Chapter 189:

A Plan Revealed (2)

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

“Earl Sevald Hohenheim, I’m here to arrest you!” I pointed my knife straight at him.Bookmark here

“Hmph, for a single man to barge into the home of a powerful noble in such a manner, how foolish… or that is what I would say if it were someone normal. But you, Chancellor, are far from the normal person.”Bookmark here

A strong aura seeped from the man at the desk, causing the two merchants in the room to back away. Greggor and Ivanov knew about the Earl’s proficiency in magic, stemming from his past as a Magic Knight in his younger days.Bookmark here

‘Hohenheim the Gale’ was a name that many people had heard of, coming from the powerful wind magic that he wielded. His abilities had allowed him to fight on equal terms with demons that appeared in the past. Though his raw attack power wasn’t as strong as heroes like Pythagoras, his magic gave him the control of an area through speedy movement and re-direction of attacks through swift gusts.Bookmark here

“Go, the two of you! I shall keep him busy!”Bookmark here

With a wave of his hand, a fierce gale burst forth, knocking me backward. In the middle of the storm, the two merchants were whisked out the window by a stream of air. Fortunately for them, the wind carried them gently to the ground where they could take off running.Bookmark here

Getting up quickly, I slashed at the wind but found it densely packed. Even though I could slash through the individual gusts, the old man kept the pressure on me, not letting the waves of magic air die down in the slightest. Rather than deal any damage to me, he was solely focused on keeping me from getting to him.Bookmark here

However, I raised my arm and shouted “Ludmila!”Bookmark here

Instantly, the girl that had been hiding in this room unveiled herself, punching the Earl in the back with a full power Mana Strike. She could feel the Earl’s back buckle under her fist, but then, he spun around and lashed out with the back of his hand. A greenish streak, coated with the property of wind, struck her, sending her body sailing off to the wall.Bookmark here

“Hmph. I figured that there was another one in the room. I could feel a faint distortion in the air. Another breath, low and nearly ephemeral. A spy who could hear everything being conversed, I take it? No wonder you came barging in so quickly.”Bookmark here

Ludmila quickly got up from the backhand, rubbing the side of her cheek. She tried to use her speed to dash into the Earl, but the wind pushed back with too much force.Bookmark here

“Don’t take me for a fool who isn’t aware of the Queen’s little bodyguard. Your speed is nothing if your movements are restricted!”Bookmark here

I gnashed my teeth, wondering what could be done. At this rate, he had both of us trapped. The room and hallway were boxing us in, the pressure of the wind magic keeping us from getting any closer. I wondered if I should retreat and chase after the merchants instead, but Ludmila was still trapped in the room. Bookmark here

‘I can’t abandon her and run away by myself! That’s not an option!’Bookmark here

I scanned the room, looking for some way to break through the standstill. The gale stung my eyes as I fought to keep them open as I searched. Everything in the office was now pressed up against the walls, the wind having sent all that was not bolted down to the edges of the room.Bookmark here

“If only I could reduce the pressure…” My voice couldn’t be heard within the roaring gale, which even smacked against my throat the moment I opened my mouth.Bookmark here

However, a thought flashed into my mind.Bookmark here

‘Pressure depends on the volume of the room.’Bookmark here

With a small area such as this office, it would be easy to pressurize the wind with his magic. However, the situation would be different if there was a larger space.Bookmark here

I looked to the side and slashed the wall, diving into the safety of the side room.Bookmark here

“Running elsewhere won’t help you!” I could hear the Earl cry out in the adjacent room.Bookmark here

However, I wasn’t running away. I glanced around each corner of this side room, noting that the outer walls were on the far side. Quickly, I slashed that wall before circling around to cut down the wall facing the office.Bookmark here

Immediately, wind burst forth, along with the furniture that had rested against it. Jumping to and fro, I avoided those items as they toppled by me and smashed into the far wall. Another loud crash occurred as that wall crumbled from the projectiles, opening the room to the outdoors.Bookmark here

In that moment, I felt a dip in the gust. That was what I had aimed for. The sudden widening of an area greatly increased the space. The change caused an instant drop in pressure, allowing for me to dash toward the Earl with my knife.Bookmark here

“Extend, dammit!”Bookmark here

My mana was shaped into a thin rod, stretching out as far as I could push it. Like a long, fencing rapier, I thrust forward, hoping that I closed the distance before the Earl could readjust his magic. As I felt the resistance against my body start to build up again, the very tip of my mana saber barely poked into the stomach of my opponent.Bookmark here

It was an attack that was laughable for anyone, except for me. Earl Hohenheim suddenly started coughing as his magic flickered and flailed while coming out of his body. He was trying his best to maintain the flow within, but his gates had been forcibly clamped shut.Bookmark here

I had injected a pulse into his Divine Gate, the central nexus for all abilities that required mana. And now, his mana delivery was sputtering like an engine without gasoline. Gradually, the swift winds that had pushed us back died down. The Earl bent down, clutching his stomach and muttering his annoyance at the situation.Bookmark here

Ludmila and I walked up to him, glad that the largest obstacle had been taken down. Now, all that was left was to round up the two merchants and stop the whole manufacturing of weaponry.Bookmark here

“Hey, no more games. Where did the two of them go? To salvage what’s left of your operation, I guess?”Bookmark here

I pulled the man up by the collar of his vest, but he simply looked to the side at Ludmila in contemplation.Bookmark here

“Hey, answer me! I’m not going to tolerate anyone planning to hurt Queen Katalina. Not in the slightest!” I drew my knife threateningly towards him. I hated that it had come to this, but the urgency of using heavy-handed threats would likely get him to spill faster. Time was of the essence.Bookmark here

“Hurt the Queen? That’s the last thing that I intend to do…”Bookmark here

The Earl’s unexpected answer caused me to blink a few times.Bookmark here

“Don’t you lie to me! The two of us heard you talking with your merchants, about how you were dissatisfied with her rule and that it was the reason to build up your army! You’re planning to turn those guns on her to take over the kingdom with force!”Bookmark here

The Earl stared blankly at me, his eyes narrowing from my accusations.Bookmark here

“Take over the kingdom? I believe you misunderstood something… My plan was to ‘save’ this kingdom with the weaponry.”Bookmark here

An anger rose from within me.Bookmark here

“Save? Bullshit! How does getting rid of the Queen ‘save’ the kingdom? Do you really think that you should be the one in charge?”Bookmark here

“Not at all.”Bookmark here

‘Eh?’ My gripped loosened on his collar. Now, I was starting to get confused.Bookmark here

“What the hell? You’re not making any sense!” I spat out, the knife in my hand unsure of what to do.Bookmark here

“Neither are you….” The Earl glanced back at Ludmila and his face suddenly shifted. “You had merely listened in on the conversation that I had with Greggor and Ivanov, and nothing else?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, what does that have to do with anything?”Bookmark here

“Then, you are not aware of my full plan. We have no intention of usurping the throne. Gathering weaponry was being done to protect the kingdom from outside enemies.”Bookmark here

Now, I was really confused.Bookmark here

“Then, what was all that talk about war and going against an entire country? And about ‘her’ noticing?”Bookmark here

The Earl contemplated for a moment, recalling what he had said before. After a few head nods, he gave his answer.Bookmark here

“The war that I’m referring to is with the Purnesian Empire. The nation led by the ‘Mad Empress’.”Bookmark here

Slowly, my grip on the man had loosened. ‘Did I make a big misunderstanding?’ I tried to settle my emotions so that I could listen carefully to what he had to say.Bookmark here

Earl Hohenheim proceeded to detail his plan, which was to amass the weaponry needed to defend the kingdom at its weakest from Purnesia. He had uncovered a rapid amount of military preparation which indicated that Purnesia was possibly planning for a large-scale assault on Sistina.Bookmark here

Due to the loss of many nobles recently, the management of the kingdom’s forces was lagging behind, creating a window of opportunity. The Earl had hoped to plug up that disadvantage by arming his people, the ones closest to the border, with the might needed to repel the attack.Bookmark here

“Why didn’t you request for help from the Queen?” I wondered aloud.Bookmark here

“I did. It was rejected. While Queen Katalina did approve of sending more personnel to occupy Fort Valga, which guards the entryway between the two nations, that simply would not be enough. My request for her specialized weaponry or an Electi stationed there was denied.”Bookmark here

“Hmm, that’s likely because all the resources were being used to rebuild the kingdom, I suppose.”Bookmark here

“Correct. While it was skirting the bureaucracy, I had to force my hand and come up with another way to protect my people – by producing the weaponry that gave the Queen her abilities.”Bookmark here

“And there was no other way?”Bookmark here

“It would simply take too long. At this point, the attack could happen any day.”Bookmark here

I clenched my fist at this sudden turn of events. Sure, I had jumped the gun, but who could blame me? The conversation certainly sounded like the makings of a coup. I groaned as I weighed the options. If he was telling the truth, there was merit in ensuring that the kingdom would be safer from invasion.Bookmark here

“Can you show me where the stuff is being made? I get where you’re going with this, but unless you can prove to me that you have the right intentions, I can’t help you.”Bookmark here

“Under one condition.”Bookmark here

“What is that?”Bookmark here

“Can you reverse what you did to me? I cannot feel my legs, and at this age, that worries me.”Bookmark here

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After restoring the Earl back to his normal self, he guided us to the workshop on the edge of town where the magic guns were being made.Bookmark here

“Here it is. I would be grateful if could convince the Queen to-“Bookmark here

“Master, the scent of blood!” Ludmila interrupted us as we approached the building.Bookmark here

Certainly, there was something off about the place. It was the middle of the day, but not a single sound of activity could be heard from within. An eerie quiet was all that enveloped the workshop.Bookmark here

Cautiously, we opened the front door, only to see several bodies, covered in blood, lying prone on the floor. Someone had come here before us and slaughtered them.Bookmark here

“Y-You didn’t have those two-“ My words trembled as they left my mouth.Bookmark here

“No! My order was for them to pack up and move to another undisclosed location!” the Earl immediately retorted.Bookmark here

Suddenly, Ludmila pulled on my sleeve and pointed further in. As my eyes focused on the darker lighting inside, the bodies of Greggor and Ivanov could be seen, also among the casualties.Bookmark here

“W-Who could have done this?” With the two of them also dead, the trail had suddenly turned cold.Bookmark here

Or so I thought, until Ludmila spoke again.Bookmark here

“This mana signature… the other merchant… was here.”Bookmark here

“Other merchant?” My blood froze. The only other merchant in our minds was… “Favian… shit, no way… but there’s no other lead…”Bookmark here

I quickly replayed in my mind the conversations we had on-route to this city. After dropping us off, I vaguely recalled that Favian was heading back toward Minsk which was very close to the border.Bookmark here

“Wait… it couldn’t be…”Bookmark here

Quickly, I looked around the workshop trying to locate the goods that should have been here.Bookmark here

“Earl, where did you keep the magic stones?”Bookmark here

“Why, in the back room-“Bookmark here

I didn’t wait to hear the rest as I dashed there, leaping over the dead bodies. I flung the door open, only to find that there was nothing there. The Earl caught up to me shortly but gasped as he eyed the bare floor where barrels and crates should have been.Bookmark here

The magic stones that he had collected – the same rumor that Favian had told me – were now missing.Bookmark here

Not simply a flag being triggered, I could literally hear the sound of one snapping in half, metaphorically closing off the bright future I imagined this country heading toward. A sudden sense of dread enveloped me as I thought of the worst possible outcome.Bookmark here

“Ludmila, how fast can you run back to the capital?”Bookmark here

“One hour.”Bookmark here

“Go to the Queen. Get her to sign off on us using her weapons and come find me around Minsk right after. If it’s as bad as I expect, then you’ll probably feel my mana signature wherever I end up.”Bookmark here

With a nod, the speedy girl disappeared from sight. I turned to Earl Hohenheim next.Bookmark here

“When your guards wake up, be prepared to take action. Sorry that I broke their guns, but do what you can.”Bookmark here

“You are going to Minsk? Do you have some idea what happened?”Bookmark here

“I am almost certain of it now. Favian is a spy for Purnesia.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.