Chapter 188 - Uninvited Guests (1)
The banquet, held in conjunction with the opening of the Magic Contest which took place once a year, finished successfully. Above all, the unexpected appearance of a high elf meant that people were able to receive an answer regarding the relationship between Meltor and Elvenheim.
The balance between the Northern powers was collapsing! If the people who came were just Edwin and Ellaim, they might've thought it was just a visit.
It was true that it had been hard to find elves since the founding of Elvenheim, but it wasn't so rare that people doubted the existence of elves. In several countries at the Center, the elven slave trade still hadn't disappeared. There were also tribes of elves who communicated with humans.
However, high elves were beyond that common sense. Those who saw the unfathomable beauty and power of life overflowing from the high elf couldn't help admiring her. The woman was the guardian of the world tree, a high elf whose existence had been uncertain.
The appearance of Ellenoa, who was like royalty, was proof that Elvenheim sincerely wanted to build a relationship with Meltor.
"It seems like the forces in the North will be greatly overturned."
"We should go home and watch the situation for a while."
"Andras and Meltor, which one would be more advantageous to side with?"
"There are many variables in this generation. From the participation of Elvenheim to the appearance of a young hero..."
For the non-magicians and dignitaries from other countries, the Magic Contest was no longer of great interest. It was possible that the war in the North, which had lasted for 500 years, could finally end.
Regardless of whether it was the sword empire or the magic kingdom that won, the Central continent would be swept away by such changes.
Someone thought this deadlock would continue.
Someone else said that both places would be destroyed.
Another person thought that Meltor would win.
Yet another thought that Andras would win.
People gathered and imagined the future. The future of the Northern continent, during the next few decades, would depend on how the key figures of this era acted.
* * *
The day after the noisy banquet, Quattro was divided toward the north, south, east, and west in order to guard the area where the Elvenheim delegation was staying.
Of course, the guard duty wasn't a big deal. Aside from them, there were dozens of veteran war mages stationed at the boundaries. They would be able to cope with any attack, even if the knights of Andras fell from the sky.
After all, even the tower masters were guarding this place.
Including Theodore and the two guardians, there were seven masters. No, if he included the Magic Society's chairman, there were eight. In such a situation, anyone would be torn apart if they tried to aim for Ellenoa, even if the opponent was one of the empire's Seven Swords.
Thanks to that, Theodore was able to think about last night's confession.
[Yes, he is right in front of me.]
Ellenoa's warm smile, like sunshine.
[I have been longing for you.]
The voice which was like drops of dew at dawn could still be heard in his ears.
"Hoo..." Theodore's face turned red at the memory, then he suddenly sighed.
At that moment, he had been too caught up in Ellenoa's beauty to think about it, but now he couldn't help feeling embarrassed. There had been several women who expressed their affection toward him, but Ellenoa was the first to confess her love directly.
High elves could only choose their gender once. At a crossroad which she might regret for the rest of her life, Ellenoa had chosen to become a woman without any hesitation. She'd made the decision with the hope that she could be Theodore's companion.
'...How should I answer?'
This was a significant matter which could change the landscape of the North. If Theodore and Ellenoa became companions, Elvenheim and Meltor would no longer be separate.
This combination of the next tower master and a high elf, the two of them would be the last knot in the relationship between kingdoms. Theodore didn't know it yet, but this was why Kurt III had ordered him to escort Ellenoa.
However, things wouldn't have changed, even if he did know.
It didn't matter if the link between kingdoms was a matter of great urgency which would determine the future of the North. To accept or reject... Theodore had a great responsibility to think about Ellenoa's sincere heart in making his decision.
So, he thought about his own feelings regarding Ellenoa.
He wondered if he wanted to live his life with her.
...Or if Ellenoa would be happy with him. Theodore was thinking so hard that he didn't notice the person approaching him.
"Ah." Theodore jolted with surprise and stared at the girl in yellow robes standing before him. She was a member of Quattro. However, in reality, she was the Yellow Tower Master and the puppet of the grimoire, Paragranum.
"I have been calling you. What were you thinking about?"
"...It isn't a big deal. Did something happen? You are in charge of the west entrance."
"Unknown people are approaching here."
Theodore's expression changed as he asked hurriedly, "What?! Did they pass through the boundaries?"
"They encountered several people, but there were no conflicts. I don't know why, but I am the only one who can detect them."
"Can you tell their level?"
"Yes." Para closed her eyes before opening her mouth again, "One is master level, and the other three are skilled. You and my homunculus can somehow manage it."
"Sword master... Is it one of the empire's Seven Swords?"
"I don't know. However, my logic circuit is denying that guess. The empire's Seven Swords aren't stupid enough to enter Meltor's capital."
That's right. Theodore didn't contradict Para's words as he thought about this. The intentions of the other party were unknown, but it wasn't the first time he had encountered a situation like this.
Theodore didn't know who the opponents were, but he just needed to fulfill his mission.
Before the encounter with the enemies, Theodore briefly infused magic power into the emblem at the front of his uniform. It was to call Sylvia at the north entrance and William at the west entrance. He told the remaining two Quattro members to come to where he was. Para said the two of them could handle it, but it was best to avoid any mishaps.
'The two of them will take at least five minutes to arrive.'
Until then, Theodore and Para had to handle it somehow. Then Theodore started to see the 'unknown' people whom Para had talked about. However, he could determine their identities. "That... Aren't they servants from the palace?"
Theodore had entered the palace several times, so he remembered the uniform. He looked back at Para with a questioning gaze, but she shook her head with an impassive expression.
"It is a disguise. I don't know how."
"Are you sure?"
"There is no one in Mana-vil who can fool my eyes. If you don't believe my advice, I will leave the decision to you."
As the two of them talked, the palace retinue was coming closer. However, there were no worrisome signs. Moreover, Theodore's senses were silent, and his detection magic didn't find anything. Indeed, it would be ridiculous if Theodore easily revealed the disguise that even a grimoire didn't know how it was done.
Finally, the servants arrived before Theodore and Para, and bowed. "Excuse me. We have come to arrange the delegation's accommodation, according to His Majesty's orders."
"...Do you know who I am?"
"Huh? You're Theodore Miller, the captain of the magic division Quattro," the servant's answer flowed out naturally. The servant's breathing wasn't disturbed, and his eyes asked why Theo was asking such a thing. Theodore looked for a reaction to find fault with, but the servant just waited silently without saying anything.
At this moment, Theodore had to decide if he should follow Para's advice or send them along without a disturbance. Then Theodore made his decision and moved to the side. "You may enter."
"Oh, thank you. Glory to you, Quattro!"
"It is nothing."
The servants passed one by one. One step, another step...
Theodore could feel Para's gaze tickling the side of his face. The servants walked past the road paved with square slabs and stepped onto the dirt path which matched the ecology of the elves. It was at this moment that...
The legs of the servants became buried in the dirt. It wasn't just up to their ankles or knees. This was a phenomenon seen in tidal flats or mash areas. The four men reflexively tried to pull out their feet, but the ground had hardened for some reason.
This wasn't a natural phenomenon. It was already too late by the time they realized belatedly. Then Keraunos fell from the sky.
- - - - - --!! Sound filled the area. The air burst, and the ground, which had been hardened with Mitra's power, melted away. It was a disaster caused by magic. The eight thunderbolts focused on one point. Any human-sized creature would disappear without a trace.
However, Theodore and Para sensed it simultaneously.
"No, it was blocked."
As the ground boiled, the shadows of four people shimmered in the steam. The 6th Circle magic which was equivalent to the 7th Circle magic, 'thunder spears,' was aimed at the target. The effect range wasn't wide, but it would've been enough to sweep away the four men.
As to how the magic was blocked, that wasn't revealed until the steam cleared.
Blood flowed from the lips of Mujak, the man who had broken the thunder spears. He had blocked the magic attack using his aura he had trained for over 60 years. However, he couldn't erase the full power of the thunder.
No, it was more than that. Mujak mourned at the sight of his scorched black sword, which had been hand-crafted and handed to him by the Sultan.
"Cough. My sword... You dare to damage the Sultan's...!"
It was just an excuse to buy some time. He had been thoroughly pushed back in power. Mujak's eyes sunk because he realized this fact.
According to the infiltration report, this man was the young hero of Meltor and the girl was his colleague. Mujak had heard a lot of rumors, but he didn't know that the hero had become a master at this age.
The risk was too big! The operation to meet the high elf had already failed. However, unlike Mujak's cool judgment, the heads of the other Janissaries were boiling.
"Captain! We have to hurry!"
"We will stay here and buy some time! Captain should go ahead!"
"Hurry before reinforcements come because of the noise!"
However, Mujak suppressed his men's hasty desire. "No, we failed. It is unnecessary to fight here."
His subordinates weren't masters, so they didn't know. However, Theodore and Mujak had already grasped each other's capabilities. They were at a level to take each other's lives. If Mujak turned around, he would be killed instantly. Besides, there would be no effect if Para's body was killed, unlike the Janissaries.
Then the dynamics were crucially tilted with the arrival of the remaining Quattro members.
"What is the uproar, Captain?"
Sylvia and William, the primary candidates to become the next blue and white tower masters, had arrived. The capacities of the two were already close to Prime ranks, so they could easily overcome the Janissaries whom Mujak had brought.
As Theodore and his companions formed an encirclement, Mujak realized the escape path was now blocked.
"Huh, so many excellent young people..."
It was unheard of in Austen, which was drying up because of the drought. Those with talent left for other countries, while only the powerless remained to rot. The sight of parents throwing away their children in order to reduce the number of mouths to feed was common, but why was Meltor so abundant?
"Why are the heavens favoring them!?" Mujak lamented while tightening his grip on the sword.
Puk. His melted shamshir fell down onto the ground. Theodore's eyes narrowed as Mujak disarmed himself and raised both hands in the air.
"Hey, Meltor's young hero," Mujak called out.
"...What is it?"
Mujak ignored Theodore's testy tone and replied, "This old man will admit to being guilty of an unauthorized invasion of Meltor's capital. I hope you will imprison us according to humane procedures."