The rematch between Geoff and Marius was quite different from their previous match. Normally, Marius fought defensively, countering his opponent’s spells. However, since Geoff had equipment that distorted his voice, he couldn’t use his usual tactics. The earlier match had surprised him, and thus he had lost. This time, Marius took the initiative to attack. He started chanting a lightning bolt. However, Geoff was faster, thanks to yet more items assisting him.
Instead of a fireball or lightning bolt, he launched a wind blade. It was a few meters wide, and aimed toward the middle of Marius’ body. It required much more speed to dodge out of the area than a fireball, but had a wider area than a lightning bolt. It wasn’t as powerful as either, but it would have no problems against Marius who had not put up any magical defenses yet. In addition, Geoff hadn’t used it in a duel before, so it was unexpected. Marius couldn’t possibly dodge either to the left or right in time, even if he had already been moving. However, he wasn’t second ranking (by William’s estimation) for no reason. He took the only remaining method to dodge.
Marius fell to the ground beneath it. This of course meant that his mobility was limited and he would have trouble dodging subsequent spells. On a battlefield, this would place him in a very weak position. However, this was a duel, and he only had a single opponent. He would have time to get up and into a better position before Geoff could finish another spell. In addition, Marius hadn’t stopped his own casting. From the ground, he fired a lightning bolt toward Geoff.
An attack from a lightning bolt couldn’t be called fast. Fast was something that could be dodged. The only way to not get hit by a lightning bolt was to block, or to move out of the way as it was being cast, such that the targeting was off. Geoff had started to move to one side, but he was not fast enough to throw off Marius’ targeting. Thus, he was struck directly, the lightning bolt piercing through him. Its power was restrained to a safe, or at least non-lethal level by the barriers around the arena, but it was more than enough to knock him out, and would require some time to heal.
Thus, after a single exchange of spells, the match was over. This wasn’t too uncommon, since many of the student wizards hadn’t gotten it through their head that avoiding attacks was not just a thing that knights did. Among those William considered top tier, of course, everyone had learned to dodge. Even Geoff had tried to avoid the attack, but failed. This was perhaps due to surprise at Marius avoiding his attack, or overconfidence. Either way, Marius had won.
This meant that Marius would be William’s opponent. Was a new staff enough to beat Marius? William had yet to defeat Marius in a duel. However, William hadn’t just sat around all day when he wasn’t watching or participating in matches. He had worked with Chris to synchronize their movements. While William couldn’t say it was perfect, or even great, he still felt that he wouldn’t be as surprised when Chris tried to block something, and would at least not hold him back.
Chris seemed confident that he could block anything. Based on the story of him breaking out of an iron room, and the fact that he’d deflected a lightning bolt without even a smudge on his surface, William was inclined to believe him. However, even if he blocked a fireball directed at William, it could still burn his vulnerable hands, and much of it would continue past Chris and still hit William. Thus, it was still best for William to avoid all the attacks he could.
Marius and William faced each other across the arena. William was again aware of the fact that he had never beaten Marius in a duel. Marius was five years older than him, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t also very good. Marius was quite good with using a staff as a weapon, or to defend himself. William, meanwhile, could still not use magic. Of course, even if William lost, he had already done pretty well. He could stand losing to Lila, but his pride as a man wouldn’t allow him to just give up against Marius. Though, William wasn’t sure why his pride as a man would let him lose to a girl either. Of course, he was also aware that his body was only two-thirds a man’s age at this point.
Chris tapped him on the head to inform him that the match was about to start. He seemed to have already noticed that William got lost in his thoughts quite easily. William ran straight toward Marius. There was no point in taking his time, and he wouldn’t keep his straight line movement for long. Marius was already great at following movements, there was no reason to give it to him easily. However, William needed to get closer. No matter the distance, it was hard to dodge a spell when you didn’t know what it was.
It was not that Marius had the ability to chant whatever he wished, like Lila (though William was considering telling him about it), nor that he had something that made his words sound different like Geoff. Instead, it was a very basic method that was still quite effective. The arena was thirty meters across, therefore, he just wasn’t loud. Though chants were necessary, they did not have to be done at the top of one’s lungs. There was a certain minimum that was necessary for some reason (William reminded himself to try to figure that out), but beyond that being louder was just unnecessary noise.
Marius knew this, and he knew that William could dodge his spells easily, thus he chanted at the right level, around a normal talking voice. Normally, chants were done loudly and with a powerful voice. It was partly tradition, it seemed, but from talks with Lila William had determined that it was also somewhat instinctual.
Chris tapped William again. Right, he was already in the middle of this duel. He was just close enough to make out a few words of Marius’ chant. Not good, a lightning bolt. He wasn’t confident with Chris deflecting it. Thus, he had to dodge. That said, Marius had consistently still hit William even when William had dodged with the right timing. This time, he needed something more. Fortunately, Chris could provide that.
At the moment when Marius finished chanting, William dodged at an angle. In addition, he thrust Chris out to the left. Normally, this would do nothing but throw off his balance. However, Chris could move on his own, likely through some kind of magic, and pushed against William. This gave him a little bit of an extra boost, and he managed to get out of the way of the lightning bolt. William still stumbled a bit at the odd maneuver, but then he gained his balance and continued towards Marius.
Marius managed to complete a fireball before William reached him, but instead of aiming at William, aimed at his feet. William dodged quickly, but the fireball exploded in a larger area than expected. It only slightly scorched William, so it seemed a bit weaker, but it still slightly injured him. William reached Marius, and their staves crossed.
Marius put all his effort to deflect William’s attacks, and his skill could be seen. Though he would inevitable lose in pure staffwork, he managed to cast a wind blade spell. However, William took a page out of Marius’ book and threw himself to the ground. A disadvantageous move, and one anticipated by Marius. However, he didn’t anticipate William sweeping out his leg to trip him. In addition, William only went part of the way to the ground, holding himself up with Chris planted in a vertical position. It was very awkward, but Marius went to the ground. William got himself balanced again then brought Chris crashing down towards Marius body. Though, he slowed his attack and only lightly touched Marius’ ribcage. Fortunately, Chris caught on and allowed himself to be stopped.
Marius surrendered, obviously aware that he had been defeated. “That was excellent. Your movements were very… unexpected. I admit defeat. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t beat you next time.”
William was well aware that Marius probably would defeat him in a rematch. He never let the same thing defeat him twice. Except Lila, but even she usually had to come up with some new techniques to keep defeating Marius. As William thought of this he looked at Chris in his hands, then over at Lila. William wouldn’t be able to beat her without coming up with something new. He even had some ideas, however he couldn’t try them out. He knew they wouldn’t work yet, and if Lila saw them then she could counter them even if he got them right the next time. Thus, he decided to surrender and take second place. He reasoned that it wasn’t admitting defeat, it was just putting the duel off for another time. Or something.