Chapter 123 - Crossing the Wilderness (3)
The 3rd Circle Fireball was the most popular attack magic. Once five large fireballs bigger than an adult's head appeared, the darkness disappeared and revealed the place where Theodore was standing.
The procession members were quite far away, but the light and heat still stung their eyeballs. It wouldn't be difficult to burn a human-sized creature with this amount of power. However, the one who actually made the fireballs, Theodore, looked up at them with a puzzled expression.
'What? I used enough magic power to make only three.'
But that worry was quickly resolved. The circular scar on his left hand, the mark of the 'Ring of Muspelheim,' throbbed like it was boasting of its own merits.
The mark had the ability to dramatically increase the owner's fire affinity and reduced fire magic consumption by half. It seemed like this power acted independent of Theo's will. If so, Theo had to add that variable into his calculations.
Once he finished thinking, Theodore gazed ahead of him.
"...Fast. Is it a quick animal like a camel?"
It was like he said. The dust on the horizon came close enough that he could distinguish the colour of the fluttering turbans. Camels were a rare sight on the northern continent, but in fact, camels were one of the best animals for fast riding. They were short-distance sprinters who could run around 65km/hr.
Aside from admiring it, his cold eyes also caught the targets for his fireballs.
"Go," Theodore declared, and the five fireballs flew forward. They were aimed at the ones coming in the forefront. The vanguard of any group was strong, and the charging power of this vanguard was reduced by half.
"° C ¥ £ ￠!"
However, Theo's instincts told him there was something unusual as the enemies acted quickly.
They scattered widely in all directions, heading away from the massive magic, while the proficient enemies who remained wielded their swords directly against the fireballs. The crescent-shaped shamshirs moved, and the fireballs literally split apart, bursting in the air.
Theo scoffed in a cold manner as he watched.
Puk! Puuok! Puk!
The brow, throat and mouth... Translucent arrows pierced the areas which couldn't be protected by armour, causing a fountain of blood.
The one who had destroyed the fireball was devastated by the surprise attack and fell off the camel. The thick darkness wasn't a friend. It made them miss the wind arrows hiding behind the fireballs.
This was real magic, different from those obsessed with flashy displays. The previous attack took out five people, so it wasn't too bad.
However, the enemies weren't stupid. In exchange for taking out five men, Theodore had exposed his position. Magicians were strongest in a group battle where they could exercise their abilities in a safe place. The enemy boss knew this and headed toward the lone magician with a few men.
However, he did this without knowing that it was Theodore's aim.
Was it because they had lost a companion...? One warrior came forward recklessly, jumping off the camel while drawing his sword. The light around the curved blade proved that he was an aura user. In other words, he had a power which could cut through magic shields in one strike!
"...How simple." Theodore accepted the blade without any hesitation.
It cut-no, it couldn't cut anything. The warrior who struck with his sword was confused for a moment. There was no feeling of cutting through something despite having clearly cut the enemy. The moment that his movements stopped, Theodore turned off Fluidization and punched out.
'Battle Song. Rhapsody of Power. Mezzo Forte.'
The impact of Theo's attack was strengthened by magic. The first punch penetrated the armour in one blow and crushed the heart hidden in the ribs.
The warrior's breathless body was thrown back.
The enemy leader's face stiffened as he watched the scene. Then he raised his left hand and gave instructions to his men. After his gestures, the camels running in a straight line shifted directions and started circling around Theodore.
'An encirclement command? Moreover, it was done through hand motions? Aren't they more like soldiers than bandits?' Theodore's doubts shifted to this conviction.
As proof of this conviction, the leader came forward to speak after the encirclement was completed.
"Young man, your skills are very good."
"...The north's official language?"
"But I believe that your skills are just up to here. If you resist anymore, I won't be able to spare your life."
Theodore laughed at the threat. "Are you telling me to surrender now?"
"That's right. Our goal is your surrender, and once the ransom for you is received, you can return to your homeland."
"Do you even believe the nonsense that you are speaking?"
It wasn't just the leader who spoke the north's official language that responded to Theo's antagonism. The warriors lashed out as well.
"This young man doesn't want to live."
"Let's just kill him, Boss! Even if the mage uses his fist, how can he deal with so many people at this distance?"
"I told you to stop!"
As they argued about his life, Theodore lips parted with cynicism on his tongue. How arrogant were they to think they could decide his life? There was a lot he wanted to teach them properly, but he needed to check something first.
He stared straight into the leader's eyes and asked, "Should I even really call you bandits? Aren't you Austen's regular army led by a Janissary? Or a looting unit?"
"Don't say that you're not. The warriors move according to military discipline, and they use the same swordsmanship." Theo cut off the leader with his words before continuing in a loud voice, "Isn't it said that the Janissaries are the Sultan's sword? Then this plundering was ordered by the Sultan?"
The atmosphere changed after that. In the desert kingdom of Austen, the Sultan was the representative of the gods. Unlike the commoners' perception toward the monarchy in common countries, all the people in Austen believed that they were born to serve the Sultan. In particular, the Janissaries were fanatics who would bite off their tongue if ordered to do so by the Sultan.
The enemy's leader-no, the Janissary, replied in an eerie voice, "No, we have no affiliation with him."
"And I'm not a Janissary. My men aren't regular soldiers of Austen." A white sword emerged from the sheath hanging at his waist. "Stop the chatter, we are enemies. I destroyed my name and pride, and am just a regular bandit killing merchants on the roads!"
"...Is that so?"
"I will kill you here!"
The Janissary and his men gradually approached Theo without destroying their formation.
There were seven aura users and one of the expert level. Even experienced war mages wouldn't be able to escape from their encirclement. However, Theodore didn't panic at all at the thought of his skin becoming like a beehive. As Theo had known earlier, they weren't ordinary enemies.
'Then I will put the final touches on his self-professed person.'
The preparations were already finished, and Theo counted their steps in the darkness. 30m to 25 m, 25m to 20m... Then finally, it was a distance where they could reach him in one leap.
However, the moment the warriors took one step forward...
[Pall dow!] Mitra's voice resonated loudly from under the ground.
"£ ￠ ￥ ￥ £!!"
The firm ground collapsed, and the hard floor turned into a sandy field, making them slip on the ground.
There was no way to escape it since they noticed too late. Every piece of land they tried to use as a foothold turned into sand, and every time they tried to move, their heavy weight made them sink further.
Pusususu-... The sound of the sinking sand was creepy.
This terrible sandbox was an ant hell.
"-This, guyyyy!" Only one person, the Janissary, responded to the ant hell. He was one beat late, but he managed to run across the sand and aim the tip of his sword at the culprit, Theodore. If this blow reached, it might reverse the unfavourable situation.
However, Theodore's magic finished quickly. "[Gale, be my blade.]"
The first magic spell he had used from the Balcia Empire shattered the bodies of the warriors buried in the sand.
* * *
The ensuing battle was one-sided.
The warriors that the Janissary had brought with him to attack Theo were the elites, while the others were less powerful. Since the main force had disappeared from the battlefield, the mercenaries hired by Polonell were able to struggle against the remaining bandits.
Additionally, there were the six living armors left behind by Theodore.
Living armor itself wasn't that rare. It was an inferior product made by imitating found relics, and nobles often purchased them as guards, despite the lack of practicality. However, disciplined living armour, which could deflect the sword of warriors and then attack exposed gaps, was rare.
At that moment, another warrior lost his life due to a living armor.
"A-Amazing..." The merchant Bear was impressed as he watched.
He had seen the living armour from a noble family fight against a knight but had thought it was nothing more than window dressing. However, what about the living armour currently in front of him? They were just like real knights as their swords slashed at the enemy's neck with smooth motions.
His merchant's instincts wriggled as he was filled with the desire to buy them instantly.
Thanks to the living armor and the resistance of the mercenaries, the enemies started to struggle and were destroyed without knowing their leader had already died. The living armor confirmed the disappearance of the enemies' life force, and their summoning was released.
In the end, Bear could only watch and drool over the empty space. "Ah... Too bad."
"Huh? What is so unsatisfactory?"
Bear looked over at the approaching Theodore, who was wiping off the blood stuck to his robes.
Although Bear had complained that moving away from the party was suicidal, the story was different now. He hadn't been able to see it closely, but Theo's performance had been great. They might not have won if Theodore hadn't lured the boss.
Of course, the truth was different from that, but Theo didn't say anything.
"It's nothing. Oh Theo, what happened to the leader?"
"Oh, by Theo directly?"
Theodore's face wasn't that bright despite the victory, and Bear's words reminded him of the scene from that moment. The Janissary, who had been fighting to the end with his right arm cut off, knew that Theo had been trying to capture him, and made the decision without any hesitation.
He had exclaimed,"Glory to Austen's sun, the Great Sultan!"
Theodore still didn't understand the loyalty which had driven the leader to give up his life for the Sultan. Still, the great drought of the Austen Kingdom had driven a Janissary to looting.
Filled with more complicated emotions than the joy born from victory, Theo looked at the starry sky, realizing once again just how much of a mortal he was.