Even the knights, who were unfamiliar with the method of boosting mystical powers by consuming spiritual energy, could see the heavy drain that the spell had taken on Lyra. However, there was no doubting that it was effective. The fact that we had been able to see which direction the enemies entered the town from was enough to narrow down the search considerably.
There was a reason why Aurivy had chosen to make Lyra’s spell like that, after all. Spells capable of directly looking through time like that simply… didn’t exist. There was no magic capable of directly interfacing with natural energy in this world, so that method was similarly impossible. As such, people simply don’t plan around possibilities like that. Why plan around something that, as far as you know, can’t ever happen?
Once the vision had ended, Kaneda sent Genevie to investigate the direction where they had come from, searching for any tracks or hidden clues. Meanwhile, Hensworth came over, his eyes filled with concern as he looked at Lyra. “Is she going to be okay?”
I gave a faint nod, my thumb caressing Lyra’s cheek as I smiled and tried to comfort her. “She’ll be great. That spell just takes a lot out of her, it seems.”
Hensworth nodded his understanding, turning to rejoin his men. Although we had a direction to go off of now, the fact that they were exhausted from their trip hadn’t changed. The knights would still need time to rest before they were ready to leave for the fight.
“Any luck?” I glanced towards Kaneda, who was looking towards us with concern in her one free eye.
She hesitated, but nodded her head, keeping her voice low. “Tracks, a lot of them. Clustered together in a large group, with both human and familiar mixed in.”
Looking back towards the resting night, I couldn’t help but sigh. I reached down, lightly flicking Lyra on the forehead. “No more deliberately getting yourself hurt like that.”
Lyra’s eyes went wide, her hands coming up to cover her forehead. Still, she agreed after a brief moment. “O-okay.”
Even if this was only a simulation, it didn’t feel good to see the people I cared about hurting themselves like that. As I thought about that, I stood up, glancing at Griffith with Lyra still in my arms. Do you think you can run?
Not for very far, why? He looked to me curiously, clearly not sure what I had in mind, before giving a slow blink. You aren’t thinking of leaving behind the knights, are you?
It’d be nice if we didn’t have to. But they aren’t fit for battle right now. They ran for too long without rest to get here.
Griffith tilted his head, seeming to think about it for a moment, before nodding. I’m not sure any of us are better off than that, besides Kaneda. And she’s starting to run low on mana.
I’ve got an idea for that. I gave a small smile, before looking at Lyra. “Think you can play the role of priest from now on?”
Lyra nodded her head quietly as I carried her over towards Gracy, putting her next to the dragon’s large claw so that she could lean against it. Afterwards, I moved back to Griffith, sitting against him and closing my eyes in focus. For the upcoming battle, I had to remove some of my existing spells from him, and then create new ones.
I had an idea for how we could do this, but we had to plan it carefully. Currently, the biggest issue was Lyra, who wasn’t able to act easily on her own after having weakened herself as she did. Thankfully, Grace was the best ‘tank’ for her, so it should be able to work itself out as long as she created the proper spells to support a fight from the rear.
Kaneda seemed to understand what I had in mind, calling Genevieve back and focusing with her to both recover mana and likely swap out some of her own spells. Even as an archer, she was without a doubt our best fighter, playing the agile rogue.
Which left me as the typical mage. With that in mind, I had to redesign Griffith’s spells to focus less around enhancing his fighting abilities, and more about becoming a ranged caster. It was an… odd dynamic for a lion, but it’s what needed to be done in this situation.
As I focused on changing the spells, I also did my best to recover what ki I could from when I had healed Griffith. While I wasn’t a fighter by any definition as Slyris, it was still nice to have ki for an emergency.
Roughly an hour later, I saw Lyra giving me a subtle nod, moving to climb up onto Grace’s back. She leaned forward, hugging the dragon’s neck for support. Similarly, Kaneda’s face looked more relaxed as well.
It was impossible to verbally communicate our plan, given that the familiars of the knights would likely have good enough hearing that anything we said would be exposed. Instead, we had to rely on our experiences with each other so far to understand what we had to do.
I slowly stood up, moving with Griffith to approach the knights, waving amiably. “How long until your mounts are ready to ride?”
Hensworth shook his head with a difficult expression. “If we pushed them, we could set off now. But if we did that, those of us using our familiars as mounts wouldn’t be able to participate in the battle. If we’re playing it safe… another two hours, at least.”
I gave a small nod at that, before my robe was suddenly blown forward, causing me to stumble. Hensworth called out in shock, and I turned around as if in surprise. Grace was ‘flying’ up into the air with Lyra on her back, gusts of wind beneath her wings to carry the inexperienced flyer.
Next to her was Genevieve in her giant form, with Kaneda riding on her back. Hensworth rushed past me to call out to them, his other knights jumping to their feet in surprise. Meanwhile, I placed a hand on Griffith’s head and focused. Griffith’s body began glowing, turning into a burst of flame that surrounded my body.
When the flame faded, I was wearing a pair of golden fur boots, thick manes lining the top of them. “I’ll bring them back!” I shouted, flame kicking up around my feet as I gave chase, my speed far greater than what it would normally be.
Naturally, I wasn’t really going to try to convince them to come back. But, I had to at least make the knights feel like I was. Or at the very least, hesitate to immediately give chase.
The three of us rushed in the direction where Kaneda’s scouting had found tracks, allowing her to lead the way. Given our formation, we were not even nearly close enough to be able to communicate with one another, with the two of them flying above and me running below.
It didn’t take long before I was able to catch the traces of the tracks that Kaneda had spotted. Perhaps they were confident that the knights wouldn’t be able to think to look out this area, or they just didn’t have anyone capable of covering up the tracks of so many people. Either way, I was able to see the footprints clustered together, the branches broken and bushes pushed aside in a path ahead.
Given that I couldn’t hear the knights behind me, I had to assume that the plan worked, and that they would not be immediately following. As we kept moving, I saw more paths beginning to branch into the one we were walking on, evidently the rest of the villages from this direction.
Up ahead, Genevieve gave a loud caw, swooping down to dive beneath the treeline. Similarly, Lyra had Grace glide down for a rather rough landing of her own. At that point, it only took me a few seconds to reach where they had landed, a large clearing where multiple paths seemed to converge.
My boots flashed, fire wrapping around my hands as I transferred Griffith to his other new form, a long golden staff. At the head of the staff was a lion’s face, while a slender tail wrapped around the upper portion. Up ahead, I could see both Lyra and Kaneda prepared for battle.
Kaneda had already changed Genevieve into her bow form, while Lyra had similarly changed Grace into a full suit of green scaled armor. There was hardly any exposed skin along her body, with thick leathery wings stretching behind her. On her forehead, chest, and the back of each palm were small, blue orbs of crystal.
She did not give off the image of a priest in any way, shape, or form. And when she saw my questioning gaze, she simply smiled. “Easier to have Grace walk for me, and she won’t fit inside of most structures.”
I had to give a small nod in agreement. Even for a familiar that had only just recently been summoned, Grace was quite large. That was one of the downsides of dragons. This form would also give her the ability to generate spells more easily while we’re on the move.
As I began looking around for where we could go from here, I felt a warm energy from Lyra wrapping around myself, and could see a pale blue glow surrounding all three of us. “Defense against mind-altering spells.” Lyra spoke out. “We don’t want to get hit by whatever hypnotized the villagers.”
“Well, well. That’s quite the annoying spell.” A voice spoke up, causing our eyes to dart off towards one side of the clearing, where a robed figure had suddenly appeared. “An eagle, a lion, and if I am not mistaken, a dragon. You would have been such great additions to our forces.”
He stretched one hand out, and I could see the red scales along his clawed hand. If he had wings, I might have worried that he was a dragon amalgam. Now that would have been a dangerous fight. “Let’s check how well your preparations are, little one.”
A dark pulse of energy swept out from his claw, crashing against the protective fields that Lyra had just finished establishing. I could feel the two energies clashing around my body, and knew that the other two would be doing the same. In the back of my mind, I could hear a faint whisper, but nothing discernible.
Naturally, none of us were going to simply stand by and let him try to mesmerize us. Kaneda lifted her bow, rapidly loosing multiple arrows towards the robed figure while I lifted my staff. Thin fireballs began appearing around my body, before launching forward.
The arrows were the first to arrive, which the man growled, swatting his hand three times to smack them out of the air. As the fireballs neared him, he ducked his body down and moved to the side with surprising agility. However, the fireballs I created were homing, following him as he moved.
He still managed to dodge, kicking up dirt and rocks to impact the fireballs, but not before one of them clipped his robe. As it did, I poured more mana into that fireball, causing it to burst and spread over the man’s body.
With a hiss of pain, he tore the robe off of his body, revealing his slender, serpentine form. His eyes focused on me. “You… I don’t like y-” His words were cut off with a screech, Kaneda having released another arrow while he was distracted, directly into his arm. “Can you not interrupt me while I’m talking!?”
“Sorry, I don’t like those kinds of cliches.” Kaneda said rather bluntly.