chapter twelve | first fight | waterfall

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I drew out my sword which I hid in my umbrella as Lyra pulled out her twin guns. I haven't really learned any spells yet- What was I supposed to do?

"Think of this as training!" Sienna repeated.

The girl leapt towards me, dagger in hand. I impulsively held out my long sword. Both metal weapons clashed against each other, sounding like nails on a blackboard.

Neither side seemed to overpower the other. It looked like our physical strength was equal. Noticing this, she redrew her dagger and stumbled back.

"Dragon's breath!" Behind her, a blue fog appeared and took the form of an icy blue dragon. With its snake-like body, it charged towards us, catching us in its mist. I could feel my manna depleting significantly. This must have been why she launched her attack.

I could barely feel my hands- They seemed to slowly become frozen.

But could I still cast a spell? I placed both of my palms on top of each other in front of me. It took me more energy than expected as the motion opposed the strong wind.

"Impedimentum!" I hollered. Just in front of my hands, and translucent bluish barrier materialised around Lyra and me. The wind's impact against us immediately decreased. The dragon dispersed and so did my shield.

With a yell, the girl lunged towards Lyra with her dagger. The Earth mage's eyes widened, unprepared for the attack. Before the dagger could deal any damage, I intervened. Pushing Lyra back, I roundhouse kicked our attacker at the back of her skull, sending her straight onto the ground with a thud.

"Use Akuma!" called out Lana.

I whipped my head towards her voice. "I don't kn-!" Arael's daughter grabbed the opportunity of my distraction to attack us.

"Icy tail!" She teleported behind us, summoning a whip that resembled a dragon's tail. The tail extended towards us, the impact it sent throwing us back. Just before we hit the ground, I felt Lyra and I fall onto a soft surface.

Looking back to see what caught us, I realised that we landed on a giant leaf. Lyra must have conjured it up. The girl appeared behind us once again with her dagger, ready to slice Lyra's arm.

There was a glimmer of guilt and hesitance in her eyes.

She let down her guard for a second.

A wall of vines pierced through the ground, separating her from us, only her dagger sticking through a gap. I heard Akuma unsuccessfully stifling a snicker. Rolling my eyes, I advanced towards her and snatched her weapon.

"Fortitudo," said Lyra. I felt like manna and energy were flowing in my veins. I cast a Water Slicer spell against the girl once the vines returned back into the ground, depleting her manna by a large amount. She dropped to the floor on her knees and looked down weakly.

"I guess you won," she muttered. "...Destroy my jewel."

I approached her. "I saw that guilt in your eyes. I know you don't want to fight. Were you forced by Arael?" I questioned.

"...Yes..."

"You always have other options... You don't have to be with Arael..." said Lyra.

"But he saved me," she replied.

"He saved you so he could use you," Akuma said, crossing her arms.

The girl placed her hand over the jewel, like how Leon did to his one.

Ice crawled over the jewel's surface to its core. And then it shattered. However, unlike the other opponents we faced so far, she didn't turn to dust. She just remained there.

"What-" I was caught off guard when the raven-haired girl stumbled up and disappeared.

All of us exchanged confused looks.

"What was that all about?" Reaper asked. "She didn't turn to dust like the others we fought."

Maintaining her rigid posture, Hikari spoke. "I don't think she's like them."

Meanwhile, I picked the last two keys back up. "At least we have all the keys now though," I said. I examined them.

The blue water key's bow was separated into eight parts, each resembling a water jet from a fountain. In the middle were four tiny square crystals forming the shape of a diamond. On its tip was what seemed like a solid water droplet. I pocketed it.

I looked at the earth key. Decorating the top was a firm golden-brown wire in the shape of a flower, two red roses dotting on the surface. Another golden wire shaped like a leaf was placed on its shank with a few green jewels. Tied on the tip was a simple silver rose.

"Make sure to hold on to it," I told Lyra. She smiled and nodded.

Now, how was Arael going to react?

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