52. Mutual Deception

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“――Did I do it?”

A chill ran down my back as I muttered that without thinking.

I throw myself into the air by instinct and use [Psychokinesis] to aid me in somersaulting forward.

When I check with [Discern] whilst in midair, I saw a knife pass through the place I had been in just before.

After I landed, I spin around in the direction that the knife had come flying from.

There I saw Gazaine’s figure leaning with his back against a pillar and his arms folded.

“Tch. Good instincts.”

Gazaine clicks his tongue.
I flick my gaze at the other “Gazaine” that had smashed into the wall while burning a moment ago; the only thing there was the chapel’s wall.

“――[Illusion Magic], huh.”

I muttered without thinking.
I made a bit of a mistake, but Gazaine spoke without noticing it.

“That’s right.
It’s a pity I missed just now, but your trump card… you’ve shown me the basics of it already, you know?”

Gazaine said with a grin.

“Damn…”

As I drew back, my face revealed my frustration.

“Is that the end of your tricks?
In that case, I’ll come at you seriously now.”

With those words, Gazaine’s body divides.
Gazaine, who had increased his numbers to 3, attacks me from the front and sides with staggered timing.

Damn… Which one’s the real one!?

However, that thought itself was the trap.

None of the three bodies were real. While I was confused, the real Gazaine thrust a sharp knife at my unprotected back whilst clad in darkness!

But―

“What!?”

The one who cried out in surprise was Gazaine.

And that’s how it should be, as Gazaine had stabbed nothing but empty space. I was unharmed.

“――《Grand Dasher》!”

The floor beneath my feet imploded with my chant as I ran towards Gazaine and attack him.

Even this, which should have caught Gazaine completely by surprise, was evaded by him.

That said, this was also within my calculations.

From inside the sediment that I had unearthed with my 《Grand Dasher》, I used [Psychokinesis] to grab the two swords that I had buried beforehand. I then used [Flying Sword Techniques]――No, I used the [Flying Swordsmanship] I recently acquired to send these two whirling blades at Gazaine.

“Whoa!?”

Gazaine repelled one of the blades with the dagger in his hand, but the other one shallowly grazed his side.
My first effective strike.

I attack him a second time with the flying swords while using [Steel Thread Techniques] to seal off Gazaine’s path of retreat.
However, Gazaine averts the [Lightning Magic]-imbued steel thread with the leather part of his gauntlet and makes a huge backward somersault to create some distance between us.
I try throwing a separation barrier fragment at him with [Throwing Techniques], but this was easily evaded.

――Like this, we’re back to square one.

“Heh… You’re not bad…
I see, so your ‘clone’ was…. made with [Light Magic].”

Gazaine said, making a brazen smile.

Right. When Gazaine initially used his [Illusion Magic] clones as a decoy to attack me from behind, what his blade pierced was a mirage I had produced with [Light Spirit Magic].
Having learned that most of this world does not know about the properties of light from the exchange with Grandpa Ganash, I created a spell (mirage) that bent light to produce a false image.

By the way, I had intuitively realised that all three were fakes the moment he showed me the three clones.
However, I purposely pretended to follow Gazaine’s plan to draw him in, thinking of settling it with the combination of 《Mirage》, 《Grand Dasher》 , and [Flying Swordsmanship], but Gazaine simply bit a hole in my trap.

With this exchange, two of the trump cards I prepared have now been used.
The shallow wound in his side being the only thing I got out of it was painful.

Damn… He exceeded my expectations.
His deceptive fighting with [Illusion Magic] also did so, but the most dangerous part was his [Sense Danger].
No matter how excellent Gazaine’s physical abilities were, he wouldn’t have been able to dodge all of my surprise attacks so far without [Sense Danger].

“Geez, how many tricks do you have….
You jack-in-the-box bastard.”

Gazaine’s eyes were laughing as he said that.

――This is it.

Contrary to when he is acting as leader, Gazaine’s eyes really light up like a kid when fighting.
Even though he’s said to always be nefarious, my feelings of hatred end up fading away when I see these eyes of his.

Geez, I can’t bear to do away with this charming villain

“Ahh… It’s regrettable to have to kill――you!”

The moment I heard ‘you!’ come from behind me, the Gazaine standing in front of me disappeared.

――[Illusion Magic]!

I had already been caught within Gazaine’s deadly range.
[Discern] told me that the back――was not where the attack was coming from, but instead the front.
So even the “You!” I heard from behind was an illusion.
I had already started turning, but I forcefully knock myself backwards with [Psychokinesis] to try to escape from Gazaine’s attack range, but his attack was him thrusting with the dagger――as an illusion, within which needles were hidden.

However, the needles merely shot through the mirage of me only shifting half of my body which I had created beforehand with a chantless 《Mirage》.

But Gazaine had simply made allowances for that, sending out daggers, kicks, hand chops, throwing needles, and the steel thread stored in his gauntlet at me at a hectic speed.

Furthermore, he coordinated that with his [Illusion Magic].
I naturally had no time to use [Appraisal], so I had no choice but to use [Mana Detection] to perceive it somehow.

Caught in a violent rush that I couldn’t evade even with the near-counter stop [Discern], blood sprays out from all over my body.

“What’s the matter!
Are you weak at close combat, Orochi!”

“Yeah――I’m bad at it!”

I stop Gazaine’s stabbing with the light, handmade outerwear on my torso.

I sensed Gazaine’s surprise when I felt the tip of his dagger.
A high-levelled [Assassination Techniques] has the effect of penetrating an armour’s weak point.
This stab just now was an attack aiming at the weak point of my defense, intended to pierce through to my heart.

To stop that like I did was not possible with ordinary magic.

The scraps that comprised my outerwear firmly immobilised the tip of Gazaine’s blade, causing him to go stiff with surprise.

With this phenomenon that betrayed common sense halting Gazaine’s movements ――

“Namo (Θ π ξ λ)――”

Θ (condense) π (aqua) ξ (thunder) λ (wind).
I hit him with an electrified sphere of water configured according to those magic symbols――

“Amitabha (π ξ卜X π)――”

π (aqua) ξ (thunder) 卜(flame) X (mix) π (aqua).
Burned him with a fire bomb via electrified oil――

“Buddhaya (≡ λ Σ ∨ λ)!”

≡ (seismo) λ (wind) Σ (shock) ∨ (spread) λ (wind).
And a wind-attributed shockwave sent him flying.

I had started making these magic symbols as a joke, but I myself believed that the words “Namo Amitabha Buddhaya” seemed to possess a spell-like feeling and that it felt closer to a chant than anything else.
It didn’t factor in bringing about an image, but since it had the characteristic of being easy to enhance by imbuing mana and being invigorated, I practiced it over and over to use as my best trump card.

I use [Appraisal] on Gazaine who been electrified, roasted, and sent flying into the wall from a shockwave.

《Gazaine Muntzer. HP: 19/140, MP: 176/439 (39 + 400).》

This time, it wasn’t an illusion.

“――Oh Earth Spirits, bind my enemy.”

Finally, I affix all four of Gazaine’s limbs to the wall with [Earth Spirit Magic].

“――Gazaine, it’s your loss.”

“Damnit….”

With his limbs constrained by the earth bindings, Gazaine glares at me while cursing.

◇◆◇◆◇◆◇◆

What defended against Gazaine’s stab in that last exchange was――believe it or not, the [Dragon Scale Defence] skill.

I made my outerwear by using the Dimension Chisel and [Carving] to make a hole in the separation barrier fragments and tying them together with steel thread.
By searching for a protective method to liken this outerwear to the scales of a dragon, I succeeded in acquiring the [Dragon Scale Defence] that both of the firedrakes, parent and child, possessed.

This was not by chance.
“Releases all skill acquisition restrictions” was one of the effects of the 《Goddess of Virtue’s Blessing》 .
Because it was also a skill, I wondered if that meant I would be able to acquire it even if it was a dragon’s skill.
After I thought of that, I repeated this trial-and-error with Melby.

[Dragon Scale Defence] was a skill that catches attacks with sturdy scales, breaking and blocking an opponent’s weapon with the coordination of the scales working together, just like what happened with Gazaine earlier.

Dragons are able to move their scales with their muscles, whereas I had to move them with [Psychokinesis]; to be blunt, the usability was extremely bad.

Even so, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to outwit Gazaine unless I prepared a surprise at this level.

Presumably, the reason Gazaine couldn’t respond to [Dragon Scale Defence] was because his [Sense Danger] didn’t come into play.

[Sense Danger] was a skill to “be able to perceive every sign of danger as well things that could be related to danger.”
And in reality, he was so overly responsive to my attacks to the point where I was fed up.

However, I wondered if his sensing didn’t consider his own attack being defended against as a possibility of Gazaine falling into danger.

My [Dragon Scale Defence] skill was, in accordance with its name, a skill for defending, so that in itself can’t be considered “something related to danger” for Gazaine.

Despite the fact that I prepared so many tactical variations to face this fight with Gazaine, I had no idea how precise his [Sense Danger] skill would be.

And then I used up all of my trump cards before I finally managed to beat Gazaine.

No―― I had just one more card in my hand, but I didn’t really want to reveal it to the public, so I’m glad I could defeat him with the three consecutive sets of magic symbols after my [Dragon Scale Defence].

When I slowly approached, Gazaine launched a hidden needle at me as a final struggle, so I used [Psychokinesis] to catch it and throw it back.
Receiving the hidden needle in his shoulder, Gazaine gave a small moan.

“Now, let’s talk.”

“…About what?”

“About that guy.
You know, right?
About the baby who is like me.”

“You want me to speak honestly?”

“Fortunately, my father, Viscount Chrebl, is well-known in the military.
I have all sorts of methods to make even you confess.
It’s not like I’m someone who really sticks to duty.”

“Hmph… You’ll regret it if you don’t kill me here, you know?”

“To be honest, it being hard to kill you because I’ve gotten attached is true.
Not killing you right now, though, is because it’s unnecessary.
Are you already satisfied?
If you spit it out now, I won’t torture you on purpose.”

“Keh. How sweet.
So sweet you’re making me sick.
And――that naivety will be fatal.”

As he said that, I saw Gazaine signal with his eyes.
I followed his gaze and turned around by reflex.

At the end of that gaze, I saw a person appear from empty space.
That figure thrust the needle in his hand at the shoulder of a smaller figure standing in front.
He removed the hood covering the figure who was stabbed by the needle, and from inside spilled out short, silver hair.
It’s Elemia!

Elemia’s body shuddered, then she crumpled on the spot as though she had lost her strength.
The suddenly appearing figure thrust a knife at her nape.

That person was the middle-aged emissary with shifty eyes.

“Gazlow-san!”

The one who shouted seems to be Nebil.
I use [Appraisal] on Gazlow once more.

《Gazlow Outlaw (<Yatagarasu> Special Forces Leader | 《Gazlow the Ambuscader》)
44 years old

Level 39
HP 73/73
MP 24/24

Skills
• Legendary
[Ambush] 4 (extinguish your presence enough to prevent raising the attention of surrounding people)

• Master Class
[Espionage Techniques] 4
[Sense Presence] 2

• General
[Stealth Steps] 9 (MAX)
[Crossbow Techniques] 6
[Eavesdropping] 5
[Assassination Techniques] 5
[Steel Thread Techniques] 5
[Night Vision] 4
[Hook Techniques] 4
[Unarmed Combat] 4
[Command] 3
[Dagger Techniques] 3
[Knife Throwing] 2

It’s roughly the same result as the last time I saw a chance and used [Appraisal] on him.

I had carried out intelligence gathering on the one leading the Special Forces, Gazlow, beforehand.
Because [Ambush] was a skill that could be a threat, I especially checked it in detail with Nebil and Elemia who were affiliated with the Special Forces.
According to the two of them, Gazlow’s [Ambush] was indeed a skill that would make one’s presence harder to perceive than with [Espionage Techniques], but Elemia was able to grasp his presence with her [Sense Presence] and 《Blessing of the Dark Forest》.

That’s why this time, I asked Elemia to hide her presence with [Espionage Techniques] and keep a surveillance on Gazlow’s movements.

For Elemia to receive a surprise attack meant… it was likely that Gazlow had kept his true strength hidden from the Special Forces as well.

“Hey, don’t make any strange actions, Orochi.
Since it’s a jack-in-the-box like you, any trivial action might have something behind it.
If you move about even a little, I’ll consider her life gone.”

Gazlow says as he licks his lips.

“Gazlow-san! Come to your senses!
<Yatagarasu> is strange!
To listen to Master Gazaine’s orders and kill others under the pretext of being for Evil God Monguenues’ sake, that’s such a ridiculous story!
We are just being used by Master Gazaine!”

Gazlow observed Nebil shouting with cunning eyes, like a snake looking at a frog.

“Oh, oh… Nebil, you… Did you forget who saved you?”

“T-that…”

Nebil flinched, but continues.

“…is true. It can’t be helped that I have to be slandered as ungrateful.
Even so, I don’t intend to continue deceiving myself any longer!”

“Keh… Is that so.
Well, fine. I was the one who stuck you there in the first place.”

“Stuck me…?”

“What, didn’t you notice?
Back then, back there, I was using [Ambush] just like I did now, you see.
Then, I fired an arrow from within the mob of goblins――I was aiming at you, who was full of holes because of the panic caused by the goblins and such.”

So he’s referring to the time that he saved Nebil from the goblin mob that Nebil had previously mentioned to me.
I had thought it was suspicious, but… it really was as I thought.

“Wha…!”

“I had been taught so many methods of killing that I hated it, so it was rather difficult to shoot without killing you.
Since I needed to have you become an assassin much later, an injury that would leave after-effects would also be bad.
Well, there would be blunders if whoever was doing it wasn’t me, the great Gazlow.”

“Y…… You bastaaaaaaard!”

Nebil yelled with his face flushed, but he wasn’t as imprudent as to jump out there.

Breaking the silence that had befallen the chapel was a deep laugh.

The owner of the laughter was―― Gazaine.

“Too bad, Orochi.”

When I looked at Gazaine who I had crucified to the wall, I saw Gazaine laughing with a grin on his face.

“――Mmph.”

Gazaine bent his entire body in an arch, and teared off the dirt bindings that shackled him.
Carrying Elemia with one hand, Gazlow detoured around me to converge at where Gazaine was now standing free.

“――Orochi, you have no choice but to accept your defeat here.
You did well.
However, your endgame was poor.
If you want Elemia to be released, you will turn a blind eye to me.
Me, Gazlow, Letticia… Oh and every one of the Special Forces barring Nebil and Elemia, you will release us all.”

Letticia was the one whom Elemia referred to as the “Pastor”.

I cast my eyes down, unable to answer to Gazaine’s request.

“Silence, huh. Don’t disappoint me too much, okay?
Even though I thought I had finally found a replacement for Goleth… The fact that it turned out this way is a pity.”

“……”

“What’s the matter… Have you become scared at this stage?
Good grief, my eyes were clouded too.
You’re just a kid after a――”

“…Heh heh.”

“――ll… Ah?”

“The naïve one was you, Leader.”


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