SS) Semi-Final Confrontation
Aiden stares Eric down from across the arena. He’s both ready to spring forward, and itches for a fight that will test his abilities, but can’t see himself winning with such a reckless play against the reigning champion. Even though Eric stands at complete ease, to the point that he looks about ready to yawn, Aiden continues to wait for a proper opening.
Champions to the Strongest Under Heaven Magic Battle competition tend to be fifth year students who are ready to graduate. Fourth year students sometimes win the title, but then tend to fail to defend their position the following year. Their victories depend heavily on their opponents being too exhausted from the previous battles to fight properly.
Eric did the seemingly impossible and claimed the position of the academy’s strongest magician as a third year. Luck and circumstance cannot overcome the difference in skill between third years and fifth years. Furthermore, while he isn’t the first to accomplish such a feat over the academy’s glorious history, the previous three have all had their names recorded into history. Eric’s future, compared to Aiden’s, is blinding.
As Aiden takes a few steps to the side for a different approach, Eric smirks. “Well, aren’t you going to bring out your sword?” Aiden stops moving and readies himself, but Eric just throws up his arms and turns around. “Here, tell you what, have at it.”
Of course, he would…
Aiden kicks forward while strengthening his physical abilities with his internal magic circle and kicks into Eric’s side.
Eric holds his ground. He keeps his back towards Aiden and speaks with a flat tone. “That isn’t your sword.”
Aiden leaps back. Having expected his attack to be shrugged off, he claps his hands together in midair in order to try a different attack. Stone spikes rupture from the ground. They spear into Eric from all sides only for their tips to crumble upon impact.
Eric glances towards Aiden. Annoyance laces his almost bored expression. The spikes crack and shatter as he steps through them and out of the encirclement. Not a single one even managed to tear his clothes. “Seriously? Didn’t you lecture my brother about researching your opponents? He and Cami think way too highly of you.”
“Wait, what?” Aiden pauses only back away a few more steps. “Harald’s been talking about me?”
Eric shrugs. “He’s been going on and on about how you’ll revolutionize magic. Honestly, you’re nothing special. Just a brainless moron who lucked into an Ascension Ritual.”
“Then why the heck are you baiting me to take out my zweihander?”
“Cause it’s too good for you. We just started and you’re already scared of me. I don’t know where you got it from, but something like that is better off with me.”
Aiden’s so taken aback that he shouts, “You’re flat out admitting this?”
Eric takes a few steps towards him while saying, “What’s the problem? I’m properly winning it from you through fair combat.”
Aiden claps his hands while saying, “You mean stealing.”
Eric cracks his neck when a molten tendril whips him from behind. He finally grunts out, but doesn’t flinch. The tendril wrapping around him elicits a deep growl laced with irritation. As he his teeth sharpen into fangs, he slides his legs apart and flexes his arms.
Aiden strengthens his spell’s grip by pouring more mana into it, but after a short struggle, it bursts apart as leathery wings covered in black scales rupture from Eric’s back. A sharp flap scatters the dripping, molten, remains into raining around himself.
Eric’s wing patagium reach across his chest, allowing the wing membranes to drape over his self like a mantle in place of his incinerated shirt.
Aiden’s tendril failed to burn Eric. Not even the hairs on his chest are singed. Despite that, a large smile crosses his face.
Eric scoffs. “What? You think this proves something?”
“Yeah, I got you to use your wings before you did my sword.”
“Everyone really is overestimating you.” Eric stomps his foot and drives it a few inches into the ground as he says, “You messed up!”
Nothing happens. Aiden looks left and then to the right. Just as he rehearsed with Kalani and Liam, he acts confused. “Did you do something?”
Eric’s eyes pop open at his failure to activate Aiden’s spell. As he again tries activating Aiden’s spell, Aiden claps his hands together. Although Eric again fails to cast anything, Aiden has molten chains jut out from the ground and snake around his opponent. They hiss as they try to dig into Eric’s flesh, but fail to do anything other than bind him.
Eric flexes his arms and wings in an attempt to break free, but they don’t move. His body remains still regardless of how he tenses his muscles. He struggles even harder against the chains, but fails to realize that they are not competing against him in terms of strength. They are strategically positioned across joints, ligaments, and muscles for the sake of prevent movement.
Aiden, once more as rehearsed, smirks and says, “Shouldn’t you be free by now? Those chains aren’t very strong.”
Eric freezes at the taunt. He grits his teeth as he glares at Aiden. “How? Where’s the magic circle? Why can’t I find it? What did you do?”
“This,” Aiden claps his hands together, but instead of using alchemy to create a wide reaching, underground, magic circle to as Eric believes, he bridges the spell created by his internal magic circle to the outside world. His earlier “brainless” attacks and “cowardly backing away” were all to better position himself upstream over the ley line branch running underneath the island. Through it he ferries a spell that turns the ground underneath Eric into a neck high, pool of mud.
“You, what is this? That wasn’t magic!”
Aiden relishes Eric’s frustration. He recalls the mockery from his cousins, the pity from his grandparents, the consoling into giving up becoming a magician by his mother, and encouragement to pursue something other than magic by his father. Laughter bubbles out from his stomach.
“Quit laughing! What is all this?”
Aiden takes a breath, but instead of following the next part of his script, he points to himself and adlibs. His declarations are loud enough for everyone to hear. “You idiot. I’m the world’s first synthesis magician!”
“The hell is that?”
A smile plays at Aiden’s face as he claps his hands. He has a stone fist shoot up from the ground and punch Eric in the face. Even though the fist crumbles upon hitting him, Aiden says, “If you’re wondering, this is alchemy.” He then follows up by having open palms reach from the ground to hold Eric’s face still. More hands then tug Eric’s hair taut, allowing for razor thin stones to shear it all off.
Eric’s mouth drops open as his hair tufts down before his face.
The amphitheater rumbles and the ground pops. Black scales begin hardening over Eric’s face and fissures weave out from around him.
Aiden stops his next spell, spins around, and dashes to the far end of the arena.
From behind Aiden ruptures out a black dragon ruptures from ground. Boulders tumble through the air as unfolding wings spread a gust over the arena. Eric, assuming his dragon form, holds his head high as his fore-paws touch down and releases a ground shaking roar that echoes across the island. The deafening roar cuts into a gurgle as he disappears into a pool of mud.
From the far end of the arena, Aiden claps his hands to create a platoon of shadow clones. He spread them across the arena. They race around, leaping of the walls, barrel rolling over each other, back-flipping, and slide tackling.
Aiden vanishes as he joins the crowd, but is given away by his sudden, deep felt, laughter. He can’t not grow excited at the sudden surge of energy. The amount of mana channeling into him through his spell this is nothing like when he tested it with Liam. A testament to Eric’s potential as a true magician… And exactly why I’m winning this.
Mud explodes all around the amphitheater as Eric’s draconic head bursts through the mud pool with another ground shaking roar, but Aiden meets it with confident smile. “Your breath reeks.”
Aiden stares straight into the gapping maw. Having researched Eric’s general behavior, attitude, and habits, he’s been predicting all of his responses. He claps his hands and shoves dozens of molten tendrils down its gullet.
While Eric chokes and heaves, Aiden reinforces his body with a stronger strengthening spell than before. The spell disregards all caution towards mana efficiency for the sake of maximizing gains. He springs forward and leaps. At the same time, he rotates his wrist to trace a crimson ring with a finger. His fingers fall upon the circle and he eases it towards his opposite hip. The hand then slips inside to grab his zweihander.
He kicks off the air and propels himself towards Eric’s chest. Key to Eric’s transformation is his heart. Magic was able to remodel it into that of an ancient dragon’s. It was a permanent altercation that affected his entire body, one that can’t be undone with magic negating material. The dragon form, however,
Aiden, however, theorizes that the dragon form is different, that it’s something requiring a spell to activate. Piercing Eric’s heart, should return him to human form. And everyone will remember me as a dragon slayer.
The air whistles at the zweihander draw. It arcs forward and clings as it collides against the scales. The force behind Aiden’s swing is reflected back on him. His sword turns into a lever against the scales and sends him tumbling to the side.
Eric, still dripping molten ground from his jaw, snarls and hurls his body Aiden. Aiden swings out an arm and propels himself upward by pushing against air. A few quick kicks help him stabilize and flip over Eric’s head.
A sharp pain cuts across Aiden’s back.
Eric’s barrel roll sends mud flying all over the arena. Yet instead of chasing after Aiden who he sent crashing and is tumbling, he slams his taloned paw into the ground.
Aiden’s eyes pop open as he bursts with laughter. He winces a few breaths later. He’s too relieved to think much over how his spinal cord was almost severed. That Eric didn’t charge forward is a lucky outcome to his stupid improved swordplay.
He heals the wound as he stands. “Seriously, you are an idiot! If it didn’t work before, what made you think you’d succeed now? Read my lips, only morons give their enemies large scale magic circles to usurp. You of all magicians should know that!”
Eric snarls and lunges. Aiden takes a breath and flings his zweihander at Eric’s chest. While the sword is flicked aside, he alchemizes a magic circle under the ground beneath his feet. It’s small and away from his enemy’s reach in adherence to combat theory.
Oak trunk thick, molten red, tendrils with no regard to mana consumption burst from the ground like roots to snare Eric. They catch his wing as he tries ducking around them. He then tries brushing them off, but they grab his arms and weave around his body. Regardless of how he rolls, pulls his wings, and twists his neck, he can’t overpower the tendrils.
Aiden watches Eric wrestle against his spell. He knew it would be too slow due to being downstream the ley line and having to cast it the normal way, but banked on Eric’s arrogance. Thanks to it, molten red is threading around the Eric’s black scales and forcing him still. For insurance, he even hardens the mud pool back into solid ground. “I’ve… won…”
A low, grumbling laugh shakes the stadium. Eric waits for Aiden to finish recalling his zweihander before saying, “You’re delusional. Toss my sword off the ring. I don’t want to dama—”
Aiden acts before Eric can finish. His failed impromptu swordplay sobered him of his mana high. It almost turned all of his planning and preparation into wasted effort.
Eric notices the shift in Aiden’s attitude and sharpens his focus. He directs all of his attention onto Aiden and fails to take note of how the shadow clones are coordinating themselves to a different pattern.
I seriously couldn’t have asked for a better opponent.
Aiden is also thankful for the sound barrier setup against the audience. Few might realize his shadow clones are acting as a living magic circle, but anyone could warn Eric that they’re doing something. He has no doubt Camillia would be the first.
Eric tires of Aiden’s smug smile and says, “Well? Get on with—” A tendril clamps his snout shut.
Aiden waits for Eric to tremble from rage before saying, “Too late.”
Blooming orange flames swallow Eric. The blinding fire scorches and melts everything in its path as it blossoms across the arena. Any remaining mud bubbles away and turns to ash. Aiden pours all of his stolen mana into making his spell burn brighter and hotter.
The words finish rolling off his tongue when he feels a tremor shake the arena.
It’s not enough!?
All the information he gathered on Eric flashes through his mind. Even the data to complete his spell was gathered during their match.
Aiden doesn’t try overwhelming Eric by making his spell burn hotter. He gives up on his spell, hoists up his zweihander, and thrusts it into the ground. By the time he grips the handle and dives behind the seven inch wide blade, the outburst is already tearing across his face.
Dragon scales serve as naturally occurring magic circles, ones with the equation for mixing mana into the surrounding air for an explosion. Circulating mana into them allows a dragon’s native ability to trigger: Eruption.
The world around him shakes as the ground is torn asunder. The intensity of the escaping air forces his eyes shut. The pressure alone peels his exposed fingers.
That the plot of land he’s on hasn’t been blown away astounds him. He half wonders if Eric can control his Eruption to such a degree, but soon drops the thought. Even if Eric could, his earlier taunts were all for the sake of robing such clarity from him. Regardless of the reason, he realizes he’s just lucky.
Only as the technique begins to settle down does he realizes he’s screaming. He stops himself only to then collapse against his sword. After a few heavy breaths and coughs, he grips the crescent guard and hoists himself back onto his feet.
He doesn’t need to look around. He knows not a single shadow clone could have survived that blast. He tries to click his tongue, but instead almost falls over. I’ll need to make more…
His gaze drops down towards his hands as he prepares to clap them. Ivory white flashes before him. There is no feeling in either of them. He tries moving his fingers as a test and despite the various stripped patches of flesh, they obey.
Aiden fights down the urge to throw up and regrows the missing nerves, ligaments, arteries, skin, and nails. As he releases his held breath, a shadow washes over him. A rumbling voice echoes from above. “You endured it…”
Aiden goes to answer, but chokes. He clears his throat and then says, “O-obviously…” He then forces himself to match Eric’s stare with a smirk. “I’m not a fake.”
Internally, he racks his brain on how to set up a new living magic circle. Eric’s roar doesn’t let him think too deeply on the matter.
Aiden leaps back to avoid being crushed by Eric’s paw. He claps his hands together while in air and nine, light blue, spirit flames halo around. They zip towards the oncoming second paw, but although they make Eric growl, do little to throw off his aim.
Aiden gets swatted aside and tumbles across the ripped up remains of the arena. He bounces off the ground and crashes against an outcropping the knocks the wind out of him.
Eric doesn’t give Aiden any time to readjust himself. He takes a deep breath in order to carry out another ability native to dragons: Dragon’s Breath.
Aiden grits his teeth and traces a flame circle to summon his zweihander. Dragon’s Breath, unlike Eruption, manifests through mana. The fire is nothing more than a spell laced into the exhaled air. His swing pulls him back onto his feet as he cuts through the flame.
Eric persists and sends another round.
Aiden, not wanting to enter a stupid back and forth, once again shoves his zweihander into the ground and hides behind it’s seven-inch-wide blade. The attack becomes nothing more a heavy wind against it.
He catches his breath and thinks. Plenty of his mana remains, but his strongest spell already failed. Anything I do would just be a repeat.
Regardless, Aiden claps his hands to create another platoon of shadow clones. All of them explode a second later underneath a stream of fire. He uses that as cover for his counter attack. For Eric to attack with something else, he needs to stop his current fire breath. Aiden counts on that time delay as he springs upward, grabbing his zweihander in the processes.
Eric breathes in unleashes another torrent of fire breath towards Aiden.
He really wants that to work…
Aiden brandishes his sword before himself and kicks himself forward off the air. The flames break into packets of light and fade as they split themselves against the blade.
He lands upon Eric’s snout and lunges. Eric flings his head to the side, but he’s too slow. The zweihander stabs into Eric’s eye. The vigorous head jerk only serves to aggravate the injury. It helps the sword tear across the rest of the eye.
Aiden kicks off the air, flips, and lands a bit behind Eric. A spell to amplify his voice over Eric’s ground shaking howls. “Hey, moron! Thanks for being so cooperative!”
Eric homes in on the voice and pounces.
Aiden leaps back as Eric crashes into the most optimal location and braces himself for the next step. He breathes in and activates the large scale magic circle he laid down back when he created his shadow clones. As beams of light spear out of the ground. While large clumps of debris are pushes aside, the smaller pieces of rubble vaporize. This is gonna hurt.
The whole arena vanishes in a geyser of pure mana. All the protective barriers places around the amphitheater shatter from the pressure alone. Everything is drowned white.
An unyielding roar drowns out all sound within that white. Within that roar, Aiden is positive that he’s screaming. Highly concentrated mana particles tear into his body and rupture through the other side. To his surprise, the pain is so overwhelming, his body can’t even process it. He can’t process anything.
His spell, M.A.D., is a gamble where he unleashes Earth’s might by prying open a ley line. While a normal person would be vaporized by the attack, he is an ascended being while Eric is the former pinnacle of ascension ritual research. Both of them are beyond humanity’s limits.
It’s then that something rams into Aiden and sends him flying. The impact is nothing to the pain coursing through his body, but if focuses his attention. He still can’t see anything beyond the white blanketing everything and neither can he tell if he’s standing upright or flat on his face, but Eric’s just fine? Something then slams down into Aiden and drills him into that direction.
Aiden has no idea what’s going on. He only knows he can’t stay there. As far as he can guess, he’s laying on the ground. He does what he can to stand, but has no idea if he’s successful. Regardless, he starts running any which way he can. If he’s moving, stumbling, or falling flat on his face, he can’t tell. Most likely, he’s being flung around like a rag doll.
He’s helpless within the mana. Its barrage overwhelms his senses, but it’s mana.
That’s just crazy…
He takes a breath, or thinks he does, and lets it flow into him. The same way Sifu taught him to draw mana from nature, he draws in the concentrated mana of the ley line. It flows into him and radiates out of him to form a neon blue halo.
An azure blue flame appears within the white. It spears through the dense mana and rams into the black dragon before flickering out.