After spending a few days getting healed up from my training exercise with Pietro, I began experimenting to understand my newfound skill.
I found that activating it was rather easy, since I just had to mentally focus and will it to happen. The sight of purple lines where mana seeped out from them gave off the feeling of looking through virtual reality goggles with an applied filter. It took a while to get used to. It was particularly strange when I realized that neither darkness nor illusions clouded this view, making what I saw even more surreal.
However, I soon found out that I couldn’t keep the skill active for long. Not because of any physical limitations, such as running out of MP, but because a sickening feeling would start to creep up my body for some reason. The feeling was hard to describe, but it felt like something deep within started leaking out and slowly spread throughout my body.
When I first activated it, Pietro mentioned how I had seriously started attacking him, but that was something that I couldn’t recall. My memories had stopped not long after I activated the skill and noticed the strange surroundings well enough to dodge Pietro’s emitted strikes. I recalled a vague feeling of cutting through something before I blacked out.
In any case, it was likely not wise to use it for extended periods. My guess was that the skill caused a bad aftereffect, like what happened whenever Eryn used ‘Flash of Strength’ to exceed her limits.
However, the skill appeared to be quite handy. In addition to being able to detect mana while active, the lines where mana seeped out highlighted weak spots in the material. If the object could be cut with a knife, then I could trace those lines with little effort. If not, a swing of a hammer created large cracks that greatly weakened its integrity. This alleviated the burden of constant trial and error needed to learn something’s weak points. However, this didn’t impact living beings. Though that would’ve been helpful too, the thought of seeing the fragility of a body, particularly a human one, was a bit unsettling.
For now, I was just thankful for a new skill.
At this point, I was on-route to locate my favorite inventor, hoping that she could create a new toy that would complement this ability.
Approaching the door to her workshop, I eagerly tapped on it a few times, a few ideas already floating in my head.
After a few moments, the door opened slightly before a voice could be heard within.
“I figured that you’d be coming by soon. Come in,” Katsys said as the door swung open.
I walked in and watched as Katsys turned away and remained a few steps ahead of me.
“I heard the news. I feel sorry for you,” Katsys quietly said with a voice unsure of how to continue.
Even the commoners all knew of the Duke’s marriage ceremony with Eryn, so of course, Katsys would have heard. Given my blatantly obvious feelings for Eryn when I asked Katsys for help on a gift, I could understand that she was treating the situation with care.
“I’m not going to give up Eryn without a fight.”
Katsys turned to me in surprise. “But, it’s the Duke-“
“You think I don’t know? But how…how could I just stand idly when I’m about to lose the most important thing in this world to me? How could I stomach myself if I just go on with my business and pretend that I’m fine with it? Yes, it’s the Duke! But hell, if I give a rat’s ass! I’m not from this world!”
Hearing those words, Katsys’s eyes narrowed in concern.
“I could have you arrested for that, you know? As the crown princess of Sistina, I cannot help you stand against the Duke.”
“I see. Then I won’t ask you to overstep your boundaries.” I started to turn away, disappointed that I had come for nothing. Yet, I was stopped by a hushed voice behind me moments later.
“As Katsys the inventor, however, my intellect cannot deny your determination.”
I turned around at those words, staring for a few moments as Katsys’s attention fixed upon me. Her eyes gave off a different feel than the commanding tone of a princess before. Eyes filled with compassion. Eyes that understood the situation I was embroiled in. Eyes I felt like I could trust despite the difference in our social standings.
“Then please, would you help me? I humbly request the knowledge of Katsys.”
“Okay, what do you need?” Katsys nodded with glee, her expression returned to normal.
I looked around the room for a bit before I saw the object that Katsys was working on during my last visit. Picking up the pellet gun that failed to imbue its projectiles with magic efficiently, I examined it to find it still loaded.
“That’s…,” Katsys started to say, but I ignored her. I activated my skill and saw the presence of another body in the room, standing off in one corner.
“Gerard, can you hold still please?” I aimed the gun over at his direction and pulled the trigger.
Immediately, the pellet flew out and bounced off the hidden Gerard. Seeing Katsys’s confusion as I aimed at the empty corner, Gerard dispelled his illusion and materialized. Seemingly unbothered by being a test dummy, he walked forward casually.
“Claude, you could see him?” Katsys looked at me in wonder. “But how?”
“I seem to have gained a skill that lets me read mana flow. Even with illusion magic, he was standing there plain as day.”
“Oh, there’s something else too. Look there.” I pointed at the spot that I aimed at.
Katsys and Gerard looked down at the chest plate that he had equipped. Several cracks surrounded the location in which the pellet made contact and bounced off. I was rather pleased that my marksmanship from playing light gun games and paintball translated well here.
While I was admiring my aim, Katsys and Gerard looked shocked, the latter lightly touching his armor to ensure that the cracks were real. He then gripped the cracked section and tugged, breaking a chunk free.
“That is high-quality mithril armor! It is supposed to be impact resistant, so how is it possible that a bead of inferior metal could do this?” Katsys nearly shouted in wonder.
“That’s probably my Crit stat causing it. I can crack large boulders with just a simple hammer if I hit the right spot.” Guess that aspect of my skill had been kept secret for the most part. There were few opportunities for me to really use it.
Katsys sat back and held her head as if she had just seen a miracle unfold. She could likely tell where I was going with this.
One of my greatest weaknesses when fighting opponents was the fact that I had to locate the correct spot to do any damage. If there was anything covering up those points of contact, then I would be stuck. For that reason, human opponents were much more troublesome to deal with than monsters, since armor protected the majority of potential targets that I could aim for. But now, I had a way to destroy that armor, regardless of how expensive and resistant it may be.
“What I would like to ask is if you can modify this gun so that it can hold a large number of beads. And also, if you can devise a mechanism that would allow for quick removal of an empty holder and replace it with a full one, like an insertable cartridge.”
If there was a chance that I’d have to face the Duke’s army, then I’d need the firepower to bridge that gap. Not that I was planning to go in guns a-blazing, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a backup plan.
“Yes, that should be doable. I think that should only take a few days.” Katsys thought for a moment and nodded.
“Thanks. You’re a lifesaver.” I reached into my item box and dumped a bag of coins onto the table. “This is all I have. Hope it’s enough. Not that I’ll be needing it if I fail,” I said, implying a grim fate if that were to happen.
Katsys simply pushed the bag back towards me.
“I think I’d rather just have you owe me a favor. That would be worth more than any money you could offer me.”
With a short sigh of acceptance, I re-pocketed the money and left the workshop so that Katsys could work her magic.
With that taken care of, it was almost time to meet up with Cornelius to go over the plan. From the little bit that he had told me so far, it seemed like the Duke was in need of bakery chefs to design the wedding cakes. Though I dabbled in baking, mostly because Eryn appeared to like sweets, the role of a proper baker wasn’t my specialty. Hearing that, Cornelius offered to provide some people with expertise, since those competing for the contract formed teams anyways. Still, preparing a wedding cake for your archnemesis…
“Hey you!” Someone interrupted my train of thought.
A raven-haired man with glasses walked up to me, looking like he had been anxiously searching around.
“Oh, if it isn’t Dingleberry?”
The vein on his forehead throbbed.
“Ahem…Chef Evers, have you come to a decision?” Dengel quickly asked to change the subject.
“A decision…Oh, that’s right!” I had completely forgotten about his offer to head up the trading company. “I refuse,” I said simply.
“Wait… you refuse? That’s it? No explanation? This is a great deal I’m offering here, and you keep me waiting just to say no?” Dengel pecked at me, trying to understand why I had a change of heart. When we last parted, it appeared to him that I was eager to accept the role.
“I have other things on my mind now. Besides, no offense to you, but I’m not ready to throw my hat down and collude with the enemy.”
“That huh? Then I don’t blame you.” Dengel sighed. “Well, can you at least give me a moment of your time? I have a new product that I want to ask you about. No one else seems to know what to do with it. They were all like ‘ask Claude’. It involves food, so he’ll probably know and such.”
I guess the staff at the trading company were already reliant on my advice. It wouldn’t hurt to pop in occasionally to see how they were doing.
“Okay, I’ll humor you this once.” To be honest, this Dengel didn’t seem like a bad guy. It wasn’t his fault that his employer was my enemy.
Dengel grabbed my wrist and led me away. A few minutes later, I found myself staring at a glass vial resting on a table in the trading company.
“What is this?” I asked Dengel, leery of the white powder that was housed in it.
My past experiences have led me to be quite suspicious of mysteriously bottled substances.
“Please taste it. I believe a small amount should not do you any harm. It has already been tried by others.” Dengel beckoned me as he uncorked the bottle and poured a small mound into my palm. He looked towards the guild staff, who all nodded in confirmation.
Staring hard at the fine crystalline powder, I tried to take a whiff, but it had no scent. Taking a small pinch of it, I let it drop onto my tongue. Immediately, a sweet taste spread.
“This is sugar…?” I tilted my head in confusion.
“Not exactly.” Dengel adjusted his glasses before explaining. “Women of nobility have been worrying about their figures, and recently, understanding of some ingredients and their impact on weight gain have led people to develop alternatives. I’m sure you had a hand in spreading this knowledge.”
That was kind of true. After I developed some tasty dishes in the past which grew quickly in popularity, people questioned why they made them fat. The concept of calorie intake and fats/sugars became a topic of interest among the educated. At this rate, it wouldn’t be long before people started coming up with ‘diet plans’ to compensate for the lavish dining habits of the wealthy.
“As a result, one of our suppliers created a sugar substitute that was being marketed as a way to consume sweets without worrying about the consequences. However, when we did some investigation, we found some people having minor stomach discomfort after consuming goods using it. Therefore, we were a bit skeptical about its safety, despite its promising outcome. Would you be able to give some insight on this?”
Hmm…stomach issues, huh? I rarely consumed sugar-free foods which usually left a weird aftertaste in my mouth. However, there was one instance in which my friends and I didn’t realize that we were eating something sugar-free until later. In that case, we were given a large bag of gummy bears. Since they tasted fine, we ended up eating the entire bag in one sitting. Not realizing that this candy was sweetened with a sugar alcohol, we were met with an awful surprise as our stomachs started rumbling an hour later. We never touched the stuff since.
Though it was safe in small quantities, sugar alcohol was not something you wanted to ingest a lot of.
“I think I know what this is. We have it in my home world. Provided that the dose is small, the issues should be minor. There are some people that may be more sensitive to it, but they should simply be told to eat less of it then.”
“I see. Thank you for your input. I think we will proceed with the arrangements on the supplier’s side. Are you sure you don’t want to reconsider the position? This is exactly the advice that we need.” Dengel looked over with a smile.
“If only we had met under different circumstances…maybe then, we would see eye-to-eye.” I turned to leave. Part of me wondered if I weren’t throwing it all away on a chance, but until I knew what Eryn really thought, I couldn’t back down.
Now, I really had to get going. If I had any hope of getting her back, then I couldn’t afford to dilly-dally any longer.
[Editor note: Please don’t shoot anyone with bb guns. It might cause injury. We seriously advise you against doing that.]