Kneeling on the ground, Veer Felidae ran his palm through the loose soil, feeling the lament of the fallen.
Every pebble, every grain of sand was soaked with the blood of martyrs as they fought to protect their stronghold against the insect tides.
Their corpses stacked high, a barrier against the interminable sea of voracious insects, providing refuge for the ones they loved.
He stood slowly, feeling the wind softly caress his hair and skin, greeting him like an old friend.
Today, he too was the only wall between his family and harm.
Doubt, worry, fear… he exhaled them with every breath.
Inhaling the void in their stead.
Consideration for victory and loss was the last to go as he snapped his earthly tethers.
Entered the void.
Emptied and became one with the wind.
The Sun Wolf sat cross-legged in meditation in the Field of the Fallen, awaiting the arrival of the dawn.
His mana seeped out of his pores, suffusing the surroundings learning of what they had to tell.
He felt the residual mana from the soldiers who had fought and died so many years ago.
He sensed their anger, worry, disgust and fear, so much fear…
He felt their courage, that let them stand their ground.
As the first rays of the sun dyed the plains red, he opened his eyes.
The world around him lost colour as the crimson radiance warped and converged towards his orbs of black and white.
His mana vibrated, setting his surroundings aflame.
Tier 3 fire magic: Flame Domain.
At the edge of the Field of the Fallen, standing upon the provincial capital’s city wall, the Duchess stood side by side with her husband, watching the sun peek above the horizon.
Her six tails swayed asynchronously, smoking as they burnt with a pale flame.
The smoke wound around the wall, wrapping the packed audiences to the Mortem’s Duel in an ethereal haze.
As the fragrant incense smoke entered their lungs, they felt the world sharpen and come into focus and when they turned to the Field again, the two opposing figures became clear in their sight.
They watched the Marquis slowly float into the skies.
They watched the world around the Sun Wolf burn.
The world shrank as he rose, his opponent a mere flaming dot so far beneath him.
He looked upwards, spreading his arms, listening as the winds sang to him of calm skies and clear weather.
He inhaled deeply, voiding his surroundings of air.
Strong winds howled as the surrounding air took its place, bringing the distant clouds along with them.
When he opened his mouth, a deep bellow emanated from the depths of his being.
He sang to the winds of thunderstorms and rain and they sang along with him.
Tier 4 wind magic: Storm Call.
Cloud merged with cloud, turning darker and heavier with each merge until they broke, drenching all below with their tears.
The rising sun chased away the darkness, the storm clouds brought it back.
As the first drops of rain sizzled on his domain, the Sun Wolf unemotionally turned his monochrome gaze upwards to the tiny figure that floated in the sky.
Soon, the torrential downpour isolated his line of sight, leaving him as an isolated flaming island amidst curtains of rain.
His domain shrank until only a few metres of his surroundings were covered.
He crossed his hands behind his back, unflustered, his pristine white tang suit fluttering only slightly in the howling winds.
When only a metre around him remained within his domain, his eyes glowed with an arcane brilliance.
The guttering orange flames turned an incandescent white.
The domain morphed into the shape of a flaming white wolf.
Tier 4 magic: Bloodline Manifestation.
Throwing its head back, it howled its silent challenge at the sky.
Formless ripples originated from its mouth spreading outwards, wherever it visited, the rain turned into steam.
The clouds in the sky desalinated under the impact of the arcane howl, letting in the light of the dawning sun.
The wind around the Marquis sped up into a dusky grey tornado that morphed into the shape of the symbol his bloodline.
The stormy tiger roared, enraged at the encroachment of its territory and the two arcane sounds clashed against each other, dividing the world into two.
Half the world belonged to sun and flame, half to wind and rain.
His golden eyes glowed blue at the edges as he inhaled deeply and spat.
Tier 1 wind magic: Air bullets.
The curtain of rain was rent as hundreds, then thousands of compressed packets of air howled towards the Sun wolf.
The Sun Wolf’s eyes glowed white as he raked his vision over the approaching barrage, igniting them midway, making flowers of flame blossom in the sky.
Those that he missed slammed into the ground explosively, adding deep craters in the already bumpy earth.
Raising his arms towards the sky as if in supplication, his flame wolf followed his lead as it turned to the sun.
The world grew dark as all the light was siphoned off to empower his flames.
The wolf opened its mouth and the light gathered within its maw, forming a blinding white orb of compressed energy.
The earth around it softened, glowing orange from the infernal heat.
The Marquis narrowed his eyes as he watched his opponent gather his energy.
The contract marking on his arm glowed a dark red as he drew upon it.
The stripes on the forehead of the storm tiger behind him glowed red then white as light mana poured into them.
The light spread along its body, illuminating the rest of its striations.
The flame wolf stretched its neck and swallowed the incandescent orb.
Its body swelled explosively as it struggled to contain the energy and with a primal howl, it shot the blinding white beam at its opponent.
The tiger roared and met its challenge, bounding down from the cloud layer before swiping at the beam of light.
Their collision generated shockwaves that parted the clouds and shattered the ground.
Its markings glowed brighter and brighter as it counterbalanced the attack.
Yet, it was slowly pushed back until with an unwilling wail, it exploded into a disorderly gale that howled back to the Marquis and reformed into a smaller, more dispirited version of the beast.
With its explosion, it had countered the attack and the flaming wolf too seemed much the worse for the wear, its flames much dimmer than before.
The first round of confrontation was a draw.