|Author: Sasaki Ichiro||Original Source: Syosetu|
|Translator: Mab||English Source: Re:Library|
An unpleasant smell of dust and burnt objects filled the surroundings.
The evil-warding barrier stakes were rapidly losing their effectiveness due to the incoming evil spirits (phantoms) and the load of the powerful evil wave Huberta the specter emitted.
“Wait, Huberta! There’s no need to fight, we can talk it out. You seem to misunderstand something, but I assure you that we’re bearers of the same injury both!”
Waving my staff that had ‘Light’ active at its tip like it was a spear to receive the approaching evil spirits, I chanted: “Seeds of flame, fly and burst— Napalm!” to shoot a fire-based magic art into the more dense area as I frantically called out to Huberta who was instructing all the phantoms from behind them with her tremendous malice.
“I HATE YOU SO MUCH EITHER YOU DIE OR I WILL!!”
However, she cut it down dry. I was already her sworn nemesis before I knew it. Huberta, insistent on not lending me an ear, shot an arrow filled with red mythical power from her fingertip.
Vier and I hastily evaded it, but I felt cold air slowly permeate my body from the spot where the arrow lightly grazed me.
“But why?! You almost understood it too, that your looks aren’t what is most precious! What made you change your mind…”
“YOU CUR…!! How many times more do you want to mock me?! Die! Die! You must die! I abhor your very existence!!”
I judged her to be someone reasonable and sympathetic, thus I tried to persist in persuading her so that we could avoid the conflict, and yet, for some reason, the more words I said, the more obstinate Huberta became.
“No way… What made you so belligerent?!”
“SEE A DAMN MIRROR—!!!”
Right then and there, the stakes finally burst into flames and the evil-warding barrier was undone.
“O Fire, dance!— Flame!”
As I grew confused as to why our conversation just wouldn’t mesh, I cast my most familiar Flame to keep the evil spirits at back— but, the Flame that normally would swell up almost like a fire tornado was only at the level of a mind-numbing campfire.
(…this isn’t good. I used Sonar Force with all of my mana this evening, so I have almost no surplus of mana in my body.)
In my case, I usually keep a reservoir of mana in my dantian and use it in small portions as needed through mana manipulation by applying ancient martial arts breathing techniques and meditation (the ignition is only for internal mana; to cause a magical phenomenon, naturally existing ambient mana is needed), but at the present time, I had no surplus mana in my body, so I had to take in mana from the outside and release it again every time—well, that’s the common practice, though—since that means I have to keep revolving the mana, the output isn’t as powerful and it’s not as fast in terms of rapid fire.
“Go, phantoms! Suck out her life energy dry! Destroy her face beyond recognition so I will never ever see it again—!!”
Huberta’s hysterical cry made me think of a certain possibility…which was nigh improbable, but the possibility came to mind, so I asked.
“Erm, Huberta. Purely for academic purposes, I’m going to ask you something… So, umm, by any chance, is my face… pretty, or something?”
Instantly, Huberta’s mask cracked with a loud snap.
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“…” Hmm~~ Did I phrase my question wrong? I mean, I understand it’s a rather hurtful act to ask such a question abashedly and right in front of her face, but, fundamentally, trying to understand the standard of beauty and ugliness is just that difficult, right?
Naturally, some aspects of common sense could be used as a benchmark to some extent, but there are many aspects that can’t be accepted, depending on the ethnicity, culture, or time period. For example, in a well-off country, obesity is a symbol of lack of self-control, but in poorer countries where food rarely comes by, being fat could become a status symbol. Since the values and positions that form the basis for judgment are different, there really isn’t a global standard when it comes to beauty…on the contrary, I think it’s only natural for 10 different people with 10 different values of aesthetic, and that there will be discrepancies between them.
Which is why, coming from someone with the perspective of a high school boy in my previous life, my face could be summed as “pretty cute I guess?” But, whether that was what the people here think or not…it was blurry at best.
In fact, I’ve had a teacher who derailed the history class to prattle about how in the Edo period, beautiful oval-shaped and modern-looking thin faces were considered vulgar amongst the workers…so it was only natural for me to guess that our senses of value were just completely different…right?
Well, regardless of how people see me, I am Jill the Witch’s Apprentice. By now, I don’t really fuss over my own appearance, but since Regina whom I live together with keeps calling me “dumb face,” it just doesn’t click with me—I couldn’t think of my own face as something worthy of recognition, but seeing how over Huberta was reacting…I’m beginning to feel like I made a fundamental mistake.
“…uhh, I’m not being overly self-conscious or anything, just asking for a general opinion…?”
At such a question, Huberta, her body shaking hard with her head hanging down, vigorously raised her upper body as she stomped on the ground as if to shake the earth and let out a scream.
“Don’t flatter yourself, you ugly wench! You abominable, unsightly s̲l̲u̲t̲! The disrespect you show to this noble and exalted Rose Princess, Huberta, is unforgivable! Very well, I will tell you straight! I’ve never seen a girl as hideous, vicious, and nauseating to look at such as you!! I’ll do you a favor and wipe you from the face of this world!!”
“…” Yeah, it hurts to hear someone say it so frankly to my face
“Don’t bully master!” But, at that moment, my Sirius familiar Vier raised an angry howl and leaped at Huberta with her wings spread.
Some phantoms tried to take advantage of it and rushed at her, but— Whoa! She extinguished them with a mere touch! That must be the power of a Sirius. But, no matter how prestigious a divine beast she was, Vier was still a pup. No matter how high her potential, she was yet to be ready to manifest it.
“You damn mutt—!!” Countless red arrows shot out of Huberta’s hands.
“Kyan!” Vier, shot through by several of those arrows, was blown away mid-air, bleeding red blood.
I rushed over to Vier, her little body bouncing on the ground, limp and unconscious. Blood was still flowing from her torso and left leg. I held Vier in my arms, trying to give her first aid, my robe and clothes stained notwithstanding.
“Vier! Stay with me, VIER!!” I called out to her, holding her close, but she didn’t seem to respond. Her little body gets colder and colder…
“Hah. I’ll suck you and your pet’s energy and send you two to the other world together.”
I could feel Huberta closing in behind me, her laughter snarky, but I was more concerned with trying to hold onto this little piece of life that was about to spill out of my hands.
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(God! Anyone! Please, help this little pup! I’ll do anything, just save her life!)
I poured all my energy, all my mana, my life force, into the circuit we shared that was steadily thinning—all the way until I felt like I’d emptied almost everything of me, before something deep in my heart unlocked with a click, as if a door that had been closed for so long, was now opening, revealing a dazzling light.
“Get away from Jill!”
As the crowd of phantoms was about to attack me and Vier in my arms, right at the nick of time, they rustled and moved away from me. I looked and saw Eren and Bruno stood with me behind them, as though to protect me, seemingly having regained their consciousness before I knew it.
The both of them were still pale from having had their life energy sucked out of them, but even so, their determination to not back down was written on their faces. Nevertheless, determination alone shouldn’t have deterred the phantoms to back down.
“Hmph, ashwood and salt?”
Upon closer look at the objects they were holding in their fading consciousness, they appeared to be an ash tree branch I brought for firewood and a lump of rock salt for seasoning. The ashwood holds the power of the natural world, and salt purifies impurity…both of which dispel evil. Perhaps they grabbed them by accident, but it was certain that those objects drove weak phantoms away.
“And yet, they are far too weak for this Huberta the Rose Princess. All three of you will be consumed together for sure.” With a leisurely gait, Huberta glided over the rock salt sprinkled on the ground. Eren and Bruno, however, refused to retreat from their spot even after her declaration. “Hah. You even trick children like these for your own benefit, truly a hateful wench till the end.”
Huberta and Jill had their conversation spiraling out of control. Unless there’s a third party, they would never be on the same page.