The range of the wave was too broad. Outrunning it was a difficult prospect at best and feeling the flames nipping at our heels was doing no favours to our confidence. Marshal Canis clenched her teeth and shouted over the roar of the flames, “Azure, hold on. I’ll Shadow Walk us out of here. It’ll just take some time to set up…”
“No,” I interrupted her, my voice falling into the cold, emotionless monotone of the Void. “That will waste too much of your mana. We won’t be able to fulfil our mission. Azure. Let loose your control over your Domain.” Over the six months I had been preparing for the Swayamvar, I had turned Oneness into an instinct. As always, the stressful situation was a good motivator and I had found falling into the Void easier than usual. Once my mind was clear of the clutter of emotions, I managed to look at the circumstances from a logical perspective.
My ability was to control mana in my environment. Why did that have to be natural mana? Why couldn’t be the mana emitted by a mage to form their Domain? My recent tussle for control over the fire mana with the elemental had been just that. Then, if the mage in question was willing, wouldn’t I be able to use their mana as if it were my own?
Azure’s mastery of the Aspect of Wind was well below my own, barely at the stage of adeptness as he had focused on offense and trained his Aspect of Sharpness instead. If I could use his mana, I could accelerate us much better than he could.
“What?!” he exclaimed. “Just do it!” I snapped coldly. “Trust me.”
Marshal Canis didn’t bother questioning me and resolutely started condensing mana for a long-range Shadow Walk. I knew it would be difficult for them to believe me but it irritated me nonetheless, almost making me drop out of the Void mindset. “Just. Do. It.” I gritted out.
“Damn it! Damn it all, Felidae. If we die, I’ll haunt your ghost in Hell!” cursed Azure before relinquishing his control over his Domain. Even when I had a mindscape, I had the ability to alter my mana frequency. Not to mention now. A thought and the Domain was mine.
The three of us lost the final fetters that bound us to the ground and shot upwards into the air and the wave of magma passed below us, the billowing waves of heated air simply pushing us higher.
“Canis! Stealth!” I commanded and the dazed Marshal snapped out of her shock, hastily using her prepared mana to cloak us instead.
To the elemental it must have appeared that we had been embezzled by the wave because it snorted a few times, sending plumes of smoke from its snout before starting to sink down into the lake again, satisfied.
I was having none of that. We needed to get it away from the centre of the lake. We needed it to chase us. For that, we needed to thoroughly offend it.
With my enhanced perception in my state of the Void, I located the point in the mana vortex that was formed out of the confluence of the most flows and pointed my finger at it.
Aspect of Wind, Aspect of Amplification.
Tier 1 personal magic: Vacuum Shots.
A transparent bubble formed on my fingertip, shooting out at a blistering speed with a thought. It slammed into the weak point of the vortex and collapsed with a ‘pop’.
Just like how the streams of water in the pool collapsed in upon me whenever I made a mistake during my training, the entire mana vortex imploded and slammed into the unsuspecting elemental.
For the first time in our exchange, we had managed to actually hurt it. The scream that emanated from it was filled with killing intent and it shook the entire cavern, the volcano rumbling in tandem with its fury.
Turning to us with blazing eyes, the flames on its body burnt hotter and brighter as it waded through the pool of magma as it moved towards us, sending ripples flowing outwards on the surface of the molten rock. As it neared the bank, more and more of its body was revealed until halfway to us, eight flaming tails rose out of the lake, the magma cascading off them in glowing red streams.
The Duchess’ mother really had modified the elemental thoroughly. Its slender torso gave way to fox legs that were altered to allow it to walk upright. The eight tails behind it waved without any discernible rhythm, helping it balance its gait. Its arms were long, reaching its knees and ending in claws. Its head was that of a fox. Its entire form was made up of brilliant blue flames with the exception of its eyes and the insides of its throat that burnt white.
Without warning, its tails shot out like lightning. They were like flaming lances poised to impale us and then immolate us.
In my state of the Void, unencumbered by emotion or distracting thoughts, my laser focus allowed me to manoeuvre the three of us in the air, dodging the tails while retreating backwards at the same time to bait the creature out further.
Its tails shot out faster and faster until it seemed like I had to navigate a forest of burning spears. Whenever the tails missed us and touched the ground, they would shatter rocks and leave potholes that glowed a dull red from the heat. One touch of the tails and we would die.
Using my senses to locate the positions of the other two teams, I used sound transmission to order them. “Keira and Ennis, shift to the right and maintain Stealth. Steven, move to the left of the elemental and drop your stealth. Fung, shoot an Air Bullet at it. Canis, Shadow Walk out of the range of its tails and then Stealth us.”
I don’t know why… maybe because I had managed to hurt the thing… they all followed my orders without question.
Just as the barrage of tails grew too much for me to dodge, Marshal Canis teleported us away from their range. Simultaneously, an air bullet hit the elemental on its face from the left side. It stopped its attacks and turned around in confusion. Seeing Steven and Fung, it roared angrily and sent four tails swiping at them.
As mentioned before, the elemental didn’t really have much in the way of visual acuity. It saw us as blobs of black and white. What it did sense was the mana signatures. As all our teams were composed of a shadow and a wind mage, it mistook one for the other. To it, it must have appeared as though we had teleported to its left, avoided its attack and in turn, attacked it.
Steven’s shadows engulfed the two of them as they avoided the swiping tails that left a huge glowing furrow on the ground. They reappeared several metres backwards from the shadow cast by a rock then Fung shouldered Steven and started running away at the maximum speed.
Roaring angrily, the elemental moved towards them, coming further out of the lake in the process.
Taking a deep breath, it spewed out a wave of white-hot flames at the two of them, forcing them to Shadow Walk to safety yet again.
Giving them the command to go into Stealth, I ordered Keira and Ennis to take up the role of the bait and soon we had started to get into a rhythm in which we managed to lead the creature around by its nose by rotating between the teams. With my ability to fly and my mana senses, I was able to get a good grasp of our terrain and conduct the battle. Marshal Canis coordinated with me, providing advice when needed. Azure allowed me to use his Domain.
This way, we could probably keep the elemental busy for a while. I just hoped that the gunners were making good use of the time.
End of Volume.