Edward Felidae, father of Phobos Felidae and supervisor of Patera looked up at the overcast heavens with narrowed eyes from the inside of his home. Reaching out of the window, he laid out his palm, letting the raindrops splash off it. ‘The thunder is too frequent,’ he thought. ‘Then there was that feeling of being spied upon.’
He had just promoted to Tier 4. Feeling the crisis of impending war, he had gathered his courage and clashed his bottleneck of many years and succeeded by luck. He had decided to stay silent about it to keep himself out of the limelight and steadily consolidate his realm. But he had the distinct feeling that his efforts had come to naught in the face of the magic that had so recently scryed the entirety of Patera.
He couldn’t help but complain internally about his misfortune. Not only had his improved cultivation not helped him, it would paint a target on his back. Whoever it was that had used the spell was way out of his league and they had surely detected him. He sighed again as he tried to make sense of the flashes of lightning that lit up sections of the dark clouds that wept upon the parched earth, slowly raising the water level of Patera lake.
Suddenly, under his flabbergasted gaze, every single raindrop froze in place, covering the world in a crystal tapestry. Then as though time was flowing backwards, each drop flew back up the way it came. The citizens of Patera were treated to the marvellous sight of rain falling up to the skies.
There was only one thought in Edward’s mind…
‘What in the seven hells did the cat drag in this time?’
Ryu-o, the dragon kings – when they commanded, the waters obeyed.
Nurarihyon clenched the smoking palm he had used to block Risa’s attack into a fist. The clouds collapsed, the rain flew upwards, the moisture in the air heeded his call. The draconic overlords of the Land of Water, a place with an abundance of inland water bodies and marshes, had only one skill. Rather, they could only comprehend a single Aspect inborn – the Aspect of Water. But that sufficed, that was more than sufficient for rather than an understanding of the element, they possessed an authority over it. Water was their subject and they, its ruler.
Tier 2 water magic: Fluid Manipulation.
A small pond’s worth of water gathered above Nura as a transparent sphere. Raising his palms upwards, he exerted his will upon the sphere. It began revolving rapidly, flattening out into a disc of water.
In a blue flash of lightning, Ryuugen appeared by Risa’s side. “Sister, run!” he exclaimed as he jumped on her back and pumped his mana into her through their bond. Following his order without hesitation, Risa turned around and dashed away through the now clear sky, turning into a streak of bluish-purple lightning.
And they were just in time as Nura used the momentum of the rapidly spinning water to cast it as a fisherman would a net. The disc rapidly expanded into a sky-covering net woven with threads of water that just fell short of capturing them. If they had been a moment slower to evacuate its range, it would have caught them.
As the twins dashed away, accelerated by Ryuugen’s Aspect of Speed, Risa cursed, “What damn monster is that?! Who can tell me what is going on?!”
Blood seeped out of Ryuugen’s eyes, constantly being burnt up by the brilliant blue electricity that sparked around his pupils, making his eyes look like they were smoking. He replied, “As far as I can tell, he has the strength of all six elements and has merged the bloodlines of the six royal yokai into one body. And judging by his command over water, he can probably use the specialties of each clan. Not only that, he is using the ambient mana to amplify and fuel his spells, putting him on par with most Tier 5’s. We can’t fight him. All we can do is run away.”
Then he closed his eyes with a pained grimace as the strain of using his Aspect of Detection to pry the details of a superior opponent took its toll.
Seeing that he had missed with the net, Nura let it go, the water cascading down to join the lake beneath.
His feathered robe shone with a pristine brilliance and a ring of light took shape above his head. Following soon after, three more concentric rings materialized surrounding it. The rings expanded as they descended until they encircled his middle. Slowly at first, then faster, they began to revolve asynchronously like the rings of a gyroscope with him at the centre. The innermost ring revolved the fastest while the outermost one moved almost sedately.
Then Nura moved. Though his movement seemed slow and ponderous, in reality, it was blazingly fast, his form drawing a trail of afterimages as he chased after the fleeing twins.
“How the hell is he so damn fast?!” complained Risa as she pumped more mana into her escape technique. “Aren’t you supposed to be a master in the Aspect of Speed? How is he even keeping up?!” she questioned her brother on her back without turning head.
Ryuugen gave a forced smile. “It’s not my fault. I might have mastered the Aspect of Speed but he has mastered Time. That’s the signature technique of the Tennin clan – The Rings of Heaven. Depending on the way the rings revolve, the speed of time within them is affected. He has sped up flow of time around himself four times – once per ring. That’s why he is so fast. I can speed us up four times as well but his base speed is just faster than ours, after all, the Tennin clan is known for their speed. The worst thing is that his mana is coming from the environment while ours is coming from within us. This way, we’ll run out of mana before he even catches up to us.”
“What the hell!” complained Risa, “What kind of freak is he?! What do we do now? Even my lightning strike imbued with my Aspect of Vibration barely did anything to him and now he can outlast and overtake us?”
“Now, now, sister. No need to panic,” comforted Ryuugen with a confident smile. “He is not without flaw. That mask of his is his biggest handicap. While he can use the Absolute Shadow to absorb the majority of our attacks while it is active, it renders him blind, deaf and dumb. Even his sense of smell is sealed off. The only way he can track us is through our mana signatures. As a Tamer, while that happens to be his strong point, today he has run up against me. I’m his difficult adversary. Turn that way. I thought something was fishy when he dared to take us both on at once so I set up some safeguards while you were fighting him.”
Risa’s eyes brightened. “Good!” she commended before altering her path towards the direction he had indicated towards.
Lightning streaked across the starless night sky followed closely by a streak of light. The distance between the two parties drawing closer by the second. Risa grew anxious as the sense of crisis covered her.
“Anytime now,” muttered Ryuugen on her back as he held up one hand with his index and middle fingers pointing out and the rest clenched. Then with a sudden burst of mana, he exclaimed, “Release!”
Aspect of Sealing: Thunder Seal.
A dazzling network of blue lightning blasted out without any indication behind the two of them, timed perfectly to trap Nura who had been following close on their heels. The appearance of the lightning was extremely sudden and there was practically no fluctuation of mana. By the time he responded, it was too late and he had fallen into the trap.
Densely packed threads of electricity covered the monster that the Shogun had become, caging him in without a single slit.
Atop Risa’s back, Ryuugen panted as he paled from the effort. Stopping her flight, Risa let him get off before shifting back to her Bestial form.
“What did you do?” she inquired as she studied the floating cocoon of electricity.
“Hah… I set up a minefield here with more than half my mana. When he entered it, I activated it, trapping him inside,” he panted.
“Mana can be stored outside without dissipating?” asked Risa surprised.
“With my Aspect of Sealing it can.”
“Well, my seal is the antithesis of whatever monster he has become. It cuts off the relation between the inside and the outside so he can’t use ambient mana to amplify himself, or sense us.”
Risa’s eyes brightened. “So, we can beat him now?”
Ryuugen shook his head wryly, “We can’t. To attack him we need to open a slit in the seal and that’ll give him access to the ambient mana. And even without that, his current form is an anomaly. I can feel him struggling in the seal. Half my mana… and it won’t even take him a quarter to break out at his current rate.”
“So what? We run?” asked Risa.
“We run,” agreed Ryuugen. “But we run smart. Sister, lend me your mana.”
“Fine. Once the reinforcements arrive, I’ll see how long he can hold out,” she grumbled before the marking on her waist glowed, matching the mark on Ryuugen’s.
Her mana flowed into Ryuugen’s mindscape, melding with his own and fuelling his spell.
Tier 4 ultimate magic: Lightning Clone.
The mana poured out of him, splitting into eight streams that shaped themselves into the form of Kirins made of violet lightning with a Bestia rider composed of blue electricity. Then all of the mana constructs turned into eight streaks of lightning and fled in separate directions.
“Since he uses mana to track us, let him chew on that,” said Ryuugen with a grin as his whole body became soft and he had to be supported by Risa. “I’ll seal our mana fluctuations,” he continued, “take us towards the city. We’ll hide there till help arrives.” He formed another hand-sign and two bracelets of blue lightning appeared on both of their wrists.
Risa felt a transparent shroud covering them both, sealing in the fluctuations of mana caused by them casting their spells. She couldn’t help but look at her brother strangely. Speed, Detection and now the Aspect of Sealing. Why were all his abilities geared towards escape?
Well, it had helped them this time, she thought as she held up Ryuugen and swiftly made her way to Patera. The damned monster would hopefully neglect the possibility of them turning back to the city and pursue a Doppelganger instead when he broke free.
She had already sent a distress signal to her father through the flake of mind crystal embedded in her ring. It was too small to transmit details but it could send something like a ping of mana back to the main crystal it had been slivered from. It made for a good performance-to-price distress signal. And she had sent three consecutive pings – the highest form of distress signal possible.
By her father’s overprotective stance towards his children, she expected the nearest Tier 5 to be transferred at the soonest. Even though the battle-strength Nura had shown was matchless in Tier 4, it still had quite the disparity with a true Tier 5. He might be able to stand off a few moves but, in the end, the victory would surely belong to the Tier 5.
She couldn’t help but palpitate with excitement. A method for men to turn Feral. If the Kirin clan gained access to this technology and monopolized it, they could outstrip the other five clans in strength. They might even become the true ruling clan in the Shogunate. And the twin’s merit for being instrumental in this motion would be huge.
She couldn’t help but feel how lucky the Kirin clan was in being the ones to spearhead the Shogunate’s invasion into Regiis and how fortunate they were for being assigned to this task by the vixen. As she neared the city, her lips curved upwards as she envisioned how she would ‘thank’ that arrogant woman.
Suddenly, warm blood splashed on her face, startling her out of her daydreams. Turning her head, her eyes widened as she took in the sight of a large clawed hand coated in the darkest of shadows sticking out from Ryuugen’s chest. The world seemed to slow down to a crawl as she watched the hand withdraw silently, leaving a huge cavity in his chest.
Ryuugen’s eyes, filled with disbelief and unwillingness, locked onto hers. He opened his mouth to say something but only blood spewed out – not words.
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