We caught up to the three men who had been blasted into dreamland by Katsys’s bombs. Along the way, I had wondered if she hadn’t overdone it a bit.
“Don’t worry. Those bombs were engineered to have the maximum effect of creating a shockwave strong enough to blow through one’s defenses but perform non-lethal damage.”
My mind struggled to understand conceptually how that could be, but there were games where certain skills left the opponent with only 1 HP. ‘Wait… this wasn’t a game though?!’
Anyways, the bombs had left the three ambushers sprawled on the roof with shredded clothing but no apparent external injuries. Looks like Katsys had been telling the truth. These men were wearing combat robes of similar design from what we could tell of the remnants, a sign that they were probably from the same clan.
We grabbed the three and dumped them next to each other. It would be best to question them to figure out what they were after. Making a signal to Katsys, she pulled out her magic gun and set it to a low ice setting. A few shots later, the men had their arms and legs frozen to the ground.
From my Item Box, I pulled out a small jar of vinegar and held it up to one man’s nose for a few seconds.
With a jerk, the man sprung up, only to realize that his appendages had been restrained. Seeing the four of us leering at him, he sneered at us hatefully.
“I have nothing to say to you foreign demons! You may as well silence me forever!”
“Oh really? First, you attack us. And then, you don’t give us any reason for it? Who’s the demon here?” I didn’t take kindly to people trying to harm me, or anyone else that I knew. They had obviously aimed for a surprise attack, one that would hit before we could raise our defenses. If the others hadn’t noticed, then my lack of caution would have proven fatal.
Yet, the man remained silent.
“I see…” I turned to the others and made a quick sign of apology for what I was about to do. Taking a dish rag from my Item Box, I rolled it up and shoved it into the man’s mouth. This would keep him from biting his tongue. Next, a jar of red powder was fetched. Uncorking the bottle, I held the man down before sprinkling the contents onto his eyes.
Immediately, the man jerked in pain as a fierce burning sensation spread across his face. The red powder was, of course, chili pepper, but not just any chili pepper. The kind freshly made by Lady Kaguya herself that I had used for Mapo Tofu. It was the spiciest mixture that I had ever come upon.
As the man struggled against his frozen bindings, I couldn’t help but feel just the slightest bit bad for him.
“If you’ll just tell us what your objective is, then I’ll stop the pain, and Miss Princess over there will heal you up.”
Even with his entire face red and tears fiercely streaming down his cheeks, he didn’t want to give in. ‘Guess I have no choice.’ I woke up the other two men and repeated the torture on them.
Sadly, the other two weren’t any easier to deal with. Even as they flailed about, smashing their heads back on the hard surface and screaming bloody hell, they still didn’t want to cooperate. If the area hadn’t been cleared out first by the attack and the bombs, the screaming by the pepper-blinded trio would’ve drawn a crowd by now.
I looked back at the others with a shrug. Katsys had her hand over Chrys’s eyes, but she was still peeking around it with curiosity. “Any ideas? I’m not really keen on this torture stuff.”
Not to mention that the men were starting to hurt themselves from all the flailing. I could see some splatters of blood where their heads had banged on the roof too much. I didn’t want Katsys to heal them just yet, so I fished around my Item Box for a disposable healing item that had a low effect which I didn’t care about.
“Ah! I forgot about that!”
There was a jar of medicinal herb curry that I had tossed in there quite a while back. It had been sitting in a magic fridge for quite some time, pretty much forgotten until now. Opening it, I hesitantly gave it a whiff, before deciding that it hadn’t spoiled yet. This would do.
I dug out a spoonful and shoved it into the nearest wailing mouth. As his mouth wrapped around the disgusting mixture, he suddenly froze. Throwing his head to the side, he let out a sickening gurgle before emptying the contents of his stomach.
I jumped back. “If only there were rainbows to cover that for the kids behind me.” I shook my head at his violent reaction. “I can’t say that I’m proud to have made that.” It was, indeed, the curry that I had made when I tried to blend herbal remedies into food.
As I approached him again, he suddenly pulled back in fear. “WHAT DEMONIC CONCOCTION IS THAT?! GET IT AWAY! First, you blind me?! Then, you force your wicked potions down my throat! I REFUSE TO BE TURNED!”
I think he was getting the wrong idea, but I had forgotten that he couldn’t see anything that I was doing in the first place. I had an idea. A smile crept onto my face.
“Oh really? If you don’t want to become a demon yourself, then you better tell us who is responsible for this.” I waved my curry-filled spoon over his lips, teasing them with its horridness.
Despite the bravado from before, the prospect of having to taste it again made his lips quiver.
“T-THE THUNDER PHOENIX CLAN! We shall rid you demons from this country and save our beloved Lady Kaguya!”
“See… that wasn’t so hard, now was it?”
I grabbed a jug of milk from my Item Box and held his head down as I poured it over his eyes. Of course, he had no way of knowing that I was doing this to help flush the spiciness from his eyes, so he resisted with all his might.
I poked him in the neck, ending his frantic screams that shook my ears. With a low grunt, he collapsed limply to the ground. The other two men shivered in fear as to what I was about to do to them, as they were just as blind to my ‘demonic torture.’
With the three men unconscious, I poured some curry into their mouths, so that they would eventually recover. Katsys’s magic was too good for them. Part of me was a bit spiteful at the fact that they had regarded my failed cooking as a ‘demonic concoction.’
‘I still have my pride as a chef, you know.’
I turned back to the girls, who had blank expressions plastered on their faces.
“Claude, I think I’ve seen a new side of you today, and I don’t know how to react.” Katsys was the first to break the silence.
“Master, scary. Won’t say bad things about Master’s cooking ever again.” Though Ludmila typically had a stoic expression, there were obvious signs of nervousness as her body jittered.
Chrys had covered her eyes on her own this time, a stark difference from her previous look of interest.
“Oh, come on! I wasn’t being that evil! And rather, we probably should head back to the castle! I have a feeling that this isn’t just some lone ambush!”
Our fears were proven true as the castle came into view. The guards were littered about, having been knocked unconscious. It looked like an army had torn through here.
I activated my skill and looked around, seeing no signs of excess mana flying around the area. The one disadvantage that my skill had compared to those that went through the proper mana training was that I couldn’t sense the mana flow of others very well unless I had it active. That meant that I couldn’t detect when attacks occurred from a distance compared to proper warriors. To obtain that, years of training was needed. For that reason, we had been unable to sense that the castle had been attacked.
Ludmila and Chrys, however, could feel something was wrong in the air once we got closer. Ludmila had gone through training with Karina since she joined us, and Chrys was likely more attuned to the feel of mana due to her background.
“Something feels scary over there.” Chrys pointed to the direction of the courtyard.
We quickly rushed over there to find Neiya and Kanade treating a wounded Lau.
“What happened?!” I blurted out, seeing him in the worst shape ever. I didn’t think anything would be able to damage the old man.
“Grr… damn practitioner of the Flowing Water Fist. That’s the one style that counters my parrying ability so effectively. That damned Zhao even got the Zura family on board with his schemes.”
Though I wanted to ask him what he meant, he brushed me off for the moment.
“Now’s not the time. While we were held up here, others stormed inside. The leaders of the Thunder Phoenix Clan took part in the assault. Go!”
A quick look around told us that we were the only ones in any condition to continue, so we followed the trail of broken doors and unconscious bodies propped against the walls. Katsys had occasionally checked the guards that appeared to be the most injured, but it seemed like they weren’t in any immediate danger.
Finally, we arrived at the audience chamber, where the doors had also been torn asunder. Other than the remainder of the castle guards strewn about the entryway, there was a crackling mass of energy churning in the middle of the room. Running up to it, one of the Sunny boys was trapped inside, feeling the effects of electricity biting him every second. He screamed out in pain every time a bolt struck him.
“A Thunder Dome? What is a magic tool doing here?” Katsys commented, having discovered the lack of such things in Sanshiro. Likely, it was obtained from another country.
I looked around and spied a box along the edge of the electrical dome that surrounded him. I was about to reach out to stab it when Katsys held me back.
“Don’t touch it. The electric cage itself is designed to be much stronger than the shocks that he is getting in the middle. We have to find some way to negate the mana flow… maybe I can coat it with ice, but I’d have to be accurate, or it may bring the dome down onto him. Still… to find such a thing here…”
Sure enough, the magic tool had created a cage of electricity that was only hitting him with minimal shocks. Judging by the painful responses that he was giving from this magic-based attack, it must have been Wen Zhi that was trapped in there. With his very low magic defense, it would be dangerous for him to take a direct hit from the cage itself.
“Is there any way to shut it off right away?” I asked the resident genius.
“Yes… but you’d have to literally destroy the magic core in one swift strike, before the lightning has a chance to shock you….”
I looked carefully at the magic tool. A lone gem shone above it, the mana coming from it highlighted by my enhanced vision. Around the box were engravings that controlled the type of magic that it output. If I missed and hit that, then who knew how the spell would change. Watching as the mana flowed out of the core and swirled around in the cage-like structure, my eyes picked up where the weakest point was.
As with mana-generated shields, there was always a weak point of flow where cutting it would hinder mana control to the point that it crumbled. But what about magical spells from tools?
Before Katsys could stop me, I swung my knife towards that flow and sunk it into the electrical cage. Time crept by as the little sparks extended towards me, but quickly died off as mana stopped being supplied to them. I barely felt a few pricks of exhausted current sting against my body as my knife cleaved downward, right through the middle of the magic core. In an instant, the cage of electricity shut off, leaving a slightly smoking, but very agitated Wen Zhi hunched over.
“Yo, are you okay, Wen Zhi? Where’s your brother? Where’s Lady Kaguya?” I propped him up on one side as Katsys did the same on the other.
“Damn them! Damn them all! They took them! They beat up my brother until Lady Kaguya agreed to go with them! All this TIME! I WAS STUCK IN THIS DAMNED CAGE!” His voice grew more and more fierce as he recovered from his entrapment.
We tried to get him to calm down so that we could understand what had just happened. Still furious at the entire situation, he broke away from the two of us and bent down, slamming the ground with his fist.
“Those bastards are going to invoke the Electi purification ceremony. Simply because they think that Lady Kaguya has been tainted by us. They are determined to cleanse the purple aura from her body, regardless of what she believes.”
I bent over to look at Wen Zhi’s face. It was the face of a man that looked like he was about to lose his entire world. I had no words that could be said to bring comfort to an expression like that. As if sensing that, Wen Zhi looked at me straight in the eyes.
“Do you know what that means? That means that they are gonna kill my brother and me, and then, those bastards are going to have their way with her until all traces of our ‘mana’ are flushed from her body.”