Toaru Majutsu no Index:Volume SP Chapter1
The darkness smelled of something burning.
The location was a small city in Siberia.
A slight crackling sound reverberated through the city at night. Orange flames seemed to wipe away the darkness in places. Things were not burning normally. The streets, the streetlights, the benches, the vending machines…regardless of what it was, bright flames were scattered around on them as if the flames were a sticky mud.
“Really…” sighed Stiyl Magnus.
The cigarette at the edge of his mouth glowed brighter from the additional oxygen.
He had shoulder-length hair dyed red, earrings in his ears, silver rings on all 10 of his fingers, and a barcode pattern tattoo under his right eye. He also smelled of perfume and cigarettes, so no one would have thought that large British man was a priest. They would have still doubted it even though he was wearing a priest’s habit and could shut his eyes and recite the Bible from memory.
(I head out all over the world, but it’s always the jobs like this I end up with.)
The bottom of his shoe trampled on something hard.
It was a human face burned black to the extent that not even the expression could be read.
It looked like a failed attempt at making a cookie. There was not even the slightest moist feeling in the portions that were split open.
Stiyl stuck an arm into his habit and pulled out a small schedule book.
He opened it and brought the hand holding his cigarette close in so he could read it by the light.
“…So my next job is in Academy City.”
Stiyl Magnus. Simply put, his job was to defeat the evil magicians who made people suffer. But thinking back on that previous scene would immediately tell one just how much a difference there was between that explanation and the reality of his job.
Stiyl belonged to Necessarius, the 0th Parish of the Anglican Church. That organization killed all magicians who would bring negative effects to society. And they left the corpses in a state where they could not have a proper funeral or memorial service. Their reasoning was that trash that had strayed from the proper path should suffer even after they died. They would not allow the dead to flee to heaven.
Stiyl himself used rune magic, but the inquisition viewed lies, tricks, torture, violence, or any other means justified in defeating their heretical enemies. The trash they hated so much may say that was unfair, but they did not listen to heretics, so it did not matter.
Stiyl had burned 19 members of a Western magic cabal to death in Siberia. They had felt that people who were merely born had no hope and that people only received true hope upon dying and being reincarnated. As such, they had been enjoying themselves in “giving hope” to some young children they had felt sorry for.
This very same Stiyl was now getting nervous in front of a girl.
He was in an underground mall in Academy City. Academy City was a psychic powers development organization that took up the western third of Tokyo, but the fact that he was in an underground mall was the more important part. It was underground, but it did not have a damp atmosphere to it. Instead, the brightly polished floor was lit up by the fluorescent lights and LED light bulbs that were bundles of LEDs. On the other side of a large window covering one side of the passageway, young waitresses were energetically working in a café.
Stiyl was standing in a smoking section set up in a corner of that underground mall. Adults wearing suits and lab coats were breathing out smoke as if to say, “Even so, we love smoking!!”
A girl was also standing in the smoking area.
Or rather, she was grabbing Stiyl’s arm and trying to drag him out of that area.
The girl said, “Hey!! Why is a 14 year old child here!? Secondhand smoke is harmful. This completely defeats the purpose of having a designated smoking area!”
The girl was 135 cm tall and looked about 12, so she was not very persuasive.
Stiyl sighed and pulled a faded package from his pocket.
“I’m here because it’s polite to go here when you smoke.”
“A 14 year old is breaking the rules if he smokes regardless of where he is! As a teacher, I cannot just ignore this!”
Stiyl ended up being dragged out of the smoking area and even had his box of cigarettes confiscated.
But she was a teacher.
Despite how that girl looked, she was a high school teacher in Academy City.
(…Why did things end up like this?)
Stiyl brought his hand up to his forehead.
Just after he had finished his previous job, Stiyl had been told he had to head to Academy City for his next job. He had spent an entire day getting on an airplane, crossing national borders, receiving permission to enter Academy City, and dropping his luggage off at the hotel. He was guessing his job would once again not be something decent and he had decided to go smoke while he waited for his next instructions, but…
He had been caught there by that minimum teacher, Tsukuyomi Komoe.
“Mh? That’s a heavy sigh for someone so young. Is something wrong?”
“It’s nothing,” Stiyl responded as he forced his arm out of Komoe-sensei’s desperate grip.
However, he was a 14 year old who did not get many opportunities to hold hands with a girl like that.
(…Dammit. This age difference is just wrong. What am I doing?)
Stiyl’s body temperature had risen slightly, but he was not a perverted lolicon. Stiyl’s actual age was 14, so it was only natural for him to fall in love with a girl of the same generation.
However, Komoe-sensei’s actual age was something else entirely. To Stiyl, she was more of a mature woman…or possibly an onee-san type.
“So what is it that you want with me, sensei?”
“My lecture as a teacher has not even begun. Don’t try to smoothly imply it’s over! You aren’t going to smoke, right? Promise sensei that you won’t smoke anymore.”
Komoe-sensei was now grabbing at the waist area of Stiyl’s clothes and looking up at him. Her eyes stared straight ahead and did not move even slightly. It did not even take 2 seconds before Stiyl could not stand it anymore and averted his gaze. He wondered in his heart how that was supposed to be a lecture.
And then a cell phone started to ring.
It was a light melody that had likely been downloaded from somewhere. As that ring tone made clear, it was not Stiyl’s phone that was ringing. Komoe-sensei rummaged around and pulled out her cell phone.
“Yes, this is Komoe-sensei.”
The conversation began. Komoe-sensei spoke leisurely with whoever was on the other end.
“Yes, yes. That priest is here right now.”
“Hey!” Stiyl yelled out and started seriously considered trying to take the cell phone from her. She had no way of knowing, but he had snuck into Academy City on a covert mission.
Meanwhile, the teacher who was utterly ignorant of that fact smiled and switched her cell phone to speaker phone. She then held it out toward Stiyl.
A voice came from the phone.
It was a boy’s voice.
“Ahh… Are you really here…?”
“I don’t want to hear your voice any more than you want to hear mine.”
Stiyl’s voice was completely flat. As she held the phone, Komoe-sensei started looking flustered, but there was nothing she could do.
The voice over the phone continued casually.
“What? Did you get stuck with another dangerous ‘job’? Well, that’s fine. By the way, are you okay with spicy foods? We’re having jjigae today.”
“What do you mean, ‘well, that’s fine’? I don’t need your permission to-…”
Stiyl started to reply, but he trailed off partway through.
What had that boy said?
“Oh, you aren’t familiar with it? The weather’s been getting cold lately, so I was thinking of going with a Korean stew. I got a magazine that had a special on Korean recipes. Jjigae doesn’t look too difficult.”
“That’s not what I meant,” said Stiyl cutting the boy off before asking his question again. “Why do I have to know what you’re having to eat tonight? And why does it matter if I’m okay with spicy foods?”
“Eh? But aren’t you eating here tonight?”
“Hell no,” Stiyl spat out.
Perhaps because she had seen his expression straight on, Komoe-sensei started getting even more flustered while stammering.
“Oh, right. Is there anything you simply refuse to eat? I’m at the supermarket right now, so tell me if there’s anything you want left out.”
“…Like hell I’m going to tell you anything.”
“Well, don’t complain later. I’m filling my basket with all sorts of spicy things from around the world to season it with like Yatsubusa and red peppers.”
“That’s not what I meant! Are you even listening? I’m not going. I’m definitely not going…Hey!”
Before he could finish speaking, the line was disconnected from the other end.
He stood there blankly for a bit, but Komoe-sensei finally started saying something while trembling.
“B-but sensei can’t stand spicy things…”
“…Why did that boy call his teacher about his dinner plans?”
“Eh? We’re all eating dinner together today.”
“And I’m also curious as to how he knew I was here…”
“I emailed him when I first spotted you. I told him to buy some more ingredients because someone else would be joining us.”
When Stiyl saw her puzzled look, he slightly averted his gaze.
It seemed the student took after the teacher in some ways.
“Won’t you come?” asked Komoe-sensei.
“No, I won’t,” Stiyl responded strongly and definitely before leaving.
He turned around and saw that Komoe-sensei was trying to follow him, so he ran full speed and lost her.
“Really now…” he finally sighed after leaving the underground mall and walking alone along a street.
It was so ridiculous that he just couldn’t stand it.
Stiyl Magnus was a magician of Necessarius, the 0th Parish of the Anglican Church. He was a blood-stained person whose solution to over 70% of problems that occurred was assassination. He had burned 19 magicians to death the day before and he was thinking about how to write the report for the incident.
And yet he felt like he would forget that in conversations like the previous one.
He felt like he would forget all those truths.
It was most likely the same feeling as when one looked at fiction. A girl at a rebellious age would cry while watching a drama with a theme of familial love. No matter how opposed it was to yourself, just seeing it filled you with emotions.
That was why there was a strong feeling of despondency after it was over.
The worst moment was the one when you turned off the TV and saw once more what your situation was.
As if it had been intentionally timed, his cell phone started ringing.
It was an email from one of his colleagues in Necessarius.
“Here is your job. The mission description is in the attachment. Follow what it says and take care of the traitor.”
Stiyl nodded in confirmation.
Necessarius’s coldhearted report continued on and on.
A stimulating situation started spreading out before him and it was far removed from the peaceful appearance of things.
The location specified on his phone was a bank near the station in District 7.
It was not all that late, but all the lights were already off. Since banks had short business hours and since Academy City’s last bus and train were matched to the time the students had to be home from school, the bank was completely deserted by the time the sun set.
It should have been locked up for the night, but for some reason one door was not locked.
Stiyl turned the knob and stepped inside the dark building. He headed further inside while keeping his footsteps silent and came to a hall with the receptionist counter and long benches lined up within it.
A single woman was standing there.
The woman was hiding her form within the darkness. She appeared to be around 40 or possibly a little younger. Her hair was a mix of blonde and silver, but it was simply because her hair was damaged. She wore a baggy white top and faded white jeans.
She was Stiyl’s colleague.
Her name was Theodosia Electra.
“Thank you very much for keeping to the schedule and being right on time.”
“…Enough with the greetings. What’s the situation?” Stiyl asked angrily and Theodosia pulled a small matchbox out of a basket hanging from her arm.
“The data is in here.”
Stiyl took the small box and looked at the matches inside questioningly.
(…So she’s changed her main spell yet again.)
She was either very talented or just an idiot who got tired of things quickly because Theodosia was constantly changing what Norse magic based spell she used. To be honest, even Stiyl, her comrade, had not grasped what her habits and characteristics were.
Meanwhile, Theodosia puffed her chest out confidently.
“I’m using a fairy tale-like method where the visual data is displayed when you light a match! Doesn’t it remind you of the Little Match Girl? Isn’t it just exquisite!?”
“Sigh… So a woman in her late thirties who has children is going on about a fairy tale heroine? You have four sons and eight daughters. What am I supposed to do? Do you want me to look down on you with contempt? Or do you want me to pity you?”
“Ngh!? I won’t lose heart with just that! Don’t you think I have misfortune on the level of that girl who froze to death in the middle of winter!?”
“…I have yet to meet someone who constantly goes on about how much misfortune they have that was also a decent person.”
Stiyl sounded irritated to the bottom of his heart and he pulled out a match from the small box and lit it on the side of the box.
When he looked into the flame, he could indeed see an image.
It seemed to be holding quite a bit of data. He could even see the thorough details. Stiyl started to rethink his opinion of Theodosia when…
The match burned out.
A slight sizzling sound came from Stiyl’s fingers that were holding the end of the matchstick.
Stiyl frantically cast the match aside and stomped on it.
He specialized in using fire, but he had not thought he would be burned there.
“Eh heh heh. There is about 40 minutes worth of video data.”
While trembling, he turned toward Theodosia.
“…And how are you planning on overcoming the issue of the match not lasting that long?”
“Heh heh heh. Don’t worry. The next match, the next match! If you worry too much about getting a bit burned, you lose!”
As she had said not to worry about it, he made Theodosia hold the rest of the matches. After burning through about 30 matches, he had finally gone through all of the data.
“M-my fingers are in a pretty serious condition here…”
The woman who was almost 40 had tears in her eyes, but Stiyl completely ignored her.
What he had learned about the job was as follows.
…Theodosia Electra was chasing the traitor.
…During her chase, the traitor had fled into Academy City.
…As Stiyl had just finished up a job nearby, he had been called in to aid her.
…Not even Theodosia herself knew what exactly the traitor had done.
…Apparently, the traitor was a very dangerous existence to the United Kingdom.
…The way things were going, there was a possibility the lives of the ninety million British citizens were in danger.
“According to the additional information, the traitor has an escort. It seemed rather dangerous, so I was a bit worried if I was on my own.”
“What a pain. Is it a magic cabal?” Stiyl spat out.
The term “magic cabal” may have made them sound rather grandiose, but the Anglican Church viewed them as nothing more than collections of criminals. If a group was going to rob a bank, they would divide up the roles. Someone would put together the plan, someone would gather the weapons, someone would attack the bank, someone would carry the money, someone would take care of the money laundering, and so on. In the same way, magic cabals could be made into all sorts of different organizations. They also often divided up roles with everything from providing funds and skills to securing a position in normal society.
Also, there was something called the Job Counter that was an unspoken agreement among magic cabals. Just as the spread of computer viruses gave life to the security software business, the appearance of a magic cabal that killed people would cause a magic cabal that acted as guards to appear. When a magic cabal that claimed to rescue people for free depending on the spell used appeared, a magic cabal that obstructed them because they had too much charisma would appear. In that way, the world of magic business would repeat the cycle of spreading chaotically and weeding out what was unnecessary.
There were a lot of different magic cabals, but if this one was aiding the traitor…
“In other words, I’m up against another group of people with a screw loose? I just got done roasting 19 of them in Siberia.”
But then Theodosia lightly shook her head.
“No, no. The traitor has only one helper.”
“…Just one? Is it a guest from the cabal…? So this person is enough to overwhelm Necessarius? This person must be quite something.”
“Yes,” Theodosia said with a smile and nodded. “After all, the helper is me.”
Stiyl immediately tried to jump back, but he did not make it in time.
Theodosia lit a match in her hand.
A light even less reliable than a candle flickered in the darkness.
And then the area expanded.
He should have been in that bank that was devoid of illumination.
Even if it was a large bank, he was still in Japan. The size of buildings was limited and most things gave a cramped impression.
The next thing he knew, everything was flat all the way to the horizon in every direction. The floor was the tile of the rooms within the bank and round pillars and long benches were lined up at even intervals. Fluorescent lights dotted the ceiling all the way to the horizon like guide lights on a runway. The space itself was odd, but the parts making it up were all normal parts of the bank.
It was as if the area had spread in the same way darkness was pushed away by the light of Theodosia’s match.
Stiyl stared forward.
Theodosia was hanging her head down and giggling.
“Eventually, your real orders will reach you. They will tell you to defeat the traitor and to watch out for the helper. That would have been a problem, so I called you in before that could happen.”
“Hee hee hee. Are you surprised? What does it feel like to be stabbed in the back by your most trusted comrade? To be honest, it was painful for me to do.”
“Ha ha ha ha ha!! So that’s it!!”
Theodosia was utterly shocked.
Something was wrong.
Stiyl Magnus was not shocked. In fact, his face was shining happily.
“Ahh, you got me!! You really got me there. Heh heh heh heh! Oh, how sad. I’m so sad my chest feels like it will just split open, but now I have a justified reason why I have to mercilessly kick your ass! Whatever shall I do? I’m just so sad that I’ve started saying strange things that don’t match the context, haven’t I? Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
“U-ugyahh!? You’re saying all sorts of insincere things! Normally you should be gritting your teeth at this unexpected betrayal!”
“I’ll roast you.”
A roar exploded out.
A red sword made of flames extended from Stiyl’s right hand. A pillar illuminated by its light had a laminated card stuck to it. The card had a rune letter displayed on it and it was the source of Stiyl’s power.
“G A S T T H. T F I A S T R I C! (Bring the flames to my hand. Its form is the sword and its role is execution!)” shouted Stiyl and a sword of blue flames appeared from his left hand.
At some point, dozens of rune cards had appeared on the floor and on the pillars lined up at even intervals. The more of those cards there were around, the stronger Stiyl’s magic was. With just that many, he could turn a human body to ash even through a heat resistant suit.
“Die!” shouted Stiyl as he swung the two flame swords down at Theodosia.
But just before he did…
“Hey, that’s dangerous.”
Stiyl’s flame swords flew through thin air. They passed by just in front of Theodosia. She had not moved. At some point, Stiyl’s position had moved back slightly.
Theodosia then lit a match and lightly tossed it toward Stiyl.
It was as if she were tossing a grenade.
Just after Stiyl jumped backwards, the match exploded. The flat area wrapped in dimness was suddenly filled with light.
Flames filled an area with a diameter of a few meters as if blocking the path between Theodosia and Stiyl. And it did not end with just one. As if creating a line of fire, a few more explosions occurred at even intervals.
She lit a new match and stabbed its small flame into the flames of the explosions.
When she did, the line of explosions changed direction like a falling line of dominos and headed straight for Stiyl.
He immediately swung his flame swords, but his opponent’s explosive power was greater.
In the end, Stiyl was blown back a good ways and rolled a few meters on the ground when he landed. The hard tile scraped at his skin sending pain running through his body.
Stiyl stood up and created a new flame sword, but Theodosia showed no sign of tension on her face.
“It’s no use. You cannot reach me with that.”
With a smile on her face, Theodosia held a matchbox in her hand.
She lightly waved it back and forth making a clattering noise and an intense headwind started blowing. That gust of wind held magical meaning. It could stop Stiyl from moving forward and if he swung his flame sword then, the explosive flames of a few thousand degrees he himself was creating could be blown back at him.
(That spell certainly has plenty of variations…)
It had extended the space, put distance between herself and her enemy, created explosions of flames, and had created a headwind.
It was the first time he had seen the spells that were coming from that matchbox, but…
(I can’t let that attack power fool me. Those are all defensive spells. They’re all used to distance me.)
After figuring that out, Stiyl smiled.
“…A spell from Norse mythology…and specifically from Iceland.”
“Bgh! You already figured it out!?”
“Over there, flames are said to be used to guard treasure. That means your flames are defensive. And they are not used to protect the magic user herself. …The traitor you are guarding is nearby.”
“Wh-wh-wh-what could you possibly be talking a-a-about!?”
“That matchstick refers to Skírnir’s Staff. It is a spiritual item with four runes carved into it that was prepared to force Gerðr to marry. Ha ha. Combining the flames used to protect treasure and the staff used to steal treasure certainly is an interesting way to use it. To have it carry out the role of stealing from Skírnir’s Staff and the role of protecting from the flames, you must have optimized an original pattern for the layout of the runes.”
“Tch!!” Theodosia clicked her tongue and lit another match. “Go to hell!!”
The flame that was as small as a candle’s flame swelled up all at once.
An explosive wind was created and the mass of explosions increased seemingly infinitely as they headed for Stiyl like a line of dominos.
“Sorry, but that won’t work on me anymore.”
With a roar, all of the flames suddenly went out.
“Once I’ve analyzed the spell, calculating out a countermeasure is simple.”
Stiyl had swung down the thick sole of his shoe and stomped on the flames from above. Oddly enough, that had completely put out Theodosia’s attack like he had been putting out a cigarette.
After stomping on the flames, he was completely unharmed.
“In the story of Skírnir’s Staff, Gerðr herself was protected as treasure by great flames. How do you think people in ancient times would think of overcoming those flames? By jumping over the flames with a horse.”
Stiyl rubbed the last flickering embers off on the floor and then showed the sole of his shoe to Theodosia.
The “ehwaz” rune that meant horse was written there in a red liquid.
By passing magic power through his own blood and activating the rune that defended against the flames, he had forced open the deactivation key hidden within the spell.
“Heh heh. Not bad.”
Theodosia laughed calmly and looked at Stiyl.
There was strength in her gaze.
“But I can’t let myself be pushed back by just that!!”
She slid open the matchbox with her thumb and poured a great quantity of matches out. Just one of those matches could create a large explosion and now all of those spiritual items exploded in midair.
She was trying to overpower him.
Stiyl had only one “ehwaz” rune.
Even if that was the weakness of her spell, it was not a problem if she could overwhelm the power of that one rune and crush him all at once.
Theodosia thought he was dead.
And then Stiyl’s flame sword sliced through the blast.
As Theodosia cried out in shock, he charged in gripping his single flame sword.
He grinned and said, “Theodosia, I have no duty to tell you this, but you cannot win a battle between runes with sheer quantity like that. This is an issue of quality over quantity. No matter how many you use, the result will be the same.”
He swung down his sword made of burning red flames.
“Odin of Norse mythology said that proper runes held the greatest power when the most suitable letter for the location and situation was used. They are not something you can just start putting around at random. …Even if you try to crush him with numbers, you cannot defeat a natural enemy who you clearly are not compatible with!!”
Theodosia immediately lit a new match prepared to blow herself up if necessary.
Stiyl ignored it.
The two attacks clashed.
“You lost because you underestimated that one rune, Theodosia Electra!!”
There was a crimson explosion.
Two types of flames swirled together, converged, and then scattered out as a single explosion. Stiyl held his breath and covered his face with his clothes, but he still felt a burning pain in his nose and throat.
He looked around.
Theodosia was collapsed about 5 meters away.
After letting the match go, she must have gotten as far back as she could manage. Even so, she had either not been able to escape the blast or the shockwave had hit her.
Theodosia spoke from on the ground.
“…You are too strong. A normal magician would have panicked and shown an opening when I took the initiative with my defensive spells.”
“You lost because you created a strategy that relies on the weakness of your opponent. You should have found a strategy that used your own strengths rather than something you cannot rely on.”
“U-uuh… I may have been wrong from the instant I tried to take you on using Skírnir’s Staff and runes.”
“Hmph. Did you really think you could defeat an expert like me with rune skills you had hastily taught yourself?”
Stiyl swung his flame sword once and approached Theodosia.
He was heading forward to punish her for her betrayal.
“In the end, will you tell me about this traitor?”
“No, it’s best for you if you do not hear about it. This is my problem.”
She then continued.
“And don’t say sad things like “the end”. I’m going to make sure I live on for quite some time!!”
Stiyl hurriedly started to swing down his flame sword, but a fine powder struck his face before he could.
He wiped off his face to regain his vision, but Theodosia was already gone.
The oddly extended space was also back to the original dark bank.
It seemed Theodosia’s spell had completely ceased functioning.
Stiyl rubbed the powder on his fingertips between his thumb and forefinger. His face turned bitter.
“The Drill of Rati…”
When Odin had stolen some special mead from the human world, he had used that drill to open a hole in a stone wall. It functioned as a charm that allowed one to sneak into difficult places and to escape from them.
(So she smashed it to a powdered form so she could carry it around with her… And she can also use it to make the person cornering her on the edge of death flinch. She’s practically turned it into a way to revive herself from the dead.)
At any rate, Theodosia Electra had escaped.
Stiyl angrily tossed aside his shortened cigarette and lit a new one.
(I’ll deal with her later. Right now, I need to find the true traitor.)
He jumped over the receptionist counter and headed deeper into the dark bank.
He found it almost right away.
It was a small room that was likely used to store cleaning supplies. The entire bank was locked down and yet the door to that room was unlocked.
(So I’ve found it. Damn, just how confident in her spell was she?)
Theodosia had prepared a spiritual item that controlled the protection and release of treasure. Most likely, he would normally have been unable to enter that room. Unless he used the rune corresponding to the spell, the door and even the room itself would not exist. That would have been how it was set up.
That room was holy ground he would have been unable to break into.
Theodosia’s defeat had made that seal disappear.
Stiyl frowned as he stood before the door.
He recalled Theodosia’s words.
“No, it’s best for you if you do not hear about it. This is my problem.”
(Who is this traitor and why did you help him or her?)
At the very least, he had to capture whoever it was.
If the person was dangerous, he would have no choice but to immediately execute him or her.
He checked on how many cards he had in his pocket and opened the door with his fairly sweaty hand.
And there he found the traitor that the Anglican Church had mentioned.
It was not a large man who was lying in wait for him and who looked used to fighting. Nor was it someone with a cunning-looking face who looked as if he could deal with any situation.
It was a small girl who looked to be around 12.
She was kneeling down in that small room. Near her, Theodosia was collapsed and breathing faintly. She had likely headed there to recover the traitor after using the Drill of Rati, but she had run out of strength.
The girl turned her gaze from Theodosia to Stiyl who had just entered the room.
As if he were tapping his palm against the wall, Stiyl stuck a rune card there and produced a flame sword.
The girl’s eyes opened wide upon seeing the dazzling flame.
But the girl’s reaction was nowhere near what Stiyl had expected.
She showed no sign of hostility and did not tremble in fear.
She opened her mouth and said, “Thank goodness. You’re Theodosia’s colleague, right!?”
Stiyl stopped where he was.
That girl was only half his height, but there was nothing but hope displayed on her face.
“Please. Theodosia told me to go on my own, but I don’t know who I can rely on. For now, I need to get to the police…no, to Anti-Skill! It seems the person who did this to Theodosia is still nearby!!”
Even though Stiyl had produced a sword of flames from his hand…
Even though he was clearly abnormal and was clearly dangerous…
That girl did not suspect him.
She understood that some kind of mysterious phenomenon was occurring before her eyes, but she did not even consider the possibility that it would bare its fangs toward her. It was possible that she was seeing Stiyl in the same way as some kind of fairy tale.
And yet if she just thought about it for a second, it should have been clear who had injured Theodosia.
“My phone’s battery is dead and I don’t want to just leave Theodosia here. What do I do? Why is she so beaten up…?”
And most importantly, her words held no hint of magic.
As someone who had been in that world for a long time, Stiyl could tell. He did not think that her use of normal words like “police” and “phone” were just a façade. She had the distinctive atmosphere of someone who had no knowledge of magic seeing something unnatural occur.
Stiyl felt his eyebrows move in doubt.
He truly started to wonder what was going on.
Was she the traitor?
Stiyl felt an unpleasant sweat on his back just before his cell phone started ringing.
He carried a number of different devices with him, but the phone ringing could only be accessed by the Anglican Church.
He put out his flame sword and answered the phone to find a Necessarius communications relay official.
“These are your orders. You must deal with the traitor who has entered Academy City,” said a female voice that was as cool as a machine.
He was receiving the real orders that Theodosia had warned him of.
“I will now read the mission description. The traitor’s name is Patricia Birdway. Gender: Female. Age: 12. Physical Characteristics:…”
He knew the details on Patricia’s appearance without being told.
They matched the girl before him.
“At school, she is the top of her class and she has been chosen to skip some grades. She has been invited as a guest researcher to many different agencies. She has been marked as a person of interest more due to her promising future than for her immediate battle ability.”
“…I have an idea who this Patricia is, but what does she have to do with us?”
“She is the younger sister of the boss of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight, a Golden-style magic cabal. Patricia herself has no connection to the Dawn-Colored Sunlight, but it has been made clear that a few members of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight have been stationed around her without her knowledge. Presumably, the objective is observation and protection.”
A magic cabal.
The Dawn-Colored Sunlight.
“As it has become possible that Patricia has value to the Dawn-Colored Sunlight for a reason beyond being a blood relative of its boss, we must quickly capture her and investigate this matter. If we can get some sort of result from this, we may be able to get a full understanding of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight as well as means of weakening or even destroying them. Your job is to capture Patricia.”
(The Dawn-Colored Sunlight, hm?)
Once, the world’s largest magic cabal had existed in the United Kingdom. Magicians who were simply too powerful had gathered in it and, as a result, its actual activities had ended in just a few years. After that, it had destroyed itself with infighting.
After its destruction, the fragments of the cabal had developed on their own, made progress, and still existed to that day while continuing to chaotically break apart. The cabals produced by that were known as Golden-style cabals.
The Dawn-Colored Sunlight was one of the most prominent magic cabals among those.
They were famous for accomplishing their goals by any means necessary and there were stories that left even pros speechless upon hearing the number of corpses created in the process of achieving their goals.
But that was all concerning the organization known as the Dawn-Colored Sunlight.
Was that girl really such an important person?
The communications official had said that the observation and protection were being carried out without Patricia herself knowing. In other words, the guards were not the girl’s subordinates and she might not have been able to send them away even if she knew they were there. Also, the communications official had said that “Patricia herself has no connection to the Dawn-Colored Sunlight, but…” That just made things even more unclear.
If Patricia was a magician and a villain that had an important post within the Dawn-Colored Sunlight, there would have been no reason to start the sentence that way.
In order to get a better grasp of the situation, Stiyl asked a question to the Anglican communications official.
“…So why is she a traitor?”
“She refused to go along with the mission. She is a British citizen and yet she has denied something that would be to the United Kingdom’s benefit. That makes her a traitor to her nation.”
“!? You’re telling me I’m supposed to capture her for just that? There’s a possibility that Patricia still does not know about magic or the occult. Did you really think asking for her help was going to go well like that!? No girl is just going to go along with a complete stranger who says they want to look at her body and of course she would refuse if you tell her it’s for the purpose of defeating a family member!!”
“But that is what it says in the mission description.”
“Were the guards left by the Dawn-Colored Sunlight even all that strong? Patricia is alone now. If the entire group really saw her as valuable, they would have been guarding her more strictly. Don’t you think what happened was more in line with guards put on her just because she’s related to their boss!?”
“Any comments on a mission by an agent should be sent to the managing department.”
“Were these orders really carefully examined? Read over this again. The contents of that document are not something I can just accept!! In fact, who gave approval for this mission!?”
“May I return to relaying the contents of your mission to you?”
“Don’t just continue on according to the rules like that. This isn’t a problem that can be dealt with just by following regulations!”
“Any comments on a mission by an agent should be sent to the managing department.”
Stiyl was dangerously close to cursing.
Stiyl realized more than he wished to why Theodosia had gone over to Patricia’s side.
“It seems reinforcements are entering Academy City now. We have received word that they wish to begin working right away. I believe they want to set a time and place for you to meet up, but…”
Stiyl hung up the phone as the communications official was one-sidedly making those arrangements.
He had completely missed the time and place.
(Dammit. I’m supposed to just hand this girl over to the Anglican Church? What do they plan to do with her in order to destroy a magic cabal?)
Patricia was anxiously looking up at him.
Most likely, she had not understood what he was talking about over the phone, but she had to have noticed that her name had come up.
Stiyl knew that the contents of the mission were rotten.
He was in Academy City, the headquarters of the science side. If a normal person who had no connection to magic were attacked and taken away in that city, the problem would exceed the realm of the Anglican Church and a magic cabal. It was even possible it could lead to a direct conflict between the magic side and the science side.
But the unit coming to assault Patricia Birdway would not listen even if he tried to convince them.
(What do I do…?)
Stiyl looked back and forth between his cell phone and Patricia’s face.
(What am I supposed to do…!?)
He noticed a slight smile on Theodosia’s lips.
She seemed to be saying that she had been troubled with the same problem.
At any rate, they could not stay there.
Stiyl carried Theodosia over his shoulders as she had not yet moved and then left the closed bank along with Patricia. If they stayed there, pursuers would come.
No matter how ridiculous the mission was, their opponents would come fully equipped as members of the Anglican Church’s Necessarius as long as they recognized it as an official mission. They were at the disadvantage both in numbers and in equipment. It was quite likely that Stiyl alone would be unable to deal with it. Whether he was going to fight the pursuers or get the mission repealed, he would have to come up with a plan. And it took time to think up a strategy.
He was a member of the Anglican Church.
Of course, the normal course of action would be to cooperate with the pursuers and hand Patricia over.
(How the hell am I supposed to go along with a mission like this? This is no longer just Patricia’s problem. If I follow this rotten mission and screw up the next step, all of England could end up involved in the Dawn-Colored Sunlight’s issue.)
Stiyl bit into his cigarette’s filter.
(But what am I supposed to do against a nation? I’m just one magician!!)
He was conflicted, he was troubled, and he could not come up with an answer as he ran through the city at night along with Patricia.
“This will all be okay, right?” the girl asked with a worried voice.
Stiyl glanced over at her.
“Once we get Anti-Skill’s help, there will be nothing to worry about, right?”
Even breathing the smoke deep into his lungs did not calm him down. Stiyl tossed the useless cigarette ahead and stomped on it as he ran.
The embers flowed backwards from the sole of his shoe.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
Suddenly, Stiyl heard an unnatural voice. Even though he was running as quickly as he could, the voice was at a constant but undetermined distance. Patricia must have been able to hear it as well because her shoulder’s jumped.
At the very right edge of his vision, he glimpsed a black figure.
“Your destination does not lie in that direction.”
With a puzzled look on her face, Patricia turned in the direction of the voice.
“Don’t focus on it!!” Stiyl yelled out, but it was already too late.
A sound similar to glass shattering came from Patricia’s chest.
All strength left her body, she lost her balance, and she collapsed forward without stopping her momentum from running.
“I was too slow!!”
Stiyl came to a quick stop and approached Patricia. She was completely unconscious and she did not respond even when he slapped her on the cheek. The black figure had disappeared from the edge of his vision. Stiyl’s expression turned bitter as he confirmed that it had been a type of spell.
With Theodosia already on one shoulder, he put Patricia’s small form on his other shoulder and tried to start running once more.
But that was simply too much of a burden. It would be difficult to continue moving.
He needed to temporarily hide somewhere.
Stiyl peered inside a nearby alley and then headed inside it.
(Treating Patricia comes first.)
The alley surface was dirty, but it was not time to be picky.
Stiyl put down the two and then pulled a cigarette from the box using his mouth.
He lit the tip and then checked on Patricia’s condition.
Quite a bit of sweat had appeared on her face as she lay limply on the ground. Stiyl used a finger to lift up one of her eyelids and then ran his index finger across her forehead.
When Patricia did not move even slightly, Stiyl looked away and clicked his tongue.
(Mental interference. If her consciousness had been destroyed there would be nothing I could do, but this isn’t that serious. Only one portion of her mind is being forcibly held in place which is preventing the whole thing from moving.)
If you thought of the human mind as being made up of many gears, the magic user had forced a wedge between two of the gears to stop them all from moving. That failure in one spot was having an effect on the whole, so Patricia’s mind had been stopped.
In that case, what he had to do was simple.
Just by removing that one wedge, the gears would regain their normal motion.
(But removing this spell is a bit much for me alone. I’d like some backup for this.)
If the girl known as Index who had memorized 103,000 grimoires was there, things would have been perfect in more ways than one, but that was hoping for too much.
(In that case…)
Stiyl glanced to the side.
Theodosia was limply lying there.
Stiyl stomped on the center of Theodosia’s stomach as she lay unconscious on the ground.
Theodosia awoke with that ridiculous noise.
“Ubh!? Y-yes!? Good morning, Stiyl!!”
“…Now I’m not sure I can trust you to support me with this…”
“C’mon! Is that anything to say to someone who you just forced awake!?”
He forced a cigarette into Theodosia’s mouth to calm her down a bit.
They had to return Patricia to normal and get out of there before any pursuers arrived.
“Just to check. Did you know about all of this from the beginning, Theodosia?”
“Ha ha!! Being the person that knows everything makes me sound like an intellectual final boss, doesn’t it?”
Stiyl grabbed the cigarette and shook it slightly to drop some ashes down.
“Then tell me from the beginning!! Don’t keep it to yourself and act all pleased with yourself!!”
“Sorry! But…hot! I didn’t think it was right to get people involved in this kind of thing, so…hooottt!?”
“Shut up. First, we need to do something about Patricia. Just get up and help me already.”
Stiyl brushed up his long bangs that were getting in his face and then began the preparations.
First, he cast aside the old cigarette, pulled a new one out of the box, and lit it with one of Theodosia’s matches.
Next, he blew some of the cigarette smoke on a few rune cards before placing one on Patricia’s forehead, chest, and stomach.
“I see. In both Eastern and Western magic, the cigarette is used as a spiritual item that carries out changes of mental states, so you are using that as a base to investigate Patricia’s mind.”
“If I had some alcohol too, it would be perfect, but I don’t think we have time to get some.”
Magic could be carried out by materials gathered at a convenience store. Some legendary item hidden within ancient ruins was not necessarily needed. Of course, there were spells that needed items like that, but they were not using magic of that level.
Stiyl adjusted his grip on the cigarette and Theodosia lightly swung the match that had lit it.
By using the fire and the smoke as a common item, the three of them were bound magically.
“I A T W C P H I S K W O T D O T H. (This hand connects to a wavering heart and acts as the key to open that door.)”
When Stiyl closed his eyes and chanted that, the flames of the cigarette and the match became fixed in place. The flames were clearly burning, but the match showed no sign of shortening. The same thing happened with the cigarette.
Stiyl slowly opened his eyes.
His eyes were already out of focus and there was no change to his expression.
“…This makes me want to draw things on your face,” said Theodosia, but Stiyl gave no response.
It seemed as if he would fall over from just a slight poke. It seemed like a miracle that the cigarette was still in the corner of this mouth.
Theodosia frowned slightly and looked over her body.
On her arms and legs, she had a few light burns that would not leave scars from the battle in the bank, but the dull pain from her chest to her navel was much worse. She guessed it must have been from the shockwaves.
Theodosia ignored her various pains, waved the lit match, and continued focusing.
The spell Stiyl was carrying out was a delicate one. Not to mention that he was not well versed in healing methods for anything besides burns. Without Theodosia’s support, he would end up having his own mind broken along with Patricia’s.
However, Stiyl was not currently inside Patricia’s mind.
Only specialists could do something of that high level.
Rather than slicing open a patient’s stomach to look inside, he was only pricking into the stomach’s surface to find out what the disease was.
Basically, he was using the smoke to touch Patricia’s skin, analyzing the inside of her mind, and reproducing its condition within his own brain. To put it simply, it was an extreme game of make-believe. It might have been similar to an actor getting into character. By approaching the same state as Patricia, he could learn what part of her mind was affected.
It may have sounded like a rather unique method, but it was actually rather popular in the magic business. People such as Crowley could “get into character” at such a high level that they could manipulate the model person and make them trip. It could be called a reversal of Idolatry Theory.
An intense stabbing pain ran across Stiyl’s head.
It was on the left side of his head just above the ear.
“So it’s there…”
Stiyl once more opened his eyes. With a bursting sound, the flames on the cigarette and the match both disappeared. Stiyl stabbed the now flameless cigarette into the side of Patricia’s head.
The soft cigarette was easily crushed.
Even so, a hard grinding sound came from Patricia’s head.
“It’s removed!! Theodosia, restrain her!!”
Her small form jumped up two or three times.
Theodosia forcibly restrained her and then Patricia’s eyes opened and her pupils widened to their limit. Stiyl helped grab the girl’s arms and legs as well and her eyes finally returned to normal.
Now that Patricia and Theodosia were both able to walk on their own, Stiyl’s burden had been lightened by quite a bit. For the moment, they continued down the dark alleyway.
The mental spell that had attacked Patricia had been a wide range but low power attack. Stiyl doubted the black figure he had seen was the true attack spell. It had likely only been used to slow them down so the magician could get closer.
In other words, their pursuer was not yet nearby.
“What are you planning to do from now on, Theodosia? If you went this far without any real chance of success, I really will roast you.”
“Eh heh heh. Patricia has no connection to magic, so there should be no problem with having Academy City shelter her as long as they don’t try to develop any psychic powers in her. It isn’t anything as definitive as having them take her in as a refugee, but handing her over should take top priority.”
“…So what are we going to do?”
“Hide until the heat dies down?”
Stiyl kicked Theodosia in the back. He then sighed while wishing he hadn’t gotten involved with something related to that woman.
“Patricia, why are you in Japan?”
“At first, I came here on a trip with my sister, but we got separated partway through. Then Theodosia appeared and we decided to go to Academy City so I could meet up with my sister.”
At that point, Theodosia would have had received her mission from the Anglican Church, but she must not have told Patricia about that part. She might have gotten separated from her older sister due to some kind of magical battle being carried out below the surface. Currently, the guards who should have been by Patricia’s side were not there.
“If only all this hadn’t happened,” Patricia muttered with a sad look on her face. “I had been interested in Japan’s Academy City for a while. In fact, I had wanted to study here if I could. But my sister and the others did not approve of that, so I had to rethink everything.”
Stiyl understood why they had not let her.
The Dawn-Colored Sunlight was one of the leading magic cabals in the United Kingdom. Patricia may have no direct connections with the cabal, but she would still end up taking part in the psychic powers development Curriculum if she were to become a student in Academy City. If she became a scientific esper, a political problem would appear between magic and science.
“I don’t know why, but my sister and the others seem to hate Academy City. I was thinking this trip could change their impression of it, but then all this happened…”
Patricia did not know of the complex details of the situation, so she was being saddened by something she was completely wrong about.
Stiyl blew out some cigarette smoke and changed the subject.
“The Dawn-Colored Sunlight, hm?”
“That’s the club or whatever that my sister is in. Is it really that famous?”
Patricia’s description made it clear she did not even know what a magic cabal was and Stiyl put a hand to his forehead.
“It’s very famous indeed.”
(…But what is the person who submitted this mission trying to do by having us interfere with such a major cabal? For generations, the bosses of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight have been known to be ruthless and wise and they have given us our fair share of bitter experiences. Is the church this desperate to find an opening through which to destroy the Dawn-Colored Sunlight?)
He just could not figure out what the person behind the mission was after.
And he could not exactly discuss it in front of Patricia.
(Or is the goal in the mission given to me a dummy and there is some other reason behind this? If Patricia herself really has that much value, then what is it that gives her that value?)
The cigarette at the edge of Stiyl’s mouth moved up and down as he turned in Patricia’s direction.
“Did you hear anything from your sister? Or were you given anything?”
Patricia looked puzzled at first, but…
“How did you know?”
Without showing it on his face, Stiyl increased his earnestness within.
Patricia stuck her hand in her pocket and fished around for something.
“Before I got separated from my sister, she told me to take this, but-…huh?”
“I have it here,” Theodosia said with a smile as she held out a small box.
Stiyl ignored Patricia’s genuine surprise and used his ring-covered fist to punch his kleptomaniac colleague.
“But it was dangerous to just have Patricia keep i-…gyaaahhh!?” Theodosia explained as she fell to the ground.
During all that, the box had been tossed up into the air and Stiyl caught it with one hand.
It was about the size of two matchboxes. It was an iron treasure box with a keyhole in it. The box itself had elaborate decorations making it look a bit like a music box.
“Where’s the key?”
Stiyl took the key that Theodosia had weakly tossed his way, stuck it in the keyhole, and turned it. With a slight click, the box easily unlocked.
When it did, Patricia’s eyes opened wide.
“Hehh…So it really does open.”
“Oh, um, I tried a bunch of times, but it would never open. I thought the inside of the keyhole had rusted or something. Pouring oil in didn’t help and I was thinking of looking inside with a fiberscope if I got the chance…Eh? You opened it too, Theodosia? Amazing.”
Stiyl looked puzzled as he looked at Patricia who was looking in Theodosia’s direction.
The box may have been set up so Patricia could not touch the contents.
(If so, why did the Dawn-Colored Sunlight give her the box? It also bothers me that Theodosia and I could open it so easily. From a security standpoint, the complete reverse would be normal.)
And if the Dawn-Colored Sunlight wanted to distance Patricia from the world of magic, they would not have given her the box to begin with.
Stiyl recalled that the mission description had said that Patricia had value to the entire organization of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight.
(No, the odds of Patricia being a magician are zero. It’s hard to believe she would have faked receiving that mental attack. There was no guarantee Theodosia or I would have the recovery spell needed, so there would be too much of a risk in faking it. Also, there would be no point in holding us up while we’re fleeing from the pursuers.)
In that case, why had they given that treasure box to a harmless girl?
And why was the church after her?
There were a lot of things he could not figure out on the church’s side and on the cabal’s side.
The clue to figuring that out lay in his hand.
Stiyl slowly opened the unlocked treasure box.
What he found inside was a small gray stone about 2 cm across.
Like a jewelry case for a ring, the inside was covered in soft red cloth.
There were runes on the surface. No, technically it was a portion of a string of runes. In other words, he could not tell what it was supposed to mean with just that.
Stiyl felt along the surface of the stone with a fingertip and then frowned.
Even then, rune data like that was carelessly being erected in places like Sweden. Such things could be called the world’s most generally neglected grimoires. No matter how hard a normal person worked, they would never be able to reach a stone monument with an Original level epitaph that held great power. That was just how they were made.
Theodosia got up from the ground and said, “That was discovered in Alaska.”
“I thought rune slates were primarily from the plains of Scandinavia?”
“Yes, and you know what that means.”
“…I see. So it’s an undiscovered derived branch of runes.”
There was not just one type of runes.
Just like most languages, they changed day by day depending on the era or the location. The standard number of runes was 24, but some sets used 16 and some places used 33.
Of course, the effects of rune magic changed depending on the type of runes being used.
Few records mentioned runes being used in Alaska. If there was a distinctive deviation in the runes, previously unusable magic could be activated. It was essentially the same as having a completely new set of spells different from those of normal rune magic.
“So this is a portion of an epitaph explaining the Alaskan runes?”
“Indeed. Rune epitaphs are carelessly neglected out in the middle of plains, so they are daily worn away by the effects of things such as acid rain. However, with an Original…”
“A true grimoire will not disappear naturally.”
An Original had the power to not be destroyed no matter what method was used. And even if it was destroyed, it could restore itself as many times as necessary. If there truly was an epitaph of the Alaskan runes, then it was odd for the small stone to still be broken off like that. It was strange that it had not been restored.
The one holding the key to that was likely that fragment of the epitaph.
It had to have been magically affected so that its restoration speed was slowed or made the restoration function spin its wheels fruitlessly. Instead of being absolutely destroyed, it had been intentionally sealed.
“So basically this is the most important piece needed to put together an Original grimoire?”
That was a rune epitaph that indicated an unknown new set of runes.
The maintenance of the seal and the release of the seal were both reliant on that stone.
“This certainly is a major issue befitting of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight. I take it the church’s pursuers are trying to seize this fragment rather than destroy the cabal.”
“Yes,” Theodosia clapped her hands together. “But the fragmentary data needed to decode the Alaskan runes are already gathered within the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. They are working on it even now in London, but at the current rate, it seems it will take a few more years before they find even a single clue. It is not something that the entire country is going all out to acquire.”
“…I see. So a group in Necessarius wants this information without using Index.”
If the data on the Alaskan runes was truly needed for a national policy, they could just send out a formal notice and have the Index Librorum Prohibitorum join in. Since they had not done that, it seemed their pursuers were not connected to the nation as a whole.
“The Alaskan runes are incredibly valuable, but we will acquire them eventually without this. In that case, I doubt this is connected to danger to England as a whole. Someone must have set up this mission.”
(What was all that “traitor” crap?)
The girl before his eyes had indeed done nothing wrong.
He did not know what the Dawn-Colored Sunlight was planning or what the commander in Necessarius who had submitted the mission was trying to do, but at the very least, Patricia Birdway was not related to it.
It must have shown up on his face because Patricia looked puzzled and Theodosia’s expression softened.
“But that fragment of the epitaph is not enough to acquire the Alaskan Runes.”
“Yes, if it was, the Dawn-Colored Sunlight would have begun the ceremony right away.”
But Stiyl felt it would be best to try to contact the Anglican Church. There were a lot of unclear aspects to the relation between Necessarius and the Dawn-Colored Sunlight concerning the Alaskan runes. Stiyl thought of a few colleagues he felt were absolutely safe and decided to have them investigate it.
“You made me go to some trouble, but it seems you have finally captured the traitor for me,” said a sudden voice from behind them.
The three of them turned around. As they did, Stiyl placed a rune card on the narrow alley wall and Theodosia pulled a few matches out of her small matchbox.
The new figure was over 10 meters away.
He was a man wearing a black coat and looked about 20. He was about the same height as Stiyl and was white just like Stiyl. A Western sword was hanging casually down from his hand.
Stiyl blew out some cigarette smoke and frowned.
“I take it you don’t plan on naming yourself because I’m a colleague?”
“I’m not so sure you think of me as your colleague.”
With a single hand, Stiyl snapped shut the lid to the treasure box with the epitaph fragment inside.
The man clearly reacted to that.
“If you want it, you’ll have to kill me first.”
“Your ashes will scatter magnificently.”
With those words, the man’s sword became surrounded in roaring flames.
A few runes were shining on the surface of the blade.
Carved into the blade were sowulo, gebo, kenaz, ansuz, laguz, and uruz.
Reading down the first letters spelled sgkalu. It meant something along the lines of “the torch that acquired the sun using magic”.
“First Theodosia and now you. Norse weapons seem to be popular. Well, I suppose I have no right to complain…flames and swords are quite compatible.”
“Sorry, but this isn’t a sword. It’s a twig.”
“It isn’t anything too rare. It’s the most famous twig in Norse mythology. It is the twig of the greatest flames that is said to set fire to the trunk of the World Tree and burn everything away.”
“You don’t mean…”
“Yes, it is Lævateinn.”
The man casually swung his sword.
Flames spiraled up with a roar.
The crimson glow spread to the narrow alleyway in a flash. The asphalt ground, the concrete walls, and everything else were covered in flames in no time at all.
“Convenient, isn’t it? I would say it’s one of the easiest to use spiritual items in the United Kingdom.”
Stiyl’s eyes opened wide.
His flame sword exceeded 3000 degrees Celsius. It was not difficult for him to destroy stone and rocks. However, the Lævateinn that man used was producing a phenomenon that could not be explained with mere firepower.
The asphalt and the concrete were burning.
The materials themselves were burning into ashes as if they were thin Japanese paper.
With a low noise, the flames travelled across the ground and the walls heading straight for Stiyl and the others.
“Tch. G A S T T H. T F I A S T R I C! (Bring the flames to my hand. Its form is the sword and its role is execution!)”
Stiyl frantically produced a flame sword and tried to make it explode in an attempt to hold back the other flames using the blast.
But before he could, his flame sword became wrapped in the new flames.
His sword should have been made of flames, but it was burned away by flames.
In no time at all, it was burned down to the base…and approached Stiyl’s hand.
Stiyl frantically put out the flame sword and stepped back.
Then, Theodosia flew a lit match.
A large explosion occurred.
However, the blast was destroyed by the other flame as if it were being eaten into.
It was like a thin plastic film being scorched from the inside by fire.
That only gained them a few seconds.
“Hurry! Run!!” yelled Theodosia.
She used a spell that ruled over the protection and release of treasure. She surely would have had plenty of spells prepared with which she could protect Patricia, but she did not try to use any of them. She had likely instinctually realized that she could not protect against the flame of Lævateinn.
“And where do you think you can hide?” asked the man in a whisper from the other side of the Theodosia’s flames that were easily being eaten away.
(He’ll catch us if we just run away…!!)
Stiyl clicked his tongue and pulled a rune card out of his pocket.
The man gently shook his head.
“A smokescreen won’t do you any good.”
“Is that so? Let’s try it anyway.”
Stiyl put on a fake smile and detonated his flame sword in the direction of the man.
The man’s Lævateinn burned through their tiny bit of resistance.
Beyond the flames, he saw his targets’ fleeing backs.
But their movements were so standardized that it irritated the man.
He cautiously focused and spotted another presence in a different place. Their movements had just seemed too precise. When their life was in danger, people could not flee with such a calm rhythm.
“That’s a fake. What an honest man. He actually took me up on my challenge.”
With an explosive noise, he fired some flames and blew away the figures fleeing in front of him.
The attack left no corpses and no ashes.
It had truly been an illusion. The figures had easily disappeared into thin air.
The man’s smile deepened and he recalled the design on the card Stiyl had pulled out just before. The man calculated out what the construction of Stiyl’s spell must have been given his actions and his spiritual item.
The man quickly figured out where they were.
“The magic power used to create that illusion is leaking out. How sweet of you to leave footsteps behind as you flee.”
The man then ran through the dark alley with Lævateinn hanging down.
His targets were not far away.
Stiyl Magnus heard the man’s words from close by.
On one side of the empty alleyway was a backdoor standing ever so slightly open.
The iron door creaked slightly. The three who had run off were standing within.
Stiyl had a spell that hid his own body by creating a magical mirage.
But he had been unsure if that would be enough to trick that man. There was a danger of the man determining his location by detecting the origin of the magic power.
That was why Stiyl had prepared three levels of dummies.
The first was the mirage illusion of them fleeing within the back alley.
The second was the artificial presence of someone who had not actually been there.
And the third was activating it all such that the origin magic power that activated the spell was disguised.
“Ugh….That was nerve-racking,” said Theodosia quietly while she trembled in an unnatural posture.
Patricia stuck her head out of the door and looked off in the direction the man had headed.
She looked puzzled and asked, “Um, what is going on…?”
That question brought a bitter expression to Stiyl’s face. He himself wanted to ask some questions about that Lævateinn and he did not have time to explain about spells from the very beginning.
However, it seemed Patricia did not notice what Stiyl was thinking.
“But that was amazing. That looked like normal concrete, but it was actually some easily burnable material. I guess that way they don’t have to put pressure on the disposal facilities when they destroy a building.”
“…That was normal concrete. Lævateinn is what was amazing,” Stiyl carelessly responded to Patricia’s misplaced admiration.
“Eh?” Patricia’s expression made it clearly she still did not understand what was going on. “By the way, where did that guy head off to looking so confident?”
Stiyl headed back out into the alleyway.
“I temporarily transferred some magic power to a rune and activated the spell using that. I put the card I used as a relay point on a mouse’s back.”
“In other words, he’s chasing after a dummy.”
When Stiyl said that, Patricia’s expression brightened as if a light bulb had appeared next to her head.
“Is it something like going in through a foreign server in order to prevent being traced?”
“…Maybe. I don’t really understand examples from that side of things.”
Stiyl was impressed at how calm she was given the situation and he checked to make sure the man was truly gone from the area.
“He’ll figure it out soon. We need to get away from here”
The three of them nodded and ran off in the opposite direction of the man with Lævateinn.
As they ran, Theodosia said, “Wh-what do we do now? Even if we lost him for now, we still have not resolved the real issue here.”
“True. This kind of trick will not work a second time. There is no guarantee we will be able to get away the next time we’re found.”
Patricia’s expression turned fearful hearing that.
“I want an opportunity to turn this around, but what was with that spiritual item!? He said it was Lævateinn, but that’s one of the strongest weapons in Norse mythology! It’s on the same level as Gungnir!” said Theodosia.
“There are two theories about it. One says it’s the sword held by the fire giant Surtr and the other says it’s the sword kept with Surtr’s wife. It seems this is a mix of the two, but it can’t be the real thing. It’s the same as your matches and Skírnir’s staff. It’s just a spiritual item with the same name.”
That meant it really was just a magical spiritual item created by carving runes into a normal sword.
But that was not enough to explain it.
Stiyl was quite knowledgeable of rune magic. That was why he knew that just carving runes like kenaz was not enough to produce such a great effect.
If they knew how it worked, they could perhaps find a way of defeating it, but…
Suddenly, a deep red light appeared behind Stiyl and the others.
It was the flame of Lævateinn.
“Fuck that was fast!!”
The man must have seen through the trick Stiyl had set up. He was still far away, but he would catch up before long. He was not an opponent they could escape on foot and a trick like before would not work again.
Stiyl and Theodosia’s gazes met after they saw Patricia’s pale face.
“Let’s split into two groups.”
Stiyl grabbed Patricia’s hand and used his other hand to give Theodosia the treasure box with the rune stone in it.
“For some reason, he did not just kill Patricia and take the fragment of the epitaph. She should be a much easier target than us, but he ignored her. And I doubt he’s just overflowing with chivalry.” Stiyl blew out cigarette smoke in annoyance. “Most likely, he needs Patricia alive in addition to the rune epitaph. That’s why we need to split up the things he sees as high priority.”
“I have some general information regarding that…but I’ll explain it all later! Check this! I have also added information on a rendezvous point to the end!!”
Theodosia tossed her matchbox to Stiyl and disappeared down one side of a fork in the alley.
(So there’s a report inside an illusion in the fire…)
Stiyl rolled the matchbox around in his hand and ran down the other side of the fork with Patricia.
The alleyway was short. They exited onto a large road before long.
As they ran, Stiyl lit a match to get Theodosia’s information.
The information shown in the flames was as follows.
…By using the fragment of the rune epitaph, the stone monument containing the undiscovered branch of runes can be completely restored.
…But the movements of a special heavenly body called Donati’s Comet are needed for the restoration spell.
…To check the rules of its motion, a horoscope from when the comet last arrived is needed.
…The sole existing horoscope is currently in Academy City. (See a different match for details.)
“It’s here…?” Stiyl muttered.
According to Theodosia’s information, Academy City had discovered and retrieved the horoscope purely as a scientific item. Currently, it was becoming a slight issue between the science side and the magic side.
And as for the reason Patricia was being targeted…
…A special magical seal has been put on the fragment of the rune epitaph.
…The Dawn-Colored Sunlight applied the seal.
…The seal can only be removed by the boss of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight or one of her blood relatives.
…Unless the seal is removed, the epitaph cannot be restored.
That seemed to be the situation.
Excluding special exceptions such as Saints, the use of magic had nothing to do with genetic characteristics. However, some magicians did create spells that used the information from blood as a key. This was one of those locks.
It all fit perfectly with what the Lævateinn man seemed to be after.
Stiyl still was not sure what the Dawn-Colored Sunlight was after by giving the fragment of the epitaph to Patricia, but he at least knew what the Lævateinn man was after.
“Wh-what do we do!? Do you know where the nearest Anti-Skill station is!?”
“How will going there help us!? They can’t stand up to that man!!”
Patricia appeared to be suffering as she ran along next to Stiyl. She was a girl of around 12 who had not received any kind of training. She would not be able to run for long.
“Then what are we going to do? Can we…can we really get away from that man!? Before, you said just running wasn’t enough…”
“I’ll deal with this somehow. I have no other choice!”
Stiyl gritted his teeth at the fact that he could not give a real answer.
Unless he could figure out how the Lævateinn spiritual item worked, he would just be burned away if he faced that man head on.
The man’s flames were likely greater than Stiyl’s.
It pained him to admit it, but he had no way of winning in a straight fight.
He would be killed if he could not think up with to deal with the man, but he did not have time to think. In order to buy some time, he could…
“That’s the final part that man wants so badly. If we can get it before he can, we can use it to stop him! I have enough information that I can find a way to defeat that Lævateinn as long as I have time to think calmly about it!!”
That same theory could be used with Patricia as the means of getting in the man’s way rather than the horoscope, but…
Stiyl quickly shook away that slight temptation.
(In the worst case, he can still use a different blood relative to gain the Alaskan rune epitaph even if Patricia dies. On the other hand, the horoscope is currently unique. It’s clear which one will be more effective as a shield!!)
He decided to go with that reasoning.
He knew he was being soft.
Most likely, if Stiyl Magnus yielded there, he would end up truly giving in.
Stiyl Magnus gritted his teeth as he ran through Academy City dragging Patricia Birdway along by her small arm.
The Lævateinn man was after the complete recovery of the Alaskan rune epitaph and the acquisition of its knowledge. To achieve that, he needed the epitaph fragment Stiyl had given Theodosia Electra, Patricia Birdway, and the horoscope that could be used to calculate the magical effects of Donati’s Comet which only approached the earth after a period of longer than 2000 years.
The lack of any one of those things was fatal to the Lævateinn man’s plan.
They would work well as shields.
However, the epitaph fragment was a portion of an Original grimoire, so it could not be destroyed by human means and using Patricia’s life as a shield was out of the question, so that left only one option. Stiyl had no choice but to steal the horoscope that was being transported by Academy City. If he managed that before the Lævateinn man could do so, he could come up with a plan using it as bait.
“Pant, pant… H-how much farther are we going to run?” asked Patricia.
Stiyl was almost twice her height. Running such a long distance must have been tough for someone as young as Patricia. As he was going to have to fight the Lævateinn man, he wanted to find a safe place to let her evacuate to, but…
(Where is there a safe place? If I have an Academy City facility look after her, he’ll just burn away the building and anyone guarding her!!)
“We’re almost there. There’s a nature park up ahead.”
According to the information inside the flame of the matches Theodosia had given Stiyl, the transport vehicle was scheduled to pass through there on its way to an archaeology facility. As the term “nature park” suggested, it was an area filled with mostly trees.
As he headed for that destination, Stiyl heard his cell phone ringing.
It was from the Anglican communications official.
“Stiyl Magnus. As per your request, I will now reveal to you the information uncovered in the investigation.”
“…What are you talking about?”
“You requested to be told who signed their approval of the mission unfolding within Academy City related to capturing Patricia. Would you like to hear the recording of your request?”
Patricia had no idea what was being said, so she just stared blankly, but Stiyl smiled bitterly.
It was true that he had mentioned something along those lines after defeating Theodosia, but he had not expected such a straightforward response. It seemed the communications official was simply doing what she was told unrelated to issues of ally or enemy.
“It took some time to look over the Necessarius rankings to see if you had the right to this information. I apologize it took so long to reply to your request,” apologized the official as if she were simply reading from a script. “The individual who signed approval of the mission was Richard Brave. Just like you, he belongs to the Anglican Church’s 0th Parish, Necessarius. His primary area of activity is North America. His achievements lie in setting up a defensive line along the Atlantic Ocean in order to prevent American magic cabals from invading England.”
“He primarily uses Norse spells and seems to be strong with fire-related spells. He has put together mobile sea battle strategies that use the techniques of the Vikings that ruled the Atlantic in their golden age and who discovered North America even before Columbus. …Was this helpful?”
The edges of Stiyl’s mouth twisted up in a smile.
Of course, he had not gained any information on what the man’s weak point may be. But…
“It’s nice to know the name of the man I’m about to kill.”
Before the official could give any kind of stereotypical protest, Stiyl switched off his cell phone. Patricia was out of breath due to all the running, but she still looked over at him with fear in her eyes.
Stiyl made no attempt to respond to her.
Most likely, Patricia’s pacifism was right in a moral sense. However, organizations like Necessarius had been created in the first place because that was not enough to deal with everything. Patricia’s feelings would not cut it in the current situation.
The park then came into view.
Either for mental health reasons or in order to eliminate carbon dioxide, an area filled with green stood there in the middle of Academy City’s usual concrete and asphalt. However, just as a forest seemed pitch black at night, the area before Stiyl and Patricia looked like a sea of darkness.
The sparse light from streetlights only accentuated the darkness.
A small sign tilted to the side made one think the area was not popular at night and that crimes often occurred there.
Stiyl stopped running and started approaching more cautiously.
The road was made of something like bricks rather than asphalt. It was “something like” bricks because it felt more like strangely hard sponge or urethane under his feet. It must have been some new material made by Academy City.
(Where’s the transport vehicle…?)
“There it is.”
He saw headlights cutting through the darkness about 100 meters ahead. Stiyl wordlessly let go of Patricia’s hand and instructed her to wait there using just the movements of his hand.
Stiyl started running without waiting for a response from Patricia.
Something was odd.
He could see a vehicle’s headlights ahead, but they were not moving. He could hear the flat engine noise of an idling car. As Stiyl approached, the odd scene gave him a very bad feeling. He scattered rune cards as he approached the vehicle and charged for the front of the vehicle while prepared to create a flame sword at any time.
The bright light dazzled his eyes.
The vehicle looked like a van with all of its windows blocked and it was indeed not moving. The engine seemed to be running, but it was completely stationary.
(It can’t be…)
He gave up trying to hide and produced a flame sword from his right hand. He then circled around to the side of the vehicle.
After leaving the bright light, the truth lay visible before his eyes.
(It can’t be!!)
The bullet proof windshield had been smashed to pieces as if it had provided no protection at all. No one sat in the driver seat. The top half of someone hung out of the partially opened door and onto the brick-like road surface.
Stiyl’s gaze moved from the driver seat in the front to the back of the vehicle.
The back had a set of double doors. The doors had been forced partway open. Stiyl peered inside, but found nothing. However, the area was filled with an odd atmosphere that made one think something had been there recently.
Stiyl could not accept that truth.
He reached into the matchbox Theodosia had given him and rechecked the visual data. He rechecked the characteristics of the transport vehicle and its vehicle number. He hoped he had made a mistake, but it all matched no matter how many times he checked.
The horoscope was not there.
That horoscope was supposed to be his trump card.
He could not deny the possibility that Theodosia had false information, but a more credible and hopeless possibility filled Stiyl’s mind.
Suddenly, a smell filled Stiyl’s nose.
It was the irritating smell of fermented beer.
“Oh, did you get ahead of me?”
The sound of flames swallowing up oxygen reached Stiyl’s ears.
The sound was much greater and more inexplicable than the one from the flame sword in his own hand.
The deep darkness was split apart, blotted out, and illuminated by the red of hellfire.
Stiyl slowly turned around.
A single figure stood there.
He was a Norse magician holding a single sword that was wrapped in flames like a torch.
He was the Lævateinn man.
He was Richard Brave.
Before the man could lightly swing Lævateinn, Stiyl leapt into the artificial forest to the side of the brick-like road. He put out the flame sword in his hand and hid. He had not planned on stopping his enemy’s spiritual item from the beginning. That would have been like a knight who did not know the power of a gun charging straight at an enemy.
He was worried about Patricia who he had left back outside the park, but heading toward her would just get her caught up in the danger.
On the trees around him, he complexly arranged rune cards that held various meanings including attack, evasion, and illusion. He wanted to strengthen his position as much as possible.
However, Stiyl quickly found himself about to leave the forest as he ran. The forest in the park was not large enough for a true battle.
In the current situation, being unable to hide put him at an overwhelming disadvantage. Stiyl stood at the outer edge of the forest and glanced around looking for a good place to fight.
“Excellent movements. Lively prey truly is much more interesting.”
Richard then started to move. However, he did not chase after Stiyl. Instead he remained standing on the other side of the trees with Lævateinn hanging casually down and used magic.
He used a people clearing spell.
All sorts of sects and denominations had magic with the same effects. Simply put, it was a spell that made sure no one unnecessary would enter the battlefield. As Richard produced such massive flames, it may have been absolutely necessary for him.
(He’s politely left a hole open for Patricia Birdway. Since he’s creating a trap to invite her in, he must not know where she is.)
As Stiyl analyzed the situation, Richard spoke lightly.
“You should really lay out a people clearing field beforehand. A proper battlefield is needed if you want to have any fun.”
Stiyl was not stupid enough to listen to Richard’s mockery.
He hid his presence and tried to gather as much information as he could through the gaps in the trees as Richard spoke.
“Hm. Yes, it has definitely already been attacked. I guess you feel like continuing this pointless fight. If you simply hand over the horoscope, I will treat you kindly in turn.”
(…What is he saying?)
Stiyl frowned. That made it sound like Richard had not been the one to attack the transport vehicle. There was no point in confusing Stiyl because Richard did not need to stall for time in order to come up with a plan.
But there was something else Stiyl felt was more important to ask about.
He spoke even though doing so threatened to give away his position.
“What happened to Theodosia Electra?”
“Do I even need to answer? Isn’t my presence answer enough?”
Something flew away from Richard.
It looked like a box for a ring. It was the epitaph fragment’s case that Stiyl had given Theodosia. Its lid had been forced open and the contents were missing.
Its meaning was clear.
It was something Necessarius members were constantly faced with.
“I’m sure you understand. My Lævateinn is quite powerful. It’s useful when it comes to killing an enemy, but leaving behind a corpse is a bit difficult.”
“I see,” Stiyl replied expressionlessly.
Despite having fought Theodosia in the bank earlier that night, he felt anger.
He did not deny that feeling.
Even if it was inconsistent, he did not feel that it was wrong.
“G A S T T H. T F I A S T R I C! (Bring the flames to my hand. Its form is the sword and its role is execution!)”
After muttering that under his breath, a flame sword burst from his hand.
His power would be used to defeat his enemy.
While the sword gave off light that gave away his position in the darkness, Stiyl glared at Richard Brave’s face. Richard spoke upon seeing Stiyl.
“Oh? First Theodosia and now you. Necessarius has a surprising number of people who like to go straight to a fight. Do you not know any way of resolving things other than fighting?”
“I don’t need to,” Stiyl replied while surrounded by trees covered in countless runes. “All I need to know is that you will die here.”
With the roar of oxygen being consumed, the flames whirled.
The same noise came from both Stiyl and Richard.
Richard did not enter the forest. He gently swung Lævateinn in the middle of the brick-like road. That was all it took to create a great sea of flames that headed toward Stiyl.
It was like an avalanche.
However, Stiyl only smiled as it swallowed him up and burned him away like thin paper.
“An illusion,” Richard muttered.
A few of the large trees along the road started burning unnaturally at their base. As if the trees had been cut down by flames, they fell toward Richard’s head like giant axes.
“Mere child’s play.”
With a whooshing sound, Richard lightly waved Lævateinn like a traffic guide light and the large trees burned away. His flames were not normal. Richard was not even covered in ashes.
Richard looked around the area.
(If I just look around, my prey will escape.)
Richard realized nothing would happen if his opponent merely remained on his guard, so he stepped from the brick-like road and into the forest. Stiyl had placed rune cards with all sorts of effects throughout that area, but Richard ignored them.
His breathing stopped.
His senses sharpened.
And that was it.
The instant Richard looked over, Stiyl charged out from behind a tree. He had determined that hiding would no longer do him any good. Richard swung Lævateinn and burnt away everything from the forest undergrowth to the giant trees. A sea of flames shot out in a straight line and cut through the forest like a firefighter’s hose wearing down a desert sand dune.
In response, Stiyl burned through the trees around himself with his flame sword so that they would fall in the path of Lævateinn’s flames. The flames burned through everything evenly. In other words, even the toughest obstacle was burned away in the same amount of time as the tiniest obstacle.
“So you’re trying to force your way through with numbers?”
Stiyl did not respond.
He must have sensed how much of a disadvantage he had, so he fell back. The small park forest was not very large. Before long, Stiyl found himself on a walking path outside of the trees. He started looking around for a better place to fight.
Before he could find anything, Richard arrived.
Or more accurately, his tsunami of flames arrived.
Stiyl frantically jumped to the side and the flames cut across the path and into a manmade lake. The water did not evaporate. Instead, it burned like it was made of paper.
No kind of fireproofing had any effect.
Lævateinn burned through everything in its path.
“What’s the matter?” a figure approached from beyond the trees. “Is this really something to get surprised about now?”
Without responding, Stiyl scattered runes cards as he ran through the park. The power and range of his magic were set in response to the number of rune cards. His flight had a purpose behind it.
He had to be constantly aware of which direction his opponent was coming from, so he could not run at full speed. As such, Stiyl could not escape Richard. The man almost playfully produced spirals of flames two or three times, but Stiyl managed to avoid each one somehow.
(No matter how much I increase the power of my flames, I cannot defeat Lævateinn on a more fundamental level. There’s no point in raising your defensive power against an enemy that can burn through thick walls and thin walls in the same amount of time!!)
Stiyl wanted some kind of cover, so he left the arcaded walkway and entered what seemed to be a rest area. It was not a proper building. It was only constructed out of multiple pillars and a roof. A thin wall was set up on one end where many vending machines were lined up.
Most likely due to Richard’s people clearing spell, no one was inside.
Stiyl stood before one portion of the line of drink vending machines and then turned around upon feeling a presence behind him.
“Hm,” said Richard.
He casually stepped forward.
“I thought a Necessarius magician would try to come and take the epitaph fragment from me. Do you not even have enough leeway to do that?”
In his hand, he held the epitaph fragment Stiyl had left with Theodosia.
It was a portion of an Original grimoire.
“…Are you screwing with me?”
“Not at all,” Richard said with a sneer. “Given the situation, I feel that is the most reasonable evaluation.”
An explosive noise rang out.
Lævateinn shined even brighter and a huge whirl of flames appeared when Richard swung it lightly. The pure white light of the vending machines was blotted out.
Stiyl arranged the bare minimum of runes and uttered a short spell under his breath. A tiny flame sword appeared.
Stiyl Magnus had to be searching for even the smallest chance.
Both types of flames would provide instant victory with just one hit. They held the destructive power to blow away a human body with the slightest graze. That meant the battle was one of getting the enemy into your range more quickly than they could get you into theirs.
“What courageous prey,” Richard said scornfully.
As he mocked his opponent, he strengthened his grip on Lævateinn.
“Do you want to please me that much?”
As if he was decapitating an invisible man before him, Richard swung his weapon horizontally.
But Stiyl reacted before Lævateinn produced a tsunami of flames.
Instead of hopelessly trying to reach the man in time, he stabbed his flame sword directly behind him. One of the drink vending machines was there. The flames melted the plastic as well as the metal.
Richard frowned as he moved Lævateinn.
Immediately afterwards, shock covered his face.
With a muffled roar, the vending machine exploded. It had been caused by a phreatic explosion. Stiyl’s flame sword had instantaneously turned the soft drinks to gas. The large amount of steam had needed a way out and had erupted from the hole Stiyl had created.
It almost looked like a laser made of steam.
The steam contained sharp fragments of the plastic bottles and metal cans.
Some of those pieces slipped through the gaps in Lævateinn’s flames and approached Richard Brave.
Richard used his wrist to change Lævateinn’s trajectory.
“That is too weak. Much too weak!!”
In response to his motion, the direction of the flames changed as well. It blew away the deadly fragments as well as the steam surrounding them. The flames burned through it all evenly.
(Next is my turn!! And this will end it!!)
Richard started to swing Lævateinn once more, but he then realized something.
A thin, thin smile was on Stiyl’s face on the other side of the flames.
“People have a surprising number of blind spots.” He pointed at Richard’s face. “Maybe you should have thought a little more carefully about what burning that steam meant.”
By the time Richard realized what he meant, it was too late.
It was true that most of the steam from the explosion had headed in a straight line for Richard. However, not all of it had. A portion of the steam had departed from the main blast and dampened the air around its target rather than striking him.
That portion had been ignited as well.
The steam that had evenly spread around him had ignited.
And Lævateinn burned through everything evenly.
What that meant was…
Richard had blown himself up.
The flames lit everything up with its bright light as it enveloped him.
While that happened, Stiyl immediately jumped to the side of the vending machine he had destroyed. The flames that burned Richard headed back along the path the steam had taken, burned away the entire vending machine, and started to spread throughout the entire rest area.
Stiyl headed out of the rest area and onto bare ground where he tried to catch his breath. A throbbing pain spread throughout his back. He had not been directly hit by Lævateinn, but he had been very near the vending machine when it had exploded. It would have been more surprising if it had not harmed him at all.
However, he felt more relief than pain.
Stiyl spoke quietly as he watched the flames.
“…Now see the true form of what you have been scattering about.”
Stiyl thought as he pulled out a new cigarette, put it in his mouth, and lit it.
(Looks like I managed to put a stop to that attack. I guess he must have had the Alaskan rune epitaph fragment. Well, an Original can’t be destroyed, so I can just search through his ashes and retrieve it once the flames disappear.)
For an instant, Patricia came to mind, but he decided it was too soon to call for her. The flames were still dangerous until they had been fully extinguished and, more importantly, he had no intention of calling her into an area where someone had been killed.
But then suddenly Richard Brave blew away the sea of flames with an explosive wind.
“An excellent counterattack…”
His clothes were burned in places and the melted fibers must have stuck to his skin because his skin had discolorations that did not look quite like dark stains or burns. Even so, Richard had not been defeated. He had received flames that burned through concrete and asphalt like they were thin paper soaked in oil, but he had not been defeated.
However, Stiyl’s expression was not one of fear.
“But since I have survived, the only fate left for you is to be turned to ash.”
It was a smile.
It was the smile of a cornered beast that had gained a chance to turn things around.
“Since you’re still alive, that means those flames are not absolute. There is some means of avoiding them.”
“Don’t try to act tough,” cut in Richard, shaking his head. “You were afraid of a straight fight, so you came up with some plan and it failed. It’s obvious how this will end.”
He raised Lævateinn up above his head.
A sea of flames was not created as before. Before it became a mass of flames, it became a massive whirl of sparks. The wind blew them toward Stiyl, creating something similar to a random carpet bombing.
Holes opened up in the ground like in a sponge.
The flames spread from those holes.
Stiyl immediately turned around and ran.
Before the whirl of sparks could get above his head, he ran in a direction the wind would not blow them in. But even though he was not directly hit, the countless sparks that fell to the ground quickly surrounded him. It was like hundreds of arrows with the ends lit had been fired.
(Not good. I’m surrounded…!)
There were a few gaps, but he would definitely be showered by the sparks if he tried to force his way through them. And that would be all it would take to turn his body into a pile of ashes.
“I see,” smiled Richard from the other side of the orange curtain. “Even now, you are not trying to use the horoscope as a means to negotiate. …Perhaps I was too quick to jump to conclusions. It seems it was neither you nor me that acquired it.”
In that case, he need not hesitate to kill him.
Richard lightly waved Lævateinn and the ring of flames surrounding Stiyl slowly approached.
“…Do you want the Alaskan runes that badly?” said Stiyl as he tried to come up with a way out of his predicament. “Close examination of your actions will show plenty of unnatural things. In other words, the Anglican Church will eventually take action. It’s true the Alaskan runes are rare and valuable, but is that really enough to make an enemy of the entire Anglican Church? Do you really think you can survive that?”
“Mere survival? My objective is the annihilation of the Anglican Church.”
A slight smile appeared on Richard’s face for the first time.
It was neither a sarcastic smile nor a mocking one.
It was filled with hatred and the feeling of fulfilling that hatred.
“And the Alaskan runes are nothing more than the key.”
“The Dvergr. As a rune user, surely you have at least heard of them.”
Stiyl’s breath caught in his throat and Richard continued speaking while holding Lævateinn.
“The power of the Norse gods is symbolized by their weapons. Odin has the spear Gungnir and Thor has the hammer Mjölnir. The lightning god exists as a set with the spiritual item that calls in lightning attacks. In other words, the power of the gods and the power of their weapons are one and the same.”
An ominous flame flickered on Lævateinn’s surface.
“Of course, they are not mere spiritual items. My theory is that the weapons are a special spiritual item combined with a connection ceremony that strongly binds it with the user. It may be something like a large scale version of the types of ceremonies used to complete symbolic weapons that are specialized for a specific magic user. The connection is so great that the god with the lightning hammer becomes known as the lightning god.” Richard paused for a second. “But oddly enough, they were created by the Dvergr, a different race from the gods. The gods themselves do not know how to make the weapons that symbolize their own power. In other words, the power of the Norse gods does not belong to the gods.”
“…Are you serious?” Stiyl frowned. “That theory has no real basis. For example, Lævateinn was created by the god Loki, not the Dvergr.”
“Heh heh. There are doubts about whether he really counts as one of the gods, but whatever. I’m sure you know the flaw in your argument. …There is a story where Loki cut off the goddess Sif’s golden hair which brought her husband Thor’s wrath upon him,” Richard said seeming to enjoy himself. “In order to avoid Thor’s retribution, Loki had to swear he would return Sif’s hair to normal. To do this, he had a group of Dvergr brothers create golden hair that grows just like real hair.”
“It may be true that Loki had the ability to create a weapon of the gods, but if his ability was greater than that of the Dvergr, that story would not have been created. He would simply have had to create the golden hair on his own. …What this means is simple, don’t you think? The Dvergr have skills that Loki cannot compare to.”
They were a type of creature that lived underground and were also known as dwarfs, but everything about them was wrapped in mystery including their origin. In Norse mythology, the entire world was created by the gods using a giant’s corpse as the material, but there were a few exceptions.
The Alfar and the Dvergr.
They were something like bugs that came forth from the giant’s corpse on their own. In other words, they were rare existences that had come to be by their own power and lived within the world ruled by the gods despite not having existed before the creation of the world and not having been created at the command of the gods.
“What are the Dvergr in the first place?” continued Richard without counterattacking. “They came to be, ignoring the commands of Odin. They know means of manufacturing weapons that even the gods do not and they are the ones that truly gave the gods their power. …The more you learn about them, the less they seem to fit the rules of Norse mythology.”
“You don’t mean…”
“I do not know their identity, but they at least had something that could not be explained by those who believed in Norse mythology and passed down those stories. Doesn’t that seem like a reasonable explanation?”
The epitaph fragment Richard held had been discovered in Alaska.
The Norse lands were in northern Europe.
However, the Vikings had believed in Norse mythology and, in their golden age, they had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and reached the eastern end of North America. That was well before Columbus. So wasn’t it possible they had walked as far as Alaska?
In other words, there may have been a connection between their materials and information.
The identity of the Dvergr.
The identity of a race that had techniques that not even the head Norse god could use. In other words, techniques that did not fall inside the category of Norse mythology.
“Are you saying they were people…?”
“In legends related to advanced techniques, especially methods of manufacturing steel, specific races or cultures often appear in the mythologies. A stereotypical example is having elves or fairies hating steel because an indigenous group that fought using copper was defeated by weapons of steel. Am I wrong?”
In the case of Japan, there were indeed theories concerning the terms “steel” and “race” regarding the slaying of Yamata no Orochi. Stiyl was able to recall similar legends from around the world because of his knowledge of magic.
“I don’t know if the Dvergr refer to a specific race or is formed from a collection of separate groups that had mastered exceedingly difficult skills. Either way, someone like that had to have existed.”
(This is bad.)
Stiyl had that thought because he had figured out what Richard Brave was after.
“The weapons of the gods are only complete when the weapon is brought together with the god. Most likely, the Dvergr had the skill to create exceedingly powerful spiritual items, but their connection spells to bind them to the user were weak. The gods kept the connection spells to themselves, so they were able to control the Dvergr even though the Dvergr could create such great power. Otherwise, Norse mythology would have been filled with the Dvergr.”
“Doesn’t that also mean the weapons themselves can actually be used?”
Richard Brave’s words were like something from a nightmare.
Stiyl groaned as Richard joyfully continued.
“The Dvergr were not an exaggerated fictional legend. They were nothing more than people.”
His smile grew even wider.
“And if they were human, then the techniques they used to manufacture the weapons of the gods are something that mere humans can use. Do you understand what that means? We can freely wield the techniques that gave the gods their power in the form of their weapons!! Let me ask you again: Do you understand what that means!?”
“Didn’t you just say that the spiritual item alone did not complete the weapon? Even if your theory is correct, you can’t use the power of the gods without the connection ceremony they kept to themselves!!”
Stiyl’s words reached a yell by the end.
His priority may have been on denying what Richard was saying.
“But isn’t that enough? True, the Dvergr could not defeat the gods. They could only wield a portion of the weapons’ powers, so there was just too much of a gap between them and the gods who could draw out 100% of the power,” Richard replied simply. He had no need to hesitate. “But there is no one in modern times who can fully wield those weapons. Even the level of the Dvergr is more than enough to conquer the world. As long as you have the means of manufacturing the weapons, you can force your way through with overwhelming power.”
He may have been right.
If you had a weapon with such great power, you might be able to start a war with only a portion of its power. In a war against humans rather than a war against the gods, that would be enough to win.
If Richard Brave acquired such a weapon and then researched and researched until he had a connection spell equal to or greater than the one of the Norse gods…
(This is bad…)
The Anglican Church was a denomination of the Christian Church.
They used spells related to divine miracles, but they were nothing more than a small portion of that power. They had no way to draw out 100% of the Son of God’s power.
But the Dvergr’s techniques were different.
They had the power that had given the Norse gods their power.
With the holy spear Gungnir that Odin used, you had 100% of Odin’s attack power. With the lightning hammer Mjölnir that Thor used, you had 100% of Thor’s lightning element power.
The term “Magic God” floated up in the back of Stiyl’s mind.
The term did not refer to the god of the demon world.
It referred to one who had so utterly mastered magic that he or she entered the territory of a god.
(The Anglican Church is an organization that specializes in anti-magician techniques. And Richard can’t have mastered a connection spell yet. Even if he has gained the power of the Dvergr, that is not enough to completely decide things here.)
Stiyl and Richard glared at each other with a wall of flames between them.
(But his actions will surely cause a war to develop. He intends to begin a long, drawn-out war against a nation all on his own.)
Such a war could last 10 or even 50 years.
How many people would fall during such a war?
Stiyl’s comrades might be killed. Not everyone in the United Kingdom was a magician. Whether they were experts or amateurs, they would be killed indiscriminately.
Or would such a war become the final battle spoken of in Norse mythology where all races including the gods would be wiped out and the entire world would head to its destruction?
Was Ragnarok beginning?
“…So your goal is to use the weapons of the Dvergr? Or is it stopping the Anglican Church from continuing its analysis of this?”
“You could say it’s both and you could say it’s neither,” replied Richard simply. “As I told you before, my objective is the annihilation of the Anglican Church. In doing so, I will use the techniques of the Dvergr and as a result, the Anglican Church’s analysis will be forever stopped.”
What was that man’s reason for hating the Anglican Church so much?
Before Stiyl could find that out, Richard ended the conversation.
“Let’s bring this to an end.”
A great roar came from the flames surrounding Stiyl.
“I have the epitaph fragment. Without you, Patricia Birdway is now defenseless. If I can just acquire the horoscope, the balance of the world will tip in my favor.”
The surrounding flames tightened in.
The walls of flames closed in in order to kill Stiyl.
He could not force his way through. But it could not be over. After all, Richard Brave had been covered in his own Lævateinn flames and had survived.
(There has to be something!! If I can figure out what that is…!!)
How were the flames produced in the first place? Merely carving the torch rune on the sword was like scattering something like alcohol around and lighting it. It was not enough to cause what was happening.
(There has to be a trick it uses to make things burn and the way around it has to be directly connected to it!! Think! Don’t give up!! Giving up won’t change anything, so think even up to the point where death is staring you straight in the eye!!)
Rune magic. Lævateinn. Flames that burned away everything. A spiritual item. Sgkalu. It was impossible just by carving that onto the surface of the sword. Norse mythology. The techniques of the Dvergr. A smell like fermenting beer. The meaning of the runes. The torch that acquired the sun using magic.
“It’s no use,” was Richard’s final remark as he watched Stiyl. “Give up.”
The flames approached all at once.
Stiyl did not shut his eyes to the very end.
Richard Brave sighed disinterestedly as he stared into the roaring whirl of flames.
One problem with his Lævateinn was that its power was so great he could not hold back. If Stiyl had used Patricia as a shield, he might have had a bit of trouble dealing with it, but luckily Stiyl had not opted to do so.
“I guess it’s over.”
Moving only his eyes, Richard looked to the side.
Stiyl Magnus lay collapsed a short distance away. An unpleasant smell was coming from his clothes in places, but it was not due to Richard’s flames. Lævateinn would have burned him away, not even leaving any ashes behind. Stiyl had immediately detonated his flame sword at his own feet in order to use the explosive wind to escape.
The Lævateinn flames had surrounded Stiyl, but…
“I never expected you to use that flame sword to lift up the burning ground itself. That was quite skillful, but do you really think you’ve escaped?”
He seemed to have prepared some kind of fireproofing spell, but it did not seem to have been a very strong one. As a result, Stiyl had not been able to suppress his own flames and the blast had knocked him unconscious.
It had all been in order to just barely escape from Lævateinn.
Stiyl lay face up and unmoving while Richard observed him. After confirming that it was not an illusion or a fake made of packed dirt, Richard adjusted his grip on Lævateinn.
(I don’t need to fear someone on his level, but this could get to be a real pain if Patricia gets involved. I guess I should crush him here.)
The roar of the air being consumed by flames strengthened.
He raised Lævateinn and its sinister light blew away the kind darkness.
But the end did not come.
This was due to a single small stone.
Of course, it had not come from Stiyl as he was unconscious.
It had suddenly been thrown from an area to Richard’s side.
It was not a spiritual item that had special magical effects. It had not been given overwhelming speed using some kind of attack spell.
It was truly just a small stone that had been picked up from the ground and thrown with all the thrower’s might.
In truth, Richard did not even turn around. Lævateinn activated on its own and turned the small stone to ash before it could strike Richard.
But Richard’s movements still stopped.
This was not due to fear or surprise.
On his face was a ghastly smile that made it look like he had just seen the most amusing thing in the world.
“What are you trying to do?”
A girl of around 12 stood there.
She was not a magician and she did not understand what was taking place there.
And she was a foolish girl who had come all that way in order to save Stiyl Magnus.
“You may know nothing about magic, but you are still a smart girl. I’m sure you’ve been able to figure out that this place is ruled by some kind of mysterious set of laws.”
His voice held no piercing hostility. Instead, there was a strange, viscous sweetness there. It had a way of destroying people’s standpoints even further, causing them to lose their strength.
But Patricia did not respond. She moved her muddy hand and picked up another small stone. With her eyes practically clenched shut, she gathered all her strength and threw the pathetic weapon at Richard.
“Get away from him…” she said in a trembling voice.
How much fear did she hold in that small body of hers? How much confusion did she hold inside? Whatever the answer, Patricia pushed it aside and spoke.
“Get away from him. Move!! You need to leave!!”
The smile showed scorn toward everything and was filled with all the malice of the living beings known as humans.
“Heh heh. You are soaked in virtue. You are most certainly a kind person and that kindness has taken the place of what is right. But did you know that you have just denied everything that magician fought so hard for?”
“It should be obvious! He was fighting to protect you. He was fighting to prevent having you stand on this battlefield!! Nn, so what are you doing casually walking out here? First Theodosia Electra and now him. It seems a vain death is all an Anglican magician gets!!”
Patricia trembled upon hearing that.
She had not known that Theodosia Electra had lost to Richard.
The shock left her frozen in place and Richard stuck his hand in his pocket.
“Let’s make a bet, Patricia.”
(A missing limb or two won’t have any effect on the ceremony.)
He pulled out a small stone and tossed it so it landed at her feet.
Anyone who knew of magic understood its value.
It was the fragment of the Alaskan rune epitaph.
It may have been just a small piece, but it was still a true Original grimoire.
“That item is a symbol of magic. Technically, it is a portion of a grimoire, but it can also be used as an automatic spiritual item.”
Patricia was confused, so Richard spoke slowly and simply.
“Do you understand? If you use that, you can use the same mysterious power he and I can.”
If Stiyl had been conscious, that is surely what he would have shouted.
Not even expert magicians like Stiyl or Richard could properly use something like an Original grimoire. Not to mention that the Alaskan rune epitaph had been sealed by the Dawn-Colored Sunlight. Nothing could be done with the epitaph fragment without the horoscope for Donati’s Comet.
Richard knew all that, but he still tried to lure her in.
He was enjoying the prospect of her touching the Original, causing it to explode.
It was a labyrinth. All of the exits were already sealed, so he could simply smile as he watched his prey struggle with the pointless gimmicks prepared within. No matter how far his prey continued, they would never reach the end and he would whip them if they tried to stop even for an instant.
“What will you do?” Richard asked calmly.
No one could stop him.
No one would stand up for Patricia.
“Oh, right. Be careful how you use it. An Original’s self defense functions are quite powerful. Not even magicians like us can deal with it. If you screw up, you won’t just lose a limb or two. You may come to regret your decision here for the rest of your life.”
“But an Original holds enough possibility to make that risk worth it. There is a small chance you might be able to even save that pathetic magician. Do you understand what I am saying, Patricia?” His words invited her into the abyss. “Your only chance lies there. Now, will you grab it or waste it? The choice is yours.”
The small girl unsteadily looked down at the epitaph fragment that lay at her feet.
Unless that stone were a garnet laser, Patricia had no idea how it could possibly hold such great power.
But it truly seemed that some kind of mysterious set of laws was ruling that place.
(If that truly is what he says it is…)
As Richard had said, even Patricia understood that much. She could at least tell that the power Stiyl and Theodosia had wielded to protect her had not been mere deceptions.
In that case, it was possible that stone had enough power to be valuable enough to risk one’s life over. After all, Stiyl, Theodosia, and Richard had been desperately fighting over it.
It held the power needed to escape her trapped situation.
On the other hand, it held enough power that Patricia would be swallowed up if she failed to control it.
It was like a bomb.
Something in her heart yelled for her to stop.
A mysterious set of laws she did not understand existed. Using it, one could cause strange phenomena like Richard had been. But Patricia did not understand what exactly those laws were. The term “spell” was a mystery to her and the term “magic power” left her drawing a blank. Telling her to use that power in that situation was like handing the steering wheel to an elementary school student while driving down the highway.
She would fail.
She did not know why, but she knew that she would fail if she tried.
But Patricia still reached out her hand.
Her hand shook as it slowly stretched out. She stretched her hand out toward the epitaph fragment so slowly even she thought it to be foolish. She could imagine that something would happen the instant she touched it and she knew it would not be what she wanted, but a drowning man will try to grab at even straw.
Her small hand and small fingers touched the rough surface of the stone.
Richard’s face twisted into a smile.
He was wrapped in the joy of victory.
(I now have the epitaph fragment and the remains of Patricia. Now I just need to find the horoscope, but I’ll have some time before the Anglican Church sends out new pursuer. I know it’s inside Academy City, so I can take my time in my search.)
A great noise exploded out from the epitaph fragment.
Just as she touched the surface of the small stone, Patricia’s arm shot backwards. She grimaced in pain and the epitaph fragment shot into the air as if to distance itself from her. A pale light showing some magical phenomenon had occurred could be seen in the darkness.
But Richard’s expression was not one of joy.
After all, that had not been the result he had been expecting. The Original had not gone out of control.
Instead, an explosion had occurred.
It had been a shockwave caused by a third party in order to distance the Original from Patricia.
“Damn…you…” muttered Richard Brave as he turned his head to the side.
Seeing that, Patricia looked over in that direction while holding her arm.
“Stiyl…?” she said.
She received no response.
A priest slowly stood up in the direction they were looking.
He had long hair dyed red, pierced ears, silver rings on all 10 fingers, a cigarette in his mouth, and a barcode tattoo under his right eye. It was clearly Stiyl Magnus standing there.
He was burned.
Parts of his clothes had burned off and a burnt smell permeated the air.
But he was not dead.
That magician would not die.
Richard Brave’s response was actually quite simple.
His enemy had stood up, so he swung Lævateinn.
With a roar, a sea of flames exploded out.
A raging crimson tsunami attacked Stiyl Magnus.
That destructive attack would crush the weak and the strong evenly. The flames instantly enveloped his entire body and the light enveloped him to the point that not even his silhouette could be seen.
Stiyl Magnus had not spoken a word.
Seeing that, Patricia uttered a terrible scream.
With an idiotic sound, Stiyl Magnus blew away the sea of flames.
He was unharmed.
Those flames would swallow up anything in their path and evenly burn away everything they swallowed up.
That was the absolute attack produced by Lævateinn.
With nothing more than a swing of his flame sword, Stiyl had sliced that attack in two so it passed by him on either side.
A few stubborn bits of flames smoldered down at his feet, but Stiyl simply crushed them underfoot. Stiyl Magnus mercilessly destroyed that horrible weapon that would burn away anything that touched even a spark from it.
That should have been impossible.
It was like he had risen from the dead.
What he had done was no coincidence. It was not a miracle that had no reason behind it. The spells used by true magicians did not allow for such things. That meant there had to be a reason. There was a reason Stiyl had been able to stand up and eliminate Richard’s flames.
Richard Brave was utterly shocked.
He could not see Stiyl Magnus’s expression.
“What…?” Richard forced the words out of his dry throat. “How could you break through Lævateinn with a toy like that?”
Stiyl Magnus did not respond.
Only anger could be seen on his face.
That anger was not in response to having been injured himself. It was not due to something as trivial as that. His anger was enough to swallow up the crimson glow of Lævateinn and it was for the sake of the girl who had been forced to hopelessly stand alone as she was toyed with over the magic she did not understand and was forced to jump into what she knew was a trap. It was for the girl who there was no need to harm but had been almost injured for the purpose of some twisted bit of fun.
Stiyl spoke that name of evil and tension ran through the one it belonged to.
He had Lævateinn in his hand and he had an overwhelming advantage, but that voice drove all that out of his mind.
Stiyl Magnus glared at him.
He glared at his enemy.
He glared at the face of the enemy he had to kill as quickly as possible.
“It seems you truly want to die here.”
A new whirl of flames appeared.
It was different from Lævateinn.
It simply glowed.
That overwhelming whirl of flames appeared in order to save the girl who had wandered into the world of magic.
He had not been given a reason.
At first, all he received was the ruling.
“Richard Brave. A concern has arisen that your primary spell, Lævateinn, is in violation of the treaty. Immediately take corrective measures or, if that is impossible, dispose of the spell.”
He had not been given the opportunity to plead his case.
At first, he had only profited.
Lævateinn was Richard Brave’s greatest weapon. Richard had created that weapon after researching countless things, repeating countless experiments, working for countless hours, and fine-tuning it countless times. It was the symbol of his life as he had deemed it worthy to dedicate his life to.
That spell had prevented many tragedies.
He had followed his orders and killed many enemies with it.
He had nothing else.
If it was taken from him, he would have nothing left.
And he believed in Lævateinn to the point he did not care if he had nothing else.
But he could not overturn it.
He could not overturn the unilateral order from the higher ups of the Anglican Church telling him to dispose of it.
That had been a turning point in his life.
Everything about Richard Brave became twisted, his hatred for the Anglican Church had grown within him, and he had pursued Lævateinn even further by desiring the skills of the Dvergr.
From that turning point, he had headed for the flames of hell.
An explosion rang out.
A shockwave roared through the nighttime park and the wall of flames wavered due to external forces.
Two figures danced within the orange-tinted landscape.
The two flame magicians ran through the park, the walking path, and the forest. The battlefield changed from one moment to the next. They left Patricia Birdway behind and their battlefield moved across the land and continued through the darkness like a living being. The all-consuming flames of Lævateinn no longer simply chased after Stiyl. Stiyl’s flame sword evenly matched Lævateinn. He received blows and even countered.
As he ran, Stiyl pulled out a few rune cards.
Stiyl’s runes activated after he arranged them.
His magic displayed its greatest power within an area he himself indicated, so he should not have been able to use his proper strength while constantly on the move.
However, the cards floated in midair.
Countless cards flew around like swallows and created magic circles, sticking to the trees, the ground, and the streetlights.
Richard’s expression twisted.
(So he set up other runes to send out his main runes. …He just has little tricks all over the place.)
In order to create one piece of magic, Stiyl had two or three different spells prepared. Normally, it would have been impossible in that situation, but Stiyl’s power continued to rise.
They spoke no words.
Only the sound of their breathing escaped their mouths.
They pressed in, trying to kill the other as they sliced through the darkness using their glowing magic swords. The two small pillars of flames clashed in midair and continually repelled each other as if there truly was a steel sword within. The great sounds of the impacts reverberated through the air.
Stiyl Magnus was not burned to death.
Up until then, Richard’s Lævateinn had burned through everything it had come into contact with. That included building walls, asphalt, Stiyl’s flame sword, and Theodosia’s explosive blast. However, that was no longer happening. Richard’s sword and Stiyl’s sword were evenly matched.
Richard felt a close-quarters battle would not be to his advantage, so he created masses of flames to swallow up Stiyl, but Stiyl Magnus would slice through them or evade them and then fill in the gap between them after that slight lag.
Richard’s victory was crumbling.
The battle had jumped its set rails and was now rushing toward some unknown place.
(What is going on…?)
Richard started panicking inwardly as he gripped his weapon.
Lævateinn was the ultimate spiritual item that could burn through anything with no exceptions. However, Stiyl was matching it evenly. Instead of fleeing or being swallowed up by the flames, he was truly fighting. A true battle to the death where neither party knew how it would end had begun.
(How can he eliminate my Lævateinn so easily?)
The term “misfire” entered Richard’s mind.
For some reason, Lævateinn was not displaying its proper power. That was why someone as supposedly weak as Stiyl was catching up to him.
(No, this is…)
Stiyl was not one to overestimate his abilities.
He did not randomly charge in to a fight. If he detected the slightest bit of danger, he would unhesitatingly fall back and he would not force his way in even if he saw an opportunity. Richard gritted his teeth. Stiyl knew where the line between safety and danger was. After everything Richard had seen, he could not account for Stiyl’s survival as being based on “coincidence” or “good luck”.
“Don’t tell me…”
Richard spoke as he swung Lævateinn which produced a sea of flames that spread out like a tsunami. It was a meaningless question for a magician in mid-battle. In fact, it had a chance of providing his opponent with a means of victory in some situations.
“Don’t tell me you’ve figured it out!”
Even so, he said it.
He said it despite what his reason told him.
In response, Stiyl swung his flame sword with his right hand and used his left hand to pull his cigarette from his mouth. He did not need to light it. It had already been lit with an orange light due to the attacks they had been exchanging.
He swung his flame sword and sliced the all-engulfing tsunami of flames right down the middle. Lævateinn’s flames did not burn away everything as before. Stiyl Magnus had truly destroyed the tsunami of flames.
And he spoke.
“Lævateinn is not the primary part of your attack.”
A cold sweat poured from Richard’s body.
It was not due to the heat of his flames or from all the running around. It was the uncomfortable cold sweat of someone in serious trouble.
The flow of the battle had changed.
Stiyl Magnus would be on the attack.
“You can’t create that kind of effect just by carving runes into a metal sword. That makes it simple. You must have carved runes somewhere other than the sword. It’s probably something along the lines of a combination of eihwaz, berkana, and wunjo. You were not creating the firepower needed to burn your target regardless of what it was made of. You used runes to change your target into a material that would burn away even with the smallest flame.”
Stiyl Magnus and Richard Brave were both rune magicians.
Runes created various phenomena when they were carved into various objects.
Whether you were creating a sea of flames that would swallow up everything or a lightning attack that would rain down from the heavens and blow everything away, you always had to start by carving the runes somewhere.
So where were they carved?
Stiyl could not see how the runes carved into the sword would be able to create the effects he had seen.
In that case, where else could they be?
“Seeing that you were able to carve them into my flame sword and Theodosia’s explosion of flames, the runes must be in some kind of premade ‘stamp’ that you can fire like a bullet. Lævateinn itself shows no sign of using any other runes, so that makes the most sense.”
(I see. So he isn’t a complete fool!!)
Stiyl was dead on.
But Richard still smiled.
“Sorry, but I can’t say that’s right. Lævateinn burns away everything. It uses no clichéd tricks like that.”
Information was a weapon.
Disturbance was a type of strategy.
“If I was spreading around runes that turned my target into a highly flammable material, I’m sure someone like you would have noticed them. Of course, if you were so stupid you wouldn’t even notice a rune carved into your own body, it might work, but not even you are that stupid.”
Once your trick was discovered, you were dead.
On the other hand, if you misread the situation, you would create an opening leading to your death.
Stiyl laughed scornfully.
That sent a bad feeling throughout Richard’s body and then he heard the last thing he wanted to hear.
“You would just need to carve the runes using some kind of invisible ink.”
At that, the battle stopped.
Stiyl and Richard literally stopped moving.
Richard held Lævateinn which supposedly held the ultimate destructive power and he stared at his enemy while the sword’s tip shook like a record needle.
He could no longer easily approach.
Even the slightest mistake could now cause his defeat.
“I noticed a smell like fermenting beer.”
Stiyl had stopped moving and now simply carefully observed the situation without acting triumphant or attacking.
“At first, I thought you were using the flammability of alcohol in some way, but I was wrong. If all of the magical phenomena you are creating are done by carving runes into objects, then everything you have must be there for that purpose. That made this simple. It had to be the ink you were using.”
Their shadows wavered.
This was not due to the magicians’ movements. It was due to the irregular movements of the flames providing the light.
Richard Brave was frozen solid like he was a statue.
“My guess is it’s vitamin B2. A lot of it is found in malt and I believe it reflects a yellow light when it receives strong UV rays in the darkness. Basically, you just have to hide a water gun or spray bottle in your sleeve to carve the runes long distance in the same motion as swinging your arm.”
Richard had gone from taking a short break to read the situation to having his muscles lock up.
“The runes on Lævateinn read sgkalu. It means ‘the torch that acquired the sun using magic’. That does not refer to a powerful flame. It is a conductor’s baton used to produce the same UV rays as in sunlight in order to make the invisible runes you have spread about visible at the proper time.”
Richard’s Lævateinn had two modes.
The first simply produced flames and was used to set fire to his surroundings.
The second amplified UV rays to make only the needed runes visible, turning the objects they were on into a highly flammable substance.
Stiyl had seen through it all.
Deep wrinkles covered Richard Brave’s face.
Regardless of the type of magic, you had to come up with a countermeasure once you discovered its trick. That was why a battle between magicians was more a type of battle of wits than it was a physical battle. Stiyl Magnus had already seen through everything Richard had. That meant he would next be using a means of sealing that trick and turning the situation around. One method magicians used was to cover an old trick with a new one and then attack. Richard admitted he had to be on his guard. Next, it was his turn to figure out Stiyl’s trick. He had just determined to use his intelligence to survive when…
(…Wait a second.)
Richard Brave suddenly realized something.
It was a very small thing.
Stiyl had indeed seen through all of Lævateinn’s tricks. Richard’s strategy was completely destroyed.
All the damage Stiyl Magnus had taken was still there.
Richard looked at the enemy standing before him.
This time, he truly looked at him.
That magician had been wrapped in flames, had been exposed to great heat, had breathed in smoke, and had been hit by the shockwave of the phreatic explosion he had caused. How much damage had he taken altogether? Even if he had discovered the trick, did he have the physical and mental strength left to come up with and carry out a strategy to turn the situation around?
Even if it was a battle of wits, physical strength was still needed.
Just as one could not use their full strength sleep deprived, there was a bare minimum level of physical strength needed for your brain to function properly.
Did Stiyl have that much strength left?
With all the damage he had taken, he could not have enough strength left to defeat Lævateinn. He just couldn’t.
Even if Lævateinn’s strange method of causing flammability was sealed, the flames it produced normally were nothing to laugh at. Even if the flames were just used to support the vitamin B2 trick, they were surely still enough to cause a human to suffer, to burn them, and even kill them if used right.
In truth, Stiyl’s outer appearance showed just how bad a situation he was in. He was breathing erratically, his skin was injured, and his clothes were covered in mud. Stiyl had truly taken plenty of damage.
He still stabbed his flame sword in toward Richard Brave.
He blew away the hell of flames that Lævateinn created.
It was as if he were responding to the shouts of a small girl who was about to be trampled.
He was acting to protect Patricia Birdway.
“Damn…you…How can you go on…?” Richard muttered in shock.
No matter how many times he went over it in his head, it did not make sense.
His thoughts alone were not enough to understand it.
“…You don’t understand?” Stiyl Magnus said.
His expression was not one that showed he felt the enemy before him was of greater or even equal strength to himself.
“Then you are not a true enemy of mine.”
His expression held only anger and scorn.
Perhaps some pity was mixed in as well.
“You are only a target.”
Just as he muttered that as if reciting it, the flame magician Stiyl took a large step forward.
Stiyl Magnus knew that his body was near its limit.
Richard had no way of knowing that Stiyl had fought Theodosia Electra before him. Thinking back on it, that had been a heavy blow. Unlike in the battle against Richard, that fight had left damage to the core of his body. Stiyl had been forced into back-to-back fights and had even had to track down Theodosia, a supposed ally, but he smiled. His body had subconsciously ranked the damage that ached within it. In that ranking, the damage from Theodosia was higher than that from Richard. That was why Stiyl smiled. Even he found it strange how happy it made him that Theodosia’s strikes for Patricia’s sake had been heavier than the shallow attacks from that bastard Richard.
Stiyl headed forward in what could have been seen as a careless action and Richard swung Lævateinn. Stiyl’s flame sword clashed with it, causing sparks to fly through the air.
“That spell of yours certainly has a unique method of use,” said Stiyl as weapon clashed with weapon. “You said you hate the Anglican Church. In that case, I’m guessing the reason behind all this is the treaty. In truth, it is difficult to call the coloration effect of vitamin B2 a purely magical method. All the magicians you faced in the past were led astray due to that and burned to death in your flames.”
The world was split into the magic side and the science side.
And the two sides had created a treaty to ensure neither side invaded the other. Richard’s Lævateinn spell stood right on the border of that treaty.
“You don’t understand…”
Hints of hatred entered Richard’s tone.
It was all contained in that small statement.
Richard was not alone. Most modern magicians did not use only the same materials as had been used in ages past for their magic. Even Stiyl used copy paper and lamination to make his rune cards easier to use.
Magic could be activated using only the products found within a convenience store. There was no need to only rely on rare and expensive antiques. One used the most accessible materials to create the most simplified spells in order to wield the most powerful magic. That was the most convenient thing to do for someone who was relying on magic to survive while they fought.
However, that incomprehensible treaty had appeared.
The treaty ensured that science and magic would not encroach on each other’s territories. No clear line had ever been decided on. A line some unknown person had come up with was followed and whether something violated it or not could almost seem arbitrary. A method that was considered valid one day would be considered unusable the next.
Everything was based on the whims of the higher ups.
Most likely, Richard Brave had gotten caught up in all that.
The spell he had spent his long life creating and perfecting and been held down by some unknown person and crushed.
Lævateinn symbolized Richard’s life.
Denying the spell was the same as denying everything about the man.
No one would want that.
If Stiyl one day found himself stripped of every piece of magic he had and was thrown naked out into the world, he had no idea how he would survive.
“So what?” said Stiyl scornfully.
There may have been some validity to what Richard was saying. He had once been a magician who worked on the defensive line over the Atlantic Ocean as a member of the Anglican Church’s 0th Parish, Necessarius. By wielding Lævateinn or even a stronger spell, he might have been able to defeat many enemies and save many people. After Richard annihilated the Anglican Church, it was possible he would save more people than the entire Anglican Church could ever have hoped to. But he had killed Theodosia Electra. He had trampled on Patricia’s heart. Stiyl was not about to overlook that. If Richard wanted what was “right”, he would get it. The flame inside Stiyl’s chest did not need to justify his actions in the name of justice before he carried out those actions.
Sparks flew through that nighttime park.
A light that did not come from the streetlights illuminated their faces.
There was no sign.
Their eyes met, their breathing synced up, and their intentions were known to each other.
That was all it took.
The true final confrontation began.
Stiyl’s flame sword and Richard’s Lævateinn clashed.
They repelled each other again and again, explosive flames enveloped them, and the battle began anew.
In that instant, Richard Brave felt something.
Unlike the “continuing” battling from before, he now felt as if the stopper of the bath drain had been pulled out. Both enemy and ally alike were being drawn in and swallowed up, whether they liked it or not. They were being carried away toward some definitive finale.
Richard grew afraid.
Stiyl did not.
Richard gritted his teeth and did not randomly charge forward. He fell back as if trying to free himself from a bog and swung Lævateinn once more. He did not use the vitamin B2. That spell would no longer have any effect on Stiyl and using it held the risk of creating an opening. However, he should not have any problems even with that secret technique sealed.
No matter how he thought about it, Stiyl had to have an overwhelmingly greater amount of damage. Both attack and defense started with Richard, so he just had to end it at the best possible time.
Stiyl would surely have realized what he was trying to do, but his body would not be able to keep up.
Richard shouted from the bottom of his gut and swung Lævateinn up from below like it was a golf club. He was aiming for the dirt in the ground. He tore up the dirt and transformed it into flames using the explosive force of Lævateinn, sending it all shooting toward Stiyl.
That was not enough to make Stiyl Magnus hesitate.
Richard knew that and that was why he charged into the center of the flames himself.
The two swords crossed blades.
Weapon clashed with weapon, sparks flew, and a heavy shock struck Richard’s palms.
After an instantaneous pause, Stiyl’s flame sword and Richard’s Lævateinn turned around and let loose a second strike.
The roar of the air being sliced reverberated throughout the area.
Just before Stiyl’s flame sword let loose its very strongest strike, it stopped at an awkward position. The tip of Richard’s Lævateinn was pressed up against Stiyl’s heart.
In a fight between good people, he might have put his sword down and spared the loser.
But no such rule existed among magicians.
After hearing enough of his opponent’s pleading, he would mercilessly crush him.
Just as Richard’s smile spread from within and reached his face…
“You should have realized it.”
“You should have realized what both of us being rune users meant.”
Richard did not understand what Stiyl meant, but he was not one to give in.
He had no need to go along with Stiyl’s attempt to buy time.
After breathing in a quick breath, Richard unhesitatingly sent a command to the blade pressed against Stiyl’s chest.
An explosive flame danced out.
The sea of flames became a tsunami and lit up the night sky.
But it did not assault Stiyl Magnus.
The crimson flames roared as they consumed oxygen and wrapped around Richard Brave’s right arm.
The flames had come from Lævateinn. They had not gone in the direction they should have. Instead, they had headed straight for Richard as if attempting to swallow up their owner. Stiyl stood only a few millimeters from Lævateinn’s tip, but he did not receive a single burn.
Richard felt no pain.
Just after he realized that, the intense pain finally caught up to him.
The pain was so great he almost let go of Lævateinn, but he managed to hold on. That showed just how strong Richard’s will was. His hand was starting to lose its proper shape due to the flames, but he kept it on Lævateinn’s handle.
“Just as we can carve the runes for our rune magic, we also have spells in which the runes are dyed.”
The flames continued.
Richard forced his almost completely melted fingers to move in order to finally let go of Lævateinn.
“The representative example of a rune carved on weapons is teiwaz. Its effects are increased when a slain enemy’s blood runs through the grooves of the rune, dying it red.”
Lævateinn fell to the ground.
Richard stepped back on shaking legs as if trying to distance himself from his weapon.
“That is why you should have been more cautious. When a fellow rune user like me read the runes carved into Lævateinn, you should have realized the danger of me adding something to those runes that would work against you.”
Richard held his burnt-black right arm and looked at his weapon that was still sending forth flames as it lay on the ground.
There was no change to the runes carved into the side of the blade.
However, when he looked closer, he noticed some opaque object stuck to its surface. It appeared to be some kind of viscous liquid and the smell of melted plastic floated in the air.
When Richard noticed that smell, he frowned.
“A laminated card…!!”
“It was the card used for the Opila spell. The people clearing spell you used probably used the same rune. Its original meaning was ‘land’. It held the meaning of preventing interference from an unwanted other party in a specified area you own.”
Richard’s expression grew even grimmer when he heard the term Opila.
Stiyl ignored it and continued his final words for the man.
“But the trick to runes is that a single rune can have many different meanings. Opila is used to mean something other than ‘land’. Specifically, ‘inheritance’. It can be used to set up your assets so they will be transferred to someone else.”
Richard’s breathing stopped.
(Shit. So he could do that…)
Richard gritted his teeth because he realized what Stiyl was getting at.
(But how could he come up with that in such a short amount of time…!?)
When he looked again, he could clearly see that a rune card was melted on Lævateinn’s surface. But even though the lamination had melted and the paper card within had turned to ash, the Opila rune stuck to the surface without disappearing. It was attached magically, ignoring the laws of physics. The Opila rune had already become deeply bonded to Lævateinn.
“The Opila rune attached to Lævateinn quickly took effect. Its effect was to distribute the ‘asset’ of the flames to another, but I was the one that carved the rune. Just as the deceased cannot receive the inheritance, the power of the runes could not be distributed to me no matter what. As a result, the Opila flames had to be sent to someone other than me.”
That said, it had really been 50/50 odds.
The spiritual item created from Lævateinn and the Opila rune could also be seen as belonging to Richard. If that had been the result, the flames would have enveloped Stiyl.
“Well, I’m not the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, so this kind of interference and interruption of spells isn’t likely to go so well most of the time. Against some other magician, this likely would not have worked. I could only do it because you are a fellow rune user,” Stiyl said disinterestedly before holding up his flame sword once more. He looked at Richard who had burned his right hand with his own weapon. “Magic is a world of thought, so application and flexibility influences everything. No single spell or spiritual item will allow you to win on every single battlefield.”
That statement displayed Stiyl’s fighting style as one who gained power via intelligence.
The true magician continued to speak as he ridiculed Richard who had lost in a battle of wits.
“Take your prized weapon.”
The flame sword pointed toward Lævateinn which was still producing flames.
Sweat flowed from Richard’s body and Stiyl mercilessly spoke.
“If it really is as great as you claim, then use it to defeat me now. If you truly think you can justify killing Theodosia and trampling on Patricia, then do so here and now.”
Stiyl’s words belied his true intentions.
He only told Richard to do so because he was convinced he could not.
And just as Stiyl had predicted, Richard moved backwards.
He tried to get as far away as possible from the object that had been the sole support for his pride.
Stiyl did not pursue him.
He did not even do that.
A tremendous roar could be heard.
Stiyl Magnus’s flame sword exploded and the shockwave assaulted the night.
He had trusted in Lævateinn so much up until then. Without that support, Richard Brave flew through the air to a humorous extent. After flying a few meters, he bounced off the ground two or three times before hitting the trunk of a tree that had escaped the blaze.
“…Hmph,” said Stiyl amid the silent nighttime park that was still burning in places.
Pain assaulted him all across his body, but he could not rest yet.
(The people clearing field is gone…)
That spell that ensured that normal people did not approach the area had been set up by Richard for fun. Now that the man had lost his power, the remains of the fires would be visible even from afar. Stiyl could have activated a people clearing spell just as Richard had, but…
(We may have overdone things. Setting up a people clearing field over such a large area would be a pain.)
The effects of Stiyl’s runes were activated when he set up the cards. He could do so instantly if it just had to be directly around him, but he would have to set up runes over the entire park if he wanted the effects to cover the entire area.
Even so, he would normally have used runes that would automatically send out the other runes to set them up in a short period of time, but he did not want to waste the extra effort after the intense battles he had gone through.
(It would be best to get out of here as quickly as possible.)
He would meet up with Patricia and retrieve the Alaskan rune fragment. Depending on the situation, he might have to bargain with the Anglican Church or the Dawn-Colored Sunlight.
(Where is she?)
Stiyl moved his gaze from Richard and looked around in the darkness. He had succeeded in eliminating the threat of Richard Brave, but the entire incident was not yet resolved. Patricia Birdway had lived a life with no connection to fights to the death and yet she had suddenly been thrown into the middle a battle between expert magicians. She would have to overcome her mental scars with her own strength.
(I could help “remove” some of that using the magical plants or suggestions used in the focusing methods for ceremonies, but I’m hesitant to say that’s the best method.)
Suddenly, he noticed something moving on the edge of his vision.
It was Richard Brave who had been blown away by the shockwave.
“…You naïve fool. As a magician, you should know better than to relax before you have killed your enemy.”
“Make no mistake,” Stiyl said in a stiff voice. “You are going to be transported to London. The inquisition awaits you there and that is a fate worse than death. I’m sure you know that the Anglican Church is at the forefront of witch hunting.”
“I see… But you are still naïve.”
Something was off about Richard’s breathing.
He may have had a broken bone or one of his internal organs may have been injured.
Even so, he smiled.
“And I’m sorry to say, I made sure to have some insurance ready.”
Stiyl started controlling his breathing once more and then focused on his surroundings.
He quickly understood what Richard meant.
He noticed some presences.
He sensed the presences of a large number of people coming through the gaps between the trees about 100 meters away from the burned away spot he stood in. He also detected many masses of magical power. The people were clearly magicians and they each had different kinds of spiritual items.
“Did the communications official not tell you that an Anglican unit was headed here?”
A group of magicians approached in a horizontal line.
They numbered somewhere between 30 and 40.
Even though they were from the Anglican Church, they were not there on an official mission. Those magicians either agreed with Richard or at least would profit from what he was trying to do, so they too were trying to gain the techniques of the Dvergr.
“They are weaker than me. I headed in first as the strongest of us in order to minimize our losses. But I wonder if you have the strength to deal with all of them? With all the damage you have taken, can you deal with them while also protecting Patricia, wherever she is?”
The group most likely specialized in Norse spells, but other than that, their details were unknown.
Stiyl did not have time to do a detailed analysis of their spells as he had for Richard. And the rules for a one-on-one battle were different than those for a group battle. At the current rate, he would be swallowed up by the group and killed before he could even attack properly.
“They will pay no heed to a loser like me. After all, they are expert magicians who show mercy by killing you. They may even go out of their way to kill me in order to lessen their own burden. As I said, you are naïve. You should not have relaxed your guard until your enemy was dead.”
Stiyl heard a sound like a neon sign being turned off.
In the darkness beyond the trees, lights glowed. It was not just a few. Stiyl saw 30 or 40 pale lights appear one after another and his throat dried up.
The lights were…
(Runes… And that’s the 33 character United Kingdom style!!)
He did not even have time to think after that.
Explosive noises reverberated through the night.
An ice blade approached seeming to crawl across the ground. A flash of lightning approached in a broad arc like a long throw in baseball. A mass of flames approached in a straight line.
Stiyl immediately tried to get behind cover, but then a large number of beams of light shot through the night sky. He somehow managed to avoid a direct hit, but the dirt and rocks at his feet blew up at him. His body was sent flying through the air.
Stiyl managed to brace himself against his landing, rolled along the ground, and stood up once more.
“Richard!!” he cried.
His only response was the continued bombardment.
His vision was cut off by flames and smoke, so he could not tell where his enemies were. However, he doubted those magicians had come to allow Richard to escape. He would probably be blown away along with their target or even taken out first so that he would not tell anyone anything unnecessary.
(Dammit… Is Patricia okay? Where is she?)
But if they wanted the techniques of the Dvergr as Richard did, they would not get Patricia involved. They would not carry out such an indiscriminate attack.
(They only came here because they noticed Richard and me fighting. Or maybe Richard sent out some kind of signal when he was defeated. At any rate, they were focused on us and did not notice everything. That means they likely still haven’t found Patricia!!)
He wanted to believe that was the case.
He wanted to determine that she was safe, but he gritted his teeth because he had no proof.
But his opponents would not wait.
Many beams of light glittered in the night sky.
Just as he noticed them, three beams of light mercilessly pierced through Stiyl’s chest.
After being pierced, Stiyl disappeared into thin air.
A sound like a curtain beating the air could be heard. Stiyl then reappeared in a different place. He had used a mirage to hide his position.
The enemy’s attacks had no magical tracking ability.
Just like with a normal gun, they had to be aimed by hand.
(No matter how many enemies there are, what I must do remains the same.)
As his shoulders moved up and down with his heavy breathing, Stiyl poured strength into his legs that threatened to tremble due to exhaustion and stared straight ahead.
He checked on the situation and then pulled a new rune card from his pocket. This rune was used for searching rather than attacking. He had no convenient means of finding Patricia’s location, but he could search for the magic power of the Alaskan rune fragment that had fallen next to her.
(I will bring Patricia Birdway back to the world she came from. I don’t care about the Anglican Church or the Dawn-Colored Sunlight. She isn’t a magician, so she shouldn’t be bound by their rules!!)
Multiple magical attacks assaulted him at the same time.
Flames rose, ice spears rained down, and lightning strikes split the night sky.
Stiyl ran and ran in order to gain some distance. He did not care how unsightly it made him look. He did not need to defeat all of his enemies. Stiyl Magnus only saw one thing he had to do in order to win.
(How long can I last…?)
Facing them all head on would have been reckless.
What was most important was getting Patricia to safety as quickly as possible.
Should he try to meet up with her as soon as possible in order to protect her?
Or should he purposefully distance himself from her in order to draw the enemies away from her?
He did not even need to think about it.
(I don’t think they know where Patricia is, so I can lure them away. Right now, I need to get away from Patricia, giving her safety priority. Patricia has to have taken quite a bit of damage both physically and mentally. I can’t bring her to an even harsher environment!!)
But the number of long distance magical attacks grew.
They seemed to have determined that they might lose track of Stiyl if they let him use his mirages. They were trying to crush him before that could happen.
Many runes glowed.
An overwhelming rain of light covered the night sky.
There was a limit to what he could avoid using a mirage. More importantly, when they were attacking an entire area rather than specifically aiming for him, a mirage that messed up their aim was pointless.
He knew he was cornered, but Stiyl had no choice but to use a mirage.
He knew he was heading toward a dead end, but Stiyl saw no other path he could take.
Meanwhile, the points of light covering the sky started raining down.
Suddenly, a pure white beam of light tore through the night.
At first, Stiyl did not know what it was, but an instant later, he realized it had been created by magic. The pure white explosion in a point in the sky caused the countless magical attacks to prematurely detonate in midair. Rather than a defensive wall, it seemed to be a purely offense attack that had sealed the other magicians’ resistance.
It was some kind of magical attack.
But Stiyl had not fired it, Richard had not fired it, and the pursuing unit had not fired it.
(Where did it come from…!?)
Stiyl pulled out a rune card to create a mirage and hid behind a large tree just to be sure, but then he heard an unexpected voice.
“Wow, wow. Things seem to have gotten rather rough out here. I’m impressed you’ve managed to last this long. These reinforcement were only able to pull that off because you drew the enemy out, Stiyl.”
That ridiculous manner of speaking.
That voice of a mother just under 40.
“Theo…dosia?” he said dumbfounded.
He had no idea when or how she had retrieved the girl, but Patricia lay unconscious in her arms. Patricia may have fainted once Stiyl and Richard had left.
Behind Theodosia, he sensed a number of human presences.
They must have been the “reinforcements” who had created the explosion.
As Theodosia cradled Patricia in her arms like a small child, she smiled at Stiyl.
“Hi, Stiyl. Heh heh heh. The strongest character doesn’t show up until the very, very end. Because Lævateinn burns away everything equally, it was simple to pretend to get burned away but actually go into hidin-gbfh!?”
“Sorry about that. I have no idea where that punch came from. It’s a complete mystery to me, but these punches just won’t stop coming. What do you think I should do?”
“O-obh!? Bhehah!! N-not good. I’m holding Patricia in my arms, so I can’t guar-gbh!? I’ve been meaning to tell you, Stiyl. You need to take off your rings before you punch peopl-gbheh!!”
(But who are these reinforcements…?)
Stiyl had been letting his fists fly with a rune card unintentionally crushed within one of them, but then he frowned.
If they were on Theodosia’s side, people from the Anglican HQ were the first to come to mind, but the timing was simply too good for that. In fact, they would never have made it in time.
Then who was it?
A voice spoke up as if to answer Stiyl’s question.
“Heh. It seems you helped my little sister out some,” said a voice similar to Patricia Birdway’s. However, the emotions held in this voice were completely different. “The Anglican Church specializes in witch hunts and the inquisition, so I normally have no obligation to mediate a conflict within it, but I had no choice here. I hate owing anyone anything, so I decided to thank you for what you did for my little sister.”
“The Dawn-Colored Sunlight…!?”
The magic cabal’s boss.
She was Patricia’s sister, so her last name must have been Birdway.
Paying no heed to Stiyl’s shock, the girl held her right hand out toward empty space. A nearby man silently held something out. The motion was so natural that it made it seem as if the man had not been waiting there and had instead appeared at her side that very instant.
Richard’s unit was frantically preparing a second wave after their magical attacks had been suddenly intercepted in midair. Birdway spoke to Stiyl while staring at her enemies from afar.
“I don’t like modern guns, but the flintlock ones are a different matter.”
A smile filled with sadism covered Birdway’s face.
It was an expression one would never see on Patricia’s face.
“But even they can’t stand up to a staff. Just running my finger along it almost makes me drool.”
The sound like a vibrating wind roared out.
Stiyl realized Birdway had begun using magic.
A staff or wand.
That was the symbolic weapon of modern Western Golden-style magic. It would use the element of fire. Its coloration would be red. Its alignment would be right. The quality of the Telesma called forth and used would be that of Michael.
“Do you know what our field of expertise is?”
“As a Golden-style magic cabal, I would assume various ceremonies derived from the acquisition of Telesma.”
Many different types of magic could be referred to as “Golden-style”, but the Dawn-Colored Sunlight was a group that specialized in large techniques that tended to use large-scale spiritual items to create large-scale effects.
“But you don’t have time to construct a temple here and I would have detected it if you had set up the appropriate symbols around the park in order to construct a large-scale ceremonial grounds. Or are you asking me to buy you some time?”
“It’s true we don’t have time for a proper ceremony. Norse spells, especially the ones using weapons with runes carved into them, are used by having each individual create individual pieces of magic. On the other hand, our magic within the Dawn-Colored Sunlight mostly requires the entire group to act in unison to create a single, large-scale spell.”
Birdway held the staff in one hand and stared down its end as if taking general aim.
“It’s merely an issue of speed. There are all sorts of differences between a single person heading up a flight of stairs and a hundred thousand people heading up a flight of stairs at the same time. When a large power is being used by a large number of people, the coordination needed gets a bit tricky. And of course, that has an effect on how quickly each individual spell is completed,” Birdway said disinterestedly. “But you can’t call yourself a magic cabal if you can’t defeat some small fries like this.”
Just as Stiyl was wondering if she was done speaking or not, a great noise exploded out.
He had not understood. The enemy group called in by Richard Brave that should have stood before Stiyl was suddenly thrown into the air by a dome-shaped explosion of light.
The unit desperately tried to counterattack, but Birdway did not let them.
After a few more explosions of light, most of the enemy force had been wiped out. Hiding behind trees or small buildings gained them nothing. Birdway’s magic blew them away along with their cover.
“In a Golden-style ceremony, a temple is created following set laws and the quality, element, and directionality of the power being used is decided on. Once that is done, Hebrew letters are used to provide imaginative power and a temporary guardian that possesses Telesma is prepared. …It’s true that we would not make it in time if we had to construct the temple from the ground up.”
With most of their comrades gone, the remaining enemies ran about in confusion. They were picked off by even more explosions.
Even when they dropped their weapons and stood stock still in shock, Birdway mercilessly blew them away.
“But temples and ceremonial grounds have only become so complex and precise because people want as much power as they can get. It’s the same as sticking a steam engine into something that was originally moved using human power. After all, if god and the angels existed before humans were born, then the constructions and ceremonies created by humans can’t possibly be absolutely necessary.”
They used enormous pieces of magic that were carried out with accurate intuition and measurements made by eye rather than relying on accurate theories and calculations.
To put it bluntly, she looked like a skilled stage actress.
She had cast aside the perfectly prepared script and had instead used her instinct and sharp eye to see what the audience wanted. Based on that, she had continually minutely adjusted her performance on the stage and was now receiving great applause.
“If you take out a lot of the effort used in constructing a temple, you can activate your spells more quickly. Of course, this lowers their power. I’ve arbitrarily named it a summoned explosion, but I don’t have any special spell for it.”
It was no longer a fight.
It was nothing more than a bullying of the weak that was painful to watch.
“And then there’s the whole issue of attack magic. I think it’s too close minded to think of each spell as having only one use. Why even use magic that was only made to be used in some childish fight? That kind of junk should just be left as an opening act. I don’t see anything worth praising about how you prepare all these wonderful pieces of magic for your enemies.”
Her words sent a chill down his spine.
She was the boss who held the Dawn-Colored Sunlight in her hands.
The next thing Stiyl knew, there were no enemies left.
It made Stiyl feel like the life-and-death battles he had been fighting had been nothing more than fist fights between children. On the other hand, what that girl had done had been to tear up the very ground the enemies stood upon.
She was ruthless.
She was unreasonable.
She was overwhelming.
After creating that scene of devastation, Birdway handed her staff to the man waiting beside her and cracked her neck.
She then suddenly looked to the side.
Stiyl had not noticed his approach, but one of Birdway’s subordinates was standing there silently. He held an unconscious magician over his shoulder as if the magician were a piece of luggage.
“I have retrieved the fragment of the Alaskan rune epitaph and Richard Brave, the man behind all this.”
“I see,” replied Birdway.
Stiyl frowned suspiciously.
“…Are you saying you saved him? That doesn’t sound like the Dawn-Colored Sunlight I’ve heard about.”
“Make no mistake.”
The girl grinned at the question.
Her expression seemed to be the incarnation of sadism itself.
“We must give the appropriate punishment to those who bare their fangs toward us. That has always been our way of doing things. So, I’m sorry to say we have no intention of handing this man over to you. He is ours to enjoy.”
A freezing chill ran down Stiyl’s back.
Birdway must have been satisfied with his expression because a slight smile of joy appeared on her face. She then sent a few more explosions across the unmoving battlefield…or rather, bombing site.
After sending explosions across the entire area, she muttered, “Let’s get going.”
She then turned her back on the defeated enemies who she held no more interest in.
No one spoke a word.
No one was even able to prepare any kind of objection.
Birdway had silenced everyone with her overwhelming display of destruction.
“This pointless work really wears me out. I could really go for a popsicle,” she said languidly.
A certain thing always seemed to exist within an international airport and the international airport in Academy City’s District 23 was no exception.
That thing was a duty-free shop.
“…With color printers you really can’t beat the Japanese ones,” said Stiyl Magnus in shock as he looked at the specs given next to the price.
The pale gradient display was not bad at all. He had never thought the sparkling of the scales of a tropical butterfly’s wings could be printed.
(With this level of expression on my side, I might be able to use even that symbol… The time may have come for me to construct some new rune cards. I know. Maybe I should try making some long distance attacks.)
He did not notice, but a creepy smile appeared on his face.
Seeing that, a wondering expression came to Theodosia’s face.
“Why are you carrying a bunch of the exact same type of ink cartridge you usually buy online?”
Foreign tourists had a tendency to see the Japanese-made office electronics in the duty-free shop and end up buying them. They knew they would later realize the products were not really all that great and regret buying them, but they were sucked in regardless. Even if they were told that there were other more Japanese places they could be going to, Mt. Fuji would still be a pain in the ass to climb.
Holding his shopping basket filled with products, Stiyl said, “I guess the Dawn-Colored Sunlight is heading out about now.”
“Are you sure we shouldn’t go see them off?”
“You do realize we are part of Necessarius, the group that destroys magic cabals like them, right? Why would we go see our enemies off? I hate having to say it, but we could very well be having a fight to the death with them right now if it hadn’t been for Richard Brave making a mess of things.”
“It seems there is a faction within the Anglican Church that thinks we should join forces with some of the more skilled magic cabals. Do you really have no intention of getting along?”
“That’s an issue for the higher-ranking members of Necessarius,” Stiyl said with a sigh. “I rescued Patricia Birdway because she is a normal person with no connection to the Dawn-Colored Sunlight. She should not have been forced into a clash between magic forces. If she had been acting as a member of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight, we would have had to see her as an enemy.”
“Her sister is a perfect example. Those sisters started off the same, but one ended up involved with magic while the other didn’t. Patricia is one thing, but unfortunately, I will never cooperate with the older sister that rules the cabal. What was with her anyway? She’s creepy, condescending, violent, and shows no sign of treating other people like human beings.”
“Oh? Well, isn’t that a shame.”
Stiyl immediately turned around toward the girl’s voice that had suddenly come from behind him.
“Your threats lose all weight when you give them holding a shopping basket.”
She was the boss of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight.
Stiyl’s eyes narrowed, but she just continued speaking calmly.
“Oh, make no mistake. I didn’t come here to crush you.”
She had a youthful appearance, but she had the strength to singlehandedly defeat a unit of expert magicians and yawn about it. A cruel grin appeared on Birdway’s face as she grabbed the shoulders of a girl with the exact same face from behind. She then pushed the other girl forward. Patricia seemed oddly stiff and Birdway grinned from behind her.
“My little sister seems to want to thank you before she leaves the country. Hm? I take it you’re the type that’s more interested in little sisters than big sisters.”
Stiyl fell silent as a great number of customers passed by within the duty-free shop.
Birdway continued pushing Patricia forward.
“What’s with that look? Don’t tell me you’re going to refuse a request from a normal person. Well, I personally don’t care if you do, but my sister is quite the crybaby. She can really cry when she gets going. You should have seen her a bit ago when she tripped and her ass landed straight in a puddle. Her panties were soaking wet.”
“I-I wasn’t crying!! And I’m not a crybaby!!”
Patricia started objecting and her face grew red, but her sister held onto her shoulders too tightly for her to turn around. Stiyl felt he had a pretty good grasp of who held the power in that relationship.
Birdway must have gotten carried away due to Patricia being unable to see her because a dark smile spread across her face that befitted the leader of an evil organization.
“And so my little sister here is about to give her one and only first confession. This will be quite a bitter experience for me as her older sister, so she should be thankful I’m letting her.”
Patricia started coughing with an expression Stiyl had never seen before. Birdway started laughing, but then Theodosia spoke up.
“Birdway, by any chance, do you not want your younger sister to get ahead of you in life-dgbh!?”
“That isn’t it. Don’t worry. That simply isn’t it at all.”
“I-I think I was just casually hit by an assassination magic attack that is made to be unanalyzable so as to leave no evidence…”
“U-um!! It seems the conversation has turned toward me confessing, but that isn’t what I want to say!!”
They all seemed to say, “Then what is it?” as they turned toward Patricia and she winced. Birdway then started pressing her sister further while holding her shoulders firmly in place.
“In other words, you’re going to be making some announcement with even more impact than your one and only first confession?”
“If you now come out and say something dull, these magicians are sure to be disappointed in you. Simply put, they will refuse to even stick their legs under the same kotatsu as you.”
“Waaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!! Now that-…Now that you’ve built it up to the point that it sounds like I’m going to be saying the most interesting thing the universe, there’s no way I can say anything!!”
With the pressure of expectation coming from all sides, Patricia lost it and ran from the duty-free shop with teary eyes. Theodosia reacted quickest as she had kids of her own and frantically chased after her.
(Huh. She really is a crybaby.)
“…Y’know, I’m surprised someone from the Dawn-Colored Sunlight knows about the Japanese kotatsu.”
“Japanese appliances really are the best. If I had a kotatsu, I’d probably never get out from under it.”
With timing that confused Stiyl, a sinister smile spread across Birdway’s face.
Once Patricia was gone, Stiyl’s expression changed.
“So what do you really want?”
“Oh, that’s quite a change now that my sister’s left. I guess you really are the little sister type.”
“Please don’t say things that will cause misunderstandings. If Patricia needed something, you could have given her a few guards. There was no need for the boss of the cabal to go along.”
Unlike Stiyl, Birdway was still grinning.
“This is just a bit of thanks.”
“I’m not the one that wants to know something. I deduced that there were things you would want to know, so I came by. Normally, I would have no obligation to do this, but you did look after my little sister.”
“What are you talking about?” Stiyl’s expression grew suspicious. “What are you saying I want to know?”
“The whereabouts of the Donati Horoscope.”
Tension mixed in with Stiyl’s thoughts.
When Stiyl had arrived at the transport vehicle, someone had already stolen the horoscope and Richard Brave had not seemed to know where it was. So who had attacked the transport vehicle?
“Or maybe what we plan to do with the horoscope. Do either of those interest you?”
Stiyl glanced around the area.
It was possible the store would become a battlefield. He started calculating out the best places for rune cards and how many of the normal people he could get to evacuate using a people clearing spell, but…
“Don’t go on guard like that,” Birdway said cheerfully. “We aren’t planning on doing much of anything with the Donati Horoscope or the epitaph fragment. We have no interest in Norse mythology at all. The techniques of the Dvergr would be of no use to us even if we had them.”
“…Do you really think I’ll believe that?”
“Allow me to teach you one truth,” said Birdway as if it was nothing of significance. “The Donati Horoscope originally belonged to us. We purposefully allowed Academy City to find it and recover it.”
“To obtain the techniques of the Dvergr you need the Donati Horoscope, the epitaph fragment, and someone from my family. We had all three from the beginning. If we were planning to carry out the ceremony, we would have already done so.”
“Then why did you let it go?”
“Because we didn’t need it. What other reason could we have?” Birdway replied immediately.
She easily denied the Dvergr techniques that Stiyl and Richard had been fighting so desperately over.
“In fact, excavating the techniques of the Dvergr would just invite in unnecessary chaos. We wanted to seal them away if possible. We were thinking of splitting the three pieces up and sending them each to some place where no magic cabal could get their hands on them.”
“Then you should have just sent it to the British Museum. There was no need to send it off to the science side.”
“But there were some who were after it within the Anglican Church and you are the ones that manage the magical items there.”
Stiyl fell silent, but Birdway showed no sign of caring despite the fact that she could be seen as being one of the “victims” of the incident. To her, it had all been nothing more than a bit of “trouble”.
“We thought that sending the horoscope to the headquarters of the science side would be best because it would get the best care in a world that had no idea what its magical value was. …But Academy City turned out to be a surprisingly bad choice. We determined we couldn’t leave it here, so we came to retrieve it.”
Stiyl looked back at Birdway’s face.
His look was really nothing but a glare, but Birdway paid him no heed.
“You don’t believe me?” she asked.
“…Of course I don’t,” spat out Stiyl. “No matter what you say, the Dvergr techniques are still quite powerful. I see no reason why you would go out of your way to throw away something like that. Keeping every advantage you can is how proper magic cabals think.”
“Proper magic cabals, hm?” repeated Birdway with a smile as if carefully going over Stiyl’s words.
Unlike before, her smile seemed to roll naturally from her mouth.
“It seems you’re a bit mistaken about the Dawn-Colored Sunlight. I have no obligation to explain all this and my thanks for saving my little sister is running dry, but what the hell. I’ll give you just a bit more, free of charge.”
After a pause, Birdway continued.
“First of all, the Dawn-Colored Sunlight is not a magic cabal.”
Stiyl Magnus froze in place at that casual statement.
What had she just said?
The Dawn-Colored Sunlight was one of the leading magic cabals even within the great magic country of England.
He thought he had misheard her, but Birdway’s tone did not change.
“I’m not kidding. It may be acting a lot like a magic cabal right now, but if you go back far enough, you’ll find that we are constructed entirely differently from the organizations that are devoted to a set denomination or sect.”
Birdway’s tone grew calmer.
It reminded Stiyl of the tone of someone giving priority to spreading their knowledge.
“In the Dawn-Colored Sunlight, there is no magic or science.”
“…Are you serious?” Stiyl said as a few customers passed by.
“To be more accurate, we are an old organization that has existed from an age before there was a distinction between magic and science. It was around the 18th century that natural science was developed and a line was drawn between academia and religion. Most formal organizations are older than that.”
She was right, but there was still a tacit understanding that modern organizations were either on the magic side or the science side. And the world was not kind to those who broke that unwritten rule.
“The name ‘Dawn-Colored Sunlight’ was not added on until later. Even I don’t know what its original name was and I’m the organization’s boss, but it seems the organization was established with the goal of investigating those who stand above others.”
“Investigating those who stand above others?”
“You could say that we are an organization that looks into the actions and abilities of certain types of charismatic people. To put it simply, we are trying to understand what requirements are needed to be a leader so we can make a manual for it and just follow a flowchart that lets us seize control of any nation or group. Basically, it’s a type of world domination,” Birdway said with a sneer. “Doesn’t it almost make you laugh how it sounds like the goal of some evil organization? By the way, the line between science and magic has become rather vague in Europe of late. Most of the leaders have some connection to religious power, symbols, or legends. When you investigate it deep enough, you realize that the organizations have all become tilted in an occult direction at some point.”
Birdway paused for a second.
“Something conclusive happened in the latter half of the 19th century. The world’s largest magic cabal, a group known as the Golden cabal, appeared within England. Almost all of the charismatic magicians in Europe gathered in one group. It was almost a miraculous group from the point of view of an organization that wanted to investigate the type of people that stand above others. Of course, we ended up investigating them. And we did so by joining them.”
“…And so you became dyed in their colors?”
“They pulled us from the proper course. Charismatic people have a type of attraction to them. As an organization that had investigated those who stand above others for many years, we had supposedly gained a sort of resistance to that, but the entire organization was swallowed whole.”
That was when the organization became the Dawn-Colored Sunlight.
The organization was not supposed to have either magic or science within it, but it had been pulled fully over to the magic side.
Stiyl was reminded of Richard Brave. That magician had been shaken and destroyed within that gap between magic and science. Given that, it may have been for the best that the Dawn-Colored Sunlight had tilted in the direction of being a magic cabal. Not joining either side may have made both sides their enemy.
(It was after the collapse of the Golden cabal that the science side was reorganized with the establishment of Academy City and the treaty with the magic side was formed. All of that may have worked toward saving the Dawn-Colored Sunlight.)
“So you understand now, right?”
“Our goal is to seize the position at the top of the already existing society. The techniques of the Dvergr would destroy the current society and create a new order. We wish for a more crass and practical method of domination, so that is too roundabout a method for us. There is no guarantee the new society would be a convenient one for our purposes and it simply would not be worth controlling.”
She seemed to be saying she wanted a tidy place to control.
Stiyl felt it was like a type of arrogant pacifism.
“Our ultimate goal is to control and rule everything regardless of whether it is of magic or science. As such, it would be a problem to tilt the balance too far in either direction. For that reason, the techniques of the Dvergr simply have too much weight. With them, the Dawn-Colored Sunlight would become nothing more than a magic cabal.”
“…Are you trying to remove the poison?” Stiyl said scornfully.
After all that, he was finally able to refuse to admit defeat and make a rebuttal.
“You can’t. As a magician, I know. Anyone who knows even a bit about magic or establishes their place in the world using magic can’t rid themselves of it. Once the scales tip, they can’t be brought back.”
“True,” Birdway quickly agreed. “And it may be best for the world if that holds and we can never become anything more than a magic cabal.”
“But society will move on regardless of what we want. And it will bring us along with it. At some point in the future, we will overcome the framework of a mere magic cabal. When that happens and we or our descendants have regained the original power the organization was established with, who knows what will happen.”
A hint of loneliness could be heard in her voice.
However, the evil grin on her face made one suspect they were just imagining things.
Some change must have come over Stiyl because the type of grin on Birdway’s face changed when she looked at him.
“Well, there’s no reason to become pessimistic. We may merely lose our individuality, lose the ability to hold together as an organization, and simply collapse.”
“What about Patricia…?” said Stiyl cutting in for the first time. They had exchanged words, but he felt that was the first time he had actually cut in. “Is Patricia Birdway some kind of guidepost?”
“Perhaps. She is a normal person who is not part of the science side or the magic side. She does not rely on either side’s power and lives her life as a completely normal person. Well, I suppose my desire is to bring the organization to a halt once it regains its original form. …There is a possibility that both the science side and the magic side will not allow such an organization to exist. Although, I doubt all of the organization’s members will approve of my desire.”
What was the proper word to describe the expression on Birdway’s face there?
It was true that Patricia had been given the epitaph fragment on her orders, but not even Birdway herself must have known the true reason behind that decision. The interests of the organization and her personal feelings were intertwined complexly.
Suddenly, Birdway’s smile grew fully evil once more.
“At any rate…”
“My sister Patricia and I are the same type of person. I am not satisfied with being the boss of a magic cabal. I am a cute girl that courageously wants to cast all that aside and try to somehow bring the organization to a halt as a normal person. Shouldn’t you be speaking to me a bit more politely?”
“…I see the boss of the Dawn-Colored Sunlight has a terrible sense of humor. That would have quite a bit of impact in high society.”
“Don’t be so stingy. One way of looking at things says you held my little sister’s hand and escorted her through the city at night while you cheered each other on.”
“That damn brat!! Is that what she told you…!?”
“In fact, she came to me and proudly bragged about it. It doesn’t bother me at all, but how about you treat her a little more gentlemanly in the future if the situation should ever arise again.”
“Do you have to speak down to people no matter what you talk about?”
“Tch. I had a feeling you wouldn’t. Well, whatever. Due to some hot-headed idiot, I was carried in someone’s arms like a princess for the first time in my life, so I guess I’ll use that to lord it over my little sister on the plane ride home.”
Stiyl frowned at the term “hot-headed idiot”.
The face he least wanted to recall in the world came unbidden to mind.
“By any chance, did this hot-headed idiot have spiky black hair?”
“Oh, do you know him? He kept going on about misfortune, so I decided to show him a thing or two about real misfortune. He turned out to be pretty tough and he’s fun to play with.”
(Now that damn hot-headed idiot has made another connection to some strange part of the world!?)
As one whose job was to see to the safety of the magic industry, Stiyl almost brought his hands to his head.
Birdway waved her hand around.
“Now then. I need to be going.”
“I’ll leave you with one last comment,” she said as she turned her back on him. “We do not want the techniques of the Dvergr to bring chaos to society.”
“…What are you saying?”
“Do I really need to spell it out? I’m saying that the Anglican Church’s ongoing attempt to analyze them through the proper methods is no exception.”
Stiyl frantically turned toward her, but she was already gone.
There was nowhere for a person to hide in the area.
No one else seemed to have noticed anyone disappear.
In fact, some people were looking at Stiyl because of his strange actions.
As Stiyl stood there dumbfounded, he heard his cell phone ringing.
It was from the Necessarius communications official.
“This is a notification for Stiyl Magnus. The time for your periodic report on the incident regarding the Dawn-Colored Sunlight has passed. Please immediately provide the information through the proper method.”
“You speak well for someone who was led around by Richard so easily.”
“All of the problems have been resolved, have they not?”
“Yes, they have,” replied Stiyl after thinking for a second. “It’s all over.”
(…Is it really?)
Stiyl Magnus added that last bit silently within his heart.
Something remained after that battle was over.
Stiyl’s thoughts remained on that new small flame that could one day grow into a much larger blaze.