"So it's true." Nalear laughed maniacally, giving Linjos the creeps.
"A Headmaster is like a god inside their own academy. Sorry to break it for you, dear Linjos." Nalear took out from her pocket a magic crystal so finely chiseled it resembled a diamond. Each facet had a rune of power engraved on it.
"That's a power core unit. Where did you take it from?" Linjos was horrified by the implications the gem had.
"There are no gods in this world!" She ignored him, breaking the gem and causing the power core to temporarily shut down, bringing all the arrays offline at the same time.
Ever since the sabotage of the dimensional magic training hall, Linjos knew that something was wrong with the power core of the academy. That was why even when there was a desperate demand of Ballots, he couldn't allow having more produced.
Usually, the academy's Forgemasters would be granted access to the power core for several reasons. To create items linked to the power core, like the staff rings or the Ballots, for the maintenance of the array departing from it, or of the power core itself.
After the sabotage, Linjos had blocked the access to the academy's heart, adding such duty to everything he already did as Headmaster. The effort drained his mind and body, causing his premature aging.
Yet he did it anyway, for the students and for the future of the Kingdom he believed in.
'As soon as the crisis is resolved, I'll have the time to rest.' Linjos repeated to himself over the months.
All that pain, all those sacrifices, were for naught.
Nalear had already made Wanemyre tamper with the power core enough to create a power core unit. Despite its insane complexity, it was a pale imitation of the Headmaster ring, but with only one function.
Nalear unleashed a new wave of spells against the Headmaster. She had to be quick and kill him before the power core activated again.
Cursing his bad luck, Linjos could only Blink away to safety. The whole situation was a nightmare. He couldn't understand how Nalear managed to silently cast one spell after the other, without giving him any time to fight back.
Nalear too was cursing her bad luck. Her original plan was to lure Linjos away from his office and backstab him. Nalear would have framed Wanemyre for the murder thanks to the Ballot she carried with herself.
With the Headmaster dead, her little lambs would have the opportunity to butcher all the students of commoner origins or those from new magical bloodlines. It would make it appear as even after Balkor there was still a radical faction among the ancient noble households not willing to back down.
Her hope was that the massacre would reopen the divide between social classes and trigger the civil war. After all, Wanemyre and the lambs all came from influential families. The surviving students would be found in possession of slave items they brought themselves inside the academy.
All the evidence would lead to Archmage Lukart and his allies, there was nothing left indicating Nalear's involvement. Especially after she would have made sure Wanemyre and the few little lambs that worked with her died in the ensuing fight to save the academy.
A head on fight was something she wanted to avoid. The Headmaster robe was a masterpiece. It not only offered great protection from physical and magical damage, but also constantly boosted Linjos like potions would, making him immune to spirit magic.
Not to mention Linjos was one of the best young mages of the Kingdom.
The Headmaster didn't mindlessly Blink. The spell was too expensive to use it recklessly. He used it to keep his distance and reach hidden stashes in his office.
'Whatever she is doing, it's a game two can play.' Linjos unleashed a barrage of ice, fire, and lightning generated by alchemical tools. Just like true magic, they had no cast time. Nalear cursed, she was forced on the defense after barely three exchanges.
Each one of them was at the peak of tier three spells in terms of power and there were so many that not even an Awakened one wearing a Professor robe could tank them without risking their life.
Thanks to the defensive spells she had ready at hand, Nalear avoided the brunt of the damage, but Wanemyre wasn't so lucky. Even with the protection from her magical items, she was slammed against the wall and on the verge of unconsciousness.
To make things even worse, the smoke the spells generated engulfed the whole room, making them all blind. Or so Linjos thought.
Nalear activated Life Vision, making the figure of the Headmaster appear as clear as the day. She could see him casting an unknown spell.
"Just like Lith, you are making my life easy with your stupid moves." Nalear's voice was stone cold.
Her hands emitted a pillar of fire. It was her personal spell, tier five Searing Gale. It was a mix of air and fire magic, generating a small sized tornado of a temperature capable of melting stone.
Its tip rotated at high speed, making it capable of drilling through every defense she had ever met in battle. Even if the victim somehow survived, the lightning bolts hidden inside the vortex would fry or at least temporarily incapacitate the victim.
The spell struck Linjos's chest with surgical precision, yet the Headmaster didn't flinch. Searing Gale was being sucked in by a Warp Steps in front of him and unleashed on Wanemyre's right arm, turning it into cinder.
The shock from the pain of the amputation almost killed her. Only her Professor robe and the items she had Forgemastered for herself saved her life.
Linjos didn't mean to slay Wanemyre, only to incapacitate her. Alas, he had no idea what spell Nalear would cast next. The only thing he could do was to make sure that Wanemyre wouldn't be struck anywhere vital. He chose the right arm because a mage without their hands or voice was usually helpless.
Nalear cursed again, dispersing the smoke with air magic since it clearly was of no advantage to her. The room cleared, revealing Linjos wearing some kind of odd looking glasses while holding what seemed to be a steel tube.
"Hello there, young miss." Linjos's words were followed by a series of sonic blasts coming from the tube. Nalear found herself kneeling while holding her ears. The sonic booms were making her bleed from the eyes, nostrils, and ears.
They also shattered her eardrums and balance alike.
'Damn Forgemasters! Damn them and their creations!' Nalear knew how dangerous a Forgemaster with a dimensional amulet was. It was the reason she brought Wanemyre along. They were walking armouries and Wanemyre was supposed to be as good as the Headmaster.
Linjos was even younger than her, yet he had left his fellow Forgemaster no time to act. Linjos fired his weapon over and over again, until he was sure Nalear was in no condition to fight back.
He took out from his dimensional amulet a rope that bound Wanemyre by itself and another for Nalear.
"You have much to explain. I'm sure Lady Ernas will be able to learn from you everything we need to save the country."
Alas, Linjos didn't know that the only thing that Nalear needed to recover was to breathe. He had stopped his attack thinking that even if she had the means to heal such extensive wounds, exhaustion would have been the death of her.
Yet thanks to Invigoration, with every breath her body healed. With every breath, her strength returned.