“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.”
— Mark 5:9
“Man, why are you so surprised?”
Seeing me at a loss for words out of amazement, Shig spoke.
“I mean, you, why…”
“We can talk later. We have to do something about these guys first.”
Around half of the mice had been destroyed by everyone’s assault a moment before, but reinforcements seemed to suddenly come out of nowhere. The heck, how many thousands of them are there?
“Mentor, can you give me some fire to work with? Just a single-word one would work.”
“Fire… Is this alright?”
Creating a flame like he asked, Shig suddenly thrust his hand into it.
“That which is red, which is hot, the flame that burns everything. Follow my guidance and become my sword.”
Shig’s hand dragged out the flame. Stroking it with his other hand to form it into a cylindrical shape, he held it and recited an incantation, transforming it into a shape more similar to a sword.
“Here. Yuuko, you help out too.”
“Eh? U-uh, okay.”
Handing the sword to Yuuki, Shig returned to facing the mice.
“Umm… big brother? I-It’d be helpful if you let go of me…?”
“Huh? Oh, s-sorry!”
Realizing that I was still embracing Yuuki, I hurriedly opened my arms.
“I’ll be back.”
Yuuki’s expression quickly grew serious after a final smile at me before running toward the mice.
“Hey Shig, which side of this is the bladed side!?”
“Oh come on it’s fire, just swing it!”
“Even if you tell me that…!”
A mouse jumped up high to attack Yuuki just then, so she swung the sword down on reflex to slice through it. With that, the sword extended straight and far out, gouging through all of the mice it came across and reducing them to ashes.
“Woah, Mentor, your fire’s crazy strong.”
“There’s no way I can use a weapon this dangerous though!?”
It was just for an instant, but seeing that flame extend far into the horizon, Yuuki shouted out almost as a scream.
“You can. That’s a sword made from Mentor’s flame, and you are a Swordsaint.”
But Shig just responded matter-of-factly. Staring at the sword in surprise, Yuuki took a moment before nodding.
“Alright. I’ll leave my back to you… Rin!”
“Yeah yeah here I go~! Big flame, go boooom~!”
Following the merfolk’s energetic incantation, a huge, explosive flame shot from her fingertips.
“Become my spear and eradicate this person!”
Seizing the flame midair, Shig shaped it into a spear like clay before throwing it in one, mighty stroke. It penetrated into the group of mice where it distorted before returning to its original flame-like state and exploding, scattering the mice about in a burst of heat and force.
“You are me, I am you. Howl, run, and travel on, we have work to do—shadow clone!”
The flame creating a stark shadow behind Luka, a number of figures stood up following her incantation. Splitting away from her, they ran on their four legs and collected the mice that had been attempting to escape the flames into one place. Once the pitch-black forms spread their arms open wide, they turned into ten fangs and pierced through the mice.
“It is not like I could allow you to head this way, now could I?”
Violet pointed her supple hands to the mice that were trying to escape the fangs piercing through their ranks. Just as I saw thorns grow along the bramble sprouting from her fingertips pierce into the ground, that bramble sprung up through the ground from under the mice.
“Yep, I got the hang of this thing now!”
Yuuki freely altered the length of her fire sword as she swung it, erasing the existence of any mouse it came across. Standing in the center of a ring of charred corpses, she focused on any of the mice that were aiming for her comrades who were focusing on magically controlling the battle.
Luka controlled their positioning, Rin created opportunities, Shig utilized any chances he saw. Violet filled any gaps that were opened in their defense, while Yuuki backed any of them up.
—It reminded me of how the classroom once was.
“Guess I don’t need to help out, sounds good to me.”
Taking in a deep breath, Nina said such an out-of-place thing.
“Wouldn’t not helping not be not bad?”
“Oh shut up.”
Nina responded, her tone obviously disappointed in my sense of humor.
It wasn’t as though she meant she wasn’t going to do anything. She was treating Amaga, after all. Using magic to heal wounds is excessively difficult. It required both strong magic and highly proficient control, so Nina was pretty much the only person that could use it practically at this point. Even for her, emitting even a tiny flame will be impossible for her for a while after healing as much of Amaga’s wounds as she did.
“Professor Nina, thank you.”
“Yeah yeah, it’s fine so just make sure to protect us, okay?”
Nina just waved her hand in response to Amata lowering his head deeply to her. Amaga, a man who couldn’t move with his legs broken as they were, and Nina, a woman who was out of mana. The mice obviously wouldn’t let such easy prey go.
Amata slashed downward with his stone sword, his head still bowed toward Nina. I didn’t understand what I’d just seen even though it just happened right in front of me. He was skilled for certain, but he must have been exhausted—-and yet that technique was absolutely precise. He truly was fit to carry the Swordsaint name.
Perhaps deciding that the current battle was progressing unfavorably, the white mouse shouted.
“Have you forgotten? We have your brethren as spare food.”
Not liking the sound of that, Shig’s hands stopped moving.
“Correct. If you continue attacking us, we will take all of our spare food and—”
“By spare food, do you mean this?”
A deep, baritone voice contrasted the white mouse’s high, shrill pitch.
Carrying a number of villagers using his four arms, the lizardmen patriarch stood proudly despite the wounds covering his body.
“I cannot say that everyone is safe… but please, Mentor, be at ease.”
Pulling a tray loaded with some sick villagers on it, Luka’s father, Tauro, smiled cheerfully.
“Please show me your wounds. I will treat you.”
With that, Pea Green, the elf, came up and rolled a number of yellowish-green leaves over my legs.
They weren’t the only ones. A lizardmen clan, Luka’s siblings, even a few elves I hadn’t seen before all appeared one after another.
“What do you mean why?”
Elated, Shig responded to my confused mutter.
“I brought them along, obviously!”
“But… how in the world did you do it?”
Now that I think about it, Rin being here’s obviously strange.
I flew almost straight back here from when I left her. There’s no way she could be here now unless she could move as fast as me flying.
“I’ll tell you the secret afterward.”
Shig spoke, then turned toward the white mouse.
“Let’s make a deal.”
“What sort of deal?”
The white mouse responded to Shig.
“The spear lord offered his right eye to obtain wisdom.”
“… What are you talking about?”
Both the mouse and I tilted our heads in puzzlement.
“The merfolk princess offered her voice to obtain legs.”
However, once I heard his following sentence, I realized what was wrong. He wasn’t talking to the mouse.
“I offer two of my arms. They may have no fingers nor elbows, but they are still my prided arms.”
—It was an incantation.
“Give me the power to soar through the sky!”
Shig’s upper arms, the two lacking anything at the elbows and beyond, spread out as they made a cracking noise.
They were wings. Not the feathered wings you’d see on a bird, but more like a bat’s—no.
They were undeniably dragon wings!
Flapping his wings, he danced through the air like an arrow loosed from a bow. Immediately afterward, be thrust into the group of mice and accurately seized the white mouse like a bird of prey.
Given his current appearance, it was probably more suitable to call him a dragonkin than a lizardman.
“So Mentor, what do you want me to do with this guy?”
The white mouse, held by Shig, had already given up and was just staring fixedly at me with its red eyes, not raging or trying to escape at all.
After taking a moment to think, I responded.
“If you answer my questions and promise to no longer make any moves the village, I’ll turn a blind eye.”
“You’re still saying that, after all this…!?”
Placing my hands on Nina’s shoulders to calm her down, I winked at her. She glared at me in obvious dissatisfaction, but she didn’t take it any further. Her expression told me that she wouldn’t hold back if she didn’t agree with what I did next.
“Alright, then now for my questions.”
Seeing the mouse in Shig’s hand nod, I spoke.
“Algernon said that he was the only one able to talk. Is that true?”
“Then are there now rats other than you that can speak?”
It wasn’t lying, probably… rather, the mice couldn’t lie.
That’s the kind of feeling I got from them, at least.
Because lies were things meant to be used for deceiving another person. To deceive someone, you would first need to understand them. Also I’m sure the mice are able to predict our actions to some extent, I doubt they can understand us.
Similar to how we can’t understand their way of thinking.
“After you die, how many mice capable of speech would there be?”
—So that’s how it was.
Hearing the white mouse’s contradictory answer, Nina frowned and spoke in irritation. There were no mice who could talk other than the white mouse, but somehow there would still be a mouse that could talk about it died. Thinking normally, that was off.
However, I was thinking about the possibility of what that meant.
“They’re a colony. They treat themselves as one living thing.”
That’s why they weren’t afraid of death, as well as why they considered there to only be a single mouse capable of speech.
Like how a person didn’t care about haircuts, and like how they only had a single mouth that spoke.
“Even if we killed this white mouse, they would just produce a new white mouse.”
That’s why even if this mouse was unique, it wasn’t the leader.
“That’s why I’m certain… certain that killing the mice here is meaningless.”
If I wanted there to truly be meaning in killing the mice here, I’d have to entirely exterminate them… However, doing that didn’t seem possible.
They weren’t foolish. They’ve almost definitely left a minimum number of themselves at some other location.
Although I don’t know to what extend they are able to do so, they are able to share memories. They analyzed our strength through this battle. With that, they would build up their strength so that they are able to win the next time.
“That’s all I needed to hear. At the very least, I’ll reduce your numbers… so that the day of your counterattack will be as far away as possible.”
I produced a ball of flame and suspended it above the surviving mice.
“You said that you would turn a blind eye.”
“Yeah, I did. There are still a number of you out there somewhere, right? I’ll be turning a blind eye to them.”
To be accurate, I had no choice in the matter. I didn’t know where they were and I had no way to find however many of the small mice there were out there.
The white mouse muttered. It didn’t cry out, nor did it criticize me.
Leaving behind something that sounded more ominous than grudging—the mice burned, leaving behind no traces.