Weak. Too weak.
I laid on a patch of grass, facing the sky where a huge tree pierced through the clouds. My chest heaved. No, it was not my chest altogether, but even so, it did. Because, based on what Celes said, it was a body of her puppet. Although she called it a puppet, its traits were too close to a human. Or more like, it was far too similar to my body.
At least, that was what I inferred from how the body looked. Regarding the face, I had no idea. But more or less, since it was Celes, it was probably similar to my actual face. Knowing that fact, it was kind of creepy. Using a body of a puppet that was all too similar to my original, it was nothing but weird.
[Taking a rest?]
I did not need to look to the person who spoke. After all, the only beings who could speak in this place were only me and Fenrir.
“Yes.” Then my eyelids fell.
The training with Fenrir was thoroughly exhausting—be it mind or body. Other than that, I was getting used to being numb. Numb from pain.
If Amalthea would end my life in one strike of lightning, and Celes knock me off unconscious in a single beat, Fenrir would tear a limb or two. I was nothing but a toy to a dog. A jerky perhaps.
I was at the point that I could not differentiate losing my whole arm or just my hand. But maybe, just maybe, the reason Celes made me use a puppet instead of my real body was this. And in fact, the pain of losing a limb was not as painful as I feared. Again, maybe, it was not my actual body that lost the limb which made the pain more bearable.
In addition, the limb would recover itself as soon as I take a rest.
Regarding the reason why Fenrir came with such a horrible form of training or more like a playground, was to experience an actual battle with a Divine. As it was, losing a limb was nothing but normal. But looking at how I fought the Angel last time, maybe I was plain lucky. If that pillar of light struck me, there might even no more of my body left.
What a dilemma.
“Fenrir, why can’t Celes just finish off the other Divines? Wouldn’t that be better for everyone? There won’t be insurmountable beings pulling the strings from behind the races. In fact, I think that is the best solution to this world’s problems.”
The world need not be saved. It was the races that needed saving. At least, on Celes’s watch.
[The Gods that left this world. They left a blessing, remember?]
“Yes.” I recalled what Celes told me and the books I have read in Academia. “In different forms, but the most common was Hero Summoning if I’m not mistaken.”
[Correct. But ask yourself this, ‘why can’t the Divines summon the Heroes themselves?’.]
“… Because something is stopping them from doing so?” I practically had no idea in mind.
[That is one way to put it. But there is one particular reason as to why Divines avoid using the ritual by themselves.]
“And that is?”
[Divines sustain their body with Origin’s mana.]
“Does that… include me?” I propped myself up and looked towards Fenrir’s direction.
[Partly, yes. But in any case, Celestia is collecting the souls that merged with the God’s blessing. Though I don’t understand for what reason, she does it anyway. As a result, she’s reaping what the other Divines sowed. Which is why she does not have an ally outside of the True Divines.]
“Those black marbles are the souls of the Heroes? But partly huh… Is it because I’m a half?”
[Precisely. Even if the time comes that your Divine half dwarfs your human half to something insignificant, your human trait would never vanish. It is a part of your body. Nonetheless, you should ask Celestia herself regarding her farm work.]
“I understand. But what’s the difference between Divines and ordinary beings?” I knitted my eyebrows. “Doesn’t ordinary beings recover mana on their own? Doesn’t that mean that ordinary beings needed mana to sustain themselves too? Because everyone, even if they can’t manifest magic, has mana within them. They only needed time to learn how to manifest that mana into magic.”
[Ordinary beings sustain themselves through food intake.]
[But ordinary beings does not sustain themselves with mana.]
“But why? How come we recover mana over time?”
[It has something to do with the body’s compatibility with mana. But the nature of mana itself is a discussion that would take too much time. However, the knowledge that ordinary beings are able to store mana is a lie. Mana being maintained within the being’s body is nothing but a continuous failure to utilize mana for sustenance. And as a result, mana, which the body keeps trying to utilize unconsciously, remains in the bloodstream until the body could not take more.]
“But how come mana herbs increases a person’s mana capacity?”
[It doesn’t. Mana herbs serve as a drug that cleanses the mana within your body. As a result, the mana’s purity increases, which you people acknowledge as an increase in capacity.]
“Ah...” My sight fell to the blood-drenched grass.
Then the purer the mana is, the less mana it actually needed to manifest a magic? Then there’s mana exhaustion too. Maybe it has something to do with the body trying to recover the mana it couldn’t process? That makes sense...
One by one, the facts that I knew were being thrown into the pit of lies.
“Then… how about element compatibility? How is it decided? Why does mana’s purity affect one's ability to manifest a greater form of magic?”
[That is something to be discussed along with the nature of mana.]
[Move those limbs. The time is up for short discussions.]
Again, I was left hanging. Fenrir had this nature of setting a fixed time frame for discussions that disprove my knowledge. Anything beyond that is a question to be answered for another time. In any case, I lifted myself up while controlling the mana within the puppet.
It was not an easy task. Ever since Celes stopped aiding my movements, my body, the puppet’s body, became cranky. It felt like I was moving an aged cog. Nonetheless, I was able to move about satisfyingly.
The most difficult part of moving the body was replicating the functions of muscles. I needed to rest and contract the mana dwelling inside the body and replicate how muscles worked. But in the end, my knowledge of it is severely lacking. And so, at times, the body ends up in a very weird disposition. In some cases, stiff as an iron rod.
But whatever the case be, I was trying to compromise in my own way. I experimented with the body itself and got blown away by Fenrir. Again and again, I would be thrown into the air like a dust cloth. At times, I have nothing to do but admire the passing Gryphons while I wait for my body to land. It was but a simple and short time of bliss.
However, recently, the number of mistakes I made decreased. Maybe it was because I was used to using my imagination to portray illusions that helped me in imagining how and where to contract and relax the mana. I even had Erina stretch my body to know which and what muscles move when I use a part of my body. Nonetheless, the difficulty is extreme.
But given the difficulty, I managed to make Fenrir use a move that he has not used before. He called it as the second phase. But sometimes, a passing though that Fenrir is a block-head would come. Because the second phase he called, was a leap in difficulty rather than a step.
His comment was, [This amount is bearable.]
It was bearable to him. And that I was sure of. Because who among the humans would fight against the limitless weapons that Heroes used to wield?
Though simple the strategy was, it was terrifying. He used vines lying around to uproot the grave markers—the weapons the Heroes left behind—and turned them into limbs.
While me, who was practically using an ordinary sword, could not clash directly against the weapons imbued with spirits and magic. It was essentially an obvious mismatch. But in the end, it gave me an idea of what I should be focusing on next.
Amalthea’s horn shedding.
The lost rapier.
And something I could use against the Angels.
The thought naturally came. While I did lose my rapier, I still have a decent amount of the stuff I received from Amalthea. Perhaps it was luck that I did not have the time to experiment with it myself that I still have the stuff with me. But, in any case, that made me decide to leave to the Tribe immediately.
A weapon. A weapon great enough to go against Divines. The time it would take to be created was… I had no idea. But it was the cause that made me rush back to the Tribe. The issue with wyvern riders came as a second priority. But maybe, while I’m at it, I’ll visit Amalthea.
Ah… that’s rare. Are those Pegasi?
Meanwhile, in the Duchy. “Amelia left?” Auguste asked with crossed arms. “Why is that?”
“She was apparently in a hurry to meet your request.” Across a low table, Lara took a seat opposite of Auguste. “Order of Scales, was it?” She reached for the cup and saucer of hot tea. “It has a nice ring to it, but isn’t it too obvious?”
“It was meant to be obvious.” Auguste snorted. “I intend for it to strike doubt on Libet’s defenses. Maybe have them spend several golds for several more high-angled ballistae.”
Lara took a sip. “Is that so? Are you still planning to mount an attack on Libet? Anyway, there was this report of an explosion in Libet this past week, did you have something to do with that?”
Auguste shook his head. “None. It was a surprise for me. Maybe it was the Beastmen’s doing? But regarding Libet, I’ll have the soldiers prepare. They can’t just sweat the forest they’ve burned.”
Little did they know, it was the explosion caused by the second crystal Amelia threw during the transfer. In fact, the explosion incurred several casualties in Libet. But those casualties were mostly of the church’s servants. In addition, a few beasts that Libet took in were freed by the explosion—turning it into an issue that reached Clark, Charles, and Evelyn.
“I see.” Lara placed the cup down and a maidservant came to pour a new one. “But have Diane think it over before you move. The war with the races is quite a precarious situation after all. Might as well wither Libet down before striking them in a single blow.”
“Might as well.” Auguste chuckled. “But that boy, how is he doing?”
“Hmm?” Lara looked to Auguste with the cup nearly touching her lips. “Who do you mean?”
“Maxwell. He’s still chasing after Amelia, is he? Too persistent.”
Lara chuckled. “Look who’s talking. Aren’t you a persistent one too? Stubborn as well. You even have me, a mistress, remain by your side despite the disapproval of the Nobles.”
“Ha. Those leeches could say what they want, but I’ll make it a point that my family stays with me.”
“A King who does not know what it meant to have a family is a lonely King, was it?” Lara placed the cup down. “It has a good sound to it, but it would be better if you weren’t known to be playful one. Better tone down on it before it’s too late.”
Auguste sighed. “Why doesn’t anyone believe that I’m no longer after such entertainment? Those days are over.”
“Then why are you even trying to escape? What are you after? Even Diane couldn’t guess what’s inside your mind nowadays.”
“Cracking down that bastard son of mine.” Auguste balled his fist. “He’s too lax for a Royal. He spends too much. He entertains almost any girl from any Noble family. It’ll be too late if our blood spreads like a disease. Or in another case, our image as Royals would fall.”
“Why don’t you just call out to Liz?”
Auguste shook his head. “Liz would defend Mark no matter what. So it’s useless. Unless I see his actions with my own eyes as evidence, I can’t call out to that son of mine in court.”
“Hmm…” Lara placed a finger to her chin and looked at the ceiling. “I think Diane has it covered already. Remember Mark’s coming of age this coming year? I think Diane has something prepared. And anyway, isn’t Argent’s position as the next King cemented already? And I’m pretty sure the Nobles are currently currying his favor for his betrothal with Clarissa.”
“No, I’ll teach Mark a lesson by myself. I’ll show him how much of a disgrace he is.”
“Now that we mention betrothal, as well as Brent, are you still that against in Amelia marrying Maxwell?”
Auguste crossed his arms and remained silent.
“Wasn’t Maxwell one of the very few that you approved of marrying Amelia? Why don’t you let the past be past? I’m pretty sure both sides would be willing to pursue the broken engagement.”
“No, it won’t happen. Not until Brent stabilizes its position against the Nobles and the church.”
“So you’re up for it.” Lara smiled.
“Unless Amelia rejects him herself, I have no qualms.” Auguste looked to the side, seemingly impatient. “And if Maxwell could show me that he can protect Amelia on his own, then I guess there won’t be any complaints from me.”
“I see.” Lara silently took a sip, but her eyes gleamed with expectation.