Power thrums through my index finger as it stabs towards Enma's ribs. But my opponent twists aside easily and catches my hand with his own. An unstoppable pressure closes in on the bones of my hand as Enma's grip tightens. I try to extract myself, but Enma flares his core, matching my strength. Rage builds within me at how easily I had been tricked. Enma was prepared for the Finger of the Mountain and had been waiting for me to use it.
I had drawn from the same well one too many times and got caught out for my complacency. Enma tries to break my wrist by twisting hard, but I call on more of the Stallion's power, sending pure magic coursing through my entire body. My bones grow harder than iron as Enma snarls with displeasure at the futility of his efforts. Heat haze begins to build up around us from the sheer volume of spirituality that is being expended. The traffic begins to pile up around us as passing cars slow to take in the sight of the duel.
"You're leaving with me!" Enma shouts as he raises his other hand, green flames erupting in his palm. The Fire of Perdition. An irresistible attack, striking down the enemies of the Princess. A technique worthy of legend. Not even the Stallion's protection can fully shield me from Enma's wrath.
But I am far from helpless.
"Rebuke!" I shout and a spreading golden aura bursts into existence around me, scourging Enma's skin and causing hives and blisters to erupt all over his body. A demon through and through, Enma remains vulnerable to the sacraments of the Heavenly Host, no matter how powerful he has become. A tree may grow tall, but it can never leave behind its roots. And with the Stallion backing my magic, even the meanest of sacraments possess frightening power.
The Prince sputters angrily as he releases his grip on my hand and staggers backwards, scratching forcefully at the hives that now cover his face. Blood begins gushing from shallow wounds, the result of the violence Enma has inflicted on his own skin. My opponent begins to cycle his spirit core and flood his body with spiritual energy, suppressing the power of the sacrament I had laid on him. As the hives on Enma's face begin to subside, the expression on his face shifts from anger to one of surprise.
"Your eyes. The person behind them is different." Enma whispers, mouth gaping open like a fish out of water, "Who are you really?"
"Your enemy, Prince Enma." I declare with a hard look on my face, "This world belongs to the True Emperor, and no amount of struggling on your part can change that fact."
"Don't you dare say that name!" Enma blares, "My ancestor defeated the Emperor! Drove away the darkness! Are you looking down on me?"
I snort disdainfully at the Prince warbling like an empty vessel. Pretend all you want. It doesn't change who you are, no matter the name you bear or the persona you hide behind.
Of all people, I should know.
"You lost then." I shrug as my body tenses for action, "And you'll lose now."
I speak calmly, but my mind races. My opponent here is not just Enma, but his comrade the servant as well. With no magic of my own, I am vulnerable to the servant severing my connection with the Stallion. I must breakthrough this ambush quickly before the servant elects to leave his place at the hospital and directly join the fight.
Enma roars incoherently as the Fire of Perdition gathers in his hands once more. An explosion of raw pressure blasts outwards from his body, sending cracks bursting across the asphalt. I manage to steady myself in the face of this display of strength, but for many others, the pressure is insurmountable. Bystanders are bowled to the ground and lie there cowering feebly. A quick glance backwards tells me that most of Enma's subordinates are left on their knees trembling from the spiritual weight the Prince is exerting on them.
"I am the Hand of Vengeance, the Bringer of Justice!" Enma shrieks, lunacy bubbling from under his eyes, "Enemy of the world, meet your end!"
Enma clasps both his hands together and the blazing flames transform into a churning vortex, extending high into the sky. The fire whips itself into an ever increasing frenzy, growing into a veritable tornado extending from the Prince's arms. Waves of sinister heat batter my body as I stand firm against the enemy. Cries of panic and dismay rise from the crowd around us.
"Taste the cleansing flame and join your precious Emperor!" Enma declares, thrusting his hands in my direction, directing the roiling tornado towards me. An unstoppable attack that can defeat any defense. That is what my senses tell me.
But I am no ordinary mage. Like Enma, I can perform feats far beyond the ability of even the greatest sorcerers.
"The greedy wolf pounces!" I respond, casting the most basic variation of the flash step. My entire body blurs as it performs a spatial shift away from my original location. The raging tornado passes through the now empty space and tears into Enma's cowering men. Screams of pain mixed with the scent of cooking meat drift through the air.
"Amateur." Enma jeers, "Everyone knows the first to perform a flash step loses." The Prince's legs shuffle rapidly as he blinks away in the midst of a flash step of his own. As my body settles down from the spatial shift, Enma pops into existence right behind me, the tornado of fire dying down to mere embers. I have been neatly cornered.
"How fast can your core recover from the flash step?" Enma taunts as his fist flies towards the back of my head.
Just as I had planned.
Spatial shifts take enormous amounts of energy and heavily strain a mage's core. That's the reason why despite how useful it is as a technique, experienced mages hardly use it. Performing a flash step creates a moment of vulnerability when the core's output suddenly drops just after the move has been performed, leaving the mage unable to cast. Enma himself is probably feeling the drain right now, that's why the flames are guttering out.
Thank you Siobahn, for drumming that lesson into me.
But I possess the Stallion's power. Infinity is literally in my hands. My core easily chains a second flash step to the first, shifting out of the way from Enma's attack. In a mere second, our positions are reversed, with me behind Enma's haplessly flailing form.
"How?" the Prince snarls as he turns around to square off against me once more.
Just in time for my extended index finger to prod him in the eye.
"Finger of the Mountain!" I bark as force erupts from my extended finger.
I hear a wet, popping noise right before Enma's head viciously snaps backwards as if he had been struck by a sledgehammer. The Prince grips his face with both hands as blood runs freely from the ruined eye socket, all the while howling at the top of his voice. The man refuses to go down however. Enma flares his core and squares both shoulders before lowering both hands from his face, slowly clenching them into fists.
A grisly visage of red and ruin is all I see before me. As I ready myself for another round with Enma, a deep ache begins to permeate my bones. My body begins to twitch ever so slightly on its own accord. My fatigue must be catching up with me. Concentrate. I cannot afford to lose focus now.
"Let's go!" Enma cries out as he thumps a clenched fist across his chest. His boast is however cut off by a loud neighing.
The neighing of a horse.
The Black Stallion, which had been standing unobtrusively in the distance, thunders towards Enma at full speed. Before the Prince can react, he is unceremoniously trampled beneath the Stallion's hooves. Enma hits the ground hard, a pool of blood spreading around his body. The Stallion neighs again and looks at me straight in the eye. Beneath the Stallion, I hear Enma groaning as he begins to rouse himself. Getting the message, I quickly mount the Stallion and it gallops away down the main road. How much punishment can Enma take? Why is someone so obviously powerful content with working for Siobahn?
I hear a cry of protest from behind me as we cruise down the road and look back to investigate. Enma's back on his feet and in the middle of manhandling someone off a motorbike. After throwing off the bike's owner, the Prince mounts the hijacked vehicle and guns the engine hard, taking off in pursuit of the Stallion. His men hurriedly board several cars parked by the side of the road and begin to trail after us.
The Stallion increases its speed in response but it is not enough. Enma is slowly but surely closing the distance between us. I manage to get a glimpse of the look in Enma's remaining eye and recognize it immediately.
It is the look of murder.