Episode 119 – Search Plan Explained
They had prepared a complicated scenario, testing a wide variety of tracking techniques, containing twists and turns and false leads.
Yet…in the end…their examinee would just skip it all and solve the problem by brute force??
Didn’t they waste all that time and effort for nothing?!
The face of Thaddeus Iphis, the peacekeeper who had explained the mission to Elaru Wayvin earlier, stood frozen with his jaw stiff and his gray eyes unusually narrowed.
Next to him stood Zakaria Everlith, a short and thin middle-aged elibu, who looked as if a blow of the wind would be enough to snap her like a twig. She was usually the calm voice of reason, rarely showing much emotion in her milky green eyes. Yet now, her phlegmatic disposition cracked with a soft tremble of her lower lip. Even her long black braid seemed to slump.
The only examiner who didn’t have a constipated expression was Zerel Reysic, who chuckled in delight, his eyes narrowing into crescent moons due to his wide smile. “Well, well… a rather interesting method, wouldn’t you say so?”
No one responded to his question.
“Um… are you sure this will work? What if the bandits are concealing their presence?” Orie voiced her protest.
Elaru tsk-tsked as if Orie said something wrong. “Mages who can perfectly conceal their presence don’t grow on trees. If they were so capable, they wouldn’t need to resort to petty thievery.”
The redhead chuckled softly before continuing. “But for the sake of argument, let’s say that they are capable of doing so. Concealing their presence wouldn’t make them vanish. They would still be very much corporeal. Their movement would cause branches to shift, grass to be trampled on. I just need to find an area where I feel the foliage moving without any apparent reason.”
“The range of their concealment should cover their immediate vicinity. You wouldn’t be able to feel the branches or the grass until they walk past them.” Orie pointed out good-naturedly.
If the bandits wrapped their minds around themselves to cover up their aura, then it would also cover any mana that was inside that mind cocoon, including the foliage in their vicinity, making them invisible for mana sense.
Elaru’s eyes twinkled mischievously. “That might be the case, but wouldn’t it be even more noticeable if grass and branches started popping in and out of existence?”
If their mana concealment spread to foliage then as they walked foliage that entered their concealment would suddenly become invisible to mana sense, and foliage exiting the range of their concealment would suddenly become visible.
Orie opened and closed her mouth several times. In theory, Elaru’s method was possible, but in practice, whose mana sense would be sensitive enough to pick up such small anomalies in a large forest?
Orie wanted to argue but couldn’t quite find the right words to express her thoughts. She dreaded she would say something potentially insensitive or unkind.
After several seconds of indecisiveness, she settled on: “Will you be alright? Enhancing the precision of your mana sense to such a state must be very tiring.”
Elaru shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly. “It’s only for a short while. It won’t tire me out at all.”
“That’s good.” Orie didn’t persist on the topic further, deciding to pursue another train of thought. “To be able to find the movements of bandits in such a way, your abilities are worthy of admiration. However, what if the bandits are standing still?”
“Then they would be even easier to find.” Elaru declared confidently, her mouth curving into a small smirk.
If Orie had been an elibu, her ears would have surely drooped at the statement, however, since she wasn’t, the only thing that fell was her shoulders.
She displayed a helpless smile before motioning for Elaru to explain.
“If they had set up camp, then the area around them would be void of wildlife making it glaringly obvious. Creatures would vacate their vicinity and avoid coming close, while their concealment would hide the grass around them. All in all, it would create an obvious clearing. Not to mention that if they set camp, there would be equipment in the area – tents, sleeping bags, and who knows what else. It would be a lot of effort to conceal it all. And if they don’t conceal it, I will be able to feel the difference in mana density of their equipment and the air around it.”
“And if they are treading carefully? Flying invisible above the forest?” Even Orie was aware that she was grasping at straws here, but she still clung to hope.
Hope that crumbled as soon as Elaru’s playful smirk appeared. “If your bandits were capable enough to both turn invisible and conceal their presence perfectly, you guys wouldn’t have been able to catch any sign of them, let alone follow them to this forest. Why would such capable people bother robbing someone for mere 500 gold and even kidnapping their pet? Don’t tell me they were bored and decided to play a prank?”
Orie hung her head in shame, tucking another strand of her hair behind her ear. She couldn’t bring herself to say anything else. Even the examiners weren’t allowed to direct how the examinee tackled the problems presented in the practical exam.
In a thoughtful attempt of comforting her, Elaru landed back on the ground and patted Orie on the back: “Even if I don’t give it my all and fly at a leisurely pace, I’d be able to sweep this entire area within 5 minutes. If I don’t find any trace of them in that time, I can go back and try to track them down using another method. I’d lose only a bit more than 5 minutes of time. Considering that I don’t need 10 minutes of time to take care of a couple of bandits, I’d have plenty of time to go back and try another method of tracking.”
This attempt of comforting only made Orie feel worse about the whole matter. She, as one of the examiners, was very clear on the exact abilities of the bandits, and she already knew that there was no chance of Elaru going back and trying another method.
This brute force approach…would totally work.
Not just that, assuming that Elaru’s abilities corresponded to what she claimed them to be, this method was the simplest yet the most effective solution to the problem.
Not only would she be able to find the bandits with almost one hundred percent certainty, but it would also be in the record time of 5 minutes. Not to mention that it would save her a lot of effort in finding and interpreting the clues…
Orie finally gave up, she smiled helplessly and softly murmured: “Alright… please, lead the way…”
And thus, the strict peacekeeper and the thin black-haired woman also accepted the invertibility of the situation.
The short black-haired woman let out a soft, almost inaudible sigh. No wonder this girl gave Grisia so much trouble…
The gray-haired peacekeeper rubbed his chin in thought before nodding. “If her mana sense is truly so fate-defying, then she would be an excellent addition to the peacekeepers.”
He proceeded to take out a small, folded piece of paper from his pocket and unraveled it in front of him. He then took out a pen from the same pocket and scribbled down “Elaru Wayvin” on the list of names.
Trying to recruit a Shadow into the Peacekeepers? The black-haired female looked at the list from the corner of her eyes and couldn’t help but wish her colleague luck: “May the fates be in your favor.”
Startled by her encouragement, the gray-haired man looked at her suspiciously for a moment before murmuring. “Much appreciated.”
As the examiners agreed with her method of doing things, Elaru let out an internal breath of relief.
Most people in this situation would be worrying about how to find the bandits in such a short amount of time, Elaru on the other hand, was worried about how to come up with valid reasons as to why she could find them so easily.
Actually, back then when she was inspecting the map, she had already used her Aethernea of Sight to do a sweep of the designated area, and she was able to find the bandits right away.
However, she couldn’t just say “Let’s go that way.”, appearing to find them by dumb luck.
She could make a prediction of their position, for example, saying that bandits are likely to have settled down near the river. After all, tracking was an art of finding things that had much more to it than simply following tracks. A large part of tracking laid in fine detective work and deducing where things were.
However, in the current situation, all the deductions she could make would be flimsy, for she didn’t have enough information to make them. Even if she found the bandits following such unconvincing guesswork, the examiners wouldn’t be impressed and would deduct her exam points.
After abandoning the idea of predicting their position, she tried to actually follow their tracks. She took a quick look at the tracks leaving the clearing, but they were going north towards a crossroads, at which point it was difficult to say in which direction the bandits went because it was filled with many tracks leaving in different directions. Even though she knew the position of the bandits, finding how they got there would be troublesome.
She would need to do a much deeper inspection to find the path the bandits took.
She would need to gather clues, distinguish the different tracks, and use all her knowledge of tracking.
In other words, she would uselessly waste much time and effort.
And what kind of person would willingly waste so much time and effort to find that which wasn’t unknown? Especially if it went contrary to her goal of showing off her ‘mana sense’.
And thus, Elaru fell into a difficult predicament. She had to come up with a brilliant plan that would allow her to ‘find’ the bandits.
In the end, she decided to just…use math.
She narrowed down the search area and created a seemingly random sweep path that covered the entire region, but was actually drawn to go towards the bandits first, making it so that Elaru wouldn’t actually need to sweep the whole region.
As she turned her back at Orie, she took the opportunity to quickly wipe off cold sweat from her forehead and let out a silent sigh. Man, this exam is hard!
Two slim bodies flew through the sky with a speed of an arrow, not even leaving a multicolored blur behind. A beautiful redhead accelerated them onwards, hugging the brunette around the waist.
The only sound that could be heard other than the whooshing of the air as it hit their faces, was a soft rattling of objects inside Orie’s leather pouch hanging around her neck, that kept bouncing up and down, hitting her bosom.
The two seemed to have blended into their surroundings as the birds didn’t seem to notice them at all. The scene of the two beautiful females hugging, surrounded by the sea of green, might have been a picturesque scene if it weren’t for the pale face and the tightly shut eyes of the brunette.