The third cycle of the preliminaries.
“Sunder!” Two glass astral weapons materialized in his hands. A spear and a sword, the lengths of which adjusted for the close quarters fighting. It was mostly for the sake of everyone else in the arena rather than his personal preference. Both weapons measured out slightly more than a meter. Lo hefted his blue, translucent weapons and slowly approached his opponent.
Vare, called out his Aspect.
“Archon.” His voice as deep as Lo’s. Vare’s head was permanently blurred out as if static distorted his very face. A white-blue energy coursed around his feet, travelling up his spine and into his arms and chest.
“Mahadeva Form!” Touching fingertips to thumbs, as if in meditation, Vare centered his energy. After a moment he clapped his hands together, at the same time four other arms ruptured from his back. His extra arms were an immaterial composition of the blue energy.
Lo, wearing his signature fur jacket, charged the six-armed Vare.
He thrust his spear. Vare blocked it with a closed fist of an Archon arm. The two Aspects, neither completely physical, interacted as if they were solid. Energy-like sparks sprayed out from the impact.
Lo swung his sword in a downward angle, aiming for the legs. The sword was caught by a hand, the interaction produced a loud, high pitched chattering noise. The glass-like properties of Lo’s sword rubbed against the quasi-solid energy arm. The result was akin to glass digging into metal, just with sparks.
The two forces pushed against each other, as if one could break through the other.
Vare punched with his Archon arms, hitting Lo square in the chest and sending him flying back.
Lo stood up and threw his sword like a boomerang at the charging body of Vare, who shielded himself with his four extra arms. The sword shattered on impact, failing to even slow Vare.
“Astral shield.” Lo stood his ground and materialized a shield in his free hand. He braced for impact, Vare hit hard, his arms sending a barrage of heavy hooks and jabs. Lo’s shield sustained the damage. He thrust his spear at Vare’s head. The spear went into the distortion effect, trembled, and shattered. The explosion from his spear launched both fighters away.
Lo cursed. His sword was too easy to deflect, and the spear was too hard to use in such close spaces. Normally, Lo would use his Sunder from a distance, using massive weapons, but wounding everyone else in the arena would get him disqualified. He would have to try a different weapon.
“Spectral Chains.” A green colored chain appeared in his old spear hand. It was wrapped around his palm and wrist and extended to the ground, the excess chain coiling over itself.
Lo had come to learn that there are two types of weapons within his Sunder. Astral, which were the blue, glass-like weapons that dealt physical damage and then there were Spectral weapons. True spectral weapons were green and passed through objects, yet still interacted with them in some way. It was a one-sided effect but often didn’t deal physical damage.
Both types appeared as glowing, translucent and supernatural looking weapons.
Lo whipped his astral chain, catching one of Vare’s extra arms. Instead of passing through the arm it wrapped around. Apparently the Archon arms and the Spectral chain were of a similar enough type of energy that they interacted closer to how a normal chain and arm would.
Not unheard of in the world of Aspects, that powers of certain types tend to fall into broad elemental categories. For this duel, both Sunder and Archon utilized an energy within in the same spectrum and therefore could interact with each other in a way few other powers could.
Lo yanked on the chain and broke Vare’s arm into pieces. The energy dissipated and disappeared from the shattered arm.
Lo took his chain back and started to swing it over head, preparing for another strike.
Vare changed tactics. Going in close was too risky now. With his real hand he touched his index finger to thumb, creating a circle with the open space.
“Vasavi Shakti.” Vare said the words, and the circle created by his finger and thumb turned into a field of his Archon energy. It was flat and remained in the circular space of his hand. He made finger guns with his three remaining Archon arms and pointed them at the circle. He aimed and fired off energy bullets.
Lo raised his shield, it took the brunt of the shots but was denting. Lo stepped forward and whipped his chain. It connected to an outstretched arm. He pulled back and tore it off. Vare was down to four arms, two normal and two Archon. He aimed his Vasavi Shakti, the hand with the thumb and index finger making the circle, at Lo’s chain hand and fired off repeating shots. The bullets tore through the chain, severing the links before Lo had a chance to block or dodge.
Lo dropped the part of the chain woven around his hand. It fell to the ground and dematerialized instantly.
Vare kept up his firing. Lo could block the shots as it was easy to see where Vare aimed. Before long however, Lo’s shield was rendered unusable, riddled with holes. Lo discarded it and sprinted at Vare, who got a few more shots in, the energy bullets burning into Lo’s skin. He ignored the shots and threw a charging punch. Vare guarded the blow with his real arms and at the same time sent a left and right hook with his Archon ones. The impact hit hard, causing Lo to grunt. Lo sent in an uppercut next, trying to get around Vare’s defenses. Vare sidestepped and hit Lo in the head with another hook. The punch felt like a hot hammer, it split Lo’s cheek deeply.
Lo was relentless in his assault, although none of his punches landed. Vare either dodged or blocked each and every attack, while delivering his own brutal counters.
Lo leapt back finally, bruised and bloodied in a dozen different places. He muttered something under his heavy breathing.
Lo wore the expression of man about to try something absolutely mad. His rough mountain-born features contorting into savagery.
“Spectral chains.” Lo summoned another chain and wasted no time swinging it sideways at the advancing Vare. The chain caught Vare around the waist, wrapping around multiple times. The spectral chain inhibited the movement of Vare, it was the same move Lo used against Hijo at the mountain camp, just more refined and less accidental.
Lo summoned an Astral spear and stabbed it through the links of his Spectral chain as he let it go from his hands, pinning both weapons to each other in the ground.
Vare started working on the chain with his Archon arms, trying to tear himself free.
Lo ‘s voice boomed. “Skybreaker!”
Someone in the crowd yelled out for everyone to take cover.
Lo was running out of options at this stage in the fight. He was losing hard and was left with little choice. Lo prepared his strongest attack.
A massive two-handed great sword started to form in his hands. Skybreaker was over a hundred meters tall. Needless to say the sword cut through the ceiling of the arena and all the way through the roof of the mansion itself. The sword was that huge.
Skybreaker gleamed an illusory blue. Any light that passed through the blade was divided like a prism and the whole arena lit up in a rainbow of ambient lighting while glares from the sword blinded everyone. It was magical almost.
Heaving, Lo took a hard step forward. His arms swayed backwards as the weight strained his muscles. The sword was pointing directly behind him now, cutting through the bleachers and wall and surface and everything within its radius in an arc.
Lo was shouting as he mustered the strength to chop the sword overhead. Vare was working fast to tear the chains off and move out of the way, as it was clear Lo would not be able to change his sword’s direction once the momentum built up enough.
Skybreaker shimmered as it moved, cutting the very air and dispersing light particles as if it were leaving a trail of glitter.
It came crashing down on Vare.
But the Archon Specter was prepared, he still had two arms which he used to catch the giant mythic blade.
The noise was shrill and deafening. Screaming electricity and glass scratching.
Lo and Vare’s duel was the only one still going on. All eyes were on them, but all heads were ducked. No one was directly behind or in front of the fighters. No one was even safe. Yet the fight was not stopped or interrupted, the benefactors wanting to see how it played out. Every Specter here was a potential employee for the wealthy.
The weight and impact caused a crater to form around Vare. Sparks sprinkled out from the friction of the Astral glass sword and the energy hands.
Vare was sinking lower and lower into the ground. Lo didn’t falter despite his injuries, but Vare was unbreakable.
The allotted time finally ran out. The preliminaries had a limit so that the tournament would move along the elimination process swiftly.
The referee overseeing the fight called it off. The noise was so loud Lo didn’t hear and continued trying to drive the sword down. The referee got close enough to touch Lo on the shoulder.
“It’s over man! This round is over!” He had to shout over the grating sound of glass and energy.
Lo cursed under his breath, he wanted to either win or lose. He relaxed his grip and closed his eyes, focusing on shutting off his Aspect. He had learned during his training that having high amounts of adrenaline in the bloodstream made it difficult for him to get out of his Aspect. A problem he had never heard anyone else having.
Lo finally shut off his Sunder, his greatsword, chain and spear disappearing into small particles that dissipated quickly.
Vare did the same, shutting off his Archon.
The two Specters said nothing to each other. Lo was bruised badly, yet leaving a fight unfinished was unheard of in his world. Fight until you die or kill, that was the way of the warrior for Lo. Vare’s face was unreadable as the distortion effect permanently made him faceless, but his chest was heaving up and down, a clear sign of the intensity he was feeling. It was a close match, and one that was left unresolved.
Bother fighters knew what the other was thinking, and both had only the utmost respect for the other.
Two warriors born. Competing in a tournament such as this one held only a single purpose for their kind. It wasn’t winning that mattered, but the fight itself. The thrill of conquering a worthy opponent, the rush of combat and the flowing of blood through and out of veins. The bid for glory and the sacred bond that is formed with an opponent when dueling to the death.
Due to a breach of contract, Lo got eliminated from the tournament as no collateral damage can affect the mansion. Lo had cleaved the entire building clean in half, a pretty cut and dry example of collateral damage.
Vare, because of Lo’s expulsion, would be given winning credit for the fight.
There was still over sixty fighters that had not lost a duel, and another forty with one loss and the fifty-seven other Specters had either lost twice, or suffered crippling injuries. One hundred sixty-two Specters in total, now down to two-thirds that number. None of the students from the School for the Savant had been eliminated, aside from Lo. Only Meanu, Benhan and Veron had decided not to participate, though they were in the arena supporting their classmates.
Half of the class had lost at least one bout, and the last round of the third cycle was about to start.
Seeing Lo and Vare’s fight put a lot perspective in the young minds of many of the Specters present. They were in a different league of their own. Specters like Josua, Vare, Lo, Jonatan, Aulus, Abagene and a select few others were clearly so far beyond the skill level of the average Specter. That Specters even have ‘average’ and ‘weak’ was a concept no one would freely admit to themselves, yet were forced to accept under the talent of the strongest. All humans are not equal, and in the world of combat and warfare there is no truer statement.
That duel marked a changing point in the tournament, the mood shifted. It was time to get more serious. The real warriors cared only for the thrill of fighting, and the display of skill and application of strategy. The lesser warriors were being weeded out by the preliminaries.
And the rich viewers in the mansion, in their cozy seats, had pupils dilating as they could read the shift in the participating Specters. The opportunity to see magnificent powers, bet exorbitant amounts of money, and prospect potential Specters for hire. This was the hobby of the rich in Garghent.
Mathis approached Hales and bowed.
“Rabio would like to extend his most sincere apologies.”
“For what?” Hales asked, her mind in other places.
“For betting against you in your upcoming match.” Hales raised her eyebrows.
Mathis continued, “You are, after all, up against the one who has no real name, called only by his Aspect. Crnobog.”
Hales hadn’t heard the name before, but she could tell from the reverence in Mathis’ voice that this Specter was feared as being violent.
Hales soon discovered just how violent.