“I apologize. I ran a bit late.”
The next day.
Claire-sama and I returned to the Imperial laboratories, this time bringing Mei along.
We had already met up with Philine already, so all we had to do was wait for Hilda to finally show up to enter. She was a bit late but finally arrived.
“I thought it’d take a bit longer for you to figure out how to open the box and assumed I had a bit more time, so I ended up getting caught up with other work in the meantime. I apologize.”
Hilda explained her circumstances before apologizing.
“Thank you very much. Now then, who might this child over here be?”
Hilda, with a wise look on her face, turned to face Mei.
Mei seemed a bit frightened and grabbed onto the hem of Claire-sama’s clothes.
“This is Mei, one of the daughters that we adopted. We need her power in order to open the Forbidden Box.”
“Mei, please introduce yourself.”
Claire-sama said while gently pushing Mei on the back.
Mei seemed like she was still a bit afraid, but she managed to muster up some courage.
“Hi there. My name is Mei. I’m six years old. It’s nice to meet you.”
She followed up by bowing deeply. Claire-sama praised her for doing a good job.
Afterwards, Hilda crouched to match Mei’s eye level and,
“Nice to meet you, Mei. My name is Hildegard, but please call me Hilda. You’re a good girl, aren’t you, Mei?”
Hilda said while wearing a crook-like smile on her face and patted Mei’s head gently.
Mei’s face still seemed a bit stiff, but she appeared to let her guard down a little.
“You say that we require her power, but could you explain what for?”
“I’ll tell you about it as we walk. Let’s get a move on.”
“I understand. Let’s go.”
Without falling behind from Hilda, we entered the laboratory together.
Inside the laboratory, just like before, there were scientists that looked like alchemists still chipping away at their research, although they would sneak skeptical glances over at Mei from time to time.
Speaking of Mei, although she seemed to be a bit afraid in the beginning, she seemed to be washed over with curiosity as she started restlessly looking at her surroundings.
“So then, what do you need to do to open the Forbidden Box? Did you hear about it from Tred?”
Hilda asked as we walked down a hallway.
“Unfortunately, Tred-sensei never told us how to open it. However, we just knew of a way to open it.”
“Eh……? How did you manage to find out without hearing about it from Tred……?”
Philine had a suspicious look on her face.
“We can’t reveal that to you. I’m sorry.”
“…… Well, I guess it’s fine. So then…?”
Hilda had an unconvinced look on her face for a slight moment before deciding that moving forward with the conversation took priority.
“That box can only be opened with the use of three attributes of magic simultaneously from one person alone. That’s why we brought Mei, who is a quad-caster, along with us.”
“This girl is a quad-caster?”
“Yes. She is one of the daughters that I’m so proud of.”
When Hilda expressed her surprise, Claire-sama took pride in it.
Mei also looked happy to be praised.
Of course, I was extremely proud as well.
“Well…… I see. That explains why we haven’t been able to open it. So those were the conditions, huh.”
“Philine-sama, does the Empire have any known tri-casters or quad-casters?”
“Not any that I’m aware of. I’ve only seen a lot of dual-casters around.…..”
Even with the Empire being so advanced when it came to magic, they still had not found a way to artificially increase one’s magical aptitude yet.
When I thought about it, even I could understand a bit of the reasoning behind Salas’ good-for-nothing research, even if he was operating in secret.
“So then bringing Mei was the right choice, huh.”
“Yes, she’s a big help to us.”
“Please give it your best, Mei-chan.”
While we were discussing everything, we arrived in the room where the Forbidden Box was being kept.
“Now then, let’s begin.”
“Okay. Mei, come here.”
On Hilda’s mark, I brought Mei over to the Forbidden Box.
“Do you see these magical stones here?”
“Could you try using earth magic on the black stone here? And water magic on the blue one, and then fire magic on the red one.”
“Got it. I’ll give it a try.”
Mei grabbed the box with both of her hands, closed her eyes, and concentrated on it deeply.
“Can she already handle using three different attributes at this age?”
I could hear Philine whisper her question to Claire-sama.
“Mei can already handle all four attributes. When it comes to magic, she’s a natural-born prodigy.”
Claire-sama answered while sounding very proud.
Even Philine’s face appeared to be dyed with admiration.
“Hm? What’s wrong, Mei?”
“Is it okay to break this?”
“I’ll probably have to use a bit more magical strength on this box, but if I do that, it’ll probably end up breaking.”
She could even sense things like that, huh.
I shot a look over to Hilda to see what she would say.
“As long as the contents inside of the box are safe, I don’t mind if you break the box itself. Please try to open it.”
”There you have it.”
“Okaaay. I’ll try to open it without breaking it, though.”
Mei replied casually.
And after she did,
“Well, let me get serious now.”
The moment after Mei said that, it felt like strong magical energy was about to fill the room.
“Probably Mei’s doing.”
Mei’s magical energy was so dense that you wouldn’t be able to guess that it was coming from a six-year-old child.
Since she didn’t know how to form proper magical spells yet, it didn’t take the form of any concrete magic, but even so, it was easy to understand just how powerful her raw magical power was.
Mei’s magical power could perhaps even rival the strength of Claire-sama’s Magical Rays.
As Mei said that, the three colors that represented each magical attribute flashed.
The room was enveloped by the lights for a moment.
While everybody was covering their eyes,
A heavy, machine-like noise rang out.
“I got it~”
When the lights subsided, we were met with the sight of the freshly opened Forbidden Box, as well as Mei laughing innocently right next to it.
“You did well, Mei.”
“Good work, Mei.”
While Hilda appeared to be stunned, Claire-sama and I both praised Mei for her work.
Philine was left speechless with her mouth hanging open.
“Well, let’s look over the contents of the box.”
Hilda walked over to peek into the box.
“This is……. A ring and a notebook……?”
Hilda picked up the notebook first and took a look inside.
“This is…… a report of the research that was done on being able to artificially amplify magical powers, huh……”
It seemed that the contents of the notebook were the same as they were in RevoLily.
I was a bit curious about the details, but most likely, I don’t think I’d be allowed to read over them.
In the end, I probably had to ask Tred-sensei about it later.
“And this…… is a forbidden ring, huh……”
Hilda tried to pick the ring up from the box while her hands were still trembling.
“Please wait, Hilda-sama. It’s best if you don’t touch it.”
“Why is that?”
“If you read further in the notebook, that ring is still considered incomplete. If a person that doesn’t have the aptitude for it tries to handle the ring, they’ll end up being consumed by it instead.”
Upon hearing my warning, Hilda stopped her own hand.
“And why do you know about this?”
“Just like with how I came to learn about the method of opening the box, I can’t disclose that information to you. However, I’m certain about what I said.”
“So, what’s that aptitude?”
“Even Tred-sensei doesn’t know in detail what’s necessary to be able to use that ring.”
“So is there nobody that has the aptitude to wear this ring?”
“No, there is one person that can. That would be Philine-sama.”
When her name was suddenly brought up, Philine voiced her surprise.
At the same time, Hilda frowned.
“…… This again?”
“Why is it always like this? People that are naturally powerful, people that are born into money, people that are in a position to continue rising in ranks so smoothly… Nobody ever pays any attention to the people that shed countless blood and tears just to get a bit ahead in their lives.”
Hilda lifted the ring and began to put it on.
When I noticed her doing that, I immediately grabbed her arm to stop her.
“Don’t you think it’s a bit unlike you to sink so far into your own despair like this?”
“Let go of me, Rei Taylor.”
“I won’t let go. You aren’t suited to wield this ring. That’s something that I am one hundred percent certain of.”
“In that case, just go ahead and kill me off. That should be an easy task for someone like you, right?”
Hilda, who laughed while saying so, looked a bit sad.
“Isn’t it obvious that I wouldn’t be able to do something like that?”
“Why is that?”
“I won’t kill my friends. I consider you my comrade. We even fought off a demon together.”
Although Dorothea basically single-handedly won us the fight against Rates, Hilda was there to help out as well.
And there, we fought with our lives on the line together.
“Hilda-sama―― no, Hilda. You don’t need this kind of power. This is not the place for us to fight, and Philine-sama is not your enemy. You should know this.”
I said to Hilda without releasing my gaze from her.
I was being as sincere as possible.
Hilda was an incredibly smart person.
She was too bright to be the kind of person who’d let her emotions run rampant and take over.
“…… Hah…… A comrade, you say. Even though we’ve only fought together once?”
“There’ll be more and more situations from now on too.”
“In other words, you’re basically roping me into your schemes, huh.”
“Hm? We made a deal, didn’t we? If we opened the box, you’d lend us your cooperation.”
“……. Well, a promise is a promise, isn’t it……”
Hilda relaxed her hands and flicked up the ring with her thumb.
The ring drew a parabola in the air before finding itself in Philine’s hands.
“Please hand this over to the director later.”
“B-But what about you, Hilda?”
“I’m going to go get some fresh air. Please excuse me.”
Hilda left the room after saying so.
“Philine-sama, let’s leave her be for the time being. She’ll be fine.”
Claire-sama stopped Philine from chasing after her.
“She just needs a bit of time to sort out her own feelings.”
For the time being, she managed to convince Philine to stay.
As for me, I was secretly feeling incredibly relieved.
Actually, in RevoLily, originally, Hilda did end up wearing the ring in this scene and ran rampant.
If the protagonist’s affection levels with Hilda were high enough, Philine could actually stop Hilda with the power of love (?), but no matter how you looked at it, the affection levels between Philine and Hilda right now were not that high.
Well, to begin with, people’s lives shouldn’t be gambled like this over such vague things.
If worse came to worst though, I was fully prepared to knock her out, but it was good that she stopped where she did.
Furthermore, Mei was here as well.
“It seems like things went well, Claire-sama.”
“I was so anxious, though. I’ll have to punish you once we get home.”
“That would be considered a reward in our industry.”
Anyway, there were high prospects to look forward to now that we managed to get the Ministry of Magic on our side.
It was a step forward in our plan to capture the Empire.