Mage Among Superheroes 34

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Round two came just two hours later, and was to be myself versus Acid Man. Rasmus and I had joined the Power Brigade at basically the same time a few weeks before, and we were pretty familiar with each other. He was actually usually at an advantage, since his powers provided him some decent defensive abilities with his ability to discorporate into a green pile of what was theoretically acid. 

If for some reason it was simply something a lot like acid, I might find myself in a really short match. Part of the intent of the battle was to demonstrate my new spell, after all.

Before we did anything else, though, we tested something very important. Rasmus turned the tip of his finger into acid and carefully poked me. His finger sort of wobbled and spread out, but nothing else happened. Good, it wasn’t going to erase him. Energy Ward prevented damage of specific elements, but mostly by removing the offending thing. How? It was magic. Just like how Rasmus turned into green goo that was ‘acid’, though I at least had some formal rules for my abilities.

When the battle started everyone was reminded how useful his powers were against most people. It had been quite unfortunate that the ‘rocker’ as Ice Guy called him had omnidirectional abilities which caused Acid Man to be spread around the whole battlefield for most of the fight, only finding a small opening to attack his lower body- and specifically his feet. 

I started the battle with a Firebolt. Rasmus didn’t have much in the way of ranged abilities, so I had to take advantage where he could. Of course, he simply dodged out of the way of the first one, and the second one which was a bit better targeted simply went through his chest. Or where his chest had been before it pulled apart into a ring. A likely unnecessary maneuver, but this was a safe place to work on such abilities.

He was moving towards me the whole time, of course, and reached me as I was readying Shocking Grasp. I reached out for him, but he just plopped to the floor and wrapped around my legs. 

I held up my charged hand and realized there were slight issues with my plan. For the most part Shocking Grasp was safe for me to use. I didn’t have to fear accidentally shocking myself when touching someone or it would literally never work. But that was in normal circumstances. I could still shock myself if my hand directly touched some other part of me while intending to release the spell. 

On the other hand, Acid Man seemed a bit perturbed as well. He continued to wrap around me, now all the way to my chest, but I wasn’t screaming in pain or anything. I could feel him eating away at my defenses, but it wasn’t as swift as any other power.

Instead of slapping my hand at any part of myself, I just held it parallel to my front and sort of brushed downward. I could try to transfer the Shocking Grasp to another part of myself to release, but it was easier if I focused on that part to begin with. This way, I just had to make brief contact with Rasmus.

He quickly let go and pulled away. “Ow,” he said after he reformed into a shape with a mouth. “Getting shocked still hurts.” I hadn’t been terribly serious about it- I used just about enough to break through Force Armor- but I still understood. “That new spell or whatever is really annoying though. I can’t even really touch you.”

I shrugged, “Sort of, yeah.” There was actually a way for him to still damage me, besides eating through the whole spell, but I would keep that a secret for the moment. I was rather fond of not being bludgeoned.

—–

Towards the end of the day I was prepared to fight with Shockfire. This was the battle I was most apprehensive about- because he had two elements. One would think that wouldn’t be a problem, as Energy Ward was perfectly capable of resisting fire and electricity. But part of the thing with Energy Ward was that it had limitations to its functionality. It only worked against one thing at a time- chosen when I cast the spell. Thus, I had to be able to anticipate what an opponent was going to be making use of.

I had the option to split the spell to affect multiple elements, in which case it would be at partial power against both. For two it would be slightly less than half effective against each, because of the inefficiency. I could get a bit more by using the spell twice, but the multiple instances of the power would of course cost multiple times the amount of mana and had an interference with each other, so for about twice the power I could get maybe two-thirds effectiveness against two elements. At my current point, that would take close to half of my mana- leaving me with only paltry amounts to make a few attacks. Though all of my offensive spells were kind of useless against him anyway.

Since I would have to admit the weakness at some point, it was better to do it in training than in battle when someone was counting on me. “It’s going to be less effective against your multiple elements,” I admitted to Maks. “But you can still rest assured that my defenses are stronger than usual.”

I wouldn’t always have time to prepare spells before a battle, but in this case I used a single split Energy Ward. I would need to use my time in battle to its maximum effectiveness, as Shockfire himself was getting stronger with training too- and had gotten to charge up before our spar.

When the battle began, I had already picked out what I was going to do. The order of what I did might seem arbitrary, but was actually quite important. Shockfire didn’t just wait for me to use my spells, though. Immediately as the battle started he pulled out a bundle of stored fire and chucked it at me. I dodged to the side as I gathered mana for Enlarge, avoiding it. Until it exploded next to me. If he’d aimed it at the floor and it exploded on impact I would have expected it, but next to me the explosion of fire ate through a good portion of my fire defense. Maybe a third, maybe half.

Then I grew bigger, making myself into an easy target. Maybe the other order would have been better, but Enlarge lasted longer and would be a more efficient use of time. And while it made me a big target, I could also take bigger steps to try to avoid his attacks. Though dodging electricity was hard. I felt him charging up, but his aim wasn’t thrown off by me quickly stepping to the side, and he struck me directly in the chest. But it was actually fine, because if he kept swapping elements I would at least make full use of the split Energy Ward. The lightning bolt faded away as it reached me, sputtering out uselessly.

I finished gathering the mana for Haste. I was getting close to the limits of how much active magic a body could handle at once, but I was also not that far from the amount of mana I had anyway. And this was enough to make a good showing.

Suddenly faster, I made use of my long strides to quickly approach Shockfire. The energy he had been gathering was quickly changed in form, becoming a large cone of fire that washed over me. Unfortunately my size meant I took all of it. Maybe I should have just gone with Haste. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be able to make a huge sweeping kick if I were just normal size, would I?

It turned out that my visual cues were greatly exaggerated by my size. That was something I should have known would happen, but I’d only really seen Great Girl fight at a large size, and she was very experienced at it. As for myself, I’d started learning proper martial arts just recently- and none of them had moves specifically for half-sized opponents.

All that was to say, Shockfire still had to throw himself to the ground to duck under my leg. My leg zipped over him, but it wouldn’t have been as crazy of a hit as it might have seemed. Haste didn’t increase the force of impacts, despite the speed. It was a tradeoff, in a way, but mostly the already high mana cost was simply insufficient to augment that part of movement. 

It did allow me to immediately follow up, however. In the interest of not causing real injuries to my sparring companion, I reached out to his prone form with a large hand, grabbing one of his arms. I used my strength advantage to lift him up, ready to put him in a submission hold, but he of course wasn’t just going to let me do that. A burst of electricity came out from him, forcing me to let go- it was nearly enough to break my defenses, and would have done so if I held on. I didn’t just release him though, but sort of tossed him and sent him tumbling.

I telegraphed a punch as he was standing to his feet, but I was softballing my movement speed. Mostly so I could change directions when he launched a bolt of fire, this time giving it a wider berth. It was quite convenient for me that he was splitting between the elements, but then again he had a limited store of each. Even if he had done a lightning bolt I could have thrown off his aim with my improved speed, so it was a reasonable choice. 

I stepped around to his left, going in with a punch. I felt him building up power, but was confident that my attack would hit. And it did, but I came out on the worse end of the deal. I hadn’t really done much damage to him up to that point, and even with my size enhanced a single punch from me wasn’t enough to kill a man- the vague threshold I had for the power of Force Armor. Thus, it absorbed the blow as he stepped back to soften it while at the same time channeling electricity into my outstretched fist, breaking through the rest of my Energy Ward and some of my Force Armor beneath it.

“You win,” I conceded.

“Well,” he shrugged, “I’d say it’s closer to a tie. I had to make use of your defensive spell to pull that off, after all.”

“Whatever you want to call it,” I said, “Neither of us can take another hit. Thanks for the spar.”

I looked around at my few companions. Ice Guy… was his name Senan or something? Captain Senan sounded better. He had been the unfortunate one who hadn’t seen the extent of my ability, so even though he was probably the strongest and most experienced of us the fight hadn’t gone well for him. Rasmus had the unfortunate issue of being nearly completely negated by his damage output being slow. Shockfire had the advantage that I couldn’t focus against just one of his elements, but he still made good use of his abilities.

But as I surveyed my companions to see how they felt, I saw only determination and not disappointment. Good, I wouldn’t want them to feel bad just because I got a momentary leg up. It was unfortunate for them that one thing happened to counter them all so well, but that was just how their powers worked out. And by the standards of Earth, just having a power was special. Even in New Bay, though it had to be admitted that the proportion of those with powers in some form or other wasn’t insignificant.

Before we went home for the day, Captain Senan had an important question. “It shouldn’t matter for us in general, but… does that block outgoing uses of power? Shockfire shouldn’t need protection from fire or electricity in most cases, but we might want to resist elements similar to our own occasionally.”

“It shouldn’t,” I said. At least, mages never had problems with that. “Though we’ll have to test it out.” Magic didn’t always align exactly as one would think with powers, though the fact that Energy Ward worked against Rasmus indicated that the recognition of his powers as ‘acid’ was indeed correct from some sort of weird metaphysical standpoint, even if not a normal chemical one. 

And everything worked fine for them- even when Rasmus was split up, he could still pull himself back together without any weird interference. Though we weren’t able to test that all the same evening, because I had mana to regenerate. Leveling to improve my storage was still very important, but I was going to take ways to replenish quickly more seriously as well. It shouldn’t matter in a battle, as nothing less than ten or a hundred times my normal speed would make any real difference, but over the course of a day it could be significant.

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