Chapter 196 - Mercurius (3)
The reaction took place in a single moment. Against Mujak who had formed dozens of swords, Lloyd jumped forward without hesitation. The vivid turquoise blades shook like leaves in a sandstorm.
It was a phenomenon caused by being pushed by the great amount of aura released. Mujak's Mirage was a decisive skill which could deal dozens of attacks at the same time.
The blades released sharp screams as the two swordsmen crossed each other.
They both groaned, but the depth of their groans was different. Mujak stared with disbelief at the sword piercing his abdomen. This was a technique which had never betrayed him until now. It was an ability that gave him a one-sided superiority, allowing him to corner his opponent.
The pained Mujak expressed his doubts, "...Ho-w?"
His questioning eyes swept over Lloyd's body. There were a few wounds from 'MIrage' on Lloyd's body, but none of them were serious. Lloyd was the one who benefited from the dozens of swords and managed to damage Mujak. Mujak couldn't understand it.
Then Lloyd muttered, "An ability that makes swords real... it is a threat. If there were four or five more, I wouldn't be able to avoid a mortal wound." Lloyd let out a ridiculing snort. "This is a bad technique to use against me. I don't know if all the illusions can be materialized, but I have the ability to tell illusion from reality."
"Ugh..." Mujak groaned as pain shot up from his abdomen. How could he be defeated in this favorable situation? Blood emerged from between his lips.
However, unlike his mocking words, Lloyd recognized his opponent's capabilities. As proof, his usual relaxed atmosphere had disappeared.
'You aren't easy, master of the Central continent.'
It was too big a variable to overlook. Lloyd pulled out the sword that he had stabbed into Mujak. His aura flowed back to him. Then while his opponent was still recovering, he tried to kill Mujak. However, Lloyd couldn't achieve his purpose.
Ice spears and wind blades poured toward the place where he had just been standing.
"...Ah, I forgot about you."
It was a mistake. Lloyd retreated a few steps with a bitter smile. Mujak coughed up blood after the sword was pulled out, but he wasn't dead. Lloyd looked at the magicians lined up on either side of Mujak and retreated with a shrug. "I am at a disadvantage against four people. I will stand down first."
"I promise to meet you later."
William's attempt at restraining Lloyd didn't concern him as he disappeared around the corner. Despite the injuries he suffered, he was still a sword master. He had a strength which far exceeded the capacity of the human body.
"Damn, we have to chase him before he heals...!"
"No, chase him later."
"What?" William glanced at Sylvia after hearing her words.
"If we follow him without Mujak, the three of us will just be defeated. It is better to focus on healing Mujak here. We can just track him and attack him again."
"Uhh, your judgment is correct. You are also brilliant."
His head might be too heated up right now, but William was also an outstanding figure. He understood right away that Sylvia's words were right. So, before sitting down, he examined the passage a few times.
Then he used every detection magic that the White Tower had. "Hoo, it can't be helped. Then the decision is easy."
Mujak's wound was deep, but fortunately, it wasn't life-threatening. The combination of healing potions and healing magic placed him in a stable state. If Lloyd's plan had been to tie up the feet of his pursuers, it worked out perfectly.
Mujak, who had unknowingly become a burden to his party, apologized with a heavy sigh, "Hmm, this old man has become a burden. I'm sorry."
"No, you got injured."
"I would be happier if I had cut off one of his arms... This just makes me mad."
Mujak had pride in his own abilities, but the north had too many monsters. There was also Veronica, who could cut his head off as easily as peeling an apple. While Mujak was feeling ashamed, his eyes felt a strange sense of discomfort. He felt like a person had disappeared from among them.
"Um, I would like to say one thing if it isn't impolite."
"What is it?"
"T-That person isn't there."
The two of them didn't see anyone when they followed Mujak's finger. That's right. The two of them couldn't see anything.
"Where did the girl with yellow hair go?"
It was the sudden disappearance of the Yellow Tower candidate, Para.
* * *
Lloyd moved quickly and slowed down as he noticed there was no one following him. He thought there would be at least one person, but no one had chased him. They were fairly good despite their young age, truly worthy of being called the elite forces of Meltor. If possible, he wanted to reduce the group by one person before he was hit again.
'It was quite a dangerous situation,' Lloyd thought as he poured potions onto his wounds.
The higher the density of aura, the slower the recovery of the wound. These cuts from a master would probably take a month to heal completely. Mujak's stabbed stomach was more severe, but it wasn't a comforting thought.
"I am the loser only because he lacks practical experience," Lloyd muttered as he continued walking. "It would've been different if he had turned it into a fight of attrition. I would have had no way to escape. No, I won because I provoked him."
He analyzed the previous fight. This was Lloyd's hobby and habit, and the basis for his tactics.
Lloyd's win over Mujak was actually due to Mujak's self-destruction. Instead of taking advantage of the favorable situation, he had blind faith in his Aura Ability. If Mujak had maintained the siege with the three magicians, it would have been Lloyd who was killed.
That's why he had taunted Mujak until Mujak couldn't endure it any longer. For the Janissaries, the Sultan was their idol, so insulting him would cause their minds to empty. The taunt had worked, creating a 'chasm' in Mujak's perfect advantage.
This had been the winning factor. Lloyd was always faithful to his tactics, and the victory matched his abilities.
"...Hmm, the road still isn't visible. Is there no way to break inside?"
He had been walking for several kilometers. No matter how large the ruin was, a doorway should've appeared by now. However, Lloyd couldn't find anything. His Aura Ability was very useful, but he couldn't see anything other than short-term results. It had told him how to enter the ruins, but he didn't know how to break inside.
At that moment...
As if hearing Lloyd's inner thoughts, a voice echoed inside the dark passage, "You are interesting. I never thought I would see a master with the 'Pathfinder' ability."
"...Who?" Lloyd couldn't determine the location of the voice.
He hid his annoyed expression and looked around warily.
The voice seemed to be coming from the other side of the passage, giving an intimate feeling. "It allowed you to know how to wake up Mercurius, find the tunnel, and see the illusionary sword. If so, it isn't hard to understand. Pathfinder, the power of guidance, is the ability to see the conditional future."
"...You, who are you?"
Unlike a magician, the essence of the Aura Ability was like another life. Some abilities were unavoidable, but there were those like Lloyd's which were hard to determine. So far, he had used his ability to overcome dozens of adverse situations and reign victorious over strong enemies. It was literally his joker, his last trump card.
However, this voice knew his secret! Fear filled Lloyd's eyes as he raised his sword. Reading someone's mind and manipulating their behavior, this was the natural enemy of those with abilities such as his.
As Lloyd trembled with fear for the first time, a seemingly adorable girl appeared before him. She said, "Don't be afraid, it has been a long time since I've had so much fun."
The girl was one of Meltor's three magicians. Her presence was vividly clear now, unlike earlier when she had been hiding it. Lloyd raised his sword reflexively, but he was curious about the other person's true identity.
"Didn't you hear me ask who you were?"
"There is no reason to answer. You just have to listen to me talk."
It was absurd. Lloyd grew speechless at the reply. Meanwhile, Para opened her mouth again and said, "At first glance, Pathfinder looks like a universal power, but it has a fatal drawback. Previous users of the ability were ignorant of the weakness and died."
The ability to see the future was treated as a powerful ability in any age, and Lloyd's Pathfinder was a type of ability which saw the future. It told him the way to accomplish his purpose in the form of a 'road.'
He could make the impossible possible, as well as succeed when the probability was low.
However, Paragranum ridiculed his ability, "You are too short-sighted. You rode the ladder up but didn't realize that the end is a dead end. You crawled into this set of ruins without knowing anything."
"...Is that so?"
"Hoh?" Para was surprised by the reaction.
On the other hand, Lloyd held his sword with a cold and firm face. "Why are you saying such words when standing alone in front of me, Witch?"
"Witch... It has been a long time since I've heard that." While facing the sword master, the 24-year-old Para smiled brightly at his provocation. The girl's face was beautiful, and the declaration which emerged from her pink lips didn't match her outward appearance.
"Where is your confidence coming from, Mortal? How dare you place your dirty feet in my creator's place? I won't kill you. Instead, I'll play around with you for 10,000 years."
It was the first time Lloyd Pollan had felt this type of chill. This was an evil which was outside the standards of humans. The sincerity of the grimoire, Paragranum, caused the sword master to freeze. This was enough to wake up the survival instinct he thought he had forgotten.
"Kuoh, waaaaack!" Lloyd screamed with terror and attacked with his sword. Mortals usually chose one of three options when facing death. They would give up resisting or run away, or they would struggle meaninglessly, like Lloyd.
This response wasn't worth a penny to Paragranum.
"In the end, you all have the same reaction. It isn't interesting-" She yawned like a girl her age and ordered, "「Identification code PRGRN3681214, space freeze.」"
The world stopped. As Lloyd took a step, the area 1 meter around him froze. This was 9th Circle space magic from the Age of Mythology. Lloyd's eyes carried an expression of shock as he stopped moving.
Paragranum laughed at Lloyd's ridiculous frozen expression. Then while enjoying the power of the laboratory, she spoke, "You are like a child compared to my master."
"Don't roll your eyes at me. 「Isolation.」"
Lloyd's fate was determined with those syllables. The frozen space containing Lloyd literally disappeared. He would now be stored in a corner of the lab's warehouse which was only known to Paragranum.
A necromancer would turn him into a death knight, but he would be a perfect experiment in an alchemist's hands. Maybe he would become a chimera or a homunculus. Para's smile was that of an alchemist.
At that moment, the giggling Paragranum turned her head. It was due to the sudden stoppage of the vibrations caused by Mercurius. Since she still hadn't taken full control of the lab, there could only be one cause.
"It is over."
It was only known to Paragranum, but the fight in Paracelsus' laboratory was over.