We were in deep trouble. Everything had been going well. We had settled into a rhythm and the coordination between the three runner teams was becoming more and more tacit. But it all changed when the elemental went totally berserk.
It wasn't that we hadn't expected that to happen – we were walking on a tightrope, after all. For the elemental to leave the centre of the magma lake and remain focused on us, we had to keep it enraged. Yet, we needed to ensure that its level of irritation wasn't enough for it to simply flip the table and bomb the whole place with its magic.
We had been trying to gauge its bottom line and try and skirt around it by 'almost getting caught' several times but it appeared that we had misjudged. We had pushed the creature too far and now it just wanted to wipe us out without any care about the large amount of mana it would have to expend to do so in its weakened state.
Aspect of Wind, Aspect of Amplification.
Pushing myself to my limits, I kept up a barrage of magic on the elemental to try and disrupt its spell. It didn't work. The transparent bullets simply dissipated when they came within ten metres of the creature, destroyed by the fluctuations produced by the forming spell. Despite the enforced calm of the Void, I clenched my teeth. We needed more firepower if we wanted to get past that blockade.
"What do we do now?" I asked Azure and Marshal Canis who were floating beside me, held up by my control over the wind.
Azure shook his head. "Nothing I can do can breach its defences. My strongest spell is the Blade Edge Hurricane and I can merge all the blades into one large Scythe of Wind. That packs quite a bit more power than your spells but that is it. It isn't enough to disturb the thing."
Marshal Canis confessed wryly, "I might 'ave the highest cultivation among ye fellows but that doesn't count for much when my best Aspect is Darkness. It was meant for hiding, not attacking – definitely not attacking something like that."
My mind began to race through the possibilities. How can we increase the power of our attacks? There was the obvious solution of substituting quality with quantity – we could have all three runner teams attack the elemental at once. I rejected the idea immediately. Not even Azure's strongest attack could breach the elemental's defences, a large number of scattered attacks would do nothing but reveal the exact positions of all three teams. After all, Azure was the most offense focused mage among us.
Then I thought of what I had done with the artillery squad back in Firang. Could I amplify and synchronize our magic? I probably… could. With how easily I had taken over Azure's Domain, I was sure that I might be able to pull it off if I tried.
I shot a glance at the elemental. It had already condensed its spell into a head-sized orb of pure destruction. The entire magma chamber was rumbling and dust and chunks of rock were showering down from the ceiling of the cavern. The ground below its feet had fissured and caved further, the rock melting in the heat and filling up the fissures, forming glowing orange streams.
"Azure, Marshal… I need you to coordinate with me. I think I can break its cast."
Azure and Marshal Canis exchanged glances. Marshal Canis asked, "How confident are you?"
I shook my head. "It'll be my first time trying it. Just like it was my first time trying to take control of someone else's Domain."
Before Marshal Canis could reply, Azure admonished me, "The field of battle isn't a place to experiment. You have three women bound to your life, waiting for your return. You shouldn't be so reckless!"
I hesitated, his words caused my mental state of Void to waver, nearly making us drop out of the air. Hastily stabilizing my mind, I ran through our options once again. The only alternative to my plan was for us to escape into the tunnels separately and leave it up to luck as to who the elemental would target with its spell.
But I was reasonably confident about pulling it off. I didn't like the idea of leaving things up to luck and letting someone die when I could prevent it.
Marshal Canis looked me in the eye. "Would you wager all three of our lives on it?"
I hesitated a bit, then clenched my teeth and nodded.
"Good, we'll trust you, but just in case, let the others scatter to reduce the risk."
Nodding in agreement, I transmitted the instructions to spread out to the other two teams before flying to a position behind the elemental. With my mana senses, I had discovered that most of the elemental's mana was condensed in its tails. Just like a kitsune, its tails were its greatest strengths as well as its greatest vulnerability.
"Azure, shoot your Scythe of Wind at the base of its tails. I'll coordinate with you."
It was a challenge to both hold on and let go of the control of Azure's Domain simultaneously. I had to keep us aloft while Azure was using his mana to fuel his spell. It took a bit of fumbling before I managed to strike a balance. Then the winds began to stir, forming a vortex around us as the magic took hold.
The swirling winds condensed into countless blades that revolved around us faster and faster.
Tier 2 wind magic: Blade Edge Hurricane.
But Azure wasn't done yet. With a spirited shout, his mana flared violently and compressed the blades of wind together. One by one they merged, growing larger and larger until finally, a single large blade revolved rapidly around us.
Tier 2 personal magic: Scythe of Wind. Azure's strongest attack.
But it still wasn't enough.
Aspect of Amplification. Aspect of Wind.
The scythe turned transparent and then violently shot forward towards the elemental, seemingly flickering through the intervening distance to chop down on the base of its tails.
Tier 2 personal magic: Vacuum Scythe.
It was the first time I had merged more than two aspects into a single spell and the results spoke for themselves. The scythe cut through two entire tails before dissipating in a blast of wind that blew the severed appendages away from the elemental. When they landed, they blasted apart like bags filled with burning oil, scattering pale blue fire onto the rocky ground, melting it into lava. But the most dramatic consequence was that the orb of destructive energy the elemental had been condensing became destabilized by the loss of its tails, rupturing loudly.
The world turned white.
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