An Assassin’s Adventure: The Great Conjunction - Chapter 49 - GenkaiZero (2024)

Chapter Text

Chapter 49: Enigma

*Knock* *Knock*

Scratchings of pen against paper were cut short as a soft voice emanated from inside the azure sanctuary, a tinge of surprise lacing its tone. “…Come in.”

Entry granted, Hit grasped the sapphire handle in front of him and turned the priceless gem clockwise, allowing him to ingress into the unknown realm within.

‘Impressive…’ Amber light overawed Hit momentarily as he stepped into a homely workshop lit up by twin windows. Rather than immense panes of glass, the barriers were comprised of a multitude of smaller circles, together forming a tight honeycomb matrix. The room’s occupant had opened them fully, thus allowing a warm midday breeze to filter in. It was a spacious room, or it would have been, if it weren’t for the numerous bookcases and curios that lined its outer edges. Rich hues and detailed fonts blazed from the tomes’ spines, proudly adorning the cases in an explosion of colour, with nary a speck of dust marring their resplendence. Numerous priceless artifacts and antiques embellished the room’s walls and wooden stands, with even the ceiling being decorated by ornamental flowers and crystalline hummingbird sculptures. The artificial plants and animals danced as they swayed back and forth in the breeze, the wind breathing an ephemeral life into their crystalline bodies.

The rightmost area of the space was comparatively barren of artifacts and trinkets. An immense oak desk welcomed anyone entering the room and offered them seating in the form of two incredibly comfy-looking wooden chairs, each topped by a blue velvet cushion. The table’s surface was meticulously ordered, with various writing instruments and tools resting on its upper edge: pencils, protractors, quills, and compasses were the most recognisable. Strangely, no ink pots accompanied the quills, which were uncharacteristically enveloped in pulsing magic stones. A stack of documents sat on the right side of the table, with a large map taking up most of the desk’s surface. The yellowing parchment, upon which it was printed, held a number of annotations and notes written in various handwritings.

Of course, the greatest treasure of all was the radiant woman sitting upon the furthest chair from Hit: the sky blue-haired Asfi Al Andromeda herself. She was relieved of her usual white cloak, and instead simply wore her tan coloured dress, crisscrossed by canvas lines. The inlayed features appeared as if they were branches cutting across the vestment. Her usual packs of equipment were removed; however, a golden dagger remained strapped to her waist as a warning to anyone wishing her harm.

Hit’s nose twitched as a flowery perfume wafted from her location, conferring a soothing sensation to his tenseness. Looking down, he could see that the woman wore simple leather boots, rather than her supposed magic items: the winged boots Talaria.

The studious woman widened her eyes slightly as she met Hit’s own orbs, her surprise obvious, and allowed her regal features to melt slightly as she smiled lightly at him. “Ah, Mr Hit. It is certainly a surprise and a pleasure to see you again so soon.” She then placed her quill beside her, delicately, and rolled up the detailed map she had been writing on, whispering under her breath as she went. “…That explains why I did not notice your approach…” Gloved hands met her soft lap as she straightened herself into a formal sitting position, one that appeared well-rehearsed. “I hope that my colleagues gave you a warm welcome. They can be quite… energetic at times.”

Hit maintained his stern temperament; however, the woman’s apparent openness suggested their relationship was not as frayed as he initially believed. “They served their purpose. I am here to request an audience with you to discuss my recent growth in strength.” Hit took a few steps forwards, stopping in front of one of the two chairs intended for guests.

“Oh! I see…” Andromeda’s curious eyes blinked thrice as she took in Hit’s odd intentions. “I must admit that your request it is quite short notice, but fate shines upon you, Mr Hit. I am unusually unoccupied today, something that Lord Hermes would usually capitalize on… and fill with countless burdens…” Asfi groaned in exasperation and slight worry as stress inched its way into her mind. “Huff… Thankfully, he is out of everyone’s hair for today, doing who knows what. I would celebrate, but I’m sure that he will return with an ocean of work for me to attend to.” The overworked woman sighed and hung her head, with only Asfi’s strong will bringing her back to the conversation. She regained her composure and rose a gloved hand towards the two chairs in front of her. “Please, take a seat, Mr Hit.”

Hit nodded and obliged her request, taking a seat on the leftmost chair. “Why do you tolerate that creature? Based on my lesser experience, there are a multitude of superior options in this city.” He took a moment to appreciate the azure cushion below him. ‘So comfy… Perhaps I should upgrade my room’s meagre furniture.’

“C-Creature!? Fufu…” Melodious giggles escaped Asfi as she was reminded of Hit’s profound distaste for her deity, freeing her of some of today’s stress. She wiped a few glistening tears from her eyes, using the opposite hand to raise her white-rimmed glasses. “Ahem. M-My apologies. It is simply unusual for a mortal to refer to a God so… dismissively. To answer your question… Well…”

After a short pause, Andromeda turned to gaze out of the room’s immense windows, appearing a little forlorn. “…You see, he and I share a special past. Lord Hermes took me from my prior home and showed me just how vast the world truly is… Its winding rivers and towering mountains; its deep canyons and bustling metropolises… The world is a bountiful array of tantalising opportunities that I am glad to have benefitted from.” Glimmers of stardust shimmered in the well-travelled woman’s eyes as she marvelled at her own illustrious past, one that transformed her into the master crafter and familia captain she was today. “If I had never met him, then I would still be residing by the seaside, performing my pre-ordained duties.” She turned back to Hit, fixing him with a determined smile, brows furrowed. “Yes, he may be crude, and irritating, and utterly rage-inducing at times!” The smile crescendoed into a snarl that she barely managed to withhold. “Ahem. But he will always be a dear… c-colleague of mine.” Alabaster cheeks bloomed slightly on the unusually quiet woman as she turned back to her window in attempt to hide the unbecoming expression.

Hit groaned internally as he easily identified the woman’s motive for remaining with the whimsical deity. ‘Love… Foolish love and adoration… Is every being in this city bewitched by the sentiment?’ He stifled a scoff and replied coldly. “I see...”

Asfi seemed to startle at Hit’s unfeeling reply and darted her attention back to him. “M-My apologies, Mr Hit! I should not have allowed myself to become distracted so easily.” She coughed into an enclosed fist and finally got down to business. “Now then, you mentioned that you wish to speak to me regarding your recent level up? I must say, to have ranked up in such little time is nothing short of extraordinary. Congratulations. However, I am at a loss at how I could be of help to you. Our battle strategies are quite distinct, after all…”

Hit nodded and leaned forwards, placing his elbows on the desk with his hands interlocked in a steeple gesture. “To be succinct, I request advice regarding my future growth and the falna itself. Although… I understand that such information would be incredibly valuable…” The shrewd man left his sentence purposefully open, allowing Asfi to make any potential requests, without Hit having to disclose any of his own resources. ‘Let’s see if she bites. If I’m lucky, this lapdog may even offer me aid out of courtesy. That is, if her current politeness is genuine, and not simply a means of getting me to lower my guard.’

Asfi instantly understood Hit’s meaning and shook her head amiably. “Please, Mr Hit, you do not need to pay me for a simple friendly discussion. Besides, we all owe you and Mr Cranel for your heroic deeds on the 18th floor.” Her lips spread into a shaky smile as she became slightly embarrassed. “I understand that we may not have had the smoothest of beginnings… In fact, I would describe our first meeting to be an atrocious start, but I, as the Hermes Familia captain, would like to extend my goodwill to the Loki Familia, and to you. Feel free to relax around me; we are fellow adventurers and researchers here.”

Hit was quite taken aback by her statements, ones that seemed to be genuine to his astute senses. ‘Well, well. If this woman believes that she owes me, then I truly do have some leverage here. Kindness should be returned with kindness, but I cannot lower my guard’. Hit returned her smile with a slight smirk. “Good. Then we are of the same mind.”

“Excellent. Before we begin, is there anything you wish to know about our Familia home, Mr Hit? It isn’t often that we receive guests…” Asfi raised a palm to her mouth, looking disappointed in her attempts at hospitality. “Oh! Where are my manners!? I should ask Laurier to bring you some tea…”

Hit was silent for a moment as he processed Asfi’s offer. ‘A free question? Why? Hm… She will likely want something in return later on… I shouldn’t ask her something too intrusive, but this could be useful in information gathering.’ He shook his head. “There is no need. As for questions… Hm. This inn is quite unlike Twilight Manor, which is far too gaudy for my tastes. Each decoration and ornament you possess seems to have its own rich history. Did you collect them all yourself?” ‘This should elucidate what duties these people actually perform.’

Asfi chuckled at the memory of the fiery redheaded deity. “Fufu… Yes, I hear Loki can be a quite grandiose in all aspects of life...” She smiled proudly at Hit, azure eyes sparkling as countless treasured memories flittered past them. “No, I had the aid of my wonderful Familia members in their discovery! There is not a corner of the world that we have not ventured to: from the island of Hjadningavid to the Far Eastern archipelago. I’m impressed that you can appreciate them. Most individuals seem to view them as unbecoming of a God’s dwelling.”

Hit nodded in agreement, feeling that his observations were only natural. “Our accomplishments hold far more weight than any purchased baubles.” He chided himself for not recognising the supposed geographical locations of Hjadningavid and the Far East; however, the information was still useful to him as faraway locations, ones that would ordinarily be ignored by Orario’s eccentric Gods. ‘Interesting. They likely specialise in exploring the surface world and discovering hidden treasures, at least on first glance. That still does not explain why they are given special privileges by the guild. Do they perform duties outside of Orario specifically for them?’ Hit shelved further questioning and finally focalised on his true reason for being here.

“Moving on, I want advice on development abilities, specifically regarding their rarer varieties. Absolutely none of the literature discloses detailed information concerning their nature, nor how to unlock them. After careful consideration, your specific development is the most appealing to me. How did you come to possess Mystery?” ‘There is no point in feigning ignorance here: she must know by now that I have come to her in particular for a reason.’

Asfi’s eyes expanded to their zenith as she finally understood why Hit had selected her specifically for a conversation: he wished to know the secret behind one of the world’s greatest puzzles. “I-I see…” Playful eyes darkened as a chill settled across them. “If I may ask, why is it that my ability fascinates you in particular? It is not best suited for close-quarters combat.” Asfi’s glasses twinkled as similar curiosity simmered behind them. “Are you not pleased with your own chosen development? Your given choices should reflect who you are and what course is best for you, Mr Hit. Perhaps I could offer you advice on how to progress from your current position?”

Hit closed his eyes and crossed his arms, appearing as if he was in deep thought. ‘Good; a relatively positive reaction. It is important to be cautious; however, when dealing with someone who is likely suspicious of me, apparent openness can coax them to respond in kind. If I disclose evidence of ‘possessing’ mage, she should view that as me “opening up” to her and disclosing a vulnerability of mine. That hasty experiment truly was worthwhile.’ Hit feigned a grimace and tightened his fists, causing them to quake in false fury. “I am disappointed in myself. Despite my unique form of combat, I was provided with middling options upon ranking up: Mage and Hunter. I chose to boost my own magic power as the lesser of two evils; however, the development also came with an overly flagrant ejection. The ability to create miracles intrigues me far more than a simple power boost…” The assured man rose a calloused hand and opened his palm fully, directing it to his left. After a moment of deep concentration and strenuous exertion, a resplendent purple circle blossomed into view, as if it had always been present. Alien symbols and formulas rotated and vibrated betwixt pulsing lines of power, constantly moving towards, and falling into, an infinite event horizon.

“…B-Beautiful…” Asfi Al Andromeda’s jaw dropped at the gorgeous sight that materialised before her, marvelling at the construct with eyes whose hunger matched the depth of an endless sea.

Hit rose a brow at the odd expression, a growing sense of caution gnawing at his heart. He quickly sheathed his hand, forcing the ethereal disc to expire.

Asfi’s jaw rose with a clack, and the blushing maiden quickly collected herself. *cough* “M-My apologies… That was simply the most exquisite magic circle I have ever laid my eyes on. It is completely foreign from anything I have encountered thus far: no external border, nor any recognisable hieroglyphs… and it stirs so vividly. As usual, you are an anomaly…” Blue brows furrowed as she pondered Hit’s decision, cupping her chin with a gloved hand. “Even so, that was perhaps not the best decision, Mr Hit. Hunter is incredibly useful and rather rare to obtain. I only know of a handful of individuals who possess it, and they are all exemplary fighters. If I were in your place, I would have chosen Hunter, which would speed up my progress to the following level, upon which I could select Mage. We often combat the same monsters day after day, after all.”

Hit huffed at the prospect: yet again, he was presented with reasoning that was utterly pitiful to him. “I do not require shortcuts in dealing with enemies. If I have fought the golems before, then I will have memorised their exact weak points and movements. My skill will always be enough to deal with my opponents.”

Asfi tightened her lips at the blunt response, not seeing how she could help the wondrous prodigy. ‘What a stubborn boy… shouldn’t he be pleased to have levelled up in the first place? I suppose Hit’s disappointment is somewhat understandable, though. Most geniuses see themselves as falling short in their craft, as do I at times… His techniques and fighting style are entirely distinct from anyone’s in Orario… No, the entire world! To be given abilities that, to him, are rather mundane, would be quite saddening. I suppose that I could give him some advice, even if the chances of developing mystery are practically zero at this stage. In fact, it would perhaps be for the best that this potentially dangerous person didn’t develop such a powerful ability… We still know so little about him, or his motives. Disclosing some elementary details will do no harm, and this may draw out more information from him... Although, thinking logically, I should refuse his request…’ Asfi tightened her fists as the spirit of inquiry burned within her. ‘Oh, who am I kidding? I can’t help myself… Hit’s a puzzle that any intellectual would yearn to decipher.’ She sighed and interwove her hands atop the table, readying herself for a long explanation. “I see that your mind is made up. In that case, I will disclose some of what I know; however, know that the chances of developing mystery, following your first rank up, are infinitesimally small. In fact, I do not know of anyone in history who has ever unlocked it past your current point, so it is likely impossible.”

Hit cast the woman a smirk, this time a true one. “If nothing else, it should serve as interesting discussion. The lack of information provided by the Guild library is an insult.”

A fox-like smile slinked onto Asfi’s royal visage, quite the unsettling expression. “Adventurer skills and abilities are well-guarded secrets, Mr Hit. How would you feel if I wished to know the intricacies of your own skills? I am still rather interested in how exactly you saw past my veil…”

“Tsk.” ‘Dammit. If I withhold too much information, she will likely do the same during her explanation…’ A now grumpy Hit clicked his tongue and looked to the side with an annoyed huff. “I simply analysed the energy that you presented me with. Its intentions were painfully obvious based on the amplitude and wavelength of its form.”

Asfi chuckled mirthfully. ‘Stubborn indeed. Hm… So, he was somehow able to see through the hieroglyphic light trap based on its inherent external properties? What a terrifying ability… Is it restricted to magic items or magical energy itself…?’

“Is that so? I suppose I will have to try harder next time, Fufu. Now then…” All humour vanished from the bubbly woman as cold deliberation took over her entire body: icy blue eyes darted back and forth, searching for any eavesdroppers, and a sinister aura passed across her sagacious face. Finally, Asfi leaned forwards and spoke in an austere voice of a born leader. “What I am about to tell you must never be repeated outside this room. Do I make myself clear?”

“…Naturally.” Any other person would have buckled under the captain’s harsh stare; however, Hit replied nonchalantly in his usual curt fashion.

Asfi stared into Hit’s eyes, searching for any embers of defiance or motes of indecision. Finding none, she began her sermon. “As I am sure you know, development abilities are reflections of who we are at our respective cores and arise in response to how we approach the challenges that life presents us with. Precious few people in our world’s history have ever ranked up and acquired even a single one, making studying these special abilities quite challenging. Nothing is set in stone when dealing with them: even if two individuals undergo the same stimuli and rank up, there is no guarantee that the two will be offered the exact same abilities. Cases where no development abilities whatsoever arise upon level up are not too uncommon either… It is a matter of the soul, something that even the Gods struggle to understand completely. Conversely, there exist a handful of exceptional individuals who have miraculously unlocked their own unique development abilities, as if their soul is screaming out to alter the very fabric that binds our world together.” Asfi paused as she noticed that Hit’s statuesque face brightened slightly. “Do not bother asking about those, Mr Hit. Unfortunately, only their bearers know of their precise intricacies, and most are deceased.” At Hit’s curt nod and frown, she continued. “Now, Mystery, as its name suggests, is incredibly nebulous in its properties and origin. As with all rare development abilities, a unique manner of thinking and acting is required: one must have a strong will beyond measure, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. A desire to change the world around you is also key: to aid the sickly; to free yourself from your earthly ties; to unchain yourself from mortal lifespans; or to control everything in creation… One must possess something that drives you forward, towards a goal that would turn any other individual to madness. You must stand against the laws of this world and enlist their aid to make your dreams and aspirations a reality. Only with absolute surety and comprehension can a bearer of mystery activate its effects: to generate a miracle and create the most powerful magic items in existence. However, understand that your own capacity is of utmost importance for its usage. This ability does not substitute for one’s lack of skill.”

Hit resisted gawking at Asfi as he processed the infinite potential of his newest ability. ‘So… mystery allows the user to bend the laws of this realm to create advanced devices. This ability could be more momentous than I previously thought… Also, it seems that different users possess specialisations based on their unique desires.’ A brief lull in the conversation allowed Hit to interject with a personal question. “Fascinating; to think that the falna could be so infinitely complex... Am I to assume that your winged sandals, Hades Head, and veil are examples of these magic items? Are they miracles made manifest?” ‘If I ask her specific queries, she should be compelled to answer in a more focalised manner.’

“Very good… Once again, I am impressed, Mr Hit.” Asfi narrowed her eyes ever so slightly, before falling back to her stern expression. ‘He refers to my invisibility helmet by name, which means that he was spying on Lord Hermes and I for longer than I previously believed… I will have to be more careful when discussing private matters henceforth.’

“To be specific, they are mystery-created magic items, and are miracles in the sense that they are manifestations of decades of research and theorising. Unlike what is commonly believed, I do not create my magic items from thin air: incredibly rare materials are often required for a base, which I then craft into a magic item using precise visualisation during the final stage.”

‘Visualisation?’ Hit hummed contentedly as the conversation steered into a more favourable direction. “I see… Therefore, am I correct in assuming that you adapt and manipulate raw materials rather than drawing from a specific energy reservoir to materialise them? And… mystery-created magic items? Are there other forms of magic items?”

Asfi nodded, feeling refreshed that Hit could keep up with her intellect. “Correct: I still need to design and fabricate my items prior to imbuing power into them, with Mystery performing the finishing touches and alterations. Although, that is mostly due to my own limitations. For example, it takes tremendous effort to visualise my creations in the form that I desire and I need to elevate rudimentary materials into a stage that I am fully familiar with before using my development. It is difficult to describe… Oh, and yes, not all magic items are created using mystery. Magic swords are a good example: magic items created by blacksmiths with the appropriate development. Also, some magic items require in-depth understanding of multiple fields, such as grimoires, which necessitate the combined effort of mage and mystery development abilities in their creation.”

Hit could not stop a grin from sprouting as he formed a hopeful hypothesis. “So, you must refine raw materials simply due to your inability to visualise the final product perfectly. Could it be that with enough concentration, someone could simply mould their raw materials into the desired final form? In this way, you could increase your productivity exponentially...”

Asfi held her chin in thought, mind awhirl with research questions. “Hm… An interesting theory… My creations become easier to produce with each iteration, supporting the hypothesis. Perhaps it is possible to create magic items with imagination alone; however, to be able to manipulate the materials with merely your mind is beyond any mortal’s ken. You would need to possess an inhuman intellect and understanding of the world’s elementary building blocks that is thousands of years ahead of our current world’s technological level. Not to mention how little is known of the elusive materials I require… Our economy revolves around adventurers, with most material processing dealing with either iron, or copper and tin for bronze fabrication. It’s a shame; I feel that my mortal mind and body are hindering my creations… If only I could test your hypothesis myself.” She sighed and tapped at her desk, looking quite gloomy.

Hit nodded and cast Andromeda a faux consoling look. ‘That should be well within my own power! These people’s minds, short lifespans, and education must be holding them back... A pity. She has a remarkable intellect, at least for this backwater planet.’

Hit looked down on the intellect of this new realm’s inhabitants; however, he was able to recognise that his baseline education was mostly by virtue of universe six’s advanced civilisations and millennia of development. Although, one had to be particularly tenacious to acquire information on his original home world, with only less-than-legal means being available to the poorest classes. ‘How strange… What she describes sounds eerily similar to the Kai’s creation. Perhaps Mystery, and all other developments, are actually lesser versions of specialties held by the gods, with creation being the pinnacle of “Mystery”. The ability to manipulate matter as she described must require energy of some kind… hm…I do not want a repeat of Riveria’s reaction so I will approach the matter more delicately.’ Hit coughed to draw Asfi from her depression. “I suppose the costs do not end following magic item creation. Upkeep must be an additional challenge, along with energy requirements during their function. If magic items possess limited lifetimes or uses that would make their usage even more challenging…”

This comment only served to deepen Asfi’s melancholy as she slumped down even further, knocking over a well-balanced quill to her side. “Oh, I could rant for hours on how infuriating it can be to design my inventions at times! Balancing efficiency and output can be an absolute nightmare later on when recharging them… Of course, their miraculous effects cannot arise from nothing; magic items require either a constant stream of energy or bursts of fuel, depending on their use, usually in the form of modified magic stones. As you can imagine, that can become ludicrously costly.”

Hit’s mood soured slightly at the mention of costs, but he decided to press on, hoping to coax the woman out of her melancholy with a topic she would likely find interest in. “The magic stone you inlayed into Hades Head must be the latter, responding to the wearer’s body and activating a series of instructions inlayed into the material itself, with the end result of hiding the user under a layer of excited energy waves. Clever…”

“C-Correct!” Asfi quickly jolted up and stared at Hit with awe-filled eyes. ‘He deciphered the precise intricacies of such a complex device after only one viewing!? What a shame that he did not attempt to join our Familia… Hit would have made an excellent research partner…’

“It seems that we are not as dissimilar as I previously believed, Mr Hit... Yes, almost all of my magic items are direct in their usage and require regular recharging. I have avoided limited charge items due to the rarity of my materials, and the items’ fabrication difficulty. Magic swords are a perfect example of how disastrous limited-use items can be. They often leave their bearers in a perilous situation with nothing at hand but a mountain of debt.”

‘Come on… Almost there.’ Hit hummed in anticipation. “I see... Using Mystery must be a perpetual balancing act between power and efficiency. You also mentioned a final visualisation stage whereupon Mystery actually acts. Do you impart a form of energy onto your creations? There must be some category of fuel to generate the required changes.”

Asfi tilted her head slightly, as if the question had never graced her before. “Hm… I haven’t given much thought to initial energy demands… By this point, evoking the changes is second nature to me. Although, I suppose I do feel a certain tiredness after each session, something that I have always attributed that to a hard day’s work or Hermes’ usual interruptions. I will have to research that later…”

Hit huffed, disappointed that he could not draw out any exact specifics. ‘Andromeda likely doesn’t understand how Mystery functions on a fundamental level. As she stated, the ability boosts the expertise she already possesses, rather than her manipulating the ability itself. Either that, or she is a masterful liar.’

Asfi took a moment to observe Hit’s features as he became lost in his own thoughts. The man’s short purple hair swayed in the breeze; his plain dark clothes strained against a surprisingly muscular body; and transfixing carmine eyes bore downwards as unfathomable thoughts passed through the anomalous being’s mind. Asfi had unexpectedly found someone who could not only appreciate her craft, but somehow pose questions and hypotheses that astounded her: Andromeda, a supremely rare master of the Mystery development and one of this age’s brightest minds. One question now sprung unto her mind: Why? Why did Hit yearn so strongly to grasp the intricacies of Mystery? ‘He’s so driven… Only a strong desire would compel him to such a degree; simple disappointment is not nearly enough. I need to find out what he wishes to create… And what about the world he finds dissatisfactory.’ She decided to take the reins of the conversation. “I’m surprised that you show such interest in my ability, Mr Hit. Was there something you desperately wanted to create?”

In a rare show of emotion, Hit startled from his musings and became slightly sheepish, drawing his eyes to the side. “…Your boots.”

“I-I’m sorry?” Asfi joined in his unprofessionalism and stifled a giggle. ‘S-surely I misheard him.’

“Hmph…I was interested in your winged sandals. Your command of the sky here is something that I envy deeply. Once I determined that your winged sandals were a magic item, I became even more compelled to acquire Mystery…”

Hit’s answer was truthful, even if he was using it to deflect his primary reason for being here. The alien missed his prior ability to fly: to propel himself through alien planet’s atmospheres and even the infinite cosmos at incomprehensible speeds was a euphoric feeling that was a special honour for a privileged few. The feeling of freeing oneself from the confines of gravity and viewing the universe on an entirely different scale was something that the denizens of this world would likely never experience, apart from Asfi Al Andromeda, of course. One cannot underscore enough just how freeing the ability was for Hit: in his current state, an entire axis of movement had been severely stunted for him. He did not view the ability as being special in his past life, largely due to the hundreds of years that had passed since achieving it; however, he now realised how intrinsic flight had become to his daily life. Although, the warrior did not commonly utilise the ability during assassinations, reducing flight to more of a novelty. Only the strongest of opponents could spur Hit into aerial combat, making it an exciting luxury for the assassin.

Unexpectedly, Asfi did not laugh at his simple desire. No, she instead looked upon her kindred spirit with eyes filled with understanding. “Ah, I see that freedom has enraptured your heart as well, Mr Hit… To cast aside your duties and escape your suffocating prison; to feel the outside breeze against your caged body; to see the infinite horizons surrounding you…” She inhaled and exhaled deeply, appreciating her freedom here in Orario.

Hit quirked a brow at her sudden wonderment. ‘Prison? Duties? Caged? I merely wish to ascend upwards… She must have had a sheltered upbringing to view such simple experiences as marvellous. Based on her mannerisms, a repetitive regal manner of speech and posturing has been ingrained into her. Perhaps she is former member of a monarchy… A minor royal, such as a baroness or duch*ess.’

Asfi cast Hit a knowing smirk. “I could fashion you a pair, should you desire one, Mr Hit…”

Hit’s interest in the conversation skyrocketed, eyes shining with greed…

“However, I would have to charge you at least 100 million valis for such a valuable commodity.”

…Before Hit fell into despair as an unsurmountable sum fell upon him. Assured aura and intimidating posture fell apart as Hit slumped forwards, glowering at Asfi as if she had stolen his dreams away.

Asfi could not contain her shock and tittered at Hit’s gloomy mien. “Fufufu… D-Don’t look at me like that!” *Cough* “M-My Talaria are unique to me alone and are incredibly dangerous, should they fall into the wrong hands! I must be extremely selective in whom I choose to gift them to… Furthermore, they are one of my only magic items with limited charges, making them even more valuable!” She leaned her highborn face against a soft hand, smiling jovially. “They’re not very useful either, as most adventurers delve in the cramped conditions of the dungeon, and people are obviously not used to aerial combat. It took me years of practice to even fly in a straight line, let alone fight!” Asfi continued to snigg*r as Hit hurried to rectify his lapse in composure, muttering to himself about incompetence and lack of skill. “If you’re desperate for a pair, I could set up a loan for you? By my estimates, you possess around 10 million valis at the moment…”

‘Sneaky little…’ Hit instantly grimaced at the horrifying prospect and spat out his venomous reply. “Forget it. I will not cast myself into lifelong debt or indentured servitude for a pair of shoes. Flight will have to be a very, very long-term goal of mine.”

“Then I wish you good luck, Mr Hit… Truly. It is definitely a worthwhile endeavour... And I would never force someone to become my slave!” She sighed as Hit maintained his determined look. “Don’t think you can get a better deal from Airmid, by the way. Each mystery holder possesses their own specialty, so creating another bearer’s items is nigh impossible. This ability arises from our own uniqueness after all. Though, were my boots truly the only item you wished to craft?” ‘His desire seems genuine, but I refuse to believe that is the extent of his longing.’

Hit shrugged, his gaze drifting about the room languidly. “As I stated, the ability to generate miracles was intriguing to me. I had absolutely no concept of what those were upon reading the sparse literature on the subject, so I sought out a master of the ability. I now know that these miracles are far more complex and restrictive than I initially believed.”

“Every ability has its disadvantages, Mr Hit. Even if one were to possess Mystery, they would need access to, and knowledge of, tremendously rare minerals and crystals. Only a select few traders from outside Orario know of the precise locations of these materials, making maps of them ludicrously expensive and elusive. Outsiders are not too fond of us ‘city folk’ either... Thankfully, our Familia often travels outside the city, facilitating any material scouting and scavenging. It has taken me years to study the materials I need and I know their intricacies exactly.” Andromeda’s brows inclined as she looked at Hit in concern. ‘I hope I haven’t discouraged him too much… Nevertheless, I will not hide the harsh truth from him.’

*Gong* *Gong*

An aged grandfather clock tolled with a reverberating clang as it struck one o’clock, startling the enraptured Asfi, who held a hand to her chest in surprise. “Goodness! This has been quite an extensive chat, Mr Hit! I did not expect to be discussing magic item theory or crafting today… Forgive me if I have bored you with my ramblings, and I hope that I have not dissuaded you from your quest too much. It is not often that I receive a partner to discuss my research with, particularly one who can keep up with me, and I did not wish to disillusion you.” ‘Whoops… I may have divulged a little more information than I wanted to. Oh well… It isn’t like I provided him with any truly useful secrets. In fact, we mostly discussed Hit’s theories rather than practical applications… Yes, this was quite pleasant.’

Hit shook his head, keeping his eyes on the clock. “I do not require shielding from life’s hardships.” ‘Nearly an hour has passed… That was an adequate discussion, considering my constraints. I believe that is all I can gleam from questioning her, at least without raising her suspicions. Visualising my desired creation upon a set of raw materials should bring about the desired results… However, what should I even craft? For now, it will be a long-term project.’

Asfi bowed slightly to make amends for her hasty assumption. “Of course. I meant no offence, Mr Hit. Your intellect and maturity far exceed your age.”

Hit nodded and quickly stood up, pushing his seat into its initial position. “That will be all, Andromeda. Thank you for your assistance; however, are you certain that you do not require payment for this?” Hit was feeling conflicted on the matter of reimbursem*nt: part of the man could not stand being gifted such valuable information for free, whilst his cautiousness screamed at him to not allow this shrewd woman to gain any form of leverage over him.

Thankfully, Asfi did no such thing and beamed at him. “Oh, absolutely! I would never charge someone for such an engaging discussion! You know… I once wished to be a teacher in my youth. Perhaps that dream still lives within me, Fufu…”

Hit’s lips tilted into a small smile. “You would have excelled in the field. Farewell, Andromeda.” Brief farewell made, he turned and marched away, exiting the azure sanctuary.

“Goodbye, Mr Hit. Feel free to come by for another discussion, any time!”

Hit stopped just as he was shutting the door behind him. “Hmph. The next time I have a spare 100 million valis, you will be the first person I turn to.” Light laughter was Hit’s only reply as he shut the barrier completely.

***

Down below, Hit was greeted to a far emptier ground floor as he descended the inn’s wooden stairs, with only a purple swaying object giving away that anyone was present alongside him. He quickly skulked towards the unknown phenomenon and came across a short pallum girl dressed in a typical witch’s attire. She was currently humming to herself as she poured tea into four teacups, each resting next to a dish filled with scones and biscuits; however, their number was perpetually diminishing as she absentmindedly munched on them. Hit gave the poor woman no warning to his approach. “So, you were the one hidden away.”

“e-eek!” Somehow, the poor thing had been so utterly startled that a terrified screech became a pitiful squeak, one that even a mouse would be ashamed of.

The witch gulped down any remaining biscuit crumbs, nourishment that she believed was her final meal, and slowly turned around. She was horrified to come face to face with an incredibly muscular man’s abdomen, its bulk only slightly lessened by his thin shirt. The trembling woman carefully rose her dainty head, and finally locked eyes with an emotionless face, one that sat at a height over twice her own. She mustered her courage and began a shaky introduction, if only to hopefully save herself from an agonising death. *Gulp* “H-H-Hello… M-My n-n-name…is…M-m-m-”

Hit chose to remove himself from the awkward situation and instead made a beeline towards the door. ‘Hmph… And there I thought she might have been someone skilled at camouflage. She’s just a blubbering mess.’

*Mph*

Startled, Hit stopped as a peculiar sound resounded from above: something between a groan and a whine. Shortly after, a harsh whisper followed.

“Lulu! T-That’s sensitive!”

Behind Hit, Meryl blushed fiercely, shaking in horror at being confined with a stranger during such an embarrassing situation.

Hit was of a completely different mind. ‘Aha! So, it was sensitive information! They must be hiding valuable intelligence here, regarding sensitive matters of Orario… Yes, they are likely spies.’ He turned around and looked down on the shivering pallum with a vindictive smirk and finally exited the establishment.

Meryl Tear could no longer support herself and collapsed onto the ground as soon as the inn’s door shut. ‘I-I can’t believe how bad my luck is… Couldn’t those two have saved… fraternising… for later? Oh, I’m so embarrassed! But… W-what did that scary man mean by that disgusting look!? I-Is he… interested in me!!??’

Thankfully, Meryl Tear did not have a new stalker. However, sadly, this delusion did not stop the woman from watching her back at every turn for several weeks.

An Assassin’s Adventure: The Great Conjunction - Chapter 49 - GenkaiZero (2024)
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