Chapter 187: Offensive Mindset
Looking up, I locked eyes with Varay as she was turning back into her normal form, the ice enveloping her slowly thawing.
“Good duel, General Arthur,” Varay acknowledged extending a hand.
I grabbed her arm and allowed her to pull me up to my feet. “As expected, there’s still a gap between us.”
“If you were able to hold that form for an extended period of time, there was a chance you could’ve overpowered me,” the lance admitted.
“I consider that form a borrowed power, not my own,” I chuckled, patting the dust off of my clothes. “I thought I mastered ice to a large extent but seeing you today makes me doubt myself.”
Varay revealed just the faintest glimmer of a smile before heading toward where my sister and the rest of our audience were.
As soon as we made it back to the group, the elders, Bairon and Virion—who had been exchanging gold coins with each other for reasons unknown—eagerly began bombarding me with suggestions and tips on what I did wrong during my sparring session with Varay.
“Your fire spells are strong but you expended an unnecessary amount of mana for each of them,” Hester began.
“That’s right,” Buhnd chimed in. “And there were many instances where utilizing your earth magic would’ve been more beneficial, yet you chose to revert back to your comfortable affinities.”
My head spun as I tried to keep eye contact with everyone who was talking to me until Alanis spoke up. “Elders. I believe it’d be most beneficial for General Arthur if we spoke one at a time in a more controlled setting.”
“I agree,” General Virion added. “Let’s gather around and examine what our young general did wrong!”
With that, I found myself on a stone chair, graciously erected by Buhn, sitting in circle like a child and his classmates for a group activity. Except my classmates were perhaps some of the most powerful and influential figures in all of this continent.
Ellie and Boo joined us in the circle but remained silent while everyone else began pointing out specific instances in my last fight where there was something better I could’ve done.
“Using wind to bolster up your spells was a good idea, but your application of it was surface level,” Camus explained. “For example, instead of using the wind to ‘push’ the lightning spear, why not integrate it around the entire spell itself? That way, you’d create a spinning force to strengthen its piercing power without using that much more mana.”
I was mulling over the elven elder’s analysis when another voice spoke up. It was Bairon.
“Because of the element’s very nature, shaping lightning is much harder than shaping fire. A more efficient attack would’ve been molding the fire into a piercing shape and coating it with lightning,” he said sternly.
“Th-Thanks… for the advice,” I said, surprised by his help. I understood that we were on the same side and all, but I was still the one that had brutally killed his brother.
Don’t get me wrong, Lucas deserved every ounce of what I did to him and more, but that didn’t stop Bairon from taking my actions on his family personally.
“Allow me to just give one insight,” Varay said. “Your control over ice is good, but as your opponent, it was too predictable for me that your ice magic merely served as a distraction. I’m sure Princess Kathyln saw this as well.”
The princess nodded. “Besides the spell Absolute Zero, most of his ice manipulation serves to divert his foe’s attention from his more powerful lightning spells.”
<i>Have I become that predictable?</i>
As if answering my thought, Varay added, “Your speed and spell chaining make up for this slight shortcoming, but I suspect that—in a prolonged battle—this can lead to your defeat.”
“I’ll keep your advice in mind. Thank you”—I shifted my gaze to Kathyln—“both of you.”
Virion used this opportunity, rising from his stone seat and clasping his hands. “Well, I apologize for our little interruption. Carry on with the training, Arthur. My expectations of your growth are high, especially since you’re taking time off from the battlefield.”
The commander shot me a wink before walking toward the entrance with his hands behind his back. The two lances followed close on either side of him and my eyes followed their figures until the large doors closed behind them.
“That was exhausting,” Emily said, letting out a deep breath.
“Being in a room with two lances and Commander Virion really leaves no room to breathe,” my sister added, falling forward on top of Boo’s furry back.
“Three lances,” I corrected. “Your brother’s a lance too, you know.”
“Well, you’re my brother first,” she dismissed with a wave of her hand.
I got up from my seat and stretched my sore limbs. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Is training done for today?” Kathyln asked, her eyes downcast.
Emily walked over to the panel, carefully reading one of the gauges. “Well, there’s still a lot of mana stored in here from earlier if you want to continue training.”
“Sounds like a plan!” Buhnd exclaimed, shooting up from his seat. “I’ve been itching to stretch my body after watching the fight. You down for little match, Princess?”
Kathyln eagerly nodded and followed behind the dwarven elder to the other end of the training grounds.
“I think I’ll head on up first,” my sister said, mid-yawn.
“Do you want me to walk you to your room?” I asked.
Ellie shook her head, patting Boo’s thick body. “That’s what I have Boo for.”
I nodded, shooting her a smile. “Good night.”
Her eyes half closed, she gave me a weak salute. “Good night, elders. Good night, Emily. Good night, Miss Emeria. And good night, <i>Lance</i> Arthur.”
I scoffed. “Cheeky girl.”
My sister batted her eyes innocently before trotting out of the room, leaving only Emily, Alanis, and the two remaining elders.
“Your sister is very different from you, General Arthur,” Alanis commented.
I couldn’t help but smile. “She definitely takes more after our father.”
“And you resemble more of your mother?” the elven assistant asked, her eyes focused on Kathyln and Buhnd’s figures.
I watched the two of them as well, adjusting their dueling equipment before beginning their spar. “I’m not sure. I’d like to think that I’m a mixture of both of them.”
“Who else would you resemble if not either of them?” Hester asked.
I simply shrugged, unable to form a better response, when I heard a yawn from behind.
Looking back over my shoulder, I could see Emily’s head bobbing as she struggled to stay awake.
“Emily,” I called out, startling the artificer.
Emily fumbled with the dials on her panel as if she had been working. “I’m not sleeping!”
“No one said you were,” I chuckled. “But maybe you should get some rest.”
“General Arthur is right,” Alanis stated. “I have basic knowledge of how to operate the device from watching.”
The artificer let out another yawn, adjusting her glasses. “Thank you, but it’s okay. I need to collect more data and compare the fpu from General Varay and Arthur’s last battle.”
“Speaking of that, you haven’t really given us any of the data during my training sessions with the elders over the past few days,” I said.
“I’ve been wondering about that as well,” Camus added, turning his gaze from Kathyln and Buhnd’s duel. “I’m curious as to see how my spells measure.”
“Yes, of course. However, the numbers won’t really have any meaning to them individually,” Emily explained. “I currently have a few assistants in several academies testing out lower end versions of this artifact to get recordings from the students there so we could gather a wide enough spectrum.”
“Ah, so the fpu was more intended to be used to compare amongst other mages?” I confirmed.
The artificer nodded excitedly. “Exactly! I can, however, compare the fpu readings between the mages present here, however I’d be more confident in the overall measurements after more data.”
Camus’ lips curved into a smile, his eyes hidden behind silvery-blond bangs. “I wonder who amongst us oldies is the strongest.”
The two elders soon fell into a discussion on who they thought was the strongest while I focused my gaze back on Kathyln and Buhnd.
The duel was drawing to a close. Kathyln was almost completely out of breath while Buhnd had just barely broken a sweat. Spikes of ice and earth surrounded them and small craters littered the ground, but neither had accrued any visible wounds besides fatigue. It wasn’t until the princess finally dipped her head in a bow that the duel was over.
“Are you up for a little stretch with this old elf?” Camus suddenly asked, turning to me. “I want to show you something.”
My mana pool was almost completely depleted and my limbs ached, but the elder piqued my interest. “Sure. Only if Hester doesn’t mind.”
“Don’t mind me,” Kathyln’s guardian dismissed. “I’ll stay here and judge you both from afar.”
The two of us passed by Buhnd and Kathyln on our way to the other end of the training room. I stuck out my hand to the princess, expecting a high-five. Instead, all I got was a confused gaze before she shyly clasped my hand between her hands.
I suppressed a laugh, scolding myself for expecting a princess to know a casual greeting that might not even exist in this world.
“Are you two done?” Camus asked with a smirk.
Kathyln, who I realized was still holding onto my hand, quickly let go and scurried off.
Positioning ourselves a few feet apart, I tightened the bands around my limbs and readied myself to start.
Camus lowered his stance, holding out one an open palm at me. “Before we begin, I want you to throw a punch at me right here.”
“A punch, right here in this palm that I have so elegantly held out.”
“Just a punch?” I confirmed, confused.
“An augmented punch, one that you would throw at your enemies.” He spread his legs a bit wider. “Come on, I’m ready.”
“Okay.” I shrugged before clearing the few feet of ground between us. Planting my foot just below his extended arm, I turned my hips, waist, shoulder and arm in one fluid motion. Mana coursed up, flowing in conjunction with the punch to produce a concise, explosive effect without wasting a drop of mana.
As soon as fist was about to hit Camus’ palm, however, it suddenly felt like I was trying to force my fist through a thick layer of tar. I could see my own fist slowing, barely making a noise, as it fell gently into Camus’ open hand.
The old elf grabbed my fist and bobbed it as if we were shaking hands. “Hello.”
I snatched my hand out of his grasp. “What the hell was that?”
“You’re a smart lad, figure it out,” the elder answered.
Gazing down at my unharmed fist, I went through what had just happened. After my initial surprise died down, it was fairly easy to deduce that he had somehow used wind to cushion my punch, except I had barely felt any mana fluctuations surrounding his hand.
“Figured it out yet?” Camus asked.
My brows furrowed in thought. “You somehow you used wind to slow my punch.”
“A tad broad for an answer, don’t you think?” The elder let out a chuckle. “I had an inkling during these past few days but your duel with General Varay was what made me sure.”
“Can we try that again?” I asked, taking a step back.
He held up his palm again. “Sure.”
I punched him again, resulting in the same effects. I punched him once more, not able to grasp how exactly he was using wind to achieve this effect.
“One more time,” I said, frustration leaking out of my voice.
Basic mana theory stated that collision of like elements weakened each other or canceled completely based on mana output.
Utilizing the theory that I had learned from one of the many books I had read as a baby, I augmented my fist with wind attribute mana.
I restrained my mana output since dispersing Camus’ technique wasn’t my goal. As I punched again, this time I felt it. The air pressure.
My fist struck more firmly this time, sounding a solid <i>smack</i> that made the elf take a step back.
He rubbed his injured hand. “You caught on quick.”
“You used air pressure!” I beamed excitedly. “You created a vacuum around me and highered the air pressure in your palm to slow down my fist.”
The elder tilted his head. “You use strange terms, but it sounds like you got the gist of it.”
“That’s brilliant! How did you think of doing that?” I asked, unable to contain my excitement.
This was a world where scientific progress was miles away from where I had come from. However, Camus had figured out how to utilize an advanced principles of air pressure on not just himself, but on his opponent as well to create a powerful effect.
<i>Why didn’t I think of that?</i> I asked myself. I had the knowledge in me, yet I failed to apply it to such an important aspect of this world.
Camus’ voice snapped me back to reality. “You’re probably thinking ‘why didn’t I think of that’, right?”
I looked up. “Y-Yeah.”
“It’s what I suspected early on,” Camus answered. “Hester, Buhnd, the princess, and myself are all here because you wished to immerse yourself in all elements in hopes that you pick up little bits of how we utilize our magic so you can incorporate it into your own style, right?”
“Basically,” I agreed.
The elder’s voice grew sharp. “Well, the problem lies in that your ‘style’ is so skewed toward offense, that you never even thought to use the myriad of elements that you have at your disposal in defensive measures, aside from the blatantly obvious way of raising a wall.
“You’ve only thought of wind in the form of either a blade or a tornado. You think of earth as a spike or a wall, yet truly mastering these elemental affinities mean knowing the subtleties of their nature that might not always be visible or geared toward killing your enemy,” Camus chided, his usual sardonic demeanor gone. “I saw you studying those marks on the ground during Buhnd’s duel with the princess. Do you know what that’s from?”
The obvious answer would’ve been a crater from an attack, but I knew that wasn’t it so I shook my head. “No, I don’t.”
“Master’s in earth magic can redirect the force of an opponent’s attack into the ground below them. Doing so accurately can negate nearly all of an attacker’s physical assault.”
I stood still, unable to form a response.
Camus let out a sigh. “You’re technically in a higher position than me so I suppose it’s rude for me to lecture, but let me just end with this. Your utilization of the elements is good—great, in fact. However, you constantly choose to shape your spells and attacks around either hurting your opponent or buffing yourself to dodge your opponent, and while that may be good for one-on-one duels, the battles you’ll face won’t always be like that. The time you have here is short, so let’s make it count.”
I realized it had been a while since I’ve been lectured like this. It left a sour taste on my tongue but it was humbling.
Camus held out a hand and smiled.
“You’re right. Thank you, Camus.” I returned the gesture, clasping his hand.