Chapter 34

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Shots whizzed past. Onerst swiveled his head to avoid the bullet.

It was a precise strike aimed at the forehead. Damn it, Onerst gritted his teeth and stumbled backward.

“Fuck, are you serious? Dare to assassinate the captain within Kalion’s warship? Don’t think you can get away from this, soldier!”

“Get away from what?”

Ivan approached, turning his axe, not hastily narrowing the distance.

He slowly examined the guy’s condition. A mage-warrior. Proficient in swordsmanship.

Most elves don’t wield swords, especially officer ranks.

Elven military officers are all high-ranking nobles, and elven nobles disdain sweating.

However, some of them wield swords. This complicates matters.

Despite the disdain of others, mastering swordsmanship implies significant potential, given the long life of the elf race.

Elves mostly detest close combat, but paradoxically, the best sword user in the world is an elf. She was rumored to be a former mentor to a Hero.

In other words.

Being a sword-wielding mage elf officer made Ivan overwhelmed. Even if he had broken one of his legs in her first raid.

“Elizaveta sent an impressive hunting dog. What’s your name, soldier?”

“Do you think delaying time will benefit you?”

Onerst frowned at Ivan’s words. He’s quick-witted.

He licked his lips briefly.

He couldn’t weave spells recklessly. For those classified as ‘superhuman’, the distance between him and Ivan is less than a step.

They were within each other’s attack range.

After a brief standoff, the elf sighed and shrugged his shoulders.

“Alright. I surrender, soldier!”

“Throw your sword.”

“In your dream, you didn’t guarantee that you would cut my throat right away.”

He wasn’t wrong. But Ivan narrowed his eyes.

The elf surrendering so quickly? Without even fighting properly? Not to mention an officer-level noble?

That’s impossible.

Ivan raised his axe silently. Surrender can be done after neutralizing the threat.

Watching this, Onerst licked his lips.

“Damn. Fine. Take it.”

And he threw the sword with all his might towards Ivan.

-Clang!

As Ivan deflected the flying blade, Onerst was already leaping backward, reaching into his pouch.

Ivan leaped towards Onerst, lowering his stance. No silhouette of a sergeant’s rank was visible beneath the tightly closed uniform.

So, what could come out of there? Pistol, dagger, or explosive magical weapon.

Among them, the possibility of the latter is the highest and the most annoying.

“Lord… Veolgrin!” (Onerst)

“…?” (Ivan)

Why did that man’s name suddenly come up?

Ivan shook off the momentary confusion that overwhelmed him. Now was not the time to ponder such things.

Shouting technical names or calling out prominent figures was generally a foolish tactic.

Ivan pounded the ground and leaped, wielding his axe. There was no time to delicately strike with the axe’s back. He raised the blade straight and brought it down towards Onerst’s forearm.

Facing a suspicious magical device, there was no room for complacency.

-Click.

As expected, what Onerst pulled from his pouch was a small bead-shaped magical device. It had a densely packed violet aura, looking extremely ominous.

Just before Ivan’s axe could split Onerst’s forearm, his thumb firmly pressed the top of the magical device.

And then, a shockwave erupted.

-Kwaaaaaaaah!!

Ivan thought as he was thrown back by the violent shockwave.

Mission failed. Self-destructing.

The mission assigned by Elizaveta was to secure the captain of the warship and the rendezvous site with Alexander.

But who would have expected the captain to press the self-destruct switch out of the blue? How could one anticipate and prepare for that?

Feeling the ringing in his ears from the rough shockwave, Ivan fell into a corner of the corridor.

“Ugh.”

Groans escaped as his lungs squeezed in the impact. However, his complexion remained calm.

Checking the condition of his limbs, ensuring the movements of fingertips and toes were normal, he then dusted off his body.

It was a well-practiced ‘equipment check’ honed through long training. A trained agent’s body is a type of equipment.

“For being caught in close-range explosive, it’s surprisingly intact.”

Ivan thought as he raised his body amidst the aftershocks. The explosion slightly shook his vision. As the ringing in his ears gradually subsided, the sound of sirens echoed again in the corridor.

A good sign. Even his hearing was normal.

“This is unexpected.”

And soon, Ivan stiffened at the sound he heard. A very familiar voice. A voice that shouldn’t be heard here.

In the trembling sight, a distinctive emerald flame.

Burning from below the two eyes, a manifestation of reincarnation.

Even the magical power arrangement was too familiar.

“Seriously… Veolgrin…?” (Ivan)

“Yeah. Why are you here? Were you alive?” (Veolgrin)

The uniform in tatters, the physique and height visible beneath, and even the appearance—all belonged to Onerst. But…

Ivan realized reflexively. This guy’s ‘soul’ had changed.

“Possession?” (Ivan)

“An interesting choice of words. This is called the ‘Soul Transfer Spell.'” (Veolgrin)

Mage of the Hero Party. Fortress Destroyer Veolgrin.

Filled with familiar magical power, a familiar voice, and an all-too-familiar arrogance, one of the greatest mages in existence spoke.

“Where is Alexander, and why are you here?” (Veolgrin)

“…” (Ivan)

Veolgrin appearing in this place was unexpected. After all, it was something that couldn’t be anticipated in the first place.

But more than that, Ivan recalled the nature of this mission.

‘Confirm the connection between Prince Alexander and the elven captain. And gather evidence.’

‘Elven captain… No, this aerial battleship is likely experiencing a malfunction.’

‘Elizaveta designed it so that Prince Alexander would be the only option the captain could choose.’

‘And Veolgrin’s words.’

“Where is Alexander, and why are you here?” In this dry question lay a deep implication, and Ivan furrowed his brow.

Veolgrin had presented a magical device containing the ‘Soul Transfer Spell’ to the captain from the beginning.

Why? To face Alexander.

Then… why?

Because he joined hands with Alexander.

“Was it planned from the beginning?”

“Hmm. Kalion’s aerial battleship is an embodiment of military technology. It’s not likely to malfunction suddenly after only about a fortnight of operation, is it?”

Moreover, this warship had set sail primarily to safely escort Veolgrin’s daughter, Elpheira.

She was one of the strongest elves and the daughter of mage in the Hero Party. Even among the numerous high-ranking nobles in Kalion, she held a unique position.

The ship set sail just a fortnight ago to guard against factors that might threaten her.

Unless someone intentionally caused the malfunction.

A shiver ran down Ivan’s spine at the thought.

“Right. It was to provoke Princess Elizaveta from the beginning. If that little one gets angry, isn’t it obvious that Alexander would come into contact?”

“Why? Why did you stoop to such tricks?”

“Well.”

Veolgrin smirked. Flicking his fingertips to manipulate magical power, he suddenly asked.

“Where does your loyalty lie, agent?”

“To His Majesty the Great.”

“As always. Admirable. If you were going to live, you should have at least paid your respects. Our friendship hasn’t reached that level, huh.”

Ivan listened to Veolgrin’s words and gripped his axe.

Fortunately, his physical abilities were normal. The shockwave that had thrown him back wasn’t an offensive spell in the first place.

Can he win against Veolgrin head-on?

The moment he thought about it, he knew. It’s impossible.

But can Veolgrin exert all his original strength?

Probably not. The sensed magical power amount was nothing compared to the captain’s.

“Oh, planning to fight. Well… you’ve always been like that. ‘Little’ Ivan.”

“Any other choice?”

“Of course. But it doesn’t seem like you would make such a choice. Come on. Let’s see your skills after a long time.”

While the captain’s magical power was more than that of a human, the gap wasn’t despairingly wide.

In other words, it means a difference worth exploring.

However… even if he possesses that level of magical power, if Beolgrin himself is controlling that body, can there really be a chance of victory?

‘No.’

Ivan was well aware of his own limits. It was one of the most crucial virtues of a trained agent.

Since he had to perceive himself as a tool for mission accomplishment, he needed to precisely understand his catalog specifications.

Therefore, Ivan knew that he had no chance. Beolgrin would effortlessly dismantle him with merely half the magical power at that level.

However, however…

The chance of victory was not important.

“Learn a move or two.”

Ivan gripped his axe with deeply sunken eyes.

Victory wasn’t important.

Can it be done or not, that kind of thing was never considered important.

Should it be done? If it should, then somehow, in any situation. Do your best regardless of the circumstances.

As a trained agent, one should fear not failure but giving up.

***

Decisions in the shortest possible moment, and actions as swiftly as possible.

The moment Ivan decided to attack, he threw himself into action. Straight towards Veolgrin.

A sense of dissection, breaking down the moment into microseconds.

A sensation of air resistance hitting the body, slowing down the flow of time itself.

The heightened senses of the ‘Transcendent’ entering at the moment when magical power was forcibly activated by striking it into the nerves.

A fleeting moment of visualizing the instant. This moment was the battlefield of the Transcendents.

In this time where even breathing fragmented, Ivan’s axe flowed through the air like levitating. Smoothly, sharply, but robustly.

-Woooom—!!

Right at the moment when the emerald green magical power was forming.

He had torn away a layer of magic.

He made contact. Beolgrin.

Ivan looked at him, speaking with his eyes, and prepared for the next strike.

At the moment when he stripped away the magic just before completion, considering the time it would take to cast the next spell, Ivan’s axe would undoubtedly be faster.

So, he made contact. In the same position as the giants he had faced in those times.

“Excellent.”

A voice mixed with laughter gently resonated.

-Whoosh—!!

A light resistance blocked his path. Ivan immediately reacted and twisted his waist. Through the gap, five sharp ice spears pierced through.

A speed that surpassed diagonal detection. A completed magic the moment the spell was consciously initiated.

The time from perceiving the moment until Ivan readjusted his stance and raised his axe was still just a moment in the fractionated moment.

However, at the end of that short clash.

“Ha.”

Easily visible, more than forty distinctly structured magics were inscribed in the air.

Veolgrin smiled gently and clapped his hands.

“Show me more. How much have you grown?”

Ivan, realizing this, gritted his teeth and rushed forward.

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