The eastern grounds surrounded the technical buildings, doubling as a classroom for practical hands-on lessons, and a practice ground after classes were over.
By the time Kaidus arrived, there were already a few students quietly practicing magic. A master patrolled the area, making sure nothing happened.
He made his way to where a small group of familiar faces were waiting.
“Alright, Kaidus is here. Shall we begin?” Jorva asked.
“I’m ready, but whose turn is it to set up the arena?” He replied, joining them.
“That would be Mirat and mine.” Jorva answered.
The two older boys looked at each other and nodded. Both began chanting incantations.
As soon as they finished, the ground stirred and four walls of earth rose up, merging together to form an enclosed arena. Rising up to Kaidus’ shoulders, the modestly sized rectangular arena had an opening for where the combatants would enter through. The walls were more to keep out wandering students than to enclose the combatants.
Mirat and Jorva grinned at each other, having accomplished their task. Using compound magic, they amplified each other’s earth magic, strengthening the walls and increasing the speed of the phenomenon.
“Thanks.” Prim thanked the two boys and entered the arena.
“A duel?” Larant asked the others with a puzzled look.
He was relatively new to the group being a first year, and did not know what to expect.
“It’s something that Prim and I came up with when we were first years.” Lisin replied with a grin. “Do your best Prim! Go easy on her Kaidus!” She yelled.
“Oh.” A smile drew across Larant’s face, seeing Lisin yelling for the boy to go easy on someone twice his age.
“When you’re ready.” Kaidus told Prim as they each walked toward their respective side.
“You better be ready.” Prim replied as they separated.
Reaching his position, with a thought, the ground under him rose up and he was standing on a circular dirt platform barely higher than his knees. Kaidus looked over to where prim was standing and soon enough, she also raised herself up on a platform.
The rules were simple:
Two mages, one on each side of the arena, each on a raised platform.
The mages try to push each other off the platforms using magic, and the first one to leave the perimeter of the platform or gives up loses.
Except for lowering the platform to the ground and lethal magic, anything goes.
The separation and distance put between the mages were there, so that competitors could not hear each other’s incantations.
After getting to know one another over the last year, on occasion they would engage in these little bouts of magic, practicing what they’ve learned and applying it in friendly competition. It first began with talking about magic, then practice, then this rivalry.
Of course, the normal rules did not apply to Kaidus. For him, he could only defend while his opponent attempted to push him out. The match would be over once the attacking party fails to disengage him from the platform within a time limit, gave up, or he is pushed out.
With the start of the new school year and Prim’s council work, today was the first time this year.
Kaidus stood on his platform waiting patiently for whatever Prim had in store for him.
He watched silently as the sound of muffled incantations resounded about, and the sensation of the other girl’s mana whirled out, working its way into the world.
Kaidus took a quick sidestep, dodging a gust of wind aimed at his chest. Within seconds of moving, he repositioned himself again as another gust shot at him from the side.
“Massssterr.” Zion hissed in his mind.
‘It’s fine. I am not in danger.’ He thought back to the entity, keeping it down.
The area beneath his left feet surged with mana and crumbled in itself—concaving the platform—in an attempt to stagger him. Kaidus calmly shifted position again, moving to the center of the platform.
A ball of water followed and shot straight at him but before it could hit, a single thought shattered the blob of water, turning it into thousands of droplets that rained on him.
He saw Prim smile.
After a quick incantation, he was assaulted by another blast of wind followed by a burst of lightning magic. Kaidus formed a shield of mana in front of him to absorb the incoming attack. The shield blocked the wind magic, but the trajectory of the lightning bolt was not aimed at him. A small pool of water had collected underneath him due to the concave shape of his platform, and the magic bolt was directed at it. Drenched and standing in a pool of water, his lips curved upward at the attack. Kaidus jumped from his position before the bolt of lightning hit the puddle. In the air, he felt a flood of mana homing in on his position.
‘Amazing. She’s gotten even better.’ He thought to himself. The last time they competed was before the Rjus. Her casting speed, control, and precision were even more precise than he remembered.
A quick wave with his hands and a wall of wind formed, deflecting Prim’s wind magic that was about to blow him out of the air.
Landing onto the platform, he stood on the edges away from the puddle.
Another gust of wind tore at him but was also deflected.
He knew there was no way prim was casting wind magic that fast. Focusing his mind, he sensed the oddity. Because of the flurry of spells in accordance to how prim usually attacks, he was not paying attention to the subtle flow of mana. It was now evident what she had done.
Prim had only casted wind magic once, and had been sustaining it this whole time. She attacked with it in intervals to make it look like she was recasting it, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike him out of the platform.
Invoking, and then sustaining the magic was one of the more advanced forms of control when it came to using an element. The magic required excellent focus and a sufficient flow of mana from the user. To be able to use other spells while sustaining her own wind magic, Prim was truly living up to the prestigious Lithius name.
Kaidus smiled at her progress.
With an indomitable will, he shattered the girl’s flow of mana to her wind magic.
He saw Prim’s look of surprise.
“I give up!” Prim announced from her platform. A defeated smile appeared on her face as she realized Kaidus had seen through her scheme and broken it.
Anticlimactically, it was over.
Prim got off the platform and walked toward the opening of the arena where the other three were waiting—along with a couple of new spectators.
“That was a good try, Prim. You almost had Kaidus.” Lisin tried to cheer up her friend.
“No. He was going easy on me the whole time.” Prim replied. “I never thought I had a chance, but I wanted to try anyways.”
“It was a good strategy. If I’d been slower while I was in the air, you may have taken the win. I was not expecting your lightning magic to go after the water, followed by a sneak attack. Good set up and attempt.” He complimented.
“I see. Then it wasn’t all for nothing. Thank you.” The disappointment of defeat vanished, and in its place emerged the brilliant smile of a beautiful young woman.
“What was that?!” Larant exclaimed excitedly.
“Kaidus won the match.” Jorva spoke from beside him.
“I know that, but did none of you see what just happened!?”
“Ah… Lord Varath never told you Kaidus is a voiceless caster did he?” Jorva added.
“Voiceless caster? He certainly did not…” Larant’s excitement quickly died, seeing the group already knew. Suddenly, a realization dawned on him about something else entirely. ‘That crafty old man… No wonder he’s been so adamant about Sylvia’s training.’
“Well, allow me to reintroduce you to Zorin’s own little….”
Not caring about what was going on with Larant and Jorva,
“How long have you been able to control and sustain wind magic like that?” Kaidus asked Prim.
“My sister taught me over the Rjus, and I’ve been practicing with Lisin in secret.” Prim answered while Lisin gave him a scheming grin.
“I see.” Kaidus knew who Prim was talking about. “I was surprised at how capable you’ve become at controlling your magic. What other elements can you manipulate?”
“Just wind magic for now. It seems I have a higher affinity with it than the other elements.” Prim paused for a moment while contemplating something. “Kaidus. What did you do to my magic anyways? It felt like it just vanished.”
“I severed your mana flow that was sustaining it. You just need to recast it again.”
“Severed? Is that like cancellation magic?”
The other four heard and they swiftly joined in on the juicy topic.
“Something like that.”
“I’ve heard of cancellation magic, but that’s usually along the line of a mana shield or a stronger magic that overwhelms the other, such as using water against fire, or metal to trap and deviate lightning magic. I didn’t notice you doing any of that.” Prim replied.
“That’s because I didn’t. You all understand the principle of amplification and combination magics right? In those cases, two different magic or two different magicians amplify/combine their spells, creating a stronger magic of a grander magnitude, just like what we’ve been doing with the arena. What I did was take it in the opposite direction. Negation of magic. Instead of amplifying your wind magic to create a stronger and more powerful force, my magic worked against yours, disrupting the flow of your own mana and cutting off the connection to your magic.”
“So mathematics?” Jorva sneered.
“Quite so.” Kaidus replied with a grin of his own.
“You and Prim have competed many times. How come this is the first time you’ve done something like this?” Mirat asked.
“There was never a need for it. Sustained magic is troublesome in that it can attack relentlessly depending on the user’s focus. None of you have used any magic beyond the incantation, invocation, and manifestation stages. Today was the first time someone fought me while using a continuous spell.” Kaidus replied with a smirk.
The rest of the group—except for Larant—shifted uncomfortably, embarrassed at his statement.
None of them had the fine control to be using magic like how prim had done earlier. Even if they could, they were not confident about using it.
“Hahaha! Larant started laughing at the sudden awkward silence. “What is this? You all just went numb.”
Noticing how ridiculous they were, Jorva and Mirat joined in on the laughter.
“Kaidus, can you teach us how to do what you did?” Prim asked after they’ve relaxed.
“I can try.” He replied.
“GAH!! I give up! I’m done with this!” The shrill sound of frustration came out of Jorva.
The other four who had already given up burst into laughter at his outcry. After an evening of attempting to extinguish Kaidus’ fire magic, none had succeeded, and the sun was going down.
“Remember what Kaidus said? Sense the flow of his mana. Maybe you lack the mental capacity for it, Jorva!” Prim jeered with a grin on her face.
“I don’t want to hear that from you, Prim!” Jorva retorted.
“I know when I’m beat. You should too, before the shops close and we starve for the night.” Prim countered.
“Prim’s right. We’re all getting hungry.” Mirat added.
Jorva looked at the others, then to Kaidus. “Fine. Let’s go get some food.”
Seeing the end of their practice, Kaidus extinguished his fire magic. Mirat and Jorva dispelled their arena, and the earthen walls crumbled down to the ground.
“You’re paying right?” Prim joyfully questioned Jorva after they finished.
“Why am I paying?”
“You kept all of us waiting with your ceaseless demands of ‘one more try’. Isn’t that right everyone?”
““Yes.”” Lisin and Mirat both confirmed.
Looking at those who had been waiting for him, “Alright. Dinner’s on me tonight.” Jorva replied. Taking the lead, he left the practice grounds.
“… Do you guys do this often?” Larant asked Lisin as they followed.
“Only when someone is keeping the rest of us stranded here in an attempt to prove themselves.” Lisin replied happily before moving up to walk beside Prim.
“But all of you could have left whenever you wanted to…” Larant pointed out the flaw in Lisin’s logic.
“Food tastes better with friends, and more so when someone else is paying for it.” Mirat patted Larant’s shoulders and shot him a grin before running off to catch up with Jorva.
-In a different corner of the world-
An old man strolled through an eerie white world, one that he had traversed hundreds of times before.
The same scenery, unchanged even after decades. The same fog that gives the illusion of an infinite space. The same dead trees that stood motionless within the cloud of nothingness.
The realm which he was navigating now was beyond the understanding of men and magicians today. He himself could only hypothesize that it was forged by the gods at one point in time, and sealed by the ancients to preserve its splendor which had deteriorated throughout the ages. Those who have seen this place called it ‘The Eternal Forest’ but for him, it was only a means of transportation.
After endlessly walking, he reached his destination: a small hut in the middle of the desolate and bleary forest. A single candle was burning inside the hut. He entered and closed the door behind him. With a thought, a path opened in the ground of the hut. Another thought, and a ball of light formed in front of him, leading him down into the earth.
Passing through a door and entering into a large chamber, he could sense the tension and alarm in the room.
Six hooded figures stood in a line, awaiting his arrival.
“Report on Darsus.” The old man commanded as he approached the six, and one of them stepped forward.
“It is as we feared, master. The last known headquarter that our people in Darsus were occupying is in rubble. All contact along with any sign of Zavon has vanished completely. Many of the agents within Darsus are in confusion without a chain of command and are running amok.”
“… What about the shard?” The old man asked bitterly.
It was a turn and seventeen days ago that Zavon failed to report in on the situations within Darsus. Fearing for the worst, they had covertly deployed agents into the eastern continent to ascertain the situation, and to retrieve a priceless relic.
He did not care much about his pawns. All that mattered, is that Tal’hrus’ secrets are safe, and the shard was one of their biggest secrets.
“We don’t know, master. Any traces of it has also vanished. Even the hidden chamber which was reinforced with magic had been destroyed.” The hooded figure replied, keeping his head low.
“That imbecile!! Years of preparations gone in an instant!” The old man shouted furiously. He gripped his fist tightly, restraining the impulse to destroy those before him.
He had warned Zavon to tread lightly, and now Darsus was as good as lost to them.
An old enemy’s face flashed before him, mocking him.
Because of Zavon’s foolish endeavors, it had cost them dearly and the shard may have even fallen into Nylen’s hands.
“Get your men out of there. We are freezing all operations in Darsus for now. Collect any of Zavon’s stragglers and add them to your own. Move any assets we still have within Darsus to the other continents.” Through his anger, the old man calmly voiced his orders, keeping a clear head so as not to make any further blunders.
“Yes, master.” The man kept his head low, pronouncing his subservience. “What about our allies within Darsus?”
“Notify them of the change in plans.”
“Understood.” The hooded man bowed and returned to stand beside the other five.
‘Keep your precious Darsus for now, Nylen. We will be back for it!’ The old man vowed in his mind.
“Kaval! I assume you have better news?” He questioned, his anger at Zavon’s failure seeping through.
Another of the hooded figures stepped forward. “I do.” A female voice rang through the room. “The 5th prince and his supporters have agreed to cooperate with us.”
“And what do they want in return?” The old man replied, his fury still prevalent even after the good news.
“Our assistance in the prince’s rise to emperor…”