As Warren stood before Asley, Viola, watching in the distance, coughed to clear her throat.
“…So What’s your take on this match”
She turned to ask Hornel, seeing that the latter was an acquaintance of Warren’s.
“Asley seems to have the high ground here, of course…”
Hornel stopped for a moment.
Then he closed his eyes as if he was looking back to the past — to the short time they had spent together at the Magic University, and how Warren had been.
He had seen Asley as a goal to surpass, and the same applied to Warren.
Hornel slowly opened his eyes.
“But I still can’t imagine that Warren would lose, for some reason.”
“The Black Emperor of the Resistance… I’ve heard rumors about him, but there’s still this air of strangeness about him that’s quite unlike any other person I’ve ever met.
It’s as if his arcane energy itself is warped…”
Jennifer, listening to the pair’s discussion, let out a chuckle.
“A-apologies if that came off as rude, Miss Jennifer.”
“Nah, no need to worry about it, Viola.
He is my li’l bro, sure, but I do get why you’d feel that way.
Oh, and I’m a wanted fugitive just like him.
Just call me Jennifer.”
“That’s not what I was…”
“Man, you’re as uptight as ever.
Yeah, ol’ Dallas”
Dallas glanced at Jennifer only for a moment.
When Jennifer turned to Dallas, she saw that he was back to staring at Warren as the latter walked on.
And then, he proceeded to quietly say,
“…It’s going to be a very short fight, assuming that Asley intends to win.”
“Yeah, Warren’s probably thinking the same.
It’s almost impossible to fight against that immense power, no matter how hard he strategizes.
Stinky-feet did stand there and take all my hits, but this time… well, he’s not about to let a dude use him as a punching bag, yeah”
While listening to their conversation, Lina and Fuyu also kept an eye on both Asley and Warren’s movements.
Warren kept on walking, while Asley remained in his spot.
The tension in the air was apparent from the contrasting expressions on their faces.
“S-so… are we starting yet”
The one to first lose patience was Asley.
“Yes, go ahead and take a swing.
I’m waiting to see what you’ll do, Asley.”
“You sounding so straightforward makes me feel like you’ve set up a trap, so I don’t really want to…”
“Hehehe, your honesty is very much appreciated.
Asley shudders at the ominousness of Warren’s smile.
Then the shuddering gradually became worse, until he eventually broke into a cold swear.
Warren kept his face locked in a smile as he kept walking, with Asley looking at him all the while.
In the end, Asley could no longer stand the strain.
Asley psyched himself up and charged at Warren as the latter turned his back on him.
“Hehehe… If you’d made that decision a little sooner, I would have lost.”
Asley stopped dead in his tracks right behind Warren as a powerful electric current started to flow through his body.
It was so powerful, in fact, that Asley fell to his knees only a moment later.
Asley endured the pain with his face warping in anguish, his hands holding his own shoulders down.
“This is the result of a slight arcane energy alteration.
When up against powerful unknown enemies, it’s only natural to prepare new magic and magecraft, of course, but I figured I should be particular in the kind of arcane energy I released as well.”
Warren’s voice faintly echoed in Asley’s numbing ears.
“Seeing that you didn’t notice the arcane energy I spilled as I walked around for so long, I suppose it’s safe to say that I was quite successful.”
Trace, quite shocked by what she was seeing, turned to Irene.
“Miss Irene, isn’t this…!”
“He spilled out undetectable amounts of arcane energy as he walked, using that energy to construct a Spell or Craft Circle, and invoking it right when Asley was about to attack.
So obnoxiously sneaky…”
Irene scowled at Warren.
Trace pushed up her glasses and looked at the completely immobile Asley.
“Yeah, time to call off the match, don’t you think”
“All right, then… STOP!”
At Trace’s announcement, Warren clapped his hands and disengaged the electrical current on Asley.
“Ngh–! Hah hah hah… THAT.
“Master! A-a-a-are you all right! Can you tell how many hairs I have!”
“Hell if I know!”
“Hyaaahhh! Master’s gone bonkers!”
Warren chuckled at the banter between Asley and Pochi, seeing that the latter had jumped in one bound to reach her Master.
Looking up at Warren, Asley’s eyes sparkled like those of a curious little boy’s.
“What did you just do!”
All of a sudden, Asley got up and grabbed both of Warren’s shoulders.
“Hahaha… Always so passionate, Asley.”
“Did you draw the arcane energy from your energy core instead of the usual stream of energy it produces! Man, I didn’t notice that at all! And that restriction spell! Or wait… was it magecraft! I honestly can’t tell! Anyway, that was awesome! The restraint method it used must’ve been different from Miss Trace’s Boundary magecraft, right! It’s like you combined a condensed version of Lightning Call with a Boundary magecraft — and they went together so well! I mean, it could even immobilize a mage whole level was over two hundred! Amazing! Truly amazing! Can you tell me how it works! Even just a little hint is fine! This will definitely work against the Devilkin! Yeah, for sure!”
Asley kept shaking Warren’s body as he closed in on the latter.
“Hmm, try to have some sense of personal space, Asley.
And I’m getting dizzy here — could you please slow down”
“Dizzy Does that mean you used up most of your arcane energy! Okay, now that would explain how powerful it was! Ah, I see! Instead of drawing the energy through your fingers or a staff, you drew it out from your whole body at once — which lets you pour in a lot more energy into the magecraft, and it becomes more powerful the larger the proportion! All right, that’s it! The technique is so simple, but also quite easy to overlook!”
“Um, Pochi Can you do something about him”
Warren looked at Pochi, showing her a rare expression of actually needing help.
Pochi cracked a Warren-like smile and answered, feeling quite invigorated,
“Ah, when my Master gets like that, he’ll be impossible to communicate with for a while.
You’ll probably be stuck with him for some time, Warren.”
And then she ran to where Lina and the others were, as if hurrying to escape from danger.
[Even Pochi is running away…! This is ba– GAH!]
Suddenly, Warren could hear a strange noise coming from his shoulders.
“–! Uh, Asley I think you just dislocated my shoulders–“
“–All right, Warren! We must get to the lab right now! If there isn’t one, any random room will do just fine! Oh, that’s right! Let’s use that room that we held the meeting in! It’s just about the right size, and we can talk effectively there, I’m sure!”
“Asley, please listen to me–“
And so… Asley disappeared, dragging Warren along with him.
Pochi, having been watching them from the side this whole time, let out a sigh of relief.
“W-whew, there he goes…”
“I’ve never seen Asley act quite like THAT…”
“He’s become far too energetic…”
“My Master is unstoppable when he gets that look in his eyes.
One time, he locked me together with him for almost a whole week!”
Pochi chuckled as she shook, while the others around her swallowed a lump in their throats.
“Shall we let them be, Miss Irene”
“Warren did win the match, but still ended up like that… Maybe Asley’s the first guy ever that he can’t handle.”
“Hehehe… Apparently so.
Anyway, I should get around to preparing everyone their rooms.”
Irene nodded to Trace, then walked toward Lina and the others.
Pochi, noticing her approach, stopped talking and stood still.
Irene kept staring blankly at Pochi, who turned her face away from the former’s line of sight and proceeded to say,
“I-it’s a-me, Pochi!”
We missed you.”
Pochi and the others widened their eyes in surprise.
Irene blushed, turning away from Pochi just as the latter had just now.
She proceeded to walk to the entrance of the Resistance hideout.
“A-and… that fool as well! Go tell him that later!”
Pochi, Lina, and Fuyu turned to look at one another.
Irene’s attitude was that much of a shock to everyone else present.
But exactly because of that, these three in particular started chuckling — quietly enough for Irene not to hear.
“Well, anyway! You all must be tired! Go get some rest for now! We’ll all be busy this afternoon!”
They looked at one another again.
Then they smiled, and looking at Irene as she walked away ahead of them, they shouted to her,