༺ The Resistance – 6 ༻
The half-destroyed control center was dark. The only interior illumination was the day-time lights leaking through the gap of the half-collapsed roof. But even that blurred as you wandered through the mountainous piles of rubble, the overturned floors, and the crumbled walls.
It was so dark and shady that any determined hider would turn invisible, but encountering the occasional illuminated spots would reveal them like a ghost. That was the control center.
I firmly held the gun I seized from the Resistance member’s corpse and hid in the shadows.
There was only one chance. I had to sneak through the dark and put an iron bullet through Kanysen’s vitals while his guard was down.
There would be no next time if I didn’t kill him in a single blow.
He was a former squire of a renowned knight, who had instructed him in a time-honored Qi Art, and the very first thing knights learned after acquiring Qi Art was Qi Deflection. With Qi Deflection activated, the force of ordinary arrows or bullets would be reduced to the level of stinging raindrops.
Even without it, it wasn’t easy to penetrate the resilience of a trained body with a bullet. Unless I hit a vital, Kanysen would easily endure at least one shot, then he would come after me in a murderous pursuit.
This was why the gun wasn’t rated as a particularly good weapon despite being recognized for its utility. Its sole purpose was to grant some power to ordinary people who had nothing else.
I focused my mind as I walked carefully inside. I could hear thoughts from beyond the rubble. Kanysen was down on one knee, staring at a passage to the basement. Gamma was hanging by a rope in the collapsed underground passage, investigating the place.
｢I found out! So this is how they made the floor of the abyss! Then if we just install bombs at two points, we can bring the whole place down!｣
Hello, Regressor? Wasn’t Tantalus supposed to hold out for at least a year? It looks like these guys have figured something out. What do we do about this?
I sighed, inwardly blaming the Regressor. It was clear I had to get rid of these two if I wanted to live.
Fortunately, Kanysen was staring down the passage. His heart was only filled with the fervor of successfully completing this terror attack. Good. There’d be no worry about me getting noticed in this situation. So long as I got a good angle, that would be the end.
I took a careful step.
｢Mm? A presence?｣
The bad thing about mind-reading was that knowing someone else’s thoughts didn’t exactly improve my capabilities.
The good thing? I still had the initiative as I could perceive their vigilance.
Realizing Kanysen’s alarm before he turned around, I rushed to hide in the shadows. Immediately after, his attention turned toward the surface passage. He glared down the passage with a frown.
｢Did I imagine it…? I want to investigate, but regretfully, I can’t move while Gamma is down there.｣
Gamma was the only one capable of destroying Tantalus right now. Kanysen couldn’t do anything alone as he lacked the technical knowledge, which was why he prioritized Gamma’s protection above all else.
｢Still, I set a simple trap in the passage. I’ll notice if someone steps on it.｣
Oh, aren’t you a meticulous one? Setting a trap where you pass even at a time like this?
But a revealed trap only posed a tenth of its original danger.
I moved through the rubble with caution and eventually found a shiny thread by my ankles. It was unnaturally taut.
Is this thread trap the defense you believe in? How laughable.
I gently raised my foot and sstealthily crossed over the—
It’s a double trap?
So it was a double trap. Blast it.
I had read Kanysen’s thoughts too carelessly. I was confused because it was routine for his kind of people to set two layers of traps, which was why he wasn’t very conscious of it!
“Who is it!”
Kanysen reacted immediately to the bells. He was close. I’d be caught in a flash if he quickly ran over.
There was no choice. I thrust my gun over the corner and fired without delay.
Kanysen covered his face with both arms and closed his eyes, taking the exemplary response against guns; by activating Qi Deflection over his whole body, he’d be safe as long as he wasn’t hit in the face, especially the eyes.
A knight’s way of dealing with guns was to charge like a bull while protecting himself with Qi Deflection. Kanysen kept faithful to that precept.
Or he would have if my bullet didn’t hit the passage to the basement.
I smirked at the sight of him flinching and took that opportunity to hide among the rubble.
There was no reason to shoot his body since I knew it was pointless. Instead, I aimed at the underground passage—the rope hanging over it to be exact—to make him hesitate. Gamma’s life currently held more value than his, after all.
“Captain?! What’s going on!”
“Stay still, Gamma. And don’t come up.”
“It’s an ambush. Keep hiding below.”
Kanysen got up after giving a firm warning. He gathered the rubble around him, glaring across the surface passage.
｢The rope tied to the pillar is supporting Gamma’s weight. If it’s cut, he’ll be isolated beneath this fissure in the ground. I have to defend the rope.｣
Thanks for explaining. I just have to cut the rope then. I’ll shoot it with this gun and run. It’d be hard to hit the thin rope, but I figured I’d land at least one of around five shots at the part tied to that pillar.
｢I’ll pile up the rubble to protect the rope, then go get that attacker.｣
Come on, that’s cheating.
Kanysen layered broken steel frames and planks to cover the rope. It was a rushed makeshift barrier, but it would block two or three bullets. Blast it. Everything’s ruined.
“Who are you? Identify yourself.”
After he was done assembling the barrier, Kanysen took a wary step my way.
Well, I was screwed. That was my conclusion after some careful thinking.
Kanysen was making aggressive use of Qi Deflection, and I doubted my shots would even touch his skin. Even if it did, the metal wouldn’t even penetrate his Qi-protected flesh.
Now my gun was, at best, a substitute for a blindfold. Bullets couldn’t harm him.
So that left only one way.
“Hello, comrade. Is the escape plan going smoothly?”
I called out to him as I hid deep in the rubble. Kanysen flinched upon hearing the still-unfamiliar voice he heard several minutes ago.
When he belatedly realized who I was, he adopted a growling tone.
“… You’re that laborer. What did you do to Delta?”
“I let him meet his imminent fate a little early. This gun is his memento. I tried shooting it and boy does it sound clear. Looks like he usually took meticulous care of his weapon. It’s very like his personality.”
Enraged, Kanysen seized a nearby metal pipe and swung it violently. It was a powerful strike. I heard something breaking apart beyond my cover of rubble. My waist would probably be severed if I got hit by that.
But while he could cause some damage to the rubble with his skills, he couldn’t split it all apart like the Regressor. His senses were sharp, but he was deaf compared to the Dog King, and unlike the vampire who controlled space itself, he couldn’t harm me without swinging a weapon.
The man was stronger than I was, but he wasn’t some transcendent being, merely a knight akin to someone who was now a legacy of the past.
He was just at the level of being normally strong.
I changed location with a sneer. There was no need to hide perfectly. I only needed to hide somewhere he didn’t know and couldn’t see.
“You didn’t come here to rescue anyone, and neither did you make any preparations to escape. You planned on bringing the whole place down in the first place, didn’t you?”
“So you saw through me from the start.”
“Honestly, it’s obvious if you think about it a little, don’t you think? Everyone knows the Resistance are like fire-seeking moths. And it’s also well-known that this is the abyss where there’s no escape once you’re in. With those two open facts, wouldn’t I be the one with a problem if I didn’t know?”
“It was all an act then. You had me completely fooled from the moment we met.”
His voice was filled with anger. Kanysen started moving with the intention of personally tearing me apart.
Like I’d let him. I fired again, and he instinctively flinched. It wasn’t that he feared getting shot, he was wary because he knew I was after Gamma.
Good. I had him baited.
While he was on guard, I moved behind the collapsed roof. It was dark all around and there were many obstacles, so our voices echoed greatly. He couldn’t pinpoint my exact location unless I spoke, which was why Kanysen gritted his teeth and spoke to me.
“Sending Alpha and Beta away must have been your trap as well.”
｢Answer me. Answer, and show me where you are. That will be your last.｣
His plan was clear as day, but I willingly fell for it out of necessity.
“What are you talking about? That wasn’t my trap. Alpha, Beta, and Delta died, and even Gamma will be joining them soon, but is that really my fault now?”
Hearing my voice, Kanysen strode this way. Mind-reading his movement path, I kept my distance from him in a large circle.
Now then, my strategy was the same one used in a normal gun versus melee confrontation. I had to wound him before he drew close using the sound of my voice.
As for my gun? It was no longer a weapon but a tool. Just a device to draw and divert attention, similar to a magician’s prop.
“Because the one who drove them to their deaths? It’s none other than you, Kanysen.”
My target was Kanysen’s spirit, his mind, which was as firm as stone but cracked by the harsh developments of life.
If bullets couldn’t pierce his body, then I had to resort to putting a hole in his heart. Wouldn’t that be the way a mind-reader fought?
“Don’t go off calling my name with that filthy mouth. They used their lives, and almost succeeded. They would have completed their missions if not for you.”
“Don’t talk about the lives of others with “your” filthy mouth. They would’ve died regardless. Bombing Tantalus is a white elephant of a mission that’s bound to fail anyway and gives nothing even if succeeded. If it weren’t for you, they would’ve used their lives for a mission with a little more meaning and honor.”
“How ignorant and presumptuous!”
I mind-read what he was seeing. He was coming this way. I lowered my breath and crept under a toppled table. Kanysen’s line of sight slightly missed me in the dark. After escaping that dangerous position, I crawled under a fallen cabinet.
Now then. I had to take down Kanysen eventually, otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to even escape this area. As for how I’d do it? That required some more thought.
At that moment, I saw the cabinet I knocked down the other day when I came here with Azzy. It was the cabinet holding clothing packets, the one with the warden’s uniform.
I was sure it contained “that” item. I couldn’t use it against the Regressor, the vampire, or Azzy, but it would work on Kanysen.
I carefully reached inside the cabinet, took out a rather peculiarly-shaped clothing packet, and hid it in my hand. The square, hard gray packet was heavy like a steel mahjong plate.
Good. All the pieces of the puzzle were collected now.
It was time to bring out an old move, a technique I had sealed away after finding the legitimate work called gambling—pickpocketing.
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