Chapter 185: Guest Teacher
“Switch!” Alanis called out just as my wind-infused fist was about to connect with Camus’ chest.
I muttered a string of curses, stopping my strike. <i>How is it that over these past few days, the matches always seem to stop at such inconvenient times? She has to be doing this on purpose. </i>
As if to answer my accusation, my trainer clarified by saying, “Exactly twenty minutes have passed. Elder Camus will be switched for Elder Hester. General Arthur, please restrict your water magic.”
I wiped the sweat pouring down my face, trying to get a breather until my next opponent arrived. Having my water magic banned meant that I couldn’t use ice as well. How frustratingly convenient for Hester, who would’ve been at a disadvantage against those two elements.
Taking a peek at the audience, I could tell everyone had been paying close attention to my last fight against Camus, my sister particularly engrossed.
The elder approached me until we were just about a dozen feet apart. Tying her long grey hair back into a bun, she readied into a dueling stance. Being a silver core mage meant that, while her strength was conjuring, she could easily augment her body. The fact that she wore tight-fitting clothes and chose to use a conjuring ring rather than the traditional staff or wand meant that she wanted the flexibility of both long range and close range combat.
“Begin,” Alanis stated, her voice amplified by the artifact she was speaking into.
Hester immediately snapped her finger, a spark igniting between her middle finger and her thumb.
The blue ember was just a distraction though.
Since I wasn’t using Realmheart, my eyes couldn’t see the fluctuations in mana, but I could feel it. My body, enhanced through assimilation with Sylvia’s dragon will, seemed to instinctively sense that I was in danger.
I quickly propelled myself back, just in time to see a burst of fire detonate where I had been standing.
The explosion caused a cloud of smoke, obstructing my view of Hester.
<i>She didn’t expect to hit me with that. She wants me to lose sight of her. </i>
I swung my arms, manipulating the cloud of dust between us to shoot forward. The rock and sand in the air froze still for a second before erupting forward into a shockwave of debris.
Like I had predicted, Hester’s form came into view. She managed to shield herself with a panel of fire. It was my turn to strike back.
Augmenting mana into my legs, I flashed forward, gathering blue fire into my fists.
I striked at the panel of fire, expecting my flame to overpower hers. Her spell disintegrated, but to my surprise, Hester was no longer behind the panel of fire she had conjured.
That’s when I felt it again, the primal instinct that told me I was in danger. This time, it came from below my feet.
Blue fire swirled beneath me before erupting into a pillar of flames. For a moment, my vision turned blue as an intense heat washed over me.
My aura blocked the attack long enough for me to manipulate the fire from harming me. If I accrued too much damage, the defensive artifact in my armor would activate, making it my loss.
Just when the heat was becoming unbearable, I was able to dispel Hester’s attack and break the pillar of fire… only to find myself surrounded by a dozen or so fiery spheres, each the height of an adult.
Judging by the fact that I couldn’t see or sense Hester, and that each globe of fire would be able to fit a grown woman inside, I knew she was in one of the globes.
If she was trying to annoy me with all of these distractions, it was working.
I stomped the ground, conjuring earthen spikes. Only half of the spikes hit its mark.
<i>Note to self. Practice aiming with earth magic. </i>
The spikes that did hit bore straight through the spheres of fire, causing them to disperse. But it didn’t take long for new spheres of flames to manifest and take their place.
Before I could strike them down again, the flaming globes brightened before launching their attacks.
Each globe seemed to have a mind of its own, as the attacks fired by them were different from each other. One globe shot a barrage of small fire bullets, while another began spinning and releasing burning crescents.
I was forced onto the defensive by the barrage of attacks coming from all directions. I erected a stone wall from the ground to block the flame bullets and launched a blade of wind at the burning crescent, detonating the fiery spell prematurely.
My mind raced, trying to think of my next move. I couldn’t keep staying on the defensive, but I had no idea which flaming sphere she was hiding inside of.
The temptation to just release Realmheart grew, but I knew that was just a shortcut into solving my inadequacy by blowing off most of my mana.
<i>Think, Arthur. How would I try to fight me if I was Hester? </i>
The only strategy I could think of was to get on my nerves until I let my guard down. That was the answer.
I let out a roar of frustration, wildly launching shockwaves of wind and blasts of fire at the globes. Of course, the ones I hit were replaced by new ones, but I continued my seemingly agitated assault.
Coalescing tendrils of lightning around my arms and legs, I flashed forward, striking down the spheres of fire up close.
For each globe I struck down, another two took its place until over thirty spheres hovered around me.
<i>Her mana pool is impressive. </i>
The spheres began undulating this time while they glowed brighter. I thought they were all going to explode, but instead each of the flaming globes shot a condensed stream of fire at me.
<i>Is this the final attack?</i> I thought, noticing that the spheres grew smaller as they released their flaming beam.
I put on my best expression of surprise and horror and waited until all of the beams were just about to hit me before I acted.
Siphoning a large amount of mana for my core, I engulfed my entire body in a suit of fire. Absolute control was necessary to keep the fire from harming me, but timing it with Hester’s last attack would make it seem like I was hit.
Even with several extra layers of pure mana and fire mana protecting me from Hester’s barrage, I felt the fire singeing the hair on my extremities. I feared for a second that I might actually come out of this bald, but my aura kept me—and the majority of my hair—safe.
I heard Ellie call out to me in horror over the roar of the flames, but I kept my focus on the opponent. I knew Hester wouldn’t let her guard down even from this.
This next part was the hard part.
One aspect to consider for a multi-elemental mage was his strength to not just know <i>when</i> to utilize each of his elements, but <i>how</i> to utilize multiple elements in conjunction to one another.
Keeping the flaming barrier around my body, I split off a part of my focus so I could manipulate the ground underneath me.
I felt my flames tremble—a sign that my concentration was wavering.
<i>Almost</i>. Enduring the growing heat around me as I manipulated a hole into the ground for me to fit inside, I waited until I finally saw Hester’s silhouette through the layer of fire between us.
I collapsed my protective spell just as I fell into the ground, immediately covering the ground above me so I was completely submerged below.
The earth shook at what I assumed was Hester’s next strike.
Without wasting any time, I <i>pushed </i>at the earth around me, utilizing the seismic perception spell to sense where everyone was. I felt a ripple in the earth from a different location—it was the same perception spell that I had used except far stronger.
Focusing back on the task at hand, I shaped the earth around me, allowing myself to slowly move underground.
I knew experts like Buhnd were able to traverse underground as easily as if they were underwater, but unfortunately I wasn’t at that level.
It didn’t matter, though. It was Hester’s turn to be caught off guard.
I only took two seconds to gather mana around my right first for my final attack. As soon as I was ready, I cleared the earth above me and bolted up to the surface by infusing wind mana beneath my feet.
Black lightning coiled around my right arm like a vicious serpent ready to strike. Just beneath me, standing on the ground, was Hester, her arms enveloped in a fire fashioned into long blades with thin tendrils of electricity wrapped around them—no doubt her actual finishing move.
Hester whipped around to face me just as my body descended. It was too late though. I was within striking range and she wasn’t in the safety of her fire orb.
We were playing to my strength now.
My opponent’s lips moved—whether she was cursing or chanting a spell, I couldn’t tell—as she brought up her flaming arm blades.
The black lightning tore free from my arm as I unleashed the voltaic charge at Hester. The black tendrils ripped through the air until our two spells collided.
A sphere of congealed fire and lightning formed from the impact, growing larger and brighter until it finally exploded with us in the epicenter.
<span class=”s1″><b>KATHYLN GLAYDER</b></span>
The explosion obscured our view of Arthur and Hester. My eyes flitted to Arthur’s little sister; I was prepared to conjure a barrier in case the shockwave reached us, but her bond had already responded, pulling her close with its body positioned to block any remnant of the blast caused by the colliding spells.
With Arthur’s little sister the target of my concern, I forgot to protect myself from the shockwave that detonated.
I braced for impact, trying to raise a wall of ice in time, but to my surprise, the ground beneath me sank. I found myself a few feet below the surface, the shockwave passing through harmlessly above me.
After the explosion subsided, I was raised back up to come face to face with Elder Buhnd.
“Careful, Princess,” he grinned before turning his attention back to the origin of the blast.
The cloud of debris caused by the explosion subsided and I could see the two figures.
Arthur, while disheveled, was standing. My guardian, on the other hand, had fallen back—a soft pink glow surrounding her signaling that the defensive artifact had been triggered.
Elder Buhnd clasped his hands together, obviously excited. “Haha! Brilliant!”
“The artifact worked seamlessly!” Miss Watsken exclaimed from the side, excited for a different reason.
“It’s worrying that you’re this surprised about the same device meant to keep my brother from dying,” Arthur’s little sister muttered, patting the dust off of her wardrobe.
“I wasn’t surprised!” the artificer protested. “Just happy that there were no unexpected complications.”
“Mhmm.” Arthur’s sister cast one last look of doubt at Miss Watsken before turning her focus to her bond.
“What was General Arthur’s mana flow readings during that battle?” Elder Camus asked Miss Alanis. I eavesdro—listened in, curious about Arthur’s improvement over the last few days.
Miss Alanis’ eyes glowed in a myriad of colors as she assessed Arthur’s internal data. Eventually her irises reverted back to their original colors. “General Arthur’s mana flow for spell casting earth and wind have increased by four percent and two percent, respectively.”
“And that’s a… good thing?” Elder Buhnd asked, his thick brows knitted in confusion.
“The rate of General Arthur’s growth is… impressive, to say the least. It has been less than a week, yet the improvements he has made in his peripheral elements is remarkable,” she replied before recording her newest findings into her journal.
“I think you’d be more helpful in the war if you led a larger group of soldiers than trying to push that old body of yours,” a familiar voice sounded from behind us.
My eyes widened as I realized it was Commander Virion accompanied by General Bairon as well as Master Varay.
I immediately lowered my head in respect.
“No need for such formalities. I’m just here to check up on my youngest general,” Commander Virion chuckled. “Actually let me apologize in advance.”
I raised my head tentatively, locking eyes with Master Varay. My teacher of ice magic regarded me with her strong gaze before turning her attention to the aftermath of Hester and Arthur’s mock battle.
“That passive-aggressiveness is beneath you, Virion—I mean, Commander,” Elder Camus responded with a slight smile.
“Part of my job is making sure my strongest assets are being as effective as they can,” Commander Virion clipped back, smiling amiably as he squeezed Elder Camus’ shoulder.
“What are you apologizing for?” Elder Buhnd asked. “Don’t tell me you’re going to cut our play—training time short! I was just about to go next!”
“Actually, Princess Kathyln was scheduled to go first,” Miss Emeria corrected.
Master Varay approached me with a casual gait, stopping in front of me. She tenderly picked out a piece of debris that had become lodged inside my hair. “It’s been a while, Kathyln. You’ve gotten stronger.”
Blushing, I quickly combed my fingers through my hair, trying to get rid of any other signs of my unkempt appearance. “Thank you, Master. I’ve been growing in strength while training alongside the elders and General Arthur.”
She nodded before shifting her gaze behind me. I looked back to see Arthur pulling Hester back up on her feet. I could make out Arthur’s lips moving but it was impossible to hear what he was saying.
“I just arrived from a mission and have some rare time,” she began, unclipping the fur-lined cloak over her shoulders.
The rich midnight blue cloth fell to the ground, revealing Master’s signature battle attire, a minimal navy armor with gold accents that looked like a gift from the asuras when she wore it.
I stepped out of the way and let her pass, already knowing what she was going to ask.
“At least the show’s going to be entertaining,” Elder Buhnd grumbled as he sat down on a stone chair he had just conjured.
“Umm, G-General Varay. I’m not sure the artifact has enough fuel to withstand a duel of this caliber,” Emily said, raising a shaky hand.
Without breaking stride, Master Varay locked eyes with Arthur. Even in his disheveled and worn out state, my former classmate’s eyes gleamed as his mouth curved into a smile.
“Bairon. Help Miss Watsken fuel up her artifact for my little skirmish against our newest lance.”