The fireball, or more precisely, the iceball, crashed into Farsi's body with a temperature of negative 200 degrees Celsius. The fire resistant barrier he had prepared beforehand proved completely useless.
It was a sensation of freezing cold he had yet to experience. Farsi felt as if all the fat in his body had solidified. He struggled to puff his chest to take in a breath of air. Even his lungs were frozen thanks to the sudden decrease in temperature; they could expand at all. He used a little too much force, so part of his lungs cracked. With great difficulty, he coughed out two chunks of frozen blood and looked at the girl walking out of the smoke with disbelief. He couldn't make a sound.
Annelotte's face was paper pale. She had dictated a fire-resistant barrier, a blink spell and a fireball spell mutated and infused with her gift in less than a minute. The incredible drop in her mana reserves that resulted made her weak. Fortunately, Daver's mana potion was gradually mending this particular issue, Otherwise, she wouldn't have been able to remain upright.
Glacial Conversion; this was the gift Annelotte had awakened only two months earlier. It allowed her to convert the aspect of any offensive type spell to frost. All the gift did was alter the aspect of the spell; its manifestation wouldn't be affected at all.
In simple terms, Annelotte could convert a fireball spell to an iceball spell, a lightning bolt to a frostbolt, dragon breath into frost breath. The incantation used to dictate the spell would be no different and the appearance didn't change either. The only thing that happened was that the original aspect was changed to frost.
Farsi had fallen for it. He had thought Annelotte had dictated a fireball spell, so he dictated a fire-resistant barrier in response. He didn't think the 'fireball' that came his way would actually have the frost aspect, rendering his barrier completely useless.
Daver stood looking from the side with his mouth agape. It was so wide a whole apple could be stuffed into it. Farsi had lost? Not just lost but completely devastated?
He had sparred against Farsi once before. Though they were both at the 14th stratum, the fat youth a few years his junior had a gift so ridiculously strong it made others turn blue with gloom just its sight. Farsi had used an endless stream of small fireballs to dominate him with brute force. He hadn't given him any way of fighting back at all.
But now, Farsi had actually lost -- to Annelotte, a stratum lower than both he and Daver. Daver was once again reminded of how he had underestimated the girl. Despite that, he delighted in the fact that he had made the wise decision to maintain a friendly relationship with Annelotte. Otherwise...
The mere thought brought Daver out in cold sweat.
Annelotte glanced at the dumbstruck boy before walking to Farsi and staring at him. The fatty's eyes were filled with confusion and fear.
After suffering her level four frost aspect attack, there was no way he could survive. His lungs had been thoroughly incapacitated. While it wouldn't kill him outright, the excruciating pain before death was far worse than dying instantly.
A flash of reluctance crossed Annelotte's eyes.
"This is my new gift... Do you want me to end your suffering?" she asked in a soft voice, finally.
Farsi nodded with great difficulty. He pleaded desperately with his eyes; he knew there was no way he could live. Annelotte nodded before doing a magi's salute. She summoned two frost blades and pierced them through his head.
Though Annelotte was a 13th-stratum magus, dictating a level two spell in a mana-drained state still gave her a dizzy spell. She stabilized her mind before observing Leguna and the rest's situation.
The two men weren't faring too well. Balor used his gift, Black Curse. It had immense offensive capabilities; the moment he wounded his enemy, the dark aspect impetus on the weapon would drain the injured's stamina and vitality like a leech.
The worst part was that both of Balor's longswords had tear and bleed enchantments. Even the slightest cut would continue causing harm.
Leguna was a shadow dancer. He had strong resistance to the dark aspect, and, as such, was faring quite a bit better than Kurdak. Balor's Black Curse only made him feel a little discomfort -- it didn't do much real damage.
Kurdak's situation was completely different. He didn't have the insane affinity for the dark aspect. He felt as if salt was being sprinkled on his wounds. Not only did it hurt immensely, he could also feel his stamina leaving him non-stop. Had it not been for the effects granted by his werewolf blood, he would have collapsed from complete exhaustion already.
After two years of continuous hard work, Leguna had thought he had obtained enough power to fight Balor head-to-head. Now, however, in the full swing of battle, he was made fully, painfully aware of the chasm between him and Balor.
It wasn't just a gap in their stratum either. Whether it be battle experience, reaction speed, situation control, or mastery of his own movements, Balor exceeded him in every regard.
Even when he and Kurdak fought in concert, they were pushed into a corner. Had it not been for his ambush and wounding of Balor's left arm in the first moments of the confrontation, one of them would have been killed already. He feared that, if they continued fighting on as they were, it was inevitable that one of them would be slain.
Kurdak grasped the situation rather well and knew it was a do-or-die moment. Even if one of them had to sustain heavy injuries, or even die, they had to find a way to gravely injure their opponent so the other could escape. No matter what, one dying was better than both. He was used to fighting in the vanguard, so he didn't shy away from this task. The instant he made his decision, the fight intensified. He stopped caring about being hit. He fought ferociously. As long as he could take his enemy down, even if it was with himself, Leguna could leave with Vera. Leguna caught wind of Kurdak's intentions and grew restless. He couldn't accept such an outcome. He intensified his attacks as well.
Balor was assailed from two sides, ferociously now, and the tables were turning against him. His two opponents might have stopped caring about life, but he hadn't. Given his more advantageous position, there was no way he would allow one to take him down and the other to escape. He carefully parried the two's attacks and waited for an opportunity patiently. His opponents' fighting style was devoid of all defense, naturally, that meant it gave him plenty of openings. He boosted his speed when Kurdak's center of gravity was disrupted by a huge swing and made his way behind him.
He wanted to decapitate the man.
But Leguna, realizing his intentions, dashed over immediately. If he continued with his attack, there was a good chance Leguna would hurt him in return. He sent an impetus-infused kick into the man's back and used the momentum to retreat out of Leguna's range. At the same time, he drew a throwing knife from his hip and sent it flying at Kurdak's neck. Unfortunately, it never landed; a timely icicle, sent over by Annelotte, knocked it away. However, even without the follow-up, Kurdak hurtled through the air, blood gushing out of his mouth. He landed a distance away and wobbled to a stand. After wiping the blood from his mouth, he got back into the battle.
With Annelotte's addition, the tide changed completely. The girl didn't have much mana but could still use her spells to launch sneak attacks and harass Balor. Though it wasn't exactly Daver's intent, his two bottles of mana potion were playing a crucial role in the fight.
The well-known claim that magi were the most terrifying people in the world was not unfounded. They possessed an impressive range, arcane methods, and unparalleled damage dealing capabilities. Anybody would be quite troubled faced with such an enemy. Balor was no exception. He initially only had to use a hit-and-run strategy to deal with the two men -- both fighters. But Annelotte's interference gave him endless amounts of trouble. Under their combined attacks, he began to grow more anxious. He decided he would take out the most threatening among the three first: the magus.
His eyes flashed as a stream of black energy shot out of them at Annelotte. The girl sidestepped, but the stream seemed guided by human will as it adjusted its trajectory and homed in on her all the same.
Soon after, she was struck.
The moment the beam entered her body, her eyes turned pitch black. She was aware it was Balor's second gift: Darkness Vision.
Through infusing the power of shadow he wielded, Balor could temporarily rob his opponent of their vision. He could blind them. The most fearsome part of his ability was that he could direct the stream of energy with his will, making it almost impossible to evade.
Balor snickered. He detonated his impetus. The blast sent his two male opponents staggering. His speed increased explosively once more and he dashed for Annelotte. Being approached by an assassin was the doom of a magus. Both Kurdak and Leguna understood this well. Even so, Balor's attack came out of nowhere and they couldn't catch him.
After crossing the 20 meters between them in the blink of an eye, he could almost Annelotte's fragrance. At that moment, however, he was overcome with a sense of danger. His heart skipped a beat and he immediately stopped in his tracks.
An elegant and ethereal turquoise longsword had come into being less than a meter in front of him.
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