~ KAY ~
If you wish to join the discord server, here is a link.
For Original Stories and early chapter access, join my patreon.
It was finally the night of the ball, and both the girls had regained their strength. It seemed that there were also some discomfort remaining, but they’ve been recovering almost frantically so they could attend the ball.
A young knight who’d masquerade as Black Mask Shaft had arrived from the Fort City of Barga. We asked him to accompany Laptiricia-sama as an escort in my stead. As for how things would work, Laptiricia-sama, Ashley and the escort knight would board the same carriage. The knight when would wear a black mask, one prepared in advance by Volker. Because the information about me was scarce, if someone who wore a black mask attended the ball, they’d just believe it must be the ‘Black Mask’. Of course, the plan was just to convince people I was there.
Meanwhile, Vi and I, one of Duke Barga’s personal guard, were to go to Marquis Fedorov’s residence. We were to find evidence of his involvement with the assassination attempts on Laptiricia-sama and to destroy the residence afterward. The reason why we needed to do so was to secure Laptiricia-sama’s future – to send a message to everyone else.
As for right now, I looked over the two carriages as they left with the residence for the Royal Palace.
“Are you ready, Black Mask Shaft?”
A reflection appeared on the window I was looking out. It was of a woman in black leather armor, whose face hid behind a veil and mask. A clear, low pitched voice heralded her appearance.
“Was that some kind of magic? Or, is it a skill?”
“Why do you want to know? Ah! Don’t tell me, you are not satisfied with Ashley Zephanell, so you’re trying to woo me instead?! Nothing less from the infamous ‘Black Prince’. Tired of the capital ladies, that black dagger of yours is now poised to strike at the Zephanell young lady and me. But what a shame. This Vi, other than Frank-sama, can hope to reach the depths of my heart. It was, but a wistful thought on your part—”
“What is it?”
This woman… Since I couldn’t see her expression, I just assumed that she had the cliche blank expression of a masked character. But now she was totally different from the first time we met in the office.
“You were here to tell me that it’s time for us to leave, aren’t you?”
“Indeed, we will leave in an hour. Before that, I need to check in advance, how many people are you going to kill once we’re in Fedorov’s residence?”
“Why ask? We’ll only kill anyone that gets in our way. No need to kill recklessly.”
“Such a sweet guy – Ah?! Did I just see a gentle side of the infamous ‘atrocious Black Mask Shaft’? Is it a strategy to win my heart?! It’s got to be why the ladies in the capitol feel attracted to you. But what a pity, this m—”
“What is it?”
“No, nevermind. In an hour, is it?”
Vi’s personality was too unexpected, I found it hard to stay around her So, I decided to walk down the hall, exploring the mansion to kill some time. The preparations on my part were already finished some time ago after all.
An hour later, the sun had set, enveloping the outside world in darkness. I returned back to where I’d been before, but VI was no longer there. Fine — I activated my mask’s FLIR mode and looked around.
No blips were shown on the map, but I could see a heat signature coming from the corner of the corridor. A heat source in the shape of a person walked towards me. When I switched off the FLIR, I saw that there wasn’t anyone there. I see. It’s some sort of technique that cloaks your body from sight and silences your movements. However, the technique couldn’t hide her heat signature.
“Is that ‘Shadow Run’?”
It might look like I was talking to an empty corridor.
“How surprising. You can see me?”
Along with her voice, Vi instantly appeared in the corridor.
“If I don’t have any measure against that, someone would’ve killed me in my sleep before I noticed.”
So, it’s a skill after all… Next time, I should use the FLIR Mode to check my surroundings more often.
“Then, let’s head out. We’ll ride a carriage halfway and continue the rest on foot. Don’t tell me the famous ‘Black Mask Shaft’ can’t keep up with me…”
“No need to worry about that.”
Fedorov’s residence consisted of five square buildings. Four were placed in each cardinal direction and connected to the fifth building at the center. Vi and I observed the residence from behind the tree on the outer part of the courtyard.
“Which point are we going to enter through?”
“The second floor on the left is the servants’ sleeping quarters. We’ll enter from there.”
We ran along with the trees then crossed the courtyard to a wall. Vi then took out a hook from a pouch on her waist, threw it, and snagged it on the roof’s chimney. She made sure it was sound before she went up first… But stopped halfway up.
She looked down at me and uttered,
“If you think you’d see my panties from there dream on, you perv.”
I responded by doing a wall run to scale the wall, overtaking Vi before stopping by grabbing onto a windowsill on the second floor.
“Stop talking nonsense, hurry up.”
Vi used her tools to pick the window’s lock and we went in. The room we entered seemed to be a servant’s room. When I stepped inside, the system had already mapped the entire building for me. I could see dots moving on the map. Most likely the remaining guards and servants.
“First, the Marquis’s room, or the office?”
“According to the advance reconnaissance, both rooms should be on the second floor of the central building. Let’s head there first.”
Exiting the servant quarters, Vi immediately disappeared from sight with Shadow Run, upon stepping into the hallway. Wasn’t this a bit tricky? If there was an ability to erase yourself from vision and hearing, is there also not a skill to detect the user? Ah… Maybe with Magic Detection…? But then, there might be a skill that allows assassins to hide their magic signature. The more I thought about it, the scarier it became if one could mix and match skills.
While I thought that, I moved towards the central building. I paid close attention to the movements of the blips on the map. I also occasionally turned the FLIR mode so as not to lose track of VI, or to check where someone else was using a similar skill around. Perhaps because the master of the residence was absent, the servants rarely moved. The sun had already set, so there probably wasn’t much for them to do.
There were also barely any guards on the second floor. The footsteps I could hear all came from the first floor. What was wrong with the second floor? I quickly tried to catch up with VI as I let that thought sink in. Looking at the map, I had a good grasp of where Vi was heading.
“Vi, go ahead. I’ll handle the other task.”
I called out to her once I was sure no one else would hear me.
“Demolishing the mansion? Do you know where I’m going?”
“That won’t be a problem.”
“Very well. I’ll go first then.”
Vi reappeared as she replied, then disappeared as if her body was blending in with the surrounding once we finished talking. Again, I looked on with jealousy at how convenient the skill was. Seeing how little time it took to activate it, it must’ve been a rare one.
Once I confirmed that Vi had really gone with FLIR, I went back down the hall and planted C4 charges in hidden locations. Done with the central building, I headed back to the office where I thought Vi would’ve gone to. The map showed that there wasn’t anyone in the office. I quietly opened the door and peeked inside. There really wasn’t anyone inside, until I turned on FLIR mode and saw Vi standing inside the corner behind the door.
“So you’re there.”
“So you can still see me? It’s like your eyes can see through everything. Ah? Could it be some sort of rare skill? You must’ve been using it to see through my armor, checking what underwear I’ve been wearing, or maybe beyond that, right! Kuh~ What a deplorable skill. But, what a shame. Even if you can see my naked body, this body is —”
“What is it?”
“Well, do you feel off if you don’t do that every time?”
“What do you mean?”
“… Nevermind. So what did you find?”
I looked over the office. I could tell Vi had been checking the desk and the bookshelf. I didn’t know what kind of man the Marquis was, but I doubted he’d leave behind incriminating evidence like the assassination request, the Mage Masher, or the Air Mask in plain sight.
“Nothing for now. There must be a hidden room or a magical safe somewhere.”
“I see. Then how about checking behind that painting?”
How did I know? I knew because the map showed there was a cavity in the wall. Obviously built to create a space for a safe.
Vi promptly took down the painting of a beautiful forested stream from the wall, only to find an empty wall. She suddenly turned around to me for a second before returning to the wall. I caught a glimpse of her grin for the first time as her veil swept aside for a moment.
When Vi’s right hand glowed white as he touched the wall, I immediately knew that magic was involved here. The white glow struck and spread through the wall, causing some part to flicker before it disappeared. When it did, it revealed a small space filled with a metal box. That’s got to be the safe.
“Can you open it?”
Vi sent forth her magic once again as she turned the dial. This would be the first time for me seeing a vault belonging to a mage. Let alone the combination, it was impossible without magical powers. Not to mention that the disguise on the wall needed to be undone with magic as well. Someone like me, without magic, I couldn’t help but think about cracking those security measures.
I heard a metallic click from the safe. Apparently, Vi managed to crack the combination. Inside the safe were several documents, as well as a transparent bottle containing leaves similar to tea leaves, and an air mask.
“You got it? Is what inside the bottle Mage Masher?”
I asked Vi after looking at the safe’s contents. But she didn’t respond to me. She was busy reading a piece of paper instead.
“Vi, is that?”
“It’s a written contract with the dark guild. However, it’s in an encrypted form and thus, I can’t confirm the content yet. What’s inside the bottle should be the mage masher.”
“Can you show me the ciphertext?”
“Can you decipher it?”
I was curious about how the cipher in this world looked like since I’ve never seen one. But once my eyes saw the string of picture-like letters, the automatic translation function one of VMB’s communication features, suddenly activated.