Chapter 16.1: Perspective Change
“Smoke-screen set up. We’ve snared nearly everyone.
“Finally, huh… Good work, Haya-san.”
“Thanks, Hiro-chan. Tsu-chan, you ready?”
“Yup, I’ve confirmed. A majority of the groups are ensnared.”
“Moving into phase two; Let’s start with this group. Hiroaki, if you will.”
In Hiroaki’s hand, a wooden greatshield appeared with a round green gem shining at its center. He let himself fall from the branch he was sitting on and landed feet-first on another below. He balanced himself by placing his palm on the tree’s trunk. Surveying the curling smoke, Hiroaki was able to make out four figures running in the same direction. Grinning, he hefted Yggdrasil over his head and kicked himself off the branch. As he crashed towards the four, the bottom of his greatshield grew wooden spikes.
“Coming through!” Announcing his presence with glee, Hiroaki appeared mid-air in a frontal assault. The four tensed up at the ambush, unable to react as Hiroaki slammed the greatshield into the ground.
“Wha—” The group leader’s voice was cut short as he attempted to cast a spell at the foe.
His teammates looked backward at the smoke which gradually filled a human-shaped hole in the dense fog, stretching far and beyond. They were baffled by their leader vanishing just like that. Breaking into a sweat, two pulled out bows and one a sling.
“Who the hell are you?!” yelled an archer.
“Doesn’t matter, does it?” Hiroaki brushed the question off, lifting his greatshield, “Here I come!”
The greatshield once again grew wooden spikes on its bottom, before drawing an arc in the air and landing on the ground. A slight tremor ran through the ground, but the archer couldn’t feel a change. This left him confused, but he suddenly felt a tugging in his gut, followed by his ears catching a thumping sound.
The thumping sound became louder, and tremors soon traveled up his stiffened legs. Craning his neck in all directions, he found nothing, but pure instinct called to him. He looked down and froze for a moment, before hastily jumping backwards as the ground exploded and it began to rain soil.
A second later, and he’d have met a similar fate as his team’s leader. A foot from his nose were gigantic snakes the width of boa constrictors, coiling towards the sky. They were still shooting upwards while wriggling in a starved manner.
However, something was off. There were no hisses, but instead a creaking noise.
As the serpents abruptly halted their climb upwards, he realized that their bodies were entirely too long, and some of them had several heads. It was such a bizarre sight that he’d begun to ponder in the middle of the battle, and just then, he saw a piece of… something hit his foot. Unable to stop himself, he picked up the dark object at his feet.
It had a rough, dry surface with no hint of moisture. It felt on par with metal in sturdiness, yet at the same time, it felt as if strips would peel off with a pinch of his fingers. It was a feeling he knew well, something that anyone would know.
But just as his confusion was dispelled, the roots vanished into the ground, leaving a messy patch of soil as the only proof of their short existence.
“Correct. By the way, you should prepare yourselves. I can’t give you any more chances,” Hiroaki warned, pouring mana into his great shield that was embedded into the ground.
Receiving Hiroaki’s mana, the wooden spikes turned to roots, shooting through the sea of dirt. But rather than baring their fangs to their master’s prey like last time, they rushed towards the trees in the area.
Yggdrasil: the world tree from Norse mythology said to support all nine worlds on its massive branches. As a Speculo bearing its name, it was only obvious what kind of abilities it had. The greatshield’s appendages seeked out thicker roots that’d existed in the soil for far longer, and they tenderly coiled around them, feeding them their own energy.
Trembling as if by a jolt of electricity, the trees’ roots that’d long since slowed their growth once again began to move.
Hiroaki felt the roots within some distance around him connect into a web, a network, privy to his every whim. His mind was numbed by the river of mana exiting his body through his palms, but he didn’t plan to stop there. He clenched his hands and commanded, “Go!”
Concentrating his entire being upon the network, he commanded his small army to seek out the cool, foggy air of the surface. From every direction, the roots heeded his will and shot out of the ground, writhing. Following his next command, these wooden serpents rushed towards his enemies.
All the three heard was an elongated creak, and it hurt their ears.
To an ignorant observer, it would’ve looked like the mountain itself was lashing out at the humans who’d disturbed its peaceful grounds: a breathtaking sight. This was the Magic Era.
For the recipients of the attack, it was also a breathtaking situation, but in quite a literal sense. Caught in a never-ending dance of jumping, ducking, and parrying, they didn’t even have the chance to take a full breath. It was truly unfair: the battlegrounds were laden with ancient trees, and all these three had were bows and slings, no blades.