Gale straightened his sword with a shiver; his body in constant conflict with the force that maintained his calm demeanour. He watched the Relictan kind deliver an axe to their commander, heavy enough that it required five of them to transport. Noah however, faced no such struggle. He wielded his weapon with wild ferocity, readying his body for the battle he had forced upon Gale.
It was an odd situation for the boy. He wondered if the others would also partake, a disadvantage he would have rather not had to worry about. With their numbers well over what he had anticipated of the Relictan forces, Gale couldn’t help but smile at the sound of whispers; they emerged from the rustling of leaves and darker ends within shadows, an indication of something uncountable.
At that moment, Noah waved his axe to one side — a move that muted his subordinates. He walked over to Gale and lowered his head, finding that the boy stood a pale comparison in terms of size alone.
“You don’t have to worry,” said Noah, reading his opponent’s mind. “They will not interfere.”
“Generous for a man, who only moments ago, revealed that he couldn’t care less about the idea of honour,” remarked Gale. “I suppose I ought to thank you for this.”
“It isn’t required,” said Noah. “I wouldn’t be much of a commander to my people if I couldn’t crush a measly worm by myself.”
“How very intriguing,” said Gale. “I’ll accept that without feeling too bad.”
As the silence returned, Gale noticed the other Relictan retreat to a safe distance, wary about the fight that was about to unfold. He took in a deep breath as Noah made his first move, bolting forward with the weight of his combat experience. The Relictan Lord was fast, despite his size, and manoeuvred his axe just as swiftly against the boy.
While Gale did manage to defend against the first strike, his sword readied, he felt the weight of both his opponent and the weapon he wielded weaken his arms. His feet sunk into the grass as Noah refused to relent.
“He’s strong,” thought Gale. “Then again, this fight did seem like a tall order to begin with; I need to find an opportunity to escape.”
Gale stepped through his opponent’s defences when Noah raised his axe once more, a move with a swing wide enough to leave the latter’s body open for attack. The two of them were within close proximity now, enough for the large battle-axe to pose little to no threat. Gale pounced on the presented opportunity without hesitation.
Under normal circumstances, the boy may have emerged victorious. But as he accelerated for a thrust aimed to pierce the Relictan Lord’s armour, Noah found the time to drive his knee into the former’s face. Gale crashed onto a tree, flung a significant distance much like a child would a rag doll.
Noah followed, ramming the hilt of his weapon against the boy’s throat. With the force of both the battle-axe and his momentum, Noah found the tree crumble to the point of zero resistance from behind Gale. He watched as the boy fell further behind.
Noah Oblique walked at a gentle pace toward his opponent, confident that he had emerged the victor between them. He placed his foot atop Gale’s chest and pressed his body deeper into the soil, releasing his hold only to stomp it back into position. The boy’s body remained motionless, and to the Relictan forces that surrounded him — barely alive.
Gale felt differently. He stretched his fingers, then his toes, and hopped onto his feet at the first open opportunity. His body moved on instinct, away from Noah and to a safe distance. The Relictan forces, including their leader, remained within sight, but Gale had fresher thoughts to address. He assessed both his throat and chest, swinging his sword in the air right after without effort.
“Is this normal?” wondered Gale. “It appears as though I do not feel any pain.”
The boy tilted his focus once more, finding his adversaries stunned with bewilderment. He weighed his options — a second attempt at battle or the slim chance at escape. Gale chose the latter. His body pivoted to the opposite direction in haste, sprinting away as fast as he could. As he caught speed, however, Gale noticed some stiffness within his limbs.
“No pain,” repeated Gale. “But the injuries do still hamper my body after a point.”
A little distance away, Noah snapped back into reality. He slowly leaned forward with his knees bent and locked onto the boy, fierce in his gaze.
“Circulus Magia: Fortification,” whispered the Relictan Lord, releasing an aura that outlined his body. “Circulus: Accelerate.”
Noah Oblique launched forward, catching his prey in an instant. Gale found his opponent right by his side and responded with an attack of his own. His sword crashed against Noah’s armour, only to recoil with an unnatural amount of force. With the momentum against him, Gale found the battle-axe ripping through his skin. He frowned at the sight, parrying to minimize the damage.
It was a failed attempt, and if anything, Gale realized then that escape was no longer an option worth considering. Again he felt no pain, but the wound at the side of his abdomen remained, as did the warmth of fresh blood.
“Speed beyond what he had shown previously and armour that deflects attacks with significant force,” said Gale after a quick evaluation. “A wielder that can use magic?”
“Magic is an inaccurate word, boy,” said Noah. “Elementalists, they’re as close as we can get to magic.”
“So, what do us wielders get?”
“Not much,” admitted Noah with a shrug. “In time, depending on experience and ability, we become excellent foot soldiers, some even comparable to the strongest of Elementalists. But we did get creative over time.”
“As a fellow wielder, consider me intrigued.”
“Since I couldn’t grant you your former request,” said Noah. “I suppose this will have to do.”
“I can accept that,” said Gale.
“As far as I know, there are two ways a wielder could become stronger than even their element controlling counterparts,” revealed Noah. “Enhancement Alchemy or Combat Arts. I used the former to improve both my speed and the armour’s durability.”
“That’s a valuable insight,” said Gale. “And what of the latter?”
Noah laughed aloud, amused at how the boy had managed to turn their battle to the death into an education. He met the boy’s gaze and smiled in secret, face hidden behind helmet. Despite the overwhelming odds, Gale did not present the demeanour of an all but defeated enemy. From it, Noah felt an emotion he had long forgotten — respect.
He stood upright, the aura returning, controlled but fiercer than it ever was. The Relictan Lord prayed in silence, confident that his next attack would end everything. He swung his axe from a distance, sharply exhaling as he did. A blast of energy ripped through the ground, destroying everything in its wake.
Gale’s eyes widened with surprise; he held his sword up in defence and stood his ground against the attack. When the two collided, the runic scriptures from the sword glowed without consent from its master, allowing a thin forcefield to form and protect the boy. But even the shield slowly cracked, under pressure from a force that threatened to devour Gale whole.
And it did.
Gale watched the light engulf him, tearing through his skin. It was hot enough to burn, and in that moment, the boy realized just how numb he had become to even the idea of pain. His resilience urged him to regain the stance he had formerly assumed; the energy still far too powerful for him to handle. He didn’t have much time, and the stench of burnt flesh — his own — and fresh blood served only to remind him of the same.
With whatever he could muster, the boy swung much like his adversary did previously, cutting through the energy. It countered everything Noah had put behind the attack, but only barely. Gale smiled, uncertain about how he had overcome the situation. He sighed nonetheless, aware that he could now do nothing more than stay on his feet.
At a distance, the Relictan Lord stood amazed. It was not an outcome he had anticipated. He was quick to recover however, bearing in mind the mission he had set out to complete. Noah slowly approached his adversary, and Gale watched as he did.
“What of the latter, you asked,” reminded Noah. “The last attack; that was Combat Arts. Are you pleased with the results?”
“Impressed, actually,” admitted Gale. “Though, I would have preferred living through this encounter, so we may have had the chance to battle once more.”
“You stand with the Godvildian,” said Noah. “I would rather you not see your potential fulfilled.” After a pause, he added, “I’m sorry.”
Gale dropped his arms, now devoid of even his last reserves. He lowered his head, unable to muster the will to stare death in the face. Noah was at arm’s length. He raised his battle-axe; it was the end — in both their minds. As the weapon fell to execute the boy, Noah felt a certain strangeness. It rattled his spine. The nervousness spread as a virus would, infecting the minds of every Relictan soldier.
Everything happened in a matter of seconds, and despite his awareness, Noah could not stop his swing. The axe fell, but without effect. It stood halted by bare hands alone, the boy’s. The Relictan Lord felt an energy, gentle in its nature, spur to life from within Gale. It was different. Amidst the confusion, Noah had failed to realize that his weapon had begun to corrode from where Gale held it.
He jumped back to a safe distance, wary of the situation. Gale raised his head, eyes lifeless, and merely swung his blade against the wind, generating enough force to obliterate Noah’s axe, in its entirety.
“This child; such a weak body,” said Gale in a voice different from his own. “Why do you wish to kill him?”
“You’re different,” said Noah, understanding that he had been addressed. “What are you?”
“That’s not an answer,” said Gale matter-of-factly. “Activate Sequence: Corrosion.”
As the words escaped, the earth rippled with foreign energy. Noah watched life shrivel beneath his feet, from the grass that browned to the earth that cracked with dryness. Moments later, the spell threatened to destroy the Relictan Lord — armour and flesh alike, bypassing Noah’s fortification type alchemy even.
Relictan soldiers in the vicinity fell one after the other, the corrosive force devastating in its effects. Organs turned to dust, and blood to poison, all until nothing remained. It was a frightening display of power and cruelty, one that even Noah was forced to acknowledge as he now stood without armour.
“I had adjusted the potency, and yet only you stand alive,” said Gale, puzzled at the outcome. “Were your soldiers weak?”
“What kind of a question is that?” stammered Noah. “It’s not like you would have spared us all anyway.”
“My duty is to protect the boy that inhabits this body, and while your lives are insignificant to me, I didn’t particularly feel the need to expend more energy than is necessary to conclude the situation at hand.”
“You failed in that endeavour then,” said Noah, frustrated at his incompetence as a commander. “Everyone is dead, spare I.”
“I will be on my way then,” said Gale, bowing respectfully. “Though, it is a mystery as to why you even bothered to avenge such, what did you call it? Measly worms. Unfortunate that the boy had to pass through this forest the same day as your mission.”
It was an insult Noah would have ignored under normal circumstances, but as the boy walked away, something triggered within him. He held onto every breath he could, fearing that the next would be his last. With neither weapon nor protection, the Relictan Lord sprinted. He leapt as he caught speed, his dominant arm ready to strike.
Gale halted his steps and turned around, in time to see the fist drive through the winds in his direction. It struck his chest with the weight of everything Noah had to offer, sending shockwaves loud enough to stir the forest out of silence. But not enough to move the boy from where he stood. Noah clenched his teeth, truly frightened of the monster he had awakened.
“Impossible,” said Noah, barely a whisper. “What are you?”
Gale swung his blade in retaliation, severing the defeated commander’s head. The body lifelessly slumped to his feet, devoid of the pride and strength it once carried. Gale eyed the product of his victory without thought, blood staining his boots. He needed a change of clothes, at least that’s all he could think about at the time.
“I’m not sure about what I am,” said Gale. “But I suppose it’s reasonable to call me by the name I now hold?”
He frowned, mildly irritated, realizing that this was something he ought to have done before decapitating Noah’s head. But remembering that it was a question he had asked right before death, Gale felt compelled to answer.
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