“HAHAHA! I failed this time, but I don’t believe that I can’t capture them again. Let’s see how long you can keep that young-un away from me!” A voice cackled in the air, as a figure sped off into the distance.
Grandpa Thur blinked. During that time, not one of the council-mages had moved from his seat, or said anything aside from Council-mage Syrel and Magi Faerwind. He frowned. Could he have been mistaken?
Several Council-mages took off after the fleeing figure, struggling to catch up to it, but the accursed intruder, whoever they were, was too fast. Regretfully, they could only turn back and return to the stage.
Up on stage, when everyone felt that the crisis was over, both Keith and Briar suddenly felt the hairs on the back of their necks raise up. Immediately, they grabbed each other, as well as the second-place winners, and leapt off the stage.
The second-place winners, startled, grabbed onto the third-place winners, who lost their balance. And so, all six winners fell off the stairs, and, consequently, off the stage right before a new magic circle appeared, covering the whole stage.
This circle was a mana-depletion circle. And even the council-mages couldn’t help but fall to the ground upon being affected by it. Briar and Keith, as well as the second and third place winners had miraculously missed being captured under its effects by a single moment.
“Ho? You managed to escape that did you? Well not for-” His voice was cut off by a blinding flash of light, originating from Madam Rothema, who had been tracking the source of the sound.
“Abdd-difscations!! My researc-I mean, Ahem! I’ll be seeing you fledglings later then!” Briar heard a low hum begin in the air. And swiftly covered her ears.
“Quick! Cover your ears!” She warned the others. As soon as they did so, a large boom sounded from within the coliseum, as a wormhole seemed to open above it. A dark figure swiftly rose up and disappeared into that hole before it closed up.
After that, the magic circle on the stage faded and shattered, effectively freeing the trapped magicians.
“Whoah. How did you know about that?” Laura asked.
“I guessed.” Briar replied. “He was using some method of escape. Judging by the hum of high frequency mana, I guessed he was using a method of transport that needed a lot of power. So, the first thing that came to mind was a makeshift teleportation device, the old kind. But those are usually unstable and prone to making deafening noises, which is why I warned you.”
But, it was yet another half an hour before the magicians council members deemed that the assailant had truly fled this time. Thanks to Madam Rothema’s voice-tracking missile spell, the assailant left while he could. If only he had stayed but a few more moments, Rothema might have finished her imprisoning barrier spell.
Briar could only sigh. Since the attacker hadn’t been captured, there was now a hidden element of danger in any future ventures. There was no telling where the wretched man would appear for his next attempt, after all.
“Why are you sighing! Briar, you’re a hero! You saved us all from that doomed magic circle, and thwarted that rogue.” Laura clapped a hand on Briar’s back.
“But now we’ve lost sight of him. The chances of a sneak attack have been raised significantly.” Briar sighed again, upset at failing to capture the brigand.
Of course, most of this was all an act. Briar had her suspicions that the assailant was, even now, still present. After all, the best way to sneak attack is from up close when no one suspected.
“Oh come on! Don’t be such a downer!” Laura scoffed. “We leave the future to the future. Right now, we celebrate! Later, we make plans. Got it?” Laura acted as if she were explaining things to a two-year-old child. Briar rolled her eyes.
“Fine. I highly doubt he would act again unless he managed to catch us separated.” Briar responded. The whole group climbed up the rope ladder to Madam Rothema’s House, which had uprooted itself from the ground and flown over to right above where they were standing. Then they took a leisurely flight back to the city, where the house tethered itself in the air above Mayor Bradley’s house.
They alighted once more upon the ground upon receiving an invitation to an evening party, which included the names of several highly influential magi, and martial practitioners as well. Princess Claire was also among the list of guests to attend.
Briar attended the party in an evening gown Madam Rothema had magically whipped up. Perhaps she should be grateful her teacher had a somewhat useful hobby? Briar wondered as she now looked more mature than her usual appearance.
Outwardly she appeared to have relaxed, but inwardly she was still vigilant. Kael was also acting relaxed in a matching suit of stunning blue. Every now and then, though, he exchanged glances with Grandpa Thur; a silent way of communicating ‘all’s well so far’. Grandpa Thur was now fully vigilant, silently watching over the rest of the ceremony.
With that, not only were medals awarded to the second and third places for mages and martial artists, but also both Briar and Kael were commended for their quick response to the situation. And, with that, the ceremony was over.
“So, you’re going to head over to Marchand kingdom after this, right?” Laura asked.
“Well, I was hoping to stop by home first and see how things were doing back there.” Briar replied. “It’s been so long since I’ve last seen them, and I want to bring them with me on a vacation.”
“What’s a vacation?” Laura asked.
“Well, it’s like a personal holiday that you take to go somewhere enjoyable, like the sea-side.” Briar explained.
So you’re taking you’re family to Marchand kingdom?” Laura asked. After all, Marchand kingdom was in a dispute with their neighboring kingdom currently. It wasn’t exactly what one would term ‘peaceful’ or ‘enjoyable’.
Then Laura shivered as she thought. Unless Thera’s family members are all fighting addicts from the start! Then Laura shook her head. Of course not! After all, Thera’s mother is the picture of peace!
Little did Laura know, that when Helen became angry, no one was safe.
“But, you’ll be bringing Kael along, right?” Laura asked. “How are you going to explain him to your family?”
“What about Kael?” Briar asked.
“He’s supposed to be your brother? Wouldn’t it be odd if Kael’s supposed parents did not even know he existed?” Laura argued.
“Oh, that? There’s actually a very simple solution to that.” Briar replied calmly.
“What kind of solution?” Laura asked.
“Well, we could just say he’s adopted, because his parents died, and they were related to us.” Briar said.
Laura just stared at her. Then shook her head as her brain restarted. She turned to Rothema and asked. “Can she do that?”
Madam Rothema chuckled. “I don’t see why not. He has the family genes after all.”
Laura then grabbed her head, which was in pain. “You are all crazy!” She moaned.
“You can’t think of him as my cousin?” Briar asked.
“I can, but when I think of how he knows literally everything there was between me and you, it just feels odd!” Laura said.
Briar shrugged. “I’m not bothered by it. Instead, won’t it make things less awkward? At least we don’t have to take half a lifetime to bring him up to speed on everything that he missed.”
At that point, Princess Claire approached Briar, so Laura retreated over by Master Thales to sit down quietly and relieve her now splitting headache. Thales was busy scanning the audience for signs of his errant brother, Miles, attending. There was no party that Miles didn’t find a way to join in. If he was still in the area, he would be at the party.
“Congratulations!” Princess Claire said. “I’m glad to know that I was right to believe that you’d win.”
Briar raised an eyebrow. “Was this before, or after you fought me?”
“After. Of course, how could I put my faith in someone I didn’t know about?” Princess Claire readily admitted it. “To tell the truth, I was simply looking for competent magicians at the time, so my winning was never really my first objective.”
Briar nodded, silent for a moment, before suddenly speaking. “After this, I am going to go home.”
Clare began to panic. “B-but you said you-”
“Hold on. I never said I was going home for good.” Briar interrupted her. “I’m going home to see my family and invite them to come along with me. You said there were a lot of nice tourist spots, right? So, while I’m helping you at the contest, my family can have fun sightseeing.”
“Is Grayell kingdom in such a good situation that one of their main knights can up and leave?” Princess Claire asked.
“Well. Not exactly.” Briar shook her head. “Let’s just say that it’s the king’s orders for my father to take a rest for a bit, before all hell breaks loose.”
“Goodness! You have a gateway to hell there?” Claire asked, concerned. According to ancient folklore, volcanoes were referred to as ‘gateways to hell’ back before the people became more informed about what volcanoes were.
“Um…No, it’s a local expression.” Briar corrected her. “It means before things start getting busy to the point where one might hallucinate they were in hell.”
“Ah. What an interesting expression!” Claire said. “May I use it?”
“Feel free.” Briar shrugged. “I don’t own it. As far as I know, anyone can use a simple expression.”
“Thank you.” Claire said.
“But, because I’m going home first, it’ll probably take some time to get there.” Briar pondered. “Unless I can ask Madam Rothema to bring us there in her flying house.”
“Just so you know, I trust you’ll be there on time.” Claire smiled confidently.
“At least one of us is confident~” Briar joked.
Then Claire looked around, slightly fidgety. “Um…is there perhaps a chance that your brother is here?”
“Kael?” Briar asked. “Sure! He’s right over…there!” Briar pointed over by the grand piano, where Keith was stylishly leaning against the wall, a glass of juice in his hand as he surveyed the crowds.
“Thank you!” Claire curtseyed before she began to make her way over to Kael.
Briar’s face twitched a moment as a thought came unbidden to her head. Maybe…She glanced in between Claire and Kael. As Claire finally reached Kael, her cheeks turned red. He smiled at her, and they both started chatting. Could it be possible…? No, surely not? As the topic began to make her head hurt, she decidedly shoved it into a corner of her head to ruminate upon at a later time.
Of course, after that, there were many young lads who approached her with the intent of dancing with her, and possibly stealing her away to their family. For those young lads, Madam Rothema’s hawk-like gaze managed to deter quite a lot of them.
Instead, they could only manage a bit of conversation before their desire to flee overrode their desire to get on Briar’s good books.