I was Mars Felidae. I had my pride. Even if no one expected anything of me, I wouldn’t stop expecting things from myself. Cadet, captain, marshal, major, general; that was how the military rankings went. Lieutenant wasn’t even a military post, it was a title. Simply reaching Tier 4 didn’t qualify you for the post of Major. It required the accumulation of massive contribution points. There simply weren’t enough Majors to hold the posts of the heads of the various departments of the army in each outpost. That was why, the title of Lieutenant was granted to Marshals who had performed great meritorious services. They, then could wield one of the departments under advisement of the Majors and the General.
My current post of Interim Lieutenant meant that I was expected to contribute as much to the war effort as a Tier 4 mage. My status as a Tamer with three wives at Tier 2 meant that not very many people took me seriously. They were justified in their disdain. Under ordinary circumstances, I wouldn’t be able to achieve much. The keyword here being ordinary.
I was as far from being an ordinary Tamer as could be. Not only had I stepped on a path of magic untrodden for aeons, I had an artefact that could provide me the means to reach my goal.
Ceres’ mind crystal amulet.
The very thought of who had given her the amulet and how she had been treated as a child made my blood boil but now wasn’t the time for sentiment. The amulet was a tool, a tool that could help repel the Calamity and if I had learnt anything from my extensive readings on the topic of war; it was that every tool available should be used.
As I drew upon my contract with Ceres and accessed her sensitivity to the fire mana around me, the world around me took on a fiery cast to my senses. The ant legion, composed of fire ants as it was, did a splendid job of making my task easier by concentrating the fire mana for miles around to this area.
The first rune formed easily, followed by another and then another. Soon, I was surrounded by a fiery mass of mana text, each rune reading the old language word for ‘fire’.
I channelled the runes into the amulet, filling it up with the text instead of pure mana. During my experiments with my power, I had discovered that the crystal could hold the text within it without letting it dissipate for a short period of time and in that time, I didn’t have to branch out my mental effort to maintain the rune. Which meant that I could accumulate runes within the crystal and unleash them all at once in one powerful strike.
Also, as I lacked a mindscape, I didn’t have to worry myself over the restrictions placed on using the crystal for fear of backlash. I could bring out its full potential. It was my trump card and it would see the light of day for the first time today.
Even father didn’t know what I had planned, the only ones in the loop being Ceres and I.
The elemental affinity of the crystal and the favourable conditions provided by the element of the Calamity meant that for maximum effectiveness, I had to work with fire mana. Thus, I had applied to Major Tauros for a spot by the artillery squad led by him.
I racked my brains for anything that could help me speed up the process of accumulation for my strike. Inspiration flashed as a few words mother had spoken to me, back before the Tournament that changed my life even began.
“The flame-touched are highly emotional. The fire of their enthusiasm driving them to perform feats of both great benevolence and great evil…”
I relaxed the self-imposed shackles on my emotions.
While we now knew that the Duchess wasn’t crazed enough to put a Geas on her own flesh and blood, we did know that she had kidnapped a child from the Shogunate and burnt an orphanage to the ground to erase her tracks. Despite the inimical relationship of the two nations, her actions were nothing short of atrocious. Was that why she was hounded by the ninja? Did some Kitsune noble want Ceres back? What was her motive for wanting me on the throne? We had more questions than answers, but that didn’t change one thing.
My anger at her treatment of Ceres.
It burnt white hot in my mind and resonated with the fire mana swirling around me. The runes formed easier, the mana more responsive to my call. The speed at which the amulet filled increased several-fold as my mind seemed to reach out and add our soldiers’ emotions to the mix. Excitement, anticipation, anger and fear, so much fear. After all, despite their training, it was the first time on the field of battle for many of them.
“Buck up, men! The one who kills the least of these cretins won’t be eating tonight! Show me some spirit!” Major Tauros’ brash voice cut through the tension. “Sir, yes sir!” chorused the artillery squad. I could feel the emotions of the soldiers shift to resolve. Despite his history, the man was a splendid commander and his troops loved him.
Sensing the fluctuations of mana around me, he shot me a curious glance before dismissing me from his mind. As long as I wasn’t interfering with his squad, he couldn’t be bothered less about what I did.
As the legion breached the firing range, he yelled, “Ready!”
The fire mages dropped their waists and widened their stances with their fists by their hips. The way they stood together seemed to faintly form a sort of topography.
They synchronously activated Tier 1 flame magic: Ember. The bright red flames shrouding them in a flaming coat. The density of fire mana in the area crazily increased causing my rate of rune formation to shoot up. Flowing from all over their bodies, the Embers concentrated on their right fist.
“Hah!” with a chorused shout, they stepped forward with their right foot in tandem and punched. Tier 1 flame magic: Flame Bullets. My eyes widened as I sensed some of the fire mana being towed by their glowing fists, feeding into the fireballs that shot out, causing them to inflate. The original spell formed several scattered gouts of flame but the fireballs formed by this method were nearly the size of a human head and much hotter to boot.
Gerard was right about army techniques being optimized for group warfare. But, it wasn’t the time to gawk around in admiration. I had to make my move right about… now!
With a shout, I stepped forward and slammed my palms onto the ground. Hundreds of runes flowed out of the amulet and down my arms, spreading out on the ground before rising upwards, forming a wall of fiery text.
Unranked Personal Magic: Wall of Aggravation [Murus Aggravo]
The fireballs inflated to almost twice their size as they passed through the wall. Leaving fiery trails in their wake, they drew a curve in the air as they dropped upon the ant legion like meteors. The ants might be fire-attributed beasts but that didn’t make them immune to fire, merely resistant to it, just like a fire mage wasn’t immune to the flames he created.
They left smoking craters in the battle-lines of the ants, filled with charred corpses of the insects. The legion ignored their losses, the remaining ants walking over the corpses of their fallen as they advanced uninterrupted.
It seemed like it would be a long war… But looking at the looks of startlement and awe being directed at me, I couldn’t help but feel that we were off to a promising start.
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