The Four Stars of the East’s Movements
Morning of the same day.
When you asked the residents of Pond about the finest hotel in town, they would all answer the same thing: Grand Hotel Pond.
Owned by a business tycoon, it was part of a chain of hotels that opened branches only in the best part of town. The building itself had to be the tallest one around and they’d have plenty of employees as well.
There were branches in the royal capital and Root Hubbard as well.
The first-floor lounge was so spacious that there were huge gaps between tables.
「I take it we’re all here.」
「There’s really no need to double-check, is there? There’s only four of us!」
The one who answered was Selica Tanoue. Stacked on the smooth, marble table in front of her was food that seemed a sharp contrast to her extravagant appearance – hotdogs. She’d been gulping them down for a while now.
「Aha, ahahaha… You sure have an appetite, Selica.」
「I can’t help it. It’s delicious! Do you want some, Selyse?」
「I think I’ll pass.」
Selyse Lande, the leader of the Four Stars of the East, also known as the Sun Maiden, turned down the offer with a strained laugh. The expression on her face wasn’t as tense as when she met with Unken. She was enjoying the conversation with her few trustworthy friends.
「You should just give it to her straight, Selyse. Like “You’ll get fat, Selica.”」Sarah interjected.
She had wavy, short, purple hair that matched her thin, purple eyes. Her slender arms and legs were exposed through her elbow-length shirt and knee-length trousers. Yet her proportions were fine as she wasn’t that tall. Although not a hybrid, she gave off a cat-like vibe.
「I don’t get fat! Using magic makes me hungry!」
「There’s no scientific proof of that anywhere.」Selyse commented.
「Well, I’m living proof!」
「Sure looks like it…」Sarah said.
「…What are you trying to say?」
「You don’t get fat, Selica. But your boobs won’t get bigger as well.」
Selica shot a glare at Sarah who only laughed it off. Sarah was shorter than Selica, her arms and legs slender, but for some reason she was busty. However, there was one more member of their party who had even bigger breasts.
「Let’s just start, Selyse!」
「You’re right. Where’s Sophie?」
「The church and the orphanage.」
「Same as always, then. Okay, let’s begin. First a report from each of us about what we’ve gathered so far.」
Selyse told them about her conversation with the guildmaster.
「I went to Count Morgstad’s residence this morning, but they wouldn’t let me in. I chatted with some servants though, and they said the Count’s daughter had exceptional magical abilities.」Sarah said.
Selica stopped chewing her food all of a sudden.
「Wait, is she―」
「No. She’s not like you, Selica. She was born and raised in this world. They say she has silver hair and blue eyes as well. She doesn’t speak a different language either.」Selyse said.
「From what I heard, this Lavia girl was supposed to be sent to war.」Sarah said.
Selyse frowned upon hearing the word “war”.
「Are you saying they were going to throw her into the current war with the Quinbland Empire?」
「Apparently the Count made that proposal to the king.」
「Using a young girl for war? That’s just disgusting.」
「We should just give up on this kingdom and go somewhere else! I think Forestia over at the south is great. Having a vacation at a resort would be awesome!」
「I will not wear a swimsuit!」Selica exclaimed.
「No one’s forcing you to.」Sarah said.
Selyse smiled as she listened to the girls.
「We’ll go somewhere after we close this case, all right? I guess we should look into the Count’s rival from Military Affairs.」
「Hmm… I don’t know…」Sarah said, head tilted.「I thought about that as well, but that guy’s proteges are working in the capital, keeping their distance from Count Morgstad. I think someone made arrangments behind the scenes.」
「Where’d you get that information?」Selyse asked.
「When we were at the capital I snuck into his house and eavesdropped a couple of times.」
「Really? You’d be in serious trouble if you got caught.」
「No one’s been able to sense me so far. It’s all right. Well, unless I mess up…」
「And I’m worried you might just mess up one day. Anyway, let’s do an objectuve investigation on the matter. Selica, have you looked into a spell that can make someone vanish into thin air?」Selyse asked.
「I had a guess…actually, I thought that I got it right for sure, but the Alchemists Guild’s guildmaster completely shut it down.」
「You mean the “double” theory?」
Selica’s deduction went this way:
It wasn’t the Count’s daughter that was in the carriage, but an illusion created from wind and water magic. In fact, such a spell existed.
The spell was top-notch, able to completely recreate one’s appearance and make the illusion real to the touch. During winter, though, the illusion could freeze, or the skin would be too cold for a human, but that wouldn’t be a problem in the summer.
The great thing about the double was it could turn into vapor when the spell was undone. There wouldn’t be a puddle of water or anything. There were cons as well, of course. The double couldn’t eat, and the caster had to be close to control the illusion. But such things weren’t really a problem in this case. All the caster had to do was control the girl until she entered the carriage. The vehicle would then drive off, and the spell would wear off after it reached a certain distance.
「I think it’s highly possible considering the girl had exceptional magic abilities.」
「The Alchemist Guild’s guildmaster said it wasn’t about feasibility. It was just simply impossible.」
The guildmaster said that the girl was in the mansion’s dungeon the whole time before she was taken to the carriage. He also testified that the cell she was in had a powerful spell on it and there was no way she could escape. After she was taken out of her cell, she was immediately handcuffed so she shouldn’t be able to use any magic.
「So she couldn’t have escaped on her own… I guess she got help from someone. Sarah, how would you do it? You can get close by concealing your presence, right?」
「Yup. I can even unlock the door. There’s one thing bothering me.」
「If I remember correctly, the adventurers met a man who asked for water.」
「Yes, they did mention that. What about it?」
「If that guy walked a bit, he should find a town or a settlement.」
「Good point. I thought it was suspicious at first, but in the end, they didn’t do much for that man. One guy gave him water, and that’s it. They didn’t even stop the carriage.」
「You’re really bothered about it?」
「Hmm… It’s just a hunch, but I feel like that man is connected to this whole case. But still…」
「If that man concealed his presence and got close, unlocked the door, and stopped the carriage by asking for water, he wouldn’t be able to escape while carrying the girl. It’d be a different story if the girl herself can hide her presence.」
Selyse gave a sigh.
「So we’re back to square one. I guess we should assume the C-ranked adventurers were paid.」
「There’s no fun in that. Let’s think about it some more.」Sarah said.
「Yeah! I want to stay here for a while too!」Selica exclaimed as she nodded.
「You just want to eat hotdogs.」Selyse remarked.
「There’s that too!」
「That too? You mean there’s something else?」Selyse said, wiping the ketchup off Selica’s mouth with a napkin.
「I think a brethren of mine is in this town… Someone who got transported from Japan! I’d like to meet them!」
Thirty minutes had passed since they entered the forest by the lake. There wasn’t anyone around.
「All right. Lavia, I want to try something. Wait, what’s wrong?」
Lavia was giggling.
「You sure love experimenting, Hikaru.」
「I’m not going to ask you to fire a large-scale spell. You don’t have to worry about anything.」
「I’m not worried. We’re not really on equal standing, so you can act more arrogant, you know.」
「I can’t do that. It’s just not me.」
「I suppose. You’re really nice to me… and very gentle at night as well.」
「I’m sorry, what?」
She mumbled the last part so Hikaru couldn’t catch what she said.
「I-It’s nothing! So what do you want me to do?!」Lavia said as she blushed, trying to change the subject.
Hikaru explained what he needed Lavia to do. Her fire magic was too strong. Using it outside was no problem, but if she used it inside a dungeon, she could destroy the whole place. Worst case, they could get buried alive.
「I think so too. But even my most basic fire spell gets that big.」
Her basic spell, Flame Breath, was a fireball about three meters in size.
「I talked to you about it last time. I need you to control your magic. Like expand it or change its shape. The most crucial thing, though, is to make it smaller.」
「Make it smaller…」
Lavia fired five Flame Breaths. They were all of the same size. It appeared she could at least control the trajectory.
「Phew… I can’t do it…」Lavia muttered as she stared at the charred spot on the ground, sweat beading on her forehead.
「So it’s really impossible?」
「I wouldn’t say that. I read in adventure novels how someone would cast small Flame Breaths the size of a mouse to burn a whole barn.」
For a split-second, Hikaru imagined a man screaming “Let’s burn a house every day!” but quickly erased it from his mind.
It’s possible, but Lavia can’t do it. What’s preventing her from controlling her spells? Maybe it’s her gear? Accessories? No, wait…
Hikaru opened up Lavia’s Soul Board and put 1 point on Magic Creation.
Age: 14 Rank: 13
「Can you give it a try once more? Just compress the fire ball.」
Lavia was aware Hikaru did something, but she didn’t know what exactly. Uncertain, she chanted her spell.
「O’ Spirit, heed my call. With the primordial flame, burn my foe to ashes.」
A small, fist-sized flame formed in front of her.
Slowly, the flame flew. The moment it hit the ground, a pillar of flames, about three meters high, rose up.
「The radius is small, but it’s much more intense than the Flame Breath earlier. It burns twice as long as well.」Hikaru said.
He checked the burnt spot on the ground. Using a stick, he dug through the ground to see how deep the spell’s effects were.
「I’m guessing it’s two to three times more powerful overall. That’s the law of conservation of energy for you.」he added.
「Wh-What’s going on, Hikaru?!」
「I don’t know why you’re asking me. You’re the one who used the spell.」
「But I couldn’t do that earlier. You―」
Lavia didn’t finish what she was about to say and just sighed. Of course she would think I did something, Hikaru thought.
「I might’ve used a lifetime’s worth of luck.」
「Where’d that come from?」
「I’m extremely blessed to have met someone like you.」
Lavia didn’t question Hikaru further about his abilities, and she didn’t bring it up again either. She simply inched closer to Hikaru and held his hand.
「You’re trying to help me so I can fight in a dungeon.」
「Is it because I wanted to go on adventures?」
「You got me.」Hikaru said, brushing his hair.
Lavia was really smart. She knew that Hikaru took his chances to grant Lavia’s wish even though there was a risk of his abilities being known.
「Hikaru. You should prioritize your wishes as well.」
「I know. For now, I want to travel the world. That includes entering dungeons.」
The two of them started walking.