A dull thump resounded throughout the arena and a form flew out of its bounds, crashing on the ground and only coming to a stop after rolling several times.
It made no effort to get back up, remaining curled up in a foetal position, shivering as a layer of frost covered it.
Medics rushed from the stands, swiftly carrying him away and a fire mage who was on standby, cast Ember upon it, causing its shivering to slowly subside as it sank into the sweet embrace of unconsciousness.
In the arena, Bruno let his war hammer rest on the ground, causing it to dehisce from the weight.
His ears twitched as he made out the words of the spectators as they broke into animated discussion of the match.
"Hey… it's the fourth time in a row isn't it?"
"Yeah, he's been winning all his matches within a minute."
"That's how it should be, right? All his opponents yet were Tier 1 while he's in Tier 2. He just hasn't faced a challenge yet."
"I heard that he wasn't even the heir candidate in his clan… then how monstrous must the Felidae heir be?"
"The Felidae heir? Heard he was a Hominum."
"What!? A Hominum stronger than a Tier 2 Bestia? Is this the second coming of the First Emperor?"
Bruno growled in frustration, scowling as he dragged his hammer behind him as he sulkily stalked out of the arena. The hammer left a deep furrow behind him.
Why was it that Mars always stole the spotlight from him? Why did a conversation about his victory derail into one about him?
He growled again deeply, scaring away the fans who had crowded around his preparation room's entrance to congratulate him on his victory.
Slamming the door shut behind him, he threw his hammer at the mirror on the wall, causing it to shatter and the hammerhead to get embedded deep into the mortar.
Clenching his teeth and fists in frustration, he swore to himself that he would show them.
Come the finals, he would show them all.
Gerard smiled wryly as he did his best to dodge the onslaught of his opponent.
It was the fifth day and his luck had finally run out.
After triumphing over his four Tier 1 opponents, one time by the skin of his teeth, he had finally met a Tier 2 mage.
A Tier 2 water mage. A female Tier 2 water mage who had yet to reveal her Feral form.
Yeah… he had no chance at victory. The best he could hope for was dragging time.
"Come on, hubby! You can do it!"
That was the reason for his wry smile. Fiona had been 'luckily' assigned to the healing squad stationed at his arena and made it her mission to cheer him. He could hear her enthusiastic shouting even over the clamour of the spectators and amidst the heat of battle.
Oh well, he could lose, but in front of his girl he couldn't lose in too ugly a manner, now, could he?
Dodging another lash from the woman's twin whips of water, he turned around and fired an arrow at her swiftly before causing the fire mana at his ankle to explode, shifting him out of the way of another strike.
His arrow streaked through the air, leaving a trail of fire as it approached her, only to be blocked and extinguished by her protective coat of water.
Tier 1 water magic: Water veil.
Usually used to help the mage breathe underwater, against fire mages, it became one of the strongest defences, thornier by far than Stoneskin.
Snorting disdainfully, the short haired tomboy brunette flicked her wrists and the whips of water in her hand morphed into two streams and entered the mouths of the bottle gourds strapped to her waist.
Shrugging off the third and largest bottle gourd from her back, she set it upon the ground and uncorked it.
Waving her hands over it, she pulled out a greenish stream of fluid from it which she set spinning about her in concentric rings until there were nine rings and the gourd was empty.
Tier 2 water magic: Fluid manipulation.
Taking advantage of the stillness of his opponent and the momentary reprieve, Gerard took up his archery stance.
Inhaling deeply, he ripple-fired three arrows, nocking, drawing, twisting and releasing in one organic movement.
The three arrows shot out from the bow, catching fire as his mana ignited them, leaving fiery trails behind in the dry summer air. Spinning rapidly, the tips and tails twisted in opposing directions, taking the arrows in a slight curve that balanced out into a straight line.
The differential strengths on the three arrows caused them to simultaneously hit the fluid rings at the three vertexes of an equilateral triangle.
Triple Burst shot.
The fiery mana exploded out on impact in a spiral, before the three spirals met exactly in the centroid of the triangle, causing a large explosion that made the rings splatter all over the girl.
Wherever the fluid touched the ground, it caused smoking craters to form as it corroded the earth.
Gerard's eyes widened in fear as he watched the area which was covered by noxious steam. She was using some sort of corrosive potion. What a witch. Wasn't this a bit too much for a mere competition?
A small figure shot out of the steam, drawing a trail of vapor behind it.
The malpractice of the Triple Burst shot manifested as Gerard's muscles refused to respond to his mind's frantic commands so soon after exhausting their entire potential.
The figure slammed into his chest shooting him out of the bounds of the arena.
Landing on the sandy ground, he screamed in agony, writhing as the vaporous potion ate away at the flesh of his chest where the figure had contacted him.
Grabbing fistfuls of sand, he rubbed it into his wound, hoping to slow the corrosion.
Suddenly, warm rays covered him and his pain reduced as firm hands restrained him from struggling and exacerbating his wounds.
Fiona's teary face mapped into his view and he regained a modicum of calm. Struggling up to a half-seated position, he looked back to the arena just in time to see an otter slowly morph back into the form of his opponent, except, she was now only clad in a Prussian blue Heavenly Silksnail garment fashioned in the shape of a leotard.
The rest of her clothing lay as smoking pieces in the spot where she had been standing.
Their eyes met across the distance and she acknowledged him with a nod before turning around to soak in the adulation of the audience.
He sighed and sank back onto the stretcher upon which he had been placed.
He watched the clouds in the sky as he was rushed into the medical tent accompanied by a senior medic while Fiona ran towards his opponent to ask if the potion required some specific antidote.
He hoped she would be civil in her words.
Forcing a Tier 2 to turn Feral… yeah… he had done quite well for himself.
The rest was up to the others.
For now, he… just wanted…
… to sleep.
A throwback to vol 1 chap 8
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