“Aagh! What the hell was that?” Lila bolted back upright, then looked around. She saw William sitting nearby.
“I knocked you out without you being able to do anything. Using ki, in case that wasn’t clear,” William smiled slightly.
“But… you aren’t fully recovered yet, are you? How can you do that?”
“Not even close. However, if someone weak had dagger, could they not successfully stab a blind person? As long as they had enough arm strength to lift the dagger… the blind person would never see it coming.”
“Aagh that hurts more than getting knocked out!”
“It hurt? It shouldn’t have hurt.” William frowned.
“I mean, not… physically… but I’m stronger than you in a fight! You shouldn’t be able to do that without me noticing!”
“I could do that in a fight too though. Besides, can you really beat me?” William wasn’t confident he could do anything like collapsing an entire estate… but that wasn’t something that could be done within the scale of a normal combat.
“You wanna fight? Let’s do it! You can’t do that trick with ki though!”
“Fine. Come on, Chris!”
“You can’t use Chris either!”
“Then you can’t use your staff as well. In fact, no magical equipment for either of us, just training staves.”
William found that the arena was surprisingly full. They hadn’t advertised the duel, someone must have seen the headmistress enter the arena. In the time it took them to properly set up the wards and get equipment… many people flooded in. Though, it wasn’t really full. There could be more than a great gross of spectators, and there was merely around a gross. That was still almost everyone who was connected to the academy, however.
None of that mattered when William stepped into the arena across from Lila. It was like some of his old memories… except neither of them looked even vaguely like before. Besides the fact that they both had horns, William had skin that was almost black, and Lila had red skin. Their features weren’t particularly similar to before, either. Even so, William felt that sense of familiarity.
When the duel started, William dashed across the arena. It was a familiar opener… but he was faster than before. Of course, he could see that Lila was also faster in her spellcasting… but he could see that now. He didn’t have to guess what she was doing and when she would finish. More importantly, he could respond with magic of his own. Chanting while sprinting wasn’t an easy task… but William was up for it.
Lightning shot from Lila toward William, and arced around him. If it couldn’t be dodged or deflected, lightning was the most likely to spell an instant defeat. However, it followed the path of least resistance, and it was easiest to create such close to one’s self. William also didn’t have to spend the energy to make the lightning, but only the path for it to follow, which made it a much easier response.
He reached Lila, swinging his staff down in an overhead blow. She deflected it, striking back with a counter. Instead of magic, they merely traded blows with staves for a few moments. Lila was actually faster and stronger than William- though he had to admit she had a much longer time to train her body. Meanwhile, William’s staff techniques were better. Though melee combat had once been somewhat of a weakness for her, that couldn’t really be said any longer. Even if she was defeated, it would only be because the opponent was too strong.
After a few moments, the time for magic was back. William wasn’t entirely sure what Lila was doing now. Lightning bolts were fairly obvious, because they had to have a path to follow, and that had to be built at least a few moments ahead of time. Plus, there was also something about how people gathered mana that William couldn’t really describe. Anyway, William could tell Lila was doing something with air. That probably meant a fireball, because even a very strong wind wouldn’t be able to do much in practical terms. A sheet of fire could happen as well, but without sustained heat it wouldn’t be dangerous. On the other hand, a fireball at such close range would likely affect her as well…
William watched her eyes carefully for any hints, and started gathering mana for himself. He could change what he did with the mana as the chanting progressed, but it would be less effective. Hopefully, he had the right idea.
Lila truly did launch a fireball. There wasn’t much special about it besides its power, and William dodged it straightforwardly… releasing his magic at the same time. The fireball continued into the ground behind him, which was really one of the only ways it could take effect. The compressed heat and air caused and explosion as it collided with the ground… but the explosion scattered around William. He had created a shield of air behind him. Of course, air was anything but a solid. As much as he might like to, he couldn’t change that. Instead, he created a competing pressure, like an explosion but less violent. He supported that with ki, though he was not sure if it helped. He may have managed to fake the air being more solid, or perhaps his pure magic worked. Either way, he stopped the explosion- or the portion of it that would affect him, anyway. That required a lot less mana than the other way.
The battle moved around the arena, both because of footwork and dodging, and because the mana in an area was depleted very quickly. Even if it quickly flowed in from the outside, it wasn’t enough for a heated battle. Especially not the way Lila seemed to use the mana.
As the fight continued, they exchanged a number of spells and defenses, and many more blows with their staves- though most of those didn’t connect. Still, if either side stopped, they would leave themselves open for a real blow, which could decide the fight. They couldn’t constantly use magic, both because of mana concerns, and because their lungs couldn’t handle it. They had to take moments to catch their breath, even if such moments were still heavy on physical exertion.
Then, William saw Lila preparing to launch another lightning bolt. He prepared a similar counter to before… except he had a special plan. Now that they were up close, it wouldn’t be too hard to direct the lightning around himself and back toward her. Then, there was a thunderous noise. Well, William supposed it was actually thunder… and he found himself lying on the ground.
He wasn’t injured- not seriously anyway. The wards wouldn’t allow that… and Lila- Headmistress Lorenz- had made sure they were up to standard for duels involving someone of her caliber. However, his back hurt, and he was flat on his face. Had he somehow messed up his guidance of the lightning? No, that wasn’t quite right. As he thought back to what had happened, he realized the trail Lila had created was cut before the lightning struck out toward him. Then, he had somehow been hit from behind. He picked himself up off the ground, slowly. At least Lila looked a little singed- he’d managed to catch at least some of the lightning bolt from behind and direct it toward her, even if it wasn’t exactly on purpose. “You win.” He wondered how she’d done that. She probably wouldn’t tell him, because then she couldn’t use it against him again… but there was probably a way to figure it out on his own.
Author’s notes: Who authorized this fight? I know I sure didn’t. William and Lila just started it on their own and made me write it.