He used Light, a spell from One Circle magic.
With a ball of light floating next to him, the man approaching this way asked,
“Who are you?”
Riley, who had no intention of telling him, brought out the mask from his pocket and put it on.
He focused the mana to his eyes and strengthened his eyesight, increasing the view distance and the width of the field of view. Having looked at the man approaching this way, Riley realized that it was the old mage he ran into last evening at the Main Plaza.
Riley came to the Magic Tower’s basement after hearing stories about it from Nainiae.
Although it was best to not run into anyone, he expected that it would be difficult not to.
From Nainiae, Riley heard about what was going on in the Magic Tower’s basement, and he came to this place to confirm if there were really human experiments taking place here.
Although he couldn’t confirm the human experiments yet, there was something else that he found.
‘To think that they are making narcotics…’
It was a terrifying substance that could make people become dependent on it from using it only once or twice. The substance could destroy the lives of these people because of addiction.
All of this grass piled up here was narcotic.
“What’s this? I was wondering what kind of rat you were…”
Astroa noticed the mask that Riley wore and in reaction, started to have a blood vein bulge on his forehead.
The air in the basement started to shake, and the pile of wooden crates also vibrated even though there wasn’t anyone touching them.
Astroa was about to explode out of anger.
“Why are you so angry?”
After slightly altering his voice with mana, Riley asked Astroa.
Hearing Riley’s easygoing tone of voice, Astroa tightened his fist and took another step forward.
With his glare, Astroa was daring Riley to say one more word.
“Since you sent me a present, all I have done was return your good will, so what’s the problem here?”
Riley was talking about the incident in the Main Plaza where he divided the fireball launched at him from the sky into three pieces and sent one back to Astroa.
“I’m with the kind of personality where I always return the favor in folds, so I paid you back in twofold. I wonder if…you received my ‘gift’ well.”
Riley directed his gaze toward Astroa’s arm.
Judging from how there was a blood stain on the thickly wrapped bandages on his arm, it appeared that Astroa certainly had received the gift that Riley threw at him, although it looked pretty painful.
“Um. It looks like you took it pretty well.”
Astroa glared at Riley as if he was trying to punch a hole through Riley with his gaze, but then his shoulders twitched.
It was because Astroa noticed the narcotics that Riley was holding in his hand.
Riley continued as he shook the pieces of grass he was holding in his hand,
“This is yours, right? Astroa the Grand Mage, sir?”
“This, isn’t this banned in Solia? I’m right, aren’t I?”
Astroa, unable to answer, only gritted his teeth.
Noticing Astroa’s lips twitching, Riley continued on,
“Actually, I came to dig around about something else…but this… I think people will flip out when they hear about this. Don’t you think?”
Riley tossed the pieces of grass he was holding into a wooden crate. As he lightly tapped the crate with the side of his foot, he looked back toward Nainiae and said,
“You know this friend of ours too, don’t you?”
Eventually, having discovered Nainiae’s presence, Astroa’s face turned red as if he was about to tear her apart immediately.
“You bitch… How dare…”
As if she was remembering the times she had to take unknown drugs from him, she was shivering and gradually becoming stiff like a stone. In front of her, Riley stepped in,
“You are the one who abandoned her, and you didn’t even do anything to take care of what came afterwards, so for you to act like this now, aren’t you being a little petty? Aren’t you supposed to be the grand mage of the Magic Tower?”
Riley may be a highly skilled swordsman, but nobody could be gutsier than the gallantry being displayed by this masked man.
In light of Riley casually carrying on a conversation with a grand mage that represents a city, Astroa’s fingers twitched as he asked Riley,
“You runt… Who are you?”
At the same time, as if he just completed a spell by fidgeting his lips earlier, what appeared to be tiny white particles started to form behind him.
It was Snow Flurry, a mid-level ice element attack magic. It was a magic that could cut with its particles in the wind or freeze things solid.
It was also a magic that was difficult to keep in check with a sword.
After intentionally turning his head to look at Nainiae, who was standing behind him, Riley gave the same answer that he heard from her a while ago,
“… I have no reason to explain something like that to you.”
As if he concluded that further inquiries were meaningless, Astroa scrunched his face violently and swung his arm to attack.
To be precise, he tried to.
It was the other arm, the one that didn’t have any bandages wrapped around.
Astroa’s good arm fell to the floor.
A scene very similar to when he chopped off one of the Magic Tower’s associate’s arms on the first floor was recreated.
The problem was that this time it was his very own.
It could have been that it was hard to see because the basement was very dark.
Because it happened literally in the blink of an eye, not just for Astroa, but for Nainiae as well. They were standing like statues with blank faces that had forgotten how to breathe.
“You probably should get that reattached soon.”
While holding the shoulder where his arm was severed, with a pale face, Astroa quickly turned his head to glare at Riley.
‘I let my guard down!’
The Magic Tower’s basement was narrow and had many obstacles.
The thing was, Astroa chose not to use his flame magic, the magic he was proudest of, because he didn’t want to burn the narcotics piled up here.
He thought about how he lost his arm because he let his guard down. He used a simple telekinesis to bring his arm that was lying on the floor and wrapped it in the arm that had bandages on.
And then, he started to glare as if he was about to tear apart and kill Riley.
“If you have the time to glare at me, it would be better spent to do that… Teleport? To the Holy Temple. That is, unless you want to have a hard time attaching your arm back.”
No one had any idea when Riley took out his sword, but he had its flat side tapping on his shoulder. Riley looked around the surrounding for a moment and tapped the ground he was standing on.
“Um? The floor here is relatively weak. Could this spot be the…”
Riley looked toward Nainiae.
Nainiae’s lips were trembling, and she nodded.
In that place…
Underneath that place…
She had to take unknown drugs, and she had that chemical poured on her.
She also lost her two fingers and an eye in that place.
“You, you…! You are just a bitch who will be dead soon. You dare to betray the Magic Tower?!”
Having been found out about his secret laboratory hidden in the basement, Astroa screamed in deafeningly loud voice.
Mana surrounding Astroa vibrated because of his fury, and Nainiae’s shoulders shriveled.
“We gave you an opportunity, and we taught you magic… You dare to stab us in the back?!”
“Dude, we should be the ones to say…”
Riley was stepping in to speak for Nainiae, but he stopped himself from saying more.
It was because, as if she found strength from hearing that she ‘will be dead soon,’ Nainiae worked up the courage to speak.
“That is not true. The man that taught magic to me, who was dying, was the teacher, Mr. Peruda. It was not you.”
Riley’s eyebrows bent slightly.
On the contrary, Astroa’s eyebrows bent rapidly.
“The only things that you gave me were those horrible drugs. If there was one more thing, that would be high expectations.”
As she bit her lips, with difficulty, she continued.
“I am thankful about the fact that you had high expectations for me. I think I was able to withstand the pain because of that… However, now, it is not the case anymore.”
Riley tilted his head to the side.
It was because she was staring at his face intensely as if she was trying to make a hole through it.
Even though he wore a mask.
“That person said that he knows the answer to the question I have been agonizing over.”
Astroa furrowed his eyebrows as if he was trying to say what a nonsense this was.
The tone of his voice was saying he did not understand any of this.
“Being entrusted with expectations and demands from other people, trying my hardest to live up to their expectations and wishes… I want to know…why that is wrong.”
“I want to prove it. Even if it is just once, I want to prove that someone recognized my wholehearted efforts. For this question that I have…the person over there said he knows the answer, and that is why…”
Nainiae slowly lifted her right hand.
A pitch-black-colored lump of light was generated above it, and soon, a dark flame was created.
It was a black fireball that only she could make.
“… do not interfere.”
If she was to fight against Astroa, she was well aware that she could not win.
On her face, which was severely contorted from fear, her awareness was fully shown.
However, in her expression…there was also resolve.
“Do not interfere.”
Nainiae said once again.
Since she was going to die soon, she had no intention to have any regrets or afterthoughts. The resolve on her face spoke those words.
Perhaps it was due to the loss of blood from having his arm cut off, Astroa’s face looked a little paler than before. He turned his head around quickly.
Riley was standing behind him, and in front of him, there was Nainiae holding a black flame on her palm.
The basement was narrow as it was.
He may be a Seven Circles mage, but two on one was not a particularly advantageous condition.
“What you have done here… You will regret it.”
It appeared that Astroa used Teleport. Surrounded by flashing blue lights, just like that, he disappeared from the basement.
“…Why did you do that?”
It looked like she strained herself to use mana when she was in no condition to do so. Nainiae wiped off the black blood leaking out past her lips and asked.
This time, Riley responded to her question,
“What about it?”
After finding the entrance to the secret laboratory, Riley asked back as he went down the spiral stairs with Nainiae.
“Back then just now… If you wanted to kill him, you could have.”
She was asking about Astroa.
She was saying that if Riley was skilled enough to do what he did, he should have just cut off Astroa’s head instead, so she was asking why Riley chose to cut off Astroa’s arm instead.
“The place we are at right now is the Magic Tower’s basement. To put it roughly, instead of tending to his arm, Astroa could have prioritized on exterminating us both and pour down bombardment magic from above.”
No matter how good the boy was at handling a sword, if that happened, he would be buried alive right there on the spot.
“Killing him would be…better for not having any more trouble later on as well.”
It was as Nainiae said.
One could conclude that it would be a difficult choice for Astroa to use bombardment magic considering that the basement was his laboratory or the amount of narcotics stored down there. Still, it was certainly inefficient to allow him to leave the scene with his life.
Despite that fact, Riley still let him live.
The reason for that was,
“…It was because of the big picture.”
There was something that he thought of all along.
In his head, Riley double checked the plan forward and tilted the trailing end of his lips upward.
There were some uncertainties, but there was a chance to watch some entertaining spectacles, spectacles that would be more entertaining than the swordsmanship tournament.
“The big picture?”
As if she couldn’t understand the meaning behind it, she tilted her head sideways.
“It is something like… How do I put this...? Should I say...preparing for a little more comfortable life? Well, it is also to show you in what kind of way you should act to make things work.”
“I don’t have the power like yours. It is impossible.”
Riley was leading the way down the stairs. He turned his head to look at Nainiae, who was following behind him, and said,
“In that case, you really need to learn this.”
“Tell me what it is then?”
Nainiae turned her head toward Riley in a way that she had never done before.
“The trick is standing one step behind everything.”
“Stand one step behind?”
“To say it roughly, unless you are a god that can take care of everything by yourself…just take one step back…and watch what happens.”
Riley turned his head again to hide his facial expression.
“Whether the world comes to an end, a Devil King appears, or no matter what happens…”
Nainiae could not hear the rest of the sentence because Riley’s voice suddenly became quieter. Nainiae came closer to Riley and asked,
“What were you saying just now?”
“Well, I’m saying you should become selfish a little bit. Live toward the direction where you won’t need to step forward. Live toward the direction that will lead to a more comfortable life.”
“You are saying I should stand back a step from everything and live toward the direction that will lead to more comfort without me having to step forward to handle anything… But if I did, I won’t have the opportunity to have someone recognize the hard work and effort I have put in for a cause…won’t I?”
To Nainiae’s question this time, Riley did not answer.
“We are here.”
It was because they reached the end of the spiral stairs, and they arrived at the laboratory right in front of them.
‘I want to prove that someone recognized my wholehearted efforts.’
As he thought about what Nainiae said a while ago, Riley put his hands on the laboratory’s door handle while answering Nainiae’s question in his mind as follows,
‘Being recognized for your efforts… It is an impossible task. People are not particularly interested in efforts of others. Even if they recognized your efforts, they will forget it quickly, and instead…for a much longer time, they will remember you for your mistakes.’