Lucia became a monster. Whenever she projects her qi outwards, chills run down my spine and I want to curl up into a little ball and cry. Her aura takes the form of a goat’s head with red eyes which many people associate with the devil. In fact, blood magicians have many spells that have a similar hazy red tinge to them, and their symbol is a devil’s head. I’ve seen pictures of them drawn in books, but there’s only been one blood magician who’s ever broken past the wall of the sixth circle. The empire has forbidden magicians from practicing blood magic because they require tons of sacrifice to advance.
I never realized the similarities between martial arts and magic until I met Lucia. She explained to me—after I bribed her with food—her attacks unnatural strength are powered by qi, and it circulates in nearly the exact same way as mana does. When she told me that, I went to my father’s library and did some reading on the subject. Qi is the energy of the world produced from the earth. Mana is the energy of the world produced from the sky. Researchers aren’t sure how either of the energies are produced or why the earth and sky would produce two different but functionally similar types of energy, but that’s just how it works. They did note something interesting though: a seventh-circle magician who has also practiced with qi has never been recorded. Even the Godking, also known as the Voidwalker, was stuck as a high-ranked spirit warrior and sixth-circle magician, but that brought him to the peak of the world at the time.
Maybe Lucia broke through to the level of divine warrior because she never used mana. It would make sense, seeing as every warrior learns at least simple spells like clean or barbeque. If qi and mana inhibit each other, it’s no wonder why warriors never breakthrough. …No wonder why this was a book exclusive to demons and forbidden from circulating to the human and fae kingdoms. Demons figured it out long ago, but only our nobility have profited from the information. That explains why my father never let me know about the existence of qi. I always thought warriors did basic strength training to fight beasts.
But anyways, back to Lucia. She’s been practicing her techniques in the training field of my father’s personal army, and she’s been challenging all the seventh-circle magicians to duels. They’ve been losing, miserably. But to be fair, they all train large, wide-area spells because that’s how armies work. And they’re not used to dueling at the seventh-circle level since my father prohibited it ever since that incident with a neighboring noble’s house. But really, I’m just making excuses for them; I didn’t realize how weak they were until now. The majority of them can’t react to Lucia’s speed, so once she closes in on them, it’s her guaranteed victory. One person tried to fly, but Lucia split the sky in half with a single swing of her sword and no one tried it again.
My father’s army doesn’t have any eighth-circle magicians employed; after all, an eighth-circle magician might as well be a noble. Why would they work under someone else? Instead, my father decided to duel against Lucia himself, which is why I’m sitting out here, under the hot sun, instead of relaxing in my room with a cold drink and exciting book. When will my father arrive for their duel? Lucia’s been moving across the field with strange footwork for over an hour now. I’ll admit, it’s a bit entrancing to watch—like some sort of devilish ritual.
“Sorry for the delay.” My father flew down from the sky and landed in the field while Lucia stopped her motions and drew her sword. “I caught a clue in one of the reports and had to dig deeper. Were you waiting long?”
“Nah,” Lucia said and shook her head. She smiled at him, showing her teeth. “What are the rules?”
“Don’t destroy my mansion, please,” my father said. “That’s it. Everything else is allowed. I don’t think you’ll be able to kill me, so give me your best shot.” He grinned. “I’ll take it easy on you.”
I knew my father was arrogant—it comes with being a duke—but I didn’t think he’d underestimate Lucia after all her victories. The first seventh-circle magician she dueled with said almost the same exact words. It’s been engrained in our culture, I guess. A warrior will never beat a magician of the same rank. And now that my father’s reached the ninth circle, he must be feeling invincible.
“Then I won’t be polite,” Lucia said as her eyes turned clear. The bloody aura rose up around her body, and I couldn’t help but shiver. Lucia took two steps forward and leapt towards my father as fast as a divine leopard could pounce.
“Earth: Wall of Diamonds!” my father shouted and raised one hand. A massive transparent dome rose up and engulfed him, protecting him from all directions.
Lucia’s blade clashed against the diamond wall. There was a booming sound followed by a yelp as Lucia bounced off and tumbled along the ground. “What the heck!?” Lucia shouted as she sat up.
“It doesn’t protect him from underneath!” I shouted. “Dig your hands into the ground and lift it up.” My father couldn’t hear me inside his dome, so he wouldn’t know I was helping Lucia. …Why was I helping Lucia? I shouted out of reflex. The soldiers nearby stared at me with strange expressions on their faces. Please stop.
“Water: Storm of Icicles!” Though my father couldn’t hear the outside world, his voice was still projected out of his dome. In a serious fight, a real magician wouldn’t let his enemies know what they were casting, but it seemed like my father was treating Lucia as someone to be tutored.
From the clear sky, hundreds of icicles rained down. The smallest were the size of my foot while the largest were easily taller than me. Lucia tapped on her socks and shouted, “Puppers, use human shield!”
I pity her sock spirit. I pity him a lot. After Puppers’ brave sacrifice, Lucia charged forwards, acting like she was going to cut the dome once again, but she dived towards the ground and slipped her hand under the protective layer. With a grunt, she lifted it with one hand and swung it downwards at my father like a club. This may be the first time in history that a magician’s earthen shield was wielded as a blunt weapon against himself. Apparently, my father wasn’t expecting it either because he stood there with a blank expression as it crashed down on him.
“Ah! He’s dead?” Lucia asked with wide eyes.
Some mist leaked out from underneath the dome. “It was an illusion, Lucia! Watch out!” I shouted. …Why am I doing that? Do I secretly resent my father for forcing me to suffer under Lucia and want him to suffer the same? That’s probably it. “Most magicians strike from above once they fool their opponent!”
“Am I your father or is Lucia your father?” my father’s voice shouted. As expected, he was in the air above Lucia.
“Sorry, Father. You’re just too strong; Lucia needs a handicap.” Yes, this is all for the sake of fairness. I’m a good person who forgets her grudges.
“Unrelenting Path of Slaughter: Breaking Blade!” A massive red line extended from Lucia towards the sky. She had stopped using her flying blade technique ever since her breaking blade technique got the long-ranged aspect added to it.
My father dodged to the side, narrowly avoiding the surge of qi. “Earth: Grasping—” His words cut short as he dodged again and again and again. …And again.
“Unrelenting Path of Slaughter: Storm of One Thousand Breaking Blades!” Lucia shouted out an absurdly long technique name as her arms turned into a blur. The sky turned red as blade strikes soared into the air. I bet my father wished he was a space magician to teleport out of that mess.
“Stop! Stop! I surrender!” my father shouted from above. It was a terrible idea for him to fly in the sky. He should’ve positioned himself in front of the mansion, so Lucia would feel guilty about launching a single Breaking Blade. And my father does have skills to counter Lucia’s storm of qi, but the spectators, me included, would’ve been implicated if he used them. It seemed like he was handicapped enough even without me aiding Lucia.
My father landed on the ground and gave Lucia a bitter smile. “Don’t you know how to do anything else?”
“Nope!” Lucia said. “If one slash doesn’t work, then I’ll do two. And if two don’t work, then three!” Now that I think about it, that’s always how Lucia fought divine beasts. Is it possible her skillset only involves Breaking Blade and Flying Blade? If only she had a teacher to guide her….