The feeling of being dissolved into particles of light, that then travelled to another place, before reforming once again into his flesh and blood body, disturbed Lock. Understandably so, considering it was one of the few acts of magic he'd witnessed that would not be replicable by the technology that he'd so intimately experienced in his last world. This manner of teleportation hadn't even been on the horizon back when he'd been a scientist on the forefront of the soul conundrum.
It brought up the old worry that his physical Classes would one day prove insufficient in providing defence against a person who'd studied the ways of changing the universe via the utilization of mana.
Lock discarded the worry as he always did. There was no use in dwelling on problems to which solutions were already being pursued.
He made his way to the alley where he'd changed clothes, having told Mia to either sneak into his room in her gear, or to switch clothing and simply enter through the front door.
Having stashed away his adventurer clothes once again securely in the sack, he strapped it over his shoulder and entered Ms. Richard's house through the front door, noting that Dog Breath wasn't looking too good. Almost twelve hours of standing watch would that to anyone, poor lad.
Entering his room he found Mia already present, clad fully in the gear that she'd worn to the dungeon.
She also appeared to be sleeping on his bed.
“How'd she get inside?” Lock asked Tia, who was leaning against one of the walls in obvious boredom staring into space, listening horn by her side.
“Through the window.” Tia answered, causing Lock to sigh. Was he the only one who was incapable of doing that without being noticed?
“Whatever. I'll wake her up later to give you both a more in depth briefing of the mission. How long until the ritual is finished?” Lock finished with a question.
“Half an hour.” Tia said.
Lock nodded, pulled out a medium sized vial filled with a murky brown liquid from his night-shelf, and sat down on the floor.
He opened it, to Tia's clear disgust. He could commiserate, it reeked truly awful, but thankfully he wouldn't spend much time actually smelling the thing.
Lock stretched out the hand with the vial to Tia, a tired, “cheers,” hushing across his lips before he tipped the vial back to chug the liquid inside. He gagged, but managed to retain the contents of his stomach.
“What was that?” Tia asked in a grossed out tone of voice.
“Nutrient potion, all the body-building materials and calories your body needs to remain functioning. I actually prepared some real food, but since the ritual ends in half an hour and I don't know what comes after, I'd rather 'eat' something that won't lay heavily in my stomach.” Lock explained.
Doing sports on a full stomach was already discomforting enough, being in a fight with a full stomach might actually turn out to be fatal.
“Why do you think having something in your stomach will hinder you. Don't they still have like three repetitions of the ritual to finish?” Tia asked with a tilted head.
“We found the other side of the Gate in the dungeon. Only one problem though, it was fully charged already, all 21 times.” Lock said. “Now one might usually consider that they simply went there when I wasn't looking, or something, but I'm quite certain that my timetable is perfect, and the timetable says that they've only been in the dungeon 20 times. This means that they either have an item, or some sort of skill that lets them skip at minimum the last repetition.” Lock continued.
“Alright, I understand.” Tia said.
Lock nodded, before he got up to drink some wine.
“Didn't you just say we needed to prepare. Why are you drinking?” Tia asked.
“Getting rid of the taste.”.
About half an hour later Lock was ripped out of his thoughts concerning the usage of the teleportation spell to teleport away someone's limbs by Tia, who spoke to him in a concerned voice.
“They've started up the ritual again.”
Lock nodded, considering the constellation of the Castouts; Bruiser, dimensional Mage, Healer, Mind mage and Tank. They'd just started up the ritual for a third time, which meant they will have finished the 20th repetition once they were done. If the phenomenon that he assumed had happened in the dungeon occurred again, they would be finished after this.
They wouldn't be able to go directly into the dungeon however, they were probably dying of fatigue already. Dog Breath, the Warrior of the group looked exhausted to all hells, and all he'd been doing was keeping watch.
“So, what, they want to finish the gate in one go, have a rest and use it tomorrow. Or the phenomenon that occurred with the ritual in the dungeon won't occur again, so they're trying to get the ritual up to 20, so that they can languidly do the last one tomorrow before entering.” Lock muttered into the room.
“Having a completed ritual just lying around would be a dumb move on their part.” The words suddenly came from Mia, who righted herself up in the bed and yawned, staring at the two of them bleary eyed.
She didn't put a hand in front of her mouth, and therefore Lock was granted a look directly into her pink mouth. Her tongue flicked out to catch a small line of drool running down her cheek.
Mia and Tia stared at Lock in askance as he suddenly punched himself in the face.
“Wha-” Mia started, but Lock waved her off.
“Don't worry about it, just a way to focus myself. Regarding what just said however, why would it be a dumb move?” Lock asked, changing the topic.
“Well,” Mia started hesitantly, “a complete ritual, especially a Gate, can be felt by any competent mage if he walks by close enough. It would be pretty stupid to let that thing hang around through the entirety of tomorrow. Lots of mages walk around here, and they'd report the ritual. If not out of suspicion, then simply because it's illegal to use such large amounts of magic in a populated area.” She finished explaining, growing more confident as she went on.
Things started to click into place for Lock. “When they finish the ritual, I'm sure they can shave off one repetition at this point, it will be shortly after midnight, a time where no proper citizen will be walking around. They leave the Gate open for however long it takes for them to kill the boss. And if anybody notices, it will likely be someone who doesn't want people knowing that he was out and about at that time of day. If the skill doesn't kick in, they're just finishing the 20th, then it's going to happen tomorrow night.” Lock said, feeling as if he was about to reach an epiphany, only to be interrupted by Mia.
“Wait, kill the boss!?” She exclaimed, at which he gave her an odd look.
“Well yeah, what else did you think a shadowy group composed of children of the noble houses was gonna do with an anonymous entry into the reception room of the beginner dungeon?” He asked mockingly, at which Mia shrunk back, gears visibly spinning behind her eyes.
“And, we're gonna stop them?” She asked with doubt lacing her words.
“Well, yeah.” Lock answered, nonplussed. Why was she making such a big deal out of this?
The twins started speaking at the same time, not a problem, since they were speaking the same words.“So you're telling us, you hired us, so we could help you, help people?” Only their tones differed, Mia's being incredulous, while Tia phrased the question in a genuinely curious manner.
Lock shrugged. “Well, if I was being purely altruistic I'd simply tell the city guard about it. They would solve the issue for us, especially considering the fact that the noble houses have recently busted a lot of their numbers out of their prison sentences. Discontent between the classes is on the rise. The guards and the judges can't seem incompetent for much longer or else they will be seen as corrupt and obsolete wastes of money. We all know what happens to those kinds of people when the peasants get disillusioned with the way things are going.” He dramatically dragged his thumb across his neck and hung his head to accentuate his statement.
“So why aren't you simply telling the guards?” Mia asked suspiciously. “The result would be the same.”
Here Lock was stuck in a conundrum. He could admit that since humans were one of the greatest sources of Experience, he was simply partaking in the bountiful opportunity when it was presented to him. The only problem was that the twins were working under the misconception that he was already quite high-levelled, and would therefore not need the Experience. He could reveal that he had a secondary combat Class, Vanguard, and that he wanted some Experience for that, but if he was an actual high level Assassin, he could get more than just the comparably measly exp that a few young adults offered by going farming somewhere on the outskirts of the kingdom.
Lock determined that it was better for them to think less of him for the claim that he was going to make next, than to have them realize that he was bluffing about his strength. The thought of telling them that it was a reason he did not wish to divulge, didn't even enter his mind. They'd just bite onto the secret like dogs to a chew toy.
“Well,” he scratched the back of his head sheepishly, “I really enjoy killing people, but my morals kind of prevent me from indulging too often. It's very rare that I'm capable of finding someone who really deserves it and who I can actually kill without any consequences.”
The twins stared at him aghast, although there was a flicker of understanding in Mia's eyes. She'd probably just rationalized his killing of the four ambushers that had been after Harald's sword with this new information.
“Well, at least you seem in control of your... urges.” Mia eventually said, giving him a look of sympathy.
Lock laughed awkwardly.