Arc 1 – Chapter 19: A Spirit Arts User’s Battle
The icicles crisscrossed mercilessly, filling the room with a white mist and covering the black cloaked figure in freezing wind.
The speed of these icicles was far beyond what he’d seen in the alley, as far as Subaru knew this had transcended the major league and had reached a level of speed you only saw in video games.
Their sharp tips would easily pierce through the human body and come out red with fresh blood.
There were about twenty of them. If they landed, it’d mean certain death. But,
“Is she finished?!”
“Right, there’s a bad flag―!!”
Even though he had remained silent for so long, the baldy just had to go and say something at the worst possible time.
And as if to answer Subaru’s shout,
“―I was prepared, you see. I quite dislike its weight, but it was the right decision to wear it.”
Cutting through the white smoke, Elsa dashed forward with her black hair dancing behind her.
As she brandished her kukri knife and nimbly advanced, there was no sign of injury on her body. She had cast aside her cloak and was now only wearing the form-fitting black clothes she wore underneath it, but there was no change besides this.
“Don’t tell me it’s the sort of thing where you take off weighted clothing and become faster?!”
“That would be pretty interesting, but the reality is simpler. ― My cloak had a spell woven into it that could negate magic just once. Seems it allowed me to keep my life.”
Elsa politely answered Subaru’s query, and then swung her blade forward from a low stance.
Standing in her path was Not-Satella who had just unleashed that huge attack.
The blade’s path was true, intended to plunge the heavy tip into her chest. Subaru was about to scream, but before that could happen,
“You’d do well not to underestimate a user of the spirit arts. We’re rather frightening when you make enemies of us.”
A multilayered shield of ice easily stopped Elsa’s blade.
Not-Satella placed her hands together before her chest. She had probably formed that shield using her hands. With her attack blocked, Elsa immediately backflipped away.
A number of slightly smaller icicles were rapidly fired in pursuit and pierced the ground.
This was Puck’s attack, he floated by Not-Satella’s silver hair as he waved his arms like he was conducting an orchestra.
“They’re splitting the roles of offense and defense―It’s really two on one.”
“That’s what makes spirit users dangerous. One handles offense while the other handles defense. Depending on the situation you’ll have one stall with simple magic while the other prepares a powerful move… They can do that sort of thing. On the battlefield, it is commonly said that ‘If you encounter a spirit user, you should drop your weapon and wallet and run.’”
As Subaru looked on in admiration, Rom who was next to him muttered gravely as he tightened his grip on his club.
Subaru nodded at his words. Indeed, in a one-on-one battle their advantage was absolute. Overcoming it would be no easy feat.
“By the way, what are you planning to do, old man?”
“I’ll look for an opening to help the elf girl. She seems more reasonable than the other one.”
“Waitwaitwaitwaitwaitwaitwait! Don’t try it! You’d only be a burden! You’ll just have your right arm and throat ripped apart if you go, so stay right there!”
“Don’t be that specific! It almost feels like that actually happened!”
He had actually seen this happen twice, as a result his statement felt genuine.
Rom seemed rather displeased as he clutched his arm and neck as if he felt himself getting cut down in another dimension.
Even as they had this exchange, the battle continued.
Although Subaru had warned Rom with his frivolous talk, in truth there were no openings to interfere in the battle.
―Countless lumps of ice formed one after another and were blasted all over the room.
Their sizes varied, the larger ones were about the size of a head, and the smaller ones were roughly fist-sized. They were all fired with the speed of a full power pitch, and it was clear just how dangerous they were.
However, even as she was surrounded by all of this ice, Elsa’s movements now that she had lost her magic-negating cloak had transcended the realm of common sense.
She would twist her body, lower herself to the ground as if crawling, and occasionally even defy gravity by running the walls. If she judged that even this wouldn’t suffice, she would strike the ice with her blade, shattering the white crystals. She matched quantity with overwhelming quality, her skill was exceptional.
“You handle yourself well for a girl.”
Even Puck had to admire her combat sense that could only be described as godlike.
His mutter caused Elsa to smile broadly even in the midst of that chaotic battle.
“Oh my. It’s been quite a while since I was last regarded as a simple girl.”
“Most of my opponents might as well be babies from my perspective. But even so, you’re so strong it’s almost pitiful.”
“It’s quite the honor to receive praise from a spirit.”
Genuinely delighted this compliment, she swept away the ice surrounding her with her blade.
He must have fired close to a hundred by now, but besides that first bombardment not a single one connected.
Puck was pressuring her with the sheer quantity of his offense, but he was unable to land a decisive blow.
“At this rate, won’t they run out of MP and lose?”
As he pictured a reversal in offense and defense, Subaru pointed out that a lengthy battle would prove disadvantageous.
However, Rom shook his head.
“I don’t know what this Empi is, but there’s no need to worry about a spirit user running out of mana in battle.”
“No need to worry about them running out of mana…?”
“Unlike magic users, spirit users do not use the mana within them, but rather the mana around them. Unless the world itself runs dry, a spirit user will never run out of mana.”
“They’ve got unlimited gasoline so they can rev their engines as much as they please, huh. Quite a cheat.”
Rom cocked his head, Subaru’s response was completely incomprehensible to him.
He then continued with his head still tilted, “But,”
“There’s also the matter of how long the spirit can remain corporeal. Once the spirit is gone, the situation might change drastically.”
“Crap, that’s right… It’s almost five, isn’t it?!”
In the first world, Puck went to sleep not long after sunset.
It hadn’t been that long since the fight started, but surely throwing around that much magic must have been a significant drain on his mana reserves or whatever.
“Ah, this is bad. I’m getting a little drowsy. Actually, I was fighting in my sleep just now.”
“Hey, Puck! Get it together!”
“… Hah! I’m up! I’m awake! I’m definitely not sleeping!”
“His voice is so low, isn’t that conversation super concerning?!”
Seemed to be right on the mark.
Puck seemed to be nodding off already, and he could see that Not-Satella who had Puck on her shoulder was also starting to look anxious.
“Just when it was getting good. You’re not even paying attention, how cold.”
“That’s the problem with being a popular guy. The girls just won’t let you sleep. But staying up too late is terrible for your skin, you know?”
Bending her knees slightly, Elsa prepared to leap.
Anticipating this, Puck shrewdly winked at her and spoke.
“How about we go ahead and put an end to this? You must be tired of seeing the same old performance, right?”
The instant she tried to advance, she tipped forward and had to put out her hands to stop her fall.
Subaru stared in shock at this unbelievable screw up, the reason for which was at her feet.
Elsa’s right foot was stuck to the frozen floor.
The shattered ice had slowly piled up, and had now been used to trap her foot.
“It’s not like I was just firing randomly, you know?”
“… So you’ve got me, is that right?”
“Just think of it as the difference in experience, I believe this is worthy of some praise. Good night.”
As he threw his chest out, Puck’s small body started to waver.
He thrust his hands out in front him, a pose that suggested he was about to use a killer technique, and started gathering up the largest amount of magic thus far― Even Subaru could see it radiating from him.
That magical power did not turn into ice, it was fired as pure destructive energy.
The bluish white light froze everything in its path, and dyed the loot house white in one fell swoop.
The energy passed through Elsa and slammed into the entrance to the loot house, blowing away the poorly fitted door. The freezing waves left in the aftermath even reached outside.
Once that magnificent light passed through, all that was left was frost. The goods, the furniture, the counter, everything was completely frozen.
Naturally, anyone who took a direct hit would inevitably be turned into an ice sculpture.
“I’m afraid not. Aah, splendid. I thought I was going to die.”
If she had taken it head on, perhaps.
“… You’re a girl, so I can’t really praise that sort of thing.”
She had managed to avoid his last resort, but Puck wasn’t any angrier than his words suggested. He truly was displeased by the act itself.
―Subaru could see blood dripping, and traces of steam coming off the frozen floor.
The source of the blood was Elsa’s right foot. She was standing barefoot just barely out of the path of Puck’s attack, and a large amount of blood was pouring out of her right foot.
It was only natural. After all, she had sliced off the sole of her foot.
“I was in such a hurry I almost chopped the whole thing off, that was a close one.”
“But even that amount ought to be quite painful.”
“Yes, I suppose you’re correct. It is painful. Wonderful. I feel alive. Now…”
In response to Puck’s concerned words, Elsa nodded with an ecstatic look, and then raised her bleeding foot and pressed it against a nearby lump of ice with no hesitation.
It sounded like the air was cracking, Elsa moaned seductively after which she used her kukri knife to smooth the ice’s surface.
With that, she managed to stop the bleeding. She had recklessly attached a part of the ice to her sole.
“It’s a little hard to move, but it’s enough.”
Her ice shoe produced a stiff sound as she tested it against the ground, she then smiled even more cheerfully.
The fact that she was so addicted to battle that she didn’t even mind mutilating herself left Subaru speechless, but it left an even bigger impression on Puck and Not-Satella who were facing her.
“Puck, can you continue?”
“Sorry, I’m really sleepy. I underestimated her a bit. I used up too much mana, gonna disappear.”
When Puck responded to her murmur, his voice had for the first time lost its composure.
The cat on her shoulder, by her silver hair, started to emit a faint glow and looked as though he could disappear at any moment. He was out of time.
“I’ll handle this somehow, so get some rest for now. Thank you.”
“Should anything happen to you, I’ll act in accordance with the contract. ― If it comes down to it, wring your Od to draw me out.”
As if urged on by Not-Satella’s tender voice, Puck’s body suddenly scattered and vanished.
Every single person in that room lamented his retreat, but the one who was most disappointed was,
“―Aah, he’s gone. How terribly unfortunate.”
Elsa, who had been fighting for her life.
She once again readied her blade, and moved toward Not-Satella with high-pitched footsteps.
In response, Not-Satella started forming icicles one after another, but she couldn’t form nearly as many as Puck had.
But considering Elsa’s mobility had dropped, their chances of winning were probably still fifty-fifty.
“We can’t just stand around staring anymore.”
Rom gripped his club and readied himself, perhaps he thought the situation looked bad.
When Subaru silently looked at him, he shrugged his shoulders,
“We don’t know if she can win without assistance. So if we just sit around and watch, we’re just missing our chance… You understand, right, Felt?”.
“Yeah, I get it. Even if we choose to run, we’ve got to do it right now.”
Felt hadn’t spoken a word since Elsa first made her threat.
She stood next to Rom who seemed ready to fight, and then suddenly turned to Subaru.
“About earlier… You kinda saved me.”
“Just a little, mind you. Also, don’t call me a kid. Despite how I look, I’m actually fifteen. Probably around the same as you.”
“… I’m eighteen this year. I can drive and get married.”
“You don’t look it! You look like a kid, you gotta live a life that shows on your face more!”
On top of being a shut-in, he also lived a life without major ups and downs..
But still, he felt that his current situation had way too many gigantic ups and downs.
As the two resolved themselves and observed the state of the battle, all Subaru could do was watch.
He was probably the weakest one there. And it wasn’t merely fighting strength that he lacked…
“My legs are trembling, they won’t move… I don’t even have the resolve.”
It was more than a problem of being unqualified, he couldn’t even get involved.
.Rom had his arms, Felt had her legs, and Satella had her magic, they could use these to fight. However, Elsa’s abnormality transcended all of these.
“She’s getting overwhelmed.”
Rom’s candid impression said it all.
Not-Satella continued to fire an endless barrage of ice, but they were all smashed apart by Elsa’s blade dance.
Elsa sprang toward her, slashing as if she was dancing, and in response Not-Satella halted her attack to block with her ice shield and then froze the ground underneath her to slide away, barely avoiding the subsequent attacks.
If she managed to gain some distance she would once again go on the offensive with her ice barrage, but Elsa didn’t seem like the kind of opponent who’d fall for the same trick twice.
The next time she approached Not-Satella, Subaru would probably end up seeing a sight he never wanted to see again.
Probably imagining the same thing, Rom roared as he joined the battle.
He raised his club and produced a powerful wind as he swung it, a bit of the hair on the back of Elsa’s head got caught up in this as she ducked.
“Oh dear, it’s rather boorish to cut in on a dance.”
“If you wanna dance that bad, I’ll make you dance the finest dance of all! Here, round and round!”
Rom thrust his spiked club at her, changing the scope of his attack from a line to a point.
This sudden unconventional attack was aimed at Elsa’s throat, and the end the result froze Rom’s throat.
“What the hell?!”
“Because you’re so strong, I can even do this.”
Elsa was on her tiptoes, standing on the tip of his club.
There was a divinely inspired sense of balance to this disparity in power, the first time such acrobatics were performed. Before this miraculous balance could collapse, Elsa swung her blade horizontally.
It was aimed at Rom’s temple, the force was such that a direct hit would blow the top of his head off.
“As if I’d let you―!”
Clang, a small knife was thrown into her blade’s path, hitting it.
The impact from directly below slightly disturbed the blade’s movement, and the side of the blade slammed into his head, still retaining its speed. There was the dull sound of steel striking bone, and Rom’s body collapsed to the side.
Elsa landed casually, and turned her gaze toward Felt.
Felt’s small knife had saved Rom from a fatal slash. She had probably been aiming at Elsa’s arm, but it seemed her haste threw off her aim.
But it could also be said that this just barely saved Rom’s life.
“You have neither the resolve nor the strength to fight. That being the case, you should have just cowered in the corner, making yourself small.”
With high-pitched footsteps, Elsa’s dark figure seemed to be gliding as she instantly appeared before Felt.
Rom was unconscious from the blow to his head, and since Not-Satella had put some distance between them, she would not make it in time. Felt herself was paralyzed, like a frog in a snake’s sights.
So the only one who could grab her small body and leap out of the way was the one who had been cowering in terror right next to her.
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