21st Century Archmage - Chapter 26
Chapter 26: Sylphiria
‘Such theatrics~!’ I thought, still feeling the recoil of the wooden sword from hitting bone.
“C-Call the priest! His arm is broken!”
Using sparring as a cover, I delivered a one-sided moral re-education to those half-assed brats who thought they were the rulers of the world just because they were born with silver spoons. Two or three of them would be granted my mighty teachings every week.
Today, I silently raised my sword and “taught” Tedran, who was cowering in fear. The sound of him gulping came loud and clear into my ears.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
“UWAHHHH! P-please spare me!!”
“HOHOHO! Where are you going! You’re mine!”
The poor sop who had been singled out by Hyneth on the first day was beaten half an inch from death again today and was desperately kowtowing into the ground.
“Let’s end the sparring today with this. Those of you who need treatment, go receive it from the priests.”
Because of his own words, the muscleheaded Viscount Atuan was forced to hold the daily sparring sessions. He looked at me with a flummoxed expression, and I nodded to him slightly with thoughts of gratitude, if you could call it that.
‘Ah, I’m all refreshed!’
Hyneth and I would let loose a flurry of beatings every sparring session. Rumors had already spread uncontrollably throughout the academy, so I knew that Hyneth and I were seen as fellow rabid dogs.
But who cared? I was a free spirit who feared no one in this world.
‘I’m going to do it today.’
When all our formal studies were over, we had free time. It was time to go talk to High Summoner Capuin.
“Orabunni, where are you going?”
Having put down the wooden sword, Hyneth had at some point returned to a pure manga protagonist character. I made an awkward smile in response to this extremely two-faced young girl.
“J-just going to study a bit.”
“Ehh, orabunni just studies all day,” pouted Hyneth adorably.
‘Argh, why does your cute body give off the same scent as the King of Martial Arts, Bruce Lee!’
As soon as she held a sword, Hyneth’s eyes would lose all reason. I looked at her huge, blinking eyes and was once again enlightened of God’s impartiality. If a girl as cute as her were to have no faults whatsoever, there would be no shortage of guys going crazy for her.
“Let’s go visit my house together sometime. My father said he was coming to our villa in the capital soon, so let’s go then.”
Thinking about the notoriety of Hyneth’s dad, the current Count Petrin who was a bona-fide battle maniac and a person who would never let go if they bore down on someone, my confidence shriveled up. I was someone who lived tenaciously, but it would definitely hurt if I were bitten by a crazy dog.
“What do you mean, why~ Because you’re the one and only orabunni of me, Hyneth! Hoho. I even told my father about it already, so he should treat you well. You’ll come, right?”
“Of course I will…”
‘I’ll die if I rub him the wrong way, right?’
The count family of Petrins was unrivaled in the continent; if they targeted you, they would chase you down for three generations. The thought of meeting the count gave me a greater feeling of gravity than facing Tedran, the kid of a duke.
“Hoho! Thank you, my beloved orabunni. I want to become someone you will never forget. Forever~”
The word ‘beloved’ came floating into my ears. The coarsest little sister in the world, Hyneth, made a shy face.
“Ha, haha! Okay, let’s always be this friendly in the future.”
‘Dammit, why do I already want to forget this moment. Argh.’
How could I have known? How could I have known that Hyneth, a girl so cute that she could be the nation’s little sister, was actually a hulk sister hiding such wild rage within her blood?
* * *
“You want to know what a spirit feels like?”
“Yes sir, Count Capuin.”
“You’re in the Knight Class, aren’t you. But to have such interest in spirits…”
Count Capuin had told us all to come find him if there was anything we wanted to know about spirits. When I went to the Spirit Tower and told him what I wanted, he looked at me with surprise.
“I want to try summoning a spirit once,” I confessed honestly.
“A spirit? Hahaha! You’re a funny guy. For a knight to want to summon a spirit! That’s the funniest joke I’ve ever heard in my life.”
“Did you not say we could go find you if there was anything we wanted to know about spirits?”
“I did. But most of that was directed to the summoners. It isn’t wholly applicable to normal knights or mages. You’ll be able to find out more than enough about the unique characteristics of spirit attacks through my classes.”
‘Jeez, it won’t even cost you any money, so why are you being so stingy.’
I could feel something like a summoner’s pride from him. After all, summoners worked with their upper danjeon, which was based in the brain. It would be weird if they didn’t have a sense of pride, considering that their brains were sharper than the rest.
“I heard that there is an array in the Spirit Tower where you can summon a spirit. Please allow me the opportunity to meet a spirit,” I said, refusing to give up.
“Haah, young fellow. I know you are skilled enough to have been admitted to the Skyknight Academy, but everyone has their limits. But to insist like this…”
‘Let’s push a little further.’ Unlike the other instructors, Count Capuin was rather good-natured.
“I was taught to be someone who dreams about the future. Please don’t tell me to give up before I have even tried.”
“Hm, alright. If you say that much, then how can I refuse. However, you must pay the price for wasting my time.”
Count Capuin had also given me a warning, but I didn’t even hear it.
A spirit. I was determined to grab it the moment I met one, no matter what I had to do.
* * *
“You want to aim for a contract with a wind spirit, yes?”
“Of course. I want to become a summoner of wind who will be left in the annals of history, like you, Count Capuin.”
“Haha! Empty words they may be, they do sound pleasing to the ear.”
As expected of the Spirit Tower within the empire’s capital— in the basement floor of the tower was a spirit summoning circle about 5 meters in width. The complexity was comparable to a 4th Circle magic array.
“I don’t know how much you know about spirit summoning, but the dimension of the Spirit Realm is more closely related to the Middle Realm, where we live, than the Mana or Celestial Dimensions. The air we breathe and the water we drink and use, fire, wind, and earth, are all infused with spirit power connected to spirits. As products of mother nature, humans are capable of manipulating that spirit power, but having an affinity that allows you to summon a spirit is a separate matter.”
The friendly Count Capuin was truly worlds apart from my prickly master, Bumdalf. He explained in detail the things I had learned in books.
“Along with that affinity, one needs pure mana that can summon a spirit, as well as a summoning array. Of course, the help of a summoner like me is also a necessity.”
“Thank you for your help.” In order to prevent him from backing out, I gave my thanks in advance.
“As long as you aren’t greedy, there won’t be any side effects from the summoning array. Only the magic crystal and spirit crystal will be consumed. Even if you fail, they will be used to forcefully open a path to the Spirit Realm, so they cannot be used again.”
“I knew that would be the case, so I brought the magic and spirit crystals that will be used for the summoning array today. As long as the count is willing to lend me a bit of their strength, there will be nothing to worry about.”
“Hooh, looks like you’re well prepared.”
I was proud to say I had never forgotten something at home during all those school years. I was even called ‘Mr. Preparation’ by the other kids.
“Then, go stand on the spirit circle.”
Seeing my firm determination and thorough preparations, Count Capuin led me to the summoning array.
‘Huhu. Wait for me, spirits!’
“Manage your breathing and focus your mind. Once the summoning array activates, I will use the connection from summoning my spirit to send you to the Spirit Realm.”
This was the reason why you needed a summoner’s help. The summoning array alone could not forcibly open the path to the Spirit Realm; it was only by going through the invisible connection formed when a spirit was summoned that one could travel to the other side.
My heart thumped wildly. Thanks to my master, I was able to do something others could never even dream of– I could get a taste of the sword, magic, and spirits as a three-course menu. The thought that I could gain a new skill today made my heart beat faster and my head grow hot with excitement.
“Even if the Spirit Realm is opened, if you lack the affinity and mana, you won’t be able to make a contract. If you are greedy like a fool, then you will never be able to return from the spirit world, so don’t even think about overdoing it.”
Count Capuin gave me a final warning. I nodded in response.
Then I heard the words I’d been waiting for. “Summon Sylph!” The faint traces of a Sylph appeared above my head. “Activate magic array!”
Then, with a buzzing sound, the magic array was activated.
So this is what it felt to have your soul sucked into a different dimension! A thin ray of light shone from a gap the size of a needle.
It suddenly turned into a huge hole in front of me, and my body was drawn into it as if sucked by a straw.
Count Capuin had lied when he said there would be absolutely no side effects as long as one wasn’t greedy. The feeling of my soul being sucked out was extremely painful. This spirit summoning array should have a warning on it forbidding pregnant people, the old and infirm, and young kids from experiencing it!
As I traveled through the gate opened to the Spirit Realm, I was once again reminded of a fact.
In this world, there was only one person I could trust. Me, myself, and I!
* * *
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* * *
For the first time in my life, I experienced a world of stars.
‘It’s so pure! And clean!’
Previously, I had only read vague descriptions of the spirit world. It was not extraordinarily different from the human world. However, the air was clean without even a single speck of dust and the sky was as blue as it could be. There was also clear water and extremely fresh, green plants and flowers.
‘G-gold! And those are gems!’
In addition, I saw mountains of treasure acting as hills here and there. This world came very close to my idea of paradise.
‘Woah! T-there are fish in the sky?’
A school of fish was swimming in the air. Several birds were playing in the water. This world overturned all laws of physics.
– Will you contract with me?
‘Eh?’ A cute fairy the size of my fist approached me as I floated in the air as if using Fly magic. ‘It’s a Sylph!’
I had seen an intermediate wind spirit, but not the small Sylph. Its characteristics were just as the books had described, and my jaw dropped at the sight of it.
‘It’s really cute!’
This blue pixie that was as small as an adult’s fist wore a cute cone hat made of wind was seriously super adorable.
“Alright, I’ll make my first contract with you.”
– Thank you, my summoner.
‘Hm? It’s different from what they said in books?’
Spirits tended to have rather high pride, so it was unusual for them to seek out a contract on their own initiative. I had also never heard of a spirit thanking the summoner for a contract. The Sylph was acting as if I were its owner.
‘Uhahahaha! This is great!’ Even in the spirit world, my potential was clearly recognized. ‘Let’s make a contract with them all while I’m here. Uhuhu.’
Dozens of Sylphs had gathered around me. I didn’t think I was just imagining their eyes of envy as they stared at the Sylph I had contracted with.
‘Oh! Aren’t those Gnomes!’
My eyes were then drawn to some Gnomes, lower earth spirits. They were flailing their short limbs on the smooth ground and playing in the dirt.
With the force of my will, I naturally moved towards the Gnomes.
– W-will you contract with me!
Upon seeing me, a brown-skinned Gnome who looked like one of the dwarfs from Snow White stopped playing in the dirt and quickly asked me if I wanted to make a contract.
“Of course, I will contract with you.”
– Thank you, my summoner.
‘Oi! Who said it was hard to contract a spirit?!’ I was easily concluding contract after contract.
– Blub blub blub~!
‘Wau! Those little ones are Undines!’
My gaze flitted from spirit to spirit, busily looking at the spirits scattered in all directions. I urgently moved my body towards a group of spirits I saw.
“Young ladies, what do you think? Will one of you contract with me?”
I demonstrated a ‘ladies first’ mannerism and offered a contract to the Undines with blue bodies that were about the same size as 5 year-old kids.
One of the Undines nodded in place of a response.
‘Score!’ Unexpectedly, I was able to secure contracts with three elements. ‘Next is the Salamander!’
My body moved on its own in excitement to a place where flames flowed like water.
* * *
I considered publishing a book called ‘Spirit Summoning was Easier than Studying.’
It was truly far easier than I had expected. After making contracts here and there, I reached a point where I had even concluded contracts with intermediate spirits.
‘Where are the high spirits?’
I wanted to see high spirits, not just lower and intermediate ones. But high spirits were nowhere to be found even in this grand Spirit Realm.
‘If I can, I’d also like to see a Spirit King just once.’
No human had ever laid eyes on a Spirit King before. The Earth Spirit King, Torowell, Fire Spirit King, Ifrit, the Wind Spirit King, Minerva, and the Water Spirit King, Elqueeness. Though I wanted to see one, there were only lower and intermediate spirits around.
‘Should I just go back for today?’
For some reason, I couldn’t help but feel regret. I looked into all directions and licked my chops.
Suddenly, a strand of cold wind blew over.
‘Hm?’ The moment the wisp of wind passed by me, the spirits playing around in my surroundings disappeared as if they were never there. ‘What is this energy?’
I felt a powerful energy around me. My guard went up immediately. Because only my soul had come to the Spirit Realm, I didn’t even have a sword on me.
‘Does magic work here?’
I quickly organized the spells I had memorized in case of danger.
While I was doing so, a second burst of wind came towards me.
And then, there she was, around 10 meters ahead of me.
‘K-Knight?’ Surprisingly enough, a knight wearing transparent silver armor was staring at me with cold eyes. ‘Why is there a knight in the Spirit Realm? And it’s a woman?’
The sight in front of me could not be explained with what I knew of the Spirit Realm. I stared blankly at the female knight who had appeared.
– Who are you?
Her mouth didn’t open, but a clear voice rumbled into my ear like thunder. I thought it might be telepathy, which I had read about in martial arts novels.
“I am a human,” I responded with my habitual snark.
– Human? No. A human cannot possess such strong spiritual affinity and spirit mana. I ask you again. Who are you?
I couldn’t see her face under the helmet, but her voice alone was clearer and purer than any sound I had heard from a woman before.
‘She’s like a character from a game.’
Instead of answering, I looked at the woman knight’s armor. The silver armor inscribed with a shining, unknown script that wasn’t rune language. The light it emitted was shinier than mithril and nobler than gold; it was a truly incredible-looking armor. It looked like armor that would be worn by a boss character in a game.
“May I ask who you are?” I suddenly asked.
– I am one of the 12 Archspirit Guardian Knights of Minerva, Sylphiria.
‘Huh? Wasn’t the archspirit of wind called Sylpheed?’
The books definitely said the wind archspirit was called Sylpheed. But the spirit in front of me had called herself Sylphiria.
‘A spirit does not lie.’ I could only believe her. There was no way a pure spirit would lie. ‘Kya! Her figure is a masterpiece.’
Under her silver armor, Sylphiria’s 175 cm tall body was very slim. My eyes were enlightened from just looking at the beautifully drawn curves of her armor, which was crafted from some mysterious metal.
‘Kang Hyuk… now you’re even like this to a spirit…’
However, I could only shake my head inwardly at these thoughts. Getting called a pervert because of Russell was already enough. How could I possibly give my heart to a spirit, who wasn’t a human?
‘I wonder how her face looks?’
But I couldn’t resist those intrusive thoughts. The silver hair that wisped out of her helmet really induced my curiosity.
“This must be fate, so let us make a contract.”
– Contract? With me?
The higher a spirit’s grade, the greater their intelligence. Sylphiria showed surprise at my sudden words.
“Have you recently contracted with a human?”
‘Makes sense, there are only a few summoners who have contracted with archspirits until now.’
“Are you not curious about the Middle Realm? A person, no, a spirit, cannot just live day after day on clear air alone. Be it the smell of food made by people, the sound of hubbub, the happy sound of beer going down the throat, or the roaring of violent fighting, the Middle Realm is squirming with life and will surely show you a dynamic spectacle. Kyaa, doesn’t the thought of it just make your heart race?”
‘I should become a door-to-door salesman later.’
After getting baited by my master, my hobby was now to bait others. I could tell with a single glance that this archspirit didn’t know the ways of the world. She became my number one target for today.
“When will you have another opportunity? Another human with strong spiritual affinity and mana like me may never appear again. Well, it doesn’t matter if you wish to be buried in this Spirit Realm. How can a person, no, a spirit, who has never visited the Middle Realm say they have lived a satisfying life?”
In terms of appearance, the archspirit of wind, Sylphiria, looked just like a person. As if troubled by my words, the light in her eyes shining from the helmet died down a bit.
‘Let’s finish up.’
If I said this much and she still refused, then that was that. I still had the pride of a man and would not beg.
“Will you contract with me, or will you refuse? It’s about time for me to return…”
– I will.
‘Oh~!! YES~!!’ At Sylphiria’s acquiescence, a huge cheer erupted in my heart. ‘Kyaa! Archspirit, get! No, contracted!’
The moment the world knew about me being an Arch Summoner, I would be treated with utmost reverence. Winning the lottery wouldn’t make me any happier than I was now.
– But the contractor’s mana is insufficient to summon me. If the contractor attempts a forceful summoning, their mana core could explode.
‘Wut, it’s that bad?’
An unexpected restriction appeared. Since I had never summoned a spirit before, I had no idea how much mana would be consumed.
– Become strong. So that you can summon me in the Middle Realm.
“Understood. Then, will you be my contracted spirit from now on, Sylphiria?”
– In accordance with the Covenant made in the Beginning, I, Sylphiria, submit myself to the contractor; this I swear in the name of the Holy God.
The contract with Sylphiria was fundamentally different from the ones I had made with the lower and intermediate spirits. As Sylphiria made her vow, two rays of light descended upon us from the sky, surrounding us in a moment of light before quickly dissipating.
‘So this is a Spirit Covenant.’
Now I remembered— starting from high spirits, there was a different kind of contract, called a Covenant. Through a Covenant, there would be a bond between the summoner and the spirit that could not be broken until the day the summoner drew his or her last breath.
“My name is Kyre. I recognize thee as my spirit, Sylphiria.” I was also compelled to say something more formal.
– Thank you. I thank the Holy God for allowing my first-ever contract with a human to be with you.
‘Feels great, huh?’ Her words made me strangely joyful.
“But I have a request.”
– What is it, contractor of mine?
“If it doesn’t offend you, could you show me your face just once?”
– That is…
Sylphiria hesitated for a moment, looking as troubled as a girl after receiving a proposal.
“If you really don’t want to—”
Even before I could finish my sentence, Sylphiria slowly removed her helmet with her slender fingers.
Sylphiria’s face was exposed under the sun of the glorious Spirit Realm. The sight of her features made my heart stop.
‘Oh, Gods above!’ I was made to call out the Gods in my heart.
Then, while I was still frozen solid with a dumb expression pasted on my face, my soul was sucked back out of the Spirit Realm.