Chapter 22:

Trade Secret

The Second Route

I already know that I have something special. This power of slowing down the flow time. But it isn’t too special for I cannot control it at my will. It seems that it only activates when I am close to any danger of getting killed. And that is what saved me from the underhanded technique Majiko used. His ‘Wind Blade.’

At my level of knowledge, I can rest assured that if I go face to face against him, I’d die almost instantly, and that is if my power doesn’t get triggered. I worry that he will find other efficient methods of eliminating me with the use of his ‘Wind Blade.’

I imagine numerous scenarios which would perfectly put me in a vulnerable place, and I am in one right now. My lack of knowledge of the enemy and his power will surely ruin me. This has happened to me once before. I do not want a repeat of it.

I walk down the silent hallway leading to the dining room and see Majiko and all of the castle’s maids surrounding him. But they were not surrounding him out of admiration, but out of fear. This glum has a smug look on his face as he enforces a heavy atmosphere.

“Why are all the maids assembled here?” I ask rather sharply.

Majiko glares at me, “Why? Don’t you see that I’m the man of this house? And you simply are a nobody. Don’t you think that you have a right just because you are a general? Even you are under my command.”

“You are wrong, but I won’t waste any more time arguing with you. You will surely fall because of your pride.”

“Ohoho, me? Wrong? Me? Fall?” Majiko slams his fist on the table rattling the plates and startling the maids. “Don’t you dare speak to me in that tone? This is your last warning.”

I only glare at him and leave the castle, but Majiko roars before I leave, “Hey! Where do you think you are going, douchebag? Look at me when I talk to you.”

I ignore his prying questions, paying no heed. I arrive at the Mercenary’s guild in the kingdom. I see a few items of luggage getting hauled and loaded onto a parked wagon outside the building. Quite a lot of luggage for one person. Perhaps someone is off on a journey, possibly for their mercenary contract.

I take another glance at the luggage as I walk in and recognize a familiar bag. The one I’ve seen when I and Risho traveled the first time to Sitierra. But it could be just a coincidence. I stopped bothering any further.

I look towards where the reception desk is and walk towards it and spot a familiar figure. The newly-cut white hair, the clear and pale skin, the polished gestures, stuns me, but not because of its beauty. It is Risho, and she seems to be leaving.

Carrying two bags on each arm, Risho turns towards the door where I stand by motionless. Noticing that someone is blocking her way, Risho looks up to say her excuses, “Excuse me, sir, I have to—


“B—bari!? No, Deliruu-san, what are you doing here?”

“I came here for Izumi,” I look down to the bags she is carrying, “are you going somewhere?”

“Y—yeah, somewhere far.”

“Far…?” I stare into her eyes, “are you leaving?”

“Yeah… I did…” Risho says melancholy. “Anyway, I have to go now.”

“Uh, yes, sure—” Suddenly, I remember something. I remember Risho saying along the lines of, “I don’t need your sympathy! I need your love!” Wait, is this the reason why she is leaving? I catch her arm preventing her to leave through the doorway, “Risho, wait!”

“Deliruu-san?” Risho looks down at her arm I am holding her back with. Then I feel something moist fall onto my arm. Risho looks at me with teary eyes, “I—I’m sorry,” her voice cracks, “I have to leave now.”

“Risho, was it be—”

“Don’t you call me by my first name!” Risho shouts.

Woops, got too close, “Sor-”

“You were too late,” she yanks her arm away from me, “no, you are the wrong one.”

“Wrong one?” What? “Wait, I need to talk to you. Was this because of that ti—”

“Shut up!” Risho slaps me on my cheek, but my head stays as the side of my cheek burns hot. I was never slapped on my face before, let alone this hard. “It’s already over.”

Over? “But, Yamade… can’t you just stay? I will make it up to you.”

“What are you trying to do? You want me to court you? No! You are simply not the same person I met. I don’t even know who you are. I don’t get it. I thought you had eyes for me.”

“Is it because I can’t return your feelings?”

Risho weakly nods and turns away from me, “I’m going.”

I follow her slowly to her wagon as she loads her last bags, and she looks back at me before she rides. I raise my voice to speak without fail, “Risho, would you still come to see me, as a friend? I do realize that I still need you.” And that is the truth.

Risho doesn’t respond, and the wagon drives away until my eyes can distinguish her facial features. I barely make out her head nodding to me, but I can’t tell what kind of answer is, but I think she nodded ‘yes.’ I wish that wasn’t my imagination.

I return to the guild and am now in front of the reception desk, the destination I was supposed to go to in the first place.

A knight’s helmet pop-ups from behind the counter. “Quite the drama there,” Izumi says still wearing her obnoxious helmet. At least I think it is.

“Yes, the drama,” I sigh as my heart weighs heavily on me. I know how she feels being rejected, for I too was rejected. I wonder if she felt the same way when she rejected me. Yeah, no way. I break out from my thoughts and face her, “Anyway, Izumi—”

“Izumi-sensei,” she corrects.

Still, ever demanding huh? “Izumi-sensei, I want you to do something.”

“Is there a reward?”

“You—” I halt myself from insulting her as a greedy person, “well, no, but it is only a simple question that doesn’t require a reward.”

“Anything and everything require something to be expended to work, you know?” Izumi places her arms to lean her head on the counter giving her a childish impression.

“If I do give you a reward for this, I’m pretty sure it would hurt your pride.”

“I’d rather have money than pride, so I don’t have either,” she weakly laughs. I don’t get the joke. Was it even funny? No, was it even a joke?

“I will just ask you know,” I lean slightly towards her as if I am about to divulge a great secret, “do you know how to make a ‘Wind Blade?’”

“A ‘Wind Blade’? What?” Izumi pauses for a moment and laughs at my face, “‘Air Sabre!’ Hahahaha! Don’t tell me you don’t know! Making it is so simple!”

“It’s simple? Wait, ‘Air Sabre’? I said ‘Wind Blade.’ Are you deaf?”

“I’m not deaf! There is no such thing as a ‘Wind Blade,’ you idiot! Don’t go calling me deaf when you don’t know what an ‘Air Sabre’ is!” She scoffs, “What Magic rank are you anyway?”

“I don’t know, Intermediate?”

“Hahaha! Tested by whom?”

“I am not yet tested yet, but I’m pretty sur—”

“From you? What a joke! Even a beginner knows how to cast an ‘Air Sabre!’ No, you are below Beginner, aren’t you?”

“Are you questioning my competence?”

“Yes,” she nods.

“An answer without hesitation?”

“Yes,” she nods a second time.

She is asking for a fight, huh? Well, this would be a good way to train against Majiko. “Okay, say, let’s do an Air Magic-only duel, and if I win, you tell me what a ‘Wind Blade’ is.”

“I told you that doesn’t—”

“Shh, and if you win, I will give you double the reward you could have gotten for the last favor.”

“Double!? Double!?” She echoes it again. “Sure, sure!” She says after a split-second of her reaction. “You that confident, ey? For challenging an Air Ace! You will regret this a ton!”

“I won’t.”

We battle in the guild building with the makeshift ring set up. The tables that were previously placed in the area have been removed to make space for the duel. I and Izumi concentrate on each other while we wait for the signal to start.

The conditions in winning this battle are that you can’t leave the ring, and the first to knock someone unconscious or make them fall to the ground wins. A straightforward, barbaric game that is popular amongst the mercenaries.

“Begin!” the assigned referee shouts.

Immediately, everything slows down and a heavy burden is placed on my entire body making me suffocate. I look around for the incoming attack but see nothing. Since it is an Air Magic duel, I would not be able to see it instantly, but I can barely distinguish the slight distortion in my surroundings to determine if it is an Air Magic attack. But then, my surroundings are also heavily distorted every time I move. It’s the speed of light not being able to catch up to my speed. I’m essentially receiving a delayed vision. But I calm myself and quickly deduce that my opponent, Izumi, is overly confident that her first attack would knock me unconscious. Thus, she will attack from the front. Since this is a friendly duel, Izumi will reduce the speed of the attack as to not kill me following the rule that speed is proportional to strength. I read that fact in the ‘Air’ book in the library. But if she does, then she won’t be receiving any reward, but a death sentence. But I know she wouldn’t do that. I’ve already had this planned from the beginning.

Though I can dodge her attack easily because of my time-slowing ability, a normal Magician wouldn’t be able to move in time or avoid it because of the Air Ace’s accurate aim. In Air Magic, precision is the most important factor in achieving its full strength against anything or for anything compared to the other Magic forms. Therefore, to knock me out of the ring unconscious, Izumi will be aiming for my head. So, I simply dodge by moving my head to the side, and time speeds up to its normal rate.

“What!?” Izumi’s eyes widen, stupefied, “how did you move that fast?”

Already moving my hand to draw the required gestures, I wait not for another moment and unleash the same spell she cast, the ‘Air Sabre,’ against her. The slower you make them, the stronger or bigger they become. But taking that time to cast a spell puts you in a more vulnerable position and will make you prone to a counter-attack, like this situation right now. I only have to do it adequately, and perfectly use up all my time. While she is in shock of the events, the Air Sabre I cast whooshes to her head, knocking her out of the ring.

“Ow!” Izumi slowly stands up as she rubs her back —or butt? What part did she land on? Her head now? No, her leg? What?

She looks up to me still keeping her stupid— stupefied expression, “H—how?”

“It’s a shame you got beaten by an intermediate,” I jeer. But it was only due to the help of my power I was able to avoid her first attack.

“You… are surely doing something,” Izumi struggles to stand up like an old person in their ages, “you moved way too fast. It’s almost impossible.”

“But couldn’t it have been an Air Magic that I have cast beforehand?”

“Oh, yeah! Such underhanded trick!” Izumi quickly regains her pride “you used ‘Air Wall,’ didn’t you?” Izumi laughs nervously. “We shall have a rematch, and you are restricted from casting spells beforehand!”

“But I still won. So, tell me now about the Wind Blade.”

“I told you that doesn’t exist, but if you insist, let’s talk over there,” she points to a door with a sign hanging on it. It read ‘Staff Only.’

We are inside the humid and stuffy room. I sneeze upon entering causing some of the dormant dust to fly off to the air. I notice the floor creak and the walls about to break apart. Just how dilapidated is this ‘Staff Room?’ I feel bad for the ones working here.

I am sweating more than when I was inside of the battle ring, and my tongue is dry, made even dryer because of this room. I was not this thirsty before the battle. Perhaps this is caused by the use of my power? And my heart feels a little bit hollow too. I clench my chest because it aches. Didn’t this happen after that battle in Lunis? It seems that these are the power’s consequences.

“So, the Wind Blade—” I ask but get interrupted once again. This girl sure is rude, but if she were a real child, I would forgive her, but she isn’t. She only looks like a child and acts like one. I will try to insult her about her flat board and see what childish reaction she will make.

“It doesn’t exist. I told you many times that it’s getting annoying.”

You are the more annoying one.

“Okay, fine. Let’s say it doesn’t exist, but there is this certain man who claims that he has this ability which he calls ‘Wind Blade.’”

“Tell me more about it.”

“Which it?” The power or the person?

“The Wind Blade of course. Was there another thing in the sentence? Stupid.”

“You wouldn’t understand, but anyway…” I think back to the ambush of Majiko. I close my eyes trying to describe the spell, “It had a distinguishable shape like a blade—”

“That isn’t helpful at all!”

“Well, what else do you want me to call it? A flat-shaped banana? That’s what it looked like!”

“Alright, this question-and-answer portion are over.”

“Wait! Wait! Okay? I will try again.” My memory isn’t this bad, I swear to you Izumi, but what else should I call it? Then I remember something I missed, “Ah!”

“Gah!” Izumi jolts, “don’t startle me!”

“Sorry, but I remember now. He did this kind of hand gesture,” I try to mimic Majiko’s gestures he has done, “but it doesn’t look like it’s writing to the air, does it?”

“Yeah, it looked like something else…” Izumi ponders, “That isn’t how any of the Magic spells casting gestures. You know the difference of that ‘Wind Blade’ to the ‘Air Sabre,’ do you?”

“I noticed the ‘Wind Blade’ moved horizontally against me while the ‘Air Sabre’ did more like a piercing motion.”

“Doesn’t that sound familiar to you?”

“No? It doesn’t.”

“Okay, what Magic books are you reading?”

“The ones from the castle.”

“Are you serious?” Izumi says in shock. “That’s weird. The books in the castle should have all information…”

“Anyway, what was it?”

“It is an Aura Move.”

“How exactly?” I ask.

“Magic creates, Aura uses. You know that, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do. Don’t go trying to question my intelligence every time!”

“But you are an idiot, anyway…”

Can I punch this kid?

Izumi starts to explain, “Aura moves generally in a horizontal direction rather than go straight like a Magic spell because it’s much more efficient for the Aura user. When a Magician casts a spell, the element they create pushes the already existing elements around that area, thus that ‘piercing’ motion you saw. Aura, on the other hand, pushes the surrounding elements by distributing the mana across the target area. That’s why it’s stronger to attack by spreading the attack in a horizontal motion.”

“That’s quite the explanation, but thank you,” I gratefully thank her. She is actually useful and helpful for once.

“Thank you…?”

“Do I still need to add anything else?”

“Yeah, I taught you about the concept, but all I receive is a ‘thank you?'”

“I don’t get it.”

“Are you an idiot!? You should say, ‘thank you for the lesson, Izumi-sensei!’ and bow to me!”

I take back my compliment.

Cali Maki