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Defeat Meridian? Tavia smirked, but honestly, she didn’t have the confidence to nod.

Evos’s question seemed geninuine though, but Tavia didn’t really have a simple answer for him. Though Evos was a sword, that didn’t mean he really understood how to use a sword. In fact, he seemed wholly unfamiliar with any aspect of martial skills, but he didn’t really need to be.

“I’m not sure,” she said. “She’s probably as strong my cousins.”

Evos grimaced and shook his head.

“I don’t really understand your sense of scale, you always rank people based on your family, so I don’t have a good sense of things.”

To Evos it might not make sense, but Tavia’s family was full of Martials, so they were the easiest standard to use, though maybe it was a little biased. Even the weakest of her family members, extended family included, were still ranked highly on a national level.

“Well, Septia, is the strongest person I know.” Admitting that was swallowing a bitter pill, but the truth was the truth, and Septia was so far above anyone else, there wasn’t even a point in trying to compare her to anyone else. “She’s… well it’s a little ridiculous to say, but I don’t think she can be beaten. Even if it had been Dieos, I just don’t see her losing,”

Septia Renegarde, though she had been less active in recent years due to her children and managing the estate, was considered by many— not just Tavia —to be the single strongest Martial in all of Marquest. When she had been younger, Septia had taken Tavia to the Scarver Wastes where she had watched the woman single handedly annihilate an entire hive of Scarver, a task often requiring a team of ten or more Knights.

“Next would be my father, though I suppose Erent is probably just as strong as him by now. People like my brother can fight Scarvers single handedly without breaking a sweat. It’s honestly frightening to see.”

Memories of the first time she’d seen her brother fight a Scarver passed through her mind. By then, she’d known it was something she’d never be able to do, and watching her brother, only a teenager, face down a an insectoid the size of a small house had sent shivers down Tavia’s back.

She would never be afraid of her family, but that didn’t mean she didn’t fear the divide that separated her world from theirs.

“Where does Audri rank?” Evos asked.

Audri was strong, Evos had realized that much, and he was one of the few people he’d had a real chance to see fight.

Tavia thought back to the few times she’d seen Audri fight. The woman’s combat was so different from her family’s style which focused on powerful blows to cut through the alther-imbued exoskeletons of the Scarvers. Audri’s focus wasn’t on fighting Scarvers, but rather on anti-personal combat.

Tavia gave a shrug and shook her head.

“So in short, Meridian is strong?”

“Very much so.”

“Well, I suppose being a Demi comes with several benefits,” Evos said. “Aside from their innate magic, that is.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not sure what that woman’s ability is, but I think she was using it while fighting. If I had to make a guess, she can probably use physical enhancement magic without needed a conduit. Combine that with whatever she’s put on her sword and… That’s not the only issue though,” Evos leaned forward, resting his arms on his legs. “You never know how old a Demi is, Meridian could have experienced war and combat you can only imagine,” he said, “because they’re immortal. As if that wasn’t enough, Demis don’t have to worry about the limits of their bodies like humans do.”

Tavia frowned. What did he mean by that? He seemed to realize she didn’t understand, and he gave her a bitter smile.

“It’s another thing no one ever saw fit to teach you,” he said. “Enhancement magic is great and all, but if you aren’t careful, too much of it can cause the body to break down. When you first started using the sword, the reason you were in pain so often was because I was still learning to adjust the magic to suit your body.”

Now that he mentioned it, it had been a while since Tavia had felt the familiar burn of Althier coursing through her limbs. She’d thought it was just a natural part of using enhancement magic and ignored it. Not only that, but that was the kind of pain she’d long grown used to after years of being a null-aura. She was no stranger to the symptoms of Althier poisoning, and though the danger of falling ill to an overexposure to Althier was minimal now that Evos was with her, a part of her was always ready for a relapse.

“With training, it’s possible to increase the amount that can be tolerated, and it’s certainly possible to surpass your limits without damage for a short time, but long term over-enhancement can cause serious damage, even death,” Evos said.

He sounded like he was quoting a medical textbook, but his serious expression told her it wasn’t any kind of a joke. After a moment, he looked over at her and smiled.

“That’s my job to worry about though,” he said. “I’ll make sure you don’t deal with that kind of pain again.”

Tavia nodded, but if she was honest, the pain wasn’t really that much of a concern, rather—

“What does that all have to do with Demis?”

“Ah,” Evos sat up and leaned back into the couch. “Demis don’t have to worry if they damage their bodies. Even death isn’t really a big deal for them because—”

“They can just come back to life,” Tavia muttered.

Evos nodded. “There’s a bit of a delay normally, between when they die and when they can find a suitable vessel, but most Demis don’t consider that a big deal unless they have some kind of urgent reason to not die.”

“So, you’re saying Meridian can enhance her strength as much as she wants, even if it means she’s hurting herself in the process? How am I ever supposed to beat someone like that?”

Evos stared at her for a moment, his eyes widened ever so slightly, and then he looked away. His odd reaction confused Tavia for a moment, until she thought back over her words. How was she supposed to beat someone like that? Was Tavia assuming she would need to fight Meridian again? The words had just slipped out, but honestly, she felt they were right. Elijah wasn’t going to just stop, and it seemed Meridian was going to be supporting him.

Though when it came down to it, Ikarios was far more terrifying than Meridian, that was because of what he could do to other people. Meridian however, was like a mountain set in Tavia’s path, one so tall and towering, she couldn’t imagine a way over it.

“Practice Jumping,” Evos said. “It’s the one advantage you have over her. The one thing she can never do.”

His words weren’t wrong, but forget actually managing a Jump, Meridian hadn’t even left Tavia enough time to attempt.

“Rather than Jumping, I just need more combat practice,” Tavia muttered. “I may have grown up watching Erent and my cousins beat each other black and blue, but it’s not the same as doing.”

Who was she to ask for help from though? Anyone she asked would have to be made privy to Evos’s identity. Audri… might have been the best choice, had she not so clearly stated she was actually searching for the sword. Of the remaining Martials Tavia knew well enough to ask a favor of, Melora was immediately out of the running. She’d be excited to help, of course, but Mel couldn’t keep secrets and more importantly, Tavia didn’t want her involved in anything to do with Ikarios. Melora was upstanding and righteous, the type of person who wouldn’t be able to stand by and watch Ikarios do horrible things.

In that case, who else could she find to help her?

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A note from GracelessLiar

Power went out again. I feel like I'm living through some sort of dystopic end of the world scenario.


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