When we got back to the spot where I killed the manticore, there was already a ferocious beast in the process of eating the six demons. Well, there were only two of them now, but they weren’t conscious. That was a pretty fast spirit beast; in fact, once it caught sight of me, it picked up the two demons with the spikes growing out of its back, turned tail, and ran away.
“That was a corpse stalker,” Ilya said from behind me. Way to go, encyclopedia! Right on time. “It specializes in stealth. It follows after a creature stronger than itself and picks up the remains left behind. They’re like vultures.”
“Why do you know so much?” I didn’t know anything about beasts. Like, at all. Then again, I didn’t have much of an education concerning … anything. I should become more learned. At least I know how to draw! Don’t judge me.
“Studying dangerous beasts was a part of the curriculum my father had me take,” Ilya said. “In the case of a beast invasion, nobles are expected to step up and defend their territories. Learning about future threats is mandatory.”
That makes sense. I didn’t know nobles had to fight to defend their territories. I thought they just conscripted an army of villagers. Maybe demons and humans are different. I wonder what it’s like in fae territory. Do beastkin have nobles and peasants? They should, right?
The hairs on my tail stiffened. “Run!” I turned around, grabbed Ilya, and ran as fast as I could. What the heck!? Squirrely instincts, at least tell me why you want me to run away before doing it! Surprisingly, Ilya didn’t panic, scream, or vomit on me like last time. She was actually pretty stiff as well.
“Six? No, seven,” Ilya muttered. There was a massive boom that echoed through the mountain range before I could ask Ilya what she was talking about. But I knew from the scary green lights floating behind me after I activated the Unrelenting Path of Slaughter. A seventh-circle magician had appeared.
Ilya chanted, “Wind, heed my call, bless this crazy squirrel with your gift of speed.”
Nice! I’m a little faster than when I’m hasted. I should make Ilya inscribe this array on my dress.
“Earth, hear my pleas, lighten the burden on this crazy squirrel’s body.”
Quit calling me a crazy squirrel, please.
“Water, if you will, clear this crazy squirrel’s sight and maintain her temperature.”
The sight spell didn’t do anything since I already had the Unrelenting Path of Slaughter. At least it feels like I won’t sweat even if I run through a desert. Wind, earth, water…, then the next one was fire, right? I know this! She’s going to give me a stamina boost.
“Fire, do as I say! Set this crazy squirrel’s tail ablaze!”
…What? Gah! It’s hot! “What the f***, Ilya!? Put it out! Put it out!!!”
“There’s a pool of water ahead, Lucia! Run with all your might!”
I tossed Ilya aside, but somehow she had tethered herself to my body with a rope made of mana. She spread her arms and a thin film of mana appeared between her arms and her sides, and she flew up into the air like a kite. I’m going to set her ass ablaze and see how she likes it! But first, where’s that pool of water!? “Haste!”
“Run faster, Lucia! He’s gaining on us!” Ilya shouted down from above while I focused on running as fast as I could. My beautiful tail! Now it’s going to be all burnt and crispy, and Ilya is definitely going to heal me or I’ll skin her and feed her to her teacher. “Lightning, hear my call, stun my enemy!”
I flinched as thunder crackled overhead. If I didn’t have my Path of Slaughter active, I’d probably have went blind for a moment there as well. “I hit him!” Ilya said. “Lightning—”
Ilya yelped as a massive purple lightning bolt struck a nearby tree. “But all it did was make him mad!” The mana rope between us shrank, and Ilya was soon clutching onto my back. The flames on my tail went out when she made contact with my body. “He’s going to catch up to us, Lucia. Can you fight a seventh-circle magician?”
“You’re the encyclopedia; why are you asking me!?” I’m not bitter about her setting my tail on fire. Not at all. But a seventh-circle magician…. Why is he chasing us? Probably because his students were eaten, huh?
“Well, you shouldn’t have been able to kill the manticore since it was a divine beast,” Ilya said. “But that’s because your physical abilities are absurd. The magician should be on the same level, but he’ll be using magic. Will you be fine?”
“I can’t use my poison attack.” Puppers is still out of commission.
“Poison attack? You mean…. That wouldn’t have worked on a demon!”
“Why are you two running? Cease all movements or face the consequences!” an angry voice shouted from behind.
Like hell I’m going to stop!
“I just want to ask you some questions about my students!” the voice shouted again. It was closer this time.
“No! Yes! C! Thirty-three! Manticore! I’m taken!” I took a quick glance behind myself, but the person was still chasing after us. Wasn’t one of those the answer? Jeez. The demon was wearing a suit and tie, and he was holding a briefcase in his right hand.
“Earth, rise up!”
The ground rumbled and a massive wall of dirt rose up in front of me—“Breaking Blade!”—and I went through it with ease.
“I won’t forget your face, you bushy-tailed creature!”
What? One spell and he was exhausted? “He stopped?” Of course, I kept running just in case.
Ilya looked behind us. “Yeah,” she said. “He stopped. Maybe we were getting too far away from…”
“What’s wrong?” Why’d she stop speaking all of a sudden?
“Lucia,” Ilya whispered. “Turn around, right now.”
“Huh? But he’s back—”
“Turn around! Turn around! Turn around!” Ilya tugged on my ears and twisted my head.
“Don’t yell at me!”
“We’re in the predator’s territory! It’s a beast that’s even killed ninth-circle magicians!”
“Huh? Oh. Turning around it is!” How’d she even know it was this predator’s territory? “What marking gave it away?” Usually there’s dung droppings. Or skeletons hanging from trees. Or weird scent markings.
“You can’t feel it? The aura that disrupts your mana?”
“Nope. But that aura sounds super useful.” Can’t I have that? Could magicians even fight me if I did? What if I absorbed this predator’s beast core…? Maybe…. A loud roar caused my tail to stiffen. Nope! Nope, nope, nope! Anything that makes my tail stiff is too dangerous to fight! Flee!