Chapter 1, Part 6
After making sure the Gundo’s bolt was drawn back, the girl pumped it once.
K-chak—it made a noise as she loaded the cartridge in. At the same time, the spring mechanism’s “spell drum” made a clear crackling sound, and began to rotate.
Lastly, she reached her right hand around to the nape of her neck and pushed her long hair back, searching for something.
More precisely, for a crest that had been tattooed on her there.
Relying on the feeling of her fingertips, she confirmed that the crest hadn’t moved or changed in any way. Then, she took a connecting cable that she pulled out from her Gundo, wrapped it around her neck, and fastened it in place with a click. The result was that she looked like she was wearing some sort of animal collar.
She connected the cable’s crest to the crest on her own neck, and with that, she felt her consciousness becoming one with the Gundo.
She muttered, confirming the spell she was going to use. It was one of the simplest spells she had at her disposal, and because of that, it had a fast activation and incantation and was therefore quite useful for this situation.
The girl took a deep breath, and started to chant the spell.
The spell buzzed to life, and a magic circle began to take shape. A large number of complex blue patterns floated up in the air around her and the Gundo.
She continued her chant, choosing her magic words carefully.
For using magic effectively over long distances, it was crucial to be able to make minute adjustments that fit the situation, taking into account everything from temperature and humidity to the stars and ley lines. It was of the utmost importance to verify each of these things one by one and optimize the magic spells accordingly, because two separate magic activation sequences for the same spell could change subtly depending on the time and place.
The bluish-white magic circle rotated around the girl.
The many patterns floating around all meshed together, forming a new shape. The magic circle had looked complicated and chaotic at first, but it was now becoming more organized and unified in accordance with the girl’s words.
It was like many scattered pieces coming together to create a whole.
* * *
The first sound to ring out, unexpectedly, was that of Tohru’s hatchet.
With a horrible screeching noise, the edge of the blade was bitten off.
Shaking its head and spitting out the broken pieces, the Feyra began to chant another spell.
With Tohru still clinging to its neck, it kicked off of the water’s surface and flew way up into the air.
As its legs pounded the empty air, it climbed higher and higher. Weaving through the branches of all kinds of trees, it leapt out of the forest—then, without warning, its body twisted in reverse.
And in the next moment, it broke off, dashing towards the ground with violent force. The speed at which it was falling continued to increase, and its magic was making the acceleration even faster.
—This is a game of chicken.
It was as if the unicorn was communicating that to Tohru.
The instant he slipped up and lost his grip on the unicorn, it would bite him to death. He didn’t have wings or magic, so evading an attack from the unicorn in the air was out of the question. He didn’t have a weapon that would allow him to block the attack anymore, either. The instant he let go, it would mean certain death.
However, if he continued to hold on, he would crash into the ground along with the unicorn. It was likely that if that were to happen, they would explode into pieces of meat scattering in all directions.
Tohru and the unicorn were both falling headfirst.
Realizing that its continued acceleration was an attack directed at him, Tohru made a decision. If the unicorn wasn’t intending to kill itself as well, it would surely have to slow down at some point and kill its momentum instead by kicking the air. That would be the time to let go. If he then jumped off in the opposite direction that the unicorn ended up heading in afterwards, then he should be able to put a bit of distance between them and buy a bit of time.
His leg slipped a bit.
This is my limit, huh…
Tohru bit his lip.
He had thought he could hold on for a bit longer, but the river had truly taken a toll on his body temperature and blood flow, and so more stamina had been sapped from him than expected. The enhancement of his body through the use of “Iron-Blood Transformation” didn’t compensate for his loss of stamina; as a matter of fact, it consumed even more stamina than normal.
Feeling like he was coming loose but having no strength left to readjust, Tohru released himself from the unicorn and into the sky.
The unicorn seemed to see its chance and, kicking nothing but the empty air, the unicorn decelerated–and adjusted its direction.
Without the use of magic and without any weapon, either, Tohru had no way of guarding his body from its next attack.
In that moment—
“Come, ‘The Ripper!'”
The girl shouted.
And in the next instant—
It was literally only an instant.
But…in his current transformed state, Tohru was able to see everything in detail.
The magic circle seeped out from the air and coiled around the unicorn many times over. As it revolved, it instantaneously converged on one point and vanished inside the unicorn’s body.
A roar of anguish thundered across the forest.
As if some invisible edged blade had sliced it apart, the unicorn’s body tore into two—both its left and right sections were blown apart.
Fresh blood spattered down like rain.
The exploded Feyra didn’t fall directly to the ground; rather, the pieces crashed into the trunks of the trees that were nearby, causing large amounts of blood to drip down when it they slipped off.
Summoning all his remaining strength, Tohru extended his arm. He tried to grab onto to one of the many branches that this area was populated so densely with, but it broke, so he tried again and hooked his fingers around another branch. This broke the speed of his fall, and just before falling to the ground he successfully grabbed a particularly thick branch.
Panting heavily, Tohru confirmed his distance from the ground—and jumped.
His body made a thud as it hit the damp soil. Just to be sure, he looked towards the bisected Feyra, but of course it was no longer moving.
It was dead.
The Feyra—had been killed.
“I guess…we did it.”
“My battle has ended.”
As he chanted the keywords, he began to change.
“I am man…”
His consciousness, along with his five senses, started to return to normal—his body, which had been hardened into steel, was now recomposing itself into something that resembled a man once more. A feeling of semi-numbness spread through him.
To be honest, he felt no joy that he survived, nor was he elated at “winning” the fight.
What was this?
Some sort of—strange sense of accomplishment.
It had manifested deep inside his body. As some aspect of himself he didn’t even know existed ate into him…the girl called to him from the other side of the river.
Moaning, Tohru dragged his body across the river over to where the girl was, heavy with exhaustion. The girl spoke in a slightly frightened tone as she disassembled her weapon.
The girl pointed her finger at the tip of Tohru’s nose.
He heaved a long sigh.
It wasn’t something he felt he had to keep secret from this young girl.
“Well, I was a saboteur originally.”
“Saboteur”—that was the term used to describe specialized soldiers that excelled on the battlefield.
In contrast with cavaliers that honored formality and etiquette, there were soldiers that were in charge of all kinds of dirty jobs on the field like assassinations, sabotage, and reconnaissance. Rather than swearing allegiance to a single nation, most were hired by a wide variety of nations in a mercenary fashion. It was more convenient for the employer to have employees they could cut loose at any time if necessary. Such people were called saboteurs, and they lent out their talents in order to make a living.
“My purpose vanished along with the battlefield,” Tohru said in a self-deprecating tone.
Saboteurs were only useful in the midst of combat. Now, in this world of peace, the powerful and influential only considered their talents a nuisance because their abilities lent well to revolts and uprisings.
As a result…on the orders of kings of various nations, the saboteur homes were all crushed, including the village of Acura where Tohru and his clan acquaintances grew up.
Tohru and the others should have all been slaughtered as well; however, the saboteur town of Acura learned about it ahead of time and vacated. Currently, they were still on the run.
From the moment they were born, they had been raised to become saboteurs.
Being a saboteur meant forsaking your entire being for the purpose of battle.
But—Tohru had that snatched away from him before even setting out for his first battle.
There were no battlefields anywhere on the continent anymore, and no one wanted saboteurs of Acura around. A small fraction of saboteurs were employed by the nobles, but the rest of them had no choice but to abandon their saboteur way of life.
They were born for battle.
They were raised for battle.
They died for battle.
That was the way of the Acura, and was also their pride.
Through battle alone, the people of Acura were able to associate themselves with the world.
Aside from battle, Tohru knew nothing. He had never known anything else.
And so, now–
Hearing the girl’s voice, Tohru came back to his senses.
“Saved. Because, you, here.”
The girl folded her arms, speaking in a matter-of-fact manner. It seemed like she was trying to cheer him up.
It wasn’t flattery or common courtesy; he could tell that she genuinely meant it. She could have been trying to deceive him, sure, but she just didn’t seem like that kind of person.
“…Well, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen very often.”
The girl smiled.
Now that she mentioned it, he had offered that.
“Nice to meet…um…”
The girl tilted her head.
He realized she had asked for his full name and continued.
“Tohru Acura. And you are?”
She started to say, and then shook her head.
The saboteur, Tohru Acura.
The wizard, Chaika Trabant.
The two were pulled together by fate—of course, at this time, they didn’t even have an inkling of what would possibly await them in the future.