༺ The First Letter (71) ༻
It was a strange sensation. My head spun, my vision blurred, and my left arm went numb as the rampaging mana flowed through my veins like a wild beast.
The stream of mana caused my veins to expand and overflow. Was there always this much mana lying dormant within me?
It was painful. The beating of my heart echoed through my brain, and the pain intensified as every single sense became heightened.
My body was in shambles and each breath was shallow.
Where was I? Right. I was in the forest south of the Academy where the hunting festival was being held.
My dazed eyes laid upon a man urgently shaking me while seemingly calling out to me. My hearing slowly returned as his voice finally registered in my ears.
“Junior, Junior! You need to wake up!”
I was able to tell that the man with sunken cheeks was a devout monk. It was Senior Fermin.
Although not all of the clergy were necessarily good people, it was a common trait for those who possessed deep faith to live a sincere life according to the doctrine.
And it was precisely their devout faith and strict discipline that they were able to walk the arduous path of a monk. They fortified their skin by pouring scorching sand on their bodies from a young age, forming iron-like calluses that they then imbued with holy power, ultimately turning their bodies into formidable weapons.
As such, Senior Fermin was not an opponent I could hope to defeat with only a single arm, and considering he had already overpowered me, it seemed even more hopeless. In the end, there was but a single way for me to even have a winning chance.
A surprise attack. I decisively determined my next move like it was the most natural thing for me to do.
Senior Fermin’s expression grew more urgent upon hearing my weak voice. He brought his face closer to make out my words, unaware that doing so had consolidated his defeat.
Although I felt sorry, I had no other choice.
The sound of cartilage being torn apart filled the air.
Senior Fermin looked at me with eyes opened wide in shock as blood splattered all over the place. I had bitten off his nose.
Even if he had toughened his skin with hot sand, he wouldn’t have poured it on his face. That was why I went for the nose which was a fairly fragile part of the face. Even then, it was fairly challenging to penetrate.
However, I mustered all my strength and managed to tear off a part of his nose. He shrieked in pain and his hands reflexively went to his nose. I took advantage of that moment and kicked him in his stomach.
It felt like hitting a thick leather, but the shock was transmitted properly as Senior Fermin staggered backwards. Right after, I reflexively picked up the hatchet.
The hatchet connected with Senior Fermin’s temple. I had used the blunt side of the hatchet, but it was more than enough to incapacitate him.
Even if he had strengthened his body through rigorous training, it was impossible to physically reinforce his temple. Only mana would be able to protect an area such as the temple, but Senior Fermin clearly wasn’t in a state to summon any mana.
In the end, he fell to the ground, screaming in agony as he held his face with both hands.
It only took a few seconds to knock him down through a series of smoothly interconnected movements. The movements came so naturally that it felt as if my body had a mind of its own.
The boiling mana flowed through my heart, injecting my failing body with vitality.
My eyes turned to Senior Delphine.
She was my enemy. An extremely strong one at that. She was like the sun – As strong and intense as she was beautiful.
I wasn’t her opponent even when I was in perfect condition. I had barely managed a draw by sacrificing one hand when she was unarmed with only a dagger, but now, she was fully armed while my body was a wreck.
I was pretty much guaranteed to lose, but for some reason, I didn’t feel a single shred of fear.
Instead, a wave of inexplicably intense anger surged from my chest all the way to my head, and before I knew it, my body moved on its own, and the hatchet flew from my hand.
The hatchet sliced through the air, narrowly missing Senior Delphine’s face by a hair’s breadth as she turned around before suddenly dipping and plunging into the neck of the beast.
Senior Delphine stood still, dumbfoundedly staring at me as the beast’s blood splattered to form a vivid display reminiscent of a peacock’s feathers. It was a truly befitting embellishment for a woman as beautiful as Senior Delphine.
I spat out the flesh from Senior Fermin’s nose and laughed.
“Let’s go for a round, Miss Exhibitionist.”
“Also, I’m sorry, Senior Fermin. I’ll buy you a meal next time.”
I apologized to Senior Fermin in a hushed voice before drawing my sword.
Senior Fermin was out for the rest of the fight. Blood tended to build up and block the airways with an injured nose. However, it wasn’t a lethal injury considering senior priests were easily capable of fully healing a nose.
It was the best course of action I could have taken at that moment, and I wondered how I was able to make such a decision instantaneously.
However, it became meaningless to ponder over it. Whenever I exhaled, my head felt overloaded with scrambled memories.
‘Don’t forget? What exactly?’
Suddenly, a large, bald man stood before me and swung down his hatchet with a force that could split me in two.
The space, indicative of the man’s herculean force, audibly split apart as I took an evasive step back.
As the hatchet came smashing down, another followed suit.
It was a chain of successive blows, and to make matters worse, Senior Aisha was preparing a spell far off in the distance.
I couldn’t tell whether it was a supportive spell or an offensive spell, but it didn’t matter either way.
At that moment, Senior Fermin’s movements replayed in my mind.
It was a jiujitsu technique that intercepted my arm before I could fully swing down and pinned me to the ground.
It was a secret jiujitsu technique that only monks from the Holy Nation could use. I didn’t understand the exact principles behind it, but I knew that just grabbing someone’s arm mid-swing required extensive training.
And although I didn’t know why, I simply felt that I had to replicate it.
As soon as the hatchet descended again, I accelerated my body, which had been stepping back, forward. Senior Olmar, who had previously been done in by this sudden rush before we entered the forest, stepped back to brace for my follow-up attack. However, my target was only his arm.
With a thud, my hand grabbed onto Senior Olmar’s sturdy arm. The movement was so natural that he could only stare at me perplexedly.
After all, I only had a single functional arm, and common sense dictated that I wouldn’t be able to knock him down with only one arm.
However, he was knocked down. It was an unbelievable sight. Senior Olmar’s world turned upside down as I used all my strength to slam him to the ground, my pupils, bloodshot with a malicious glint.
The ground shattered.
Shards of broken stones from the shattered earth scattered in all directions, creating a scene akin to lightning directly striking Senior Olmar’s body.
Blood gushed out of his mouth. The dirt and dust from the impact rose so high that it impaired my vision, but there was no time to hesitate.
Senior Olmar’s body was partially buried in the ground, temporarily paralyzed from the forceful impact.
Before long, my sword found its mark and plunged through Senior Olmar’s shoulder.
Senior Olmar’s scream resounded through the air as my sword tore through his muscles. However, I didn’t stop there. I forced my entire weight onto the sword, forcing it deeper into his body.
An anguished scream burst out of his mouth again.
Senior Omar, who seemed to be enduring excruciating pain, grabbed onto the blade that was embedded in his shoulder with a trembling arm. His eyes reflected the torment he was experiencing.
I directly met Senior Olmar’s eyes and sneered.
“…That’s for Celine.”
I pulled out my sword, causing the blood to spurt out. Then I swung down once more, severing the tendons on his other arm.
Once again, a miserable scream rang out as more blood sprayed out, coloring the air as if it were painted on a canvas. With how badly I had injured him, Senior Olmar had to be incapacitated, unable to further participate in the battle.
At that moment.
It was an icicle, summoned by Senior Aisha, shot down from the sky.
I tilted my head and avoided it effortlessly while my eyes naturally turned towards Senior Aisha.
“O-Olmar! You, you really…!”
Senior Aisha was fuming in anger. It was understandable considering she had just witnessed her long-time teammate suffer grievous wounds.
However, I was also boiling with anger for the same reason. I met her fierce gaze with my own, but when our eyes met, she flinched.
Even then, seeing how she grit her teeth and started firing dozens of icicles, her anger seemed to overpower her fear.
Shoo, shoo, shoo.
The icicles were accompanied by a peculiar sound while drawing intricate and unpredictable trajectories. The numerous trajectories soon revealed that they weren’t randomly aimed and were calculated to converge on her target.
Trying to deflect the icicles would only result in getting stuck in her siege, while merely trying to dodge would corner me into a bad situation. It was a spell that required meticulously calculated trajectories and more than just spatial perception.
Her magical prowess was clearly demonstrated, and I had to admit that only someone of that level was worthy enough to accompany Senior Delphine.
I lowered my body to dodge the icicles and managed to pick up a hatchet that was on the ground. It was the hatchet Senior Olmar had dropped.
Since deflecting and dodging were out of the question, my plan was simple. I threw the hatchet.
The hatchet spun rapidly as it tore through the air. It came close to the icicles, but it managed to slip through the small gaps between each icicle. In the end, the head of the hatchet aimed straight at Senior Aisha.
As if she hadn’t expected the hatchet to penetrate through the barrage of icicles, Senior Aisha visibly flinched at the hatchet flying towards her.
However, despite the speed of the hatchet, she managed to hit it with another icicle, successfully altering its trajectory.
The hatchet drew an arc as it rebounded through the air, and Senior Aisha breathed a sigh of relief as she watched the hatchet fly over her head.
A hatchet had dug itself into her calf.
Senior Aisha’s posture immediately crumbled and her eyes were full of disbelief as if unable to comprehend what had just happened. After all, the hatchet had struck her from behind.
How? She turned to stare at me quizzically, but the answer was simple.
The hatchet which had flown off had returned, tracing back its parabolic trajectory like a boomerang, and hit her calf from behind.
Unfortunately for her, I couldn’t afford the leisure to stop and explain. I persisted in dodging the incoming icicles and quickly picked up the rest of Senior Olmar’s hatchets. The moment Senior Aisha’s posture collapsed was the moment this battle was decided.
I stomped against the ground and accelerated towards her. In an instant, the distance between Senior Aisha and me closed. She desperately shot the rest of the icicles in a frenzy, but her hurried aim only proved to lower her accuracy.
After decisively determining that I could fend off the rest of the icicles, I released my aura as a silver aura surged with great intensity from my sword.
Clang, clang, clang!
Ice shattered with every swing, leaving behind beautiful debris. The cluster of light reflecting off the shards of ice created a mystical atmosphere. However, contrary to the beautiful sight, Senior Aisha’s expression became more lifeless with each shattered icicle.
Soon, there was nothing to hinder my advance, and upon seeing me step towards her after driving away the scattered ice debris, Senior Aisha crouched down and screamed.
“D-don’t come! Stop! S-Stop..aah?!”
Without hesitation, I stabbed her remaining leg. Her tormented scream resounded through the air. Then, to shut her up, I struck her unconscious with the blunt side of the hatchet.
The light disappeared from Senior Aisha’s eyes along with her shrieking. Accompanied by a dull sound of impact, her body collapsed onto the floor a pile of dry straw.
“That is for Senior Elsie.”
Senior Elsie, who was dumbfoundedly watching nearby, pointed at herself with a baffled look.
“H-huh? Me, me?”
After all that was done, I belatedly realized that Senior Elsie’s ankles were still bound in ice. I started worriedly approaching her. I didn’t know what had happened to her, but she still seemed unable to use magic.
Freeing Senior Elsie was my priority, and if it weren’t for the voice in the distance, I would have gone straight to her.
“…How did you do that?”
My steps came to an abrupt stop, and I wordlessly turned towards the voice.
It was Senior Delphine. She stared at me in disbelief. Her eyes were slightly narrowed and she looked to have lost a bit of her composure.
She had always arrogantly treated everything leisurely. Yet, at this moment, the slight shift in her expression betrayed her turbulent emotions. It was clear proof that she was shaken.
I stared back at her as if asking what she was talking about. My arms were still throbbing, my body ached all over, and I was out of breath from overexerting myself.
Still, I pretended to be calm, hoping Celine and Senior Elsie would feel at ease.
“That move you used to defeat Olmar, it’s a secret technique of the Church, isn’t it?”
“And the strange path of the hatchet you threw at Aisha… Have you received training under Sword Circle?”
“I don’t know.”
Senior Delphine’s eyes narrowed in dissatisfaction.
Then without a word, gold and crimson lights clashed in the air, and I reached my hand towards my waist.
It was just before the clash.
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