Chapter 20:

Books and Windows

Fighting For My Freedom In Another World

"That said, I don't think you'll be able to use those flame-y things as much as you'd like even if you practice a ton. It'll just help a little bit."
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"You know, couldn't you have told me that last chapter?"
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"Chapter? Like in a book? You know, speaking of books, I’m actually quite an avid reader." Bookmark here

Me and the princess had gotten our food — a bowl of soup clearly made by a stingy person — and at some point we had managed to stray from the more serious topics to casual, and at the moment rather nonsensical, conversation. Bookmark here

Was there any real point to it? No, absolutely not. Bookmark here

But perhaps not everything needed a point to it. Just talking was fine sometimes too, and… It’s not like we had anything else to do. Sometimes slowly enjoying your meal was all you could do, and sometimes it was preferable to constantly being put in danger, rushing from one place to another even while you yourself hardly knew why. Bookmark here

“In that case, do you have any recommendations? What are the books in this world like, anyway?”
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“Why don’t I tell you about a few I personally enjoyed? For starters, the one I mentioned kind of by accident the day after I met you.”
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“When you wanted me to hit you for some inexplicable reason?”
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“That’s… Yeah, that’s the one.”
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“So, what’s it about? People hitting each other?”
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“That’s only a single scene! So, anyway, there’s these two friends that used to be really inseparable, but stuff got between them and they gradually start drifting apart. Things gradually get worse and worse between them, until one day… BAM! They suddenly decide to take all their anger and frustration out on each other in a dramatic and violent fistfight!”Bookmark here

The way all the details were completely different aside, that must have been the scene the princess wanted to re-enact back then. Bookmark here

“So, that’s where you got inspiration for your little stunt from. What happens after that?”
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“They grow super close after clearing up their pent-up frustration! But then they have to infiltrate some bandits, and they bring a magical rope to catch them in. But the bandits knew something was coming because the protagonist’s uncle sold them out, and the two friends have to think of a new plan! Except it turns out the bandits only knew about the protagonist, so her friend does some quick thinking and uses the magical rope to tie up her friend and tricks the bandits she’s one of them! ...As for what happens after that, I’d say you should read the book yourself. Leaves much more of an impression that way.” Bookmark here

Enough of an impression to make you want to do the same thing in real life, apparently.That did make me wonder… Was the princess originally planning on trying to do what happened in the rest of the story too?Bookmark here

“I guess I could take you up on that offer if you’re willing to let me borrow it at some point. Anyway, any others you’d like to recommend?”
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“Well, there’s also this other book I like that had this cute squid-like creature in it… Actually, was it a squid? Or was it an octopus? I don't remember. Anyway, it was really fun to read, because… You know what? You’re better off just seeing for yourself. Knowing the surprises in advance would just ruin all the fun.”
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“I wouldn’t mind reading anything you want to show me… in case we manage to work our other problems out first.”
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“That reminds me…”Bookmark here

Alena held a finger next to her lips and creased her forehead.Bookmark here

“There’s something I’ve been thinking about. You said you feel like you hate everyone around you when you use your magic… Does that include me?”Bookmark here

I almost spat out some soup.Bookmark here

“Of course not! Why would you even… What would make you think something like that?”
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“It was just… This feeling I got”, the princess clutched her chest with one hand, “But anyway, you know that stuff you said about wanting to do something about your magic? You’ll need to practice no matter which way you cut it, so why don’t we take the opportunity to give it a try tomorrow morning, before we run into any more bad luck or anything else crazy happens?”Bookmark here

The boarded-up window next to our table shattered into pieces as a woman in full armour came flying through it and landed on top of our table. The soup that had once been there went flying off to the other side of the room. Bookmark here

“So, do we just accept that our food is ruined, or do we see this as our replacement and eat her instead?”
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“Alena, I don’t really think this is the time for that kind of joke.”
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“Hey, you never know. Perhaps she would have been tasty.”Bookmark here

I ignored Alena’s poor sense of timing and flew to my feet. I braced myself for what would come next, but… Nothing happened. I looked around the common room, only to find that it was empty aside from me, Alena, and the woman who had come flying in through the window. Bookmark here

Feeling a sneaking suspicion something wasn’t quite right, I dragged Alena with me away from our table and away from the windows, just in time to make sure we didn’t get hit by the massive amounts of lightning that filled the room right after. Bookmark here

We were just in front of the counter, almost in the center. Electricity crept in from every window, the planks in the windows that were still boarded shut catching fire and starting to collapse inwards with a loud creak. The lightning was deafening, to the point I had to cover my ears to have even the slightest chance of not immediately getting a massive headache. Bookmark here

Me and Alena had only just about managed to stay clear of the magical assault.Bookmark here

The woman on the table, however, was… Well, at least she may not have been dead? The armour in this world supposedly guarded against any direct damage caused by magic, so while the heat and the pressure and the sheer loudness of it would have inflicted its fair amount of damage, there was at least a possibility it hadn’t been lethal. Bookmark here

After sharing a look with the princess, we rushed outside as soon as the attack had ended. Perhaps it was possible we would have been safe if we just stayed in there, but the spreading fires and the potential risk of a repeated assault was a convincing reason not to chance it. Bookmark here

Things outside were… Chaotic. Bookmark here

Not much was happening right near the building we had been in, and the perpetrator of the magical attack we had almost been hit by was nowhere to be seen, but things were different in the rest of the city. A look around one of the corners of the alleyway made it clear something big had happened. While me and the princess had been spending our time idly chatting, the rest of the city had caught fire. Bookmark here

The flames had already spread to the point where half the city seemed to be on fire. It seemed to be originating from one of the gates, and had spread from there almost all the way to our inn. Bookmark here

Being caught in this kind of situation like this without knowing what was going on was a dismaying feeling, but it was also honestly speaking a bit of a relief that I could say for sure I had played no part in causing the flaming disaster this time. As for who was actually behind it?Bookmark here

A battle between two groups of armoured people was raging in the part of the city that hadn’t caught flame yet, so that felt like a good guess. Bookmark here

Quite the pleasant situation to be caught in, wasn’t it? Apparently the third time was not the charm for me, but inwardly I swore to make absolutely sure I would never be caught in this kind of surprise again. I’d figure out what was going on, somehow. Now, as for the actual predicament we found ourselves in? Bookmark here

On one side a wall of fire was preventing us from taking more than a few steps towards the exit in that direction. It did make me wonder if my immunity to my own magical fire would extend to a natural fire like this one, but somehow this didn’t feel like the right time to find out. Bookmark here

Besides, the princess was not fireproof. Bookmark here

Which left only one option.Bookmark here

“So, you as excited for trying to get through whatever that is as I am?”, Alena asked.
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“If you mean nothing at all, we’re very much on the same page on this one.”Bookmark here

“How about that magic of yours? Think you’ll be able to fire it up in time to actually be helpful? Hehe, ‘fire’ it up…”Bookmark here

The princess chuckled at her own poor sense of humour, while I closed my eyes and ransacked my mind. Trying to find feelings I once had buried deep inside, but which kept being pulled out again and again after I came to this world. Bookmark here

I didn’t want to do this. Bookmark here

But what choice did I have? Bookmark here

And I didn’t know if it was because my resistance towards violence was starting to disappear or because the circumstances were different, but I didn’t have nearly the trouble I once had this time. Bookmark here

These people were already fighting. Any additional harm I caused them would be nothing more than a drop in the bucket compared to what they were doing to each other — lightning, flames, swordfights, people just fighting each other with their fists. A variety of different kinds of battles were going on among smaller fractions of the two larger groups, most of them fought by magical means, but a few where it at least wasn’t obvious any magic was involved. Bookmark here

They were out to kill. Kicking each other when down, continuing to fight even once their opponent was down and helpless. Bookmark here

If I then happened to hurt one of them a bit and that would stop the fight, in particular if it was before someone that didn’t have to die got killed, then… Bookmark here

Yeah. Bookmark here

It would be worth it. Bookmark here

I’d practically be doing a good thing if I just beat everyone senseless. Bookmark here

Great to have that sorted out. Bookmark here

Now, it was time to escape. Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.