knife, turned to face Takumi and asked in a glacial tone.

“Did you come up with a way to make that elf and that wolf-girl deal with magic?”

“…Yes. After many researches, I created an approach that could counteract the possible manifestation of magic.”

“Truly wonderful. You are a keen observer.”

“Thank you. I’m honored to be praised by the man who twisted this country.”

Takumi stared at Elvis’ eyes that, after a few instants, were cast down.

“This time, you won this match. Now let me end this show.”

“Please, wait, Father! If we step aside without fighting, our name will—”

When Kiad tried to protest, the man stabbed the ground again with his cane.

“When did I say that an idiot who lost without even battling could mouth his thoughts? What makes you this stupid, Kiad, is that you cannot even tell when you have lost.”

His cane kept tormenting the soil annoyingly.

“Father, are you saying… that I have lost?!”

“What meaning do defeat or victory have now? Currently I cannot say who has won.”

That was precisely one of Takumi’s goals, as it was the ladder to the outcome he wanted.

“That slave merchant used mysterious actions to win against you. He has used your words, the audience, and this entire situation.”

He glanced at Takumi, whose lips were sealed.

“His skills are clear since he could teach two demi-humans how to counteract magic. He might actually know a way to nullify it like his companions did, although he cannot use magic-related items.”

Elvis emphasized that precise word.

“Given that he accepted the gallant Fortesea’s challenge, he might know how to win against us. If we think about it, he might be stronger than his demi-humans, since he taught them how to deal with magic, and even offering his head might be a way to thoroughly reach his goal… ”

Elvis marked each of the points of his analysis by ticking his cane and Kiad was petrified in front of his barrage of explanations.

Takumi’s words and attitude brought him not to think about victory, but to another potential outcome that wasn’t clear yet.
Even if he was to lose at least once in a million matches, it would still prove that magic wasn’t an absolute power—it would have been reduced to something beatable even by someone who hadn’t a teensy bit of magic in itself.
Fortesea was stabbed by that possibility.

The slave merchant used his words, behavior, the audience, and even the way of thinking of his foe to instill into him one doubt: Takumi might win.
But that blade-like weapon wasn’t aimed to Kiad Fortesea.

“This slave merchant’s goal was to bring me out here and stop this match. Because there was no other way to smash that hypothetical outcome.”

For Elvis, Takumi wouldn’t have earned anything from winning, but Kiad’s defeat was a risk that would have caused devastating consequences to magic’s image.
Still, interrupting the match prevented the risk from materializing.
That was Takumi’s way to survive the current situation.

“Yeah… maybe I’ve planned this.”

Takumi shrugged his shoulders at Elvis’s glare.

“Feel free to stop this match, but remember that I’ve put my life at stake. If I lose, it would be very bad.”

“I have said this victory is yours. And despite you only asked it verbally, I should bestow the title of knight on your demi-humans.”

“Father! Do you really want to bestow such a honourable title on some inferior beings?!”

“Of course. Those inferior beings has won against two weaklings who should not be in the ranks of my magic knights, thus I will strip them of their title. Also… I will forgive one error, but I have no sympathy for those who pile them up.”

After slicing his son with those sharp words, he slapped his cane, and Kiad opened his eyes wide before losing his consciousness.
Then, leaving him there, Elvis faced the audience.

“The match has ended. Applaud loudly Suzuran’s members as they won against my knights.”

Although Elvis’ appearance cast a veil of bewilderment on everyone, the arena that had been silent up to that moment was once again shook by the commotion.
Takumi looked at the nobles as they kept their silence.

“Lord Elvis, is magic this important?”

“Obviously. You know that this country needs an absolute power, do you not?”

Richtert was labeled as a little country in the continent of Veril.
The raids coming from Denmerg, in the north, had pushed Richtert’s territory away; the monsters’ dens of the Bestia virgin forest in the west were growing; the sea enclosed the Kingdom from the south.
To survive in that bloody cage, Richtert confined itself and developed an absolute, peerless power—magic.
Thanks to its usage in the war of thirty years before, Denmerg’s raids’ frequency dropped sharply and no more wars had flared up.
That sort of peace was won only thanks to Richtert’s magic, so once that power had lost, the entire country would once again plunge into chaos.

“What you are doing is no different from destroying this country.”

“But is it fine for you to destroy other people from behind the scenes?”

Elvis didn’t reply to the man who tried to cover his reasons and ideals with arrogance, and looking like he had lost interest, he turned on his heels.

“Let me sincerely praise you for what you did today. You did great, but if this is your ability, I can relax.”

“Is that so? If you say that… you’ve probably seen your limit.”

With an arrogant smile, Takumi pointed his gun at Elvis’ back… then lowered his hand.

“Look down on everyone and one day you will get destroyed.”

“The strong’s duty is that of crushing everyone who goes against it.”

Without looking back, Elvis merely walked back to the nobles’ seats while Takumi watched his back grow distant in silence.


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0

New Game – Chapter 34

The birdie’s tears – Part 2

The arena fell into silence while Boris collapsed on the ground, foam streaming down his lips.
A magic knight has been defeated by a demi-human.
That unacceptable truth became reality in front of everyone.
Still, the end of the first fight was fluted and time—which seemed frozen until then—started to flow again while screams of joy and bewilderment filled the air.
Karin let out a bored sigh.

“…I bet the louder ones are the slums’ guys, huh…? Should they not be at work right now? Why are they even here for?”

“This can’t be happening… A mere werebeast can’t defeat Boris…!”

“Oh, was that guy strong? Kunon squashed him in a minute.”

Castells, who didn’t even consider that outcome possible, started to rub his head, disheveling his own hair while muttering ‘this can’t be’.

“So, what will you do? If you drop out now, I will gladly spare you.”

“D-Don’t mess with me! Prideful magic knights will never flee from mere demi-humans!”

“I see. That was a suggestion, but the choice is up to you. Now that your friend has been taken out of the arena, shall we have some fun too?”

Her black hair fluttered as she got on her feet, leaving behind her the wooden box she was using as a chair.
Castells, probably finding his composure again, let out another eerie laughter.

“Hihihi…! Having some fun? Are you talking about what awaits you after your defeat?”

“…Reeeally, people always imply that. Cannot elves be something else other than prostitutes or sex slaves? Cannot you at least consider it, you smarty-pants?”

“Only a loser would consider that. Also, didn’t you choose to live like that yourselves? Hihihi! I’m interested in your body, but not in that kind of way.”

He leered at her while licking his lips.

“I still… haven’t killed any elf. Your ilk is very precious, so I only found the likes of you as playthings and never as foes… I’m looking forward to it.”

“Thanks for letting me know. Male nobles are stupid and disgusting, and so are their terrible tastes. I would gladly kick them to death.”

“Hihihi… Even if you had some notions in magic, you’d still be a toy in front of Richtert’s almighty magic. My Shadow Thorn will—wait, what are you doing?”

“Why are you even asking? The match is starting soon, so I am readying my weapon.”

She was probably already fed up with his bragging. She opened the wooden box, removed the cloth within it and took out its contents with some effort.
Along with her grumbling, the sound of something terribly heavy shook everyone’s eardrums, and when that thing was finally visible, the audience stirred again.
It was an incredibly huge bow, even bigger than Karin. If its bowstring was to come off and it returned straight, it would have looked more like a sturdy, complex bou.1

“Aaah… this is a pain to handle. But at least it is not mine, so I will just pull through for today.”

Karin took a quiver out of the wooden box and wore it on her back, then she dragged out of it what resembled a blunt weapon rather than a simple arrow and faced her opponent.

“Okay, I am ready. Shall we start?”

“…I have a silly question. Do you really want to fight with that?”

“Well, I am an elf. Now it will be clearer for everyone.”

“Hihihi! Yes, totally better! A powerless elf wouldn’t even be able to draw that b—”

“Actually, elves can use any kind of tool.”

She nocked the arrow while speaking, then whirled her body and crashed the bow on a nearby boulder which, after being damaged by the impact, allowed her to stabilize her aim before shooting in the air.

“If I use this like a crossbow, even the most powerless of elves can manage to face an opponent.”

“…I see. Still, you only have three arrows.”

“Well, I cannot bring many. They are heavy.”

As she shrugged her shoulders, the arrows in her quiver rattled, and Castells laughed eerily.

“You have no chance to win against me, girl. Let me defeat you in your game.”

The flute played loudly the moment he ended his sentence.

Castells’ shadow crawled onward while foaming. It splashed like water as its shape changed into several dark needle’s.

“You see, my ability, Shadow Thorn, makes me produce any kind of object from my shadow. As long as I’m here, I can fire endless arrows.”

He stifled his laughter while its shadow spread around him boiling.

“Do you really think you can win against me with only three of them?”

Several dozens black bubbles were popping, revealing arrow-shaped shadows ready to fly against her, who sighed lightly.

“This battle will end soon, so I won’t need any more.”

She smiled with confidence while gazing in front of her, exactly like a certain someone did.

“Where is the point of having an endless stockpile of arrows if none of them hit their target?”

She looked down on her foe and laughed at him. Given how Castells’ eyebrows twitched, her taunt was effective.

“Then I’ll just take you down!”

He lowered his hand like a commander issuing an order to his troops and black arrows started to fly in the sky.
As her field of vision was filled by a deadly rain, she nimbly extracted another metal arrow from her quiver and started to fend the incoming cluster off.
Whenever the shadows touched her arrow, a metallic sound rang loudly before they lost shape and vanished, and the same happened whenever she used her huge bow as a shield, which she waved in a sort of dance.
The next moment, there she stood pristine and calm. The ground around her was pierced by countless shadows that, losing their shape, started to vanish.

“Ohh, I did not expect this bow to be this good. I guess a sacred tree’s wood is quite hard to break, since it is still in perfect conditions… Given the crazy bird of its owner, I should not be surprised…”

She had to kick it several times to adjust its position in the previous maneuver, and seeing that it didn’t take any damage from it, she was smiling in satisfaction.

“So? Where is your endless stock of arrows? If you never hit me…”

Boom. A thunderous shock wave teared the air.

“…you will die soon.”

The metallic, heavy sound that echoed in the arena made the presents think that the arrow she’d fired had finally landed somewhere, and everyone easily imagined what would have happened if any human was to be hit by it.

“I fired that in the sky because I did not want anyone in the audience to risk their life, but if it landed on you, you would be dead by now. If it grazed you, you would be now without a limb, and if it pierced you, you would now have your body divided in half.”

“Hihihi… yeah, scary. Still, it didn’t hit.”

In front of that, Castells was calm.

“Our Archbishop gave us the best magic tools around. No matter how hard you hit me, you won’t pierce my defense.”

Indeed, Boris’s magic tool defended him thoroughly from one of Kunon’s attacks.
The bow wasn’t as strong as the Hound’s blows, but even if her kick didn’t land directly on him, his barrier activated.
Still, Karin didn’t care. She nocked the arrow, then held the bow with a single hand for a few moments.

“Well, I cannot use my nose to defeat you, neither I know where your law formula is written, so I cannot meddle with it before the activation of your magic.”

She tapped on her temple with her finger.

“Still, I can bypass your defense, since activating the magic tool is up to you.”

Magic tools activated their barriers when their user perceived an attack.
For example, it was highly improbable that one who created them took into account the very few instants before an user cast their spell. In those moments, the caster moved offensively without caring about defending, which meant that they were vulnerable for that very short period of time.

“Your comrade could defend against one of Kunon’s attacks because he was used to fight against demi-humans… but you are not. In fact, someone as depressing as you can only fight from the distance.”

“Hihihi… I hate being called that. My style is harassing my opponent from afar until it gets skewered. Nothing more.”

With a vulgar smile splitting his face, he prepared another storm of black arrows, but Karin, who was looking at him with golden eyes, nodded before speaking.

“I see. So you are not used to high-speed fights.”

She stabbed the ground with her bow, drew it and aimed directly to the man.

“If I attack you fast enough, you will not have time to defend yourself.”

“Hihihi… Who knows? Why don’t you give it a shot?”

Without enduring the tension, his body trembled as his smile disappeared from his face.
Meanwhile, Karin frowned slightly before loosing off the arrow.
The bowstring shook the arena with a thunderous sound.
Cutting through the air at an unbelievable speed, ready to impale its target, the arrow sank into a shadow wall that had formed in front of Castells in a few moments, which broke its momentum right away and made it fall on the ground with a clang.

“That was close… I was about to activate my magic tool.”

Tittering, he looked down on her.

“You obviously used some magic-like measure to fend my shadow arrows off before. I didn’t understand what it was… but it’s probably a magic tool or something that might detect my magic formula, right?”

Karin didn’t answer and nocked another arrow. She could pry into people’s thoughts, but that was just an ability, not magic. Also, she had already peeped at Castells’s law formula’s position.
Kunon already showed that once it was known, avoiding and dealing with law formulas wasn’t hard.
Moreover, if she read which arrow was going to hit her, she could fend them off easily.
Lastly, if she could see where his magic tool was, she could meddle with it before it activated… exactly like Kunon did.

“Oh, what a shame, you were aiming at my law formula. Did you think to meddle with it with your last arrow? Elves’s shallow wit is just too evident!”

Seeing him ready to fire the next wave of black arrows, she clicked her tongue in annoyance before stabbing the ground with her bow again, then fired her last arrow.

“Hihihihaha! How useless! You’re powerless in front of my magic! No matter how fast or powerful your shots are!”

As he let out a dissonant laugh, he erected another wall of shadows in front of him, and exactly like before, the arrow sank into it, then fell on the ground.

“Ihhihihi! Now that you’re out of ammo, your bow is usele—”

He was sticking out his tongue while laughing at her when his field of vision was soiled by a spray of fresh blood.

“Eh… Ah…! AAAHHH!”

He lowered his gaze while screaming, understanding that the origin of the blood and the hot feeling in his foot were related.
There, impaling his foot to the ground, was an arrow that seemed of metal.

“AAAHHH! MY FOOT! MY LEEEG!”

Twinges teared his entire leg.
He screamed loudly while twisting his body to get away from the pain, but he couldn’t escape it. That pain felt like all of his bones were fractured.

“Ohh, so this is your end? Well…”

Tears blurred his vision while a humanoid shadow approached him.

“I told you I didn’t need more arrows.”

Drawing her bow, Karin looked down on him with a triumphant smile on her face.

“How?! I’ve stopped—”

“The last arrow? Well, that would have never hit. I fired it only to let you use your wall.”

She laughed like a child whose prank succeeded.

“I never thought about how you process your magic. I only thought about lending a hit.”

She discarded the idea of dealing with magic from the start and fired an arrow in the sky, calculated its trajectory and how much time it would have taken to fall back, lead her foe where needed, acted so that he stood still, and made him erect his shadow wall to cover his own sight.
But no matter how people thought about it, the only arrow that could have done that was the first one.

“Leading is your style, right? If memory serves me right, you said ‘harassing your opponent from afar until it gets skewered’. Thank you for telling me, it spared me a lot of time.”

She was reading Castells’ thoughts since before the match had started, so she already knew how his magic worked and how he moved. Taking advantage of the doubt that Kunon instilled within people, she made her first attack remain unnoticeable until the very end.
Acting carefully brought her to that outcome.

“For your information, I could win even against Kunon in an one-on-one fight.”

With the light behind her back, her bewitching eyes glimmered like gold. Then she lowered her bow, and stopped drawing it while the man’s expression seemed to lighten at the sound of the flute.


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0

New Game – Chapter 33

TL Note: it’s been… yeah, almost 7 months, and I’m quite ashamed of it. Sorry for the long wait, but it couldn’t be helped. I’ll try my best to release once every 2 weeks, switching between New Game and Dick Silver.
Reminder that we now have a discord server! Feel free to join by clicking here!


The birdie’s tears – Part 1

In that week, Richtert was bustling with life.
Eluria will hold an official match between Richtert’s magic knights and the company Suzuran—those words were announced in every layer of the capital, and many people were shocked by it.
It was the first time that something like that was going to happen, and many citizens started to pay more attention to the company that rose from the slums and earned its power by kicking down the corrupted one.
Both nobles and commoners had the impression that it could really tip the capital’s balance.
And finally, the day came…

“This was to be expected from the queen. There’s quite a lot of people.”

All the people who came to watch the show were making a racket in the western side of the Eltern plains.
To keep the place safe, magic barriers were erected around the seats reserved to the royalty and the nobles.
Lize wasn’t the only one sitting near Eluria, as there were also the three attendants of the overlords and the Fairstadt siblings.
Proclaiming such a unique event publicly attracted the attention of men and women of all ages from every part of the city, which resulted in a full house of the commoner seats.
Looking at the center of that crowd, Takumi nodded in satisfaction.

“Nice… don’t tell me you’re going to be nervous in front of this many people.”

“Do you think I would be?”

“I can’t even see them!”

Karin replied composedly while Kunon, who was blindfolded and handcuffed, commented cheerfully.

“That’s good. You’re being watched by a lot of people, so don’t slip right now, okay?”

As Takumi spoke, he shifted his gaze over the royal seats.
Eluria was looking down on them calmly along with Lize, a shadow cast on her face.
He then noticed that a man was approaching his group.

“Hah! Not running from this match is already an admirable feat for the likes of you!”

Kiad commented with his arrogant attitude.
There were two men following him, a brown-haired one with short hair, and a gloomy looking one wearing glasses.

“Oh, you didn’t run away either, young Fortesea?”

“There is no need for someone like me to run away from you… I only want Her Majesty and all these people to see an enjoyable match.”

A crooked smile cracked Kiad’s face.

“These are Boris and Castells, two powerful elites among the magic knights, and also loyal retainers that I trust. You should be grateful to face someone like them.”

The noble’s plan was to crush Suzuran’s team in front of everyone with powerful magic knights in order to gain merits from the Queen. Looking at them, Takumi smiled cheerfully.
Karin and Kunon’s foes were definitely strong… so the result of the match would’ve had a huge influence on the audience.

“Squirm to your death, trash of the slums.”

After spitting those words in a low voice, Kiad turned on his heels and got back to his side of the arena.

“Hey girls, he told you to die.”

“Was he not talking to you? You totally teed him off.”

“I agree~! I’m sure Takumi wouldn’t die even if you killed him, though.”

The three of them joked with each other while preparing for the match.

“Don’t play around too much… but try your best to make everyone have a good time, okay?”

With those parting words, Takumi headed outside the barrier.
After he left, the magic knights couldn’t bear their laughter anymore and snickered.

“Castells, you heard? They really think they can win.”

“Hihihi… isn’t it good, Boris? Thinking is still free for everyone, remember?”

The short-haired one laughed scornfully, while the other one let out an eerie laugh.

“Bring it on. Lord Kiad said that he wouldn’t mind if you died accidentally, so you might end up dead the moment you move, you know?”

Boris unsheathed the short sword he had tied on his hip and provoked the demi-humans by swaying it.
Still, Kunon and Karin ignored him and kept their composure. The elf placed the long wooden box she was carrying on her back to the ground.

“Kunon, feel free to choose. I will wipe the floor with the other one.”

“Okaaay~! It’s my turn, then! I feel cramped with this blindfold and the cuffs, so I’ll just end this quickly!”

She started to walk toward her target, then began to hop cherfully as she advanced.

“Here I come, Mister loser!”

“…Tch. The boring girl is up to me? The hell was your master thinking when he decided to send you to battle blindfolded and handcuffed?”

“Oh boy… isn’t that obvious?”

Her smile was so broad that it looked like it was splitting her head in two.

“He wanted to show everyone how unsightly and puny you guys are.”

A whistle signaled the start of the match, and Boris clenched his fist around his sword.

“Let me start with crushing your mouth, then!”

He brought his weapon behind him while howling, then unleashed his charged attack.

“I will compliment you if you live through the Head chopper’s slash!”

The earth split accordingly to the trajectory of his slash. It looked like an invisible blade that cut through anything on its path was fired against Kunon, who dodged it flawlessly by stepping on the side, but Boris wasn’t surprised by it.

“Of course you avoided that… You werebeasts have good hearing. No need to use your eyes to roughly grasp where I am, right?”

“…Oh, how smart of you. And here I thought I was gonna bite your windpipe off in a jiffy.”

“You know how many dozens of demi-humans I killed during the skirmishes of the old empire? Of course I know your weak and strong points.”

He rested his short sword on his shoulder and showed a sadistic smile.

“Aren’t werebeasts said to be the top predators? Wolves, tigers, lions, bears, oxen… no matter who they were, I killed plenty of them. How could I lose against a fox?”

Kunon’s ears twitched at his words.

“How many times must I keep repeating that I’m a wolf?!”

Her roar thundered in the stage and shook the air.
She probably felt better the next moment, because when she smiled…

“Takumi told me not to kill you… so I will just maul you hard.”

A vivid shade of killing intent painted her tone of voice.
Still, Boris thought she was bluffing and didn’t take her seriously.

“Let me see how you run with your tail between your legs!”

Smiling like he was enjoying the thrill of a hunt, Boris unleashed another of his attacks. Unlike the previous one, after traveling on the ground, it “jumped” at its target like a viper.
Kunon focused to catch its sound, and once her ears twitched after perceiving it, she slightly moved away and dodged it.
Although she wasn’t fully aware of what was going on around her due to the blindfold, none of the attacks grazed her.

“Oh, c’mon, what’s up?! If ya don’t dodge with spirit, you’re gonna lose your head!”

Without answering his provocation, the wolf kept dodging every attack.
Then, the man had a terrible feeling.
He thought that a werebeast used to fights could dodge one of his slashes… but only one.

“Maaan, you suck so baaad… Don’t you know how to hunt?”

Her voice was calm and her face relaxed while dodging the storm of attacks, which helped that eerie feeling grow within Boris.

“Lemme show you how to do it.”

She hopped a few more times to prepare for her next move, then stomped on the ground forcefully and dashed toward her opponent.

“Wha—”

Her golden afterimage looked like a thunder zapping around. The distance between them was closed in the blink of an eye, and once she was in front of him, she smiled.

“First, you corner your prey.”

The next instant, he saw her leg drawing an arc in the air, and a high-pitched shrill rang when she kicked his face.
His magic tool successfully created a barrier, but she took advantage of his confusion to take some distance again.

“Aaand this is one.”

She then lowered her body and let the chains of her handcuffs rattle as to mock him.
Boris was a little surprised by what just happened.
They were far apart, but she closed the distant in a split second, and that wasn’t all.

“What the… hell did you do?”

“You mean with your pathetic magic?”

He swallowed his saliva.

“You had to put some murderous intent in that first attack… but you were too obvious.”

The man could feel cold sweat running down his spine.

“Your magic… what was it again, Head chopper? Nice name, but your slashes only stop where you want, right? While you hid it by raising dust and making noise, you activated slashing traps you prepared beforehand, didn’t you?”

She giggled happily at her own words.

“Not bad. The attacks you land are invisible, that’s how you could slaughter so many demi-humans… am I right?”

Kunon explained the trick ruthlessly, then waited a few moments.

“Wait, you shutting up because I’m right? Since I took the trouble to explain it, would you please keep talking before this becomes even more boring?”

After hearing her provocation, he didn’t speak another word. An alarm within his head was screaming that he was in danger. If the smallest of sounds escaped from his mouth, the wolf in front of him would’ve gouged his windpipe with her fangs.
Only imagining it made him terrified of that monster.
Meanwhile, Kunon couldn’t stop giggling.

“Man, your heart is sooo noisy! Feel free to shut up, but I’ll still know where you are due to your heartbeat, you know?”

“How… How could you see through my magic?!”

As he forced those words out of him, she let her chains rattle again while placing a finger on her lips.

“Mmmh… I’m blindfolded, so I couldn’t see through anything. I just felt the smell of your magic and guessed what it did.”

“Spare me your bullshit! Magic doesn’t smell—”

“Yes, it does. When the law formula activates and your magic manifests, it smells.”

She bared her canines while grinning fiercely.

“Once I follow it back with my nose… I can reach its source.”

Geiz sent some mages against Takumi and his comrades before, and all she needed to do was stomping where the fire pillars where going to spring.

“Of course it’s impossible for you humans to do it, because even demi-humans need to polish their sense of smell to feel it… but see, it’s really easy when you know you’re fighting a magic user.”

She said it was simple, but he understood that it was a strenuous task.
There wasn’t a single demi-human who could grasp how his magic worked before.

“If I’m blindfolded, my sense of smell and hearing will naturally become sharper.”

Wolves, tigers, lions, bears, oxen… no matter how ferocious a werebeast was, none of them could escape their demise.
None of them could smell his magic.
That’s why he was the predator and not the opposite…
But now, a monster was laughing in front of him, making a lot of noise with the rattling chains that bound her.

“Now… let’s put on a show as Takumi asked.”

In that moment, Boris noticed that his hands were trembling. To stop them, he tightened his grip on his short sword.

“Hah… then try to kill me, dirty werebeast!

He let out a war cry to boost his own morale, then swung his sword all around him to form a cutting barrier. If anyone was to step into it, they’d have ended up minced meat.
If she understood what I can do, it’s better not to let her come any closer—guessing his thought, Kunon grinned.

“Do you think that cutting your escape route to stay safe will help you? Preys’ moves are very stupid.”

She then breathed in a huge amount of air, and let out an ear-splitting roar that echoed through the sky like a howl, but sounded closer to a song, and even closer to a word. All the glass in the surrounding area resonated along with it, and soon the overlapping sounds raised their numbers and became a melody.

“W-What… are you doing…?”

Boris Understood what she just did, but he asked it anyway.
That monster had smashed his defence.
To manifest his magic, he channeled it with the law formula, but… it was dispelled with that wall of sound.
Not only his first attack was destroyed, but every other trap resonated with each other and vanished.
While the concert was playing, Kunon walked toward him, her chains still rattling.

“A certain famous archbishop told me that in order to meddle with law formulas, I need to know both their location and shape. A werebeast’s hearing is good. If something is tangible, it can reverberate, and if I hear that, I can grasp its shape1.”

Boris noticed too late that she had already yelled like that when he called her a fox.
Hearing how her voice stretched out in the air, she could accurately grasp the shape of his magic’s law formulas.

“Also, if anyone knew how law formulas are created… even a demi-human like me could meddle with them. As you’ve seen, it’s possible to make it self-destruct.”

The man couldn’t even pronounce ‘impossible’, since the monster in front of him just proved to everyone her words.

“Hunting means cornering a prey both physically and mentally.”

Her giggling grew as their distance closed.

“You… fucking werebeast!

He dispelled the fear that paralyzed him with a thunderous scream and started to swing his short sword around randomly, trying to improve his defense, but Kunon let out a bored sigh.

“Maaan… since there’s no way out for you, at least try a bit harder…”

She lifted her leg and kicked the soil beneath her at full strength, causing it to rupture and send pebbles and stones flying toward him.
Her projectiles were cut in the air without a sound, and when Boris’ defense activated, they left behind a vacuum for a mere instant.

“There should be a limit to how boring something could be.”

When she trained with Elsa while being blindfolded, the magic tools were protected by the barrier surrounding the training field. But when that same barrier was about to activate now, she punched the vacuum with all of her strength—the next moment, the sound of broken glass pierced the arena, and her chains tightened around Boris’s neck.

“Gah… aah…!”

“Didn’t I tell you? I can smell magic. Even if it’s the law formula of a magic tool. Its place… well, I didn’t even think about it this time, I just punched really hard.”

Rattling, her chains started to dig in the skin of his neck while she whispered to his ear.

“You never had a single chance of winning. Only a loser, a prey, would be driven to the corner this one-sidedly.”

Then, a cruel smile cracked her face.

“Now, you were all prideful while saying that you killed dozens of demi-humans…”

While his throat started to gave in due to the chain’s pressure, she delivered her last words with a lunatic smile warping her expression.

“I have slaughtered countless of bugs like you, human.”

The last thing that Boris could hear before losing consciousness was the sound of his spine snapping in half.


1 Probable like a bat’s sonar. Dunno in how many other ways she could do that.

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1+

New Game – Chapter 32

The way to open up the cage – Part 5

The streets of the slums were commonly noisier compared to the upper layers of the city.
As midnight approached, the angry roars and cackling of people within a certain bar reached the outside of the building, the same one Takumi was going to enter with a firm pace.

“Welcome! I can’t take you to a table, but feel free to take a seat wherever… Oh, Takumi?”

The girl who was moving around while holding a tray stopped to face him.

“Sorry for bothering you when you’re this busy, Lilia. I’ll sit with the others.”

“Yeah, feel free to~! But know that I’ll make you pay for the seat~!”

She showed him a broad grin and he replied with a wry one before entering in the inner part of the bar.

“Mhh? Finahhy Hakumi’sh here!”

“You sure took your sweet time. I was growing tired of waiting.”

Kunon and Karin looked at him at the same time while sitting in front of a plain table.

“I had a few things do to. Kunon, are you better now?”

“Auu behher now heh I’m eahing!”

“I can’t understand a word, but I guess you’re doing fine.”

Seeing Kunon stuffing her face, her hands full of beef skewers, Karin let out a deep sigh.

“Can we get down to business? We don’t have to worry about the bug anymore.”

“I find ironic that the slums are the most relaxing place of the whole city.”

Takumi sat at an empty chair nearby and rested his elbows on the table.

“First, great job, girls.”

When he smiled, the demi-humans smiled back and nodded.

“We’ve now confirmed that the information was leaked successfully.”

“Good grief… I feel sorry for Lise. She devoted herself to studying magic and carefully explained it to us, but it has been hard to suppress my yawns.”

“Even I had to endure losing against the Captain! But she was quite strong, so I didn’t have to act much.”

Takumi nodded placidly at their words.
They had already started executing their plan.
Seven years had passed since they joined Suzuran, and saying that they spent half of that time researching magic wasn’t an exaggeration.
Magic was the most dangerous power in the world. It was inaccessible to Takumi and was also the natural enemy of demi-humans like Kunon and Karin.
That’s why they had to prepare a way to deal with it beforehand.
Of course, Richtert’s Magic was no exception.
Still, they had to let Kiad know a few things to win the match: they were searching for a way to counter magic, since not even Kunon’s strength could deal with it, and Karin knew little of it, so she had to deepen her knowledge to cope with it.
Furthermore, Takumi didn’t have any magic power in him.

“Who’d have expected that magic tools have a mirroring magic integrated into their law formulas?”

“…Please, spare us. You suspected that from the start.”

“Well, obviously. In two years, a single holy knight, who then became Fortesea’s guest, reformed all the magic tools. Who wouldn’t become suspicious?”

He lightly tapped on his temple.

“Also, even though I’d have acted differently, they did things my way, so I could guess what they had in mind and noticed that some stuff was out of place.”

His information network was made by the slaves he sold.
As he gathered information from them, he monitored Fortesea’s movements and noticed that they were too accurate.
He then started to think about the reason why Lise would’ve had to reform the magic tools, and concluded that Fortesea wanted to use them to spy on people.

“Asking Zeiss was the right choice. He really has an eye for tools.”

“Speaking of him, hasn’t he become the disciple of a traveling merchant? Are they back yet?”

“Yeah, but they departed again. Kunon said that something felt off about magic tools, so I asked him to check if something was out of place, and he immediately noticed that there was a strange material within them.”

“Great job for remembering something that vague…”

“Information constitute one’s fortune. There’s no worthless information in the world.”

The elf was impressed to see him tapping on his temple again.

“And you learned quite a lot by prying on Lise, right, Karin?”

“Yes. Well, your guess about her situation was quite right.”

She flipped through the pages of her notebook with shining eyes.

“Fortesea holds her mother hostage, and they threatened Lise by showing her their authority, then forced her to apply a law formula on a human… This must be quite hard to bear for an eleven years old girl.”

“That just means that Lise is essential for Kiad. Binding her with collar and chains wasn’t enough for him, so he closed her away in a cage.”

“…But that doesn’t justify their choice to kill people indirectly.”

Seeing Karin so annoyed to repeatedly tap her finger on the table was a rare sight.

“I can’t believe they wrote a law formula that makes someone’s magic power go on a rampage intentionally. Also, burying in that same body the core part of a magic tool that could draw said power and crystallize it to raise its level… it’s just crazy. Honestly, the strange thing is how Lise wasn’t crushed by this.”

“Yeah… this is some serious shit.”

Remembering the child who never smiled, Takumi’s face warped… into an expression that showed clearly his intent to kill someone who wasn’t there.

“Anyway, we’ve finished our preparation. Just focus on what is waiting for you now.”

Then, he faced the wolf.

“Kunon, do you remember the match against Elsa?”

Gulp. Yes, perfectly! Now I can also distinct stuff!”

“Good. Feel free to eat whatever you want, then.”

“Really?! Yaaay! Lilia, bring a wagon of meat!”

Her eyes sparkled like stars, and she trotted to the door while screaming before making the doorbell ring repeatedly. That hungry girl alone drowned the noise of the entire bar out.

“What about you, Karin? Is there something you want? I’ll have Geiz get it for you.”

“Let’s see… since I can’t use a rifle, I’d need to use Aigle’s bow or something like that.”

“…Do you want to bring that?”

“What? I’m an elf, so why can’t I use a bow?”

“No, I mean… how can I put it… you are showy for the strangest things.”

“Perhaps I was influenced by the flashy puppeteer who is my Master.”

Takumi shrugged his shoulders at her titter.

“I believe in your abilities, no matter how you use them. Nothing will change what you can do.”

His voice was calm and majestic as he mouthed the next words.

“Kill magic in front of everyone.”


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2+

New Game – Chapter 31

The way to open up the cage – Part 4

The carriage swayed as it clattered down the road.
No one among its passengers muttered a word, and neither did the coachman, who looked busy doing his job.
The maid that always took care of Lise was silent while checking her dress and body, then, after finishing, she turned her face away.
The archbishop’s mouth was sealed shut, as she didn’t want to speak. Actually, she thought that talking would’ve been an unforgivable deed.

“You sure took your time, huh?”

She jumped hearing the voice of the man sitting nearby, and quivered.
In front of her, with a grin plastered on his face, sat Kiad Fortesea.
She started to elaborate an answer while tightening her clutch on the basket she held in her arms.

“…I am sorry. I fell asleep.”

“Yeah, I know. There’s no need to be that startled, you know? Lise Crest.”

He was probably in a good mood as he stifled a laugh in his throat.

“You are such a great actor despite your young age! They leaked quite the load of information! I couldn’t stop laughing!”

She bit her lower lip, but he didn’t mind her and kept talking.

“What a fantastic holy knight you are! You didn’t only create the magic tools for us, but also entwined two different kinds of magic within them!”

Since she became archbishop, Lise created a lot of new magic tools.
She optimized the law formulas to their limits, lessening the amount of magic power needed to activate them, and also improving significantly the barriers they provided for defense.
Fortesea, as a major company, started to sell them to nobles, and in only two years they became widely spread… although no one knew that their law formulas had a secret code within them.

“Listening to people’s conversations without being there is pretty useful, ain’t it? That way, spying on the other families’ magic studies is easy, and… this way, I can know how strong are the idiots who oppose me and when they scheme something right away.”

Kiad had heard every conversation that Takumi held with Lise.
Within magic tools’ law formulas was entwined a magic that mirrored messages to someone else, so Kiad could listen to any conversation freely.

“Still… Haha, I can’t believe that slave merchant doesn’t have magic power! I can’t help but laugh! How can he try to oppose me with such a puny body?!”

His smile crooked in wickedness and bloodlust painted his gaze.
He also knew about Kunon’s training, about Karin’s lack of combat experience, and that none of them wanted to use magic tools… he knew everything.
And it was all Lise’s fault, though she didn’t have a choice.
Her mission was to confirm how much they knew about magic, what tactics they were preparing, and how dangerous they could be.
At first, Lise should’ve activated her own magic tool, but luckily there were some in the Fairstadt mansion, so she didn’t have to and risk being suspected.

“Why were you honest with them about magic, though?”

“…Sorry, I am not good at lying, so I preferred to speak as little truth as possible.”

“Hah! Your expression never changes, how could they notice a lie? Still, you are praiseworthy for worrying about it.”

She struggled to keep her deadpan expression despite her lying.
The truth was, she didn’t want to lie.
Still, despite her shadiness, Mirta extended her a helping hand, and Takumi never looked displeased at her presence, although she had come out of nowhere.
She didn’t want to lie to people like them, although she had already betrayed them, and wanted to avoid feeling guiltier.
When she felt that her feelings were about to spill out, she clutched her basket with even more strength as if trying to squeeze them with her hands.
But that was the wrong move.

“By the way, what’s in there?”

Kiad gestured at her while gazing at the basket.

“Let me see what’s inside.”

“…Mirta gave me some apple pie, and–”

“You heard me? I told you to let me see what’s inside.”

His merry expression twisted in a moment, and a shade of anger painted his voice.
Timidly, the child handed her present over. He snatched it from her, and then took the wrapped box out of it.

“Ooh… the shape isn’t very good, but it looks like a pie, yeah.”

He then unwrapped it, looked at the insides, and crushed it.

“Mh… I thought they’d hid something here, but I guess they’re not that smart.”

A second later, Kiad threw the bashed box and basket on the ground, then kicked them toward Lise.

“…Ah… Ahhhh…!”

Lise couldn’t stop her voice while seeing at the mess her pie was right now – the present that Mirta wanted to give her.
But the man didn’t care, and probably amused by her expression, which she hardly changed, wore an unpleasant grin.

“What, did you like that? Let’s make our cook bake one for you, then.”

“…No, I… can do without it…”

Probably irritated by seeing her put the box back in the basket and embracing it again, the man rose his voice without holding his anger back.

“What the hell is wrong with you? Do you understand your position?!”

“…Yes. I understand it.”

“Then try to tell me.”

He glared down on her with a gaze that would have shattered anyone’s happiness.

“Say it! What the fuck is your position?!”

“…I accepted the protection of Fortesea as their guest.”

“Exactly! Who took care of you after your father died and your mother collapsed due to her illness?!”

“…Lord Kiad Fortesea.”

“Yes, I did! I confirmed your talent as a holy knight, I prepared a proper workspace for you, I discussed with my father, and I made you become the damn archbishop! And who did you ask for help when your mother was bedridden?! You asked us, Fortesea, to help you! Did you forget that?!”

“…No. I would never forget your kindness, Lord Kiad.”

While speaking, she wore a deadpan expression.
She hated herself.
For being afraid of the mighty Fortesea, and for being so pathetic.

During her sixth birthday, Lise was glad to become part of the Fortesea family.
She was a holy knight like her late father, and thanks to the law formula she had invented, she believed she could help her mother getting better. She studied day and night, sometimes even forgetting to sleep.
Thanks to her efforts and resourcefulness, she deepened her knowledge of magic and law formulas very quickly, and in three mere years she became known as a prodigy. Then, Elvis, head of the family of Fortesea, granted her the status of archbishop.
She believed that her creation could help people… but in the next two years, her faith crumbled.

“We’ve arrived? Lise, you did your job. Now go research stuff as usual.”

The carriage stopped as he said those words, and coming back to her senses, the archbishop felt her mood sink.
In the royal castle’s basement were the law formula’s development room and laboratory.

“With your last report, I guess your progress aren’t going very well… but you won’t ease up now, won’t you?”

“…No. What I am currently researching is quite difficult, so I only need more time.”

“Haha, it’s hard even for a prodigy like you? Then feel free to hole yourself up in there until the match’s day. I’ll prepare everything you need.”

She was clearly under a sort of house arrest, and it was impossible for her to escape.
Trying her best not to look at Kiad’s gross smile, Lise got off the carriage.

“Go, now. And don’t forget who let you and your mother live.”

“…Yes. But could I eat something before?”

“Come again? The servants will bring you anything anytime.”

“No… I do not want a meal. I only want to eat this before it gets cold.”

She raised the basket in her hand, and the man grunted annoyed.

“Do what you want. After you eat that shit, go to the laboratory right away.”

After he spat those hideous words, the carriage started to move again along with the neigh of the horses.
Paying no mind to it, she hurried to her room, which was actually a guest room within the royal castle.
Despite her being a child, she was both the archbishop and a guest of Fortesea, so her room was insanely gorgeous and very spacious.
They thought she’d be happy to go to and from the basement if they gave her that room, and that decision was a mere glimpse of the power the Fortesea held as a family.
Lise moved alone in the room and kindly placed the basket on the desk, then opened the crushed box and stared at the bashed pie.
She brought to her mouth a piece which was still warm and felt the sweet flavor of sugar mixing perfectly with the sour fruit.

“This is… not shit.”

Unable to contain the emotion that filled her whisper, tears streamed down her cheeks and fell on the back of her hand.
The more that gentle flavor spread in her mouth, the more her feelings deepened.

“This is… nothing like shit.”

That pie was something made by someone who thought tenderly about her.
The kind, warm taste of that present reminded Lise of her mother’s cuisine when she was still healthy. She despised Kiad for having crushed it and called it shit.
Still, she didn’t have the courage to face him directly.
She hadn’t Takumi’s confidence, who could speak sharply in front of that monster.
The only thing she could do was lock her feelings away and follow Fortesea’s orders.
That was the only sacrifice needed to keep her and her mother alive. Living by giving up her everything and suppressing her heart.
That wasn’t any different from living like… a slave.
She tried to dry her tears until, without noticing, she ended up grasping thin air. Nothing of the pie was left.

“…Next time we meet, I must thank her.”

While softly whispering those words, she wiped her face with her sleeves, then stared at the paper in the bottom of the box.
She wanted to take care of her present to the end, so she carefully took it while feeling the urge to negate Kiad’s words, but…

“…Mh?”

The paper didn’t seem to budge.
Now that she noticed it, although Kiad crushed the box, that paper sheet kept its original shape perfectly.
Then, she remembered Mirta’s words – not wrinkle the paper when you lift it – and so she did.


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New Game – Chapter 30

The way to open up the cage – Part 3

Twilight painted the upper part of Listina in shades of vermilion.
Probably somehow noticing that a long time had passed, Lise rubbed her eyes as she lifted her body.

“Did I… fall asleep…?”

“Yeah. It’s evening right now.”

Lize jumped at Takumi’s voice, not expecting him to be that close.

“…This is the worst. Letting you see my sleeping face is just the worst.”

“Try to think a bit more about yourself, then. No matter how much stressful work one has to do, a good child shouldn’t push all-nighters and just go to sleep early.”

“I am no child… but I have surely been a problem. Sorry.”

“No need to apologize. I’m in debt with you for teaching me about magic, so if you need help with anything, feel free to come to Suzuran.”

“It was not that big of a deal… also, I do not… need anything.”

“…I see. Keep doing your best, then.”

Lise balled her hand firmly at his words.

“My job isn’t that important…”

As if to squeeze out her feelings, she uttered those words in a whisper.
Before he could comment, the sound of heavy footsteps approaching them reached their ears, and they turned to see Mirta hurrying over.

“Sorry for making you wait! Oh, Lise, are you awake?”

“…Yes. Sorry for falling asleep in the middle of our lesson.”

“Do not worry! I came by a few minutes earlier, but you were still sound asleep on Takumi’s lap… I confess I was a bit envious.”

“…Did I sleep on this slave merchant’s lap?”

As she stared at Suzuran’s leader in wonder, Takumi patted the said zone.

“Yeah, I was reading this book while you rested your head here. It was bad when you started drooling, though.”

“…No way. I do not drool.”

“What’s that thing on the corner of your mouth, then?”

She blushed furiously while scrubbing her mouth with her sleeve.

“Guess I just imagined it, huh?

“…People like you are the lowest of the low…!”

“Oh, who cares. At least you woke up, didn’t you?”

Unable to stomach Takumi’s smile, Lise flailed her arms about while her face flushed a bright red and tears welled in her eyes, and the slave merchant decided to take a hold of himself.

“By the way, one of Fairstadt’s messengers came to escort you home. Please, take this as a sign of gratitude for what you did for us today.”

Mirta handed a basket over the archbishop.

“What is this?”

“An apple pie I just baked.”

The child’s nose twitched as she smelled the sweet aroma coming from Mirta’s hands, and she looked at the basket with sparkling eyes, like it was a treasure.

“Takumi told me that you wanted to taste my dessert, so I thought to give you some… do you perhaps dislike it?”

“No, I like sweet things… but I am not used to this kind of things, so I am surprised.”

Holding the basket close to her chest, like she was holding a precious gem, Lise bowed her head.

“Thank you very much. I will take good care of it.”

“Do not mention it. Still, although the pie’s flavor should be all right, the shape is a little bit off. Be careful not to wrinkle the paper when you lift it, okay?”

Gazing at the woman’s wry smile, Lise’s mouth curved slightly.

“…Okay. I will be careful.”

“I hope you like it! Let’s go now, the messenger is waiting at the door with a carriage.”

Suzuran’s leader stretched her hand toward Lise, who was about to grab it, when…

“No… I will be fine by myself. Thank you for worrying.”

…after a nimble bow, she darted away.
Watching her back growing distant, Mirta let out a few whispered words.

“Lise, will you…?”

“I can’t promise that, but at least she shouldn’t be excessively abused. That piece of shit Kiad did it only to provoke us, and, in the past, she has probably been… but I don’t think it has been that bad since she became the archbishop.”

Lise now had the chance to show herself in front of other nobles, so Fortesea couldn’t hurt her thoughtlessly, given that rumors could have spread and tarnished their fame. Kiad would never think that was fine.

“Kiad is just a brute, that’s why he hit her. But he knows well what his actions could bring… At least, he knows he won’t just be spanked a little.”

Then, Takumi grinned.

“Still, the likes of him are easy to manipulate.”

He tapped repeatedly on his temple.

“Let’s go, we have some stuff to do. Tell Elsa we said hi.”

“Okay… Takumi, take care of Lise.”

As she looked at him with uneasiness, he turned his back and waved his hand, then told the others to come with him and headed to the slums.


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