Fighting For My Freedom In Another World
I remembered how the armoured man had flinched when his hand made contact with my flames.
There was a way I could fight even someone clad entirely in armour that shielded him from magic. A method potent enough that just the threat of it alone would be enough, that any sane or rational person would instantly balk at trying to fight me if they thought there was a serious risk of that happening to them.
But before that, I needed to show everyone I would be able to make good on that promise. A threat wasn’t going to help me any if it was clearly as empty as my bank account had often been in my previous life.
I needed to learn to use my magic in some other way than just shielding myself, and fast.
The man with the sword was already starting to advance, growing less wary by the moment. Perhaps he was starting to realise I was a one-trick pony when it came to magic.
What was it that had let me use what little magic I could already use now? How I wanted to protect myself, to protect the princess… If I just wanted to protect, that would be enough. But that alone wouldn’t win this fight. I wanted something more dangerous, more aggressive…
What I wanted...
I, I wanted to… what did I want to do, exactly?
I… I wanted to…
Get to safety? Make sure I wouldn’t die, make sure the princess wouldn’t get killed? Stop the man from hurting anyone else?
Or did I want to take revenge on him for how roughly they had treated Alena, and for trying to kill both me and her?
This man in front of me, what was it I wanted to do to him?
That was it. It wasn’t what I actually wanted. Even if it was, there was no way I would actually do it. All I needed was the threat of being able to do it, and to do that I needed to be in the right state of mind.
To think it was what I wanted to accomplish, to genuinely believe it, even as my entire being was nothing but revulsed at the very concept itself.
I wanted to hurt. I wanted to kill. I wanted to do every unspeakable thing I actually didn’t.
I didn’t, but at the same I did. I… no, I just did.
I wanted it.
I did, truly.
That was what I had to convince myself of, and I did.
A wave of heat started rolling in around me. Fire, burning bright and high, coming alive with a roaring sound.
There. Finally, they appeared, ready to do my bidding.
The fire started around myself, surrounding me, covering the ground both directly beneath me and in a circular area around me. Somehow I didn’t feel any heat or pain, even while standing right in the middle of the sea of flames.
The flames, that I willed onwards. Made them expand outwards, directly forward towards the armoured man… towards my victim.
He backed away slowly, retreating from the extreme heat.
“Who… Who are you?”
The illusion the princess had placed on me must have chosen a quite opportune moment to wear off, judging by his reaction.
The time for my impeccable acting skills to finally bear fruit had come.
“Me? Never mind me, let’s talk about you for a bit. I like the way you dress. You know, that armour of yours? It looks super cool. I wonder how much one of those costs? It looks a bit uncomfortable, but I’m sure it must be convenient and all, making you feel all safe from magic. Must be making you feel like you can take on the world. Or if not the world, then at least a couple of nasty witches. Apparently most people here think I’m one of those.”
I tilted my head in pretend confusion, at the same time as I made sure to open my eyes up wider, raise my eyebrows in surprise.
“Did you know that? Do I look like one of those scary witches to you? I know you talked about some princess earlier, but I’m clearly not one. So did you attack me because you thought I was a witch? Or am I just some cute girl you thought you’d attack for no reason, who you thought wouldn’t be able to fight back? That you thought wouldn’t be able to lift a finger while you did whatever you wanted with her? Wow, must feel awful to be you then. Thinking you have this nice and defenseless girl on your hands, someone that won’t do a thing to you, and then you find out she actually kind of likes fighting back.”
He was already slowly retreating from me, even though I hadn’t actually gotten to the part where I threatened him yet.
“Let me say, though. I’m guessing you probably didn’t expect this. Didn’t expect that cute, innocent little girl to actually be a mean and nasty witch. Kind of sucks, doesn’t it? I’m sure you can feel the heat closing in by now. Which brings us back to the topic of that fancy armour of yours. Bet you’re pretty happy you’re wearing that right now? Sure beats being burned alive, if I may say so myself. Not that I would know what that feels like.”
The flames crept closer to him. They never quite approached all the way, staying about a meter clear of his ankles. Enough to feel the heat, not enough to be dangerous… I hoped. I walked closer at the same pace as the fire spread, standing in the middle of the flaming carpet. It didn’t hurt at all, but must have been a fairly eerie sight for anyone watching.
“Wow, you look… I can’t really read your emotions very well with that armour in the way, but based on how you’re slowly backing away from me I take it you’re… Scared? Am I getting that right, I wonder? What reason could there be for someone as big and strong as you to be scared, of the innocent little me, when you have absolute protection from my magic, and I have no other weapons… Wait, or maybe it turns out that protection thing is not as ‘absolute’ as you thought it was? That your impenetrable armour is actually very easy to penetrate?”
At this point he was practically shaking, and in the corner of my eye I saw the other unarmoured man running off to who knows where. Was I overdoing it?
“Ah, yeah, I guess there’s some heat emanating from them too, from my pretty little fires. A pretty pleasant temperature, isn’t it? Just right, if you ask me. Gives things just the right amount of crisp, makes them about as toasty as I want. I wonder what’s the best temperature to cook a killer at? Anyway, you were saying something about killing me? Or some princess? Which was it, again? Want to take a moment to talk about it? I’ve heard talking about your feelings can be pretty really relaxing, help you sort out how you really feel.”
“N-No, I was just…”
“I’ll give you a fair fight if you want it, you know. Kill me, and you can get that… What was it now? Some kind of reward? Money, I’m guessing? But I do have to warn you. I’d use magic, of course. And these flames are pretty hot, and that armour you’re wearing… I would bet it traps heat pretty well.”
The magical flames closed in most of the remaining distance and made a circle around the man. There was still a small distance left between him and the fire, but he was undoubtedly feeling the heat.
“By the way, you know something else I’d need heat for? That’s right, cooking. Oh, I already mentioned that, didn’t I? I’d love to try using that pretty little armour of yours for some nice and quiet cooking… but oh, yeah, I guess it wouldn’t be very quiet while you’re still in it. Screams and stuff. Kind of annoying, isn’t it? I wonder how long it would take before you died? A couple of hours? But I still want to try, I think. I’m quite in the mood for it right now, even. At this point I kind of just want to give it a try so bad I’m not sure I’d even care what ended up being cooked in it. So, did you want to fight me? It’ll be fun, I promise.”
“P-Please… I promise I will let you be. Just… Just let me live, please..:”
“Ah, but in case you don’t want to fight”, I shrugged nonchalantly, “I guess I’ll let you live just for the sport of it. Wouldn’t be any fun to kill a defenceless man.”
As much as I would have liked to think my acting was believable and setting the mood nicely enough, it appeared not to have been enough to let me keep using my magic, not enough to convince myself.
Some of the fire started vanishing without anything I could do about it. The flames closest to the man flickered out as suddenly as they had come alive, and a ferocious headache assaulted me the moment they did.
It made me flinch slightly, but I hoped the man hadn’t seen that, or if he had, that he wouldn’t consider something crazy like giving up on running and trying to endure until the consequences of my own magic caught up to me.
I suddenly started feeling kind of wobbly. I almost stumbled. The fire around my feet was still there. Standing in it didn’t burn me, but would falling into it? Perhaps it wouldn’t. No, it probably wouldn’t.
I was… I was getting distracted. Thinking… It was starting to feel harder to think.
Focus, just… focus. A little more. Endure until the man was out of sight, until the threat had safely disappeared. The man looked like he was on the brink of running away, but the fire starting to vanish and my own less than ideal condition seemed to be making him think twice. It made sense. I was clearly at the end of my rope.
I needed… I needed to keep being threatening, to seem like a genuine danger… for just a little longer…
I… I needed more. I needed more, even when I had no more to give. Just conjuring up the flames that disappeared a few seconds earlier, and the few around me that still remained, had taken all I had, had taken too great a toll on me for it to be reasonable to keep using them.
Not physically. Physically, I was perfectly fine. The only injuries I had sustained so far in this fight were just minor bruises, and one small cut.
It hadn’t hurt me that way.
Hadn’t hurt me physically, but mentally.
Had forced me to suppress the disgust that welled up at my own thoughts. The pain in my chest as my heart resisted what my mind was telling me I needed to do, as every part of my brain screamed at me in pain and told me what I was trying to do was horribly, awfully wrong.
The quiet discomfort and anxiety that came with knowing what I was doing would not just hurt others, but hurt them only for my own gain.
How I had felt like I was about to throw up, how my head had started hurting more and more, had made it harder to think about anything except the pain. How there was pain all over, how it hurt… pain, hurt… How I wanted the pain to stop. How I wanted it… to stop… the pain, how I… wanted… pain...
I wanted to hurt him.
I wanted to kill that man.
I wanted to make him suffer for what he had done.
And that thought crossing my mind was what broke me.
It was a line I didn’t want to cross yet. A firm line drawn in the sand my brain was willing to shut down before it let me cross. Thinking it was one thing, but the moment I took action on those thoughts… I felt like that would be the moment I would have lost whatever part of me could still be redeemed.
I prayed that day would never come.
If the princess hadn’t been there, if I hadn’t been able to repeatedly convince myself that it was okay because she would have died if I didn’t do anything, that feeling like that wasn’t so horrible if it meant saving at least one other person…
...if I hadn’t had all those convenient lies to tell myself that day, I doubt I would have made it out alive.
I could tell I was shivering. I wanted to stop shaking but couldn’t. I could barely even stand steadily.
I needed to act though. I needed to keep it together.
All I needed to do was to pull myself together for a few more minutes. Maybe not even that. Just a few seconds would be enough. However long I had, it needed to be enough.
“I… Sorry you had to see that. Didn’t sleep very well last night, you see, and I have a bit of a cold.”
I somehow managed to pull myself together enough to stand up straight and mostly stop shaking. I could still feel how my body was cold and I was sweating like crazy, but fortunately sweat didn’t look unnatural at all on someone standing in the middle of a huge fire.
“But where were we? A fight? You wanted to fight me, right? But fights are so boring, you know? Maybe it would be more fun if I just killed you without one. Yeah, let’s do that.”
I used whatever little willpower I had left to make the magical fire start creeping closer to the man again. Slowly enough for him to have time to run away, but fast enough for it to feel like a genuine threat. Much faster than the last time: this time just backing away a few hesitant steps at a time wasn’t enough. He needed to go much faster, almost fast enough that he needed to run to get away.
Thankfully, it worked. He turned around and dashed away as fast as legs could carry him, clearly having abandoned any thought of trying to hurt me or the princess. The other man, the one that had been wearing the leather tunic, had already run off to who-knows-where several minutes ago, while I was busy threatening the other guy.
That left the two men nowhere to be seen anymore, leaving me and the princess on our own somewhere in the middle of nowhere… at least as far as a well-maintained road a carriage could travel on without any significant amount of bumpiness could ever be considered “the middle of nowhere”.
That did make me wonder: how had they even gotten there in the first place? There were no other carriages to be seen nearby, and we were in the middle of a huge open field. Had they seriously somehow managed to ambush a moving carriage on foot?
Perhaps that wasn’t too important… even if it was, I wasn’t able to think about it. Didn’t have enough strength left to think about it. The moment was what mattered… I needed to… just…. focus… on… making… it...
I was too focused on myself to notice the flames dissipating around me. Alena ran up to me after my fire had subsided, and wrapped her arms around me.
“A-Are you ok?”, she asked, concern clearly written on her face.
I tried to respond. My brain and mouth both failed to cooperate, leaving me unable to assure her.
I passed out in the princess’s arms, the answer to her concerns still stuck in my throat.