Shouts and screams erupted from the building’s exterior as presence detection went off and informed me of a series of enemies.
Shit. It looked like Bluke wasn’t the only one that’d transformed.
「Bluke! Bluke, answer me! Whatever is the matter, Bluke!」
「Approaching, bad idea.」
Rhodas ignored Fran’s warning and tried to approach his son, only to be immediately met with a kick therefrom despite the fact that Urushi was still holding the newly transformed Evil Human down.
「Sir Rhodas! Are you unharmed?」
「W-Worry not. I am fine.」
Rhodas stared blankly in a mix of shock and pain as Dannan helped him back up to his feet.
Naturally, his stare did nothing to halt, or even slow down Bluke’s transformation. The second son’s eyes were dyed a pure, jet black; his pupils almost seemed to disappear entirely. His skin had started to undergo a similar process; every last bit of it was tainted as black as the night itself as his muscles swelled till they bulged to the point of abnormality. Everything about him had changed, save for the features on his face. An eerie, sickening result.
I felt the urge to cut him down immediately, but refrained. His father was watching, and we wished not for Barbra’s lord to resent us.
Besides, there might actually be some way for us to turn him back to normal. Bluke knew tonnes about things areas in which we wanted more knowledge, so having him regain his sanity could potentially allow us to derive from him a fair amount of useful information.
He continued to struggle against his capture. It looked like he’d lost all sense of reasoning, and was unwilling to be detained.
Alright, for the time being, we should try having him drink a bit more of the Water of Recovery to see if it does anything.
Fine. What if we used Anti Curse?
And…. also nope.
Our tests led us to realize that he wasn’t actually in an abnormal state.
Both the Insane and Rampaging states were considered to be his default states, and thus, we weren’t able to get rid of either condition. In other words, we were going to have one hell of a hard time turning him back to normal or taking him in quietly.
『Let’s see if we can make him stop moving around.』
「Nn. Urushi, let go.」
Bluke had tried getting up the moment Urushi let go of him, but Stun Bolt had inflicted him with paralysis. And hence, he was now once again on the ground. He was still conscious, but no longer able to move.
『Alright Urushi, hold him down again. Have him stay there till we tell you otherwise.』
『Let’s go take care of everything happening in the garden, Fran.』
Fran rushed back into the hallway and leapt through one of the windows that faced the building’s garden, shattering it in the process.
『It looks like everyone that got arrested ended up transforming.』
All ten of the men that taken into custody had ended up breaking out of their bindings as a result of their “evolutions.” There were far fewer of them than there were guards, but they still seemed to have the advantage due to their disparately high stats.
「What now? Capture all?」
『Eh… nah. Let’s just kill them. Detaining each and every single one would end up being a huge pain in the ass. Besides, they’re criminals anyways, so they’d probably just end up getting sentenced to death even if we did find out how to turn them back to normal.』
I mean, that’s kinda just what happens to anyone with a hand in a failed coup d’etat.
Fran accelerated through the use of Air Jump and used the resulting momentum to immediately cleave one of the Evil Humans in half. I threw in a wind spell and took out a second as she landed.
The captured men had been ruffians to begin with, so they were quite a bit stronger than Bluke. Evolution had turned each into an E or so ranked threat.
That said, they still weren’t anywhere close to being our match; it only took us about three minutes to finish them all off. I was honestly kind of disappointed by the results. They were actually pretty strong. I was expecting to be able to absorb their magic stones and get myself a few points. I was quite interested in all the skills they had too, but it turned out that they didn’t actually have magic stones. Oh well, can’t be helped, I guess.
The guards ended up falling onto their butts in exhaustion the moment they saw the last Evil Human fall.
We knew that they were tired, but, we would have to bother them a bit more. And so, Fran approached a man whose armour seemed a bit flashier than the rest, the guy we presumed was the squad’s chief.
「Y-Yes? What did you need?」
The chief immediately tensed up and straightened his back as he realized Fran wanted to talk to him. It looked to me like he was feeling a mix of respect and terror for Fran’s strength.
「All the people in the manor accounted for?」
「Yes ma’am. The only other people we found inside are the ladies right over there.」
Following the chief’s line of set led us to a group of young girls, currently huddled up and trembling in fear. Quickly appraising them informed me that there wasn’t really anything wrong with any of them as far as status abnormalities went.
「Zerais, alchemist. Rynford, old man. Both not here?」
「I didn’t catch sight of either of the two.」
I’d assumed that the troops had managed to arrest the two of them, but apparently that wasn’t the case at all. We went around and inspected the faces on all the Evil Humans we killed just to make sure, but we didn’t actually find either of the two.
In other words, Bluke was, in fact, not actually the mastermind behind all this. The real mastermind had somehow caught wind of our actions and escaped. Moreover, he’d even manage to retaliate. Was this whole Evil Human transformation thing time based? Or was it done through some sort of remote controlled device? I couldn’t actually tell which of the two it was, but I could at least say that both would definitely be a pain in the ass to deal with.
Hmm… What now? We could have Urushi try sniffing around in order to track the guy down. We could also potentially search the manor and see if we could find any sort of clue.
『Yeah? What’s up?』
Fran pointed to the area lying behind the slaves we’d saved. There, we saw the gatekeeper, still tied up just as he’d been before.
Wait. He didn’t transform? What?
He was currently afflicted with the “Agitated Heart of Evil” status condition. Unlike the other guys though, he didn’t have the enraged thing applied to him. Hmmmm… I guess that means the whole transformation thing is based on the amount of the magic-infused water one ingests? If so, then we were in luck, as it meant that the townsfolk that happened to have the former status abnormality wouldn’t end up transforming.
That said though, we couldn’t just leave the whole situation as it was right now.
We couldn’t actually get any use out of the Lord. He was still in a state of shock as a result of his son transforming into a sort of inhuman monster right before his very eyes. Hence, we decided that it’d be better for us to talk to Dannan instead.
「Indeed. I see that you were telling the truth, and the situation is looking even worse than initially anticipated.」
We didn’t know exactly how many people were in danger of turning into Evil Humans, but chances were, it was more than just a mere ten or twenty. Moreover, it was fairly probably that they’d end up transforming in highly populated, public areas, which, of course, would lead to one hell of a problem.
「That I will. The situation is nothing short of an emergency, and thus, we are also justified in mobilizing the knights.」
We informed Dannan of the specifics on how to differentiate those that might transform and those that might not.
「I see, so we must use Appraisal and be wary of those that carry the Enraged condition.」
「I understand. We shall immediately dispatch a request to the Adventurer’s Guild in order to secure several individuals capable of appraisal. Unfortunately, we will not be able to hire nearly as many as is possible. It is important for us to ensure that these events remain unknown to the public.」
Yeahhhh, Rhodas might actually end up having to resign if everything ended up coming to light. It seemed that ideally, he wanted to punish Bluke and Waint behind closed doors, secretly find and heal everyone affected by the abnormal status conditions, and finally somehow manage to catch both Zerais and Rynford.
「Would you mind continuing to lend us your strength?」
「Don’t mind. Will chase down alchemist. Zerais.」
「Please and thank you. We will ensure we reward you accordingly.」
「Got it. Will first wander around manor. Searching for clues.」
「Please do. I suspect there to be several hidden rooms given the property’s scale. Be wary of their potential existence.」
We had Urushi taken off Bluke-stomping duty, and instead tied the man up super tight before telling the guards to keep an eye on him. We needed our wolf’s nose, so we couldn’t have him babysit the Lord’s son forever.
『Alright boy, we’re going to need you sniff around to see if you can find strong traces of Zerais’ scent anywhere. Find everything you can, be it his lab or a secret passageway.』
Urushi started wandering the manor whilst putting his sense of smell to work. After wandering around aimlessly for a bit, he finally ended up choosing to descend into the building’s basement. I’d a few suspicions about the building’s underground section, and it turned out that they’d been spot on.
The black wolf ultimately ended up leading us to a doorway.
「Woof bark woof!」
「Can’t feel anyone inside.」
『But I guess this is the place that smells most like him?』
Fran opened the door to find a facility that could only ever be described as a laboratory. It very much reminded me of Jean’s.
I couldn’t help but want to grab all the tools left lying around for myself. Most, we could get use out of the, and the rest could fetch us a pretty penny on the market. Unfortunately though, I couldn’t actually grab any of it. The current circumstances more or less dictated that everything here now belonged to the Lord, and thus, taking the items for myself counted as theft. Oh well, we didn’t have the time to grab it all anyways, seeing as how we were stuck chasing Zerais.
『I guess I’ll have to pass it all up…』
That said, there wasn’t actually too much of value left sitting around. I mean, there were a few potions and the raw materials used therein, but all the stuff here was stuff you could pretty much get anywhere.
I tried looking at a few of the documents he had sitting around, but wasn’t really able to make much sense of them. I was, however, able to discern that none of them contained any information that could potentially assist us in chasing the man down. I was feeling a bit down because of it, but luckily, Urushi wasn’t done just yet.
He sat himself down in front of a bookshelf and started scratching at the wall.
Wait, don’t tell me they actually had a secret escape route installed? Seriously? I moved myself over to Urushi and started to give the wall a good stare, but I couldn’t see any cracks or anything.
I tapped the supposed secret wall and several others with Telekinesis just to compare the sounds. Surely enough, the one right in front of me sounded much more hollow than the rest.
Hmm… but how did the hidden mechanism work? I mean, that bookshelf looked super suspicious, especially if you thought about all the stereotypes that came with this sort of situation. It could be one of the books… but it could also be the wall. Maybe there’s a place to press down somewhere? Man, thinking about all this is actually starting to get decently fun.
「Master? Spotted something?」
『Hmm, well, I’m pretty sure that there’s a hidden passage right here, but I can’t figure out how to open it. Oh, right, you should try figuring out the trick too, Fran. It’s pretty fu-』
The room was suddenly filled by a loud thump as Fran gave the wall a full forced front kick.
It immediately gave into her strike and revealed the secret passageway despite having been covered in a layer of protective magic.
「One more time.」
She followed the front kick up with a spin kick and applied so much strength that she caused the entire room to start shaking. The wall was unable to sustain the force of the blow, and ended up collapsing and revealing a stairwell.
『Well… Whatever works works, I guess.』
「Nn? Let’s go.」
Urushi began leading us down the stairs, and into a large, earthen tunnel. It was clearly an escape route, and naturally, it didn’t have any sort of traps built into it.
『Yeah, I can feel his bloodthirst emanating from all the way over here.』
Crisis Detection kicked itself into action and warned us that whatever we were about to fight was more than just a mere small fry.
『Let’s make sure we’re ready to jump right into battle.』
『Urushi, you stay hidden boy.』
We cautiously advanced for about five minutes before finally reaching an area with about twenty meters of space in every direction. At the center of it all sat the thing that’d been thirsting for blood.
It was a man, one with a gentle looking smile, the sight of which for some odd reason pissed me off to no end.
「You know, I was seriously wonderin what kind of person it’d take to actually find that little escape route of ours. Never in my life would I have guessed it to be a mere little girl.」
「Wazzat? You seriously think someone as fuckin awesome as me would serve that gloomy-lookin, pussy ass bitch?」
Job: Concealed Spearman
State: Heart of Evil
Status Level: 35/99
Assassination: Lv 5
Espionage: Lv 4
Evasion: Lv 5
Presence Detection: Lv 4
Sword Arts: Lv 2
Torture: Lv 6
Blink: Lv 5
Spear Techniques: Lv 7
Spear Arts: Lv 8
Short Sword Arts: Lv 3
Poison Resistance: Lv 3
Paralysis Resistance: Lv 6
Trap Detection: Lv 2
One who Inflicts Suffering
Servant to the Evil God
Pointed Mithril Spear
Venomous Monkey Fang Short Sword
Black Wolf’s Leather Full Body Armour
Dark Mithril Gauntlet
Mantle of Espionage
Heat Resistant Bracelet
Ring of Escape
Huh, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen the Torture skill.
Rarity Level 3
Boosts idea generation during torture. Also increases the amount of pain inflicted to victims of torture.
His titles honestly made him look like a piece of shit. He was even apparently a Servant to the Evil God.
It was a bit different than Bluke’s title, which claimed him to be the Evil God’s Slave. This guy had the exact same title as the kobold we’d fought a few days back. I couldn’t tell the difference between being the God’s slave and servant, and unfortunately, Appraisal wasn’t really helping me as much as I wanted it to be. It just kept spitting out that the title’s description was unknown.
「Then, Zerrosreed’s subordinate?」
「You fuckin kidding me!? You think I’d obey that retarded musclehead?」
It seemed that we’d flipped his switch. It was clear as day that he knew Zerrosreed, but the two didn’t exactly get along.
「Only man I’d ever fuckin serve would be an Evil Arts User like Rynford. And you see, unlike that Zerrosreed retard, I’ve actually got brains, so Rydford trusts me ya know?」
Huh? Evil Arts User? That’s the first real thing we’ve actually learned about the old man. The way things sounded made it seem like he was the real mastermind behind all this.
That said, it seemed that this Rynford guy was real cold hearted. He was totally willing to order his subordinates to throw away their lives just so he could buy himself a bit of time.
『Alright, let’s tie him up and wring him of all he knows.』
「Kuhahahahaha! You seriously wanna go? Alright, bring it on brat, I’ll make you regret everything.」
Luzerio took up a stance with his spear and readied himself for combat.