Episode 75 – Checkmate
Elaru smirked and sneaked her hand inside the pocket of Dusk Rose’s jacket. She pulled out a round badge with number 1385 on it. Dusk Rose’s entrance exam pass.
“I see, I see. So, you were just an innocent examinee in Kiel’s group…but wait…Kiel’s number is 5642. How is it that number 1385 and 5642 are in the same group?” Elaru Wayvin grinned widely.
Dusk’s innocent smile froze. Since the groups were formed by taking 20 people with adjacent numbers, he couldn’t be in Kiel’s group!
How did she know I placed my exam pass in that pocket?!
The numbers on the exam pass were written with a signature ink, which acted as glue for mana. If one swept their mana sense over the badge, the large difference in density of mana inside the ink and the remainder of the badge would make it look like the numbers were glowing. The whole purpose of it was so that anyone could easily discern what numbers were written on the badge.
Naturally, Dusk Rose was aware of this fact, so he specifically wrapped his Mind around the pass to prevent the Minds of others from being able to touch the badge, and therefore detect it.
Since he was cautious to conceal the badge, it shouldn’t have been picked up by Elaru’s or anyone else’s mana sense.
How could he have known that no amount of effort could conceal his badge from Elaru’s Aethernea of Sight? Those numbers glowed so clearly to her she could easily read them from a mile away.
Dusk didn’t dwell on it, it might have been a lucky guess for all he knew. He still smiled innocently, refusing to admit defeat. “Did I say that I am in his group? What I meant was that our classrooms were right next to each other.”
Elaru burst out into a fit of giggles. “Your classroom is not even in the Blue Quarters. It’s in the White Quarters. And your timeslot is in the afternoon!”
Dusk Rose couldn’t keep his face straight anymore. He gaped like a fish out of the water. “How do you know that?!”
Elaru’s smile grew. “I saw it this morning when I checked my own timeslot.”
Dusk Rose ground his teeth. “Of course. Blasted Eidetic memory.”
Etezza family was a family of intelligence agents trading in information. Having a good memory was an important prerequisite for the job. Every one of them went through specific training making their memory much better than memories of other people. However, even within the Etezza family, very few managed to train their memory to the perfection of what mortal minds would allow.
The memory of mortals, no matter how “flawless” wasn’t actually perfect. Not every single thing they see would stay imprinted in their mind. One still had to concentrate on things to remember them. Possessing Eidetic memory only meant that one had the ability to remember images clearly if they concentrated on them. However, since Elaru paid attention to remember her own and Kiel’s timeslot, everything else she saw while she was checking the timeslot stayed imprinted into her memory as well.
Dusk Rose had gone through the training too, but while his memory could be considered incredible when compared to an average person, he had never managed to reach the threshold of Eidetic. Since he was used to excelling in everything he did, this failure turned into a sore spot.
Seeing him finally get agitated, Elaru patted his head like she was trying to cheer up a sulking child. “Don’t take it so hard. Your performance wasn’t bad at all. In fact, you are quite outstanding for your age.”
“Aren’t we the same age?!”
She waved his complaint away. “Don’t compare yourself to a monster like me.”
A vein started pulsing on Dusk Rose’s forehead, his cheeks were getting flushed out of agitation. “I should have figured it out when you mentioned the hand cream. You were obviously making fun of me!”
“Sorry. I couldn’t resist.” She grinned guiltily and returned his exam pass back into his pocket. “I mean, you were so cute. Using Fever Touch and Façade against me. That’s just… cute.”
This is ridiculous. Dusk Rose couldn’t help but lament. I am a bloody assassin! I can’t believe there is a person abnormal enough to call me cute!
Still, no matter how unresigned Dusk Rose felt, no matter how he ground his teeth, deep down he was clearly aware that there was a large disparity between his own abilities and the abilities of Elaru Wayvin.
The vixen put the pieces of the puzzle together as soon as she saw Dusk Rose holding Kiel Rroda. She recognized he was under Façade, and deduced that his mission had something to do with Kiel Rroda.
To avoid attracting the attention of passersby and the guardian, instead of confronting him directly, she pretended to be ignorant of the situation. She also couldn’t afford to confront him while he held Kiel Rroda in his hands as a potential hostage. Therefore, the first thing she did after making contact was to take possession of Kiel’s body.
She approached them through the air, not only to catch Dusk off guard but also to display her ability to use augmentation magic. All in preparation to use her ability to make his body float as an excuse to take Kiel Rroda off of his hands.
After taking possession of Kiel Rroda, she walked alongside Dusk for a while in order to slowly envelop Kiel Rroda inside her mana armor without raising suspicion from Dusk. If she confronted Dusk without enveloping Kiel with her mana, Dusk would have been able to cast spells on Kiel to threaten his well-being.
After his well-being was finally secured, she could have run away or confronted Dusk. But whatever plan she initially had, it all changed when Dusk Rose shook her hand.
For he had tried to poison her, and inadvertently made everything much easier for her. All she had to do was pretend to be poisoned and lure him into a trap.
And pretending, for a Shadow of her caliber, was extremely easy. All Shadows had one skill in common – their ability to conceal mana. They would wrap their mind around whatever they wanted to conceal from the Minds of others. For Minds couldn’t touch the Minds of others. They usually used mana concealment to conceal their own aura and avoid detection of their presence.
Mana concealing abilities of Elaru Wayvin were clearly extremely formidable, for not only did she manage to control her Mind in such an intricate way to conceal the true density of her aura, but she also recognized the Façade spell, which meant that she had been taught the Façade spell.
And one of the prerequisites for being taught Façade was the ability to conceal its usage.
If Etezza family didn’t conceal the usage of Façade, everyone would be able to feel the entire spell pattern of Façade, and then it would no longer be a secret spell. Others would be able to copy the spell pattern and use it themselves.
Therefore, besides teaching their members how to use Façade and Mirage, the Etezza family also taught them how to hide the spell pattern from the senses of others.
However, since Façade targeted the entire body, concealing the entire spell without concealing the entire presence of the person was near impossible. To bypass that, the Etezza family included a dummy spell inside Façade. Their members would conceal the main spell pattern of Façade while only leaving the spell roots and the dummy spell visible to the mana sense of others.
Others would then think that Etezzas were using a common body strengthening spell, while only those familiar with the Façade spell would be able to pick up on the little clues and recognize Façade.
As one of those people with formidable mana concealment abilities, it posed no trouble for Elaru Wayvin to conceal the casting of Heating on her own head in order to start sweating and create a blush.
And then she just acted out the symptoms of poisoning and feigned fainting.
Dusk Rose fell right into her trap and even caught her.
Not only was he unable to defend against her acupuncture needles with his guard down in such close proximity, but also, because of her need to envelop Kiel in her Mage Armor, she had created a Mage Armor field around her. And Dusk walked straight into it.
A prime example of shooting oneself in the foot!
The depth of Elaru’s plans left Dusk stunned. It seemed like she was several steps ahead of him every step of the way. And worst of all, he had no idea that he was even playing a chess game until checkmate!
Dusk Rose had never felt such an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Like his fate was completely in the hands of another and he could do nothing to change it. Like no matter how he struggled, it would be completely futile.
Initially, he intended to resist. He could use Morph on one of his concealed weapons to attack Elaru. However, after realizing the depths of her plans, he got the feeling that doing that would only needlessly provoke her.
A person so calculative would have surely realized that he had concealed weapons. She would have surely gone through countless simulations of what he could do to oppose her.
He was merely a chess piece whose entire scope of movement has been completely grasped by her. If he wanted to get out of his predicament, he needed to rely on outside help. On someone who was outside her calculations.
Dusk Rose looked around helplessly, hoping that someone would pick up on his plea for help. That the blasted guardian would finally intervene.
“Don’t bother.” The redheaded demon chuckled. “No one will come to your aid. If you are stalling for time in hopes of the guardian intervening, you should give up now.”
Dusk gritted his teeth and pressed his mouth into a thin line. He glared at Elaru but said nothing.
“No one is hurt. We didn’t even fight. Why would the guardian bother with us?” Elaru continued. “Do you think that thing would pay attention to the dealings of us mortals unless they go against its prime directive?”
Dusk’s eyes narrowed. “What do you know about the Muni guardian?”
Elaru grinned and shrugged. “You don’t really expect me to answer that? All information has a price. Information on Muni guardian… you’ve got nothing of value to purchase it with. Unless…”
Elaru stroked her chin for several seconds as if pondering something. “Unless you have the antidote for Fever Touch?”
So, that’s why she didn’t directly knock him out. She didn’t know the contents of the antidote! She wanted to bargain with him and make him reveal it. Dusk let out a cold laugh. “You are out of luck girly.”
As if I would help you out! Even if you offered me a mountain of gold, I would rather see your plans fall to pieces!
Elaru didn’t press the issue as if his response was within her expectations. She looked left and right, finding a nearby secluded spot behind a tree. She carefully brought both Dusk and Kiel along and hid them from view.
Then she proceeded to check the contents of his pockets and bags. Dusk Rose didn’t miss the opportunity to look at her coyly, enjoying that not everything managed to go her way.
After her search of Dusk’s possessions failed to show the desired results, Elaru started rummaging through her own bags and pockets. She brought out a bunch of bottles, but neither one of them was what she was looking for.
Dusk Rose looked at her with a satisfied smirk. “Heh, don’t have the antidote either?” He asked teasingly.
“Of course I don’t.” Elaru mumbled more to herself. “Why would I carry an antidote to the poison I am immune to?”
She looked at her pocket watch and frowned. Time was ticking, she needed to hurry, or else Kiel would miss his exams. Darn it. She thought. Better make a mental note to train Kiel’s poison immunity in the future. At least for the poisons hard to defend against like Fever Touch.
Dusk Rose’s eyes glittered with glee. “Too bad. Even if you take him to the infirmary, they will think it’s just a cold. One-touch…I mean Fever Touch is almost undiscoverable. And even if they believed you when you tell them he was poisoned, they wouldn’t know how to make the antidote.”
She was doomed to fail! Kiel Rroda would most definitely miss his exams!