Chapter 186:

The Case of the Stolen Blueprints (1)

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

I walked into the throne room alone, wondering what Katalina had called me for. While it wasn’t strange for her to randomly summon me, that fact that I had received a formal request to the Chancellor made me arch my brows.Bookmark here

‘Guess the proper procedures must still be practiced once in a while.’Bookmark here

Despite that, it must have been something important, so I dropped my current tasks and sped over to the castle. Since the guards all knew who I was, they gave me a simple nod of acknowledgement before opening the doors leading inside.Bookmark here

However, the Queen was strangely absent from her throne when I got there. Instead, a glum-faced man in what appeared to be a lab coat vacantly stared off in the distance, only perking up once my footsteps reached his ears.Bookmark here

“Oh! There you are! The Queen should be arriving shortly. She is taking care of a few mishaps, completely related to why you were called here.”Bookmark here

“…Jayce, right? Do you have any clue what’s going on?”Bookmark here

The man nodded enthusiastically. Despite having dark shadows under his eyes and looking far from cheery, there was a fiery spark in his pupils. Likely, the pep had come from being recognized for his abilities by the Queen, who gave him a position in her magic tool research lab. The lack of sleep, on the other hand, was caused by self-motivation in his attempt to catch up to the genius of Katsys the Inventor, the other name the Queen was known by.Bookmark here

“Well, ehem, about that… Maybe I should start from the beginning….“ Jayce’s voice trailed off as his confidence suddenly plummeted.Bookmark here

The lab trainee proceeded to explain how he had been tasked with working on the long-distance transporter that I had acquired resonance stones for. It had turned out to be a much longer endeavor than previously thought, which meant that Katalina hardly had sufficient time outside of her duties.Bookmark here

“Eh, what’s slowing down the progress? I thought the blueprints for the pilot model had already been completed.” Even before the trip to the Divine Isles, I had seen what appeared to be a finished sketch of components needed.Bookmark here

“For the base components, yes. We have all the parts required to put it together. The trouble is the enchantment scribing. It operates on an entirely different system than what our magic system originates from.”Bookmark here

I hadn’t paid that much attention to how exactly magic tools were inscribed. A casual glance had yielded some scattered words which were surrounded with what appeared to be motion vectors and symbols that implied some depiction of spatial arrangement and resultant effects. There were other characters that made absolutely no sense to me in how they meshed with the writing around it. Coding in college would’ve been more straightforward at this point, but then again, I had no formal training to tell the difference.Bookmark here

“The resonance stones operate using a completely different language, one that few people are exposed to normally. Much of the slowdown has been transcribing our normal commands into that which is accepted for resonance stones. Our friends in Macali are offering as much guidance with that as possible.”Bookmark here

“Ah, is that why those communication devices took so long to make? A few days had turned to two weeks before they were ready. I just assumed that the Queen had too much on her plate.”Bookmark here

Jayce shook his head. “From what I was told, it took her several times longer due to the inscriptions alone. If she had simply copied the writing carved upon the King of Macali’s device, it would’ve been straightforward. But she hates being confined to that, preferring to understand the mechanism fully. It took every resource in the Royal Library to adjust the inscriptions to suit her version of the communication device.”Bookmark here

Things started to make sense now. If the resonance stones required a different language altogether, that would make the long-distance teleportation device even more challenging. The formula for those devices in Macali were based on normal magic stones, so that didn’t help much. As a result, Jayce had to learn how to design its equivalent from scratch.Bookmark here

“Come to think of it, what language is this even? For it to be so uncommon.”Bookmark here

Jayce scratched his head. “The ‘Tongue of the Ancients’ is what the text says… but as for the origin… I’m not really sure where it came from…”Bookmark here

Just then, a side door opened, with Katalina and Ludmila walking through. Despite the regal dress that the former had on, there were signs of frazzled hair that had merely been patted down in haste. Ludmila also looked a bit dirty, like she had walked through a dust storm.Bookmark here

“Sorry for my tardiness. I hear that you are talking about the inscription language. I’ve had quite a bit of trouble with it, being that it was once thought to be used by the Gods.”Bookmark here

I froze at that statement. I had nearly forgotten about it until now, since I handed the task off to the people in Sanshiro. Pulling out my notebook from my pocket, I flipped to the section where I had crudely copied the seal from the cavern.Bookmark here

“Something like this?”Bookmark here

Jayce and Katalina walked toward me for a better look.Bookmark here

“Why, yes… this was from the seal that you mentioned before? That would make sense with the sheer amount of stones there. Unfortunately, we’ll have to put that aside as there is something more pressing that I summoned you here for.”Bookmark here

Katalina walked up to the throne and plopped heavily upon it. She had apparently been on her feet for the whole day so far.Bookmark here

“Now, where did you get to, Jayce?”Bookmark here

“Uhmm… just the part about the teleportation device. Got a bit sidetracked, hehe.”Bookmark here

Katalina took over the explanation, giving light to why that had been relevant. Jayce had been working on the inscription for the invention, which meant poring through the blueprints and testing the effect of his translated inscriptions on small prototypes. Suddenly today, he noticed that some of the other blueprints stored in the lab were missing.Bookmark here

“While the blueprints themselves can be redrawn from memory, I’m worried about how they could fall into the wrong hands,” Katalina sighed.Bookmark here

“Wait, just how many are we talking about here?...” I could certainly see problems if any person on the street started firing off portals and magic like a trigger-happy kid at an arcade. “But then again, weren’t those hard to make to begin with?”Bookmark here

“Yes, crafting a gun of similar caliber to the ones I have requires highly-pure magic stones which can convert mana more efficiently into magic. Even with larger stones of poor quality, the spell would simply be wider range, but not more powerful. And to answer your other question… it seems like the ones pertaining to weaponry were pilfered.”Bookmark here

‘Weaponry?’ An alarm bell sounded off in my mind.Bookmark here

“Don’t tell me that someone wants to plan a coup or something? Wouldn’t those of high standing be the only ones that could manage to obtain such high-quality stones?”Bookmark here

Katalina nodded at my statement.Bookmark here

“Yes, that is what I assume as well. None of the actual test weaponry can be used by others, as I have locked out everyone but my own mana signature. The most practical alternative would be to build their own then.”Bookmark here

I thought for a moment. Certainly, Katalina’s ascension to the throne was not devoid of opposition. Even if the general public had a favorable view of her, there was always the exception.Bookmark here

“Leftover patriots of the previous king?”Bookmark here

“Most probable. But we should also worry about the blueprints leaving the country, particularly to the North. However, I do not believe that Purnesia could make full use of them.”Bookmark here

“Hmm, why do you say that?”Bookmark here

“The Purnesian Empire rests on a cold, barren land that contains far less mana than the other countries. It would be very unlikely for them to mine any mana stones high enough in quality to create mass weaponry for war. Still, that doesn’t mean we should count them out completely.”Bookmark here

The prospect of heading into a battle facing off against an army of Katalinas was a chilling revelation. The world didn’t need a destructive wave of that magnitude. Even having a few people with the same capability could overwhelm the typical army of a nation. That much could be inferred from the actions Katalina had taken so far.Bookmark here

I turned to Jayce. “Any leads as to who our thief could be?”Bookmark here

Jayce shook his head in response. “Nope. Nada. Not that many people have access to the lab even. Just me, the Queen, her maid, and you, Sir. And I’m the only one that’s been going back and forth in it these past few days.”Bookmark here

“Anyone that knows your movements that could have followed you in and bypassed security?” I poked his memory.Bookmark here

“I mean, aside from my folks, the only others I interact with are the castle guards and the merchants that drop off goods. They’re the only ones that even pass by the entryway.”Bookmark here

Katalina interjected with her own thoughts. “However, Ludmila and I have detected traces of mana from a familiar being used. Possibly, to swipe the blueprints. That means, we must keep an eye on those around the castle and verify whether then are working closely with any of the nobles.”Bookmark here

I chuckled upon hearing that statement. “And how am I supposed to help with that? I’m far from experienced with discretion and spying.”Bookmark here

“Ah, I just need you as back up, since you can instantly disable a person without harm or damage to the surroundings,” Katalina said, dismissing my worries. “Ludmila here will actually be doing the spying. She insisted for you to be the one to watch her back.”Bookmark here

The maid girl, who had been silent up until this point, nodded lightly. For how stoic she normally was, there was actually a slight smirk on her face for once. However, one would hardly notice if they weren’t around her often.Bookmark here

“Ludmila is a spy. Yay…” Though, her voice was as monotone and doll-like as usual.Bookmark here

I was half-tempted to coerce her into a signature pose to compliment it. ‘Yay, peace peace’ with a V-sign came to mind.Bookmark here

“Here is a list of all the ones that were stationed around the Research Lab this past week. Already, I’ve had Ludmila narrow down those who are connected to a magic user whose familiar could pull off such a task. But whoever stole the documents had masked its signature to be untraceable.”Bookmark here

That had likely been the reason for Ludmila’s current dirtiness. She had probably dashed everywhere to track down all the suspicious people.Bookmark here

“What your task will be is to verify these leads, and for those who seem suspicious, to sneak in and note any strange activity being planned.”Bookmark here

Though subtlety wasn’t my strong point, I could easily back up Ludmila if things got hairy. And with my authority as the Chancellor, I would be able to press those of nobility if we happened to uncover anything against them.Bookmark here

Ludmila walked up to me, ready to start her role. I bent down and sighed, dusting her off a bit.Bookmark here

“Maybe, you should change into a less frilly outfit first?” I stared at her clothes, which looked to me like they belonged in a magical girl anime.Bookmark here

Nodding briefly, she dashed away in a blink. It didn’t even take a minute for her to return, now sporting a simple tunic and pants that clung to her body. I cocked my head to the side before undoing the scarf around my neck.Bookmark here

Bending down to her level, I tied it around the bottom of her face, covering her nose and mouth. Now, she certainly looked the part of a speedy spy that hid in the shadows. Her ability to hide her presence from most people essentially made her a shinobi.Bookmark here

“Alrighty. Let’s go, Nin-Ninja Ludmila!”Bookmark here

With a nod, the two of us headed for the exit, hoping to find the perpetrator quickly. With the two of us on the case, we would have whoever dared to cross Katalina sweating bullets soon enough.Bookmark here

We wouldn’t give them the chance to copy what she had poured her heart and soul into for the purpose of evil.Bookmark here

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