“Auntie?” Vur whispered. His voice cracked and he let out a dry cough. He swept his tongue through his mouth, trying to moisten it. He struggled to get up, but Lindyss poked his forehead with her finger and he fell back down onto the grass.
“Drink,” Lindyss said and placed a goblet against Vur’s lips. His adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he drank the liquid. His belly heated up and his body tingled as a warm feeling rushed through his limbs.
“Thank you,” Vur said. He turned his gaze to Lindyss’ face. Tears formed in the corner of his eyes as he smiled.
“What?” Lindyss asked as her brow creased.
“I’m happy you’re alive,” Vur said as he sat up and hugged her. Lindyss’ body stiffened and she blinked a few times before placing her hand on his back.
“Did you shrink, Auntie?” Vur asked as he broke the embrace and held Lindyss’ shoulders away at arm’s length.
Lindyss snorted and flicked his forehead. “Who shrank? You just grew up,” Lindyss said and brushed his hands off her shoulders. “And don’t call me Auntie anymore. It’s weird hearing it from someone taller than me.”
Vur’s brow wrinkled.
“Grandma?” he asked.
Lindyss smiled at him and a purple fireball appeared in her hand. Grimmy let out a laugh before blowing out the flame in her hand.
“Now now,” Grimmy said as his tail swished, “you shouldn’t injure the patient the moment he wakes up. And you are old enough to be a grandma, you know? It’s just that your personality hasn’t let you get married yet.”
Lindyss threw a thunderbolt at Grimmy’s face. Grimmy ducked and chuckled. “Should you really be throwing spells around with that soul rampaging inside of you?”
Lindyss trembled with a pale face. She clenched her teeth as sweat formed on her brow.
“Are you alright, Aun-, Gra-, Lindyss?” Vur asked as Lindyss glared at him.
“She’s fine,” Grimmy replied. “More importantly, how do you feel?” His eyes twinkled as he stared at Vur.
Vur splayed his fingers in front of his face. “Sore,” Vur said as he looked down at his body, “and hungry.”
“Let’s hunt,” Grimmy said and nodded. “Your ribs are showing. We need to fatten you up a bit.”
Lindyss protested as Grimmy picked her up and placed her on his head. Vur nodded and scrambled up Grimmy’s back.
“Tafel’s gotten really strong, huh?” Tina asked. She sat with four other members of the Swirling Winds at a booth in a restaurant.
One of the members, Ruji, sighed as she slashed apart the crab on top of the table with her sword. “It’s ridiculous. I get that she has ten horns and all, but it’s not fair that she’s so good at swordsmanship too,” Ruji said and shook her head. “She actually beat me in a fight before she left yesterday.”
Delphina pat Ruji’s back. “Doesn’t that just mean you did a good job as a teacher?” she asked as she grabbed a crab leg.
Ruji made a face as she chomped on her food. “I should have been a time mage subclass too,” she said. “I wouldn’t have lost then.”
Another member of the Swirling Winds snorted. “You don’t know how taxing it is to cast time magic,” she said as she ran her fingers through her silver hair. “Tafel can do it to support herself because of her abnormally large mana pool.” She let out a sigh and looked up at the ceiling. “Too bad she didn’t pick it as her main class. I could have taught her so much more.”
“I just never thought the day would come when she would get stronger than me, you know?” Ruji sighed. “She was such a tiny little thing. I wish I had half her determination.”
Tina closed her eyes and rested her cheek on her right hand. She shuddered as she remembered the look in Tafel’s eyes when she told her that a reaper was a strong as Vur.
“What are you thinking of, Tina?” Delphina asked.
Tina’s eyes opened. “That time she asked us to fight against that reaper alone,” Tina said. “How old was she? Thirteen?”
“Yeah,” Ruji said and nodded. “She lost so badly that I thought she was going to give up being an adventurer at that very moment. I know I would’ve.”
“But she decided to stop grouping up with us because she’d get more experience solo,” Tina said. “And now she’s going to challenge a reaper again, three years later.”
“You think Stacy is enough to keep her safe?” Delphina asked.
Tina nodded. “Tafel would notice if we all decided to follow her,” she said as she pulled a clear crystal ball out of her bag, “and Stacy did promise to project the fight to us.”
Tafel took a deep breath as she stood in front of a rusted metal door. She wore a blue, form fitting robe made of spider silk. An orange zweihander was strapped to her back, with black runes pulsating along the surface of the blade. Her horns throbbed with a dim silver glow in time with the runes on her sword.
She stepped forward and pushed open the door. Behind the door was a circular arena bathed in a purple light. In the center of the arena, there was a single sapling with an apple growing from it. Purple barnacles grew along the walls and spectator areas. Different sections of the arena were in various states of decay.
Tafel drew her sword and closed her eyes. Her horns shone with a dark green light as she swung the zweihander horizontally. A shriek echoed through the arena as a blade of wind severed the sapling and left a meter deep gouge in the walls across from her. The floor around the sapling cracked and two sickle shaped blades erupted from a few meters in front of the sapling. The tiles around the sapling bulged and a large praying mantis head appeared. The sapling was attached to its skull like a horn. It let out a shrill cry that made Tafel wince.
The rest of the praying mantis broke through the floor and it rubbed its scythes together as it eyed the demon standing across from it. Tafel’s horns let out a silver light and a rune that resembled a clock’s face appeared underneath the two of them. The clock underneath Tafel spun clockwise, while the clock underneath the reaper spun counterclockwise.
The reaper lunged forward, its two scythes snapping downwards towards Tafel. Tafel grimaced and dashed towards the scythes, twisting her body to avoid them. The reaper’s movements were sluggish, as if it were fighting underwater. Tafel ran to one of the reaper’s legs and swung her sword at its knee joint. An explosion of fire blasted out of the blade once it made contact with the reaper. It flapped its wings and retreated backwards, seemingly unharmed. Multiple wind blades crashed against the same joint before the reaper managed to defend itself with its scythes.
The clock underneath its body flickered as the minute hand made a full rotation. The reaper rubbed its scythes together and stared it Tafel. Tafel raised her zweihander in front of her and stood unmoving as her horns glowed silver. A faint ring of light started to appear beneath both her and the reaper.
A sonic boom resounded as the reaper’s body blurred and reappeared in front of her. One scythe pierced through her abdomen, sinking halfway into the ground behind her. The reaper tilted its head as Tafel’s body disappeared. A loud crack echoed through the arena as an explosion assaulted its knee and the reaper wobbled before falling to the ground.
Tafel grabbed the now severed leg of the reaper and disappeared into the doorway she came from. She slammed the door shut and disappeared again, reappearing a few meters away from the entrance. She shivered as cold sweat rolled down her back. Her breathing was ragged and she sat down, pulling a mana potion out of a bag she left in the corner.
“Isn’t this cheating? The dragon boy would be able to follow you out of that room,” a voice said from behind her.
Tafel whipped her head around and held her sword in front of her body. She relaxed and let out a sigh. “Hi Stacy. Did the rest of them come?” she asked as she lowered the sword to the ground. A clanging sound echoed through the hall as the reaper smashed its claw against the door, piercing it.
Stacy shook her head. “Nope, just me,” she said. “You’re being recorded though, say hello.”
Tafel rolled her eyes before drinking another mana potion. She equipped her sword and her body disappeared again. Stacy shrugged and tiptoed to the door, peering through the crack left behind by the reaper.
A few minutes later, Tafel reappeared with another one of the reaper’s legs. She sat down and pulled out another potion. “This is definitely cheating,” Stacy said and pouted. “Time mages have it so easy.”
Tafel stuck her tongue out at Stacy before disappearing again. Even less time passed before she came back with another leg. “Eventually, I’ll be able to beat it without having to retreat for mana potions,” Tafel said. “But for now, this’ll have to do.”