It was surprising what one could achieve when properly motivated.
Far from being the sheltered princess that I had thought initially, Katsys started taking the initiative when it came to repelling our pursuers.
Since we were constantly being tailed by the kingdom’s forces, there was really no time to engage them before advancing. If we were stalled for too long, reinforcements would soon catch up. The initial group of scouts had tagged our location and notified the entire kingdom.
Since neither Ludmila nor I had any long-range attack capabilities, I could only navigate the wagon on its course while keeping an eye out for magical attacks. Ludmila spotted me while I steered us out of harm’s way.
At one point, I looked back to see Katsys nimbly putting together some device, despite all of the shaking and sudden motion that was occurring. Soon, she held up the object in her hand, celebrating its completion.
With a click of a switch, a blast of cold air pricked at my back. Immediately, the device had started blowing out ice magic, which was aimed at the ground behind us. Waving the device left and right, Katsys showered the ground with a patch of ice.
The carriages chasing after us ran right into this fresh coat of slick, frozen ground, sending its wheels out of control. We heard a loud crash as the carriages ended up striking each other, which sent the riders spilling onto the ground.
After that, they sent knights riding on horses forward that allowed them more maneuverability against the slick ground that Katsys made.
Seeing that, Katsys quickly got to work making something else. Within several minutes, she had pieced together something from spare parts in her Item Box.
“Claude, do you have pepper or something similar?” She called out to me.
“Uh…of course, I do.” I reached into my storage with a free hand and pulled out a jar of ground, black pepper.
To my dismay, Katsys took it from me and emptied it into the device that she had made. Closing it up and pressing a switch, she threw it in the direction of the knights. Cautious of the tricks from before, the knights set up a magic barrier to protect themselves.
However, they had failed to protect the one thing Katsys had aimed for – the horses.
Like the sound of a firecracker, the device exploded, sending a cloud of pepper that engulfed the riders. As pepper was inhaled by the horses and got into their eyes, they started galloping wildly from irritation. Soon, the erratic bounding of the horses had bucked their riders off. The horses proceeded to blindly scatter from the location.
Certainly, Katsys’s quick ingenuity and nimble hands could keep our pursuers from reaching us. However, I’d be running low on spices at this rate.
On the other hand, many of the magic tools that Katsys used drained mana or MP. Given that she wasn’t a high-level magician, her supply was rather limited. I could tell that she was starting to get wobbly. If possible, it would be good to find a place to rest and recover her mana. I activated my eye skill to look around for any rich sources of mana that would speed up her recovery.
About twenty minutes later of periodic checking, I noticed a dense source being emitted within a patch of forest. I steered the wagon towards that direction. During this time, there had been no more pursuers; likely, they needed some time to recollect themselves after losing their methods for transport. Our horse could use some rest and water as well.
Going off the dirt path, the wagon slogged through some light foliage as I tried to pinpoint the location of the mana source. We had been traveling for just over two days, as we had left the Faulkner town in the middle of the night.
There was hardly any time to stop and rest before we heard squads approaching, so we had to be ready to move out in an instant. There was little time to rest and recover while being on the run, but we were somehow managing. Thankfully, the gaps between them catching up to us were increasing with distance from the capital.
The air started to feel a bit muggy as we got closer to the mana source. It was quite the contrast from the slightly chilly air that was usually felt as Summer started shifting to Autumn. With every step, it was like walking deeper into a cloud of warmth. Soon, the trees parted into an open area that was filled with water. The mana source had been located here.
I reached down and touched the water, which was slightly steaming.
A hot spring would certainly feel nice after the non-stop travel, and it seemed like bathing in the water would regenerate our mana. Being near plentiful mana sources seemed to have this kind of effect in this world.
Understanding what we had stumbled upon, Katsys started to strip off her outfit, much to my chagrin. I briefly wondered if the heat had made her strange, but her voice clearly denied that accusation.
“I have to recover my mana as quickly as possible, right? Then, there is no time to be embarrassed!” She exclaimed with a slight blush on her cheeks.
Of course, she wasn’t comfortable with this. I averted my eyes. I heard her slip into the hot water and let out a sigh of relief.
“I guess I’ll go cook something. Ludmila, you should rest too. Who knows what we’ll run into?” I busied myself to keep my mind away from the tempting scene behind me. The brief glimpse of her body made my heart jump.
I quickly prepared something simple and in large quantity. We had been eating our meals while travelling, so it needed to be convenient.
Packing together rice around some dried meat, I shaped it into the familiar triangular shape of an onigiri. I took a moment to chide myself for not saving some seaweed from Macali to give it the stereotypical stripe.
By the time I had finished, Katsys and Ludmila returned from their dip in the hot springs and had grabbed one of the onigiri to munch on. As we started eating, I had a sudden thought. I called a status check on Katsys, opening a window that displayed her parameters.
“Level 12…MP…Dexterity…Luck…are your favored stats…”
Katsys tilted her head at me as I stared at them. “That’s probably due to my tinkering. A person’s stats tend to be favored depending on usage, but that is only a small modifier. A person’s level matters much more in terms of their raw statistics, but that only matters in combat. Invention prowess is still inherent to one’s personal skill level.”
“Still, it would be better if you could gain some levels so that you don’t run out of mana using your inventions. It seems that we’ll be depending on you from now on. This may be the perfect place to do that.”
I had scanned the area for monsters, which were level 25 on average. This was too high normally for a level 12 person, but Katsys was different. Her way of fighting had been to infuse her mana into magic tools that delivered a consistent magical output far stronger than her own magic ability. With that, she may be able to defeat the monsters here. After her mana was drained, she could recover it again with a quick dip in the hot springs.
“Okay, Ludmila is in charge of scouting and drawing the monsters here. Katsys, do you have a magic tool that can fire bursts of magic as strong as before?”
Katsys nodded in affirmation. Pulling out a gun from her Item Box, the object looked rather similar to the pellet gun that she had given me.
“Eh, isn’t that…?”
“A revised version of the gun that you asked for. Since I couldn’t infuse the pellets with enough magical power, I simply focused the beam of energy that came out of a magic core. The output is based on the type of elemental stone that is housed in the chamber. I can also adjust the output with this knob, which will impact my mana usage.”
My mind swirled as she continued to explain how she had pieced all the modifications together and made adjustments, solely during the wagon ride. My eyes were mainly on the road ahead, so I barely had the chance to see her in action.
After an explanation that went in and out my ears, I waited with her while Ludmila went off to find some victims. Pretty soon, Ludmila had found a level 27 Bugbear that crashed through the bushes.
“Oh, a nice big target. Excellent choice!” I called out to her, though she probably couldn’t hear me.
Katsys pointed her gun at the bear and shot it at maximum power. I felt a pulse of magic far stronger than I had expected, catching me off guard. In this case, she had placed an ice-magic stone in the chamber. Activation of the gun had yielded a long spear of ice that was shot towards the Bugbear.
The ice spear stabbed into the large target and disappeared into the Bugbear. For a moment, I thought it absorbed the blow. Not until I heard the loud crash of trees being toppled behind it did I realize that the spear had pierced a hole into it before taking out every object behind it in a straight line. The bear simply toppled over, already dead on its feet.
“…the heck? How much mana did you use?!” I was surprised by the outcome. That was Eryn-tier magic that she had just used.
“I…think I can manage two or three more shots.”
Given how powerful that spellshot was, I figured that she had expended all of her magic. With the little amount of MP that she had used, Eryn wouldn’t be able to call upon a spell nearly as strong. From that one monster, Katsys had leveled up to 15. Did her shot happen to kill anything else behind it?
“Did you…do something special to that gun? Someone at your level firing such strong magic is a bit unnatural…,” I asked her in a hesitant manner. Somehow, I wasn’t sure I was ready for the answer.
“It did seem like a bit of overkill, didn’t it? I might’ve spent too much time raising the mana efficiency level from 60% to 95%.”
I blankly nodded.
“And then, there was the focusing mechanism that prevented the beam from spreading into a conical shape, thereby greatly increasing the striking power at longer distances.”
I kept nodding.
“Not to mention, I had installed a magic amplifier that draws upon the mana from auxiliary magic stones that are designed to absorb the latent mana in the air…”
I held my hand up.
“That’s enough. My head can’t handle it. I get it. Your gun is amazing. Let’s continue leveling you up.”
While it was nice that she could kill things so easily, how she had casually invented a portable death ray made me question what kind of person she would end up being. Would I have to worry about the end of this world by the hand of her science? Her inventions alone could move the Doomsday Clock several seconds forward.
When I asked what would happen if her weapons fell in the wrong hands, she simply smiled.
“You forget, mana stones can be programmed to register only specific mana signatures. Of course, they can’t be taken advantage of without my permission. Well, unless someone is smart enough to reverse engineer my scribing.”
Laughing those thoughts off, I asked Ludmila to round up the toughest monsters that she could find for her to shoot down. After downing two more Bugbears and a rock golem, all above level 30, Katsys took another dip in the hot springs to replenish her mana.
I had stopped short of suggesting that she just stay in the hot springs and shoot from there. That would’ve been quite a sight, in a variety of ways.
In less than an hour, Katsys had gone through several rounds of mana drain and recovery, boosting her level to just under 30. With each cycle, she could shoot several more times before being drained. It also helped that she readjusted the output enough to reduce the overkill.
Pretty soon, I had stopped paying attention to Katsys, who seemed like she would be amazing at light gun games at an arcade. If she ever does create a portal back home, then I’d have to take her sometime.
After I finished cleaning up the campsite and took care of the horse, Ludmila came back claiming that we had drained the forest of its inhabitants.
‘But nobody came…’ floated in my mind as I chuckled.
“Let’s leave before we’re locked in the ‘Genocide Route’.”
The two girls looked at me strangely, but from my tone of voice, they had quickly determined that it was my typical joking of otherworldly topics.
With Katsys nearly three times her original level, it was well worth the hour or so delay in our plans. With a crack of the reins, the three of us continued eastward. It would only be another day before we reached the mountains that lined the edge of the country.