Little Red Riding Witch
“Hah… hah…” Lucy lay helplessly on the grassy field, panting for her dear life after the hell that she had been wrung into. A lap around the training grounds was two kilometers, so twenty laps in total made the distance forty kilometers – enough distance for a marathon. For normal Mythics, it wasn’t too hard of a task thanks to their enchantments, but for Lucy herself, without any spells to call her own, it was a monumentally difficult one.
Even after a week of constant training, it wasn’t any easier for her body to handle.
“Not… looking too good… huh…” Feall turned to her and attempted a tease. However, the weight of it would be a lot more if the boy hadn’t also been struggling to even breathe properly.
“Speak… for yourself…” Lucy retorted, but only for that much.
“You think… they have… spares for us…”
“Not… a chance…”
The sky had long turned dark, and the other trainees had already gathered in the mess hall for their dinner. The rule of not having a time limit ended up being a burden for them, much to their dismay, but it wasn’t like they didn’t predict that it would happen. After all, it had been the two’s usual routine to scrape by for leftovers.
Lucy tried to pick herself up after another dreaded run. Unbeknownst to her, however, a red-headed figure had already approached them and was offering a helping hand.
“Oh? Finally done, you two?”
“Yeah… more or less,” grabbing Meliae’s hand, Lucy pulled herself forward.
“… You know, that’s just the warm-up.”
“Yeah, I know,” Lucy painfully nodded, “that part should only last ten minutes at best. We normally have a whole schedule planned out – warm-up, then tactical classes, magic training, combat practice, … things like that.”
Meliae’s lecture to them the first night they were around had been on Lucy’s mind ever since, so much that she could repeat it flawlessly given any chance. But the vexation only served her as a reminder: if this gruesome run was only a warm-up for everyone here, then what good could she do as she was right now?
“Oh, right,” Meliae’s voice interrupted Lucy’s train of thought, as the former raised her other hand to reveal two small bags, each with a small loaf of bread. “Your portions for the night.”
“Again with only this much?” Feall complained. For someone who had just lost all his physical and magical energy, this measly portion was never going to satisfy his empty stomach. Even after a week, he couldn’t get used to this kind of punishment.
“It’s ‘first comes, first serve’, remember?” Meliae shrugged. “It helps push us to our utmost limits.”
“But we’re starving here. Can’t we ask for more?”
“If you’re still saying that, then you don’t deserve to be here.”
A cold answer, but one that made perfect sense. A soldier that couldn’t fight would be a soldier without worth. They’d be best to stay at home and support from the backlines… or give up and die along the way.
Without another word, Lucy took the bread and immediately started gobbling down her meal, even if its arid nature was nearly enough to choke her on the spot.
Such unladylike behavior struck both surprise and a hint of fear in Feall.
“Lucy?” The boy asked in shock, as if not believing his eyes.
“Just eat already,” with a quick answer, Lucy returned to her meal.
Lucy had acknowledged her situation – even if she was claimed to be this land’s champion, that was only the ideal that Dragon built for the people. Right now, Lucy was weak and powerless, and if she didn’t want to lose her life, she had better improve herself soon.
“…M-Me too!” Feall, after replying with an excuse, started chowing down on his bread as well. Seeing Lucy like that had lit a fire within him as well, as it also reminded him of how hard he had worked to get to this position. And no one, not even himself, could take this chance away from him.
Seeing the two recruits revitalized put a smile on Meliae’s face as she continued:
“Oh, by the way, Lucy. Today’s your shift for patrol, so after this, you’ll circle the camp one more time before you go to bed, okay?”
“Right away? What about…” Lucy asked.
“You mean Dryad?” Each tent was enough to fit two people, and so Lucy was sent to Meliae’s sister for her stay, for the simple reason that it was the only girl’s tent available at the time. “That girl’s always asleep anyway, so just be careful to not bother her and you’ll be fine.”
“Well then…” Feall continued. “I’ll head to my tent first. See you tomorrow, Lucy.”
“Later,” the girl replied with a wave of her hand, before turning back to an awaiting Meliae. “So, what do I do in this patrol?”
“Not much. Just go around and see if there are any suspicious activities, though if you ask me, it’s just worrying about nothing… Oh, and if you see any tent with their lamp still on, turn them off.”
“… Alright,” Lucy nodded, though her mind was still full of confusion due to the simplicity of the matter. “I’ll get on with it.”
Soon after she had started her walk around the camp, Lucy had already spotted a still-lit tent. Contrary to her expectations, however, this one wasn’t filled with gossiping noises from the girls nor shouting and fooling around from the boys. Instead, as she peeked through the small slit of the entrance, Lucy could vaguely see a desk and a pile of papers, and the silhouette of a rather elderly man focusing solely on his work.
Should I? Thought Lucy. Of course, their instructor and General of the army would be exempted from any kind of patrol attempt, but in Lucy’s case, there was something else on her mind.
Even right now, those words still echoed in her mind.
Then you don’t deserve to be here.
Taking a deep breath, Lucy entered the tent.
“Oh, it’s you,” Tempest, upon detecting another’s presence, finally looked away from the paperwork on his desk. “Used to the soldier’s life yet?”
“Did you learn anything this past week?”
“I learned squat,” Lucy clicked her tongue.
“And I assume that’s why you’re here?” A light smirk showed on the old man’s face.
“Yeah, more or less… How do I learn as a Mythic?”
“Straight to the point, at least that attitude of yours is looking more like a soldier,” Tempest nodded. “But if you’re asking me that, then perhaps you’d already tried the way of the magus?”
“I’ve… heard of it,” Lucy nodded, but her face showed uncertainty. “But I can’t imagine me learning the way they did.”
“And how so?”
“Mages use their words to convey their desire into spells, which means that they must have a certain connection to the words they choose.”
“And? Isn’t that simple enough?”
“The only words I have an attachment to, well…” Lucy hesitated, but it was enough for Tempest to understand what she meant. If she wasn’t careful, her going out of control would have been a handful to deal with.
“So, you want to go back to your roots,” the old man nodded in understanding. “Then, I’m sure you remember what I said before?”
“Learn by imitation, right?”
“Good. And did you see the others’ spells?”
“And what did you learn from it?”
“… Nothing,” Lucy reluctantly shook her head. “None of their elements match mine.”
“And that’s where you’re wrong,” Tempest pointed towards the girl. “Just like how mages associate words with their spells, Mythics see the elements themselves. While your comrades don’t have the same elements as you, the more you understand them, the more you’ll come to understand yourself.”
As the last words left his mouth, Tempest focused his energy on the fingertip in front of Lucy. Soon enough, a small, but powerful, wind sphere formed around it, whirling at a speed that could cut even the toughest of steel.
“See what this is?”
“A… wind… sphere?” Lucy asked with a confused look. “Bullet?”
“Correct, but not good enough,” Tempest shook his head. “Focus again. Don’t just look with your eyes.”
“What does that even mean?”
“Feel it. What do you know about this item?”
Lucy, though still not understanding the situation, tried to close her eyes. But as the darkness embraced her, she knew what the general meant.
Before, she was too focused on the wind’s movement, but with her eyes closed, her ears could hear its swirling speed. Her nose could feel the air’s suction. Her skin could feel the rapidly dropping temperature at the point of impact.
“Now, what do you know?”
“The wind is… fast, cold, arid.” Lucy opened her eyes and answered.
“Still not completely right, but there is some progress. Keep that in mind,” Tempest gave a satisfied nod. “That’s the basis of ‘learning by imitation’. Don’t think about how to do it, think about what it is. Once you’ve come to an understanding with your own elements, you’ll naturally be able to do spells of them, like it was a part of you from the start.”
“But… my elements are lightning and shadow. What do I…”
Lucy stopped herself before she could ask everything, for an idea had just hit her.
Turning to the old general, she asked. “Did you purposely put me on night patrol?”
Though his words denied the fact, his smile had already admitted everything. “What are you talking about? The trainees’ activities are all decided among yourselves.”
“Well, thanks anyway, General,” Lucy soon left the premise, but not before giving a polite bow. “I’ll return to my duties now.”“Good work out there, recruit.”
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