Chapter 21

A whirlwind of sound accompanied an acrobatic dance as Nes spun his spear while avoiding his opponent’s attack. His flurry of spear thrusts forced the other combatant to retreat in frustration. They were the last two combatants on the battlefield, all others had already been eliminated.

Not a single combatant could inflict damage on Nes, his defense was a bulwark and his mastery of the spear was unparalleled among the Demihumans. Out of all of them, the only one who may be able to defeat him would be the Shakiri, who possessed herculean strength. Even then, the victory would most likely hinge by a thread.

The Tigerkin, who were known as masters of the spear, were astounded by the skill and fluid movement of the Dragonkin prince as they watched their representative be pushed back. There was no contest, Nes had devastated every opponent he faced with abject grace until only one remained. Nes gave him no rest, no quarter, but hounded the hapless warrior forcing him to his knees and ultimately, defeat. The stunned crowd was silent in admiration before erupting in cheers and applause.

Nes did not care for applause and paid it no mind. His only concern was finishing the bout promptly so that he might run to his sister’s side. Her fight was taking place at the same time as his and he worried for her safety. There were almost no deaths in the Grand Council competition, but there was always a small chance and that was more than he was willing to accept.

If he had his way, his sister would never have participated in the competition but his sister had been adamant about it. That damn Fayde, pushing my sister into dangerous situations. He knew it wasn’t entirely Fayde’s fault but he needed someone to blame.

After the battle, Nes pushed his way through the thick crowd, forcing his way through the admirers who had watched his battle. Nes looked young, but he was handsome and many Demihuman women had come to adore him over the past couple of days.

He finally forced his way through and ran towards the battlefield that had been designated for his sister’s competition. Having tired himself, he paused for a moment to catch his breath. The crowd was much smaller in this area due to the popularity of the spear competition.

Magic competitions were mostly unpopular, only a few would be interested, so it was easy to quickly locate his sister. Fayde was lifting his sister up in his arms and was twirling her around while they both laughed. Nes couldn’t believe what he was seeing, what the hell is this!?

He could see the competition was already over and from the looks of things, his sister had won. It’s not like I doubted she would win, but that damn Fayde….. And what the hell is going on with my sister, she never acted like this before….

Nes walked over to his sister and Fayde, who were celebrating the victory. The wind had been knocked out of him and he had lost all his enthusiasm and motivation. His sister didn’t even notice as he approached, she was happily being doted on by Fayde. Every gesture of affection Fayde showed to his sister hit him with the force of an avalanche. He thought he would die before he could complete the last few steps.

“Oh Nes! How did your competition go? I could hear the cheering from all the way over here.” Fayde was the first to notice him, his sister didn’t even notice him.

“I won.” Nes could only force out a dejected response.

“That’s incredible! Excellent! Good job Nes! Why do you look so sad though? You should be ecstatic.”

“Whatever….” He replied still downcast.

Allein finally looked at him and her radiant smile immediately perked him up a bit, “Congratulations brother, I always knew you would win. I am proud of you.”

Her words filled him with a surge of vigor that revitalized him.

Allein looked back up at Fayde and her lovely smile was no longer directed at him which made him feel a pang of regret.

“Fayde, I expect the same reward as Reia…” She said coyly.

EHHH!? What did she just say? Nes’s mind was racing, wait she can’t mean ‘that’.

Fayde chuckled while running his hands through her hair. It sent shivers down Nes’s spine

“Tonight it will just be you and me.”

Allein happily hugged Fayde.

FA~~~~~~~~~YDE! I am going to kill that man!

After a long day of excitement I was happy to be lying in my bed. Our tribe had been successful in moving up in the rankings and were now in second place, much to the surprise of the other Demihuman tribes.

That meant that everything was riding on my shoulders. If I didn’t win in the competition tomorrow then it was all over. This was expected though, so it wasn’t a surprise to me. I was just beginning to really feel the pressure now that it had finally come to this.

Allein and I spent some alone time together while Reia stayed in her father’s tent for the night. Of course for her, it wasn’t enough for her while awake, but she also joined me in my dreams.

I woke the next day feeling well rested despite the night’s events. It was the final day of the competition and I would have to fight a series of battles against the strongest members of each tribe. These battles were intended to be fought by either the Khan of a tribe or a chosen warrior. This meant that only the strongest of each tribe would be involved in the competition this day.

As this was an important and grueling day for me, I wouldn’t be fulfilling the normal duties of a Khan and instead spent the day preparing for the fights to come. It was almost noon when Fieral came to me to inform me of the first round of battles.

“My Khan, your first opponent has been announced. You must quickly get ready and head to the battlefield.” Fieral hardly ever showed any emotion while conversing with me, she was always serious about her duties.

“Who is my first opponent?” My servants were helping me equip my battle gear as I responded to Fieral.

“You will be fighting the Dogkin warrior Piero. He is a fierce warrior and a master of the spear. They say that the only reason Nes won the spear competition was because Piero was not allowed to compete in it.”

I considered her words and nodded. Sounds like a good first opponent, I can’t be careless. I will try to use my ‘Void Power’ as little as possible unless absolutely necessary.

After preparing myself for battle, I left my tent along with my servants and those closest to me as well as the chieftains of the Foxkin tribe. There was no one who would not be present at today’s events. This was the highlight of the entire Grand Council competition and would be the final determinant in ranking the tribes. For us, it meant much more than that. With our victory, I would force the tribes to unite under my leadership. For the first time in thousands of years they would be united under a Great Khan.

Our procession was a solemn one despite the raucous noise surrounding us. It wasn’t as if we weren’t excited, we had all just settled into a quiet peace of mind much like the calm before the storm. I soon found myself standing across the battlefield from my opponent who sneered at me disrespectfully. I simply returned the gesture with a smile which only seemed to enrage him.

This Dogkin thinks that I am weak but I am going to make an example of him. Let everyone present witness my determination!

One ‘Phantom Image’ is all I will need. I won’t even bother with my ‘Void Flames’. I will make this quick. I focused my thoughts on the power simmering within me. It was aching to be released but I restrained it on the cusp, my body quivering with the strain. When the gong sounded my power burst forth from my body and a ‘Phantom Image’ materialized beside me. It was different from what I remembered, it seemed more substantial, more dense with power.

What is this? Has it become more powerful?

I dashed across the battlefield at a dizzying pace. My opponent remained motionless with both hands firmly gripping his spear. Piero was already prepared in his fighting stance with one foot rigidly pressed against the grassy plain in a forward position. The spear pointed diagonally facing towards the ground and an unknown power flailed around him against the stillness of the afternoon sun. He was an opponent to be reckoned with, if only he had never met me.

My boots made no sound as they flattened the grass in their wake and the earth trembled with each step. The power of the void within me released an intense pressure as it seeped from my pores and formed a dense cloud around me. Only I could see the dark mist of the void raging violently. As the whirlwind of power around me stormed ever closer to my opponent, the fear in his eyes became as clear as day.

I directed my ‘Phantom Image’ to strike first and it launched itself off the ground and straight towards Piero who was prepared with a twirling counter strike. His spear went straight through the phantom but the phantom’s blade struck Piero causing damage which left Piero in a state of confusion and open for a second attack which I took advantage of. He quickly recovered and blocked my next strike, pushing me back.

He had been too focused on defending against my combo attack and was caught off guard when I reversed positions with my ‘Phantom Image’ and slashed him across his unguarded back, causing him to fall to his knees in pain. True to his reputation, even with the disadvantage of fighting while on his knees, he parried my next few attacks while returning to his feet. It was obvious that he had very little fight left in him due to the strength of my attacks, but still he fought on in earnest until he finally fell to my ceaseless onslaught.

Most of the Demihumans had gone to watch some of the other fights and so not many were present to witness mine, but those that did were left speechless. No one from outside my tribe expected that I would win. As I gazed upon the spectators, one in particular caught my attention. It was a young woman with eyes of scarlet red and when our eyes met, she looked away and disappeared into the crowd. That was the Demonkin girl…

With no reason to remain on the battlefield I walked towards my tribe members who were cheering wholeheartedly. Reia and Allein especially were happy and greeted me with congratulatory kisses which I welcomed gratefully.

There was only one battle remaining, I had made it to the end and my opponent was the Demonkin Shakiri who had also easily defeated all opponents. I had been able to watch one of his battles and he was an incredible fighter whose strength was truly unparalleled.

With the short time remaining until the last battle of the Grand Council competition, I decided to spend my time with Reia and Allein in order to relax and clear my mind of anxiety. It was the best preparation that I could do.

(Shakiri P.O.V.)

“I watched your fight with that young boy. Absolutely pitiful. You are the mightiest warrior of the tribes? Laughable.” A voice boomed across the battlefield.

Rajal Khan’s face was filled with rage, “You honorless cur, how dare you disgrace me in such a way!?”

The Shakiri only shrugged as if bored, “I speak only the truth. You believe yourself strong, but you are nothing more than a fly waiting to be swatted. Just surrender to me now and save face, you will only regret ever challenging me.”

All eyes were on the exchange between the two rivals and gasps spread around the crowd. Mocking Rajal Khan seemed a death wish but this unknown warrior boasted with confidence and without an ounce of fear. One look at the Shakiri and no one doubted he was a mighty warrior. He was an extremely tall and intimidating fiend with an enormous halberd which he could hold in one hand. He had dominated every opponent without suffering a single hit.

“Enough talk! I will stomp that arrogance right out of your face.” Rajal Khan gritted his teeth and growled threateningly while preparing his stance.

The Shakiri planted his enormous halberd into the ground and with his left hand beckoned Rajal Khan forward with a hand gesture. Rajal Khan could see a hundred openings in his stance and snickered, this fool is taking me too lightly.

He only waited for the sound of the gong to signal the start of battle. He had already anticipated several moves ahead and acted out the battle in his mind. He would open with a fierce thrust to the left, parry and then evade while striking at his flanks, followed by activating one of his martial skills. That would just be the opening act. He would wear down his opponent with quick piercing attacks until an opening presented itself and then when the timing was right he would use his advanced martial skill, ‘Thousand arrow piercing rain’.

He would save his most powerful ability, his trump card, until the last moment. As long as he could wear down the Shakiri enough until that moment, then victory was assured.

Rajal Khan could barely contain himself and when the gong finally sounded his movements were in sync. He burst forth at top speed, dragging the tip of his spear in the dirt, lifting it as he approached the Shakiri and sending dirt and debris flying in order to distract his opponent. He immediately jumped with his spear held forward, aiming for the Shakiri’s chest, hoping he would try to parry so that he could move into his next planned move.

However, the Shakiri did not move as Rajal Khan had expected and instead of parrying his attack, he arched his back, sucking in a colossal  amount of air. Using the air he sucked in, he let out a massive roar that sent out shockwaves blowing Rajal Khan several yards backwards, slamming him into the ground.

All his planning had been for nothing as he struggled to lift himself off the grass. The crowd watching were astonished by the impressive roar of the Shakiri and began to have doubts on whether or not Rajal Khan could win. In their hearts, they were already accepting that the Demonkin would soon be at the top of their hierarchy.

Rajal Khan finally stood, he was shaken but not yet defeated. He realized that he would need to use his most powerful attack if he had any hope of victory and already had begun preparations. Summoning the power residing within him, he began concentrating as the Shakiri watched on in anticipation of his next move.

“Hurry it along little cat, I don’t have time for this nonsense!”

Rajal Khan ignored his taunts and began moving his body along with the flow of energy that flowed within him. It appeared almost a dance that spun into an acrobatic flurry of activity as he spun his spear in concert with his body. It was not a dance though, but preparation for Rajal Khan’s most powerful Martial Skill. ‘Dragon’s dance of spears’.

As he spun his body he picked up speed until his form was no longer visible and in its place was a whirlwind of innumerable spears. Those spears in turn formed a serpent-like Dragon of light which spun and coiled its body rapidly, vibrating and pulsing.

The Shakiri did not move nor did he show any worry or concern, he only stood there, resolute like the dawn. As the Dragon of light swiftly drew closer, The Shakiri finally moved, lifting his enormous halberd and slamming the butt into the ground, smashing the earth beneath it and holding it in place. He slid his right foot backwards, dragging it across the ground snaking in a circle. He then dragged his foot down the center of the circle, creating two teardrop like symbols in the center.

He removed his halberd from the ground and stood still. He placed one foot in each teardrop within the circle and closed his eyes, holding the Halberd in front of his body with both hands. He began to spin the Halberd like a windmill and as it picked up speed, an immense pressure began to build around him. When he opened his eyes, they glowed brightly as energy built up in his core.

There was no need to yell, he whispered, “Life and Death, The End and the Beginning, Return all to nothing!”

His words ignited the power within him. It spread to the symbol he had drawn on the earth and an explosion of light spread towards the sky from the symbol. The Shakiri lifted his halberd and bathed it in the light that stretched towards the sky. He spun his halberd around in a circle, cutting the light at its roots and his halberd became imbued with the power of life and death, spirit magic.

At that moment the Dragon of Light was upon him and struck, attempting to pierce his heart. He swung his halberd in a wide arc, crashing it into the Dragon of Light, altering its course. It circled back around coming in for another strike but The Shakiri evaded, slashing the side of the Dragon, cutting a wide swathe along its surface. It wavered but continued to strike without fail and each time it was pushed back by the power imbued within the halberd.

Tiring of this game, the Shakiri pulled his halberd in an upwards motion, holding it in both hands and then slashed downwards with all his might, releasing the power within, “Return All to Nothing!”

The light that the halberd had absorbed shot out of the halberd and impacted with the Dragon of Light breaking it into a million pieces that scattered all across the battlefield like falling snow.

Rajal Khan, who had become one with the Dragon, was thrown from its core and crashed onto the Plains, defeated.

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