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“Momose, try to minimize the shaking a bit. I’m about to bite my tongue.”
“Hot, hot, hot!! Sorry, just look at the situation before you complain!!”
While dodging and sometimes intercepting the incoming fireballs, I’m desperately running through the snowy path with Raika in my arms. The flames are big enough to engulf Raika completely; getting hit would undoubtedly be fatal. If it weren’t for carrying her, I don’t know how many times I might have died by now. …But then again, the reason I’m in this deadly situation is because of Raika, isn’t it?
“However… you’re surprisingly agile.”
“Huh? Did you say something!?”
“Just talking to myself. We’ve put enough distance between us and the village now, right? Time to make a move.”
“No way, you’re really going to do it…”
Cold sweat runs down my back, not from the heat. The fireballs hitting the snow and creating billows of steam are too dangerous to approach. The thief is enshrouded in the same flames. Can Raika really defeat him?
“How are you going to do it? There’s no way we can get close to that!”
“Using wind and earth like before won’t work well here, but I’ve gathered enough materials. So, Momose.”
“Yes? What is it?”
“Let’s split up. Do your best not to die.”
“Really, are you actually going to do it?!”
“Yes, so please follow the plan as we discussed.”
After our brief strategic meeting, I jump off Momose’s back. I’ve explained the plan in a way she should understand, so it should be fine. She has the courage not to flee, even if scared.
“But really, you’re persistent. That’s why even your subordinates dislike you.”
“Shut up! Don’t you dare open that piss-smelling mouth again!!”
“Oh? I was just guessing, but it seems I struck a nerve. You should try to improve if you’re aware of your faults―― ‘Water Shield’.”
I gather the rising steam to form a circular water shield, blocking the fireballs. Fast, too fast to catch with the eye. No wonder he’s the boss of a bandit group.
“Accelerating the rear of the fireball, making it like a bullet? You’re doing something reckless with no incantation. If it backfires, you could blow off your hand.”
“Then just shut up and take it. Why didn’t it ‘pierce through’?”
“I need to avoid a direct hit with the ‘first one’, no matter how fast. If I can predict its occurrence, it’s easy to defend.”
The scorching flames and compressed air bullets collide in mid-air, showering down sparks like snow. We weave incantations into our words while dodging in battle, a greeting befitting magicians. It seems he still retains a minimum level of sanity. After 1,000 years, this nostalgic sensation almost brings tears to my eyes.
“Hmm, the scale of magic is indeed different. A shootout seems slightly disadvantageous.”
Unable to fully negate the fireballs, fragments of the shattered flames scorch my clothes. Between wind and fire, he has the upper hand in power. Besides, his reckless, heavy hits are burdensome.
“Stop blabbering with that cool face! Die, burn, die right now, don’t ever speak with that face and voice!”
“No, I will speak. A magician cannot stay silent. Besides, this is my role.”
“Shut up, die, burn to ashes, writhe in agony, I won’t forgive you until you beg for mercy’.”
“…Ah, quite the barbaric incantation. You don’t realize how crude you are.”
He keeps recklessly launching fireballs, but now I see ‘this’ was his aim. The obscuring steam clears, and in the sky, a fireball unlike any before looms, shining like a star illuminating the earth. Its intense flames quickly melt the surrounding snow, and mirages start to flicker in their place.
“Looks like I can’t counter this one as before. Time to get serious with my spell.”
“Fool, you won’t have the time! Burn to a crisp in an instant!”
“Why do you think we split up? What’s your guess?”
If the man completes his final incantation, the massive flame in the sky will fall, turning everything to scorched earth. There’s no time for an elaborate spell from me, but a simple air bullet won’t suffice either.
In such a short time, I must also conjure a spell that won’t lose to his.
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“Alright, let’s have a little lesson. When handling magic, an incantation is usually necessary. Only very basic and simple magic can be performed without incantation.”
“What’s this nonsense, any magician worth their salt knows that…”
“I’m not speaking to you, but rather to our unwitting visitor from another world. Thought I should teach her this much. Are you ready?”
“Yes, somehow I managed to finish!”
As I dismount from Momo’s back, she gives a thumbs up, having completed all the necessary preparations. The thug, so blinded by his rage, probably didn’t even notice her. That’s why I entrusted her with this crucial task.
“To launch a large-scale magic, an extensive incantation is usually required. However, there are ways to circumvent this. One of the safest methods is to express the spell in a different form, such as through a magic circle.”
“What… you can’t be serious!”
“Indeed, I’ve done just that.”
I had handed Momo the longsword I had retrieved in the confusion, made from a material that can channel magic. I had it thoroughly imbued with my magic. Drawing a magic circle with such a sword on the ground post-snowmelt can be quite effective.
“Wait…! Burn, incinerate everything!!”
As the incantation completes, the gigantic fireball in the sky descends. But it’s too late; our spell is ready too.
“…become a giant soldier!”
The thawed snow, now liquid water, stirs to life and forms a massive, humanoid figure. It rises faster than the fireball can fall, reaching out its colossal arms toward the sky.
“Momo, you’ve done well. Come back here quickly.”
“I’m… I’m so tired…”
“If you stay there, you’ll be scorched by the steam. If you want to die, be my guest.”
“I’m coming right now!!”
As Momo rushes back, I shield us both with a wind magic just as the steaming hot water vapor engulfs everything around us.
“Wow, wow, wow! It’s not hot, but are we really okay?”
“No problem, just stay close. Hang in there, Golem!”
The Golem, initially shrinking from the fire’s touch, begins to expand again. If evaporation is a problem, then simply replenish the water vaporized. Once the water and fire are balanced, it’s clear which will prevail.
“How… why am I losing…!?”
“It’s a matter of experience. When it comes to a battle of magic power, I’ve got the upper hand.”
Finally, the Golem crushes the small fireball remaining in its palms, extinguishing it completely. Simultaneously, the flames around the man dissipate, and the battle decisively ends.
“I apologize for the trouble, but now you’re free to deal with him as you please.”
“Ah, ahh… but is this really okay, like this?”
Subduing the now dispirited man was easy. He’s currently sunk into the downsized golem, with only his head sticking out. Wrapping the chain I previously discarded around him should prevent any resistance.
“If you’re worried, you can always cut off his head. Also, his accomplices should be lying unconscious around here. Interrogate them and you might find out where their hideout is.”
“Wait, you’re right, I did find his gang members outside the village, but… who exactly are you?”
“Who knows? Anyway, my job here is done. So long.”
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Leaving the water golem behind, I make my way out of the village. Elernat, was it? I have a rough idea of where my next destination is. Fortunately, the villagers shared some food, so the journey shouldn’t be a problem.
“Wait! Thanks to you, our village was saved. At least let us thank you properly…”
“No need, I’m in a hurry. This food is more than enough.”
“No, you should stay. We can’t hand him over without you.”
“That’s right, leave it to me to take care of Raika-san!”
“…No, you should stay too!”
I hadn’t even noticed her next to me, so naturally, she had taken her place by my side.
“Please, I don’t have anywhere else to go! Don’t leave me behind!”
“But, I was supposed to bring you to this village…”
“But I feel safest when I’m with Raika-san.”
“…………….You’re quite bold, aren’t you?”
Indeed, it might be safer for her to be with me than in a village that’s just been ravaged and is about to undergo reconstruction. But still, I don’t want to bring this good-hearted girl with me. Maybe I should just shake her off.
“I still have more calorie bars! I shared half with the village chief, but there are chocolate and cheese flavors too…”
“No choice then, it’s part of our contract. But if you fall behind, I’m leaving you.”
“Thank you! I look forward to traveling with you!”
It’s bothersome, but if she can properly pay her dues, then so be it. This is not because I’m keen on tasting more flavors or because I’m lured by food. This is a legitimate contract.
“So, farewell, village chief. Good luck with the village’s reconstruction.”
“Ah, yes… Take care yourselves.”
Once again, we bid farewell to the village chief and set off. I now have a lively companion, but it will be a short association, so I won’t worry about it.
“Damn it… this wasn’t supposed to happen… It all started going wrong after meeting that monster…”
I heard the bandit muttering something behind us, but his words were lost in the wind and snow.