167. The Extent of a Black Tigerkin’s Power
Rumina suddenly suggested something that I could only describe as outrageous.
「What manner of choice would you make if I was to tell you that you could evolve if you simply chose to slay me?」
「If I… kill you?」
「’Tis just hypothetical, but do give me an answer.」
Fran’s reaction came immediately.
Her response was exactly what I’d expected it to be. Fran wanted to evolve, not for vanity, but for the sake of her tribe’s pride. There was simply no way she’d be willing to trade the life of one that’d accomplished her goal in order to fulfill it. Plus, Dias had totally nailed into us the fact that we weren’t allowed to kill the Dungeon Master — not that I thought we were actually capable of doing so in the first place.
The guild would end up labeling us a traitor even if we actually did manage to kill her, so in that sense, we technically just couldn’t.
「So that is your answer… It was exactly what I had expected it to be. Quite the resemblence you bear…」
「I was merely rambling, do not mind me nor the odd question I posed. Unfortunately, that is all I have to tell you regarding evolution.」
Why’d she just ask us that? Could it maybe… be true? Nah, no way, right? I mean, she wouldn’t have been able to ask us the question if that were to be the case. But like, would she really ask us something like that for literally no reason? It had to be some sort of hint, at the very least.
Was killing another member of the black cat tribe supposed to be what’d allow her to evolve? Or what about maybe just killing a Dungeon Master of some sort? Wait no, can’t be that one. We’d already killed that one Goblin Dungeon Master guy already.
Hmmm, iunno. I don’t get it.
「It is not much for consolation, but do have yourself a cup of a tea.」
Rumina offered Fran a drink and started talking to her about the Black Cat Tribe’s village in an attempt to cheer her up. It seemed that the two were able to converse as much as they’d like so long as the topic didn’t pertain to evolution.
She described that it was normal for Black Catkin to evolve 500 years ago, back before she became the dungeon’s master. They didn’t used to be considered as inferior to any of the other beastkin races. In fact, they’d been one of the most respected tribes. She wasn’t able to tell us too many details about what had happened way back then, but, she recounted what she could.
I couldn’t really understand the exact extent to which the Goddess restricted one’s ability to disclose information, but it evidently stopped her from talking about evolution or the reasons for which the Black Catkin ended up under their current circumstances in the first place.
The Black Cat Tribe’s history had practically been wiped clean off the board. The only people that still knew it were probably the elves, seeing as how they were long lived. I’d really like to talk to one and ask why the gods wanted to go as far as even making it seem like Black Catkin were unable to evolve.
Fran and Rumina ended up having a fairly long conversation despite the fact that they weren’t able to discuss evolution. Neither had met another Black Catkin in quite a long while, so they really hit it off.
「Ah, right… I do have one last matter I’d like to ask of you, if you would not mind it.」
「Nn. Won’t mind anything.」
「Hahaha, worry not. It is nothing difficult. I would simply like to ask you to convey to Dias a message for me.」
「Dias? Not Aurel?」
「Yes, Dias. My message to him is but a single phrase: Fulfill the contract. Do well to remember it.」
「Have you anything you would like to request of me in return? I will do for you anything that I am capable of.」
Rumina’s question caused Fran to fall into thought. I was fairly certain that she was thinking of and dismissing a whole slew of ideas.
『She did say you ask for whatever you wanted, so just do that. Voice whatever happens to come to mind.』
「Have you a request?」
Fran quietly nodded as she looked at Rumina with a gaze like that of a warrior.
「Want to spar.」
「Want to see extent of Black Tiger’s power.」
I had to say, it really was like Fran to want something like this. She wanted to experience first hand the power that she sought.
Rumina responded to Fran’s request with a heartfelt, entertained smile.
「Very well. I shall show you my strength. I will, however, first require a moment, as I must prepare.」
「I shall provide you a servant for the time being. Order it as you will.」
A wooden doll, much like the ones used in character design, materialized in response to Rumina’s words.
It refilled Fran’s cup with movements as fluid as those of a human.
The doll not only nodded in response to Fran, but also retrieved some cookies and chocolate from a shelf in one of the room’s corners before presenting them as if serving her.
From the aforementioned actions, I understood that it was basically Rumina’s familiar despite the fact that it wasn’t capable of speech.
「I seem to have kept you waiting for quite the amount of time.」
Rumina returned after ten odd minutes. She claimed to be ready, but looked exactly the same as she had before setting out.
She was still wearing the same thing, a thin outfit made of cloth that seemed to resemble a noble’s casual wear. Her body hadn’t been decorated with even a single piece of armour.
Her sword was pretty sharp, but it didn’t emanate any magical power; it didn’t seem to have any special properties or abilities.
「Follow after me.」
Rumina lead us to a dome-shaped room with a diameter about a hundred meters across.
「I have only just made this room, and thus, ’tis a bit dreary. Unfortunately, it was all I could prepare as I hadn’t a suitable space for us to spar in. Have you any particular complaints with this space?」
Apparently, Rumina hadn’t gone off to prepare any sort of armour. She had instead been working on preparing a room. Yup, that’s a Dungeon Master for ya. The scale she thinks on is completely different from our own.
（Master, just watch.）
『Yeah, I know. You do you.』
I mean, it’s not like they’re fighting for real. It’s just a spar, so yeah.
「Shall we start?」
「Oh? Have you confidence in your ability to land a blow?」
「Hahaha! How spirited you are. Fear not, my clothes have been enhanced through the magical arts. It offers greater defenses than most armours crafted of metal. I have also in my possession a Sacrificial Bracelet.」
「Now then, I believe it should be time for us to begin?」
And begin they did. Rumina, like Fran, was a swordsman. The way she traded blows with Fran demonstrated the fact that she was highly skilled.
Her Appraisal Jamming skill made it so I was only able to pick up on her detection based skills, so I was only now able to find out that she was capable of casting magic. That is, I could tell at a glance that she had access to the Magic Manipulation skill.
They began at a milder pace, and probed at each other for the sake of evaluating each other’s skill. From there, the two gradually picked up the pace and started swinging in sharper, faster manners.
「Splendid! Your skill with the sword is incredible for one of such a young age.」
「What? Can you no longer keep up?」
「You have erred! Your blow would have been much more effective had you taken another step forward.」
Rumina was, as one would expect, much more skilled than Fran. The older Black Catkin had the liberty to verbalize the other’s mistakes despite her going all out. Her precise manner of doing so was like that of a coach or teacher.
「That is not all you have, is it? Display to me all you can!」
「Nn. Fire Javelin!」
Fran created a spear wreathed in flame as she threw yet another slash. Her plan had been to distract Rumina in order to land a blow with a two pronged attack, but her attempts ended in utter failure. The flames hadn’t been enough to offer even the slightest distraction.
「You are far too naive! A spell like that fails to so much as even serve as a distraction!」
Their battle transformed from one purely based in swordplay to a fierce exchange of spells. Rumina turned out to be capable of using both the fire and wind elements.
The two fought for what felt like an hour.
Fran was out of breath. Rumina, on the other hand, merely looked satisfied.
「You are incredibly strong for a Black Catkin that has yet to evolve. You will surely become strong enough to leave your name in history should you find a path to evolution.」
She spoke with a smile, but quickly twisted her expression into a more stern one.
「It is about time for us to bring this session to an end. I shall do you the favour of putting a portion of the very power you desire on display for my last act. Worry not, I shan’t kill you.」
「Bring it on.」
My blade trembled as an incredible amount of magical energy suddenly burst out of Rumina’s body. Holy crap. She had to be at least as strong as Rynford.
「Then here I come…. Lightning Rush!」
I’m not sure if it was because of I was super focused on her or what, but everything Rumina had said sounded clear to me despite the fact that she’d muttered the first half of it. The attack she launched caused an incredibly bright flash and sent Fran flying across the room.