Itsuki shouted as she held her head and crouched down.
A gigantic shadow passed over the roof of the Pochisley Agency’s front building.
The children were exiting the building and the last of them was followed by Natsu. The five children, standing in a line between Itsuki and Natsu, were frightened by the unidentified shadow.
As the Black Double Dragon landed in the Grand Market across the street, Itsuki pulled herself together and whispered to the increasingly anxious children,
“All right, we’re clear to go now. Let’s hurry and get ourselves to the Magic University.”
Suddenly, a dark-haired boy grabbed Itsuki by the sleeve of her shirt.
“W-what about Linda and Akane…?”
Itsuki crouched down, put her hands on the boy’s shoulder, and looked him in the eye.
“They’ll be all right, Bell. I just had those two lead the way for the other kids – they’re already on their way.”
Bell, believing in Itsuki’s words, nodded while holding back his tears.
Then, Natsu started drawing a Spell Circle on the ground.
It was the weather-manipulation magic spell that Lala used to use.
“Rise, A-rise, A-… rise, Invisible Illusion!”
The Spell Circle was invoked, blending the seven people present – Itsuki and Natsu included – into the background of the town.
Although it was originally a single-target spell, Natsu had been able to increase the number of concurrent targets by converting it to a fixed-position type.
The group of seven, now invisible, held each other’s hands tightly with Itsuki in the lead and Natsu in the back as they began to walk quietly but quickly.
But not even a few steps in, Itsuki and the others’ hopes were literally dashed against the wall.
There was supposed to be a long detour through a narrow path to the Magic University… but it had been blocked off by a mountain of rubble.
Natsu turned around and looked for another route to the evacuation site.
Natsu was an adventurer, if it was just her, she could have hopped from roof to roof all the way to the Magic University, but she had an ordinary civilian and several children with her. There was only one path they could possibly take in this situation.
[What to do, what to do… No other choice but to go back to the Grand Market…!]
Both Itsuki and Natsu had the same idea at the same time.
Then Itsuki looked back at her six invisible friends before tightly clenching her fists and slowly stepping forward.
When the group of seven entered the alleyway leading to the Grand Market, their progress was interrupted by a fierce gust of wind.
Itsuki leaned forward and tried to push on, single-handedly shielding the children behind her.
She and the five others were so overwhelmed and exhausted that they could not take even another step.
Amidst that, Natsu, seeing the pained looks on the six others’ faces, ran against the wind as if to vent her indignation.
By the time Itsuki realized what Natsu had done, the latter was already standing in front of the Black Double Dragon’s wing, and was drawing a Spell Circle. The creature’s four bright red eyes instantly sensed Natsu’s presence from the fluctuation of Arcane Energy in the air.
The Black Double Dragon let out a threatening roar, which also forcibly dispelled the effect of Natsu’s Invisible Illusion.
Regardless, and despite her legs shaking like mad, Natsu kept on running to misdirect the Black Double Dragon’s attention.
[Is she deliberately making herself the bait…?!]
Itsuki, understanding Natsu’s intention, knew that she must not speak, instead, she started walking slowly, gradually picking up the pace while making sure that the children behind her did not fall over.
The Black Double Dragon unleashed its first attack, swinging its rear neck at Natsu.
Natsu unleashed the wind spell while hopping up, elevating herself into the air.
The head swing that he had dodged destroyed the building behind her instead.
But then the shockwave-like wind pressure ended up canceling out Itsuki and the children’s Invisible Illusion effects.
The monster’s eyes locked on to her.
Itsuki, practically facing death, used her body as a shield as she called out to the children,
“Go on ahead! And don’t you stop running! If you do, you’re on toilet cleaning duty for a whole month!”
She spread out her arms and shouted at the children, prompting them to hurry and go.
The children, despite being unsteady on their feet, went deeper into the market via a nearby alleyway. Although the Black Double Dragon saw them go, it did not pursue them. After the children were out of sight, its four eyes trained right back on to Itsuki.
The gigantic monster’s shadow covered Itsuki – so large that she could not even see where it was looking at.
At this point, she was hearing her own clattering teeth and subdued groan.
Already losing her leg strength in the face of absolute fear, Itsuki closed her eyes as she fell down to the ground.
“Rise! Freeze Fire!”
Natsu unleashed a magic spell specially designed for use against the Dragon archetype.
Although it did not do any damage, it was enough to divert the monster’s attention from Itsuki. The eyes on the latter turned to Natsu instead – a short-term fix, but that was the only plan that Natsu had in her mind.
Only two of its eyes were on Natsu.
Its two other eyes were still on Itsuki.
The monster used its two heads to lock on to both Natsu and Itsuki at once, petrifying them with fear.
It opened its mouths, revealing countless fangs. At this point, Itsuki, and even an adventurer like Natsu, were prepared to die, but then-
-A powerful blow from Maïga struck the Black Double Dragon’s back.
Hornel and Tifa hopped down from Maïga’s back and unleashed their spells immediately upon landing.
Another anti-Dragon magic spell – although Hornel and Tifa would normally use its higher-leveled version, the Icicle Hellfire, they had to be careful not to hurt Itsuki and Natsu in the process, and had decided to suppress the power of their attacks.
At the end of the day, all the first blow needed to do was to divert the enemy’s attention from Itsuki. With that in mind, Hornel and Tifa positioned themselves in front and behind the Black Double Dragon.
“Maïga! Deal some damage!”
Maïga shouted as he landed on a nearby roof.
“Natsu! Take Itsuki and get behind me!”
Natsu shielded Itsuki behind her as the latter stumbled her way to Hornel.
“Hmph, finally my turn, I see!”
“You find somewhere to hide!”
Tarawo twitched his eyebrows… but upon getting a sharp glare from Tifa, he reluctantly hid himself under some rubble. Immediately following that, the Black Double Dragon spewed black flames from both its mouths.
Hornel and Tifa defended against the flames with a spell from their Swift Magic slots.
However, doing so also blocked out their front view.
Hornel had known this would happen, and had planned his moves in advance… Tifa, however, had not thought of anything beyond the defending.
Hornel quickly drew a Spell Circle with his left hand and immediately invoked it.
The anti-Dragon spell instantly shattered the earthen wall on Hornel’s side, piercing its way to the Black Double Dragon’s necks. Upon impact, the monster screamed.
Tifa, observing Horne’s course of actions, felt irritated at her own inexperience.
[So this is the difference between a freshman and a senior’s battle experience…! No, this is Hornel we’re talking about, so the difference is even greater…]
With the Dragon’s neck on Tifa side getting hit as well, it writhed around, striking and breaking down Tifa’s earthen wall.
Maïga, exploiting this opening, landed an attack on the monster’s body.
The wound was shallow, but the hit left a prominent-enough claw mark. Once the Black Double Dragon regained its balance, its guard was up in full once again.
“Rise! Magic Shield!”
Tifa invoked a spell to defend against magical attacks, having recognized that the senses of pain in the monster’s front and back necks were connected.
Seeing that, the Black Double Dragon stopped the stream of fire from one of its mouths and instead swung its head at the shield.
Tifa leaped out of the way, narrowly dodging it.
Watching from under the rubble, Tarawo was taken aback by what he had witnessed.
“That oversized lizard… could it be aware of the mechanisms of magic?!”
“Bah, what a pain in the neck!”
Hornel, also realizing what was up, started drawing another Circle for an attack spell.
Tifa, on the other hand, had her chances of getting to attack dramatically dropped because of her having to stay on the defensive.
She was practically forced to keep dodging. Her stamina would be spent before she could even make use of her arcane energy.
Hornel was effectively defending against the Black Double Dragon’s attacks, and was invoking a spell every chance he got. The drain on his arcane energy pool was obvious.
Although Maïga had the situation under control and was dealing damage, the two others were slowly but surely running out of time.
“Ngh…… How miserable… I’m so miserable! A Garm – a King Wolf – is not supposed to be this useless!”
Hearing Tarawo’s venting, Tifa said to him despite herself starting to lose her breath,
“Hah hah… just… shut up and hide! Can’t let you be seen and add to our troubles!”
Told so by Tifa, Tarawo grit his teeth in frustration.
[Hmph, tough act, coming from someone who’s soon to be exhausted. But if they don’t keep the oversized lizard under control here, Beilanea will be in danger…! If only… if only I had my powers… I could at least help Natsu and Itsuki out – wait, Itsuki?]
Tarawo looked up as if he had remembered something important.
[That’s right… ‘Consult with Itsuki when you think you’re in trouble’ – that’s what Asley told me! But what can that lass possibly do…?!]
At that moment, the Black Double Dragon’s head struck the ground.
A piece of shattered rock grazed Tifa’s shoulder.
And Tarawo, upon seeing Tifa bleed from her shoulder, leaped out of the rubble.
“Damn it all! We’re all out of options here – I’ll have to trust you on this one, Asley!”
“What the-?! Tarawo! Get back here!”
Tarawo only started running, screaming at the top of his lungs so as to not hear the order of his Master.
“That stupid dog! What does he think he’s doing?!”
“You’re in way over your head, Tarawo! Get back!”
Tarawo ran as fast as his short legs could carry him.
He went to Hornel on the other side, aiming to go past him to Natsu, then past her to Itsuki.
Making use of his tiny body, he slid under the Black Double Dragon’s feet and around the debris.
Doing so had the unexpected effect of confusing the Black Double Dragon.
Hornel, seeing an opportunity to strike, once again unleashed his anti-Dragon Spell Icicle Hellfire.
Tifa used Swift Magic to heal her shoulder, then kept on screaming to Tarawo to come back, the latter never listened.
Then, one Tarawo was past Hornel’s legs, he leaped forward with all the strength he could muster.
Natsu caught him and ended up falling on her rear. Tarawo did not stop one second. He climbed up Natsu’s shoulder, popping his face out and shouting to Itsuki,
“Huh? Wh-what’s going on?”
“I! Am! In trouble!”