Depths of the Otherworldly Labyrinth
[Translator – Mab ]
[Proofreader – ilafy ]
Chapter 44 - Fire Magic
Lastiara ran nimbly through the corridor, heat filling the air.
A minotaur chased after her, swinging its axe at her. Its powerful blow ripped her body apart.
As in, the blow ripped Lastiara’s distorted body, leaving nothing.
Obviously, it was Lastiara’s body double. Her main body was running far away, unharmed.
Beside her was Maria, chanting her magic.
“—«Firefly Mirage», «Firefly Phantom»”
Maria, dripping with sweat, once again deployed her newly found magic.
The Lastiara that was ripped apart before was an illusion made of magic constructed by Maria.
«Firefly Mirage» was a magic that refracted light using temperature differences, distorting the sense of perspective. «Firefly Phantom» was a magic that created the illusion of human-shaped flames. The combination of those two types of magic caused the minotaur to miss its attack.
With Maria’s magical aid, Lastiara kept on running around the minotaur without being in danger. As planned, Lastiara was only trying to distract. She would not attempt to turn to attack.
The purpose of the dive that time was a test operation. We had to check Maria’s magic. And we had to wait until she finished building her maximum firepower magic—«Midgard’s Blaze»
Incidentally, I was Maria’s guard. That being said, with Lastiara in front and kiting the enemy and the magic causing mirages here and there, the minotaur’s attack would not reach Maria.
“‘Blazing Will’ ‘Delusions Tottering as One Pleases’—”
Maria was chanting verses I had never heard before. It must’ve been the aria for her magic. She had never done it before. Perhaps Alty had suggested it to her. The more she chanted, the higher the temperature around her seemed to rise.
Then, as the verses reached their end, she unleashed her magic.
“‘Swallow the world’…! —«Midgar’s Blaze»!!”
With those words, Maria’s magic power that had been compressed twice and thrice and more was converted into flames. A pillar of fire rose up from behind Maria, and the flames took the form of a giant snake. The flaming serpent opened its fiery jaws wide as it swam through the air like it was alive.
Feeling the heat of the magic, Lastiara moved away from the minotaur. The minotaur also noticed the flames, but it was too late.
The bull monster braced itself to withstand the magical flames with its sturdy body, and the flaming serpent bit into it mercilessly. The fangs of the flame gouged the minotaur’s flesh, and its long torso wrapped around the monster’s body, constricting it. As it tightened, it scorched the flesh, finally consuming its entire body in a blaze of karmic fire.
The minotaur crumbled after turning into charcoal, screaming in grief. The cinders then faded away, leaving only the magic stone in its wake.
“Haa, haa… How was it, Master…?”
Maria breathed on her shoulder, turning to me for an opinion. That magic must have taken a lot from her. Upon taking a closer look, I noticed that the magic shaved away even her HP—
HP: 82/102, MP: 102/122
My impression of it was just one: Abnormal.
I might say it despite my own abnormal growth, but that was not the kind of magic that could be learned in a short period of time.
It was too strong, and the price was unusual.
Her application of «Firefly» was unusual enough, but that magic, «Midgar’s Blaze», was especially weird.
An abnormal amount of ATK not commensurate for her level… Not to mention, the change in Maria’s physical condition after use. Normally, regardless of how high-leveled the magic was, people wouldn’t lose so much HP just by using it.
I had, indeed, casted magic before at the expense of my maximum HP, but that was different. I didn’t have any MP left at that time, so I had to burn away my maximum HP as an alternative.
However, that «Midgar’s Blaze» magic was consuming her HP even though she still had MP. It was a kind of magic that shaved away HP by design. Even though it didn’t decrease Maria’s maximum HP, the kind of magic that reduced HP just by using it normally was something I had never heard of.
That magic was too peculiar for me, so I turned to Lastiara to ask for help. Lastiara felt my gaze and responded.
“…I’ve never seen that magic either. Also, this is a practice I’ve never heard of before. I can see it as well… this magic consumes not only the MP.”
Lastiara’s answer told me she had the same impression as I did. Hearing that, Maria began to explain her own magic.
“That’s right. The two kinds of magic Alty-san gave me, «Midgar’s Blaze» and «Flame Flamberg», consume both HP and MP. That being said, I will die with a single blow if an enemy’s attack hits me anyway. I don’t need to be concerned about my reduced HP.”
Well, theoretically, it was a sound strategy. If it were a game, a player could choose to sacrifice HP for maximum efficiency.
However, Maria was flesh and blood. She was alive and in the moment.
After releasing the magic, she was actually suffering from some kind sickness. I could see that her HP was decreasing as if she was rushing to her death.
So, I argued.
“Well, that may be true, but… It’s not realistic. From what I can see, it leaves you in poor physical condition. Your concentration and judgment will be impaired and hinder your ability to fight. It will be too late if something irreversible happens. This isn't magic that can be used repeatedly over and over again.”
“My job is to build up my magic in the rear. I am not fighting in the front every time like the two of you, so a slight change in my physical condition won’t affect me. To begin with, the idea of not losing HP in the Labyrinth is too naive.”
Maria took a stab at my argument.
She was right. That made more sense. If I wanted to explore the Labyrinth much more efficiently, that was the right thing to do.
My argument was nothing more than a naivety.
However, I had no intention of backing down. I glared Maria down, and she glared back at me, and that was when Lastiara stepped in between us.
“Christ, Maria has a good point.”
“That she does… but…”
“It’s all right. She’s only up to the lowest minimum standard. Don’t worry, she is nowhere near strong enough to jump into the fray.”
Lastiara coldly laid out her evaluation. Even after seeing the powerful magic Maria had just performed, Lastiara’s assessment was that she was nowhere near enough. In other words, she judged that Maria couldn’t keep up with the battle past the 20th floor.
Maria bit at that.
“Then try me. Let me go to the 21st floor again. My participation will make both of you more efficient in the exploration.”
Maria’s will was firm, and she wanted to fight on the front lines—to which Lastiara readily agreed.
“Yes, of course we will. Soon, we’ll see that you’re still not enough.”
Saying thus, Lastiara proceeded to the 20th floor. She probably intended to take Maria to the 21st floor.
With resolute strides, Maria followed along.
* * *
Translator - Mab
Proofreader - ilafy
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* * *
I didn’t stop her, for I knew what Lastiara was thinking. Maria would come to her senses if she saw it herself. After all, Lastiara and I had seen it, and Maria would come to the same conclusion.
—We got some shots left.
Considering Maria's absolute limits, I repeated the simulation for the retreat fight firmly in my brain. I slowly followed the two of them as I formulated a tactic to get through the upcoming battle unscathed.
We reached the 21st floor and adopted the formation we had planned in advance.
Just like in the test battle on the 19th floor, Lastiara would play the vanguard while Maria would concentrate on magic in the back, and I would be Maria’s guard.
That time, there would probably be enemies who could pass through the wall that was Lastiara. In such a case, I would take Maria, who was concentrating on chanting, under my arm and skedaddle.
With complete trust, Maria said, “I entrust my life to you,” which meant I had to protect her life, as she would focus more on her chanting and less on her surroundings.
As we proceeded, I found an isolated fury with my «Dimension» magic.
We took the most optimal position, readying to snipe. It was a rehash of the coordination I had done with Dia from way before.
The distance to the target was several hundred meters with only one corner between us. Maria’s magic was very maneuverable, so she could at least turn one corner.
I verbally explained to Maria the location of the target and the corridor’s structure and had her cast the magic.
After dialing down her magic power a little, Maria’s flaming serpent pushed its way through the corridor. I kept feeding Maria detailed information that I obtained through «Dimension» so that the flame serpent didn’t miss its target.
And the package was delivered with no problem. As per my instruction, the flame serpent bit into the slow-moving fury, burning it.
However, the monster didn’t die instantly. It let out a desperate scream, trying to summon other monsters. Then the real work began.
“Okay, that’s one down, but it called for other monsters with its voice. Let’s move.”
I reported the result and urged the two to move. Maria was pleased to hear it.
“Haa, haa…! I-I did it…!”
Her breathing, however, was ragged. She lost HP along with her MP, so it was only natural. She was wobbly on her feet. Lastiara looked at her giddily whilst my eyes were cold at such a sight.
And my cold reasoning churned. After a few more encounters, we had to take a position where we could retreat to the 20th floor at a drop of a hat. The outing should never turn serious.
I took Lastiara and Maria and ran to the point where our next scheduled encounter was to begin.
After a few hundred meters, unable to shake off the swarming monsters, we were caught between two furies. Immediately, Maria deployed her «Firefly» magic for support. I was about to use my «Daytime Snow» magic too but stopped when I realized that the heat from Maria’s magic made it difficult to deploy.
Maria opted to chant «Midgar’s Blaze». I left one of the two to Lastiara and tried to stop the other one myself. Of course, I also kept an eye on the whole situation.
The furies were aiming those immediately in front of them, not Maria. However, as Maria’s magic power swelled, the priority in their mind fluctuated. Just as she was about to complete the magic, the furies ignored our attempts to stall them and went for Maria, determined to strike her down.
Maria manifested the flame serpent as we moved, her under my arm. She had it attack the fury that was hot on our heels. The four-armed monkey had no way to avoid the magic, and thus the flame serpent struck it true.
The fury was engulfed in flames and, like the minotaur, struggled to its last breath.
But the flame serpent didn’t stop in its tracks just yet. Maria maintained the spell and let it head for the fury Lastiara was facing.
Maria was sweating profusely. I could see that she was breathing erratically and wringing out all of her concentration. And above all else, I could see through the ‘Display’ that her HP was decreasing.
I approached Lastiara, who was holding the other fury back, and called for her to disengage.
“Lastiara! Magic incoming, duck!”
Lastiara, who had been pulling her hand in the battle waiting for the magic to arrive, was able to distance herself with room to spare.
Right then, Maria’s flame serpent struck. Just like the last three times, the fury vanished after a single blow. With that, the extermination was complete, for the moment. Still in my arms, Maria gazed at the remains of the burned monster with satisfaction.
However, I knew the fury was able to attract even more monsters nearby when I heard its scream. At that rate, we would be surrounded by monsters in exponentially increasing numbers.
I determined the enemies’ positions and calculated the route—a route back to the safety of the 20th floor.
After carefully examining the route we would take, I called out to Lastiara, who was retrieving the magic stone.
“Reinforcements will be here soon! We need to move!”
I started running with Maria in my arms. She declined to keep being in my arms, but I couldn’t possibly let her run around when she was out of breath.
After some progress, we were blocked by three furies. We weren’t surrounded that time, so Lastara and I stood in front while I kept Maria in the back.
I coordinated with Lastiara and fought to keep the furies behind us. Since the corridor was straight and the monsters were in a good position, we finished them without any problem. Maria’s magic also succeeded—a flaming serpent swam through the air from behind us and headed forward.
Since I had «Dimension», I managed to time my withdrawal perfectly. Lastiara, however, had no means to see behind her back, so her timing was a little off.
I regretted not calling out to her. She always managed to move beyond what I ever could imagine, so perhaps I was too confident in thinking she could match the timing without any problem.
The flaming serpent caught one of the furies, but after that, the coordination between me and Lastiara broke down.
One of the furies ran toward Maria, taking advantage of the gap in coordination. I immediately tried to chase after it upon noticing, but another fury stopped me in my tracks.
Lastiara bounced off her feet to intercept, but Maria prevented her.
“It’s okay, Lastiara-san! —‘Rush the Flaming Hour’!!”
Maria let go of the flaming serpent that was restraining one of the furies and began on a different chant. Whilst she was prevented from attacking, Lastiara kept on running to Maria just in case the worst came to worst.
Then Maria finished her chanting and unleashed her next magic.
Flames erupted from Maria’s arm that instantly condensed and took the form of a sword. The flaming sword then gathered even more flames, extending forward to the oncoming fury.
It pierced the fury’s torso in an attempt to burn it alive.
But it lacked firepower. The chanting was short, but it seemed to simply be less powerful magic than «Midgar’s Blaze».
All that remained was the fury I was facing. Lastiara and Maria joined in, and we took care of it safely.
After defeating the three furies, we collected the magic stones.
—Maria, however, couldn’t move an inch more.
“Haak— haak— haak—!!”
She was absolutely out of breath and couldn’t take a single step. I called out to her.
“Maria… let’s return to the 20th floor.”
She couldn’t even say anything back. She wanted to argue, but her disoriented breathing wouldn’t allow her to say a word. She was too physically drained to reply after only three encounters.
I immediately scooped Maria up and headed for the 20th floor with Lastiara.
Maria was still trying to say something, but none of her words reached me faster than we reached the 20th floor.
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