Summoner Sovereign Book 1 Chapter 304
"You know, if Troy is taking part in the national tournament, we might just get first place."
Dong Fang Yue Chu was commenting while we strolled through the school courtyard. Most of the students were busily hurrying about, rushing from classroom to classroom. Many of them were hoping to get involved in the tournament in one way or another, but only ten students had been selected for it. The same ten who attended the exchange session with Vermillion Academy a few weeks ago.
Well, if Troy made it back, he might just nudge one of us out of the list. As the number one student in Jing Tian Academy, he would be our trump card. Unfortunately, he tended to take missions that kept him out of school for months at a time, completely out of communication. Fortunately, he always returned, so I wasn't concerned about him ignominiously dying in some random place. If anything, he had even more plot armor than me.
After all, he was a character who was based off a protagonist that my friend had created for his own Black Roses story (which I doubt my friend would ever get around to writing – not his fault, though. As a lawyer, he was always super-busy and had no time to write). That friend had no time to read this story, so I doubted that he would care if I arbitrarily killed Troy off, but I was unlikely to risk it. Except that the title of this chapter sounded pretty ominous…
Nah, that won't happen. I wouldn't risk offending my friend (even though he didn't read my story), right?
"How does it feel? Are you nervous?"
Yue Chu mistook my silence for worry, and I shook my head.
"No, just thinking stupid stuff and breaking the fourth wall as usual."
"…huh?" Yue Chu stared at me blankly for a moment, then shook his head, interpreting my cryptic remark as a joke. "Anyway, you're the one closest to him. Any clue as to where he's at? Perhaps you can try and call him back?"
"I'm afraid I don't." I shook my head again, displaying a little of my bitterness. "The last time I heard from him, he was chasing after his brother, Tyrant King. That bastard went and wiped out an entire city with a bioweapon or something…"
Yue Chu shuddered. Even he had heard of the atrocities that Tyrant King had committed. The authorities of the Federation were still trying to track him down, and I had learned that he had links to the Dark Church, so I naturally hoped that Troy would bring him to justice. Maybe kill him. While I usually didn't condone killing, I knew that Tyrant was one of those rare few homicidal psychopaths who were too dangerous to be allowed to live. The guy was perfectly capable of escaping a maximum security prison and leaving a trail of corpses in his wake while laughing to the next site of his chosen victims. And this was assuming he was being held there while awaiting execution after being sentenced to death.
In other words, he was somebody who should be killed on sight.
"Still…if we can help him deal with his brother, and bring him back just in time for the tournament, that would help our chances of winning the championship greatly." It would be a small challenge to integrate Troy into our team and coach him on how to coordinate and work together, but his immense abilities and pure strength were more than worth it.
Unfortunately, ideals did not always coincide with reality, and it appeared that Troy wasn't going to make it in time for the national tournament next week.
"Hey, guys!" Harrison Reed called out before he joined us. "We should have a meeting soon to discuss the tournament. If I'm not mistaken, there are over 500 teams participating in the national tournament this year. It'll be divided into qualifiers and the main event. I'm not sure what the qualifier is about, but with the emphasis on teamwork, we've been informed that it will be a team event. As for the main tournament, it seems like it'll be hosted in Southampton City this year."
Wasn't that the city that Cecilia Stuart lived in? Interesting. Apparently we would head there to be briefed on the qualifiers before being sent out once again. Then the teams who made it through the qualifiers would then return to Southampton City for the final event.
"Anyway, I also wish to look through the list of top candidates and teams…the most highly rated mages of our generation who will be participating in this tournament."
"What's the use?" I grumbled. "Other than the ones we already know, such as Cecilia, Kureha and Lilith, the rest are just random characters who we've never heard of before, and wouldn't matter anyway because the readers wouldn't remember them. I don't think the readers will be happy to read a bunch of info dump right now. And after hyping them up to be this powerful opponent, all that hype would be meaningless when we crush them like the cannon fodder they really are. You can hype them all you want, write an entire dossier on their past, techniques, etc., but all that matters is we beat them to reach all the way to the finals. Then these poor bastards cease to matter anymore."
"What…?" Harrison was gaping at me. Then he scowled. "Don't be ridiculous. You think you can beat them if you don't research on your potential opponents and develop countermeasures and tactics against them? We have to prepare."
"Oh, sure." I nodded sagely. "You are right. What I'm trying to say is that we should do all that preparation and info dump off screen. Instead of, you know, boring readers with info dump. We don't want to end up like Battle Frenzy now, do we? So let's transition to black screen now, do a time skip, and then return to the story after all that briefing…"
Unfortunately, we never had the chance to get a black screen or time skip, because my cell phone buzzed at that moment.
"Sorry, got to take this call."
I left behind a gaping Harrison and Yue Chu to answer the call at the side of the pathway. Fortunately, the both of them were polite enough to grant me some privacy, and I proceeded to swipe at the green icon.
Troy's face appeared in the video call. He stared at me, and surprisingly enough, he looked quite shaken. Behind him, explosions were blossoming, and my jaw dropped when I saw an entire building collapsed. Even in the poor resolution, I could actually make out poor civilians tumbling to death from the disintegrating structure.
"Troy? What's going on?! What happened?"
"It's bad," my dark-skinned friend replied. "Real bad. Everything's gone to hell here."
"Wait, what? Slow down. Where is there? And what's going on!?"
Troy took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. He stared at me with his chocolate-brown eyes.
"I tracked down my brother. Tyrant was hiding out in this city, called…Troy. As we suspected, he has ties to the Dark Church, and they unleashed a living bioweapon on it…everything's gone to hell. Everyone is dying…"
Another explosion drowned out his voice. Troy glanced at something off screen, but the dust billowing from the side told me that another building had just toppled over. Perspiration welled up on his face.
"I never thought I would say this, but…I need help. I have requested for reinforcements from the academy…from the authorities, but even they aren't enough. I need you, Richie. You're probably the only one who can stop this."
I shook my head, still unable to digest what was occurring. Troy wiped the sweat from his brow and glanced off screen again.
"You have those nuke spells, don't you? I need those. We need to sterilize the whole city before they get out. Before they contaminate the rest of the Federation." He exhaled heavily. "I know it sounds crazy. But if we don't resort to drastic measures…"
"Wait, what are they? What will get out and contaminate the Federation?"
"Mutated monsters." Troy looked grim. "I'm not sure what exactly my f.u.c.k.i.n.g brother did, but he developed some sort of virus in conjunction with the Dark Church. They have been running all sorts of experiments here. Drove the monsters in the Lake of Rage – that's the name of the lake right outside Troy – insane, mutate or evolved them from rank F Magic Carps to…rank A Gyaragon. I don't know how they did it, but they engineered some sort of virus that drove the monsters berserk, and caused them to mutate…to evolve…and then they unleashed them upon the city."
An inhuman howl burst from off screen somewhere. Troy nervously glanced in another direction. I had never seen him so frightened before.
"Listen, bro. I'm asking you to take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."
In the grainy video, I caught sight of a Federation soldier running across the road, flailing helplessly and shrieking.
"Game over, man! Game over! What the f.u.c.k are we going to do now?! What are we gonna do?!"
Troy turned on him, his eyes narrowed and spittle flying from his mouth in rage. "Maybe we can build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don't we try that?"
"We better get back, because it will be dark soon. And they mostly come at night. Mostly."
A young girl showed up of nowhere, whispering cryptically. Troy reached down to pat her head, and then returned to resume his conversation with me.
Oh boy. Things were looking pretty dire right now. Especially when Troy was ripping off lines from a sci-fi movie he had never watched in his life. I suddenly realized that the chapter title was bait. It wasn't referring to Troy King's death. It was quite literally referring to the fall of the city named Troy. Sorry, dear readers. I couldn't resist trolling you.
However, that might all change if I actually went ahead with Troy's request and enact Exterminatus.
"I'm not going to nuke the city when you're still inside it!" I protested hotly.
"Oh…I would appreciate it if you wait until I get out of the city first." Troy smiled weakly, but I could tell that the expression of bleak levity was forced. "Right now, I'm currently helping out with evacuations. What few surviving soldiers left in the city are trying to round up civilians and fight their way out to safety. I'm going to link up with them…" he glanced at the raving soldier and grimaced. "…and save as many lives as we can. Then…if possible, I'm going to settle this with Tyrant once and for all."
He then squeezed the little girl's shoulder.
"Don't worry, kid. I swear I'll get you out of here."
The girl didn't seem to believe a word he said. Her expression looked haunted, and her eyes bore a resigned detachment that no child her age should ever have. She must have seen a lot of terrifying things, to be traumatized and forced to grow up beyond her years. She knew as well as Troy that he was making empty promises.
However, I refused to leave Troy to his fate. Troy and all the soldiers and civilians still in Troy City. Taking a deep breath, I immediately began trotting toward the school gate, getting ready to depart. Calling up a secondary screen, I googled Troy City and searched for directions. Looked like the fastest way was to fly there on Cygnus or Aquila…
"I'll be there in a few hours, tops," I assured him. I also had to send an email to the principal and explain my sudden leave of absence. Probably send him a recorded message of this video call as evidence. I could do that on my way there, but I needed to hurry.
"I'll be coming with you."
To my surprise, Harrison jogged up to me. He was joined by Theodore, who nodded grimly.
"Sounds like you need help."
"Were you guys eavesdropping on my conversation?" I scowled, even though this wasn't the time to be outraged at their invasion of my privacy.
"Well…we all received a notification from the mission center." Yue Chu raised his smartphone sheepishly. "So we roughly knew what was going on. We just pieced them together when we caught snippets of your conversation with Troy."
"Yeah. If our schoolmate is in danger, we'll all chip in to help." Harrison sounded determined. Then he grinned and winked at me. "And like you said, if we help Troy deal with his brother, we might all make it in time to bring him back for the tournament."
"That's right." I couldn't help but smile back. "We're all going to return here safely. Without leaving a single person behind."
Ironically, I never thought Harrison would be so proactive in helping out. After all, the character he was based off originally was some treacherous antagonist who treated Wang Zhong as trash, gave his vice-president an opportunity to kill him and his society, and then used his connections to get into an elite school (one wondered why he didn't bother to enroll in that school in the first place instead of the supposedly low-ranked and "trash" Tian Jing College), only to convince the students of that so-called "elite" school to ambush and outright murder Wang Zhong and the Tian Jing College students (why were these kids' minds full of nothing but murder and killing? What were they, psychopaths?). it was refreshing to see what was potentially a rival act decently for once, behaving like any normal schoolmate would do, and offering his help instead of scheming and plotting behind the protagonist's back and holding a grudge for no reason other than because the protagonist was "trash" (seriously, Wang Zhong did absolutely nothing to offend Reed, yet he for some reason harbored some homicidal desire to kill the dude…like, why? That made no sense whatsoever).
Putting aside badly written villains and poorly developed antagonists for the moment, I took a deep breath and smiled gratefully.
"Thanks, guys. I really appreciate this. I'm sure Troy does too."
"Hey, what are friends for, right?" Yue Chu responded with a grin.
"That's right." Theodore nodded and thumped his chest. "One for all, all for one."
"As the team captain, I'm going to ensure all of us return home safely and alive…no matter the cost," Harrison vowed determinedly. "Let's do this!"
All four of us raised our hands and bumped our fists, and then we strode out of the school gate resolutely, every one of us inwardly resolving to to pull our friend out of the proverbial fire.