The Second Route
“I have to go to the castle immediately! Please excuse me.” I tell Izumi.
“What are you waiting for? You don’t have to tell me that! I am not coming with you anyway,” replies the sweaty Izumi.
Then I suddenly freeze in surprise as she takes off her armor revealing her plain and sweat-drenched clothes right in front of me. Does she realize that I’m still in the room? I wait to see the whole show.
Noticing my stare, she quickly turns her body away from me and crosses her arms, “W—why are you still here!? Pervert!” Izumi hurls an object at me, and I quickly exit the room.
After paying the hurried horse rider I have hired who acted as some sort of taxi, I rush inside the castle to face Majiko, but he is nowhere to be seen. I spot Sina carrying some boxes in the middle of the lobby and call out to her, “Lina!” I hurriedly come up to her, “Lina…” I pant having reached my destination.
“What’s wrong, my master? Did you run?” Lina asks with impatient concern.
I lift a hand to signal her to wait as I recover my breath, “Yeah, I did run. Where is Majiko?”
“Master Majiko is busy personally inviting and gathering some needed items for a feast.”
“Yes, he ordered us to prepare a feast for him and his guests. Right now, we maids are preparing and setting the castle for this event.”
“Why? I mean, right now too? He couldn’t wait, huh?”
“Yes, in fact, he was very eager about this.”
I lay in my thoughts for a while, “Why is he preparing a feast for him so hastily? He is planning something, and I do not know what it could be.” I hold Lina by her shoulders.
“M-master, I have to excuse myself. This box is quite heavy, you see.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I retract my hands and let her continue on her chore. “Oh, I forgot to tell you—” I hurriedly trail where Lina went, but she has been long gone. “That fast?” I mutter. It seems that there are in a hurry to prepare for this festival, and that gives me no time to waste. I know that Majiko has schemed something for the festival, but I do not know what.
I have to warn General Tina at least. I wander in the castle trying to find at least one of my associates and to warn them of the secret Majiko hides. But nowhere is Tina, Queen Amina, or one of the twin sisters, are found. “This is bad. I do not even know where or when will this feast start!”
Night falls, and I notice some horse-drawn carriages drive nearby, but they do not go in the direction of the castle. I quickly assume that these are the party attendees. I look back to the castle to confirm that the festival isn’t being held there. Then I notice that the castle has been oddly silent for a while now. If there is a party, then it should be noisy somewhere. At this, I run down plains that lay below the castle. Then I notice something in the corner of my eye. Various colored lights and mingling shadows in the grassy plains further to the side of the castle. I make out some small stalls and a stage amongst them. The carriages and wagons that pass by me are going in that direction of the bright structures. This has to be Majiko’s feast.
I run as fast as I can to the area, and the party emerges into view. Contrary to the seemingly bad reputation of the merchant, the feast is brimming with people dressed in extravagantly long dresses in various colors worn by the gorgeous women in heavy makeup, showy vests worn by the gentlemen, and twinkling accessories of different kinds that seemingly mimic stars.
The civil noise starts to increase in volume as I approach the lively scene. Straining my eyes, I spot the Queen at one of the important tables in front of the huge, wooden platform acting as the stage for the host. I hurriedly walk to her, but before I can reach out and talk to her, Majiko takes the Queen’s hand and leads her onto the stage. I’ve missed my chance, and it’s almost over.
One of his henchmen calls attention by ringing a bell to the audience. In turn, everyone turns toward the stage, and I do the same, motionless and frightened as to what Majiko will do next.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to announce great news, salvation to you today!” Majiko announces, “I have something to share of utmost importance that will rock the world as we know it!” Majiko then snaps with his right hand as he swings it before landing on the Queen’s shoulder, “You see, I and Amina have known each other for a while now, and we have agreed on something. This I, firstly, shall declare to you.” Majiko, while holding the Queen’s hand, kneels with one leg in a knightly gesture and kisses her hand, “You are my wife.”
The crowd gasps and congratulation fill the air despite the Queen had not given her answer.
“What is he trying to do?” I angrily mutter as I stomp my way to the stage.
But the vile human speaks again, “And because of this engagement, I and my fiancé have signed a peace treaty between Carith City and the Kingdom of Sitierra enabling us to be at peace and increase trade even more freely than before!”
The audience shouts praises.
“This important alliance will change the world and show them how great we are. We, Magicians, shall conquer the world!” Shouts of joy come from the crowd, and Majiko stands up with a glass in his hand, “A toast, everyone! Cheers!”
“Cheers!” the noble crowd resounds in joy as the sound of the wine glasses colliding increases. Then some jovial string music
Someone bumps from behind me. I turn around to receive their apology.
“I’m sorry. Please excuse me,” Tina apologizes but her eyes don’t meet mine for her head is bowed to the ground.
“Tina!” I lightly grab her by the arm to signal familiarity. “Thank goodness, I found you.”
Tina looks up and her face loses its tension for a bit. “Oh, you are here. Why are you here?”
“I was looking for you, but not just you, but right now I have to talk to you.”
A burly man approaches Tina, “Boss says we have to go, ma’am.”
“I-I’m sorry. Orders,” Tina shakes her head in disappointment.
“But can I at least get a word in with you? A minute or two?” I rush to reply.
“Ma’am?” the man pressures Tina to leave, and Tina looks at me and shakes her head, and leaves, once again with her head bowing down.
“We are in trouble, General!” I yell out of nowhere, and the people stare at me and go silent.
Tina looks back at me in surprise, “What do you mean by that?”
I look onto the stage and point at Majiko, “Everyone! I have something to say about this man!”
Majiko takes notice of this commotion and glares at me. “Oh? What do you have to say? No, I won’t let you. Kick him out of the party!”
Men from all directions approach me, and I hurriedly state, “I am the First General!” The men stop and await Majiko for their orders. The people around me now look at me with intense curiosity.
“And so, what? You are uninvited!” Majiko yells.
“This man, whom I don’t want to even utter his name, is our enemy! A traitor!” I point at Majiko to emphasize.
“What are you-!?”
“This man is an Aura user!”
The crowd gasps, some tremble, some don’t, some look at me with scornful faces, and some with doubt. Overall, it isn’t positive.
“How could you believe this man? An uninvited party crasher, by the way, wants to slander me? Bari, was that your name? Disgusting name. Who would believe you? Do you think your position will get you some traction or connections? You fool. You are nothing.”
“I was assigned by the Queen herself,” I say as I approach the stage unopposed, “I am someone trusted.”
“Ha!” Majiko pushes Amina to the floor, and she groans in pain. “Now, tell me, everyone, the reason you appointed him so suddenly? Such stranger and unknown character suddenly rose to the ranks of the kingdom? Explain that!”
Amina stays silent, and the crowd watches more in expectation. All nerves wracking. Hell is about to be set loose, but not until I prove my accusation.
“It is too much of a coincidence. General Pareyo, my friend’s disappearance, right before this guy ever showed up.” Majiko with his left hand pulls Amina as she coughs. “Tell me, why is that? Is it too fateful? Or did you order his assassination?” Majiko releases her to get something from his pocket. He reveals a token. “Isn’t this a contract token? I retrieved it from this ‘general’s room. That tells a lot. A whole lot.” Majiko points at Amina, “You are a traitor.”
The crowd gasps again at this revelation. “It’s starting to get obnoxious,” I mutter.
“Now how can you trust this man? He was a mercenary. Something we all despise, don’t we?”
The crowd whispers to each other escalating in shouts of “Away with him! Kill him!” The nobles pound the air with their fists that make them unsightlier as they go.
“They don’t look like nobles anymore, but animals from the zoo. At this point, I cannot convince any one of them,” I think to myself.
“Now what, ‘general’?” Majiko looks at me with a smug look. “It seems like they don’t want you in this party anymore.”
“I’m not done yet.” I draw my sword, and the crowd gasps into silence as they watch. Majiko’s henchmen approach me, but he signals them to stop.
“This fight is between me and the impostor.” Majiko draws his sword with his left hand.
Left-handed fighters are often unpredictable when you aren’t one yourself, but I have no time to spend to learn how to counter myself from such a unique fighter. He is an Aura user too which makes it all the more intense. I say intense, not challenging, but my goal isn’t to kill him but to expose him. “Come!” I challenge Majiko to approach me, “show me how great you are!”
Majiko approaches me with a speed similar to a bull in rage, and everything slows down and becomes heavy. My heart beats thump louder. My vision becomes somewhat distorted. This is my power, Delirium, the time-slowing ability. Using this opportunity, I dodge him and return a slash on his back. But that slice feels like it didn’t hit. There was resistance placed on the sword. Then everything accelerates and becomes lighter. I back away a safe distance from him.
Majiko tears off his clothes, and behind his torn garments is the protection of chain armor. “You thought you got me? A merchant always has something tricks up in his sleeves.”
“And why would you have that? I wouldn’t call you a merchant at all. You are too shameful to be one.”
Majiko then swings his sword with a roar, but my power helps me dodge them all, but I cannot keep using it for too long, or I will be exhausted.
“You are lucky that you dodged these, and this wasn’t my full power!” Majiko then raises his hands to the sky and arches them away from each other. Taking a deep breath, Majiko yells, “Wind Blade!”
As usual, time slows down for me, and since I know where the attack is coming from thanks to his announcement. I don’t have to guess where this invisible blade of wind would come from. I duck underneath a slight distortion of the wind and place my sword beneath his chin and on his neck. Time accelerates.
Majiko stares at me with wide eyes enough to outsize his pupils as mere dots. “H—how?”
The crowd gasps once again, and that sound is starting to get annoying to me. “Does it hurt?” I mock him.
“What do you mean?” Majiko looks down at my sword while straining his eyes. He realizes that the side of my sword to him is glowing orange. He flinches backward in realization while suppressing his expression of pain.
“Hot, isn’t it? But it is still not enough for what you did to those maids, the Second General, and the Queen most importantly!”
“W-what do you mean?”
“I know you sexually harassed them, as so did your friend, Pareyo. No wonder why they set up a contract to kill him. And I’m just a passerby who happened to be a mercenary. An amateur at that.”
“You are an amateur?”
“That detail won’t matter, for you will die here, tonight!”
“That won’t happen!” As Majiko says this, the wind escalates from a slight breeze to a gale. “Instead, you, and everyone in here will die! I have prepared this festival to kill everyone, you fool!!”
“W—what?” I feign panic in my tone of words as I smirk.
The party-goers scream at the top of their lungs in confusion. Some beg for mercy at the hands of their murderer, but even I won’t rescue them. “Such scums, do you even deserve mercy?” I mutter. My legs suddenly give in as they lose strength. The crowd too falls to the ground unable to stand. “W—what’s happening?” Then, I realize what Majiko’s goal was all along. It is to absorb mana from everyone in the party and use it to unleash a slaughter. He probably had to do rush this ahead of schedule. I messed up. I didn’t anticipate this one thing. I forgot Aura users absorbed mana from every being and in turn, weakens them. I collapse to the ground but maintain sight of Majiko as he waves his hands victoriously, I feel my consciousness slipping, and my heart aching. I have to make a move before I completely faint. I struggle to lift my heavy hands and strive to draw the spell instruction. Finally, after what seemed like forever, I finish the spell instruction and start to laboriously aim it at Majiko’s head.
“It’s all over! This is the start of a new world!” Majiko yells into the strong winds carrying away his voice. “Revolving Wind Bla—!”
“Air Sabre!” I shout as my strength leaves through my arms, and a strong outburst of wind blows from my palms. The longer you take to draw an instruction, the greater its effect, and that is exactly what I did, unintentionally. Then I see Majiko fall to the ground while holding his bleeding side. It seems like I missed my shot. I quickly stand up having regained my strength and walk over to the weakened enemy who now lays on the floor. I start drawing another spell with the intent to finish him off.
“Y—you… c—can’t k—kill me,” Majiko stutters as he coughs up blood and creepily smiles, “the peace treaty doesn’t allow you to do so.”
Amina approaches my side and hugs me, “I’m sorry… I’m sorry!” Amina breaks into tears.
“You don’t have to apologize. In fact, I should. I thought it would be all over now,” I glare at Majiko and point my palms at him, “but it will be all over now.”
“No, you can’t!” Amina looks into my face, “Majiko’s right. The treaty has been signed, and one of them disallows mutual harm.”
Are you kidding me? There has to be a way. “But we can retract it right? It hasn’t been spread out yet.”
“No, this would bring shame to the kingdom. It is Sitierra’s policy to never detract from its treaties and agreements.”
“But this could be an exception, right? Right?” I lightly shake Amina’s shoulders, and she shakes her head.
“No…” I trail off in defeat. “You got to be kidding me…” I grit my teeth and mutter an unspoken word.
“I’m sorry, Deliruu-kun,” Amina bows her head apologetically.
“No, no, it’s alright,” I stroke her head. “If that’s the case, it would be a shame if you broke them, right?” I say this facing Majiko.
“Heh,” he laughs, but instead he coughs out blood, “but now I will—”
“No,” I interrupt him, “if you do, I shall spread the word of you being an Aura user. Won’t your relations be strained when word of this gets out? People really hate Aura users, don’t they?”
“Yes, but they hate traitors more!”
“But then, you are a traitor too,” I retort.
“You lied about being a Magician. Used them for profits, discriminated against Aura users despite being one yourself. Harassed the castle’s maids, then the General and the Queen! How bad shall your reputation go? Don’t challenge me. I am very skilled in this field.”
“H—how could you know about this?” he shakily stands up and I notice that his side has stopped bleeding. “I will have my revenge!” Majiko walks with a grin of revenge.
I’ve been tired until now. So, I give in to my exhaustion. My vision starts to become fuzzy.
Amina rushes to my aid, “Are you okay? I will take you to the infirmary right now! Tina! Tina!” Amina calls, but my strength slips away.
It seems that losing unconsciousness after every battle is a rising trend. My heart feels empty. There is a burning hole that consumes my heart causing it to spill its contents, but I knew that wasn’t happening, physically anyway. “I hope the Queen, the General, the maids are safe,” is my last thought.