“I apologize, but that is impossible!”
Stop the Tortoise Dragon from moving for five seconds.
The gung-ho knight gave his honest answer in response to Katia’s instructions.
“Just protecting you two demands our full effort! It’s vexing, but with our current forces—!”
“In that case, you don’t have to protect me.”
Despite the gung-ho knight’s objection, Hermes made a new proposition without a moment’s delay.
“You don’t need to defend against the attacks coming my way; just focus your attention on preventing it from moving.”
“B-But Sir Hermes, you’ll…”
“Rest assured. I didn’t traverse all those labyrinths with Master for nothing.”
Fundamentally speaking, a magician’s role in combat was to act as the cannon. Magic required the use of chants and spell activations, so magicians were vulnerable in close-quarters combat; as such, using their knights to protect themselves and blasting enemies with high-firepower attacks from the rear became the standard way of fighting for magicians.
However, Rose and Hermes were different.
They didn’t have the means nor status to hire knights for protection to begin with, so they learned techniques that enabled them to deftly deal with threats, even in close quarters. Enhanced generic magic, which could be activated quickly without a chant, was one of such techniques.
…Well, Rose found a solution to that shortcoming using a different method anyway, but there’s no point in talking about that now.
In any case, Hermes didn’t need to be protected that badly. It was certainly better to have their protection than not, but after getting cornered this far, he had no problem sacrificing it.
“That monster is considerably intelligent. If I’m understanding what it’s targeting correctly, it should focus its attacks on me. When that happens, flank it and pin it down.”
“W-We could actually pull it off with that strategy! Alright, I’ll put my faith in you!”
This could also divert the tortoise’s attacks away from Katia, who should be protected the most. The knights followed Hermes’ instructions and separated themselves from him. At the same time, he increased his mana output.
Sure enough, the Dragon Tortoise caught on and charged at Hermes. Akin to a battering ram, its upper arm covered in hard scales loomed before Hermes, but—
“Up we go.”
—he easily sidestepped it with a nimble jump.
Thereafter, the tortoise flew into a rage and unleashed an onslaught of attacks with its arms and tail. Amidst the storm of slashes and sweeps, Hermes took it all in stride; sometimes sidestepping, sometimes parrying, or sometimes blocking with enhanced generic magic.
“Look at how he moves his body, and the precision with which he uses mana to enhance his body! He rivals that of even professional knights!”
The precision of his mana manipulation was top-class from the start. With Rose’s martial arts training on top of that, he became able to move like that in no time.
Don’t forget: he was a genius who didn’t have Bloodline Magic, but a genius all the same.
Having become fed up with missing each and every one of its attacks, the Tortoise Dragon bellowed out in fury and began waving around its arms at random.
Although its attacks were certainly threatening, that was only if they hit; rather, its movements became more monotonous, making its attack patterns easy to read.
Naturally, there wasn’t any room for a counterattack. If Hermes continued to dodge at the pace he was going at, he would’ve likely exhausted himself and gotten hit, but—
“I shan’t let you!”
—thereupon, the knights rushed in from the side and attacked. Katia had already fired off one of her spells, and the tortoise had no choice but to divide its attention.
The tortoise barely managed to deploy its Barrier Magic and block her magic, but it lost its balance in the process. Spurred on by the opportunity, the knights slashed at its hind legs.
The tortoise fell forward, and the knights doubled down with more slashes.
None of their attacks were effective, and the tortoise would eventually use brute force to recover its posture, but—
“Bravo. This is more than enough.”
This would buy far more than just five seconds.
Hermes deployed The Inscription of Genesis, The Emerald Tablet. A single spell was woven together from the yarn of wisdom stored within.
What did Hermes and Rose traverse all those labyrinths for, you ask?
What else could it be, except for the further research of magic?
The Inscription of Genesis, The Emerald Tablet could theoretically recreate all magic.
That included both generic magic and Bloodline Magic.
—Even the magic that monsters use isn’t an exception.
“Gather and pierce, Schleien;Feld, the jaw of flames.”
The magic that high-leveled monsters used, at times, surpassed even Bloodline Magic.
Rose, who could only use her inborn Bloodline Magic, was the one who discovered that it was possible to recreate said magic, and Hermes was the one who elevated that possibility into something new—something more. This was the third type of magic that The Inscription of Genesis, The Emerald Tablet recreated, which she coined:
“Technique Reenactment: Alternative Magic, The Flame Dragon’s Breath!”
Beckoning to his call, a breath of scorching flames in the shape of a maelstrom materialized.
Its hellfire raged and rampaged, as if to consume the entirety of the cave; and yet, it was small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, a prison of flames compressed to a near-infinitesimal point.
This was the trump card of a flame dragon awaiting at the deepest point of one of the labyrinths that Hermes and Rose traversed together.
After a fierce battle, they defeated the dragon with their own strength. And now, Hermes, having succeeded in recreating the strongest Alternative Magic, fired it at the tortoise.
It must’ve sensed danger with its instincts. The Tortoise Dragon chose to focus solely on defense, which it hadn’t done until now.
Contracting its neck and limbs, it hid away into its undamaged shell, just like how a real tortoise would. At the same time, it deployed an innumerable amount of barriers around its shell.
It took a completely defensive stance, abandoning everything except protecting itself from harm. However—in the face of this spell, that was a poor move.
His spell made contact with the barriers—milliseconds later, it burned each and every barrier to a crisp in the blink of an eye and pierced through the shell like butter with the same momentum.
Then, the spell detonated inside the shell.
A voiceless shriek reverberated throughout the shell. As irony would have it, its solid shell gave no way for the heat to escape, only enticing the sea of flames within to burn with greater intensity.
No matter how ironclad the Tortoise Dragon’s defenses were, it was completely helpless if it was continuously incinerated from the inside.
Before long, the shrieks came to a halt.
Upon seeing the smoke billowing from the shell’s opening, complete silence enveloped the group.
“Did we… do it…?”
“What astonishing magic…”
“It isn’t standing back up! We did it!”
Soon after, the gung-ho knight raised shouts of joy, followed by the rest of the knights.
They fought on the frontlines, risking their lives more than anyone else; they must’ve been all the more joyful.
Victory wouldn’t have been possible if not for their strenuous efforts. With feelings of gratitude, Hermes attempted to cast Recovery Magic on them, but—
—before he could, he saw Katia with her head hung down.
“What’s the matter? Might you be injured—”
“…No. I’m not hurt, and I’m honestly glad that everybody managed to make it out alive. It was all thanks to your magic, Herm… Seriously, you’ve become an amazing magician, huh?”
She lifted her face, and just as she said, she had an expression of relief after seeing that the knights were all safe, but—
midway through speaking, her expression darkened, and her body trembled.
“—Compared to you, I…! For the second time, I was hopeless to do anything!”
She cried out, seemingly unable to bear it any longer.
“…I believe ‘hopeless to do anything’ is a bit of an overstatement. You clearly contributed to putting the tortoise off-balance in the end.”
“But before that, I was the one who gave the order to charge into the room. That was clearly a blunder. My measly contribution doesn’t make up for the grave mistake I made.”
He couldn’t refute what she said. They only managed to win without sacrificing anyone because of luck. It wouldn’t have been strange if any of the knights on the frontline died at any point in the battle.
Before charging in, they knew at a glance that their enemy was a formidable one. Pulling back and making extra sure that they were prepared would’ve been the better move.
“Herm, are you aware that I’m called a defective woman that can’t use magic?”
“…Yes. Although, to be exact, I’ve only heard it just recently.”
“You saw the reason why, right? My magic in the battle just now.”
Her Bloodline Magic couldn’t even put a dent in the Tortoise Dragon’s Barrier Magic.
“The Salvation of the Dead, Steria Tryvia is one of the strongest Bloodline Magics that are passed down in the Trakia household of dukedom. It should be strong enough to defeat most monsters, dragon or not… and yet, I can only bring out a fraction of its real power, and I don’t even know why!”
She glared at her clenched fist with a bitter look in her eyes.
“Because of that, I’ve been constantly made a fool of. ‘She’s perfect in everything except magic,’ or so they say. I don’t know how many times I’ve been made to suffer for it anymore—and to top it all off, I was even abandoned by Prince Astor!”
“You worked like crazy even after being abandoned, and you returned to me after learning magnificent magic, just like we promised. And yet, look at me—they go as far as to call me the stain of my household! I didn’t want you to know that, so I hid it from you, which culminated in my shameful display today… I’m pretty stupid, huh? Even though hiding it from you until the end would’ve been impossible, I…”
So that’s why she didn’t want to talk about herself after we reunited.
With a sorrowful look in her eyes, Katia questioned Hermes. “…Are you… disappointed in me?”
Until now, a lot of people must’ve turned their backs on her, starting with the Second Prince Astor.
The grim look on her face said it all: Now even Hermes is going to turn his back on me, there’s no way around it.
It wasn’t long before he responded.
“…Back when I was deemed inept, and the way I was treated by everyone completely changed.”
“Were you disappointed in me?”
Such was his answer.
“B-But that’s because I thought it was impossible that you weren’t an outstanding magician…”
“This isn’t any different. It’s impossible that someone as pure in their ideals as you are isn’t an outstanding magician.”
Hermes could confidently say that.
He was slightly more knowledgeable in magic than other people, which is why he knew that having a mindset like Katia’s was extremely useful in using magic.
However, the problem at hand was still the same: there was some sort of malfunction occurring in Katia’s magic.
—In that case, there was only one thing for Hermes to do.
In the past, she held Hermes together just as he was about to give in to despair. This time around, he would repay that debt.
In the past, Hermes was saved by the very thing that caused him to sink into the pits of despondency: magic. This time around, it was his turn to save her with magic, who was in the very same situation as he once was.
for the sake of his goal; for the sake of saving other people with magic; and for the sake of advancing his own magic, he made a proposal.
“Will you let me recreate your magic—The Salvation of the Undead, Steria Tryvia—with my magic?”
This one took longer than expected. I’ll post magic arrow later today, see you guys then.