Valesa Nalear had gained the upper hand, yet she couldn't stop cursing her eternal bad luck. Lith had yet to die, she had no idea if her plot against Constable Ernas succeeded, and it was only a matter of time before the academy's power core rebooted.
When that happened, the Warp Gates leading to the White Griffon would open again, allowing the royal forces to restore order. Nalear needed to make sure that by then the stage was perfect. Not a single detail could be overlooked or her death would be as slow as agonizing.
She was way behind schedule and the time at her disposal was quickly running out. Blinking consumed a lot of mana, but it was nothing compared to Final Sunset. She had already used Invigoration a lot of times.
To heal from the poison, from the damage she had exchanged with Lith, and lastly from Farg. She needed to eat and rest soon, otherwise she was bound to collapse. The raw amount of mana she was handling put a heavy burden on her body.
Lith was in her same boat, but his situation was even worse. His body had still to fully recover after he consumed so much life force to save Protector. To make things worse, he had spent the last night being tortured and his core was weaker than Nalear's to begin with.
Lith timed his Blinks with extreme precision, leaving behind darkness blasts whenever Nalear closed in. Another weak spot of her tactic that he had found, was that Blink's dimensional door would always appear very close to the mage.
It meant that a huge part of the sphere Final Sunset created was temporarily cut off until the spell reformed it. By leaving his spells near Nalear's exit points, Lith was sure he was chipping her strength bit by bit.
Even with Solus's help, it was still a mammoth task.
'Damn, if it keeps up like this I'm bound to lose. She knows even true dimensional magic, so while she can use Invigoration, I'm forced to keep moving to avoid getting incinerated and prepping my traps. Any idea, Solus?'
'None.' She snarled. 'We can't leave the sword in front of the exit point. She always keeps a fire spike in front of her before Blinking. The sword would be thrown away and I would take heavy damage.'
Lith nodded. He preferred to attempt to escape rather than putting Solus's life to risk.
'I can't believe there is only us fighting. Where is everyone?' For the first time since he started the academy, Lith wished for his companions to be by his side.
He needed only an opening to turn tables, but until he was alone, Nalear could focus on him. She was doing a damn fine job getting closer and closer. In a corner of his mind, Lith was afraid he had failed to prevent the vision from coming true.
Another exit point appeared in front of him. Lith was about to leave another Darkness bomb when Solus warned him.
'Behind you!' Thanks to being temporarily fused, he could actually use all of Solus's senses as his own. The warning was unnecessary, she did it only out of habit. A second exit point was forming at his back almost at the same time. Lith had no idea which was the real one.
If he picked the wrong direction to Blink, it would have been like throwing himself in the maws of the beast.
Darkness imbued flames came out from both dimensional doors at the same time, engulfing both ends of the corridors without leaving him no way out.
'F*ck, that's not Blink. She actually opened two Warp Steps at once. How powerful is she?' Lith inwardly cursed while their minds were spinning at top gear for a solution.
Alas, there was none. His line of sight was blocked by the flames and there was no one alive and close enough he could use as a benchmark for Blinking.
At least until Solus's mana sense spotted human figures closing in. They were still far, Blinking there was a big risk. The dimensional jump would take a huge toll on him and Lith could find himself surrounded by Nalear's puppets before having the time to react.
'In for a penny, in for a pound. "Maybe dead" always beats "dead as a doornail".'
Lith used most of his remaining energies for the farthest Blink he had ever attempted. Bending the fake spell limits put a huge strain on his mana and willpower, almost making him faint from the extortion.
Luckily, he found himself among friends. To find Nalear, the Ernas had moved towards the battle that produced the most noise. They had encountered and neutralized a few Professors before spotting Lith from a distance.
"Beware of her." Lith was wheezing, he was almost out of breath. The fresh air rejuvenated his lungs and reminded him how bad his throat was after being so close to a miniature sun for too long.
"She can silently cast any spell." He said while looking Phloria in the eyes. Seeing her alive made him happy beyond what words could express. Not seeing the other three sent a cold shiver down his spine, hence he warned his new allies at once.
Lith was risking to expose part of his secrets, but if he didn't, they wouldn't last long and neither would he. Just like the wyvern, Nalear was an opponent he couldn't face alone. The gap between the two of them was too big.
Phloria was brimming with joy too. She was starting to fear it was too late. That just like Yurial, Lith was lost to her. The relief she noticed when their eyes met told Phloria how worried about her he had been.
Jirni and Orion were surprised by finding him in such good shape after fighting an academy's Professor. Normally they would consider his words just a bunch of nonsense coming from a traumatized student.
An enemy capable of perfect silent casting outside first magic was more than unbelievable, it was something out of a nightmare. Yet they knew Lith better.
Even if what he said was absurd, it had to be the truth.
"Thanks, kid. Don't worry too much, in such an enclosed space most of her War Mage spells are useless. Also, Mage Knights are the natural counter to Battle Mages and I'm a Spellbreaker (AN: a mage experienced at killing other mages)."
Orion didn't believe much in his own words. Hunting down mages usually required a team of professionals, while his party was formed by two students and a non mage. As much as a formidable opponent Jirni was, she needed to get close first.
"Drink potions." Lith said to protect them from Nalear's first magic. He could see she had spotted them and he had barely regained two Invigoration breaths worth of energy.
"Thanks, but it's not our first job, Lith." The Ernas gulped down an oddly colored potion each. Lith could see their bodies brimming with mana.
Orion unsheathed his sword while his free hand composed the signs for a tier five spell at unbelievable speed. He had recognized Final Sunset's dark flames and knew how to stop it.