Episode 118 – Search Plan
The man paused his speech, and his stern look lessened a bit. “Any questions?”
Elaru didn’t hesitate at all, immediately firing a respectful barrage of questions: “How many bandits are there?”
“A group of 4. However, it is possible that they had comrades waiting for them in the forest so there might be more of them.”
“Two argel, two elibu.”
“Who is the hostage?”
As Elaru asked this peculiar question, the stern man in front of her suddenly looked…awkward?
Finally, he coughed and replied in a sour tone: “Mr. Whiskers…”
Elaru’s barrage of questions suddenly died in her throat, her business expression replaced by an incredulous look.
Several seconds of silence had passed before she continued, this time in an equally awkward tone: “What does he look like?”
The man steeled his expression as he replied. “Thin, one-meter long body, brown striped fur…”
However, even though he tried his best to be completely professional in his demeanor, his voice, that cracked and faded out, gave him away.
This time, the speechless silence lasted for five seconds straight.
Elaru knew that there was no robbery – this robbery was just a made-up scenario. Examiners probably created a randomized terrain and hired several Quest Seekers to play the role of bandits.
But even though Elaru knew this wasn’t real, her mind couldn’t help but imagine a band of idiots rummaging through a house of a rich old lady. Somewhere in the middle of their heist, one of the morons would come up with an idea to kidnap the old lady’s pet and ask for ransom. Or perhaps, they would decide to take Mr. Whiskers as a hostage to ensure that they would be able to escape from the Peacekeepers pursuing them.
Either way, no matter how she tried picturing four badass bandits, the whole situation kept turning comical inside her head.
It took Elaru considerable effort to prevent a fit of giggles threatening to erupt from her throat.
“A pet lunar?” Elaru’s voice jumped an octave and cracked at the end of her guess.
“No, a shéfur…” The man grunted.
Elaru stepped back involuntarily with wide eyes, nearly blurting out: “But shéfurs don’t have whiskers…!”
However, seeing the constipated yet steely expression of the man, she figured that it would be better to just change the subject.
“Do you have the map of the valley? Any clues on which area the perpetrators might be in?”
Relieved that the discussion was moving away from the awkward topic, the man’s expression eased up briefly before resuming his strict businesslike demeanor once again.
“Your partner will explain the rest.” The man looked over Elaru’s shoulder and signaled a person over.
Elaru had noticed that the man in front of her wasn’t the only other person present, however, she didn’t have time to look around before the man started acting out his role. Thus, only when this person came forward to stand next to the man, was Elaru able to take her appearance in.
She was an argel that looked young enough to be a university student herself. She wore a ranger uniform made out of olive green cotton and brown leather that traded beauty for practicality. Still, even though her uniform lessened the visibility of her curves, it couldn’t cover up her charm.
Her facial features were warm and gentle, especially her earnest honey colored eyes. Her chestnut brown hair striped with various shades of blonde and brown was braided messily into several knots behind her head and then released into waves.
As Elaru’s gaze scanned over the female, another face popped up inside her head. The aura of this female reminded her of the professor they had run into when Kiel was signing up for the exam. Ahon Tonrai, was it? Were they perhaps cousins or siblings?
Sure enough, the next sentence of the gray-haired man confirmed her guess: “This is Orie Tonrai. She is the gamekeeper of this mountain range. She knows the terrain well, and will help you in your search.”
Orie bowed politely, her soft pink lips spread in a sincere smile. “Just call me Orie. I’m glad to be of service.” She spoke up with a voice just as warm and pleasant as her aura.
“Elaru Wayvin, nice to meet you.” Elaru mirrored Orie with her own bright smile.
The stern look in the man’s gray eyes eased up as he asked: “Any further questions?”
After pondering briefly, Elaru shook her head: “No. That’s all.”
“In that case, you may begin. You’ve got 25 minutes to complete the mission.” The man curtly nodded and then briskly walked away.
“Orie, do you have a map?” Elaru didn’t even wait for the peacekeeper man to leave earshot before continuing her investigation.
“Yes.” Orie nodded and reached into the leather messenger bag resting on her hip. She pulled out a rolled-up parchment and handed it to Elaru.
Elaru tapped her boot onto the floor, making a stump of earth shoot upwards reaching her chest. She spread the parchment on top of the stump and leaned over it.
As seen on the map, the forest started at the south, at Elaru’s current position, and spread far to the north, bordered on the east and west by two parallel mountain ranges.
The map depicted paths, the river going through the forest, as well as several clearings and landmarks. East parts of the forest were marked as the potential hiding spot of the bandits.
“Can I write over the map?” Elaru inquired, flashing a soft smile at Orie.
By her friendly actions, one would certainly not be able to tell that her question was only perfunctory. She was expecting a yes. After all, everything inside this world including the map was only a replica, it wouldn’t matter even if she burned it into ashes. The only reason why she had bothered to ask was because the action of scribbling over someone else’s possession without permission would be quite rude.
Sure enough, Orie nodded right away, returning the smile. “Go ahead.”
Not only did she agree, she even pulled out an unsharpened pencil out of her pocket and offered it to Elaru.
Elaru took it with a grateful smile, paying no attention to the fact that it needed sharpening. However, she didn’t start writing with it right away. Instead, she started twirling it between her fingers, musing more to herself than to Orie.
“Once we locate the perpetrators, we should have at least 10 minutes of time to take care of them. That leaves 15 minutes of search time.”
Orie blinked her eyelashes, standing silently to the side with a pondering look on her face.
Elaru looked up from the map once again to stare at the gamekeeper. “Orie, what kind of assistance are you able to provide during the mission? Can you help me fly or accelerate?”
When Elaru realized she would be having a partner in this exam, the first question that entered her mind was: “why?”
What was the role of her partner in this exam? Was Orie Tonrai just a facilitator of the exam, or was she one of the examiners tasked with supervising her?
Would this partner be helpful in some way or was she a liability? Is she here only to convey information or will she be able to participate in more than that? Did the exam also test some kind of teamwork?
Once the perpetrators are located, will this partner join in on the fight or will Elaru be required to protect her?
“Ah… sorry… I am not allowed to help you with magic.” Orie bowed her head apologetically. “Also, I don’t really know how to subdue criminals with or without magic, so the most help I can give you, once you find the perpetrators, is to send a signal flare.”
“I see.” Elaru waved her apology away. “I thought that might be the case.”
“But…I can help you find the quickest path to where you want to go and might be able to help you with tracking the bandits.” Orie’s head rose up, and a warm smile returned to her face. “I can also climb the trees and serve as a lookout if you’d like?”
Elaru nodded half-heartedly, her attention returning to the map.
She stared at the map for several seconds in silence, and then once again started contemplating under her breath: “Since I am an elibu and you aren’t allowed to help, it isn’t expected from me to be able to fly or accelerate. Which means that I am expected to cover the distance on foot.”
Elaru paused before continuing: “A highest average speed an A-ranked elibu peacekeeper can maintain for 15 minutes is 70 miles per hour. Considering that this is a forest and not a flat, empty field, the distance we can cover in an hour would be at most two-thirds of the distance we would be able to cover if running on flat ground. However, since we also need to track the bandits, the speed falls even further, being at most half of the original speed.”
Orie nodded slowly, not quite understanding where this monologue was going.
“Thus, the maximum distance that an elibu can cover in 15 minutes is 8.75 miles.” Elaru stopped twirling the pencil and drew a half circle with the radius of 8.75 miles around their current position on the map. The half circle went right through the middle of the marked area where bandits were supposed to be, splitting it in half.
“Since the examiners would not give a task impossible to complete, the perpetrators are within this area.” Elaru tapped the end of her pencil on top of the lower half of the marked area.
Elaru’s eyes flashed imperceptibly. Now was the perfect time to do what she came here to do – showcase the sensitivity and range of her mana sense.
“Now, the range of my mana sense is 1 mile.” Elaru lied. Papa told her that only wielders of Aethernea of Sight could go beyond the range of one mile, so the highest distance she could openly claim to be able to cover was one mile.
Elaru proceeded to draw a curved path from the left edge of the marked area to the right edge and then back again, creating a jagged zig-zagging path.
“If we follow this path, I will be able to cover this entire area with my mana sense, and thus will be able to pinpoint the location of the perpetrators.”
She measured the path with her gaze before declaring. “Now, the length of this path is around 20 miles, which means that I will need to travel at the speed of 80 miles per hour to cover it all within 15 minutes.”
Orie looked at Elaru strangely. “But you just said that the maximum speed an elibu can achieve is 70 miles per hour? And that speed was on the flat ground?”
“Correct.” Elaru smirked. “But, who says we can’t move on ‘flat ground’?”
Orie cocked her head to the side, her eyebrows furrowing softly. “You mean…?”
“Yes. We can travel by air.”
Although transmutation magic of elibu cannot be used to accelerate and fly, Morph could be used to increase the density of air particles and lock their position, forcing them to remain in a certain “shape”. This would, for all intents and purposes, turn the air solid, allowing the mage to walk on air.
Orie’s eyebrows furrowed even more. “But this method isn’t meant to be used for long range travel. Will you be alright?”
If it were used for long distance travel, the mage would have to constantly recast the spell which would both require a large amount of mana as well as being very mentally and physically draining.
Elaru blinked her long black eyelashes charmingly. “I think you misunderstood. I don’t intend to run on air.”
As if to prove her point, Elaru’s body started floating upwards, startling Orie.
“Why would I run when I can fly? The speed I can reach with Acceleration is a whole order of magnitude higher than my running speed.”
Orie gasped at floating Elaru, finally understanding the purpose of this whole talk. This examinee had access to pure mana! Instead of searching for tracks to find the bandits, Elaru intended to fly over the entire region sweeping it with her mana sense!