I cautiously advanced onward, while keeping that absurd but very possible thought in my mind.
I see something – In the distance, the faint light of a bonfire. The sun isn’t even close to setting yet, so what gives?
The reason became apparent when I closed in.
Is that… a cave?
In the center of a slight protuberance of rocks was a dark, deep-looking hole. Six people stood around it. Three seemingly mage-type people, one woman and two men; three warriors, one man and two women. Their abilities were… around Rank C to B on average.
Nothing I couldn’t deal with, except for that cave. It looks like it’ll be troublesome since it is a nature-made stronghold, I could never predict what could be inside. If there were monsters in there, then I could come up with some quick strategies for either going in or luring them out, but it wouldn’t be so easy if my opponents were humans.
It would take a lot of work to successfully lure them out, and it would be dangerous to go in by myself. Who in their right mind would even consider doing something that reckless?
Oh, I see – so that’s why no one has accepted this request.
Furthermore, since there are mages among the enemies’ ranks, I reckon it would be way too much for the average bloke to deal with.
Then again, I’d never even heard of mages associating with bandits – that was what has been boggling my mind.
[“What should we do, Master? How about we quickly sweep up the enemies outside, and then I fire my Zenith Breath Attack into the cave?”]
[“Why would you even consider something that dangerous? I swear I’m surrounded by crazy people… Have you ever thought of the chance of there being innocent people in there? I made sure to teach you to not rope unrelated people into our fights, you know…”]
[“What?!”] “Who are you calling crazy?!”
I could hear the scream of my Familiar coming from afar.
I mean, that was partially my fault for letting out some of my unnecessary thoughts, so I suppose there’s no use in pinning the blame on just one side here.
While the six guards are approaching Pochi’s direction, I’ll sneak into the cave and-
“I’ve got nothing to do with this! My Master is that way!!”
GOOD JOB BREAKING IT TO THEM, HERO!
…And all the enemies’ attention actually shifted to me. What are the odds?
The crazy dog, on the other hand, shot me a sloppily-timed wink before strolling into the cave.
Damn it, now she’s sticking out her tongue! Do that again in my presence, and I swear I’ll pull it out!
The three mages cast enhancement spells onto the three warriors in the front row. The latter three then rushed at me as I stood scratching my face in confusion.
The two warrior women seemed quicker than the rest, so I ought to take them out first.
“Rise, Ocata Boundary! Rise! Ground Spell Delivery!”
I snuck the Octa Boundary past the approaching enemies, directing it to the mages in the back row.
The warrior man seemed to have slightly loosened his guard upon guessing from my appearance that I was a mage, but he realized their negligence soon enough, prompting him to scowl as he got his stance back in shape.
The warrior women followed suit. By this time, the mages were in the middle of drawing their second round of Spell Circles – excluding the one mage woman, who was caught in my Octa Boundary.
The two other mages stopped their actions, perhaps too surprised by a ‘spell’ that they had never seen before.
The approaching warriors, on the other hand, have stepped into my effective range. Now!
“Sharp Wind Cross!”
I invoked one of the spells that I had assigned as a Swift Magic. It was not the ‘skilled’ grade large-scale magic spell that it was supposed to be, but one tier lower, having been re-defined as one of the ‘advanced’ grades to be able to fit in the Swift Magic slot. I had decided on this spell based on its effectiveness in situations that were especially dangerous or restrictive. For example, if I were to be stuck inside a cave, using any other large-scale magic spell would prove to be dangerous – the same applied to areas with dense vegetation, such as where I’m fighting at now.
The Sharp Wind Cross left quite a mark on the two warrior women, immediately eliminating them from the battle. At the same time, I turned to the one remaining warrior and invoked my Appraisal Glasses as he approached me.
…-Wait, this is-?!
I made an instantaneous shift of approach, switching off my intent to kill as I sweep-kicked the warrior man’s leg and delivered a body blow just hard enough to knock him out.
Only those two mages left!
I hopped from the warrior man as he lied face down on the ground, landing myself on one of the tree branches, and in turn erasing myself from the mages’ lines of sight. All right, good!
As I saw that those two now had the timing of their spell invocation thrown off, I took advantage of the delay to use some spells myself.
“Rise, A-rise, Parasitic Edit: Count 2 & Remote Control.”
I cast my spell to interrupt the enemies’ Spell Circles right as they were being completed, editing their spells to ones with the unintended effects.
The sleep-state spell came out of the mages’ Circles.
Although it was supposed to be fired straight ahead, I had made it so that it would hit the ‘caster’ instead.
And so the two mages lost their consciousness, dropping to their knees on the spot.
I then hopped down from the tree and rushed to the injured warriors.
I’ve gone too far. As it turned out, these people aren’t bandits.
That was what the Warrior man’s statistic sheet had informed me.
First of all, I must heal them up. One warrior woman who had sustained deep cuts on her leg, and was sweating profusely as she held the injury down. The other woman, who had been hit hard on her abdomen, had already passed out.
First, the unconscious one.
“Rise, A-rise, A-“
“You… what are you… doing…?!”
The still-conscious warrior woman called out to me in coercion, perhaps concerned that I would be finishing her friend off.
However, I had no time to respond to her.
“Rise! High Cure Adjust!”
…All right, the injury’s now closed up.
She’d fainted from the pain, so she’ll probably be fine after being left alone for a while.
“And you, hold out your leg.”
The warrior woman had a look of suspicion on her face as she held her badly-cut leg still.
With how bad the wounds were, it’ll be quite difficult to treat. I couldn’t just pop in some recovery spells and call it a day.
If the parts were still connected, recovery magic would heal them up like normal, but if they were completely separated or destroyed, the magic would instead work toward closing up the wounds.
Therefore, if done shoddily, a leg injured this badly would never come back in a perfect state. This was one of the reasons I had been studying the mechanisms of recovery magic inside-out.
“This will hurt a little.”
Looks like she now understood that I wasn’t hostile, but because of her pain, she never let her guard down.
I focused my arcane energy on my fingertips, materializing it in the form of needles, each thinner than a strand of hair. Sticking them in through the warrior’s ‘living’ thigh bone, I sent the energy coursing through her body. The needles’ pointed ends stuck out from the centers of her injuries, tying back together the ‘dead’ parts of her leg.
Arcane energy existed within every human, and recovery magic worked by causing reactions with that energy within their bodies. Some parts of the woman’s leg were too far separated from the rest, causing them to lose the arcane link with the rest of the body, and thus were unable to be healed with magic.
Because of that, what I had to do was to force a connection of arcane energy…-
“-A-rise, High Cure Adjust!”
“Kuh…… wha-?! It’s all fit back together?!”
It sure is. With the trick I’d used, the recovery magic could reach the ‘dead’ parts they were not supposed to. It was my original implementation, and one of the few in my arsenal that had genuinely impressed Tūs and Melchi.
And then… I felt an exceptionally intense source of arcane energy behind me. The following voice that called out to me had the power to compel one to instantly turn and look.
“Oh, good grief. I was wondering who it was that tripped the magic net… And it just had to be you, of all people. Quite a sentimental, albeit unexpected, reunion… is it not?”
I recognized that voice.
However, it was one of the voices I didn’t want to remember. If my memories had a mind of its own, I’m sure it would agree.
The sun rendered me unable to make out the appearance of that person at this time.
…A shadow – and yes, just a shadow. The figure approached, one step at a time, gradually revealing a recognizable silhouette.
Ahh, I remember becoming so used to seeing that strut. Where had it been again?
I recalled my memories of all the time I had spent with this enigmatic character, prioritizing it over my worry for Pochi, who had just entered the cave by herself. Shows how powerful this ‘new face’ is, I suppose.
His arcane energy and charisma were off the charts. While I scratched my head and tried to dig up my memories, the warrior woman, with her leg fixed up as good as new, stood right up.
Then she snapped into a salute pose with one hand on her chest, greeting the shadow… Was it just me, or was she quite disciplined? She could pass as a member of an organized army.
Now hol’ up a minute… I might have seen this salute before… If I remember correctly, it was at the Magic University.
Oh, now I remember. It was the salute a certain group of students had decided on arbitrarily for greeting ‘that guy’ they greatly respected.
“Apologies for causing a ruckus, Sir Warren!”
I wonder why…
Something tells me that the shadow is chuckling mischievously… with the creepy grin signature to ‘that guy,’ no less.