Despite the comprehensive statute of laws that bound us, in the end, we never could forget that we were a martial society. As such, duels were an integral part of Regiis culture.
There were three types of duels. First, and the one with the direst consequences, was a Mortem's Duel. Named after the God of Death in Regiis mythology, it was a duel to the death between parties who had deemed their differences irreconcilable. Only when both parties accepted the duel could it take place and it was mandatory to report to the highest authority possible for authorization. It was the duty of said authority to preside over the Mortem's Duel and prevent interference.
The second kind of duel, Trial by Combat, was slightly less deadly. It took place when a criminal was judged guilty of crimes deserving capital punishment. They could then request a Trial in the hope of mitigating their sentence. Professional duellists known as Hands of Justice would then be called upon and both parties would fight to defeat.
The Hands were chosen from battlers that were considered unbeatable in their respective Tiers. So, if the criminal managed to defeat them, they would be demonstrating their value to the Empire. Then, instead of the gallows, they would be headed to the frontlines where they would serve as soldiers without remuneration for the rest of their lives – or at least until they were considered old enough to retire. Any money they would have earned was paid to the victim's family as compensation. If they lost, they died.
The final, the least serious and therefore most common, kind of duel was the Ceremonial Duel. Basically, in certain civil cases like public slander and contests over marriage or inheritance, where the determination of guilt was quite fuzzy, the matter was solved with the fist. The Ceremonial Duel, as its name suggests, had a strict procedure. The combatants would take turns, alternating between attack and defence until one of them dropped down or admitted defeat. The one who was challenged would choose who would attack first.
Only those of the same Tier could engage in a Ceremonial Duel otherwise it would be considered assault and the one with the higher cultivation could be taken to court. That was the reason I had been hesitant to accept his challenge.
I watched from the side-lines as Ceres and the boy took their positions across from each other. As the challenged party and an Earth mage, the boy understandably chose to start defensively.
The onlooking crowd had increased as the Duel attracted an audience. Not only was the area around the impromptu human cordon packed with bodies, but there were also several Pluma using their natural advantage to hover above our heads to get a better view.
The public opinion was obviously skewed against us as most of the cheers were for the boy. Not surprising as it was his home game and Ceres' tails easily led to negative associations.
From the cheers of the crowd, I picked up that the boy was named Reinhart and he was the scion of the Pholidota family. I could feel a major headache coming. I had guessed that his backstage was hard but him having the Unbounded Demigod as his elder was beyond my expectations. Why was he after us really?
I just hoped the guy didn't bear a grudge after losing today. He could make life at the Capital all sorts of difficult for us. Oh well, what would happen would happen.
Cupping my hands around my mouth, "Go Ceres!" I cheered, adding a bit of volume with wind magic to even out the playing field.
Shooting a glance my way from the corner of her eye, she turned back to her opponent with a confident smile on her lips. Raising her hand in front of her, she pointed at him. Purple smoke seeped out of her pores and wreathed around her. The smoke caught the noon sunlight, giving her a dreamlike cast. Twining around her outstretched arm, the smoke coalesced into a hazy purple python that shot forward at Reinhart following the direction of her finger.
Clapping his palms together, with a low shout, Reinhart kneeled and slammed his palms onto the ground. Thick walls of earth rose up all around him, boxing him in before getting compressed into solid stone by his mana. Although I couldn't directly sense the flow of his mana, I could tell how dense the walls were from how little of the other five elemental mana doped the walls – an indication of extremely dense earth mana driving the other strains out. This guy had high attainments in the Aspect of Reinforcement.
A sheet of stone grew above the box, sealing it in a completely airtight manner. This was a very effective defense strategy against users of smoke and poison as they would generally require that the mage inhale it for their spells to take effect. An ordinary kitsune would be helpless against it.
I shook my head inwardly. Ceres was no ordinary kitsune. Using my soul sense, I observed the purple mana that permeated the smoke python slam into the wall before seeping into it and spreading throughout the entirety of it. Tendrils of it gathered towards a point in the centre of the stone box – in all probability the mindscape of the boy – and began to contaminate that too.
Tier 2 personal magic: Smoke within a Dream.
This was the magic she had comprehended when she had been travelling through the tunnels of the volcanic Dungeon back in the heart of the Sixth Forbidden Zone. It was the magic that had brought hundreds of fire ants to their knees and allowed her team safe passage through the tunnels.
It was a spell that used her mastered Aspect of Illusion and adept Aspect of Sleep in tandem to forcibly drag her opponents into the world of dreams where she could immerse them in nightmares that would never end – or, at least last until she exhausted her mana.
The special characteristic of this attack was that it could infect the opponent through their mana. If she was in Tier 3, she could perpetuate her spell throughout her Domain, forming a Dreamland Domain that would give her control over all who entered it. As Tier 2 though, she could only use it as a spell. A slow, easily dodged spell.
For a moment, I almost felt sorry for Reinhart. His chosen procedure – that would have shut down most other kitsune – had instead become a prison to trap him in.
To the watching audience, one moment the python of purple smoke wound around the sealed box of stone, seemingly at a loss. The next moment, the box crumbled inwards, revealing the dust-covered figure of the Pholidota heir who was sleeping on the ground with a serene expression on his face… while sucking his thumb.
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