Chapter 41 - Chase
Aaron flew full speed ahead. An Eminence might be powerful enough to break the sonic barrier, but as a Champion, he felt his speed lacking.
Magic galore came from the ground trying to hit him, like a display of fireworks, all of which he dodged. He kept a mana shield close to his skin to absorb shockwaves and anything he failed to dodge.
When flying beasts tried to close on him, and there were hundreds which tried, he would use wind magic to prevent them from getting too close or to send them away.
Things were easier than they should be, but way too costly, and getting worse. In less than an hour, he already had less than half his mana pool remaining, and keeping flying creatures away was getting much more difficult.
He had kept his wind magic somewhat close to him. Although he could use it far away, it cost more the farther from him his mana had to affect. By trial and error, the beasts had gotten the gist of it, and were keeping just outside his range of willingness, sending magic from there and waiting for him to show weakness.
Wyverns were the most common of the beasts, followed closely by four-eyed black birds the size of a cow, and fat birds the size of his fist that moved incredibly fast. Many other kinds of birds were present – by now, he had tens of thousands of beasts surrounding him in the air – but none that had the numbers of those three.
His flying speed slowed as he was forced to dodge more and more spells. The birds kept accumulating. Anyone who saw it from afar would only see an enormous ball of flying birds, so big that even Eminences would feel uncomfortable fighting against, and even Ascenders without the right spells would avoid.
At a point, Aaron was forced to stop and hold his ground.
Shadow One looked excitedly at the encircled boy. He had flown fast enough, and his aerial maneuvers could've been enough for him to escape even from her. It had been the right decision to not try to attack him without certainty of her advantage, or things could get tricky.
But now, he was about to die. Surrounded like that, even an Ascender like her would've to spend over twenty percent of her mana to deal with the tens of thousands of beasts in there, maybe more if they attacked intelligently, and her mana pool was ten thousand times the size of his!
And yet, as much as she wanted to declare him dead and leave, she waited. He was a genius, after all, and the Immortals know what devious spells he had at his disposal to deal with the beasts.
She didn't have to wait long. A few minutes later, he acted.
Aaron had less than forty percent of his mana remaining when he decided to spring his trap.
From the moment the first beast realized how far it had to fly to avoid his attacks, he had known he wouldn't have been able to simply fly away from his problems, and prepared a trap. He slowed his flying speed even more than it should and showed difficulty in dealing with the incoming spells.
Now, it was time for some cheap magic.
Myriad Arts – Spellcasting – Quad Elements: Light, Fire, Space, Soul – Legendary Complete Illusion!
Light mana distorted the air, creating a figure just like his. It wasn't just any illusion; it had a heat signature just like his and space even vibrated to release sounds like his, all the while also creating a solid feel to it in case any spell tried to check. Even soul mana was present to fool all spells.
Myriad Arts – Spellcasting – Triple Elements: Space, Light, Soul – Legendary Stealth!
At the same time, he made himself invisible and got to the side. He started controlling the illusion, showing it struggle more and more. The beasts were getting excited, bloodlust making them even more susceptible to the illusion.
The moment a wyvern attacked, he finished his trap. He created a new illusion. This one was of Shadow One.
She seemed to appear out of nowhere and touch him, which made him disappear.
Myriad Arts – Spellcasting – Single Element: Fire – Legendary Fire Stream!
Then, she seemed to shot a huge stream of fire one direction and fly inside. The stream was huge and powerful, but not even enough to burn half of the beasts in there. All the same, it was enough to kill tens of beasts and burn many others. They shrieked in pain and rage, while the illusion of Shadow One entered the hole created by the spell.
As soon as the illusion got to the edge of the hole, it also disappeared.
Then, Aaron stopped screaming altogether and waited.
With their prey gone, the birds searched elsewhere for the mysterious invader. It wasn't hard for them to look back and see the distant Shadow One flying in there.
The firsts to see her shrieked in even more rage for having their prey taken from them, and as one, the huge mass of flying beasts moved at her.
Aaron did his utmost to dodge all incoming beasts. It wasn't as difficult, for as flying beasts, they couldn't fly touching each other without disrupting their flying patterns, and there was some space for maneuvering.
The harder part was to avoid mana from disrupting his surroundings, but filled by bloodlust and anger, and controlled by stronger beasts, almost none of them paid attention to the mana disruption even if they felt it. The few who paid attention, quickly concluded it was created by some other beasts and kept going, afraid to not be able to help in killing the human and bringing the displeasure of the Ancient.
As soon as everything was clear, Aaron flew away, this time, invisible.
Shadow One didn't know why the beasts suddenly turned to look at her, or why they attacked, but she was sure it had nothing to do with the boy's death. He had done something, and she was the target now.
With a thought, he made her helmet close, while suppressing a sigh. As much as she wanted to show some finesse in dealing with those beasts – she was an Ascender, after all, and couldn't just brute-force through everything –, she didn't have the time.
She took her Spectral Eye of Blackwing out of her spatial ring. It was a Peak Artifact orb made from the eye of a Blackwing dragon, an Overlord Beast killed by the Queen herself. It boosted her death magic by twenty percent, something very difficult when dealing with her level of power. The stronger something was, the harder it was to improve on its power.
And she was strong indeed.
She extended the Eye towards the incoming beasts, murmuring: "Forbidden Embrace of Sweet Despair."
She formed the spell not inside her core, but inside the orb. From there, it shot towards the beasts.
They saw nothing though, only felt overwhelming despair a moment before they felt the grip of death itself filling their bodies and souls.
One moment, tens of thousands of beasts were flying towards Shadow One. The next moment, their corpses all started falling to the ground like puppets that had their strings cut.
Shadow One regretted having to kill them, but they were being controlled by a stronger beast, and it was either killing or momentarily freezing them. Unfortunately, killing was more cost-effective.
As the corpses fell, she couldn't see Aaron, and used a new spell. "Waves of Existence."
This time, the spell was formed inside her core, then was released around her. Instantly, she knew everything that existed in a ten thousand legs radius to her, including the invisible boy.
She used Mana Sense next, paying attention to the void created by the stealth spell from Aaron, making it impossible for him to escape her.
Having spent little more than twenty percent of her mana pool, she resumed her pursuit.
Aaron felt death mana. He had read nothing about that kind of mana in the family's books, although he knew it existed because he had control over all elements, including that one.
Death was a tricky element to even become aware of, much less comprehend or control, not to mention anything about developing spells with it.
There were only two exceptions, and one of them confirmed for him what he believed Shadow One to be.
He turned just in time to see dark spectral arms, with claw-like hands, and many times as long as common arms, evolving each beast.
The arms sunk into them, consuming all life from the their bodies and souls. They all instinctively used life mana to protect themselves, but the sheer power from the Ascender made it impossible for any beast to resist. They died and fell like flies.
Then, she used a spell made of space mana. That made Aaron much more worried than the death spell. Fighting against an opponent with control over space was much harder than fighting a mere death mage.
Now was the best time to attack. Now, that she had just attacked and was feeling safe. Now, that she had detected him, locked on his position, and was feeling under control.
But he couldn't. Because he had enough knowledge about beast taming to know that a beast powerful enough to make so many weaker ones behave as aggressively and mindlessly as those was not a beast he wanted to have a three-way fight against.
So, he kept flying full speed ahead, and after a couple of seconds, his worst fears came to life: a roar.
It wasn't just any roar though. It was even stronger and more furious than the one from before, and it was carrying an actual soul attack with it instead of only residual soul mana. It was also a sonic and a spatial attack.
As soon as Aaron felt the disruption in the ambient mana caused by it, he knew he would die if the attack connected. There was no defending against it, no smart trick to use, if it touched him, that would be it. It was just like one might see a punch before it reached one's face, except it used his mana sensitivity instead of his vision.
So, he did the only thing he could; he ceased existing.
Myriad Arts – Spellcasting – Double Elements: Space, Time – Legendary Reality Shift!
He blinked away from existence as the attack passed through where he had been. The timing was almost perfect, him disappearing for less than a second as the mana-infused sound waves went through where he had been.
The next moment, he was back, and he was bleeding. All apertures from his body were bleeding, his very soul had almost extinguished itself, and the universe was crying in anguish. He had less than ten percent of his mana remaining – removing a living being, body and soul, from existence was that costly – and had to use all his willpower to simply resist the urge of killing himself that the universe was sending his way.
For he had sinned against all creation. He had committed the greatest heresy. He was worse than evil, a stain darker than black in the perfection of existence itself. He was ashamed of himself, ashamed of simply being. Why? Why should he continue existing if he was such a shameful thing? Why–
Suddenly, he was back to himself. Shaking his head, his mental faculties were slowly recovering from the backslash caused by the jealousy of the universe – whatever was inside it belonged to it and would not be taken away!
He noticed he was hurting all over, his stealth was gone, and he was free-falling.
But at least, he was alive.
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I'm Ed, a writer of GameLit. So far I have released only two books, but I'm working on increasing this number by tens! No, by hundreds! Maybe thousands! xP
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