XIX: Battle Two

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Nalin eyed the opening across the way, where his next opponent would walk out of. Pins and needles seemed to be stabbing into every pore of his body the louder the audience got. 

He glanced up at the podium closest to the farthest wall and spotted Emperor Lionel along with the other Keepers. Nalin then peeked up at the spot Sir Lulche had claimed and saw him there waiting patiently. All of their attention was fixed on the rowdy crowd filling up the seats, their demeanor impassive and outwardly cold and aloof.

Nalin switched his gaze to the path in front of him before he could be caught staring and silently waited with his head still bowed. He didn't know why he was nervous like so; the feeling of apprehension was rising in his chest, making it harder for him to breathe. He gave a heavy exhale and squeezed his eyes closed in the motion of a slow blink.

Something was going to happen and he didn't know whether to trust his instincts or ignore them.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," the announcer began, his voice seeming to overpower the extremity that was the audience. Nalin's heart jumped to his throat.

"Welcome Nalimor, pupil to Miss Calyx of House Clarity!" the arena rumbled from the resounding bellows of the crowd.

"And on this side, welcome Robin, pupil to Sir Alpine of House Fiery!"

Nalin's stomach turned at the sound of the name, and when he looked up, he met the sharp gaze of his opponent.

"The fight may begin!"

Nalin stumbled back when Robin snapped his fingers. Instantly, Nalin felt walls of white fire encase from both sides and behind him, leaving the front open for him to be attacked. Robin came in fast and Nalin threw up his arms to block the flying kick, planting his feet to the ground so that he wouldn't fly back into the wall of fire. Nalin blocked a side kick that was directed to the side of his head and threw his arm up when Robin spun to deliver a back-axe kick. 

He went fast to punch Nalin's throat when the smaller boy dropped low to sweep Robin off his feet. Robin saw it coming and jumped over his leg. The two boy's faced each other once again.

This guy was different from the rest. Obviously he was on a whole other level; it made Nalin uneasy and excited with anticipation. Robin brought his hands together in a clapping motion and the walls of white fire began to close on all sides, shrouding Nalin in a small space of darkness and muffling the crowd's cries. Nalin weaved his arms around and a floor of white magic took on his body weight, shielding him to where he sat in the fetal position. 

He worked as fast as he could to get the sphere of magic to encircle his entire body. As soon as the fire met the shield, the thin surface of the protection he'd woven began to steam.

It won't hold!

Nalin began to panic when he realized that there was no way out and that it was quickly getting harder to breathe. Sweat ran down the side of his face. It was either he stay still and wait for his shield to break, or he risked pushing against the fire in hopes of breaking through. Nalin weaved his hands once more, adding another layer of magic to the shield. There was some resistance and once Robin somehow found out what Nalin was trying to do, he seemed to have added another layer to the fire.

Nalin couldn't breathe. There wasn't any more oxygen he could gain access to. He was going to lose. 

Wait.

With a new sense of hope, Nalin aimed his palms below him and gently released a trail of black magic that spread around every surface of water like a thin sheet, careful not to break the already stressed shield. It ate away at the white magic, starved, and dark spots began to tinge Nalin's vision. Running low on time, he quickened the steady flow and almost immediately, light shined through the open spots that began to appear. 

Before anyone would have a chance to see the black magic within his shield, he willed them to disappear, bracing for the impact.

White fire made direct contact with the skin of his right arm for just a second before everything shattered around him. His body dropped to the warm concrete and he sputtered, his lungs desperately sucking in the fresh oxygen. Nalin's head spun as his senses returned all at once. 

The uproar of the audience was a great distraction, but the sudden rays of bright light blinded the boy completely. He hissed in pain and hit the ground with his fist, rolling onto his stomach to shield his face. His skin prickled, and without much thought, Nalin involuntarily hurried to his feet. He huffed as he searched for Robin through the white spots that hindered his vision.

A dark form was approaching and he stumbled backwards. Robin grabbed Nalin from underneath his chin and yanked the boy up to his eye level. Copper hair was thrown about the top of his head in a mess of gnarled curls, the rest buzzed short into an undercut that drew Nalin's eyes to the white markings that disappeared underneath the black scarf that rested snug at his neck. Robin towered over Nalin, eyes dark and mischievous.

"Sorry for this."

Nalin wheezed, forcing his fingers underneath his opponent's grasp. It did absolutely nothing but add more pressure to his neck. His vision went black and with absolute fear, Nalin wondered if his eyeballs had popped out of their sockets from the pressure.

He twisted with all his might, kicking off of Robin as he screamed through the pain. Robin's nails ripped through the skin of Nalin's throat as the smaller boy forced himself out of his opponent's death grip, stumbling back onto his feet. 

Nalin held his throbbing neck, the warm trails of blood streaming through his fingers.

Before Robin could gather himself, Nalin threw a punch with all his might and nailed him in the jaw. While he stumbled over himself, Nalin pushed forward and threw a kick in frustrated anger. Robin managed to catch his leg mid-air and Nalin immediately lost his balance, letting his scorched arm take the impact of the ground.

Nalin howled in pain and moved to kick the inside of Robin's ankle with the heel of his foot, to which he quickly evaded by releasing his leg. Nalin promptly crawled away and got back up to his feet, staggering backwards when Robin suddenly slammed into him with his shoulder. Nalin's jaw locked and he bit his tongue hard, filling his mouth with the metallic taste of blood.

Nalin straightened his stance just as the sudden blur rushed at him. Robin threw fast jabs to the face and Nalin kept his feet light on the ground as he dodged each one. Seeing an opening, he instantly took it and delivered a sliding side kick into his abdomen. Robin took the hit, much to Nalin's astonishment, and returned the attack by punching him in the side.

Nalin doubled over and choked on his breath, tears welling up in his eyes.

A snarl rose in his chest and Nalin suddenly slammed his body into Robin, forcing him back a few steps. Robin didn't remove his fist; instead, he dug his fingers into the bandages and twisted, bringing Nalin to one knee. The halfbreed's screams seemed to resonate over the cheers of the audience, who seemed to bathe in the joy of the boy's pain.

They enjoyed seeing the demon suffer.

Something flashed behind Nalin's eyes and he gasped.

She enjoyed seeing his pain.

It was a thought that flickered in his consciousness. A past memory? He did not know what it was and what had elicited it.

Nalin was rocked into a world of pain and white hot anger.

That was when everything seemed to slow to a stop right then.

Something small and minuscule twisted in the deepest and darkest depths of Nalin's mind, winding itself within the center of his brain to where he could not reach in and rip it out. The darkness swept out from Nalin's shadow, massive and relentless as it engulfed everything in its path.

Screams filled the arena and Nalin blacked out a moment later.

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