Chapter 11 The lingering haze


The air is thick with a heavy fog. Most would expect a caravan of people in this kind of fog to be loud, managing their way, yet the only sound stirring is a hundred pairs of feet slowly making their way through the woods. The caravan’s wagons, rather than being organized in a straight line, form a circle. Soldiers, tactfully positioned on the circumference, stand guard watching for anything that stirs in the oblique fog.  

Erwin walks next to a wagon in the center ready for the impending attack. Looking around, he notices his fellow classmates also ready for battle. After the ambush, most of the class feels ashamed for the frenzy they went into, but not this time, they're ready with clenched teeth and weapons in hand. Even though the front line is made up of Bellimere soldiers, who’s stats and experience out class the young students, the students are no war fouls, ready to fight with all their effort

Erwin, even with his new found popularity, still can't fight, so he plans to hang back and provide support in the form of transmutational binding.

"You're not gonna do it. Right?" Ellie asks looking Erwin straight in the eyes.

"Don't worry Ellie, my days of gallantry are over. From now on I'll stay here in the back. I'll leave the fighting to all of you." Erwin responds hands in the air and an innocent enough voice. 

"huh, you now every time you fight you end up in writhing on the floor in blistering pain. But there is something I want to say while we're here-"

Harooh! The war horn echoes in the distance. signaling the sighting of the enemy forces, but Erwin still couldn't see nor hear them. 

"Ellie," he says in a hushed tone, as if the enemy could hear his words, "They'll need you up there."

"Dammit, that's exactly what you say before you get yourself hurt." She whispers back with an accusatory tone. Angry at Erwin’s suggestion that she'd just leave again. "But you're right. If the enemies attacked they'll need a healer. Just, remember, keep your head down." Ellie runs toward the front lines leaving Erwin under the care of several soldiers.

"Haah!" Erwin can hear the grunts of people fighting as well as swords clanking not half a kilometer away. Wait. That doesn't make any sense. Even inexperienced, Erwin knows the strategic advantage of the fog. Why aren't they using long range spells. Is their goal not to kill us? 

Erwin prepares to go into a sprint. No. I shouldn’t be rash. If I can suspect the attacker’s motivation, then Freud probably knows them too. I should focus on what I can do. Erwin climbs on top of the wagon, not even considering the idea of a stray arrow hitting him. With a good lay of the land, He takes note of the attacking force coming from the northeast stretching to the eastern edge of the caravan. He can't identify the exact number of soldiers, only their general shape, but he can't make out the same shape from the south west. A wall on that end, that's how I help. Erwin rushes south east. 

Dammit, they’re coming on this end too. Erwin didn't notice from afar, but several soldiers are sneaking in from the fogs vanishing point. Judging by their light green armor and curved swords, they must be the enemy. Erwin only notices them because he was purposely going to areas with no soldiers. We'll have to route these soldiers before I can build a wall.

Erwin puts on his best Freud impression to call some nearby soldiers, “Men!" The shocked soldiers turn to see Erwin pointing at green armored soldiers trying to sneak in camp. "I'll bind them. You finish them off."

Ewin squats down pressing his hands on the ground focusing his mind on transmuting the soldiers in front of him, Fortunately, he pre-casted transmutation, so the green soldiers have no opportunity to respond. The ground beneath, grows like moss, surrounding their feet making it impossible to dodge. Before they can claw their way out of the dirt shackles a blade comes from their blind spot. Erwin obscures his own vison, the sight of a person dying not 3 meters away isn't something he’s ready to see. 

Erwin, after a moments reprieve, looks back at the battlefield ready to bind more soldiers. But before he even noticed the fog had thickened. He can't make anything out, not the enemies several meters in front of him, not his allies who should have been in spitting distance, he can't even make out the clinging of blades any more, as if sound itself is being smothered by the wretched fog.

In an attempt to make anything out, Erwin squints his eyes, but it seems pointless the fog is designed this. 

"What the hell was that," Erwin whispers to himself sporadically turning his head. Just for a moment, he saw something in his periphery, a shadow maybe. He can't even tell how far it was 5 meters, 10 meters it just blends into the environment, as if it’s one with the fog. Erwin turns frantically trying to look for the shadow. Behind him he sees the shadow again, but now it's starting an approach.

Slowly almost at a walking speed it lurches closer to Erwin. The shadow is now 5 meters away in range of Erwin's transmutation. I'm not taking any chances. Erwin transmutes a set of spikes under the shadow. The spikes rise piercing the shadow at all ends, but rather than piercing the creature the spikes only phases through the shadow. 

"That's not a shadow," Erwin whispers to himself. "It's smog?" It appears to be an amorphous dark smoke simply phasing through the spikes Erwin had created. The fog speed rapidly increases from a brisk walk to a full-blown sprint. Erwin still confused to what he's fighting grasps the knife on his belt.

In a mere moment, the fog is on top of Erwin. Erwin takes a swipe of his blade at the smog monster. Knowing full well of its futility he darts back. The blade went through like nothing was there, he thinks now knowing physical attacks are pointless. Fuck it. I'll blow it to smithereens. He clenches his hands attempting to gather the air around him, but a notable lack of mana in his hands prevent him. Fuck, did I unconsciously disengage the spell when the smog rushed me. 

Erwin realizes he doesn't have the time to chant again. Her runs from the smog trying to put some space between them. However, the smog is far too fast for someone with Erwin’s agility to outrun. He decides to change tactics if it couldn't be outrun maybe it could be blinded.

Erwin reaches into his pockets pulling out the manticores claw and two finger sized plates of adamantium. From his other pocket he pulls a sliver of pyronite he usually used for a lighter. This is not the time for experimentation, but I hardly have a choice. Erwin grips the pyronite in his hands applying an extremely precise amount of mana, little so the pyronite didn't ignite, but enough for it to shine.

Erwin spikes the charged pyronite into the ground directly in front of the fog, which has returned to a walking speed. He grasps the two plates sandwiching the manticore claw in-between and forces as much mana as he can muster into one of the plates.

Erwin's logic goes as follows. Magic weapons work by applying mana to weapons, but the manticore claw didn't conduct mana as much as metal like the adamantium. Any mana Erwin applied would simply dissipate into air before it could charge the claw, so Erwin theorizes he could make a mana capacitor. By taking two parallel plates of adamantium, placing the magic imbued claw between, and applying a magic current to one plate, as the magic moved from one plate to the other the claw would be magically charged by proximity. Fortunately, Erwin's logic is to close enough.

The manticores claw begins to emit a small glow, proving that the spell air claw has activated. Erwin takes the charged claw and swipes it at the pyronite on the ground. A blue slash races from the claw and strikes the pyronite, causing an explosion of blinding light.

Erwin's improvised flash bang appears to work as the smog recoils from the light. This might be my only opportunity. Erwin begins chanting transmutation.

"Please, if only for a mome-"

Before Erwin can even finish the first line of the chant, the smog gather's.  An arm springs out of the smog, and a heavy hand grips his mouth. Erwin couldn’t even let out a scream. Now’s my chance. Thinking that this smog monster is actually the mastermind of the fog, Erwin drives his knife into the smog man's arm. His strength isn't enough to severe a tendon, but the hand's grip loosens, freeing Erwin’s mouth. Erwin, without thinking, attempts to chant once more.

"Please, if only for a moment,

let me enter your re- AAAAHHHH,"

Erwin screams in pain as another hand comes from the smog. This one lunging a dagger into his chest. Dammit I can't let it kill me, Erwin thinks trying to focus his mind through the pain, just need to cut hit him again. Then I can run. His eyes become blurry unable to focus on the smog in front of him, he can feel his knee's becoming weaker. Erwin's consciousness fades as he falls to the floor, hitting with a disparaging thud.



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