Act I, Verse IX:
Aum communed with the elementals, securing their help to build magnificent cities of gem and stone. In the process of his toils, he came to love an elemental of Earth. Begging the Mother for assistance in joining them in bonds of Matrimony, he piqued her curiosity. So, she asked him what he was willing to sacrifice for love.
In answer, Aum reached into his chest and offered up his beating heart.
Act I, Verse X:
Satisfied by his sincerity, the Mother imbued the elemental with his heart, remaking it in his image of the perfect partner. Possessing Aum’s fragment of the Mother, thereby her powers of procreation, Rin was the first female Hominum and her marriage with Aum, the first Contract. Together, they were the progenitors of their race.
Act II, Verse II:
Enamoured by Aum and Rin’s relationship and the happiness they shared, the All-Mother bestowed the same favour upon the Beasts, splitting each of them into twain. Male and female. She wished to experience love for herself through the parts of herself reposing within the females. Yet, the Beasts were many and varied, some developed societies too strange for love to blossom. Some, rejected her gift of gender, procreating by themselves. They were known as the Forsaken.
– Scriptures of the Deus Theocracy.
Deimos leapt backwards, avoiding the mandibles of her opponent by a hair’s breadth. The fire ant the size of a large dog let out a keening wail that hurt her sensitive ears and set her hairs on end. The patterns on its carapace shone with a fiery brilliance as it channelled its mana into them.
Her eyes widened as she sensed the berserk fluctuations of the fire mana radiating off the creature. It wasn’t her first time facing such an attack today but she couldn’t help but be shocked by how little time it took the ants to cast their spells each time.
Tier 2 fire magic: Heatwave.
Centred on the ant, a deluge of flame sprang up, billowing outwards, turning the arena into a sea of flame. Clenching her teeth, Deimos let the winds envelop her, activating Tier 1 wind magic: Haste. She lightened herself, letting the impulse from the expanding firestorm carry her away from her opponent, to safety.
That didn’t stop the heat from singing her hair and scorching her skin, her Heavenly Silksnail garment keeping off the worst of the damage. Clenching her teeth against the pain, she landed in a crouch, skidding to a stop leaving furrows on the ground. Her form stretched and skewed as it morphed into her Feral form.
The hot drafts from the fire magic ruffled her short white fur, speckled with brown. Narrowing her vibrant green eyes at the ant, she bared her teeth and growled.
Finding its opponent unhurt by its spell, the monster clacked its jaws in irritation and rushed at her, every step fissuring the charred ground. Ants were one of the strongest creatures in the world. They could easily lift nearly a hundred times their own weight. Deimos had no wish to test her strength against one that had been scaled up in size.
Channelling her mana into her spots, she felt the familiar feeling of the wind wrapping her in its embrace and lightening her. No delay and very little cast time. This was the specialty of the Beasts’ magic. Using the natural traces on their bodies, they would be able to cast their spells near instantaneously. All they had to do was channel their mana into these traces.
Of course, the method wasn’t perfect. Its drawback being, the spells were extremely fixed in their form. If a Flame Bullet generated by a Beast fired off two small gouts of fire at their opponent at Tier 1, then that was the form it would take even if the Beast advanced to Tier 3. The immutability of the spells meant that their repertoire was limited, leaving them with a rigid fight style that could be exploited by an experienced martial warrior.
Beasts weren’t capable of chaining and modifying spells unlike Bestia, or Hominum. Despite that, their strong bodies and lack of fear of mana backlash still made them fearsome opponents. In her Feral form, Deimos was able to tap into just such characteristics.
Comparing strength, she wasn’t the ant’s match by a long shot. But speed? Add faster spell casting to the mix and the overgrown insect stood no chance.
Deimos burst into motion, darting towards her opponent in a curve. Her muscles rippled under her fur as her body stretched and contracted, each contact of her paws with the ground propelling her to higher speeds. Flowers of fire bloomed behind her as the ant turned to follow her motion, trying to hit her with Flame bullets, only for them to hit the ground behind her.
Suddenly, she tacked inwards, heading directly for the ant. With another screech the ant blasted fire at her. Due to its haste, the first bullet missed, passing through her side, but the second flew true. Instead of dodging, Deimos retaliated with an Air bullet of her own, the transparent sphere of wind slamming into the fireball and shattering it into a shower of sparks.
Bursting through the curtain of sparks, Deimos slammed into the ant, sending it tumbling. Before it could recover, she slammed her paw into the joint of one of its feet. With a sickening crack, it bent the wrong way. She leapt out of the way of its gnashing mandibles and circled it again. This time, with its injury, it wasn’t turn fast enough, allowing her to reach the spot behind it. With another lunge and a crack, another of its legs was broken.
She darted in and out a total of six times, disabling all of the ant’s legs in the process and avoiding its deadly jaws with more and more ease as it lost its mobility.
Sensing Death creeping up on it, the ant’s body glowed a bright red as it prepared to channel all of its mana into its traces, aiming to drag her with it to the underworld. It was too late. Deimos slammed down with all her weight onto its neck joint, snapping it cleanly. The ant flailed once, twice, before the markings on it grew dim.
Deimos had won, a latest in a string of victories.
As she walked out of the arena, she was greeted by cheers and the praises of the soldiers. “Great job.” “It didn’t even take her ten minutes.” “Whoa. She can fight in her Feral form!? That’s insane. It’s like a totally new body. How much do you have to practice to fight like that in both forms.”
She derived no joy from them. Soloing the ants might seem impressive, but in fact, it was inefficient. The reason an Earth mage collaborated with a wind mage to take on a single ant of the same tier was so that the wind mage could focus on offense and the earth mage on defence. Thereby, taking out the ant swiftly and efficiently.
The reason she was working alone was that she couldn’t properly coordinate with any of the earth mages. Unlike Phobos, who had so seamlessly merged into the Shadow Prison team, or Master, who had nearly doubled the lethality of the artillery squad by himself. Or even Ceres, who despite her injuries had made herself useful through her fearsome talent in management.
She took a deep breath and exhaled. Walking up to the coordinator, she asked, “Is any earth mage free? I’d like to talk to them.” The night was young yet. She had a lot to learn.
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