Softie totally fell for my charm. I’m not sure how that worked since I’m a woman, but I’m a hundred percent certain that Softie’s totally smitten with me. With this, I’ve thoroughly solidified the heart devils inside of Softie’s suitors! I’m sure Softie will get over me and find an appropriate person in time. She’s a jealousy-inducing beautiful person. It’s impossible for her to not find someone.
As for the bandits that tried to rob us, we stole their clothes, their spoils, their pride and dignity, and their boat! They’ve been stripped completely naked, and Softie took out these ropes that could bind an earth-realm expert. I tried pulling one to test my strength, and it broke apart pretty easily. But the bandit chief was already basically dead, so there’s no chance of him escaping. Softie said we could drop them off at Kang Country’s capital and receive a reward; though, Ilya thought it’d be easier to just kill them. But murder’s the one thing I won’t do!
We’re traveling to the imperial capital to join the army. Or at least report to the guard captain for my fancy sword. Then I’ll find a smith who can forge sky-realm-ranked swords and make this phoenix abduct his child. If he doesn’t have a child, then I’ll find a different smith. Mm. There’s absolutely nothing that could go wrong with this plan. I’ve been wondering though, just what’s so special about the army? “Hey, Softie.” Right now, we’re cuddling! It’s been too long since I’ve cuddled someone cause Durandal had to turn into a tiny ball.
“What’s the point of the army again?” I’m pretty sure someone said some time ago that there were no wars going on…. I might just be imagining things though. Hmm. “Are there wars?”
“Well, yes. There’s always wars, but not civil wars. Kong County belongs to Kang Country. There’s no reason for a war to exist in one of a country’s counties. But there are other countries that are at war with Kang Country. The army exists to patrol borders; there hasn’t been any serious fighting in a while—only a few skirmishes here and there.” Softie paused and snuggled closer. “Actually, there’s one section between Kang Country and Fang Country that has a perpetual battlefield. I’ve only heard about it. I think you should go there if you’re looking for as many merits as possible. …Unless you’re really planning on following through with your kidnapping plan.”
“Of course, I am! Isn’t that right, Mr. Feathers?” I reached towards the pouch by my waist and grabbed onto … Mr. Feathers? He’s limp…? Ah! He ate Ilya’s weird thing and I forgot to get it out of him! “Mr. Feathers!”
Mr. Feathers twitched. His eyes fluttered open weakly. His beak widened as if he were a turtle slowly chomping away at food. His feathers rustled as his wings barely rose off the blanket. A faint cry came out of his mouth. “Meow….”
…What? Did I hear that correctly?
“Did a phoenix just meow like a cat?” Softie asked, her eyes wide as she stared at Mr. Feathers. Mr. Feathers stared back and hissed at her before his head collapsed onto the soft silk. …Maybe I shouldn’t eat Ilya’s alchemy products without testing them first.
“Hmm. I’ll shove him back into the bag, and maybe he’ll get better.” If he doesn’t, I can always make someone else kidnap the child. Like Puppers…? Right! Puppers can definitely do it. He just has to never show his face again. Mm. I’m not sure he’d like that, so I’ll be sure to dye his fur to disguise him before the deed is done. I think Puppers would look great with pink fur. Everything looks great in pink. “Ahem. Anyways. After I pick up that sword from the guard captain, I’ll go straight to finding a smith! Do you know where one lives?”
“No. If people knew where they lived, then there’d be an endless stream of people hoping to meet them.” Softie sighed and lowered her head back onto the pillow. “If you choose not to join the army, then … I’m going to follow you.”
Yup. I definitely captured Softie’s heart. Even though I’m not a prince, I am extremely charming. “Great! I was planning on kidnapping you anyways.” But to make sure Softie’s safe while traveling with me, I have to overcome some of my weaknesses! “Do you know any techniques that can stop illusions?” Yup. Illusions are the bane of my existence. Ilya trapped me one in a prank once. Once. Then she learned her lesson.
“Why did the topic suddenly change like that…?” Softie asked before sighing. “Yes. The Nine-tailed Fox Sect has multiple manuals on dealing with illusions. Why? Are you interested? Our sect’s Heart Devil Apparition is actually an illusionary technique as well.”
“Huh? Really?” I thought it just summoned heart devil wormies in a solid shape to beat things up for you.
“That’s right. It traps its target in an illusion with all of its heart devils. If someone was scared of spiders, then they’d be confronted with thousands of spiders inside of the apparition’s attack.” Softie pursed her lips. “But it doesn’t seem like you’re looking for something like that. You want to break free from others’ illusions, right?”
“The Clear Heart Mantra is the…, actually, no, that wouldn’t suit you at all.” Softie’s forehead wrinkled. “Then the Mind at Peace…, no. Um, there’s the Unfettered Thoughts that … also won’t work.”
“What’s wrong with those three?” Wasn’t she going to say the Clear Heart Mantra was the best one out there?
“Many illusion-countering techniques require, um…, yeah. They’re just not suitable for you.”
Require what!? “Say it! What do they require!?”
“L-Lucia! S-some people are blessed with great strength! That’s you!”
Mm. She’s not wrong. I am extremely strong; I’ve noticed I haven’t met anyone who could lift as much as I could. The closest was that bull person whose hammer I stole.
“And some people are blessed with great intelligence and wisdom, like Ilya.”
That’s true too. Ilya’s really smart, and she’s younger than me. It’s not fair.
“And people with an emphasis on strength usually don’t have great times with illusions.” Softie nodded repeatedly like a frightened rabbit.
“So … I can’t learn those illusion-countering techniques because I’m too strong?” That’s weird. It doesn’t seem to make very much sense…, but Softie’s the encyclopedia. If she says that’s true, then I guess it must be true. “You’re not lying, right?”
“Eep! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Softie shrank back and shivered. “Please, put your apparition away. I’m sorry I lied! You’re just not smart and virtuous enough to learn illusion-countering techniques!”
…One day, people will recognize me for my intelligence. Mm. That’s a fine goal. I’m going to accomplish something so ingenious that everyone will be in awe of my brain’s thinking power. Let’s see who’ll try to call me an idiot then! I’m sincerely smart! It’s just hard to prove sometimes. Hmph.