Chapter 8 – Midnight Meeting
Inside the Earl’s office, the high priest was looking over some documents while waiting for his subordinates to gather. He appeared calm, but his impatient tapping on the desk couldn’t hide his unease. Nothing had happened as planned today and Kan Yune was feeling overwhelmed. Twelve heroes. There had been no record of such situation in all the history of mankind. Was this a blessing or a foreshadowing of disaster? Twelve pawns. This mission was extremely important, and he couldn’t afford any mishap, yet he had been feeling at a loss all day. He didn’t expect to run into this kind of people. No matter what, I must turn this mission into a success, the high priest sighed deeply.
The midnight bell resounded through the cloudy night as twelve people gathered in front of the high priest. He had personally picked them and assigned them to each of the heroes – a last minute decision.
“Begin,” he simply stated as the tapping increased.
“Number 1 is in charge of Dorian-sama,” a curvy, petite maid stepped forward, knelt and started her report. “Dorian-sama seems domineering and hungry for power. He takes great pride in his position as a hero and sees himself as the leader of the group. He might appear short-tempered and crude, but he’s secretly on his guard. He tried to discreetly gain information through sex.”
“Oh,” Kan Yune said in slight surprise.
“This still needs to be verified, but I believe that he would be willing to cooperate as long as there was enough compensation. However, he won’t easily accept being ordered around,” number 1 finished her report.
“He’s fated to be a dog,” Kan Yune harrumphed. “A dog is supposed to listen to his master. I will let him run around freely for now. Number 2.”
“Number 2 is in charge of Nora-sama,” a tall, attractive, and athletic man stepped forward. “Nora-sama is domineering and overly arrogant. Her personality is quite fiery and unreasonable, she won’t be controlled easily. She seems to be quite simple and needs other people to constantly praise her for her beauty to boost her ego. Her profound dislike towards Ran-sama had already created conflict with Rikku-sama and Parvian-sama. This subordinate believes she has to be kept in a tight lease soon.”
“Let her be. The higher she puts herself in, the easier it would be for us to tie her up. Next,” Kan Yune said with slightly knitted brows.
The number of people reporting went one after the other, with reports focused more on each hero’s personality as they had observed. Their accounts about the heroes could be summed up to three things – arrogant, domineering, and hungry for fame and glory. It also came as a surprise that no hero seemed to have missed their former life and self. Not only did they not show any sign of confusion on being transported to another world, they even seemed thrilled and looking forward to a life of slaughter.
“Does anyone know why?” The high priest asked.
“Dorian-sama mentioned that it was in their popular literature. Something about it being a trope. I didn’t really understand what it meant, but it seemed like most of them knew how to deal with this type of situation,” answered Number 1.
“They knew how to deal with this kind of situation. Do you mean they suspected…,” his voice died as he was lost in his thoughts.
“I don’t think it’s what they meant,” Number 6 declared. “From what Kirito-sama said, stories about people being summoned into other worlds were popular where he came from. Most of these stories, he said, talked about heroes’ journeys, battles, companionship, and personal growth. They also mentioned how heroes could change the world where they were transported in using the knowledge of their former world. These stories appealed to the youth because of the magic that came along with fame, glory, and whatnot. After all, their own world didn’t have magic.”
“So they were looking forward to work for us?” Kan Yune was astonished for a minute before letting out a loud laugh. “Good! Good! The greedier the better!”
He had been worried about how best manipulate this group. If these “heroes” were looking forward to this, then it would make things easier for them.
“Rikku-sama concerns me. He is cautious and distant,” Number 11 stepped forward to report. “It was obvious that he was monitoring me and didn’t trust anything or anyone. He wouldn’t be easy to fool nor manipulate. However, he may have a weak point,” Number 11 turned toward Number 12. “He seemed to go to great lengths for Ran-sama. He even antagonised Nora-sama for her.”
“What do you think?” Kan Yune asked Number 12.
“I agree with Number 11, Rikku-sama could be a wild and dangerous factor. Concerning Ran-sama…,” everyone could clearly hear the sarcasm when Belle said -sama. “She appeared cowardly and was resistant to the idea of being a hero. She traced a clear line between her and the others and would more likely refuse the status of a hero.”
“About her magic?” Kan Yune asked.
“She hadn’t experimented at all and didn’t seem too interested in her power. She had inquired about how to open her item box and seemed unfamiliar with the term. The difference in her attitude could mean that she wasn’t familiar with this popular hero culture.”
“Could she be acting?” asked Dorian’s maid.
“I have doubts. During the altercation with Nora-sama, her magic fluctuations were weak even under stress and powerful emotions. It’s either she had great control or she didn’t have much power. Moreover, her mana backlash tonight wasn’t that much either which only meant that her magic was insufficient.”
“Mana backlash works differently depending on people. Still…,” Kan Yune thought out loud. “Continue to monitor her closely, and try to have her talk about her abilities.”
Belle politely nodded before returning to her place.
“They should all be down with fever most of the day tomorrow,” Kan Yune resumed his charge in the conversation. “We will leave the city in two days as scheduled. If they want to go outside and sightsee, give them a magic bag with some money. Remind them to stay low-key. We don’t want words about heroes being summoned to spread. Have them talk about their skills and try to get as much information as possible. Don’t let them run wild. Is everything prepared for the trip?” finally inquired the high priest.
“Everything had been settled. The sheep were in place and should encounter the convoy exactly at mid-journey. Should the heroes be warned?” answered number 2.
“Make sure they understand that this setup was made to ward off bandits and beasts who often target convoys like ours. Tell them to be prepared to shed blood. We’ll soon see who are ready and who are useless,” Kan Yune paused and glanced at Belle, “It’s going to be a long trip. If anyone was indeed a useless dog, then they won’t be given the chance to reach the Capital.”
“This subordinate understands,” replied Belle with a broad smile. The thought of getting rid of Ran appeared tempting.
In the depths of the night, while most souls were asleep and the moon was hidden, a shadow flickered along the castle’s corridors, its ethereal form flashing here and there. Under the cover of the night, a shadow was on a mission to uncover secrets.