I’ve never participated in a war before. The Godking brought peace to the three factions, and though they threatened and postured at one another, a real battle never broke out. As the daughter of a duke, I’ve read a lot about wars and their effects on the economy, the people living in my territory, and the overall state of the world. So while my only experience with wars is through books and I’m no expert at warfare, I have a feeling—just a tiny one—that this is not how wars are meant to be fought.
“You two are making strange faces,” Lucia said. “What’s the paper say?”
Right. Lucia received an instruction manual on how to participate in the war from the navigator, and Lucia being Lucia passed it onto Softie and I to interpret it for her. And according to this manual, battles are conducted as one-on-one duels between two willing participants of the opposite sides. Not only that, but each soldier may only engage in one duel per day. How many years will it take Lucia to claim ten thousand earth-realm experts’ heads if she follows these inane practices? I crumpled up the sheet of paper and burned it with a fireball. “It’s a load of bullshit. Forget about it.”
“Eh?” Lucia glared at the crown prince’s navigator. “What are you wasting my time for?”
Softie lifted her hand to tug on Lucia’s sleeve, but I stopped her. If Softie told Lucia about these rules, there was a chance—no matter how small—that Lucia might actually listen to them, and then I’d be an old woman by the time I returned home.
“I’m not wasting your time,” the navigator said. “These are the rules of engagement between our two countries. Heart Devil Lucia, you didn’t even read the paper; please, don’t dismiss my words as nonsense.”
“Well, I can’t read!” Lucia smacked the navigator’s head, and his knees buckled as his face turned as pale as a sheet. His eyes rolled up into his head and turned white. Lucia snorted and grabbed his collar and threw, no, she stripped him at the same time that she threw him overboard. Lucia’s gotten really good at the most absurd techniques. How did she even manage to take his underwear too in that single motion? “Ah, finally. Some peace and quiet. That person really nagged a lot; I’m glad he finally gave me an excuse to throw him overboard.”
An excuse? “What excuse was that?” How is she going to justify her violence this time?
“He lied to me. That’s mutiny!” Lucia’s hair fluttered as she nodded and placed her hands on her hips. “Wait. Is it mutiny if he’s not part of my crew? Hmm. Anyways, he shouldn’t have given me a paper filled with bullshit. Mhm.”
So it’s my fault. If I see that navigator again, I’ll have to apologize. But some sacrifices are necessary for the greater good. And my goal of going home is the greatest good in the world. …I’m starting to sound like Lucia; it’s all because she’s around me almost all the time! I haven’t even had time to myself to increase my circles properly. I’m stuck in the twelfth circle, which makes sense, I suppose. There’s the proverbial wall that exists between the twelfth and thirteenth. The only thing I can do is continuously and methodically circulate my mana until I break through. I think the fact Lucia forced me to attune to all the elements while traveling from the third circle to the fourth back in the desolate mountains was a lot of help in setting up my foundation. Most magicians focus on one element, and that leaves the unused parts of their bodies weaker than the rest. But it’s just a theory, and I’m the only sample; there’s always the chance that I’m an outlier.
“Oh! Ilya, I just remembered.” Lucia finished storing the poor navigator’s items before smiling at me. “What did you do to my arms? You know, the ones that the mean bully cut off a while ago.”
…She actually remembered something? I shouldn’t have given her that stupid necklace! It doesn’t even do anything except block illusions. I can’t tell her what I did with her arms because then she’d—
“Ilya. I want to see. Now.”
Well. “I, uh, turned them into jelly, you know, like Quick Shot’s arm.”
Lucia’s eyes narrowed into slits. “You didn’t eat them, right!?”
“Of course not!” That’s sincerely cannibalism and completely wrong! “Look!” I took the two pink jellies out of my interspacial ring. I’m not sure why I made them into jelly if I knew I wasn’t going to eat them. I could’ve used her bones and blood for something else, but when I actually started to refine them, I went on auto-pilot and turned them into jelly before I knew it.
Lucia frowned. “Why did you make them into jelly? Why not a stew? I would’ve tasted much better as a stew.”
Is it still cannibalism if someone eats herself? Wait. She’s having problems with the wrong thing! “I wasn’t planning on eating you when I made this!”
“Nonsense! If you weren’t planning on eating me, then why’d you turn me into food!?” Lucia took a step towards me, and a red blur flew out of the pouch by her waist.
And the jellies in my hands disappeared, replaced by a phoenix that had its beak stuffed to the brink with pink goo, its throat bulging from trying to swallow a mass that was larger than its head.
“This goddamn phoenix!” It keeps eating my finished products! “I’m going to cut it open!” I pulled out my knife, but the phoenix swatted at me with one wing. My vision filled with red and feathers before a spike of pain stabbed into my forehead. Then I lost consciousness.
When I woke up, I was lying on my bed. Next to me, on a chair, Softie was reading a book, a jar of medicine on the table by her side. Her eyes lit up as she closed the book and placed it down. “Are you alright?”
“I could be better.” I circulated my mana to cast a simple healing spell on myself to remove my headache. Right, a simple twelfth-circle healing spell should work. …But why does it feel like I can circulate my mana one more time for thirteen?
“You’re very brave for trying to stab an earth-realm beast while still in the saint realm.” Softie nodded. Was she being sarcastic? “If a phoenix was sitting on my arm, I’d be too terrified to do anything.”
Thirteen circles! That stupid phoenix made me break through somehow! Alright, it’s forgiven for eating the Lucia jelly. Now I have to figure out how that breakthrough logically worked so I can replicate it. If it happened, there must be a reason. I’ll figure it out no matter what it takes! …Was Softie saying something? My lord, I’m becoming more like Lucia with every passing day.