“‹Return thyself to the cycle of providence…›”
The woman swiftly uttered the incantation as an unfathomable amount of mana gathered around her.
“Now, disappear from my sight!”
Modified Black Magic [Extinction•Ray].
The woman raised her left hand as a blinding ray of light shot out from her palm, gushing forth like an unstoppable torrent down the corridor. It was a spell that broke down matter to its basic constituent. All the enemy that stood before her – the countless puppets of the ancient sorcerers charging at her in close formation – was wiped out by the spell in the blink of an eye.
Yet, the woman did not seem to relax nor savor her victory.
“Haa… Haa… Haa…”
The woman, Celica Arfonia, leaned on the wall of the corridor in excruciating pain.
It was the 44th floor of Alzano Imperial Magic Academy’s Underground Labyrinth.
In the unending darkness, the flickering light of the lamp faintly illuminated the silhouette of Celica that could only be described as pitiful.
Her body was covered with wounds large and small, her blood-soaked clothes in tatters, and her breathing weak and sporadic. Nowhere to be seen was the confident and beautiful woman.
“Haa… Ugh… And here I t-thought… t-this time… I would be a-able to…!”
The permission to explore the Alzano Imperial Magic Academy’s Underground Labyrinth. Such was the undisputed reason for the continent’s greatest magician, Celica, to serve as a professor.
Over the years, she has devoted most of her effort to conquering the Underground Labyrinth. Yet, despite her perfect preparation, and, utilizing every trick she could muster, her attempt this time once again ended in failure. Celica could only meekly swallow this painful truth.
Another pointless endeavor.
The magic tool in the shape of a pocket watch and the slender sword on her waist – items that brought forth Celica’s full ability as a magician… Items that spoke to the unspeakable lengths she went to conquer the Labyrinth.
Yet despite giving it her all, the day that the Labyrinth could finally be cleared was still far from sight.
Celica was certainly a magician of unparalleled strength, but the winding Labyrinth proved to be even above her abilities. Staring down the corridor, she felt the countless traps that stood in her way ridiculing her ineptitude.
“Darn it… The pain…”
Celica angrily cursed at the Labyrinth. She was unable to heal her own wounds with magic, relying only on medicinal herbs held in place with bandages to provide a temporary relief. Her body has long gone past the healing limit.
It was a limit that occurs from repeated healing spells within a short time frame. With repeated use, the effectiveness of the heal decreases, to the point that the continued use of healing spell would instead cause damage to the body. So much was this phenomenon feared, that ‘Death by Healing’ was greatly dreaded by soldiers on the field of war…
As such, the fear of death gripped the veteran Celica’s heart.
It’s already impossible… It’s time to withdraw… It’s time to go back…
Such logical thoughts cycled themselves in Celica’s mind.
“Hahaha… Isn’t this perfect? Haven’t I always been seeking a good death?”
Celica gently lifted her head, revealing a self-deprecating smile.
“Ugh… Fighting with the demon-worshipping cultists… dueling with mages… none of that was unable to end me…! Isn’t this a perfect chance…?!”
What was the source of her unwavering desire, to overpower her usual calm judgment?
Even at the brink of death, Celica continued her ceaseless march forward. Even when every fiber of her being screamed at her that such a choice will only lead her to her meaningless death, she willingly ventured forth.
“Forward! Toward your destiny!”
In her mind, the voice kept beckoning as she took step after step down the corridor… As if a marionette, she slowly wobbled forward.
“…Yes. I… m-must… c-continue on…! O-otherwise, I… w-will… a-always…”
“Fine. But promise me you will safely return… I beg of you.”
Suddenly, a familiar voice surfaced in her dulled mind. This new voice overpowered the other, reaching into the depth of her soul.
At that point, Celica’s march toward her own death came to a halt as light returned to her eyes.
Her mind slowly cooled, and logic once again returned to her, while the beckoning voice was temporarily banished from her thoughts.
After a moment of pause…
“S-silly me… A-am I not getting my priorities mixed up…?”
After Celica uttered the words through her quivering lips, she turned her body around.
As she cursed at her failure, she unsteadily dragged herself away… now tormented by yet another failure.
In the end…
Celica never noticed…
A presence watched Celica as she departed…
From the moment Celica first stepped into the Labyrinth, this presence would always follow her from behind, constantly watching her.
Celica, once again, failed to notice.