Skyfire Avenue, Chapter 417

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Chapter 417: The Dark Mage

Sariel’s face changed a little when she saw her opponent for the first time. She didn’t look happy. Of course the Pontiff’s men had dossiers on members of the Great Conclave, and Chu Cheng was no exception. She knew who he represented and had watched his fights. Sariel had faith in her abilities, but she also knew her limits. This would be a difficult fight.

In another arena not far away, another person Lan Jue was familiar with was preparing for battle. The Coffee Master was clad today in white trousers, a white shirt and coffee-colored trouser straps. His opponent was an ominous looking old man who looked to be fifty or sixty years old. The rules were quite strict about age restrictions, but even then the Coffee Master wasn’t sure this man didn’t cheat his way in.

He bore a dark scepter in his hands that was capped by a midnight blue gemstone. A faint light surrounded it.

The instant the buzzer sounded the craggy old fighter lifted that scepter in to the air. He called out a litany in a strange and monstrous voice. It was like nails scraping the inside of one’s skull, and the words resonated over and over. Each poison syllable saw an orb of blackish-green energy belch from the stave and race toward the Coffee Master.

“Dark magic!” the Coffee Master picked out his opponent’s powers right away. The story was that Adepts with supernatural powers like this sold their souls to powerful demons in exchange. In fact, even the Dark Citadel was reticent to deal with these sorts – they felt their foray in to necromancy was filthy.

The revelation also explained his strange appearance. For these Adepts powers were earned through sacrifice – of both their body and soul. The ultimate goal was immortality in the form of an immortal Lich.

Contemporary knowledge recognized Liches as their term for Paragons. If any existed at all, however, they kept themselves well hidden. The moment a Lich revealed itself, every one of the remaining Paragons would make it their mission to hunt them down.

Liches were the embodiment of destruction and death. Anywhere they went, they left a trail of desolation. Pestilence, disease, and all other manner of curses were inevitable when they appeared. So it was that the presence of a Lich became a problem for all humanity.

This one wasn’t a Lich, likely still a ways from it based on cursory judgement. However, he was a representative of the Dark Citadel. It meant he was quite powerful indeed.

The Coffee Master couldn’t afford to be careless. His first reaction was to launch himself in to the air and tear like a missile toward his foe. Graceful and elegant off the field, once the fight started the Coffee Master was like a wild animal.

However one of the black-green orbs caught him en route. Immediately he could feel the strength leeching out of him.

Curse of Weakness! The attacks of these mages afflicted one’s spirit, stemming from black occult powers. The Coffee Master had a fair amount of battle experience, but his real expertise lie in mecha combat. It was widely accepted that when it came to one on one Discipline battles, only the Accountant was worse than the Coffee Master.

The fact that he’d made it here to the fourth round spoke volumes to his luck, especially considering his lower rank in ninth level. It looked like all that luck was about to run out.

The Coffee Master bit firmly down on his tongue. The pain sharpened his mind enough for him to descend and land of his feet. When he straightened his body had begun to swell. His shirt ripped, his pants tore, and the skin beneath was thick with corded muscle.

On the VIP platform the Gourmet watched with a slight frown. Must he always go straight for this madness, the Gourmet silently chided.

The Coffee Master, of course, was not mad. His Discipline was called Berserker. It’s function was to rapidly and tremendously increase his musculature. So, even though the Coffee Master wasn’t as strong in a duel as other fighters, you would be hard pressed to find someone who could take more punishment.

The violent change dispelled the weakening curse. In the blink of an eye the Coffee Master was a few steps in front of the mage with his enormous meaty fist flailing through the air.

The elderly necromancer never moved. His dark eyes like vipers simply watched him come.

He moved the scepter, just the slightest bit. A dark light sprang up around the wild Avenue Adept before we went running off to the side. He’d completely lost control of his body.

Curse of Confusion! It was a high order necromancy ability, specifically suited in combat against a close-ranged fighter like the Coffee Master.

Wordlessly he cursed his situation – he didn’t know how to proceed. His Discipline instantly shot all aspects of his physicality in to the stratosphere; strength, endurance, energy – everything was greatly empowered. At the ninth level he was even stronger than most mech suits. Of course for everything there was a counter. For ones such as him who relied on close combat and strength, a mage steeped in battlefield control was a true nightmare.

The Coffee Master knew enough to know when he was in trouble. This would be payback for his former good luck. Statistics demanded that he would come across a true challenge eventually.

The Confusion Curse forced him to race far from his target. All the while the old man stood unmoving from his spot. The incantations ceaselessly filled the air with unsettling calls. As the audience held their ears and watched a pale purple aura pulsed wildly out from his scepter.

A single beam of toxic light shot out from the necromancer’s gem toward the Coffee Master. The light itself appeared unremarkable, but it was often the innocuous that were most dangerous. The audience couldn’t feel the soul-devouring energy hidden in the depths of that light, but the all-pervasive sense of dread that swallowed them up stopped the breath in their throats.

Death Ray! The strongest and most terrible necromantic curse!

The Coffee Master, under the effects of the curse, couldn’t avoid the inevitable. The beam struck, and where it landed a rippling violet light spread out. He collapsed upon himself, like a corpse.

The body lurched. It shook and rocked, and a disgusting rip sounded around the arena. The Coffee Master pulled himself out from underneath layers of dead muscle with gasping breaths. “I concede!”

The mage was clearly stunned at this last-minute revelation. The Coffee Master had saved himself by hardening and shedding a shield of muscle. Having won victory, he ceased his dark curses.

As for the Coffee Master, he cast a hard glare toward his foe then stepped out of the arena. This was a competition and not a life or death struggle. He only came here do well enough to save face, and he had. The rewards he would be bringing home were also a nice parting gift.

Their fight had been fast. By contrast, the fight between Chu Cheng and the Angel of the Moon was just getting started.

Fierce columns of fire belched within the arena, although Chu Cheng himself appeared especially calm. Roaring flares of pitch black flame continuously raced toward Sariel.

The young woman had always been beautiful, but with her wings spread wide and bathed in holy light, she was a vision of heart-aching purity. The light was silvery and ethereal, giving illumination to the origin of her name. Overhead its source was spied to be a crescent moon suspended in the air a few meters above her head. The beautiful light had a purpose, to strengthen her coming onslaught.

Like the other Seraphs, Sariel’s weapon was the congealed energy of holy light. It’s piercing white light beamed outward to cut the flaming attacks away. The holy light shone fiercely against the hellish fires of Chu Cheng’s assault. This was a battle of dogma, diametrically opposed beliefs.

On the outside it looked as though they were neck and neck. Neither could break the stalemate. However, keener observers and especially Sariel understood the tactic. Consume energy.

Chu Cheng was seventh degree, and herself sixth – a difference of a single rank. Still she couldn’t sustain against the full strength of Chu Cheng’s offense. The tack he took now was a guarded opening move. His violent and expansive display seemed silly in a battle of staying power but the idea was to leave nowhere for Sariel to turn.

She didn’t puzzle out his other objective, however, which was one he’d cooked up after Lan Jue’s warning. Let her stay a while and win with dignity.

But how could this pity be something Sariel could approve of?

A glimmering crescent moon emerged between her eyebrows. Her six majesty wings beat in unison to send her soaring back several meters. The space she vacated was immediately consumed in hellfire, which burned and roared after her like a hellish serpent. She brought the blazing sword high overhead, a ringing prayer simultaneously cast from her lips.

Her melodious prayer rang through the arena like a church choir. The rousing devotion set the holy light around her ablaze and a great pulses of energy beat back the waves of black fire.

The moon suspended overhead grew and grew until it was a full moon. The white light blazed with the power of a sun and flooded her with intensity, so fierce in fact that the white burned away to shimmering silver. Under the sudden and sensational increase in power, Chu Cheng’s hellfire was beaten back.

The Hades successor looked on in shock. This was a last stand – what was she doing?!

In the audience Metatron ever so slightly nodded his head. On paper Sariel was among the weaker Archangels. She was of few words, almost timid. But Metatron knew there was much more to her than that.


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