Noloty and Hamyuts walked side by side.
Hamyuts told Noloty that she only came here for her report. When Noloty regained her senses, she tried going back to the sheriff’s office to take the unfinished report. However, Hamyuts said,
“An oral report is fine, let’s do it while walking.”
She pointed with her chin for Noloty to follow her, and started walking in the opposite direction of the main road. Noloty had no idea where she was heading, but she went after her.
As Noloty became calm, she had a single question. Why did the Director come here? Bantorra Library was far away. This wasn’t a place you’d just come to visit. Besides, it should have been busy in the Library right now.
“Let me confirm- your mission is the retrieval of Luimon Mahaton’s Book?”
“Describe the current situation as simple as possible.”
Noloty nodded and began speaking.
The incident started six months ago. It happened in Toatt Mining Town, which was six hours by train from the commercial town Bujui Noloty was in right now.
The Toatt Dragon Pneumonia Incident – as it came to be called now – was said to be the first big incident in a hundred years. It was a crisis on a global level; the discovery of the Book of the historical Shiron Byacornish, discovery of the lost Memorial Weapon – the Ever-Laughing Magic Blade Shlamuffen – and a front clash between the Indulging God Cult and the Armed Librarians. Furthermore, Hamyuts Meseta, the one said to be the world’s strongest warrior, was cornered and almost killed. Although the details weren’t disclosed to the general public, among the Armed Librarians and informed people there was no one who didn’t know of this incident.
During that incident, a single Armed Librarian lost his life. His name was Luimon Mahaton. He was an Armed Librarian who used his body that weighed over 100 kilograms as well as his superhuman athletic capabilities as his weapons. He had a gentle personality but possessed a strong sense of responsibility. While he was still a novice, he handled illegal trafficking as well as educating the next generation, so a lot of people – not only Armed Librarians – have mourned his death.
Luimon’s Book was found five months after his death. His Book was dug out and guarded in Toatt Mining Town.
Noloty didn’t have to explain this part to Hamyuts. She summarized it and went to the next topic.
“It was excavated in January 21st.”
“About how many people knew about it?”
“…One of the miners was Luimon-san’s acquaintance, so a lot of people talked about it. If there was someone who wanted Luimon-san’s Book in Toatt Mining Town, they probably already knew about the exact day.”
“It’s because Luimon was well-liked, huh.”
Hamyuts said in a slightly lonely tone. Noloty also recalled Luimon’s giant body and bright smile.
“And what happened to the Book afterwards?”
“It was put inside the station’s safe sometime around that day’s night. The next day, it was taken to Bujui by train, where it was supposed to be received by escorts dispatched from Bantorra and then taken to the Library by boat.”
“And you were supposed to be that escort.”
Noloty nodded. When she arrived at Bujui by boat, the first thing she heard was how Luimon’s Book was stolen.
“Where was it stolen?”
“When it was on the train.”
“Were the passengers investigated?”
Noloty nodded. Even she did as much as that.
“Everyone was questioned, but we didn’t find any suspicious persons.”
“Hmm… were there any other points of interest?”
“Yes. There were signs of someone rampaging in the train.”
“Rampaging? Not just fighting?”
“…There were no fighters inside the train. Since someone boarded the train while it was running and stole Luimon’s Book, I can’t think of it as anything other than rampaging. They destroyed the vault as well as the engine room so there were holes in the walls and floor.”
“A strange story.”
“Someone who can board a train while it is running must have some considerable physical abilities. I didn’t find any information about some criminal organization targeting Books with such skilled members.”
“Hmm. It’s not necessarily a Book-stealing organization.”
“What’s the situation right now?”
“I’m looking for informants while cooperating with the sheriff against the local Book-stealing organizations.”
“No, no. That won’t do. Because you’re trying to wring out the enemies, you should search for fitting people who aren’t a part of any Book-trafficking organization.”
“That criminal organization didn’t necessarily steal it for money in the first place. You shouldn’t limit the scope of your investigation.”
“Think wider. Your investigation is full of blind spots.”
Noloty dejectedly lowered her shoulders. She was working hard on this, but apparently this was only a slight diversion for Hamyuts. She couldn’t help but get angry.
“Well, it’s fine, it’s fine.”
Hamyuts thoughtlessly smiled. No matter how hard Noloty thought about it, she couldn’t refute her words.
“But it sure is interesting.”
Noloty couldn’t understand what Hamyuts meant by that.
“I’m not talking about this incident.”
Hamyuts suddenly stared at her face. Noloty flinched a little.
“Hey, how would you like some distraction?”
Looking at Noloty, her smile was like that of a person eyeing a splendid toy.
“I have something interesting for you. Something very interesting.”
Noloty felt completely chilled by the smile Hamyuts pointed at her. She suddenly had the feeling she was about to experience something a bit different than what she had imagined, but scary nonetheless.
The two walked around the town. They went away from the sheriff’s offices in the city’s center, towards the dark and dirty places that had a bad name. Just where are we going? …was what Noloty didn’t ask. She didn’t think Hamyuts would let her go if she asked, so she just went with her.
More importantly, she thought about something different. Hamyuts was supposed to be at the helm of the hunt after the Monster.
“Umm, how is the incident in the headquarters going along?”
“Umm, I mean the attack on Bantorra Library. I heard that you were heading it, Director, but…”
“Hmm? Well, it’s going along little by little.”
Hamyuts said in an almost bored tone. Noloty became uneasy. Having the commander be disinterested in that incident was troubling.
“Also, your information was mistaken. The old lady’s in command.”
“Old lady… you mean Ireia-san?”
“I believe she is far more suitable to be the Acting Director. It doesn’t really fit my personality.”
Noloty looked around them to confirm no one was listening in on their conversation, and then said with a low voice,
“Is that fine? After all, that Cult is involved in this…”
“Stop talking about that.”
Hamyuts shot at her.
“You shouldn’t be interested in things unrelated to you. Knowing this goes hand in hand with taking responsibility. Because of that it’s annoying telling this to people who can’t take responsibility.”
Noloty obediently stopped asking further questions. Since she felt swamped already just with Luimon’s incident, she certainly didn’t want any more responsibilities.
“Ooh, they’re going at it!”
Hamyuts said and stopped.
A crowd gathered in a vacant lot around the back alleys. There were a lot of ill-bred people around as well as some women in flashy outfits. From among the crowd, abusive sentences such as “die”, “get him”, “dammit” were flying around. Hamyuts and Noloty set foot amongst this crowd that didn’t look peaceful at all. Since the two women suddenly appeared in front of the men’s eyes, they started whistling and using obscene words.
The center of the crowd was a circle. Inside that circle were two men. One of them rolled his sleeves to the shoulders, while the other one had his shirt off. The steam rising from their sweating bodies mixed with the chilly afternoon air. The two clutched their fists and were beating each other.
It looked like a so-called fight club.
“L-let’s go back.”
“Oh, you don’t like such things?”
“…Isn’t it scary?”
“What’re you saying? If we go all out nobody here stands a chance.”
It was certainly true. Despite Noloty being a trainee, she aspired to become an Armed Librarian. No matter their numbers, men who couldn’t use Magic wouldn’t be serious enemies for her. Hamyuts could probably beat everyone here in about ten seconds.
“But it’s still scary.”
“You’re such a strange girl.”
While talking, they watched the two people inside the circle.
At first Noloty had thought they were hitting each other, but she now saw it wasn’t so. Only one was attacking. The other man, despite clearly being in a position to counterattack, didn’t do anything. He was also clearly able to defend himself, but didn’t.
“The white one is stronger.”
Hamyuts said at one glance. Noloty understood this as well.
The so-called white one was the man not attacking. He was about 185 centimeters tall. His body was somewhat thin but well-toned. He wore simple black clothes. The hair tied on his back was either grey or silver, colored like fresh snow.
His movements were good. He possessed well-polished melee techniques without any wasted movements.
In contrast, the one attacking was much below him. He had a soft and somewhat plump body. He only wielded his fist with his entire strength and didn’t move his legs. At best he could handle a casual scuffle.
The white one deliberately evaded the attacks at the last moment. At time he let himself get hit, and at times he pretended to have been affected by it. If he wanted to, he could easily defend against the attacks of the half-naked man.
What are they doing? Noloty asked herself. Looking around, she found a billboard placed further along the plaza. The following was casually written with paint on that billboard that was made of scrap material:
“Beat me up – 100 kirue for a minute. You get 10,000 kirue if you defeat me”
Then, the crowd around cheered.
“The minute’s over!”
The half-naked man grabbed his fallen shirt and put it on his shoulder. A cheap-looking woman snuggled close to him.
“Stupid, didn’t you say you were going to buy a new necklace for me?”
She said with a sweet sounding voice.
“One more time!”
The man took ten bills of ten kirue and put them inside the box next to the signboard.
“Just give up!”
About half were jeering at him,
“Go, don’t let him rest, attack him!”
“Aim at his stomach, his stomach!”
And the others were cheering.
If I’ll wait for the damage to accumulate, I’ll be able to beat him for sure – half of the people gathered there thought.
The beaten man was able to withstand another minute. Noloty understood that while it looked as if he was barely holding on, he actually protected himself with no danger at all. When the minute was over, the half-naked man dejectedly fell on his knees. The woman next to him tried cheering him, but he shook off her hands.
The beaten man spoke for the first time. His voice was a clear and low baritone.
The one who raised her voice was Hamyuts. The cheers and whistles coming from the surroundings mingled with sounds of jeering and laughter. Noloty became confused and thought of stopping her, but Hamyuts grabbed her shoulders and pushed her into the circle.
“She’ll be next!”
There were further cheers and whistles. Hamyuts cheerfully took out her wallet and put a 100-kirue bill inside the box.
“U-umm, this is…”
Everyone around was already pumped up. She couldn’t decide what to do. Still, Noloty tried talking to the man to somehow avoid this situation.
“Umm, even if I look like this, I’m a trainee Armed Librarian, so I probably shouldn’t be doing something like this…”
The man said with a murmur.
“L-let’s not do it…”
While she was saying this and standing around flustered, some time had passed.
Booing came flying at her. Even Hamyuts gave her a thumbs-down.
Noloty clenched her fist in a hurry. For now, she would try not to go overboard with hitting him.
With this small cry, she lightly hit his chest.
Then, she stumbled a step backwards.
Noloty was surprised. She only gave him a slight jab, but it should’ve been enough power against an amateur. Even if it wouldn’t defeat him, she expected him to at least fall from the recoil. She never experienced this feeling similar to having punched a boulder except against opponents of the Armed Librarian level.
“So you’re not going to hit me?”
The man said to the puzzled Noloty who stuck her fist out. Noloty understood he was making light of her.
“Umm, this time I’ll hit you for real.”
Noloty declared. At the very least, she had pride in her hand-to-hand combat skills as a trainee.
“Five more seconds.”
“Here I come!”
Lowering her waist, Noloty launched with full force at his stomach. After she swung her fist with her entire body weight, she could feel an impact running through her wrist. The man’s body was pushed two meters back along with two scraping marks on the pavement. But due to him firmly placing his feet on the ground, he didn’t collapse.
“Should we continue?”
Said the man. Noloty then noticed that a minute had passed. The surroundings became noisy. Murmurs such as “Wasn’t that punch amazing?”, “no way, it was just acting”, “he just let himself get pushed back” were heard.
“Let’s go back.”
Hamyuts said. The stunned Noloty pulled herself together after hearing that voice.
“We’re not going to continue?”
The man said.
“I have to go now.”
The man looked disappointed. Noloty noticed he was looking with those eyes not at her, but at Hamyuts Meseta.
“Do you want something from the Director?”
The man didn’t answer. He just silently gazed at Hamyuts.
It was then that Noloty realized something.
It was about the man’s hair. The hair that seemed to be white didn’t reflect the light of the sunset. The light that came from behind just flowed past his hair. It wasn’t silver or white; it was translucent like tender glass.
“What are you doing? Let’s go.”
Noloty turned her back to the man that kept looking at Hamyuts and walked with her.
“That guy was amazing. You hit him for real, right?”
Hamyuts started speaking while walking in the front. Noloty couldn’t understand her intentions.
Who was this man? He was tough enough to withstand her real attack. Also, he had transparent hair. A person with hair color different from the norm should be a Magician with vast powers.
And, what was Hamyuts trying to do?
It couldn’t be that this was a test to see if she would be fired, right…?
“An Armed Librarian that couldn’t beat that man needs to be fired. He’ll be your replacement” – Noloty felt a shiver down her spine as she thought about Hamyuts saying this.
But Hamyuts didn’t say anything of the sort and was only walking. As usual, Noloty couldn’t understand what she was thinking about.
“Hey, Noloty. I have one thing to tell you, and then I’ll leave you with one order.”
Saying this, Hamyuts stopped in her tracks and turned around.
“What is it?”
“First I’ll tell you something. That man’s name is Zatoh Rondohone. He’s the one who stole Luimon’s Book.”
Noloty blankly opened her mouth.
“How do you…?”
“I won’t tell you.”
“Now, for my order. Listen carefully. You can’t talk about this even with other Armed Librarians. This is a so-called top secret mission.”
“Zatoh once killed a person and read his Book. Ever since that, he wanted to kill himself.”
“…What does that mean?”
“Now I’ll give my order. Listen well.”
Hamyuts put a finger on Noloty’s lips.
“Save Zatoh-kun. When he’s in real trouble, please save him.”
“What do you mean?”
“That’s it. See ya.”
Hamyuts let go of Noloty’s lips and turned around. Noloty looked at the fleeing Hamyuts with blank amazement. After she came back to her senses, she chased after her in a hurry.
“W-w-wait a second!”
However, Hamyuts already disappeared to somewhere along the alley. Noloty looked around but immediately gave up. Finding the Director once she was gone was next to impossible. Since Hamyuts specialized in sniping, she was also skilled in hiding herself.
“Oh man… what was that?”
While muttering so, she turned around to leave the alley.
At that moment, Noloty found a man standing at the alley’s exit.
His appearance was unforgettable. He was Zatoh Rondohone.
“Where’s Hamyuts Meseta?”
Zatoh asked with a low voice.
“I saw her come here before, where did she go?”
Zatoh slowly walked forward. His eyes stared at Noloty. His gaze was terribly sharp and he seemed somewhat sad.
He once killed a person and read his Book. Therefore, he wishes to die.
While looking at his eyes, Noloty recalled those words.