Chapter 168 - The Road Home (3)
The Sipoto branch of the Information Guild, which the 'King of Mice' ran, was one of the best in the central region. It was located on the outskirts where there were few people. Theodore had to find the markings, but it wasn't so hard to retrace his past steps. People came and went as he crossed through the maze-like alleys like they were his home.
It was good until Theodore and Randolph found a shabby door at the end of a road. A familiar smell rubbed at their noses.
"...It is the smell of human blood. It is very thick."
Theodore and Randolph prepared for battle simultaneously, as they stared past the half-open door.
Randolph had a lot of battle experience, so he could tell that the Information Guild's hideout was filled with dead humans. This smell of death meant there were at least dozens, perhaps hundreds, of bodies.
The two men carefully approached the entrance of the Information Guild.
"Let's double check before entering." Theodore took one step inside and scanned the area with detection magic. Waves of magic exploded from his palm and headed inside the Information Guild's hideout. The waves bounced back and forth like a bat's ultrasound while searching for a survivor.
However, the magic soon disappeared, and Theodore's expression stiffened. "Everyone is dead. At least, there isn't anyone moving inside."
"It is literally a massacre. The sun hasn't even fallen yet, so the killer sure is a bold person," Randolph remarked.
The guild's hideout was out of sight, but it was impossible to kill all these people without garnering attention. Randolph raised his two swords in preparation for an unfamiliar situation and stepped forward with Theodore.
Then the passage Theo had walked through a year ago appeared before them.
The last time, he hadn't used light magic in order to avoid provoking the guild. However, he now used a few drops of magic to illuminate the surroundings. If he looked at the differences from the last time he'd been here, there was a heavy smell of blood, as well as holes in the left and right walls of the passage.
Theodore looked around and spoke to Randolph who was walking in front, "They were killed using the element of surprise, so the killer must be pretty talented."
"I don't think it is like that," Randolph disagreed with Theodore. "This way, Theo. Take a closer look at these bodies."
It was a sword master who was pointing this out, so Theodore followed Randolph's advice without saying anything further.
Theodore broke the wall where Randolph pointed at, and bodies rolled out to his feet. The bleeding from the bodies was so severe that there weren't any parts of the floor or ceiling which were not reddened.
However, Theodore frowned as he noticed the commonalities between the bodies.
'The bodies of the information guild members-'
"Why do they look like this?"
Their faces were smiling or contained other normal expressions. Theodore wasn't familiar with sword injuries, but there were no humans who could keep the same expression from before they were stabbed in the heart or head. However, all the corpses looked like they didn't even know they had died.
"This is an extremely dark sword." Randolph looked at the cuts with a serious expression.
He was confident in his speed, but was it really possible to kill dozens of people like this? In particular, when there were so many people residing in concealed spaces... No matter how fast his sword was, could he reproduce this scene?
"No, not even a legendary grandmaster could do this." Randolph went over the situation many times in his head and still found it impossible. It was a hard task even for a considerably skilled person. This wasn't the type of thing which could be done without the help of 'Aura Ability' or magic.
The two people continued past the strange corpses. Shortly afterward, Theodore was able to see it. In the place where he had first encountered Gibra, Theo could see a body so 'dismantled' that it was difficult to tell the body was human.
"...Torture," Theodore stated.
Twenty fingers and toes were rolling around on the ground. The places where the eyeballs should be were empty, and the skin was completely peeled off. The reason why Theodore and Randolph were even able to identify the dismembered corpse as Gibra was because of his unusually large build.
It was surprisingly painful for Theodore to discover the death of the man he had once known. Then Randolph frowned as he examined the terrible sight and muttered, "This is familiar."
"Huh?" Theodore asked.
"I remember. It was what I learned about torture at a knight school in the empire. First, cut off the last part of the limbs, then take the vision to make the body more sensitive. Lastly, deal pain by slicing away thin parts of the skin. It is famous for being very effective."
It was a torture style from the Andras Empire! In the end, Theodore felt like a thunderbolt had struck his head. The corpses and the Andras Empire's torture method... This was a real moment of enlightenment as he recalled two facts which were deeply buried in his memories.
"No way... The empire's Seven Swords?"
"What?! The empire's Seven Swords-" Randolph responded to Theo's words and forgot to lower his sound. However, Theodore had no time to explain to him. It was something he'd heard from the White Tower Master in the Great Forest. An unknown sword master, presumably one of the empire's Seven Swords, possessed a 'concealment' ability.
A red crystal necklace, which was a primitive amulet, appeared in Theodore's palms.
[+5 Tail of a Defeat Loser (Accessory)]
[This is an artifact created using the body part of a person presumed to be one of the empire's Seven Swords. The body part was cut off directly by the White Tower Master. The red crystal looks like a jewel, but it is a special product created by refining a part of the sword master. It also contains a tracing function. This artifact is designed to trace the 'target' within a 30km radius and will guide the owner to the coordinates.
* This necklace is rated 'Rare.'
* When consumed, a small amount of magic power will be absorbed.
* When consumed, the residual aura will inhibit magic power circulation.
* When consumed, the proficiency of 'tracking magic' will increase.
* Please note! It contains blood with a high concentration of aura. This artifact will have a negative effect on the user.]
Once Theodore confirmed the artifact's information window, he poured magic power into it without checking Randolph's reaction.
This amulet had been created with the arm of the sword master whom the White Tower Master had defeated in the Great Forest, and it was used as a tracker. If this artifact responded, the identity of the other party would become clear.
Theodore invoked the artifact.
It met his expectations as red light started to scatter. The red light struck the ceiling, walls, and floors, as well as the two people in the room, before drawing a map on the left wall. The depiction of the terrain was so perfect that it could be sold at a map store for an expensive price. This feature was possible due to the space magic of the White Tower Master.
As Theodore looked at the map, he muttered with a dumbfounded face, "This... It's a place outside Sipoto?"
It wasn't the outskirts but an area outside the walls, where wild winds blew the sand. There was a blinking blue light at the center of the map which showed the location of the sword master.
Then at that moment...
"What is it? I will let you find out."
Randolph was grumpily complaining by Theodore's side, but Theodore didn't give Randolph a chance to respond.
For a moment, the blue dot disappeared from the red map. In other words, the sword master being tracked had used his 'Aura Ability.' No matter how efficient the ability, it would consume mana quickly. There was no sword master who would use it in unnecessary situations.
This meant the target was now in combat.
"If it's not the Information Guild, then who is he fighting against?" Theodore's doubtful voice resonated within the room which smelled thickly of blood.
* * *
Around 10km away from the King of Rats' branch of the Information Guild, there was a man who revealed himself as someone who knew Theodore. Bill Parent, a full-time warrior of the Orcus Company for a few years, looked at the person before him.
'Who the hell was this person?' He tried to shout out.
However, Bill couldn't say anything. Just as he tried to open his mouth, his head was already rolling onto the hot sand. He was dead the moment he met the unidentified man, but Bill Parent died without even realizing it.
The last five people were no different. Six wary aura users were turned to corpses instantaneously.
However, the masked sword master was disgruntled. "Che, these trash were bait."
'Bait?' He didn't waste any minutes cheering at the success of the perfect assassination.
However, in response to the masked man's words, a few shadows rose up from the sand-covered ground. The shadow who seemed to be the leader asked the masked person, [Who are you? Why are you attacking us?]
"I've been asked that question a number of times, but you don't need to know," the masked man replied coldly. "You knew I was coming anyway."
[Hulhulhul... There have already been three raids today. You caused a commotion twice and thought we wouldn't know about it...?]
"No, I expected you to know. I just thought you would be smart enough to withdraw. I'm sorry." Despite the creepy voice coming from the shadow, the masked man continued with his mocking, "I don't know why you are waiting after being attacked twice. Did you prepare a means to deal with me? Or do you intend to give me the information I want?"
[...It is information regarding the whereabouts of 'him.']
"Yes. If you listened to my request from the beginning, two of your groups would've been fine. You inflicted this on yourself." A white aura arose from the blade of the masked man as he said, "The winner is strong, and the loser is weak. I am stronger than you. Therefore, I have the right to take away your lives."
It was the law of the jungle. He sounded closer to a beast than a human as he pointed his blade at them. This was the power of the aura of a sword master. The space, where the edge of the sword was pointed toward, split in two, with the sand and wind being divided in half as well.
"So, tell me. Where is Theodore Miller?" The masked man asked.
The magic power holding the shadows together became shaky, and their shape faded before becoming clear again.
The masked man had an imposing presence which was enough to shake the shadows' magic power! What an unbelievable monster. The opponents might've peed their pants if they were real people instead of shadows.
However, the lead shadow wasn't daunted and ridiculed him.
[Stupid sword master. The realm you've reached is helpless in the face of true death... Yes, you want to prove the legitimacy of the 'law of the jungle...?']
[The strong and the weak... I will teach you the values that are above that.] The lead shadow, a warlock of the Orcus Company, sentenced the masked man to death in a lighthearted manner, [I will turn that sword into scrap metal! From now on, worship death!]