One man, in particular, broke down under very efficient questioning of the torture master called back from retirement just for that.
The man revealed that the device was meant to gather the power of light mana and increase the capabilities of light magicians and that he agreed to be subjected to the experiment because of his honest wish to be on the King's Guard which he couldn't do because of his lacking magic power.
He claimed that he didn't work with any foreign forces and the whole experiment was performed by the team of researchers from the Bellcephora kingdom... and yet he didn't dare to speak their names.
Even so, after being placed under more pressure he admitted that the investors behind the research team weren't from the Bellcephora kingdom after all, as in exchange for the magic-strengthening device he had to share whatever news and information he gathered while stationed at the royal castle.
The questioning could not continue because the moment the subject regained some clarity he bit off his tongue in an attempt to take his own life but he was saved and put under sedation by the healer magician, Burushi, on-site.
The door to the room opened and a brown-haired young man walked inside while carrying an armful of the creepy mana devices.
Reo raised her brows and stared at them in shock as the young man put them all on the table next to the original thirteen.
"Xeoni.... what is going on...? Where did all of that come from...?"
The girl asked looking between the table and the grim face of the brown-haired young man.
"Under the first prince's order, we've called every member of the King's Guard and performed a bit of an inspection. This is the result."
Xeonith breathed out with a bothered expression.
"The ones with mana devices removed experienced a significant drop in the power of their magic, there were a few who could not even cast a teleportation spell anymore. To make things more annoying those were also the same people who were originally accepted in King's Guard because of their exceptional power even though their discipline and characters were something to work on... to make things even more suspicious though, amongst the group that we now know as traitors, there were a few who had records of underperforming and failing to be accepted into the King's Guard during the tests in the previous years– but every attempt to look into that was stopped by the vice-leader and head instructor of the new recruits, lord Lutroan..."
He added, crouching by the table and glaring at the now silent artifacts.
Reo bit her lips and also looked at the magic devices – amongst them was one excavated from the head instructor too.
"Lord Irghun claims that lord Lutroan didn't have the magic device in the past, but recalls that two years ago he stopped appearing in public in casual clothes, walking everywhere in his armor. Although that part was originally considered the ego boost because of his promotion to vice-leader after his accomplishments in – get this – nurturing new recruits. Lord Lutroan's claim was that every light magician was a diamond in the rough only needing patient and capable hands to show their real worth."
Xoenith reached out his hand and jabbed at one of the devices with his index finger making it wobble and fall onto the table where its sharp edges left scratches on the wooden surface.
Something like that had been implanted in another human being.
"...is it possible that those people were influenced to go along with everything by hexes and curses of the magicians from the Barbariacca nation...?"
Reo gulped down her saliva and asked in a worried voice. She seemed to be at least a little bit hopeful that no one in their right mind would risk their life by allowing something so ridiculously dangerous to be put inside of them just for power, all while becoming the traitor to their homeland.
"Yes. Boss has cleansed any and all traces of mana from the bodies of the selected few, the results are yet to be shown."
The brow-haired young man responded with a nod without looking away from the magic devices – he didn't sound too optimistic about the idea though...
"Oh, that's right. I bring new requests from the crown. Confirm whether the information about those things boosting the power of light magicians is true. Search for any additional functions. If the first point is proven true, start working on our own version, preferably one that can work as an accessory instead of something that had to be embedded in the flesh. Additionally, it would be nice to figure out the same type of device for types of mana other than light."
Xoenith looked up as if remembering something and turned to Reo, resting his face against the side of the table and passing orders.
"As if that was such a simple thing! You were the one to tell me what that thing does because it doesn't want to activate in its current state! Figuring out how those activate those things without stabbing them into someone is already a ridiculous hurdle! Xeoni, you can go and tell the first prince to stop being delusional! If the device doesn't work when out of the body... the body... hmmm..."
Reo became flustered and called out with a cute blush of exasperation on her face. Her complaints were valid but in the middle of speaking she suddenly flinched and her eyes widened as she slouched deep in thoughts, making Xeonith snicker softly at the sight.
The brown-haired girl stood up from her chair, pushing aside a case with various tools she used to tinker with the artifacts, and rushed to the workbench in the back where mana crystals of various shapes and sizes were laid.
"...despite using mana crystal as its core the device isn't using it as an energy source but rather a converter, the thing powering up is the mana heart of the user... but then why wasn't the device embedded closer or inside of mana heart...?"
Reo muttered to herself while rummaging through the mana crystals before furrowing her brows and putting one hand on her abdomen.
"...lack of support for the device? In one's chest ribs would naturally help support the weight and position of the device... there is also a chance that the device placed directly in the mana heart overloads it which can potentially lead to the mana reservoir getting destroyed...! Worst case scenario... but it also could be that the device receives the optimal amount of energy to work at a certain distance from the mana heart... Anyway, it should be possible to make it work through a device that simulates the mana heart of a light magician...!"
The brown-haired girl completely detached herself from the outside world already too focused on her creative process to pay attention to anything else while separating and examining the light mana crystals that were optimal for her project.
"...when I said the crown, I meant the king, not the first prince..."
Xoenith muttered knowing that his words will not get any reaction out of Reo when she was in that state.
The brown-haired young man's expression darkened as he started nudging another creepy device.
"And I didn't bring you all the devices that were retrieved either."
He added with a dispirited sigh.
"What do you mean no one knows where Roiso is? I am most definitely still using the law of Virgo on her to limit the effect of her attribute."
Zoemi's expression turned furious as he looked between Burushi, George, and Leveo while stroking the side of an armored wolf, Hachiko, sitting by his side as Metavicero watched them in confusion.
"Listen, after your disappearance Roiso was taken in by the Perserios family. As far as I know, lady Rokiana Grea Perserios adopted her. That didn't matter too much for Roiso herself, but in the end, she attended the Academy for one year as a gifted student and definitely arrived at the Academy for the inauguration of her second year."
Burushi rubbed her forehead and explained with a bothered expression as she wasn't given a moment of respite and was being questioned right after being done with assisting in a torture session which was against her morals.
"Lady Perserios said it so herself, she and Roiso arrived at the Aspakeony together, but then right after she checked up on lady Kierul and her mysterious attendant – which turned out to be you – she was called into the royal castle with the rest of, a duty she was assigned by headmistress Aspakeony. She wanted to get Roiso here too, but that's when things get messy. At first, she received a few lukewarm letters in response, at first she thought that Roiso was just angry at her for leaving suddenly, but when she checked the letters side by side, she realized that despite being written in Roiso's handwriting they weren't written by her."
The blond-haired girl explained, and Zoemi's tense expression softened a bit – the black-haired boy didn't say a thing though, waiting for Burushi to continue.
"When lady Perserios reached out to the Academy directly, she was met with a response that Roiso didn't attend even a single lecture since the beginning of the year and that she hasn't been in her dormitory – get this – which was something the staff thought as natural as the girl supposedly left a letter of withdrawal in her room."
Burushi said with a stern expression.
"There you have it, it's not like everyone ditched her, we were all tricked."
She added, putting down her hand and looking straight at the black-haired boy.
"George. Go and inform the first prince that we are in much deeper shit than anyone else expects."
"Where did that come from?"
Zoemi sighed and turned to the brownish-black-haired young man and commanded, causing the young man and Burushi to react in confusion.
"We have traitors and spies placed in the most prestigious armed group in the kingdom and now it turns out that a magician with an attribute that corrodes and dissolves every other type of mana had been missing, most likely abducted. Even an off chance that those two cases are connected should be enough to hasten the mobilization of the kingdom! Those fuckers are experimenting on magicians! What will you all do if they came up with weapons that can render your magic useless AND kill you and everyone you care about?!"
Zoemi breathed out and leaned forward to deliver the explanation in the coldest way possible, causing the others to flinch.
George didn't need any other incentive – he rushed out of the room in search of the first prince.
"Hey, umm... isn't Miriette a god now? Can't she deal with it?"
"Hopefully yes, most likely no."
Burushi gulped down her saliva nervously and asked, but Zoemi had not been deluded by an easy way out.
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