Ah, just like I thought, hitting people is super relaxing. By projecting my qi out of my body and sending it into the bandits we captured, I can sense when they’re about to wake up. And when I do, I hit them over the head with a bone. Like this!
Ilya flinched and glanced at me. She pursed her lips, but she didn’t say anything before turning her gaze back onto the road. Maybe I hit him a bit too hard.
I actually didn’t know I could send my qi into people until recently when I used the bandit leader as a substitute sword. There’s a little bit of resistance, but if I apply some more qi, it goes away. It’s a lot like life; if something’s blocking your way, hit it until it isn’t. That’s how most problems are solved, right?
“We’re here,” the driver said as the carriage slowed to a halt.
I poked my head out the window and looked around. What a picturesque scene! The carriage was positioned in front of a massive gate with brick fences on either side that extended far beyond what I could see. Trees with pink leaves were lined up along the road inside the fence, leading to a fountain. Beyond the fountain, there was a white mansion with gargoyles positioned on its roof. Around the carriage, patches of colorful flowers decorated the bright-green grass. A few decorations—cute animal statues—were littered about. And there were even sun-bleached skeletons impaled on bloody stakes all around us.
“There’s no guards to receive us?” Ilya asked and stood up to peer over the driver’s shoulder. Her face paled as she took in the beautiful scenery. She muttered, “What’s going on?” before departing from the carriage.
Okay, maybe, the skeletons weren’t normal. I tossed the unconscious bandits out of the carriage before storing the portable refrigerator inside of my interspacial ring without the driver noticing. After I paid the driver, the carriage whirled around and departed without a word. Ilya didn’t seem too ecstatic after returning home. Maybe her family tried to drown her too? “So….”
Ilya glanced at me before touching the gate. A circle of mana appeared in front of her fingers. It pulsed a few times, and a ringing noise sounded through the air. A few seconds later, there was a click, and a voice asked, “Hello?”
“It’s Ilya,” Ilya said to the circle. “Open the gate.”
“Young Miss? You’ve returned?” the voice asked. “I’ll open the gates right away.” There was another click, and the circle in front of Ilya disappeared. The gate rumbled, and the chains holding the gate shut loosened before falling to the ground. As Ilya pushed open the gate, the doors to the mansion opened, and a procession of well-dressed demons, humans, and beastkin stepped outside, forming two lines on either side of the road underneath the pink-leaved trees.
A demon, who was wearing a monocle, approached us and bowed until his chest was parallel with the ground. Seeing how well Ilya was being treated made me feel a bit uneasy because, well, I treated her like crap in the desolate mountains. She wouldn’t hold that against me…, right?
“Young Miss, I apologize for not noticing your arrival earlier,” the monocle-wearing demon said. “Forgive me.”
That’s something he needs to be forgiven for? We just got here.
“It’s alright, Matthew,” Ilya said and gestured behind herself. “Bring these bandits inside for Father to interrogate.” Then she turned her head towards me. “And this is my…”—her brow furrowed—“punishment for the sins I’ve committed in my past life. Treat her like an esteemed guest.”
Hey. I’m not that bad of a person, right? …Right?
“Understood,” Matthew said and nodded at me. “Welcome, esteemed guest.” He glanced to the side at the beastkin with tiger-like features. “Take the bandits to the dungeon.”
Ilya’s mansion has a dungeon? Isn’t that a bit excessive? Why would anyone have such a depressing place inside their own home?
“Let’s go, Lucia,” Ilya said and pursed her lips. She stared at my face. Did I have food stuck between my teeth? Wait, no, my mouth was closed. “How are you feeling?”
Feeling? “Uh, normal? Like always.”
“You don’t want to consume any bones…?” Ilya asked. “I can—”
“Ilya!” a voice interrupted. My tail stiffened as the air in front of us fractured and split apart like a broken mirror. A demon wearing black robes appeared from within and tackled Ilya before she or I could react. “You’re back. Where’s Rogath?”
Ilya struggled to remove her face from the demon’s chest. “Father,” she said and tried to wriggle out of her dad’s hug. “You’re squishing me.”
“Sorry, sorry,” Ilya’s dad said before releasing her. He smiled at her before glaring at me. “You dare point a sword at me?”
Out of reflex, I had readied mini-DalDal for combat when my tail stiffened. Good thing I didn’t attack him right away because I’d probably have lost. With my qi, I could sense the air around him vibrating from the sheer amount of mana guarding his body. If I activated my Path of Slaughter, I don’t think I would even be able to see him beyond a wall of green.
“Father,” Ilya said and tugged on her dad’s sleeve. “This is Lucia. She’s … special. Don’t hurt her, please.”
Damn right I’m special. That was a compliment, right? “Hello, Mister…”—what was Ilya’s last name again?—“Ilya the First.” Well, close enough; I can’t think under pressure, okay? “Nice to meet you.”
Ilya’s dad stared at me for a few seconds before looking at Ilya. “She’s certainly special,” he said with a nod. “But what happened? Why are you here? Where’s Rogath?”
I feel like I’ve been completely ignored. As usual.
“Teacher…,” Ilya said and furrowed her brow. “Teacher captured Lucia with a trap and convinced her to take me on a journey. And now I’m here.”
“I feel like you’ve skipped a lot of things,” Ilya’s dad said. He glanced at me. “But you’re saying I can trust her?”
“No,” Ilya said and shook her head. Hey! I’m very trustworthy! “Her perception of the world is skewed. If you ask her what color a red wall is, she’ll tell you it’s green, firmly believe it’s green, and believe she told you the truth. She won’t try to lie to you, but her words will be lies simply because she’s wrong.”
I’m going to smack her. …As soon as her dad leaves us alone that is. How strong is he? Eighth circle? Ninth?
“It sounds like you’ve had it rough,” Ilya’s dad said and put his hand on her shoulder. His eyes widened to a comical size. “You’re almost at the fifth-circle?”
“Yes,” Ilya said, her face darkening. “Thanks to Lucia.”
Why did her words sound so spiteful? “You’re welcome.”
“Excellent!” Ilya’s dad said and lifted her into the air. She yelped as he spun her around in a circle.
“Sorry, sorry.” Ilya’s dad grinned and placed her back onto the ground. “A fifth-circle magician at the age of thirteen! Oh, you’re almost fourteen now, aren’t you? We’ll have to hold a banquet.” He glanced at Matthew. “Prepare a birthday banquet for Ilya. Invite everyone important.”
I’m being ignored.
“I’m extremely proud of you,” Ilya’s dad said. “Which element did you attune to?”
Ilya pursed her lips. “All of them,” she said before glaring at me.
Did I do something to make her mad recently? What’s with all the glaring?
“All of them?” Ilya’s dad’s eyes widened. “How!?”
“It was because of Lucia,” Ilya said. “If I didn’t use all the elements, I’d have never kept up with her and died instead.”
Ilya’s dad beamed at me, and my tail finally relaxed. Was he no longer hostile? “Thank you,” he said and nodded at me. “Thank you for taking such good care of my daughter. You’ve been really helpful. Please, allow her to accompany you longer.”
“Of course! I’ll do my best!” It’s been a while since I’ve been praised! Puppers is always such a bitter person and never compliments me. Ilya’s praise feels like I’m being insulted. And Durandal still hasn’t woken up yet. I don’t understand why though. Puppers has died and woken up dozens of times, but Durandal’s still recovering. He couldn’t have abandoned me and given up on life, right?
“Father…,” Ilya said with hints of tears in her eyes. “You’re supposed to support me, not throw me to the lions.”
Her dad ruffled her hair. “How can you compare Lucia’s guidance to throwing you to the lions?” he asked. “Look at how well she’s treated you. You’ll be the youngest fifth-circle magician in existence!” He smiled at me. “Welcome to my residence. Feel free to treat this place like your own home.”