CHAPTER 4 - The Looking Glass (4)
Alex narrowed his eyes and slowly lifted ALICE, who still looked like a longbow. At least she did to the guards in front of them. He peered through her scope and pulled the trigger. Through the high-level OPTICs magic, the guards would see him pulling the bowstring without an arrow nocked and releasing it.
The downside of OPTICs was that it didn’t alter sound very much, though. Instead of the ‘twang’ of a bowstring being released, the loud boom of the sniper rifle discharging startled them.
“My bad. Missed one.”
He lowered the rifle once more, and the guards looked around in confusion. Just as they were returning their attention to the solitary man, a breeze flew in from behind, carrying the pitiful cry of a dying animal.
The guard with the longbow was the first to make sense of the sound, and they turned around. As the guard Alex had first spoken to was taking the first step, sword brought to bear, the bowman called out towards the soldier.
“Demetrus, wait…” The guard leaped down from the wagon with agile grace. Now on ground level, Alex could see that they were relatively short, and their gear obscured their features. The voice was clear enough when they spoke, though, as they walked right up to Alex and stared up at him. “You’re telling me that you did that just now?”
With little more than a shrug and a smirk, he nodded. “Kinda my specialty, ya know? Was I not supposed to, Miss?”
In the distance, just this side of the horizon, they could see another black-furred wolf. Well, what was left of it. The monster had been running away after its companions were slaughtered, and the duo’s bullet caught it square in the back. The ice glyph he had enchanted onto each of the bullets in the magazine released its magic on impact, and only the back legs and tail were not covered in thick, dark blue ice.
The woman in front of him, reaching just below his shoulders in height, reached up and slid back her hood and the cloth covering her face. Long and silky golden hair cascaded down to frame glimmering green eyes. As the hair settled, it parted on either side of her head to reveal…
“HOLY SHIT, ARE YOU AN ELF?!”
The woman, who had just opened her mouth to speak before Alex’s outburst, blinked once. Then a second time. She slowly nodded, an eyebrow-raising as she did so. “Treya’s the name, nomad. And yes, I’m an elf. Something wrong with that?”
It took Alex a few moments to collect himself, trying to fight the inner fanboy as he thought about his reply. “No, nothing wrong at all. Actually, it’s the opposite! I’ve never met one before, so this is a big moment for me, right? Like, I think Legolas and I woulda been best buds, for real!”
“Who is Lego- No, wait, you’ve never met an elf before? You must be from far out in the boonies if that’s the case!”
Alex quickly shut his mouth as he considered his reply. In the isekai mangas he loved to read, the protagonist would typically make up some story about being raised alone in the mountains, and that’s why he had unique magic and blah. Blah. Fucking. Blah.
Too much thinking. Made his brain hurt.
Despite ALICE shouting telepathic protestations at him, Alex smiled wide and moved to the position of attention, offering a salute.
“Negative, Ma’am. Major Alexander Jaeger of the 77th MAGES squadron, GEARS sub-command, United States Army…” He thought for a second and added the last part as almost an afterthought. “Earth.”
He dropped the salute and returned to his normal, carefree posture as Treya fought to make sense of everything he had just said. Giving up shortly after, her face brightened as she had a sudden thought.
“So, in other words, you’re not from Arcadia?”
‘Arcadia,’ what a delightfully stereotypical fantasy name for a place. The nerd inside Alex was screaming in excitement while he fought to maintain his composure. He merely nodded at Treya and cordially offered his hand.
“Yeah, pretty much. This and that happened, and I was suddenly in the middle of the plains back thataway.”
Treya took his forearm in a gladiator-style handshake, a slow smile creeping into her features. Her high cheekbones and pale skin were just as he pictured an elf would look like, and he was trying not to bounce in excitement.
Wait, if she’s an elf…
He turned to the first guard he spoke to, and his eyes went wide. “Does that mean you’re like… part orc?!”
With a wary glance at Treya, who nodded, the one named Demetrus stepped forward and shrugged. “Yeah, 1/8th mountain orc. Gotta ask though, if you’ve never met our kinds, and you’re not from Arcadia, how did you know?”
Alex’s face split into a wide smile as he answered. “Fam, you don’t realize how much I have wished to meet you my whole life.”