Chapter 186: Beauty in Magic
I watched as Arthur and my master stood face to face just a dozen feet apart. Their presence collided terrifyingly, submerging the room in a heavy shroud as they merely waited.
Finally, Miss Watsken’s strained voice croaked from behind as if she was already regretting what she was about to say. “Th-The barrier is ready… I think.”
Her voice was soft, but Master and Arthur must’ve heard because the auras thickened around them. A shimmering veil of bluish silver surrounded my master unlike Arthur’s aura, which was myriad of different hues—no doubt because of his multiple affinities.
Commander Virion, along with the elders and even General Bairon watched in silence, each of them afraid to blink in case they might miss anything. I could sympathize with them, I was standing as close as I could without endangering myself.
Just the mere sight of them was awe-inspiring. I felt a sense of pride watching my master and the presence she had in a room filled with masters of magic. I had no doubt that, regardless of<span class=”Apple-converted-space”> </span>the many sparring sessions I could provide for Arthur, training just once with Master was more valuable.
Suddenly, Master’s body flickered and disappeared. Arthur reacted instantly, his form flashing away just in time to dodge Master’s first strike.
Where her frozen lance pierced the ground, ice spread.
Arthur seemed to want to test his own ice magic against Master, because he responded by hurling a shockwave of frost.
With a flick of her wrist, Master dispersed the shockwave, using Arthur’s frost to fuel her own magic. The white mist swirled, forming into a dozen spears of ice around Master. She clutched her fist and the ice spears beckoned to her call, shooting at her opponent.
As impressive as Master’s control over ice was, Arthur’s speed in dodging her barrage was even more splendid. His body seemed to have split and multiplied from the afterimages. I had heard that he was able to go even faster, but that his body wasn’t able to handle the stress.
Someone beside me clicked their tongue. I turned to see Buhnd with an expression of frustration. “I see the young General was holding back on us.”
“Arthur has a tendency to hold back with anyone he even suspects is weaker than him. Against Varay, he can go at full strength,” Commander Virion said, his arms crossed.
“Why isn’t he using that form of his—Realmheart, I think he called it,” Hester asked, her face still strained from her duel against Arthur.
“I think it’s so he can enjoy the fight longer,” a light voice answered. “It’s not everyday you can see my brother look so happy.”
Arthur’s little sister was watching atop her bond as if in a trance. She had the same gaze I often saw Arthur have when he was truly focused on something. They really did resemble one another.
A loud crash drew my attention back to the battle. Where there was once only a dirt field was now a snowy expanse. Master, who had just blocked an attack from Arthur, waved her arm and manipulated the snow around her. A vortex of frost swirled to life, forming into a spiraling serpent.
Elder Buhnd whistled in appreciation as all gazes followed Master’s creation. A snowy frost formed the long body of the dragon while the jagged claws and fangs were made of ice.
The ice dragon opened its maw at Arthur, who readied himself. Brilliant blue flames coiled around his arms, melting the snow around him as his gaze remained locked on the mighty dragon.
“Smart move, giving up on playing to her strengths,” Hester praised.
Arthur lowered his stance, digging his back legs into the ground for support before he unleashed his fiery attack.
The coiling vines of blue fire around his arms conjoined before erupting into a devastating blast at the frost dragon.
Their two opposing spells crashed, enveloping the two of them in an expanding sphere of steam and debris.
“Care!” Elder Camus grunted, conjuring a barrier of wind around all of us.
We all braced ourselves for the shockwave that ripped out from the collision. The ground trembled and cracked while pieces of rock and ice bombarded the protective spell around us.
As the cloud of steam and dust faded, I could see two figures in the air. Master was flying with two dozen spheres of frost the size of her fists circling around her. Arthur was slowly descending, using wind magic to stay somewhat afloat.
With a wave of his arms, Arthur unleashed a torrent of wind blades at Master. However, before the crescents reached her, they seemed to slow and fall off course.
“Air pressure gets reduced when air cools,” Arthur chuckled. “Don’t I feel stupid for that last attack.”
“Admitting your shortcomings is a step forward,” Master acknowledged with the slightest hint of a smirk on her face.
With a flick of her wrist, the spheres of frost launched forth toward Arthur but not directly at him.
Arthur seemed to sense the danger they posed because he immediately covered himself in a whirlwind of blue fire.
“He’s utilizing both fire and wind to amplify the power of his spell,” Hester remarked.
Just as the spheres of frost were about to explode, Arthur unleashed his fiery tempest. The blue fire roared to life, engulfing Master’s spell.
The swirling gale of fire remained, hiding Arthur within. I expected the blue flames to soon dissipate, but instead the embers swirled as if being sucked in.
That’s when I saw it.
The blue flames had converged, coating Arthur’s giant spear of lightning in a layer of blue flames.
“Not bad,” General Bairon admitted, his gaze locked on the fearsome spear of fire and lightning.
“It would’ve been good if he could manipulate metal for the base of his attack,” Elder Buhnd muttered.
As Arthur’s body slowly descended in the air, he hurled his spell. Just as the fire and lightning spear was released from his hand, a gust of wind swirled around him and his attack. The spear ripped through the sky, accelerating rapidly from the added wind he had added last minute.
Elder Camus nodded in approval. “Using wind as a supportive spell.”
Master was obviously weary of the strength of Arthur’s spell because she conjured layers and layers of protective barriers of ice.
Unfortunately, Arthur seemed to have predicted this because the layer of fire surrounding the spear of lightning melted through every layer of protection that Master conjured.
Most of the people present seemed to be anxious whether or not Master would be able to block Arthur’s attack, but I knew better. While I wanted to root for Arthur, I knew that he wasn’t the only one holding back.
The elemental spear exploded upon contact with Master’s body throwing her back in the air with her form engulfed in fire and lightning. Arthur landed on the ground, his body slumped just a tad forward from exhaustion.
“So she used <i>that</i> form,” General Bairon smirked.
Arthur’s sister and those who didn’t know what he was talking about looked at him in confusion, but I was already expecting it. I had learned <i>that</i> form from her afterall.
“I suggest you take it a step higher as well, General Arthur,” Master said, her form now visible.
It was the form that Arthur had referred to as an ice “ninja”, except a few stages higher. Master was now completely clad in frost as if her very body was carved out of ice. Every strand of hair looked like crystalline thread while her eyes glowed a bright blue.
Arthur smirked, looking up in appreciation. “I suppose it is time to bring this to a close.”
He closed his eyes and let out a breath. That casual action seemed to change the entire atmosphere in the room. While Master’s form exuded a presence of awe, Arthur was distorting the very space around him.
I had seen this form before, yet it still caused shivers to run down my spine.
Arthur opened his eyes, his iris now a magnificent lavender hue and his long auburn hair a brilliant white. That wasn’t it though. Arthur was muttering something under his breath. Soon after, a surge of black lightning enveloped his body.
“Oh-Oh my,” Miss Watsken muttered. “G-General Bairon. Would you mind charging more of your mana into the artifact?”
“Good idea,” Hester agreed. “We’ll help out as well. Buhnd, you should make a bunker around us.”
Soon, the earth around us sunk a few feet so that we all had to stand to see the fight and the distance were two distinct figures. One looked like a translucent statue carved by a master sculpture<span class=”Apple-converted-space”> </span>while the other seemed like a mighty deity in human form.
“So. Do you think you can beat Arthur in a fight?” Commander Virion casually asked General Bairon.
The lance remained silent as he imbued the crystal on Emily’s panel, his hardened gaze focused on Master and Arthur.
I turned my attention back to them as well just in time to hear a series of pops in the space between them.
“What’s happening?” Arthur’s sister asked, squinting her eyes.
<i>I’m not sure either,</i> I thought.
“General Arthur is spell casting, but for some reason, it’s not visible,” Miss Emeria explained, confused as well.
“The boy is countering Varay’s spells before it even manifests,” General Bairon answered, gnashing his teeth.
“How is that possible?” Hester asked.
“It has something to do with that form,” Commander Virion replied, his sharp eyes wide in amazement.
The ‘pop’ sounds were that of mana colliding and cancelling each other out, I realized.
Arthur’s form blurred and disappeared, only to reappear behind Master, his leg high in the air. He struck and a shockwave of mana and electricity ripped out, but was immediately met with a blast of icy frost.
Master responded with a swing of her arm. Arthur parried with a hand, but the ground beneath them shattered from the force.
Arthur and Master were now engaging in melee combat. Every time Master tried to form a spell, they dissipated immediately.
Still, she seemed to be holding her own against Arthur. She had formed a crystalline sword in each of her hands while Arthur had one as well, except a little thinner.
Their ice swords chipped with each block, strike and parry, their broken remnants sparkling from the reflection of the room’s lights. Both of their weapons were formed from ice, yet only Arthur’s conjured sword seemed to break while Master’s sword remained strong.
Despite this disadvantage, however, I could tell that in such close range combat, Arthur had the upper hand. His movements—the ones I could see—were fluid yet unpredictable. Each slash and stab connected into one neverending combination of attacks all the while forming a new sword of ice every time his previous weapon broke. Even from my untrained eyes, I could tell that each of his attacks had meaning, like he was slowly guiding my Master in an elegant dance.
What enraptured my total focus more, however, wasn’t his stunning swordplay, but his expression. He was smiling—practically beaming.
<i>Ah, he is having fun, </i>I thought, my mind straying to the last moment in time when I considered magic as fun.
Unable to recall a particular instance, I concentrated on Master’s fight. <i>It’s a rare opportunity for Master to exhibit so much of her ability. I need to take notes. </i>
Arthur was fighting straightforwardly, while Master attempted to incorporate long ranged attacks while simultaneously striking at Arthur. However, because of his ability to seemingly counter every spell, she was left with only close range combat.
“Oy, Camus. Want to bet? I think that the young general is going to win this one,” Elder Buhnd muttered, his eyes locked on to the battle.
“It’s hard to gauge who has the upper hand,” Elder Camus responded, not answering his companion’s actual question. “General Arthur’s speed and reflexes are several steps above General Varay’s, but General Varay’s defense seems to be able to allow for more error.”
“I agree,” Hester added. “Most of General Arthur’s strikes can’t penetrate through that ice-clad form of her’s, while she seems to have the flexibility of manipulating that armor into whatever shape or weapon she wants.”
“Incredible. General Arthur’s mana flow speed is constantly accelerating,” Miss Emeria breathed, shifting her gaze between her notepad and Arthur.
“So do you want to bet or not?” Elder Buhnd grumbled.
“I will wager on General Varay,” Hester declared.
“General Arthur for me,” Elder Camus replied.
“Varay for me,” General Barion stated.
Commander Virion chuckled. “Let’s see who wins.”