They probably took great care in creating their plan. They probably invested long hours and large sums of resources into their meticulous preparations. A horde of Monstrous strengthened by alteration curses. Puppet warriors forged with lavish amounts of heavy metals forbidden under the law. Cockatrices forcibly controlled by response spells. Each of those held power equal to, or no, surpassing that of a small army. The terrifying assembly could have crushed a small country with ease. When the plan was put into action, the masterminds behind it were probably already convinced of their victory.
How many years ago was that? At the time, Willem was fourteen. So that means four years in Willem’s time, 529 years in reality, and a mere two years in the dream world. That’s right. Here, those events occurred just two years ago.
Willem swung his sword. And swung again. And again.
After about the twentieth, it grew too bothersome to count the number of enemies he had slain. He set his mind free from all distractions and concentrated on simply cutting down the enemies in front of his eyes.
However, the curse strengthened Monstrous proved to be troublesome. An alteration curve completely overwrote the victim’s natural state of being. They sometimes appeared in children’s stories, like when a person got turned into a stone statue or when a little bird got turned into a cute girl. Such magic could be used to bestow strength originally unattainable or infuse weapons into the target’s very body.
Now, having said all that, the enhanced Monstrous weren’t actually that tough to beat. The problem lied in Willem’s Kaliyon. Both his sword and his enemies had advanced, elaborate spells working within them, and the Kaliyon’s condition gradually worsened as it hewed its curse ridden foes. At first Willem thought about ignoring it and simply pushing on until the end, but the number of enemies surrounding him proved to be far greater than what he imagined. If he didn’t bother to fix the sword right away, the battle would only end up taking more time, since he would be fighting at decreased efficiency.
I guess there’s no avoiding it.
Willem created some distance between him and the pack of enemies with Blazing Sun Dash and passed Venom through the Kaliyon in his right hand.
Upon the start of maintenance, the binding force in the spell lines which held the metal fragments, or Talismans, together would normally dissolve, causing the sword to transform into no more than a gathering of 29 shards. Those shards would then disperse throughout the surrounding air and prepare to receive fine tuning.
However, on the battlefield, there was no time for such a leisurely maintenance. Instead of completely dissolving the spell lines, Willem only weakened them. The metal fragments scattered slightly, but not so much that the sword lost its overall shape. They left just enough space between them for a few of Willem’s fingers.
He cut the approaching steel puppet soldiers in half with the Kaliyon in his left hand. At the same time, he slid his right thumb through the gaps in the metal fragments and pushed on the crystal hidden in the sword’s interior. Through that contact, he could read the sword’s condition.
One part of the spinal circuit had become badly clogged with Venom, rendering Willem’s magic unable to properly circulate throughout the blade. He could see why it had been working so poorly. He could perform a full maintenance afterwards, but right now he needed a quick fix to get through the fight. With his thumb, he switched some of the Talismans around, improvising a new route for the Venom which bypassed the blockage. When finished, he returned the spell lines to normal.
There were numerous varieties of Kaliyons, but Willem particularly preferred the mass produced Percival model for this very reason. Its simple construction made maintenance much easier. No other sword could have its slayer level or resistances adjusted in the heat of battle. In addition, its relatively small size made it perfect for fourteen year old Willem. He could even dual wield as he was currently doing, but it put quite a bit of strain on him. Unfortunately, no matter how much he spoke of the Percival’s excellence, the other Quasi Braves never got on board. They could hardly wrap their heads around the idea of performing maintenance by themselves.
Anyway, the Percival in his right hand had regained some vigor, but pretty soon the Dindrane in his left hand would start to wear out. He made a mental note to fight more carefully from now on and leapt back into the action, when a blinding flash of light erupted before his eyes. A thunderous boom followed it, pounding Willem’s eardrums more fiercely than any normal sound. The intense winds from the shockwave seemed to threaten to tear Willem’s entire body apart.
Willem ignited a large amount of Venom and funneled his strength into his legs. With demolished vision and hearing, he managed to seek out the direction of the ground relying on his sense of equilibrium alone, then soared down for an emergency landing.
After a few seconds of moaning in pain, Willem’s five senses gradually returned, and his lungs, which had been crushed by the impact, resumed their work. He took a deep breath, ignoring the slight pain in his throat, then yelled, “Emissaaa!? Are you trying to kill me!?!”
“Hm? Oh, didn’t see you there.”
A woman touched down on the ground a little ways away from him. Willem heard she was twenty years old. She wore a long skirt with frills completely inappropriate for a battlefield. With such an outfit, she should have gotten caked in mud after a few minutes of running around, but he couldn’t spot even a trace of dirt on her. Emissa Hodwin. An adventurer with a level of 61, second highest out of all active adventurers.
“Are you crazy?!” Willem screamed.
“What, you turned out alright, and all the enemies are nicely cleaned up. What’s the problem?”
He surveyed the battlefield, or rather, the place which used to be a battlefield just seconds ago. The ground on which he had been running around and fighting with his two Kaliyons was now no more than a giant bowl shaped depression. The horde of enemies was nowhere in sight.
A Venom explosion of absurdly large scale was responsible for the scene before Willem’s eyes. The amount of Venom required for such an attack far surpassed the limit of what a normal individual could ignite, but Emissa was no normal individual. In addition to her superior genes and remarkable talent, she had her own special control techniques which allowed her to realize such enormous destructive power. Willem stopped counting at around twenty, but he figured he probably slew fifty or sixty enemies in total after swinging his swords nonstop. The number of enemies Emissa just sent flying in one instant probably exceeded that.
“… wow, they’re all gone.”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
Willem took a seat on the ground and looked around once more at the new landscape, which now had excellent visibility. Before the battle started, the steep yet beautiful slopes of mountains and a sparse forest of conifers had decorated the area. But now, the slopes had been leveled and the forest had transformed into rugged ground with nothing more than a few unearthed rocks poking out.
“I think you just destroyed a lot of natural habitats.”
“Just saying, it’s not all my fault. That mountain over there and that river were Hilgram’s doing.”
Hilgram Moto. Adventurer, level 58. He didn’t use weapons, nor did he ignite Venom. By his own choosing, he stood on the front lines with only his bare fists. He was a bit of an eccentric, but an amazing martial artist.
Willem turned to look where Emissa pointed. A massive boulder had split apart as if it were made of sand, and numerous small streams flowed where a waterfall once stood.
“All that with his bare hands, huh. Looking at that, my self confidence as a Venom user kinda goes down,” Emissa said. Willem understood, but hearing her say that pissed him off slightly. “Now then, can you see how many enemies are left?”
“Uhh… I still see some in the forest that Kaiya’s in charge of, and… oh, there’s an entire group remaining over there.”
Emissa followed Willem’s gaze. “Are those… ivy Dryads? If so, they’re pretty big…”
“Hm, they’ve probably had their very nature altered by a curse, like the other monsters here.”
Alteration spells had enormous costs associated with them. Those mutants were probably the trump card of whoever planned the whole thing. For his ultimate weapons to be summed up with the single word ‘creepy’ by Emissa… Willem kind of felt sorry for the guy.
“Well? Who’s gonna take care of those things? Not me, I’m not getting anywhere near them.” The moment after Emissa finished talking, a gigantic circle of light appeared in the sky. “… ah, I guess Suwon will.”
As they looked up at it, Willem and Emissa took earplugs out of their pockets. An invisible paintbrush continued to scatter light about, drawing an intricate design in the sky.
“That’s pretty big,” Emissa remarked.
“His spells aren’t very effective against guys that are already cursed, so he’s probably trying to put as much force into it as possible in order to clean them up for certain.”
The seal being drawn in the sky acted as a sort of catalyst for a spell. The stronger the spell, the larger and more complicated the seal it required. Of course, on a battlefield, there was no time to draw each one from scratch. Almost all thaumaturgists inscribed seals on parchment or clay tablets beforehand, then utilized them during battle as needed.
However, Suwon Candel didn’t fit into the category of ‘almost all thaumaturgists’. He could inscribe the necessary seal for any spell that the situation called for right on the spot, no matter how complicated or specialized. Even Willem, who couldn’t carve the most basic of seals due to his terrible drawing sense, could tell that Suwon was a big fat cheater. He truly sympathized with the other thaumaturgists of the world.
While Willem was busy thinking, the giant seal in the sky had been completed. He and Emissa simultaneously plugged their ears, turned around, and shut their eyes.
Five seconds later.
The two opened their eyes and turned back around to see the humble remnants of the great mountain that once towered above the area.
“This has got to be bad for the environment,” Emissa said.
Willem agreed, but again, hearing her say that pissed him off.
“Willem! Good work!” Kaiya Kaltran walked up to Willem and gave him a big hug.
“S-Stop! Ow! Dirty! Ow! Dirty!!”
Kaiya, level 39, was also an adventurer, and a proper one at that, unlike Emissa and Hilgram. She protected her body with a suit of well tempered armor and slew her enemies with a sword forged by a master craftsman. If any normal human were hugged this hard by such an experienced warrior, his backbone would probably snap instantly. On top of that, Kaiya’s post-battle armor was drenched in Monstrous blood.
“Sorry, sorry. You’re just so cute I couldn’t help myself.”
“You just couldn’t help but squeezing me so hard I needed to put up a full force Venom defense!?”
“Of course. I hug you so hard precisely because you put up a full force Venom defense. If I did that to any other kid, I’d have a bounty on my head the next day,” Kaiya said with a smile. “Besides, you won’t be this cute for much longer, right? Since you’re in your growth spurt, next year or the year after you’ll have grown into a splendid man. If I don’t admire you now, it’ll be too late.”
Willem silently wished he would grow faster.
“Then it’s your sons’ turns. How many do you have now? Three?” Leila joined in on the conversation.
“Well about that, my husband doesn’t want to let our sons wield swords. I really wanted to start training them now, but…”
“Oh? Why not?”
“He says stuff like ‘I won’t let them pursue a violent career like an adventurer’, or ‘I won’t have both my wife and my children be stronger than me’. I can’t see what’s wrong with those, though.”
Willem silently cheered Kaiya’s husband on.
“Willem, you just silently cheered Kaiya’s husband on, didn’t you?” Navrutri read his mind as always.
“You don’t have to say that out loud… wha, what a mess,” Willem said, looking at his clothes. They had already received more than enough mud after his own battle and Emissa’s explosion, but now the blood from Kaiya’s armor joined the mix. Wearing this around would just be asking to get arrested by guards on the roads.
“I see you’re covered in mud. Did you not use the Blazing Sun Dash? I thought I taught you it earlier,” Navrutri asked.
“You did teach me, and I did use it. And I ended up like this,” Willem answered grumpily.
The Blazing Sun Dash was one part of the curved blade technique passed down in Navrutri’s native land. At its core, it was a feint technique based on controlling the tempo of one’s movements. If mastered, however, it apparently allowed the user to transform into a haze of heat, effortlessly flowing past any incoming attacks.
“If you get used to it a little more, you’ll be able to dodge clouds of dust too,” Navrutri said.
Willem doubted if he would ever get used to it ‘a little more’.
“I did it! Look, my clothes are all clean.”
Shut up Leila. Your talent is the enemy of all regular people.
“Well, come on, tell her how pretty they are. You can’t hold back those kinds of compliments.”
“Yeah! Say it, say it! Be honest!”
Shut up you two.
Just then, Willem noticed a small boy sitting next to a Monstrous corpse a bit separated from the rest of the group. The edge of his oversized white mantle was getting soaked in mud and blood, but apparently he hadn’t noticed.
“… what are you doing?” Willem walked up and asked.
Suwon Candel, the twelve year old genius thaumaturgist, answered without raising his head. “I was investigating the structure of the curse. I had a strange feeling about it during the battle.”
Willem ignited his Venom and turned on his spell vision. He saw complicated magic running throughout the Monstrous’ entire body. Not being very familiar with the subject, he couldn’t tell how the spell veins were connected or what kind of curse they formed together.
“Is there something off about it?”
“The pattern is almost the same in all of them.” Suwon looked up at Willem. “Curses like these are usually custom made. If you don’t create a different curse catered to each individual, the effect weakens. That’s why these curses are so costly, and of course they can’t be mass produced. But these curses seem to have overcome that problem.”
“… so they figured out a way to put the same curse on as many creatures as they want!? I thought only Seniolis was capable of such ridiculous power!”
“No, it doesn’t look like it’s quite that powerful. Perhaps because they’re still in the process of research, the duplicated pattern is relatively simple and small scale. It can grow horns or muscle, or change the number or positions of internal organs, but nothing more…”
“So if they’re still in research, this’ll get pretty bad in the future, won’t it?”
“That’s right. If we don’t take care of the organization making these guys now, they’ll be a huge threat later.”
Willem scoured his memory for that forgotten name… it was something like…
“True World,” Suwon muttered.
“What a terrible name,” Willem said.
“Really? I think it’s kinda cool.”
Please never try to come up with a title for yourself.
At the time, Willem was fourteen years old. So those events took place four years ago in Willem’s time, 529 years ago in reality, and a mere two years ago in the dream world. That’s right. Only two years have passed since that day…