[Worry not, you will be given time to prepare,] Amalthea said as I asked for some time to think about how I will tackle the situation.
“Thank you,” I responded quite thankful.
Basically, the goal is to reach the other side. I thought as I moved my sight to the tree struck by her lightning strike a moment ago. And she wouldn’t start moving unless I cross the line drawn a meter away from me.
I brought my finger to my lips and pondered, gazing at the dark clouds slowly swirling above the forest.
From what Mon informed me, Amalthea is a divine beast that commands lightning. But now that I’m here, viewing this ever so majestic yet fearful scene, it seems that is not the only thing she can do.
I placed the leather sack I was carrying on the ground and began inspecting its contents.
Ugh… There’s nothing useful here… I thought as I brought out the membranes of the Piptheres that I failed to utilize. I should ask Celes about the leather armor… Along with it are a water container, an extra cloth, an empty pouch, and a metal cup.
Wait! A sudden realization dawned on me as I placed back the contents. The metal cup. Lightning. What do I remember about it?
Sitting on the ground, I tried to recall what I’ve read about lightning from the 3rd area in Academia.
Lightning… Lightning… Lightning is… I continuously thought until I recalled bits of information. Yes, lightning magic. It’s the 2nd level of the fire affinity… Other than that…
In desperation, I started ruffling my hair hoping that I’d remember any form of information I have read about lightning.
Sigh… This isn’t working… After a desperate struggle with my memory, I let my hands fall on its own. Huh? I thought as my left hand hit the rapier hanging on my left. I can’t believe you missed that Amelia! I reprimanded myself.
Even though I have yet to use it properly other than fishing, this rapier has a lightning magic circle in its crystal that I still can’t read. I thought as I remembered the rapiers function that I have yet to use properly. But when I pour mana into it…
As I did, thin streaks of lightning manifested on its blade and continuously crackled.
[A favorable sword indeed,] She complimented out of the blue.
“Yes,” I nodded as I faced her direction in response and returned the rapier to its scabbard.
That’s it. Lightning needs a medium for it to be properly directed. I recalled one of the experiments, where a scholar showcased Lightning magic with a mana conductor to limit the Lightning’s range. In that case… I thought as I reached for the shards in my pocket.
Aaaaand there goes my luck… I despaired as I looked at the last two shards at the palm of my hand. One already has the Fireball magic in it. The other one is still empty, while the third, the one with Body Reinforcement, is attached to the bracelet.
I picked up the empty shard with my fingers and returned the other one into my pocket.
I guess I should be thankful that there’s one left… I thought as I started embedding a magic circle within it.
So this is the effect of the training… I was astonished by the fact that I finished embedding process in a few seconds. Should I try embedding an intermediate magic circle next time?
I stood and left the sack on the ground thinking that it’d be a burden. I guess this is enough, I thought as I grasped the shard on my left and unsheathed the dagger with my right.
“I’m ready,” I said as I walked towards the starting line as the cold wind rattled the trees.
[Very well,] She responded as the dark clouds started to light up as lightning trailed accompanied by a rumbling sound. [I’m sure Celes had given you a hint, but let me remind you that won’t be enough to save you.]
To hell with it, I thought. All I can think of it is that it points out that the solution is simple. But what can I do? I only have limited information. In the end, I’ll have to do things on my own.
Before I reached the line, I braced myself by breathing deeply.
Before she finished, I immediately activated reinforcement and started sprinting. I’m sorry, but I have to take every opportunity I have!
[You seem eager to end this quickly,] she spoke as she started galloping. [You’re mistaken if I would allow such an easy pass.]
I never had it easy! I defiantly screamed inside my mind.
In just a few seconds, a crackling sound was emitted from behind accompanied by thundering hooves. As it gets closer and closer, Now!
I poured mana on the shard and created earth spikes to block her advance and subsequently created five illusions with the dagger.
If fire, water, wind, light, and dark won’t work as a medium, then I’ll use earth as a replacement.
After the illusions manifested, the earth spikes were mercilessly crushed.
At least stall her a bit longer…
As the rumbling sound from the clouds became more and more frequent, Amalthea began to cover her fur with numerous thin lightning discharges.
[Petty tricks doesn’t work on me,] She said as three spheres of lightning hovered in the air above her as she moved.
In response, I jumped in mid-air and turned before landing along with two illusions. As I landed, the lightning spheres greeted my sight emitting blue sparks around it. Before the spheres got close enough, I produced earth spikes from the ground and pierced it.
Good enough. I thought as the lightning spheres vanished along with the tip of the spike exploding after a direct hit.
Following the spheres was Amalthea producing more around her as she readied her head to ram through the spikes. But instead of heading towards the three illusions heading for the goal, I and the remaining illusions stepped forward and used the earth spikes as platforms and jumped over her as she broke through.
O’ Ruler of the Earth I beseech you,
Plow the earth and move thy dirt,
Dig upon the shallow dirt,
Mold thy form and clear thy dirt,
Muttering a chant as she went between, I made the illusions face her direction and moved to surround her.
[A good tactic,] She complimented as she stopped at the center producing more lightning spheres.
As the pitfall manifested beneath her, the lightning spheres shot towards the illusions. Overloading the shard with mana, I produced numerous spikes around the pitfall and let it act as shields. Immediately after setting up the shields, I formed numerous earth spikes from the side of the pitfall to seal her inside.
Without waiting for her to come out or respond, I and another illusion moved towards the forest on opposite sides while the rest kept moving towards the designated tree.
The rules didn’t say that I can’t go beyond the open field. I thought as passed through a tree and started chanting a second time.
O’ ruler of light and darkness I beseech you,
Let dark overshadow light, in the shadows I hide,
Let light triumph over dark, deceived their eyes become,
Manifest, Cloak of Concealment.
I slowed down to a walk as the cloak manifested.
“Haah…” I breathe out to regain my composure and made another illusion. Then I made it move the same way as the one on the other side of the forest.
Controlling six at the same time is a burden… I thought as I concentrated on controlling the illusions. I have to hurry before that lightning storm becomes more violent, but I can’t be careless.
After a few seconds.
[More, more, more!] A telepathic voice loudly echoed. [Judgement!]
Followed by her command, a blinding light swallowed the surroundings as lightning struck the pitfall shattering everything that surrounded it. Immediately after the lightning struck the ground, a roaring thunderclap blasted the surroundings leaving root-like scorch marking from the nearby vicinity.
[I’ll admit, your tricks are admirable,] a voice rang from the depths of rubbles as smoke billowed above the scorched ground. [Let’s play some more Amelia!] She laughed as she emerged from the smoke facing the direction of the four illusions, moving in twos, heading towards the goal.
D-did I just… touch something that I shouldn’t have? I thought as I caught myself in apprehension.
Cautiously, I walked as if I was sneaking, trying not enrage her any further as I observed the surroundings.
Soon, the wind began to move wildly, the lightning traveling through the clouds started to shift towards the ground, and Amalthea’s fur began to rise as more discharges occurred.
She began shooting eight lightning spheres towards the illusions. Rather than hit the illusions directly, she let it pass through the sides. As it advanced ahead of the illusions, a lightning bolt struck from the clouds to the location of the lightning spheres.
Four down immediately… I thought as I canceled the control over the four illusions that was struck by lightning and increased my pace as the burden lessened.
[I see,] She spoke. [It’s good that you thought beyond the set rules. If not, it wouldn’t be this amusing, ahahahaha!] She laughed madly.
[Let’s see how you handle this!] She said as she stood with her hind legs and swung her head downwards.
As soon as her forelegs reached the ground, mercilessly, lightning struck after lightning at the location where the two illusions were moving. As a result, trees were ruptured and fell apart, leaving an orange light to light up the vicinity.
Is she… Planning to burn the forest? I sweated at the thought of her burning down the forest to limit my range of activity. Is she really serious? I thought as I relinquished my control over the illusions and focused on maintaining the cloak.
[Wouldn’t you come out and play with me?] She asked as she surveyed the surroundings as the forest began razing on its own.
At least I don’t think I’d want to play with you…
[If that is so,] She began to stand with her hind legs once more and collected lightning through her horns.
Realizing that her next move would be dangerous, I canceled the cloak and manifested several layers of earth spikes at the front and formed a thick mana barrier as a precaution.
Just in time before she swung her head down, a wave of red lightning made its way outwards, her as the center, ravaging anything at its path, leaving nothing but scorched earth as a trail. Luckily, I withstood the attack. But an unimaginable aftermath is what greeted my sight. It was an unrecognizable formation of melted rocks.
She’s definitely serious… My heart raced at the thought of the result if I was not able to shift quickly to the defensive. What happened to the training…
[There you are,] As she approached, my racing heart started beat wilder and wilder. Without a second thought, I sprinted towards the goal as I left a trail of earthen spikes while lightning strikes the ground randomly.
[Where do you think you’re going?] She spoke as lightning trailed from my side and moved to the front.
That’s cheating! Thought I, as her form appeared from the lightning trail and rushed to my direction. In response, I sidestepped and twisted my body to dodge.
When I looked around, I found her turning around, forming numerous lightning spheres. In an attempt to reduce their numbers, I produced spikes in her direction then formed a barrier.
As she broke through, the number of spheres was reduced to two, but she nevertheless shot them. In return, I formed earthen spikes in an attempt to intercept it. Unfortunately, it dodged to the sides.
Ah… Realizing my mistake, I jumped back and strengthened the mana barrier. Instantly I was blinded by a bright flash of light and was immediately robbed of my hearing by the strike from both sides.
Aaagh! A sharp pain pierced my head during and after the strike. As I opened my eyes, dizzy from the flash, I found myself unharmed. Immediately, I started moving away as I increased my pace with reinforcement.
It did not take long before I noticed the change. The change from my surroundings, no, from myself. As I ran desperately, I felt a strange liquid blocking my ears. I used my fingers to check what the liquid was. As soon as I caught sight of its color, I thought. Blood…
Then and there I found the abnormality, I lost my hearing, and my ears were broken. I felt my body panicking from the unfavorable result. Turning around to check, my sight was greeted by a lightning sphere close enough to hit me in a second. In a panic, I formed a thin barrier and was able to fend off with a light shock.
I’m practically blind unless I face her direction… I thought as I lost the only way for me to estimate if the lightning spheres were close enough or if her hooves were coming closer.
[Is that everything you got?] Despite being deaf, I could still hear here telepathic voice.
Just a little more! I thought as I repeatedly produced earthen spikes from the surroundings and began weaving through it as if it was a maze. As I hid and appeared between the spikes, I started to produce two illusions to serve as a distraction and switched places with it frequently.
Despite my efforts, she continuously rammed through the spikes and trampling over its remains.
[Enough with this!] She shouted.
With a premonition, I remade the same barrier as before, but added a three more layers from before and further increased the thickness of the mana barrier. Subsequently, another wave of red lightning formed, but this time it was directed and larger.
Anxious of the result, I waited. As the wave reached the barrier, I felt my body tortured by a paralyzing shock. I gritted my teeth and endured the pain ringing throughout my body as smoke billowed from my surroundings.
[Judgement!] Without rest, she commanded for the second time.
I closed my eyes and balled myself up hoping that I’ll withstand the incoming strike. Patiently, I waited for the strike to fall, but the longer I wait, the more I realized that something was amiss. I raised my head and found Celes speaking to Amalthea.
Did Celes save me? I thought as her lips moved while facing Amalthea. What are they talking about? I can’t hear a thing…
Gradually, Amalthea’s discharge started to die down along with the lightning storm. Then, she approached me.
[I deeply apologize,] She said as she bowed her head. [I got too ahead of myself on the offensive,] She continued. [It’s been quite a time since I found someone I could freely attack, so I lost my self in ecstasy, so please forgive me.] She continued bowing.
Then Celes approached and spoke to me, but I didn’t understand what she was saying. In response, I shook my head and pointed at my ears.
Realizing the situation, she nodded and began healing my injuries.
A few moments later after resolving the misunderstanding.
[Again, I apologize,] Amalthea repeated.
“I-it’s fine,” I responded with a wry smile.
I almost died back there… Don’t I get something from surviving that? I honestly thought as I recalled the reason for her to divert from what should’ve been a light training but ended up in a large scale destruction of the forest. It’s not my fault this time, so can I?
“Since you’ve overcame that alive, I’ll consider it as pass,” Celes said. “Thea, you should’ve told me if you were frustrated from defending all this time, I could’ve taken up your offer up being your test dummy if you wanted to.”
[Will you?] Thea asked.
“Of course, you’ve probably built it all up through these millennia of defending Alabaster from Gandr.” She added. “But of course, I’ll agree for a price.”
Defending Alabaster from Gandr? I pondered on their remarks.
“Don’t mind it, Amelia,” She answered. “You've no chance against him as you are now,” She continued. “Besides, there’s no need to face him, at least for now. So don’t dwell on it too deeply."
[Before I leave, I’ll give this to you,] Thea suddenly spoke as she approached me sitting on a log. She brought her head down and produced a few horn flakes by shedding a part of her horn. [Take it.]
A material from a divine beast… I tried suppressing my smile, as expectation bubbled deep inside me. What wonders could I do with this!
“T-thanks,” I said with my expression slowly crumbling from excitement.
[Celes, I will take my leave,] She said. [Amelia, whenever there is a chance, feel free to approach me.]
“Yes,” I nodded. As long as you don’t attack me like before…
[Well, then,] She said as she disappeared into the forest.
“That’s nice of her to leave us alone,” Celes said. “Now that you have a relic I guess it’s normal for you to be this excited.”
Of course, I am! I thought as I grasped the flakes smiling like a child who found a toy. I don’t care if these are just flakes! I can’t wait to get my tools back!
“Hmm?” I moved my sight to her direction.
“Amelia, I will be taking my leave here too,” She said smiling.
“Huh?” Surprised, I muttered. “Aren’t you going to at least accompany me to the forest barrier?”
“Amelia, I’m happy that you’ve grown a bit attached to me, but remember that this is your proving.”
“…” Silently I looked down.
“Amelia, you can always try to speak with me through the necklace,” She said with a warm smile. “At times I won’t be able to respond, but I will listen. I’ll listen to anything you have to say.”
“Okay…” I nodded.
“Before I go, I’ll leave you with some things you can work on,” She said. “Think of it as part of your training.”
I looked up to her and answered earnestly. “Yes.”
“What does lie at the ends of Alabaster and,” She continued. “What’s the difference between chant magic and magic produced by magic circles?”
I nodded as I took both into heart.
“Although this is an abrupt separation, this is needed,” She added as she approached. “But at least a warm embrace,” She continued as she brought me into her arms embrace.
“…” There I silently stood and returned her embrace. “I will miss you.”
“It’s the same for me,” She replied.
[Is it fine for you to leave like that?] Thea asked.
“Of course not,” I replied. “But I have things that I need to do, and besides, she won’t grow properly if she kept relying on me.”
[Is it the heroes?] She asked.
“Thea, you should return to your humanoid form,” I said in reply. “And yes, the heroes are one reason. I’ll have to keep an eye on them before they start to go their separate ways.”
[Can’t you just use something or someone else to observe them and stayed with Amelia?] She suggested.
“People come and go,” I answered. “She has to learn that,” I added. “Aside from that, why were you using a formal tone in front of Amelia? Are you trying to impress?”
“Haah…” I sighed. “That’s the problem with you. You kept approaching people with that kind of attitude that they end up revering you instead.”
“Anyway, I’ll have to leave now, I’ll come visit some other time.”
Feel free to point out errors or give opinions.