Stealth vs. Master Swordsman (Prelude)
Hikaru stifled a yawn. Before him was breakfast served by the inn. Freshly-baked brown bread in a basket, a slice of cheese that smelled just a bit too strong on a plate, and orange-colored fruits the size of baseballs. In his mug was warm milk. It wasn’t cow milk, but it had a distinct rich taste, and quite an aroma as well.
「More food coming.」
A plate with five sausages the size of bananas was placed on the table. I can’t eat all this in the morning, Hikaru thought. He glanced at the other tables and saw people gobbling down their food.
「Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You won’t grow if you don’t eat.」Lavia said in a patronizing tone as she took a sip of her fruit juice.
「I’m not a kid anymore. You should eat too.」
「You want a lady to eat something this heavy so early in the morning? You’re an enemy to all women.」
「I can’t eat all this by myself, you know.」
「You don’t have to finish it.」
It was their first time having a meal at an inn. As such, they had no idea how much food was actually served. But then again, more was better.
Incidentally, they managed to book a room for two. They didn’t need to present their identification cards. It was hard to tell if a soul card was fake or not, and with the royal capital being huge, they couldn’t find the time to check every single one of their guests.
However, they were required to touch a stone tablet to determine if they had a criminal record or not. Officially-licensed inns in the capital always had one.
Everything’s so different from Pond, Hikaru thought as he and Lavia touched the tablet. They didn’t have any records, of course. The room cost 500 gilans a night (breakfast included). It was on the expensive side, but since it was close to the Second residential district, Hikaru had no reason not to stay here. He paid for three nights in advance.
Money left: 21,780 gilans (+100,000 gilans)
Hikaru concentrated on eating and left over half his food unfinished.
「You gotta eat more or you won’t grow big!」the innkeeper said, tapping his back, making him burp.
After that, he returned to their room to sleep until noon. He came back at dawn and only had one hour of sleep.
「I’m going to sleep as well.」Lavia said, shuffling into the bed beside Hikaru.
Worried about Hikaru, Lavia apparently stayed up late to wait for his return. Hikaru thought there was another reason she was up late. She probably couldn’t stop herself from reading what’s going to happen next in the adventure novel she borrowed from the bookstore. This world’s bookstore mostly rented out their books instead of selling them.
And so the two of them slept until just before noon.
Last night, Hikaru attacked three commanders as planned. His number one goal was to “hide a tree in a forest”. In other words, to make people think twice about giving East the death penalty. If the squad commanders got beaten in the blink of an eye, it would make sense that East would lose to the assailant. Hikaru found it hard to believe that all of them including the commanders would get executed.
Hikaru didn’t mind breaking a few bones if it meant East would live. The commanders wouldn’t be able to save face, however.
He had two other objectives as well.
First, Hikaru wanted to see the security situation in the center of the royal capital. Surprisingly it wasn’t all that great. The gate separating the First residential district and the Nobles district was guarded constantly, even at night. Put it another way, that meant people could pass through anytime. The number of guards didn’t matter to Hikaru – he simply went through without stopping. It was the same for the knights’ quarters. People would go in and out twenty-four-seven so the place wasn’t locked. Hikaru basically had a free pass. Gloria’s small place would be harder to infiltrate.
Hikaru had some few difficulties sneaking in to Scott’s residence. The building next door was under construction so he first entered there, climbed up to the roof, then jumped to Scott’s place. From the roof, he used a rope to descend down to Scott’s room.
Scott probably thought the intruder jumped down the window and escaped, but Hikaru actually used the rope to climb back up to the roof. From there, he escaped through the building next door.
Hikaru found the three commanders’ addresses from the emergency contact network in the knights’ quarters. Not only were their address on there, but there was a map to each of their residence as well.
His second objective was to find out how strong the squad commanders were. Fortunately, he didn’t need to fight them. Scott’s Soul Board went like this:
【Soul Board】Scott F. Lands
Age: 26 Rank: 22
He probably trained hard enough that he used up all his points. The other knights had zero points left as well, or at the most had three points left. If they wanted to develop their strengths, they would certainly hit a wall.
Squad commanders with four points on Sword Mastery were no match for Hikaru if they were unarmed. If they had platemails on though, he would not stand a chance with only two points in Throwing and a point on Strength.
「Time to go.」
After notifying Lavia, Hikaru made his way to the royal castle. The knights in town worked in threes, obviously to prevent being attacked. However, the guards at the residential district gates didn’t seem to be on alert. It seemed they weren’t informed of the knights’ squad commanders getting attacked.
Hmm… there’s really not a lot of them.
There were approximately five hundred names on the contact network he found in the knights’ quarters, but the knights he saw there numbered a lot fewer – around forty to fifty. There could be men like Scott who had his own place. Still, there were a lot of empty rooms.
Must be the war.
There should have been three more company commanders in the knights’ quarters. It was safe to assume that the rest were already sent to the front lines. Hikaru didn’t care about the current status of the war. With fewer knights and soldiers around, he wouldn’t have to worry much about authorities getting in the way of his plans.
It was already dark by the time Hikaru went through the Nobles district’s gate. Bonfires were lit, their light reflecting on the tip of the gatekeeper’s spear. Hikaru didn’t care, though. He simply went in.
The captain’s bedroom wasn’t in the knights’ quarters. Hikaru headed to his private residence in the Nobles district, but it was closed and nobody seemed to be around. No one answered his knocks, either.
The castle, then? There’s no way. Wait, what if…
Hikaru had a hunch. He headed to the knights’ indoor training facility. It was a building made of wood as big as a grade school gymnasium. It was also the biggest facility around. The floor was bare, with wooden walls and roofs. It looked like a barn more than anything with eight pillars that supported the ceiling. There was a catwalk and one could overlook the training ground from the second floor.
Four torches were lit inside, not enough to light up the whole place. Hikaru welcomed the faint light from the night that slipped into the place through the four opened double doors.
In the middle of the training ground sat a huge figure, wearing only the minimum protective gear. A sword as long as Hikaru’s height stuck to the ground beside him.
The man’s presence was so overwhelming that Hikaru knew who the man was right away. Hikaru should be safe thanks to his Stealth and job class, but the aura emitting from the man was too much for him. It was as if he was walking underwater.
The captain was clearly on a whole different level than the commanders he attacked last night. To make things worse, he was ready for Hikaru.
The man didn’t notice Hikaru standing in front of him. Yet he desperately searched for the shadows to hide himself. From there, he crept closer and closer until he was within the five-meter range where he could see the captain’s Soul Board.
【Soul Board】Lawrence D. Falcon
Age: 38 Rank: 48
This guy’s a monster!
Hikaru ran back quickly to the walls. The captain had six points on his Great Sword which was on par with Unken’s six points on Short Sword. But his Strength was an order of magnitude higher. A whopping sixteen points. The max points one could allocate to it was thirty. Hikaru had never seen anyone with over ten points on Strength.
There was one more thing on Hikaru’s mind. The Heaven Sword. It was clearly a Skill derived from Weapon Mastery. The captain had a total of 83 points that he all used up. He couldn’t use magic, but it didn’t seem like he needed to learn either. Whereas Hikaru only had a total of 32 points – less than half that of the captain’s.
Age: 15 Rank: 17
There was one more thing bothering him. The six points the captain had on Instinct. Even Unken only had four points on his.
「So you finally came for me.」
The captain knew Hikaru was here.
The captain’s no pushover. As one would expect from the kingdom’s strongest Master Swordsman… Wait, he is the strongest, right? What if he wasn’t? This guy looks like he can take down a few hundred men on his own.
「Where are you? Show yourself! Ah, right. Your method is attacking people without showing yourself.」
Slowly, the captain stood up. He glared at his surroundings. His kind and gentle eyes turned fierce in an instant, completely wary of everything.
「I know what you’re after.」the captain continued.
What? For real?
Hikaru felt a chill go down his spine. Does he know that I’m trying to save East? Does he know about Lavia too? But how—?
「You want to test your abilities. Am I right?」
Hikaru almost dropped to the ground.
What? No! You got it all wrong! Well, I thought it might look that way.
The captain didn’t stop from eyeing his surroundings. While he noticed Hikaru’s arrival with his Instinct, he didn’t know exactly where he was.
「Rejoice. I am Lawrence, captain of the Order of the Knights, and this kingdom’s strongest man.」
Hikaru wasn’t sure how much of that was true, but it wasn’t far off from what he expected.
If people like him were all over the place, this world’s wars must be some kind of a great monster battle.
「Would you be so kind as to show yourself?」
Lawrence’s tone changed. He was more composed.
「From what I’ve heard, you’re very young. So young and yet so strong. You have a promising future. I want to recruit you to the Order.」
Is this guy serious? I sullied the reputation of the Order.
Hikaru thought about what Lawrence’s plan was.
First, he was serious about recruiting him.
Second, make Hikaru drop his guard and cut him down once he saw an opening.
Waiting for reinforcements?
There was a possibility that a high-level spell was in place that could pierce his Stealth. Hikaru activated both his Life and Mana Detection. They hindered his vision, so he usually had them off.
His reinforcement was actually already here. Someone was hiding in the corner of the second floor’s catwalk. He didn’t notice the person with Life Detection, but Mana Detection worked. They must be using some sort of magic tool to conceal their life force. Using a ladder, Hikaru climbed up to the second floor.
「What do you say? It’s not a bad deal.」
Lawrence kept on talking on the first floor. Hikaru made it next to the person hiding in no time. A woman. No, a young lady. She didn’t look like she was chanting some sort of high-level detection spell. In fact, she was just sitting there.
She was using a magic tool that made her invisible to the naked eye. But Hikaru could clearly see her mana, and she had a lot.
【Soul Board】Kudyastoria G. Ponsonia
Age: 17 Rank: 4
G. Ponsonia. Hikaru knew from Roland’s memories what kind of person had that name. A member of the royal family.
What’s a member of the royal family doing here?
Hikaru was confused. He didn’t expect this.