Countless earth walls emerged in the vicinity, encroaching on Betty as if to confine her range of movement.
[How did he cast so many instances of Earth Control so quickly?!!]
Of course, as Betty had doubted, it was usually not possible for one to cast a single spell – in this case, Earth Control – in such quick succession. Similar to Asley, Gaston had applied the Effect Extend magecraft onto his Earth Control’s magic formula. That was the secret to his ability to manipulate such a wide area of land at once.
One potential path of escape was blocked off after another with each emergence of the walls.
Their appearances prioritized the direction in which Betty dashed toward, closing off the exits closest to her in a fluid rhythm.
After a period of exerting her physical strength in vain, Betty’s feet ultimately halted upon the blocking of one of the two remaining exits.
The reason for that was because the Great Mage of Flame stood boldly at the other side of the last exit.
This one passage showed no sign of ever closing. Though out of breath and short on stamina, she could still tell.
[Yeah, that exit is clearly a trap…]
It was dangerous to try and approach a mage from long range – more so when the only direction available was in their front – and even more so when the mage in question was Gaston the Great Mage of Flame, hailed as one of the most powerful of the Six Archmages.
By this time, the result was all but decided. If this kept going on, Betty may very well lose her life.
That was exactly the reason Betty did not make a move.
“Hmph, good – looks like you understand…”
[At this height, maybe… nope. Too high – can’t jump over it.]
“How about you be a nice kid and quit, hmm? Can’t guarantee that you won’t get hurt if this keeps up, you know?”
Gaston even took pains to offer her cautionary advice. However, the look in Betty’s eyes suggested that she was far from giving up.
She kept her eyes on Gaston, determined to emerge victorious at all costs – the sight made the old master himself loosen his lips.
“Hah… hah… kuh-!”
[First Blazer, then Bruce… and now this Betty lass. All so audacious, all so more passionate and energetic than the kids in the Six Braves. Goes to say how far the Duodecad Conference’s quality has gone down the drain, I suppose. Hmm, those eyes… she has the eyes of a ferocious tiger. Heh heh heh heh… the young man sure has gathered quite a lot of interesting people around him.]
“…? Is something the matter, sir?”
“No, it was nothing.”
He had grinned on a random impulse, but promptly stopped his mouth in order to hide it.
By this time, Fuyu had already made it to a safe distance from where she could still observe Betty. Once she saw what was up, she wasted no time to shout to Gaston,
“Please stop this, Sir Gaston! If this goes on, it will be beyond what you would consider an evaluation!”
“…And that’s what she said. So? You still plan to keep doing this?”
In response to that, Betty wiped her mouth once and grinned.
Simultaneously with that, Gaston raised the corner of his lips – this time without even being subtle.
“For the record, I’d rather that you don’t…”
He proceeded to draw up a Spell Circle, prompting Fuyu to cover her face with her hands.
Betty waited for the spell to be invoked – to get a read on its timing.
The very moment the Circle was finished – that was when Betty would make her move. Gaston knew, of course, and was banking on it being true.
Considering what both of them were capable of in the current situation, Betty had but a single way of survival.
Namely, the Diaminotaurous’ corpse.
While Gaston had been cornering Betty with his dirt walls, he had also gotten the giant monster’s body caught in the enclosure.
He KNEW – knew that this would provide Betty with the means necessary for her to pull through. Her figuring that out was the true content of the Rank-up Evaluation.
Betty and Fuyu have not realized it yet, but Gaston had done what he had been doing so far with the expectation for the former to figure out a way.
If Betty was to hide under the monster’s body at the right timing of the spell’s invocation, she would have the opportunity to strike while Gaston had to wait for his next spell. That was because, during that wait, Gaston had no access to reliable methods of neither attacking nor escaping – and that all the walls would be destroyed by his heavy-hitting spell.
[See if you can find yourself a solution through this, lass!]
[Three, two, one… NOW!]
Vermilion flames slithered into and danced within the perimeter of the dirt walls, then when left with no horizontal space to cover, rose up to the sky.
Fuyu, feeling the heat hit her face, reflexively stepped backwards.
The burned walls had turned brittle – they cracked and broke apart, their dust blown away by the wind.
However, what Gaston caught sight of amid the bitter orange radiance of the heat wave was not Betty’s solution, but rather her ‘true value’.
Betty had, as anyone would have expected, used the Diaminotaurous’ dead body. However, it was not for defense, but rather a set up for a counterattack.
Gaston felt something of a hot blade poke the rear of his neck. He smelled burnt leather and metal. He heard a parched breath with a subtle resemblance to a wild beast.
Betty had succeeded in circling around to get herself behind Gaston, despite clearly having received a great deal of damage herself.
“Whew… whew… how was that, Sir Gaston…?”
The tables had turned – at the cost of having to endure the scalding of her face and the burning of her lungs.
Betty’s voice, turned quite masculine from the damage to her throat, resounded in Gaston’s head.
“So you’ve managed to launch a counterattack from THAT… I’ll admit that I never expected this.”
Gaston took a look at the now-empty air space in front of him and deduced what had happened.
The Diaminotaurous’ body had been moved to one side of the walls, as apparent from one burnt spot looking different from the rest.
The large-scale spell he had unleashed, Heaven’s Vermilion, had covered the whole ground within the enclosure. Betty would have avoided all of the damage if she had hidden herself under the monster’s corpse. However, she had opted to use it as a shield while she had her back against one side of the wall, enduring her way through the attack. And then, when the walls had turned brittle from the fire, she had used her Seventh Lunge to destroy it and break herself out. Successfully working herself around the wall, she had in turn succeeded in closing the gap between her and Gaston, and then launched a surprise attack.
[This lass… how bold can she get? Although it was brief, she did take that big of a spell head-on. Scratch that – how did I even let my weakness be exposed through the use of my fire magic of all things…?]
Fire-attributed spells, especially large-scaled ones, usually were used for the annihilation of one’s enemies, but this time it hadn’t been used with the intention to kill. Still, almost no one would be left alive if they took it head-on, provided that the attack was consistently maintained. Betty had exploited the situation to her advantage.
“…You realize that if I didn’t use a fire spell under THIS specific circumstance, you would be dead by now, right?”
“That… hits close to home, sir. I actually EXPECTED it to be fire – didn’t even have a plan for anything else.”
[Heh heh heh heh… Way to work herself around the limitations of the situation…]
By this time, Fuyu has also gotten a grasp on the big picture.
Since she had missed the moment when the tables had turned, she was now staring at the current situation in disbelief.
Amid the burnt ground and smoking air, Gaston was stuck in front of Betty with the blade of her dagger on the base of his neck.
By the time the blade cooled down, he took one breath in and out of his nose, tickling Betty’s hand.
“Hmph, I suppose that does constitute a passing grade.”
Betty raised one eyebrow at Gaston’s arrogant-ish statement.
She had received a passing grade despite having been losing so badly for the most of it. What could be the action she had taken that satisfied the old master? That one doubt ran through Betty’s head, almost driving her to move her blade closer to Gaston’s neck.
However, her movement was restricted by an unknown force.
[…?! Can’t… move?!]
Fuyu, observing from afar, elaborated on what it was that had snatched away Betty’s control over her body.
“It’s… the Hexa Boundary!”
It was being kept active with the Craft Circle under Gaston’s feet.
Both Gaston and Betty were caught within the perimeter of its effect.
“Oh c’mon… you saw through THIS as well…?!”
“I didn’t… But it makes sense for me to have something on the ready, doesn’t it?”
The blue light gushed forth from the Circle and streamed through one of the surrounding stakes to the next.
“But… aren’t you caught in this as well, Sir Gaston?”
“Heh heh heh heh, you expect a practitioner to be done in by his own magecraft?”
Gaston calmly moved away Betty’s blade and then walked out of the boundary.
His ‘escape’ from the Hexa Boundary was the decisive move of this match.
With that, the Great Mage pointed one end of his staff at Betty, who had no means of making another move.
“And… that’s the end of it.”
“…Thank you, sir.”
The curtains of this battle closed with what could be considered Gaston’s total victory.
And it could be considered a match that yielded many lessons worth of consideration – not only to Betty, but to Gaston as well.
“Fuyu, Recovery magic on Betty.”
Fuyu instantly rushed over, and Gaston disengaged his Hexa Boundary to make way.
Although Betty had lost, she had a refreshed, satisfied smile plastered on her face, as she had successfully gotten Gaston to recognize her name.