Chapter 52:

A Gathering in the Shadows (Part 1)

The Children of Eris

With a strike of Hilda’s staff, Cain was knocked onto the ground unconscious.Bookmark here

Lucy swung her sword multiple times towards Hilda, but Hilda ducked and dodged every single one, then jabbed her staff into Lucy’s stomach, knocking the wind out of her. Hilda then spun her heel around and drove it into Lucy’s cheek. Lucy smashed against the floor and didn’t get back up.Bookmark here

“Amazing,” Jessica whispered in awe. Bookmark here

“That’s enough for today,” Mania announced, clapping her hands. “I’m impressed with just how far you’ve come in such a short time, Hilda.”Bookmark here

“Thank…you,” Hilda said as she caught her breath. She picked up her towel and wiped the sweat from her brow.Bookmark here

“Truly, you are a most impressive warrior, Hilda,” Jessica praised her. “Lady Mania, if you would excuse me.”Bookmark here

“Of course.”Bookmark here

Jessica bowed and went to attend the unconscious adventurers with the Machai, tending to their injuries and carrying them off to beds to rest. Bookmark here

Impressive. Hilda used to struggle to stay standing just a few weeks ago, and now she’s strong enough to defeat two adventurers by herself, Mania mused, smiling a little. I thought it was impressive when she took down five Machai herself a few weeks ago, but this, this is really impressive. I can’t help but be a little bit proud of her.Bookmark here

“…Can we…continue…later?” Hilda asked as she was offered a glass of water by a maid. Bookmark here

“As in later today?” Mania asked back; Hilda nodded. “I don’t mind, but aren’t you tired after this session?”Bookmark here

Per Mania’s schedule, Hilda trained under her command for at least an hour or two a day depending on how injured or exhausted Hilda became. Usually, just that session was enough and Hilda had never requested another one on the same day.Bookmark here

“I’m…fine,” Hilda whispered, tightening the grip on her glass. “…Please.”Bookmark here

Mania folded her arms and sighed. “Hilda, is something wrong?” Hilda cocked her head quizzically. “I mean, something must’ve happened to make you ask for another session, right? Is something bothering you?”Bookmark here

Hilda winced and she nodded. “…His majesty…has servants…much stronger…than me. I don’t…want to be useless…to him.” She closed her eyes. “…I want…power…to stand by his side.”Bookmark here

Mania smiled warmly at her. “I understand how you feel, but the Dark Lord isn’t someone who would abandon you if you prove useful to him. Even though I have disappointed him greatly, he hasn’t discarded me.” Mania lost her smile as her heart ached. “Yet. As long as we are useful to him, he’ll never throw us away.”Bookmark here

“Then…let’s make sure…neither…of us…is thrown away,” Hilda said with a bright smile. Bookmark here

“Yeah.” Mania nodded and smiled once more. “Then, Hilda, shall we have another training session this afternoon? I might have to make it a shorter one because of my work in the city, but I take it that’s fine with you.”Bookmark here

“…Yes.”Bookmark here

“Excellent. Until later then.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

At the Hierophant, Mimir had summoned a Raven and one of Jorōgumo’s spiders called Echo to his office to discuss an urgent matter.Bookmark here

It was the middle of the day and they were very busy downstairs, but Mimir had deemed it necessary to address the matter as quickly as possible.Bookmark here

“How many different groups are watching the Hierophant?”Bookmark here

“Three, Lord Mímir,” the Raven replied.Bookmark here

“Have we identified them all?”Bookmark here

“The Ravens have identified one of them.”Bookmark here

This one’s kin have identified two of them, Echo said with a disconnected voice. Bookmark here

“Who are they?”Bookmark here

“The Sons of Tartarus,” the Raven answered. “It appears that they have been sending in random men from their ranks to investigate the inside of the Hierophant, whilst they have other eyes and reinforcements nearby on the streets posing as ordinary citizens.”Bookmark here

“What gave them away?”Bookmark here

“Despite changing the people they send to scope us out every day, they have made a fundamental mistake by having their lookouts take up positions in the same spots each day. It made identifying and following them much easier.”Bookmark here

“How many people have they sent to investigate us?”Bookmark here

“Close to forty, Lord Mímir.”Bookmark here

Mímir frowned and brought his hands together. They might be waiting for a moment to strike at us after assessing how much of a threat we are.Bookmark here

Rumours had already begun spreading that the Hierophant was now owned by a former A-ranked adventurer, including the exaggerated ones Mimir had intentionally spread himself. Whenever customers came in asking him about it, he answered vaguely, making the rumours grow more and no one could confirm if they were true or false, just as he’d planned. Bookmark here

If no one knows for sure what you’re capable of, then they’re less likely to attack you directly. If they’re weaker than you expect, all the better but, conversely, if they’re stronger than that, you won’t survive. Bookmark here

“Echo, who are the other two groups?” Mímir asked.Bookmark here

This one has identified them as soldiers from the Paladins and members of the adventurer’s guild, Echo replied. This one believes that both groups are trying to assess whether or not there is a connection between us and the murders that have occurred in the city.Bookmark here

“Well, it was only a matter of time,” Mímir whispered. He brought his hand to his face and sighed. “With that many eyes on us, we can’t afford to make any more mistakes. However.” Mímir dropped his hand gently onto his desk. “We can’t stop our operations now. Raven, carry out the random murders but have them be less gruesome than the previous ones.”Bookmark here

“…Lord Mímir, might I ask a question?” Bookmark here

“You may.”Bookmark here

“Surely, changing our method of killing now would detract from the image of the Great Disaster we have already built, even if it is what his majesty desires,” the Raven said. “Would that not tip people off into thinking that this is nothing more than a man-made creation?”Bookmark here

Mímir smiled beneath his scarf. “That’s exactly right.”Bookmark here

“Lord Mímir?”Bookmark here

“By changing our tactics now, we better confuse our enemies into thinking that there might be multiple groups trying to use this Great Disaster to profit. It’ll distract our enemies’ attention partially and, in that confusion, we can act. The more we do and blame on the Great Disaster we’ve invented, the more confused our enemies become and the harder they start looking for any and all connections.”Bookmark here

This one would describe this strategy as being extremely risky but with the potential for high rewards, Echo said. Bookmark here

“I’m glad you agree, Echo,” Mímir said. “What other news do you have for me?”Bookmark here

“Sylvan asked me to deliver this to you, Lord Mímir,” the Raven replied, handing Mímir a brown envelope. “He says that this could be the sort of opportunity our master would love.”Bookmark here

Mímir tore open the envelope and read the report inside, a thin smile forming over his lips. He pulled down his scarf and put the papers gently onto his desk.Bookmark here

The report was about the two countries to the north of the Holy Empire of Themis: the Federation of Free City States and the Royal Kingdom of Aangapea. It primarily consisted of a list of VIPs, building schematics and, most importantly of all, a piece of printed media right from the Royal Kingdom’s press.Bookmark here

Princess Raeanne and Duke Cavan’s Wedding: The Happy Couple Announce the Date of Their Marriage. Bookmark here

“Echo, find out everything you can about the Federation of Free City States and the Royal Kingdom of Aangapea,” Mímir ordered. “Raven, take five of your kin and head north to this venue. Prepare a lovely surprise the likes of which the bride to be has never seen. I will personally join you soon.”Bookmark here

“As you command, Lord Mímir. Do you have any specific desires for this surprise?”Bookmark here

“A high body count primarily from the groom’s party should suffice. Let’s aim for the groom’s parents too if we can.”Bookmark here

“As you wish.”Bookmark here

The Raven departed, leaving Mímir and Echo alone.Bookmark here

This one wonders if you should not have cleared this with his majesty first, Echo said.Bookmark here

“I intend to do so now,” Mímir replied, opening a portal behind him. Bookmark here

This one wishes you had asked first.Bookmark here

“As long as neither of us mention it, we’ll be fine.”Bookmark here

This one will only tell his majesty should you get rejected. If your plan is accepted, then this one shall remain silent.Bookmark here

Mímir nodded, pulled back up his scarf and stepped into the portal.Bookmark here

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If his majesty says no, I can always catch up to the Ravens and drag them back, Mímir thought. Bookmark here

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