Where am I? What is this? A cage? I really hate cages. “Breaking Blade!” Alright, the cage is no more. But what the heck is this place? It looks like a noble’s basement, and those are definitely spirit beasts trapped in cages. Was that magical circle a teleportation array? Someone was capturing beasts that way, huh? How despicable. At least fight them honorably with poison.
A beast growled at me, its eyes glowing red in the dimly lit area. “What? I wasn’t the one who trapped you here, stupid mutt.” It clawed at the cage, but its paw bounced off the bars. Whoa, those bars are awfully sturdy. They could take a bear-sized shadow panther’s attack without breaking. I guess that makes me amazing, right? Too bad Durandal isn’t around to praise me.
Will this work? “Mini-Map!” Sweet, it does. It looks like there’s an exit that way. This place is circular and the only way out is through that suspicious-looking spiral staircase. It’s also covered by a trapdoor. This is definitely some perverted noble’s basement. I wish I didn’t kill Puppers though. He could’ve acted as a scout for me. Oh wells, with any luck, I’ll have been teleported somewhere closer to the desolate mountains. I hope I don’t run into anyone on the way out. It’s been too long since I’ve talked to actual people. I’m nervous.
Welp, there goes that wish. Why did the trapdoor have to be so loud? I guess it had to be since I broke through it with a Breaking Blade. “Just a talking squirrel. Don’t mind me.”
The gruff voice from before called from another room, “Oh. That’s fine then. Carry on.”
“Teacher! Squirrels can’t talk!” It was a younger voice this time. “That sound came from our fishing room. I think you accidentally caught a person again.” No! Stupid voice of reason, don’t convince the scary sounding man to take action! “Please, put the bottle down, Teacher! You’re drunk.”
“Drunk? I’m not drunk! I’m fishing for ideas! My best work comes after I blackout!” the gruff voice shouted back as I tiptoed towards the sound because it was the only way out of the room I was in. An old man and young lady came into view. They were both tugging on a half-filled bottle of alcohol, and the old man was winning. The strange part about them was their skin color: purple. Were they demons?
“Ah! Teacher, I told you it was a person!” The young lady’s eyes widened when she saw me, and she scrambled behind the old man. Was I that scary?
“Person? That’s a squirrel, you blithering idiot,” the old man said and took a swig from his bottle. “Look, round furry ears, large fluffy tail, and a cute pair of socks. It’s evident she’s a squirrel.”
“My socks are cute too, but I’m not a squirrel!” the young lady said. She grabbed a nearby stick and pointed it at me. “She’s a beastkin. Your stupid bait caught a beastkin.”
“Is the bait stupid if it worked?” the old man asked and rolled his eyes. “Hey, talking squirrel, which trap did you fall for? It was the acorn, wasn’t it?”
…Should I kill them? Demons aren’t people, right? Actually, they probably fall under the demi-human category like beastkin. Well, I’m not going to admit I fell for the stupid acorn; that’d be confirming his stereotype! “It was the helpless child.”
The old man stared at me. Then he burst out into laughter and slapped his cushioned armrest. “What an idiot! You thought a child could make it to the center of the southern pass by himself?” His laughter shook my ears as he nudged his student with his bottle. “Get a load of that. I told you the helpless child could catch something! I never thought a person would be stupid enough to fall for it though! Ha ha!”
I’m going to kill them.
“Don’t make fun of someone who broke out of your cage!” the young lady said and used the opportunity to snatch the bottle away from the old man.
“Huh.” The old man’s expression changed in an instant as he looked at me with narrowed eyes. “How did you break out of my cage? Did my mana-dampening runes run out of juice?”
“She’s a warrior, Teacher,” the young lady said. “Look at her sword. And there’s no way a mage would have muscles like those.”
That was a compliment, right?
“But that doesn’t explain how she escaped the cage. I’m sure—with the materials it was made out of—the cage could’ve kept even the Godking inside of it. You know it can store a divine beast without problems.” The old man scratched his chin. “That sword. Durandal?”
What? He’s the first person to identify Durandal on sight! Just who is this guy? I should really kill him. I have a feeling I’ll seriously regret it if I don’t. But I’m not a bad person…. “Who are you?”
“I am Rogath Winemark, an eighth-circle magician.” The old man leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. “This is my pupil, Ilya…, uh, Ilya something.”
“Pentorn! Ilya Pentorn! Teacher, please, you’re not old enough to be this forgetful.” The young lady glanced at me. “Is that really Durandal? So you’re the wanted criminal. You’re, uh, fluffier than I thought you’d be.”
“Wait. I’m a wanted criminal? And how did you know this sword was Durandal?” So word really has spread about me killing Bryant. Darn.
“The Godking kidnapped me when I was younger,” Rogath said and snorted. “I burned everything about him into my memory to enact vengeance one day. But he died before that.”
“Wow. You’re ancient.” He must be really old—at least 80. “So, uh, now that we’ve become acquainted, I’ll be taking my leave…? Is that okay?”
“No. That’s not okay,” Rogath said. Great. He wants to fight. I don’t know how well I’d do against an eighth-circle mage. They’re supposed to be on par with divine warriors, right? “Take Ilya with you before you go. Thanks.”
“You asked for it! Breaking Bla—wait, what?” I lowered my sword. I imagine the look on my face was similar to the one on Ilya’s.
“Right. Take her off my hands.” Rogath nodded. “Unless you want to fight.”
“No, no fights. I’ll take her.” Of course, the first thing I’ll do is abandon her once I get out of here. No way am I going to accompany another person.
“Teacher! Don’t throw me away like this!” There were tears in Ilya’s eyes. Poor girl. “She’s clearly going to throw me away once she gets out of here!”
Don’t read my mind!
“Hmm, maybe you’re right,” the old man said. “Also, Ms. Squirrel, I don’t like the way you’ve been eyeing me. I’m not a beast you can cut down.” Before I could respond, he pointed at me and said, “Topsy-Turvy.”
Urk. I feel sick. Like I was flipped over onto my head but not really.
“You’re still standing?” The old man’s voice sounded surprised. “Then what about this? Upsy-Daisy.”
Gah! What the heck!? When I want to move my hand, my foot moves instead! How am I supposed to beat him up like this!
“Amazing. As expected of a warrior who managed to escape my cage somehow. Then…. Twisty-Turny.”
I’m going to throw up. What did he do now? Oh great, now moving my right arm moves my left leg. Just what I needed. Then I’ll use my qi to activate the Unrelenting—
“And for good measure, Wishy-Washy.”
I can’t control my qi!? So this is the power of an eighth-circle magician. No wonder why Bouncykins said the era of warriors was over. What can a warrior do without control of his qi?
“Teacher, I’m glad that you did something, but I’m the one who has to clean up her puke if she vomits, you know?” Ilya was concerned for all the wrong reasons! I’m dying here! Besides, I haven’t eaten in a very long time. There’s nothing for me to vomit out.
“That’s fine, silly girl. What did I teach you the clean spell for?” Rogath asked and snorted. His drunken demeanor was completely gone, replaced by the dignity one would expect from a top tier magician. He pointed at me again and said, “Wishy-Washy.”
Stop doing that!
“You should still be able to speak just fine. Why don’t you say something?” Rogath asked.
“What am I supposed to say? You’re a bastard. There.”
Rogath burst out into laughter. “Excellent. The inheritor of the Godking’s legacy should have this much spunk at least. You don’t have to make a face like that; I’m not going to hurt you, I swear.” He scratched his chin. “Well, any more than I have already. Now, the reason I’m keeping you alive even though you wandered into my laboratory is simple. Did you know that the Godking’s legacy is split into two parts? The first part is the martial path with Durandal. The second part is the magical path with Vera. Since you’ve found the martial path, I suspect finding the magical path will be easier for you. Call it a hunch.”
“You mean, you want me to inherit Vera?” Ilya asked, her eyes widening. “You were serious about that!?”
Why does she look so startled? …And devastated?
“Of course I was serious,” Rogath said with a nod. “Speaking of the Godking’s legacy, why hasn’t Durandal shown himself? I want to give that weapon spirit a good smack for ignoring me when I begged for his help as a child.”
Never reveal your weaknesses! “He doesn’t want to come out because he recognizes you.”
“Oh, really?” Rogath’s eyes narrowed. “Then what if I tortured you until you summoned him?”
“You said you wouldn’t hurt me! I’ll definitely bully your pupil if you do!”
“Bully her all you want. She’s a very meek girl. A little roughhousing will shape her right up.”
“Teacher! Are you really looking out for what’s best for me!?”
Wow. They sure have a nice relationship with each other. It’s like the relationship between Durandal and me. I’m a bit jealous. Why can’t Durandal wake up already? “Durandal’s a lot like you. He’ll let you torture me to build character.” I think he really would if he was awake.
“Huh. I see.” Rogath leaned over and took the bottle out of Ilya’s hand. He pointed at me again and said, “Wishy-Washy.”
Apparently, it was only a temporary spell. And it’s not like I can’t control my qi; it just doesn’t move in the manner I’d like it to.
“So what do you say?” Rogath asked. “Take my pupil with you on your journey. If anything happens to her, I’ll know and teleport over there to deliver punishment. She can also be very useful; it’s not like I’m throwing a completely useless burden on you.”
“Does that mean I’m partially useless then!? Teacher, why are you so mean!?”
“Can I refuse?”
“Ilya, take Durandal away from her.”
“So I’m not useless enough to do that?” Ilya grumbled and came over to me. I tried to get away, but ended up falling over instead. Stupid arm-leg nonsense spell. Don’t touch Durandal, you whore! “Eh? I can’t pick it up?”
“What do you mean?” Rogath asked and stood up. “Durandal should be bound to her, but anyone should be able to use him like a normal sword if they get their hands on him.”
“I’m serious; I can’t pick her sword up.”
“Let me try,” Rogath said and nudged his pupil aside. His hand was enveloped in a layer of green as he bent down to grab Durandal. He couldn’t lift Durandal’s weapon body enough to fully wrap his hand around the hilt. “What is this?” He shrugged and grabbed me instead. “Well, if we can’t move the horse away from the water, we’ll move the water away from the horse.”
And thus, I was dragged away and thrown into another cage. It took all of three minutes before I was begging them to let me out. Pride? Dignity? Forget that! Durandal is way more important! I get panic attacks when Durandal’s not somewhere on my body!
“That was a lot quicker than I thought.” Rogath had a strange expression on his face. Don’t judge me! “But you agree to bring my pupil along with you?”
“If she does anything suspicious, I’m going to kill her.” I’m not letting another Snow incident happen ever again!
“Did you hear that, Ilya? Don’t do anything suspicious.”
“Teacher!” Tears threatened to fall down Ilya’s face. “Please don’t do this to me! You’re entrusting my life to a complete stranger! I came here to learn magic from you, so why—”
“Magic stems from experience. Not just experience with the spell you are casting, but life experiences. Without traveling the world, you’ll never break through to the seventh-circle. Haven’t you been stuck in the sixth-circle for thirty years now?”
Thirty years!? What the heck! She looks like she’s thirteen! How old is she?
“Teacher…, you’re thinking about Elaine again. I’m Ilya, the third-circle magician.”
“Ilya, Elaine, what’s the difference? They both have two syllables. Now get out of my sight.”
And that’s how I met my new traveling companion, Ilya Pentorn.