In Another World With Just Monika Chapter 101
Experience counted for a lot. There were many who thought magic combat necessarily meant taking your time to think, due to the length of casting chants. Unlike fighting in close combat, you can't just allow your muscle memory and instincts to take over. But one who doesn't practice and get experience could easily become confused and make a major error, or take too long to make a decision and suffer the consequences.
While magic fighters didn't build the same level of reflexes, combat experience still gave lot in the sense of timing, in the flow of battle. There was no other way to acquire this except by good, honest repetition.
But if you don't have that if you only have a month and a half of any real combat experience, the only way to compensate was through sheer viciousness.
Sarah Lanyard grit her teeth as she parried a thrust to her face. She winced some more as the metal of her scepter-wand chilled on contact to a painful level. That glowing cold blade [Chill Saber] was actually more of a rod than a sword, and lacking an edge it should actually have been foolish to fight with it. But the chilling touch would seep through armor, and at full power would lock joints and freeze flesh. It was quite clever a way to make protective metal armor a hindrance, actually.
All it needed was for the magician to completely discard all good sense and charge straight into battle like some naked barbarian lunatic.
"S-so! I didn't expect this, but don't think I'm defenseless! This isn't a magic duel anymore, but that's fine too!" This could only work against other mages, any real weapon fighter would surely be able to knock holes in that defense.
Sarah tried to disengage, but Linze pursued relentlessly with her massively distracting glowing blade. She had six years of experience! She had suffered for this strength, she had cursed her body and swore that she would never be so helpless again. She had nothing more to fear. She was infuriated that a novice could pressure her so, it exposed a certain fault in her own training.
Clack. Clack. Clack.
Staff techniques didn't work quite as well against Linze because her round ice shield blocked return strikes. It was for good reason why sword and shield was the most defensive of all weapon styles, the foundation for ancient Regulus' dominance over the continent.
The humming glow passed in front of her eyes for a moment, and Sarah recalled a different sort of blinding light. Her brain just whiting out with rage and sorrow.
She screamed and cried onto Zorah's embrace. /"It's all my fault!"/ she cried then. /"I shouldn't have been born if this is just what happens milady, I'm sorry. But nobles nobles are!"/
And Zorah replied /"The strong take from the weak. This is the one truth of the world. But a noble is not strong just because he is a noble. To kill unreasonably, to sate one's lusts like an animal, that is not strength. A poisoned, false conception of the world a worm that does not know his place"/
Sarah blinked and smiled as she disengaged. "I see now. So milady intended this to be a lesson for us as much as it was supposed to be about teaching you." She spun her wand-mace around in her hands like a cheerleader's baton and pointed. "Viciousness is fine, but if you don't know your place in the world then you have no stability. You can't stand tall while standing on the mud of f-false conceptions and uncontrolled passions!"
"There is no peace, there is passion," she whispered. "Through passion I gain strength."
"Passion is bright, but it burns out fast! Strength doesn't come from wishing for it hard enough! Know your place in the world and you! Can! Move! Mountainssss!"
Sarah's wand was wrapped inside a metal sheath, with open crystal and wood running up and down the shaft serving as contact points for magic. The head of the magic rod with the magic stones was encased in a heavy blunt mace head with holes in it for the magic to come out.
She smashed the mace-head onto Linze's ice-shield and shattered it, and almost Linze's arm behind that. The only thing that saved the slight, white-haired girl was that her shield was angled to deflect blows instead of blocking hits outright like with a real steel or wood shield.
Then Sarah skipped back and hurriedly chanted "Come, Fire and Water!"
At almost the same time, Linze said "Come, Water-"
"A boiling spray, [Steam Explosion!]"
"Barrier of Eternal Ice, [Ice Wall!]"
Fire was actually not that fast. Water, unlike Wind, had weight and required momentum to move. But combine the two they formed Steam. And Steam was almost impossible to guard against. Unlike Fire, the heat sticks. Unlike Water or Ice, the danger seeps through armor. You could stand quite close to an open flame or a rushing river but a spray of hot steam? Never.
Sarah had aimed down, so that even if Linze hadn't managed to raise an [Ice Wall] in time, at least it would not cause such disfiguring injuries. Her magic repertoire was indeed very similar to an assassination style, and had a lot of spells that made armor useless and could reduce even the strongest unarmored person to a screaming wreck.
Once again the battlefield was covered by a billowing concealing fog.
("The Sith Code? What? Monika the Sith are a bunch of hopeless edgelords with a stupid self-defeating philosophy, why you do dis?")
A glowing red blade lit up through the obscuring hot mist.
("Okay. That is intimidating as hell, I admit.")
Sarah was an experienced adventurer, and fought all manner of beasts and men. She trained with actual combat veterans from the War against Regulus. She thought she'd break so many times but each time she was pushed through, her willpower was not to be dismissed. She had six years of real, hard-won power, yes!
But Linze had inflated standards. Duchess Ellen Ortlinde and the Court Magician Charlotte were far and above normal combat trainers available to House Zenovivi. She often fought to match someone who had practically infinite magic power and the ability to perceive everything happening within his range. She was taught swordplay by a true expert in her craft, and had a sister who was practically a superhero.
She was incredibly squishy compared to everyone else. But that was why everyone was so concerned that she should be able to defend herself in case she was ever caught alone.
One month versus six years, that wasn't fair.
"How how are you so strong? What pains did you go through to get this far?" she breathed out.
It should be nowhere close to enough to narrow the gap.
Except for one thing.
(" I admit that I should not have looked down on your girls. What sort of tragedy lies behind that sweet face? What elevates these commoners from the ranks of the mundane into the realm of heroes? If you say it is mere accident of inborn power, then know you support the lineage of the nobility.")
("What, do you think heroes are only born from suffering? Heroes are born from /need/. I know many heroes. Most of them are /dead/ without achieving victory.")
The only thing necessary for success was mental toughness. It was simple instinct in a human being to avoid pain and boredom.
There was only one real way of training magic power, and that was to cast spells until you're dry and on the verge of falling unconscious. Just like muscle developes by microtearing and rehealing with more mass, tougher and stronger, so did one's internal power increase the more you dig into your reserves.
The problem that kept most people from leaving their weak magic affinities as almost useless cantrips was that unlike muscle training which you could train daily, waiting for your magic power to refill involves hours of sleeping it off. You could literally spend hours in combat drills, but magic training could see you run dry in under an hour and be useless for the rest of the day.
You could slowly increase your magic reserves by only partially draining your magic power, which would refill faster with your stamina, but only truly getting the Mind Down status could you improve casting power by leaps and bounds. This was the main reason real mages were so rare in a world where many people could develop some form of magic power. Physical training, learning a trade, or the use of weapons, simply paid off faster than the slow burn of developing magic power. Only nobles or those with time to spare from working could afford magic training.
The reason why Charlotte was an ungodly powerful and skilled mage was that she was made to train to exhaustion, but then her teacher could [Transfer] her magic power into her young apprentice and order her to keep going over and over again until finally the girl would collapse from mental fatigue.
Linze did not have such draconian training. But she did also have access to infinite magic reserves, and she could drain her reserves dry, get healed, and keep going for as long as she could hold out. She could keep training for every waking moment, because Monika was monitoring her and Monika didn't need to sleep at all.
Yet even this only allowed Linze to match the magic power of a more experienced adventurer.
"Earth entwine, Ground binding spell, [Earth Bind]!"
"Ice entangle, Freezing curse, [Ice Bind!]"
Their spells met in the middle, creating this mass of frozen ice around a spire of rock like a half-melted popsicle. Sarah backed off to prepare another spell, while Linze moved to attack.
"Earth come, Blasting ground, [Stone Bullet!]"
"Flame burn, Breath of inceneration, [Fire Breath!]"
Sarah yelped and backed off again. While her [Stone Bullet] easily went through the obscuring fire, Linze just leaned away from being hit. Elze liked to throw rocks at high speed. This was nothing unusual at all.
"Are you really this strong just looking for a man? That that makes no sense!" Sarah hissed. She gasped for breath, while Linze was just as fatigued and should have been more under pressure since she was spending magic keeping her [Chill Saber] active. "If you're this strong, at least use it for a good cause, like Justice!"
Linze exhaled and gave a sad smile. "The difference between you and me is that I'm weak. I know I'm weak. You were lifted up by a strong person and made strong. But I don't need strength for justice I need strength to protect those I care about. Will care about."
Linze put her left hand over her womb and thinned her lips. Sith were supposed to give everything up for power, but that was just as stupid a horseshoe similarity(1) with the Jedi foregoing attachment. Sith should just be as willing to get insanely intensely attached to people, it was just as valid a way to fuel their power.
Leaving aside how being insanely intensely attached to a certain person was why and how Monika happily murdered her closest friends and destroyed her world, and ultimately preferred to kill herself and everything in despair.
Sarah was motivated to fight for her mistress in gratitude and never to feel powerless again. She was strong and confident in her own power. But her vengeance had already been sated. She was beautiful and womanly and would be a great wife someday, but she hated her own delectable body.
Linze was fighting for her future. The Duchess Ellen had trained her not as a battlemage but for someone who would fight as the last resort, as a mother who would die in the defense of her own children. There was no ferocity like that of a mother bear in defense of her young.
Between the two, it was Linze who was simply *hungrier* for victory.
Earth magic met fire magic, which moved faster.
Fire magic met water magic, which sapped energy to change states.
Water magic was sliced through by the [Chill Saber].
Explosions and mists rippled through the battlefield, and once again blocked sight. There was only screaming and the humming and brief flashes of a cold light saber in the gloom.
The fog faded away. Linze dropped to one knee in total exhaustion.
Beside her, Sarah lay on the ground shivering and with ice covering her chest, showing that someone had stabbed over heart and had it been a normal blade instead of an ice blade that spread frost over what it touched, she would be dead.
("Oh my. I guess wait. Ten seconds. Aaaand winner! By knockout, it is LINZE SILHOUESKA!")
("Great work, Linze-dono!")
Linze grinned weakly and staggered over to us. I got up off my place at the table and met her halfway. Tired, she collapsed onto my arms. I was amazed at how far she had come since we first met.
"How how was that?" she asked murmured to my chest. "I was it okay? I won was it good? Am I good enough?" She looked so defenseless, and so afraid. Dammit Monika.
"Oh Linze" I cupped her cheeks within my gloved right hand. "You did well. You're very very good. I appreciate you so much, Linze."
"Eheheheh." Linze leaned into my touch like a cat asking to be petted. "I won. I almost can't believe it. I shouldn't have won, it's not fair. I can't believe it am I really this strong? This soon? This feels like a dream."
So much changed within the span of a month and half. She was a very different person from when she started her journey, but that was how a person should grow. She met new people and was influenced by them and influenced them in turn. Without fortuitous encounters, a hero could find all manners of secret treasures and manuals and accumulate power and still be just an empty shell of a human being. More than strength perhaps, it was more powerful to have strong friendships.
I stroked her chin and then suddenly firmed my grip on her jaw. She blinked and looked up, confused but trusting. I tugged and her whole body followed. I leaned down to her ears and whispered in a gravely tone as my thumb traced over her lips, "You have earned today five thousand Player Points."
Gently I slid my thumb into her mouth, pushing open her teeth to no resistance. She sucked her breath in, surprised, and I added in a growling whisper "When you finally work up your nerve, let me know. Come up to my room and I will take you to a world beyond your imagination. You are appreciated, my lovely lovely Linze. One day you will be /loved/."
Linze fainted dead away. Ahaha. Well. This desperate innocence was so cute. I would miss being able to bully Linze this way.
Sarah's own friends carried her off in a fireman's carry and Zorah fussed over her. She glanced towards us and glared hotly. "So it is the first one after all." Zorah hissed at me, seeing Linze limp in my arms. (2)
"Have you ever truly been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and really mess you up," I said and smiled gently in return.
Harmless flirting was one thing, being willing to follow through with fulfilling relationships was another. Linze deserved better from me than just a casual hookup. "But being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage."
Her adventurer guards squeed in delight. "How-how enviaaable!"
"Mistress this is the sort of thing you will never have as long as you don't dare to risk your own dignity."
"T-that's disgusting. What are you saying?! Silence, I order you all to be silent!"
"I wish I was so small and cute. Poor Sarah she looks so cold. She deserves some pampering too."
"Uggh. She has done well, she shouldn't be ashamed of anything." Sarah was saved by finding worthy companions, and Zorah would not abandon her for anything. Winning was a matter of standing up one more time than the world could push you down.
"Playah!" Elze growled at me as she approached to take her sister to safety.
My protective hug on Linze tightened. "What? I'm legally blind but it's not like I can't see the obvious. Monika and I don't keep secrets from each other (unless it would be funny), and we do both strongly appreciate Linze. What, you feeling left out? You want some of this too?"
I waggled my tongue out at her.
She stuck her tongue out at me.
Our faces drew closer as Elze approached to take her sister out from my hands.
Our noses were touching and our tongues were just a little bit away from making contact. Our hot breaths mingled. And yet Mynah palmed her face and sighed "There is nothing romantic about this."
Elze took Linze away. Linze was still off in dreamland but was making strangely ominous giggling sounds.
Which means it was time for YAE versus CYNTHIA, pure swordswoman battle! A meeting of sane people!
(2) See previous chapter