Chapter 1, Part 6
After making sure the Gundo’s bolt was drawn back, the girl pumped it once.
K-chak—once the cartridge was loaded, the spring mechanism’s “spell drum” began to rotate and emit a clear crackle.
Lastly, she used her right hand to push her long hair back and feel around for the tattoo of a crest on the back of her neck.
Once she’d confirmed with the feeling in her fingertips that the crest was still there, she pulled a connecting cable out from her Gundo and, wrapping it around her neck like a choker, she connected the cable’s crest to the crest on her own neck. She then felt her consciousness becoming one with the Gundo.
“…’The Ripper,'” she muttered, confirming the spell she was going to use. It was one of the simplest spells she had at her disposal, meaning it could be invoked quickly. In other words, it was a useful spell for this situation.
With a deep breath, the girl started to chant the spell.
The spell buzzed to life. A magic circle began to take shape, and a large number of complex blue patterns floated up around her.
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 activation sequences for the same magic spell could change subtly depending on the time and place.
The bluish-white magic circle rotated around the girl.
The many floating patterns all meshed together, forming a new shape. The magic circle had looked complicated and chaotic at first, but it was becoming more organized and unified in accordance with the girl’s words.
It was like many scattered pieces coming together to form a whole.
* * *
Unexpectedly, it was Tohru’s hatchet that was the first to give out.
With a horrible screeching noise, the unicorn bit off the edge of the blade. After 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 subsequently made a beeline for the ground. On top of gravity increasing the speed of its descent, it was using acceleration magic to run even faster.
It was like the unicorn was challenging Tohru to a game of chicken.
If he let go of the unicorn while in the air, it would bite him to death in an instant. He didn’t have wings or magic, so evading in the air would be out of the question. He didn’t have a weapon that would allow him to block the attack anymore, either. It’d be over for him the second he let go.
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.
Once he realized that its 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 of the unicorn’s path, then he ought to be able to put a bit of distance between them, which would buy him 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 its toll. It had messed up his body temperature and blood flow, so more stamina had been sapped from him than expected. The enhancement of his body through “Iron-Blood Transformation” didn’t revive his stamina; as a matter of fact, it burned it up even faster.
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, it decelerated and whipped around.
Unarmed and unable to use magic, 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 they slipped off.
Summoning all his remaining strength, Tohru extended his arm. He tried to grab onto to one of the many branches in the area, 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 checked his distance from the ground—and jumped.
His body made a thud as it hit the damp soil. He glanced at the bisected Feyra just to be sure, 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 something resembling numbness spread through his body.
Truthfully, he wasn’t necessarily thrilled to have survived, nor was he elated at “winning” the fight.
What was this?
Some strange sense of accomplishment had manifested deep inside him. As some new, unknown aspect of himself began to worm its way in…the girl called to him from the other side of the river.
Groaning with severe exhaustion, Tohru dragged himself across the river to the girl. As she disassembled her weapon, she spoke in a slightly fearful tone.
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.”
“Saboteurs” were a specialized class of warriors that excelled on the battlefield.
In contrast with cavaliers that honored formality and etiquette, they 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, much like mercenaries. It was more convenient for the employer to hire people 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…the saboteurs’ homes were crushed by royal decree, including the village of Acura where Tohru and the rest of his clan grew up.
Tohru and the others should have all been slaughtered as well; however, the saboteur town of Acura had gained information which allowed them to escape ahead of time. They were probably 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 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.
People of Acura were only able to associate with the world through combat.
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 plainly. 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.