「Who the fuck are you?!」the man asked.
「I should be the one asking you that. Get your filthy hands off of Paula. She’s mine.」
Paula’s cheek flushed.「Not out loud, Hikaru-sama! Ah, but I’m ready both mentally and physically!」
「Hngh! A cold Hikaru-sama is just as lovely!」
Hikaru frowned at Paula who seemed to be pleased. Maybe I shouldn’t have tweaked her Soul Board after all… he thought. He glanced at a spot on the ground and stopped.
「You met Lavia?」
The man grinned and let out a chuckle.
「I see. So you’re a friend of the little lady. Or are you her boyfriend?」
「So what if I am?」
「She’s ours.」the man replied, throwing back the same words to spite Hikaru.
「What do you mean?」
「Exactly what I said. We got the girl and we’re returning her to her rightful owner so you don’t have to worry about… any…」
The man mumbled the rest of his words. It can’t be! he thought as he watched the boy standing before him. The boy’s eyes narrowed, and the air seemed to freeze. He appeared to be getting bigger and bigger. A knife slowly reached the man’s throat.
The man let go of Paula and quickly jumped back. But there was nothing there in front of him. What he saw just now was an illusion brought on by fear. Yet the man denied it.
「No! I’m not scared of this brat!」
He was drenched in sweat. He felt unfathomable strength from the kid, but his common sense told him that it was impossible. If the boy was an Elf or a Man Gnome, then he could be a lot older than he looked. But his appearance clearly painted him as a human boy. Therefore he couldn’t have fought through countless battles before, nor could he be a seasoned warrior. The man’s Instinct provided him valuable information, but he himself denied it.
「Bring Lavia here. Now.」
「Cut the bull—」
「If you bring her right away, I’ll let you off the hook. If you don’t, you’re dead.」
Taking a spare knife out of his pocket, the man started running towards Hikaru in a zigzag pattern. He was fast. An ordinary man would need to exert maximum effort just to follow him with the eyes.
The man ran up the wall of a house then jumped about three meters in the air. His opponent would surely panic. All he needed was an opening, even a split-second one. He could then take their life easily.
「Stupid brat. Die!」
The boy appeared to move ever so slightly. A peculiar step, and the air around him seemed to waver. Then he disappeared. At the same time, sharp pain assaulted the man. Three stones hit him, two in the eyes, and one smashed the thumb holding his knife.
The man let out a grunt as he dropped the knife. He crashed to the ground, unable to land properly.
Paula was clueless as to what just happened. It looked like Hikaru vanished, and then the man fell to the ground. After that Hikaru reappeared as though slipping out of a rift in space.
「Argh, damn it! It hurts!」
The man groaned.
「Answer me.」Hikaru kicked him in the stomach.
「I-I don’t know… My friends are supposed to take her. I have no idea where she is.」
「Hikaru-sama! He said something about a carriage earlier!」
「So you do know.」The man yelped as Hikaru kicked him once again.
「P-Please stop! I’m sorry! I’ll tell you everything.」
「Make it quick.」
「You can check the plan in my back pocket. It’s faster that way…」
「Take it out yourself.」
「I can’t move my hand. You broke my finger!」
Hikaru landed another kick to flip the man upside down. On his back was a pocket with a button. Hikaru stooped down and reached out his hand.
「Idiot!」The man suddenly took out a bag filled with powder — most likely poison — on his other uninjured hand and threw it at Hikaru.
「You’re the idiot.」Hikaru had already backed away. He expected the man to try something. The bag hit nothing, scattering powder at an empty space. The man was probably immune to the poison, or perhaps he was simply that desperate. Hikaru didn’t know which.
「I-I didn’t mean to do that—」And those were his last words. A stone scored a direct hit on his forehead, rocking his brain, and he lost consciousness.
「This man did not hesitate to kill. Even with both his eyes crushed, he still prioritized killing his enemy. He’s trained. There’s no way he’ll give us information.」
Paula looked down on the motionless man, her face still pale. It might’ve been too much for her. Hikaru, too, squeezed his fingers that trembled ever so slightly. One wrong move, and he could’ve killed the guy.
I have to stay focused. Hikaru turned his attention towards Paula.
「Which way did they take Lavia?」
「A few minutes ago.」
A few minutes ago… Where would they go?
Hikaru recalled the map of the area. If they were to escape using a carriage, they should be in a place where they could park one. And since they would surely wait for their friend, he should be able to catch up.
Age: 15 Rank: 42
……【Detection Expansion】1→3 (MAX)
Without thinking twice, Hikaru maxed out his Detection Expansion. He then activated his Mana Detection.
Whoa! The range was incredibly wide; he could see in a one-kilometer radius. But everything was compressed into information that streamed directly into his brain. With normal vision, things in the distance appeared small, and boundaries became blurry. But not in this case. Things both near and far were processed as the same information. And it quickly consumed his brain’s resources.
He dropped to his knees, and Paula came running over.
「I’m fine. Just a little dizzy.」
「I found Lavia.」
He had checked Lavia’s mana with Mana Detection countless times before. He immediately found her exact location. I can make it.
「You should leave this place, Pau—」
「Did you kill this man?」
A voice came all of a sudden. Selyse warily drew closer, sword drawn. By her side were Sarah and Selica ready for a fight to break out.
Ah, crap. What a pain. Hikaru knew there were people coming with his Detection, but he didn’t expect it to be them. He had no time to deal with the Four Stars of the East right now.
「You better talk. I’m calling the guards, so don’t move.」
「Wait a sec, Selyse!」
Sarah stopped her party leader and studied Hikaru from top to bottom. Hikaru’s Stealth was deactivated at the moment. Then Sarah realized that this was the same boy who might’ve seen through her Stealth back in the outskirts of Pond. Shen then recalled the Earth Dragon fight, the chill that went down her spine. The same feeling she got from this boy. Everything seemed to suggest that it was the boy who defeated the Earth Dragon.
「Let’s talk later.」Hikaru’s Instinct told him that Sarah must’ve realized the truth. But he didn’t have time right now.
「This man’s friend kidnapped my partner. So I knocked him out. I’m going after my partner now.」
「We don’t know if you’re lying or—」
「Paula.」Hikaru said, ignoring Selyse.「Stay somewhere safe.」
And Hikaru ran at full speed.
「Wait! Damn, he’s fast!」
「Wow, he’s gone. Amazing. Not as fast as my full speed, though.」
「Go after him, Sarah.」
「I don’t really want to, but okay.」
Sarah started running after Hikaru, leaving Selyse, Paula, and Selica behind.
「Now then… Your name is Paula, correct? I want to ask you a few questions.」
「What’s wrong, Selica?」
Selica was unusually quiet.「He was probably telling the truth about his friend getting kidnapped.」
「Why do you think so?」
「The female Mage was here moments ago, someone worth kidnapping. And she fired a distress signal.」
Selica recalled Hikaru’s face.「I wonder… if he’s Japanese.」she muttered under her breath.