The night quickly passed and day came sooner than expected.
I opened my eyes and woke from a pleasant dream. Fayde was next to me, as he always was since we became engaged. Sleeping was much more pleasant when I could sleep next to him. He hadn’t woken yet and Allein was still sleeping on the other side of him.
The ground on which the tent had been set up was covered by rugs of various lengths, cushions, and hides so that people could sit, sleep or eat without having to lay on bare ground. Their beds were a type of cot with thick fur cushioning and were not proper beds. These cots could be pushed together and so the three of them slept side by side.
I sometimes would wake up earlier than Fayde and I would watch him sleep peacefully for a short time. I never thought the day would come that I would marry a Human. I didn’t have the time to watch him sleep today, though. I had to prepare myself for the duel with my uncle.
The fight with my uncle would be tough so I wanted to warm up and prepare beforehand. I have confidence in my strength and even if I somehow lost the ability to use magic like my father, I could still fight. That was the difference between my father and I. As long as I had my sword, I would be fine. There was also the discussion I had with Fayde last night which filled me with confidence.
I left the tent and was welcomed by the warm and sunny weather of the Plains. There were other Foxkin moving about doing a number of chores. Our camp was small compared to the rest of the Foxkin tribe but it was very lively. It didn’t have the scent or look of defeat. I couldn’t help but feel pride towards my tribe for overcoming many hardships and to be able to be so strong. It gave me strength.
Some of my fellow tribesman stopped to watch me practice my sword forms and they cheered me on. Their hopes were riding on me. If I won, they would no longer be exiles. This was a momentous occasion for all of us. I did my best to focus while practicing my techniques. Before long I had worked up a good sweat and decided to take a rest. I was wiping the sweat off of my body with a towel when I heard someone calling to me.
“Reia!” Tris called out to me as she approached with a young Foxkin woman walking by her side. I didn’t recognize the Foxkin woman but she was most likely around the same age as me.
“Hi Tris, who is this with you?” I was eyeing her warily while wiping my body with a cloth.
“It’s been a long time Reia. When I heard you had returned, I couldn’t wait to see you. I am Felis, your cousin. You had to leave when you were so young so of course I don’t expect you to remember me.” She said sweetly.
“Yes, I was a mere two years old when we were exiled.” I said, struggling to hide my anger.
“I know….. I know there is nothing I can say, but I wanted to see you again after I heard you had returned and I wanted to apologize.” Felis suddenly began to tear up as she spoke.
“Why don’t I leave you two to catch up? I hope it’s okay that I brought her over here. When she told me she was your cousin and that she wanted to talk, I had the guards let her in after checking her for any hidden weapons. I escorted her here just in case.”
Reia eyed Tris suspiciously for a brief second, but quickly turned away. She didn’t want Tris to notice her suspicion. It seems that Fayde was right after all….
“It’s alright, I will listen to what she has to say.” I said.
Tris nodded and walked a short distance away to give us some space to talk.
“I was young when my father became Khan and you were exiled. I didn’t really understand what happened or why you were sent away. I learned later when I got older. What was done to you and Uncle was wrong. My father didn’t have to exile your tribe.”
Her words sounded sincere to me, but I knew it was all an act. Even if she was telling the truth, this wasn’t something that could so easily be forgiven.
Felis had tears freely flowing and she got down on her knees and prostrated herself, asking for forgiveness. She was only a toddler when it happened and it was her father who had committed the offense, so it wasn’t as if I believed it was her fault. However, I couldn’t so easily believe her words even if I wanted to. Nonetheless, it bothered me to see her act like this.
“Please, stop, there is no need for you to go that far. You were not the one to blame for what your father did.”
I helped her stand up, although she resisted at first. She was slightly unsteady and I let her use my shoulder for support until she could regain her balance. A strange feeling came over me for a brief moment and then it was gone.
What was that? I thought to myself. It lasted less than a second and if I hadn’t already been on guard, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it.
“What’s wrong Reia? You suddenly became tense.” Felis said while giving me an innocent look.
“Nothing….” I replied while steadying myself.
Felis took a step back and bowed to me, her tears had stopped and she wiped her eyes.
“I should get back now… I don’t want my father to know that I came here. I truly am sorry!”
After apologizing once more, she ran off back to her own camp.
I woke up with a deep yawn. Why is waking up always so tiring? Reia was already gone and Allein was fussing around on the verge of waking. I had slept a little too much considering the seriousness of the day’s events.
I walked outside the tent, greeting the Foxkin tribe members I saw. Many of them were already busy with their daily chores.
“I see you woke up early today, nervous?”
I noticed Reia was finishing up wiping herself with a wet cloth and was heading there myself.
“I’m not nervous, I just wanted to practice before the fight.”
She looked uncomfortable so I wasn’t sure how truthful she was being.
“Don’t worry, we are all behind you, no matter what happens.” I said while giving her a wink.
It wasn’t clear how much of a relief my words would be to her, but I said them with sincerity.
“I won’t lose.” Her words were firm and her conviction shone through.
“Oh, and Fayde…. You were right.” Reia whispered to me..
To her words, I nodded and rested my arm on her for a moment to reassure her. Looks like they made their move.
She took a step back and threw a wet cloth at me before walking towards our tent. I chuckled at that and watched her until she left my sight.
The rest of the morning was uneventful. We had our meals, stretched, practiced and I spent some time playing a game similar to chess with Shar. I was having trouble beating him but I was improving. It wouldn’t be long until I could truly pose a challenge to him!
In the afternoon, a Foxkin messenger arrived informing us that it was time for the match. A battle area had been prepared just outside the camp and the entire tribe was present. It was a huge crowd, almost four thousand Fox-kin were forming a circle around a large open area.
Considerable room was given the two competing warriors because of the use of magic. They wanted to avoid casualties and also set up a perimeter of Foxkin magic casters who could shield against any stray magic attacks.
I was front in center so that I could get a clear view of the match.
“Tris, I am going to have you and the other warriors of my tribe circle around the crowd. If you spot any foul play, report to me immediately, okay?”
It was a large crowd and I knew it would be difficult to spot anything but I had to take whatever precautions I could. There were also other reasons for sending out Tris to watch over the crowd.
“Got it! I will keep my eyes open! I will try to coordinate as best I can with the Foxkin warriors.”
Well, at least she appeared enthusiastic about it.
“Be careful, they don’t like humans very much”
“They won’t even know I’m there!”
Tris most likely didn’t think it would be difficult to remain unnoticed with all the Foxkin’s eyes on the fight.
She left after that along with the other Foxkin.
“Aylil, if you sense anything with your divination magic, let me know okay?”
I looked down at the cute little Foxkin girl who I brought with me. She nodded firmly and had a cute look of determination on her face.
“You seem worried Fayde.”
Reia’s father was also beside me.
“Of course father-in-law, this is a momentous occasion. It is only natural that I do what I can for your daughter’s sake.”
The old chief nodded his understanding.
“When he challenged me, there was nothing out of the ordinary. The day before our match, we even shook hands. My brother told me that he had nothing personally against me. Of course I knew it was a lie, but I still had hope that he would reconsider his actions. When we fought, my magic was gone. If only….” The old chief was hesitant with his words.
He had loved his brother despite his brother’s treacherous nature. It seems he had hoped that his brother would come to his senses, but instead his brother had used some unknown means to win.
“It was way too convenient for you to suddenly lose your magic after meeting your brother the day before your match.” As I said that, the crowd had suddenly quieted down to a slight murmur.
The other fox chieftains had made their way to the center of the battlefield and were giving their blessings for the match.
After the blessings, they gave a speech amplified by illusion magic about tradition and some other nonsense. I wasn’t paying much attention to it, instead busily watching the crowd and Reia. After they finished their speech, they left the battlefield. The Khan and Reia were now staring each other down from across the battlefield.
Khan Liran was wearing a thick hide armor most likely crafted from one of the powerful monsters on the Plains. His weapon of choice seemed to be an axe. I was surprised to see that the axe was an iron one. He had no other weapons visible and the axe didn’t appear to have any magical properties. It lacked the kind of glow that a magical weapon would give off.
The battle soon began with the Khan and Reia both chanting. They both planned to begin the battle with magic. The difference in their ability seemed apparent right at the start. Khan Liran was chanting while standing still but Reia was running towards the Khan while chanting to close the distance. This required a certain level of mastery that the Khan did not have.
There’s always the chance that he can and is just using deception, I thought to myself.
Khan Liran finished his chant and threw several ‘Flame Arrows’ which quickly sped towards Reia. Reia finished her chant at almost the same time, but hers appeared to be a type of body modification.
Ah, speed enhancement! Good choice. She was able to deftly avoid the ‘Flame Arrow’ attack through her enhanced speed. She was most likely the only Foxkin capable of fighting this way. While she wasn’t at a master rank of ability with magic, her skill with magic was much more diverse than other Foxkin.
Her opponent didn’t remain still, though, and had already almost completed a second chant. He reached down and touched the ground while finishing the chant.
The ground beneath Reia’s feet erupted causing her to lose her footing. She was thrown into the air but it didn’t seem to disrupt her chanting. She released large ‘’Ice Shards’ that rained down on her uncle from above while using a displaced rock to propel herself to safety. She had taken some slight damage from the attack but nothing to be concerned with.
From the safety of the audience, I cheered Reia on wholeheartedly.
Her uncle was busy preparing a counter to her ‘Ice Shards’. He had used some type of earth shield and was able to deflect most of the shards of ice, but was grazed by a few. They both had already begun chanting new spells to throw at each other. The battle was pretty evenly matched and most of the Foxkin were watching excitedly while cheering the Khan on, but our tribe was doing its best to be heard as well.
They each fired off a few more magic attacks at each other while doing their best to defend but with Reia’s increased speed enhancement still in effect, she was steadily getting closer to her uncle. Her strategy was to decide the battle at close range where she would have the greatest advantage.
She had yet to unsheathe her sword, she didn’t want her uncle to know that her sword was a magic weapon. Instead she focused on casting magical attacks and defense in order to lull her uncle into a false sense of security. When the right moment came, she would unsheathe her blade and end the battle quickly using her magical weapon.
Her uncle continued to force her to keep her distance with sustained magic attacks. If she got too close, he would attack with a blast of wind to push her back. He was also proficient in Earth elemental magic and kept putting up walls in her way which slowed her down. He also kept trying to trip her up with root type spells which were a nuisance and difficult to avoid.
This didn’t mean she had stopped her offensive, she was constantly bombarding him with ‘Flame Arrows’ and ‘Ice Shards’. Her attacks were definitely weighing on him and his defenses were beginning to crumble. She began to summon her magical power while chanting in order for one final magic attack before she could close the distance. When she had finished her chant, her magical power suddenly dropped and she lost her concentration.
Reia had never experienced her magic suddenly failing like this. She appeared confused for a moment and Khan Liran blew her back with a powerful gale, sending her flying.
Noticing the state she was in, he began to chuckle, “It’s about time, now to finish this.”
Reia struggled to rise to her feet. She hadn’t taken much damage but she had been unbalanced by the gale. She tried gathering her magical power but nothing came to her, it was as if she had no magical power to speak of. With a hint of concern, she looked warily at her uncle and noticed a wicked grin on her uncle’s face.