Chapter 21 – Reunion

Chapter 21 – Reunion

Turning time back a short while.
Nadia was sitting in a carriage. Next to her was Ruby, with whom she’d been contracted recently. Sitting opposite to her was the maid Eida. Count Voldory’s territory was located such that, one wouldn’t be able to travel to the royal capital, or pretty much anywhere else, unless they went through a large forest on its eastern side.

According to the custom of Count Voldory’s household, as a rite of passage, one has to go through the forest on their own at least once before they turn thirteen. Although, they wouldn’t be truly alone, they could still bring along Servants and escort knights.

The tale goes that, there was once a cowardly ancestor who’d never crossed the forest and as a result, their relationship with the surrounding nobles had deteriorated, thus, placing the house’s future in dire straits. This was the reason why the family practised such a perilous rite of passage.

Ruby was already fourteen years old. Her elder sister Rosa had been going through the forest periodically to meet Nicola ever since she was twelve. The two sisters were polar opposites. Rosa was very reticent, while Ruby loved to talk. Rosa was brave and didn’t scare easily, while Ruby was easily frightened. That’s why Ruby was forcing herself to challenge the forest after she’d turned fourteen. Although, this was her fourth attempt.

Ruby inched closer to Nadia as they approached the forest, and was practically hugging her when they entered it. Nadia patted her head to comfort her. Ruby’s head was dressed with beautiful reddish brown hair that looked like strands of glowing embers under the sunlight.

“It’ll be alright.”, comforted Nadia. “But there are supposed to be tons of monsters in there right?”, said Ruby trembling slightly. “I’m sure the knights will keep us safe.”, reassured Eida.

Soon after they entered the forest, a loud noise was heard. Ruby squealed and was already in tears. The entire forest felt clamorous. As they bounced along for a while, suddenly the carriage came to a stop. “Why? Hey, why did we stop!?”, cried Ruby. She immediately looked outside and noticed that the knights looked uneasy. Nadia put her head outside to see what was going on.

A tree was moving. No, that’s a monster. This path was supposed to be safe! “Lady Ruby! Please get off the carriage and run away!”, shouted one of the knights. Eida responded first by throwing the door open and sending Ruby down. However, Ruby was too terrified to even support herself and had fallen down. Nadia and Eida got down immediately to help her.

“Fire Blade!!” Nadia turned to look when she heard one of the knights shout that. But it didn’t work. One of the Treant’s sweeping blows caught that knight and slammed him into a nearby tree. He didn’t move after that. The horses neighed loudly in fear and tried to escape. The carriage rattled with the horses’ panic.

“We’re running!”, declared Nadia, and Ruby held her tightly from behind. Nadia and Eida broke into a run, away from the Treant. It was at that moment, a teenage boy appeared from behind a tree holding a sword. He suddenly shot forward at an alarming pace and went past them. For some reason, he trailed a nostalgic smell.

Kicking the ground, the boy jumped up and stabbed the Treant in the chest with the sword. He’d buried the sword until its hilt into the Treant. But it couldn’t be stopped with just that. The Treant shook its body and limbs violently in an effort to shake off the boy hanging from its chest.

And then, suddenly, a large pillar of flames appeared and Nadia closed her eyes reflexively. The Treant was burning brilliantly like a giant bonfire. But what’s going on? thought Nadia perplexed. The boy was burning the Treant using the fire attribute, while simultaneously using the water attribute to protect himself by creating a mass of water that surrounded him.

Whether it was the moisture in the Treant’s wood or the mass of water around the boy turning to steam, white smoke began to permeate the surroundings. The Treant raised a deep but piercing howl as it burned alive, and soon stopped moving and began falling backwards.

The boy let go of the sword and jumped off the Treant by kicking it. “Ow! Ow! Ow!”, he exclaimed after landing, and was dousing himself with lumps of water to cool his burns.

Eida knew that figure. She could never forget it. She was the first to begin running in that surreal scene. “Lord Nicola!!”, she cried as she hugged him. Nadia followed soon after with Ruby still on her back.

Ah!! It really is Lord Nicola!, thought Eida in joy. He managed to survive, but how? His complexion looks very good, and he seems to be in the pink of health. And was he always this tall?, wondered Nadia. Ah, but Lord Nicola still feels the same., Eida preened to herself.

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It went well until I stabbed the sword into the Treant. It did try to shake me off, but with me using Body Strengthening and wearing an Aura, its efforts were wasted. The problem started when I funnelled a large stream of mana into the sword while it was still buried in the Treant.

The flames that erupted from all over the Treant almost felt like an explosion. My sight went black with the rush of light, and then came the heat! It was so hot that I couldn’t even try to shout. I did the only thing I could, I tried to protect myself with a large lump of water while still streaming mana into the sword.

While it did prevent me from joining the Treant in a fiery demise, the heat was still no joke. I could feel the bubbles as the water in front of me began to boil. I need to lower the temperature!! I desperately funnelled mana into the wall of water around me.

And then, the temperature of the surrounding water dropped abruptly. When I tried to look while blinking spots out of my sight, I saw that ice had formed in a sphere around my arms. I am not sure what happened, but anything is better than that heat. My hands have probably been scalded pretty badly.

Despite my sight being filled with water, steam, flames and spots, I could still see that the Treant was finally losing its vigour. Suddenly, it began falling backwards. When I let go of the sword and jumped, the flames went out and only the steam remained1.

“Ow! Ow! Ow!”, I began shouting in pain soon after I landed. I tried to cool my burns by dousing myself with water. My hands looked bright red and the skin was peeling off. Shit, that looks bad. I created a ball of water and thrust my hands into it.

Ah, I really want long range attacks that would work on any monster. While I was thinking that, I heard someone approaching me fast. “Lord Nicola!!”, exclaimed Eida as she hugged me when I turned to look. I took my hands out of the water ball and raised them awkwardly. Nadia was also rushing over with Ruby still on her back.

“Why are the both of you here?” When I asked that, both of them stared at me blankly for a moment, and then shouted together, “”That’s what we want to ask you!!””

T/N Notes:

  1. Does a fire so large go out that easily? Even new wood continues to burn if you really get it going.

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