Up ahead, I was pretty sure that I could see the meadow where Möemnen’s pets abducted me in the first place. I didn’t know how far her territory extended, but if she sent her bugs to that meadow to bring me to her, perhaps her direct control didn’t extend that far. She had to have their help to pull me into her “domain”.
But I was still desperately trying to pull in mana, and it was still nearly impossible. And I could feel a presence rising from the woods to give chase once more. She might have been injured, but she wasn’t out of the fight yet.
“How many more can you give me?” I asked Durandal.
He hesitated before answering, and the answer sounded like he was disturbed by what he had just realized.
One Earth mana attack, using the mana you gave me. Forgive me, My Lady.
I frowned for a bit, then realized he meant the Earth mana I was coating him with. He would need that to do anything.
So he only now realized he had already been out. I guess without the ability to draw new mana, he couldn’t keep proper track of his resources.
“Keep it for your shield, then,” I told him.
I continue to draw a small amount at a time, but it is difficult to replenish at this rate.
“Yeah, same for me,” I agreed, then started reviewing the remainder of my battle assets.
I had begun the fight with all eight mana types tucked away in my ‘core’. I had yet to use any of the Water, Healing or Light. I still had some Earth, Wind and Darkness left, and more Aether and Fire.
Water was my biggest resource, since I had all the mana I had drawn from the environment to coat myself now circulating throughout my body’s mana paths, but I had yet to learn a decent water attack. [Water Mirror] was my only real spell with the stuff, plus I could do basic water creation. Just like Genette’s ability to heat water or start a fire with her Fire mana, water creation is just a skill, not a spell. The true first-level spells [Torch] and [Wellspring] do the same things, only far more efficiently. I couldn’t do either of them yet.
I was hesitant to use any more Wind, which I needed for flight, or Darkness, which I needed if I wanted to cloak. Healing was only useful if she wounded me, because Purification was meaningless against a fairy. That left Fire and Light.
I went ahead and circulated Healing anyway, so I could coat myself with Melione’s so-called ‘healing armor’.
To my surprise, I discovered I could pull Healing mana normally and didn’t need to tap my reserve. But I checked and found that I still couldn’t draw the other mana types. So Möemnen’s ‘Domain’ didn’t cover Healing?
I regretted only discovering that just now. I could have hit her with [Sleep] right at the beginning. I once knocked out an angel with it. No way a fairy would be stronger than an angel, right?
Okay, that’s just an assumption on my part, but I would like to believe it’s true.
Möemnen was still far away, but her voice filled the air around me.
“Little girl, you will regret injuring me. Bad little girls need strict discipline!”
Once she had delivered that horrendously trite villainess line, she cast a high-powered Wind magic, and I was slapped down into a steep descent. She was actually changing the direction that my own flight magic sent me! As I managed to partially level out, I found myself spun around and headed directly back. I was still descending, just not as fast.
She was holding her injured arm, but watching me with a smirk as I helplessly continued my ride down into the trees. I could tell which treetops I was headed for. They were moving to prepare for my arrival, probably with the plan being that they would entrap me in their limbs once again.
Going to a one-handed grip on Durandal, I held up the palm of my free hand toward Möemnen, circulated Fire quickly, drew out my chosen spell from my ‘magic sense’, the place within the mind that holds the form of the magic once the spell is successfully acquired, and intoned, “[Fireball]!”
A very large ball of fire formed, firing at her, catching her by surprise. She chantlessly created a [Wind Wall] defense, barely in time, and it mostly failed to penetrate.
She had finally lost her smug smile and showed some genuine anger. Some of my flames had scorched her. And I was free of her control again, so I changed my flight direction to charge her.
“I’ve a beautiful set of fairy steel chains waiting for you in my cave, little girl!” she growled as she began summoning mana.
“[Fireball]!” came a familiar voice as a second attack formed directly behind her, then flames smashed into her from point-blank range.
Möemnen’s arms and legs flew out as it struck her, the flames scorching her skin far more than my attack had. She dropped toward the forest again, while I stared in surprise at the little pixie who had just dropped her stealth.
Seriously, where did this little thing find that much strength?
“Big Sis!” she shouted happily, flying at top speed toward me. While I was still gawking, she buzzed past me.
“Fly fly fast fast fast!” she called as she went by.
Does tripling the word instead of doubling it mean something distinct? No idea. The grammatical rules of Kiki language are a mystery to me.
I followed, putting some of my Wind mana reserve into it. Kiki looked back as she grew smaller, then yelled, “Too slow slow!”
“I’m going as fast as I can go!” I yelled back. I couldn’t grab the Wind mana to pull myself along faster, so all I could manage was what my wings could give me.
She paused, allowing me to catch up, then plopped onto my back, riding with her little legs hanging to each side of my neck.
“Go more left!” she shouted, then “More right!”
After two more iterations of that, I shouted back, “Make up your mind!”
“Bad fairy make it twisty, but Kiki see! Go like Kiki say!”
I kept changing headings, zig-zagging according to her directions, noticing from the landscape below that we actually were making real headway.
Then the mana I had been straining to draw all the time suddenly became normally available again.
We were out of her territory. I luxuriated in the ability to grab hold of the Wind mana in the air around me and pull myself through it as I poured on the speed and began putting some serious distance behind me.
My lady, I am filling with mana again.
“Me, too,” I said with a nod. We were now rocketing across woodland, farmland and pastureland at my normal traveling speed once more.
“What’s that?” Kiki asked. She couldn’t hear Durandal, of course.
“Don’t worry about it,” I told her, then wondered, “How did you find me?”
“Kiki just find,” she answered, sounding genuinely puzzled.
“No, I mean…” I shook my head. “I get it, somehow you can find me. But how did you make it here? It’s supposed to be impossible to navigate here!”
“Kiki smart smart!” she declared proudly.
I sighed and shook my head. I should have known I couldn’t get an answer out of her. So I just noted, “I guess that’s true.”
“No good! Go right!”
We were about to cross a ridge line. Remembering my previous experience, I turned right and headed along the valley I was over.
“Big brother say Big Sis go to fairy place. Big sis go now?”
“Does fairy place mean Tëan Tír?” I asked. At that moment, I discovered I was turning without intending to. I had to course correct.
“Yup yup! Big fairies go to Tëan Tír!”
…and now I was turning the other way. I was definitely hitting another one of those navigational hazards, but I couldn’t tell what was causing it, or exactly where it was. I came to a stop and hovered.
So the Lord of the Hart, whose name I still didn’t know, actually knew where I was going? I did not remember mentioning it to him, but if he actually was Grandmother’s father, maybe she had let him know.
“Then I guess the answer is yes,” I told her.
“Okay! Let’s go!”
If only it were that easy. I shook my head. “Kiki, I have no idea where that is. I don’t even know where I am.”
“Mmmm…” she legit sounded like she was pondering things very deeply. Then I heard the sound of a tiny fist hitting a palm. “Oh! Kiki knows!”
I turned my head to look back at her. “You do?”
“Kiki smart smart!” she declared, folding her arms and tipping her chin up.
“Yeah, we already established that… and you did find me, I guess,” I mused.
Thinking about it, the fact that Kiki had found me could just have been some kind of tracking ability, but if she had followed me directly, she would have arrived sooner. She somehow sensed where I was, and then somehow didn’t get mixed up by the strange magics in this land while she flew to me.
I had asked and received a typical Kiki answer already, but I had to know. “Why does that magic that stops me from flying straight not affect you?”
“Huh?” she asked, sounding confused.
“Do you have one of those seals they told me about?”
“Mmmm. Maybe Kiki… just special?”
“Oh! Big Brother’s friend make Kiki not lost!” she exclaimed.
I didn’t truly know what the answer actually meant, but she remembered getting the ability from somebody. So, until proven otherwise, I would assume she had permission to travel where she wanted.
Nodding, I said, “Alright, then. I fly, you navigate. Just tell me what direction to turn.”
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.