Tier 1 water mages can use the defensive magic Water Veil to enshroud themselves in a protective film of water. Not only is the spell a good barrier against all sorts of fire spells, it allows the mage to breathe underwater. That is the reason most of the naval roster is populated by water mages.
Once they advance to Tier 2, a water mage learns a new magic and Water Veil upgrades to the Tier 2 spell: Fluid Manipulation. Fluid Manipulation allows the mage to control and utilize any liquid that has water in it – potions, acids and even in some cases blood.
Both these spells are subordinate to the Aspect of Water.
The new magic they learn is Tier 2 water magic: Ablation which is subordinate to the Aspect of Erosion. It is the spell which makes water mages such great alchemists. It is an auxiliary spell which allows them to strip and extract mana out of any magical substance. This was the spell Teal had been training me in all throughout our trip back from the Dungeon.
At higher levels of proficiency, the spell could be used directly in an offensive by grinding away at a mage's Domain or a beast's body.
The final Aspect of the element, though was the Aspect of Absorption. And it was this Aspect that made higher Tier water mages so thorny. The initial form the Aspect took was the Tier 3 water spell: Desiccate. Once cast, all the water within the range of the caster's Domain would be attracted towards them, supplementing their reserves of fluid to manipulate.
But it was at higher levels of proficiency that the Aspect truly shone through. When one reached the Adept stage, it was no longer water they affected but water mana itself. They could use the ambient water mana to supplement their own consumption. This was especially relevant at sea where the concentration of water mana was very high.
And once mastered, according to Teal, the water mage could imitate an elemental and absorb every species of mana and convert it into water mana in their mindscape, giving them a pool of mana as vast as the seas themselves to work with.
I didn't know much about Lieutenant Neera since our paths hadn't crossed much before but judging by her status as the Chief Alchemist of the camp, her attainments in the Aspect of Erosion were sure to be high and with how freely she manipulated that mysterious potion, her understanding of the Aspect of Water wasn't low either.
As we drew closer to the fight between the ant queen and the combined forces of Lieutenant Corvus and father, I sensed her mana surge as she prepared a spell.
"You can't keep me afloat when I release my Domain right?"
"Okay. Fly me above the battle, then drop me and remain ready to catch me the moment I withdraw my Domain."
Following her instructions, I maneuvered us above the ant. Noticing us, specially Lieutenant Neera's water mana that it was abhorrent to, the queen tried to attack us but was blocked and kept in place by the collaboration of father and Lieutenant Corvus after they received my communication.
Lieutenant Neera kept fermenting her spell her aura rising successively in my senses. "Let me go right about… Now!" she ordered and I released the hold of the winds on her.
Her braid fluttered in the wind as she dropped towards the battle below. Then centred on her a transparent blue disc proliferated rapidly, covering over five hundred metres on all sides.
Tier 3 water magic: Desiccate.
Then the disc collapsed inwards, drawing with it all the clouds that covered the sky within its range. Suddenly, there was a huge circular gap in the cloud layer. Cloud bumped into cloud and merged, growing ever denser until it coalesced into multiple streams of water that surrounded the queen from all sides, trapping it in a spherical, watery prison.
The moment Lieutenant Neera retracted her Domain, I caught her with my wind, arresting her fall.
Perspiration drenched her back and forehead as she clenched her teeth and maintained the imprisonment of the ant despite its violent revolt. The surface of the sphere began to deform and bubble as the furious ant set the water boiling.
"Quick!" she shouted, "I can't hold this thing much longer. General, prepare your strongest lightning. Corvus, help me hold it still."
Nodding at her, father withdrew to a distant place, faced the sky and inhaled.
The clouds that hadn't been absorbed for the water prison were attracted by him, revolving around him in a darkening vortex. As their speed of revolution grew faster and faster, sparks of bluish-white electricity could be seen jumping from one to the other.
Tier 4 wind magic: Storm call.
Sensing danger the ant doubled and redoubled its efforts to escape, flames jetting out from all of its pores, causing the water to vaporize faster, depleting the prison.
With a shout, strands of shadow shot out of Lieutenant Corvus' Domain and pricked into the water prison before twining around the writhing ant and immobilizing it. With how pale he suddenly became and his heavy breathing, I could guess how strenuous it was for him.
I wished I could help them but my proficiency in the Aspects of shadow and water were too low to make any sort of mark and my offensive wasn't damaging enough to merit an attempt. I could attempt to affect the ant's fire spells by jacking into it with my ability but for that I needed to synchronize emotions with it. For that I would need to drop out of my state of the Void -which I needed to fly. So, that wasn't an option either.
Unfortunately, in this situation, I was but a glorified aircraft. Well, at least I was contributing in my own way.
Thoroughly enraged and fearful of the deadly atmosphere exuded by father's spell, the queen unleashed all its power at the prison, causing it to reduce at an alarming rate. This way, it would break free before father managed to condense his spell.
With a feminine yell, Lieutenant Neera pointed at the water prison and the ultramarine potion that had been cohering on her body in the form of armour flowed across her body, down her arm, and shot at the boiling sphere of water, mixing with it, giving it an ultramarine tint.
Immediately, the boiling subsided and the water began to grow calm. I even noticed a bit of ice forming on the outermost edges of the water.
'What a powerful potion!'
Turning to Lieutenant Neera, I saw extreme anxiety on her usually composed face. I felt a bit sorry for her. A potion that could affect a Tier 5, even temporarily, would have cost her an arm and a leg. Even if she had refined it herself, just the ingredients themselves were the treasury-emptying kind.
I hoped she would be reimbursed for her loss.
Suddenly a thought flashed past in my mind. A little factoid read in a dusty book on a leisurely day. "Lieutenant, won't the ice hinder the lightning? Isn't it an insulator?"
Recovering from her heartache, she composed herself and replied, "No, the potion increases the conductivity instead… that's why I asked the General to use his lightning. It…"
Before she could finish, the air crackled with electricity and our hairs stood on end as an incandescent thigh-thick beam of lightning hit the water prison head on, robbing us of our sight.
Then the thunderous rumble crashed against my hastily constructed vacuum barriers inspired by Azure's usage of air. The wobbly barriers were shredded like wet tissues until an attenuated version of the shockwave hit me and Lieutenant Neera, concussing us and causing our ears to bleed.
Steadying myself with some difficulty, I blinked my watering eyes till my vision returned.
There, barely staying aloft was the extremely scorched and dishevelled queen. With two of its four wings damaged, it was wobbling in the air, on the verge of dropping down.
Sensing its imminent death, it turned around and fled.
"Chase it!" I heard father's voice resounding within my ear, shaking my skull and making itself heard despite my ruptured eardrums. "I'll levitate Lieutenant Tauros, you stall it till I get there! Don't let it escape!"
I didn't need to be told twice.
This was the crucial moment. Both the Lieutenants had exhausted their entire mana in the previous attack while father was in no shape to give chase, having just attacked with all his might. I was the only one fresh and ready for action.
Also, with my mastery of the wind I was much faster than the severely injured queen.
If we managed to kill it here, it would be a great victory. Half the forces of the legion attacking us would lose their morale and flee at the death of their queen. The queen had probably sneaked into our airspace solitarily as a probe. It hadn't expected to fall into such a dangerous situation. If it escaped, it would grow extremely wary of us and we would never have such a good chance again.
This opportunity couldn't be missed.
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