18-23. Mage and Tower
【Note】 Peddler Akindo's real identity is Satou.
『Master is the world's best mage!』
I couldn't stop praising master the first time I witnessed the enormity of his magic.
But master looked back at me with a slightly troubled expression instead.
『You are mistaken, Talbec.』
『I am? But master is the only mage I know who could cast such an amazingly huge magic.』
『The size of magic does not mean much.』
Master patted my head as he said that.
『There is only so much the mana pool of an individual can achieve.』
『And that's why we use the assistance of magic tools and magic circles right?』
『Indeed. Such is the limit of common men.』
I couldn't agree master calling himself an common man, but I couldn't bring myself to say it out loud when I saw acceptance in his eyes.
『A True Mage erects a Tower and rules over Source.』
Afterward, master narrated me tales of [Witch of Illusory Forest]-sama and the master of [Tower of Sages].
Fairy tales-like stories of True Mages who deploy the enormous mana from Source to carry out miracles and--.
"Talbec-san! Are you sleeping in? You have a guest!"
The dozing me was roused up by the lively voice of Machi.
It appears I saw some nostalgic dream, a rarity these days.
I graduated from master's private school around 20 years ago.
I had served many townlords and nobles since then, and I'm now currently exploring Monster Domains around a frontier village in Eluett Marquisette while also working as an apothecary.
"Who's the guest?"
"It's Akindo-san! He's with Pochi-chan and Tama-chan too! We're gonna play big pinwheels together~"
I don't get children toys these days.
I told Machi to take care not to get hurt as she ran off and tidied myself up before going to meet Akindo-san.
Someone who never loaf around aimlessly like him is surely waiting over teas at Village Elder's house.
As I opened the creaking door of my house, a sand-mixed breeze swayed my hair.
"Already this season huh."
This village is located at the southwestern end of Eluett Marquisette, thus sands from the Great Desert get blown over the mountain range before arriving here.
Village Elder's house came into view as I was thinking.
It's far bigger than other houses around, but that's because it's also intended as a gathering hall and a shelter, not due the elder's vanity.
"Hello there, Talbec-san, I've gathered all the Sharman Grass you requested last time."
"Much appreciated, Akindo-san."
In the parlor inside the house, Akindo-san quickly got down to business after greeting.
Around this season, Sharman Grass is in high demand due to its effectiveness against epidemic. You can gather them around these parts as well, but even if all the villagers went to pick them, the amount would have been far from enough.
"These are so fresh, I'd believe it if you told me you just picked them."
"Oh yes, it's a hidden technique of my clan."
I'm curious about this hidden technique that allows this level of freshness, but I'm not one to inquire Akindo-san's trade secret, not when he's gone the trouble to go all the way to this frontier lands.
"Talbec-sensei, will this be enough for the epidemic this year?"
"Ah, elder. Yes, we should be able to get over it without anyone dying this year."
I reassured the elder.
"Once I'm done with the initial processing of Sharman Grass, I'll go gather the rest of the materials and make the medicine."
"Are those mats found in Monster Domains?"
"Yes, those domains are like my backyard."
I replied to the interested Akindo-san.
"Do you mind if I tag along?"
"I don't mind, but Monster Domains are dangerous even with me around to protect you, just you know."
I don't intend to bring this harmless looking person to that den of monsters.
"Oh I'm actually well versed enough in it."
Akindo-san replied back confidently.
"Akindo-san did peddle to this frontier without escorts after all."
Elder supported Akindo-san's assertion.
Goblins and flying monsters could come at you anywhere, even at well maintained highways.
Seeing as he's traveling through such places, he's surely knows a thing or two in combat.
"Got it. There's not much fun to be found there, but I'll be your lead."
"Thank you, Talbec-san."
Evening that day, the elder threw a feast to welcome Akindo-san, all the villagers were seemingly present seeing how loud it was as the feast continued till night.
Looks like our hunters did their best, there are all kinds of meat to go around today.
"Pochi worked really, reaaally hard nodesuyo!"
I caught sight of Akindo-san patting some beastkin kids' heads.
They're the kids he brings along while peddling. Must be the ones playing with big pinwheels thing.
"Talbec-san, you gotta eat up more."
"Thanks, Machi. I'm full already, go on and have them with the other children."
"You sure? Yay! Guys, Talbec-san said we can eat it!"
Machi raised the tray full of meat dish up high and ran off toward other village children.
Children their ages have endless appetite.
"Care for a cup of wine?"
"I shall have one."
I sip the wine the elder brought.
"This is a good wine."
"Akindo-san brought it as a gift."
What a mysterious man. How would he profit when he brought something like this as a gift.
"Akindo-san, show the magic trick! Magic trick!"
"Which one again?"
"The one from last time!"
"Well then, feast your eyes on--"
Akindo-san showed a magic trick using cards.
A trick of hands as if he was using space magic--.
"--It's like magic!"
Machi is right, it's nothing more than a magic trick using skills and tricks.
I couldn't sense traces of mana so it was no magic, just how did he do it anyway. Truly a curious man.
"So so, can you do that too Talbec-san?"
Machi held out the card pack to me with a keen look.
"Oh I can't do much."
At most I could make the cards float around using Force Magic's [Magic String].
Which was enough to entertain the village children as it turned out.
"I see that Talbec-san is a user of Force Magic as well."
"Yes, I studied them under my master."
--The path to magehood may not open to those who are ignorant of the Natural Force of Magic.
Master would always say that.
I specialize in earth magic and alchemy myself, but under master's guidance, I can use up to intermediate level Force magic.
"Akindo-san, here's some snacks and drinks for you."
"I made this dried fish using the recipe you taught me last time, Akindo-san."
The village's young girls flock around Akindo-san.
Since he's apparently a bachelor, these young girls must be aiming for the legal wife status.
Wouldn't want to get in the way of these youngsters, so I'll just make myself scarce and enjoy the good drink with the village folk and discuss crops.
"Sensei, how's it going with the tower thing?"
"Hahaha, well, not too bad."
I scratched my head to reply hunter Gonza.
I have an inferiority complex so his words sting even though he's not aware himself.
"Talbec-san, are you planning to erect a Tower?"
Akindo-san who had escaped the village girls came asking that.
Looks like he's got someone in his hometown already, pretty hard to break down his wall.
"You can rely on me to deliver construction materials if you wish."
Akindo-san said that when I was being indecisive.
"It's still a long away dream."
"Akindo-san, sensei's gonna clear out the Monster Domain and build a tower there, ya see."
"Gonza! You're being rude to Talbec-san!"
"Yeah yeah, my bad, elder."
The elder rebuked Gonza who got a bit out of line while trying to liven things up.
"You must be trying to erect a [Tower of Mage] to rule over Source if it's in a Monster Domain."
"...You know about it?"
Akindo-san nodded to my question.
Like it was obvious.
He must be an accomplished mage, not a peddler.
I talked about [Tower of Mage] with Akindo-san all the way until the feast was over.
"Are those girls going to come along too?"
The morning after, I took some medicine to deceive my hangover headache from drinking too much for once, and then, just when I was about to set out to gather herbs for epidemic cure, Akindo-san along with the beastkin kids showed up.
"Pochi is a pro at gathering nanodesuyo!"
"Tama's gonna help too~?"
The kids struck an unusual pose with grass sickles hanging on their waists.
"These kids are quite strong despite their looks, please don't worry, they won't get in the way."
"If you say so, Akindo-san..."
It's not like this needs to be done right away, and we can always go back when it looks like these kids are in danger.
We got in the mountain trails to Monster Domain before the village children could catch us.
The catkin kid's eyes sparkled before she sprung up to a tree branch and disappearing somewhere, then she came back with a nonchalant look.
"You can't trick Pochi's nose nodesuyo!"
The dogkin kid jumped and disappeared into a bush with a triumphant look on her face, then she came back looking satisfied.
The one commonality is that there were death cries of monsters, and smells of blood.
"Did they perhaps, those incoming monsters?"
"Yes, these girls are very skilled at it."
When I vaguely asked Akindo-san, a reply beyond my imagination came back.
The monsters around here may not be that strong, but they're still far beyond even ordinary soldiers. Beating them down unharmed and at speed like it was done in one blow is a feat only skilled knight commanders could achieve.
Looks like these kids are the secret behind Akindo-san's outings to frontier lands without escorts.
"Cluster plot nanodesu!"
The kids happily jumped up and down as we arrived at the herb cluster.
They're pretty good to recognize those herbs in one glance.
"Collect Haime Grass roots, and Rimon Mushrooms that lack small red flecks."
"Aye aye sir~?"
Most herbs are usable wholly, but these two types need special attention lest you ruin them.
"All the herbs here are of high quality, it must be thanks to the abundance of mana here."
"...You can tell?"
I couldn't hide my surprise at Akindo-san's nonchalant speech.
"You mean about mana?"
Humans rarely can tell such.
"It's kind of like a special skill unique to our clan. I've come across places like this sometimes in my travel."
Akindo-san spoke, "These are called [Spirit Clusters] and [Monster Clusters] right?" like they're just everyday matters.
Calling small Sources with those names are something only a tiny portion of mages know.
No, I suppose someone who knows Source like Akindo-san would know that too.
Yes, this place is a Source.
There are multiple Sources like this one in this domain.
There is no point in erecting a Tower in this small weak Source, however.
It's only going to boost mana recovery at most.
Akindo-san called out to me as I got lost in thought.
"Shouldn't we stop the two now?"
Urged by Akindo-san's glance, the two kids have gathered more than enough herbs.
"Yes, that much should be sufficient."
Akindo-san called the two back afterward.
"Pochi worked really, reaaally hard too nodesu!"
"You two did great."
"You can pat Pochi's head more if you want to nodesuyo?"
The two kids squinted happily as Akindo-san patted their heads.
"Thank you, you two. And now we only need to collect Boroboro Grass."
"None here nodesu?"
"Boroboro Grass only grows somewhere where the miasma is thick."
They're Medicinal Plants--or rather Toxic Plants that only grow in Monster Clusters.
The cure for epidemic requires a very tiny dose of it.
"As we'll have to pass by somewhere a bit dangerous, Akindo-san and you two should go back ahead of me, will you?"
"It's in a danger zone?"
"Yes, you have to traverse through a zone where the Domain Lord wanders around."
"Are you going to be all right, Talbec-san?"
"I am, don't worry."
--Running away from it that is.
The dream is to defeat this Domain Lord and gains ownership of the Source it rules over, but it's a mighty monster far beyond the reach of my current power.
Heroes and Founder King would have made a quick work out of it, but even an elaborate plan would fail me against that.
"I should get back in around an hour. If you don't see me back even after that long, please tell elder that there's an incident in the forest."
"Understood. Do keep yourself safe."
Akindo-san and the kids saw me off heading toward my destination.
<TLN: Catch the latest updates and edits at Sousetsuka .com >
"--Kuh, ■...■ Clay Wall."
A yellow ball destroyed the Clay Wall I created.
Looks like a quickly cast elementary class magic can't defend against this thing's attacks.
I threw a smoke ball from my pocket and ran past at full speed.
An ear-piercing shriek cleared away the smoke.
A spider monster showed up.
The one who rules over this domain <<Ruin King Spider>>.
I've got the worst luck to encounter this thing right after stepping inside the Monster Cluster.
I don't have Appraisal Skill, but according to legends, this thing should be around level 40-50.
Shiga Eight Swords and the rumored Mythril-class adventurers should be able to repulse this thing, but not me in my wildest dream.
The best I could hope for is throwing a smoke ball and run as fast as I could.
I put my hand in my pocket as I ridiculed myself.
--It's not here.
I dug deeper inside my pocket and found a hole.
Looks like my last ray of hope, the smoke ball was dropped out of the hole.
"...I'm done for."
There's no way to escape this thing without smoke balls.
I have two choice here, sink or swim cast my most powerful magic, or give up and let myself be eaten.
Betting on living on, I start chanting magic while running.
I'm losing my breath.
No, gotta concentrate on continuing my spell.
I desperately piece together the spell even while stumbling on a root.
Just a bit more--.
A roar sounding close by.
I made it.
And the activation spell--.
--I turned around to aim and was presented with the gigantic head of the monster occupying my entire vision.
The venom dripping down its fangs look like a drool for its prey.
Death is coming fast at me.
Then I'll at least carve this magic I poured my life in on this monster!
I recited the activation spell while a flood of emotions washed over.
An emerald colored crystal pillar growing below the monster's jaw pushed up the monster's head.
After a brief scream, the monster raised up its clawed forelegs high while scattering fluid everywhere.
This is it huh--.
I gave up and closed my eyes, as I waited for the roaring sounds of the down swinging claws--it stopped?
"Magic Edge Twin Fang (Vanquish Fang)~?"
An out of place voice of a kid could be heard as the monster spun around like a top, then I found something running up to it.
Isn't that that Tama kid?
"Finishing move--Magic Blade Charge (Vorpal Lance) nanodesu!"
A ray of red light pierced through the monster's head.
It pierced through that sturdy head my beryl pillar only managed to strike.
As the light subsided, a dogkin kid holding up a magic sword--that kid, Pochi was it.
"Talbec-san, are you hurt anywhere?"
I turned around and found Akindo-san.
What is he doing here?
"The forest was rustling a bit, so."
I almost blurted out, 'you're being reckless', but I could only swallow that word after witnessing the two kids completely demolishing the Domain Lord before my very eyes.
He's no reckless at all.
"You have my gratitude. It's the only reason I'm alive."
"I'm just glad to be of use. Talbec-san is vital to that village after all."
Akindo-san watched over the fight without mentioning how I am in his debt now.
"Evil slaying slash zazan nanodesu!"
The kids took a victory pose atop the dead monster body.
"Pochi, magic core~?"
"That's right nanodesu, Arisa said a hunt isn't over until you're done carving nodesu!"
"Spider's magic core is in the hehead~"
The two vanished into the head, then they got out dripping in fluid while holding up a giant magic core.
"Magic core nanodesu."
"Thank you, both of you."
Akindo-san cleaned up the two and the core with Life Magic.
It's the first time I saw him using Life Magic, quite the skill. Someone this good is employable by townlords and big name nobles for good money.
"Talbec-san, please accept this."
As I stared at the cleaned up magic core, Akindo-san presented it to me.
Were I looking that wanting?
"I cannot. That belongs to those kids' master, which is you."
I'm lying if I said every fiber of my being don't want it though.
"It's a prior investment. With the defeat of Source Lord, Talbec-san should be able to seize the Source and erect a [Tower of Mage] right?"
I affirmed Akindo-san.
That spider isn't the type that forms a group.
The Source should be an unruled zone right now.
"This magic core is an absolute necessity for erecting a Tower. Or have you gotten one already?"
"No, I haven't--I got it. I shall indulge in Akindo-san's kindness."
I shall accept this investment of his.
"Once I'm done erecting the Tower, I'll make any magic potions you wish, Akindo-san."
"Oh I wasn't planning to demand something overt. I merely wished to lend a hand to you, Talbec-san."
I exchanged a solid handshake with Akindo-san and received the magic core.
Even with all the pieces falling together like this, erecting a Tower in a Monster Domain was no simple feat, it took three years to build a tower that attracts people.
Meanwhile, the world underwent a drastic upheaval, and I only found out about it long after it was all over.
I am Talbec, a lord who rules over a Source, one of True Mages.
Now that I've attained unlimited mana beyond human's capacity, I spend my days as a guardian of this frontier land, protecting humans from the threat of monsters and epidemics.
"Sensei! You've got a guest."
"Thank you, Machi."
From now on, I will accept disciples and train the next generation.
"Hello there, Talbec-san."
So I could boast about it to my dear friend.