Chapter 18:

Friends Don’t Let Friends Poke

Atk 0 Crit All ~My attack stat is negligible, so I can't help but rely on critical hits to succeed!~

Luckily, it appeared that Cornelius had some free time on his hands. In this world, the easiest way to contact someone within the city was to use a Magic Homing Pigeon. This was a magic tool that created a bird out of mana that could carry a small message to the recipient. The tool scanned people for their unique magical signatures, which allowed for the bird to track and home in on that person's location. However, this tool had its limits. Since the bird had a limited magical supply, it could only fly for a set distance. If it neared its limit while searching, it would return to the sender before dissipating. Trying out this device, I sent Cornelius a message. The bird came back empty-handed and cooed to signify that it had been delivered before fading out with a puff, like a flame being blown out.Bookmark here

A few minutes later, another magical pigeon came to me bearing a message. Unfolding the paper, there was a rough sketch of a cartoony Cornelius making an 'OK' sign. I had asked him if he could come to the Faulkner residence but hadn't told him any details. He'd probably use it as an excuse to see Eryn anyways.Bookmark here

Later that afternoon, a fancy carriage showed up in front of our residence. The driver hopped off and opened the door. Cornelius stepped out, dressed in casual clothing. This had been the first time I had seen him without his armor. Greeting him, I led him to the empty courtyard.Bookmark here

"Oh? Will it be just us? I'm a little disappointed that it wasn't Eri that had called for me, but I take it that you had some business with me then?" Cornelius said with his usual smile.Bookmark here

"Say, we're friends, aren't we?"Bookmark here

"I prefer to think of us as acquaintances with mutual goals, but I'm open to some convincing."Bookmark here

Despite what Cornelius said, he didn't seem to mind my company, especially since he could talk casually with me.Bookmark here

"I think I discovered a new ability, but I would prefer to practice it on a guy."Bookmark here

"I see…apparently, my charm has spread outside of my expectations."Bookmark here

"What, NO! That's not why I asked you!" I retorted.Bookmark here

Cornelius just kept grinning in response.Bookmark here

I rubbed my temples as I reminded myself how easily he could get under my skin. I faked an excuse, saying that Eryn hadn't recovered after her match, so I had asked him instead.Bookmark here

"Okay, show me what you've picked up from the event." Cornelius winked at me. Something told me that I couldn't exactly trust the guy. As I walked over to him, my feet suddenly lost traction. My vision spun around before the back of my head collided with the ground.Bookmark here

"Owwww, what the hell?" Getting up, I looked around, seeing that a smooth patch of ice had been placed on the ground where I stepped. Damn it, did that guy just use 'Slip' on me? What's next? A smartphone?Bookmark here

Turning to Cornelius in annoyance, he was quite amused with himself. "Did you think I'd just stand here and take your attack?" Cornelius distanced himself some more and coated the rest of the ground in slick ice.Bookmark here

Fine, I'll play your game! Getting up shakily, I kicked off and allowed myself to glide along the surface of the ice. Luckily, this wasn't something new to me. My younger self did some ice skating; I’d often enjoy gliding on frozen stretches of ice while commuting to school in the winter.Bookmark here

Coming at Cornelius quickly, he looked nonchalant as he beckoned me to come, like a matador facing a bull. I tried to grab him as I got within range, but he sidestepped just out of my reach. Sliding right by him, I awkwardly did a U-turn and tried again. Catching on to the fact that I was trying to grab him, Cornelius backed away and created some ice walls to block my path. I had to swerve here and there to avoid running right into them.Bookmark here

"Quit playing around! How am I supposed to show you my skill if you keep blocking my way?"Bookmark here

"How do you expect a skill to be useful if you can't use it in the middle of combat?" Cornelius countered.Bookmark here

I hated to admit it, but he was right. People weren't simply going to stick out their arm and let me poke it like Eryn did. I had to find a way to create an opening.Bookmark here

Ducking behind one of the ice walls, I called upon my item box and pulled out several knives. Circling behind the wall that Cornelius hid behind, I threw them in sequence. In response, Cornelius conjured a barrier made of ice to shield him. The knives bounced off the shield and clattered to the ground. Ducking behind another wall that was closer, I grabbed an even larger handful of knives.Bookmark here

It was time for the 'Sky Knives' once again. Running out once more, I threw them all into the sky above Cornelius. He aimed his barrier over him this time, letting the knives clatter around the ground around him. A few of them had missed him and fallen straight down, imbedding the blade into the ground.Bookmark here

Good, I was banking on that. Bookmark here

Charging straight at him, Cornelius scoffed as he once again gracefully slid out of the way. As I passed by him, I reached for one of the knives lodged into the ground. Grasping the handle tightly, I felt my momentum being redirected as my direction abruptly changed. With Cornelius ahead of me, I let go, launching myself straight into the path of Cornelius's sidestep.Bookmark here

This time, I was barely able to hook his leg as he tried to avoid me in panic. The two of us collided onto the ground, with me somehow on top.Bookmark here

Cornelius looked up at me. "Oh my. I'm not used to being on the bottom, you know."Bookmark here

"You are such a pain in the ass," I said as I pushed a spot at the base of his neck.Bookmark here

Cornelius suddenly froze as his eyes rolled back. His body had gone limp signifying that he had passed out. I confirmed that he was still breathing okay. It hadn't been my intention to knock him out at first, but my annoyance at him made me pick a particularly sensitive pressure point. However, the outcome was more effective than I had predicted. That pressure point was intended to induce a shock to the nervous system but should have required either more force or longer time to activate. This had completely changed how I had previously understood things.Bookmark here

After a few minutes, I started shaking Cornelius to bring him back from dreamland. He looked up at me in surprise, realizing that he had been unconscious just now. He started patting his body all over as if to check whether he had been violated.Bookmark here

"Seriously? What reason would I have to attack you in your sleep?" His antics really wore on me sometimes.Bookmark here

Explaining what I had done to him, he listened patiently as I detailed how the impact of pressure points seemed to be much greater in this world than what I'm used to. It was apparent to me now that something was driving the outcome to its maximum effect similar to my other abilities.Bookmark here

"I'm starting to think that my high Crit stat enables a result to be as effective as it could possibly be. But only if I hit the right locations."Bookmark here

That would explain the ease of cutting, the shattering of rock, and Eryn's excessive reaction and effective recovery…Bookmark here

"If that's true, then my capabilities may have just expanded a lot."Bookmark here

There were pressure points for a multitude of functions after all. I would have to think carefully about how I wanted to use them. More importantly, I now had a way to deal with an opponent that I didn't want to kill, one of my current biggest worries.Bookmark here

"I see. So that's why you called on me. So that you can abuse me to your heart's desire. I guess I mean nothing to you." Cornelius took out a handkerchief and wiped away some nonexistent tears.Bookmark here

"Well, I can't very well do these kinds of things to a nice girl like Eryn. But it's okay if I beat up an annoying guy like you,” I joked.Bookmark here

Suddenly, I felt my hand grabbed. A chilling feeling of cold crept up my arm accompanying it. Looking down, I was met with the sight of ice slowly encasing the length of my arm. A brief flicker of anger had blemished his normally jovial expression. Huh? I must've hit a nerve somehow.Bookmark here

I tore my hand away from his and tried to chip off the ice. Warmer air once again hit bare skin as I managed to shake it off. By that time, Cornelius's expression had already returned to normal.Bookmark here

"Geez, I was only joking. But seriously, can you help me with this? It would help me do a better job at protecting Eryn." I reasoned with him.Bookmark here

"I suppose…" Cornelius gave in, almost pouting. He would do anything for his friend.Bookmark here

This time, he allowed me to poke him in several places, as I tested spots that induced pain, paralysis, and even nausea. As I touched him more and more, the normally bright expression that he put on had turned into a frown. His expression darkened as he tried to hold back winces of discomfort. I made sure to touch a complimentary pressure point to alleviate the effects right after, but it couldn't have been pleasant for him.Bookmark here

"Claude, you owe me for this," Cornelius said while gritting his teeth.Bookmark here

"Should I make you feel good then, like I did for Eryn?"Bookmark here

"You WHAT?"Bookmark here

Oops. Me and my big mouth.Bookmark here

"WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY-NNGH!" I pressed the same point on his back as I had done to Eryn before.Bookmark here

Cornelius's knees went weak as he sank to the ground. A line of drool suddenly trickled down one side of his lips. I was too shocked at the time, but after I cleared my head and thought a bit, I understood just what I had likely done to Eryn. Thinking back on it made me want to smack myself in embarrassment and crawl into a hole. It was only natural that she didn't want to talk to me afterwards.Bookmark here

Cornelius started getting up, recovering from his stupor. Satisfied that I had resolved most of my questions, I hurriedly excused myself and let Cornelius visit his friend. After all he did for me, I guess I could permit some alone time for them.Bookmark here

I ran into Pietro cleaning the windows on the way back. I had been meaning to ask him something.Bookmark here

"Hey Pietro, why were you fighting in the tournament? And what was with that silly mask?"Bookmark here

"I don't know what you mean. I'm just an old man who has already retired from such things."Bookmark here

Pietro said, not even bothering to look away from the glass. His expression remained the same as before.Bookmark here

"Um…okay? I was so sure that it was you, seeing as he moved exactly the same way."Bookmark here

"Pure coincidence. I'm just a mere butler. Please do not consider me as anything more. If you have nothing else, then I would like to finish cleaning."Bookmark here

With my thoughts stuck in my throat after that blatant refusal, I wasn't at all convinced that he was telling the truth. Well, if the person himself insisted, then I had no right to pry. However, now I felt like testing something.Bookmark here

I went up to him and tried to poke a pressure point on his back. Without any time to react, my arm had been grabbed, and I was sent flying across the room. In one fluid motion, Pietro had countered me with perfect precision despite not facing me.Bookmark here

"I don't know what it is that you were trying to pull, but it won't work on me." Pietro walked by and bowed down to tell me. He left the room to continue cleaning elsewhere.Bookmark here

"A mere butler, my ass. What kind of butler moves that way?" I rolled my eyes. Unless he was an anime debt-ridden butler who sometimes cross-dressed…no, I had to stop myself before a mental picture of that formed..Bookmark here

In any case, it looked like I'd have to put in a lot more work before I could successfully use this skill in battle.Bookmark here

"CLAUDE! WHY DID YOU HAVE TO TELL CORNELIUS ABOUT IT!!!" Eryn's shout suddenly echoed down the hallway.Bookmark here

Hopefully, this skill wouldn't be more trouble than it was worth.Bookmark here

'Well, it's time to bribe the master,' I thought as I got up and headed towards the kitchen to fetch something. Nothing could smooth over a conflict like offering an apology in the form of freshly baked cake.Bookmark here

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