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Chapter 12


“There are many who think that simply becoming an Ascendant, that is actually managing to Awaken heart and soul, is all it takes to reach power. To instantly become something more than just a mere mortal. I am here today to tell you that absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. That all that Awakening grants is potential. The potential to grow beyond what our otherwise mundane bodies and empty souls would allow for. Consequently, it’s not until one begins to make use of that potential that the gap between a true Ascendant and Dormant begins to form. Until then, the only difference between the two is one of name, and if you all want to stay alive long enough for that to change then you’d best not forget that.”

Overheard on Luminar Academy Training Grounds, Lessonia Graves, The Golden Age, 4992

Shadow mana as it turns out, makes for a poor shield in almost every occasion, its ghostly and ethereal presence simply not possessing the metaphorical weight needed to serve as a proper barrier. However unfortunately to Vincent, Death mana, that being the only other kind of mana that he had available to him at the moment, happened to be a poor shield for every occasion, its very nature an antithesis for such a concept.

That was why when Vincent saw the storefront before him erupt in a blast of fire and heat, he reached for the Shadow within him, weaving it into the thickest barrier that he could muster as it poured out from his working hand. Yet as he shaped it and imbued the mana with every ounce of Will that he could raise, he didn’t do so with the intention to simply absorb the blast. No, that was impossible without any virtues to back it, even for him. What he did instead however, was shape the barrier so that when the flying cloud of splinters and fire struck it, their own momentum was enough to gently, yet firmly deflect themselves away from him and Theo, who had mercifully been standing close by.

Though that didn’t mean that they survived completely unscathed, with a potent headache immediately lancing through Vincent’s mind due to him imbuing so much of his Will into the mana as well as a scattered barrage of flying wood pelting them both, some hard enough to leave instant welts.

“Ah! What in the black—this way! Off the street!” Vincent heard Theo yell a second after the explosion had glanced off his shadow barrier, a firm and strong hand then grabbing hold of his wrist and pulling him sharply to the side. A pull that he simply was in no position to resist had he wanted to, feeling himself yanked completely off balance. Yet as his mind caught up to his soon rapidly moving feet, he quickly realized that he did in fact not want to remain standing where he had just been as two fast moving blurs leapt out from the now gaping storefront passing right through the same space.

“Oh damn it, not again!” Theo cursed as they picked up speed into a run, leaving Vincent to quickly draw in what remained of the shadow mana that he had unleashed lest he lose it. However even that brief distraction, combined with the current state of his not fully mended self, made him too slow for Theo’s taste, the surprisingly strong teenager abruptly stepping in close to Vincent and wrapping his arm fully around Vincent body.

“Sorry about this!” Theo shouted as he then lifted him from the ground and immediately put on a burst of speed right as a loud crash and heated words erupted behind them.

“Get back here Elandir! I’m not finished with you yet, you coward!” Vincent heard a voice shout angrily amid the noise, which had grown to include several other panicked screams from nearby pedestrians.

“Oh Caelan, you think this is cowardice?” Another voice, this one cool and collected, answered back over the noise. “Please, as an Ironsong you of all people should know what that really, really, looks like.”

It was barb that very clearly got under first voice’s skin, for all that Vincent heard afterwards was a loud roar of a shout, followed by another whooshing blast of fire. Fortunately though, by the time that noise reached his ears, Theo had finished carrying them both to the street’s edge and half behind a free standing garden wall that bordered the front yard of a townhome. Nor were they the first to take shelter behind it either, with a young looking man and woman, a few years older than Theo already ducked down and out of sight.

“What in the burning pit is happening out there?” The man demanded the moment that Theo and Vincent arrived.

“Another street fight,” Theo answered back as they all settled, his hand on Vincent’s back pressing him down until he was mostly obscured by the wall. “Looks like more of that damned feud between Azurewind and Ironsong again.”

“What? A feud?” Vincent immediately asked as he desperately tried to catch up with what was happening, the dust and chaos that had been unleashed behind them finally resolving into the warring shapes of two young men actively brawling in the street. One of them, the one responsible for the fire, was a thickly built, redhaired fighter who wore matching black and red tunic and pants, the former of which bore a bright red insignia of an anvil and chains on its back. The other, the lightning wielder, was a notable opposite in every regard, their slender build, white-blonde hair, and billowing blue robes with a silver hawk stitched upon each shoulder, contrasting greatly with the otherwise larger man. “You mean this isn’t…isn’t them?

What? Oh, no, thankfully no,” Theo replied, it needing him a second to clue that he was referring to the Shadowed Hand. “It’s a long story, but there’s been…uh, bad blood, to say the least between the two dynasties lately.”

“Bad enough that they’re just fighting openly in the street!” Vincent demanded, his words coming out nothing at all close to a question. “Why isn’t anyone even trying to stop them? There’s only just two of them!”

It was a statement that Vincent found himself surprised to not get an immediate answer to as he watched the two men continue fighting for several seconds, exchanging close range blasts of fire and lightning in the process. So surprised in fact that he eventually forced himself to pull his attention away to glance towards Theo and the other pair in search of an answer.

And one that to his even greater surprise, he received from the young woman, who had all but plastered herself against the low standing wall in terror.

“Because they’re Dynasty Ascendants,” she whispered as if that explained everything, her bright green eyes meeting Vincent’s for a second before another loud crack caused her to flinch in surprise and bury her face in her hands with a yelp.

“Hopefully it won’t be bad,” Theo said in a hurried tone after the noise faded away and Vincent turned to focus back upon the battle, seeing that little had really changed. “The rank marks on their clothes show that they’re not even Awakened yet. So they aren’t likely to cause much trouble. We just need to…uh, sit tight until someone comes to stop it.”

“Rank marks? Sit…tight?” Vincent repeated once again taking his eyes off the fight to glance over at Theo who was looking upon the exchange with clear fear and worry.

What in all of the wretched domains that have ever existed has happened to this realm if they all just cower here and accept this? Vincent asked himself with sudden savagery, a host of angry thoughts  erupting from deep within his mind, practically causing his vision to take on a crimson hue. If they’re not even Awakened, they’re as mortal as anyone else! Worst, what has happened to it so that these boys even dare think that fighting in the street like animals is even remotely appro—

“Damn it, they’re coming this way!” Theo suddenly cursed in a panic, interrupting Vincent’s thoughts, prompting him to look up and see that he was right.

Having struck the Ironsong with a blow that Vincent had missed witnessing, the Azurewind had broken their stalemate, sending the larger man completely on the defensive causing him to backpedal out from the center of the street and right toward where they had taken cover. Moreover it was an attack that the Azurewind sought to capitalize on, their arm flaring back for a lightning filled strike. One that Vincent’s Insight told him was practically guaranteed to send the Ironsong Ascendant straight through the wall that they were currently hiding behind.

 No, that’s enough, this needs to end now, Vincent thought through the blinding rage now filling his mind, his hand coming up practically of his own accord, followed by his Will flaring out. It was a motion that happened so quickly, so naturally, that by the time that he realized what he had even done, shadowy tendrils had erupted from his hand and were already in the process of launching themselves towards the two ascendants. Hearing a belated gasp from Theo and the other man beside him, the next thing Vincent knew was the tendrils landing upon the two men, one catching the Ironsong around his wrist and another catching the Azurewind on his ankle.

Which was all that he needed to put an end to the fight before them.

Feeling their presences appear instantly at the ends of the mana that now connected them, Vincent didn’t waste so much as a second to send a pulse of his Will through it, shouting a single, commanding word.


Hitting the pair with the force of an avalanche, Vincent’s Will was enough to cause both of their bodies to freeze and for the shimmering lightning coating the Azurewind’s fist to gutter out with a snap. Yet even with that initial success, Vincent didn’t stop there once he fully realized what he’d done. That he had not only attacked the pair, but with the way that he had done so that he’d only bought himself a few seconds of surprise. Seconds that if he didn’t fully capitalize upon while he had the chance to would likely see him and everyone else nearby seared to a crisp.

That was why his next move was to sharply yank on the two tendrils connecting him to the momentarily stunned men, while another a pair of fresh shadowhewn tenacles sprouted from his body in order to anchor him to the ground. The leverage, combined with his Will empowering the shadow mana was enough to make up for all the physical strength he lacked, pulling the two combatants off balance, and sending them both toppling over to land side by side. Then, having already begun to round the wall with his shadow tendrils carrying him forward, Vincent practically dropped himself on top of the pair, slamming his crooked arm into the side of the Ironsong man, and his good one into the back of the Azurewind. However despite how it might have looked to others, pinning the two of them down with his all too feeble weight wasn’t at all what his intention was.

Rather establishing Dominance was.

The name of the technique had come to him the instant that his mind had caught up to his situation, telling him not only what he’d done to the Deepchewer a week earlier, but what he needed to do now to repeat it. That was why when he established contact with the men, it was to send the entirety of his Will surging into them, far more than the simple strands of mana he’d caught them with earlier could handle.

“That is enough!” He shouted a second later as his Will punched straight into their respective Soul Wells and enveloped both of their mana hearts, seizing them and all the mana that they held in its titanic grip. “I don’t know why either of you thought you could fight in the street like this, but it ends now! Do you both understand me?”

However if Vincent was expecting a meaningful reply to his words, he was soon disappointed, for all that he got from the pair combined was a dull, pained whine from the Ironsong and nothing else, his eyes staring completely unfocused towards the sky. Nor was the Azurewind any different Vincent soon discovered, with the entirety of the slender man’s body going slack beneath him. It was a change that was quickly accompanied by the faint echoes of Will that Vincent sensed within his body completely vanishing as unconsciousness took the man into oblivion.

A journey that a second later, the Ironsong man joined him upon, his Will having lasted long enough to give one feeble push against Vincent’s hold upon his heart before simply dissolving into nothingness.

Er, w-what? Vincent thought in sudden alarm as the large man also went slack, instantly fearing that in his anger he had somehow managed to overdo it and gravely injure the pair. But as he feverishly peered into their hearts in search of damage that he might have accidentally inflicted, he saw nothing that stood out to him, leaving him to eventually arrive to the most obvious conclusion. Was their Will truly that weak? Even as Dormants? Weak enough that they couldn’t even—

It was a thought that he never had a chance to finish, for right then he felt an arm appear under his shoulder and immediately start to yank him upwards, Theo’s voice arriving a second later.

“Vincent! What did you do to them?” He demanded as attempted to pull Vincent away from the two unconscious men, his tone a cross between terrified and outright awed. “Are they dead?”

“What? N-no,” Vincent answered hurriedly as he withdraw all of the shadow mana and pushed himself back upon his unsteadily feet, leaning hard into Theo as he struggled to find his balance upon his crooked foot. “They’re fine, they will be fine, I just—”

“Good, then we need to go,” Theo interrupted quickly, moving to hand Vincent his walking stick while beginning to pull him along. “We need to go before an Ascendant, demons forbid a Dynasty Ascendant, shows up and sees what’s happened, let alone starts asking questions.”

“A Dynasty Ascendant? What does that even…” Vincent started to reply only to abruptly trail off when he caught sight of all the faces lining the street looking back at him, each and every single one of them filled with the same awe and fear that he’d heard in Theo’s voice. 

“I’ll explain everything later,” Theo said, his voice and tone leaving him sounding younger than he ever had to Vincent’s ear. “But right now we need to get out of here. With luck we can get a few streets over and away from anyone who saw what happened.”

“And if we can’t?” Vincent whispered back, his confusion fully warring with Theo’s obvious panic.

“If we can’t,” Theo replied, casting a terrified glance over towards Vincent as they continued to move. “Then you’ll quickly find out why no one else did anything to stop that fight.”

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