Counter 27: Ice-covered Path
Fifty-eight minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon
Closing to the field area
“Was it really okay not to help that blondie on the gym’s roof?” Rio asks while closely following Herneihmys and Athena on the flying magic circle.
Herneihmys pauses for a second. “There is no need to bother with her battle,” she answers without looking back. “She is already aided by a couple of knights by her side.”
“Knights?” Athena mumbles as her brows knit. “I’m sure she was alone fighting against a monster and a mage.”
They have reached the field. Severed grass blades are flying around along with sand and dust. The soccer goals have been wrecked, like a crumpled carton box. The ground is marked with deep burrows as though those were plowed by a massive crooked rake. Something smells scorched. A nearby area looks burnt, with thin smokes mixing with the breeze. There is no doubt that it was burned not too long ago. Up in the sky is a yellow dragon is flying, circling around the field as though it is silently guarding something.
Meanwhile, in front of the newly arrived three students are the three professors that had been dealing with the demon until now. Just one look and anyone can to tell that they are already at the edge of exhaustion. From there, meters away, stands a demon with a towering height of around nine feet, clad in yellow and brownish armor.
“That’s… a demon?..” Athena mumbles as she lays her eyes on Il Darvan.
After a moment of silence, Herneihmys smiles coldly. “I wanted to fight one,” she says as she steps down her floating magic circle. “After so long… But, this one is weak.”
“Weak?” Rio softly repeats in disbelief. “Our professors have been fighting that demon until they are this worn out, and it’s still firmly standing there.” He slightly tilts his head to the side. “Have they been playing around?..”
Athena in her floating magic chair follows close behind Herneihmys. “Milady, I have received the files containing the intel about that demon.”
“No need.” She answers while marching forward closer to the professors.
“Hey,” Rajid says while observing Herneihmys and her retainers approach them. “It’s dangerous here. Go back.”
“Don’t worry,” Herneihmys replies languidly. “I want to try this out so I won’t hold you accountable, prof.”
Rajid frowns. “Still--”
“You’ve done all that you can.” Herneihmys cuts him off. “The three of you, I mean.” She walks pass Xiao Feng and Isaw, standing in front full of pride. “It’s not that you’re weak, it’s just that this is the kind of opponent not meant for you to deal with. You are holding back too much because your priority is to protect the students and the academy.”
“Ah, you’re--…” Isaw blurts out as he recognizes them. “That one from the House of Strange.”
Xiao Feng silently stares at the newly arrived students. “It seems that you are quick to catch on things. If you understand then please stay behind.”
While they are chatting, Il Darvan swings its ax and creates a shockwave aimed at them. This time before anyone can react, Athena has already created a sturdy barrier that blocked the attack. She is able to quickly cast a high-tier magic barrier with ease which is uncommon to most mages her age. They can tell defensive spells are her specialty.
“Be at ease, professors.” Herneihmys declares with a calm yet chilling tone. “You can take this moment to breathe a little. I mean, Professor Zhu, you have been wasting your energy in defense all this time. I appreciate that you have been considering that if you defeat this demon another one might just pop up again. Whoever it is that have the portal ability is still hiding. However, considering the time that passed and the unclosed portals, the probability that this reveil is also near exhaustion is very high.”
Rajid pauses as he tries to recall who that blue-zone student might be. Meanwhile, Xiao Feng and Isaw keeps quiet as they already know her and at the same time they are, to a certain degree, aware of her ability.
As they remain silently caught up in the spur of the moment, Il Darvan lets out a steamy breath of hot air. The demon roars loudly before waving its giant ax heaving a number of shockwaves grinding the ground towards the group of reveils that are idly standing within his vision. The shockwaves rams at the barrier. The crashing force of the shockwave is neutralized as it hits the barrier. Due to the strength of the attack, small cracks form in the area of the barrier that was hit.
“Um. Are we in trouble?” Rajid sounds very uncertain.
“You jest,” Athena lets out as soft laugh then magic circles glowed for a moment before another magic barrier starts forming.
“Awesome!” Rajid shouts in awe but he then immediately paused. “So, how are we going to fight like this?”
“You all will not.” Her cold and indifferent voice resounds while she walks closer to the barrier. “I alone will.”
She touches the barrier and then slowly started slipping outside. Rajid quickly follows her only to find himself bumping on the sturdy barrier.
“Aw-!” He locks his sight at Athena. “Open it.”
“I can't.” She answers. “I'll have to remove the whole barrier. It will put everyone inside in danger.”
“Are you two not worried about her?”
“Why should we be?” Rio shrugs. “If Milady says that she will take care of it alone, then I shall abide by her order.”
“Milady can handle something this trivial without assistance.” Athena adds.
“Standby,” Herneihmys' cold yet powerful voice resonates as if warning all those who can hear her. “Do not interfere.”
Her words illicit alertness from the ones inside the barrier. It’s as if it compels them to follow her order.
Il Darvan lets out another deep breath while slowly moving the ax over its shoulder.
Herneihmys snaps her fingers then two multi-layered circles glowed in the opposite sides of Il Darvan. From the pair of multi-layered magic circles, two bright yellow orbs formed. Like a glowing moon, the bright yellow orbs revolve around the demon. The demon tries to hit the orbs with its ax but it those orbs are too fast. It almost looks like they are evading on their own.
“Twin Electro Discharge!” Herneihmys says with a calm and deep tone.
The rasping sound of electricity sparks from the orbs that have started to rotate faster and faster around the demon, agitating it more. The demon is trying to keep hitting the balls of electricity as they rotate around his body. With the speed that almost looks like a ferries wheel gone out of control, those spheres fly up thirty feet high from Il Darvan. From there, a sudden discharge of electricity pours down the angry demon. The current is so strong that even the by-standing professors feel it from the field while the demon growls in pain from being electrocuted.
“Ah—that’s around ten thousand volts.” Herneihmys says while watching her heavy lightning consume the beast. “It’s not enough, I see… Let’s double it exponentially until then.”
Isaw watches everything unfold while mumbling, “A high-tier spell just like that.”
The on and off fluctuating light along with the thundering and crackling noise of being fried, makes them feel as though they can be engulfed by it any moment from where they are standing. As the electrocution simmers down, so does the tension that was only born within their soul dissolves. Even after the vigorous offence from the young lady, the demon does not appear to be in any grave condition.
“H-huh--?!! Another one?!” Rajid blurts out without thinking as Herneihmys deliver another attack. “That won’t be effective, stop--!!”
“Let her be.” Rio interferes before Rajid can get close.
“That is not the point here,” Isaw tries to reason but it does not seem that the lad is going to listen to anyone other than his master. “It’ll be dangerous if she continues that kind of attack.”
“Are you underestimating Milady?” Athena raises her brow. “You have some guts to even think like that.”
“Wait--” Xiao Feng cuts in. “This is--?!” She mutters along with a sudden turn towards the mage battling in front. She looks astounded.
“What’s wrong?” Isaw asks but then a thundering explosion immediately follows.
Il Darvan roars, slamming his giant ax down the field slicing the ground. The force that cuts the ground screeches en route to their place. Can the magic barrier hold with that assault? While they stay still with their eyes wide open at the upcoming misfortune, fang-like rocks sprout from the ground. Each one shoots up, tracing the line back to where the demon stands.
“Don’t worry,” Athena laughs. “Milady is capable of both offense and defense.”
They watch the maiden as she let more thorn-like rocks grow from the ground, seeking to pierce into Il Darvan’s thick armor. Unfortunately, the sturdy armor does not even get a scratch but rather it destroyed the pointed ends of the rock hard thorns. When the thorns collapsed, Herneihmys calls upon another twin electro discharge which is now keeping the demon from making a follow up attack.
“This mage really looks powerful.” Rajid says with clear amazement drawn on his face. “Just who is she?”
“You really are an idiot not to know.” Xiao Feng answers ruthlessly “She is a child from the House of Strange.”
Rajid tilts his head a little to the left while raising his brows. “Strange? Well, I know she’s kind of strange indeed but is it not rude to actually call her like that.”
Xiao Feng lets out a sigh as if she is done with this world. “Do you not even recognize the Seven Houses that founded ICA? Those same nobles, especially the House of Strange, helped Aleut Balaam in establishing AB Academy.”
“Oh, that--” He laughs while scratching the back of his head. “I know them of course… it’s just that I don’t have that much memory capacity to remember them until now.” He coughs then he looks at Herneihmys who is keeping track of her offensive tactics. “So, that girl is the heiress of that house, huh?”
“Not particularly,” Isaw joins with a sigh. “As far as the next head of the House of Strange is concerned, her right had been revoked. It’s due to some illness… I think.”
“Really? I thought it was because the younger brother exhibited more aptitude in leadership.” Xiao Feng comments while touching her chin. “There was even a time when a rumor spread about—ah, but maybe that was just a rumor after all.”
“Hey, you’re confusing me.” Rajid frowns.
Isaw laughs with a forced tone as he rubs his nape. “Let’s stick to the ‘she’s got an illness’ theory, shall we?” He then turns his gaze to the two retainers that are not showing any reaction while listening to their conversation.
It seems that Herneihnys totally does not care about the rumors at all.
“Nobles have it rough too. Herneihmys Strange, as far as the school records are concerned, she had an illness two years ago that made her unable to attend school for a year. She is supposed to be in third year now, but because of that her entry to AB Academy had been delayed leaving her a year behind of her own age group.” Isaw explains.
“Yeah, didn’t she just skip most of her classes last year?” Xiao Feng recalls. “No, more like she almost did not attend though her grades were more outstanding compared to some who actually go to class every day.”
According to the rumors, Herniehmys Strange was unable to attend the academy in time because she caught an illness and needed to recuperate for almost a year. However, what kind of illness it was is never mentioned. Whether that information is true or not is something that they cannot confirm, with their status as is. There may be some truth to it. People gossiped more and formed theories, that later tied to the reason why she was removed as the heiress of the House of Strange. Some say that her illness is so grave that she does not have much time left. If that is the case then it makes sense. No matter how capable she is, there is no point in appointing ahead that will not live long. This theory is also strengthened by the fact that she always skips classes claiming to be not feeling well.
Furthermore, she almost never leaves her room in the dormitory. Does the House of Strange want to keep her condition a secret?
“Ah—I see…” Herneihmys whispers nonchalantly as she seems to have noticed something unusual after her series of attacks.
In the middle of their gossiping, the thundering sound of the electrocution makes a sudden stop. It is then followed by an unruly growl. The vengeful demon swings his ax, throwing another shockwave at the impudent mage who put him under so much pain. At the time the wind blows, Xiao Feng hastily races forward in case something goes wrong. This time Herneihmys is not showing any signs of preparing a counter. The shockwave strikes the magic barrier that immediately started to crack. However the demon’s attack does not end there, Il Darvan readies for his next assault. This time, it is different. They know it is not the same shockwave attack as they watch the demon stretch both of its arms to the side before it let out an ear-rupturing howl.
“Rio, get Professor Zhu to retreat closer to Athena now!!!” Herneihmys shouts with deep commanding tone. Rio then follows her command unrestrictedly. “Athena, we’re in really big trouble right now.”
“Eeeh--?!!” Athena jolts. “Okay, I’ll apply another layer to strengthen our shield, and adjust your physical protection, Milady!”
“Cover all vector entry points,” she commands while running back inside the barrier’s perimeter. At the same time, Il Darvan’s armor is glowing. It glows brighter and brighter every passing second. “Make sure nothing can reach us from the outside for at least three minutes.”
“Hey, you know about this skill?” Rajid probes.
Rio pauses while fixing his eyes on Rajid. It’s as though he is investigating an enemy. “Of course,” he answers coldly.
“Hey, hey, hey,” he frowns. “If you knew then why did you let her keep on attacking like that?”
“Because I was ordered to do so,” he responds with a snob attitude.
Xiao Feng taps Rajid’s shoulder. “Calm down before you get your ass kicked out of here. They probably have some crazy plan.”
Athena grips on her floating chairs’ handle tighter.
Without a moment’s notice, they just witnessed the surrounding area get burned, as though they are watching a delicacy get heated up inside the oven. The grass slowly withers, the leaves smoking, the bordering field getting engulfed by ember.
“This…” Isaw mumbles as he confirms the safety of his fellow professors and his students.
“We are all safe. The heat isn’t getting us at all.”
“Hmph! I specialize in defensive magic. Shields, protection, name it, those are my strong points.” Athena brags.
“I see,” Xiao Feng says softly while touching her chin.
“Athena,” Herneihmys calls while keeping her eyes fixed at the demon despite of the fog-like smoke encircling them. “Damage report.”
She closes her eyes, trying to direct her senses on the shield she built. “The magic circle supporting the shield is in disarray. It’ll only last for less than a minute.”
“Can you reinforce it?”
“I can but it won’t be able to hold on against a continuous attack like that. I will need a bit more time to create a stronger barrier. I’m sorry.”
“Fine,” Herneihmys responds casually. “My secondary barrier can hold out a bit.” She clasps her hands then let out a deep breath as though she is preparing herself to do something grand. “We’ll end it in the next attack.”
“Heat-related attacks won’t work,” Isaw explains while giving the three students a skeptical look. “The armor absorbs all heat energy and converts it into the demon’s own power. The armor is too tough for any physical attack. The ax and its shockwave get in the way that we can’t get near.”
“Indeed,” she answers apathetically. “I tried to pump it with overwhelming power to see if I could break its limit that way but it didn’t work either. His energy absorbing capacity must be very high.”
“Well, I tried it that way too a while ago.” Xaio Feng declares while turning her eyes towards the burned spot nearby. “But… The energy of your electric discharge is more powerful… much too powerful that my ki attacks can’t even compare.”
“I expected as much,” she answers boldly.
“Really… nobles.” Rajid mutters. “What’s the plan?”
“You just watch,” Herneihmys answers while wearing a cold dauntless smile.
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