Sorcery Hacker:Volume2 PhaseXX
Phase XX: To the Continent
The freight train finally came to an emergency stop on the long stone bridge. That would be a problem for the engineer and the armed conductors, but it was necessary. Ayato would have to dodge responsibility by using the authority of the Static Continent’s Combined Royal Family.
But young-looking Angela Messenger looked quizzically up at him while carrying unconscious Jennifer over her shoulder like a sack of wheat.
“We have no authority out here since it is not part of our continent. I am touched you thought to rely on me, though.”
“That leaves just one option: run away!!”
Even a child would be vaguely aware that the fee for stopping a train would be steep. Even more so in the world of the ultra-wealthy that was an intercontinental train. If he was caught, his life was essentially over right then and there.
There was nowhere to run to on that single long railroad across the ocean, but it paid off to run back the way the train had come. In other words, toward Laguntreat. The train had just the one spirit engine loaded into the front car, so it was not made to back up except for small adjustments. The journey was peaceful save for the fire and wind magic fired back at him by the armed human conductors.
“How did I end up defeating a villain and restoring peace to the world!? All I wanted to do was find that damn ice coffin!!”
“That is a standard feature of adventure stories, so just accept it,” said the little maid. “But if it would make you feel better, I am willing to give you a head pat.”
Evening was approaching by the time they arrived back at the island, but this was a tropical climate and the sun was still beating down on them. If he did not have that long straightaway to thank for his victory, the journey back would have broken his spirit.
Having to take that direct, straightforward path was rough on a Sorcery Hacker who loved searching for detours and loopholes. Still, he somehow made it back to the oceanside train station and walked through the building to reach Laguntreat’s beach once more.
An Undine girl was filling a liquor bottle with water from a beach shower booth, so she may have been in the business of bumping into people, dropping the bottle, and demanding they repay her for the “expensive drink”. Was that a trick she had inherited from the previous generation? At this point, Ayato was starting to feel like he and the demons of Laguntreat were birds of a feather.
In one of the shower booths, a woman in a purple bikini was washing the sand and salt from her skin and twisting her soft body to check on her tan.
“You only barely squeaked by with a passing grade there, Sorcery Hacker,” said the person who had done nothing at all besides lie around sipping at cold drinks. “You caused far too much monetary loss.”
“What will happen to Jennifer?”
“She has made herself a direct threat to the entire system behind the Combined Royal Family, so I will be taking her away, of course. Is that a problem?”
The Academy Towers Student Council Advisor had come all the way out here with the devil’s revolver and the 5th’s sword to deal with Ayato.
She had to know something about the truth behind the incident in which he shot his former friend.
But Micha Angelos had too much firepower for him to argue the point. Defying her here could easily get him obliterated on the spot.
(I should have gotten Jennifer to tell me exactly how she hacked that maid.)
“That glint in your eye is a sign of dangerous criminal thoughts. If you have any hope at all for a long life, I would recommend reconsidering.”
She had her back turned and her eyes closed while taking a shower, yet she still saw right through him. She truly had no blind spots. She was currently fixing the butt of her purple bikini with a finger, but he could not let his guard down.
After turning off the shower, the purple woman grabbed a nearby towel, placed it over her head, and turned toward him.
“I will pay you as promised, but you must personally send an official report from a Media Summoner. Angela, I must speak with you concerning the disappearance of the 5th prince. Where exactly did Jennifer Evening steal you? I trust someone of your skill managed to put him in hibernation, but we must begin the search from those coordinates. Based on the range of Jennifer’s activities, I would guess it was somewhere in this region of ocean or on one of the smaller uninhabited islands.”
“Angela, I am not going to lecture you, so stop silently clinging to that boy’s back. Befriending that sort of unfaithful gigolo will only lead to sorrow.”
He came dangerously close to obtaining another party member. The silver ringlet curls maid carrying Jennifer gave a regretful look back toward Ayato, but Micha Angelos grabbed her hand and led her away.
The purple bikini woman dropped a small bag of gold in Ayato’s hand and whispered a question.
“Is that everything you wished to discuss?”
“You are being awfully obedient for something related to your past, Sorcery Hacker. I await your report.”
This time, it really was goodbye.
Ayato watched the two humanoid sorcery devices weave through the crowd of human and demons and then he brought a hand to his head and sighed.
(She let it slide. I bet she was so insistent on an official report because she secretly wants me to eliminate any unnecessary information from the official version of the story. Her kind side is a lot harder to notice than with Angela.)
Jennifer Evening was an important information source, but she was not the only option. For one thing, Ayato’s group had arrived on Laguntreat in pursuit of a different clue in the first place.
Ayato also walked away, but in a different direction.
He pulled the crystal tarot cards from his pocket, fanned them out, and then lined them up again.
Micha Angelos had taken the enemy’s Linkage Plug and Monitor, but he had copied the data from them first. He used that to locate a specific cottage on the beach, circled behind it, and snuck in through the window.
He opened a large closet to find an unmelting ice coffin standing upright inside.
It was the initial shooter.
“This can’t have been fun for you either. Well, I it can’t be too bad while you’re asleep.”
Had Jennifer left him alive because she knew him personally or because he could be used as insurance?
His reasons for attacking had also been related to the Academy Towers, so he would know whatever secret Jennifer did. Once the curse had been removed and Teleria melted the ice, he was sure to have a fascinating story to tell. If he was told Student Council Advisor Jennifer had been captured and he would meet a similar fate as her accomplice, he was sure to spill the beans.
Laguntreat’s Oceavita Water Therapy Institute had been destroyed, but the springs used for the decursing still existed. He would have to download a map of the springs from the half-destroyed facility and try them each in turn.
He had not told Micha Angelos about this part.
Unlike Jennifer, the initial shooter had no skill as a Sorcery Hacker, so he would be low priority to that night butterfly. She must have been willing to let him have that small fry now that Jennifer had been removed from the equation.
He would continue his investigation from there.
(The Academy Towers.)
The incident had happened there, so he had already looked into everything there. When he had not found anything conclusive, he had considered the possibility of pressure or interference from an external source and started traveling the world.
Had he been wrong?
Was the depth of his investigation the problem, not the breadth?
(The Academy Towers.)
His thoughts were interrupted by a loud thunk. It came from directly behind him. Even though he had already checked to make sure he was alone here. He slowly turned around and found a heavy mass of mana-conducting silver lying on the glass table.
It was the Queen Astaroth Revolver.
There was nothing else there.
It was like a symbol of his past that pursued him no matter how far he tried to run from it.
Teleria gently opened her eyes.
She seemed to be in the forest cave instead of the beach cottage. Her body protested the dull pains she had developed with only a simple towel blanket to lie on, but it was also true she simply missed that luxurious bed.
“Are you awake?”
It was not Mamilis or Henrietta who spoke to her.
It was a girl in a thin dress who looked even younger than Teleria.
She was just wringing out a wet towel soaked in the spring water gathered in a container made by splitting a coconut in two.
“You look like you’re seeing a ghost. I mean, yes, I did get hit by a few main cannon blasts, but that doesn’t matter as long as this core remains intact. Besides, I’m a healer, so I was never any good at combat. If I rest on the mountain and focus on managing the springs, my missing wing should regenerate before too long.”
A human might have found that shocking. This was different from Demon Lord Nirvelphany who excelled at turning even the worst situation on its head. The Four Lords had a fixed, strongest power defined by a set role. Their accumulated power was truly outrageous.
The small girl tapped her fingers on her thigh while sitting on the ground.
Her right thigh, specifically.
She was confirming it was back to normal now that the effects of the Sorcery Hacking had been removed.
“You’re in luck because it seems he still hasn’t caught on. I hung out with him in this form a while longer, but he really doesn’t seem to know I am Fleurelisia Nereid Aquamarine. He might know of Nereid as an ancient word carved into some ruins, but he should never imagine it applies to someone living in the modern day.”
“The decision is yours, but I think you should be fine staying with him. He has that Dark Elf girl with him already and he was willing to save one of the Four Lords when it was necessary, so you should be able to come clean with him.”
Teleria had done a horrific job of keeping her secret back on the Annihilator-class Predator Island, but it had not bothered Ayato. He had not asked her any further questions about her lies and he had accepted her, lies and all.
She knew she was lucky to have this as her biggest problem.
She had lost her chance. It now felt different from when the issue was being found out or not. The situation had stabilized, so she now feared that anything she did would be destroying that stability.
Would she be stuck like this for the rest of her life? Would she always have to carry this secret with her if she wanted to be by his side?
“Don’t worry.” Her small mother laughed. “That is a common concern carried by all demons. But it is also a hurdle anyone can clear when they fall in love.”
“What? You have no proof of that.”
“Your very existence is the proof.”
Water Lord Fleurelisia was one of the Four Lords.
She was the ruler of water who was currently hiding her nature as a Mermaid with the wristwatch Mimic Option worn around her slender ankle. She had lived an unfathomably long life unbound by the restrictions of time that bound all humans.
A woman who had lived a very long time while carrying a large secret looked her daughter in the eye.
“But that small miracle cannot be achieved on your own. Even I found someone who I could open up to and who accepted me for who I am. …Surely you don’t still believe you were brought to me by a stork.”
Somewhere on the distant Static Continent, someone in a blue blazer spoke while lounging at an ordinary cafeteria table.
“So not even Sensei was up to the task, huh?”
“You knew this would happen, didn’t you? She’s only a teacher – an outsider meant to watch over us.”
The girl who answered also wore a distinctive blue blazer.
That uniform meant they belonged to a certain organization. And instead of sitting across from the initial speaker, the girl leaned against them from behind with her arms around them.
That girl was not the only other person there.
An enormous boy sat on the floor yet still maintained an eye level above everyone else there and a girl was curled up below the table and glaring out at the world like an animal that feared the light.
Some of them excelled at conspiracies and some did not.
For example, the enormous boy and the animalistic girl were the type to kill first and ask questions never.
So they were each given the tasks suited to their specialties.
The girl draped over the initial speaker was fulfilling her duties as a member of the Student Council.
She whispered in a sweet yet toxic voice.
“In fact, this means no more observer holding back the Student Council Executive Committee. I’m sure the teachers will send someone else to replace her, but why should we wait around for some newcomer to get their bearings? Let’s turn them into our puppet.”
They would flip the ordinary power structure on its head.
The Student Council would be at the top, not the teachers.
That was why they had taught her how to hack and how to steal the 5th’s sword. Adults loved power. Be it direct money and violence or indirect influence and status, they loved receiving it and could be easily led astray with it.
That one weapon was different.
They had not given her the Queen Astaroth Revolver. That devil’s revolver was the one thing constantly plaguing the Student Council’s plans.
It had in the past.
And it still did now.
“That incident was a failure for us as well, Ayato,” whispered the initial speaker. “When you broke into that school tower, it was not the shooter you were meant to kill. You were supposed to accidentally kill Teleria, his sister and hostage.”
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