G 002: Murder With a Borrowed Knife

Leaving my training room, I slowly walk through the hallways of the imperial palace. All the people I cross paths with, servants and ministers alike, stop and greet and display their respect for me when they see me.

But I barely even notice any of them.

Milla is dead.

Those animals killed her.

And Father thinks I did it on purpose.

That I sent her there precisely so that the majin would kill her.

He didn’t say it, of course – he didn’t say anything – but I could see it in his eyes, in the way he looked at me.

And yet, he didn’t strike me or berate me or anything of the sort.

He didn’t do anything.

He simply looked at me for a few moments, then left.

…But I didn’t plot the death of my own sister.

What kind of monster would do such a thing?

It’s true that I disliked her, but that was only because she shamed our family with her laziness. Someone with the name Adkins cannot afford to still be a 2nd-rank warrior in her seventies. Even the lowest, most miserable peasant could do better than that. Any Adkins should reach godhood before 30 years old.

And for her to always neglect her own cultivation despite Father’s orders to the contrary…

Of course I disliked her.

Did she not realize how hard the rest of us had to work to regain the prestige of our family she so casually tossed out the window? Did she not realize the amount of effort the rest of us put into our cultivation to be worthy of our family name, while she just lazed about and took it for granted?

So I sent her to majin territory to ‘negotiate’.

Of course, those negotiations were nothing more than a formality. More ‘declaration of war’ than ‘negotiation’, really. In a way, it could even be called a provocation. I was perfectly aware that the majin would not welcome our delegation with open arms. Why would they? I expected riots and hostility.

And that is why I sent her.

To demonstrate to her that strength is a necessity, in this world. To crush her delusion that she would achieve anything with the paltry rank she had reached. To show her that, without Alfons and his strength at her side, she would be utterly helpless.

Even discounting the two dozen elite warriors I sent with him, Alfons alone should have been more than enough to quell any sort of violence on his own. He was only an 8th-rank warrior, but there was no way Yulan would send a 9th-rank warrior or a god just to get rid of someone as useless as Milla.

They all should have been safe.

But for these madmen to simply obliterate the entire palace where the delegation resided…

How many of their own comrades did they sacrifice, just to get to her?

And why go so far? Her philanthropic activities made her somewhat popular among the commoners, but Milla’s influence on the political stage was very much negligible. She wasn’t just useless, she was irrelevant.

I can’t see any reason why the majin would go so far to assassinate her.

They’re all simply insane.

…And they will pay the price for their crimes.

In fact, at this point, this war has basically turned into a liberation.

This atrocity has clearly shown to the world that Yulan and his goons simply do not care about the innocent civilians they crush under their heels. They kill their own people so wantonly it’s disgusting. These tyrants don’t seem to realize that rulers only exist to safeguard the citizens beneath them. It should be patently obvious that this is the duty of people like us, who stand above others.

But since they don’t seem to realize this truth, it falls to me to teach it to them.

When the meeting finally draws to an end, the ministers and advisers start to file out of the room in order, giving me their farewells.

“Jarod, Malhtur,” I call. “Stay here a moment, please.”

Two men, their appearances suggesting long histories in the military and looking distinctly out of place among the fat and soft politicians around them, look toward me for a second for confirmation, then sit back down, exchanging a knowing glance. A few of the ministers also glance in their direction, probably wondering what it is I want to say to them that the others cannot hear, but none of them have the guts – and idiocy – to ask me more details.

When the three of us are alone in the wide conference room, I look toward Malhtur.

“This conversation should be private. If you could?”

Malhtur nods and waves a hand, and with a small surge of qi, a barrier cuts us off from the outside world to prevent the sound of our voices from being heard by anyone else – two barriers, actually, with a layer of vacuum between them.

I take a second to be properly impressed by his grasp of wind magic – it’s almost as good as his father’s – before inwardly listing the points I’ll need to address in the following conversation. Then, I focus back on the two in front of me.

“Thank you. I suppose you’ve both realized why I asked the two of you to stay. Malhtur, I received your father’s request for replacement of the lost sixth division of apostles, and I can give you the answer right now. We don’t have another batch ready, so you’ll have to make do without, for now. The loss is regrettable, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Malhtur looks like he bit on a bitter fruit at the unwelcome news, but as I said, there’s nothing any of us can do about it. “I see. Thank you for warning me, sir. Will the new batch be ready for the deployment of the troops in majin territory?”

Current estimates from Foss place that in nearly five months.

But…

“Unlikely. The next batch was being prepared in the laboratory in Lamos. The one that blew up. The third laboratory was focused on… something else, so by the time they redirect their efforts toward producing new apostles, it’ll be too late.” I pause for a moment to collect my thoughts. “I’m not even sure that they will redirect their efforts in the first place. My father is over there right now, so I’ll wait for him to come back before informing you of his decision. In the meantime, as I said, you’ll have to make do with only five divisions.”

“Understood.”

Then, I turn toward Jarod. While Malhtur is the vice commander of the apostle divisions within the imperial army – and the son of the commander – Jarod is the intelligence officer in charge of collating and analyzing and investigating everything he can on the enemies of humanity, along with setting up covert operations to act on that information. Basically, he could be called the spymaster of the empire.

“Sir?” Jarod asks, seeing me focus on him.

“For you, two matters. First. How goes the hunt for the Major?”

“Hmm. My apologies, but we haven’t found her, yet. We’ve eliminated some potential suspects, but we’re still narrowing down the possibilities. I have to say, I didn’t think it was possible for someone to hide so thoroughly. Simply staying on the trail is taxing all my resources, so climbing up that trail all the way to the source will probably take some more time.” Jarod awkwardly rubs the bridge of his nose. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to find some more clues in the recent incidents in Elphen, and, ah…”

Apparently realizing that this might be a sensitive subject for me, Malhtur throws urgent glances at Jarod, whose voice slowly trails off upon noticing his blunder.

I only grit my teeth and urge him to continue. “Go on.”

“Um, yes. The explosion of the laboratory in Lamos was powerful enough to wipe out all traces, so we couldn’t find anything there, but if the Major really is to blame for what happened in Elphen, we might have more luck there. Our sources in the city have already reported that they found a corpse, away from the governor’s palace, that was identified as one of the Major’s known associates, a rhuth going by the name of Aran-Riha, wanted both in human and majin territories for more crimes than I care to recall. The corpse was destroyed almost beyond recognition, so there is little chance we’ll get anything off it, but the fact that it was there at all implies that the Major encountered some form of resistance during her attack on the palace. We’re still trying to find out who acted against her, so that, if we’re lucky, we might get some information from them. Apart from that, we’re also continuing on the intelligence based on the interrogation of that asmodian we captured a year ago.”

“Hmm. Her. She’s the one who escaped alongside AK-A-13, right?”

“That’s correct. But simply looking at the records of the events in the Planar Prison, there doesn’t appear to be any premeditated cooperation between her and AK-A-13. It only seems to be luck that she was the one to escape.”

“What about trying to find that woman – Sif, I recall her name was? She might lead us to the Major.”

Jarod shakes his head at my suggestion. “That is unlikely, sir. She already spilled everything she knew during her interrogation – truthtellers confirmed this – and even then, I doubt she would try to rejoin with her erstwhile allies. Considering how much damage we dealt them based on her betrayal, she most likely wouldn’t be welcomed back. The asmodian has to realize that, as well, so she’ll probably simply change her appearance and disappear into the wilderness.”

“Oh, right. An asmodian. She’d probably be even more difficult to find than the Major, now that we’ve lost her trail.”

“Quite so. But as I said, sir, we’ve already whittled down the Major’s power base by quite a lot. With just a bit more time, we’ll definitely find her. I’m just trying to be careful and not break the thread by tugging on it too hard.”

“All right. Good. Even if it takes a bit longer than anticipated, just do what you think is best, as long as you’re successful in the end.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then, the second matter I need to consult with you. AK-A-13. What news do you have for me?”

I’ve been simply too busy dealing with the aftermath of everything that happened in the past few days to handle AK-A-13 personally, but even though this frantic pace is probably going to continue for a while yet, removing that particular threat is still very high on my list of priorities. Even if she hasn’t caused another disaster since Fushia City – no matter how busy I was, I would have been alerted at the slightest sign of trouble – I must absolutely take some time to find a way to fix this issue, regardless of how thorny it is.

Hearing my question, Jarod nods sharply as if he’d been expecting it. “After Fushia City’s destruction, she appears to have followed the Springfield household back to their duchy in Rigonn. There doesn’t seem to have been any noteworthy incident on the way – at least, none that we’ve noticed. As per your orders, we limited ourselves to surveillance and observation from afar.”

“She’s staying inside the Springfield estate?”

“That’s right.” Jarod hesitates for a moment before continuing. “Sir, I don’t think it would be a good idea to attack the estate trying to get to her. Considering the level of their defenses, we wouldn’t be able to do it quietly. And with the current political climate, we might…”

“I know that,” I interrupt him with a bitter smile. “Do you think I want to cause a civil war?”

Duke Springfield has too much influence right not for us to touch him directly, and I’m not as reckless as General Foss. Even Foss, if he wasn’t absolutely necessary for the upcoming war against the majin, would have been punished for the mess he caused by attacking the railroad. Severely punished. In fact, as soon as the war is over, I’ll definitely have a word or two with this idiot.

…In the end, as terrible as it is, I suppose Fushia City’s tragedy at least served to cover up the attack the Springfields suffered while aboard the train. Since all witnesses died in Akasha’s destruction of the city, Solaire Springfield will never be able to make anything of publicly accusing Foss. I suppose that’s a silver lining in this list of consecutive debacles.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath. “All right. We can’t touch AK-A-13 while she’s within the Springfield estate. So we just need to lure her out.”

The question is, how to do this?

The simplest would be to play on her objectives.

Which would be, reuniting with her family.

At least, that’s our best guess. And Father concurs on this point.

Information on her family’s location would most likely be enough to make her move, but it’s actually a bit of a puzzle how to transmit this information to her in a believable way. Who on earth would believe it, if random strangers suddenly started saying within earshot of her that ‘a woman called Nerys appeared in such-and-such city’. Akasha’s not a moron. Such a contrived coincidence would undoubtedly arouse her suspicions. And if she notices we’re baiting her that way, it’ll spoil any further opportunity we may have.

No, we need to get it right the first time.

If she shared her goals with Duke Springfield, we might be able to use him as a messenger, but wouldn’t that old fox be even harder to fool than Akasha herself? His intelligence network is one of the best in the empire; they can definitely strip truths from lies and warn Akasha not to trust the news.

How to do this cleanly…?

“What about the devils, sir?”

I open my eyes and raise my head at Malhtur’s suggestion. “What about them?”

“Well, even if we can’t act openly against the Springfields, I doubt the devils would share our scruples,” Malhtur says, looking back and forth between Jarod and I, gauging our reaction to his words. “And I assume they would be very interested to learn where their common ancestor is currently residing. They’d definitely do everything in their power to meet with AK-A-13.”

Jarod shakes his head at that. “It’s too risky. I agree that we could leak AK-A-13’s location to the devils, and they would indeed be pleased to, uh, make her acquaintance. But what if they do more than just introduce themselves to each other? If AK-A-13 actually joined up with the devils, the amount of damage humanity would suffer would be catastrophic.”

“Hmm… There is indeed some risk involved,” I say, “but it might be an opportunity, as well. An opportunity to destroy the devils at the same time as we take care of AK-A-13. Two birds with one stone. Three birds, if the Springfields receive some damage from this.”

Hmm…

This is a pretty good idea.

But do I need to act personally?

Right.

Who else but me could do this?

Akasha’s strength has already been clearly demonstrated in Fushia City. Even two provincial gods attacking her at once wasn’t enough to overpower her.

But I do not believe this mongrel is any stronger than I am. Her mere 300 years of flailing around like a blind fool could never measure up against my own techniques, refined and developed and researched for tens of thousands of years through generations of the Adkins family.

I’ll bring Orsino with me, to act as support and to deal with the devils while I handle Akasha, and we’ll clean up this mess once and for all.

I suppress the smile trying to rise upon my lips at the thought of it and slam my palm on the table, interrupting the heated debate still going on between Malhtur and Jarod. “All right, I’ve made my decision. We’ll go with Malhtur’s idea.”

“But sir…!”

“Enough, Jarod. There is some risk, but success here would be incredibly valuable. We could even manage to clean up all our greatest domestic problems at one fell swoop before the war against the majin can start. Instead of thinking about avoiding this, try thinking of ways to make it work. You’ll be in charge of leaking Akasha’s location to the devils and keeping track of them once they come out of the woodwork, so I’m counting on you for this.”

“Y–Yes, sir.”

Definitely!

This will definitely succeed!

I will not fail!

Father…!

I will show you!

28 comments

  1. “But I do not believe this mongrel is any stronger than I am. Her mere 300 years of flailing around like a blind fool could never measure up against my own techniques, refined and developed and researched for tens of thousands of years through generations of the Adkins family.”

    Funny thing is that he is right, the problem is that he have had 17 years to train in the technique whereas Akasha have been using 300 on learning to use her body as a weapon. And even a technique that have been developed for 10.000 years cannot take into account personal limitations of the user. (Like him apparently lacking half his brain 😛 )

    1. More like 300 years of things trying to kill her every day where any serious mistake would have meant death vs. 17 years of being guided down the right path, avoiding serious mistakes. And they _still_ apparently haven’t figured out about Sanae. Popcorn, I need popcorn.

  2. Thanks for the chapter!
    In the next chapter :
    The devils : *ring bell* Hi we are here to meet our ancestor.
    Akasha : I don’t remember ordering food, well itadakimasu !

  3. Knowing how to use the tools you have is far more important than having a lot of high quality tools.

    Well, hopefully it’ll be a nice learning experience for him. Y’know, in between the screaming and the crying.

  4. Know thy enemy Gareth, know thy enemy. Know yourself, too. And maybe even stop trying to prove yourself and instead use absolute overkill as a first resort.

  5. I really hope Akasha kills him. I almost can’t stand the thought of her not being able to. I want her to reveal just how op I know she can be, and wipe that smug grin right off his his face along with the rest of his head as she uses the taint to destroy his soul.

    1. So, looking ahead at the chapter titles it would suggest that he is severely hurt to the point that he requires a rebirth pill to recover. So he’ll probably wake up a lot less smug than before, but won’t actually die.

  6. So he is sending a bunch of Devils that wants to meet their ancestor, and he is hoping they offend her so that they kill each other or get injured in the process of kill each other. Sounds like he is actually sending her a army of devote followers. Yeah his ideology is gonna get him and the rest of his side killed.

  7. I know I’m in the minority here but I actually like this character. He’s not the smartest and he’s arrogant as hell, but beneath that he’s actually a good(?) person. Despite the fact he was raised by a lunatic that holds no regard for ‘lesser’ life forms Gareth actually does care for his people ad believes that the role of a leader is to serve and protect them, he still struggles to think of Akasha as a number and tool rather than a person and when he sent Milla to her death his intent was only to make her stronger and by extension safer. If he were raised by a commoner he would actually be extremely nice. I want Akasha to kick his ass but I really don’t want him to die, he just has far to much potential for character growth (both positive and negative growth) and I want to see how he turns out!

    1. I 100% agree with you I like him but he needs to learn things, and get rid of that horrible ideology he has going before it gets him killed. I also feel like he will be a good leader once he gets rid of that ideology.

      Just so everyone knows the character I hate the most is Sif, I can’t stand him. Hurry up and grid his bones to dust, Nerys.

  8. Typos:
    the two dozens elite warriors
    dozen / dozens of

    But since they don’t seem to realize this truth, then it falls
    -then

    Current estimate from Foss place that
    estimate places / estimates place

    commander of the apostles divisions
    apostle divisions

    1. Is it just me or do I gravitate around 4 or 5 typos, regardless of the overall length of the chapter?
      Strange… It’s like I’m doing it on purpose or something…

      In any case, thank you for your help, once again.

    2. Now that I think about it, going from 4 or 5 typos all the way down to 0 may have been too ambitious.
      I’ll try to only make 3 typos, next chapter, then. Hopefully, I’ll be able to reach perfection in just a few weeks.

  9. Hypocrite
    How could they blow up an entire building and kill dozens of there own people.

    That city being vaporized was relay convenient.

  10. Liv: I’m going to vote for Gareth’s demise. I realize you’ve set him up as the overconfident villain-by-extension via his desire to make his father proud, but his arrogance has ground in so deep I feel like you’ve overshot the mark and created a character that’s not only hate-able (as you intended) but nauseatingly pathetic. More important however is that the God-Emperor’s side is FAR past due for a *MEANINGFUL* loss. The God-Emperor gets critically injured, but ultimately recovers without side effects AND suffers no serious setbacks to his plans while he was out of commission. Milla got killed, but she was a non-factor. The loss of a division of literally able-to-be-regrown Apostles was a non-factor. There’s been NO real losses for the Villain’s side…and the God Emperor’s Faction is beginning to come across as more than a little untouchable. Just having Gareth suffer a defeat and then recover just as his father did would be repetitive and it wouldn’t do anything to drive the story forward. If you absolutely need Gareth for a laid-out future plot element, it’d feel much more real if he suffered some sort of permanent disability that would act as a constant reminder to him to place a check on his Unwavering Always Tens Steps Ahead Arrogant Success of the God-Emperor faction. Just my .02

  11. I wonder if Sanae is actually Akasha. There’s something very strange going on with that Spider and a couple of centuries is more than enough time for her subconcious to imprint so much on an animals mind that it takes over.

  12. “Her mere 300 years of flailing around like a blind fool could never measure up against my own techniques, refined and developed and researched for tens of thousands of years through generations of the Adkins family.”

    Yeah, techniques developed over thousands of years in mostly peaceful conditions. Wear as her techniques may be a little less than three hundred years old they were all created and refined under constant threat of death. Doesn’t this idiot know that most often the best advances are made during times of great adversity and war? Akasha has been fighting to survive almost every day for nearly three hundred years. If she failed even once she would have died. Yet she is still alive and by all appearances, thriving.

  13. The irony was strong in this chapter. First we have the ‘genius’ son killing his sister without anyone realizing it wasn’t on purpose. Then there’s the righteous condemnation of the Major killing majin… ignoring how his own minion blew up a city not long ago.
    And now he will probably destroy yet another city by sending the devils there.
    It’s all made even funnier knowing that they triggered the Major by kidnapping Akasha in the first place.

    Ahh I wish Sif would kill this guy. He doesn’t deserve a proper fight.

    1. Not just that, i don’t know why there is literaly no human apostle apart from that there is a godbeast spliced into each one of them, but Adkins heavily favor Humans in everything, from giving off artifacts and research to actual breathing(refining) techniques and magic(martial techniques as Gareth called them). Don’t know why is there war, but they clearly made an effort to not lose, and that is only because it was convinient, and since Gareth was there, just for him. His father clearly stated that he wouldn’t care if all of them died.
      Also, someone had to birht apostles, if they weren’t all grown from trees(clearly a joke but only partially), people who worked on the birth process might have died after giving birth, or better yet being used repeatedly, their children got themself mind blank in spite of the fact that they are still people as evident by Akasha and Nerys, if this isn’t inhumane i just don’t know.
      It’s not just irony but plain hypocricity. And they call Akasha it. Wtaf, or is it actually because of the Taint and her unknown reason for staying somewhat in control of herself despite the reason telling that she should by all means be bloodthirsty devil, but they are still people as deficient as they are?

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