Volume 2 Chapter 34 – Duel

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Lynett


Today is Friday and here, Fridays are special. There are only morning classes on Fridays. The afternoons are reserved for spare-time, cultural activities, and most importantly: duels. It was on Friday afternoons that all the duels that had been declared during the week took place. Although they were allowed -and even encouraged- in the school, duels followed a very strict code of conduct, so they were strongly supervised by teachers. It was one of the reasons why all duels were held at the same time: because it’s simply easier to organize.

The duels took place in the academy’s arena. Originally, they were simply held in an open field, but since duels are open to an audience, it didn’t take long for them to become a public event where the students would come in droves to watch them. It was not only a great source of entertainment but it could also be very instructive. So, ultimately, the headmaster deemed it wiser to contain the public and hold the duels in the school’s arena.

I met up with Vivian and the others at the arena a quarter of an hour before the beginning of the fights. I spent the past few days coaching her, but I wanted to make sure to give her one last overview about her training before we went in. As I thought, she is pretty nervous. She was already pretty tense about fighting Lucius before, and even though I did manage somehow to raise her confidence these past few days, now it’s all gone. Hopefully she’ll be able to get a grip on herself soon, because we need to part ways now.

The duels were held in order of level, and since beginner classes were not allowed to participate, combatants from intermediate classes would be the first to fight. Vivian was among the first participants. It was probably what she was thinking about as she stepped inside the arena, blood completely drained from her face. Come on Vivian, you can do it.

As she disappeared into the participants’ zone, Frost, Jalone and I went to find a seat in the stands. The arena was already quite crowded. Definitely not crowded enough to the point where it would fill even a third of the stands -it was designed to hold thousands of spectators after all- but it was an impressive amount of people for a duel between children. Since I was in the advanced classes and considering Aoban’s reputation, I knew I would be among the last to duel. So, I decided to watch the fights with Frost and Jalone in the stands until then.

As the two boys simply tried to find seats with a good view, my eyes were surveying the stands, looking for someone.

“Is Mustache coming?” I asked, still looking.

“Huh? Of course he is, he is in charge of the magic department,” Frost responded as if it was obvious. “All of the head-teachers need to be present for duels. They are the judges after all.”

Yeah, I thought so. I need to know where he is going to be.

“Is he going to be in the stands?”

“Nah,” the boy shook his head. “They have special seats down there in case they need to intervene. The other teachers will be though, if they’re coming.”

My eyes followed the direction his finger was pointing in and I immediately spotted the head-teachers arriving, as the duels were about to begin. Among them: Mustache.

Perfect.

As Frost and Jalone were about to sit, I called them both.

“Guys, we can’t sit here,” I told them. “We need to go a little bit further.”

“Huh?” They exclaimed in unison, raising an eyebrow in confusion. “Why?”

“Just trust me. It’ll help Vivian to win.”

Although they weren’t too convinced about this, they still decided to trust my guts and follow me.

“Is this some kind of superstition?” Frost tried to guess. “Like if we sit facing the sun it’ll bring good luck or something?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

It wasn’t the reason at all. The reason why I wanted to move was to sit as far as possible from Mustache.

We managed to reach our seats just in time, as one of the head-teachers walked in to announce the beginning of the duels. Two students entered the arena, facing each other, and on his signal, the duel started. It wasn’t as loud as I expected it to be. Although I could see the expectations in their eyes, the audience was staying still, throwing a remark or two once in a while, but they weren’t cheering. I can’t say if I’m relieved or disappointed. I’ll be the one down there shortly so I’m glad to know my future spectators are somewhat indifferent, but when I heard the word ‘arena,’ I had a totally different atmosphere in mind. It is a bit of a letdown, I guess.

Eventually, after a few minutes, the first duel ended. Well, that was a boring opening.

A few more duels followed after that, but it was pretty much the same thing. The boys, however, didn’t seem to share my opinion. Jalone was only showing interest when the combatants were mages and completely stopped paying attention when they were of another class. Frost, on the other hand, seemed quite engaged in all duels, even though he was silent.

Ultimately, after maybe half an hour, the moment we had all been waiting for arrived.

“Next, Lucius Bain and Vivian of Lorns!”

Finally.

I woke up Jalone who was falling asleep, bored from the previous fight.

“It’s her turn,” I told him.

The demi-human boy quickly straightened up as he started looking for Vivian with his eyes. When he finally spotted her, he got up to cheer for her.

“Go Vivi!!” He suddenly yelled, enthusiastically waving his arms in the air. “We believe in you, you’re the best!”

I doubt she can hear him, but it’s the thought that counts. The others around us, however, definitely heard him.

“What the hell?”

“She’s going to lose for sure.”

I recognize some of her and Lucius’ classmates. Perfect. Watch properly. She’s going to blow them away.

To be honest, Vivian had no chance of winning yet.

I trained her the whole week, telling her that she would be able to beat Lucius, and I was thinking about what I said. But I forgot about something. I omitted one parameter when teaching her how to use [Hijack], and that one parameter makes the difference.

The intellect stat.

By now, Vivian has no problem controlling all kinds of water sources. She’s not proficient at it yet, far from it, but it should have been enough to control a human being’s water. If it hadn’t been for the intellect stat.

I noticed that way too late yesterday night, as I told her to try her new spell on Frost, who had volunteered for it. It didn’t work at all. Like, not even a bit. We had tried before on all kinds of plants and it worked just fine, but as soon as we switched the target to a human being, it stopped working. When I wondered what could have gone wrong, it didn’t take me long to understand. The difference between a plant and a human: consciousness.

The more sentient a being is, the higher their intellect is. The intellect stat influences two things: magic attack but also magic defense. Plants do not have intellect but humans do. Thus, unlike humans, plants have no defense against magic. Well, to be exact, all living beings possess some kind of defense against magic. But we definitely can’t compare the defense of a plant and a man.

I have checked neither Vivian’s nor Lucius’ status, but I’m pretty sure that it’s not necessary. Using [Hijack] on someone is different from throwing a fireball at them. The attack isn’t external but internal. So you would need to completely go through their natural magic defense. And that, unless there is a significant difference between the intellect of the user and the target, is impossible. I totally overlooked that fact since it doesn’t apply to me. A few years ago, I used something similar against my aunt. It wasn’t the skill [Hijack], but it basically worked the same way. I simply took control of the water in her body to torture her. And it was easy. But it was easy because of the colossal difference between our stats. Because I’m not a mortal. Vivian is.

So we found ourselves in a deadlock. Because if she can’t use [Hijack], then she can’t win. But I promised her a victory and I intend to keep that promise. We just need to change strategy. We just need to cheat a little bit…

I told Vivian to follow the original plan. Don’t think about anything else and eventually, it’ll work. I will be the one to do the cheating, and that is exactly why I wanted to be as far as possible from Mustache. I’m going to use magic and that annoying teacher has the annoying ability to detect mana. But even if he is more sensitive to it than his peers, he is still human in the end. He shouldn’t be able to detect it from that far away. Even if he is, he won’t be able to tell who is using magic among all these students. And he’s not allowed to leave the arena to check until the duel is over. So I should be safe.

I inspected my surroundings and, as Frost said, there was indeed a couple of teachers seated among the students. They seemed to be strategically scattered in the stands. It didn’t particularly bother me, though. I spotted Mrs. Borge not too far away, but she couldn’t detect my mana last time, and she’s a teacher in intermediate classes. So the only one I need to be worried about is Mustache. And Mustache is far away and very busy.

Alright, now, where is Vivian? There she is…

『Buff.』

<『The target’s following stats have been raised for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality +10, Mana +10, Strength +10, Defense +10, Intellect +10, Agility +10』>

I only intended to raise her intellect, but that’s not bad either. That’s not enough though. Again.

『Buff.』

<『The target’s following stats have been raised for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality +10, Mana +10, Strength +10, Defense +10, Intellect +10, Agility +10』>

And again. 『Buff』

<『The target’s following stats have been raised for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality +10, Mana +10, Strength +10, Defense +10, Intellect +10, Agility +10』>

『Buff.』 『Buff.』 『Buff.』 『Buff.』

<『The target’s following stats have been raised for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality +10, Mana +10, Strength +10, Defense +10, Intellect +10, Agilit,y +10』>

<『The target’s following stats have been raised for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality +10, Mana +10, Strength +10, Defense +10, Intellect +10, Agility +10』>

<『The target’s following stats have been raised for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality +10, Mana +10, Strength +10, Defense +10, Intellect +10, Agility +10』>

<『The target’s following stats have been raised for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality +10, Mana +10, Strength +10, Defense +10, Intellect +10, Agility +10』>

<『The target’s following stats have been raised for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality +10, Mana +10, Strength +10, Defense +10, Intellect +10, Agility +10』>

<『The target’s following stats have been raised for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality +10, Mana +10, Strength +10, Defense +10, Intellect +10, Agility +10』>

<『The target’s following stats have been raised for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality +10, Mana +10, Strength +10, Defense +10, Intellect +10, Agility +10』>

<『Buff failed』>

Hmm? Again.

<『Buff failed』>

<『Buff failed』>

<『Buff failed』>

I see. It must have reached some kind of cap. Oh well, it should be enough.

Now moving on to Lucius…

『Debuff.』 『Debuff.』 『Debuff.』 『Debuff.』 『Debuff.』 『Debuff.』 『Debuff.』

<『The target’s following stats have been decreased for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality -10, Mana -10, Strength -10, Defense -10, Intellect -10, Agility -10』>

<『The target’s following stats have been decreased for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality -10, Mana -10, Strength -10, Defense -10, Intellect -10, Agility -10』>

<『The target’s following stats have been decreased for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality -10, Mana -10, Strength -10, Defense -10, Intellect -10, Agility -10』>

<『The target’s following stats have been decreased for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality -10, Mana -10, Strength -10, Defense -10, Intellect -10, Agility -10』>

<『The target’s following stats have been decreased for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality -10, Mana -10, Strength -10, Defense -10, Intellect -10, Agility -10』>

<『The target’s following stats have been decreased for the next 10 minutes:

Vitality -10, Mana -10, Strength -10, Defense -10, Intellect -10, Agility -10』>

<『Error』>

Huh? Only six times? And this time it’s “error” instead of “Failed”… Oh wait. His stats just probably can’t go any lower.

Hopefully it’ll be enough…

Alright Vivian, it’s your turn now.

To be honest, even now, Vivian is at a disadvantage. I have boosted her stats as much as I could, but it’s still going to take her a while before she breaks through Lucius’ defense. And in the meantime, Lucius will attack her. So I gave her two instructions.

First, never stop moving.

I noticed it in Mrs. Borge’s class, but in intermediates classes, the kids are barely learning to hit unmoving targets. Lucius may be the best of his class, he is no exception. It’s already difficult enough for someone who’s trained to hit a moving target, so for someone who isn’t, it’s nearly impossible. Staying in constant movement will allow Vivian not to get hit. But while doing so, she still needs to attack. Most kids at this level wouldn’t be able to move while chanting, as an incantation requires a lot of focus, but Vivian is an exception. Thanks to her skill [Hijack], her mana control is good enough that she can afford to move while chanting.

Second, aim for his limbs.

I told her to avoid the torso. The mana core is where the magic defense is the highest, and since the mana core is located close to the heart, it would take too long to break into Lucius’ defense anywhere near that. And of course, the head is also a no-go, as it is too dangerous. Vivian’s control may be good, it isn’t that good. One mistake, and she could blow his head off. We don’t want to kill the poor boy, we only want him to forfeit.

If she follows these two rules, Vivian will be fine. The loser will be the one who runs out of stamina first. And not only did I raise all of her stats, but Lucius also has a tendency to deplete his mana very fast. Maybe this time he’ll learn his lesson.

Now, all I have to do is watch.

“We are here today to resolve the dispute between Lucius Bain and Vivian of Lorns,” the head-teacher supervising the event loudly announced. “Both parties will engage until one is well blooded, disabled, or unconscious, or until one of the challengers forfeits and begs pardon.”

The two combatants glared at each other, clearly not considering that last option, as the head-teacher kept listing all the rules. It was just a formality but it was mandatory. He also did it for the previous duels and after thinking about how he’ll have to repeat it for all the upcoming fights, I kind of felt sorry for him.

“Alright, in position!” He finally finished.

Vivian and Lucius both took stance. Vivian didn’t seem nervous anymore. She was burning with determination instead. On the other hand, Lucius wasn’t looking too good, and the duel hasn’t even started yet. I guess they’ve both started to feel the effects of my little gifts to them!

“Begin!”

Despite his condition, Lucius immediately started chanting. While the participants couldn’t hear us, we, the audience, could perfectly hear them. All sounds coming from the battle area were amplified using magic so I immediately recognized the same chant Lucius used before.

“Ô Ignis, I implore thee! I cry foul, feel the wrath within me. Devour my soul and bring destruction before me! Fireball!”

A fireball gushed out of his hand, heading straight to Vivian, but it didn’t reach her. Following my advice, the young girl instantly started moving. Without giving the boy a chance to hit her, she ran circles all around him.

“Stop moving!” Lucius ordered in frustration, as none of his attacks reached her.

But obviously, Vivian didn’t listen. When he tried to adapt his fireballs’ courses in prediction of her trajectory, she would suddenly change direction and when he missed, she would smirk at him. Lucius immediately understood that she was mocking him and, as usual, blinded by his pride, he put even more mana into his spells. It was pointless though, if he couldn’t hit her. He was only going straight toward his own destruction.

Vivian, on the other hand, was quite relaxed. I can tell she is starting to enjoy this. Seeing her like this, no one would have guessed how nervous she was before the fight. However, she was also slowly tiring herself, running around so much. Too immersed in her new position of control, she completely forgot to attack. But she soon remembered it, as she finally started to cast her spell.

“Goddess of the Sea, this is my devotion, this is my plea. Grant me the strength to defeat what is harmful to me, and in return I honor thee.”

Lucius seemed quite disoriented, seeing her chanting as she kept running. And he wasn’t the only one.

“What is she doing?”

“Is she trying to cast a spell while on the move? Can she do that?”

“Of course not! She’s in the intermediate classes!”

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The growing commotion didn’t last long in the stands, as nothing happened following her chants.

“See? It’s not working!”

But unaware of her audience comments, Vivian kept chanting anyway.

“Goddess of the Sea, this is my devotion, this is my plea. Grant me the strength to defeat what is harmful to me, and in return I honor thee.”

“What are you trying to do, dead-weight?” Lucius sneered at her seeming failure. “Having trouble to cast a single spell?”

But Vivian ignored him.

“Goddess of the Sea, this is my devotion, this is my plea,” she continued, imperturbable. “Grant me the strength to defeat what is harmful to me, and in return I honor thee. Goddess of the Sea, this is my devotion, this is my plea. Grant me the strength to defeat what is harmful to me, and in return I honor thee. Goddess of the Sea, this is my devotion, this is my plea. Grant me the strength to defeat what is harmful to me, and in return I honor thee.”

Lucius wasn’t the only one to mock her. Snickers and giggles could be heard all around the stands. Even Frost and Jalone were getting restless.

“Is she going to be alright?” Jalone asked.

I could hear the concern growing in his voice.

“She is, don’t worry,” I told him. “It’s all going as planned, trust me.”

It wasn’t a lie. I did expect this to happen, and so did Vivian. I had instructed her to keep chanting even if it doesn’t seem to work. After all, eventually, it will. And as I thought, it was starting to work. It took quite some time, but I could now feel a very subtle trace of Vivian’s mana in Lucius’ body. And it was slowly, but surely, getting stronger with each one of her chants.

Completely oblivious to what was waiting for him, Lucius lost patience. He had exhausted most of his mana pool and Vivian was still unscathed. Out of desperation, as still he couldn’t hit her with long distance attacks, he charged. He was now going for close combat.

In a duel of mages, although not forbidden, this would have normally been considered a disgrace. However, in this particular case, circumstances were in Lucius’ favor. From an outside perspective, Vivian just kept running away from the fight without attacking back. This was not the kind of behavior you were supposed to have in a duel, so no one blamed Lucius’ actions.

However, he never reached her.

Having taken beyond a reasonable amount of his mana, Vivian finally cast her spell.

“Let the sacred water flow, Water Blast!”

Lucius was stopped mid-course as he collapsed on the ground, screaming in agony. His muscles were all suddenly assaulted with a shap, throbbing pain. The spell wasn’t too strong, but it was sufficient. After all, when the attack comes from the inside, it’s extremely painful. HIs nerves being over-solicited, it was easy to imagine the burning sensation searing through his body.

Confused, the audience fell silent at the unexpected turn of events.

“What’s going on…?”

“Did she do something? I can’t see anything!”

“Didn’t he just collapsed from mana exhaustion?”

“That suddenly?”

“Maybe it’s just an after-effect…”

“Forfeit!” Vivian ordered as she approached the boy on the ground confidently. At this point, she no longer had anything to fear from him and she knew it.

Lucius barely managed to raise his head to glare at her.

“What did you do?” He growled, his body still shaking in pain.

He was on his knees, completely huddled up on himself. His complexion was ashen and he couldn’t stop panting. Coming from the proud and arrogant Lucius, it was kind of pathetic to see. Still, his eyes were burning with anger, indicating he had no intention of giving up yet.

“You lost, forfeit!” Vivian ordered one more time.

But Lucius didn’t comply. As he simply shot a deadly glare at her as an answer, Vivian started chanting again.

“Goddess of the Sea, this is my devotion, this is my plea. Grant me the strength to defeat what is harmful to me, and in return I honor thee. Let the sacred water flow, Water Blast!”

His face contorted, Lucius writhed in pain. His eyes were watered in agony as he bit his lower lip, trying to keep himself from crying out. His muscles quivered. The pressure exerted against them and the pain increasing in waves, they were threatening to implode at anytime. The boy tried his best to hold it in, but eventually, his pain came out in a sudden shriek. It was clearly unbearable, still, he refused to forfeit. So Vivian launched a second spell. And a third. And a fourth.

“Let the sacred water flow, Water Blast! Water Blast! Water Blast!”

That’s… escalating, I think?

I definitely didn’t expect Lucius to hold out for this long and Vivian is starting to lose patience.

The atmosphere was extremely tense. Although they didn’t really understand what was going on, the spectators didn’t keep their eyes off of the battle area for one second, as they could only listen to Lucius’ screams in silence.

Alright, this is definitely escalating. Vivian totally looks like a villain now. We need to put an end to this before-

W-WAIT! WHAT THE HELL IS SHE DOING?!

She’s concentrating her mana in his head!

That goddamn hot-blooded girl! I told you the head was a no-go! Are you trying to kill him?!

“For the last time,” she snarled with a threatening voice. “Forfeit!”

Lucius struggled to meet her eyes. And when he did, he only smirked at her.

“In your dreams!” He managed to articulate through heaving breathing.

Annoyed, Vivian ground her teeth.

“Goddess of the Sea, this is my devotion, this is my plea,” she started.

Wait, is she serious?

“Grant me the strength to defeat what is harmful to me, and in return I honor thee.”

Don’t-you-dare.

“Let the sacred water flow!”

As she was about to finish her chant, I jumped onto my feet, preparing myself to intervene, but Mustache was faster than me.

Water Bl-

The head-teacher appeared out of nowhere, right in the middle of the two of them. He grabbed Vivian’s arm and immediately interrupted her spell.

Hmm? Her mana vanished?

“That’s enough,” he said with a sharp tone of voice, the usual friendliness on his face totally gone. “This fight is over.”

“W-Wait a second!” Lucius tried to speak up. “I can still fight!”

“I said this fight is over,” Mr. Glenn repeated, even more dryly. “You lost.”

The boy’s expression collapsed. This duel originally started because he wanted the head-teacher’s recognition and now, the very same teacher declared his loss.

Mr. Glenn then turned to Vivian. When she met his eyes, all her previous frustration vanished in one second. His expression softened as he showed her a gentle smile. But he didn’t say anything.

“Alright, alright, this duel is over!” His colleague loudly announced, approaching. “The winner is Vivian of Lorns!”

The arena stayed silent for a while.

“What…? What just happened?”

“What was that?”

But an enthusiastic clapping soon broke the silence.

“Congratulations, Vivi!!” Jalone screamed out his lungs. “I knew you could do it! You’re the best!”

Soon, applause followed. It was somewhat shy, but it was there.

“This can’t be happening,” I heard one of her classmates mutter.

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“I don’t really know what happened, but she won, right?”

“Yeah, I guess it was kind of impressive.”

Frost looked blankly at Vivian for a few seconds before moving on to me. He gave me a weird look, his eyes narrowed.

“Did you do something?”

He can tell? Oh well. Maybe I’ll explain to him later.

The head-teacher supervising the event then started to clap his hands, reclaiming attention. Once the commotions finally fell silent enough for him to be heard, he spoke up.

“We will now be moving on to the advanced classes!” He announced.

I guess my turn is coming.

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