As if he could no longer maintain the power to fly, the old magician floated back towards the ground. Then another arrow caught him in the back.
I couldn’t immediately understand what was happening.
A third arrow was let loose.
This one would have pierced into the old magician’s head, had Cain not blocked it with his sword. Still, when the old magician did fall limply to the ground, it was clear that he was already dying.
I saw a rider disappear into the distance. As it was only a single knight, maybe they had anticipated something like this happening and had been monitoring him.
“They want to silence me… Hehe.”
The old magician realized it too.
Cain quickly sent five knights to go and chase after the person who had shot the arrows.
I didn’t know what to do, so I kneeled down next to the old man.
“Are-are you okay?”
“Do I look okay?”
He replied sarcastically to my question.
The magician laughed.
“And with this…my life is ended. And I had so much left to do…”
The old magician mumbled and closed his eyes before opening them again and looking up at me.
“You, you want to become a magician? You think that you have what it takes?”
“I can. I happen to know that I can become a magician.”
“Oh? Why is that?”
“I know of…a future that might have become a reality. And in that future, Everal is attacked after the prince’s arrival. I was there controlling dirt puppets.”
No one else but the old magician and Cain was here, so I was able to tell the truth. That was fine, but I was sure that he would mock me for it. He would say that I was mistaking fantasy for reality. But he did not.
“Knowledge of the future, dirt puppets…hehe. I see. I quite like that. It’s ambitious.”
After hearing my answer, he had a faraway look in his eyes for a moment. Then he looked at me again and asked:
“If you would try to achieve a certain wish of mine, then I would not mind making the magicians contract. With you as my apprentice.”
I was surprised, but it didn’t seem likely that this dying magician would lie to me.
“What wish is that?”
“…Just as you would breathe life into a dirt doll, I want you to try and trap my soul into one of them. It would not matter if you failed, I am going to die anyway. But if you succeed, my soul will be able to live on for much longer… I do not want to die now. If you would try it, I will agree to your request. After all, if I have already died once, then the bindings between master and apprentice won’t have much force. Hehehe.”
This old man had stared at me while fleeing the last time we met. Perhaps even then he was considering the possibility of using me to prolong his life after becoming a magician.
Even now, he would negotiate with me just for a chance at staying in this world a while longer.
But this was most advantageous for me.
It was highly unlikely that there was another magician who would agree to be my master in this desperate situation. And it was as he said, I would not have any strange limitations put on me, as he was already dying.
“I agree then. But don’t expect me to succeed.”
I didn’t hesitate to take him up on the offer, but Cain tried to stop me with a troubled expression. But I shook my head to the side.
“I will be able to fulfill my original purpose through this. I can’t let this opportunity pass me by.”
“Hehe. The young should follow their impulses. Quickly, give me the contract stone…that red stone.”
The old magician points at the pendant I was carrying.
So this was the contract stone after all.
Is that why the Princess of Thorns said I was not to use anything else? Had she predicted this would happen?
I removed the stone from the pendant and placed it in the hand of the magician, who was now too weak to even lift it. His fingers wrapped around it.
There was a small cracking sound, and when the finger opened again, there was now a small shard broken off. It was about one-tenth of the size of the stone.
“Usually, it would be split 3:7 due to the stress it would cause to the apprentice. But this is all an old dying man can muster. You must deal with the rest… Put the small piece into my mouth and then immediately swallow the other piece.”
I nod and pick up the two pieces.
Perhaps I was nervous because my fingers were shaking.
Still, I pushed the shard into the old magician’s mouth. It looked like he was able to swallow it. And so I too swallowed my piece.
Once it was in my mouth, it seemed to turn into liquid and flow down my throat without scratching me.
I could feel it spreading, down my throat, my lungs, my heart. It traveled through my veins, reaching every organ and eventually my entire body…
From within, I feel a strange sensation mixed with pain, as if I had just swallowed the blazing sun.
It was an invasive feeling, something was piercing ever cell in my body with needles.
I could tell that I was rolling on the ground and screaming, but it all felt so far away. Like it was happening to somebody else.
I don’t know how long this continued, but eventually, the pain and the heat began settling into my body.
In the corner of my mind, I could sense the unpleasant sensations of my body breaking down like liquid before returning.
The reason that failed magicians turned into sand was probably because they could not return after that point. That must have been why they would turn wild when near death…they were feeling such unbearable pain.
Sometimes, it felt like my body too was unable to return completely.
Every time that happened, another opposing force would appear as if by someone’s command, in order to stop the attack, and my power to return would recover.
This was likely my master helping me.
Eventually, I felt as if the heat was being omitted from my body, I felt sweat start to pour… And then I woke up.
“Miss Kiara, Kiara!?”
Before I knew it, Cain was holding me up and calling to me.
His face had gone completely pale, but he relaxed when he saw me open my eyes and blink. He had been so worried. I felt bad for causing him such distress.