༺ Victory Festival (4) ༻
A dark alleyway. Sinister men. A lone girl left behind.
It was a development one might only see in novels, but Marian could not be happy that she had become the subject.
Such incidents should have happened to the protagonist in novels, it was a situation where she could not laugh if she was the target.
Marian spoke in a gentle tone to try and peacefully resolve this situation.
“Excuse me, I took the wrong path. I’m going to go back right away, could you please just pretend you didn’t see me?”
Of course, it was an absurd remark.
“Hehe, I can’t. As you can see, this is our territory.”
“It’s a place where a girl like you shouldn’t carelessly come in. Seems like we’ll have to take an ‘entrance fee’.”
Their vulgar dialogue as they approached showcased their caliber well.
Marian could read the dirty desire in their eyes. It was because men within her social circles often looked at her in such a way.
Even though now, it was more raw and unhidden desire.
Among them, a man with missing teeth reached out his hand towards Marian, and she swatted it away forcefully.
“Don’t come any closer!”
“Huh? Is she crazy-“
“Can’t you see this uniform? I am a student of Philion Academy. If you mess with me casually, the guards and the gendarmerie1A gendarmerie is a military force with law enforcement duties among the civilian population will be all over this place. If you don’t want to spend your life in an underground prison, it’d be best to just leave me alone.”
Whether it was because of Marian’s confident tone and voice, the men could not approach her any further as they murmured amongst themselves.
They instinctively felt it. That the woman in front of them was not of ordinary status.
At the mention of the academy and the gendarmerie, the men exchanged glances, wondering how to respond.
During this, the man with missing teeth who got hit by Marian spat on the ground and spoke with a menacing face.
“So, is that gendarmerie here right now?”
“We’re just a bunch of vagrants anyway. How are they going to find us if we sell you off and scatter to hide? An academy student, huh? That means there will be more people wanting to buy you!”
At the assertion of the man with missing teeth, the surrounding men nodded as if there was some sense in his words.
“What is that…?”
To Marian’s eyes, it was just foolish nonsense.
The gendarmerie weren’t all scarecrows, and if the talent who will work for the empire in the future is threatened, it was clear that the administration would respond actively. The academy would certainly deploy guards to protect the students.
Marian also knew about the existence of the underworld from rumors. So, the slave traders in the underworld would never dare to take in an academy student. They would certainly know it could be risky enough to completely destroy their business.
She tried to inform them of this fact but gave up.
Their eyes were already gone. It wasn’t a level where a conversation could get through.
The moment she realized this, anger surged up to the tip of her hair.
Was she, of all people, to be mocked by such petty slum gangsters?
Me, Marian von Kalshtein?
It was ridiculous that she thought of relying on Gwyn.
Since when did she rely so much on others?
She was the one who had established her position alone in the noble social circle like the horse fighting tournament. Relying only on others in such a situation was something her lofty pride wouldn’t allow.
“Fine. Let’s try this, shall we?”
Being surrounded by men was a first, so she was slightly taken aback, but upon reflection, could these kinds of guys, no matter how many, be as intimidating as Instructor Eon during combat training lessons?
Marian was not confident in fighting, but she was not a weak noble young lady who had absolutely no means to fight.
She put her hand into the pocket of her cloak, and between her fingers, she gripped a crystal bead the size of a fingernail.
She poured mana into the four crystal beads and threw them, and then a bright light spread out, and the beads transformed into something the size of an adult man.
Soldiers of golem, armed with swords and armor.
They surrounded Marian as if to escort her.
“What, what is this!?”
“A Mage! She’s a Mage!”
That too was just foolish nonsense.
Marian knew how to handle mana, but this was not magic that brought about new phenomena by devising formulas.
A technique to create and manipulate artificial life forms like artificial spirits ‘Juggler’ and magic golems ‘Shabti’.
They were soldiers made using alchemy.
At their master’s command, the soldiers silently advanced. The men were flustered and raised their voices at the intimidating sight of the armed soldiers approaching.
“What are we going to do!? Nobody said she was a Mage!”
“…Damn it! Do you think that lady will let us escape like this? Screw it! There are only four of them! We’re more than ten!”
“Damn it! Ahhh!”
The men each pulled out their weapons and charged at the golem soldiers, but all of that resistance was in vain.
In one swift move, the golem soldiers subdued the men and stabbed swords into their arms and legs.
“Argh! My, my leg!!”
The strength of the golem soldier isn’t really that strong. It’s only a force that could face an imperial infantry soldier one-on-one.
So, their idea of pressing with numbers wasn’t entirely wrong.
However, only if their opponents were human soldiers.
Golem soldiers, who do not fear injury and continue to fight even when wounded, wore out their opponents. Moreover, the one controlling them was none other than Marian herself.
‘Huh? This is easier than I thought?’
Marian, unlike other Opal Black class students, did not possess direct combat abilities.
She was not skilled with a sword like Gwyn, nor was she physically gifted like Batar.
She didn’t know how to use magic like Oznia, nor could she handle spirits like Titania.
However, she possessed the genius military strategy and tactical mind inherited from the ‘Dragon’s Marshal’, Marquis Kalshtein.
That was the reason she was able to maintain a dominant upper hand against over ten men with only four soldiers. Under Marian’s command, the four golem soldiers moved and fought organically, as if they were one body.
As a result, the alleyway gangsters were swiftly subdued and all lay flat on the ground.
“Ugh…! Oh, it hurts…”
“Blood, blood… someone, stop the bleeding!”
Marian maintained a calm expression as she looked at the brutal scene with a cold gaze.
However, inside, her fingertips were subtly shaking with tension, surprise, and the excitement of combat.
‘Huh…? Am I actually strong?’
In retrospect, the outcome was obvious.
Even if they were first years, Philion Academy is the best institution in the empire and on the continent.
Marian was just overly daunted due to her lack of practical experience, but the students demonstrating outstanding abilities in their respective fields were already beyond the level of ordinary people.
For non-combat department students who don’t consider combat at all, it might be different, but for students with even a bit of combat skills, this kind of result was completely natural.
“Well, now it’s time to call the imperial police.”
In the end, she parted ways with Gwyn and lost the pickpocket boy, but instead caught other members of the group. If she took these guys to the imperial police headquarters for interrogation, she might also find out where Schultz’s wallet went.
When Marian mentioned the imperial police, the men lying on the ground shuddered noticeably. It seemed they had just realized what their future would look like. Of course, as criminals, there was no room for sympathy.
At that moment, the toothless man, subdued by a jab to the shoulder, released a sinister laugh with his head pressed against the floor.
“Heh, heh…! You think I’ll be caught just like that? No, no… that can’t be…!”
The man took out a tiny bottle from his pocket. Inside it was finely ground red powder, and the sight of it made the other men shout out in surprise.
“Hey! That’s the stuff the boss gave us! If you take that…”
“Shut up! Either way, we’re going to die, so it’s the same!”
With a crazed look in his eyes, the man opened the bottle cap.
Marian didn’t know what it was, but she had a bad feeling about it.
She ordered the golem to snatch the bottle from the man, but the man was faster at getting the bottle’s contents into his mouth.
At the same time, his face swelled with veins and his skin turned red.
The man began to scream in pain. It was a deafening, throaty scream.
The transformation happened in an instant. The screaming man’s muscles tightened, and faint dark mana seeped from his body.
Upon seeing the monstrous form of the transformed man, Marian finally realized the identity of the powder the man had consumed.
“No, could it be… Demon Shard!?”
There was a unique red crystal that could only be found on the mainland.
If this crystal is finely ground into powder and a small amount is inhaled, one becomes an invincible soldier, forgetting fear and fatigue, and unable to feel pain.
After the Empire and the Human Alliance accidentally discovered the effects of this red crystal, they decided to use it effectively in the war against the Demon Army. This was because the soldiers who inhaled this crystal powder achieved amazing results in battle.
Of course, there were side effects. Those who inhaled this powder showed symptoms of severe addiction and, once the effect of the drug wore off, became more lethargic than ordinary people and their bodies slowly deteriorated.
However, humanity didn’t have the luxury to consider such problems when faced with the brink of extinction, so the Empire named this red crystal powder the ‘Battle Awakening Drug’ and widely distributed it to frontline soldiers.
However, a very fatal side effect of this Battle Awakening Drug was discovered belatedly.
It was an extremely serious side effect, incomparable to addiction symptoms, where people who inhaled this powder lost their sanity, became violent, and eventually turned into demons.
Upon realizing that inhaling the powder turned humans into demons, the Empire completely halted the distribution of the Battle Awakening Drug and discarded all remaining supplies.
Marian had heard from her grandfather that the Battle Awakening Drug was no longer called by its original name, but instead referred to as ‘Demon Shard,’ which meant the essence of the demon tribe.
“Why is there such a thing in the empire!”
It was surprising that Demon Shard still existed, and it was shocking that the man right in front of her had eaten it and transformed into a demon.
But now was not the time to be surprised, she had to somehow subdue this man.
As Marian gestured a command, the golem soldiers raised their swords and charged at the man.
However, when the man, now a demon, swung his arm, as thick as a person’s waist, with a strong force, a sound split the air and the golem soldier hit by the arm shattered like broken pottery.
“This can’t be….”
Although useful, creating a single golem soldier costs as much as raising an apprentice knight.
Marian was stunned that four of the golem soldiers she had been reluctant to use in class for fear of them breaking were destroyed in an instant, but now was not the time to regret this.
‘What should I do now?’
Marian fell into deep thought.
She still had a few crystals left in her pocket to summon golems. She wasn’t confident about defeating that thing, but it seemed possible to buy time and escape.
However, what if it kept chasing her, all the way to the central road?
What if that demon rampaged in front of countless people?
‘Grandfather… Instructor Eon…!’
Her contemplation was brief and her decision firm.
She couldn’t bring shame to her name as a granddaughter and as a student of Malevolent Star.
With a resolute heart, she tightly clutched the crystal bead, and just as she was about to throw it at the enemy,
Suddenly, a light flashed around her, and a transparent wall made of light trapped the demon in all directions.
No matter how much the demon swung its huge arm and struck the wall, the wall didn’t flinch at all.
Caught off guard by the sudden situation, Marian blinked in surprise.
At that moment, she heard the sound of someone walking from the opposite side of the alley.
Marian turned her head in surprise. And then, she was even more surprised than before.
Black hair that flowed long as if it embraced the darkness of the night. A beautiful appearance that would make anyone, even Marian, believe she was favored by the goddess.
The Saintess, Charlotte Orsia, was there.
TLN: Changed magical power>mana
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- 1A gendarmerie is a military force with law enforcement duties among the civilian population