The academy had a research building as big as a regular lecture building, and Katy’s laboratory was located on the second floor. As soon as Hikaru arrived, a research assistant, who looked to be from Kotobi, let him in. The lab was spacious, yet it felt cramped from the magic items crammed on the work tables and shelves. The dried feet of a bird, a blue flower, some strange-looking crystal, a parchment with a magic circle drawn on it. It was unorganized – unthinkable, considering Katy’s neat appearance.
「Ah, sorry for calling you all the way here. Please leave us, everyone.」Katy said.
The research assistants looked surprised; they thought they were part of this meeting. They eyed Hikaru inquisitively.
「But we’re your assistants, Professor. We need to listen to anything related to your research.」
「It’s a private matter. We’re not going to talk about my research. So please leave us for a bit.」
Hearing the word “private”, they looked even more surprised. Having no other choice, they left the room, but not before shooting glares at Hikaru.
「Are you sure about this?」Hikaru asked after everyone else was out.
「Yeah. I’m sorry if they seemed rude. I hope you’re not offended. They’re nice and passionate about their studies. Although sometimes they get a little bit too eager.」
Passionate about their studies? It looked more like they were passionate about Professor Katy.
「They’re eavesdropping right outside the door, though. What now?」
Hikaru could clearly see them hugging the wall with his Mana Detection. Katy groaned, frowning.
「It should be somewhere around here… Ah, here it is.」
Rummaging through the unorganized tables, she took out a string with jewels on both ends.
「Hold the other end.」
「A magic item that cuts off sound. Sound can’t leak outside, but we can’t hear anything from out there either.」
Impressed, Hikaru grabbed the other end of the string. He felt strange, as though a membrane surrounded them.
「All right, then. Are you a student here? I haven’t seen you before.」
「I enrolled about a month ago.」
「Do you want to become a Magic Item Specialist?」
「No… I came to you because I wanted to ask you something.」
「About my brother Kelbeck?」
「Oh, I thought you knew.」
The head of the Thieves Guild and a professor from the academy are siblings?
「I didn’t. I just thought you looked similar.」
「Did you perhaps meet my brother?」
「Yes. I had no idea about his past, though.」
「I see. Can you tell me how he’s doing?」
「Sure. In exchange, I would like to ask you a few questions.」
「About holy mana.」
Katy’s brow twitched.
「Very well.」she said.
Hikaru told her everything he knew about Kelbeck. It didn’t look like he was hiding the fact that he was lurking in the sewers of Pond. Though he wasn’t making it known, either. Katy wasn’t even aware that Kelbeck was in Ponsonia.
「I see… The Thieves Guild. That sounds just like him.」
「Why did Kelbeck leave Forestia?」
「Because of annoying conflicts.」
Kelbeck was becoming famous in Kotobi as a Magic Item Specialist. Naturally, there were those envious of his gifts. Eventually he got fed up of the constant clashes and left Kotobi.
「It feels good to finally know. I’m sure my brother can find success anywhere.」
「He seemed to be involved in some dangerous stuff, though.」
「Kelbeck would invent magic items that no one knew how to use and make people trace them back to him. He would then show how it worked to blow their mind and demonstrate its complex mechanism. That’s how he does things – how he sells himself.」
「…He’s quite the character.」
「Heh. Interesting guy, right?」
She sounded indifferent, but her smile was very ladylike.
She doesn’t look like that grim-looking Kelbeck… But somehow she resembles him.
「Thank you for telling me about my brother. You may ask your questions. If you don’t mind me asking, why are you interested in holy mana?」
「Pure curiosity… Will that do for an answer?」
「Not a lot of people know about holy mana. They call it unrealistic and something out of a fairy tale. I’m the only one seriously doing research on it, Many call me mad and laugh at me.」
「But the relics from Zubura had traces of holy mana, right?」
「To be more precise, the words “holy mana” were written on one section of the walls and instructions on how to use the relics. Apparently there’s still power left in the weapons, but the government is keeping them.」
「Aren’t you studying those relics?」
「There’s no way they let a mere researcher lay a finger on them. In fact, they won’t let anyone touch them at all. I said they were “keeping” the relics, but it’s more like they sealed them. I think the only time the seals get broken is when a power like Ponsonia attacks us.」
With the knowledge and technology lost, holy mana was now only a product of one’s imagination. Something that wasn’t real.
I think I can trust this woman. She’s upfront when talking to me, a guy she just met. I don’t know what she’s thinking deep inside, of course, but I won’t get any information if I keep things to myself either.
Hikaru made a decision to trust her.
「Professor, I want you to keep this a secret.」
「What is it?」
「I probably have a weapon that uses holy mana.」
It sounded as if she didn’t believe him – like he was just mistaken. Whatever.
Hikaru took out his revolver and put it on a table. Katy raised her eyebrow quizzically.
「It’s a revolver that shoots magic when the trigger is pulled. It has six types of bullets; fire, air, water, earth, holy, and evil. The last one is just my guess, though. The magic it shot out was extremely powerful, so I thought maybe it used holy mana.」
「W-W-Wait a sec! Where’d you get this?」
「In a dungeon in Ponsonia: the Underground City of the Ancient Gods.」
「That’s a high-level dungeon! Does this really use holy mana?!」
「That’s what I said.」
She seemed to believe him now. Her mouth was wide open, looking at the revolver and then back at Hikaru.
「Does anyone else know about this?」she asked in a hoarse voice.
「Only my partner.」
「You can’t tell anyone else about this, okay?」
「I told you to keep it secret from the start, didn’t I?」
「Ah, yes! I forgot! Yes, you did say that. I’m sorry. It’s just a lot of holy mana-related items get sent to me and all of them are fake.」
「All of them?」
「All of them. Well except for one item brought today.」
「Well it might not be holy mana-related at all. Can you study it for me?」
「Of course! Are you sure you want me to do it?」
「Sure, I don’t mind. I know nothing about magic items. I have a little bit of knowledge about sorcery, though.」
「But magic items and sorcery are pretty much the same.」
「Really? I think my specialty is just a bit different.」
Hikaru’s knowledge of sorcery was limited to what was in Roland’s memories – the art of crossing worlds.
「I have two conditions, Professor.」
「I thought so. This is such a rare item. I knew you wouldn’t let me study it for nothing.」
「That’s not what I meant. First, please don’t publicly announce the results of your study. You can only tell someone about it with your consent, mine and my partner’s. Her name is Lavia, by the way」
「Hmm. Sounds like you don’t want a lot of people knowing about this.」
「It could be dangerous, after all.」
Poelnxinia’s demise weighed heavy on Hikaru’s mind. How a giant attacked it. Whose wrath did they incur? He thought it would be best to keep everything about the lost kingdom and the holy mana secret until he found answers.
「All right. That’s fine by me. What’s the second condition?」
「Study the bullets and revolver separately. The weapon can’t be used without the bullets so this is for anti-theft measures. It’s not that I don’t trust you…」
「Of course! That’s only natural. I was actually planning to study it under your surveillance.」
「Uh, that sounds like a drag, to be honest.」
It would probably take some time to study the weapon. Staying by her side as she examined it would only be a waste of time.
「I’ll give you the bullets first. There are six of them. Five of them have been used and are empty…」
「Wait, used?! You shot the bullets?!」
「But why… What a waste!」she exclaimed, eagerness in her voice.
「Well, I only have one life.」
Katy’s expression quickly turned normal.
「You’re right… You’re an adventurer.」
「We researchers make progress in our studies from the achievements of adventurers. Be it relics or catalysts. Life is indeed the most important thing in the world. I’m sorry for what I said.」
「You don’t need to apologize. The shells all look the same, but I’m giving you two just in case.」
Katy accepted the bullets carefully with both hands, as if they were precious stones.
「All right, then. Tell me more before I start studying these. What kind of magic came out of them, their shape, size, everything.」
Katy’s eyes were sparkling as she readied her pen and paper. Hikaru gave a wry smile. She’s a researcher at heart, all right, he thought.
「I think it’s better if I told you about the time I found the revolver. Not sure if it’ll help, though.」
「Oh, you got something interesting for me?」
「There was this “holy mana ball” beside the revolver. It seemed like a mass of pure energy.」
Katy was silent for a full ten seconds.
「You actually came across holy mana?!」she yelled.
Fortunately they were holding the magic item that prevented any sound from leaking outside.