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Chapter 28 | The Hunt 3

~~*~~

When fighting against another caster, the objective was to deplete the enemy’s mana or to get through their shield or barrier. Using a shield spell that wasn’t formulated correctly could be fatal. When casting a standard shield spell, there had to be a certain custom modulation in the formulation that would personalize the magic circle. Otherwise, every shield spell would be the same and everyone could cast anti-spell to counter.

Anti-spells were the inverted formulation of a spell being casted for the specific purpose of negating its respective spell. Like inverting a fraction. The inverted spell would not activate like a normal spell and affect the universe but it would destroy the magic circle it was targeting by inputting an equal amount of mana. Every spell had only one mathematically correct anti-spell. This was one of two known spell-canceling techniques other than holy magic which targeted mana.

The custom modulation from a standard spell was like a passcode for a person attempting to use anti-spell against someone. Holy magic couldn’t get through a shield spell normally because it deflected magic and incoming objects. Thus, anti-spell could penetrate but only if the enemy knew the modulation of Alisha’s particular shield spell. She was using the shield spell the Alton family used and thus had the same modulation.

Reinold immediately knew who it was and ran towards Alisha who was laying on the ground, motionless. He adjusted his own shield spell modulation just in time to block another shot to Alisha with his own body. He held her close as he positioned himself in cover behind a tree. The shield spell had a unique property in which the shield would extend to the cover and deflect with less mana usage.

Reinold looked at the tree Alisha was hiding behind previously and saw the hole that the bullet created. It was a sniper’s bullet that went straight through multiple trees to get to Alisha. He then heard another loud splitting of the bark before the third round bounced off the tree they were hiding behind.

Now that he changed the modulation, they should be safe for the moment.

“Mister Reinold! Is Madam okay?!” Guide appeared as the light orb and asked frantically. He hovered close to Alisha’s unconscious face.

“I’m not sure,” Reinold said in distraught. Guide saw the slime within the exposed flesh begin to regenerate the meatsuit. She woke up and gasped for air while coughing.

“Alisha!”

“Madam!”

They both called to her. “I’m definitely going to kill them…” Alisha said with a weak sickly voice.

“Alright, but hold off on that. I need to talk to them first,” Reinold spoke gently to soothe her. Alisha still wasn’t amused by his diplomacy suggestion and casted a small spell to levitate her rifle to her. She was still recovering in Reinold’s protective arms as the Inquisitor force approached.

They slowly advanced and ran from cover to cover. They began to take up positions against them. To prevent the enemy from flanking them, Reinold shot a few rounds to the group. A shot went clean through one’s head and they immediately halted while returning fire.

The bark on the other side of the tree was getting shredded by bullets enchanted with piercing magic. One of them was about to fire an explosive round and Reinold met their bullet with his own before the Inquisitor could even react. The shell exploded just as it left the barrel and obliterated the Inquisitor.

Reinold switched the hammer on his revolver to the center barrel and fired at the knights. A large shockwave blew them off their feet and knocked them to the ground.

Alisha was speechless. Reinold was a powerful mage. Generally, casting levels were a measure of casting power for an individual. The levels were exponential so a level three caster could cast a spell, generally, one-hundred times more powerful than a level one caster and ten times more powerful than a level two.

The difference in power between Reinold and herself was so great. When he shot her back then, he was really holding back. Reinold reloaded his revolver quickly with full chambers in a few motions.

The Inquisitors seemed a bit afraid about what to do and ceased their fire. Their leader came forward and Reinold recognized him. The leader spoke in a grandiose tone, “Reinold, why are you lending aid to the Devil Slime?”

“Gale, I’m helping her because she’s not a monster. Your Knights of Order has always been about justice. You know she’s sentient, why are you hunting her? She hasn’t done anything wrong!” He pleaded.

“She was born to this world. That’s more than enough for a reason. As a reincarnated and a monster, she’s an act against the gods.”

Alisha couldn’t understand. How could they possibly know she was reincarnated?

“Reinold, as your friend, I’m giving you the opportunity to save yourself. You’ve been led astray by this demon so I implore you to turn your back against evil and atone for your sins by stepping away.”

Reinold looked at Alisha who was still resting in his arms and wrenching from pain. Her core was damaged and small cracks formed. However, her pain wasn’t debilitating like last time. She looked him, in return, and said through telepathy, “I think we should give him what he wants.”

Reinold got her meaning, “Will you be okay?”

“I’m fine. Go, you meanie.”

Reinold threw his revolver out in the open and came out with his sword underhanded and his palms open.

“Drop your sword!” One of the knights cried.

Alisha responded by firing her automatic rifle through the tree she was hiding behind. The bullets in her magazine were very special because it was made from her slime crystals and had some of her soul essence. So, even after being fired from her clip, the bullet was still under her command. Usually, when a spell needed to be triggered remotely, they needed some kind of mechanism or timer in the magic circle. But not her, she had the Network and her slime.

The bullets she fired were embedded in the trees they were taking cover behind. This acted as suppression fire for Reinold to act, to retrieve his revolver from the ground. Reinold began blocking shots with his sword. His speed was inhuman as he blocked bullets with one hand and fired with the other.

Swords were always enchanted with holy magic to break any magic circle or spell on contact.

As Alisha went back to cover to reload, she activated her fired bullets and the slime within those rounds quickly expanded and pierced through the trees they were using as cover and through their feeble shields. She always wondered why the shield spell was always so easy to break with her spikes.

This was because of her Expanded Space plus Internal Magic. Internal magic had very high mana efficiency and combined with the increased mass concentrated on her crystal spike’s point simply overwhelmed their shield spells and their mana input. It was the same reason why a sword was more effective versus shield spells. They couldn’t deflect something held firm in someone’s hand.

The Inquisitors were dropping like flies so they retreated a bit and erected a barrier. The sniper was still firing as Reinold and Alisha advanced forward. Reinold charged their position with his sword while she focused on the sniper.

Alisha looked through her scope and spotted the sniper quickly. They weren’t attempting to even use cover. The man was just on top of a hill. Alisha fired three shots and those bullets encircled the sniper after just a moment. Since they weren’t aimed at him directly, his shield spell didn’t trigger. The bullets expanded in that instance and exploded into a giant crystal ball of spikes. The shining crystal stars encased the man.

Reinold broke through their barrier and sliced them apart, one by one. He used his revolver to control his enemy’s situation before he was close enough to attack with his sword.

The same trick Alisha used on the sniper didn’t work on Gale. He sliced the bullets apart with his sword and flung them away with holy magic. He knew the situation was dire and went to rush Alisha while he sacrificed the others to Reinold.

Alisha made a sword of her own appear through her Expanded Space and clashed with Gale who brought the whole force of his magic and weight down into the strike. Her mana input into the sword was comparable to his, only that Gale’s mana pool was much smaller.

She felt the mana she was infusing into her sword begin to degrade until something gave way. Gale’s holy magic won and his blade spliced Alisha’s in two, striking her down with a blast of holy magic, into her chest and surrounding area.

Her crystal cracked a bit more. The pain was getting to her as a gash in her chest exposed her soul gem. Reinold made short work of the remaining knights but didn’t know if he could make it to Alisha in time to save her.

But she didn’t need saving.

Suddenly, the ground underneath them sunk and dropped Gale a few stories down into a monster pit within her dungeon. Guide’s golem appeared just in time to catch Alisha before she fell in too.

Gale could never have guessed that he was standing on top of a hidden dungeon this whole time. The mana threads that acted as the supports for the ground beneath him was compromised by his use of area-effect holy magic.

Neither she nor Guide sent mana to alter the ground so Gale couldn’t sense what was coming. He screamed on his way down and landed in the middle of a horde of giant insects. Guide sent his golems to subdue the Inquisitor.

“Have a nice fall!” Alisha shouted through her injuries to the screeching man being mauled. She needed to say this line to feel satisfied even if she earned the collective groans of her past companions.

“Madam, are you okay?” Guide sounded genuinely in distress.

“I’m fine. Was there ever any doubt I won’t be?”

“Yes. There was, Madam. You were facing a level two caster and at a disadvantage. What would I have done if you were injured or killed?”

“Aw. Guide, thanks for the concern.”

Alisha gave Guide a wide smile as Gale’s screaming was finally silenced.

***

Guide’s golem was carrying Alisha back to the dungeon. Reinold and Guide’s orb was following along. Despite the golem’s hard surface, it was handling its mistress with great care. She was dazing off and was trying very hard not to. She spoke aloud, “You know, every time someone has tried to kill me, I fall asleep afterward.”

“You need to sleep to heal the damage to your soul gem,” Guide responded.

“Was that what I needed?” Alisha recalled she didn’t sleep much after she tried to crush her own soul gem.

“Alisha, if you’re tired, you should sleep,” Reinold reassured her and patted her head without resistance. She trusted him with her life today and felt closer to him, more than she could’ve imagined. After he tried to kill her before, she never thought she would change her opinion of him.

“I’m not crying because I’m sad, you know…” Alisha said just before the tears came raining down.

“I know,” Reinold said simply.

“I’m happy. No one in my world would do this for me.”

“Fight off a group of attackers?” Reinold asked sarcastically while still resting his hand on her head.

“No one comforted me like this, not even my own family,” Alisha said it so meekly and seriously that it threw Reinold off his guard. She continued in a voice filled with peace, “Reinold?”

“Y—Yes?” He responded nervously.

“Does your family consider me family?”

Reinold looked confused but answered honestly, “They do and of course, I do too. Why would you ask that?”

“Okay…” Alisha said in a daze as she fell asleep. The sense of resolution and rocking became too comforting for her to stay awake.

“She’s really troublesome,” Reinold said while smiling.

“Yes. But Madam is welcome to be troublesome to me,” said Guide.

***

The loyal dungeon keeper carried his Madam to the dungeon’s entrance along with the human. The human, Reinold, was confused at the scene. No entrance was visible and he couldn’t sense anything out of the ordinary. They arrived at the rocky cliff face overlooking the forest and nearby lake. The cliff and lake were named Anaga according to the maps she copied from Riverside but they were quite different now from the cartographers that explored here charted.

The rock in front of them turned into slime. Guide and his golem entered the rocky slime like a membrane. Reinold was hesitant to enter the goo so Guide welcomed him in with the membrane splitting and creating a hole for him to proceed.

A dungeon was usually a cave system at best. Reinold once saw a Dungeon Master trying to create a dungeon out of wood by chopping the forest down. It didn’t succeed. The underground was a safe but difficult place to build anything.

Alisha’s dungeon tiled every surface and the designs were very sophisticated. It was said that the moon temples took a hundred years to fully tile with the architect’s design. There were probably as many tiles in the catacombs of the dungeon.

But then, Guide led him to somewhere unexpected. They walked into a dead-end and the wall moved to reveal the continuation of the pathway as the corridor rotated.

The path led to the grand atrium of the central hub of the dungeon. Stone and crystal-lined the walls as the rays from the skylight shined, making everything glitter and bright in the right places. The brightness of the skylight betrayed its location as it was under the lake. Water was running down the height of the atrium into the center pool where the water was channeled away to other parts of the dungeon.

A small grass bed was developing from the earth gathered from the water. Guide’s golem sat Alisha on the grass bed and was dismissed. Guide’s soul gem came into view on a pedestal next to a pool of slime.

“Mr. Reinold, what do you think of my Madam’s work?”

“It’s extraordinary.”

“I feel the same, Mr. Reinold. Madam had only found me two weeks ago and my life has already been changed irrevocably.”

Two weeks… That length of time echoed in Reinold’s brain as if it finally recognized how ridiculous the situation was. “It hasn’t been two weeks. It’s been eight days!” Reinold shouted with full force.

“Has it been?”

“To do all of this in eight days is insane! Furthermore, for the past two months, my family and I are hiding the most wanted monster in the Empire in our house! Even the Knights of Order were after her! I killed a squadron of Knights to save her! I fought one of my dear friends and killed his comrades to save her!”

“Do you regret assisting Madam?”

“No! Just let me calm down!”

“It seems my Madam has put you through some undue stress. I’ve been wondering. Mr. Reinold, why have you and your family been so receptive to Madam? You have protected and killed for her.”

“Because it’s the right thing to do. She’s our family. We protect ourselves and face problems together.”

“Why?”

“Just cause. There’s no reason.”

“That’s not rational.”

“I suppose it’s not. But Guide, sometimes things don’t need to be rational.”

Gale was alive and being held in a cell somewhere in the central hub. While Alisha slept, Guide showed Reinold where he was. Walking down the corridor, Reinold saw other rooms filled with equipment and machinery. He recognized some of these machines were for industrial production of metals and chemicals.

Reinold was led into a small room that opened into an improvised jail cell which was simply steel rods acting as the jail bars on the other side of the room. Gale was laying down unconscious and was treated for his injuries by bandages wrapping around his body. His wrists were chained to the wall with cuffs etched with a Restriction spell to prevent him from using his magic.

“Don’t kill him,” Reinold said to Guide.

“…My Madam has ordered me not to until she has interrogated him extensively. What happens afterward is up to Madam, not you.”

“He’s my friend!” Reinold shouted, clearly offended.

“He also tried to kill you and Madam. Is this how you protect you and your ‘family?’ You seem to have a double standard.” Although Guide didn’t recognize it, there was a hint of anger in his voice.

Reinold remained silent and returned with Guide to the atrium. It was night time when Alisha stirred awake. Reinold was reading a book from the dungeon library when Alisha turned to see him sitting next to her.

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