Slayers Special: Wrongfully Accused (Part 2)

Slayers Special: Wrongfully Accused (Part Two, end),
Written by Hajime Kanzaka, Illustrated by Rui Araizumi
Published in Slayers Special Volume 9: Elize’s Journey
Translated by rebmastu@gmail.com (10/22/12), commissioned by Anonymous

The Story Thus Far…


Where we last left off, yours truly, Lina Inverse had been wrongly accused by The Insipid Inspector Wizer Freion of perpetrating a series of kidnappings I didn’t commit! Nothing I could say was going to convince him of my innocence, so I set out to clear my name and find the guy who was really responsible in my own full-scale investigation—and I dragged Wizer and Naga both along for the ride. But it turned out somebody thought I was getting too close to the truth for my own good, and set a couple of assassins out for my head! And then later as we made our way to the island where the true culprit lay in wait, the lake split apart to reveal a sight I wasn’t about to forget anytime soon!



“HIIYAAAA-! Glurble burble…”

“What in blazes is that?” Wizer cried out at the exact moment Naga let out a cross between a blood-curdling scream and a strange gurgling noise.

The “that” in question was probably the enormous tentacle protruding from the surface of the water. I couldn’t have said whether it belonged to a squid or an octopus, but I guess it didn’t matter as much as the fact that wrapped up tightly inside the slimy appendage was Naga’s wriggling body.

That was when I realized she hadn’t fallen into the lake—she’d been dragged into it.

“It’s a kraken!” Wizer breathed, his voice mixed with shock and awe. To explain, a kraken is a kind of monster that resembles something like a cross between an octopus and a squid, typically found in large bodies of water—seas and large lakes, mainly.  Granted, a giant “Octo-Squid” doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing to strike fear into the hearts of even the hardiest of seafarers, but the most terrifying part about these creatures isn’t just their mammoth size; it’s the colossal potential for catastrophic destruction that comes with it. Needless to say, it could easily reach over with one of its tentacles, pluck our teeny-tiny fishing boat out of the water and crush it in an instant, and all we could do was roll over and take it.

The kraken swung the tentacle that held Naga’s flailing body in its grasp and whipped it forward, sending her soaring through the air—straight at us! What was it trying to do, sink us with a glorified cannonball!?

“What are you doing?!” I shrieked. ”Diem Wind!” I let loose with the windy spell and sent Naga flying off… well, not where we were, that’s for sure. And really, that’s about all I was concerned with.

“Eaaaaaaagh…!”

 


Splash.

The sound of her body hitting the water was like music to my ears. I chuckled under my breath as a sinister grin spread across my face. Rest in peace, Naga.

“Wh-what have you done?!” Wizer cried out, aghast. “That is no way to treat your companions!”

“Who, Naga? She’ll be fine,” I said, waving him off. “I’d be more worried about us, if I were you.” The words were barely out of my mouth before the fishing vessel suddenly bucked. The sound of the water splitting apart burst into my ears as another tentacle pierced the surface of the undulating water. Another splash as another tentacle surfaced. Then, another. And another. By the time the lake had stilled, our boat was surrounded by at least ten of the appendages, each standing erect in the water like the bars to a fleshy cage. Then, all of a sudden, they charged toward us as one!

My eyes quickly took in the advancing appendages. I couldn’t pick them off one by one; there just wasn’t enough time. I didn’t have any spells in my arsenal that could deal direct damage to the kraken’s main body deep underneath the water, either. What I did have, however, was an idea.

“They’re coming right for us!” Wizer exclaimed panic beginning to rise in his voice, and as I cast a glance at him out of the corner of my eye, I began to incant my spell. With a “slap!” of flesh hitting the water, I thrust the palm of my hand down onto the surface of the lake.

“Sea Blast!” I bellowed, and the surface of the lake erupted as waves heaved and crested in response to the Power Words. Since the spell was generally used to create just such an effect, I couldn’t expect it to deal any direct damage against the kraken under the lake; however, I could use it to create an opening. Remember, kids! Attack spells aren’t just for attacking!

With the water chopping all around us, our ship effortlessly rode the waves and broke through the barrier the tentacleshad formed with them powerless to stop us. We’d escaped! Well, for the time being, anyway. The kraken underneath wouldn’t have felt a thing. I know I’d have to face off with its main body at some point, but the question was: How?

As I rolled that question around inside my mind, I heard the sound of water rushing from behind us. I looked to see the kraken’s tentacles had recovered and were quickly gaining ground.

“They’re coming again!” Wizer hollered over the crashing of the waves. “Do something!” He didn’t have to tell me twice—I was already halfway through incanting my next spell.

“Levitation!” As soon as the words left my mouth, our boat began its ascent into the air, carrying us with it.

“This is insanity!”

“Shut up and hold on to something if you don’t want to fall overboard!” I barked at Wizer’s panicked outburst. We rose ever higher into the air as the tentacles shot after us in pursuit, barely brushing the bottom of the boat as one last push sent us higher than their arms could reach.

Wizer looked first to the kraken’s tentacles and then back to me with consternation clearly written on his face. “You’re running away? This is your plan?”

“Yeah, well, we didn’t come here to go kraken-hunting,” I answered shortly. “We’re here to investigate that island.”

“But surely… No.” Wizer halted, and then met my eyes with a firm gaze and a set jaw. “You cannot let it roam free like this! Imagine the danger it poses for the fishermen back on shore! Tell me, even knowing that you could be putting their lives in danger, will you still stand here and do nothing?” he demanded.

“You could always fight it yourself if you wanted, inspector.”

Inspector Wizer snapped forward and jabbed his finger toward the island. “Full speed ahead!” he barked.

The status quo for humanity, I guess.

I rolled my eyes. “Glad we straightened that out. Now let’s talk about—“ The roar of water drowned out what I was about to say next. I jerked my head over the side of the ship to search for the source of the noise. “What in the world?” I muttered.

Down below us, the tentacles were surging quickly in our direction.

“The kraken is surfacing!” Wizer called out. To his credit, he was half right. As the tentacles rose upward, the dark shadow at their root cut along underneath the surface of the water, and with a great splash it leapt from the depths of the lake! But in place of the kraken we’d expected to see was a different beast entirely.

GROAAAAR!

The mighty roar of the beast rebounded throughout the lake as a sea serpent burst forth from the water. Attached to its trunk was a number of wriggling tentacles—the ones that had been giving us hell up until that point—it even had a pair of wings sprouting from its back. Needless to say, something that weird doesn’t happen without a little helping hand.

“Wh-What in-!” Wizer sputtered. Apparently the shock had robbed him of his typical eloquence.

“It’s a chimera,” I responded to the question he obviously didn’t have the facility to ask. “And I’ll bet you anything the people on the island are the ones who created it.”

RAAAAAH!

With another deafening roar, the chimera reared back, spread its wings wide and began to flap them with earnest. It was… I almost didn’t believe my eyes. The thing was flying! Higher and higher it soared, and lower and lower my stomach sank. It was headed straight toward us, and it looked like I would be left with no choice but to fight the thing after all. I fought for control over the floating spell and began to incant another under my breath.

“Dolf Zoke!”

A spout of water burst forth from the lake, and formed itself into a peerless blade. As soon as it gained speed on the soaring serpent, it lashed out and sliced the beast in two, all in the span of a single heartbeat. The strike was deadly… But the spell wasn’t mine. As what remained of the chimera’s body deafeningly splashed into the water, an unmistakably, painfully familiar and painfully irritating laugh rang out above the sound of the waves.

Oooh-ho-ho-ho! No one lays hands on Naga the White Serpent and lives, especially not a cretin of a chimera! Reflect on that in the afterworld!”

I looked over in the voice’s direction, and sure enough, there was Naga, hands on her hips and proud as could be, standing…  Wait a minute. On the water?

“Naga, how the hell are you standing on the water?”I asked.

Oooh-ho-ho!” she laughed. “Why, how funny you should ask! You see, after a certain someone blasted me away with a Diem Wind, a passing jellyfish happened to come along and save me from an uncomfortably soggy grave.”

Now that she mentioned it, I could barely make out a giant, halfway transparent mass gently undulating with the water under her feet. Well, I’ll be damned… She was telling the truth.

Naga chuckled. “Yet another proof of my natural powers of persuasion, I suppose,” she bragged, chest puffed out with pride.

I had to stop and think about that one. If she could get a passing jellyfish to come by and rescue her, then what the hell kind of powers of persuasion were we talking about…? I’d come to the conclusion that Naga wasn’t just some ordinary person, in more ways than one, but… well, whatever.

“Whatever you say,” I said with a resigned sigh. “But that freak of nature is all the proof I need that there’s some weird stuff going on on that island, and someone doesn’t want us getting close enough to find out what it is.” I thrust my finger forth and pointed to the hazy shape barely visible through the hanging fog. “Now let’s go find out what it is! Land, ho!”

*****

                “Oh, yeah. There’s definitely something here…”

Strangely enough, we’d managed to make landfall on the island with virtually zero incidents, previous chimera attack notwithstanding. When I first heard about the island, I figured it’d be some Podunk little square of land, so you can imagine my surprise when we landed to see it was bigger than most of the villages we’d visited recently. The point we’d landed on was home to both a wharf and a very sizable number of boats.

Something, surely,” said Wizer slowly, looking at me with doubt in his eyes, “But these boats, couldn’t they belong to the fishermen back on the shore?”

I sighed deeply. Where do I start?Everyone in town said the fishermen hadn’t been here in months. Aside from that, these barely look used, and, hey! Here’s a good one! They aren’t even fishing boats!”

“Indeed…” Wizer murmured as he scrutinized the boats moored to the dock. “Indeed,” he repeated, “between the chimera and these boats… I must say, you’re very thorough with your diversionary tactics, Lina Inverse.”

“For crying out loud!” I screamed. “Are you going to warp all of this into my fault?!”

“Of course! As I have clearly stated from the very beginning, the piercing intuition and work experience of yours truly has clearly indicated that you, Lina Inverse, are the culprit in this case!”

“Your intuition is about as sharp as a rusty hammer! As sharp as…” I trailed off. You know, I was tired of fighting with him. “Oh, whatever,” I sighed. “If you didn’t believe me before, I doubt you’re going to start now. I’m gonna love hearing what you have to say about that once we’ll turn this island upside-down, though.”

He snorted. “And I can hardly wait to hear the excuses you will undoubtedly make once our search turns up nothing at all.”

“Oh, we’ll see who’s laughing once this is done and over with! And once we have this culprit under lock and key, I want to see you come crawling back on hands and knees to beg for my forgiveness!”

Naga cleared her throat. “More importantly, Lina, I’m expecting a raise on my cut of whatever treasure we find in return for that stunt you pulled in the lake.”

The three of us continued to bicker back and forth as we made our way toward the center of the island. To be honest, I didn’t have the first clue where the criminals’ hideout was, but since they didn’t bother trying to lead us away from the boats or the wharf, I had a sneaking suspicion that they already had something else in place further up the way to stop us. Sure, it sounds like trouble, but at least we wouldn’t have to wander the entire island trying to find the place.

“Alright, alright! Let’s get back on topic,” I finally said. “The entrance to their hideout has to be somewhere around here. I know the fog’s not going to make it easy, but keep your eyes peeled for anything—” The words froze in my throat. Something was here, alright. And it was out for blood. I could feel it. I whipped around with a strangled gasp to see several red dots of light form out of the fog. Was that—?

ROOOOAR!

As soon as the beastly howl reached my ears, the red dots burst forth and started speeding straight for us! I leapt to the side without a moment’s hesitation, and not a second too soon. The hairs bristled on the back of my neck as I watched a team of Flare Arrows blast through the space we had occupied just a fraction of a second before with a shrill whistle. Any slower and I wouldn’t have gotten away with just a singed hair.

“YEEEEK?!”

…Alright, so one of us wasn’t so lucky. Oh well, not my problem! I pushed that niggling little thought aside and I began to incant my counter-spell. But before I could finish, I was interrupted.

“What business do you have here?” asked the disembodied voice of a man from where the flaming arrows had shot.

“Oh, I think you know what we’re here for,” I said. “Nothing says ‘guilty conscience’ like sending a couple of assassins to kill me in my sleep, or setting that guard-dog you call a chimera on the lake to keep us out of here.”

The voice was silent for a moment before it spoke again. “Fair enough… But what concern is it of yours what we do here?”

“We’ve come to take the children you kidnapped home to their parents, of course!” Wizer spat in the voice’s direction before I had a chance to open my mouth. Well, I’ll be damned. It looked like he’d finally opened himself to reason. “Even if you are Lina Inverse’s cohorts!”

So much for that idea.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about… But now that you’re here, I’m afraid I can’t let you leave.” At the voice’s words, a lone figure slowly emerged from the white shroud around us. It was a lesser demon. It dawned on me that the thing was probably responsible for the arrows, but why was he sending out just one? What kind of joke did this guy take me for? I mean, sure, a lesser demon would pose a threat to any average swordsman or sorcerer, but to a master swordswoman and gifted sorceress such as the one and only Lina Inverse, it offered a woefully weak foil.

“Just one?” I scoffed. “Are you sure that’s all it’s gonna take to handle me?”

The voice chuckled. “I’m sure it would pose no threat for you,” it agreed, shockingly enough. “That is, if it were an ordinary lesser demon…”

I rolled my eyes. “Bluffing’s not going to help your case,” I said. “It looks like an ordinary lesser demon from here.”

“Oh, certainly it looks like one… In terms of ability, it’s identical.”

“Are we getting a point here?”

“My point is that its existence is what sets it apart. A typical lesser demon would be summoned from another plane via spell, but this… this was a product of painstaking research. It was created using something else as its base… Why else would you think we were kidnapping those children…?”

“…What?”

“You heartless scoundrels!” cried Wizer at the same time. “How could you do such a thing?!”

But the voice only continued. “Indeed… Using children who had not yet developed their own sense of self as base upon which we built, we were able to transform them into lesser demons. That is the basis of the research we have conducted here, the fruit of which is standing right before you.”

“I’ve heard some shaky bluffs in my time, but that takes the cake,” I said with a grimace. The guy had to be lying.

“…How do you figure?”

“You don’t need to create them, for one thing. If you used lesser demons directly to kidnap the children, which you did, then that tells me that either you or one of your friends can use demon-summoning spells. That means this research you’re talking about wouldn’t be worth the time and money it would take to not only kidnap a child, but to conduct the research in the first place.”

 “Demons will obey no one but the sorcerer who summoned them,” the voice answered immediately, completely unfazed. “Ultimately they are useful only in the way that a tradesman might use his tools. However, say certain conditions were fulfilled that would create a demon which obeyed any command given to it? Couldn’t a group of such creatures be applied as the ultimate fighting force? What we are doing here is creating weapons of warfare from demons. Simply put, the most efficient means of creating said weapons happens to be human children. Call it a bluff if you will, but all you will find when you kill that demon before you is the body of a dead child.”

I gritted my teeth, and next to meI could hear Wizer doing the same. Well, at least we agreed on something.

“If we’re finished talking now,” the voice continued in an almost bored voice, “I think it’s time for you to die. Kill them!”

The demon answered with a roar and summoned another round of the Flare Arrows. Wizer and I leapt off to avoid the oncoming hail, but every time we managed to dodge one barrage, another followed straight on its tail as the demon relentlessly hammered at us.

It had us cornered. I could have obliterated the demon three times over under normal circumstances, but if there was any truth at all to what the disembodied voice was claiming, this demon used to be a scared little boy or girl. I might not be what you call a paragon of morality, but I’d never sleep again with a child’s blood on my hands.

“What’s the matter?” The voice cackled as we struggled to outmaneuver the constant barrage. “You’ll never get anywhere with all that running around! But of course, you’d never be able to defeat that demon, anyway!”

I heard a soft chuckle. “Oh, are you sure about that?” said the last voice I ever wanted to hear under the circumstances. Before Wizer or I could say a thing to stop it—

“Dynast Breath!” In the blink of an eye, and with a crackling sound that turned my stomach, the demon’s body had frozen into a block of ice. In the next… it shattered into a million pieces, and a shower of white dust fell to the ground.

My stomach dropped to my feet.

“What have you done?!” Wizer cried out, his voice pitched high with fury.

Naga being Naga, it was impossible to tell whether she had heard either of us or not. She lifted her hand to her mouth and infuriatingly began to laugh. “Oooh-ho-ho-ho! There! I defeated your demon for you! Better people than you have tried to challenge Naga the White Serpent, and better than you have failed! Try again in ten years’ time!”

“Th… That’s impossible! How did you know I was lying?” the voice cried out in … Wait…. Lying?!

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I hollered. “Do you mean to tell me that was a bluff?!”

The voice made a strangled, irritated growl, and that was the last he spoke.

“Oooh-ho-ho-ho!” Naga laughed. “He must have realized the folly of his ways and run in shame!”

Wizer harrumphed appreciatively. “Truth be told, I’d had you written you off as extra baggage until this point, but after how quickly you saw through his ruse, I must say you’ve forced me to reevaluate my opinion of you!”

Naga puffed out her chest even more at Wizer’s praise. “Oh ho-ho-ho!” she laughed for a few more moments, and then trailed off. “…What lie would that be, again?”

Wizer and I were shocked into silence.

“The story about the kidnapped children being used to create the demons…” Wizer slowly explained. Naga drew her eyebrows together in confusion.

Wait a minute. Don’t tell me…

“…Just asking, Naga, but when that demon first attacked us and you took the hit, did you get… knocked out, by any chance?”

She chuckled softly. “Well, yes. When I came to, you were both running around like your lives depended on it. I heard someone saying ‘You can’t defeat this demon,’ or some absurd thing like that, so I decided to handle the job myself.”

“So that’s what they mean by ‘a lucky hit,’” I mused.

“At least it was only a bluff,” Wizer added with a resigned sigh.

“At any rate,” I said after we all had a moment to absorb our astounding good fortune, “at least now we know their base of operations is somewhere nearby, and that means the children probably are, too. I know the guy was bluffing about the demons, but I’m willing to bet he wasn’t lying when he told us what they were really up to. Now let’s get moving and rescue those kids before they turn ‘em into lab rats!”

*****

          KA-BOOM!

The wreckage of what used to be the door to the enemy lair exploded around me after I blasted it to pieces with a well-placed attack spell. The second-rate camouflage hiding it never stood a chance. I peered down a stairway leading underground, and saw a long, white corridor lit by the luminescent moss lining its walls at the bottom. Not a soul was around.

“Coast is clear. Let’s go!” I called over my shoulder to Naga and Wizer as I quickly descended the staircase.

As I ran headlong down the corridor, there was one niggling thought I couldn’t get out of the back of my mind. Normally you’d expect hideouts like this to be outfitted with all sorts of traps—arrows flying out of the walls, trap doors opening through the floor, that kind of thing, right? Yet for some reason, this place didn’t seem to have anything like that. Maybe the people running the joint didn’t care to set it up that way, or maybe they never dreamed that anyone would have made it this far to begin with, I didn’t know. Then again, if Wizer was the status quo for inspectors in this country, I couldn’t imagine any of the local criminals felt particularly threatened enough to think that far ahead. Not that I blame them…

The three of us continued down the corridor in silence for several minutes until a familiar voice stopped us in our tracks.

“Somehow I knew you stubborn people would find your way here,” said the same disembodied voice that spoke to us from the fog, seemingly out of thin air.

“Where are you? Show yourself!” Wizer demanded as we screeched to a halt in the middle of the hallway.

“Calm down,” I said. “He’s probably using some kind of speaking tube.”

“Well deduced,” said the voice. “But since you’ve made it this far, you leave me with no choice but to make a stand myself.”

“Really? Now that’s thinking with your head,” I said.

I say enough with the tricks,” said the voice. “We settle this here and now; me and my people against you and yours. Go straight down this hallway and enter the first stone door on your right. We finish things there. I’ll be waiting.”

“Sounds like a plan to me. I’ll go.”

“It could be a trap,” Wizer warned. “In fact, I have a very good idea that it is.”

“Oh, I know it is,” I responded with a grin. “And that’s why we’re going.”

Wizer just looked at me, brows furrowed. “But it’s ludicrous…”

Oooh-ho-ho-ho! Well done, Lina! You’ve finally learned the meaning of ‘aesthetics!’” Naga spread her cape with a flourish and posed dramatically. “To burst into your enemy’s stronghold, even knowing a trap lies on the other side! To claim victory against all odds! That is the way of… Oh, Lina! Don’t leave me behind!” Naga called after me as I walked off on my own. What, you thought I was going to sit around listening to her stupid speeches while I could be getting things done? Wizer and Naga quickened their pace to catch up with me, and before long, our merry little party stumbled upon the door the voice had directed us to earlier.

“Wait! Surely you don’t mean to go through with this?” Wizer demanded. Jeeze. Guy can’t take a hint, can he?  I ignored his protests, and concentrated on casting a spell.

Vu Vraimer.” Sure enough, a low rumbling issued forth from the stone walls of the corridor as they began to twist and warp in response to my spell, giving birth to a single, good-sized golem, almost wide enough to fill out the hallway. I stood it in front of the doorway, and shoved the door open from the side. Instantly—

VWOOOSH!

Countless – a hundred, maybe more—Flare Arrows shot out from inside the room and exploded against the golem’s body!

They tried to ambush us! I stayed my position until there was a momentary lull in the barrage and quickly shot my head around the corner to take a look around. Inside was a huge room that may or may not have been a storehouse at some point, and stationed right in the center were about ten sorcerers, plus just as many of those twisted chimera creatures to go along with them. So the plan was to concentrate the heavy artillery here, lure us in, and then take us down without breaking a sweat. And how well that worked out for them. I noted that the doorway I was standing in was the only way in or out of the room.

As soon as I was satisfied with my split-second surveillance, I quickly shut the door and turned to the golem. “Sit with your back against the door and don’t let anyone out for any reason,” I ordered. Just another one of my favorite techniques: Pretend to take up a challenge, then use it as an excuse to hunt down the big guns and lock ‘em away!

“Oh, come on!” hollered a familiar voice from a hidden pipe stashed who-knows­­-where. “I thought we agreed to settle things!”

“’Who’s ‘we’? I said I’d go, and that was it. But if we’re talking about people not keeping their word here, I noticed you weren’t in there. What’s up with that, huh? Content to leave the dirty work to your lackeys while you take the high ground and watch from afar?”

“W-What makes you think I wasn’t there?!” the voice sputtered.

“Easy. There weren’t any demons.” The voice said nothing, so I continued.  “See, if we put together all of the pieces, it’s obvious by now that you were the one who summoned and was controlling the demon during our run-in earlier. Now, if you were in this room, I think your major concern would be with fortifying your offensive power, so you would have summoned at least one, if not two demons to tip the odds in your favor. But since there wasn’t even one in there, I’d say that makes it pretty clear you weren’t, either. Oh, and by the way? Adding that to the fact that you wanted us killed right here, well, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that you’re somewhere down this hallway, too. So sit tight and get ready, ‘cause I’m comin’ to getcha!♡” I turned to my companions with a wide grin. “Let’s knock on some doors, gang!”

“Indeed!”

“Lina, wait! What about the treasure?!”

“We’ll ask about it once we find him!”

Naga barked a laugh. “The sooner the better then!”

We left the golem where it sat and raced down the hallway. Starting on one side, we started bashing in every door we came across in sequence. If there was nothing inside, we moved on to the next door, and so on. Just as I opened the door to the last room—

VRRRN!

“Whoa?!” I involuntarily cried out as a cluster of Flare Arrows blazed just a hair’s breadth from my nose, close enough to feel the heat. Half a step further and that would have been a direct hit right to the side of my face… I shuddered. I’d barely had time to consider a life bereft of one of my most prized assets when a voice cried out. But this time, he wasn’t speaking through a pipe system.

Don’t move!

I glanced around the room and quickly spied a heavy iron door to the side. Standing before it was a gangly stick of a sorcerer, and with him was the stock-still form of a lesser demon.

“Aah. At last we come face-to-face, boss-man.”

“I said, don’t move!” the sorcerer squeaked. His face was ashen pale and his eyes bulged with terror as he thrust his hand back against the iron door with a jerky motion, fumbling for some kind of lever installed in the side. “The children you’re looking for are just behind this door! Do you have any idea what will happen if I pull this lever? Do you?!”

“Ragna Blast.”

SHOOO-KOOM!

I waited for the sorcerer to finish his spiel before I cast my attack and blasted the lesser demon back to the darkness from whence it came. “I’ll tell you what will happen once you pull that lever: Not a damn thing. It’s just another one of your stupid bluffs.”

“Wha… But…” The sorcerer sputtered. Clearly, he wasn’t expecting me to see through it so easily.

“See, from your point of view, those children are essential to your research. Given the fact that you don’t have this place outfitted with a single, solitary trap—a dead giveaway that you’ve never even considered the possibility of anyone breaking in here, by the way—that only tells me you wouldn’t dream of outfitting the room you use to hold the kids with any crazy traps, either.”

The sorcerer looked at me silently for several heartbeats. He was quietly measuring me, I felt. “That settles that, I suppose,” he simply said. “You win.” I obviously had backed him into both a literal and proverbial corner, but strangely enough, he didn’t seem so terrified anymore. In fact, he almost seemed a little… relieved. Was it something I said? “But remember this,” he added. “You haven’t heard the last from us.”

“Oh, I think we have.” Wizer barged in the room with all the office he could muster, and moved past me to stand in front of the man and his iron door. “I, Inspector Wizer Freion, have born witness to the details of your wrongdoings, to which the traveling sorceress Lina Inverse here will surely attest, having heard your confessions of guilt as well.”

“What?!” The sorcerer’s eyes bulged. “I-Inspector?! But that’s impossible! No Inspector would come here!”

…How do you figure?

“Impossible or not, here I stand. Concoct all the lies you can muster, and please, feel free to corroborate your story with your co-conspirators. Now that your heinous operation has been revealed, help will never come to save you. That, I guarantee.”

…Wait, what?

At Wizer’s accusation, the color drained completely from the sorcerer’s face as he slumped to the ground in despair.

—So in the end, we foiled the villains’ plot, and the children were safely taken into custody.

And the treasure? Well… there wasn’t any.

*****

                “Well, you had me fooled,” I admitted to Wizer several days after the case was solved as we sat together in a cramped corner of the restaurant he’d come to visit us at.

“Hm? I’m not sure I know what you mean,” Wizer innocently remarked as he sipped at a fragrant cup of tea, content, as always, to play the fool.

“The Kingdom of Ruvinagald itself was behind this incident, wasn’t it?” I asked flippantly. Wizer froze with the cup to his mouth, and Naga seemed to be holding her breath. “Well, that or someone of high rank within the kingdom,” I added. “But judging by the way the fishermen were walking on eggshells, it had to be someone with a tremendous amount of clout. I mean, if you just look at the whole ‘incompetent detective’ act, plus the facility itself, and add the way the sorcerer said there was no way an inspector could be there… It sounds weird, doesn’t it? You don’t say ‘there’s no way’ unless you’ve got some facts backing that up. What that told me was that whoever was backing the operation, man, woman, or organization, they had to have strong ties to the kingdom’s Special Investigations Bureau, too.”

“Hold on, Lina. If, and I stress if, the country itself was behind it, then why in the world would they do something so foolish as to use their own children as fodder for those demons?”

“Think about it, Naga. They have no center of commerce, and there’s nothing to draw in tourists, either. That equates to no foreign source of income. The only natural resource they have to barter with is the Ruvina Cedar for boat-building, and even that isn’t all that profitable, nor is it inexhaustible. If they don’t find a different source of income, and fast, then the country of Ruvinagald’s got a one-way ticket to bankruptcy.

“My thought is that the solution they came up with was the artificial production of demons that just about anyone could control. Now, whether they wanted to sell them as a commodity to other countries, use them within their own borders, or use them as an instrument to wage war themselves, I don’t know.

“Sure, they could have used children from other countries, but then they’d risk attracting attention from local authorities, and they wouldn’t be able to avoid inquiries forever. Then it explodes into international conflict. So instead, it was in their best interests to steal children from the common folk instead, since it would be easier to cover up, and even if the investigations bureau was to launch an inquiry, there wouldn’t be much they could do about it once the country started putting pressure on them to cease and desist. Does that sound about right, inspector?”

“Hm?” Wizer averted his eyes innocently.

“You said it, yourself. ‘Help will never come to save you.’ In short, you knew, or at the very least suspected, he was receiving funding at the national level, which meant that if you wanted to continue the investigation, you would more than likely face strong opposition from people with a lot of influence. And when you heard that I’d stopped in the country, you latched on to the smallest excuse you could find and accused me of perpetrating the crime myself. That way, the higher-ups would write it off as some wild goose chase, and you’d be free from worry that the people at the top would catch wind. Instead, that would create a situation where I was the one doing the investigative work, and you were simply tagging along. The reason you held me off when I had those assassins cornered at the inn was because you didn’t want me to jeopardize the operation by cutting off the proverbial tail of the lizard for a couple of underling assassins. Looking at it that way, a lot of other things start to make sense, too. So basically, you pretended to be an incompetent oaf while you played me like a fiddle. I guess that stuff about you being the sharpest inspector on the force wasn’t a complete lie, was it?”

“H… Hold on, Lina,” Naga said slowly. “Wouldn’t that mean we…?”

I simply shrugged. “You got it,” I said. “We got worked for free. Isn’t that right, Mr. Wizer?”

“Hm. Well, I’m still not sure what you’re talking about,” said Wizer, but I could see just the faintest twinkle of a smile in his eyes. I couldn’t help but grin.

“Oh, alright. If you’re so bent on playing the fool, I’ll let you. But I’ll tell you what: You cover our tab here, and we’ll call ourselves even for helping you with your investigation. Deal?”

“Oh,” said Wizer, “if that’s all you want, then by all means…” At Wizer’s go-ahead, Naga and I looked at each other and shared a wide grin.

Needless to say, between me and Naga, we ate and drank until Wizer finally leapt from his seat with tears in his eyes, begging us to stop.

*****

                Oh, right. I guess I should mention that sometime later during a dispute with another country, the whole incident with Ruvinagald came to light and the royal family was dethroned, so that ended well, at least.

…Even if I didn’t make a single, solitary coin from it…

(Wrongfully Accused: The End)

Slayers Special: Wrongfully Accused (Part Two), Written by Hajime Kanzaka
Translated by rebmastu@gmail.com (10/22/12), commissioned by Anonymous

2 Comments

Leave a Reply