“That’s odd…,” Mr. Skelly said as he leaned back, a book in his armored hands. He was sitting beside Alice, the two of them covered in a layer of dust with piles upon piles of books lying on the ground beside them. Every time one of them turned a page, another cloud of dust would fall out from within the book. Alice had to wear a facemask that covered her nose and mouth to breathe properly.
“What’s odd?” Alice asked, her voice muffled. She placed the book in her hands onto her lap and grabbed her glasses, tapping them against the chair’s armrest to knock the dust off the glass that was obscuring her view.
“I thought I sensed the mistress’s aura,” Mr. Skelly said, meeting Alice’s gaze. “But she’s supposed to be on vacation. What’s she doing here?”
“Maybe she’s vacationing here?” Alice asked. “She seems to be all powerful, so it’s not unlikely that she’d show up at another continent, right? Who doesn’t like sightseeing?”
“The mistress isn’t all powerful,” Mr. Skelly said, shaking his head. “She’s actually quite fragile. Not too long ago, she’d die if she stepped out into sunlight.”
“What, is her other weakness garlic?” Alice asked, rolling her eyes. “Or perhaps a wooden stake driven through her heart would kill her?”
Mr. Skelly removed his helmet and dropped his mouth open while widening his eyes. “How did you know?”
“Wait, really? That’s it?”
“No, of course not,” Mr. Skelly said as he put his helmet back on. There wasn’t a need to because Alice punched it off along with his skull. “That was a joke.” He paused as he groped around for his head. “Do you think the black dragon that Mary went to find is Grimmoldesser? If the mistress is here, then certainly Grimmoldesser’s here as well.”
“Didn’t you say there was nothing going on between those two?” Alice asked. “If the mistress is taking a vacation, why would Grimmoldesser be there too?”
“Grimmoldesser and the mistress are like … cookies and milk,” Mr. Skelly said, picking up his helmeted skull. “Cookies are in relationships with other cookies, and milk belongs with other milk, but despite that, the two are perfectly suited for each other, but alas, their love can’t come to be because they’re both eaten.”
“That was a horrible analogy,” Alice said. “Stick to making jokes, please.” She shook her head. “If you’re curious about them, why don’t you ask? You have some kind of mental connection to the mistress, don’t you?”
“Was it really that bad of an analogy? I thought it was pretty good,” Mr. Skelly said and shrugged. “I don’t want to bother the mistress while she’s on vacation. If it’s Mary we’re talking about, Apollonia said she was incredibly challenged directionally; there’s no way she could’ve found them in the first place. No doubt, she’s going to wind up back here because where else would Vur’s scent be the strongest if not on Vur himself? Besides, even if Mary meets Grimmoldesser, what’s the worst that could happen? At most, she’ll be kidnapped and used as an experimental specimen.”
“…That sounds pretty bad,” Alice said. “Hasn’t she already been traumatized enough in her childhood?”
“It’s alright,” Mr. Skelly said as he screwed his head back on. “To undo one trauma, all you have to do is traumatize them again until they forget about the first one.” He tapped on the book on his lap before Alice could retort. “More importantly, where do you think these books came from? Apollonia said her knights uncovered them from a dungeon, but what kind of dungeon stores books inside of them?”
“Dungeons drop spellbooks all the time,” Alice said. “It’s not that weird for more technical books about how to cast spells to appear.”
“But for every book to be on this kind of ancient forgotten and most-likely-going-to-be-banned-if-they-circulated-through-the-world kind of magic?” Mr. Skelly asked. “Do you know what I’m thinking?”
“That Apollonia’s lying to us?” Alice asked, raising an eyebrow. “She seems pretty nice on the outside, but she’s a noble. No doubt there’s a snake inside of her waiting to for the perfect chance to rear its ugly head.”
“That’s not what I was thinking at all,” Mr. Skelly said, shaking his head. “I’m thinking we have to go raid a dungeon. If this dungeon continuously spews out books like these, then we have to get our hands on some of them. Tafel will definitely agree to go once she hears there’s information on becoming a demon lord within.”
“We’ve already read the book that had the bit on demon lords,” Alice said, pointing at the pile of books in the corner.
“Well, the steps were vague and blurry,” Mr. Skelly said. “To become a demon lord, one must seek vengeance to the point of burning away everything inside of them? Too vague. Provoking Tafel and making her chase after Mary probably wouldn’t be enough. I don’t remember much vengeance seeking from the first demon lord when demons were being created back in the central continent centuries ago, but I don’t remember much from that time other than lots of war and battle. Let’s find more books.” Mr. Skelly chuckled. “Besides, you’re extremely interested in these books as well, aren’t you?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Alice asked, narrowing her eyes at Mr. Skelly.
“Well, you said you were going to read some books instead of training because there were other ways you could help Tafel and Vur’s party, no? Read some books on the geography, learn the names of places and their characteristics, you know, the boring logistical stuff that someone has to do,” Mr. Skelly said. “But then you came across the topic of how to get stronger in a short period of time.” Mr. Skelly’s face was covered by metal, but Alice could tell he was grinning. “And you’re not the teensiest bit interested in using this knowledge to match Vur and Tafel in strength? The Alice I know has a greater greed than that. You’re not fine with being relegated to a logistical role. And you’re trying to create a chasm between Tafel and Mary under the guise of helping Tafel become a demon lord. Why? Because you’re afraid you’ll be replaced if Mary somehow joins the party.”
Alice sighed and placed the book on her lap on top of a nearby pile while standing. “For someone without a brain, you’re awfully sharp sometimes,” she said. “Let’s go raid that dungeon.”