Noloty ran out of the sheriff’s offices. The sheriff and the rest didn’t follow her. Even if they were to use their guns, that wouldn’t change anything against people like Noloty and the Monster.
Noloty was thinking while she ran. It can’t be. But there’s no other conclusion. Is the Monster really Zatoh-san?
Before reaching the place the eyewitness mentioned, as Noloty ran through the road, a brilliant golden object entered her line of sight. A person wearing a golden helmet and a black cloak leapt from roof to roof like a leopard. Noloty saw him crossing from right to left.
She ran up to the roof and began jumping up and down while aiming for his back. He was faster than her. At this rate, she won’t catch up to him. Noloty hesitated whether to call “Zatoh-san”.
Then, she noticed someone running on the rooftops behind her.
Noloty turned around and looked at their figure.
Noloty called in relief. So Zatoh wasn’t the Monster after all.
With his transparent hair fluttering behind him, Zatoh made a huge leap and overtook Noloty.
When he moved ahead from her, he shot her a fleeting glance. Both the Monster and Zatoh quickly grew far from Noloty. Sighing, she kept running ahead.
Noloty was lagging behind, but Zatoh had no intention of stopping. Could she even catch up at this rate? Rather than that, it was more important chasing after the Monster ahead.
That Monster was seen during the morning. After Zatoh had beaten his face and lost his consciousness inside the hotel room, he regained consciousness with the morning’s light. He didn’t notice his blunder until then.
A person with a golden helmet was standing still on the roof. Those carved eyes, looking like in the midst of laughter, stared at Zatoh. People had already started gathering around the area and became noisy.
Zatoh immediately kicked the window open. The Monster promptly ran away, not showing any intention of fighting.
Zatoh ran along the port. He already noticed he was being lured.
He ran across the port and into the harbor to the outside of the city.
Upon exiting the city, the shoreline extended endlessly northward.
The Monster stopped there. There were no people around. It seemed like his goal was moving the fight to a deserted place.
Zatoh thought to himself that moving to a deserted place intentionally was unlike the Monster.
He started talking to the Monster as he turned around. His hands were emitting sparks of lightning.
“First, let me ask you – who are you?”
The monster didn’t say anything. He just breathed heavily.
“…What’s Ganbanzel doing?”
Once again, silence. He didn’t show any intention of attacking or running away; his cloak merely swayed.
Zatoh stopped trying to talk to him. He started running and clenched his fist to attack the Monster.
From within the cloak, a swarthy hand stretched forward and blocked that fist. Zatoh repelled the oncoming counterattack kick with his elbow.
Neither of them used any ability. As if telling each other to wait-and-see, they exchanged blows.
Using the recoil from blocking a front kick with his two hands, Zatoh drew back. His hand emitted a pale blue light as if signaling the end of the preliminary test.
Zatoh spoke. At the same time, the Monster drew a sword from inside his cloak. It was a wide and bulky sword, similar to a hatchet. The Monster lightly flung it in front of him. Lightning fell on that sword. Creating this opening by defending against the lightning, the Monster leapt ahead.
How naïve. Zatoh read his movements.
He jumped forward before the Monster and trampled on the sword. The Monster stopped just before reaching him and retreated, heaving up sand.
“…What’s that? You’re weak.”
Zatoh said with a disappointed expression.
“It’s time for you to reveal your true identity.”
Then, the Monster talked for the first time.
“Right, I’m no match for the real deal.”
Zatoh noticed that voice sounded familiar to him. Thinking about it, so was that sword he stepped on.
“But did you really fall for this?”
While saying this, the Monster put a hand to his mask. It was then that Noloty came running with heavy breaths.
“Aah, s-so it started… Zatoh-san, are you okay?!”
Rushing to Zatoh, she pointed her fist at the Monster.
“What are you doing Noloty, aren’t you pointing that fist at the wrong guy?”
The Monster removed his mask.
Zatoh and Noloty spoke simultaneously. Under the mask was the face of the Armed Librarian Minth Chezine. He was one of the three people who fought the Monster before.
“Long time no see, Monster-kun.”
Minth grinned while saying this.
He threw the mask and cloak into the sea. Underneath he wore his usual gaudy jacket.
“What are you doing, Minth-san?”
“Isn’t that what I should be asking you?”
Minth briskly stepped towards Noloty. Then he suddenly slammed his head onto her forehead.
Noloty cowered while holding her forehead. Zatoh watched her in amazement.
“Weren’t you supposed to be looking for Luimon’s Book?”
“Why were you chasing me around with that guy?”
“Because you were the Monster- gyaah!”
Minth landed another head-butt. Because it was enough to make her jump a bit, it made even Zatoh grimace despite only watching from the side.
“Did you get yourself a nice man after thinking that you can’t retrieve the Book? Not bad pretending to be cute like that.”
Saying this, Minth dragged up Noloty who fell on the sand.
“Monster-kun. I need to go give this girl a thorough lecture, so please wait here for a while.”
Minth grasped Noloty’s scruff and started dragging her.
“…Minth Chezine, what are you doing?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I impersonated the Monster hoping to lure you and caught even her.”
At that point, Noloty slipped a word in.
“…Wait a second. That person isn’t the Monster.”
“Hmph. Is that what you think?”
Minth closely looked at her face. He then inquired Zatoh.
“Is that so, Zatoh-san? Aren’t you the Monster?”
“No, I am the Monster.”
“Here you go, Noloty. So, you were the one we fought in Bantorra Library?”
“Yes. You, the guy with two pistols, and the girl with a rapier. I fought all three of you.”
“Well, I’ll take care of you afterwards. Wait right here. Because when I’m done with my business, I’m coming to kill you.”
“Good, I’ll wait.”
Minth took Noloty towards the city. Zatoh was silent and watched them from behind.
“…Did he escape?”
Zatoh murmured. It was possible he avoided battle entirely by diminishing the enemy’s fighting spirit with his loose tongue. Even when he head-butted Noloty it was probably meant to dampen Zatoh’s spirit. He didn’t know what his ability was, but that twin-pistol guy said he wasn’t combat oriented. Was it a technique related to surviving like this?
In any case, Zatoh thought that this was the end. Since a real Armed Librarian came from Bantorra Library, he was undoubtedly going to get killed. If he will wait there, Minth will come with reinforcements and kill him.
It took a while, but he was finally going to die. Noloty’s farce will also end.
Suddenly, his head began hurting.
Zatoh scowled. He felt as if his head was expanding and about to explode.
Noloty was dragged by Minth back to the city. When they came near the sheriff’s offices, he finally released her. After removing his hand from her scruff, Minth looked around them. Then, he drew a small bottle from his chest pocket and looked at its contents.
“Did he really not follow us?”
“Is that one of Mokkania-san’s winged ants?”
Noloty asked Minth as he peered inside the bottle.
“Yeah. I borrowed it from him. It’s for monitoring Zatoh.”
There was a single ant inside the bottle – a queen ant remodeled by the Magic of the Armed Librarian called Mokkania. It was slightly larger than normal. Currently, several flying ants circled Zatoh’s surroundings. If something abnormal were to happen to him, it would get transmitted to the queen ant inside the bottle.
“What’s Zatoh-san doing?”
After peeping at the queen ant, Minth answered,
“Seems like he’s waiting quietly. What’s his deal?”
Saying this, he faced Noloty.
“C’mon, Noloty, I’ll have you talk to me about him.”
Noloty hesitated. Hamyuts’s orders were to not let any other Armed Librarian know about her top-secret mission. She couldn’t talk about it.
“I don’t understand as well. He might be the Monster, but I’m not so sure about…”
“What’ve you been doing till now? Wasn’t your mission retrieving Luimon’s Book?”
“Actually, I have this plus another mission. I can’t speak about it in detail.”
“…I haven’t heard about this.”
Minth put a hand to his chin.
“I also have some questions. Is that person truly the Monster as you’ve said? With your ability you should know, right Minth-san?”
“I’m asking because I don’t know. Who is this Zatoh guy?”
“I don’t understand as well. He’s not the Monster.”
Minth Chezine. He was not an Armed Librarian who specialized in combat. His true value lay in investigation of crimes. In particular, he specialized in looking for people.
His ability was named Sacred Eyes. This ability allowed him to see the very soul of a person.
Once activated, he could see through things like the state of mind, nature, and preferences of a person; basically, the shape of their soul. It might have seemed simple, but it could aid things like interrogation of criminals or suspects, finding traitors among allies, judging the aptitude of subordinates and more; an ability useful in many different ways.
“I’ve seen the soul of the Monster– his nature was evil, his thoughts were of self-interest, and his wish was chaos. But for this Zatoh guy – his nature is foolishness, his thoughts are of nihility, and his wish is atonement. No matter how many times I look at him, he doesn’t look like the Monster at all.
It’s unthinkable for him to have had a change of heart or a split personality. No matter how I look at it, he seems to be a different person.”
“So it’s not him, just as I thought.”
“However, there’s no reason to think he’s not the Monster. With his lightning and super regeneration, or more importantly how it felt fighting with him, they are all similar to the Monster.
Above all else, he told us himself that he was the Monster.
He’s of the same size, knows things only the Monster would know, uses the same abilities, and speaks of himself as the Monster. If he’s not the Monster despite all of that, what does it mean?”
Minth stared at Noloty.
“Now then, start talking. What were you doing until now? I haven’t heard anything about a top-secret mission. And if you’ll try lying I’ll find out immediately.”
Noloty resigned. She started telling him everything starting from when Hamyuts brought her to meet Zatoh.
When she finished, Minth looked at her with a surprised expression.
“Did you really meet the Director?”
“Didn’t you receive the notification from the old lady?”
“W-what? I haven’t heard anything…”
“Right now, the Director is missing.”
“W-what’s that supposed to mean?! The Director?!”
“That woman did something unthinkable.”
It was about ten days prior. A month had passed since the Monster’s assault on the Library. Hamyuts Meseta sat in the Director’s office. Through Mirepoc she received reports from various places, gathered all the information and sent orders. In addition, she stretched her Sensory Threads around, vigilant against any attack.
Hamyuts, who was working silently until then, suddenly stood up.
“I’m dooone. Mirepo, can I quit?”
Saying this, Hamyuts tossed the pen behind her. Mirepoc, who was at her side, suspended her Thought Sharing.
“What do you mean by quitting, Director?”
Hamyuts stood while scratching her head.
“Hey, Mirepo. Can you recall the old lady from Ismo? I’m leaving this to you two.”
Mirepoc, while confused by the sudden order, asked,
“Will you join the search party as well, Director?”
“No, I won’t search for him. I’ll just go and fight him.”
Mirepoc was completely dumbfounded.
“Currently we’re just sending everyone to look around for him. Wouldn’t it be better if I were to fight him and reach a conclusion?”
“With all due respect, I cannot understand what you mean by this.”
“Didn’t he say he came here to fight me? So I’m saying that I can just go and fight him.”
“Pardon me, Director. But wasn’t your plan to discover the Monster and then send more than four powerful Armed Librarians to fight him?”
“I don’t care about that. I want to fight with that guy. That’s all.”
Hamyuts smiled while saying this. Mirepoc questioned her with anger.
“…Director, have you forgotten that when you have fought alone in Toatt Mining Town you nearly died?”
“Oh, you mean with that Cigal guy.”
Mirepoc’s words, that tried discouraging her, had the opposite effect.
“Those are some good memories… that time when I was earnestly losing.”
Hamyuts stood up.
“I’ll have to use every possible move in my disposal against that kind of opponent.”
“…If you are being truthful, I can’t help but doubt your mental stability.”
“Oh, Mirepoc. I’ll have to deduct points from you.”
She pointed at Mirepoc with one finger.
“Do you still think I’m sane?”
“From then on, the Director hid her whereabouts and chased after the Monster. Old Ireia was furious. ‘How can the God’s Representative say she wants to fight and act independently like this?!’ and such.
Just what has she been doing? I can’t understand why the Director gave you that order.”
Minth finished talking. Noloty listened to him while dumbfounded.
“What’s the Director thinking?”
“I don’t know. That’s my question to you.”
Minth said in disappointment.
“I wonder why she gave me that order…”
“I don’t know about that either. However, she only has one goal.”
“Fighting the Monster, you mean?”
She didn’t know Hamyuts’s aim. Until now, she acted according to her orders. But why did she issue those orders to her?
A person who wasn’t the Monster while similar to the Monster, and Hamyuts Meseta, who wanted to fight that Monster.
She had a bad feeling about something. Didn’t Hamyuts just take advantage of her? Wasn’t she just used as a pawn to grant Hamyuts’s wish of fighting the Monster?
The two faced each other and kept thinking. Zatoh’s true identity, Hamyuts’s goals… there were only things they couldn’t understand.
After a while, Minth opened his mouth.
“This is only hypothetical, but I might know something about his identity.”
“That transparent hair… people with the same kind of hair were recorded in history. Hair color and a person’s ability are often tied together.”
“What kind of ability is it?”
“…The ability known as Book-Eating.”
One hundred years ago, there was a boy. He was the owner of beautiful transparent hair as well as the ability called Book-Eating. Neither his achievements nor misdeeds were left for the future. Only little bits of that name have been recorded in the history of Magical research.
In front of some Magic researchers, he brought a single Book to his mouth. It was the Book of a Magician. The Book became sand and started flowing into his mouth.
Immediately after, despite him being ten years old, he became able to use Magic without acquiring any training as a Magician.
Furthermore, he kept eating more Books one after another. When he ate the Book of a lawyer he became able to recite the law from memory, when he ate the Book of a swordsman he became able to wield a sword, and when he ate the Book of a politician he became able to give a splendid speech about common political ideas.
However, after a while his body’s condition became bad – there were frequent tremors in his hands; uneasiness in his mind; he developed split personalities; and finally, he injured himself.
The boy said,
“Help me! They’re coming out of the swamp… they’re going to eat me!”
The researchers determined that the eaten Books rebelled inside the boy. However, they had no idea how to help him. A year after having first complained about his condition, the boy died.
When his Book was found, it was several times larger than a normal one. It was said that touching his Book led to several people’s worth of memories to flow inside, breaking the spirit of the reader. That Book was housed in the Fifth Sealed Archive of Bantorra Library.
“That sort of power…”
“There isn’t any evidence, but I think it fits.
He ate the Monster’s Book, and his mind was hijacked by him. Then, in order to suppress the Monster, he wanted to die. The Director told you to not let him die so she could fight the Monster.”
“Might become possessed by the Monster.”
At the same time when Minth and Noloty faced each other…
There were two people inside the room of a hotel located in central Bujui. They occupied the highest floor of the highest grade hotel, and enjoyed the fragrance of tea mixed with brandy.
“…Eh, Minth is quite something. So he realized the Book-Eating deal.”
One of the two people opened her mouth. She was Hamyuts Meseta.
After closing her eyes and releasing Sensory Threads from her body, she surveyed the movements of Minth and Noloty.
“It’s going faster than I imagined. I thought it’s about time I lend a hand, but it seems it’s no longer necessary.”
“Hmm… does that mean it was within your expectations?”
The one talking to Hamyuts was an old man. He was a True Man of the Indulging God Cult as well as the ringleader behind the creation of the Monster – Ganbanzel Grof. Those two, who used to be bitter enemies, were now sitting together inside the hotel room without trying to kill each other.
“But, Hamyuts… Just what is going to happen now? At this rate, won’t Armed Librarians come from Bantorra and kill Zatoh?”
“Yeah, it is so.”
“Why did you send that lass? She was utterly useless!”
Ganbanzel said in rage. With her eyes still closed, Hamyuts answered calmly.
“It’s Noloty’s turn now. Please watch quietly.”
Hamyuts slightly opened her eyes and stared at Ganbanzel. He leaked a small cry and went silent, getting overpowered.
“Wait for a little more. It’s going to get interesting now.”
Saying this, Hamyuts smiled.
“Soon, it will be time for Zatoh-kun to get excited as well.”
Hamyuts sent her Sensory Threads to Zatoh who was waiting on the beach. Her face had a terrible smile. Her whole body was itching for the imminent battle.
“Quickly, quickly resurrect, Monster-kun. Quickly come to entertain me.”
At the same time, Zatoh was struggling against the tremor in his hands.
He scratched at his skin and tore his flesh. Despite his bones already being exposed, the tremor wouldn’t stop. The oozing of greasy sweat wasn’t the only painful thing.
“…This, this is…”
Zatoh desperately tore off his body. Nothing like this ever happened before. When he received pain by scraping his meat, it would sink inside that guy’s body. However, it didn’t happen like that now.
Suddenly, his eyes went dark. Zatoh felt his consciousness being dragged inside his body.
Minth and Noloty faced each other and worried together. An abnormal sound broke their silence. The queen ant inside the bottle flapped her wings. That informed of an abnormal event that happened to Zatoh.
Minth peeked at the queen ant and spoke in a tense voice.
“…Noloty, I’m disappointed.”
“That bastard ran away.”
Noloty instinctively raised her voice.
“This can’t be! He’s not the kind of person to run away like that!”
Without listening to her, Minth started running.
“…We don’t have time for this. Let’s go after him!”
He shouted while running.
“Noloty, maybe he’s not the kind of person to run away. But it doesn’t mean that the guy inside him is like that too!”