In the situation of being stuck between a rock and a hard place, I believed the seventh-circle magician was the less hard one compared to the predator. The predator’s a well-known beast amongst these parts. Physically, I have no idea how strong it is, but demons have concluded it to be a top tier divine beast based on the fact it wiped out a small group of three ninth-circle magicians during one of their explorations. Because of that, the deeper parts of the desolate mountains remain unexplored. The empire couldn’t risk another loss like that. With three of their powerhouses gone, the fae and the humans pressured the demons greatly, but thankfully, Cain Thunderfire, the world’s first tenth-circle magician appeared. There are even rumors of him inheriting the second part of the Godking’s legacy, but no one can prove it. Personally, I believe it hasn’t been found and the rumors are a scam to prevent humans and fae from flocking to our territories. If it was found, Cain should’ve announced it to the world; he’s already the strongest magician. No one would try to take Vera from him.
Wait, why am I giving a history lesson? Well, it did serve to calm me down. Maybe I should become a teacher in the future instead of a duchess. I think I’d be much happier that way, but sadly, neither Teacher nor my father would agree to that just because I’m the world’s youngest third …, fourth-circle magician. Fourth circle…? Doesn’t that mean I surpassed the first prince? He became the world’s youngest fourth-circle magician at eighteen after he had a lucky encounter with a dryad and ate her heart.
…I think Lucia’s rubbing off on me. My thoughts aren’t coordinating like they’re supposed to. Focus on the task at hand. Deep breaths. The seventh-circle magician waiting for us most likely set some traps while he retreated in case we came back or provoked the predator. “Light, with your gift, please, show me the path.” There, a simple spell to illuminate unseen dangers based on abnormal amounts of mana present. “Lucia, avoid those red patches.”
“Red patches? You mean the green ones? I was already doing that.”
Was she colorblind? I took a quick glance behind myself. There were dozens of red patches on the ground that Lucia had already avoided. How did she…? I think setting her tail on fire was probably not the best idea I’ve had. And it’s already fully furred again without my help. Maybe she won’t be too angry at me? I did put it out for her once I clung onto her back. Oh, is this what you’d call a squirrelback ride? …Bad pun, sorry.
“Darkness, take heed, show me the path to my enemy.” If helping her see the traps didn’t work, at least I can show her the direction to avoid. And she’s running on it. Great. “Lucia, avoid the black path.”
“You mean the green one? Turn it off; it’s interfering with my footprints.”
I have no idea what Lucia is talking about. Why would her footprints be affected by my path? But I’ll listen to her since I have to put on a good impression. Sure, Teacher said he’ll appear if Lucia killed me, but how does that help me? I’d be dead. It’s better not to agitate Lucia further.
“So you finally realized?” a gruff voice asked. It was the teacher with the suit, tie, and briefcase. He was floating in the air with hundreds of fireballs, wind blades, and icicles revolving around his body, a display that would make even a manticore hesitate. “I just wanted to ask you a few simple questions; why did you have to run off and attract the attention of the predator? I see it hasn’t chosen to chase you.”
Lucia stopped running and stared up at the demon in the sky. She took in a deep breath and opened her mouth to shout. Was it going to be a declaration of battle? Lucia cupped her hands around her mouth. “I will give you a hundred and two penises if you let us go!”
The spells revolving around the demon’s body stopped. They started again after two seconds. “I, I think I misheard you there.”
“If you let us go,” Lucia shouted again, slower this time, “I will give you a hundred and two penises.”
The demon opened his mouth before shutting it. He opened it, raised an eyebrow, then stopped and closed it again. He scratched his head while Lucia glared at him with her hands on her hips. “Why don’t you just answer my questions?” he asked. “If they’re what I want to hear, I won’t need any … compensation at all.”
Lucia tilted her head. “I can keep my penises?”
“Yes, yes, all the penises shall be kept by you,” the demon said. “Do you know what happened to my students? There were five of them, and they chose a mission to hunt down a manticore in the nearby area. I haven’t heard from them in a while, so I decided to track them down, and what do you know? At the end of the trail was a squirrel and a little girl.”
“Oh…,” Lucia said with a nod. “Yeah, they’re dead. Sorry. Can’t help you. There was a … what was it called, Ilya? A corpse lover?”
“Right. There was a corpse stalker eating them when we found them. But it saw me and ran away.”
“Is that so?” the demon asked and rubbed his chin. “And the manticore? I saw signs of a struggle.”
“It was already gone when we got there.” Lucia nodded twice. “Any more questions?”
“Why did you run when you sensed my presence?”
“Because my tail stiffened.”
“Because my tail stiffened,” Lucia said again, louder this time.
“Last question. What’s the name of the demon sticking to your back?”
I spoke up this time. “My name is Ilya Pentorn. Daughter of Duke Pentorn.”
The spells floating around the demon’s body stopped and disappeared. “Very well,” the demon said. “Thank you for your time. If you go to the base the academy has set up in the mountains, you can use my name, Bartholomew Shinx, to gain access to our systems. Pass a good word to your father for me, will you?”
“Thank you, Sir Shinx,” I said, keeping my head level like my father taught me to in his etiquette lessons. “Which way is the base?”
“It’s east of here, about three mountains away.” Bartholomew smiled at me and adjusted his tie. “Do you need to be escorted?”
“Nope. We’re good,” Lucia said. “Thanks.”
“Ms. Pentorn?” Bartholomew asked, ignoring Lucia’s glare.
“As my companion has said, we won’t be needing your assistance. I appreciate the offer.”
Bartholomew nodded. “Then this is farewell.”