Chapter 14 - Alliance
I had never felt a presence as strong as the girl of Fire. I was starting to doubt my own powers. Metal against Fire, I wonder if I would have the upper hand.
Elidyr doesn’t seem to be bothered.
“Let’s see how strong you really are, Penny,” Elidyr whispered within me.
I stepped into the duel ring without a sound. I wanted to be here early so I could take in my surroundings and see how much the earth can provide me. I closed my eyes and reached out to the minerals underneath the ground I was standing on. After so many years of fighting, I knew it was my biggest weakness.
My powers come in the weakest, and most original form. I had to be on the ground to use my powers. I could not create metal, I could only manipulate them. If there isn’t any metal or suitable minerals around me, my powers are useless. Furthermore, I could only control native metals, I can’t manipulate alloys that are a combination of several metals.
But normally, the ground holds many of these native metals that I could control. Though summoning them is slightly more time consuming, as long as I’m on the ground, I would be able to fight.
I would never lose as long as I stay on the ground.
I had no idea how Seraphina’s powers works. I have a lot of experience in battle, but I had never fought with a fire wielder.
“It will be harder for you to fight against Seraphina, she is everything you’re not.”
I winced at Elidyr’s words.
My powers seeped beneath the surface and I found iron, a lot of iron. That’s good enough, though the perfect metal I could use would be tungsten. Of all the metals, it has the highest melting point, it would be the best choice to use against a fire wielder.
I opened my eyes slowly, it should almost be time for the duel.
The crowd had already gathered and I stretched myself out, cracking my joints and massaging my shoulders. I took a deep breath of Gairon’s dirty, dusty air, and then I saw her in the distance, approaching the ring.
Seraphina Monard, the girl of fire.
She had beautiful long red hair that swirled around her like a lion’s mane. She had tan skin, a seemingly normal trait for those of the Fourth Region. And her eyes, I have never seen scarlet eyes. The rush of emotions I felt when my eyes met hers, it was a mixture of fear, surprise and a glimmer of familiarity. I had never felt anything like that before.
For some reason, she reminds me of myself. I had a feeling she had went through the same pain that I’ve went through. I wondered if she was born with her fiery powers, or was she an awakened wielder like me.
Nonetheless, her presence was overpowering. She was almost leaking with magical energy. Elidyr told me the Eshban girl had only recently surfaced, based on that fact, she’s probably an awakened wielder.
“She doesn’t need to be afraid of anyone detecting her presence in a duel ring, I’m sure you know the orbs around the ring acts as an invisible barrier, even if she unleashes her true power here, no one would know that an Eshban has awakened.”
I thought I could never be intimidated by anyone, until now.
“Be prepared, Penny. Do not lose focus.”
She stepped into the ring and I could almost feel her heat.
Her eyes found mine again, the intensity of her focus was overpowering.
Deep breath in, deep breath out.
She nodded and I nodded back.
The duel starts, now.
Seraphina disappeared from my line of sight. I smirked, this tactic was common. Speed was a common trait among assassin’s I had to fight back in the days. I reached down to the ground and I felt the familiar pull of power.
She was waiting for me to strike.
She was testing the waters.
She came from behind and I turned. I summoned Elidyr up in time as her spirit weapon clashed into mine.
My eyes widened.
Made of palladium.
My blade shivered against the weight of her weapon and her glowing red eyes bore into mine.
My metals writhed to life.
But she knew. She jumped away before my metals should slice through her.
She landed on the ground without a sound. I was impressed. She handled her weapon with such expertise. Wielders with large weapons were normally clumsy and slow.
But she was the complete opposite.
She stared at the sharp, snake-like, metal protruding from the earth. They were long, thin metal sheets that could easily slice off any of her limbs. I summoned them in this form because even if she dodged the front of the blades, the sides would still be able to cut into her. If I had summoned my metal in a pole form…
“Even if you had summoned them in poles, she’s using a scythe, she can cut through all of them with ease,” Elidyr explained.
While she was distracted, I took the advantage and summoned more of my deadly blades behind her.
She leaped away, but my metal followed her swiftly. With a swing of her scythe, they fell to the ground. It was as what Elidyr had said, her scythe could slice through them with ease.
But it doesn’t matter.
I turned my attention to the fallen pieces.
I broke them into even smaller pieces. They were like petals in the wind, small, deadly, and almost impossible to dodge. I flung them at her as the metal from the ground regenerated and reshaped themselves into their original blades.
My enemies called me by a name inspired by this deadly technique.
I sent them chasing after her again.
I want to see how she would be able to dodge all that.
“Don’t be too happy, she hasn’t even used her powers yet.” Elidyr barked.
I spat. Useful reminder.
To my surprise, her scythe transformed.
“A double-headed scythe,” Elidyr said, sounding almost surprised.
She spun her weapon fast enough to deflect the smaller blade pieces, but she didn’t deflect all of them. I could see her wince as a few of the pieces slashed into her arm and her legs.
Even so, she disappeared before my metal blades reached her, and they ended up clashing into each other with a loud clang. They only miss their target if I lose sight of it, with Seraphina’s speed, it would definitely be a challenge for me to track her down.
I pulled my metal into a protective half-sphere shape around my back and I made sure both my feet were planted firmly on the ground. I needed to be on the ground to use my powers, so in the air, I’m useless.
I focused on what was in front of me. At least I knew she couldn’t strike me from the back anymore.
A deafening clang sounded behind me, and I knew my metal shell held against her weapon. Of course it would, I used at least 5 layers of thick iron to build that.
“Watch out!” Elidyr shouted at me.
Instantly, I felt the raging heat.
My iron shell was glowing with immense heat, they weren’t melting, but if I stayed there, the heat would be enough to cook me alive.
I leaped away.
In a blurred movement, she was in front of me with her scythe ready to swing.
I was still in mid-air.
Elidyr transformed into his shield form, allowing me to survive her blow.
The impact knocked me back, disrupting my original landing location.
I could feel her heat behind me in a split second.
How? How could she be that fast?
I needed to land, if I deflected another blow, she’ll send me towards the opposite direction while keeping me up in the air.
I turned in time to see the flash of her scythe’s blade in front of my eyes. I dodged it just by the edge and her scythe sliced off a few strands of my hair, but I managed to reach the ground.
I could see her eyes widening in panic. With her still airborne, my metal blades sprung to life from the earth. It was impossible for her to move in mid-air.
I have won.
I waited for blood, but instead, I felt the earth beneath me burst into flames. The impact blasted me away from the ground.
I didn’t get the chance to turn my eyes back onto my opponent’s original location.
The next thing I saw were her eyes. Her scarlet eyes pulsated in front of my face and her hands were around my neck, squeezing the life out of me.
“She pushed you away from the ground with her flames, so your blades halted in mid-air. She used the same technique to blast herself away from danger and at the same time, changed her direction.”
I almost couldn’t work out what Elidyr was saying as I gasped for air. She had made sure she lifted me up in the air so I couldn’t use my powers. But the strength in her grip was almost inhuman.
“Admit defeat,” she said shortly.
I nodded and she dropped me onto the ground.
Air had never felt that good in my lungs.
She had her hand outstretched, waiting for me to take it.
I was not used to defeat. It definitely did not feel good.
Finally, I took her outstretched hand as she helped me onto my feet.
I saw the deep cuts in her legs and some in her arms. I didn’t know I hurt her that badly. I thought she deflected most of them?
“You are powerful,” she said softly and I looked at her surprised.
“You are, much more,” I replied earnestly.
She shook her head. “You lost focus after you thought you won, that was your biggest mistake.”
I nodded ashamed and bowed my head.
“Oh, my spirit weapon is very curious about yours, may I know its name?” she asked, her tone changing in a blink of an eye. She lifted her scythe from the ground with ease and I watched as her weapon return to its original single-bladed form.
For such a petite woman, she sure is strong.
“It’s a he. His name’s Elidyr,” I replied, willing my weapon back into his original blade form as well.
“A longsword that can transform into a shield?” she asked, curious. She touched Elidyr softly, examining him.
I nodded, slightly taken aback by both her curiosity and her lack of sense of danger. I was her opponent minutes ago, and I have injured her. Why is she letting her guard down and trusting me?
At a closer look, she actually had average facial features. She wasn’t strikingly beautiful. What made her beautiful was her aura, and her confidence. She didn’t seem to have much experience. But her techniques were near perfect. She probably had really great guidance, or maybe she was just a born warrior.
“Her powers come from imagery. She could transform her flames into anything she wanted, but it has its own weaknesses,” Elidyr started in my mind, he was trying to teach me more on Seraphina’s powers, but I shushed him gently.
Maybe later, not now.
“Close fight!” the chief and the general approached us, along with Seraphina’s friends. Ferro and some of my men came running up to me. The sight of him made me relax a bit. My men were with me, though it was probably the first time they saw me get beat up like this.
Ferro reached me, and placed a firm hand on my shoulder.
“Are you alright? Hurt anywhere?” he asked, worried.
I shook my head. Seraphina didn’t hurt me, though my neck was bruised. I had inflicted wounds on her that drew blood, and I felt bad about it. In a duel, we weren’t meant to kill our opponents, I had went after her without mercy, but she did not. Every single one of her strikes were held back to ensure I would not die.
Our duel was not fair for her.
“You tried your best, and you need rest,” he said gruffly.
A few of my men gave me a thumbs up and I smiled sadly at them.
“So, your decision, Sir Cradley?” I heard Seraphina speak and I turned to them. General Brentwood nodded at the chief.
“Gairon pledges to your alliance. We look forward to working with you, fire girl,” Sir Cradley nodded nervously. It was obvious that Gairon ran on Brentwood’s decisions, not Cradley. He was a mere puppet.
A smile dawned on Seraphina’s face. The dark-haired man wrapped an arm around her waist as she leaned into his embrace. Her bold exterior faded slightly in his presence.
Zoltar Xantara. The Prince of the Xantara heritage, an elite family of hellhounds that expertise in battle and assassination. They were well known even in other regions, and they were certainly a powerful ally to have.
Seraphina’s speed makes sense now, Zoltar was probably the one that trained her.
I didn’t know what was more impressive. To have the prince of one of the most powerful heritages as her lover, or to have convinced the entire Xantara heritage to pledge to her alliance.
Zoltar frowned at her injuries but Seraphina proceeded to snuggle into his embrace.
Not much facts were known of the dark prince, but his job reputation was quite famous among the underground and black markets. His records of assassinations easily ranked him as one of the deadliest assassins in the market. What made it more impressive was that his records were flawless, he never had a failed attempt.
They made a fitting couple, both equally deadly.
He is, after all, the Prince of Darkness.
I touched Seraphina’s shoulder softly, a bit shy to interrupt.
She turned to me, her eyes bright and filled with joy.
“Firstly, I would like to apologize. I went after you with an intent to kill, it wasn’t a fair duel. Forgive me,” I said softly and Haliea nodded beside her, seemingly pleased that I have realized my mistake. But the prince definitely did not seem to accept my apology.
Well, I can’t blame him, I just tried to kill his lady.
Seraphina closed her eyes and took a deep breath in. Blood was still trickling from her wounds, but she didn’t seem to be bothered. Haliea stepped in before she could speak.
“From a neutral view, yes, it was wrong of you, Pennilizia. Because from what I know of the girl of fire, her powers were meant to obliterate anyone that comes in her way. She could simply burn their intestines away, she could simply set your blood to a boil and kill you torturously. But no, she didn’t do that,” she said monotonously.
Her revelation sent a shiver down my spine. I nodded, and apologized again.
“It is alright, she was just trying to win,” Seraphina said softly. “I understand that feeling well,” she smiled gently at me.
I was genuinely taken aback to see her coming to my aid.
“Please let me and my men help you with your rebellion,” I said. “I wanted to see if you were powerful enough, and you have proven yourself more than worthy. I would have lost the duel if you had chosen to kill me. Though I may not be as powerful as you, my men and I certainly hope to be able to aid you in whatever way possible.”
I didn’t want someone weaker than me to lead the rebellion because I knew I was far from strong. And she was definitely far from weak. Her powers were as expected from one of the Eshban, though it was still hard for me to accept my defeat. It made me grimace, on the fact that she wasn’t fighting with her all and that she could’ve killed me in ways I could not imagine.
“You have a lot more to learn,” Elidyr said softly.
Seraphina’s smile widened as she took my hand in hers.
“It would certainly be great to have you by our side,” she said, her eyes shining.
“But,” she paused, her smile fading as she regained her composure.
“I want to make sure that every single one of you is ready to fight. I want to make sure that you are truly pledging yourselves to me. This rebellion isn’t going to work without my comrades, and I truly appreciate your loyalty and power,” she said, not only to me, but my men.
I knew what she meant. She didn’t want anyone to have second thoughts on her rebellion or her plans.
“She doesn’t want to have any backstabbers in the team,” Elidyr explained.
“If anyone of you remains unconvinced of my powers or my abilities, you can feel free to excuse yourself from my alliance. I do not want to force anyone of you to join me. Join me, if you believe in me. And together we will bring victory to the people, and destruction to the Sovereign,” she finished.
My men nodded, satisfied at what she had said. Some of them saluted her and she saluted back.
She punched me softly on the shoulder and her eyes met mine.
“I look forward to working with you, Penny,” she grinned.