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Hey guys, I’m sorry for being two days late with this release. I could give you excuses (and I’ve got some good reasons), but for brevity’s sake, I’ll just apologize.
If you remember from last week, Grace and Kei made their way into the mansion after Rodney, and followed him up into a sparsely furnished room, where they found him in bed with Aslina. How will things turn out…?
After my second time checking Rodney’s status, I thought about why I wasn’t able to see everything. But after a while, I gave up and changed the question.
I stopped focusing on why there were things I “couldn’t” see, and instead focused on why there were some I “could”.
In other words, if my level was lower than that of whoever’s status I was trying to examine, I would be unable to see everything. Still, there did appear to be an exception. If I experienced a skill of theirs first hand, or came to recognize such a skill or parameter somehow, then it was listed in their status. That’s why I had been able to see that Rodney could use water-attribute healing magic, as he had used it to heal me.
I had already confirmed that Aslina could use light-attribute healing magic. My mistake was in assuming that all healing-type magic was related to the light-attribute. Later, Rodney had used his magic to help me recover, and after this, when I looked at his status, water-attribute magic was listed in place of light-attribute or healing magic.
This misguided train of thought caused me no end of trouble, and it was much later before I finally realized that Rodney couldn’t use light-attribute magic. But once the puzzle was solved, I was embarrassed by how simple the answer was.
Never taking my eyes off Rodney, I took a half step back behind Grace, slightly off to her side. She seemed to understand that the fight would be starting any moment. Happy that she had grasped the meaning behind my actions, I turned my focus back to Rodney.
“Alright then, Rodney. ——Who are you?”
It wasn’t Rodney who responded.
“——Rodney is a Dark Magus.” Grace was the one who spoke, Neel’s Longsword held before her so that the point was at eye level. “Kei, you helped me realize it. Disciples of Arabella desire Clancy’s power; and they’re affiliated with the shadow-attribute… Rodney is what I’ve been looking for——a Dark Magus, a being that does great harm to the world.”
At hearing those words, Rodney chuckled darkly. A moment later, his eyes snapped wide. Another heartbeat later I sensed a wave of magical energy emanate from him, but before it could reach either Grace or myself, it dispersed almost as quickly as it had begun. Seeing this, Rodney smiled bitterly.
“——I see…for you to be able to resist charm so easily, you and that woman both aren’t normal.” Grace and I both have a fortitude skill of 7. Rodney’s charm won’t work. Failing at this, Rodney slowly approached the bed where Aslina lay.
“It’s as you’ve said——Kei.” At those words, Rodney reached out to stroke Aslina’s hair. She twitched ever so slightly, as though responding to the touch, but remained in a state of defenselessness, completely exposed.
“I sensed Clancy’s presence, and so entered the forest. It’s like my own backyard, after all. ——If something related to Clancy made an appearance, I’d notice it right away. Following the presence I felt to its source, I found you. You were wearing some strange clothing, and I was wary. So I charmed some kobolds and decided to have them attack you, and see how things turned out. It all went very smoothly, and I only needed to deal the finishing blow——”
Rodney’s expression contorted, and he laughed hard.
“I was certain I’d killed you, yet no sooner had I thought this, than you started to heal at an extraordinary pace. Yet you were unconscious! What unbelievable power! Seeing that I changed plans, and decided to bring you back and watch you. ——So that I might find a way to take that power for myself.”
As I heard the last part, I couldn’t help but snort with laughter.
“It’s just as I’d predicted…so much so that I’m actually a bit surprised.”
Rodney’s expression was as relaxed as ever.
“That’s all fine and good, but there is no guarantee things will go as smoothly from here on out you know?” The moment the words were out, my expression drew taught.
I had been very cautious, as I’m sure Grace was the same. I had run various simulations over in my mind, as to what Rodney might do after everything was out in the open. He leaned in suggestively towards Aslina. I had considered that Rodney might use her as a hostage, or perhaps a shield; I had even thought she might rise up and lunge towards us.
——But sadly, what happened next was something I could never have anticipated.
I watched him stroke her hair, before his right hand shot forward and buried itself deep inside her chest. Aslina’s eyes snapped wide, and her body arched like a tightly strung bow.
——My mind went blank, except for a single thought.
I never knew how easily someone’s hand could bury itself inside another’s body.
The scene before me was that surreal.
Tears began flowing down Aslina’s cheeks, as Rodney drew out his right hand from her chest, an organ held in his grip. She coughed, and blood splattered around her. Rodney ignored it, and brought the organ up close to his lips, before biting into it. His contorted, blood-soaked mouth gave testament to the savageness of the act.
——A powerful wave of magical energy washed over me. It also seemed to me that Rodney’s body had grown larger.
“——Watch out, he’s changing into a magus!” Hearing Grace call out to me, I began backing away. Yet, unable to take my gaze from Rodney’s transfiguration, Grace shoved me away, hard.
This had been his goal from the beginning. For the sake of this——there was no denying he had brought Aslina with him. It was all so he could shapeshift after having drawn us in. Aslina had never been conspiring with Rodney.
Aslina’s face…which I had seen upon waking in the church. Her smile, as she had handed me my lunch every day. The serious expression she wore as I teased her and she taught me about magic. The expression of fear she had shown when I mentioned the word Arabella——
The thoughts played over and over again in my mind.
If she hadn’t been there, I never would have gained the knowledge I needed to live in this world. If she hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be here today.
That kind girl, had been used by Rodney on a whim——and had become his food.
The moment that thought crossed my mind——a wave of searing heat rose up from the depths behind my eyes.
Rodney, whose body now showed strange markings crisscrossing all over, had long, talon-like claws protruding from his right hand.
“He’s coming.” After Grace’s short warning, Rodney rushed forward, slashing with his claws. Grace immediately dove backwards, managing to avoid the attack. Her limber movements helped her avoid the following attack as well.
Silently, I threw several magic ball spells at Rodney, though I didn’t launch them in an attempt to damage him. They were more of a diversion than anything. Rodney knocked each magic ball that flew towards him away with a single sweep of his claws. Grace took advantage of that momentary lapse in concentration, and charged, Neel’s Longsword in hand.
Rodney accepted the attack, receiving the blow with his bare left arm. If he had been a normal person, that would have severed his left arm clean off. Instead, not only did he retain his arm, but there was also a high-pitched screeen! as the blade glanced off it. Looking closely, I could only detect the barest traces of a cut.
The attack set Grace off balance, and Rodney again slashed towards her with his claws. She tried deflecting the attack with Neel’s Longsword, but was unable to hold steady and ended up bending to the side from the force of the blow. Rodney saw his chance, and launched fireball to hammer into her. Trying to protect her, I expanded magic wall before her. The colorless, transparent magic wall spell coalesced into a solid object, and managed to stop the fireball’s impact; but Grace still took some damage from the scattering of the flames. I quickly switched to a healing spell, and began treating her wounds.
——Damn, he’s tough.
We weren’t fighting blinded by rage, and only a few moments had passed since commencing combat, yet sweat was pooling down my face.
“I thought your teamwork would be haphazard at best, but you two are unexpectedly in sync.” Rodney spoke in his standard, nonchalant tone. However, there were no longer any traces of his handsomeness. What stood before us, was only a sinister-looking Dark Magus.
“I’m honored you think so.” After my puffed-up reply, Grace made her move.
She had chosen to move left and circle around Rodney’s backside for her next attack. It was an attack from behind, but Rodney avoided it with a simple twist of his body, receiving the blow with his left arm as before. The same metallic sound resounded through the room, and only the barest of scratches could be seen.
Grace didn’t push forward this time, instead retreating back and launching wind cutter with a slash of her blade. Rodney stopped it roughly with water wall. I tried to follow up with a swing of my iron mace at the same time, but he simply brought up his right hand and intercepted the blow with his claws.
This created a gap in my defense, and Rodney launched fireball in response. But I had predicted this, and let the spell come in close before stopping it with magic wall. As before, the flames burst and scattered, burning my skin; but I didn’t retreat. Instead, I pushed forward, sliding in between his arms and up to his chest.
I placed a hand against his abdomen, and released an especially powerful version of magic ball at point blank range. There was a ringing clang, as though a metal plate had been struck by a hammer, and Rodney doubled over from the impact. I didn’t push further, and instead jumped away.
“——Just now——I felt that…I thought you had only begun learning about magic just a few months ago——? I never thought you could use a spell with such force behind it. Maybe you were once a sorcerer, eh?” At Rodney’s words, I remained silent, unable to tell him I’d been an average business man only a few months ago.
To be honest——I was getting desperate. That attack just now had been the most powerful offensive spell I knew, and I had nothing that could top it. Grace might have another offensive tactic in reserve, but none of her physical attacks up to now had struck true. In that case, how many magic ball spells at maximum power would I have to land——? Thinking about this, I started to see how much trouble we were in.
Next, Rodney began igniting the surroundings into an inferno. This was without a doubt the spell known as firestorm. If the mansion hadn’t been made out of stone, we’d be stranded in a sea of fire by now. I put up magic wall around both Grace and myself, trying to keep the flames at bay. But Rodney leaped to attack from above with his claws. Another magic wall met his onslaught. The spell lasted through one, two of his attacks. But on the third, a shattering sound preceded the wall as it turned into dust, scattering. I immediately tried to put up another, but Rodney crashed through it with his entire body, shattering it to pieces.
“A spell of that level won’t——!”
Still in motion, he swung his claws, trying to cut me in half. I was a second too late in responding, and had no way to block the assault. The moment I resigned to receive the attack full on, Grace jumped in between us, deflecting Rodney’s claws with Neel’s Longsword. Rodney’s expression clouded, and he tried bashing Grace with his left arm. I put up a new magic wall to intercept the attack. As I did, Rodney lowered his left hand, bringing up his left foot in a powerful kick. The kick easily broke through magic wall, and slammed into Grace, sending her rolling and bouncing like a rag doll across the floor.
“Grace!” I launched a series of smaller, controlled magic ball spells at Rodney, while running over to her side and switching to elder heal. Even so, Grace was unable to recover fully from the attack. While she managed to push herself to her feet, she swayed, disoriented.
The fight that followed kept us hard pressed on the defensive. If things continued like this——
We stood shoulder to shoulder now, and Grace drew up next to me, speaking softly so only I could hear.
“——A Dark Magus can’t be damaged by normal attacks. It has to be through magic, or a special weapon imbued with magical energy.”
“I wish you would have told me that earlier.” I smiled bitterly at her words, late as they were. Grace seemed to have been trying to avoid mentioning the Dark Magus earlier, so I suppose I couldn’t blame her too much. Either way, even if I had heard it earlier, it’s not like our battle plan would have changed overmuch. Grace continued to press in close against me, still speaking softly.
“If it’s you, Kei, then I think it’s possible. If it’s you, who can affix light magic to a sword——”
Reading her intentions, I turned to smile at her.
“——Okay, got it. ‘Do or die’, right?” With that, Grace and I separated; she to Rodney’s left, and I to his right.
Only a moment after separating, my gaze met hers across the room, and I lifted the iron mace high above my head, before throwing it with all my might towards Rodney. As if on que, he tried to reflexively knock it away with his claws. That’s what I’d been waiting for. I brought all my magical energy to bear, casting the magic light upon the mace.
The mace, which Rodney had been following with his eyes, suddenly burst into bright light, taking him unprepared. I saw him avert his gaze from the sudden appearance of the blinding light for just a moment. As if to try and overwrite my previous spell, I released several medium-sized magic ball spells towards the point of light. Rodney seemed to realize this, though as he finally knocked the mace away, the multiple spheres of magical energy camouflaged by the light were too close for him to avoid.
“Geh——!!” Rodney’s voice was strained with pain. The multiple spheres had hit, injuring him, and caused bluish-blackish blood to spatter from the wounds. Grace moved in, using secret step to circle around behind Rodney to the left. She aimed for the moment the magic ball spells hit, leveraging the sharpened point of Neel’s Longsword at his chest, and lunged forward with everything she had. In the same instant, I imagined a swelling of magical energy along the tip of the blade. It wasn’t the pistol-like bullet variety, but the enormous kind, with enough power to blast down a thick tree. I visualized it compressing to a single point at the edge of her longsword.
Grace’s attacks up to now had barely affected Rodney, though they still managed to scratch him nonetheless. Still, she had been unable to deal any deep, lasting damage. That’s why we’d both thought of the same strategy; to focus magical energy on the tip of her sword, which she’d swing with all her might to crash against Rodney, following which I would release the pent-up magical energy directly inside the wound, small as it might be.
Grace leapt in with perfect timing, and with Rodney’s focus still on me, it didn’t look like he would have the time to avoid the impact. As it turned out, Rodney was unable to avoid the assault. But unfortunately, Grace’s blade connected not with the left side of his chest, but with his left shoulder. He twisted at the last instant.
Neel’s Longsword buried itself nearly ten centimeters deep in Rodney’s bicep thanks to the magical energy concentrated on the tip, before I exploded the super-sized magic ball. With an explosive, metallic clanging sound, Rodney’s left arm was blown away. The force of the explosion was so great that even Grace was flung backwards. I ran to her side, casting elder heal on her twice in quick succession, before pointing to the room’s entrance.
My shout was plain and simple, and Grace nodded in reply. Stumbling, we pushed out through the door and into the hall beyond.
I plan on finishing this arc of BSDS before working on Orc Gentleman and Amaterasu again (two more chapters). I really appreciate all the comments and likes, and will try and get out the next chapter before the week is up.
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