༺ A Game of Chicken (3) ༻
A pebble on the side of the road.
That was what Eva Hielov, a low-ranking student of Class D, thought of herself.
Although her talent for magic was above average in the Zelver Empire.
Her skills were miserable when compared to all the talents gathered in Märchen Academy.
That was why, when the Red Elephant of the Four Constellations had invited her to be their information gatherer…
She had resolved to offer the Red Elephant everything she had. She had believed that this was the only way for her to prove her worth inside Märchen Academy.
Unfortunately… it looked like she had made a terrible mistake.
Eva had a very low mana perception, but she could still feel it clearly.
The man named Isaac was overflowing with mana beyond her imagination…!
‘I won’t overlook the fact that you sold information about me, Eva.’
She recalled how he had spoken to her so solemnly.
Just who had she just provoked? Who had she just offended?
‘I’ll live quietly from now on without getting ahead of myself…’
She was overcome with terror and hopelessness. She wanted to cry.
Eva’s resolve to offer her everything to the Red Elephant had crumbled long ago.
Now, even the crumbs of that shattered resolve were breaking away piece by piece.
* * *
[What did you do? Crunch. Why is your mana suddenly…?!]
Malrog’s massive eyes widened, growing even larger.
It was only natural for him to be surprised. Malrog may be strong, but I still had significantly more mana than him.
I looked out of the corner of my eye. Ian was gathering light mana on the blade of his sword.
A pure-white magic circle was conjuring around him. Was he planning on using [Apostle of Light]?
Casting [Apostle of Light] in ❰Magic Knight of Märchen❱’s hell difficulty originally required an extremely high level of control.
This was because the spell took a very long time to cast. The timing was ambiguous, so you needed to be able to calculate it well.
In return, however, its performance was guaranteed.
[Apostle of Light] was basically a prerequisite to complete [Chapter 6, Floating Island] of ❰Magic Knight of Märchen❱.
I would have no way to save Dorothy if Ian didn’t use [Apostle of Light] at the center of Floating Island.
So I wanted to take this opportunity to confirm with my own two eyes that Ian was actually capable of properly casting this spell.
「Rock Avalanche (Rock Element, ★4)」 + 「Black Rock (Rock Element, ★5)」
= 「Black Rock Hammer (Rock Element)」
A giant black rock protruded out from Malrog’s magic circle like a hammer.
The [Black Rock Hammer]. It was trying to crush me, Ian, and the rest of the other students.
‘I won’t be defeated so easily.’
I raised my index finger and began casting a joint elemental spell.
「Rock Wall (Rock Element, ★4)」 + 「Ice Wall (Ice Element, ★4)」
= 「Fossilized Ice (Rock + Ice Element)」
A saturated wall of ice fell upon Malrog and encased him as I moved my finger.
A thick wall of ice that was gleaming with veins of light brown rock mana—[Fossilized Ice].
It was the most powerful defensive spell that I could currently use.
Malrog’s [Black Rock Hammer] collided against my [Fossilized Ice], but it couldn’t even leave a scratch on the sturdy wall of ice.
Before long, Ian had finally finished prepping to cast [Apostle of Light].
I dispelled the [Fossilized Ice] I had cast in order to defend against Malrog’s [Block Rock Hammer]. Pale blue and light brown specks of light floated down from the air.
Then, I shot out another [Fossilized Ice] to erupt where Malrog lingered.
Malrog’s frame was thrust upwards by my [Fossilized Ice] but stopped ascending partway through.
[Fossilized Ice] spread out around him like a wall. I had purposefully left the side where Ian was facing open.
And now, the stage is set.
Ian raised his sword, which was imbued with light mana, above his head.
Then, in one swift motion, he brought it down.
His sword drew a streak of pure-white light through the air.
White flames rose from the sword, piercing through the ground and racing toward Malrog.
A pure white dove bursted out from the swing of Ian’s sword, and dozens of rays of light were unleashed from his magic circle.
All of his attacks fell upon Malrog as one.
Rainbow-colored light flared, and a storm of pure-white fire enclosed Malrog and in a blinding flash of light, his body burned.
[Fossilized Ice] was preventing [Apostle of Light] from dispersing, so the spell burned Malrog and Malrog alone.
Malrog gritted his teeth to endure the agony.
There might be a large difference in level between Ian and Malrog, but Divine Power was still a demon’s weakness.
Moreover, Ian was a weapon that made it possible to face demons with a large level difference. He was pretty effective.
Best of all, [Apostle of Light] came with a very useful effect.
[Crunch. Ugh… My mana…!]
The flames of [Apostle of Light] dwindled.
Malrog was scorched all over, and he was unable to use magic.
[Apostle of Light] temporarily tangled up the target’s mana circuit.
Malrog could probably still use simple spells like [Rock Avalanche].
But it would be difficult for him to use spells like [Rock Rampage], which required a high degree of mana control.
[Rock Rampage] was one of the most dangerous skills in Malrog’s attack pattern.
It was a large-scale spell that created indiscriminate eruptions of rock. There would be a lot of casualties if that bastard used such a spell.
Originally, if you wanted to neutralize Malrog before he had the chance to cast [Rock Rampage], you had to use a light element sword aura to attack only the glowing heads from among the many heads that were attached all over his body.
‘But how the hell would Ian manage that?’
Well, there was nothing I could do about that. And so, the next best alternative was to have him cast [Apostle of Light] on Malrog with my support.
Anyway, that was a good show. I won’t need to worry about the power of [Apostle of Light].
I defrosted [Fossilized Ice] as I walked towards Malrog. He ended up floating in midair when the [Fossilized Ice] that had been holding up his body disappeared.
Just before he began plummeting down to the stage due to the effects of gravity…
His two gigantic eyes met mine.
[Crunch crunch. How, how?!!]
Malrog cried in a trembling voice.
[Crunch. Your mana was unmistakably crunch
No better than that of an insect’s!!]
I stood under the shining spotlight and extended my right hand toward Malrog.
Ice and rock mana flowed out from my right hand and two colossal magic circles that were pale blue and light brown in color formed atop the stage and over Malrog’s head.
A faint smile tugged at the corners of my lips.
“…Just so happen to be a bit overpowered when hunting bastards like you.”
Then, I clenched my right hand into a fist and casted my spell.
「Sink Hole (Rock Element, ★6)」 + 「Frost Wave (Ice Element, ★6)」
= 「Permafrost (Rock + Ice Element)」
The magic circles above and below Malrog spat out cold rocks, clumps of dirt, and gushes of frigid, cold air.
A deathly cold rock quickly bursted up from the stage.
Malrog’s body immediately became frostbitten as soon as the rock touched him.
And then he was crushed haplessly by the soil and rock that was raining down from above.
The two boulders crushed him from above and below.
Malrog’s body was trapped inside the pale blue soil of the [Permafrost], unable to escape
The two rocks swallowed Malrog and began emitting a steam-like chill that was riddled with ice crystals.
「Rock Wall (Rock Element, ★4)」 + 「Black Rock (Rock Element, ★5)」
= 「Indestructible Iron Body (Rock Element)」
[Permafrost] was a spell that trapped its target inside itself and crushed them to death. Malrog, however, had avoided instant death by casting [Indestructible Iron Body] at maximum output.
Unfortunately for him, it was to no avail.
[Permafrost] would continue to crush anything in its range regardless of how durable it was. The pressure it generated was not something that the likes of Malrog’s [Indestructible Iron Body] could handle.
The bastard’s [Indestructible Iron Body] was ravaged.
At long last. [Permafrost] was dispelled and the rocks emitting frigid, pale blue chill ceased their activity. It turned into specks of pale blue and light brown light as it disappeared.
The spell began to reveal a haplessly crushed-up black rock.
Inside the black rock was Malrog, whose body was smashed up and covered in frozen blood. His body was so ruined that it was hard to recognize his previous appearance.
Malrog began to fall under the influence of gravity.
He grinded his teeth one last time before hitting the stage.
Malrog’s last words quietly faded into the distance.
And he turned into an ashen powder before scattering into the air.
My body became extremely heavy and my mana rapidly decreased as soon as my unique trait [Hunter] was deactivated.
The black labyrinth that had filled the ceiling and walls slowly faded away. Soon enough, the rest of the students would wake up from their illusions, and their memories would be substituted with fake ones.
Ian was no exception.
In the game, he was supposed to have broken completely free of the illusion and fought against Malrog.
This time, however, he was still under the illusion spell. So, his memories would probably be altered as well.
But more importantly.
Malrog the Envious vanished completely, leaving behind a lone key that bounced before settling on the stage.
I climbed up to the stage and picked up the key. It was old and silver.
‘I’ll take this.’
I didn’t think I’d get this so soon…
I pocketed the ‘Key to Mysteries’, hopped down from the stage, and quickly walked over to where Eva was.
She was standing in the directions where hiccups could be heard.
Eva responded after deactivating [Stealth].
“I-I-I did everything I… was told…!”
She began crying even though all I did was call her name.
She already knew that I was the ‘Black Monster’. She’d probably confirmed it after sensing my mana just now.
I felt kind of bad doing it, but putting a lot of pressure on Eva was the best way to persuade (intimidate) her.
I was planning to protect everyone in the academy, including Eva, but I needed to keep my identity hidden in order to achieve that. The less that the academy’s staff heard about me, the better. I had circumstances, after all.
If you end up meeting a demon in Atla Hall, keep everything you saw that day a secret. Many people will either be saved or be condemned to death according to your choice.
Eva was not only a coward but she was also someone with a normal and sensible personality, so words worked quite well on her.
She had pointlessly mustered the courage to sell information about me to others, but right now she was overcome with plenty of regret and fear. I had confirmed this by using [Psychology Insight] on her for the past several days.
Someone who was practically a big bundle of regret and fear wouldn’t do the same thing twice.
“Keep everything you saw a secret. The only thing you did today was enjoy the gathering.”
Eva was quivering head to toe as she vigorously nodded back.
We’d already had this conversation before. Since there was nothing more to say, I resumed walking.
Eventually, the space that had been created by [Mad Banquet] had completely disappeared.
Life began returning to the students’ eyes. Everyone had been freed from the world of illusion.
I had already slipped out of Atla Hall by the time that an awkward silence had fallen upon everyone.
I paused for a moment as I closed the doors to Atla Hall behind me and stepped out into the hallway.
I took a deep breath.
And let out a prolonged sigh of relief as I sank to the floor.
I almost lost…
Technically speaking, I would have lost if Malrog had decided to attack me.
It had been a while since I’ve seen the Great Witch of Heaven’s Wrath. I’m sure she would have said hello before I went on to the afterlife.
I quietly gathered my breath, briefly reveling in the fact that I was still alive.
I heard something noisy on the other side of the doors. It was the sound of ordinary chatting and music. Everyone’s memories had been rewritten without incident.
But at this point, I had already left.
I wanted to hurry up and see Dorothy, whom I’d promised to meet.
Today has been kind of exhausting.
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