On the eve of the day Princess Elrose was attacked by someone within the Royal Palace district, while the knights were out and about in full force searching for the attacker, the members of the regular meetings were clashing their opinions against each other on a subject that was not usually discussed in the meetings: The discord between the two Princes.
The backlash against the Prime Minister was great, especially from the members of the two factions of Suaro and Layos. The flared up against him by saying “See, we told you!”, referring to the fact that they had waited until the situation had become so bad.
However, Prime Minister Tormerge was the same as usual, and it seemed that his fame as being able to calmly cope with stress was not without cause. In fact, he was serving to calm down the atmosphere of the chaotic meeting while maintaining an evasive attitude and dodging most questions and concerns.
“In my opinion, until the details of the incident are made clear, it would be best if we wait and watch.”
Considering the possibility that this could be ploy of the people who wanted to fan the flames of the opposition between the two Princes, the Prime Minister warned not to get carried away. This meeting had in fact not been called to discuss the details of the incident, but to let everyone know about the order of the King to not make too much fuss about the incident.
“Does His Highness intend to do nothing but spectate…?” Muttered one of the members of the meeting, worried about the future of Grandahl.
The highest level of the Royal Palace district had been constructed in the very middle; it was pure white and was a place where you could look over the whole surrounding area of the Royal Capital of Tortoluse. A middle-aged man was staring towards the wests from the terrace of the Royal Chamber. Queen Elishuwon called out to him.
“The ministers are making quite fuss, you know?”
“Pay them no heed. My sons are not so frail as to be affected with something like this.” Replied King Leozeos.
With a hint of a smile on his lips, he stared continuously towards the land to the west with a gleam in his eye. Elishuwon stood next to him, and knitting her eye-brows together, she asked him:
“Is it happening again?”
“Yes, they’ll be showing movements soon.” Leozeos replied to his wife, who had completely understood what was on his mind.
The place he had been looking at was the Empire to the west, Na’Hatome.
The Empire had tried to invade Grandahl several times, and had captured the bordering territories, and then had them retaken. Ever since Leozeos had become King, Grandahl had seen much development in magical technology, and so it had been on a winning streak. And while there had been some skirmishes on the border, recently there had been no signs of any invasion and peaceful times had continued, however…
“I wanted my generation to deal the final blow, but it seems that other side won’t break and back down so easily…” Feeling the hint of war in the fierce winds that suddenly picked up from the west, King Leozeos muttered and turned his back to them with a flourish of his mantle.
The people working in the Research building were unaffected by the fuss happening in the Royal Palace block, and were carrying on their experiments as usual. Professor Andagi was no exception; today he was doing an experiment of observing the composite body as it carried a window frame and walked behind the knights as they marched through the plaza in front of the laboratory.
What kind of experiment is that? All the knights that had gathered in the plaza to observe the experiment titled their head simultaneously.
They were testing the internal-combustion weapon, which had the rapid-fire function build into it after it went through incremental update after update. It was now named the “magic rifle”. The weapon was used in the same orientation of how a magician would shoot magic from the tip of his magic cane by keeping it horizontal, and the bullets that had not been even as strong as the fire magic that apprentices used were now strong enough to tear through cheap, leather armor.
The Professor was against the idea of making the magic rifle a standard weapon for all the soldiers, which now possessed enough fire power to be approved by the army. He instead proposed to make a separate specialized unit for it, much like the bowmen unit, and was immediately given permission by King Leozeos to go ahead.
To that end, an experimental unit was created, and they were trying to come up with operation procedures that the unit would follow in the plaza in front of the laboratory. Looking at the knights holding the magic rifles and running in unison, Kou told the Professor that something stirred in his memory.
“I feel like I have seen this somewhere.”
“I see. For now, would you mind telling me whatever you remember? Whatever you remember is fine.”
At the Professor’s insistence, Kou dredged up the image of seeing soldiers clad in armor through a square frame. They were carrying weapons that were much like the magic rifle and were fighting giants made of steel. The Professor tried to recreate that scene by making the knights fight in a mock battle using magic weapons that spouted short burst of flame, like the magic rifle, and looking through that scene through a “square frame”; a window frame.
By making Kou carry the window frame in front and looking through it at the experimental unit’s knights and following them around, they were trying to revive his memories by first stimulating the images he had strongest in his mind. Sayaka stuck out her head from the laboratory to let them know that lunch was ready.
“Professor, it is about time for lunch…wait, what are you guys doing?”
“Oh, it’s time for food.”
“Vuova vovoaa voa~” I think I might be able to remember something.
Taking a break for a while, the Professor sent off the soldiers in the experimental unit to have lunch at the army’s facilities, while he himself headed to the laboratory’s dining room. Kou changed back to his boy form, and showed the reference images he had drawn to Sayaka to ask her if she knew anything about it.
“It looks like something like this…”
“…Isn’t this a game?”
“A game? Game…game…Ah.” Hearing the sound of the familiar word, Kou remembered what had happened when he had first woken up in the dungeon of Barasse. He remembered the various “Keywords” that had come flooding to him when the rat he had been possessing had been shot by the newbie party and he had seen humans for the first time.
“A game! That’s it! It’s a game~!” Using the flood of images that he got from the that keyword, Kou released his summoned body and reentered the composite body, and started taking down the fighting moves and movement styles in a memo before he forgot the images, and even started practicing them.
“Don’t you have to show them to the Professor?”
“Vuou ve vuoaa” I’ll show it to him later.
Apparently, he was going to practice his magic next, and sitting on the ground with wham! and spreading out his legs, Kou began to gather magical power. Seeing the composite body sitting like a child would when playing in the sand, Sayaka softly giggled to herself.
As the Professor and the others were enjoying their after-meal tea, Prince Layos entered the laboratory. His coming here had almost become a custom, and today he was being followed by two people that looked like his guards. I’m sure it has something to do with the incident from the other day…Sayaka thought as she prepared tea for the visitors.
“I’m posting my men here as your guards.” Layos suddenly said, as he took Sayaka’s hand and kissed it lightly, before he even touched his tea. Warning Sayaka to keep attention to her surroundings because there might be retaliation form the followers of the Suaro faction because of the mess involving Elrose, Layos assigned the warrior and the fighter from the Golden Sword Dragons to her personal safety. If these two competent guards were protecting her then he would be able to rest easy.
The fighter and the warrior that had served as the frontline combo during the tournament. Even among the Golden Sword Dragons, they were permanent members and had been with the Prince for quite a long time, and were also acquainted with Sayaka. As the two lightly bowed to her, Sayaka asked:
“Will anybody even target a nobody like me…?”
“For a while, stay away from the Royal Palace district. If you have some business, I’ll come to you.”
“I can’t very well send summons for a Prince.”
“Send it. If you call for me I will definitely come.”
“You can’t be serious.” Said Sayaka and shrugged her shoulder, but Layos remained extremely serious. Layos yearned for her, and thinking that he would like her to realize his true feelings soon, started sipping his tea after kissing her fingers. He didn’t let her hand go.
As for Sayaka who was on the receiving end of his usual approaches; she had long since resigned herself to the fact this kind of behavior came as a set with Prince Layos. That said, even though she was used to it, she hadn’t grown accustomed to it and ended up blushing.
Seeing the unchanging loveable reactions of Sayaka stirred his heart, and Prince Layos yearned for her even more. She had always been very caring and good at making decisions, and cheered him up without expecting anything in return, and ended up accepting Layos for himself. For Layos, her kindness had a huge healing impact.
“By the way, what kind of experiment is Kou doing outside?” The two he had brought along to serve as guards for Sayaka had begun to shoot him weird glances, so he decided that it was enough for today, and trying to change the subject, brought up Kou who he had seen doing some experimental activities in his composite body in front of the laboratory.
“Oh, you mean the window frame? Apparently, it is related to an entertainment product in the world Sayaka used to inhabit.”
“No, I heard about the window frame from the soldiers outside…but I just saw him doing some weird magic technique that looked similar to the endowment-type reinforcement magic.”
Normally, endowment-type reinforcing magic was used by adding a special effect to your weapon by using magic, or was used to cover your own body with a layer of magic thus increasing defense, and had various other such close-range uses and effects, but what Layos had seen Kou doing was to cover his lover half body by a layer of magic to make himself easier to slide across the ground. He had confusedly observed Kou doing this meaningless action repeatedly as if he was trying to figure something out by trial and error.
“What? I hadn’t heard about such an experiment.”
“Ah, now that you mention it, Kou-chan seemed like he had remembered something when we started having lunch.”
“Why didn’t you say that before! Ei! I can’t sit around like this!” The Professor stood up in a hurry, and filled to the brim with curiosity about what Kou had remembered and was trying to do, he ran off.
In the plaza in front of the laboratory, Kou had succeeded in increasing the sliding distance despite failing multiple times by covering his legs in a magic layer and creating a pocket of air under himself. However, it still wasn’t the perfect form that Kou was aiming for.
“Vovaou.” Like this, you can move along by sliding on the ground.
After telling the Professor who had come bursting out of the laboratory about the image in his mind and handing him his notes, Kou was asking for advice from the him.
“Fumu…a high-speed movement that is possible sitting with legs extended outward…Why is standing no good…? Is it a problem with maintaining your posture? No wait, it’s because the underside of your feet can’t generate enough buoyancy and thrust. Adding to that, standing would have a lot of problems with stability. So, can I use the “Magic Wheel” with this…? Wait here.”
Saying that, the Professor returned to the lab, and came out a moment later carrying some magical vessels and tools, and started assembling something right there. Most of the inventions that the Professor thought up of were so technologically advanced that they conversely had no use case and were indefinitely put on hold.
This invention named the “magical wheel” was a product of trying to upgrade carriages and carts from their “standard” level to a more “advanced” level by using magic technology. It was an experimental product that would be used instead of normal wheel to make the frame float in the air.
By using multiple magic vessels on the round board to gather the magic required, and limiting the area where the magic had to be cast, a strong air pocket was created, and the magic wheel could make the body frame float just as the Professor wanted. But as you put a hand to get on the floating carriage, the carriage would slip away.
Like a round stone that been placed on ice, the carriage slipped this way and that would not stabilize. Even if they pulled it with horses, they couldn’t just move in a straight line forever. Whenever they turned a corner, the carriage put a huge stain on the horses from behind because of centrifugal force, the horses neighed in protest as if saying “It’s too hard to pull!”. Such had been the situation.
He had suppressed most of the vibrations that occurred when travelling, but the stability of the vehicle itself could only be maintained by following the carriage closely, and in that case, there was no meaning in making the carriage float in the first place.
He had found a solution; however, the cost wasn’t really justified. In the end, the magic wheel ended being one of “the usual inventions on hold”, and had slept for quite a while in the storage of the laboratory.
“The item itself isn’t made badly at all, but I had no use for it. The idea of attaching it directly to your body never occurred to me.”
The miniaturization of magic vessels had progressed a lot since then, and now he was capable of attaching a propulsion system that would allow the whole body to move in one direction while simultaneously making an air pocket to float. The Professor hastily improvised a self-propulsion experimental magic wheel from Kou’s notes, and immediately began attaching it to Kou’s composite body.
“There are two plump legs below your backside, so I’ve attached one to both. You can control it by adjusting the how much magic you supply to it. The only problem remaining is if it will work how we want it to.”
“Vu~ov~auuu.” I’ll try it out.
As the experimental unit came back after having their lunch, Layos exited the laboratory and was interested in Kou’s composite body sliding around on the ground while leaving a trail of dust in its wake. It seemed like he was continuing the siding-movement that he had been doing when Layos first arrived at the laboratory.
“What is that all about?”
“Apparently, it’s a mobility technique that appeared in his memories of the other world. It looks like his posture is also stable, so it might be a good paring with the magic rifle.”
Holding up a window frame and walking behind the troops to stimulate Kou’s memory had led to an unexpected invention of a new type of movement technology. Thinking that this was a chance to create a special corps, not just an experimental unit, the Professor displayed an urge to develop this attachable-type mobility gear, the New Magic Wheel. For the time being, Layos asked him to distribute it to the Golden Sword Dragons once it was complete, and left for the Royal Palace district.
That afternoon, the Professor was still busy with the development of the new magic wheel, so the soldiers in the experimental corps were just milling around discussing some maneuvers that they could do with the magic rifles or arguments about whether or not bows and magic should be kept separate.
Occasionally a few new samples would be carried out of the laboratory, and someone would equip it based on the order they had agreed on beforehand. They would turn it over in their hands and look it all over, or smash it against the wall and then check for any problems, and generally report on the level of completion of the finished product.
Then, as the day turned to evening, around eight solders had been outfitted with the new magic wheels, and they slid around the plaza shooting at targets with their magic rifles. As they successfully completed a practice hit-and-run maneuver, the Professor announced that the new magic wheel had been successfully completed.
“Alrighty! This is a new concept! I want show it off as soon as possible and see everyone’s surprised faces! Kuwakakakaka!”
“Good work Professor. I’ll go and report to the people above as well as submit the application for the formal registration.” Said Sarta as she held the papers to officially request the adoption of the new equipment. The soldiers had already returned to the barracks. Standing to one side Kou and Sayaka were discussing their plans for the rest of the day.
“Kou-kun, are you going to stay here today?”
“Un, because the final tuning of the magic wheel is still left.”
Sayaka thought that if they were going to do experiments all night again, they need to have some food, and so returned to the kitchen to start preparing. This kind of detailed attentiveness was one of the reasons why Prince Layos was so endlessly obsessed with her.
The new magic wheel was a mobility equipment that one could equip all alone, and by its nature was suited for a lot of tasks. Its speed was less than half of a running horse, but it was still faster than running on foot. It was also very silent and could be used for scouting. Combined with the magic rifle, it became standard issue for the army of Grandahl.
With this, the Professor was promised a huge amount of fame and wealth, and he secretly decided the share some percentage of the huge amount of money he would be making by developing the newly designated “Otherworld Series” with Sayaka and Kou.
The next day. The announcement for the official adoption of the new equipment hadn’t been made yet, and Kou had received some early prototypes of the magic wheel for testing. He distributed them to the Gawiik party and was giving them a lecture about their usage. They were testing its ease of use in the same place they had trained multiple times when preparing for the tournament.
Reaper and Karen were very quick on the uptake, and were riding around like they had obtained a new toy. Dis could not turn very well and had crashed into the wall several times. Daido was safely able to use it. Lef was sliding along silently and sometimes did a flashy turn. They seemed to be having fun. Gawiik also learned to use it almost immediately, and was considering if the magic wheel could be incorporated into the tactics of their party.
“We might be able to use them in a dungeon too.” As he was thinking that, Mandle and Viido returned from gathering information from the town center and joined the rest of the party. Judging from their faces that the info was not something good, Gawiik lowered his voice and asked them while looking at the rest of the members:
“Something bad happen?”
“Yes, something a little worrying…” Apparently, movements of the “Dark Alliance” had reported in the capital.
Dark Alliance. Also called “Dark Guild”. An underground organization that arranged work for criminals that couldn’t join the Adventurers Guild and such. It mainly took on illegal work, and it was commonly known that they also took on jobs such as assassination. It seemed like they had point of contact in each major city, and their headquarters was believed to be somewhere in the area surrounding Eiyoa.
“Are they behind the fuss at the Royal Palace?”
“We don’t know that much. However…”
It was also well known that the neighboring country Na’Hatome used the Dark Alliance for gathering intelligence and info on movements of the enemy whenever they were planning to invade into Grandahl. Mandle also noted that they might be gathering info on the movements and happening in the Royal Palace to find the best time to move.
“I agree…Well, I’m sure the top brass of this country already know about the movements of the Dark Alliance, but I guess we’ll let Prince Layos know just in case.”
If war did indeed start with Na’Hatome again, Gawiik’s party would also have to cooperate with the army for defense whenever and wherever they were short on hands. The country would send a request to the Association, which would in turn call upon the Adventurers for help. You could decline, but in that case declining without a good reason could have severe impact on the evaluation of the whole party.
The best outcome would be that they not get involved in a battle between two countries, but snice they wanted to avoid having their rank drop, if they were requested they’d have no choice but to comply.
“Yes, it’d be fine if you can just tell the Prince to be a little cautious.”
“I got it. All I have to tell him is to be cautious because the Dark Alliance is on the move, right?” Having gathered the data concerning the magic wheel from the members of the party, Kou was about to return to the laboratory when Gawiik asked him to relay a message for him. Even if the upper brass had not realized the movements of the Dark Alliance, if this news got to the Professor it would undoubtedly also reach the ears of King Leozeos.
“Dark Alliance, Dark Alliance…I think I’ve heard it before somewhere~”
If he left now, he’d reach the laboratory at the time when Prince Layos showed up, so Kou began making his way to the laboratory while thinking here he’d heard the name Dark Alliance before.
And then he realized.
“Ahhh! That thing I got from Alice’s place!”
One time when he’d been cleaning his other dimension storage during the time between midnight and morning, he’d seen a document titled “People frequently making deals with the Dark Alliance in the capital” among the various documents he received in Curacall with the warning to deal with them cautiously. These were the same dangerous documents that he’d received from Alice’s father, Count Bamist with the warning to treat them cautiously, and that the Count had decided that he had never seen.
The documents showed that a lot of high ranking officials within the Royal Palace were making secret maneuvers and had dealing with the Dark Alliance, and if this information ever got out, heads would fly, quite literally.
“I’ll look up their names later.”
Kou had plans to visit Prince Rozeth in the afternoon, and he might be able to learn a lot from him. If the problems that was causing such a fuss in the whole palace were solved, Princess Elrose would also be able to come down to the third level again.
Heading towards the laboratory, Kou collected his thoughts. As he began to see the research building in the distance, he picked up speed and ran through the streets of the capital.
A bracelet that had a significant healing effect and a dagger that warriors always had fixed behind their armor. And a handful of black hair. The two pieces of equipment were highly expensive, and to prepare two similar ones would require a lot of money. And most of all, that black hair. Layos only knew one person in all the capital that had hair with such color and texture.
With the equipment of his two subordinates and the black hair which was undeniably Sayaka’s was a map with the location of a corner of the ruins under the Royal Palace marked on it and letter with a message to come there all alone. It was blackmail.
He couldn’t fathom his two men betraying him. Thus, it was apparent that someone with enough skills to defeat them and kidnap Sayaka in broad daylight from the laboratory was involved, most likely someone that specialized in kidnapping high profile targets. Of course, there must be an intruder in the palace.
Layos pocketed the black hair and the letter, and holding the letter in his hand, equipped his sword “Wind Sever” and left the room in a hurry.