At the brilliant age of 16, Cassiophelia de la Sanctuaria splendidly completed all of the education levels in Riviera country.
During her Internship period, she served in the Royal Magician Court and showed a really amazing performance that caused her to be recruited right away after her graduation into the Royal Magician Court. The Head of the Royal Magicians at that time, an old woman, was exceptionally fond of Cassie and she hoped that Cassie would be able to succeed her later on.
No matter her age, her ability is more important.
This event happened after a few months working as a royal magician.
Things went on smoothly for Cassie, and she was selected as one of the few magicians sent on an expedition to a secluded volcano.
Why is it called “secluded”, anyway?
Well, since the volcano is located in an uninhabited island at the northern area of Riviera—its area is located in the middle of the cross-section between the Dragon’s Heritage—a continent exclusively inhabited by dragons—and the rest of the world.
As such, the condition of the island such as its climate and weather can be considered as harsh enough that it became a secluded area.
Recently, the usually inactive volcano showed some kind of activities that attracted geologists to examine the phenomenon. However, upon going there, the geologists found some kind of magical power that hindered their expedition.
In the end, they requested the Royal Magician Court to examine the volcano.
This kind of mystery managed to pique Cassie’s interest, of course. She enlisted herself in the candidate list and managed to actually get selected!
A senior magician was assigned to be the leader because he was experienced in terms of leading a team of an expedition, having countless experience in expeditions in the mountains, deserted islands, and other areas, despite him not being too strong in terms of magical power if we were to compare him to Cass.
That was how Cassie got assigned the role of Vice.
Immediately after arriving, they started to climb the mountain. Initially, there was no problem in advancing, but soon, they sensed the presence of magic power here and there.
Obviously, it was also followed by attacks from other monsters lurking near the vicinity.
“Those who specialize in barrier, focus on defense!”
Cassie decided to contribute in defense.
“Hey, you, take the offense on the west side!”
“We should have taken in beast tamers with us, huh?”
“They are upset because we practically enter their zone, which was an uninhabited island before…”
“T-t-there’s an ambush over here!”
Since Cassie was the closest magician to the ambush, she decided to take in the offensive part, too.
After fighting, chasing, and being chased by the monsters who got upset at them who rudely intruded their area, the team of magicians managed to find a safe cave to take a rest.
“Oy, healers, can we bother you by healing our wounds?”
Cassie felt that she was being called, so she quickly began to heal the wounded ones.
“Ophelia-san, are you alright?”
The kind old leader was concerned about Cassie’s well-being, as he saw that Cassie had been working so hard by being on both the offensive and defensive roles.
“Hm? I’m fine, I am not injured at all,” Cassie answered with a puzzled expression.
“No, I mean, aren’t you tired?”
“Ah, thank you for your concern, Leader. After this, I will just take a rest and everything will be fine,” she smiled gently and continued to heal the wounded ones along with the other healers.
“Man, we’re lucky we have Ophelia-san here! She’s young but she might as well be the strongest magician in the court if she keeps training at this rate.”
“She will be the next Head of Magicians, right?”
“Wait, is it true that she has a fiancé?”
Cassie slightly glared at the group of gossipers.
You’re too loud, you know that I can hear you guys clearly?
Truthfully, she was drawing a blank on how her future might unfold.
A few years ago, she was suddenly engaged to Duke Hartmann’s youngest son. She has never met him once, although she has met Duke Hartmann and Duchess Hartmann on a few occasions where they visited her house to talk about the engagement.
She didn’t know how her future would be if she were to get married. Would she still be able to do what she loves the most, working in the Royal Magician Court?
Would it be fine if she were to be the next Head?
She has heard some nasty rumors about the Hartmann family, and her parents agreed that Duke Hartmann wanted to secure a strong lineage for Hartmann clan, thus he decided to arrange the marriage. Since her family’s social status was under the Hartmann’s, they couldn’t really oppose the engagement.
Thankfully, she didn’t get engaged to the oldest son who’s got more bad rumors afloat. It was said that the oldest one was going to be engaged to a more influential noble family’s daughter.
But whatever, she didn’t care about it.
She didn’t even know what her future husband was like, the only thing she knew was that this man’s presence to the noble society’s party was… close to zero.
It seemed that his relationship with the rest of his family wasn’t good… hmm, does that mean a good or a bad thing for her?
He didn’t even meet her once.
She’s sure that he doesn’t care, and he doesn’t even know who his fiancée is.
And that’s how she’s got to enjoy her “single” time while it lasts.
Because she can’t be sure of anything else after her “single” time is over.
Pfft, what is that? That doesn’t exist in her dictionary.
Yes, she has to indulge herself in the work that she loves so much while she can.
Opportunities won’t come a second time, so she has to make a good use of each one of them!
After they finished tending to the wounded ones and discussed the current findings, it was resting time.
Cassie only needed a little rest to replenish all her energy back, so she managed to wake up very early and saw how her comrades were mostly still fast asleep.
She decided to crawl out of the cave, greet the guarding personnel and glanced towards the peak of the volcano, which was very visible from where she was. They were quite close to the peak, huh?
She squinted her eyes, trying to take a good look at the peak, wondering what might be there.
Just then—she saw a glimpse of something red flying around the peak and landed there.
Wait, what could that be?!
Cassie felt her chest thumping from excitement as she felt that something interesting might happen soon.
Afterward, they continued their journey to the peak while taking notes of every magical influence there and every magical beast present.
“Ah, this is the spot. See, I can’t move anywhere closer than this,” The leader tried to take a step closer to the spot, but something blocked him.
The other magicians tried it but they were blocked, as well.
Cassie thought that perhaps they should just go offensive and attack the barrier so they could enter.
“Let me touch the barrier so I can analyze whether it’s safe to attack it or not,” Cassie advanced and put her palm on the invisible obstructive force.
But just right after her palm landed safely on it—another mysterious force was pulling her in!!
“Grab her other hand, grab it!!”
“Gotcha, but I can’t pull her back!”
“Just continue grabbing her, who knows maybe we can finally come in after this?!”
“Ehh, what the hell are you talking about?”
Of course, this was followed by an uproar.
Cassie was still sucked in and she felt like she couldn’t do anything about it, so she let herself get pulled to the other side.
As her body was about to be completely pulled in, the mysterious barrier blocked the person grabbing her hand from entering, attacking that person with a heat wave.
In the end, Cassie was the only one who got to “the other side”.
By the time Cassie got to the other side, she glanced back and couldn’t see her comrades back there. When she tried to reach out her hand towards the spot where she was before, she noticed that there was something blocking her.
Nice, so now, she’s stuck inside, all alone?
Oh well, since there was nothing she could do to change that, she might as well advance to the peak!
As she walked closer to the peak, the trees became scarcer and she finally arrived at the barren land with magma. Naturally, she felt the heat increasing. Since she wasn’t a fire magician, she wasn’t used to the heat and was sweating.
But that didn’t hinder her from examining around here and there.
As she peeked at every nook and cranny and was very focused on what she was examining, she missed the presence of something stealthily landing on a tall rock behind her. Moreover, that presence didn’t have any kind of a killing intent, so she continued to examine a weird magical object nearby.
For whatever reason it had, the creature exerted its pressure, flapped its wings and growled.
Cassie reflexively grabbed her Magic Staff tighter and turned behind her.
That was their first meeting.
Cassie was mesmerized with the sight in front of her.
A huge bird-like creature who seemed to be set ablaze was standing on top of the big rock in front of her, acting all mighty. Her body was all clad in bright flames. The way she flapped her wings caused the winds to blow around them as if she was boasting her prowess. That creature put her long tail up, spreading it beautifully like a peacock.
Her eyes are not white like humans—they are golden. Inside the creature’s light blue irises, Cassie’s small figure was reflected.
Beautiful… Is this a living, real phoenix?!
Cassie’s eyes sparkled in excitement instead of feeling fear from having to face the creature more than twice her size.
[Human, aren’t you afraid of me?]
A gentle voice reverberated inside Cassie’s mind. Cassie glanced at the phoenix in front of her, the phoenix’s beak didn’t even move an inch.
Did she just communicate with me via telepathy?!
“Rather than afraid, I feel so happy that I’m able to meet you, the mighty phoenix that I often heard from the tales!”
Cassie bowed respectfully in front of the phoenix.
[The name’s Fenix. Or so I like to call myself.]
“Ah, where are my manners? It’s a pleasure meeting you, Fenix. My name is Cassiophelia de la Sanctuaria, a magician,” Cassie curtseyed.[Mana capacity and magic attributes…?]
“888. My strongest affinities are [Life], [Light], and [Wind].”[Two rare affinities for a human?]
“I am part elf.”[Interesting. As I expected from someone who was qualified to be here.]
Cassie pondered inside her mind.
Come to think about it, she was the only one who was dragged inside the mysterious barrier.
Moreover, the barrier emitted some kind of heat that prevented her comrades from getting sucked in together with her.
Also, the volcano that had been inactive for the past few hundred years suddenly became active…
A phoenix’s appearance…
If she were to connect everything, then…
Wouldn’t every strange and mysterious phenomenon be answered?
Everything… all of it was caused by Fenix!
It would be good for her to clarify the matter.
“Were you the one who caused all those phenomena? The active volcano, the magical barrier, me getting sucked in, and…?”[I am glad that you have a brain, at least.]
For Cassie who was praised for her intelligence, that line sounded insulting, but well, she got to be calm in the presence of the phoenix.
She didn’t want to upset Fenix.
Not that she finally could meet a real-life phoenix!
“Well, it was quite obvious. All I had to do was to connect the dots.”
Cassie smiled proudly, trying to not show any hint of her irritation.
[I saw more humans wearing the same robe as you back there. What kind of cult are you in? Which kind of god are you worshipping there?]
Cassie didn’t know whether she should laugh or cry. She didn’t expect that Fenix would ask this kind of question.
“No, I’m not in any cult. This is the robe that all royal magicians in Riviera wear.”[Ooh, I rarely saw that before, I thought you were a cult member or something. Not bad.]
What is not bad? The robe’s design or…?
Is this phoenix joking around with her or is she serious…?!
[If I’m not wrong, I saw you fighting during when the monsters attacked your group, and then you were also playing on the defensive role? And you also healed your comrades in the nearby cave?]
…Is she a stalker?!
Cassie only nodded.
[I heard some of your comrades praised you as a prodigy. True?]
Cassie started to have a headache.
If Fenix really could hear their talks from afar because it’s her territory… how could she not realize that they were not a cult, but some sort of a magicians’ organization? Yes, she must have been joking!! What’s more, she couldn’t read Fenix’s facial expression at all!!
She wanted to rub her temples right now, but then, it would reveal her thoughts. She imagined herself rubbing her temples in her heart, but her facial expression remained calm.
“That’s… I’m used to hearing that and I really am humbled, but I believe there are others standing above me. I’m sure there are lots of people who haven’t heard of me, too.”[Hmm, not arrogant, but humble. Nice, very nice.]
Cassie’s face twitched subtly.
Fenix is really testing her…?
Fenix observed Cassie who was standing in front of her.
Hmm… how small…
Ah no, that’s not what she should be focusing here.
She seemed to be young, but quite talented. Prodigy, is it…? Seems like the other humans aren’t just exaggerating things…?
No, in the first place, if she wasn’t talented, then she won’t even be standing there.
888 mana… yes, she clearly passed the requirement Fenix set.
However, can someone as young as her be good enough?
There is only one thing to do to see that.
[Human, have you got any Familiar?]
Cassie was surprised by her sudden question. It was quite of her complex… she had no Familiar yet…
It’s not that she couldn’t find any Familiar willing to be with her. She just felt that she hadn’t encountered a Familiar that intrigued her and the one that she felt “connected” with.
Why question her this? Is Fenix going to mock her for not having one…? Or… could it be that Fenix is willing to be her Familiar?!
Her heart had a bit of hope—yes, Cassie wanted to have Fenix.
“No, not yet.”
She shook her head in response, trying to show a neutral expression. If she showed clear signs that she wanted Fenix, perhaps Fenix would turn her down because she was deemed to be a greedy little one.
[Very well. Say, are you not interested in having a phoenix as your Familiar?]
Cassie’s eyes shone right away and she looked up straight at Fenix’s pupils. Her face showed her earnest interest and determination.[I’ll take that as a ‘yes’. Sure, I’m interested, but only if you could satisfy me.]
Cassie’s face turned from excitement into a nervous laugh.
How can a small human like her satisfy such a creature as a phoenix?
[…Actually, being your Familiar might not be so bad. You have the [Light], [Wind], and [Life] of the Sky, but you’re missing the [Sun], or the fire. I can be the [Sun] of your [Sky]. Only then, you will be able to completely represent a blue sky. Well that is only if you can win in a battle against me.]
Cassie shuddered at the thoughts of Fenix suddenly being all poetic. The [Sky]? Well, she loves looking at the blue sky. The blue sky is captivating. And it is true that her fire magic isn’t really strong. It isn’t her forte at all. Surely, Fenix’s flame will win against her flames.
“What kind of battle is it?”
…It won’t be a battle to the death, right?