Author's note: ※ Albeit mild, there are descriptions of cruelty in this chapter.
If you might feel uncomfortable, please return to the previous page.
Having received the permission from Princess, I slipped out of the castle.
Since I met Scheat yesterday, I thought about the invitation from Sahaja a little.
I don't want to cause trouble for Princess.
That's of course the primary reason. But, that's not all.
What those Sahaja guys are thinking is bothering me.
Are they aiming at Princess or are they aiming at Crown Prince. Or there's a possibility it's a completely different person.
But, no matter how much I think it's no use. I don't understand the situation well, what I'm imagining is nothing more than speculations. I want certainty.
So I recalled the existence of hideouts.
I used them when I belonged to the Assassin Guild 'Red', if I had to say they're like guild branches. They're inconspicuously set up in every country. Of course, they also exist in this country. Right now, I'm heading there.
"It's quite far…"
If it was too close to the Royal Capital, its existence might get exposed. That's why, hideouts are generally established inconspicuously near national borders. The territory of the Wilhelm Kingdom is vast. There's a considerable distance to the border. To save time even a little, I aimed at the closest place while freely using Hiyuma's secret art.
To be honest, I'm not expecting much.
I think it's very unlikely that the hideout remains.
Because I crushed 'Red', the guild must've disbanded.
Everybody stationed in the headquarters was definitely killed, but of course people from the branches remain.
Thinking normally, upon receiving the message that 'Red' was destroyed they'd abandon the place and already be back in our country, but without dealing with the aftermath I can't say they weren't left as is. Perhaps, the members remain there without having been contacted.
Then the visit has enough merit. If they don't know I destroyed the guild, I'd still be at the top of 'Red'. I might even learn most important secrets.
Considering there's a chance of obtaining the latest information from Sahaja, I have no choice but to go.
"I couldn't tell that to Princess"
While quickly moving I muttered.
Master accepted my past, but even so she's a lady of marriageable age. I understand she's weak to bloody things as one would expect.
Don't report anything related to the guild aside from what's necessary.
I decided so at the start, I think Princess who senses that and yet permits my free action is honestly amazing.
"Unexpectedly her caliber is huge…"
She has complete faith in what I do, without listening much she permits my free action.
It's not something that can be done easily.
I'm trusted. When I understood that, my motivation changed. Having found the master worthy of serving, I want to meet her expectation, I think everybody would feel the same.
Certainly Princess has a careless aspect, but I think her qualities are above that. No, carelessness may be one of those qualities. I have to be careful having a master like that.
By nature she has quite a charming disposition. There's no doubt that unknown to her she seduced various people. Her fiancé the Crown Prince was seduced too. Even rumors say that he's infatuated with her, he's that charmed by Princess. If he fell in love so much, there's no problem if I leave her for a little while. He'll never allow others to approach his Princess. With such sense of security, I embarked on that expedition――――.
"Surely it was around here…"
I entered a village near Sahaja's border and looked around.
The Wilhelm hideout is in such a rural village, furthermore it's in its corner. Searching my memory, I directed my steps to that place.
Surely it should look like a dilapidated house. I was walking while thinking so, when I saw a pillar of fire rise from the vicinity of my destination.
Having a bad premonition, I broke into run. When I rushed to the scene, the place I was heading for was going up in flames.
I was a step too late.
I have no doubt. The one who did it was from Sahaja.
In addition it's a person who works in the shadows, a person whose occupation is assassin like me.
It doesn't require thinking.
There's no presence of people around. They were all erased and then the fire was set, I know that without having it explained.
Haa, I breathed out.
What an awful timing. Even though I'd recalled the existence of the hideout, it had been crushed just before I arrived.
While I felt disappointed, the presence hanging in the air made me want to sigh.
"… Of all people, it's you again"
When I called out in an annoyed voice, a little older youth appeared from the other side of the blazing dilapidated house.
Long black priest clothes. The trademark inverted cross rosary was brightly lit by the flames.
Without a hint of tension, the cat-eyed man carefreely came out and smiled, seeming happy to see me.
"You were late. Cain"
Needless to say - it was Black Apostate, Scheat.
The fire that engulfed the dilapidated building was burning everything.
While looking at the blazing flames with a sidelong glance, I lightly scowled at the man who appeared.
The man who's probably the culprit had a radiant smile, without minding at all.
"Yo, been a while since yesterday. How unexpected to meet you in such a place"
As Scheat raised one hand while still smiling, I frowned as much as I could.
"To say I was late while calling it a coincidence… What a poor taste to anticipate it"
When I said that, Scheat shook his hand in panic that it's different.
"I wish you wouldn't misunderstand. This is truly a coincidence? I too only heard the story last night"
"The story of burning down Red's hideout?"
So asked, Scheat folded his arms and tilted his head with hmmm.
"I wonder. Actually, this isn't my work. In the first place, it isn't beautiful, right? I haven't set the fire. I'm just here as assurance. The perpetrator has already returned"
"Ah, your eyes say you don't believe me. That's really troubling. That's why I didn't want to be assurance. I came because my master asked me to come no matter what. Hey, you probably know, but I wouldn't do something like burning the target. It contradicts my policy"
"You may have beheaded them before setting the fire"
"I wouldn't! That wouldn't be beautiful"
What this guy is saying is probably true. I thought so, but what came out of my mouth was the complete opposite.
Scheat frantically denied to such me.
"That method is truly unrefined! I wish you wouldn't confuse it and my way of doing things. Ah, wait a moment. I'll bring the guy who did it now. I can't stand being misunderstood either"
"No, there isn't really a reason to bring him"
As Scheat for some reason lost his temper, I returned that I don't need it.
I want to be spared from such a bother. If I can't get information here, I want to return right away.
"Ah, I got it I got it. You're saying I didn't do it. I believe you. That's why stop troubling me"
"… Really? You believe it wasn't me?"
"I believe I believe"
I don't really care either way. When I nodded thinking so, then that's fine, with a hand on his chest Scheat breathed out so.
"I'm glad. I wonder what I'd do if Cain thought it was my work. And? I waited without returning because I felt your presence, but what business did you have here?"
"Not much. I came after remembering what's here. You too, why is 'Black' cleaning after 'Red'"
As I talked back, Scheat nodded with I-know-it-all look.
"Of course it had to be done. Someone somewhere killed every member in the headquarters. There was nobody to clean up., it's no wonder it would come to us"
"Well… I see"
Now that he says it, I can understand.
But, was there a need to go that far.
"Why did you not only kill, but even set them on fire? There was no need to go that far, right?"
"It's not my choice. Not at all. But well, weren't they trying to hide documents?"
"Scheat… What do you know"
I felt uneasy at Scheat's line that seemed to hint at something.
Thinking so I tried asking, but saying it's a secret he smiled with his index finger on his lips.
I'm fed up with that man's unpleasant gestures.
"But, if Cain comes here, I'll tell you. Because we'll become comrades then. I wouldn't keep secrets from comrades. I'll tell you whatever you like. Hey? Come here?"
"… Didn't you give up on inviting me?"
The blatant invitation made me take a step back, conversely Scheat came closer.
The firm footsteps on the grass and the cracking of the fire resounded loud.
"It may be disappointing for you, but you still have a great reputation. I've been told to continue until you change your mind. The client is also persistent. Even though I should give up having been given the cold shoulder once. Persistent men are hated. But, you coming to this side is an attractive prospect for me too. Well, thinking it'd be good for you to accompany me, I'm inviting you like this"
"Who would go. I'll never again return to the guild"
"Considering all that, you were trying to use the hideout, weren't you? Say, why is that? I'm curious"
"… It's a story especially unrelated to you"
Rejected in a firm voice, Scheat drew back unexpectedly easily.
"Certainly. It's not fair to ask for information when I haven't provided any. Yup, got it. I won't ask"
Now then, with those words Scheat became expressionless and only turned his neck to the left.
The characteristic cat-like eyes narrowed. I shrugged my shoulders as Scheat began giving off the presence characteristic to assassins.
'… Didn't you say you were assurance"
Naturally I noticed a presence of a person in the direction Scheat turned his gaze. It's someone aiming at me.
So I thought of turning tables when the attack began.
But Scheat dispassionately responded to my words with a blank look.
"… I was supposed to be. Unfortunately, the executioner already went back, so he's my target. Even though he said he killed everyone so much, he gets minus points for missing a person… Ah, Cain. Don't lay your hands on him, okay? It's my job"
"… I'll defend myself"
"Naturally. It's enough if you don't finish him"
"Thanks. It was correct to remain here. It almost became a double effort"
As Scheat said it's about work I nodded. I have zero desire to hinder him.
Rather, I truly don't want to be involved.
The target is probably the hideout survivor.
Where Scheat is fixedly staring is an entrance to a small forest overgrown with bushes. Despite having his location discovered, the bloodlust aiming at me didn't stop.
I could only sigh at how he wants to kill me by all means.
Thinking about it, I was hated and never liked.
Of course I killed many people for work, and it was me who destroyed 'Red'. I earned plenty grudge.
Feeling weary I scratched my head.
Since I wanted to finish it quickly, I invited him with an opening that made myself easy to attack on purpose.
Sure enough, in his impatience the guy misread the chance and desperately jumped out.
"Drop dead, Shinigami!"
"… My bad. I won't let you do that"
I easily avoided his sword strike that probably had his whole strength put into it.
His skills, to say nothing of Guild Master Gill, don't even hold a candle to the guys at the headquarters. By nature, those stationed at hideouts are mostly people lacking in ability, so it's only natural.
I avoided his sword with minimum movements and immediately turning my back roundhouse kicked him with the momentum.
Perhaps not expecting a counterattack, upon receiving direct damage the man smashed into a tree at the forest entrance, and not having properly broken the fall unsightly fell on the ground.
With the impact of his body his breathing must've stopped for a moment. With both hands on the ground, he glared here, despite wheezing in pain.
While gasping for breath, his mouth spat grudge at me.
"How dare you… How dare you kill older bro…!"
"Ah… So that was it"
Most people who belonged to our assassin guild were war orphans. Having lost parents, it's not unusual for siblings to be picked up by a guild. Probably his older brother was stationed at the headquarters.
Then I'm certainly an appropriate person to bear grudge against. So he's here for revenge, huh.
Convinced, I faced the man and started speaking in astonishment.
I think it couldn't be helped if an ordinary person spat out resentment at me, but I don't want to be told that by the bird of a feather.
Just because he was stationed in the hideout doesn't mean he didn't workkill.
"… I'm not the one to be saying that, but you should've known it would someday happen when you became an assassin. Somebody who kills people, will someday be killed by somebody. It's karma. Of course, I'm not an exception either, I don't think I can escape from that karma. However, I'm not alone now… unlike you"
I shrugged my shoulders.
The man didn't seem to notice, but Scheat already moved behind him without making a noise.
Before I noticed, in his hands covered with black gloves something like a silver string was glittering.
The thin flexible string moved so beautifully as if it had a will of its own, twining around the target's neck. It occurred in an instant.
"It's time to pray. Now, you too become a part of Mom's collection?"
With those words, the string was squeezed from both sides. Even though it didn't seem he put strength into it, the next moment the man's neck and body were perfectly separated. Just a little I opened my eyes wide at this performance.
… This is Black Apostate's modus operandi, huh.
Seeing Scheat's efficient movements for the first time, unknowingly I leaked a sigh of admiration.
He stuffed the head that flew off into a leather bag he seems to have prepared. After carrying out this much automatic work, Scheat directed a smile at me.
Of course he didn't get a drop of blood on himself. What wonderful skill.
"I've kept you waiting. Say, how was my work?"
His eyes as he looked back were sparkling. Seeing his expectant expression, I involuntarily spurted out.
Is he a brat. No matter how you look at it, he's older than me and yet.
"Nice skills. That's an unusual weapon"
As I told him concisely, Scheat nodded with satisfaction.
"Right! You think so? I'm glad. I wondered what I'd do if Cain thought I was unskilled. Ah, that weapon is from Irvine to the south. Perhaps I'm the only one in 'Black' to use it"
With Scheat passionately talking about his weapon I asked about it again. It's the truth it's very interesting. I thought he was using assassin sword or something to decapitate.
"I'm seeing it for the first time. Is this a string?"
"It's a kind of wire made as thin as possible. It was produced with technology unique to Irvine. Even if I say wire, it's considerably flexible, it can be freely manipulated like a string. It's difficult to handle, but see. It's useful when mastered. As you just saw, it can easily cut person's neck"
It's a suitable weapon for me, there was something off as Scheat bragged so with a smile.
But, there's probably something similarly wrong with me who can participate in this talk.
I'm aware, but as this feeling has already become a part of me I don't think it can be helped this late or that it could be fixed.
"What's Cain's weapon? I've seen you throw knives a lot. But it's not your characteristic weapon, is it"
If I had to say, it'd be the two katana that are Father's mementos. Since contracting with Princess I've been always carrying them. Then there's Hiyuma's secret art but…
"I wonder? I can use basically anything. I don't have particular limitations"
"Hmph. Almighty. But, it seems like Cain"
As I spoke while remembering the style from assassin days, Cain seemed somehow convinced.
"Now then, I have to go. I've finished my task. I'm happy we met today. It was an unexpected encounter"
"… Are you going back to your country?"
When I asked with a bad premonition, Scheat narrowed his eyes and with "I wonder" shook his head.
"You could say that's right or that's wrong. It's the employer and the Guild Master that decide my behavior. But, let's see. I have a feeling we'll meet again soon"
"Ah, don't make such an unpleasant face! Be a little happy"
Why must I rejoice about meeting an assassin of remarkable ability. There's no way I'd want to meet somebody who uses a troublesome weapon.
"The target is"
When I asked briefly, he returned an unabashed frown.
"As I've said, I can't answer, can I? You too don't reveal what you know, there's no way I'd tell you something"
"… Of course"
With these words, I turned my back to him.
I have no business here anymore. I fully understand Scheat is a professional.
The probability of me being attacked right now is zero.
"Cain? Where are you going?"
I didn't look back at Scheat's curious question.
I said nothing but the truth.
"I'm going back"
Scheat let out an unreadable unpleasant laugh.
I could tell his presence became thin.
"… After all you're like this. It's as that person said"
Worried about the last words he muttered I looked back.
But, there was nobody there. Instead a single sheet of white paper fluttered down.
Reflexively I grabbed it to find out what's written on it. Even though I had a premonition.
After all, drawn there was an already used magic formation.
A sheet of paper with an equation that, although only once, makes it possible for everybody to use the drawn magic formation if only they pass it necessary magical power.
I read the equation and crushed it.
"Return magical art…"
Where the hell did he leap.
The unpleasant premonition turned into a conviction. I can't help but feel I'll absolutely meet Scheat again.
And at that time, he'll be the enemy.
What's his aim. No, not that. What's the aim of Scheat's employer.
What's the King of Sahaja aiming for, and how will he move. I want to know that.
"Damn it, in the end I didn't understand anything…"
What should I do. How do I understand their aim.
With my thoughts spinning round and round, I scratched my head.
"… Let's go back first…"
Otherwise Princess will worry.
First I'll go back. Go back… then――――.
"After all I have no choice but to rely on granny, huh…"
While activating Hiyuma's secret art, I sighed in a gloomy mood.