Chapter 16:

A Distraction

Fighting For My Freedom In Another World

That was fine.Bookmark here

In a lot of ways it really wasn’t, but at that moment, it felt like the most just thing in the world for them to be punished for their reprehensible actions, for daring to harm the princess. Bookmark here

A small ball of fire appeared above each of my hands, and a carpet of fire started spreading beneath my feet. I couldn’t just do the same thing I had last time now that the princess was between the people I wanted to hurt, but… Perhaps I didn’t need to. Bookmark here

I tried chucking a smaller flame at one of the people who looked like he was most in a position where he could be an immediate danger to the princess, and it happily complied. A small fire flew straight from my hand onto his back, making him yell out and stumble slightly as it hit. Bookmark here

It had gotten him out of the way, but didn’t look like it would cause any lasting injuries. Bookmark here

Perfect. Bookmark here

Time to practice my aiming. I made sure to aim each little bolt of fire carefully, making sure I wouldn’t accidentally hit the princess. Threw them one at a time once my aim was steady, slowly helping thin the crowd of people fighting the princess by drawing their attention to me instead. Bookmark here

I continued throwing my flames at them, but I found myself flinching every time one hit its target. They shouldn’t be causing any major damage, that much was apparent from just looking, and from how the flames quickly vanished once they hit someone instead of staying around long enough to actually cause any serious injuries, but…Bookmark here

...It sure looked like it hurt… Bookmark here

Suddenly what had happened with our carriage flashed across my mind. Bookmark here

My own perception couldn’t be trusted. What I saw as only minor injuries, as acceptable damages if it was for a just cause… I had no way of knowing if it in reality was turning into anything way worse than that, if I was causing much more damage than I ever had wanted or intended to. Bookmark here

Even worse, I couldn’t say for sure I wouldn’t end up hurting the princess. Bookmark here

The fire in my hands started flickering out, and my vision of the situation grew clearer. I had been right about one thing, fortunately: it didn’t look like anyone was too seriously injured, at least not to a point where it would cause lasting damage, but several of them had retreated from the princess, reluctance and doubt now clearly written on their faces. Bookmark here

The fire spreading out from beneath me, however… It was just on the verge of having made its way to the closest tents, eager to consume them and gleefully proceed with its rampage. Bookmark here

I couldn’t allow that. There was a genuine possibility there were people in these tents, and even if there weren't, the people here hardly needed any additional setbacks my wanton destruction could cause them. Bookmark here

The people that attacked me and the princess were just a small number of a much larger group, and I doubted the group as a whole would be willing to resort to any nearly as extreme measures. It was unlikely the small group of people here were the only ones that knew about the princess’s presence — if they had some way of finding out, logically other people in the same larger group should have had the same means, and yet the twenty or so people here were the only ones that had seen fit to act on their desire for revenge. Bookmark here

The magical fires were starting to die out, fading in response to my doubts. The same violent headache as last time assaulted me, and left me no choice but to close my eyes and try to shut out what was going on around me. Bookmark here

Even that was only barely enough to keep it from becoming overwhelming. My throat burned, and I could tell I was shivering again. Somehow using my magic, made up entirely of flames and heat, always left me cold and shaking. Bookmark here

I knew what would happen if I didn’t do anything. I was on a one-way fast track to losing consciousness, to becoming even more of a burden than I already was. Bookmark here

Whatever happened, I couldn’t pass out this time, not… Not while we were still in danger. Bookmark here

Focus, focus…Bookmark here

I steadied my breathing one slow and laborious breath at a time, somehow managed to push aside the intense pain screaming through my head. My whole body ached and I couldn’t say why at all, but as a whole it felt like I got off a bit more lightly this time than the last one.Bookmark here

At least I hadn’t passed out yet. Bookmark here

I took a deep breath, and braced myself. Bookmark here

I opened my eyes. Bookmark here

Alena was still dancing around avoiding several blows at a time, too busy with not being hit to have any hope of launching a counterattack. Just from looking at her, it was clear she had been hit at least a couple of times more despite my best efforts to help her. Bookmark here

She had even pulled the people that were on the way to me instead — probably wanting to avoid risking any further assaults by magical fire — back to herself, leaving me entirely untargeted. Bookmark here

The princess had kept fighting while I regained my composure, while I had spent many precious seconds doing nothing but breathing in and out, in and out. And the whole time, I had just been standing there being useless, unable to do anything to help her. There was still nothing I could do. Bookmark here

I wouldn’t be of any help at all if I tried to fight without my magic, and if I tried to use any more magic it would definitely use up whatever small amount of strength I still had left. Bookmark here

It was becoming clearer and clearer with each passing moment: we didn’t have any hope of winning this fight. The princess was pulling her weight, but she couldn’t take on all the people that still were willing to fight on her own. Any contributions I could make were barely even worth mentioning. Bookmark here

We needed… I didn’t know exactly what, but something that would let us get away. Bookmark here

Just… Just anything. Literally anything would do. A momentary distraction, just enough for Alena to break free from the mass of human bodies surrounding her, anything that could buy us just a single moment. Bookmark here

I… Maybe, just maybe, I could somehow muster up a little more strength, strength and willpower, and use magic just one more time? Bookmark here

Doing so would almost indubitably render me unconscious, and turn me into dead weight for the princess. But what if I managed to unleash one final magical assault, and… Then what? Knock everyone unconscious? Kill them all? Somehow attain enough precision to make sure I would be able to attack everyone except the princess, without the slightest risk of hurting her, and without causing any more harm than needed? Bookmark here

Experience said I was barely even aware of what I was doing while using magic. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of it working. But was there any option? If there wasn’t, then… Bookmark here

I was seriously considering it. For a second, or two, or maybe a few dozen, I really did think about doing it. In hindsight it clearly wouldn’t have worked, but it was much harder to say as much when still right in the middle of things. But you know the thing about momentary lapses of judgement?Bookmark here

Sometimes other people that have thought things through a bit more thoroughly may be there to make up for your lack of thought. Bookmark here

Someone else entirely came to the rescue before I had time to do anything too extraordinarily stupid. Bookmark here

“What is happening here?”Bookmark here

A voice echoed out from somewhere between the closest tents. It was the man that had told us his story, about how the kingdom had been more than happy to abandon him once they knew he couldn’t serve their purposes. Bookmark here

He stopped cold once he saw what was going on, giving voice to the very same suspicions that had made him freeze: Bookmark here

“What… Seriously, what is happening here? I see a bunch of people attacking two young girls… Those of you lying on the ground aside, what do the rest of you even think you’re doing?”
Bookmark here

“But… one of them is the princess”, someone cried out.Bookmark here

Surprise flashed across the man’s face for a moment, but he quickly regained his composure. Bookmark here

“And? Does that give you the right to just do whatever you feel like?”Bookmark here

People were clearly paying attention to him. Almost everyone, everyone except the few people the very most into the fighting, had stopped to listen. Bookmark here

I didn’t know if his words would carry the weights ours hadn’t, if he would be able to make the violent crowd see reason and stop what they were doing. Perhaps he could have. He would certainly have had a better chance of it than me or the princess ever could have, purely because he already knew these people beforehand. Bookmark here

Maybe, just maybe, he could have a chance of pulling it off.Bookmark here

But I wasn’t planning on sticking around to find out if he failed — not if it could put Alena in danger. Bookmark here

“Alena! Get ready to carry me!”Bookmark here

I shouted at the princess, then I readied myself. Bookmark here

Pulled out the darkest emotions I could find inside me, mixed them with my desire to protect the princess. Waited for a second, until there wasn’t anyone too close to the princess, and then unleashed it all at once. Bookmark here

A wall of fire erupted behind and to the sides of her, holding off any potential attackers as she ran over to where I was.Bookmark here

The princess scooped me up just as I was about to fall to my knees, and carried me off in her arms, faster than I would have imagined. Bookmark here

I looked behind us to see the friendly old man still talking with the group of enraged people. As long as he was there, it seemed unlikely anyone would be following us, and even if they did they would have had a hard time catching up to the princess. Bookmark here

Would the man be alright, or would the enraged mob take their anger out on him? I had no way of knowing, and it hurt to know there was a real possibility he may be hurt because of something me and Alena did. Bookmark here

But if the princess was safe, there was also a part of me that felt like it would be worth the sacrifice. Bookmark here

In a way, we had been lucky. The people we had fought were ones that had ended up where they were because of the poor luck they had suffered, and someone who had been blessed with powerful magic wouldn’t have ended up in that predicament in the first place. Bookmark here

In other words, this group had just been ordinary people, in no way trained to fight and without any particularly powerful magic at their disposal, and that was the only reason me and Alena had ever managed to stand the slightest chance while taking on such a large group by ourselves. Bookmark here

But what would happen the moment we had to take on people that actually knew what they were doing, who had genuinely powerful magic, and who knew how to fight against others who did? What would happen to us then?Bookmark here

I couldn’t say, but chances were it wouldn’t be pretty. Bookmark here

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