The sight of a massive rock golem towered in front of me as I waited patiently for the signal. To my left, a girl was building up magic for a strong spell.
“Raging Flame – Sear my enemy with the heat of my fire, Inferno!”
At that moment, a column of fire shot up from the golem’s feet and swirled around it. The warmth of the spell could be felt from tens of meters away.
However, the golem slowly trudged forward, seemingly unbothered by the heat. It stepped out of the spell, radiating bright red with whiffs of smoke tracing upwards along its body.
Knowing that this wouldn’t be enough to take it down, the girl commanded her fellow knights forward.
“NOW! Cool it down!”
Immediately, a few knights launched their magic, bombarding the golem with water and ice. Steam sizzled from its body as the redness was quickly quenched. Audible cracks in the rock sounded as the abrupt temperature change had caused stress fractures in the rock.
“You know what to do, Claude.”
Without sparing another moment, I raced forward, a small hammer tightly clutched in my hand. Eyeing a crack running down the side of the golem’s leg, I aimed at this newly created weak point. The feeling of my hammer’s momentum followed through as the leg quickly split along the crack. Having done critical damage there, the weight of the golem could no longer be supported. It tipped over as soon as the leg crumbled.
Another hit on the side of its body and even more sections of rock crumbled. No matter how big and intimidating it was before, there was nothing it could do after it had fallen to the ground. My hammer continued to shave away at the rock golem until finally a glowing orb rolled out with the debris. Having lost its mana source, the boulders making up the golem disconnected and settled on the ground.
Seeing that their trump card had been vanquished, a trio of cloaked men looked on in fear as they confirmed the rumors of a chef that could take down fearsome beings. This mystery trio was believed to be spies from the northern country, who had taken interest in the rumors revolving around the defeat of a demon.
Having caused a ruckus along the northern border, aid was requested by the border troops to defend against the magical being that suddenly appeared and trampled across the boundary wall. Typical soldiers and magic knights were unable to repel a monster that towered tens of meters above them.
Our squadron of magic knights, led by Eryn, had intercepted this golem and taken it down without too much trouble. As our knights ran forward to apprehend the supposed spies, one of the three retreated while the other two stayed behind to cover him. Despite their efforts, they were easily outnumbered and taken down. However, their objective had been completed when they allowed their comrade to escape with their obtained information.
“Knights! Chase after him!” Eryn roared as soon as the path had been cleared.
“Heh, don’t bother. His speed is unparalleled. He’s long gone,” one of the cloaked men said, dismissing our efforts.
“Who are you? What is your objective?” Eryn tried to ask them. The only information she had so far had been speculation, so she would need to interrogate them. However, she would not get the chance to.
Instead of answering, the men slowly mumbled something. The next moment, a small magic seal lit up on their chest. After expelling blood from their mouths, they promptly fell over and became motionless.
A suicide spell. “Damn it!” One of our knights exclaimed, punching the ground.
Though we tried to chase after the remaining spy, the trail soon went cold. However, we had succeeded in repelling a strong magical being that had been artificially infused with mana. Such a massive being was not easy to create, so it was doubtful that another one would appear soon.
Our squadron dispersed and returned to the capital. Eryn, in particular, was in a rush to get back.
“I can’t miss the tournament!” She cracked the reins of her horse, hurriedly rushing the cart down the path home.
“Oh, I guess that’s why you’ve been using your magic so much as of late,” I replied, gripping onto the side of the cart to keep myself from being tossed.
The Tournament of Sages, which was held at the beginning of Spring every year, was coming up shortly. I was surprised to find out how short the Winter season had been in this kingdom, as signs of germination had already started appearing soon after the New Year holiday had ended. That meant that things would start to pick up once again.
“You’re not going to hurt yourself again this time, right?” I called out to her.
Eryn shivered in response, which could be easily seen despite all of the shaking around us.
“Even if I do get hurt, you are not permitted to do THAT again.”
Thinking for a moment, my mouth formed an ‘O’ moments later as I recalled what had happened back then. Yes, I’d rather not do that again either. In fact, I’d like to wipe that memory from my mind altogether.
The day of the Tournament.
Having arrived at the coliseum for the second time, I noticed more people in the crowd than last time. Apparently, the flashiness of magic drew a bigger crowd than mere swordplay.
Paying that no mind, Eryn went forward to the ring as a participant. Cornelius, who had been the champion last year, was also there. I recognized quite a few magic knights from the guild, but I had forgotten their names. At this point, I had barely started working with them, as the golem incident had been the first assignment that required a large team.
Aside from cheering for Eryn, as well as worrying about her, I didn’t have much interest in being here, since my capability for magic was non-existent. I yawned slightly as I watched two magic knights square off and start exchanging magical strikes.
In the preliminary matches so far, the victor seemed to be the one that held superior magical power and could focus the magic into trapping the opponent. As physical strikes were not allowed, it became similar to watching a gun fight in a video game, which always seemed to bore me. Spells glided off each combatant’s magic shield, until finally, one of their shields shattered due to exhaustion of mana. At that point, the magician conceded in defeat.
However, there were times when the defeat didn’t happen as neatly. I watched as Eryn took down one of her opponents with an Air Hammer spell. The spell had been so powerful that it shattered the deployed magic shield and pummeled the guy into the ground. Though cracks had formed around him from the impact, the guy slowly managed to get up and waved his arms to surrender, knowing that he had no chance.
“Couldn’t you have…gone easy on the poor guy?” I called out to Eryn as she walked back from the ring.
“But I did hold back, you know?” She cocked her head to the side cutely. My feeling of wanting to scold her showboating instantly faded.
Cornelius had no issue dispatching his opponents either. With his incredible magic control, he was able to freeze them in place. No longer able to move, they had no choice but to surrender. However, their surrender didn’t stop Cornelius from adorning them with a few more icy decorations before releasing them, as if putting the finishing touches to an artist’s sculpture. The crowd was thrilled by this amusing display, which was likely why Cornelius continued to do it, despite the protests of the unwilling models. Seeing this, I no longer felt sorry for Eryn’s opponents, who at least didn’t suffer this humiliation.
The playing field was quickly thinned out as Cornelius and Eryn trampled the competition without much trouble. Apparently, their magic was on a different level, one being a genius at magic control and the other having a high Mag stat due to being connected to an Electi. I wondered why there wasn’t someone else that could hold a candle to those two. I would find out later that many nobles preferred to keep their powers hidden to keep others from gaining an edge on them. The tournaments were created as an opportunity to seek for hidden talent among those who wished for success and status. Since magic training was usually provided only to the nobility and those with money, the bar was set pretty low for this tournament.
The participation of someone like Cornelius or Eryn had been an irregular occurrence, one that the crowd seemed to enjoy though. Cornelius flaunted his magic in the name of art at every opportunity, so he was undeterred by such thoughts. Eryn was a lower nobility that was seeking higher status, so it was understandable that she would display her talents.
Furthermore, it was difficult not to be noticed when her familiar had slain a demon. The eyes of the people were on her anyways, so she had decided to go through with it.
As I was contemplating all of this, the final battle had come down to Eryn versus Cornelius. It was easy deciding who to cheer for despite being on good terms with both of them.
“Come on Eryn! Melt his bony ass!”
Cornelius turned to me, handkerchief in hand and fake crying. “Even after all I’ve done for you, you still won’t look upon me with affection?”
“Of course not! You give me the chills!” I retorted in disgust. His gestures of affection were the last thing I needed, recalling my portrayal in his recent artwork.
Turning back towards the ring, an aura of cold enveloped Cornelius as he squared off against Eryn, who had started projecting an aura of fire in response.
“My my. To be given the chance to work with my ideal model. I mustn’t waste it.” Cornelius grinned.
“I’ve gotten pretty strong, you know. Hope I’m not too hot to handle.” Eryn smirked in response.
As the referee gave the signal, Eryn immediately launched a barrage of fire arrows forward, having started the casting beforehand. These arrows bounced off Cornelius’s shield and dissipated. Like before, he focused on reducing his opponent’s mobility, opting to release a wide area spell that froze the ground and made it slick.
Seeing ice crawl up Eryn’s boots, she enshrouded them in flames that were hot enough to melt away the ice as soon as she stepped on it. A blizzard hit her next, which hardly made her flinch, as she kept warm air cycling around her to block it out. However, her visibility had been greatly reduced from the snow.
Standing still while looking around, she saw a hand break through the snow, aiming at her stomach. Anticipating this, Eryn quickly dodged and countered with a fireball. Though the flame in her hand was thrown point-blank, it was no more effective on the magic shield that was protecting Cornelius. She expelled more fire from her hand in an attempt to whittle down his mana.
“Though I may not be as quick as you, I have many ways of using my magic. Liking seeing your squandered mana telegraphing your moves,” Cornelius said calmly, clearly able to trace Eryn’s attacks. “You’ve still a lot to learn when it comes to detecting mana.”
Eryn noticed a shadow blocking out her own a little too late. Three large walls of ice had converged on her, leaving no room to move but forward. Cornelius reached towards her, magic hands of ice brushing over Eryn’s limbs to freeze them against the walls. Though she tried to pull them free, the restraints proved to be too solid. Melting them also proved to be a waste of mana as ice regenerated faster than she could melt them. Cornelius stared in thought, seemingly thinking of how best to decorate his now captive model.
“It’s a pity that I can’t have you like this more often,” Cornelius joked. “I guess I can settle for a figure of you in ice instead.”
As he walked forward, a pair of wind blades hit him from behind. Though his shield had been active, the momentum of the blades still knocked him forward, just enough to send his body colliding into Eryn’s. The sudden touch of his body against hers in this unexpected moment made Cornelius stop in his tracks. It was the moment she had been waiting for.
When Eryn had been surrounded by the snow, she had guessed Cornelius would come close in order to trap her. He often relied on his superior magic shield to ward off other spells, while using his magic to create an icy touch that acted as an extension of his body to ‘paint’ his opponents into submission. Being around him for so long, she could easily tell his intentions.
In order to get around those obstacles, she would need to open herself to him. As soon as she felt his body on hers, she sent fire down the length of her limbs, melting her restraints. In that instant of hesitation by Cornelius, her arms had been pulled free, and she enveloped Cornelius in an embrace.
“I thought you loved me for my warmth,” Eryn said looking into his eyes.
Though Cornelius knew that he had been taken advantage of, those sweet words had blocked out his normal capability to reason. His eyes remained fixated on hers.
In the next instant, he felt a moment of burning heat before being hit with a shockwave that tore the two apart and sent them many meters back in opposite directions. Due to the proximity, he had been unable to use a magic shield, making him take the entire brunt of the explosion attack. His body rolled to the ground as he had trouble recovering his bearings.
A crazy attack such as this also did damage to its caster, as Eryn also looked like she had seen better days. The ice wall behind her had kept her from being tossed out of the ring. She had taken just as much of a hit as Cornelius did but was soon up on her feet. Of course, her physical stats were much better, having trained with a sword and being used to enduring bodily strain. She had relied on this difference to turn the tides in her favor.
She stared at Cornelius as he slowly tried to get up. She readied another spell in case he did.
However, he could only bring himself to a crawl as he looked up at Eryn.
“Bravo. You win….this…time.” He mustered those words before fainting.
Eryn breathed a sigh of relief as the crowd erupted in cheers around her, thoroughly entertained by the reversal.
As she raised her arms up to celebrate her victory, her legs gave out, and she slumped to the ground, seemingly drained as well. She no longer had the adrenaline of the battle to keep her going.
“Master. Why didn’t you participate? From what I can see, your magic is far superior.” A girl with a hammer looked on from the crowd.
Saki and her master were surveying the tournament from the top of the coliseum away from the crowds.
“It’s not my business to dishearten aspiring young talents. What could I possibly gain from a victory here?” The Chancellor responded bluntly.
Despite saying that, he had pushed Saki to participate in the Tournament of Warriors last time. Having won it once before, she wondered what she would gain in participating again. However, an unexpected close call had happened between her and the now champion below. Even with her absolute strength, there were still ways for her to lose.
“Then, what is the reason we came here?” Saki inquired.
“That girl has piqued my interest. There are reports of a fierce monster that has made itself home along the eastern mountains. I plan to send you, along with a small team to take it out.”
“Is it not something we can take care of ourselves?’
“Perhaps. But the trip is far. The duties of Chancellor cannot be held up for such a long time. I’m sure you can handle it in my place.”
“What is it that we’ll be fighting?”
“Dragon? But aren’t those…”
“Yes, they are powerful. But it should be no trouble for a champion magician and a demon slayer, no?”
“As you command, master.” Saki bowed with her arm over her chest.
If her master thought as such, then it was probably sufficient. Saki took a final look at the form of her once opponent. She felt a gentle tug on her heart as she walked away, looking forward to meeting her once again.