Yue opened up with a barrage of suppressive fire, opting for full coverage spells to mitigate the troublesome terrain of stunted walls and make-pretend buildings.
Debora cycled her supplementary skills, attempting to reach the critical mass of self-buffs required for melee-mode.
"Resist Elements!" Whetu reinforced Debora, hoping his Aburation was enough to mitigate the searing heat of the Molten Armour when Debora inevitably met the Magma Transmuter in combat.
On the other side of the arena, Beatrice the Abjurer conjured an earthen barrier around Julia as the magma Mage likewise self-buffed with Molten Armour.
"Julius! Ice Aura!"
Behind her, Helena the Ice Conjurer summoned her Familiar, whose halo of cold instantly diminished the vigour of Yue's fire. From a distance, the girls could see that Julius was vaguely avian in shape, likely a gull of some sort.
"Shit!" Yue swore. "She's got a low-tier Spirit!"
Following the final invocation, a blizzard rained down upon the Blackwattle team, manifesting as a hail of frost-white daggers cutting through the air in whistling shrieks.
Whetu's unique ability caught the opposing team unaware. The hardened surface of his greenstone shield blocked the ice shards, deflecting the missiles with a large, dome-like structure that formed over the trio. With the cover offered by the low walls and their overhead space sheltered by the hexagonal lattice of the Pounamu, Blackwattle was well-protected from the Conjurer's twin-storm.
"Sugars!" Helena cursed. "They got a Mineral Mage too? Are you sure they're a team from the boonies? They're better provisioned than Lilith's!"
Meanwhile, the self-buffs from both team's Transmuters continued.
"Haste! Magic Weapon! Enhance Strength!" Debora invoked.
"Haste! Enhanced Agility! Elemental Weapon!" Julia followed suit.
From the sidelines, Gwen perceived that there were subtle differences between Debora's and Julia's magical-enhancement, indicating the difference in Spellcraft. Magic Weapon buffed the natural damage of Debora's strikes, but her physical blows were weak against Molten Armour. On the other hand, Julia's heated Elemental Weapon worked wonders against Debora's Sand Armour. Furthermore, while Debora opted for heavy-hitting strikes, the agility used by Julia ensured that she could both dodge and strike, as Elemental Weapon did not require direct force to achieve maximum potential.
"Oh no, Debora..." Gwen muttered anxiously. She wanted to call out or to Message her teammates, but external communication during a duel was forbidden.
Meanwhile, a battle for AOE supremacy took place between Yue, whose Affinity ensured she had efficient and expeditious spell casting - against the Conjurer Helena, whose Ice Spirit was dealing a double dose of elemental damage with every chant.
Fire and ice clashed overhead, forming into clumps of superheated steam. Where their spells had crossed over without a volatile interaction, they were intercepted by their respective Abjurers.
For the moment at least, Rosebay and Blackwattle equally matched. The obstacles of this mock urbanscape were limiting both their options. If Yue used single-target spells such as rays, her opponent could simply duck behind a wall. Likewise, Helena was just as frustrated. Her familiar was not the melee type, and like Yue's fire, her ice spells needed line of sight.
Luckily for Yue, Whetu was tanking like a champion.
"Get a load of this!" Yue impatiently clamoured as Whetu's Shielding ricocheted another volley of icy shards. "Empowered Fireball! Quickened Fireball!"
Yue had been training on the weekends until she was spewing blood. Alesia had been teaching her apprentice a way to over-channel her spells to achieve meta-effects. As a result, simple spells took more mental capacity to cast and drained double or triple the mana but possessed meta-enhancements could change the course of the battle.
The twin fireballs took Beatrice, the Earthen Abjurer, by surprise - for the first empowered spell had hidden the smaller ball behind it. A split-second later, initial blast exploded across the surface of her earthen barrier, shattering a part of its stony carapace, after which the second blast bit into the crumbling dome. The force of the concussive blow was such that it blew away the brick and mortar cover, revealing the girls from Rosebay.
"Fudgesickles!" Beatrice grunted, redoubling her effort, attempting to repair her damaged barrier before Yue could drop another bomb. "Helena! Keep her off me!"
Twin gusts of slippery frost washed over Yue and Whetu.
The Maori wasn't even breaking a sweat. He'd spent the last three-month taking barrages from the girls. Compared to Gwen and friend's desperate bid for lunch, the Conjurer's Sleet Storm felt like a gentle, cooling breeze.
Beside them, Debora was ready.
In opposition, Julia was likewise ready to rumble.
The two Mages were both orthodox students of the junior Conjuration school, preferring melee combat stratagems over ranged attacks.
They clashed in the mid-field among an eruption of brick and mortar, crashing through the Transmuted landscape with impunity. The first few exchanges saw the two well-matched, Debora dropped an axe-kick onto Julia's shoulder, while Julia pummelled Dobra with a right hook.
Their difference in methodology, however, began to show as the exchange grew heated. With enhanced agility, Julia could dodge one or two of Debora's strikes, while Debora's defence was wholly incapable of stopping the elemental barrage that came from Julia.
Grunts and howls punctuated the meeting of flesh. All around the girls, chunks of molten lava and gouts of sand-turned-glass scattered like violently shattered china.
"How barbaric…" Ferris, whose own vocation was Divination, Illusion and Enchantment, muttered to herself. "They look like two mindless elementals jostling for a mana node."
It was true that Mages who brawled as their primary occupation were rare and far in between. Close combat with humanoid Magical Creatures was viable, but how does one punch a Kraken, kick an Abolith, or wrestle a Chimera?
"That girl, she's Tier 4?" Henry mused. "Saving the best for last, perhaps."
"Who knows?" Ferris said nothing. She still felt peeved that Gwen Song had caught Julia flat-footed and cheated a victory from her Praetorian candidate.
Yue scoffed at the pitiful Sleet Storm hammering away at her, harmlessly countered by Whetu's Pounamu shielding.
Rosebay's Earthen Mage was barely keeping up— Victory was within her grasp.
The immediate space above the Conjurer and the Abjurer filled with the red and glowing mana of the Elemental Plane of Fire.
"Absorb Elements!" All the Abjurer could do was ready herself for the incoming assault. "Helena! What are you doing! Run interception on that Evoker!"
"I am trying to, damn it! Their Mineral Mage's sturdier than a brick outhouse!"
Helena redoubled her efforts.
Two gigantic spheres of ice materialised and launched themselves towards Yue. If they struck, the oppositional element would severely injure the Evoker. At worst, Helena hoped that Yue would flinch and fumble the spell.
Instead, Yue showed no sign of fear.
What Helena didn't know was that Yue had already been blooded by two months of live fire combat with the Murlocs, that she had experienced hundreds of moments where her life was not in her own hands, but the that of the Abjurer, Taj.
Yue couldn't even be bothered to glance at the ice boulders. In her mind, there were only two outcomes. Either Whetu blocked it, and she nuked these bitches. Or she nailed these two bitches first, then got railed by two giant blocks of crushing ice. The important thing was that she managed to disable two enemies for the price of one.
The Rosebay girls helplessly watched the spell above them continue to manifest. They didn't have access to any translocation spells and couldn't dodge the empowered Firestorm. In a desperate bid, Helena recalled her elemental spirit and used it to lower the temperate around them, filling the localised area with a crystalline barrier of ice.
Yue made a motion with her hand, forcing the Firestorm to accelerate. In the very same instant, a Pounamu shield appeared before her unerringly, deflecting both giant boulders.
The Fire Storm struck.
It took only two seconds of bombardment from the meteor shower for the half-shattered Earthen Shield to fail. The ice elemental was likewise consumed within a few seconds, retreating to its pocket dimension.
"Yield!" The two girls from Rosebay cried out dejectedly.
Yue ceased her channelling, felling a dizzying weakness as her mana dropped from half-tank to almost out. Whetu caught her as she stumbled backwards, then turned his attention towards Julia and Debora's duel.
Another chunk of Debora's Sand Armour had spent its resilience, instantly turning into molten glass as it fell from her body. Moving motes of earthen mana replenished the sandy carapace, but Debora wasn't doing well.
Adjacent Debora, Julia formed both hands into a hammer. She struck the surfer girl a mighty blow, sledgehammering Debora with a shockwave of raging heat that exploded sent her reeling.
As Debora stumbled backwards, Julia took the opportunity to advance, bring up a left-right combo that caught Debora square in the gut. Her opponent was stronger than the average private academy student, but her Apellcraft was far below her Affinity with the sand.
Just as Julia was about to go for the killing blow, Yue's Fire Storm had landed and taken out her teammates. Julia glanced at her two teammates as their shields failed, furrowing her brows. It was down to her then. Unlike the spoilt rich-girls, she was a Praetorian, the reputation and honour of Rosebay rested upon her shoulders.
"Catapult!" Julia shot a lava clump at Debora, fully expecting the girl to perish.
Instead, she was thwarted by a green-stone shield that instantly formed in front of Debora, blocking her explosive payload. Julia's offensive power was still impressive though, for she crushed the Pounamu down to its honeycombed lattices.
"This chuck's off fence is off the charts!" Whetu grunted. "It's like I am getting pounded by two-three Mages at once."
Debora recovered, her expression unknowable behind her mask of sand.
"Minor Stone Shape!"
Pillars of sand which instantly wrapped around Julia, anchoring her to the ground.
"Yue! Do it now!"
Julia growled menacingly and raised her shield, a solid wall of hardened magma.
But there was no alpha-strike. Yue was OoM.
"Looks like you're out of luck, surfie girl," Julia gloated.
"You still gotta get through me." Debora retorted.
"Oh, I will, don't you worry." Julia pulled at the sand encasing her legs, surprised that she was in fact, fast-stuck. The surfie girl's Affinity was impressive, even if her spells were lacklustre. "You have a Spirit?"
Debora didn't reply. From the expression on her face, it took all her effort to keep Julia pinned.
"Your Spirit is wasted on you." Julia grinned at Debora. "Let me show you how a true Transmuter fights."
The girl's eyes smouldered. Her grin turned sudden Draconic as her canines distended and her face elongated.
There was an explosion of magma, the shockwave sending Debora stumbling backwards, shredding her Sand Armour, revealing skin that was raw and scorched beneath. Gwen gasped from the sidelines. Neither Resist Elements nor Sand Armour had been sufficient.
"Eek! Debora!" Elvia placed her hand over her mouth,
Gwen likewise stood from her seat, her heart hammering at her throat. Debbie's wounds looked like second-degree burns. Gwen couldn't even begin to imagine the pain Debora must be feeling right now.
There was no remedy for Gwen's anxiety though; for Debora, Yue and Whetu had a bigger problem of the pseudo-draconic variety.
When the spurt of magma faded, the Blackwattle Team was staring up toward a wyvern a full three-meters tall and eight or more meters in length, dripping with magma and snorting gouts of superheated plasma. It was Julia, of course, anyone could see that - but the crowd still began to scream and shout, some with jubilation, others shrieking with fear and panic. The younger girls, especially, were screaming their lungs out.
"Oi, fuck me dead!" Yue whined.
"FUCK!" Whetu marvelled.
They were boned; the Blackwattle trio knew it. Here was what it means to be outclassed and outmatched. Sure, between Debora's Sand and Whetu's Pounamu, they could keep the damn thing kited until they were OOM, but then what? Debora wasn't near strong enough to try and damage a fucking wyvern with Molten Armour. Whetu wasn't equipped either. Yue was OOM already, and even if she weren't, her fire spells weren't going to be spectacular against a Wyvern that was already on fire.
There was a decision to be made here, and Whetu knew he had to make the call.
"We yield!" He cried out.
Yue and Debora both turned to glare at him.
"Oi! You two hot water bottles need to cool your jits! There's still a 5v5, and we got no reserve team members, don't get injured!"
The girls deflated.
Surprisingly, Julia the Wyvern was a good sport.
Julia didn't take the opportunity to injure either Debora nor Yue, for she wanted a proper match up with Gwen at her team's best. She wanted to show the world that Rosebay could best any challengers, no matter how absurd or unique their talent.
Julia transformed back.
"Winner, Rosebay Academy."
The home crowd was wild with immediate jubilation, with the blue-clad girls hugging and applauding and clapping hysterically. Dusty and beaten, the three returned to their team. Elvia immediately began healing Debora, restoring her swollen skin to their usual colour of honeyed copper.
"You guys did great!" Gwen assured them. "There was nothing to be done against Julia, don't sweat it! It was a classic bad match up! We didn't know she had access to Tier 4 spells already."
"More than that, Tiger" Alesia interjected. Hugging Yue and giving Debora and Whetu a pat on the shoulder. "That girl is absurdly gifted. You can't just turn into a wyvern willy-nilly, you know. She owns a Spirit - a low tier one, probably salvaged from Wildland Lesser Wyvern I'd hazard to guess that its thanks to Magister Ferris over yonder."
Alesia indicated at Irene Ferris with her thumb.
"Magister of the Tower, and one of the three with their hands in the Grey Market. Not exactly a challenge to trade some human offal for a rare Spirit Core from the Demi-races."
"Doesn't change the fact that we lost," Yue said dejectedly.
"Sorry." Debora looked the most distraught out of all of them. She looked devastated by the defeat.
"Debbie." Gwen reached out and touched her hand. "It's alright. We still have the next match."
Debora pulled Gwen closer and buried her head in Gwen's shoulders.
"Not now," Alesia announced stoically. "There's still the 5v5, Gwen, what's your take on the wyvern?"
"I think I am the only one capable of pushing through that Molten Armour, but I am going to need protection. Whetu?"
"Give me full coverage for about four spell cycles. I am going to bury Caliban and then tentacle up. I need ten seconds without interruption."
"Yue, I need you to provide cover fire, keep their Abjurer and Conjurer distracted, their healer too if you can manage it."
"Debs," Gwen continued.
"We're going with formative C. I need you to play disruption with the Wyvern. Keep them distracted until my spells are done."
"Got it, I'll do my best," Debora promised, putting a hand over her left breast.
"Elvia, I am counting on you to keep me up. Both Caliban and the Tentacles are tier 4, and I've pretty sure I can't sustain both for long. Whetu, Elvia is going to be directly behind me, so I am counting on you to take care of us both."
"Alright, we got about half an hour of rest, let's get some scenarios mapped up!"
Alesia watched her sister-in-craft pour over the details with a feeling of accomplishment. To think that almost a year ago, she had picked up a trembling Gwen from her uncle's manor, hands shaking with fright and uncertainty. Watching the kids crunch their strategy, looking at Gwen and her companions, the battle-hardened Magus wondered if by skipping school, she had missed an opportunity for something precious.