The sight of Herman's head rolling on the ground didn't feel like reality. He had lost a circle due to injury, but his capabilities was still equivalent to the 7th Circle. Yet eight war mages, including Herman, had been wiped out in just 10 minutes?
It was an opponent they absolutely couldn't afford to go against.
"2nd Car, get ready! 3rd Car, get down and enter the 6th Combat Formation! Don't hesitate!" A thunderous shout emerged from the person who regained their mind first. It was Anton, a veteran of the Blue Tower and the next highest ranking person in this convoy after Herman.
Having many years of experience on the battlefield, Anton knew that unexpected events could occur at any time. Thus, he made a cold judgement after the 1st Car was suddenly annihilated. He didn't forget to look ahead with observation magic while giving instructions.
However, Anton couldn't see beyond a physical barrier. "Tch, this is why fire-based magic is so annoying…!"
The flames from the fire magic were blocking his sight. The battlefield contained a distorted atmosphere due to the high temperatures, and the smoke rising from the trees and the flames paralyzed his sight. It would take at least 30 more minutes until it returned to normal.
Anton abandoned the task of identifying the enemy's shape and moved quickly towards the 2nd Car. Then he grabbed the shoulder of Theodore, who was sitting next to Ellenoa.
'What?' The reaction was better than Anton had expected. In this situation, Theodore's voice wasn't shaking at all. His calm eyes, breathing, and magic power didn't fit his age. Above all, Theo had the atmosphere of a person who had experienced 'real life.' The rumours about him being a great rookie seemed plausible.
After evaluating Theo, Anton spoke in a decisive voice, "Newbie, don't think about anything other than keeping her safe from now on. We will stay and buy as much time as possible at least until Veronica comes. Do you understand?!"
"I will do my best."
"You are an unusually careful person for a Red Tower magician. Okay, I'm going." Anton knocked against Theo's shoulder several times, then he pushed them into the wagon and shouted to the four magicians steering the 2nd Car, "Start right away! The direction doesn't matter, as long as you get as far as possible!"
At Anton's words, a terrifying gust of wind emerged from the palms of the drivers. The sails inflated again, and the wagon started running in the direction of the wind. As expected from the White Tower, they confidently increased the pace.
It dug roughly into the ground before disappearing from Anton's field of view. This was all he could do.
"Now, then…" Anton looked around at his colleagues, who were gathered in the formation unique to the Blue Tower.
Although their relationship with the Red Tower wasn't good, it was never malicious or hostile. Rather, it was closer than the relationships they had with the other towers because of their arguments.
In the 1st Car, there had been someone who came to the capital at around the same time as Anton. That man was a proud person, but Anton didn't hate him.
Unlike the Red Tower magicians who focused on firepower, the Blue Tower taught mainly about working in conjunction with each other. They had the ability to share magic and create a synergy which would maximize their strength. It was different in a one-on-one fight, but in a fight with many people, the Blue Tower absolutely didn't fall behind the Red Tower.
'The enemy is coming.' In the centre of the formation, Anton stared at the front with a firm expression.
Oddly enough, the mana was thinning. This was the sense of incongruity he felt before. This existence was on a totally different dimension from senior magicians and sword masters, as it could overwhelm the world with just its presence. His intuition noticed the enemy's greatness before it even arrived.
Soon, 'something' came out of the darkness.
Anton gazed at it and spoke with a bitter smile, "…Hah, this place is my grave."
None of the other magicians refuted him. Just the fact that he could still open his mouth meant that Anton deserved to be called the best magician here.
The intense fury they felt froze, but none of the seven magicians stepped back.
They began the battle where the outcome was already determined.
* * *
Dududududu…! The gust wagon moved at a tremendous speed.
This was different from when they conserved strength for long-distance traveling. It was literally an acceleration using all their strength! The four 5th Circle magicians drew out all the magic power in their blood vessels, and this was the direct result of that.
Every time the wagon hit a stone, their bodies would go up a few meters, but the wagon continued running at full speed. There was no moment to spare for the high-speed driving.
The atmosphere inside the wagon was cold as well.
'An opponent that can kill Elder Herman is at least of the master level… There are few kingdoms which could such such power for a dangerous infiltration operation.' Theodore analyzed the situation calmly. When he faced a crisis, the experiences he absorbed were worth their weight in gold.
An unidentified opponent had appeared at the head of the convoy, blocked the path, and instantly annihilated the elite troops, including Elder Herman. A person who could do such a thing should be a sword master from the Andras Empire, one of the Seven Swords.
However, why would the Andras Empire take such a risk?
Based on the international situation, Theo immediately denied that possibility, 'No, even if one of the Seven Swords penetrated into Meltor, there is no guarantee that they can return. Why would they risk one of the pillars of the empire? That is crazy.'
Additionally, the Andras Empire couldn't get any benefits from a high elf, unlike Austen. Their relationship with Elvenheim would get worse, and they could even lose one of their precious sword masters. However, when he excluded the Seven Swords of the Empire, there was nobody left. It was preposterous that an unaffiliated master would be mobilized.
His logical reasoning couldn't reveal the shadows behind this situation. While Theo was frustrated over not finding an answer, the quiet Ellenoa opened her mouth, "That… Is something scary happening because of me?"
"If I hadn't left the village… if I wasn't a high elf… this wouldn't have happened, right?"
It was a very cruel question to affirm. More than anything, Ellenoa already knew the answer without needing to hear Theo's reply. However, Theo didn't nod. Fortunately, he was still young and had the innocence of looking at the world through good and evil, not cause and effect. So, he was able to comfort Ellenoa.
Theodore grasped Ellenoa's hands gently like she had done to him before. "Don't blame yourself."
At the very least, she shouldn't feel guilty.
"You are just a victim. You are the victim who is being chased after by evil just because you are a high elf! Don't act like you are the perpetrator of this."
"Or just feel sad. Don't feel guilty."
Even if all this happened because she was a high elf, the positions of perpetrator and victim couldn't be reversed. No, it shouldn't be. According to that logic, the ones in the wrong were the person scammed or the person murdered. It was something which Theodore could never agree to.
Ellenoa was astonished by his hard-line attitude, but she immediately nodded with a slight smile. At this moment when the atmosphere was about to loosen up…
Theo ran desperately and hugged Ellenoa.
"T-Theodore!" Ellenoa blushed as she suddenly entered his arms, but that quickly faded away.
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Theo was so pale that he almost looked bloodless. With a face that seemed like he wasn't breathing, Theo quickly got up. His sensory perception told him that danger was nearing!
'Impossible! It caught up already?!'
Not only had it broken through the elites of the 3rd Car, it had caught up with the wagon which was moving at the maximum speed!
A sword master's physical abilities might be called strange, but the enemy approaching this wagon was a monster which deviated from common sense. It wasn't possible with the legs of a human. Then a cold chill on his neck pierced that thought.
There wasn't even time to speak a word of warning.
The illusion of the reaper's scythe was at his neck.
"Protection!" Theodore screamed the spell and jumped out of the gust wagon. Within his arms, Ellenoa was surely protected as Theo threw himself out of the fast-paced wagon. The damage from the drop and collision with the ground was huge, causing the 5th Circle defense spell to be half broken.
However, his judgement was correct. The moment the two of them escaped from the gust wagon, a huge shadow fell on top of the roof.
It was like a meteor had fallen from the sky as the gust wagon was smashed. A large shock wave spread from the impact of the collision with the trees nearby, forcing Theo to use defense magic again.
'What is with that shock wave…!?'
The shock wave wasn't magic but a phenomenon generated due to a surge of pure physical power!
Theo's stricken face looked at the dust which had risen at the point of collision. He could even believe it if this shock wave were the enemy's attack. If he hadn't used defense magic, Theo's and Ellenoa's guts would be crushed like rotten tomatoes.
Theo managed to survive the attack and stepped back a few meters with Ellenoa.
He had no thoughts about running away. Theo was just overwhelmed by the eerie presence which could be sensed from within the cloud of dust. Whatever it was, it wasn't something which could be faced with the power of the duo.
A sharp fear pushed down his curiosity. He would rather have that dust cloud cover his eyes forever. However, the wind blew it away.
As the dust settled, the first thing he saw was the crushed wreckage of the gust wagon. There were traces of blood from the drivers everywhere as well as a gruesome shape in the corner.
Theo clenched his teeth as he faced the wriggling shadow. Finally, the identity of the assailant was revealed to the two people.
'…Ah.' Theodore Miller understood now.
This was the incarnation of death, the materialization of fear in a solid form. It wasn't a human. No, it wasn't like any creature he knew. The ugly and powerful monster was too ambiguous and disorderly to name. It couldn't be called anything but chaos.
With eight twitching legs, the lower half of its body resembled a spider. The body itself consisted of a mixture of leather and carapace. There was a scorpion-like tail which scattered blue lightning, and four different claws bit at the air.
No, that was wrong too. The strange body changed its appearance to the parts of other creatures. It now had the arm of an ogre and the horns of a minotaur. Like a wyvern, wings sprouted from its back, but scales covered its skin.
The unidentified monster turned Theo's and Ellenoa's minds blank.
However, there was a separate existence which responded to the appearance of the monster.
A hole appeared on Theo's left palm, and a low voice was transmitted in a low-frequency range which insects could hear. The greedy grimoire, Gluttony, growled in a voice which was several times more unpleasant than usual.
-Pride, that disgusting appearance of yours still hasn't changed.
The monster approaching them suddenly stopped in place. It looked confused by Gluttony's voice, then it suddenly hit its head with a sharp claw. The behaviour looked like an act of self-harm, but a mouth appeared in the previously smooth head. Then like Gluttony, it started to talk in a low frequency.
–You still have the habit of being attached to inferior species like humans, Gluttony.