“…Me? Just call me Namenlose for now.”
Under the lead of the young girl identical to Rumia, Glenn and the others departed from the arena. Because of their nervousness and worry, the group kept running for a long time to make some distance with the wraith. After a while, the group finally was far enough to take a gentler pace. It was at this time that the young girl responded to everyone’s questions.
“…Namenlose, is it?”
The obvious fake name could not help but make Glenn sigh.
The gray world where everything was frozen has long returned to normal. The surrounding was a darkness where they could only rely on magic to illuminate. On Glenn’s back was the unconscious Celica. Glenn himself was jogging immediately behind Namenlose, with Rumia next to him and Sistine closely behind. Re=L, who was tasked with being the rearguard, carefully observed their back with a face full of fatigue.
“I could save you all, so follow me.”
Such was what the mysterious Namenlose said.
As far as whether they should trust her words, Glenn thought it was alright. After all, if she really planned to harm them, there was no need to interject at the moment of their death. Moreover, given the subsequent length she went through to help them, her words were probably trustworthy… probably.
However, the questions remained.
“Hey… who exactly are you? And what are those bizarre wings? Why are you helping us? Who was the wraith earlier and what was that thing that turned the world gray? Why do you know about us? Hey, why do you look identical to Rumia? What relationship do you have with her?”
Namenlose just remained silent at Glenn’s barrage of questions and shot Glenn an irritated glance. Clearly the two were on different wavelengths. No matter the question, the mysterious girl did not give them any answer.
“Tsk… What a cold person…”
Other than the odd wings on her back, she looked identical to Rumia. However, her demeanor and attitude were completely different from Rumia – it contained a certain weariness, disappointment, and depression. If one have to put it to words, Namenlose gave off a somber air…
“Really, although you look the same, you have such a bad attitude… If you keep on like this, you’ll die an old loner~”
To everyone’s surprise, Namenlose seemed to be especially irked by Glenn’s comment and quickly refuted.
“That’s a bit too much, you know. I have my own reasons why I cannot reveal the answers to you.”
“And that is?”
“You don’t get it? It’s not that I don’t want to say, but rather that I can’t. If I give you a proper answer now, it will be problematic in the future.”
“Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and knowing too much is disastrous. Not to mention, I originally didn’t even plan to reveal myself to you, if anything, consider the most that I can do is pull you all out of this predicament. Now, do you understand?”
Although she said that she didn’t plan to show herself, why did she reveal herself to Glenn in the ritual chamber?
“…Really, I can’t figure you out, you fake Rumia.”
“Fine. Let me tell you what I can… of things about me.” Namenlose began to explain, “The current me is somewhat like a will that exist within the ley lines. My physical body had long disappeared, so my current body is like a physical body, but at the same time, not. In a way, your earlier description of me as a hallucination is not completely inaccurate.”
Glenn could only furrow his brows and sigh. It was not the answer he wanted to know.
“Because I am a will that exists within the ley lines, I could materialize at any ruins across this country. Such is my nature. So? Does that sate your curiosity?”
“Yeah, it really sates my curiosity. No need to say more.” Glenn clicked his tongue, clearly irritated by the unnecessary answer.
“That’s not nice, teacher. Don’t be so mean to Namenlose-san…”
“Hey, Rumia! Why are you defending this suspicious fellow?” Rumia’s considerate nature made Glenn sigh.
“Seriously, look, that fellow’s bizarre wings. What is with those? Just looking at those disgusting things make me want to puke.” Glenn looked disgusted when gazing upon Namenlose’s unnatural wings.
“Ah? ‘Disgusting’, is it? Although I admit the shape is a bit odd…”
“Teacher, you seriously have some weird prejudices. How could you ever call them ‘disgusting’? Rather, they look like a pair of butterfly wings and are really pretty.”
While Rumia tilted her head in puzzlement, Sistine could not help but berate Glenn.
“Ha?! Pretty?! That thing that looks like jumbled eels? Did you get your head stuck in a door?”
“Seriously, teacher. What the heck are you saying? Are your eyes made out of glass?”
Glenn and Sistine once again began their verbal jousting.
“Sorry about it, Namenlose-san. Our teacher is just restless from trying to save us. His usual self is actually very gentle.”
Not sure why, but Namenlose replied to Rumia in such a way.
“Moreover, I haven’t had the opportunity to thank you. Namenlose-san, thank you for rescuing us.”
Suddenly, Namenlose stopped her footsteps, and the others also came to a halt.
“Although I do not know why Namenlose-san shares my face. However, perhaps because we look alike, I feel a sense of familiarity with you.”
“Could we possibly be sisters in another life?”
It was not an attempt at flatter or mere rhetoric, Rumia only said her own honest thoughts.
However, Namenlose suddenly leapt next to Rumia.
“I, on the other hand, hate you the most, Rumia.” Namenlose stared at Rumia with eyes filled with hate and animosity, “To call us sisters, do you know how nauseous I felt hearing that? Of the five of you, only you I did not want to rescue.”
The sudden onslaught of hate left Rumia completely bewildered, and she just stood there motionlessly. With atmosphere suddenly growing tense, Sistine held her breath, Glenn reached for his pistol, while Re=L readied her mithril sword, ready to pounce at any time.
“Don’t worry about it. I have no plans to harm her… or rather, my current self could do nothing to her, just letting some of my pent up anger out.”
She glanced at Glenn and the others preparing for combat, and then returned to stare at Rumia.
“Although I know it is not fair for me to admonish at this moment in time… but, I couldn’t hold it in… if it weren’t for you…!!”
With that said, Namenlose didn’t look at Rumia again and continued to lead the group forward.
“You… are really a gentle person, Namenlose-san.” However, despite what had transpired, Rumia said to the lonely Namenlose.
“Why would you think that…?”
“Because, even though you hated me, you still decided to rescue me.”
“That is just because it’s convenient… that’s all.”
“Because I do not know why you hate me so much, I could not simply apologize, since there won’t be any honesty to the apology.” Rumia looked to the back of Namenlose and said with conviction, “Therefore, at least let me give you my thanks…”
“Thank you for rescuing us.”
Suddenly, as if merging into the darkness, Namenlose slowly became transparent.
“…I will need to disappear for a while to collect myself.” Namenlose coldly said to the nervous Glenn, “Don’t worry about it. I am everywhere in this place you call ancient ruins. You only need to follow my directions earlier, till then…”
With her final words, Namenlose completely disappeared.
“Seriously, what exactly is that fellow?” Glenn could only shake his head.
He couldn’t seem to make heads or tails of the situation. It was at this time that he felt something stir on his back. Behind him, Celica seemingly had recovered a bit of her consciousness.
“G-Glenn…? W-where are we?”
“Celica, are you awake now?” Glenn let out a sigh of relief.
Celica’s recovery made Sistine, Rumia, and Re=L breathe with a bit of relief as well.
“Hey, how are you feeling…?”
Celica exhaustedly laid her head on Glenn’s back and said without any strength.
Rumia has long healed Celica’s injuries on her back, but Celica’s condition remained dire.
“That mysterious wraith’s blade seemingly absorbs the soul of those it cut and turns it into power. My soul, or rather, my aether body, had been greatly consumed.”
Finally, one of the mysteries to the wraith’s abnormally strong magic was solved. The more it damaged its enemy, the stronger itself became.
“Damage to the aether body could only rely on natural healing… but, with such a heavy wound, I… will probably never be able to use magic again… Hahaha…”
“…Don’t be absurd.” Glenn, however, wasn’t completely dismissing her thoughts.
Damage to the soul was a fatal blow for any magician. As magicians rely heavily on their souls to cast magic, the condition of their soul, or aether body, was critical. Even if the damage won’t completely preclude Celica from using magic, it would nevertheless severely impair her abilities.
For the next few moments, silence descended upon the group, and each continued to move forward mechanically down the path. The only sound that could be heard was the echoes of their footstep.
“Say, Glenn… where is that fellow? That wraith, what happened to it?” Celica broke the silence.
“We have somewhat managed to lose him for now, someone called Namenlose rescued us.
“…Namenlose?” The unfamiliar name made Celica furrowed her brows, “Who is it? Moreover, other than us, there is someone else here?”
“Hmm, how to say this… I am not sure how to explain it myself. It is a strange looking fellow who suddenly appeared before us, and… Hey! Namenlose? Are you listening? Come out here for a second!” Nothing responded to Glenn’s words, “…? Still hiding? What is that fellow up to…”
Even after waiting for a while, Namenlose did not appear, all to the annoyance of Glenn.
“Haa… Forget it. Although I don’t believe there could be anyone else here other than us, as long as you trust it, then I don’t… mind…”
At this time, Celica started to cough vigorously. Likely because of the severity of the injury to her aether body,
“Hey! Celica, are you alright?”
“I am fine. What I wanted to say is…” Celica paused for a moment, seemingly readying her heart for what is to come, and then clearly announced, “I am just a burden like this… Leave me here.”
Glenn did not know how to respond to Celica’s request.
“In my current condition, as you have seen, I doubt I could even walk for myself…”
The usually confident and awe-inspiring tone had turned incredibly feeble. The one on Glenn’s back was no longer that peerless magician, but a girl who was weak, hurt, and apprehensive.
“…How could we leave you and run, dummy.”
Glenn disapprovingly refused Celica’s request.
“From the pace, I presumed the wraith is bound to give chase?”
“If what Namenlose said was true, then that fellow is quite the stubborn stalker. It would chase us, who trespassed in that arena, till the end of the earth. However…”
From the limited information given by Namenlose, That wraith seemingly was restricted to the Underground Labyrinth between floor 50 and 89, the ‘guard station’, and could not leave the territory in which it was left in charge.
“In other words, we should be fine as long as we get out of this lousy Labyrinth. Namenlose said she is leading us to the closest teleportation site from the arena.”
“Then, it is even more important that you leave me…” Celica feebly gripped Glenn’s shoulder, “With me like this, the speed… and the combat… both will prove untenable for the group.”
“Mm. You are correct.”
“Still, I refuse.” Glenn continued to carry Celica without the slightest hesitation in his footstep.
“Then make it a request. I ask you to at least listen to me this time… If we keep this up…”
“Argh… Just be quiet, how bothersome!” Glenn gave a flat-out refusal and stomped forward, “I will definitely bring you back! Take you out of this lousy Labyrinth! This plan is not subject to debate! It is the order of the expedition leader, so your objection is moot, dummy!”
Celica shrunk back at the angry response from Glenn and simply stared blankly at his back.
“W-why, for someone like me…?”
Upon hearing Celica’s enervated whisper,
“Because you are family!” Glenn angrily shouted, “If our roles are reversed, you will definitely do everything in your power to bring me back, no matter how low the odds.”
After lowering his voice back to normal, Glenn declared.
“Family, isn’t it what that means?”
Celica placed her surprised face back onto Glenn’s back,
“Are we… really family?”
“Other than that, what else could we be?”
“Stop being so annoying, didn’t I already say so?”
“Yes… I see… We are family… Hahaha… Uuu…”
After the exchange, Celica let out a deep sigh, and then started to silently cry on Glenn’s back.
“Why would you cry?”
“To tell you the truth… I… was always worried that my thoughts of ‘family’ were purely one sided…”
“Dummy, why would you ever think like that?”
“Because, no matter how you look at it, I am clearly not human…”
Celica finally, in broken words, spoke the words she had kept hidden for so long.
She spoke of her four hundred year long journey, of the worry, loneliness, and the endless struggle on her path of destruction. She talked about the ‘voice’ that guided her and the mysterious sense of mission. Then, the day in which the ‘voice’ changed – the day soon after she had adopted Glenn and came to serve as a professor at the magic academy, where she was tasked with the exploration of the Labyrinth and took her first step into the structure. The day when the ‘voice’ told her to seek her destiny in the deepest recess of the Underground Labyrinth.
“And so, you stubbornly challenged this lousy Labyrinth time and time again? All because of some ‘voice’ telling you to…?”
Celica’s odd answer made Glenn perplexed.
“At first it was certainly because the ‘voice’ told me to… but, as for my current self, I no longer had any desire to complete the unknown mission.”
“Then why would you keep doing something so dumb?”
“B-because, I am afraid…” Celica answered in a tiny whisper, “The joyous days I had spent with you… made me more and more afraid… Because I will never age, because I am an ‘immortal’… the time I have and the time you have are completely different… that you and I are different. I would painfully realize every time I see you grow, that ‘you and I are different’.”
Yes, because of that…
“And so, I thought, do you honestly see me as family…? Would you recognize someone who is not human as family…? And with that, think that you only stayed by my side out of pity…”
This was the ‘ailment’ that Celica contracted through her long years of loneliness.
Celica used her thin arms to hug Glenn from the back and dug her head into the back of Glenn’s head, allowing Glenn’s body heat to be transmitted to her.
“What ‘voice’… what forgotten mission… all of it doesn’t matter at all… as long as… I can stay with you… I will be satisfied.”
“I want to live in the same time as you… to become the same ‘human’ as you…” Celica gave a soft, yet sad whimper.
It made Glenn, who now understood everything, close his eyes and grit his teeth.
“So that is why… right?”
Celica challenged the impossible Labyrinth to find the answer to her immortality, to turn her from an ‘immortal’ to a ‘human’. From what Celica understand, this ‘immortality’ was intricately linked to her lost mission. Therefore, all she had done was for the desire to be recognized by Glenn as human – to be recognized as his family.
The reason for her desire to tag along during the expedition to Taum Observatory was for the same reason. Because the ruins was rumored to contain a spatial-temporal device, or in other words, an ancient device that uses time magic, Celica, who was stuck with her numerous attempts at the Underground Labyrinth, sought after an alternative to help illuminate her mysterious immortality.
In all honesty…
“It was a dumb thought… completely and utterly, dumb.” Glenn declared while trembling in rage.
“…Why would you ever be bothered by such silly matters? And the me who never noticed how you felt? It is completely ludicrous! Darn it…! Darn it all…!!”
Speaking of which, their relation was always like this.
When Glenn grew to hate magic due to a certain incident, Celica also came to believe she was hated and decided to forcibly make Glenn into a teacher. Her hopes were that Glenn would regain his youthful love of magic.
Celica Arfonia. Glenn had always looked up to her as the strongest magician, or rather, sorcerer. Even his desire to one day become the ‘Sorcerer of Justice’ grew out of his desire to become a sorcerer like Celica. For Glenn, Celica was so powerful that he couldn’t hope to match even if he devote his entire life to study – an almost transcendent existence that paralleled the heroes of legends.
However, precisely because Celica was the strongest magician – the strongest sorcerer, Glenn overestimated her and forgot that at her core, she was still just a woman. In the four centuries she wandered the world, her will had become brittle. It was a development that would surely have happened to anyone in her shoes, even for humans.
At the moment, Glenn did not have any good plan to completely eliminate her worries, nor could he acknowledge what she did as meaningful, therefore…
“You and I, we are family…”
Glenn could only declare that again and again…
“We are family, Celica. Other than family, what else could we be?”
No matter how many times it took…
“After all the time we spent together, why would you still be confused? Are you dumb? If you have worries, just tell me. To be troubled by such needless worries, aren’t you the one that is overthinking it? How can you not understand something as simple as this?”
Again, and again…
“You are really a silly kid, or rather, how old are you this year? Seriously, a silly granny… Honestly, now I will need to have to take care of you as your family member.”
Whenever she would feel worried, to say it to her…
“…Just stay like this, Celica. There is nothing to be worried about. No matter if you are ‘immortal’ or some other monster, no matter if you are some sort of demon, or even the demon lord… you will always be an irreplaceable member… of my family.”
Glenn calmly said, with words full of emotion, until she could finally accept his feelings.
“Just staying like this, is that right?”
After listening to Glenn’s words, Celica let out a long sigh.
“How could I not have understood something as simple as this…”
Celica once returned to her slumber.
“Really, such a worrisome person…” After letting out his frustrations, Glenn went back to properly carrying her as before.
Rumia and the others gently looked at the sleeping face of Celica on Glenn’s back.
“Tsk… What are you kids looking at?” Glenn, noticing the gazes from his students, shyly turned away.
“…Thank you, Glenn.”
Namenlose suddenly appeared next to Glenn and surprised him.
“Dummy, don’t scare me like that! Also, what is that ‘thank you’ for?”
“…Nothing.” Namenlose turned her face to the side.
◇ ◇ ◇
The group continued down the endless Labyrinth, constantly on alert for the terror that was approaching from the rear. They all hoped that the peace and calm would continue till the very end, but fate is a finicky mistress…
“…Here it comes.”
Glenn and the others slowed their footstep and looked out behind them. They could clearly sense a certain being of unimaginable and ominous strength was fast approaching.
“…It is still some distance away, but it will catch up for sure.”
“Will we be able to throw it off if we move quicker?”
“No, our destination is still quite far. Although it will take less time than the time it took for you guys to get here from the arena, it will nevertheless…”
Then, the only possible plan was to… fight.
“I will try to delay him and cover our retreat. You guys take care of Celica for me and escape this blasted Underground Labyrinth.” Glenn seemed to be resolved to meet the wraith and leaned the sleeping Celica on the nearby wall.
“N-no! The teacher must not be…!”
“That’s right, what are you saying?!”
Faced with the strong refusal by Rumia and Namenlose, Glenn was taken aback.
“Glenn, you must not die here.”
“Then what will you have me do?! If we do nothing, it will simply catch up to us…”
“And when it does, it would end up wiping us all out. After all, we have no means to resist against its power. If I stay here, at the minimum I could buy some time, so you guys could…”
“Absolutely not! Both you and Celica must survive no matter what! I beg of you!”
“Against that immortal bastard, could you just leave the sleep talking to when you are asleep?!”
Glenn and Namenlose got into a heated argument, as their precious time continued to tick away.
“Even if you stay to delay it, it would definitely still catch up to those children and kill them.”
“Then what will you have me do? Just stay here and die?!”
As the two were reaching a crescendo,
“…Teacher.” Sistine, who had been quiet up till now, suddenly interjected with a determined look, “If there is no way out, then we might as well fight. With everyone together, we should challenge that wraith to combat.”
For a moment, Glenn thought Sistine was completely taken aback by the fear and started to blabber nonsense.
“If everyone can work together to defeat that wraith, then everyone can return alive. That is the only proper way.” Sistine declared with all her courage, with her shoulder and lips slightly trembling.
“Are you an idiot?! How could we possibly win?”
However, because Glenn knew of the unfathomable strength of wraith, he was able to resolutely refuse Sistine’s suggestion.
“If there really is even a slight chance of victory, I am certainly willing to contemplate your suggestion. But as it stands, even if his heart was pierced, even if his body was sliced, he will still be fine! Tell me, Sistine, how can we possibly win?”
“Glenn is correct,”
For some reason, Namenlose gave weight to Glenn’s words,
“Regrettably, there is no one who can kill the wraith. Although I do not know the reason, that fellow has an immortal body and will simply shrug it off no matter how many times he is fatally wounded.” Namenlose’s said with much conviction, making it difficult to argue against.
Yet, Sistine calmly dismantled their supposition.
“If I may, as far as that wraith’s ‘immortality’, I think I could explain it away.”
Not just Glenn, but Namenlose also had her eyes wide open in surprise.
With that said, Sistine took off and rummaged through her bag.
“I thought it was useful as a reference book, so I brought it along. But never in my wildest imaginations did I ever think it would be useful in such unexpected circumstances.”
What she brought out from her bag was…
“…Ah? ‘Sorcerer of Melgalius’? The book that Celica brought?”
Under Glenn’s suspicious gaze, Sistine flipped through the book to a specific page…
◇ ◇ ◇
Glenn took them to select their ideal battlefield for the decisive battle. In a certain recess of the Labyrinth, the place they selected was an open-air patio. The wide open space, with many narrow platforms stacked together, all connected by complicated stairs and bridges. On the surface, there seemed to be ponds with fountains, and feeder channels crossing in-between. Although the water has long dried up, it was not hard to imagine how beautiful the patio was in its heyday.
However, the sky is completely obscured by hemispherical stone ceiling. What a complete waste of a wonderful design. Rather than an open-air patio, it is more accurate to call this an underground patio.
“…Hmm? Glenn, are you alright?”
Re=L stood next to the contemplative Glenn, with the mithril sword in hand. Sistine and Rumia nervously stood a fair distance behind, on raised platform roughly two to three yards above Glenn and Re=L’s platform.
“Ah? Everyone’s ready for this?”
“Mm. Just leave it to me. I am Glenn’s sword.” Re=L replied in a low whisper.
Sistine and Rumia also gave a nod.
After everything is set up, the overwhelming presence closed in on Glenn’s group. Slowly and surely, the chill and sinister air grew more and more intense, until…
“To standeth ‘gainst me, thou daws’ courage art w’rthy of praise.”
The wraith appeared before Glenn and the others, with his dizzying presence as pronounced as ever. Even just by standing in front of him, Glenn and the other’s knees trembled uncontrollably, with streams of cold sweat pouring out from their back and foreheads.
“Although knowing thee cannot winneth, and, knowing thee not beest able to killeth me but beest killeth in rev’rse, thou still standeth ‘gainst me. Foolish, but des’rving of respect. The least I can doth is alloweth thee a painless death.”
Thump, thump, thump… The wraith slowly approached the stairs connecting to the wide platform, toward the battlefield Glenn and others prepared. Radiating from him, the crushing pressure that made people despair and their hearts scream out in agony.
“Is that so? I, on the other hand, think we have quite the good chance to win.” Glenn used all his will to act carefree and looked down upon the wraith, “After all, you bastard only have like… four lives left. Am I right?”
Glenn’s curious outburst made the wraith pause his footsteps.
“If that’s all, then we should be able to wrap this farce up in good time.”
With a haughty pose, Glenn recalled the words of Sistine.
◇ ◇ ◇
“…Before I talk about the wraith’s immortality and weakness,” Sistine suddenly brought up as she paused her flipping through the pages, “Teacher, do you know of Rolan Eltoria?”
Glenn furrowed his eyebrows at the seemingly pointless topic,
“Huh? Of course I know about him, but now is not the time to-…”
“It is very important, so please listen! Rolan Eltoria, a famous modern archaeothaumatologist, also known as the father of archaeothaumatology. He devoted much of his focus on the Melgalius Sky Castle and committed much research into the topic. Among his magnum opera were ‘Melgalius Sky Castle’ and ‘Sorcerer of Melgalius’…”
“Yes, for a Sky Castle geek like you, the former is basically a holy scripture, while the latter is a popular fairy tale known to all children. He was both an archaeothaumatologist and a children’s writer…”
Unable to gauge Sistine’s intentions, Glenn could only keep the conversation rolling.
“Rolan’s fairy tales were the result of the great lengths he went to collect the local legends and myths, as well as folk tales and songs, all compiled with additions from his own insight. Of which, his magnum opus, ‘Sorcerer of Melgalius’ was the greatest of his collections, so much that one could say it was the greatest collection of ancient legends. In other words, before the fairy tale, it exists as a detailed reference to the ancient era.”
“As such, soon after Rolan Eltoria completed and published his ‘Sorcerer of Melgalius’, on his way to the neighboring Kingdom of Rezalia for an expedition, he was captured and sentenced to be burned at the stake by the Kingdom’s Holy Elizareth Church.”
“The official crime was ‘publication of heretical books and corruption of the populace’. The church forcibly collected and destroyed all copies of ‘Sorcerer of Melgalius’ in the kingdom.”
“T-that’s a bit too much, isn’t it? I have also read the book in my childhood. Isn’t it just a simple children’s book? I don’t see any reason for the church to reject the book so strongly.” Rumia sorrowfully said.
“Mm. No matter how you look at it, the proceedings were quite suspicious. It couldn’t help but make people suspect there was a conspiracy, right?” Sistine’s rhetorical question made Glenn sunk deep into thought, “Let me repeat again, ‘Sorcerer of Melgalius’… was a compilation of the numerous fragments from the ancient civilization. In other words, it is not wrong to conclude that Rolan Eltoria saw something forbidden during his study of the ancient civilization and wrote it into his book, which led to his untimely death.”
“Rolan’s last words while he was burning on the stake was, ‘The bishops are controlling all wisdom and manipulating everyone to their agenda. They will definitely lead the human race to destruction!’. Don’t you think there is a deeper meaning to his words? He is almost saying that the ‘Sorcerer of Melgalius’ was the forbidden unabridged version of the holy book.”
Glenn was seemingly ruminating over Sistine’s words and kept silent…
“So a conspiracy. And what of it? How does it relate to the way for us to defeat the wraith?”
But in the end, Glenn just gave a futile smile.
“With that cleared up, I will now go into the main topic. As far as the wraith is concerned…” Sistine looked straight into Glenn’s eyes, “A red blade that nullifies magic in his left hand, and a black blade that consumes soul in his right. A wraith that could not be killed no matter how many fatal blows it received. Doesn’t all of this sound familiar to you? If you loved ‘Sorcerer of Melgalius’ as a child, I’m sure teacher should be able to remember…”
Sistine showed the page to Glenn. On it was a familiar scene where a dual wielding warrior stood facing thousands upon thousands of enemy. The picture, along with Sistine’s hint, combined with Glenn’s own memories of the book gave a sudden flash of inspiration.
“…Lord Al Khan of the Shimmering Blades!”
Within the characters of ‘Sorcerer of Melgalius’, there was the Demon Lord that stood opposed to the hero, and the ‘Astral Lords’ that served as his bodyguards. The Astral Lords served under the Demon Lord’s direct command, each one of them with power beyond imagine. They were all originally humans, but later discarded their human shell as they took on various forms.
Among which, Lord Al Khan of the Shimmering Blades was a memorable curiosity. Although he served under the Demon Lord, he was a character that was more of a demon than the Demon Lord himself. He was on an eternal quest for a worthy liege to serve and had fought with countless champions, even occasionally crossing swords with the minions of the Demon Lord.
His greatest feature was the twin blades mentioned earlier, as well as the thirteen lives he gained through his thirteen trials. In other words, he could not be defeated until he was slain thirteen times.
“Hey, you can’t be serious?! Isn’t that just a simple fairy tale?! White Cat, are you really claiming that fellow is Al Khan of the Shimmering Blades?! It is really a bit…”
“I also know it sounds ridiculous! But, the similarity is a bit concerning, is it not? And is it really all just a coincidence? Haven’t this already exceeded the realm of chance?!”
Sistine wasn’t wrong. Could they really just write it all off as a mere ‘coincidence’?
For most things, having one or two similarities could be construed as a coincidence, but when the similarities began to pile up, anyone would be hard pressed to say there isn’t a pattern to be found. If they just write it all off as mere chance, then they would really be no different from ‘fools’.
Moreover, just as Sistine had described earlier, ‘Sorcerer of Melgalius’ was not just a simple fairy tale. It was the collection of ancient legends that contained the spirit of the great Rolan Eltoria.
“Teacher, could we not gamble on the possibility? If it really was Al Khan…”
In all stories, heroes and anti-heroes have their own weaknesses. As far as Al Khan of the Shimmering Blades was concerned, he was the archetypical anti-hero, and, by extension, there were appropriate methods to defeat him.
…What to do?
It was a gamble. To bet on the small chance that they were right and ‘defeat the wraith, so that everyone can return alive’. The alternative was to give up on the gamble and, at the cost of some lives, have rest escape from the Labyrinth.
Glenn looked at his students. Sistine, Rumia, and Re=L all looked at him with resolute eyes.
We trust in your judgment.
We won’t regret no matter how things turn out.
Their eyes seemed to confirm all these feelings. Sistine, Rumia, and even Re=L had already fully steeled themselves for what was to come. With their help, if Glenn fought alongside them… Then perhaps…
“I… have a promise with those brats… that I would definitely bring everyone to safety. So, I…”
Before the girls, Glenn had finally made his decision.
◇ ◇ ◇
I can’t believe that I really made such a dangerous gamble.
Facing the wraith, Glenn’s heart fluttered at his decision.
There was no way to confirm that the wraith really was Al Khan of the Shimmering Blades. If on the chance everything was really a mere coincidence, then the probability of them defeating the wraith would be zero. However, the complicated circumstances made it nearly impossible to discount everything as chance. As long as there is the slightest prospect that all of them will be able to survive, they had to take the gamble.
That’s right… in the story, Al Khan of the Shimmering Blades, during his fight to recognize the Demon Lord as his liege, was killed four times. Then, in his defense against the Sorcerer of Justice, he was killed three more times. In other words, he had already died seven times.
Glenn glanced at the wraith with all the emotion he could muster.
And then, with my bullet that pierced his heart, plus Re=L’s fatal slash, it should be another two lives. If he started with thirteen lives, then the lives he has left should be…
Glenn faced off against the wraith and purposely said in a conceited tone,
“After all, you bastard only have like… four lives left. Am I right?”
“Certainly, I alone could not hope to match the great heroes of a bygone age. However, I am not alone.”
Glenn puffed his chest and used his thumb to point at his reliable students.
“With their help – with the four of us together, we can defeat you. If you really only have four lives left, I have the perfect plan to take care of them, bastard.”
Now, Glenn and the others waited for its answer. Honestly speaking, they could not confirm the fellow really was Al Khan of the Shimmering Blades. Therefore, the declaration of ‘four lives’ was only Glenn’s own subjective desire. But, to obtain irrefutable evidence of its identity, Glenn had to perform this act.
Within his heart, Glenn was completely wavering, if not already ready to rout. However, he did his best to suppress the urge and, on the surface, acted with full confidence to end its four lives…
With his fists raised, Glenn thought as he nimbly circled around to the wraith’s right side…
Does my actions look like ‘I know you only have four lives left, so I am just looking for an opportunity to strike’? For heaven’s sake, please assume it as such!
If they only need to fatally wound the wraith four times to kill it, Glenn would do his best to fight. If not, then it would result in the worst case scenario. To obtain the necessary evidence, to know for sure that the wraith only has four lives left…
Come on… I hope my act really had the proper effect! Please, quickly confirm that there is a limit to your immortality… Come on!!
The wraith continued to size Glenn up without uttering a word.
The silence weighed on Glenn like a lead block and made his stomach churn ceaselessly.
N-not good, cold sweat is coming…! Darn it, the act will fall apart at this rate…!!
Glenn’s forehead began to gather droplets of sweat, and just as it was about to roll down his face…
“Excellent. Although I doth not knoweth how thee learneth of a secret not privy to mine liege… But, daws, doth thee most to struggle and, with all thy strength, killeth me four m’re times.” The wraith brought up his two blades and said the deciding fact.
In psychological warfare, Glenn seemed to have triumphed. He was quite lucky that the wraith was just as the story described, one who was ‘direct’ in his confrontations.
“Hmph… That was my original plan. Do you best, and don’t come crying foul when you lose.” Under his confident expression, Glenn was ecstatic.
Awesome!! It is certain now! This fellow really is Al Khan! With that, we still have a chance at victory!!
On the other hand, numerous questions now began to pop up with that realization. Who exactly was Rolan Eltoria, and what secrets has he uncovered in his years of researching the ancient civilization? And, above all else, were the Astral Lords not mere fictional characters? However, now is not the time for contemplation.
“Alright, let’s do this! Re=L! Sistine! Rumia!”
“Mm. Leave it to me!”
Glenn and Re=L leapt into combat, circling in from the left and right.
“We will take care of their support!”
From the rear, Sistine and Rumia raised their left hands against the wraith.
Glenn and Re=L roared as they charged toward the wraith from both sides.
Faced with the onslaught, the wraith lowered his stance in preparation, and so the battle began…
Glenn launched his attack from the wraith’s right hand side,
While Re=L charged in from the wraith’s left hand side.
It was a perfect pincer attack, like two streaks of light that came to a swift head-on collision.
With Rumia’s ‘Amplification’, Glenn held his magic-coated fists at his side,
And Re=L brandished Celica’s mithril sword.
Both of their bodies were strengthened to their limits by the effects of a fully amplified White Magic [Physical•Boost] from Rumia, with their actions and reactions exceeded human limits.
However, the wraith’s twin blades swung with elegance and might. The streaks of red and black cut the view into parts. The wraith’s left blade dealt with Glenn’s fists, while its right blade dealt with Re=L’s sword. It easily blocked, parried, and countered the attacks that came from two ‘enhanced’ humans. Sparks flew between Glenn’s fists, Re=L’s sword, and its twin blades, while the air was filled with the sounds of clashes.
Glenn and Re=L continued their relentless assault – sometimes in unison, sometimes in steps, they attacked, and attacked… and attacked.
However, the overwhelming existence calmly neutralized their onslaught. He twisted his body slightly to dodge Glenn’s right straight, then cut away at Re=Ls powerful slash, and then blocking Glenn’s left jab, finally knocking away Re=L’s explosive projectile, all with the elegance of a dance.
Compared to the swift precision attacks favored by modern swordsman, or the overpowering blows favored by knights, the wraiths swordsmanship was like flowing water, smoothly transitioning from one stance to the next that mesmerized onlookers with its grace.
The intensity of the combat, with the pressure of the blows, caused winds to blow out.
Glenn and Re=L controlled the pace of the combat, locking the wraith in combat with their preferred arm – Glenn against the right, and Re=L against the left. This formation was the bare minimum for the two to stand a chance against the overwhelming power, with the wraith’s right blade, Sou•Lter, tasked to Glenn, and the wraith’s left blade, Wi•Zayer left to Re=L. The reasons were that although Glenn’s fist was enhanced by magic with Rumia’s amplification, if it ever came in contact with the left blade, the magic would be undone. While on the other hand, Re=L only had a single sword compared to Glenn’s two fists and might struggle against the wraith’s right blade, where even a single scrape could spell her end. For the right blade, where it was not a danger as long as no injuries was inflicted on the attacker, Glenn was the better match, as his two fists provide him with faster attack and response time. The formation, along with the tacit understanding they have gained fighting alongside one another during their time as mages, was the only thing keeping them from instant defeat.
However, the plan could all be undone if the wraith simply switched his two blades.
I don’t think that would be a problem if we trust in White Cat’s intelligence.
◇ ◇ ◇
“That plan won’t work… While Re=L and I could probably pull the formation off, if that bastard simply switched the blades in his hands, won’t the plan just simply fall apart?”
Glenn and the others were in their battle strategy meeting.
“No, I do not think that would be a problem. There was a series of prose poems called ‘Khan•Cycle’, a collection of ancient legends about Al Khan. Rolan referenced it heavily when he wrote the ‘Sorcerer of Melgalius’…” Sistine explained, “It was said that Al Khan received two blades from ‘Lady Midnight’ – Sou•Lter for his right hand, and Wi•Zayer for his left hand. In other words, if he did not use the correct hand, the special powers would not manifest… or so the legend goes.”
“In simpler words?”
“He won’t be able to switch his swords mid-combat. As long as teacher and Re=L keep him occupied on their side, the formation should work to our advantage!”
◇ ◇ ◇
“Hahaha! Are you feeling irked? Not sure of how to deal with the situation? Hey!” Glenn taunted the wraith as he threw a jab.
As the fight progressed, the only blade to ever face Glenn in combat was the right one, with the left one occupied by Re=L. Their excellent teamwork made the wraith stuck dealing with the awkward situation, where the only way to break their onslaught was if he switch the two blades.
“Why aren’t you switching the blades?! Hahaha? Switch them, I dare you!!”
The originally calm wraith has begun to show signs of displeasure, but it continued to keep the blades in their original hand. The result was a clear victory for Sistine, the ancient civilization otaku.
Still, our attacks are still being shrugged off…! Darn it!
Despite their tireless combination attacks, the two could only grit their teeth.
Even when facing against Glenn’s and Re=L’s torrent of strikes, the wraith was able to parry all incoming strikes, including the heavy sword blows from Re=L, with laughable ease. Soon, from a tiny crack in the teamwork, so small that it could not even count as a real crack, the wraith took the advantage and kicked Glenn aside, then punted Re=L away with the pommel of his blade.
The two flew for some distance, before landing on the ground with a thud.
Darn it, we were too focused on his sword and forgot that he have other methods of attack available to him!
However, such an outcome was unavoidable. If they still took to mind its other possible attacks, they would have not been able to deal with the blades.
Cough… “What power… Isn’t that just cheating?!”
“I-It hurts… Ugh…”
An incredibly heavy blow. Despite already having strengthened their defense with White Magic [Body•Up], the blow still dealt heavy damage to them, and they felt as if their body had been shattered to pieces.
The wraith did not let this great opportunity slip away, with its eyes locked on to the problematic Re=L, instantly shortened its distance for an attack. At that moment,
” ‹Ferocious thunder emperor, pay heed•Brilliant lance of light•Pierce›…! ‹Pierce›! ‹Pierce›!” three streaks of bolt shot out from above the wraith. It was the Black Magic [Lightning•Pierce], a spell casted by Sistine, who stood atop a tall platform in the back.
To better assist Glenn and Re=L, Sistine modified [Physical•Boost]’s effect. At the cost of the increased stamina and strength, she greatly improved her kinetic vision and response time. With Rumia’s hand in hers to amplify her magic power, the bolts were as potent as they could possibly be, shot at the most opportune time. Due to their incredibly dense energy, the surrounding air was instantly ionized, creating streams of blue plasma in their wake.
The wraith leapt back to dodge the first bolt and then, with an elegant swing of its left blade, nullified the second and third.
In the midst of its defense,
“Teacher! Re=L! ‹Gentle angel•Give onto them•Your bountiful light›!” Rumia loudly chanted with both her hands raised.
It was the long distance healing spell, White Magic [Life•Wave], known to be a high level healing spell. The healing wave washed over the body of Glenn and Re=L.
“Thank you, I feel much better now!”
“Mm. I’m good.”
With their injuries cured, the two leapt back into combat,
…And swiftly reengaged the wraith in combat, using their teamwork to pressure its defense.
However, their struggle seemed hollow, because…
“Hmph… Daws, thou has’t some w’rth…” The wraith declared while receiving Glenn’s blow.
Darn it! This bastard is enjoying the fight?
To be able to have the leisure to enjoy the fight, it meant that the wraith wasn’t giving it his all.
It is completely slighting us…! But still, it doesn’t hurt to end this battle while it continues to underestimate us.
Glenn’s goal was to blitz through the battle as soon as possible. When facing against a stronger foe, magician must not needlessly prolong the combat. The longer the combat last, the lesser the prospect of victory, since prolonged combat rely more and more on their aggregate power.
‘My opponent is weaker than me, and I even have four lives to count on’… I bet you are thinking like that…!
Glenn annoyingly hypothesized as he parried the heavy blow.
Let’s see who gets the last laugh. I have the perfect plan to confidently shave three of those pesky lives away…!
Glenn saw three openings in the wraith’s words and actions.
Glenn and Re=L suddenly switched positions, with Glenn now facing the left blade and Re=L facing the right.
As soon as they switched, Glenn pulled out his revolver at a point blank range where the blade could not reach.
Crack! The pommel of the wraith smacked into Glenn’s revolver and knocked the barrel aside.
Glenn leapt back to pull some distance and, with the revolver aimed at the wraith, pulled the trigger.
Tap! When the hammer hit the metal, no bullets flew out.
Seeing the opportunity, the wraith turned to face Re=L coming in from the other side with sword raised high. However, at that moment, Glenn swung his left hand forward and manually pulled back the hammer on his revolver. In a sudden, three sharp bangs ran out.
Glenn’s triple-shot. Using his right thumb, left thumb, and left pinky to pull back and release the hammer in quick succession, Glenn was able to shoot three shots in almost the same instant. All three bullets flew out toward the wraith’s right blade and, with three times the force of a single bullet, struck and knocked the blade out of his hand.
“…And that’s one life down.” Glenn let out a devious smile.
Re=L came down with her swift blow and cut deep into the wraith, sending him flying.
That’s right, you knew nothing of firearms… in spite of your lack of knowledge, you foolishly believed your false assumptions about its function.
The wraith believed firearms to be ‘a magic tool that used explosive magic to propel pellets of metal’. If it was purely a mechanical tool, its magic nullification would have no effect. To that end, Glenn purposely skipped loading the first chamber, so that it would seem not to fire, making the wraith falsely believe his magic nullification has sealed the revolver’s function. It was a cheap trick that definitely won’t work on any modern magicians. However, against the antiquated wraith, it was practically assured success. This was because the wraith lived in an era without firearms, an existence so ancient that its stories were retold as legends.
Despite having had just suffered a deep wound, the wraith bolted toward his fallen blade at the first opportunity, planning to pick it up.
“As I expected, the moment the blade leaves your hand, you would do everything in your power to reclaim it. After all, it is the symbol of your prowess, and the centerpiece of your story! Just as the book foretold!” Glenn loudly shouted, “White Cat! Our plan, go for it!”
Just moments before the wraith grabbed the blade…
“I know! ‹Rush forth, wind›…!”
Sistine’s [Gale•Blow] pushed the blade further away.
“Ugh…?! Und’rhand’d Tricks…”
At that moment,
With sword in hand, Re=L set upon the wraith like a rabid dog.
The wraith was off-balance from losing one of his two blades…
Glenn twisted his body, turned his revolver onto the wraith, and, with it, a bang with a flash, and then followed immediately by another bang. Glenn fired all the remaining bullets left in the revolver, and further disturbed the wraith’s already unstable stance.
“‹…•Guide their way›!” At that time, Rumia had finished her own chant that she started alongside Sistine. With a drop of holy oil that ignited into a cleansing flame, Rumia turned Sistine’s [Gale•Blow] into a twister of flame.
The burning flame made the wraith disoriented. However, no one knew if exorcism had any effect on the wraith, and the whole purpose of the flame was to act as a diversion to buy some time. The real attack came from…
With flames that obscured the wraith’s vision, Re=L charged in with sword in hand, parting the flame with her body. Robbed of his sight and balance, the wraith was unable to respond to the attack in time.
The wraith barely turned his body and tried to block Re=L’s sword with his blade. However, Re=L’s momentum could not be stopped and blew through its hasty defenses with ease, dealing another fatal blow and sending the wraith reeling into the air.
“And with that, two lives down.”
What would be up next was relatively predictable. According to the book, once that fellow has lost a decent amount of his lives and has been cornered, it will turn to magic. As the legend foretold, beyond its ability as an unmatched warrior, it was also a powerful magician. Only that, compared to magic, Al Khan preferred his blades more.
As expected, once it has stabilized itself and landed on the ground, it immediately began to chant the same unknown spell as before.
Above its head, a massive sun-like sphere began to form. If the legend held, it was a divine flame that could wipe out thousands in an instant.
Although I do not know what it is chanting, if there is a chant, it must be ‘magic’!
If it was magic, then…
“I won’t let you…!!”
This time, Glenn unhesitantly pulled out his ‘Fool’ tarot card and activated the card along with tightly packed runes written in blood on its surface. With it, Original Magic [The Fool’s World] enveloped the field.
Because of an earlier hesitation, Glenn didn’t reveal his card, to his relief. After all, the wraith couldn’t imagine Glenn held a secret weapon that ‘sealed off activation of all magic’.
Now, whether my [The Fool’s World] will take effect on that fellow’s magic… Please, make it work!!
Glenn had won the gamble.
As its magic was sealed, the sun-like sphere slowly shrunk to nothingness. At the same time, Re=L leapt at the wraith.
Aiming at the bewildered wraith’s left blade, Re=L slashed upwards.
However, the wraith was wary of Re=L’s attack and did not let his remaining blade get knocked away. But now with his left blade tied up by Re=L’s attack, at that opening…
“‹…•Brilliant lance of light•Pierce›! ”
Sistine, who started her chant at the same moment as when Glenn activated [The Fool’s World], shot out a bolt of [Lightning•Pierce]. Once again, the bolt was augmented by Rumia’s ability and left a streak of blue behind.
The bolt perfectly pierced the left chest of the wraith, who was looking back at Re=L.
With Glenn sealing its magic, Re=L buying the necessary time, and Sistine launching the final attack with the assistance of Rumia, the almost scripted progression made Glenn irresistibly laugh.
“…And, that’s the third?”
“Ugh…! Bastard, what didst thee just doth?!” With sparks still coming off his body, the wraith angrily demanded.
“Sorry about that. To be honest, I have a ‘long distance spell that specifically seals the magic of an individual’… I can’t have you start cheating now, can I?” Glenn threw out a big lie.
As far as Original Magic [The Fool’s World] was concerned, it wasn’t a really useful spell, since it ‘sealed all magic around the vicinity of its caster’. In short, both Glenn’s and Re=L’s magic were now sealed. Sistine was only able to use magic because she stood on a platform high above Glenn, outside of [The Fool’s World]’s effective range. To put Sistine outside the effective range, Glenn had to make emergency modifications to the spell with runes of blood in order to flatten the spell’s coverage. Therefore, Glenn and the others purposely selected a battlefield that was difficult for the wraith to tower above them. In short, everything was going as they had planned in the field they prepared.
“Impressive, f’r thou daws to achieveth such most wondrous leaps.”
And with it, Glenn managed to fool the wraith regarding the truth behind [The Fool’s World]. With its own magic sealed and was robbed of a third life by Sistine’s magic, the wraith did not doubt Glenn’s lie.
This way, even if Sistine and the others continued to use spells, it would not seek to use its own in return, regardless of whether it stood outside the effective range of [The Fool’s World]. They had wonderfully achieved their goal: to not allow the wraith to use magic.
In the legend, Al Khan’s sun-like spell was able to erase an army of tens of thousands in the blink of an eye. With everything else in the legend already confirmed true, there was no reason to doubt the validity of the spell’s strength. If he managed to complete his single phrase chant, there would be nothing Glenn and the others could do to defend against the ensuing annihilation.
“With that, are you on your last? How are you feeling now, o’ great one~?”
Wrapping up the combat before the opponents could display their full might, such was the essence for the weak to triumph over the strong.
“…V’ry good. I now recognizeth thee lot as w’rthy foes.” The atmosphere around the wraith changed.
It has reined in some of its original leisurely attitude. Although it has never underestimate Glenn and the others, it should now have come to recognize that its life was on the line, and what stood before it were incredibly strong foes.
In a few short minutes since the start of the battle, Glenn had tilted the favors to his advantage.
“…Sistine, Rumia, and Re=L, next up will be the hard part. Shall we?”
The girls all nodded their heads.
“Let’s do this…!”
Glenn and Re=L charged directly at the wraith head on. Vis-à-vis, the final death match between them has begun.
The wraith was a terribly strong enemy, but the current situation greatly favored Glenn and the others. Not only had the wraith lost its right sword, had its magic sealed, and had wasted a large amount of mana, but also the only blade left to the wraith was the Wi•Zayer. Under normal circumstances, the blade was not a threat to Glenn and the others. Additionally, Glenn and the others did not endure any crippling injuries in the fight thus far, as well as having the advantage in terrain. Finally, Glenn and the others had already shaved off three of his lives, leaving just the last one remaining.
We can win, we can do it!
Such thoughts were completely reasonable.
Not only Glenn, any modern magician in his shoes would definitely be confident in their victory.
However, the anti-hero of legends, myths, and fables always had the strength to back up its fame. Glenn and the others would soon come to realize that one simple but painful fact, through ‘pain’.
◇ ◇ ◇
“…Hmm?” Celica awoke to the sound of battle below.
“W-where am… I?”
Celica laid on what seemed to be a terrace, immediate above she could see the hemispherical roof.
She could hear painful shouts from below.
W-what exactly is happening…?
Celica dragged her heavy body forward and, pulling on the railing of the terrace, wobbly stood up. Looking down below, she could see a few platforms connected by a complicated system of stairs.
What entered Celica’s sight was a dismayed Glenn.
After having quickly shaved away three of its lives and growing confident in their eventual victory, Glenn and the others continued with no end in sight. The battle felt like it had been raging on for a long time, but, at the same time, felt like only a few minutes had passed. One thing was for sure, Glenn and the others were being forced into a corner.
“To keepeth up with me to such an extent. Thou lot shouldst beest proud.”
The wraith remained alive, unflinchingly standing before them.
On the other hand, Glenn was kneeling on the ground, his clothes in tatters. Although there were no fatal wounds, his body was littered with injuries.
The brave Re=L was also covered with injuries and had recently lost consciousness. She laid there on the ground with her sword nearby.
Rumia also could not keep up her healing, and the effect had long been diminished for they had long passed their healing limits.
Cough… cough… “T-this guy is way too much of a cheat…!”
“Haa… Haa… Haa…”
Behind Glenn, Rumia and Sistine had already shown symptoms of mana deficiency and would risk death if they keep on using magic.
D-darn it… I-it’s too strong…!!
Glenn wiped away the blood and sweat that had obscured his vision and slowly stood up with a wobble. He had already done quite well against the legendary wraith.
All that remained was one more life, just one life that stood in their way to victory. Yet, this last life was making them feel more and more hopeless. The strength and skill of the wraith long stood above Glenn and the others.
Haa… T-that’s right! The book had said that this fellow would become extremely strong when cornered. Darn it!
Within the ‘Sorcerer of Melgalius’, a certain king used a stratagem to seal up Al Khan and took away his blade, Sou•Lter. Under such circumstances, every reader thought that Al Khan was sure to lose. However, Al Khan fought with the thousand elites of the king for three days and three nights, using just a single blade in his left hand. Ultimately, he managed to wipe out all of the elites and even kill the king himself. Glenn and the others were precisely reliving the tale.
As the legend went, Al Khan was blessed by Lady Midnight, so when he was cornered, fortune would always smile upon him. The only ones who could defeat him was someone with an even greater ‘fate’ than him, the Demon Lord.
Seriously, aren’t you being too faithful to the depiction…?
As it stood, the wraith just slowly and calmly repulsed each and every one of Glenn’s attacks. Now, the tables were turned on Glenn and the others. What’s worse…
“…I see, I wast almost fool’d by thee daws.”
The wraith suddenly seemed to have noticed something and leapt into the air to pull some distance between itself and Glenn, landing on a nearby platform.
The wraith now stood far above, outside [The Fool’s World]’s effective range.
“Hmph… Thy visage betrays thee, daws… As I expect’d.”
Glenn gritted his teeth in frustration. His lie about the nature of his magic had given way.
It can’t be avoided… After all, while White Cat and Rumia chanted as many spells as they’d liked, Re=L and I didn’t chant any spell no matter how good the opportunity. It was bound to be discovered sooner or later…
The original hope was to end this fight before it had noticed, but hope has betrayed them. Under the gaze of despair from Glenn and the others, the wraith confidently declared.
“…I commend thee f’r thy trickery and lies that hadst fool’d me f’r so longeth. Although thou art m’re daws, thou has’t the hearts of a warri’r. As a reward, I shalt alloweth thee lot to die without pain.”
The wraith began to chant. Above his head, the burning sphere appeared for the third time. As it quickly gathered power, Glenn and the others knew the devastating power if it were to be completed – the might to wipe out armies, and, with it, not even their ashes would remain. With all their power exhausted, Sistine and Rumia could only meekly wait for the end to come.
“Begone!” Before long, the wraith completed his spell and declared.
“Darn it! I won’t let you!!” Glenn forced himself up and rushed the wraith despite knowing he won’t be able to stop it in time.
“Know thy limit! Shame not thy death, daws!”
From the wraith’s left hand, a whip-like object flew out, and attached to the whip was its blade. The blade aimed straight at Glenn roared like a cannon as it sliced through the air.
“Wh-?!” Glenn was unable to dodge the incoming blade.
The girls’ shout echoed through the ruined patio.
At that instant, Celica, who was watching the battle from high above, calmly took out an object. It was an extremely old pocket watch – the magic tool [La•Tilica], Celica’s last real trump card. With her eyes on the combat, she reflexively activated the hidden mechanism within…
Suddenly, before her very eyes, the landscape had completely changed. When she came to her senses, she was no longer in the Underground Labyrinth, but a familiar field. The madder red, the parched air, and the scorched wasteland that stretched all the way to the horizon. It was a world filled with death, where even time stood still…
How could Celica forget? She was at the place four hundred year ago where she first awakened. The place where everything began.
“That’s not correct, Celica. This is your spirit world.” Before Celica’s eyes was a girl with unnatural wings.
“Here lies within the boundary between dream and reality, the space between the conscious and the subconscious. This was the land you had built, a reflection from the deepest recess of your soul. Therefore, time flows differently in here than it does in the real world, where days spent in this world are but mere moments.”
“…Who are you? Rumia Tingel…? No, you are not…” Celica unhesitantly questioned the one who looked like Rumia.
“I am… Namenlose.”
“Namenlose? Ah, were you the one who rescued Glenn and the others? Hahaha, thanks for watching over them in my absence.” Celica gave an exaggerated bow and then smiled. “Speaking of which, why did you summon me to this world? Even if the time flowed much slower here, I still can’t leave them in danger.”
“Don’t use that magic, Celica.” Namenlose calmly warned Celica, “You should just escape, even if you are the only one to survive.”
Her grim statement seemed to have a hint of sincerity within.
“Behind you there is a path that leads up to the next level. If you take that path, I will try my best to help you. Even with the meager power that remains, I will do my best…”
“I refuse.” Celica instantly responded.
“…W-what are you saying? Are you not aware of the current circumstances?”
“Mm. My soul… or rather, my aether body was crippled by that strange blade.”
“Then… you should be very well aware what will happen if you were to activate that spell.”
“Yes, the aftermath will not be pretty. Given how severe the damage my aether body had sustained.” Celica toyed with the pocket watch in her hand as she calmly analyzed her choices, “Likely… I won’t ever be able to use magic again.”
“If you understand that much, then…!” Namenlose frustratingly shouted.
“However, at the cost of my magic, I would be able to save Glenn’s life. You can’t get a better bargain than that…” Celica coolly responded, to which Namenlose had no reply.
“Y-you… will definitely come to regret your decision…”
“…That I am quite certain. To lose all my accumulated efforts over hundreds of years, no sane person would not have any regrets… After all, I am no saint.” Yet, contrary to her statement, Celica’s face was serene.
“What then of your mission? The mission that you valued above everything else. Without your magic, how will you complete your mission?”
“Although I should probably ask why you know about my mission, none of that matters now.” Celica let out a carefree retort, “The answer is simple. There is something more important than my magic, my mission, and my regrets.”
“What…?” Namenlose furrowed her eyebrows, “Let me say it clearly. You only came to this absurd decision because you do not remember the mission. Your mission defined who you are and was everything to you…”
“…Hard to argue against you on it, since I did have the same feeling.”
The feeling was why Celica relentlessly pursued it for the past hundreds of years.
To have wasted four hundred years… Really, how laughable.
“Even if you cannot remember your mission at the moment, you certainly will one day, and you will be compelled to complete it. If you cannot use your magic, what will you do then? Without your magic, there will be no way for you to finish your mission… I can’t say too much, but you…”
“Not to worry. What I really want is to live with that person… in the present. Because…” Celica smiled with a completely innocent and radiant smile, “…we are family.”
“As you said, I still could not remember my mission. It was definitely a mission close to my heart, but…”
“I love Glenn. I love him who accepted me as family. If it is for his sake, the one who brought me out from my shell and cured me of my eternal loneliness, I…”
Namenlose remained silent before Celica, who spoke as if she had attained enlightenment.
“Seriously, why do I even bother? You are as willful as ever…” Namenlose let out a sigh in resignation, “Then there is nothing else for me to say. The very least I could do is to share my remaining power with you, and I wish you happiness and bliss in the dark days ahead.”
Namenlose used her thin fingers to draw a mysterious symbol in the air, “Let me, the world’s most tainted being, give you, the world’s most hated being, my blessings.”
With Namenlose’s words, Celica felt a certain something flow into her heart – a faint but significant surge of power.
“Thanks. How to say this… Although this was our first meeting, I feel an odd sense of familiarity with you. Have we met before I lost my memories?”
“…You will know in due time, Heavens (Celica).”
“Mm. I share that feeling. Till we meet again, Nameless (Namenlose).”
At that point, Celica’s vision began to turn blurry, and the world was dyed with white.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Original Magic [My World] Activate!”
Now back in reality, Celica flipped open the pocket watch [La•Tilica]. In that moment, time stopped, and the world lost its luster. Glenn, the wraith, Sistine, Rumia… Everyone simply froze like statues. Even the sun and the blade that was inches away from Glenn’s neck all stopped where they were, floating in midair. In this gray landscape, only Celica alone could still move.
This was the spell that pushed Celica to the pedestal of the continent’s strongest and was the seventh-ranked Celica’s greatest creation. Original Magic [My World] was a magic that paused the flow of time, and only Celica alone could move freely while it is frozen, a literal ‘world’ of hers. With this power, Celica decided it was time to end this farce.
As Celica counted out loud, she leapt from the terrace.
Even now… I still think it was a blessing for me to have met you…
The moment she landed on the platform below, she bolted forward like an arrow in flight, passed the frozen Sistine and Rumia, and vaulted across the railing.
…Mm. Actually, I had always know that… we were family… that I am no longer alone…
Celica continued to dash forward as she reminisced about the time spent together with Glenn. Zooming past the unconscious Re=L, Celica swooped up her mithril sword.
…The days I had spent with you gave the immortal me courage. The days I had watched your optimistic figure gave the immortal me confidence.
Passing through the field, Celica went straight up the stairs leading to the wraith. Her body had already exceeded its limit and cried out in agony.
I have been pampered too much and had grown fearful of these wonderful days ending, fearful of returning to my old days of loneliness. I wanted to stay by your side forever… But, I think the time has come for me to let you go.
Yet, despite her body’s terrible pains, Celica’s heart was unusually warm.
…Everyone has to walk down their own paths, but walking down their own path doesn’t mean that it would be a lonely journey. Only because we are not alone, we could courageously walk down our own path. It is the same for everyone…
Celica continued to run up the stairs, her body enveloped with bliss and courage.
…You need not worry about me anymore. I had already been saved and have obtained irreplaceable treasures from you.
Finally, Celica passed Glenn on the stairs, himself frozen in time.
Therefore, this time, please let me be the one to save you… no matter the cost!
With all her strength, Celica smacked the blade inches away from Glenn’s neck. With time stopped, the blade remained still and didn’t even make a sound.
Celica then continued her sprint, with her sword pointed at the wraith.
…Hahaha. ‘Regret’… Although I needlessly said it earlier…
Using the last ounce of her strength, as blood blew out with every breath and wobbling steps, Celica closed the distance between her and the wraith.
As Celica thrusted out the sword in her hand, the tip of the blade regained its lost luster.
…will never come to regret the decision I’ve made on this day.
◇ ◇ ◇
Glenn did not know what happened at the moment. The blade inches away from his throat was knocked away with a sharp sound.
At the end of the stairs, Celica suddenly appeared and skewered the wraith in its chest with her sword.
“Haa… Haa…!” The completely exhausted Celica fell onto the ground, “Haa… Haa… Mm. I won’t ever regret this decision.”
With her eyes slowly shut, Celica’s face revealed a blissful smile as she muttered to herself.
“The fourth… Guh… To bethink…”
Pierced with the sword, the wraith took a few steps back, black gas spewed out from his body.
“Although mine body is just a shadow, I didn’t bethink daws to harm me so.”
Despite being insulted, Glenn had no interest in its banters.
“As I hadst expect’d. Heavens (Celica)… Thou art a worthy one to be mine master.”
“Forget it. I have no interest in taking in a problematic servant like you, go find a master in someone else.”
Despite Celica’s snub, the wraith was euphoric, and then turned its eyes onto Glenn and the others.
“Although the final blow belonged to Heavens, foolish humans, wond’rfully done! Thou hadst achiev’d a splendid victory, f’r which, thou has’t mine respect!”
The wraith then raised both his arms into the air and, with a final burst of black gas, disappeared into the air.
“Till next time! O’ powerful daws! I shalt wait f’r thee at the other end of the ‘door’…”
With a mysterious gust of wind, all traces of the wraith were cleansed from the place. Even the pair of blades was nowhere to be found.
Calm once again descended upon the patio.
“Is it… over?”
“So it seems…”
The anti-climactic end to the battle made Glenn unsure of how to respond, to which Celica gave the clear answer.
“Haa… Although I am not exactly sure what had transpired, but it seemed like we were saved…” Glenn let out a deep sigh.
At that moment, Celica slowly fell toward the stairs.
Glenn hurriedly ran up and caught her in his arms.
“Hey! Wake up, Celica! Are you alright?!”
“Haa… I should be fine, at the very least, I won’t die.” The enervated Celica just passively lay in Glenn’s arms, “Although, I do feel… somewhat tired.”
Celica tilted her head into Glenn,
“…Sorry. Just let me… stay like this for a bit…”
Celica lost her consciousness in the arms of the flustered Glenn and slowly descended into a deep slumber, with her arms drooped down motionlessly. However, unlike the distressed Glenn, Celica’s face revealed an innocent smile, seemingly in bliss.