The airplane ducked and weaved its way through the violent gusts of wind. It was deep within enemy territory and the time for caution had passed.
Catching a thermal, it shot upwards, gaining the height required to fulfil its mission. A flock of Manchurian cranes had made their nest in the area by commandeering an Aeolian crystal, and it had been tasked to conduct a tactical strike on the egg that was breeding a crane ruler at the centre of the nest.
The best-case scenario was that it would be in and out before the cranes guarding the egg even noticed and far enough away by the time they did that it would be too late for pursuit.
But fate had other plans.
Just as the thermal tapered off and the airplane began its glide, picking up speed the further it fell, it was spotted by a patrolling crane. It was attuned to the fire element as attested by its blazing red colouration and the very air around it warped from the heat emanated by it.
With an incensed screech, the furious bird dived towards the accelerating plane.
Although manoeuvrability was on its side, built for speed, a single hit would spell doom for the fragile construct.
Barrel rolling through the attack, it dipped its nose and went into a steeper dive to cast off the crane which was in hot pursuit.
As the saying went, misfortunes never came singly and the airplane's came in the form of a strong gust of wind from its side, blowing it right into the path of another crane. This time, one that glowed a brilliant yellow indicating its affinity to light.
The plane shone with a white brilliance, the wind mana around it condensing, allowing it to tack hard away from the crane, barely scratching past it.
A swipe of its wing in passing knocked the plane askew, sending it into an uncontrolled spiral. Stabilizing with great difficulty, the plane accelerated towards its goal with the two birds in hot pursuit.
The sounds of the chase alerted the flock and soon, more and more of the creatures began converging to give chase glowing with the multicolour brilliance of their elements.
Knowing that the possibility of a successful withdrawal was non-existent, the plane committed to a kamikaze attack, pouring all of its energy into gaining speed.
The egg was in sight, the end of its mission near. At least its demise wouldn't be in vain.
A white crane dropped from the skies, slamming into it from the top, sending it tumbling. With an impact that destroyed its frame, it crashed onto the ground. It had failed once again.
Sweating profusely, I collapsed backwards onto the ground from my seated position. Controlling the paper plane had taken a lot out of me.
Regaining my breath, I propped myself up on my elbows and looked across the room at Deimos who was still sitting in her meditative posture, cross legged with her hands folded on her lap.
Ten paper cranes of various hues circled her like living creatures under the influence of her manipulation of the wind.
We were currently in the training topology of the Felidae estates having returned home from the capital just a day prior. We had been given a hero's welcome, specially Deimos for placing first in the tournament.
The clan elders had all assembled and formally recognized me as the Heir and congratulated me for Father's promotion and my successful formation of familial ties with Duchess. If only they knew.
Festivities had followed and the girls had sneaked off leaving me to deal with all the socializing. Although, Ceres had stayed and set about thoroughly charming everyone present, leaving me with mixed feelings. While I was happy to have part of the spotlight off me, watching her navigate her way through the maze of relations had taken a class to me about my inadequacies.
All in all, a tiring evening.
That was why, eager for a change of pace, I had agreed to come explore the training facilities of the clan open exclusively to its core members. An area the both of us now had unlimited access to.
The topology we were currently in was specially designed for wind mages. Known as 'the Cradle and the Grave', the fancifully named arrangement of elemental crystals and stones emulated similar arrangements found in nature, producing similar effects.
Hence the origin of the term topology.
We were currently in the outskirts of the Wind Cradle, in the area reserved for Tier 2 mages. The precisely calculated positioning of the Aeolian and Radiant crystals agitated the air in the topology, constantly giving birth to random gusts of wind.
The deeper one went into the topology, the stronger the winds, while the centre resembled a perpetual storm, sufficient for Tier 4 mages to hone their control of the wind in.
That was what we were trying to do. Hone our control over the wind.
After her Specialization, Deimos' authority over her element had shot up dramatically and that meant my capabilities in wind magic improved as well.
The usual method of practice here involved controlling objects like feathers and resisting the battering of the ebullient winds. But Deimos had come up with a better idea.
Apparently, she had taken a shine to my gimmick during the Tournament and discovered an untapped potential in the Mana indicator cards used in the finals. She had asked for and been granted the cards left over after the end of the tournament.
Though the cards were expensive, they weren't really very useful as even a Tier 1 mage could reasonably accurately predict the element of a sample of mana by their sensation alone. Thus, they were only used as decorative, novelty items.
Some artists even used paper made from the special bark to paint using their mana.
Deimos though, had found another use for them. A use which had culminated in the game we had been playing.
While I controlled a paper plane made from a card, she wielded ten origami cranes. My goal was to breach her defence lines and touch a spot marked by a wind stone and then, to successfully withdraw.
Hers was to shoot me down before I could do so. Burdened as she was by the greater number of constructs she had to control, the movement of the cranes were quite stiff, yet her talent was enough to ensure my loss time and again.
As for the story we had in place with the origami cranes turning into a bird from before the apocalypse and the wind stone turning into their egg… Life is always more interesting with a generous dollop of fantasy.
"Master, you keep making the same mistakes, ya. You can't force the wind to do your bidding. You need to befriend it." Berated Deimos as she awoke from her meditative trance and the circling cranes fell into her lap.
Walking up to the fallen paper plane, I picked it up and began smoothing out the tip which had become crumpled upon its latest impact with the ground.
With a wave of her fingers, a gust of wind blew the plane out of my hands and towards her. On the way, instead of using mana to still the turbulent winds, it took a curving path, leveraging the very same turbulence to accelerate.
Finally, it landed gently on her lap among the multicoloured cranes.
I grew silent as I pondered upon the superiority of her method of operating the winds. My gaze landed on the cranes on her lap. Each one had been imbued with a different elemental mana, thereby drastically increasing the challenge she faced in manipulating them. It was her way of familiarizing herself with the other elements and finding ways to cope with mages of other categories.
I had a lot to learn before I could match my wife.
There was a cyclone in Eastern India... couldn't post the chapter yesterday... no net... just got the network back so here you go.
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