The Second Route
Tina and I arrive at the treehouse after minutes of climbing up the stairs. “For freak’s sake, make an elevator or something!” I say as I pant.
“You are tired already?” Tina asks while her face expresses disappointment, “and what is an elevator?”
“Don’t look at me like that when you do not know what an elevator is, let alone the convenience of it,” I say impatiently.
“The country where you are from sure is lazy,” Tina rolls her eyes away from me.
“E—excuse me?” Don’t insult my country, you peasant.
“General Tina!” A knight with distinguished armor from the rest promptly bows to Tina, “Commander Merona at your command!” The knight straightens up and salutes, “please, let you and your guest seat over here,” She leads us to a table.
“Thank you, thank you,” I repeat to her.
We settle down and face Commander Mero. During our meeting, Tina briefs Mero about the plan to transport one thousand soldiers to the ravine to impede the advance of the army. Commander Mero too says her thoughts and details of which we haven’t been informed on from the Queen. Soon, they settle on a battle plan. Summarizing their meeting, it is to attack and retreat.
“That’s it?” I blurt out.
“There is little we can do with a thousand troops,” Tina says.
“But, we have an Air Magician to transport us to and fro,” I remind.
“Though she may be an Ace Magician, she cannot make more than one thousand scrolls in a short time,” Rina replies.
“Fine,” I stand up from the table, “it’s settled then. Let’s get our best soldiers.”
“Copy that, sir, and General Ma’am,” Mero promptly stands up and salutes as I and Tina leave the briefing room.
While I wait at the mouth of the cave, staring at the orange sky and the snow that extends north, Tina selects and gathers the one thousand knights from the Sister Army to go up and fight. Then Tina comes beside me, “They are ready.” I return to the mercenary guild to meet Izumi.
“Izumi— Master Izumi!” I shout from the entrance to the door, “let’s go.”
Izumi promptly comes beside me carrying a large sack presumably with the scrolls of the spells to be used, and we go to the cave in the mountain and meet Tina.
“Here are the spells as you asked, Generals,” Izumi lays out the sack spilling scrolls from it.
“One thousand, right?” I ask Izumi.
“Yes, one thousand,” Izumi yawns, “I’ll be going now.”
“Okay, thank you for your service.” I bow to Izumi. “Finally, the act is over,” I mutter.
“Let’s activate these now!” Tina says with excitement.
“Wait,” I stare at the scrolls, “how are we going to get back?”
“Get back?” Tina asks.
“Aren’t spells one-time use only?” That’s at least what I have learned from the books.
“Oh… right,” Tina goes silent.
“We have to remove at least five hundred and four soldiers from the battle.”
“I didn’t think of this sooner.”
“How?” Genuinely, how could you forget? Such is the calculating mind of a businessman.
We stare at the scrolls in silence.
“With 496 men, we can still delay an army, right?” I ask hopefully.
“Yes, but our chances are cut in half,” Tina sighs.
“Well we can wait another day for Izumi to produce more, but…” my voice trails off.
“I’ll reselect the soldiers. I will get the best ones,” Tina rushes into the cave.
Moments later, Tina returns to me, “They are ready. We will stick to the plan.”
“Are you sure? We are committing suicide when we go to battle with these numbers.”
“It’s better than stranding one thousand soldiers in a battlefield,” Tina glares at me, “remember? You showed me that lives matter, not the battle.”
“I think you that logic is not applicable in this situation, Tina-san.”
“What do you mean? We are delaying the enemy’s advance to the kingdom to save the citizens, are we not?”
“Sure, but don’t soldiers have lives too? Well, it doesn’t matter. I will protect all the soldiers. Leave it to me.”
“You talk big for a greenhorn.”
“Shut up, miscalculator.”
To activate a spell, all we have to do is touch the inscription on the paper and focus our mind on it. By doing that, we focus our mana’s output on the paper.
Soon, blue light envelopes me, Tina, and the 496 men and we appear in the sky. The sound of the wind rushes into my ear. I look around and see the soldiers flying through the air acting as if it were natural to them.
I look beside me and see Tina focusing on the sky, “How is this going to work? Do we just fly?”
“Yeah! Act like you are flying!” she shouts back.
How can I act like I’m flying? I’ve never flown in my life before! Well, I do fly commercially.
I put the effort to ‘act like I’m flying’ by outstretching my arms as ‘wings,’ but I’m not sure if that even helped me properly fly through the air. I just end up mimicking the soldiers who are flying around me in fear that I’d suddenly stall out from the sky.
The trip is cold and windy. We are above some low-lying clouds, but just below the cumulus clouds marking where we shouldn’t go. If we go above them, we would die of suffocation. My ears start to ring. I couldn’t hear much sound other than the furious passing of the wind as I fly through the air. I think this is because of the decreased pressure in higher altitudes. I didn’t calculate for this, but it’s too late. I wonder if the knight’s helmet helps them with this pressure though. It would have been nice to have a helmet protecting your face from the blowing, icy winds. I regret ever coming up with this idea. Can’t we just build an airplane next time, please?
Freezing moments thankfully pass, and all of us begin descending. The lack of clouds is noticeable as we enter further into the desert region. I look afar and see the ravine emerging into view. Suddenly, all of us are plummeting to the ground like birds losing their wings. I shrieked in panic, “What the hell is happening!!?”
Someone among the flying hordes shouts, “Prepare for landing!!”
Prepare for landing? I’m not a plane or anything! I don’t have landing gears!
I look around to see what they would do and see them unsheath their swords and point them to the ground. Then they start making a familiar motion of casting a spell. I say familiar because I’ve seen an illustration of casting in a book before. But since I don’t have the motor skills nor the complete grasp of the knowledge I have read, I only plummet helplessly to the ground.
Out of nowhere, I feel a hard bump from my back, and it feels warm. Then I see two arms wrap in front of me. I look behind and see the familiar helmet, “Tina!!?”
While still hugging me tight as we fall, Tina points her sword to the ground. I wanted to scream, but my voice wouldn’t come out. I’ve used up my voice for today’s flight. I just close my eyes in fear waiting for the moment my legs break on impact, and I instantly die. But, my feet softly land on solid ground, and I open my eyes to see the ravine immediately right in front of me. I still realize that Tina continued hugging me closely.
“Eek!” Tina pushes me away and I trip to the ground. Y didn’t have to push me, didn’t you!?
“Woah, okay! How did that happen?” Finally, a raspy sound comes out of my mouth. I look around and see the knights running to their positions near the ravine, “Is everyone alright?” I shout.
“Yes, we used a simple spell to soften our landing,” Tina pulls me by the hand and makes me stand, “let’s go to the ravine.”
We run to the ravine ahead of us and stare at the other side, “It seems that the enemy hasn’t arrived,” Tina remarks.
“I guess we can camp here until morning.”
“No, we should distance ourselves from the ravine lest the Sand of the Dead shall come upon us,” Tina shouts a command to the knights ordering them to set up camp. Soon, the knights start casting an Earth spell and sand mounds start forming from it.
“What are they doing?” I ask.
“They are making a tent,” Tina replies.
“A tent? With sand? That’s impossible!”
“Don’t tell me you don’t know how.”
“Are you kidding me? Nowhere can you make a tent out of sand!”
I observe that the knights cast a spell and hollow out the sound mounds to make their tents. The sand tents didn’t collapse. Instead, the tents were firm as a rock. “How!?” I exclaim in amazement.
“It’s only a simple Earth spell,” Tina says as she starts her tent.
“Sure, sure, simple my butt. Can’t we just make it out of rocks?”
“Rocks are harder to make for the soldiers. Remember, they are specialized only in Magic combat,” Tina folds her arms and smirks, “you are going to make a tent out of rock, won’t you?”
“W—what? Of course not. That would betray our comradery,” I laugh nervously. I attempt to make a sandy tent based on my knowledge, but frustrating minutes pass, and I haven’t successfully made a tent out of the sand. Every time I start to hollow out the mound, the sand structure collapses.
Tina laughs loudly at me, “You still can’t do it? How sad of you.”
“Will you please just shut up?” I pound the sand with my fist, “It’s sand for goodness sake!”
“You know you could ask me for help,” Tina grins.
“No, thanks,” I begin my hand motions again to “write” spells in the air and successfully make a mound of sand.
“You can just give up and make it out of rocks, you know?”
“It would be a shame for a general to make such a different structure from their soldiers when it is a simple task,” I grit my teeth. Yeah, sure, this is totally and definitely a really simple task! But I still fail nonetheless.
“It’s painful to watch you fail at the simplest spell,” Tina enters her sand tent, “you could ask me for help any time you want,” she teases, goodnight!”
Shut up with your tone, will ya?
I click my tongue in annoyance then try again countless more times. The sun has already set, and I finally made a decently sized sand tent. Drowsiness comes to conquer me and I crawl into my tent and sleep.