Chapter 75 – Break Illusion

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I re-sheathed my blade– it was still hot enough to hurt– and flew quickly to where Arken, Melione and Lute were.

Lute whirled on me with his knife, ready to defend his charges. I was proud of the kid, but I lightly smacked him on the head with the flat of my hand anyway.

“I’m on your side, dummy.”

I grabbed Lute and Melione with one arm each and took off, making a quick hop to the wagon. After I deposited them next to Ceria, who was doing support for all four vanguards, I told her, “We need a break illusion. A strong one. Once I bring the elve here, let him support while you do it.

She nodded. I looked down at Lute and said, “Protect Melione if one of those guys gets through.”

The kid’s brows bunched up and he yelled, “I know that already!”

With a grin for him, I took off again, to collect Arken.

Arken hadn’t been participating in the battle until this, because it would have ruined his stealth. One of the two people with him probably couldn’t defend herself against soldiers, so he couldn’t draw attention to himself.

But now that I had taken her away, he was firing fireballs and aether shots at the enemy. I landed beside him and he immediately held his staff in front with two hands, making himself easier to pick up. Rather than say something, I just grabbed him and went. A couple fireballs came our way during this hop, but Arken easily parried them.

“My magician friend has something to do. You take over the support so she can work,” I said on the way.

“Absolutely, My Lady,” he agreed as we landed.

To my alarm, he went to his knee as I let him go, but he was just allowing himself to release the ‘glammer limb’ to save on magic. He began casting buffs on all three heavy warriors. Brigitte was accustomed to working without support other than healing, and Melione was now there to take care of healing should she need it, so covering the three frontliners was sufficient.

I rose back into the air to find Aenëe recovered and returning from within the wall. She seemed to be holding her undamaged sword, but my fairy sight told me she had replaced the missing blade with Earth mana.

Below, I could hear Ceria’s chant, loud and pure over the din of fighting. “Give heed to the pattern I seek / A hand moves unseen below us / Writing in inks of spirit pigment / [Inscribe Formation]!”

“That is so cool!” I said out loud while drawing my sword as she approached. “I want to learn that trick!”

The grip of my sword was still burning hot. I reminded myself to never use that much Fire mana on it again.

She smiled without a hint of friendliness, as she squared up to continue our fight. “Sorry. It’s a clan secret.”

“Aw. Too bad,” I pouted, holding my sword en guarde.

Beneath the wagon, an enormous magic circle now spread. Ceria moved on to her spell. “Shatter the secret and reveal the truth / All eyes shall see the figure they face / when it stands in the light of day / [Break Illusion]!”

She threw a handful of some sort of dust up into the air– a magic catalyst– as she shouted out the finish. The plume morphed into a wave that suddenly expanded in all directions, like the shock wave of an explosion. To my consternation, my sword changed from the ice-blue of elvish steel back to its natural sparkling silver gray as the fourth-level Light magic blew Arken’s disguise away.

Aenëe’s eyes bugged. “Is that sword mithril?!”

“A gift from Mother,” I said with an airy tone and a shrug, as if it were a trivial nothing much. I really think my fairy side was beginning to get the better of me.

She shook her head and advanced again, with her Earth mana sword growing a covering of Wind mana. She was going for the same blade-slicing event she’d suffered from me. But I had a good amount of Wind mana saved up now, and I blasted a massive [Wind Bullet] at her again, using my sword as the wand, and then switched to Earth and fortified my blade to counter her plans.

The bullet threw her attack off and she had to run past me without a strike. Since I had something to show her, I didn’t take advantage of the opening. Instead, I gave her a wink and glanced downward.

“My sword isn’t the only thing that lost its disguise, Lady Aenëe. Take a look at your ‘lord’.”

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She frowned at me, but looked down as I suggested. Her eyes widened again and her mouth hung open.

A lich wearing the clothes of Baron Ricard now stood in the middle of the battle, looking around at his three ‘adventurer’ subordinates, who were now three larvae. The soldiers became aware of the quartet of skeletal demons in their midst and ceased fighting us to take up defensive stances against them.

The same moment she looked down, I felt a massive wave of Light mana begin flowing within me as Ceria held out her staff one-handed and chanted, “Give form to the weapon I desire / A mighty bow to let fly / sharp arrows to slay my foe / [Magic Arrow]!”

Ryuu bellowed out, “[Spirit Shot]!” at the same moment, and the two strikes arrived together. The lich was knocked down when the arrow impacted his shield. Ryuu’s attack landed on him and also struck the three larvae as collateral damage. Every once in a while, the dangerously wide shotgun effect of Ryuu’s attack has a practical effect.

Since enemies were no longer threatening those he was supporting, Arken then chanted,  “Give strength to this fiery strike / the weight of a giant’s fist / bearing the heat of a dragon’s gale / [Fire Bolt]!”

The second-level version of a fireball blasted forth and struck the ‘baron’ hard. His clothing was left smoldering, some of it dropping away, but the lich survived. He scrambled back to his feet, trying to raise another shield to replace the one Arken’s flame had destroyed.

Aenëe unfroze at last. “My… Lord?”

“Do you see what you’ve been serving now?”

She looked at me and shook her head, her eyes still wide. “It’s… a lie, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know when your lord was replaced, but it was at least two weeks ago.”

“That’s… about when I was hired.”

That had been when the baron had introduced the Hero’s Party to the three ‘adventurers’ who sent them into Jurmat’s ambush, or rather, the three larvae who were now trying to guard him. So in other words, this girl didn’t even know the real lord of this town.

The lich was desperately looking around, trying to find an escape. Then, it took off back toward the open gate into the city.

I took off after it, swinging my sword behind me as I flew. This time I circulated purification, drawing the mana into myself as fast as I could, my entire body seeming to catch on fire as I flew. Realizing it wouldn’t make it in time, the creature took off, using some application of Wind magic similar to Ceria’s levitation spell, trying desperately to outrun me. The speed increase gave me time to draw even more mana.

To my sides, I could see my wings with each wing stroke. They were glowing white, like they had before. This wasn’t the ‘white hot’ that my sword had glowed, but something harder to look at. I concentrated on the target, trying my best to see past the glaring light while blocking out the agony from the flames of holy cleansing that seemed to be roasting me alive.

By the time I reached him, I had a far greater speed. I swung the sword through him as I passed, letting the purification flow as the blade struck him.

The bones that formed his physical body lit with the white fire, then disarticulated in the air and fell away. Even the vertebrae fell apart. What scattered across the street below bore no resemblance to a body.

I stared down without comprehending for several seconds. The impossibile idea that I had just one-shotted a lich finally began forming in my mind.

Well, Ceria, Ryuu and Arken had already struck him, so it wasn’t a true one-shot. I have no idea how to judge damage to a lich if it doesn’t involve broken bones, but my companions must have done some damage to him, or he wouldn’t have panicked and run.

Aenëe appeared beside me as I hovered there. She stared along with me, then asked, “That… is that the Baron?”

“There’s a real baron somewhere,” I told her. “He’s either dead, or imprisoned. These bones aren’t him. And they never were him, Lady Aenëe.”

After all, it was unlikely a lich simply showed up and convinced everyone to call him the baron. There was a local lord already, when he arrived.

She nodded. “You’re right.”

I looked at her in thought, then said, “Call the elders from your clan here. You’re going to need help.”

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She frowned. “The elders?”

“There’s probably more underling demons, and the gods only know how many other problems this creature has caused. And you need to find the real baron. We’re both kids. This is going to take more experience than we have.”

“Why do you assume I’m a kid?” she shot back, annoyed. After all, fairies my age and a hundred years older don’t look much different. Even Mother, who uses magic to look more mature, looks like she isn’t yet twenty if she doesn’t use disguise magic. But…

“I had the good fortune to receive training from the best swordsman in Orestania. Without it, I would suck as badly as you do at swordplay. You’re no older than me, aren’t you?”

She pressed her lips together, then asked, “If you’re as young as me, how’d you get so strong? I’ve never seen a fairy shine that bright before!”

Other fairies glow, sometimes. I’ve seen Mother do it. So they also shine the way I do? And it’s a measure of strength?

“Mother is strong.” It was my only explanation. I had indeed seemed considerably stronger than Aenëe, who I assumed was an example of a normal fairy knight, albeit a very young one.

She gave me a wondering stare, than said, “So, you really were telling the truth. Your mother really is Princess Deharè.”

- my thoughts:

Tiana's mind may have skittered off the road, right there at the end.

I don't know if fantasy readers know that 'Larva' (Plural 'Larvae') originally meant a ghost or an evil spirit. It can also mean a skeleton, so I'm using it in that sense, for a skeletal demon above an ordinary undead and below a lich.

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