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 I Ask You #2

However, it took a while for Theo to hear the answer.

It seemed like Gluttony didn't know what had been happening while it slept.

Theo was forced to explain the situation briefly. He spoke about the missing investigator, the massive number of undead in the area, and the presence of the warlock who controlled them. There were so many questions, but he had to ask just one thing.

-...Yes, I understand.

Gluttony said as Theo paused.

-According to your explanation, this certainly isn't a normal case. I can guess the source.

"What is it?" Theo was taken aback.

A magician event like this fell into its range of questions and answers? This was unexpected. Gluttony, the grimoire who ate wisdom, pulled out an answer which the two geniuses would've never been able to guess.

-It is likely that a 'grimoire' has been found in the cave.

Theo's eyes widened at the word 'grimoire.'

Numerous magicians called them 'unidentified.' As Vince Haidel had explained, the grimoires possessed huge strength. They were creatures containing wisdom and power, of which the source and origin were unknown. The existence of the grimoires could make the whole world dizzy.

He couldn't agree with some of the evaluations, but as an owner of a grimoire, Theodore knew just how beyond common sense was the existence of a grimoire. It had made a dunce of the 2nd Circle into someone capable of beating Sylvia.

If the power of such a grimoire had intervened, it was possible to increase a person's black magic in a short period of time.

"There are other grimoires like you?"

-I am a grimoire belonging to the Seven Sins set. When it comes to grimoires... No, I don't know exactly. It would be more accurate to detect it, rather than make a hypothesis.

Gluttony seemed to mumble to itself before making a suggestion.

-User, if you agree, I will consume your power to detect any grimoire in the vicinity. I will look for the place where the warlock is hiding as an extra.

"That's a welcome offer but..." Theo looked down at his palm in a dubious manner. "Why are you being so nice? It isn't like you, so tell me what you want."

-Hohoho, it isn't bad for you either.

There was the sound of laughter, and the tongue acted like the thought was mouthwatering.

-I can also eat 'grimoires.' It is possible to absorb the knowledge and functions or even free a seal. If so, your achievements as a magician will grow several times faster than it does now.

"...As usual, you are hungry."

-It is my essence.

Theo was worried about the suggestion for a moment, but there was no choice. Even if grimoire didn't exist, it was still necessary to find the location of the warlock. In the end, he nodded, and Gluttony activated the function.

Du-geun.

There was a loud heart beat similar to a wave of vibration, which resonated beyond the range of a human ear. This was a technique which would be called science instead of magic in other societies. Instead of sound or radio waves, the function was reproduced with magic power.

The wave of magic power extended several kilometers before returning to its epicenter.

[Detection complete.]

The voice was heard after the search was over.

-I found it.

Gluttony, which had been silent for a while, had found its target.

-Fairly powerful. It is only the second stage, but it managed to partially block my detection. It also seems to be eating its owner.

"Eating?"

-Not all grimoires have a symbiotic relationship like me. Most of them live by becoming a parasite in a suitable host and manipulating the host's body and mind. The grimoire which attacked you belongs to the Green category.

In fact, grimoires themselves were powerful magic creatures. They were monsters which possessed humanoid intelligence as well as functions equal to national level artifacts.

Theo didn't know their creators, but a grimoire was something which normal magicians couldn't possess. Rather, it was common for grimoires like Gluttony to completely dominate its owner. The thought of this caused goosebumps to pop up on Theodore's forearms.

-I figured out their location. I think the cave they went to investigate is the base of the grimoire and its host.

Gluttony gave a long yawn after speaking.

-I answered your question so I will fall asleep.

"Ah, wait a minute."

-What is it?

The question had already been over, but Gluttony was generally flexible when it came to questions about his function. Theo knew this and asked, "You... Can you eat the undead? They are also made of magic."

-...Your idea is sound. If that were possible, I could eat stones that were made to float using magic spells. However, the undead only moves through magic. They aren't made of magic power or wisdom themselves. There are some exceptions, but...

"But?"

-I can't answer that until you ask it as a question.

Then Gluttony went to sleep without allowing him to ask anything more. Theo tapped the palm of his left hand several times, but there was no response. It seemed to fall into a deep sleep soon after eating.

However, there was no time to complain about that attitude.

Step... step...

There was the sound of someone's footsteps approaching.

***

The footsteps were uniform and quiet. Most people who had these type of footsteps were masters of martial arts. It was because the body maintained unconsciously its center of gravity, minimizing the noise generated by the body.

Theo analyzed the footsteps using Alfred's experience and quickly realized the identity of the person who was approaching.

'Randolph.'

Unsurprisingly, Randolph's voice was heard from beyond the door. "Young Master, are you still awake?"

"Yes."

"Can we talk for a bit?"

It sounded strange. but Theo had been half expecting it. This way he didn't need to sneak out to the village to talk. "Come in."

"Then, I'll do just that." Randolph entered the room after receiving Theo's permission. "I'm sorry, since you must be tired."

"Don't worry. I thought you would come."

"Hrmm?"

The expression in Randolph's eyes changed at Theo's words. Theo was a magician who knew how to fight, so Randolph decided to treat him as a equal. Without further ado, Randolph sat down on the bed across from Theo.

'Cut to the chase.' The two men sensed it at the same time.

It was Theodore who opened his mouth first, "Are you going to reach the limit soon?"

"...As expected, you're not ordinary. How do you know?"

"You had no choice but to fight a bloody battle for a week with only 100 people. The fact that you have endured for so long is amazing."

It wasn't exaggerated praise. If it wasn't for the combat power of the 'Wandering Wolves', the Miller Barony would've already become the land of the undead. Even if regular troops were stationed here, they wouldn't have been able to show such achievements.

Theo was really amazed by the ability of the mercenaries to overcome a large difference in numbers using pure skill. However, Randolph's expression simply darkened. "I'm thankful for your words."

"Can I ask one thing?" Theo said.

"What is it?"

In a sense, it was a question which might decrease Randolph's friendliness. However, it was better than having a questionable ally. Theo asked the question which had been lingering in his mind, "Why are you staying in this village? You should be able to break through the undead siege without any problems."

"Simply... I guess you won't believe it is goodwill. Damn."

Randolph scratched his head before whispering. "I can't tell you everything. Is that okay?"

"As long as you can convince me."

"...Okay." Randolph hesitated for a while before carefully taking something out. It had shiny gold and looked valuable.

The item was a pocket watch adorned with gold. There was a curious image of howling wolves engraved on the watch, but there was no second hand or minute hand on the watch. Only the hour hand was turning strangely.

Randolph began explaining about the object, which was either a watch or a compass.

"A long time ago, an ancestor of my clan chased after a certain warlock to a foreign country. He left carrying the two heirloom swords and never returned. This watch is an artifact created to detect those heirlooms."

"Then the direction that the artifact is pointing-"

"It is these damn mountains. It has been 100 years, so I wasn't expecting anything, but the place that the artifact reacts to is covered in undead!" Randolph let out heartfelt curses.

This was enough to cause Theo to admire Randolph's bad luck. The heirlooms which had been missing for 100 years had been found in the center of such a disaster, so Theo couldn't help feeling sympathy.

However, there was still something which made Theo uncomfortable. "I know that heirlooms are precious... but in the end, you remained because of two swords?"

"They aren't just swords. The techniques that he learned were left in those heirlooms. If I can control them properly, I may become a sword master in 20, maybe 10 years."

"...Indeed." Theo immediately nodded after hearing it.

He could understand this reason. Any magician would value a book which would allow them to cross the 'wall.' Randolph might be able to become a sword master, so it wasn't something he could give up due to some undead. It was like crossing the wall of the 7th Circle for a magician.

However, there was no answer as to the very real limitations. Even if the swords could make Randolph a sword master, it would be useless if he lost his life here.

That was why he muttered with a gloomy expression, "But it is up to here. I don't think I can recover the sword, and my men will just lose their lives. Anyway, the undead will be taken care of by the people sent by the king... So, Young Master, you should be ready to evacuate with the villagers."

Theo's eyebrows raised at the unexpected words.

This was unexpected. In fact, mercenaries cared about nothing but their own bodies. There was no reason for them to protect the residents, except for their voice of conscience which could be ignored.

Nevertheless, Randolph was suggesting running away...? Randolph and the 'Wandering Wolves' were all good people, however, Theodore couldn't accept that proposal.

"Thank you, but I will reject."

"...Why?" Randolph stared at him. It was impossible to find a better suggestion than this. If Theo suggested that he would stay behind to help the evacuation of the villagers, Randolph might beat him up. "I must acknowledge your skills, but in the process, half of the residents here will die."

"No, speak properly. Half will get out alive."

"The result is the same no matter how you express it."

They refuted each other without giving a single concession.

Pajik!

As the gazes of the two people met, the surrounding air distorted. To be exact, it was Randolph's anger reaching out toward Theo. If he hadn't absorbed Alfred's experience, then he might've been frozen by that terrible energy.

Theo barely maintained his calm expression and pulled something out. "So, I have a different offer."

"Offer? You?"

"To be precise, it is a commission. The Magic Society investigator, Theodore Miller, wants to hire the Wandering Wolves."

As Randolph's atmosphere was disturbed by an unintelligible sound, Theodore pulled out three thick pouches from the dimension pocket and set them on the table.

Kung! Kung! Kung!

Each pouch let out a loud thump, and the loud sounds resonated. No, it wasn't just that. Randolph's sensitive hearing heard something inside the pouch. It was a sound which was familiar to merchants and mercenaries.

Finally, Theo grabbed the pouch and poured the contents out next to Randolph on the bed .

Chwarururuk...!

Gold coin, gold coins, and gold coins! 100 gold coins poured out of the pouch. Spread over the tattered bedspread, there were enough coins to hire the mercenaries for a while, giving the bed a strange golden colour.

"Ehhh...?" Randolph stared at the money with a blank expression before looking at the remaining two pouches.

Surely those too? His face was saying. Theo nodded to the unspoken question and said,

"The 100 gold is the deposit, and you will receive 200 gold when the work ends. I will hire the 'Wandering Wolves' for two days with this 300 gold."

It was necessary in order to make this proposal acceptable. Negotiations and the price would come next.

Thus, Theo judged that it was best to get rid of Randolph's soul first.

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