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Author's note: We get a little action for a change. The Lucian fight, while fun, can't really be called a proper action scene.


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Rhi’a’non was bursting at the seams because of all the spectators coming to watch the inter-academy competitions. The rush of people was due to many factors. Most of the civilian population didn’t get a chance to watch high level martial competitions very often, and luckily didn’t see too much of it in their daily lives. The elven army and the hunter’s guild both do a pretty good job of putting down any threats of violence before they become a real problem. This had taken a somewhat of a downturn as a result of the wave of new bandits after the civil war, but the majority of the people didn’t really suffer from that.

The competition was also a fairly large entertainment event, which drew people from all three clans that gathered to root for their own academies. Not just the family and friends of those taking part, but the clans themselves made it a point of pride. ”Our academies are better than yours!” was the general feeling. It also helped that those that wanted to see the event didn’t actually have to cram inside one arena to see it. Because of how the ‘Training room’ spell worked, several magical circles were prepared all over the capital, which allowed the audience entry to the ‘Training room’ in a so called spectator mode. The audience were like ghosts within the spell, unable to enter the competition area, but were afforded a great view of events. They couldn’t interact with the competitors in any way aside from cheering them on, but this allowed the competition a chance to be viewed by millions of people. Of course the spell was made with safety in mind, so if any outside force tried to interfere with it, everyone within the spell would be ejected immediately.

The academies brought along their whole student bodies to cheer their competitors on. The competitors usually took part in either the solo event, or in the team event. Because both competitions were held on the same days, very few of the young competitors would have the necessary power to give their all in both events. The academies did send multiple teams to the competition, because determining a single best team was a bit difficult when considering compatibility of abilities. While one team might be great at fighting against warriors, they might be much worse against mages. Or it might be good against mages, but doesn’t do so hot against shadow mages in particular.

Neleh’s little group, reinforced by all of her sisters, who were for once gathered in one place, joined the empress and Alduin and Maylin Rhys in the audience.

“So how do you like it Neleh? Did we finally manage to show you something special enough to impress you?” Maylin asked with a grin.

“I have to hand it to you, this is a fairly fancy way of having a competition. I’m guessing you haven’t had this spell for very long? It seems you haven’t optimized the spell completely yet.” Neleh said viewing the magical forces forming the separate space.

Maylin’s grin stiffened a bit. “You’re right again, as usual. We’ve only had this magic for about twenty years. Refining a large scale spell like this takes quite a bit of time. Large scale rituals like this also take a long time and great amount of effort to develop.”

“Ah, that explains it.” Neleh gave a small secretive smile, not really explaining further.

What had confused Neleh at first, when she saw the multiple sources of audience, was that the elves had not yet managed to take the next step with their spell. Having a space like the ‘Training room’ was the first step in developing functional teleportation. Sooner or later some enterprising elven mage would figure out that with a few tweaks to the spell, the audience members didn’t have to exit the spell in the same place they entered. This wouldn’t really allow for a long range teleportation, but that would be the next project that followed.

Neleh in her old life had run into a lot of stories and myths about teleportation magic, but very few worlds actually managed to do it. This was because of problems with relative positioning. The problem with teleportation was that you had to know the destination point’s location to a too high degree. If you simply wanted to make a very short teleportation, then you could use your own position to determine the relative location of your destination point, but even so the spell was very complex and time consuming, so you would have more success flying or running in almost all circumstances.

The real problems started when you wanted to move a large amount of people, or move over large distances. After a certain threshold, you couldn’t use your own position as a guidepost anymore, and had to determine the destination point relative to the celestial bodies. This became prohibitively difficult, because usually you were on a rapidly spinning planet that orbited a star with great speed. That required skill in math and physics that was even beyond Neleh’s abilities, because of the ever changing calculations involved. Some of the most powerful psionics were reported to have that ability, but Neleh herself had never tried. Just to make matters worse, many large worlds had powerful magical flows, which interfered with the targeting of such spells. It had taken Neleh all of ten seconds after getting the control of her magical powers to determine that Minrathos, the world they were on now, was one such world. That’s why she had never even bothered to try using proper teleportation.

However, as with everything, there are ways around the problem. Neleh already showed a little bit of the solution in the duel against Lucian, only the shift was so small that no one paid attention. She had let Lucian’s ‘shadow cannon’ spell inside a separate space similar to the ‘Training room’ and had it exit in a different place. You could make that work on long distances, where a person or a caravan enters a separate space, that functions as a crossroads or a nexus of sorts, through one door and exits through another that leads to his or her desired destination. Of course this method also comes with its own problems.

It sounded simple, but yet again became complex when one considers long distances and multiple destinations. Unlike with the traditional teleportation though, these problems were much more manageable. If you wanted to allow people to travel long distances, or allow people with no magical power to use this method of travel, you had to make the nexus connecting the two locations permanent. That would require a lot of power. In addition, if you wanted to make jumps longer than the little trick Neleh used earlier, the travel could only take place between fixed doorways, instead of free travel anywhere. On the positive side, those doorways could be guarded and forces hostile to Neleh would not be able to gain access to the nexus.

This was one of the main plans that Neleh had made when it came to strengthening her duchy when she finally took over officially. In preparation, she had started to gather power in several large gems that would functions as wells for her to draw on when it came time to create the nexus. The doorways would be much easier. It was obviously a great benefit for trade and flow of goods, but the military applications were also important. That was one of the main reasons she was planning on having a chain of fortresses on the borders of her duchy. Each fortress would hold a doorway, and each fortress could be reinforced easily from a central location. In addition, no army would be able to bypass the fortresses, because a large force could sally out of any of them, and assault the invading army from the rear. There was also the normal use of forts, where they could be used to harry supply lines, if armies tried to bypass them.

Neleh wondered how long it would take for the other elves to get the idea, once they saw her system up and running. The other races would most likely take centuries, since they didn’t even have the ‘Training room’ fundamentals ready. Assuming she wasn’t forced to teach the other races because of the impending attack of the Enemy, of course.

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The competition itself moved along, but there were many strange factors involved. Aneirin was blazing a trail through the solo event. It seemed that most of the other academies had chosen to put their best students into the team event, and that left no one capable of standing against the Rhi’a’non academy’s ace. Perhaps that was the point behind the strategy of the other academies. They knew Rhi’a’non would put their ace into the solo event, and as the most prestigious academy it was no wonder their best would be able to beat the best of the other academies. Hence the focus on the team event instead.

That said, it seemed like someone had forgotten to give the memo to the warrior academies, as many of their best were still in the solo event, getting trashed by Aneirin’s oddly heated efforts. It wasn’t odd for the students in Rhi’a’non to see Aneirin do well in a match of power and skill, but this time she seemed too forceful, as if driven by some unseen desire. Usually she would enjoy making the match a productive learning experience for both parties, but now  she was dismantling her opponents with  brutal efficiency, having no qualms about striking at their weak points.

Meanwhile, the group events were going rather poorly for Rhi’a’non academy. With Aneirin and several other of the more high skilled students taking part in the solo event and Lucian still recovering from his crushing defeat against Neleh, only Micah was left from the pillars of strength of their academy. Because the first event of the group battles had been done in a battle royale fashion, nearly all of the Rhi’a’non academy’s teams had been eliminated, leaving only Micah’s team to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament. It seemed like the other magic academies had formed an alliance beforehand, and had focused on removing the warrior academies and Rhi’a’non academy. As a result, most of the teams advancing had been from the three magic academies.

One team in particular had taken a weird kind of pleasure in removing the warrior teams. This was the team that held the aces of the Solaris magic academy, and they had devised many effective methods of fighting against warriors. They mostly focused on removing the warrior’s mobility with water and earth magic, and prevented the surviving warriors from acting effectively by a proper application of heavy protective shields or defensive earth and light spells. They seemed to take an almost perverse pleasure in prolonging the struggles of the warrior students. On the other hand, their application of magic was beyond the normal skills exhibited by magic students, and bordered on the skills of the mages used by the army. It was obvious to the keener observers that the Solaris magic academy had hired some army magicians to coach their students in proper combat situations.

To make matters worse, their ace was very skilled in using shadow magic that was very effective at disabling his warrior opponents, while causing them a quite a bit of pain, and they were in no hurry to finish off the incapacitated opponents, instead opting to go for the still combat capable people first. This made a lot of tactical sense, but was a fairly brutal way of dealing with students. It would be a surprise if this didn’t have any consequences for the people affected. Some would lose their confidence as warriors, while some would learn from their experience and would make efforts not to suffer such treatment in the future. A harsh lesson, but something the students would do well to learn.

They weren’t bad against mages either. While Eldarinwe usually had more of their young gifted with warrior skills, the Sun Elves tended to be more inclined to the path of a mage. As such, it was not surprising that the aces of their magic academy were well versed in group tactics between mages. In a great twist that surprised absolutely no one, the finals of the team battles were held between Micah’s team and the Sun Elf ace team. Micah’s team was an oddity among the competitors, because it was one of the only teams that had both mages and warriors. This division of three mages and two warriors had served them well in their previous matches, because it allowed them a wider range of tactics to use against their opponents.

Unfortunately this came to bite them back in the finals. The Sun Elf ace dealt with the two warriors of Micah’s group by himself, while the four others joined forces to fight Micah and the two mages of his group. Micah put up a valiant fight, but the four Sun Elves focused their attacks on the two weaker mages, taking them out of the fight first, and finished off the two incapacitated warriors quickly. Even though Micah was individually stronger than any of them, with the possible exception of their ace, he wasn’t strong enough to fight against the five of them by himself, even though they had wasted a lot of power getting rid of the others.

When the Sun Elf team was interviewed after the fight, they replied that the final victory had been rather easy, thanks to the Rhi’a’non team using the power of the ‘useless’ warriors. They of course were more than happy to challenge the Chosen for even more glory, they just hoped that Neleh would not be silly enough to make the same mistake that Micah’s team had, and try to come at them with warrior abilities.

It wasn’t their fairly cruel methods against warrior students that angered Neleh. That was a lesson the warriors needed to learn, and was once again a good way to separate those with the required mentality from the people who broke under pressure. Pain was something the warriors had to learn to deal with anyway, and warriors who turned useless with the simplest adversity needed to either learn or find some other profession. No, it was the general disdain the Sun Elf team showed towards warriors that angered Neleh. They had gotten some special training that happened to be effective against students, who had not faced anyone with similar training before, and now they had gotten a big head and decided to look down on all warriors.

Neleh turned to Asheara. “Lend me that big sword of yours for a moment. It’s time to teach some misbehaving children certain realities of the world. I might as well show you some of the power you will be able to wield once I get done with your training.”

Asheara had a slightly worried look, when she handed Neleh the large blade. She wasn’t worried that Neleh would get hurt. Instead she was worried that Neleh might go too far. Her daughter had the look in her eyes, which usually resulted in someone’s slow death. Nimue shared the same worry, as she had seen that look on Neleh’s face too. Shiori on the other hand was almost jumping in anticipation. She might not have seen that face before, but she was quick on the uptake and was expecting a great show.

“Are you going to be ok?” Delia asked. “I know you are strong, but that’s five mages much more experienced than you that you are facing.”

Selene shared the worry and was about to say something too, but was interrupted by Elsaria. “Don’t worry sis, she’ll be just fine. You should be more worried about the other guys.” She had seen Neleh in action and knew better.

-----

Neleh entered the arena in a red and white hakama that looked ceremonial but allowed for a free range of movement. She carried the large no-dachi in her left hand. The Sun Elf team got a disdainful look when they saw the sword. The great Chosen that they had heard so much about wasn’t any smarter than the ones that came before her. They had hoped to get a little more challenge from her, but it seemed like their victory would once again be easy.

Their ace Venali gave a small laugh. “I had hoped you were going to offer more than this. Don’t tell me the great Chosen is also a warrior. I guess the rumors about you being just a second circle mage were true after all.”

Neleh didn’t reply anything, simply nodded to the judges that she was ready to start. They gave the signal to start. Neleh immediately gave her sword a slight push with her left thumb, pushing about two cm of the sword blade out of the scabbard. She whispered quietly. “Shinmei-ryú technique, Evil-Seeking Blade.”

The Sun Elves saw a slight blur in front of Neleh and two waves of sword Ki flying towards them. Neleh’s right hand was now on the hilt of the sword that had returned to the scabbard. Two of the Sun Elf mages stepped forward raising powerful defensive shields, not intending to take the first strike of a Chosen lightly. To their shock, the Ki completely ignored their magic and struck the two, severing their outstretched hand at the shoulder. This shocked the others. Magic required focus, and despite the training they had done, the pain of losing an arm would incapacitate them for a while. They had lost two people in the first seconds of the fight.

In the second the Sun Elves spent looking at their wounded comrades, Neleh disappeared, showing up next to one of the unharmed mages. She drew the sword from the scabbard in a wide slash right at the waist level. Her target, unable to dodge, hastily clad himself in a protective earth spell called ‘Stoneskin’, which excelled at defending against physical attacks, especially against slashing and piercing attacks. Unfortunately for him, the sword Neleh and Elluin had made ignored magical defenses as if they weren’t even there. Neleh’s swing moved as if it faced only air and her target was neatly bisected at the waist. The wound was so smooth, that it was slippery as glass. The Sun Elf mage toppled to the ground in two halves.

One of the two remaining mages started to cast a quick spell that would swarm Neleh with small attacks, similar to what Lucian had used although weaker. Ironically her choice of element was fire. If Neleh had wanted to, she could have taken over the mage’s spell and turned it against him, but she wasn’t done with her lesson. Instead she took a high sideways stance with her side towards her target, and the hilt of her sword beside and behind her head, the point towards the mage.

Once the swarm of ‘firebolts’ flew towards Neleh, she once again uttered a small sentence in a quiet voice. “Shinmei-ryú technique, Scattering Light.” A hundred small blades of Ki flew all around Neleh, shredding the firebolts. As a bonus, many of the blades flew towards the two mages. Venali moved to avoid the blades of Ki, while the other mage used a protective spell named ‘Armor of Light’ to protect himself. The spell did manage to protect him, but it dissolved as it was shredded by the Ki blades.

The mage managed to raise a basic magical shield to try and protect himself when Neleh appeared right next to him. However, Neleh didn’t strike the shield with her sword. Instead she gently touched the shield and whispered the activation of another technique. “Backlash.” The shield shattered like a glass. The mage felt a pain in his head and found himself unable to cast another shield. It was as if the spell was temporarily unable to connect correctly. With another slash of the sword, that mage also fell to the ground in two pieces.

Neleh faced Venali quietly. The Sun Elf ace tried to use the same incapacitating shadow spell he had used on the other warriors before this, but found his power blocked by a pink transparent field of Ki that surrounded Neleh. He idly noticed weird patterns glowing on the forehead and hands of the Chosen. “How?” He simply asked.

“Oh it’s not all that complicated. As you learned magic specially designed to combat warriors, did it never occur to you that there might also be warrior techniques specifically designed to counter mages?” Neleh asked back in a calm and cold voice.

Venali could feel Neleh gathering her Ki, while she took the same high sideways stance again. He decided to put his everything into one last attack. ‘Let’s see whose attack is stronger.’ He thought.

Neleh again whispered quietly. “Shinmei-ryú technique, Annihilation Air.” Instead of a wave of Ki, a continuous stream of Ki crashed against the large spear of gathered shadow energy Venali had thrown at her. The Ki seemed to eat the magic, only gaining in power and completely swallowed the Sun Elf mage.

“Instructrion over.” Neleh sighed in fairly loud voice, which was caught by the observation spells of the audience. Her sigh was carried over to the whole audience, making sure they understood that she had still not used her full power while annihilating the Sun Elf team. The judges called the match concluded, although strictly speaking the two mages that were still moaning over their lost hands hadn’t forfeited.

-----

Through the magic of the ‘Training room’ the Sun Elf team returned to full health, but they had learned their lesson. They had realized that the Chosen had used warrior techniques to fight them on purpose, because of their disdain towards warriors. Their attitude didn’t do a miraculous 180-turn, but they did resolve to be more careful and restrained in the future.

Neleh returned to her place in the audience, to the congratulations of her family. Shiori was quite happy, while the rest of them were a bit more subdued. Delia stepped forward.

“We just got the word that Aneirin’s final opponent decided to withdraw. Apparently they have fought before, and while Aneirin has improved greatly, her opponent hasn’t improved as much, and decided to not get humiliated by Aneirin’s new found efficiency. Aneirin also announced she would like to face you after you both take a small rest. So me a favor and be a little gentler with her, than you were with them. She is my lover after all.” She said worried.

“I’ll try my best, but I have a feeling that your girlfriend has a bone to pick with me for some reason. We will have to see what happens.” Neleh replied seriously.
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Vihyungrang

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