Dodging the gouts of fire coming her way, Phobos swayed her hips, moving sinuously through the barrage of flame bullets from her opponent.
Her Heavenly Silksnail, fashioned into a black leotard, did little to hide her toned arms and legs much to the enjoyment of the spectators who were enthusiastically cheering her on from the edge of the arena.
It was the third day of the competition and she and Demi had made a name for themselves, what with having awakened so young and for their attire, or the lack thereof.
Both of them were helpless. For their first matches, they had chosen to go fully garbed in light leather armour as they hadn't expected to face anyone capable of forcing them into using their Feral forms.
Sure enough, they had both trumped their Tier 1 opponents with ease, only to return to their lodgings to find Husband injured from his match with a Tier 2 earth mage.
It was a wake-up-call for them and the next match they had shown up in only their Heavenly Silksnail clothing to ensure ease of transformation to their feral forms.
An unwanted side-effect of this was a sharp spike of their male fanbase.
Mages were like celebrities for the masses and having two beautiful female mages in the flower of their youth fighting in scanty apparel was the height of fan-service.
So, some raucous cheers from them was expected.
Poor Demi had been profoundly uncomfortable at the influx of attention from strangers which had resulted in her opponent being reduced to an extremely pitiful state by an extra strong Blade Edge Hurricane.
He didn't even last a minute in the ring.
She had returned to the lodgings distressed, wanting to wear her armour again. It had taken Phobos all her loquacity to convince her that her next opponent might just be a wild card and the ability to freely switch between forms might be crucial.
An advice she was glad she herself had followed, for her opponent today was a Tier 2 fire mage.
The nobles had really gone out of their way for this competition and the monsters and freaks were crawling out of the woodworks.
Several of the arena masters had already been replaced by their challengers including Fiona from the Felidae camp.
Well, she might have lost on purpose to participate in the competition for healers due to her light elemental affinity and overall distaste for violence.
Another large fireball howling at her made her bend flexibly to let it pass by her, warming her with its passing.
Fire mages were really annoying as they were motion artilleries. Take some range from them and they let loose with extreme firepower, dealing out damage as fast as the intensity of their mindscape wall allowed.
Casting spells involved mana backlash. Just like a wave at the seashore, after mana had been used, some of it would flow back into the mindscape as backwash, crashing against its walls in the process.
That was why Husband was so seriously injured by using a Tier 2 spell while still in Tier 1. The walls of his mindscape cracked from the dual pressure of having to compress Tier 1 mana to the density of Tier 2 and withstand the backlash.
Her opponent today had apparently taken some elixir or the other to strengthen his mindscape for even at Tier 2, it was impossible for someone to pull of an uninterrupted barrage of flame bullets as he had.
Yet she couldn't approach as the evolved version of the Tier 1 fire magic; Ember: Flame Barrier remained poised to scorch her brows off.
The worst thing was that her barrier didn't protect against flames, or any non-physical attack for that matter.
She had wanted to hold back one trick for the finals but it seemed that her opponent didn't want to give her that opportunity.
The only way she could win was outlasting him but that would be too risky and like putting the cart before the horse.
She sighed. Call of the Dark.
The world seemed to lose colour centred around her and all sound stilled.
The fireballs aimed at her diminished as they approached, petering out a few inches from her under the impact of the waves of darkness emanating from her.
Extracting the two folding fans she had tied to her waist with a string, she snapped them open as she took a dancer's posture.
There were psychedelic patterns printed on the fans in black on a white background. Even when they were still, it seemed as if the patterns were moving due to an optical illusion.
When she moved, the darkness seemed to dance along with her and light bent to her will.
Her opponent sensing the danger redoubled his efforts, putting together cracks on his mindscape wall to increase his output.
Yet, she seemed to dance in and out of the shadows and every shot went wide. Her elegant form and circular motions mapped into his eyes and her fans were mesmerising as they left trails of shadow as they arced in the air.
He staggered as a strong sense of nausea assaulted him, the psychedelic patterns on the fan finally playing their role.
He had to squeeze his eyes shut to prevent himself from throwing up his breakfast.
The hair on the nape of his neck stood on end as a greatly strengthened sense of crisis covered him.
Tier 2 flame magic: Heatwave.
A gigantic wave of flame radiated out with him as the centre and Phobos who had nearly reached him with the sharp metallic edge of her fan had to retreat back into his shadow, reappearing at the edge of the arena, out of reach of the wide area spell.
When the flames subsided, they revealed the unconscious form of the mage.
He had passed out from mana exhaustion.
Phobos sighed in relief. If even that didn't get him, she would have been forced into her Feral form.
The form, while powerful, guzzled mana like there was no tomorrow.
She would basically have to stake everything on one throw of the die, something her steady nature rebelled against.
As she left the arena, followed by the tumultuous cheers from her fans, she hoped that no more of these drug-hopped super-soldiers would bar her way to the finals.
She could only pray the same applied for Demi and Husband too.
Artwork for Phobos' fan on my Discord channel... the link is in the description.
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