Seeing Kurdak dragged away by Vera, Leguna readied himself and moved over to commotion in the shadows.
The knight-captain retreated rapidly. He had just used his impetus to receive Saron's fireball. He had to admit he had never seen such a destructive version of the spell before. It was scorching, so much so that in just the time it took the ball of fire to reach him, the air around him became hot and arid. It's flames were also strange, rather than light tongues licking at the air, they were viscous, like molten metal flowing over soft ground. Everything they touched, and even some things they only neared, burst into uncontrollable flames.
These flames are weird, Leguna thought, watching from a safe distance. He didn't know how strong they were, but their aura was enough to tell him he'd need at least the seventh stage of Host of Darkness to face them. These two were at least 17 strata.
Leguna frowned. He could tell both were young, no more than a few years his seniors, yet they were far more powerful. They could likely easily wipe the floor with Annelotte if either faced her, in terms of both strength and talent.
[Don't think too much. They're only a notch better than you,] Gahrona insisted.
[You started late, so of course you'll not be as strong as them yet. And Annie gave up four strata to save you, remember? Glacial essence is really precious to water swayers, and she gave you half of it. It would not just have made her lose several strata, but also make her training much harder. If you had started at the same age they did, you would be about as strong as them. Well, maybe not that magus. He'd be stronger than the two of you regardless.]
[Do you know him?]
[I've been gone for over a hundred years. How would I know him? But don't you feel an odd sensation from him?]
[He has an incredible aspect affinity. He must be a gifted as well,] Leguna said after a moment of consideration, [But I also feel something else from him, something I can't quite put my finger on. I can't tell what aspect his gifts have... And that knight... makes me feel really uncomfortable.]
[Of course he does. Light is shadow's enemy. It'd be odd if you felt fine in front of him.]
[Light and shadow? You don't mean...]
[Yes, he's a light breaker. As for the magus... Hoho... I think he's even rarer...]
Many questions swirled around in Leguna's head.
[You…] Gahrona suddenly paused. [...Well... I don't want to surprise you. Just watch and you'll find out.]
[Should I help out?]
[Do you know which one to help?]
[I'm not an idiot,] Leguna said, rolling his eyes, [The knight carries the eagle. He's from Hocke. I"ll help him.]
[Guess you're not completely stupid. It's up to you but don't use Host of Darkness.]
Saron flung flames like an infernal demon. Though some didn't strike the knight directly, they quickly melted the snow and set the moist grass alight.
Saron's carelessness should be encouraged. Even mythical magi had their limits. If he kept going like this, he'd eventually run out of mana. The knight knew this. He didn't bother with trying to attack, he focused instead on dodging all the attacks, waiting for his opponent to tire.
Saron's face slowly paled as time marched on. Sweat slowly oozed out of his skin and formed bright pearls on his forehead, orange gems glinting in the light of the fire.
Both Saron and the knight breathed raggedly.
"Out of mana yet?" The knight asked as he forced himself upright again and pointed his lance haphazardly at his assailant. "If this is your limit, I'm disappointed."
How many chivalric novels did this fool read? Leguna wondered.
"Of course not," Saron smiled in return, "But you're the first one about the same age as me able to keep up."
"I'm not trying to keep up. You're just not willing to let me go. Let's stop. We're both exhausted and you know you can't kill me today."
"Oh? You're out of energy, eh?"
Fire flashed in Saron's eyes. He opened his mouth and the nearby flames zipped into his mouth like glowing snakes. He swallowed everything a few moments later.
"Too bad... I still have half my mana."
[That's not magic!] Leguna started. He didn't think flames could be consumed at all. Did it taste spicy or salty?!
[Yes. It should be an aspect ability, one that allows him to recover mana by consuming flames,] Gahrona reasoned, [That's why he was dictating spells without restraint.]
The knight smiled bitterly.
"Then die!" Saron shouted as he threw another fireball.
The fireball detonated, but it didn't do any damage to the knight. It bloomed like a flower five meters in front of him. That said, it still had enough energy to fling him off his feet.
"Who's there?!" Saron shouted.
No one else was supposed to be present. He had to be an assassin as well, and a high-order one as well, otherwise he would never have eluded detection.
[Hot damn... It's feisty.] Leguna shook his hand in the shadows.
The shadow weapon he'd thrown was destroyed despite having been infused with his aspect. Which meant it was at least several times as strong as Annelotte's. Now was not the time for distraction, however. He'd decided to help out, so there was no point in hesitation. Lighteater, too, was eager for blood.
[You can only use Wave Blade once! Don't forget how Annelotte dealt with it!] Gahrona chirped.
If Leguna's target was as talented as his age would suggest, then he would no doubt quickly catch on, and he would not hold back like Annelotte had.
Leguna leapt forward, shoving Lighteater at Saron's back but the magus was already encased in a stone skin. It was the logical measure to take when fighting someone that specialised in hand-to-hand combat. Leguna's attack thus only weakened the glow on the magus' skin.
Leguna was expecting this, however. He immediately withdrew into the shadows again.
"Hmph!" Saron snapped coldly.
Leguna approached again. He dashed forward out of stealth two meters from his target.
"Go to hell!" the magus cried as he instantly cast a fireball.
That quick?! When Leguna saw the magus raise his hand, he felt as if he was just licked by death itself. His body wanted to crumble.
The fireball unexpectedly didn't explode in front of Leguna. It flew several dozen meters beyond him and struck a nearby hill.
Leguna appeared beside the knight, breathing raggedly. He had instinctively activated Host of Darkness and blinked away. If he'd been just a moment late, he'd be a corpse.
"Oh? Another interesting one showed up."
Saron smiled as he glanced contemptuously at the little boy.
"Did you save me? I give my thanks."
Though the knight was surprised, he didn't fail greet friendily.
Leguna finally got a good look at the knight's face through his visor.
"My elder brother. Nice to meet you, I'm Alissanda. Alissanda Hocke," the knight smiled.
Leguna's eyeballs fell out of their sockets. Upon further inspection, though the two had many similarities in their face, especially the bits he could see easily, their were a number of differences that just perspective or obscurity could not explain. The man standing in front of him had a slightly stockier build, for one. His gaze was also somewhat sharper. Leguna wasn't ugly, but looks were certainly not one of his strengths, and that was made even clearer next to Alissanda.
The two met in a strange way, and would go on to change the world in strange ways. Whether by fate or chance, nothing would ever be the same.
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