Chapter 20 - Unexpected Battle
I rode the bus back home while deep in thought.
Anna's words continued to go through my mind. This last week, I've been accepting lessons from her in exchange for the promise of helping her deal with her problems. I knew that I didn't exactly have the right context to make a proper decision at the time, but the more I learned about the supernatural world, the more I felt that I was so far out of my depth.
I was literally involved in a political game between two factions of demon lords.
The bus stopped for a moment to drop off another person, and I continued to ponder over my thoughts.
I've been treating things too lightly lately. I never really took the time to actually think about what my life was like now. Some small part of me must still have thought this was all my imagination, and that I would wake up back in my dorm room and realize that this was all a dream.
There's no doubt that I owe Anna a lot for everything she's done these past few days. But if she seriously asked me if I was willing to kill for her sake, I would answer no.
"Maybe it doesn't have to come to that," I muttered to myself. "I'm pretty sure she's just saying the worst-case scenario. Hopefully, we can figure things out without taking drastic measures."
Some instinct screamed at me at that moment, and I finally realized something was wrong. Looking around, it took me a few seconds to realize what that was.
The bus... it wasn't moving.
"Hello?" I stood up from my seat and walked to the front. "Is there a problem? We've been here for the past few minutes."
The driver's seat was empty.
Feeling slightly freaked out now, I peered outside the windows and checked where we were. Other than a few trees and lampposts, there wasn't anyone around. I didn't recognize the street we were in, but I noticed something else strange.
"There aren't any lights," I muttered. "It's already nighttime, yet none of the houses or the lampposts have any lights turned on."
A strange cold feeling passed through me, and it wasn't just my nerves acting up. I cursed as I realized my stupidity, finally realizing what the presence around me was.
"It's a spatial partition!" I was alert as I looked around in anticipation. "Then that means..."
Right at that moment, the entire bus suddenly shook madly, causing me to stagger and fall onto the ground. The lights inside the bus started flickering as something slammed into the side of the bus, causing the entire vehicle to begin rotating onto its side.
I yelped and quickly chanted the only spell I could think of.
"Once again — I hear the song of battle."
The familiar presence wrapped around me, and I felt my body grow stronger from my spell. The bus continued to tumble for several more seconds before it finally stopped as it crashed against something.
I groaned as I felt the pain coming from several areas of my body. Pushing my body up, I stood and clumsily made my way out of the wreckage.
The bus was completely battered, with glass shards and metal bits scattered all around me. The lights sparked dangerously, and I was afraid for a moment that the bus might explode. I noted that even though there weren't any lights around, I was still able to see pretty clearly in the dim lighting. Most likely, it was another aspect of my body strengthening spell that I haven't noticed before.
"Is someone attacking me?" I shook my head to clear my thoughts. "At the very least, I'm involved in something dangerous now. And Anna still hasn't taught me how to escape a spatial partition."
I tried to see if I could spot whatever attacked the bus but found nothing except empty surroundings.
"With me only knowing two spells, the odds really aren't in my favor." I made sure to keep my head on a swivel as I looked around me. "The only time I tried to fight something supernatural was technically when Anna tried to confront me." Even as I spoke, I listened for any strange sounds. "And seeing how that turned out, I'm not looking favorably on my chances of getting out of this."
I heard something rustling and I quickly turned in that direction, only to see that it was nothing but the wind blowing through the branches on a tree.
"Whoever attacked the bus should still be here." I continued to look around trying to spot anything that stood out. "All I know is that it's something big that attacked the bus. So unless they're invisible, it shouldn't be too hard to spot them."
I looked around again to see what was wrong and saw something that didn't look right. My heart froze as I realized why.
The tree I was looking at earlier... its roots were on top of cement.
I quickly looked around the rest of the street and spotted the rest of the trees.
All of them... every single tree on the street had its roots on top of the cement. None of them were attached to any actual ground for their roots to get nutrients.
My face paled as I realized what that meant.
"Okay, I think it's time that I get out of here now."
But right as I said that the sounds of leaves rustling came from behind me. Without thinking, I immediately jumped to the side right as something slammed on top of where I previously stood. I turned my head and found myself facing off against a giant creature who had its arm buried in the ground.
"What the hell... !" I instantly recognized what was attacking me.
It was a treant, a staple monster in most fantasy-themed stories. From what I was able to recall, its name was a combination of the words 'tree' and 'giant' combined. A sentient tree that was capable of destroying a bus and cracking the concrete pavement.
And I was surrounded by an entire group of them.
All around me, the entire street came alive as every tree stood up from their spot and began to converge onto my position. The appearances of each treant were ugly, with deformed human faces pasted onto an assortment of various trees. Each of them was immensely tall, with thick branches and wide trunks.
At this point, I was justifiably terrified. One treant managed to completely total a bus with its attack. I doubted that my barely strengthened body would last against them.
Turning around, I immediately ran as fast as I could. My strengthened body made it so that I was able to run a lot faster than normal, but a glance behind me showed that several of them were already catching up to me.
"Okay, so I'm up against a group of giant tree monsters." I turned a corner and continued to run in that direction. "So what can I do to make sure they don't kill me?"
Well, since they were trees, the fire seemed like a good idea. But with how thick those treants were, it seemed like it would take a long time for them to completely burn. And that was assuming that they felt pain if they were lit on fire. If not, then I would be stuck dealing with flaming giant tree monsters after me.
"Wait, fire!" I quickly recalled the spell that Anna used on me when we first met. "She said something about how the spell was made to destroy magical projections."
I wasn't sure if treants were projections or actual living things, but I figured that magical fire would be a lot better than regular fire.
Turning another corner, my face paled as I realized that it was a dead end. I tried to backtrack, but I realized that I was already surrounded by several treants.
"SKREEE!!!" They continued to give out that shrill cry as they encircled around me. "SKREEEEEEEE!!!"
"This is bad," I said as I felt my back hit the wall. "This is really, really bad!"
Even as I was freaking out, I knew that the only way I was getting out of this was with a fight. Desperately trying to recall the memory of Anna casting the spell, I held out my hand.
...and realized that I was missing one vital thing.
"Fuck!" I felt that the situation warranted a cuss. "I don't have a lighter!"
Didn't Anna say that she needed a lighter to cast that particular spell? I didn't freaking have one!
One of the treants reached where I was and drew back its arm to attack me. I dodged the attack at the last second, but the treant's arm managed to smash the wall, causing rubble to fly in every direction.
"Gwah!" I cried as part of the debris smacked me in the head.
Lying on the ground, I felt a small trickle of blood rolling down the side of my head. My head wasn't thinking straight, and I desperately hoped that I didn't get a concussion. Looking up, I saw the rest of the treants were surrounding me.
Why does it hurt so much
it’s wrong, it’s wrong
"Fine," I slurred as my head tried to concentrate. The memory of the visions I had suddenly came back to me, the strange whispers echoing in my head again. "If I don't... have an... actual fire, I can just... make some... of... my... own..."
it hurts, oh god it hurts
My hands shook as I raised them in the air, and the words came out of my lips without thinking.
"Once again —," I coughed as I felt something in my chest grow warm. "—the flames of agony run wild."
A small spark came from my finger, but I didn't stop there. The words continued to come out of my mouth, even as I felt my magic suddenly change drastically midway through the execution. Some external influence took control from me and continued to change the spell, even as the chant continued to grow longer and longer.
"And with agony, I bare my soul to the world. And to the world, I deliver the truth. And with truth, I deliver my holy message. And my message is but one word—"
Several voices overlapped with my own when I spoke.
The sound of dozens of treants screaming filled the neighborhood. An inferno of black flames suddenly appeared everywhere as it consumed everything in sight.
But none of this mattered to me, as my eyes closed and I allowed myself to fall unconscious.