Seeing Raishin throw up blood, Charl sprang to her feet like a bullet.
This wasn’t the time for her to be on the floor. Hugging Sigmund to her chest, she ran to the foot of the tree.
Raishin fell from a height of about two stories. Turning himself in mid-air, he landed on his feet.
“You idiot. Don’t come so close to me.”
Charl was amazed. When Raishin had said he knew martial arts, he wasn’t kidding. An attack like that could have killed a normal person, but he was fine—at least on the surface. Even with his body all beat up, he was able to recover his balance and reduce the impact of the attack.
While a sense of relief swept over Charl, there was another scream from behind.
Turning around, she saw that it was Yaya who was now suspended in mid-air.
Again, there was some kind of chain wrapped around her legs. Most likely it was formed from magic energy; some sort of magic art that produced a chain. Charl had also seen this before, it was used by the morning star wielder.
It was unbelievable. Cannibal Candy could use a multitude of magic arts!
Eliza swung her sword, sending a helpless Yaya crashing to the ground.
It was a heavy blow. Yaya’s body bounced off the stone floor like she was made of rubber.
Yaya’s back was cut in places as fresh blood began to flow out. The wounds weren’t fresh; Eliza’s blow had reopened the earlier ones. Up till now she hadn’t suffered any injuries, but her steel-like defensive power failed to activate this time.
Charl understood two things then. Firstly, Yaya’s resiliency wasn’t due to her body toughness, but it was powered by a magic art. The second thing was Yaya couldn’t activate that magic art if Raishin was in bad condition.
Felix also seemed to have realised as much. With a sadistic grin on his face, he commanded Eliza again. Yaya was lifted into the air once more.
Yaya’s limbs flailed about wildly as she tried to remove the chain— but it was useless.
Because she was hoisted in the air, she had no firm footing.
Cold fear passed over Charl.
It was like she was freezing. Hugging tightly to Sigmund, she shook with despair.
Even if she wanted to help Yaya, Sigmund was grievously wounded… Besides, in her current state, helping would be fatal. Because she was out of it, she wouldn’t be able to focus any magic energy at all.
More importantly though, was the fact that the enemy’s power was excessively strong.
Using multiple magic arts went against the normal laws of Machinart. After a hundred years or so, the secret behind this antique doll created during the Renaissance was finally being revealed.
Its liquid state helped diffuse Yaya’s herculean strength, and its chain nullified Yaya’s speed.
Not only did it possess these two magic arts, but Cannibal Candy had eaten its way through a lot of other automata.
The number of known victims was at least twenty. If all of their magic arts were now Eliza’s, then she’d be more than a match for an army.
At this rate, they would be tortured to death!
“Don’t worry. I’ll end this fight soon.”
Bringing her head up in surprise, she saw Raishin had rose to his feet. Blood was pouring from his body and he was covered in wounds, but there was a sharp glint in his eye. He hadn’t lost his will to fight yet.
“Just stop already! You don’t have to concern yourself with me any longer!”
Before she knew it, Charl was yelling at him.
Raishin turned to look at her with a ‘what are you talking about?’ look on his face. Charl was half sobbing as she said,
“At this rate, you’ll end up dying…!”
However, her desperate entreaty didn’t reach Raishin.
Raishin just snorted, and started walking towards Felix.
“Stop! You want to take part in the Night Party, don’t you!? If you’re tagged as my accomplice, the executive committee—“
“You’re not Cannibal Candy. There’s nothing wrong in helping you.”
“But you can’t prove it! They’ll surely brand you as a related party! And not just the academy, this country, the magic association, everyone… the world will become your enemy.”
“Stop making such a fuss. If that time comes,”
“I’ll just fight against the world if I have to.”
Raishin wasn’t worked up; his stance was open and relaxed.
However, she could see there was an unshakable resolve inside him.
How could he have that attitude— he was actually laughing?
“Why… why are you going so far for my sake…?”
Raishin didn’t answer. He just walked over to Felix.
Even though Yaya was still tied up, Raishin still walked towards him without any hesitation.
Felix nodded to himself, impressed.
“You’re still trying? I see; you really are the person I expected you to be.”
With both arms spread out, Felix spoke heatedly with a serious expression on his face.
“Join me, Raishin. Become my ally and fight alongside me in the Night Party, and I’ll overlook this incident. I’ll even guarantee Charl’s safety. And of course, just like I promised you from the very beginning, I’ll see to it you get an entry qualification—“
“You really like to make swift decisions, don’t you? This time though, I suggest you calmly think through this for once; what do you say?”
“I wouldn’t be your subordinate even if my mother asked me to.”
“… You should honour your parents, you know.”
“Unfortunately, they’re already six feet under.”
“My condolences. It’s still not too late for you to honour them though—”
An extremely wide smile on his face, Felix spoke.
“—in hell. Goodbye, Raishin— give your mother my regards!”
Eliza raised her sword. The chain followed her movement, lifting Yaya high into the air. Yaya’s blood scattered into the surroundings, some of it landing onto Eliza’s face. Ignoring it, Eliza swung her sword downwards.
Her target was Raishin. She was planning to use Yaya as a weapon to smash Raishin.
In an instant, Yaya’s figure suddenly vanished.
There wasn’t any afterimage generated that Charl could see. A split second later, Yaya had reappeared right in front of Eliza, making Charl think Raishin had just about managed to pull something off.
Displaying surprising agility, Raishin sidestepped while controlling Yaya at the same time. As Yaya slammed back down onto the ground, the moment her feet touched the earth, she used her leg strength to sever the chain.
Colossal magic energy poured forth from Raishin’s right hand. As Yaya’s body swelled up with magic energy, she unleashed a violent kick at Eliza. An enormous amount of mass could be felt within her slender leg, giving off a tremendous oppressive pressure.
Eliza pulled back the chain of magic energy, wrapping herself in layers of it as a shield against the kick.
It was a barrier of chains. However, Yaya’s kick had a lot of weight behind it. Easily slicing through the chain like it was made out of cobwebs, she broke through the layers and reached Eliza’s body.
Eliza dodged before the full impact of the kick could hit her. However, she did it by the skin of her teeth. There was a crack in her armour, and a portion of it fell off.
Charl was stunned by what had just transpired.
Why hadn’t Felix made use of Eliza’s liquid state?
“Well, if you think about it, it’s pretty obvious.”
Raishin quietly answered Charl’s doubts.
“The Magic Activity Dissonance Theory has never been disproven.”
Many practitioners had been trying to solve the conundrum of using different types of magic arts simultaneously, but since it had never been achieved, the dissonancy theory was accepted as a fundamental basis for Machinart.
“Taking the enemy’s magic circuit and making it your own— if such a convenient circuit existed back then, then it would be in mass production today to produce abnormally strong weapons. However, that isn’t true. In other words, it isn’t as convenient as it first appears to be.”
Obviously, there must have been some demerit to its usage.
Maybe the conditions to use it were extremely harsh. Or it had a prohibitively high cost to manufacture. Or maybe you had to give up something in exchange..?
“Do I have to spell it out for you? It’s not cost-effective.”
Raishin told her, and Charl finally realised Eliza’s flaw.
“Putting it simply, the magic circuits are disposable. Once they’ve been discarded they can’t be reloaded. There’s also a limit as to how much you can use a circuit. That’s why a large number of circuits have to be amassed.”
It made sense. If the circuits could be reloaded at will without any limit on the number of times it could be used, then there was no need to hoard an excessive amount of circuits. There was also no need to risk getting caught sneaking out every night to commit the murders.
Raishin had contempt in his voice as he continued.
“In preparation for the Night Party, you ate as much as you could. Then you were going to shift the blame onto Charl, and erase her from the competition for ‘being’ Cannibal Candy— that’s despicable, Felix.”
Felix was rendered speechless for a moment.
After that, he laughed lightly as he shook his head.
“Well done, Raishin. Your insight is remarkable, to be able to discern your opponents unique traits in such a short interval. And your powers of perception are keen as well. Your talent is amazing, but now I’m afraid I have to withdraw my earlier offer… you’re too dangerous to be left alive.”
A cruel glint flashed in his eyes.
His brow began to emit sparks of magic energy. There wasn’t as much pride in his expression as there was earlier. His instincts were telling him that this was an opponent he needed to crush using all of his strength.
The battle began anew.
Eliza and Yaya both kicked off the ground at the same time.
Clashing at high speed, the fight moved into close combat.
Eliza used her sword to block Yaya’s fierce kick. At that instant, a wall appeared in front of Eliza. Giving off a metallic gleam, it looked like a specialised magic art used for defence. Yaya’s vision was now blocked, her attack defended against, and for a short moment, her movements were stopped as well.
Felix didn’t hesitate. He discarded the magic art even though it had only been used once, loading a new one.
Blocked by the wall, Yaya landed, only to find the ground beneath her had become as soft as cotton.
Her boots sank in. It looked like he had used a trapping magic art. Her foot stuck, Yaya lost her balance.
Smashing the erected wall, a powerful flash of light shot out from Eliza’s mouth.
It was dazzlingly bright. Raishin and Charl were temporarily blinded.
After their sight had returned—
Yaya’s body was hoisted into the air, just like she had been earlier.
Only this time, the thing that was binding Yaya was a white fog.
A vapour that looked like it had been bleached white was coiled around Yaya, suspending her mid-air.
Eliza was nowhere to be found. If he had to guess, that white fog— was probably Eliza herself!
Yaya struggled and trashed about, but the grip on her didn’t loosen at all.
Her kimono began to melt away, and her beautiful skin was turning red from inflammation.
She was being corroded. It wasn’t any ordinary fog. It looked like some sort of vaporised elixir that acted as a universal solvent.
It was a fluid form that possessed attacking power. Striking straight at Yaya’s weak point, this magic art was both offence and defence at the same time.
Like some kind of automated chess programme, Yaya was slowly being cornered.
The attack itself looked to be painful, as Yaya had a look of anguish on her face as she twisted her body.
“The reasons for my victory are countless. At the point in time when we started this battle, Liz had forty-seven types of magic arts under her control. And you? Just the one. Not only that, your magic art is exceedingly primitive.”
Felix seemed assured that victory was his, ecstatically revelling in it.
“Your magic art however, is magnificent. You harden your automaton’s body to an extreme degree, such that neither fire nor blades can hurt it. However, in the end— it’s just another form of material to be dissolved.”
This was an attack that functioned by destroying things on a molecular level.
The proof of that was that Yaya’s skin was slowly being eaten away.
“This is the White Mist. Originally, I obtained this so I could go up against the Magnus, but—“
With a venomous tone and a laugh filled with evil intent,
“— in exchange for its loss I’ll take your magic art, Raishin. By eating your puppet.”
Yaya continued to writhe in agony. The hairs on Charl’s neck stood on end.
There was nothing she could do, except continue to tremble…
In a cruelly calm voice, Raishin quietly called out to Yaya.
“Kick her ass.”
‘What are you talking about?’ thought Charl surprised, as Yaya drew an arm backwards—
And punched the white fog with all her might.
Felix coldly laughed. A second later, the expression on his face changed totally.
With a dull thud, Eliza was sent flying.
Smashing hard into the ground, she bounced off it. The arc she flew in was quite big as well. Clearly, she wasn’t in a gaseous or liquid state. She was denser, a colloidal viscosity to her form. On top of that, her appearance was like a membrane that had been stretched thin, no droplets of water scattering from her body.
Charl, Felix, and Eliza, who had been hit, couldn’t believe their eyes.
“Hey, Eliza. Where did your armour go?”
At Raishin’s words, Felix stared at Eliza in blank shock.
Her helmet and sword had vanished. Mostly likely, this was because they had also been converted to mist when she transformed.
In other words, the armour that was on her had been reabsorbed into her body now.
Being as bright as he was, Felix immediately understood what had happened just from that.
“Your… automaton’s… fluids…?!”
“Correct. The trick to this was Yaya’s blood.”
Yaya’s toughness was ridiculously strong. That special quality of hers extended to her blood as well.
And Eliza had been absorbing that blood. The mist was basically her internal circuitry.
“Two different types of magic art cannot reside in the same body— this is the fundamental basis of machine physics.”
Magic arts couldn’t function in harmony— two magic arts would interfere with one another, and cause both of them to be unable to produce maximum output. Therefore, Eliza was now unable to fully maintain her fluid form.
Charl stared at Raishin’s back in disbelief.
The current state of affairs was definitely no coincidence. This was what Raishin had been aiming for all along. That would explain why he had been so calm from start to finish.
In that case, thinking back to when the wounds on Yaya had reopened.
That moment when she had been smashed to the ground and had taken damage.
Were all those part of the plan as well?
Charl felt a tremble going down her back.
“Yaya’s magic circuit is simple. I may not have as much talent as you, or be as smart as you… but.”
Raishin thrust his hand forward.
“My partner is the world’s best automaton!”
He put in all the magic energy he had left. Yaya’s body began to glow, shining with some sort of aurora.
Then she charged forward.
It was like a flash of lightning. Yaya sent out shockwaves as she rocketed straight towards the enemy’s bosom.
Eliza’s movements were sluggish. Unable to regulate her body, she found that maintaining a gaseous or liquid state was beyond her control. Felix was caught in two minds over whether he should continue controlling her in her current useless state or switch out her magic circuit for a new one, ending up paralysed with indecision.
At Raishin’s command, Yaya softly drew near to Eliza, her fist making contact with her body.
The sound of an explosion resounded, sending waves undulating across Eliza’s body.
Yaya’s muscles, or her equivalent of muscles, explosively hardened, and with the force of a mortar behind it, screwed her fist into the enemy’s body. With such a fearsome impact, the enemy’s body exploded.
The explosive energy reverberated throughout Eliza’s body, causing the membrane to rupture.
The white fog turned into droplets and scattered in all directions. By now they were merely water droplets, Eliza was unable to gather them or reform her body. Falling to the ground, she was soaked into the earth.
Raishin thought he was hallucinating, but in her last moments, he could have sworn he saw a faint smile on her face.
Letting out a huge sigh, he slowly turned around to face Felix.
Like a hawk that spotted its prey, Raishin centred his gaze onto Felix. Felix was clearly flustered, the look on panic on his face quite unlike him.
“W-what… are you planning on doing?”
His voice was raised and his cheeks twitched. It was undeniable— it was a face filled with fear.
“I am the heir to the Kingsfort family. Any violence towards my being will not be tolerated by the royal family, you know?”
Raishin didn’t react to that, wordlessly drawing closer to Felix.
“Wait. It seems you still don’t understand the situation you’re in. If you do anything to me, the doubt surrounding Charl will never be cleared. You should reconsider your position. Only I can prove your innocence now. As long as you have my word—“
Raishin was still unmoved. He was blatantly ignoring Felix as he continued to walk towards him.
“Wait. Hold on… I said wait, didn’t I!”
Losing control of himself, a half-crazed Felix pulled out a gun.
However, quicker than he could pull out the gun, Raishin had already closed the distance between them. Kicking the gun away, Raishin grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, lifting him bodily into the air.
Then, he buried his fist into Felix’s face with all of his might.
It was a punch strong enough to break his nose. Felix was sent hurling into the air, crashing into a large tree behind him before collapsing into a heap on the ground. It looked like he had fainted.
Looking at his figure slumped over by the tree, Raishin turned to Yaya with a grimace on his face.
“… I’m sorry, Yaya.”
“Why are you apologising?”
“It must hurt. You’re bleeding… and those wounds, I should have…”
“Yaya will quickly recover from all those! The truth is Yaya isn’t injured at all. Raishin’s always the one who’s getting hurt… ever since that time—“
Raishin interrupted her with a hug, pulling her close to his chest.
Letting go of the temporarily ecstatic Yaya, he turned towards Charl.
She was startled. She put more strength into the hand holding onto Sigmund without thinking.
If Raishin realised Sigmund had been severely wounded, then he would realise that he would be able to defeat her easily the way she was now.
However, the first thing Raishin said was—
“I’m sorry, Charl.”
“It’s because I left ‘the great T-Rex’ all by herself that you ended up getting hurt like that too.”
Charl could feel her own expression begin to crumble.
Her tension disappeared almost in an instant, and warmth flooded in like a stream.
Now, she knew. There was someone she could believe in.
Someone who would fight and bleed for her sake.
Someone who believed in her.
Her thoughts and emotions rushed in one after the other, leaving her too overwhelmed to speak.
All she wanted to do at the moment was to hug him and cry. Whether he knew that or not however, Raishin teasingly spoke.
“C’mon, stand up, scary dragon girl. Did your legs give out?”
“Wha… I can stand just fine, you insolent man! I can stand, but…”
She couldn’t look directly at Raishin. With upturned eyes,
“Can’t you… at least give me a hand?”
With a gentle laugh, Raishin extended his hand out.
Staring at his hand, Charl hesitated for about ten seconds.
It was soaked in blood, covered in wounds, uncouth, and barbaric, but nevertheless, it was a warm hand with its palm open to her.
Finally, she reached for it with her own.
Firmly grabbing onto her hand, Raishin pulled Charl to her feet.