While Orisa and Onuki were going through their bumpy reunion, on the other side of the continent, two knights stood motionless in a standoff, facing each other.
The first, clad in black full-plate armor, stood leaning on both his greatswords that were half-buried in the ground. His armor, bent in few places, had numerous holes in it, but the skin that could be seen through the gaps was intact.
Twenty meters away from him was another knight, the exact opposite of the first. The knight was completely white from the tip of his helmet to the toes of the plate boots. His katana was stuck in the ground in the same manner as his opponent's greatswords. There were no bents on his gear but three big tears instead. A healthy tanned skin could be seen through the cuts, intact all the same.
The area around them was now completely devastated, with trees either burnt down or shattered, and the ground riddled with holes and craters. Every corner of the area, every crater, and hill were littered with corpses of the Beasts. There were hundreds of them; burnt, torn, slashed, pierced, and obliterated by other means.
The white knight raised his hand, and Mana from all the corpses began to stream towards his palm. When the first speck of Mana came into a contact, the armor on his body started regenerating as if it was made of flesh and not of metal.
His opponent took out of his armor few magic crystals and smashed them with his palm, absorbing their restorative effects.
"This is going nowhere," said Nowa in even voice without a hint of exhaustion.
"It's you who are going nowhere after spending your last crystals," the white knight's voice was young and full of vigor.
"Do you even know what's inside that cave?" Nowa nodded towards a hole in the ground not far away from their battlefield.
"Do you?" the other knight was laughing.
"I see," he straightened his back and pulled out both greatswords.
"What is the point of your mad conquest? Is this world just another game for you? Don’t you value your life?" the white knight asked in a serious tone.
"No game, no life. Or so they say."
"I won't let you prevail. The stakes are too high," the white knight took his katana and pointed it at Nowa. "Nobody would stand in our way. We...no, I will save everyone."
"For mutt, you talk too much," Nowa spat out while renewing his defensive layers.
The moment the white knight's rapier began to move, Nowa did the same with his greatswords, and two knights shouted at the same time:
"Twin Reality Slash!"
The wave of the white knight met two similar waves and caused an explosion, raising a lot of dust and dirt in the air. Nowa knew that he would lose in terms of speed and accuracy, so he played a defensive game against his opponent:
“Enrich Magic!" - "Arcane Trap Field!"
"Maximize Magic!" - "Drifting Mine Field!"
These spells filled the area around him with invisible mines and traps floating in the air and planted into the ground. His enemy could still feel their presence, that's why the enriched version of the spells created not only real but fake mines as well. The fakes felt the same as real ones, so any foe able to feel their presence would still be at a disadvantage, not knowing what to dodge and what was a mere illusion.
The white knight was inhumanly fast, and Nowa could barely see him move, so he tracked the Knight's movement by the explosive trail that his opponent was leaving while moving across the minefield and triggering the traps.
"Twin Chimera Wall!"
The white knight was already two meters away from Nowa and swung his katana empowered with magic, aiming at Nowa's left side. His weapon met a wall with a Seal plastered across it and instantly shattered the obstacle. The second wall was able to stop the sword's advance, and the Seal triggered, launching an explosive counter-attack. However, only the knight's sword was still there, slowly falling to the ground. The knight himself moved behind Nowa and swung his right hand:
His palm formed a claw-like Mana weapon midway and struck Nowa's back, breaking the first layer of his defense.
The Mana from the shattered layer gathered into a single black dot and shot at the white knight, forcing him to roll further. He ended up at Nowa's right side and called back his weapon that only just now fell to the ground:
His katana glowed red and flew back into his hand in an attempt to cut Nowa's leg. The black knight jumped in the last moment and used the same motion to smack his opponent's head with a hilt of his greatsword. His target rolled several meters on the ground and threw three Beast cores in the air after coming to a halt:
Mana condensed around the crystals mid-air, conjuring three twice evolved Beasts. Their owner jumped away from the fight and proceeded to restore his helmet and damaged head by draining Mana from surrounding corpses.
Nowa activated an effect similar to a lantern, weakening the wolves and the other knight considerably. This aura was much stronger than the Lantern, and also possessed another extreme property - it was impossible to dispel it from Nowa and remove its effects from his targets. Three Beasts rushed at Nowa and attacked at the same time.
He impaled the weakened wolves to his left and right with the greatswords that shone with purple light. While the third wolf was chewing the second layer of Nowa's defense, his two companions withered away quickly as their Mana was drained and transferred to Nowa through the swords. His second barrier broke at the same time as Nowa swung now unoccupied swords and cut the last wolf into three pieces.
"Empower!" - "Living Legend!"
"Empower!" - "Reality Slash!"
While Nowa was distracted, the other knight buffed himself and started attacking. Empowered spells flew one after another, smashing into walls and barriers Nowa was conjuring non-stop.
"Empower!" - "Dark Blast!"
A sphere of black flame rushed towards Nowa, shattering wall after wall. This dark flame was especially dangerous since it could inflict almost incurable wounds. Nowa was hit by this type of attack once and had to spend more than two month, slowly recovering his injuries. Aside from a horrible curse, the flame itself was unimaginably potent and strong, so Nowa was forced to use one of his trump cards:
"Mirror of Kalandra!"
The spell could absorb any magic and replicate it back at the caster. It was a combination of the Sealcasting with five Mana layers and Mana engineering to extract properties from the twice evolved magic core. The spell would consume the core, that's why it was his last restort
As the dark flame shot back at the caster, he threw in the air another magic core, conjuring the Beast to take a hit and get evaporated in a blink of an eye. The spell lost most of its power but still flew towards the target, forcing him to jump back even further. When he landed on the ground, one of the Magic Mines triggered, creating another explosion and sending him into the air.
Similar to Orisa's Hand of God, a giant black hoof appeared atop the white knight that was slowly falling down and smashed him into the ground with tremendous force. The knight got back on his feet, and the damage became evident. The armor was broken and torn; blood streamed from all over his broken body.
"Is that all?" he asked with the same young and cheerful voice, absorbing Mana from the surrounding corpses and regenerating every spot on his body and armor.
They both stood straight, facing each other in a standoff again. The white knight was stronger both physically and magically, but Nowa had way more experience and could predict his opponent's actions and think two steps ahead. And while both were of the same specialization, the Spell Knight, Nowa's arsenal was much broader and consisted of many powerful Sealcasting spells As well.
"Your endless suffering made me wonder about one thing," pondered Nowa while straightening his sore shoulders. "You are not using your true form."
"Neither are you," answered white knight, and for the first time, there was a hint of disdain and scorn in his voice.
"Hoh? Interesting. How very interesting, I must say. Umu!" Nowa began to laugh, as he found this whole exchange quite amusing for some reason.
"You'll soon be out of Mana, and I-," the knight started to retort but was cut short by Nowa's spell:
Nowa used this time to reverse the effects of the Living Legend spell, weakening his opponent further, so the knight was now forced to dispel his own buff that turned into a debuff. While he did so, Nowa conjured a barrage of offensive magic, forcing his foe to retreat once more, triggering more Magic Mines and Traps on the way.
A pillar of light appeared ten meters away from the white knight and increased in size with each passing second. The knight looked at the pillar and back at Nowa:
"Are you tired?" he laughed merrily and continued in a mocking manner. "Should I give you a break before-."
"Niggurath Hoof!" - "Reality Slash!"
The knight leaped away to dodge the Hoof but was forced to roll again to avoid the Slash. The moment he tried to stand, Nowa launched another spell, a Sealcasting of four Mana layers:
It appeared near the white knight and tried to pull him inside. The knight had to exert enormous effort to leap away from the powerful gravitational pull. He landed on another Mine and was thrown to the side by the explosion. The spot he ended up at was at the center of the pillar of light. Less than a second passed, and the pillar shone brightly after its six seconds charge time, spawning an explosion of an unbelievable might.
The earth shook violently. Tens of corpses flew in all directions, away from the epicenter, and twenty meters wide crater appeared there. A lone figure lay at the bottom of the pit, coughing blood from a completely burned face. Most of his armor was destroyed, and he lost both hands and half of his right leg. As his body began to regenerate, he muttered slowly:
"Now... you've done it..."
Unlike his armor, magic cores that he kept inside his equipment were intact and lay on the ground around him. Nowa sensed a powerful Mana spike, and more than forty twice evolved Beasts appeared around the knight.
"Tch. How bothersome," Nowa muttered while looking at a slowly regenerating knight and his servants.
A few seconds later, the knight stood up, still shaking but gradually getting back in his usual shape and form; even his hands and leg were there again, and two pairs of black slits were visible on now recovered face. While the armor was still regenerating, he pointed his tanned right hand at Nowa and shouted with an enraged voice:
"Empower!" - "Darkflame Barrage!"
Tens of small black projectiles shot from his palm, flying in various trajectories, making it so much harder to intercept them. The only good thing for Nowa was that his opponent couldn't use this spell often judging by the frequency of his attacks. At the same time, all Beasts rushed towards him.
"Umu. How very unpleasant, indeed."
The black knight took the remnants of his resources out of his pocket. There were eight twice evolved magic cores. 'Good, that much should be enough,' he thought and chanted:
Two magic cores on his palm broke, creating a ten meters wide field around him. Both the Darkflame and the Beasts crushed into the field only to bounce helplessly. This barrier was made of two hundred unprecedentedly thin Mana shields, each of them strong enough to withstand a powerful spell before breaking. But for an ignorant observer, the spell looked like a solid unbreakable barrier.
"Do you think we won't break that thing?" said white knight after getting out of the crater. His voice was filled with joy as he was already celebrating a victory.
"Do you think that the barrier is to protect me from you?" Nowa laughed again. Apparently, he was in a great mood despite his dire situation. "It's to protect you from me, little puppy."
As the white knight shouted and charged at the barrier in a blind rage, Nowa gripped remaining six cores and crossed his greatswords.
The first Seal appeared right in front of him. Two seconds later, another one formed to his right. More Seals were conjured every two seconds. When the sixth Seal appeared atop his helm, Nowa chanted:
"Life is Death!"
All six Seals shone brightly and turned black. A second later, they began to slowly pour down a black smoke that went in all directions both on the ground and in the air. The smoke passed through the Domain barrier and came into contact with the Beasts. Their bodies shuddered before turning the same black color and limping to the ground.
The white knight cursed loudly and leaped back, ordering his army to retreat. But the smoke kept going, slowly crawling in all directions.
Thirty seconds had passed before the smoke finally stopped its advance, creating a hundred meters wide wasteland. When a minute later it dissolved into the air, Nowanzi Goalo was already gone without a trace.